June 2012

Accessibility Camp Wins

Cindy Shelly from Microsoft demonstrates programming capacity for movement tracking and voice recognition in the Xbox Kinnect.

Audio loops, making the Xbox Kinnect an assistive tool, tactile maps for public spaces, iPhone optical character recognition, and shapes vs. colors in web design were just a few topics of the great exchange at the second Accessibility Camp Seattle, held at Seattle Public Library June 2 and 3.

The open conference brought disability software developers, advocates, assistive technology users and others to learn and work on tools and digital inclusion strategies.

The conference was sponsored by library, Microsoft Accessibility, Speak to Me, UW Do-IT, LiveScribe Education and TechSmith. See more on their Facebook or Twitter at @a11ysea and on the conference web site, here.

The box is about $200 and can be programmed with a free software development kit and Visual Studio.

Use Your Skills in New City Budget Simulation

The City of Seattle launched an online budget simulation to help residents better understand City budget challenges. This simulation is part of the City’s commitment to make the budget process more transparent and accessible to the public. The web-based application gives users the opportunity to address the constraints and tradeoffs facing city policymakers as they balance the budget. The mayor and Council have the most discretion over operating expenditures associated with the General Fund, which pays for services such as police, fire, parks and libraries. By law, the City must adopt balanced budgets.

“This budget simulation is a new way for the City to engage the public as we address a projected $32 million shortfall,” said McGinn. “This builds on our efforts to make government accessible to everyone, like launching data.seattle.gov, streamlining our website and holding town halls across the city. It’s a challenge to put together a budget that reflects Seattle’s values. I look forward to seeing how residents use this tool to simulate that challenge.”

The tool, located at www.seattle.gov/budgetsimulation, simulates a challenging process that takes several months to complete each year. The simulation is further complicated by a couple of situational updates, just like in the real world. Good luck!

National Broadband Report

The Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition and the NTIA hosted a national conference in DC a couple weeks ago. Materials from this conference are available on a wiki by clicking on the agenda items here.

There was quite a range of presentations. In a Measuring Broadband Adoption workshop, Karen Mossberger presented a 2011 study of Chicago that found smart phone only users are more likely to use Internet to get info or apply for job. Mobile only users have more skills than those with no personal access, but less than those with home broadband. The study also found that neighborhood context matters for technology disparities, and may exacerbate existing inequalities in access to jobs, health care and more. See conference presentations here.

The conference also provided an opportunity for GigU and Connect2Compete to share their plans. GigU is investing in fiber initiatives around universities and Connect2Compete is rolling out a national ad campaign next year to encourage broadband awareness along with a program to provide low cost Internet and education resources to families with school lunch eligible children. C2C will also be publishing a directory of public computing centers.

Evergreen Apps Opens July 9; Startup Weekend Winners Announced

The Evergreen Apps Challenge is open to people who live, work or study in Washington State. More than 10 prizes totaling over $75,000 are available for award winning apps based on their quality, implementation, and potential impact on WA state, King County and Seattle residents and visitors.

“After seeing what ten great teams could accomplish over the course of a weekend, I am very excited to see what the public will generate in the next five months for the Evergreen Apps Contest,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee. “We hope the awards give the Startup Weekend Gov teams incentive to keep going and encourage even more people to participate in this inclusive apps challenge.”

Congratulations to the winners of the Government Start Up Weekend. The Challenge is a partnership between Seattle, King County, and Washington State, part of Startup Weekend GOV. The winners are:

1st place (tie):
WhichBus, which combines trip planning and real-time arrival info in one app, and includes a great Twilio-powered SMS interface that lets you text [starting address] – [ending address] to (206) 745-6287 and texts you back a bus itinerary, complete with arrival times. Art Rover, which uses the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs public art database on data.seattle.gov, among other sources, to create walking maps of public art for tourists and scavenger hunts for locals.

2nd place:
Reporta, a quick and easy way to report issues in your neighborhood to the City in the same data format the City uses.

3rd place:
Civic Rally, a cross between Kickstarter and the Neighborhood Matching Fund that lets community members post projects and solicit money and volunteer time from their neighbors to complete them.

Honorable mention:
My Spot, a smartphone app that would let you pay for parking, remind you when your time is up, and let you feed the meter remotely.

The challenge will officially open on July 9, 2012, and close on September 6, 2012. Further details and requirements for entry will be announced in the coming weeks here.

Discounted Modems Through Mobile Beacon

Non profits can receive 4G Modems and Hotspots access at a discount working with Mobile Beacon, a national nonprofit for wireless service, which has partnered with Clearwire. Service per month is only $10 plus the cost of whichever equipment you get.

Some requirements:

  • Not a fee only based nonprofit
  • Be an actual nonprofit with EIN
  • Internet is via USB device or Mobile Hotspot
  • Get information here.

More information here.

Agree or disagree with me? Drop me a note: Derrick Hall.

More on Google’s Sweeping Privacy Policy

In a recent article on CNN Tech.com Doug Gross talks about dealing with Google’s new privacy policy: How to prepare for Google’s privacy changes. He does a good job of explaining how you can take control of the information that Google is able to capture about you. Here are some of the main points. Check out the full article for more information and step by step directions on how to follow his suggestions.

Don’t sign in. Many of Google’s services – most notably search, YouTube and Maps – don’t require you to sign in to use them. If you’re not logged in, via Gmail or Google+, for example, Google doesn’t know who you are and can’t add data to your profile.

Remove your Google search history. Deleting your history will not prevent Google from using the information internally. But it will limit the amount of time that it’s fully accessible. After 18 months, the data will become anonymous again and won’t be used as part of your profile.

Clear your YouTube history.

Clear your browsing history on Google Chrome.

Gmail Chat. When you start a chat with someone, you can make the conversation “off the record.” Off-the-record chats will not be stored in your chat history or the history of the person with whom you’re talking. All chats with that person will remain off the record until you change the status.

And finally, one that he doesn’t mention: Use the incognito browsing option in the Chrome browser.

For more security tips, check out the techtalk blog.