Author: Steve Sawczyn

Anyone remember Usenet news groups? I wonder if they’re still around.

I don’t know why, but I found myself thinking about Usenet news groups and was wondering if anyone remembers them, or if anyone knows if they’re still a thing?  For those that aren’t aware, there used to be a system called Usenet which enabled people to have discussion-style conversations on thousands of topics.  These topics were hierarchically arranged by groups, called news groups.  I used to love Usenet groups back in the early-mid 90S as I could use any number of Reader applications to participate in the groups.  While today web-based forums seem to be the popular norm, the nice thing about the older news groups was that, for me at least, I had a standard way to participate in the discussion regardless of the group.  In contrast, I personally struggle with web-based forums, each of which seeming to have its own interface: I find them often complex and I get distracted with how to participate so much that I don’t actually wind up participating at all.  mailing lists are another discussion method that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed for the same reasons, but with many users becoming overwhelmed with Email and/or not understanding how to configure filters, these too have sadly fallen off in popularity.

 

So, does anyone out there remember Usenet news groups?  Does anyone else miss them?  For those wanting to learn more about Usenet, there’s a great Wikipedia article discussing its history which is really a fascinating read.

Now that I have microblog posts integrated into WordPress the way I thought I wanted, I realize I may not have really wanted things configured this way at all. Back to the #drawing-board

Do I have this new status post thing working? Can I finally go to bed? Sorry for all the spam, hopefully it is done.

I had a really good day and I thought you all should know

As I think about going to bed, I just wanted to let you all know I had a really good day today. I got most of my project work done by 9 AM, I got to attend meetings that were productive, got to help others smile and laugh, got to eat some really good food, got to experience some pretty good weather, and now I get to sleep knowing that I accomplished everything today I had hoped to accomplish and more. So, why am I posting this? It seems that almost everywhere I look on social media these days, all I see are negaTive posts, or posts in which people are just complaining about something and so I figured that while I can’t change all of social media, I can change a small part of it, my part of it, and fill at least my small corner with some positive. Maybe I won’t be able to fill my corner with positivity tomorrow, but right now I am able to and so why not take the opportunity? And who knows, maybe someone reading this will have a similar opportunity and maybe that someone will post something positive and then there will be yet another corner of positivity on social media, can you imagine? Thank you for reading, be well, be safe, and good night.

The surprising accessibility possibilities of mobile check deposits

Recently, I had a conversation with a blind friend of mine who finds herself in an interesting situation.  She has received paper checks, however because everything is locked down, depositing them has become a real issue.  That got me to wondering how accessible mobile check deposits might be; it seems that just about every bank offers this option, but is it an accessible one?  Thinking it over, a few possible challenges immediately came to mind:

  1. Knowing exactly where to endorse the back of the check and writing “for mobile deposit” or similar which many banks now require.
  2. Aligning the camera so that the front and back images of the check are properly captured.
  3. Knowing one way or the other that the deposit has been accepted.

While I certainly can’t test every banking app out there, I did try a test with Wells Fargo’s app and was extremely impressed.  Wells Fargo has somehow implemented camera guidance, so that VoiceOver helps the user position the camera correctly for the check image to be captured.  Even better, when everything is aligned, the photo is automatically taken and, before final submission, the user gets notified if the photos need to be re-taken because of quality or other factors.  

So, how does it work?  First, the app asked me to capture the front of the check.  I discovered that I needed to hold my phone in portrait mode (left to right) which is something I hadn’t expected.  Since a check is small, I assumed — wrongly it would seem — that the phone could be held in portrait orientation.  As I lifted my camera away from the front of the check, VoiceOver started providing me with guidance information, “move closer” “move right” “move down” and finally, the picture was taken.  The process then repeated itself to capture the image of the back of the check.  Unfortunately, the part that remained inaccessible for me was properly endorsing the back of the check and writing “For mobile deposit only” which the bank requires.  Maybe this could have been accomplished with the help of a service like Be My Eyes or Aira?  

 

I was surprised that the process of mobile check deposits, at least with Wells Fargo, was not as inaccessible as I feared.  Unfortunately, I tried with a few other banking apps and met with very different results.  I also did not test with Android.  In summary though, the process of mobile check deposits can be made mostly accessible as demonstrated by Wells Fargo’s app.  If you try this with your bank and meet with different results, it might be worth sending them a support message and encouraging them to further investigate the possibilities of making their process more accessible.  While the technical details surpass my development abilities, my understanding is that Apple makes various APIs available to developers who want to incorporate camera guidance in their applications.  

Has anyone else tried mobile check deposit recently?  If so, what have your experiences been?

 

Tap tap tap, is this thing back on?

If this actually publishes, then I have successfully moved this blog to its new home at https://www.steves.life .  Surprisingly, beside the somewhat complicated-looking list of steps I needed to follow, the process went relatively smoothly.  I do want to send out a special thanks to the extremely kind folks at JetPack Support who calmly and patiently walked me through one particular technical issue.  For those unfamiliar, JetPack is a free plugin that adds additional functionality to WordPress and they offer plans that come with various levels of support.  

 

I want to thank those of you who have continued to follow me — despite my lack of posting activity — and to anyone new who has decided to follow, welcome to my blog in its new home.

Hey I’m back!

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged on here and honestly, I’m excited to be picking it back up again.  It’s been fun going through some of my old posts and seeing just how much has changed in what has relatively been a short amount of time.

One of the many things I will be changing as I pick up blogging again is the domain on which this blog is hosted.  Since I tend to blog more about technology and generally things going on in my life, I will be moving this site from https://steve.sawczyn.com to https://steves.life .  Not only is steves.life an actual domain, but it’s way easier to spell than steve.sawczyn.com . :). According to the “easy-to-follow” instructions I have, moving my blog should really be no trouble at all and I should expect to be up and running in no time at all.  I’m rather dubious, but will be sure to post as soon as everything is transferred and properly set up.  If you receive Email notifications of new posts, I’m told that you will not need to resubscribe, everything is supposedly going to transfer, and this being web-based technology, what could possibly go wrong?

I’m excited to be blogging again and am looking forward to re-engaging with all of you, especially those who have been wondering, “whatever happened to Steve?”

Looking for the perfect blog platform, wondering what readers prefer?

Blogging is something I really enjoy and yet I don’t do nearly enough of it.  Many things keep me from blogging: not thinking I have much of interest to actually blog about, not being sure that anyone actually reads my posts, and the big one, not being really sure what platform is really the best for blogging.  As I think about that last one, the actual platform, I realize that I have spent way way too much time pondering this question.  I’ve also tried just about every blogging solution I know of in the hopes of finding the perfect solution, one that has all the features I could possibly want while also being accessible and easy for readers to interact with.  Because I feel blogging is more than just the sharing of information, it’s an opportunity for dialog — discussion — and for all, reader and author alike, to learn from one another.  

 

WordPress has long been my favorite blogging platform.  It’s stable, it’s been around forever, many of the largest sites on the net are powered by it, it’s free, and the community has put in a tremendous amount of effort into its accessibility.  On the flip-side, WordPress requires a bit of maintaining and updating, there are frequent updates that address security vulnerabilities, because it’s so powerful and flexible the dashboard can be a bit daunting, and sometimes it’s difficult to make customizations to layout and design unless one possesses more knowledge than what I possess.  

Medium is a really neat service and I see more and more people using it.  On the plus side, Medium handles all the back-end stuff, the author need only log in and write.  There are limits though to Medium functionality, it doesn’t support plugins, they don’t host audio, readers need a Medium account in order to comment, accessibility is improving but there are definite gaps.

Micro.blog is another really neat platform.  The thing I love about Micro.blog is that it’s possible to aggregate feeds from a number of services into one place.  Users of the service can also comment on and mention one another.  There are lots of really cool aspects to Micro.blog, but … it does not support commenting on posts directly other than mentions from other Micro.blog users; think expanded Twitter-like functionality.  Micro.blog also does not support plugins, does not really allow for category-based organization (at least not as of the last time I tried it), and limits the amount of audio and video that can be hosted.  I really want to love Micro.blog as I love the concepts behind it, but I just really want it to have some additional features.

 

And so in my quest to find the perfect blogging platform, I’ve lost sight of the reason behind it, blogging.  And so as I think about more topics about which I might blog, I’m curious what platforms people out there prefer?  Which do you find easiest to use, what features make for a better experience either as a blogger, or reader?