Category Archives: Awesome hack

how to make ping audible, and equally more useful for both blind and sighted users

Ping is a little network troubleshooting command on operating systems that have any command line capability. Ping sends an ICMP packet to tell you if a specific network connection is up if the device pinged is configured to send back a reply. Back during my Cisco networking days I was annoyed that I couldn’t see if network connections were up while configuring them in a separate router window; my sighted classmates and coworkers would just display 2 windows and look between them. My friend Sean Randall was learning programming at the time and wrote a cool little autoit script for me that could ping and beep when it got replies and we called it sping; then I moved to the mac and missed that utility.

about a year ago a friend Jacob White, who is fully sighted but spends time under desks plugging networks together, told me about the ping command flags -a or uppercase -A that totally resolved that function. The -a flag will emit the system default beep when a reply is received, and the -A flag   beeps if no reply comes back. Just type out the ping command and add one of those flags e.g.

ping -a 192.168.1.1
or -A if you’re looking for lost packets.
As far as I know this is present in the ping command for all current versions of Unix Linux or macOS. There is also a nice little utility for Microsoft Windows called bping that beyond adding beeps to ping can also scan a subnet for you. Actually, any ping command can scan a subnet for you if you ping the network broadcast address.

e.g. ping 192.168.1.255

 

Adding audible beeps to ping make the command more usable for blind users, but it also is convenient for sighted people under their desks, another example of where some “accessibility” features are also convenient and useful for those without any disability.

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How I combined multiple audio sources into one Bluetooth headset

Back in the day  i’d have to hold the phone up to my ear whenever I wanted to use GPS or anything with the screenreader, and if a bus went by, it was   a complete   fail.    then in early 2013  my friend Hai Nguyen Ly gave me a pair of the Aftershokz 1st generation bone conducting  headphones and my workflow in public was changed forever. I could use my iPhone  anywhere and besides being able to hear it in any situation quiet or loud it didn’t bother anyone around me either.

 

The problems above were very similar with talking watches which is why until the Apple watch I had always preferred braille watches. I’ve found a lot of cool uses for my Apple watch but the problem of its audio coming out the speaker in public still remained.

 

Aftershokz came out with their Trekz   Titanium model earlier this year, and among other things in their marketing speak was mentioned Bluetooth multipoint; that their new flagship model could pair with 2 Bluetooth devices. I was excited, if i could get the audio from both my iPhone and Apple watch into the same pair of bone conducting  headphones that would be huge, but alas pairing with 2 devices did not mean simultaneously.

 

Over a year  ago my friend @cajunluke

told me about the Belkin  audio splitter Rockstar, and I’d also remembered Allison Sheridan and Dave Hamilton  talking about the Amtech Bean Bluetooth receiver, but it could only receive, if there was a bluetooth transmitter? A plan began forming in my mind.

 

 an Amazon delivery later I had a Rockstar and 2 Anker audio bluetooth adaptors  , which can both transmit and receive, though not simultaneously, and a bunch of patch cords and was ready to go.

 

The Rockstar has been out for a while and using it to combine wired audio sources is widely understood, but I was trying to  combine both  Bluetooth and analog audio  sources and also put them altogether, out to a Bluetooth headset.

I wondered how to combine 2 Bluetooth devices together when neither had a keyboard nor a display, but the Aftershokz and the Anker Bluetooth adaptor pair nicely as long as you remember to get them both into pair mode simultaneously it works most times.

 

One adaptor is set to receive and is paired to the watch. The other adaptor is set to transmit and is paired to the Aftershokz.

I wear cargo pants so the large pockets are great for a bunch of cables plugged altogether, the shorter the patch cords the better.

 

the system works very well, the more devices plugged into the Rockstar the lower the volume is because of resistance but so far there’s still enough volume to go around for me. Having the audio from my watch in the headset makes it much more productive for me in public even if no one was around to be annoyed by the watch speaker. When I used Apple pay  VoiceOver lowers the volume  for security, i could still hear it and much better through the headset. 

I also do BrainPort testing for Wicab 

and the Rockstar has 5 audio jacks so I can  plugged that in also which greatly improves how I hear it especially in loud environments.  

 

I’m surprised that seemingly few know about the Rockstar, but also haven’t heard of anyone combining it with Bluetooth adaptors. I know it will be part of my workflow for some time.