Ok, folks. As of right now, it’s easy to jailbreak your phone. Just update to iOS 4.3.3 via iTunes then go to jailbreakme.com. Done? Good.

(Jailbreaking is reversible and basically legal. And what jailbreaking basically does is install an ‘alternate’ app store named Cydia that’s full of thousands of apps, tweaks, and themes that Apple would not have approved.)

Here’s a list of apps I bought and/or downloaded from the Cydia app that makes my iPhone 4 MUCH more deaf-friendly:

Vibrafications – set up custom vibrations for different actions (SMS versus mail versus Twitter / Facebook notifications). Vibrations can be of different patterns and lengths. You can even set up custom vibrations for different people!

3G Unrestrictor – make it possible to use FaceTime and several VRS apps over 3G, not just wifi. Came in handy when I needed to call AAA for service.

Notified Pro and Notification GriP – set up “quiet” notifications on the top or bottom of the screen and which does not interrupt your work or play. No more intrusive iPhone notifications in a box in the middle of your screen. So many freaking options to customize these whichever way you want!! A definite MUST-have for me. More on this on a later blog post. (EDIT: I use the PushMail app – from the regular app store – to send me push notifications whenever I get new email. Similarly, I use the free Boxcar app to send me Twitter notifications.)

LockInfo – extensively customize the lock screen to show a variety of information. I have this set to dim after 5 minutes and to display emails, SMS messages, and notifications. So that means I can just glance at my iPhone at least once every 5 minutes to see if I have new messages instead of having to frigging turn it on and checking different apps. LockInfo comes with numerous plug-ins as well to display even more info – calendar, Twitter, to-dos, etc.

BiteSMS – send and receive SMS messages in a small window on your screen from inside any app or the lockscreen. No need to switch to the Messaging app. Wish there was something like this for mail messages!

These are just a handful of handy jailbreak apps I use to make the iPhone a vastly better experience for me as a deaf person. I know – iOS 5, announced for release this fall – does nearly all these (except for BiteSMS). Where do you think Apple got its ideas?

In addition to these, I use quite a few more jailbreak apps to improve the overall experience, like SBsettings (quick access to common Settings), Snappy (quick photo-taking), MyWiFi (ahem, using my iPhone as a wifi router for laptops or iPads when on the road), InfiniDock (having more than just 4 apps on my dock bar), FolderCloser (close a folder upon launching an app), and many more.

Go forth and jailbreak!

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Perhaps you’re trying to keep track of those complicated coffee orders. Or you’re trying to remember your kids’ different Happy Meal preferences (seemingly depending on the time of the day or even the moon’s stage). Or sometimes, like me, you just need to write down your order.

This is where the iPhone Sorenson BuzzCards app becomes really, really handy.

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With this app, you can easily type and save your order. The words are easy for the cashier to read (even from the car in a drive-thru!), and the font size automatically increases or decreases to take up all available screen real estate.

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You can give titles and even categories to your orders for later reuse. Easy to use the same orders over and over again (or even do minor tweaks each time):

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You can even flirt from across the room using the BuzzCards app!

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Oh yeah, it’s hard to beat the price: free.

My only beef: Comic Sans font. C’mon, how can anyone take you seriously!?

UPDATE: ¬†Here’s one for my favorite toy store.

Check out my recent DeafDC blog post with breaking news: SLA, VLI, and GoAmerica are merging.

(EDIT 8/28/2008: YouTube now supports the ability to import .srt and .sub files as well.)

Heads up: a new subtitled bonus video at the end of this blog post — this time, of my younger daughter walking for the first time!

Overstream logoFour months ago, I told you about Overstream, a website where you can easily add subtitles / captions to your videos. Several of you (including myself) mentioned that while this website was wonderful, there wasn’t a way to move your captioned videos from one site to another.

I’m happy to tell you that Overstream now has made it easy to export your captions / subtitles to other video-hosting websites.

Max, the creator of Overstream, recently added a feature where you can save your subtitles as a “.srt” file. An SRT file pretty much just contains your subtitles and the times in hundreds of seconds that they are to appear (and then disappear) in your video. I believe SRT files are similar to what is being used by major television and movie producers, but I could be wrong. And I also believe this is similar to what rather complex subtitling computer programs create — like Subtitle Workshop and MAGpie.

Anyhow, on Overstream, after you’re finished creating your subtitles, you can then click on “Tools” to see an option for exporting current subtitles as SRT. Click on that option, and then you’ll get an option to save the subtitles as a file on your computer or copy all the subtitles (and time codes) to your clipboard. (Hey Max, yet another suggestion: can you add buttons to allow the user to move the current video frame back or fro a half second, a second, and five seconds? I found myself constantly re-positioning the arrow showing the current video frame.)

Overstream screenshot

Google Video logoLast July, I told you how Google had added a feature where you can upload “.srt” files which is used to add captions / subtitles to videos. This is where you can import the SRT file you created with Overstream, or even paste the subtitles into a special text box.

Google import SRT screenshot

Google SRT import screenshot 2

And thus, I was able to easily subtitle my 21-second Google video of my younger daughter walking for the first time! Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how I did this:

  1. Upload my video to Google Video
  2. Go to Overstream.net and create a new Overstream (series of subtitles) using my new Google Video as the base video
  3. Export the subtitles (via the Tools button on the Overstream Subtitles editing screen) to a SRT file on my computer
  4. Go back to Google Video, and view my “Uploaded Videos
  5. Click on the “Add” button next to “Captions / Subtitles” for that video
  6. Upload my SRT file to Google Video
  7. … and hey presto, the video is now subtitled!

A huge benefit of using Google Video and an uploaded SRT file is that the subtitles can be turned on or off (!!!) using the “CC” button at the bottom of the video screen. The subtitles appear just below the video itself. Doubling the size of the video or making it full-screen still makes the subtitles look sharp — the subtitles aren’t stretched and distorted, but rather the font size is increased by Google Video. Very nice. When the video is embedded on another website, like what I’m doing below, the captions seem a bit small — but that seems to be a Google Video issue and not Overstream’s.

Google CC screenshot
The SRT export functionality brings the Overstream – Google Video duo to the top of my list of recommended sites to use to caption your video. Thanks, Max, for listening to us and adding this super-duper-terrific functionality! Makes me think — it’s not easy for a sitemaster like Max to allow users who create media on his site to take this media elsewhere, so I really appreciate the new Export SRT file feature that Max added.

What’s that? You want me to shut up now and show you the video? Ok, ok! Without further ado, here’s the video of my younger daughter walking for the first time!

Sorenson Adds Call-Waiting

August 10, 2007

You’re having fun vp’ing (videophone-ing) with your best buddy who lives across the country, and you talk for hours and hours. Then you hang up and find out that other friends (or, heaven forbid, your mother!) had been trying to vp you with important news. Hearing folks has had it easy for many years; with call-waiting, they can hear a beep on their phone when someone else’s trying to call. We deafies hasn’t had something similar.

Sorenson logoUntil now. Sorenson recently announced that they’ve added call-waiting functionality for users of its VP-200 videophones.

Now, for those lucky VP-200 users, when another call comes in while they’re talking with someone, a visual notification will appear on the television screen. The user can then put the first caller on hold and talk with the new caller before returning to the first caller.

Mean Girls movieAh, the freedom to be like one of those Mean Girls, constantly switching back and fro between callers and playing games with each other! I’m positively salivating at the prospect. Too bad I’ve still got a VP-100 videophone … Hey, Sorenson, can I have a VP-200 soon? Pretty please?

Skype logoThe hugely popular Skype service has pretty much left the deaf community behind because, well, its primary service is low-cost or free voice communications over the Internet. Its video chat quality isn’t up to par (at least when I tested it several months ago), and so I quickly stopped using Skype. But that hasn’t stopped many hearies from signing up for Skype — and using its voice communication services (much like a telephone) over the Internet. Some cell phones are even beginning to allow Skype voice services whereever WiFi is available — saves a lot on caller minutes.

SpinVox logoBut now there’s a reason for deaf folks to have a Skype account. Skype has paired up with Spinvox (which I briefly wrote about several months ago) to convert voicemail on Skype accounts to text messages (otherwise known as SMS) that can then be sent to any cellphone.

This could be an useful pairing for us deafies. If you’ve got hearing family members who use Skype for low-cost or free voice communications through the Internet, now they can call your Skype account and leave a voice message for you. The voice message will then be converted to text and sent to your Sidekick or Blackberry (or Treo if you’re lucky and geeky enough to have one) as a SMS message.

If you do this, let us know in the comments what you think of this service.

(Thanks, Download Squad!)

Check out my new DeafDC post about wifi Internet service coming soon to the friendly skies, courtesy of American Airlines.¬† Can’t wait!

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