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!

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

Since May 19, SnapVRS has been making it possible for callers to be connected to 9-1-1 just by dialing “911” on their Ojo videophones.  Sorenson began doing that last year, and Viable just yesterday.  Good move, SnapVRS, even if it’s being mandated by FCC!

Callers would have to provide the address where emergency services are needed.  I find it interesting that Sorenson has paired with another company to trace your IP address to where you are calling from.  I wonder how accurate that is — and whether that company has access to more detailed information that makes it possible to link IP addresses to actual street addresses or if (like SnapVRS and Viable) the caller still must provide his/her address.

Most deaf folks I know haven’t used a TTY in years — rather, they just use videophones as well as text-based relay services through the Internet or via their pagers. But they still kept a “landline” phone line with a TTY next to it. For for? Ah, for emergencies! They needed a way to call 9-1-1, and having the TTY and phone ready was a way to make sure they’d get an ambulance or police over whenever they needed it. (Now, if only these 9-1-1 emergency providers will always respond to TTY calls …)

Viable VRS will soon be able to connect you to your local 9-1-1 emergency service provider. All you would need to do is dial “911” on ViableVision or your VPAD and click on “VRS.” If you’re using a different videophone, you would be able to dial the full address as following — please be sure to save this at the top of your contacts list!

  • Dialing 911 or 911.ViableVRS.tv via Viable Vision and the VPAD
  • Dialing 911.ViableVRS.tv via D-Link DVC-1000, Sorenson VP-100, or the Ojo
  • Dialing ecall.ViableVRS.tv via Sorenson VP-200

NOTE: This 9-1-1 emergency service is not yet “live” — I’ll let you know when Viable begins providing this service.

I previously blogged about Sorenson providing 9-1-1 services a year ago. Good to see another VRS provider getting into the game, even if it’s being mandated by FCC. I’ll also let you know when other VRS providers begin providing 9-1-1 services as well.

Now, my question is: if you’ve got high-speed Internet and a videophone (or several videophones!) at home, do you even need a landline phone line installed in your home nowadays?

EDIT (6/3/2008): Viable just released a video explaining this new service.  Carla Mathers is featured in this video — good job, dear Carla!

(EDIT 10:30am: Some more information from Viable — see new blog post.)

Better sign up now for a DeafNation Expo near you! Viable VPADs will be sold at the next several DeafNation Expos for just $99, down from the full price of $699.

And Viable has confirmed that these aren’t pre-orders. People will be actually walking out with honest-to-gosh VPADs!

Viable also confirmed that this special offer is limited to one per person. If you want to buy a second VPAD, it’d cost a whopping $699.

I contacted a friend who lives near Pomona, California where the next Expo will take place this Saturday and asked him to get me TWO and ship them to me! But that was before I found out about the one-per-person limit. Dang.

Those of you who are getting VPADs this weekend – I truly envy you.

A friend of mine is thinking of flying out from DC to an upcoming DeafNation Expo just to get one of those VPADs sooner.

And Viable? You’d better stock up. You’re gonna sell out.


Brendan Steuben Steuble, the manager of the VPAD project at Viable, left the following comment with more info on the VPAD on both Amy Cohen Efron and my blog posts announcing the VPAD. Thanks, Brendan, and we look forward to getting even more information on this from you. This new videophone is certainly generating a lot of buzz and excitement!

Hi. I am the manager of the VPAD project for Viable, Inc. We are very excited by the response generated at this year’s CES unveiling. I would like to assure you all that this device is real, exists in quantity, and will be available very very soon: it is not an “idea” or “prototype”.

Of particular note is the ability of the device to provide Video Remote Interpreting, where if it is in the room and on, a deaf and hearing person can speak to each other. Also, it does not need a “public ip” address, and works inside your office, your hotel, your home, or in a wifi hotspot.

It is so easy to setup and use that a child or the most technology afraid person can use it.

Our website will have more details shortly.

My best wishes to you all and my hopes that this device helps bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing communities.

Viable certainly didn’t disappoint us. It unveiled the newest videophone, the VPAD — and it looks like it’s going to be a winner.

Viable VPAD

Some features that I think we’ll all like:

  • WiFi connectivity – that means we can take the VPAD to our local Starbucks, or on out-of-town trips to hotel rooms, or even to many McDonalds (which now provide free WiFi service).
  • Touch-screen that’s 10.2″ wide.
  • Optional keyboard via USB cable
  • Light alerts along the top of the monitor
  • Ability to hook the VPAD up to a larger TV, or even another electronic device (like gaming devices) to the VPAD
  • A slot for SD memory cards (altho I wonder what this would be for — can we record conversations? Or only use the VPAD to display photos and possibly videos?)

The Viable’s VPAD webpage even has a 3D demo mini-video. Go check it out.

When can I get my grubby paws on one? However, it doesn’t look like there’s a sign-up list as of yet. No distribution date.

And while I’m at it: SnapVRS, I don’t even have an Ojo unit. When do I get one? Sorenson, I have one of the older VP-100’s and have yet to get a VP-200. Hint-hint-hint … :-P

EDIT: Amy Cohen Efron (who scooped me with her blog post earlier today about the unveiling of this VPAD – good going, Amy!) had several excellent questions about the VPAD. Go pay her blog post a visit, and I hope she gets these questions answered soon.

EDIT (1/7/08:): Amy Cohen Efron got a great response from Viable answering her questions and more.

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