Orphan Technologies

Hi-Tech is failing people with disabilities

The other day, Nathan Zeldes wrote to me:

Between us, I’ve always been pissed off by the lack of progress in hi-tech solutions for severe handicaps; the fact that even the legendary Stephen Hawking was using a robot voice sounding like a Commodore 64 shows how little incentive companies (and society) have in driving leading edge solutions that could liberate people from severe disabilities.

To which I replied:

The problem is a lack of incentive to develop technologies which would help only few people. It just is not profitable. People cannot have a decent standard of living or support wife & children by working only on such problems. Subsidizing the development of such a technology could lead to the basic problem of socialism (possibility of turning a profit NOT by serving another person, the basis of “true” capitalism).

A similar problem exists with “orphan medicines” – medications and
procedures for treating very rare illnesses.

What could be done?

In discussions with Nathan Zeldes and with Dr. Yoav Medan (who is involved with the orphan technology of 3D printing of prosthetic hands), the following ideas were mentioned.

1. Students doing Final Projects

  • STEM students, who do their final projects, can profit from working
    on an orphan technology as their final project. The students provide
    a service and in exchange for it, they gain experience which will help
    them later make more money in their careers.
    However, most students cannot bring a product to market. The
    best they can do is to solve problems in a local and limited community.
  • People, who are not students, could gain both experience and reputation by working on such problems.
  • Companies could sponsor such projects, in order to get favorable
    advertising, improve their reputation, etc.
  • It would be a good idea to develop ways to quickly monetize experience/reputation to allow people to live well by doing those projects for a living.

2. Dual-use Technologies

For the deaf and HOH (Hard of Hearing), most of the relevant technologies happen to have dual use, starting from Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. Robert Weitbrecht’s acoustic coupler was useful not only for allowing deaf people use teletypes over phone lines (and not only over telex lines) but also for other data communication users.

My personal experience was with adding Hebrew support to the Nokia 9110 and Nokia 9210 smartphones at the beginning of 21st century. Those cellular phones were very useful for the deaf in the pre-SMS era thanks to their ability to send and receive FAX messages. Since Hebrew support was useful also for Hebrew-speaking hearing people, it was a profitable endeavor for Erez Zino and me. See also: כנגד קול הסיכויים (in Hebrew).

A variant of this approach is for biotech and pharma companies, when developing a new technology, to first develop it to treat orphan/rare diseases. This gives them regulatory and reimbursement advantages. Once the technology is developed, it is applied also to common diseases, for which established therapies already exist.

An example is Minovia, which is developing a cell therapy technology to treat mitochondrial diseases. They began by targetting the Pearson Syndrome, which affects only 100 children worldwide.

3. “Micro-business” methodology and support services

Orphan technologies become orphan because the Hi-Tech world is based upon economics of scale. To develop a technology, you need a sufficiently big market to make it worthwhile. A business needs to have a minimum size to have any chance for success.

A methdology, infrastructure and support services to facilitate “micro-businesses” would overcome the above barrier. A micro-business would be a business, which does not require more than few hours a month, after some reasonable initial investment in building it, and would be very profitable (in terms of net income per hour) serving its very limited market.

One such possibility is to have spread out creativity centers (both physical and in the WWW) which help people develop their ideas. Examples: TAMI hackerspace and HAIFAUP.

4. Affluent end-users subsidizing the development

One could get affluent people needing an orphan technology to fund its development. Even if they are few, just one millionaire, with a child afflicted with the problem, could be enough to fund the orphan technology’s development.

Variations of this approach:

  • Government funding of technologies needed to rehabilitate army veterans with disabilities.
  • Collaboration with a non-profit devoted to the disease in question. Some of them have money or access to donors.
  • Philanthropic funding (from people not needing the orphan technology or themselves).
  • A variant of philanthropic funding is to use crowdfunding websites (Headstart, FundIt, PipelBiz, Indiegogo, KickStarter, etc.) to donate to a project.
  • Some companies declare upfront that they will allocate a certain percentage of their profits to social causes (including orphan technologies development), without expectation to make any financial returns.

5. Impact Investments

Some people invest not only for profit but also for social impact. They invest in underserved areas where they can see an eventual upside. An example is Social Finance Israel.

I feel psychologically unsafe when working in big corporations

Three times during my career, I worked in big corporations.

1. Intel – Haifa, Israel

First time, I worked in the Intel design center in Haifa, Israel. At the time, unlike today, the operations in Haifa were small.

I left work to pursue my M.Sc. after five and half years, during which time the operations in Haifa grew to employ hundreds of people.

With hindsight, it turned out that there was also a manager who wanted me out of Intel due to his own reasons.

2. SanDisk – Kfar Sava, Israel

Second time, I worked in SanDisk, Kfar Sava, Israel.

I noticed that I feel anxious all the time while I was working there. I left the job after half a year.

Among other things, I got into a serious disagreement with a manager in another unit about a problem, whose solution was critical to the success of an assignment that I got.

Reflections

Before accepting the job offer from Google Ireland (see below), I reviewed my experiences in Intel and SanDisk and made a list of recommendations how to improve my chances to be successful in Google.

One of the recommendations was to identify a high ranking manager, who is interested at helping smart deaf people succeed in their jobs in Hi-Tech companies, and who can advocate for me in case of misunderstandings among me and managers in remote units.

3. Google – Dublin, Ireland

Third time, I worked in Google Ireland. No high ranking manager was available to advocate for me as needed. I again was anxious all the time. I left the job after three and half months.

I chose to leave the job in lieu of accepting a demand that I apologize for a harsh but non-personal expression, which I said during a discussion about an accessibility problem in an American bank, which worked with Google.

I knew, without using the term psychological safety, that if I apologize I would not be able to feel psychologically safe if I ever have to point out problems with proposed plans or designs.

Background anxiety

The unending anxiety that I felt while working in SanDisk and Google was about fear of offending managers in remote units, whom I did not know personally, but with whom I had to interact to fulfill my work duties. I could not be confident that I would have the support of my own bosses if there is any problem with remote managers.

Now there is a research pointing out what I was missing during my work in SanDisk and Google. Ironically, the research was performed in Google about a year after I left the company.

High-Performing Teams Need Psychological Safety. Here’s How to Create It

The five keys to a successful Google team

An earlier version of this article was published in LinkedIn as: Psychological Safety – the reason why I did not survive in big corporations

Information on notetaking in events

The following are links to documents about notetaking in events in Israel. The documents are in Hebrew.

דלעיל מופיעים קישורים למסמכים על תמלול באירועים בישראל. המסמכים כתובים בעברית.

What to do if the notetaker’s mom passes on few minutes before the meeting is due to start?

Or: How not to shame the company?

Or: My first firsthand experience with remote notetaking.

Last Thursday I was in a meeting of a technological consulting workshop.  In this workshop, technical people advise people with disabilities, who need technological solutions to overcome or workaround their disabilities.  A notetaker was summoned to notetake the meeting in my behalf.

Few minutes before the meeting was due to start, the notetaker notified Efrat, the meeting organizer, that she has to cancel because her mom has passed on a moment ago.  Another notetaker has to be summoned.  However, Dina, the nearest available notetaker is about 40Km away and won’t be able to arrive at the meeting on time.

What to do?

I have two alternatives.  One is to give up participation in the meeting and go back home.  The other is to participate even if I lose almost all information conveyed during the meeting.  This time I chose the second alternative.  It is like lifting a wheelchair-bound person upstairs because the accessible ramp is temporarily blocked.

Since I’ll live with partial information loss, Dina suggested to look into remote notetaking.  At this method, one puts a microphone in the meeting room and the notetaker hears the discussions through it.  She takes notes at home and the notes go to a laptop in the meeting room through the Internet.  However we were not technologically organized to have remote notetaking.  We did not expect to need it.

There was a suggestion that the notetaker take notes and send them by E-mail to me after the meeting.  I disliked the suggestion.

Another solution was to use an Instant Messaging (IM) application.  The IM application that I use at home is Pidgin, which runs under Linux.  In this application, one can change preferences so that it’ll save chats in log files.  Can chats be saved also in Dina’s or Efrat’s computers?  I did not check it but it is not that important for me.  What’s sure is that on my smartphone I have only WhatsApp.  Dina has no Skype.  Turned out that she has Google Talk, and so does Efrat.  Thus, Efrat contributed her laptop to the cause of remote notetaking.  The microphone problem was solved by using an Android cellphone, which is connected cellularly to Dina’s cellphone.

I did not expect my first firsthand experience with remote notetaking to happen under such circumstances.

In summary, we escaped the shame of technology consultants, who fail to solve a technological problem needed to make a meeting accessible.  The setup worked better than I expected.  Of course, there was a problem that the notetaker did not hear people who sat far away from the Android, but Efrat summarized what they said.  Overall I felt I am on top of things almost all the meeting.

מה עושים כשאמא של המתמללת הולכת לעולמה כמה דקות לפני תחילת המפגש?

או: איך לא לבייש את הפירמה

או: התנסות הבכורה שלי בתמלול מרחוק

ביום חמישי האחרון הייתי במפגש של סדנת יעוץ עמיתים וטכנולוגיה. בסדנה זו נותנים ייעוץ לאנשים עם מוגבלויות שצריכים פתרונות טכנולוגיים כדי להתגבר או לעקוף את מוגבלויותיהם. למפגש הוזמנה עבורי מתמללת.

כמה דקות לפני תחילת המפגש, המתמללת הודיעה לאפרת, מזמנת המפגש, על ביטול כי אמא שלה הלכה לעולמה לפני רגע. צריך להזמין מתמללת אחרת.  אבל דינה, המתמללת הפנויה הקרובה ביותר, נמצאת במרחק 40 ק”מ ולא תספיק להגיע למפגש בזמן.

מה עושים?

יש לי שתי חלופות. אחת היא לוותר על ההשתתפות במפגש ולחזור הביתה. השניה היא להשתתף במפגש אפילו אם אפסיד כמעט כל המידע שיועבר בו. הפעם בחרתי בחלופה השניה. זה כמו להעביר נכה, שמרותק לכסא גלגלים, במדרגות מפני שהשיפוע הנגיש לו חסום זמנית.

מכיוון שאחיה עם זה שאפסיד חלק מהמידע, דינה הציעה לבדוק אפשרות לתמלול מרחוק. בשיטה זו מציבים מיקרופון בחדר הישיבות והמתמללת שומעת את הנאמר באמצעותו. היא מתמללת בביתה והתמלול עובר ללאפטופ דרך האינטרנט. אבל אנו לא היינו מאורגנים טכנולוגית לבצע תמלול מרחוק. לא ציפינו לכך שיהיה צורך בכך.

היתה הצעה, שהמתמללת תתמלל ותעביר אלי את התמלול בדואר אלקטרוני אחרי המפגש. לא אהבתי את הרעיון.

פתרון אחר היה להשתמש בתוכנת מסרים מיידיים. התוכנה שאני משתמש בה בביתי למסרים מיידיים היא פידג’ין שרצה בסביבת לינוקס. בתוכנה זו יש אפשרות לשנות הגדרות כך שהיא תשמור את הצ’אטים בקובץ לוג. האם אפשר לבצע שמירה גם במחשבים של דינה או של אפרת? לא בדקתי אבל זה לא כל כך חשוב לי. מה שכן, יש לי רק וואטסאפ על הסמארטפון שלי. למתמללת אין סקייפ. התברר שיש לה גוגל טוק, וגם לאפרת. אפרת נידבה את הלאפטופ שלה למטרה זו. בעיית המיקרופון נפתרה על ידי שימוש באנדרואיד בשיחה סלולרית עם הפלאפון של דינה המתמללת.

לא פיללתי, שהתנסות הבכורה שלי בתמלול מרחוק תהיה בנסיבות כאלה.

לסיכום, ניצלנו מהבושה של יועצי טכנולוגיה שלא מצליחים לפתור בעיה טכנולוגית, שפתרונה דרוש כדי להנגיש מפגש. העסק עבד יותר טוב ממה שציפיתי. כמובן שהיתה מגבלה שהמתמללת לא שמעה אנשים שישבו רחוק מהאנדרואיד, אבל אפרת סיכמה לי בקצרה את דבריהם. בסך הכל הרגשתי שאני בעניינים כמעט כל המפגש.

Ramon Breakthrough 2012

קרן רמון הכריזה על תחרות בין הצעות לפרויקטים פורצי דרך, שישפיעו תוך 5 שנים על חייהם של לפחות 5 מיליון ישראלים.

עולים בדעתי ארבעה רעיונות כאלה, שחלקם דורשים כיפוף חוקים כדי להכנס למסגרת התחרות.

  • תצוגה חזותית של אותות דיבור – ישפיע על חייהם של כ-7000 ישראלים חרשים, כיפוף הכללים הדרוש הוא לקבל פרויקט שישפיע על לפחות מיליון חרשים מכל העולם.
  • חפירת מנהרות עמוק באדמה וחיים בהן, כדי לפנות מקום לחיות בר וצמחיה על פני כדור הארץ. יאפשר לישראל לקלוט עוד מיליון יהודים ויותר בלי שתהיה צפיפות בלתי נסבלת. הפרויקט ידרוש יותר מ-5 שנים כדי לגרום לשינוי משמעותי.
  • שינוי חברתי כך שיהיה מעמד חברתי גבוה יותר למי שיש לו יותר מיומנויות שעוזרות לשרוד ולהתאושש מאסון טבע או מעשה ידי אדם, במקום למי שמפגין יותר צריכה ראוותנית. קורסי הכשרה לכל הציבור ימומנו על ידי חברות הביטוח שמוכרות ביטוחים נגד האסונות למיניהם. ישפיע על כלל האוכלוסיה.
  • בתי מחסה לחתולי רחוב – לא רעיון שלי. ישפיע על כל מי שיש חתולי רחוב באזור מגוריו וזה כמעט כולנו.

הפרס הוא קורס באוניברסיטת הסינגולריטי.

אני מתלבט. האם להגיש הצעה אחת? האם להגיש את כל ההצעות שהן רעיונות שלי? האם בכלל להגיש הצעה? האם לא תהיה בעיית נגישות בקורס או בביצוע הפרויקט הזוכה לאחר מכן?

The Ramon Foundation announced a contest among proposals for breakthrough projects, which will affect the lives of at least million Israelis within 5 years.
I have in mind four such ideas, part of which require some rules to be bent in order to be admissible to the competition.

  • Visual representation of speech signals – will affect the lives of about 7000 Israeli Deaf persons, the needed rule bending will be to accept a project which will affect the lives of at least million Deaf persons from all over the world.
  • Digging tunnels deep in Earth and living in them, to free room for wild animals and vegetations on Earth surface. Will enable Israel to absorb another million Jews and more without incurring unbearable congestion. The project will need more than 5 years to cause a meaningful change.
  • Social change so that high social status will be granted to whomever has more survival and disaster recovery after natural disaster or human-made disaster, instead to whomever demonstrating conspicuous consumption. Training courses for the entire populace will be financed by insurance companies which sell insurances against the various disasters. Will affect the entire population.
  • Hostels for feral cats – not my idea. Will affect anyone whose neighborhood has feral cats and this is almost all of us.

The prize is a course in the Singularity University.

I am agonizing over it. To submit one proposal? To submit proposals for all my ideas? To submit a proposal at all? Won’t there be an accessibility problem in the course or in subsequent execution of the winning project?

Israel Zak 1927-2011

ישראל זק תרפ”ז – תשע”א

לימדת אותי לכפול ולחלק כשהייתי בגן. אחר כך שכחתי איך מחלקים עד שלמדתי בבית הספר.

השגת לי צעצוע שמחירו היה מיליוני דולר – CDC6400 שהיה המחשב המרכזי של האוניברסיטה העברית בירושלים.

בזכות השבתון שלך, הייתי בארה”ב וזכיתי לטייל שם בתקופה שבה ישראלים עדיין לא הרבו לטייל בחו”ל.

יום אחד הבאת הביתה מכשיר טלפון שבעזרתו הצד השני יכל לשלוח לי מסר על ידי קוד מורס. הנסיונות לא עלו יפה כי אני ואלה שניסו לשוחח איתי טלפונית לא היינו מיומנים בתקשורת מורס.

כשהייתי בתיכון, פתחת חברת ייעוץ גיאולוגי ועזרתי לך בתכנות. לאחר שנים, הנסיון שלך בצד העסקי של הייעוץ הקל עלי את המעבר מעובד שכיר לפרי-לאנסר עצמאי.

ליווית אותי בתקופה שבה התחלתי לנהוג ברכב, מה שהקל עלי את ההשתלבות בתרבות הכביש הישראלית.

כשכתבתי את עבודת המסטר שלי, קבלתי ממך עצה להוסיף לה רשימת שאלות להמשך המחקר.

אתה ואמא ניהלתם אורח חיים שלא הדגיש את החומרנות וצריכת הראווה. המותרות שלכם היו לטייל כמעט בכל חור נידח בעולם. לכן גדלתי בתחושה שכסף לא יהיה מה שימנע ממני להשיג מה שבאמת חשוב בחיים. היה פתרון תקציבי ללימודים בקולג’ גלאודט כך שיכלתי לבחור לא ללמוד שם לא בגלל שיקולים כספיים. עזרתם לי לרכוש דירה מיד כשידעתי איפה אגור. בחרתי לא לעבור ניתוח שתל שבלול אבל דאגתם למימון, כך שאם הייתי רוצה, הייתי יכול לעבור ניתוח זה – גם בתקופה שלפני שהניתוח נכלל בסל הבריאות.

פרויקט הטלכתבים, להנגשה לחרשים של רשת הטלפונים לפני יותר מ-25 שנה, נזקק גם לכל מיני קשרים עם כל מיני בעלי השפעה. פעלת רבות מאחורי הקלעים. אצלנו מקובל להתגאות כשלא נזקקים לקשרים בשביל להצליח. אבל זה היה פרויקט שבשבילו זו היתה מצווה לנצל כל קשר שאפשר ולהפעיל כל השפעה פוליטית שצריך.

לאחר שנים קראתי את ההיסטוריה של הטלכתבים בארץ שבה הכל התחיל – ארה”ב – והתחושה שלי היא שבסך הכל בישראל הכל הלך לנו יותר בקלות מאשר ליוזמי הטלכתבים בארה”ב.

בניגוד להרבה אנשים אחרים, לקחת על עצמך את האחריות לאפשר ולהקל על התקשורת איתי. אני לא זוכר שאי פעם תיקנת לי את הדיבור, ואני זוכר פעם שאמרת לי שכשאני מרגיש בנוח אני מדבר יותר ברור. השקעת את המאמץ בלימוד ואימונים בדיבור מרומז ותמיד היה לי קל להבינך כשדיברת אליי, פרט כמובן לשבועות האחרונים שבהם כבר היית עייף מדי בשביל זה.

אני זוכר שהיו נסיבות שונות בילדותי שבהן לא הבנתי מה הולך ומה רוצים ממני – עד שבאת והסברת לי בבהירות מה הולך שם.

מאז שהטלכתב נכנס לחיינו, היית שרות הממסר שלי, לתיווך ביני ובין אנשים אחרים שהייתי צריך להשיגם בטלפון. לשמחתי הצורך שלי בשרות הממסר הלך וירד עם השנים, עם שיפור הנגישות התקשורתית של הציבור הכללי, הודות למסרונים ולדואר אלקטרוני.

תודה לך, אבא.

Israel Zak 1927-2011
You teached me to multiply and divide when I was at kindergarten age. Later I forgot how to divide until I relearned it in school.
You obtained for me a toy which costed multimillion dollars – CDC6400, which was the central computer of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Thanks to your Sabbatical leave, I was in USA and got to travel there at a time in which Israelis still didn’t travel abroad as much as they do today.
One day you brought home a telephone which had the means to let the other side pass a message to me by Morse code. The experiments were not successful because I and my conversation mates were not proficient in Morse communications.
When I was at high school, you opened a geological consulting company and I helped you in software development. Few years later, your experience with the business side of consulting eased my transition from employee to self-employed freelancer.
You escorted me when I started to drive a car, making it easier for me to integrate into the Israeli road culture.
When I wrote my M.Sc. thesis, you advised me to add a list of questions for further research.

You and mother had lifestyle, which did not emphasize materialism or conspicuous consumption. Your luxuries were to travel to almost every distant hole in the world. Therefore I grew up with the feeling that money will not be what’ll prevent me from achieving whatever is important in one’s life. There was a financing solution for my studies in Gallaudet College so I could choose not to study there not due to financial considrations. You helped me buy an apartment as soon as I knew where I’ll live. I chose not to undergo cochlear implantation but you secured financing for this, so that if I wanted, I’d be able to get this operation – even before the operation was included in the Health Basket.

The TDD Project, for making the telephone network accessible to the deaf more than 25 years ago, needed also all kinds of pull with all kinds of people with influence. You did a lot behind the curtains. It is our custom to be proud when pull is not needed in order to succeed. However it was a project for which it was mitzvah to exploit every exploitable connection and pull every available rope. Several years later I read the history of the TDDs where everything started – USA – and my feeling is that overall it was easier for us than for the TDD innovators in USA.

Unlike several other people, you accepted the responsibility to facilitate the communication with me. I do not remember any occasion in which you corrected my speech, and I remember that once you told me that when I feel relaxed, I speak more clearly. You invested the effort into learning and practicing cued speech and it was always easy for me to understand you when you addressed me, except of course for the last few weeks during which you were too tired for this.
I remember various circumstances during my childhood, in which I did not understand what was going on and what people want from me – until you arrived and explained clearly what is going on there.
Ever since the TDD entered our lives, you were my relay service, to relay messages between me and other people whom I needed to contact by telephone. Happily, my need for the relay service was lessened over the years, with improvement in telecommunications accessibility of the general population, thanks to SMS and E-mail.

Thank you, father.

The Earth Hour and the Deaf

שעת כדור הארץ והחרשים

ביום חמישי 24.3.2011 שעה 20:00, שוב יכבו את האורות לשעה כדי להעלות את המודעות לאיכות הסביבה.

ושוב, אצטרך להחרים את האירוע כמו שהחרמתי אירועים דומים בשנים קודמות. וזאת למרות תמיכתי ברעיון השמירה על איכות הסביבה.

הסיבה – בגלל חרשותי, אני צריך אור ואביזרים חשמליים שונים כדי לתקשר עם אנשים אחרים.

קישורים נוספים (additional links):

An Accessible Popular Science Lecture – a treat!

Today I was in Weizmann Institute of Science, to attend a popular science lecture.  The lecture’s topic was “The role of molecular traps in plant behavior”, and the reason I went to this particular lecture was because Mrs. Rina Tzoref arranged for it to be accessible.
Abner Hall - lecture made accessible thanks to a notetaker
The subject was put in the context of the Green Revolution, which freed humanity from hunger due to shortage of agricultural produces.  However, population growth continues and agriculture needs to be even more efficient.

Currently, out of the theoretical yield, only about 60% gets consumed by people.  The other 40% are lost to weeds, pathogens (fungi, bacteria, viruses), insects and other animals.  In addition, it is also necessary to defend plants against plagues.  For example, the pathogen involved in the 1845-1849 Irish Potato Famine has made a comeback.  There is also a new pathogen from Africa, which infects wheat plants, and against which there is no currently known cure.

Therefore, it is very interesting to know how do plants defend themselves against pathogens and insects.  Most of the lecture dealt with those defense mechanisms.

Benefits of Free Software to people with disabilities

After attending the August Penguin 2010 conference, Ilana Benish wrote (in Hebrew) about the benefits of Free Software for people with disabilities.

I would like to make also the following points:

  • Working on Free Software projects, like working on any volunteer work, is a way for software developers with disabilities to prove their worth to prospective employers.  This can serve to overcome prejudices and resistance by prospective employers, especially those who were burned by people who proved to be capable of drawing a salary and incapable of delivering results.
  • Like working on other self-benefit projects, working on relevant Free Software projects can empower people with disabilities, who can now help themselves rather than rely upon other people to help them.

August Penguin 2010 sans IRC and lecture transcript streaming

Other people blogged about the conference, so I’ll be very dry and technical.

I served as the accessibility coordinator of the conference.  In addition to myself, I arranged for accessibility for two more people with disabilities – blind woman and a deaf+parapelgic man.  I reached the trivial conclusion that it was much easier in previous years, when I needed to arrange for accessibility only for myself.

IRC

Before the conference, it was suggested that we’ll try to arrange for lecture transcript straming to the Internet, to benefit people who cannot attend the event in person.  I bought into the idea when I realized that it would make the lectures accessible to deaf-blind people, who bring with them laptops with a Braille display.

Originally, I thought that I’ll not have the time to figure out the technical details.  However, since I was laid off two weeks before the conference, I had ample time to deal with the challenge of lecture transcript streaming.

During those two weeks, I went through the whole process of evaluating and selecting a transcript streaming method, and settled on IRC.  Then, I evaluated few IRC clients, until xchat was chosen.  Finally, I figured out how to configure the IRC channel to meet our needs.

However, all those efforts came to naught because the wireless network at the conference blocked IRC and opening IRC had to be arranged ahead of time instead of at the last minute.  Alternatively, I could have used a wireless modem, but I was not prepared for this.

The chosen IRC client had the problem of wasting columns on uninformative nickname of the speaker on the channel being followed.  For the next August Penguin, a special-purpose client should be developed.  It will take care of all details of reserving a channel and it’ll allow text entry and display in an optimal way for the task (lecture transcribing and real-time streaming of the text).

During the process, I got help from several people.  A thank-you letter should be found in the archives of the discussions@hamakor.org.il mailing list.

Other Problems

In addition to the IRC problem, the laptop got stuck once, losing the transcript of the quick lecture about Free Software in Education.

The notetaker and the deafies sat near one of the lecture hall’s entrances, and it turned out to be a noisy place until the door was closed.  As a result, the notetaker missed parts of what was being spoken in the lectures.

As far as I am aware, everything else worked flawlessly.

Power Splitter

I brought with me a power splitter with three sockets.  I was amused to notice that people with laptops, who sat near us, needed the electrical power to recharge their laptops.  So all three sockets were in use.