I’ve just received my 13.3″ Onyx BOOX Max2 e-Reader.

And so far I’m happy with it.

There exists an underlying issue with Android-based e-Readers, where these e-Readers are 4 years in the making, and where the issue is something I’m just learning about in recent weeks. As a security precaution, Google has toughened the requirements on the Google Play Store app, and on the Google Services app, which made numerous e-Readers, that were once proud to offer a working Google Play app, unable to connect to Google Play in the short term. This measure became effective as of March in 2018. However, certain manufacturers of such devices have been struggling to make their devices compliant with the new Google Store, and as far as I know, the BOOX Max2 which I just received, may be able to connect to the Google Play store fully.

(This posting has been revised, as of 4/14/2019, 10h15 : )

Out-of-the-box, the Max2 had a firmware version from April in 2018. But the latest Firmware update is from December in 2018.

  • I am glad to say that I found out how to set a PIN Code for this device because if there had truly been no way, then the cloud resources that I’m logged in to would be just as vulnerable, as an unlocked tablet. With the latest firmware, I found this setting under ‘Settings -> (Arrow to the Right) -> Screen Lock PIN Code’.
  • Apparently, the way to activate Google Play on this device, is now to go into “Settings -> Application” and to check “Activate Google Play”.

Instead of activating the Google Play Store, I have been focusing on using the Onyx app store for the time being. In days gone by, their in-house app store had a reputation of only offering apps in Chinese. But what the users of the Max2 can now do, is download e-Ink optimized apps in English. Those apps include the Amazon Kindle Android app.

This is a huge find for me because it also implies less of a security compromise, than what I’d have, if I was just to log the Max2 into Google Play.

I can side-load Free APK-Files to install software, and can install some additional proprietary, non-free apps from Onyx. APKs include the ‘OverDrive’ app, which allows me to check out books from my public library, in e-Book format. And what installs from the Onyx app store includes the ‘Kindle’ Android app, optimized for e-Ink.

I’ve tested both apps, and they seem to work fine.

But then again, speaking of side-loading… This can imply that files need to be transferred via USB-cable from a PC, to the device, and the device uses MTP as its protocol. There are some reports of issues in getting this to work from the Linux GUI, and I just ran in to such an issue…

(Updated 6/21/2019, 7h35 … )

Continue reading I’ve just received my 13.3″ Onyx BOOX Max2 e-Reader.

Getting the Orca Screen-Reader to work under Plasma 5

In case some readers might not know, even though computing is heavily visual, certain advanced desktop-managers can be set up for impaired people to use – which also falls under the category of “Accessibility”. This includes the ability of the computer to speak a robotic description of what’s happening on the screen, in case a user can hear, but not see properly.

There are some users who feel they should stick with Windows, because Accessibility can be so hard to set up under Linux.

There are other users who are sorry they every clicked on “Accessibility”, because now they cannot turn it off.

If a visually-impaired user wants Accessibility set up on a Linux computer, I’d definitely suggest letting a trusted other person set it up, because until it’s set up, complicated things may need to be done, and accessibility will not be set up, so that the end-user will not benefit from Accessibility, while trying to set it up.

Some regular users find screen-readers trying for their patience, because of the fast, robotic voice, until they manage to shut it down again. Personally, I only find screen-readers trying, If I happen to have set one up late at night, because the voice could cause some sort of noise-complaint from my neighbors, droning on until I manage to disable it again. In the middle of the day, I don’t find these experiments trying.

I guess that a good question which some people might ask me, would be why I even do such an experiment, given that I’m not visually impaired and don’t need it. And what I do is set everything up until it works, and then disable it again.

On my recently-installed Debian / Stretch computer named ‘Plato’, which is also running Plasma 5 as its desktop-manager, I just did manage to get this feature to work, and then to disable it again.

(Updated 15h50, 1/17/2018 : )

The first thing I had to do, was install a long list of packages. The list below includes what was installed, but it should not really be necessary to give the command to the package-manager manually, to install everything here, because some of these packages will follow as dependencies from other packages. But here is a roundabout list:

Continue reading Getting the Orca Screen-Reader to work under Plasma 5

Further Updates to Tone & Talk App

In This earlier posting, I had written about an update which was made to the “” App on Google Play, that is meant to be use with my ‘‘ Bluetooth headphones. The main new behavior which I had written about, was the fact that as of that update, I was no longer able to force the app to use the System Default Text-To-Speech Voice, which is already installed on my phone, and which happened to be higher-quality than the voice which the app had started using.

A further fact about that update was its main intention, to introduce new features. Therefore, it now has a feature, as well as enhancements to some other features, which it already had in a more-basic way.

Well since February 16, LG has released several follow-up updates, some of which may have had as purpose to fix bugs, which inevitably crop up whenever major new features are first implemented. And somewhere along the way, the voice also switched back, to the system-selected voice.

Aside from the Voice-Dictation feature, there have been enhancements to how the app uses the generated voice to send notifications to the user. But while I use the Notifications feature often, I have made no attempt to use the Voice-Dictation feature, for which reason I cannot comment on how well that works.

What I find is that if I am required to learn many new codes, for how many times I can tap, or long-press, on a small number of buttons physically on the headphones, in order to activate a certain feature, then all of that tends to become a distraction to me, personally, rather than a benefit. And so what makes me happy, is when the app continues to support features I am used to, without requiring me to relearn how to use those. And it does continue to support the old usage that way.

One oddity about this sequence of updates is the fact that I cannot be certain, whether the temporary switch to a different voice was in fact accidental or by design. The company could have switched the voice back to the way it was before, either because the first change was a bug, or simply because many users had urged them to do so.

Anyhow, I can now enjoy all the familiar features of this app, including the more-refined, 3rd-party TTS Voice.

Dirk

 

Update to Tone & Talk App

Some time ago I purchased the LG HBS-750 Bluetooth Headphones, that are not only meant for making phone-calls, but that also use the AptX codec, to deliver high-quality sound, for my walking around and listening to music.

These headphones are associated with an Android app named ““, that reads out notifications being displayed by other apps, using Text-To-Speech, in a hands-free way. That app in turn, has been updated by LG numerous times. Well it just received a major update today.

I cannot always recognize whether an update has changed the app for better or for worse, because doing so would require more time and experimentation with the app. What has happened though, is that this has triggered some quasi-philosophical thoughts on my part.

I think that the previous version of this app, would just use whatever speech synthesis engine was the system default, on our Android device. And in my case, that was a high-quality Samsung speech engine. But, some other people never set up a high-quality speech engine, maybe because they do not realize that having one installed, is independent of whether we actually have apps installed that use TTS. So some users could be asking, ‘What is the point of this TTS engine, that does not result in an app on my device, that does TTS?’

And so some other users may have had the default TTS engine on their devices, and complained to LG about how bad the Text-To-Speech voice-quality was, which they were experiencing from their app.

In such cases it might be useless to explain to the user, that if he or she wants better TTS voice-quality, he or she needs to install a better TTS voice. Instead, what LG seems to have done is to replace the system default TTS engine with one of their own choosing.

And this was also the first change which I noticed as a result of the update. On my phone, the new voice sound harsher, but also seems to sound most-recognizable. I am more likely now to understand what the app is speaking, even in noisy environments. Before, I had a sublime voice read out notifications to me in a subtly-hinted way (with a distinct British accent).

Now I suppose that nobody will be told to install a 3rd-part TTS voice anymore, because the new app uses its own.

Dirk

BTW: Just in case I ever wanted to demonstrate to another person, the fact that I have a TTS engine on my phone, and that TTS exists, I also have a small app just named ““, that acts as a front-end, and which speaks whatever text is given by me.