by Renee West
From the Editor: NFB-NEWSLINE® is one of the most exciting programs we sponsor. When we started the service, it opened the newspaper for many blind people and did so with a simple telephone interface that anyone could use. As the service has evolved, we have kept our simple telephone interface and have added to it to provide an ever-increasing set of features for our readers who demand more.
In this article Renee West, who works on our NEWSLINE staff, reviews how to use both the basic and advanced features of the service in an easy-to-understand style that will soon have you getting more out of your favorite newspapers. Here is what she says:
NFB-NEWSLINE®, a free service provided by the National Federation of the Blind, offers a wealth of information to anyone who cannot read the printed word due to a visual or physical disability. Subscribers can easily and independently access over three-hundred publications, including magazines, national and state newspapers, and wire feeds, as well as TV and job listings anytime, day or night. They can access NFB-NEWSLINE using any touch-tone telephone or with our new online access methods using NFB-NEWSLINE Online.
In early 2009 NFB-NEWSLINE created a new Website, <www.nfbNEWSLINEonline.org>, which serves as the portal for the ground-breaking new initiatives, Web News on Demand, NFB-NEWSLINE in Your Pocket, and Podable News. Many people have already benefitted from these new access methods, but many more who may wish to make use of them need a little more information and a friendly nudge to get started. This article will help you enjoy the increased access and flexibility from NFB-NEWSLINE Online (the name we’ve given this suite of current and future online initiatives). More information about the newest access method, NFB-NEWSLINE NLS DTB Downloader will be provided in a later article.
To learn more about as well as enjoy these new access methods, visit <www.nfbNEWSLINEonline.org>. This site has lots of useful information about the new initiatives, a frequently-asked questions page, and pages created to keep our subscribers connected and informed. Select the “Log In” link from NFB-NEWSLINE Online’s Website, and on the next page provide your subscriber ID and security codes in the user entry fields. If you’ve forgotten your codes, don’t worry. You can easily obtain them by giving us a call at (866) 504-7300. Also you don’t need to have a second set of codes to use the service; your current codes will work just fine. On the next page you will be presented with the NFB-NEWSLINE Online Main Menu, and from there you can choose the initiative you wish to use. The link for Web News on Demand will take you directly to that access method, and the link for NFB-NEWSLINE in Your Pocket and Podable News will direct you to their pages with information about these initiatives and links to download the corresponding software. Please note that, to use these new initiatives, you’ll first need to agree to abide by our non-dissemination policy; we require that you not share the content with others.
We currently offer over three-hundred publications. You should first select the link for the new favorites management tool from the NFB-NEWSLINE Online main menu to choose which ones you want to read, since setting up your favorites is a crucial first step for several of our new access methods.
In the past, using phone access, subscribers were able to choose up to six favorites from our publications, and those favorites remained constant across all access methods.
With the changes to favorites management made available in early 2010, subscribers are able to choose different favorites for each of the ways they read our publications. Further, with the electronic access methods (such as email, Web News on Demand, NFB-NEWSLINE In Your Pocket, and Podable News), subscribers can select as many favorites as they’d like. Please note that only the online favorites management tool may be used to set up favorites for these online access methods, including email. Setting up favorites for Podable News is slightly different, since those who wish to have individual sections of publications downloaded will need to identify which sections they desire. The limit on favorites for the phone access method is still six, but we will work to increase that number in the future. Naturally subscribers who access NFB-NEWSLINE by telephone can still manage their favorite channels just as they’ve always done or by using the Web if they prefer. Finally we have also given subscribers the ability to establish their favorite TV channels using the Web.
Let me first tell you about Web News on Demand and why you’ll find it to be tremendously useful. Many print publications have a Website where you can read a selection of their articles, but to do so you have to maneuver around a multitude of links, pop-up ads, graphics, and other such technological detritus, a difficult task even for those who are technologically savvy. With Web News on Demand, however, subscribers visit a secure, text-only Website that affords easy access to all publication content with a minimum of distractions. One terrific benefit of Web News on Demand is that you can view an entire publication offered on the service on one screen so that you can easily locate a term wherever it occurs in the publication by using the search function (control+F). This is a great feature if you’re accessing a particular publication just to read for example about a recent federal appellate court ruling, commentary on your sports team’s new recruit, or a review of your favorite band’s new album.
Using Web News on Demand is a snap because the menus are laid out logically as follows:
My Favorite Publications: Once you’ve set up your favorites for Web News on Demand using the favorites management tool, you can easily access all of your favorite publications under this link.
Information Specific to Your State: This is where you can read your State Information Channel to become informed about important issues affecting your state, such as state agency or organizational news—always assuming that your service provider has posted the information.
Publications for Your State: As with the phone-based service, the publications for your state are easily accessible--all of your state’s NFB-NEWSLINE papers are available here.
Publications Organized by State: Select this option to get papers from across the country organized into groups by state (this includes groupings for national and Spanish-language papers as well as for magazines).
Publications Organized Alphabetically: This is a comprehensive list of all of the publications offered; this list makes searching for a specific newspaper particularly easy.
Magazines: The service currently offers over thirty magazines, and they are all available under this heading.
TV Listings: This link will direct you to the TV listings feature. You will first need to have your listings customized to your location and television signal receiver, which is done over the phone by selecting option number eight from the main menu.
When viewing the publications in a particular category (such as for your state), you’ll see the name of each publication available, as well as a link for each issue in the system. As on the phone, you will have access to the current issue, the previous issue (for newspapers this will be yesterday’s edition), and (for newspapers) usually the Sunday edition. To read the issue of your choice, select the link for that date. You will be taken to a page with a listing of all sections; each section is a link to a page that lists the articles available in that section and the first line or two from each article. The article titles are links to the articles themselves.
If you wish, using the Full Publication and Full Section links, you can view the entire publication or a particular section on one screen. This multi-tiered approach also allows you to have an email of a full publication, a particular section, or a single article delivered to you on demand. Of course you’ll need to provide a valid email address in your subscriber account, so, if you’re not receiving your requested email, please call us with that information at (866) 504-7300. (If leaving a voice mail, please include your six-digit subscriber code.) You may also wish to inspect your junk mail folder, since these emails may initially get snagged by spam filters.
NFB-NEWSLINE in Your Pocket is a free software application that a subscriber installs on his or her computer. It automatically downloads newspapers or magazines of the subscriber’s choice to his or her Victor Reader Stream, Icon/Braille+, BookSense, or BookPort Plus. With NFB-NEWSLINE subscribers can quickly and easily get their favorite publications and can connect with the server at any time of the day to retrieve publication updates and get the latest-breaking news.
To obtain the NFB-NEWSLINE in Your Pocket software and learn about how to use this feature, visit <www.nfbNEWSLINEonline.org>, log in, and from the main menu select NFB-NEWSLINE in Your Pocket. Please note that, to use this access method, you will need to have set up your favorite publications list using the favorites management tool before launching the NFB-NEWSLINE in Your Pocket software. To experience the flexibility that this feature affords, you must download the software, and we recommend that you install the application that includes Java to ensure that you have the necessary software to run the program. Selecting the download link will open the NFB-NEWSLINE in Your Pocket setup wizard; follow the steps to install the program on your computer.
Now that you have the application installed, getting your favorite papers and magazines is easy. To have your favorite publication content placed on your digital Talking Book player, first plug your device into your computer using a USB cable and turn on your player; your computer should recognize the attached device before you launch the application. Please note that some digital Talking Book players require that you set your device to act as a drive before connecting it to the computer. Then double-click on the NFB-NEWSLINE in Your Pocket application icon on your desktop to launch the software and connect to the server that will retrieve your content.
Launching the application will open a command-prompt screen, your device will be recognized, and you will be asked to enter your codes and confirm the device’s name. Subsequent downloads will not require this step because your device will be recognized by our servers. The command-prompt screen will describe the download process for you; your content is at this time being transferred onto your digital Talking Book player. When your favorite content has been fully downloaded onto your device, the command prompt will say “Completed” and will indicate something in the form of “All Content Updated on (Your Name)’s Victor Reader Stream.” You may unplug your device at that time after using the “Safely Remove Hardware” utility on your computer. Pretty easy, don’t you think? Not only easy, but also fast. It will probably take you as long to read about how to use NFB-NEWSLINE in Your Pocket as it will actually take to use it.
At the 2010 national convention we released our newest access method, Podable News. This access method will be of particular interest to those of you who would like to read specific sections of publications, since one of the unique benefits of Podable News is that you can create a publication tailored to your preferences by choosing, cafeteria style, from the content available. For example, you can choose to have just the sports section from USA Today, just the Editorials from the New York Times, and just the Features section from Wired. Like NFB-NEWSLINE In Your Pocket, Podable News is a small piece of software that you download to your computer. Podable News creates MP3 files of our publication content that you can play on a media player on your computer (such as Winamp) or download to MP3-playing devices or to most digital Talking Book players.
To use Podable News, you’ll first need to visit <www.nfbNEWSLINEonline.org>, log in, select the link for the favorites management tool, and select the “Podable News” link (Manage Your Podable Subscriptions). Here you can set up your preferred publications and/or their individual sections that you wish to download. You can choose to view the available publications either from an alphabetical list or from a list organized by state—this includes sections for magazines, national newspapers, and Spanish-language publications. You’ll see that there are two links for each publication. Selecting one adds that entire publication to your favorites list, while the other opens a new page listing the sections for that paper. When making your selections, it’s important to remember that it takes longer to download an MP3 file than it does to download text or DAISY files. As a result you may need to allot more time for the download process if you have selected quite a few favorites. Once you’ve selected the publications or their sections, you’re ready to download the Podable News software.
To obtain the application, select “Podable News” from the NFB-NEWSLINE Online main menu. On this page you’ll see two links for the software; one includes Java software, and the other does not. As with NFB-NEWSLINE in Your Pocket, we recommend that you select the software with Java included to ensure you have the most recent version of Java on your computer. Selecting the link will begin the download process. Simply follow the steps outlined in the setup wizard to install the Podable News software on your computer.
Once Podable News is installed, launch the application by selecting the shortcut icon placed on your desktop. This will open a command-prompt screen that will outline the download process for you and will let you know when it is complete. Either you may choose to download content to your computer to play on a media player such as Winamp, or, if you connect an MP3-playing device or a digital Talking Book player to your computer using a USB cable, you can download content directly to these devices. Digital Talking Book players supported by Podable News are the same as those supported by NFB-NEWSLINE in Your Pocket: BookSense, BookPort Plus, Victor Reader Stream, and the Icon/Braille+.
We hope you find that the availability of these new access methods increases the value of NFB-NEWSLINE and makes it easier for you to access the news you need. For more information about NFB-NEWSLINE or its new features or to become a subscriber, call (866) 504-7300, email <nfbNEWSLINE@nfb.org>, or visit <www.nfbNEWSLINEonline.org>.