Seven things you may or may not know about me

Wow! I have the distinct honour of being the only one tagged by my new colleague on the Mozilla QA team: Henrik Skupin. I was also tagged by Steve Lee, and he came first! 🙂

The rules
  1. Link back to your original tagger and list the rules in your post.
  2. Share seven facts about yourself.
  3. Tag 7 people by leaving name and link to their blogs.
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.
The seven things
  1. I was born in a small town called Dannenberg. My mother is native to the town, and my father, after having been a prisoner of war when he was still a young boy, moved from Poland to West Germany, and finally to Dannenberg when he married my mom. I went to Kindergarten there. I was born blind, and because Dannenberg in the late 70s didn’t have the facilities to give a blind child proper schooling, I went to school in Hamburg. I visited my parents over the weekends and during the school holidays, but as I grew older, the visits on weekends became more rare. When I was repeating 12th grade, I moved into my own apartment and made Hamburg my permanent residence. St. Georg, which is the name of the part of Hamburg I lived in is renowned for being both a heavily gay populated area as well as a center for drug addict problems. Having lived there for 13 years is probably the greatest time of my life before moving in with my wife, and that’s not because of the drugs! 😉 When I married my wife, we moved to an outer part of Hamburg called Kirchwerder.
  2. I met my wife through her moving into the neighboring house and renting an apartment there. We were best buddies for almost nine years before we fell in love. From there to getting married, however, it took us only 4 months. And it was her who proposed, and I accepted on the spot!
  3. In my later school years, I was the singer of a school band. We performed songs by Bryan Adams, Queen, Cyndie Lauper (I sang the male part of “Time after Time”), and I also did a decent show on the “Light My Fire” classic by The Doors. When I watch this VHS tape today, I shudder at my singing performance.. Let’s just say that my voice has grown a lot since then. 😉
  4. It’s probably hard to believe, but the man who most influenced my singing is Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. And yes, that includes the falsetto as well! So why did the above list of songs we performed not contain any Bee Gees tracks? Well ya know…That’s a story for another time. 😉 But I’m definitely not limited to Bee Gees songs, and I’m quick at learning lyrics. So if I’m in MV or Toronto, and you need a singer for Rock Star, feel free to come by and ask!
  5. My first computer was not a C64, but a C128D, which had a C64 emulator. I had the later model with the metal casing and without the cooling fan. I did run all the cool C64 games just like my class mates did, and was especially proficient in the “Winter Games” and “World Games” sports games, which could be played by accoustics. I used to frustrate my father, who is not blind, by always beating him at the slay race in “Winter Games”. This computer did not have a screen reader. My father and I spent hours in front of this thing, him reading stuff to me when I was programming or trying out new software, or I did lots of other things purely by hearing the sounds in the TV speakers change depending on what was displayed, and memorizing very specific keyboard sequences. Along with the C128D, we bought a 7-pin Seikosha 180 printer that was so loud my mother could always hear us work from the back of the garden. I collected my first programming experiences there, using the more advanced BASIC 7.0 that came with the C128, and later also Turbo Pascal, which ran under the accompanying CP/M 3.0 mode. I stuck with Pascal for the next 20 years. I moved to Turbo Pascal 5.5 when I got my first PC in 1991, and in 1996, a month after I got my Windows screen reader, I programmed my first Windows UI piece of software in Borland Delphi (now CodeGear Delphi). I did this as a hobbyist until 2007. Only when I started working for Mozilla QA, and spending my free time away from the computer more, I discontinued doing that. Besides, it’s much more fun nowadays to write something in XUL and know it runs on more accessible platforms than just Windows.
  6. I am frequently complimented on my decent English. I had an Irishman as an English teacher at school for three years, and we used to talk to him in English even out of class. I always worked with people from all over the world during my professional career, I have a nag for the language, and the rest is Star Trek. 🙂 It’s strongly American influenced, which once led a cab driver in Birmingham in the UK to ask me where I have my “Yankee accent from”.
  7. I do Judo for a hobby. i did this when I was a teenager, then dropped out for 20 years, and again started fresh after I came out of a recuperative stay at a clinic in May 2007. I’m striving for my yellow-orange belt this or next month, so wish me luck! 😉

And now for the tagging! I nominate:

  1. Jamie and Mick AKA the main developers of NVDA, a free and open-source screen reader for Windows
  2. Willie Walker, project lead for the Orca screen reader for GNOME
  3. Eitan Isaacson, a Mozilla Foundation grantee who has helped the open-source accessibility community in more ways than I can count, and hopefully will do so for quite some time to come!
  4. Frank Hecker, who also helped the open-source accessibility movement in more ways than I can count.
  5. Dirk Ginader, web developer at Yahoo! with a strong emphasis on, and understanding for, accessibility
  6. Christiane Link – who recently moved to London and started a successful newspaper project there
  7. Stefan Nitzsche – because he’s fun to be around, and because he’s the tallest guy in accessible web design I know. 🙂

New feature: Nesting level and position information for HTML lists

The new year has just begun, and we’re already speeding ahead with new features in Firefox trunk nightlies, AKA version 3.2a1pre. These features won’t see inclusion in Firefox 3.1, but are already the next generation features.

The feature I’m going to report on today has to do with position information and nesting level information of ordered and unordered HTML lists.

To give you an example:

  1. Apples
  2. Oranges
  3. Bananas
    • Apples
    • Bananas
    • Oranges

As you can see here, the unordered list is nested within the ordered list. The ordered list has a level of 1, the unordered a level of 2. Also, in case of the unordered list where a number is not provided, there is still an item count that we expose.

The information is exposed in a similar manner as listbox items, combobox entries, or TreeView element information. We have the following object attributes:

  • posinset – to specify the position within the set
  • setsize – the size of the set of items
  • level – specifies the nesting level

We also specify level and position information in the AccessibleDescription for convenience of screen readers that don’t use object attributes yet. So, the inner “Bananas” item has a description of “L2, 2 of 3”, just like a TreeView item would.

But my screen reader already has nesting level and item count information, so why bother?

Well…Because we’re nice! 🙂 We save newly supporting screen readers or those that don’t want to calculate these values themselves the trouble and do it for them. We know the underlying HTML anyway and can provide the information while building the accessible tree. There is no need to go in and calculate these items yourself any more, or you don’t even need to start doing it. Just use our values if you want to give your users this information.

NV Access published their progress on the Mozilla Foundation grant

The new year starts out with a bang! NV Access, the makers of theNVDA, a free, open-source screen reader for Windows, have published their progress report on the current Mozilla Foundation grant. The grant goals were laid out for a three year period, and look what was accomplished in the first year alone! Mick and Jamie, you rock!