Category Archives: news


iCanConnectLogoHave you heard of iCanConnect?

iCanConnect is The National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program.  This Federal program ensures individuals who have combined hearing and vision loss access to telephone, advanced communications and information services (like the internet).

The FCC set aside funding to support one program per state plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  iCanConnect provides communications technology free of charge to low-income people of all ages who have combined vision and hearing loss.  Equipment provided can range from hardware or software applications to the varying technology needs of specialized equipment, like screen readers or braille displays.

How do you know if this program is for you?  You may be eligible for this program if you are a person who has combined vision and hearing loss and you cannot afford communication technology that enable you to use telephone, send email or access the internet.  A qualified program specialist will help you identify your equipment needs and train you on how to use it as well.

You can learn more about iCanConnect and watch a wonderful video introduction on the program by visiting their website at or by calling 1-800-825-4595.

To apply, contact your state’s program. For more information visit:

It’s Not the End for Keyboards

Would a company that makes keyboards and mice recommend an article titled The End For Keyboards and Mice?  Yes. Man Hugging Keyboard

BBC Future wrote about the changing ways we interact with computers.  Strangely, The End For Keyboards and Mice doesn’t predict the end of these important tools.

“The mouse and keyboard won’t go away completely as they are an extremely fast and efficient way of interacting with computers,” says David Kurlander, formerly of Microsoft’s User Interface and Graphics Research Group.

Posted in autumn, the article highlights the changing ways people interact with technology.  It shares theories on where this change is going.  One scenario imagines taking existing technology that measures stress levels and using it to assign workloads…or sending your spouse’s call straight to voicemail!

We love technology; that’s a given since Technologies is part of our name.  It’s wonderful seeing how devices evolve.  Yet the fastest way to get what’s on your mind onto the screen is still your keyboard and mouse.


Read the BBC Future article here:

Technology in the Classroom

While the advent of widespread technology has left huge footprints in the education world, there are a number of ways it can be utilized that haven’t yet been implemented in most school.   In fact, many of the recreational websites and services used everyday can be turned to education.

Take Tumblr for example.  This micro-blogging service has been around since February 2007, and, according to their website:


“Tumblr lets you effortlessly share anything. Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos from your browser, phone, desktop, email or wherever you happen to be.”

This can also function as a neat way to save, organize, and share notes and research for school, especially since for upper grades and college, computers are gaining ground on traditional notepads.  Teachers can use it to host resources and to post class syllabi, as well.

Another great organizational tool that can be used for schools is Trello.  Trello lets you track the details of anything a group is working on.  It includes notes, lets you move things to different people, lets you watch deadlines – and it’s all free.  The website describes it as a “whiteboard with superpowers.”  This could be great for teacher to organize a whole classroom, or for students working together on a group project.

Scribblar is a multi-user online whiteboard.  It lets you chat with group-members while revising images or outlines.

Wallwisher is a free website where you can post online notices – due dates, test schedules, assignments, and more.  It also lets you share sites, have discussions, ask questions and get answers,  and generally share or collaborate on a number of projects.

Another of my favorite tech-based learning tools is actually from a very popular video game: Portal.  Teaching with Portals is a website they built in response to teacher demand.  The game Portal lets you play with physics in some very specific ways to complete challenges.  The website includes free lesson plans for teachers to take advantage of, as well as a teachers-forum to share information, ideas, and feedback.

Duluth, MN – Flood of 2012

As you know, Chester Creek takes its name from a local waterway. Duluth is a strong part of our identity as a company, and is even represented in our logo. Last week, Duluth experienced its largest and most damaging floods in over a century. As a city on a hill in the northern half of the northern-most state in the 48 contiguous states, Duluth is prepared for many eventualities, including hail, blizzards, ice storms, and even the occasional landslide. And of course, we are prepared for the rigors of constant road construction and repair. However, floods have never been part of the occasion here. And a flood of this magnitude was – until recently – unimaginable. Chester Creek itself flooded in a very impressive fashion. Here are a few photos from the 2012 flood:

High Blood Pressure Awareness Month

May is high blood pressure awareness month, and on this blog I have touched on stress more than once. Stress and high blood pressure are closely linked, and high BP can be harmful to your health. Today we’ll discuss the basics of what one’s blood pressure is, what that means for one’s health, and some basic
rules of thumb to avoid developing high blood pressure.

Your blood pressure is exactly what it sounds like – the amount of pressure acting upon your arteries and veins by your heart as it pumps your blood. High blood pressure [Arterial Hypertension] is a risk because it places strain on the walls of your arteries and veins and can contribute to a wide variety of ills, anything from migraines to heart attacks. High blood pressure is also a factor that increases your risk of stroke later in life.

Stress is something I’ve talked about on this blog from time to time, and is generally a terrible thing for your body. Today’s high stress, hurly-burly lifestyle means that a great many Americans are more stressed than is healthy for them, and your blood pressure is one of the first things that gets worse
as you become more stressed. So try to relax! Some great activities to lower high blood pressure are:

  • If you smoke, stop! Smokers generally have a much higher BP than non-smokers, and it can also cause cancer.
  • Limit your sodium and alcohol intake! Having a diet rich in salt can – you guessed it – raise your BP.
  • Really, relax. Take a moment for yourself during your day, grab a book, or go for a walk outside when the weather is nice…
  • Maintain a healthy weight/lifestyle. Small changes in your day-to-day activities can improve your blood pressure as well as your overall health.

Big Grips Available

A friend of mine just bought her first tablet.   She takes it everywhere.  Lucky for her, she’s much easier on
electronics than I am.  Considering the number of times I’ve dropped my phone, I am lucky it still works.  For this reason, I make a point of buying a rubbery case for my phones.  The grip is easier for me to hold on to, doesn’t fall out of my pocket, and cushions it somewhat when I drop it on the floor, sidewalk, or stairs.

For those of you who are like me, or who share a household with someone like me, Chester Creek now offers Big Grip iPad cases.  They’re large, soft cases that grip the iPad, so you can grip it. The foam material is squishy which makes it easy to hold. This means the Big Grip is helpful for seniors who might not have the grip they used to and for children with small hands.  I don’t exactly fit into either category, but I know plenty of people like me who just can’t seem to keep a good hold of things. My butterfingers make me a liability where expensive tech is involved.  Thankfully, the squishy foam material in the Big Grip case also offers protective cushion around the iPad, just in case you do happen to drop it.

Below are some specifications from our website:

  • 9.47″ x 11.57″ x 1.5″ (240 mm x 294 mm x 38 mm)
  • 7.125 oz. (.20 kg)
  • Easy access to all ports and controls
  • Unobstructed cameras (iPad 2 version), Wi-Fi antenna and ambient light sensor

Recent Google Update

Google, search-engine giant and otherwise non-evil company of tremendous technological stuff, has recently updated its privacy policies.  This move consolidated the privacy policies of many of their services into one, allowing for data to be shared across services (i.e. your schedule and your docs work together, etc.).  Many individuals raised concerns about data being less secure, though I am not among them.
Google was keeping the same information before. They just combined some of it.  In any case, following this update they’ve now released something else I found interesting.

Because the data from various services is being combined, they are now able to offer users a compiled monthly report on the user’s own activity.

This will allow users to track their activity across all Google services that they are signed into.  The product was announced this past Wednesday.  “Every day, we aim to make technology so simple and intuitive that you stop thinking about it – we want Google to work so well it just blends into your life, but sometimes it’s
helpful to step back and take stock of what you’re doing online,” wrote a Google product manager.  This feature can also help you keep your information more secure.  “Knowing more about your own account
activity also can help you take steps to protect your Google Account.  For example, if you notice sign-ins from countries where you haven’t been or devices you’ve never owned, you can change your password immediately and sign up for the extra level of security provided by two-step verification.”

This report also allows you some insight as to exactly what the company does know about you.  Based
upon my February report, they know I use an Android phone, a Windows computer, AT&T cell service, and Charter internet. Frankly, I was expecting more. However, when I thought about it, I realized that I am seldom signed in to a Google browser while doing most web surfing.

Google’s Fall Spring Cleaning

With the advent of Google+, many of Google’s services have become redundant. In a bout of off -season spring cleaning, the Google team is shutting down many of these programs. Programs on the chopping block include:

  • Buzz – Buzz is the social sharing network I have written about in the past. It has been eclipsed by Google+ and other services that beat Google to the punch on this front.
  • Jaiku – Another social sharing network that allows users to post snippets and share short links. Unlike Buzz, Jaiku could be used to share photos and the like.
  • iGoogle sharing – iGoogle was a sort of personalized homepage for your internet experience. They added games and gadgets for more interactivity (like old Yahoo! homepages, remember those?) The social gadgets let you share your favorite things with other iGoogle users – from your to-do list, to games, to articles.
  • Bookmarks list – this feature let users share their bookmarks with friends.
  • Friend connect – this feature lets users add social features to their websites, including making registration easy and allowing you to add ratings and commenting to content.
  • Gears – this feature allowed users to create offline web apps. They are discontinuing this feature in an effort to move into HTML5, an updated language for web design that allows a lot of fancy new application programming and such. HTML5, in combination with CSS3 allows developers to do a lot of things that previously could only be done by the use of things like Flash.
  • Search Timeline – this feature let users look at historical search data. This can now be found by using the Google Trends or Insights features.
  • Wave – I wrote about the wave before. This was a really neat idea that just never caught on, which allowed users to interact, webchat, and share files throughout their development.
  • Knol – This service allowed experts to work together to create and publish web content.


Recent Study Finds Autistic Brains Develop More Slowly in Some ways – Performs Better in Others

Autistic children are usually (though by no means always) diagnosed in their early childhood.  New research from UCLA, however, indicates that brain development experiences delays into the teen years.  These findings could help account for some of the symptoms of autism experienced by many individuals in this age range.  The parts of the brain that are involved in learning, emotional processing, language, and social skills appear to develop more gradually in autistic preteens.  Often, autistic children experience difficulties with socializing, particularly in this already difficult period of their lives.

While these new findings help researchers understand (and in the future, possibly ease) some of the difficulties autistic individuals experience throughout their life cycles, one should not take slower brain development in some areas to mean defective or inferior.  Particularly, areas like reasoning tend to be better developed in individuals who have been diagnosed with autism.  This is not limited to so-called “savants.”  While autistic individuals often score poorly on standardized tests or have difficulty communicating, those who know them well would probably tell you that many people with autism are incredibly smart, just not in a way that easily translates into what is “normal,” which is why autism was considered a defect for many years.

Special Olympics

Today we got a letter from the Special Olympics. Its fund raising time, again, boys and girls!

The Special Olympics started over forty years ago, as a small day camp for individuals with intellectual disabilities. the main goal of the camp was to help the capers to explore the world of athleticism and their physical abilities. Five years later, the first Special Olympics was held, with roughly 1,000 participants. Nowadays, the Special Olympics are an international event held semi-annually, on odd years.

The Special Olympics are held to encourage the participants and others facing the same challenges to explore their abilities and become more confident. At the same time, the games promote understanding among others. On the official website, you find these words:

Dignity, acceptance, and a chance to reach one’s potential – these are human rights worth promoting for everyone. For more than four decades, Special Olympics has been bringing one message to the world: people with intellectual disabilities can and will succeed if given the opportunity.