Unmute Presents Unmute Presents – Thomas Domville

Today, Marty spoke with Thomas Donville from AppleViz about his tech journey from COBOL programming to network administration, facing challenges post-vision loss in 2005, and his role at AppleViz. Thomas highlighted the limited accessibility tools available, challenges working with servers, and the community-driven nature of AppleViz. He also shared podcasting equipment recommendations and AppleViz’s expansion into various tech discussions beyond Apple products. Our talk explored Thomas’s commitment to tech accessibility and AppleViz’s growth as a valuable resource for the visually impaired community.


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This extra unmute content brought to you by club unmute members Unmute Cho.

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Hey, everyone, and welcome back to another unmute. And today we have a very special guest. We have Thomas Donville from Appleviz. Say hello, Thomas.

00:18.414 –> 00:20.714
Hello, Thomas. How are you guys doing?

00:21.054 –> 00:30.354
We’re doing good. Thank you very much. So I figured we’d start out a little bit with your background and how you got involved in technology.

00:31.914 –> 01:59.360
Sure. Oh, my. You really want to go way back in the time machine of Thomas when he was little, you know, it all started back around, gosh, 1981 or so. My dad came home with the box saying, this is for you. And I was like, what’s in it? And I opened it up, and in there was a computer. Now saying, a computer back in 1981? That is unbelievable. First thing you thought was probably apple. It wasn’t. It was a Texas instrument, a TI 99, four a. That was my very first computer, and it was a beautiful machine. I absolutely loved it. And by golly, I got so good with that. I self taught myself everything with that. Basic was the language of the day. And once I got a hang of that, about when I turned 17, believe it or not, I got my first programming job of a local company where I lived. I was doing cobol. I don’t know if anybody out there has ever heard of COBOL. Cobol is a really, really, really ancient old language. But from that point and on, I did programming probably all the way into, I want to say, 98. 99 is when. Then I decided, well, heck, I want to do something different here. I’m going to just go to a network administration.

01:59.542 –> 02:17.304
And so I got a question for you. So just curiosity, just to pique my own curiosity, once you got that computer up and running, what kind of apps were on there? What did you do on that computer? Because I believe at that time, obviously, there wasn’t really a whole lot of Internet. So what kind of things did you do with that computer?

02:18.244 –> 03:23.294
That baby had a full sixteen k of memory. And that’s all you had. There is no storage. It’s just full ram. Sixteen K. And you could do nothing but the OS itself. The OS, you just type in a command. So all you had was essentially like the OS itself. So you just start typing in code. You can start typing with ten, and then put your code in 20 next code. And then when you got it all together, you can then save it to a tape drive, which is your tape recorder. Yeah, so I. I had a tape recorder. You hit record and you say, send it to the internal modem. And you can hear squeel chain and squeegee and everything. And the thing that really sucked about it is that when you play it back, that’s how the storage get back onto the 16k. But problem is, if you use that tape over and over and over, it degrades over time and then you lose those programs.

03:23.714 –> 03:29.322
Yeah. So you have to transfer that to another backup tape if you want to preserve everything and keep it solid.

03:29.498 –> 04:02.506
Right. So there were no such thing as a floppy drive or hard drive. Nothing at that time. Now, within a year or two after that, I did purchase a floppy drive. It was the old five and a quarter floppy disk. Yeah. And that was loud. That thing was huge, and I kid you not. It was probably 18 inches wide, probably that deep, just for a floppy disk drive.

04:02.690 –> 04:06.026
And how much did that cost you at that time when you purchased that?

04:06.210 –> 04:20.702
Very expensive. Probably in the $500 range. Wow. Okay. Yeah. Back then, $500 was what? Probably? I don’t know. I’m just guessing a couple thousand now. Wow.

04:20.758 –> 04:25.154
Crazy. Okay, so then you got into networking after that?

04:26.014 –> 05:13.744
Yeah, I decided to. So I got into all sorts of different flavors of network administration. So I did for a little bit of web administration, I did some security administration, and then finally I just went to a straight network administrator that basically took care of the routers, the hub switches, servers, whatever, not connection with the fibers. So I’d be back there in this room that is about, I don’t know, 50 ish degree, very cold. I always had to wear a coat to work, which I didn’t like. There’s no windows. It’s always seemed to be in a bunker or some sort. Yeah. And there will be wires galore.

05:15.604 –> 05:20.132
I mean, you’re. You’re. It could be 100 degrees outside and you’re in there dressed like an eskimo.

05:20.308 –> 06:03.188
Yes, very much so. Yes. Those were the good days. And then I lost my vision about 2005. And there were some issues. There was beginning to show some things I couldn’t do at that time. Some things were just totally inaccessible and whatever not. I was still able to do it for a while. And then about 2012, Heidi decided just to change career. And then I became more of a consultant for the state of Missouri as a rehab engineer. So I thought I going back to.

06:03.236 –> 06:06.864
When you lost your vision, what kind of tools were available for you at that time?

06:08.564 –> 06:57.604
There wasn’t a whole lot. I mean, we had jaws, but the tools were rough because a lot of the Microsoft tools that I use for remote connection to the servers and things were not accessible at that time. I would have to install jaws on the server end to make those connectivity work. Right. And half the time they would work, half the time they wouldn’t. I would have freedom, scientific try to help me out to try to get that connection so I can get it, at least have access to it. And if you know anything about servers, they don’t really have a sound card. So it’s not like I can just go to the servers in the server room and just turn up the sound. They just didn’t have it. It was just keyboard and just the raw server itself. So it was, it was challenging.

06:58.304 –> 07:01.094
Yeah, I can’t imagine.

07:01.874 –> 07:02.614

07:03.234 –> 08:00.324
Yeah, definitely. I ran into an issue recently where I had a problem with the password on one of my Macs and I could not, no matter what I did, it wouldn’t recognize the password. And I tried everything. Nothing would work. So finally I called Apple to assist me. Apple accessibility. And what they wanted to do was reboot the computer into like safety mode, right? Because then they figure they can walk me through a process that would allow me to reset at the password. So I did that and I’m listening to this person because I figure this is going to be able to get me around the issue that I’m having with the password. So once we get booted into the safety mode, I got stuck because there was no voiceover. Voiceover doesn’t work in safety mode. So then the person on the phone was like, I don’t know what to do at this point. You’re going to have to bring the computer in because I can’t navigate you now. So it’s kind of a.

08:00.404 –> 10:14.630
There was no FaceTime, there was no convenient of. I mean we did have web cams at the time, but it wasn’t like it was pretty poor quality. So it’s not like I could carry that whip cam around at all. It just didn’t work that way. So it basically came to the point where I was starting to need others to help me assist in certain circumstance. And that got to, to the point where I just felt like, you know, they got their own job to do and I know they’re doing a wonderful job to help me out and things like that. Things are much different now. A lot of things are a lot easier. But nonetheless, there was definitely some obstacles. It wasn’t impossible, so you could do it. And it was a fun job. I mean, it was challenging because we would have a help desk and we would have three tiers. So when people call with help, they go to the first tier help desk. And so you’re talking to a specialist at the help desk, and they try to work through the problem that you’re having. And if they couldn’t do it, then they send the ticket to the tier two folks. And those folks, all they do is just roam around the company. So they go to each person’s desk and try to resolve the problem. And if they still can’t do it, then it goes to the last tier, which is tier number three, which was me and one other guy. And it was challenging. They would throw us things like nobody else could figure out. And, of course, if you try to do Google search and something, of course, a lot of this didn’t exist. And it was. It was tough, but it was fun. I enjoyed it. But I will say it’s a lot of work, a lot of times into it. It’s a 24 hours thing. If something goes down at two in the morning, guess what? If you’re blind, doesn’t matter. Somebody’s going to have to get up, get your butt over there, and get the things back up. And it just became a little bit harder and harder as time went on. So that’s why I decided just kind of hang my shoes up and just take my. What I know about technology and try to teach people on what I’ve learned over the years as a rehab engineer. That’s a good way to go.

10:14.662 –> 10:18.194
I mean, and definitely you get to be a part of helping people, you know?

10:19.824 –> 11:08.194
Mm hmm. Yes. It’s rewarding because I’m actually sitting there and we’re just one on one, which is nice. I don’t have to worry about a class environment, so it’s personal, and they get to know you, and I get to know them, and. And we get to really get deep and dive and be able to base lessons on their skill level and et cetera. It was fun. You know, about a year ago, maybe two years ago, I can’t remember exactly, I decided to hang up my shoes, and I am now fully retired, so I pull Social Security, and I have a pension that I pull as well. So I’m enjoying my retirement. And so this is kind of wonderful and kind of. She’s like, what I do with my time now. Yeah.

11:08.314 –> 11:16.894
Well, you are still very involved in Appleviz, and for the people who don’t know what Appleviz is, you want to kind of give a little primer on what Appleviz is.

11:17.404 –> 12:56.754
Sure. Appleviz is a website that was developed back in 2010, and this is a site for everything Apple related products that you own, that you need questions or want to know more about how to use something on Apple products. And we have different guides. We got blogs, we got podcasts, we have app entry pages where you can go see what other people recommend in terms of what apps you must have for your Mac or your iOS. The whole nine yards. This is a great one stop shop for those that are visually impaired and blind. And I know a lot of sighted people will come to Appleviz to get some questions when they are working with other people with their Apple device to kind of answer the questions, what they’re having problems with. So it’s a great resource place called applevis.com. You know, the main reason this was even developed was back in the days, all we had with these email lists, and it got really busy, and people would bring up the same questions over and over and over. And so David Goodwin is the one that’s behind Appleviz and came up the idea. He thought, there’s got to be a better way of organizing all this. And so people can come back and do search and find what people were talking about, or they a place they can come to ask questions on forms that will allow them to get the answers they need. So that’s pretty much in a nutshell what Appleviz is.

12:57.174 –> 13:16.514
So one of the things that you do and very involved in Appleviz is the podcast part of it. I know you’ve got a couple of different things you do on there. You do tutorials on, you know, devices and software in the devices, and you have a roundtable with a couple of other people. So how did you get your start in podcasting?

13:17.564 –> 16:33.976
Wow. You know, that goes back in the early days. I can’t remember exactly when, but David was looking for some editorial team members. And these team members, what they were needing for us to do is more of help them with the maintenance, the moderation, and etcetera. So that was the original reason I came on to the team, was to help them with the moderation and assist people answer question things on the site. It wasn’t until a little later that David came to me and says, you know, we should look at this podcast. It’s becoming a thing, and I think we should do it. I said, david, I don’t have anything. I got is this little tape recorder. And all I had was this Olympus digital recorder at that time. And so I said, all right, I’ll give it a run. And I haven’t stopped since then. So it all started with an Olympus recorder just lay down on a couch, put that on my chest and have my phone up above it. And then I just talked as I stepped through it. And that was the beginning of the podcast journey. And I just found that it was just so much fun. And I didn’t realize how rewarding it was because of all the people would email and they were saying, this is so great. Thank you so much. And so I just kind of expanded on that. We started doing the Applevis Extra, which is an interview with developers and other people that we wanted to bring on to ask questions about their software or games or whatever that might be. And then later, I decided to upgrade to have a monthly show called the Appleviz Unleash. And that is a monthly show that we do every month that talks about the latest and greatest news about Apple. We talk about what’s going on for that month and Apple news. Plus, we talk about a lot about rumors and the latest news that’s coming up on Apple related devices. In between that, I’ve just been doing a lot of podcasting. You know, it’s just something just to help the site go and to kind of encourage people to do podcasts, because we do accept podcasts. And that’s the beautiful part about Appleviz is that is a community based meaning that everything that we want is from the community. So you are the driver of the site. So you come in, posting forms and apps for us, and you can submit podcasts to us, and we’ll post it to. For this for you onto the site. I’m just kind of just there just to have fun. I’m just. I’m not the only one or the only person that does a podcast on there. We do have other team members like Dave Nason. He does the extra every so often, and we can hear him on those shows along with the roundtable when keynotes comes up, we’ll discuss about the various things like that. And a lot of you probably know Scott Davert, we have Michael Hansen, Tyler Steven, and Alex hall, along with David Goodwin. So there’s seven of us in total. That’s really cool.

16:34.080 –> 16:44.952
So now, coming to today, what’s your podcast setup now? Like, what are you using for your microphone? And are you using an interface or what’s your setup now for podcasting?

16:45.128 –> 18:13.248
You know, that’s a great question. It’s unbelievable. A lot of people ask me that question, and I was like, wow, okay. I didn’t know you would be so interested in those kind of things. I love teaching people and educating people, and I learn from the blind community, all of you, is what I learned. And so I, as an audio interface, this is the device where you plug in your microphone and it plugs into your computer. I use a vocaster, too. Now, I have been using the Behringer mixer for many, many, many moons. And I just got this vocaster to probably about a month ago, and that was based on a couple people out there suggesting, and I absolutely love this audio interface. It’s completely accessible. Great to use, very solid, reliable, and reasonable price. Say, microphone I am using call a company called Rodeo, and it’s called Procaster, is designed just for podcasting. So a rode procaster is the microphone I use. I have used AKG, audio technica. I’ve used a lot of different ones in the past. This one seemed to be my favorite, because if you are familiar with a microphone, let’s just think of an artist got a microphone. You see those typical microphones with a little ball on the end, and you just stick that in front of you, you start singing. Right?

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18:13.648 –> 19:45.894
The problem with those that I had is I move around a lot. Yeah. And so the problem is I can hear my voice going left, right, and around. It’s never really there in the sweet spot, and you can tell. So I got the procaster because the, what we call the diaphragm. So that’s the width of the actual microphone area where it’s a sweet spot. And you have a very large diaphragm. So I can go over three, four inches to right and left, and you could not tell. And of course, I’m using, a lot of people don’t know this, but there’s things called windshield or a pop filter that you put on front of your microphone. So it cuts out your. Yeah, we call those right. And so it kind of cuts that down. Otherwise it’s very noticeable. So I try to keep it clean. I use a windows system. I still use audacity. I know a lot of folks out there use reaper. Maybe someday I’ll take the leap. But audacity works just great for me. And I tell you, with the recent audacity release, it is beautiful. I’ve never seen so many different things you can do with audacity before, especially when it comes to plugins, because a lot of the plugins for special effects were always for bigger boys like Reaper and stuff like that. Now it will accept those plugins. So it’s like a whole new life for me. But one thing that I’ve heard about.

19:45.934 –> 20:02.674
It that people despise, which I’m not really sure this is such a big deal in the world of making sure that everything works the way you want it and its functionality. But the number one thing I hear with audacity is people don’t like it because it looks so old and antiquated.

20:02.974 –> 21:06.426
No doubt it’s an old program. It has not really grown. It’s an open source, so it’s free, so you’re paying for what you’re getting. And it is outdated. It doesn’t have all the new fancy multi tracks that you can pull in multiple, multiple channels and things like that. So you. Yes, you can have tracks, but it’s not like what Reaper is. And Reaper doesn’t destroy the tracks. In other words, if I cut something out of it, it just seems to make a subtract, I believe. I don’t know all the jargons, but on audacity, if you cut something, that’s. That’s the end of it. You can undo it once, but once, once you move on, it’s. It’s destructive. That’s what I’ve heard. It’s great for beginners. It’s easy, it’s free, it gets what I need. And, you know, I suppose I could try reaper at some point, but I just feel like I don’t know if I want to take all the time to relearn something over again.

21:06.610 –> 21:24.214
So if someone was just getting started in podcasting, what would you suggest to them? And here’s an interesting question. Since it’s free and it comes on every Mac, if you’re a Mac user, would you suggest garageband, or would you say, no, not garageband. Go to either audacity or reaper or maybe a different tool.

21:24.714 –> 22:47.138
The problem I’ve heard is audacity isn’t that great on the Mac, which is what I’ve heard. I’ve heard some things are not very accessible on that, which is unfortunate. So I can’t recommend audacity for the Mac, and I would definitely recommend audacity for a beginner on Windows if you really want to dive in to a real editor for the very first time. I would. And you don’t mind spending some change? The Reaper is definitely the way to go. I really like Reaper and the sound of Reaper, and I think Reaper would be the way to go. Now, GarageBand, it has its issues as well. You know, I feel like GarageBand is really designed for musician. It’s kind of like the logic pro. It’s really designed or able Ableton. There’s a whole handful of stuff that are really expensive but they’re really for musician. If you’re, if you’re going in professional. Yeah. You’re going to have to learn something really, something even deep. I know Reaper is great, but I think you’re going to have to go with something with Ableton or something like that. I don’t know how accessible that stuff is. But back to the topic. Yeah, beginners, definitely. Audacity, if you want to keep free. Otherwise, if you want to learn something that’s really good, then go with Reaper. That would be my recommendation. Yeah.

22:47.226 –> 22:57.734
And starting out, you think Vocaster two for interface and what, the same microphone you have that rode microphone, you think that’d be good for someone? Just start now.

22:58.914 –> 25:35.174
Well, here’s the problem, is the cost. Over time, I just gotten pickier and things got costlier with my toys. I’m happy to tell people, don’t be shy to use your Olympus recorder. It’s a fine recorder. It’s not going to be clean as you want, but if it gets you to where you could start tasting what podcasting is like, I’m not going to hinder you from having to buy such expensive products. My Behringer mixer, for example, was like $40, and it was just an analog mixer. It has a four channel mixer. It’s got all the knobs on it. The only downside, you have to buy a thousand different plugs for it and try to figure out how everything works. And then over time, I just found these plugs were just cumbersome. I’m having to replace cables and all that stuff. And that’s why I went with the Vocaster, because it’s completely cable free. There’s only cable that goes into is a microphone. And to the computer, my idevice is through a bluetooth, and I can loop back my computer so I don’t have to worry about all those. You know, I don’t want to overwhelm people because I think it’s one of those stepping stones if you have all the money in the world. Yeah, I would definitely go with the Vocaster and a high end or. Well, I wouldn’t. Mine, mine’s kind of a medium end. Some people got some pretty expensive microphones out there. You know, there’s some high stuff out there that could be in $500. I was like, I couldn’t. I. I just can’t. I don’t have the budget for that. So, I mean, these things took time just for me to just assemble this stuff. That’s just my suggestion. Start. Start easy. Use an olympus. Start with audacity and go with that. And now if you feel like you got some money, you want to chunk in. Yeah, definitely go with some sort of a low audio technicus microphone. My first microphone I got off a clearance rack of a local guitar world, which is a musician center for people. You can buy instruments and things. And I found this microphone for, oh, it was 20 some odd dollars. Wow. And it was a beautiful. Yeah, it was great. I mean, the retail price was a $100 or something like that. And I loved it. And it was a great mic. And it was a great mic to start with and go small. There’s nothing wrong with starting small.

25:36.154 –> 25:47.114
That is really cool. So now, from what I understand, Apple viz has got some new things coming. So do you want to talk about what kind of new things are going to be coming to appleviz?

25:47.274 –> 28:59.484
You betcha. So it has always been an Apple related site. And over time, we just kind of grown. A lot of people just come to the site and want to talk about Apple. But the problem was a lot of us are multi gadgets. So in other words, we own a lot of different devices. So for myself, I have a Microsoft Windows on a laptop. I have the Amazon Echo. I have a zoom h one digital recorder. I have a victory reader. You know, there’s lots of different devices that we use on a daily basis that makes our life more independent and that we are happy with. The problem is a lot of those questions couldn’t be asked on Appleviz because we kind of ran a tight ship that only discussion of Apple products only. And people started kind of wanted to kind of test us, like see how far we can go and questions we can ask outside of Apple. And typically we would have to close it down so we can keep it that way in Apple. But we just felt like it’s just time. It’s time. I think it’s okay to say, hey, we’re going to open up some forms here. And the forms are things like assistive technology hardware. So you can come talk about your braille display, you can talk about anything. Assistive technology terms of hardware. Then we introduce a form for Windows androids and what was I thinking? The smart home tech. That’s it. And so we decided just to open up that as baby steps. This is kind of a pilot test to see how this goes. We want to let people know, no, we’re not disbanding or going to change applevizing. Original mission statement. We are here and we will always be Apple viz and we will always be producing and providing various apple information to our users that will never change. What we change is just what you are allowed to talk about. So it’s not meshed in with the apple stuff. It’s actually separate. So we have Apple related questions and then we have non apple related questions forms area. So you can read the latest posting in those segments or categories. We just thought open it up would bring in people so they wouldn’t have to go to other email list or social media, as we know, is so fragmented and can be very toxic. And what better place to just what we have already provided for 14 years. Coming up, a one stop shop that, you know, the people on that site, those people are very knowledgeable. There’s a lot of great users that know their stuff outside of Apple. And so we want to tap into those people and take advantage of that. So that’s why we introduce as a pilot of those four new forms.

29:00.184 –> 29:18.604
Well, that is really awesome. And I’m excited to see all the new things that are coming and read all the forums. And if you, you guys want to go check out Appleviz, it’s appleviz.com. And Thomas, thank you so much for coming and talking with us today, and we appreciate it.

29:18.764 –> 29:21.492
Thank you so much for having me on. I appreciate you guys.

29:21.668 –> 29:24.784
Yep. All right, everyone, we will see you next time.

29:28.124 –> 29:36.784
Huge thanks to Andre Louie and his shorts collection for the music used in this production.