2017-04-09 08:00 pm

An Accessible Bible for All

Hi everyone. Hope all is well in your part of the world. Good. I'd like to introduce all my readers to a wonderful organization which I just found out about a couple weeks ago. But first, let me say that I'm in no way trying to convert anybody here to Christianity, Judaism or any such thing. Everybody has their personal preferences regarding religion, faith etc. and I am a firm believer in religious tolerance. Those of you who have heard of this organization are just being re-introduced to it whether you like it or not,. lol. Simply skip over this entry if you think you'll be bored to tears and/or offended by it.

I received an email a couple weeks ago from my mother, who had received information from a CIF staffer about an organization called Talking Bibles International. My mother asked me if I wanted one of their Bibles, and I immediately replied to her with an enthusiastic Yes. Being a lifelong Christian, I was not only intrigued about finally getting my very own Bible in an accessible format, but I also wanted to explore this organization more. So I immediately clicked on the website link in the email, and was taken to their home in cyberspace. I was pleasantly surprised to find a website that is completely accessible with VoiceOver and Chromevox Classic on the Mac. While waiting for my Bible to arrive, I explored the site. There is a whole section where you can listen to various parts of the Bible read in different languages, all for free. My Bible took about a week to get here, which I'd say is a sufficient amount of time. I cannot say much about this company's customer service, but it must be pretty good if the item arrived without a hitch.

As it turned out, I went to my parents' place about a week ago to celebrate a family member's birthday. I spent the night here, and after breakfast the next morning I had a look at the talking Bible. I was amazed at the size and weight of the thing. The website states that these Bibles look just like pocket Bibles, and they're not kidding. This thing only has a few simple controls, making it a breeze to operate. I was expecting at least some bells and whistles to go along with the narration, but there are none of these. At least I haven't found any thus far. But no worries there. Speaking of the narration, it is quite good. I hadn't heard this narrator prior to receiving the Bible. While this Bible does come with a USB adapter, it is powered by solar energy and therefore requires no batteries.

I highly recommend people check out this organization if they haven't already. Just point your favorite web browser to http://www.talkingbibles.org . Those of you regular churchgoers may also want to let your respective parishes know about this awesome organization.
2017-02-26 10:52 pm
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Hi everybody. In my previous entry I mentioned NFB Newsline, a free service which makes newspapers and some other publications available to people who cannot read standard print or have trouble reading it. However, I neglected to give out the contact information for those who aren't subscribed to this wonderful service but wish to do so. It just might be good if I gave out that info, would it not? So, without further adieu and fanfare here it is. The NFB Newsline team can be reached by dialing (866) 504-7300 , and the dial-in number to log into the service itself is (888) 882-1629 . There is of course a website, for those preferring that method. The website is http://www.nfbnewsline.org . Happy reading and tell them I sent ya!
2017-02-24 08:10 pm

Another Update from the Trenches, and Thanks NFB Newsline Team

Hi everyone. I thought it was about time for another update from yours truly. As I write this, I'm just back from a relative's funeral. Not much to discuss there though: just the usual visitation followed by the funeral itself and spending time with family, both immediate and extended.

But I wanted to let everyone know that I am finally! having more of a desire to delve into politics. Why the change of heart, I hear you ask? Well, mainly because people have been bugging me about it. And yes, this includes my family. There are 2 reasons for my lack of involvement in the political process. First off, it has pretty much always been my belief that advocacy just doesn't work a lot of the time. There, I said it! Lol! I think this is particularly true when it comes to disability-rights advocacy, but it applies to other forms of advocacy as well. I've mainly seen it happen throughout Illinois, but I think it's true in a few other states as well. But the other reason I haven't been much for politics--perhaps somewhat related--is the lack of screen reader access to most if not all of these political websites. Enter NFB Newsline! If I can't travel independently very much, I figure I could at least read up on all that's going on. Sure I've heard some of it while listening to the radio, and while watching TV with family and friends. But I have for the most part been tuned out. I think this can be said of at least some other people though.

I have been an NFB Newsline subscriber now for several years. I've never been much of an NFB fan for the most part. While they have indeed done some very good things, a lot of it is just too hard-core for my bones. However, one of the great things that is going on at the NFB is Newsline. Like all other subscribers to the service, I started out only using it over the telephone. But when their website came online, I just had to investigate. So investigate I did, and I became acquainted with their site. But due to a rather hectic schedule, I basically put it on the back burner and kind of forgot about the website. But last week I went on there again. I am happy to report that the team has been hard at work adding great new content, and I for one am super excited to take full advantage of this excellent service. So thank you NFB Newsline team! Your hard work is definitely paying off, for me and for many others.
2017-02-11 08:38 pm

The Best Thing That's Ever Happened to Me

A lot of great things have happened to me throughout my life. However, one event that stands out for me is getting my MacBook Air. My parents gave it to me for Christmas in 2013. Actually the MacBook Air that I tried out at our local Apple store is the very same one on which I am typing this. I was a Windows user for a very long time, and was rather skeptical about switching. But I'm glad I went with my instincts and my parents' advice. This is a great little machine. Contrary to what some people who have visual impairments think, Apple is very dedicated and committed to making their products accessible to all.
2016-09-21 05:00 pm
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Initial Impressions of Mac OS Sierra

Hey everyone. Subject of this entry is pretty self-explanatory. Last night I began the download process for Mac OS Sierra, Apple's latest release for the Mac platform. I let my system do its thing overnight, and this morning when I got out of bed and came in here the installation process was ready to begin. Thus far I have found Mac OS Sierra to be very good in terms of VoiceOver performance and performance in general. I like the enhancements which Apple has made to existing features, and thus far I've found some pretty cool new ones.

The feature I'd specifically like to focus on in this entry is Siri. I had previously heard demonstrations of Siri, and was impressed. I sort of wondered if it would ever be made available on the Mac, so consequently I'm happy to see it on here. I played around with it a bit earlier today, and it seems to be pretty cool. I thought I'd have to train it to call me by name and recognize my voice, but that hasn't been the case at all thus far. I'd still like to play around with it some more. Although I probably won't use Siri as much as some other people, it's nice that the good Cupertino folks have included it and I will definitely make at least some use of it.

As with Apple's prior releases AppleVis has all the nitty-gritty stuff that VoiceOver and Zoom users need to know, so I won't steal their thunder. But what I will say is that Apple has once again demonstrated their true and ongoing commitment to universal accessibility across their product line.
2016-08-28 07:51 pm
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Watched My First Movie on Here

This is just a quick update to let all my dear readers know that I watched my first movie on here yesterday in iTunes. I had previously read a post on #AppleVis with instructions on toggling on/off audio descriptions on the Mac. I always wondered what that setting was exactly for anyway. So I checked the box to turn on these descriptions, and sure enough they came through loud and clear yesterday in the movie. The movie I chose to watch was "The Peanuts Movie," since that was in my iTunes wish list for a little while. Then this morning I discovered that QuickTime Player is another good and accessible option for watching these movies.

I can't agree more with those who assert that now is a good time to be blind/visually impaired. I for one--having been a proud Mac user now for just under 3 years--am so excited to see what Tim Cook and friends come up with next.
2016-08-04 07:50 pm
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Purchased MarsEdit

Hey everyone. This is just to let y'all know that my MarsEdit trial period expired, and I purchased the full version last weekend. I've been rather busy this week so haven't had much time with it, but this little program seems to be quite good. I'd like to say a big thank you to the developer for getting right back with me regarding the issue about which I contacted him not long ago. I mostly figured out what was going on. Not to get too technical because I don't even know many of the details here, but basically the 2 blogs that I was trying to connect to aren't supported in MarsEdit due to the way in which they are configured. But Dreamwidth seems to work flawlessly with MarsEdit. My thanks go out to the awesome folks over at Dreamwidth Studios, LLC for that. Those who are looking for an accessible blogging/journaling platform, I cannot recommend them highly enough. Their platform works well for people without disabilities too.
2016-05-19 05:58 pm

Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2016 is Today

Hi everyone. This is just a quick? entry to let y'all know--or perhaps remind some of you--that this year's Global Accessibility Awareness Day is today. This is a day when we honor all those who have made great strides in technology accessibility, including web and software developers. I'm including this very website here. Yes I'm talking to you, Dreamwidth staff and volunteers and everybody else who make this thing possible. You've done a marvelous job building an accessible journaling platform, and it shows. Those who have not heard of this please check out http://www.globalaccessibilityawarenessday.org , and pledge your support for this most important cause.

Accessibility also applies to on-land spaces too. For instance, I and a group of co-workers were in Santa Barbara, California earlier this week on business. First off, I was offered a wheelchair to get through security at the airport here in Chicago. I have always been a cane user, and can walk just fine provided somebody with working eyeballs is with me when I need help navigating unfamiliar territory. Having said that though, I did appreciate being pushed around in the wheelchair for that short amount of time. Additionally, it got me and my group through airport security much quicker so that we didn't miss our flight. I was again offered a wheelchair upon landing in Los Angeles. My hotel room was very accessible, including the bathroom. Upon our check-in at the airport in L.A. to return to Chicago, I went sighted guide with one of our group leaders, and upon seeing my cane we were immediately permitted to go directly to the front of the security line. So accessibility truly does come in large and small forms, and I for one very much appreciate all that has been done thus far by various entities to increase access for everybody. Even those without documented disabilities can and do benefit from it.
2016-02-18 09:41 pm
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First Impressions of Chromevox

Well actually, I should say the latest update to Chromevox which I'm assuming gets updated along with Chrome itself. I was trying to use it throughout the past several days, but for whatever reason the only voices that worked were the VoiceOver ones. Additionally, when I shut off VoiceOver and attempted to use Chromevox by itself I got dead silence. So after posting about this on the Axs-Chrome-Discuss email list I decided to try removing the extension and re-installing it. This is a pretty straightforward process on the Mac. So that's what I did and voila! Chromevox immediately came up, and a few of the voices which previously didn't work for me started speaking straightaway as I switched to them. Notice I only said that a few of them are working. For whatever reason several other voices are mentioned in the list but they don't seem to work. This was the case when I used an earlier version of Chromevox shortly after acquiring this MacBook. The other problem I'm having with this extension is that it seems to crash on me a bit. I'm assuming these 2 issues are due to the fact that I have a lot of stuff on here already, mainly music. So I'm going to try and copy some of my music to a thumbdrive, and hopefully sometime in the near future I will be able to get an external hard drive.

But along with the negatives must come positives, right? I did, like I mentioned above, get some of the voices working with Chromevox and thus far I have found it to be a very nice addition to what is in my opinion an excellent web browser. I like the earcons, and it's nice that we have the ability to turn them off if we don't want them. This behavior is also in VoiceOver. So on the whole I'm very impressed with Chromevox. I'm going to try and report the crashes via Google's bug tracker.
2015-10-27 07:54 am
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Oh Captain, My Captain

Hey everybody. Subject line pretty much says it all. I finally managed to upgrade over the weekend to OS X El Capitan. Actually my system was upgraded to OS X El Capitan version 10.11.1 , which is Apple's current release as of this writing. For those of you non-linguophiles out there, El Capitan is Spanish for "the captain." I don't know if Apple necessarily intended it to be that way, but there you go. I'm still figuring things out, but I'm very impressed thus far. VoiceOver is even more responsive than before, particularly Alex. At least this is true on my Mac. There are some new features, one of which is a pop-up menu which lets VoiceOver users choose how the whole interaction thing works. For some I think this will particularly be a welcome addition. It is for me too. At first I was rather put off by the interaction model, but I've come to like it and I see why Apple implemented it. But still, I like this new feature and am going to play around with it as time passes. Rather than discuss this and the other new features and bug fixes though, please head on over to my Links section and have a look at AppleVis. But for now I leave y'all with this thought: Why is it that we park in driveways, and drive in parkways?
2015-08-28 09:41 pm
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Some Thoughts on Screen Readers

Hello folks. I have decided to devote this entry to something that has become rather near and dear to my heart over the past number of years. That is, the current screen reader landscape. I would specifically like to focus on 3 of the screen readers: 2 which I used in the not-so-distant past and the other which I'm currently using. I should mention before going any further with things, that these 3 aren't the only screen readers I've used. But some events within the adaptive technology industry have peaked my interest.

I would first like to give my thoughts on something that occurred at Serotek last year. That is, the departure of some staff. I do not know any of these staff in person, although I did get to know one of them briefly when I was little. This person wasn't working for Serotek at the time, and as a matter of fact Serotek wasn't even born yet. But suffice it to say I was a bit saddened to read of the departure of this person from the corporation as well as her fellow staffers who left. Please visit http://www.serotek.com for more. I was a paid Serotek customer for a few years and really like their screen reader. In addition, I have one of their pieces of software right here on my Mac computer. I'm speaking about iBlink Radio, which was just recently released for the Mac and it has indeed been a very welcome addition to mine. More on my Macintosh computer in a bit. The good news here about Serotek is that they're still going strong.

Now to another Windows-based screen reader which I had the good fortune to use for awhile. This one is NVDA, which as many of you are aware by now stands for Non-Visual Desktop Access. It is developed by the Australia-based NV Access Foundation and is totally free for personal use. It was feared by some that NVDA would soon cease to exist, but I am happy to report that this is in fact not the case at all. I haven't used NVDA either for awhile now, but it appears things are moving along well with it. In addition, I really like the idea of an NVDA remote add-on. I think it will be awesome for people who need tech support but can't shell out thousands or even hundreds of bucks. To check this out as well as all the general awesomeness that is NVDA, just point your favorite browser to http://www.nvda-project.org .

Finally, I would like to talk about VoiceOver, which is what I'm currently using. As readers of this journal know by now, my parents got me a MacBook Air for Christmas in 2013. This is my first Mac computer, and I really like it. For Christmas last year one of my presents was an Apple SuperDrive, which has also worked well for me. I have read numerous complaints online about Apple's commitment to their customer base, particularly when it comes to accessibility. I would like to give my take on this matter. Some of you might think I'm not yet experienced enough with Apple products to do this, but I respectfully disagree. I started out on OS X Mavericks, and am now using Yosemite. So I think I at least have enough experience to shed some light on the matter so here goes. Some of the complaints which I've read indicate that VoiceOver should work exactly like other screen readers. Well, the fact of the matter is that we're talking a whole different operating system here. Do apples and oranges taste the same? Does Windows work the same way as other platforms? It's the same sort of thing. Sure, there may in fact be similarities shared by all these platforms and screen readers, but there are also differences in how tasks are performed and so on and so forth. If you don't like the way VoiceOver does things, then I'd suggest not getting a Mac or any other Apple product. That's exactly why we have all these choices in life, is it not? What I've also been reading is that VoiceOver isn't good enough and that Apple just doesn't care about accessibility like they should. This seems to go hand in hand with what I just discussed here, i.e., that VO should operate exactly like the other screen readers. It really seems to me as though certain members of the blindness community are never content, even if they had access to the moon. This also appears to be true with the disability community at large, but I've mainly seen it throughout the blindness community. Perhaps this is why I haven't joined the National Federation of the Blind or the American Council of the Blind. But more on that in a future entry. For now though, I will just leave it at this. I think Apple is doing a very commendable job with VoiceOver. It has worked very well for me. There are still features with which I'm not that familiar yet, and I've also had some minor issues. However, this is by no means the company's fault. I just haven't mastered everything there is to know about VoiceOver. I have, however, had a very positive experience with it thus far and wish to heartily commend the company on their great work. Furthermore, I feel they did the right thing by including VoiceOver and all other accessibility features right along with everything else. So I hereby declare that Apple is indeed very committed to accessibility. Those who feel differently about this have a right to their opinion. That's all it is though: an opinion. Not all of us feel the same way.
2015-05-15 08:57 pm
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The Blind Swordsman

Hi everyone. I have some exciting news to share. Nope, I'm not taking up jousting or any such thing. Although, there are 2 Renaissance places that I've gone to and really like them both. But the exciting news is this. A few days ago while perusing AppleVis, I came across a game called The Blind Swordsman. It is said to work under Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. So I thought I'd give it a try. This game has actually been out for just over a year as of this writing, and supposedly the Mac version is currently just about the only accessible game for this platform, if not the only one. It's free too, which of course cannot be beat. So I downloaded a copy for myself. At first I ran into a bit of trouble starting the game, but I did get it going. As you will see, there is a security setting that has to be changed in order for this and probably other games to work on here. I really enjoy the game itself, and I've found it to be rather challenging. Perhaps part of this is due to my level of expertise gaming on the Mac, I'm not sure. But it is totally self-voicing and does not require VoiceOver. Here is a link to more about the game and where to download it:

http://www.applevis.com/apps/mac/games/blind-swordsman .

I'm assuming sighted people can play too. Happy gaming!
2015-01-05 01:51 pm
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First Impressions of Yosemite

Hello everyone. I think y'all can guess from the title what this entry is about. That's right, I finally managed to upgrade to OS X Yosemite. And I didn't even need to exchange this MacBook for another one. This one had the right amount of memory to do it. Actually my life-skills tutor was kind enough to install the upgrade for me, because we were doing things anyway yesterday and I needed help sorting out a pesky password issue. So he killed 2 birds with one stone, more or less. I think I could've done the upgrade myself because I've heard that the installation process is entirely accessible with VoiceOver, but it was cool for him to help out. So here are my thoughts thus far of Apple's latest offering for the Mac. First I'd like to alert any VO users who have yet to upgrade, to turn off File Vault if you have a password to log onto your computer. Somehow I managed to bypass the logon screen with File Vault enabled. Funny thing is, I forget how exactly I did it. But this morning when I booted up my Mac, VO was ready to go. I am having a problem with my iCloud keychain, but I'm hoping somebody will be able to assist me with that. But other than that, I'd say Yosemite is another good release. There are 2 minor VoiceOver quirks that I've found, one of which might not even be considered much of a quirk at all depending on how one looks at it. Safari seems to have a slightly different look and feel to it, but it still seems to work great with VO. I'm not going to list out the changes and bug fixes, or the new features since those can be gotten elsewhere online such as AppleVis. But I think Apple did a very good job with Yosemite. In the coming weeks I'm sure I'll play around with it some more and discover new things. But I'm very impressed thus far.
2014-10-21 09:02 pm
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Yosemite is Out But I'm Not Upgrading?

You read that right. Apple released Os X Yosemite to the masses last week to much fanfare. Due to a scheduling conflict I was unable to tune into Thursday's event live, but I did catch it in its entirety the very next evening. A big shout goes out to the awesome folks at AppleVis for providing a direct link to listen to this event. Yosemite was not Apple's only exciting news last week, but it seems to have garnered a lot of attention within the blindness community so that's what I want to focus on in this entry. No I haven't upgraded to it yet, but I might at some point do so. I'll get to that in a bit though.

I first want to mention something about all the complaining that I've read about VoiceOver, Apple's on-board screen reader. I know, there was a time when I didn't think too highly of VoiceOver either. That was before I got my Mac computer though. This is my first Mac computer, and my parents gave it to me for Christmas last year. I had previously read and heard primarily negative things about VoiceOver, namely the assertion that it doesn't do as much as the Windows-based screen readers or that it does things in the wrong way. I can now say with a good degree of certainty that this is far from the truth. I'll admit I've only focused on the basic tasks thus far, such as email and surfing the Internet with both Google Chrome and Apple's built-in web browser Safari. I've also done a little bit with TextEdit, and I got a brief look at Pages. VoiceOver has worked great for me, and I'd have to say it has definitely met my expectations as far as learning a different operating system is concerned. I really appreciate all the on-board help that is available from anywhere within VO. VO isn't perfect, but nothing and nobody is. For instance, one area that isn't too accessible is the Notification Center in OS X Mavericks. But based on what I've read, this has been fixed in Yosemite. VO might not be the answer for every screen reader user, but for someone or a group of people to flat-out say that it's a bad screen reader and people shouldn't use it is just wrong in my books. I'm including the so-called VR professionals too when I say that. For one thing, Apple has made it available to every single user of their products as of the Tiger days. They have included it in their core operating system, which to me spells a huge market win. The other thing is that VoiceOver is not NVDA, JAWS, System Access, or any of the other screen readers. Nor are the other screen readers VoiceOver. So yes, they are going to work differently simply because they are separate products.

I mentioned at the beginning of this entry that I have chosen not to upgrade to OS X Yosemite at this time. I have arrived at this decision based on the fact that Yosemite is supposedly still buggy in some areas. Since I'm still rather new to Mac OS, I thought it would be better for me to stay on Mavericks. There's stuff I haven't learned yet. Having said that though, I did check out the latest release of iTunes. I won't claim to be an iTunes aficionado because I'm not. In fact far from it. I don't even fully understand how iTunes works, but I'm pretty sure I grasp the concept. However, the new interface seems to be a bit more accessible with VO. Earlier this evening I was listening to iTunes Radio, and it seems to be a bit more reliable in terms of the selection of music based on one's chosen genre. In addition, big kudos to Apple for letting Mavericks users share in the fun of this new iTunes version. I will post another entry right here if and when I upgrade to Yosemite, so stay tuned!
2014-10-03 08:30 am
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My First Email Entry

Hello everyone! The title pretty much says it all. This is indeed my
first email entry. Yesterday I did a test run of this feature and it
worked out well, so here is my first real entry via email. I
previously tried to configure email posting but I had the incorrect
PIN. But this is sweet! I am most definitely staying with Dreamwidth,
and I just might have a little surprise for y'all in the near future.
At this point I don't even know if that'll happen, but hopefully it
will. So stay tuned! I'm off to eat my other pop tart and then jump in the shower.
2014-09-21 07:13 pm

Just Another Random Update

Hello everybody. I see that I can post into the future on here, which is so incredibly cool! I don't think there's another blogging/journaling platform out there that allows this, at least no other platform that I know of. I find this particularly awesome because there's currently something which I've been wanting to get off my chest for awhile. Well now I can do just that thanks to this awesome feature of Dreamwidth. And it appears to be available for both free and paid accounts, which is even more awesome! If I am misinformed, I suppose I'll find out soon enough. So I guess y'all will have to wait and see what it is that I want to vent about now. No clues! I'll just leave it at this though: this is something which I've been told time and time again that I should do without question. Not everyone has told me this, but a lot of people have. Everyone including those of us with disabilities has the right to do this, or so it has been said over and over again by numerous people.
2014-05-01 08:05 pm
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Thank You Apple!

Hi everyone! I have decided to devote this entry to a brief discussion of my MacBook Air. Am I an Apple fan boy? Well, perhaps not yet as this is the only Apple product which I own. It is my first ever Mac. I acquired it just after Christmas last year, and I honestly can't say enough good things about it. Please allow me to back up a bit and mention that I was less than enthusiastic when my parents approached me over Thanksgiving about switching from Windows to the Mac platform. I had mostly been hearing and reading negative things about VoiceOver, the on-board screen reader for the Mac platform. The only person I knew at the time who had anything positive to say about VoiceOver was my former roommate, and he unfortunately passed away last year. Well, little did I know just what a surprise I was in for. The guys who assisted my parents and me at our local Apple store were very friendly and knowledgeable. This includes the initial purchase of my Mac, and the One-to-One training session which I attended with one of my parents. First off, I'd like to say that Apple did the right thing by including VoiceOver in most if not all of their products at no extra cost to the user. I don't think that can necessarily be said about Microsoft. Not that they're a bad company, in fact quite the contrary if you ask this user. However, Microsoft never had a built-in screen reader. I'm told Narrator has seen a lot of improvement over the years, but back when I used it it was definitely not that reliable. The other Windows-based screen readers have to be downloaded or purchased separately. I have used all of them except for 1, and they are excellent. But for those of you screen reader users who are considering taking the leap, I highly recommend you check out VoiceOver. But besides the screen reader aspect of the Mac, I'm finding the whole operating system to be quite stable and easy to learn. One thing I've wanted to do for awhile now is try out gaming on here. A lot of audio games are currently only available in Windows, that will require me to run Windows on here, and I hear Bootcamp is the way to go these days in order to do that.