HandyTech Braille Star 40

HandyTech Braille Star 40

Picture of a Braille Star 40

Introduction

The Braille Star 40 is more than just a simple display. It can be used without a laptop or PC standalone as a simple notetaker. 4 MB of RAM give you plenty of space to store books or other text material. Another strength of this product is its ability to connect to other devices either via a serial cable, USB or optionally even wireless via bluetooth. Since USB is not its only way of connecting to the outside world, a separate power adapter is required. However, the batteries offer up to 20 hours of lifetime. Batteries are standard and can be changed very easily. You can even replae them with non-chargeable variants for a quick fix if you can't get any electricity or don't have the time to go through a charging cycle, but you'll have to remember to replace them with the charageable ones before you attempt to recharge the display (obviously).

Physical Hardware

Dimentions are 331 mm x 227 mm x mm 24 mm and weight is about 1.4 kg. Each braille cell has one cursor routing key. At each end of the braille cells you find one so-called triple-action key. It can be push either at the top, the bottom, or in the middle of the key, giving you 3 possible keypresses for one key. Beneath the braille cells you find 10 keys which can be used to input braille (4 one the left side, two space bars in the middle, and 4 on the right side). At the back side of the displays you find various jacks for connecting to the outside world. An USB client port, a serial port, and two PS/2 jacks (one for in, and one for out).

Updates are quite fast. You can scroll along a long text file and get a pretty good idea of indentation without having to go too slow.

Drivers

BRLTTY supports the Braille Star series since quite a long time now. Release 3.5 finally added native USB support which means that you do no longer need any kernel specific drivers to get it working, and BRLTTY can cope with device disconnection gracefully. It also means that in theory other operating systems like OpenBSD or FreeBSD should also work. However, I can't get OpenBSD to actually accept the old generation (belkin_sa) USB chip of my model, so I can not confirm this in practice so far. Support for bluetooth and the external keyboard is avalable since BRLTTY release 3.6.

Pros and Cons

The flexibility you get from the Braille Star is currently unmatched. Being able to use USB and even bluetooth is a very good thing these days. The external keyboard can even be used in combination with the bluetooth connectivity, giving you a complete wireless remote braille terminal for your computer. This is also interesting for machines without a console (graphic display and keyboard) like the LinkSys Network Storage Link USB2 (NSLU2).

Last Modified: 2006-11-26 23:44:54
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