Hey people! 🙂
What do you have this week that you didn’t have last week?
The most striking difference between my last week and this week is that this week i have a broken SAPI5, instead of a functioning SAPI5. Well, it has broken last Saturday so technically last week, but only at the end of it and as I said, it’s the most striking difference between what I didn’t have/had last week and what I have this week. Plus I want to fill you in on what’s been recently going on in my life and need to rant a bit.
Do you know what SAPI5 is? Probably not, and that’s too bad, unless you have Mac OS or Linux, then you’re justified. But it’s too bad if you have Windows XP or later, because most likely, regardless of whether you use it or not, you do have something called SAPI5 on your computer. But even many technicians and IT people donn’t know what SAPI5, or SAPI in general, is, and that’s part of why it’s so frustrating when it breaks. I am not an expert in that either but I’ll try to explain it to you the way I understand it. SAPI is an interface developed by Microsoft that allows most modern speech synthesisers to speak in the system and all the apps on PC that use speech synthesis. Most people have SAPI5 on their computers as far as I know because most computers have at least one voice developed by Microsoft installed by default, and some people use apps that convert text to speech so that they can read books with speech synthesis, even though they aren’t blind or anything, so I guess SAPI doesn’t even really count as assistive technology though I may be wrong. How has it broken for me?
You may know that I’ve been fighting for a while now to regain some of my speech synthesisers that I really need and that I couldn’t, for this or that reason, get working on my new computer easily. I couldn’t activate my Swedish speech synthesiser, for example, because the company that used to produce it no longer exists, and it seems like now my activation key for that voice, and most of their voices, but strangely not all of them, doesn’t work. I do need some Swedish speech synthesis really badly though, so I decided to get some Swedish voices from another company, which in a way I thought could even be better, because that company is part Swedish and they have even some voices speaking with specific dialects, which can be useful for a learner. I’ve already been using speech synthesis in some other languages produced by that company, but to be able to use their Scandinavian voices, you have to upgrade to Nordic license, which is quite expensive but I felt like that was the best option for me so I went ahead with it. Finally, I got those Swedish voices, but then had some problem activating the licence so had to ask their support people to help remotely. They fixed my licence so that it worked right, but then when I was reinstalling their app containing all their voices that I own to get the access to the Swedish ones as well, I must have made some mistake along the way or something else went wrong, I’m not sure, anyway it wouldn’t start up properly after the reinstallation. I reinstalled it yet again and this time it did start up properly but there was some other error along the way, so again the support guy fixed that for me.
I was using my Swedish synths for just about a day, and was quite happy with them and really glad that finally that one thing is dealt with for good and I don’t have to read Swedish stuff with a Polish, or even worse, an English synth anymore. Then the next day – which was last Saturday – my antivirus went paranoid and detected some malware on my computer, which I think was very likely some false alarm because I’ve noticed a pattern to its paranoid behaviour earlier and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with any real threats. Anyway, it wanted to make a full scan, so I let it do its thing. After that, my computer rebooted and my screenreader spoke to me with a completely different synth than the one I had been using. Well, that happens sometimes, so I was only slightly surprised. I wanted to change it back to the one I was using prior to the scan, but, to my now huge surprise and dread, I only got a message “Couldn’t load SAPI5 synthesiser”. All those Swedish voices, and all the other voices from that company from whom I got the Swedish voices very recently, and a few other synths that I use on a regular basis use SAPI5, so now I don’t have access to them. Now I only have a couple Polish voices that aren’t on SAPI5.
Other than that, when I tried to open the app with those Swedish voices and others from that company, it would never start up, it looked like it was constantly loading, and when I finally gave up and close it, it exploded with strange error messages.
It could be that I got something wrong with that reinstallation, but I feel like if that was the case, it would crash much earlier, not after the scan. Therefore I think it’s my antivirus that is to blame. It is apparently the only third-party antivirus these days that is (somewhat) accessible for screen-readers, so that’s why I’m using this one, but I’ve heard that actually the built-in Windows Defender is quite good these days, and apparently also accessible, so I’m seriously considering a change in that respect.
I had experienced a SAPI crash once before, many years ago, and that was absolutely dreadful!!! The technician that frequently helped me with things back then was clueless. I called him and just told him that my SAPI was broken, but he was utterly confused and like “Ummm, and what is SAPI?????”. I do know some things about assistive technology and generally about tech stuff because naturally you sort of have to know more when you’re blind if you want to survive and not be completely cut out from the world, I’d say an average blind person has to know a bit more about tech things than an average sighted person. But I’m far from being techy, and I don’t think I have to be, so if I had to explain really well what is SAPI like in theory, how it works and all, I don’t think I’d be able to do it well, all I know about it I have already told you, it’s only from a user’s perspective, and it’s entirely possible I got something wrong. Unfortunately I’ve had a couple technicians that have helped me with this or that, whom I had to educate on what is a screenreader, how does it work, what does it not do etc. etc. And it’s not like they are stupid jerks who don’t want to learn or don’t care or anything like that. They were really interested in all that and always asked me tons of questions. They just never got a chance to learn about it. I know a fair bit from user’s perspective, though not as much as a lot of people I know, and the inner workings of those things in theory aren’t something I’m particularly knowledgeable in.
In the end, with that previous SAPI failure, I had to send my computer to a company I know quite well who distribute specialised equipment for the visually impaired, the same people who helped me to choose a computer for me and then set it up, and they do similar things and they kindly fixed SAPI for me back then, but the whole thing dragged on for over half a year as far as I remember.
So this time round I was absolutely gutted when that happened and still am, and not really sure what to do, I would really not like to risk trying to fix it myself, I have no idea how to do that. Straight away after that happened, I wrote the support guy from that speech synth company from which I got the Swedish synths, that was what my Mum advised me to do, although I doubted they would be up to helping me this time since the problem didn’t have directly to do with their product, or not only with it. I thought he’d at least write that “No, sorry, we can’t help you with that”, but so far he hasn’t even written back to me. Maybe he doesn’t know what is SAPI either? 🙃 I will wait a couple more days for his response, but if he won’t get back to me, i’ll have to try our current technician who usually helps our family with tech issues and test his knowledge about SAPI, and he’ll be able to learn something new, hopefully without devastating my computer further. If that won’t work, I’ll have to ship it to that visually impaired company on the other end of the country and let’s pray that my fan won’t break yet again in the process. 😀 Or that they can do it remotely. Though if I’m honest, for some reason i have a gut feeling that it’s not a good idea to ask them to do that, despite it were them who did it the last time. Maybe it’s because of all that bad luck with my computer when they were setting it up for me. Anyway, in the end I may not have a choice. I’ve always had a more or less mild tech issues phobia, but lately those things are scaring the shit out of me and if that won’t stop, I don’t see how it could improve.
So yeah, I’ve become the owner of a broken SAPI5 this week, such a positive news of the day for my readers. 😀
How about you? Do you have some more positive news, or have you also become in possession of something you really don’t like having? 🙂