Question of the day.

Hey people! šŸ™‚

What do you have this week that you didn’t have last week?

My answer:

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? šŸ™ƒ 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. šŸ˜€ 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. šŸ˜€

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? šŸ™‚

31 thoughts on “Question of the day.”

    1. If yoou feel that not commenting will be better for you, that’s okay, no need to apologise at all, you’re free to do what you want. šŸ™‚ I can delete your comments from my blog if you wish.

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  1. Have you tried temporarily disabling the anti virus and seeing if things start working better? The anti-virus might be a red herring though – it may just be that the computer rebooted and now can’t initialise something for some other reason.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope that it helps. I don’t know anything about SAPI or screen readers in general, but I am a software developer so I’m quite technical and I’d be happy to try to help you if you’re happy to spend a bit of time explaining it to me!

        It sounds like it should still be up to the Swedish synth developers to offer you support though. I mean, you paid for their software and it’s not working for you… right?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you so much for your willingness to help, that’s hugely appreciated. šŸ™‚
      Unfortunately, disabling the antivirus didn’t help.
      As for SAPI, I’m not sure I could tell you much more about it and how it works except that it it is Microsoft Speech API for WIndows computers that enables most modern speech synthesisers to speak and properly interact with the system and apps like screenreader – and a screenreader sends info to a speech synthesiser about what’s on the screen so that it can read it – SAPI also enables speech recognition and it’s apparently shipped as part of an operating system. But how exactly does it work I have no idea.
      The application I’m having a problem with is called Infovox 4 and it contains all the voices that come with it which you can download and it is also like a bundle of smaller applications that help you do different things with those voices. It is shipped on an USB stick with three licences that you can use locally on different devices, and then when you install it locally, the voices will use SAPI5. The problem that I am having with it currently is that when I open it up, it looks like it’s loading, an icon called “Launch Splash Form” shows up, but it never actually opens up, and when I close it, a message from Microsoft Net Framework pops up about some unexpected error. The same kind of error appeared after the first time I tried to reinstall the application to get the access to the Swedish voices. I think the reason why it didn’t install properly and showed that particular error when reinstalling for the first time was that I didn’t reboot the computer straight away after uninstallation and before installing it again, but I did when reinstalling it again. I’m not sure though if the fact that I reinstalled the Infovox app the wrong way for the first time (even though I did correctly the next time) could be the reason of both the Infovox and SAPI breaking, because since then, I’d turned my computer off and on a couple times, and they both happened only after the reboot after the scan.
      From what I’ve noticed, my antivirus (which is Kaspersky Free) has a pattern of detecting some kind of malware soon after I install whatever programme on my computer. The trigger for that is when I enter a website that I’ve been using for ages with different antiviruses in the past, and that I also know a lot of people use without any problems neither to do with safety nor their antiviruses, but Kaspersky considers this website unsafe and always shows up an alert that there is a risk of data loss. Then when I use this website for a longer time, it will show an alert that it has detected malware and needs to cure the computer and scan it. I’ve always thought it was a bit strange behaviour especially that as I said a lot of people I know use that website and it doesn’t seem particularly unsafe, so it looks like some false alarm, but I’d never cared about it particularly much and there was never previously any such problem, nor with any other application, after the scan. Only this time as I already wrote in the post, when the computer rebooted after the scan, I cannot use the voices that work with SAPI5, and when I try my screenreader says that it “couldn’t load SAPI5 synthesiser”.
      Don’t know how much valuable info it all gives you, but ask me if you have some other questions and maybe I’ll be able to answer.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for that. Just to check I’ve understood how this all fits together:

        You install Infovox 4, which provides a set of voice packs. Infovox 4 is also an application in its own right, but you can’t open it properly anymore and you get a .NET framework error when you close it.

        Your screen reader should use the voices from Infovox 4, but at the moment it is saying it can’t load the synthesiser.

        Is my understanding above correct?

        My initial thoughts are:

        Well, it looks like Infovox isn’t installed correctly. But you knew that already šŸ™‚

        The Kapersky issue is strange and it may be interfering with things, but let’s ignore that for the moment.

        So I have some questions:

        1. There is a possibility that it’s some kind of SAPI5 misconfiguration inside Windows rather than Infovox. Do you have any other (not Infovox) SAPI5 synthesisers you can test, just to see if they work? There is a free one called eSpeak here: http://espeak.sourceforge.net/ (this would tell us whether it’s Windows or Infovox, which at least makes sure we’re looking in the right place – though I strongly suspect it’s just Infovox)

        2. Is there any more information about the .NET framework error that you get?

        3. In Windows, there is a global log called the Event Viewer, which the operating system or applications should log unusual errors into. The only thing is though that I don’t know if this is accessible for you! If you can get to it, there may be logs in there when your screen reader tries and fails to load the synthesiser. It would be under Windows Logs -> Application or Windows Logs -> System.

        4. Are you using Windows 10?

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Okay, so I just looked in the Event Viewer, it’s perfectly accessible. I looked through logs for yesterday evening as that was both when I tried opening Infovox 4 app and tried accessing SAPI5 voices with my screenreader. The only things that I found that seemed relevant were in application logs, one information and one error, though of course there were lots of details so I wasn’t sure how to interpret that or which of them could be at all relevant.
      But basically what I did understand was that the information concerned an “app crash” of an app called Launchpad.exe (so that’s that main Infovox app from where you can access those smaller ones inside of it and manage your licences etc. etc.), and the error concerned a module called kernelbase.dll.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Okay, that’s interesting that your other SAPI5 voices don’t work either!

        I think the kernelbase.dll error is probably not going to reveal much because I think it’s just a generic Windows crash handler saying “this application did something weird, I had to terminate it”, but Windows won’t understand what it was trying to achieve and what went wrong.

        Windows has something called System File Checker which runs through all of its libraries it provides to applications and tries to check that they’re all intact and not corrupted. There’s some Microsoft documentation here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/help/929833/use-the-system-file-checker-tool-to-repair-missing-or-corrupted-system are you able to follow the instructions on that page?

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Huh, all that sounds quite abstractive and dizzying to me, as I’ve never really used things like prompt command and such, but in terms of accessibility I think it should be doable, so hopefully I won’t mess anything up and will be able to do all those things correctly. I will do that when I can get my Mum to assist in case I’ll need an “eye” to tell me what’s on the screen.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. Seems like the thing has finally been fixed. I didn’t get to look into the System File Checker after all, as me and Mum couldn’t find a free moment at the same time, but then the Swedish synths company support guy replied to me finally and we connected via Teamviewer.
      The whole thing seemed indeed to be caused by something not working properly inside the Infovox 4, and indeed there were some missing/corrupted files or something like this. Strangely though, both Infovox 4 voices and SAPI5 voices could be accessed and used in other applications, just not my screenreader. In any case, he did a forced uninstall via some external uninstalling programme, then I installed it again, and both them and other SAPI5 voices are showing up and working properly now. Quite a strange thing overall I guess, and hope its working is not just temporary, but it’s good I have them back anyway.
      Thank you extremely much again for your willingness to help! šŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, that’s all correct.
    1. I do have a few other SAPI5 voices that are not from Infovox, and they do not work either. The way it looks like in my screenreader is when you choose a synthesiser, before you choose an actual voice, you choose an engine (or however it’s called) on which it/they work, so fir example SAPI4, SAPI5 etc. and when I click on SAPI5 to load the voice that I have set for this particular engine, it won’t load it and won’t load any SAPI5 voices at all. I also have a few other Polish voices still available that are not on SAPI5, but are in form of addons only for the screenreader and don’t work inside any other applications, so they have their own engines.
    2. Hm, strange thing, I’d checked the Infovox app and saw the .net Framework error straight away after the SAPI breakdown happened and hadn’t tried to open it again until now, and now it doesn’t open at all when I click on it. Neither on the taskbar, nor in the tray, even that launching icon isn’t showing and to me it looks like it’s completely not reacting. The only thing I can say about the error now is that I don’t recall any more specific information.
    3. I will try looking into the event viewer tomorrow and see if/how it is accessible and get back to you about it.
    4. Yes.

    Liked by 1 person

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