Deborah Armstrong <debee@...>
Good news, folks! I installed the latest Brltty (filename in my above post) on two Windows 10 machines, one at work and one at home. The home machine is a slow, slow atom and the one at work is a superfast Intel CPU with six cores.
And NVDA communicates with it flawlessly. This is Windows 10 1903. On the slow machine of course Brltty is just a bit, um slow, but there have been no problems other than the lack of responsiveness on the slow machine.
After I insured all that worked, I installed the Braille extender, which works as advertised. It took me a while to figure out how to configure multiple Braille tables, you have to repeatedly press the Spacebar to cycle through the multiple settings similar to using the JAWS settings center.
I also discovered that the weird characters I kept complaining about were either unprintable characters, such as ASCII 12 for form-feed, or unicode characters for which there's no Braille equivalent in the current table. For example, foreign language accents have characters that don't have equivalents in all Braille tables.
But Braille extender will suppress them all if you turn that configuration on.
As for Windows 10 and serial ports, I have some experience with this because we do ham radio packet. If your ancient display needs to connect via serial, try to get a usb-to-serial converter that has the FTDI chip. With others it is kind of hit or miss whether Windows 10 will support it. I have a few with the Prolific chip, and early Windows 10 supported them and the current Windows 10 doesn't.
With Braille extender the easiest way to find out how the keystrokes are assigned is to look under Input gestures. Brltty has some weird names for the keys on your display, but that's pretty easy to deal with if you press NVDA and the number 1 key and listen to what NVDA thinks your Braille display keys are named.
Explaining this more clearly: NVDA talks to Brltty and Brltty talks to your display. When you press a key on the Braille display, Brltty passes the keypress event on to NVDA, reporting say that a key named LNUP was pressed. So NVDA doesn't know what display you have, but it does know the Brlltty name for the button you pressed. So if for example you want your leftmost arrow-shaped button to move back a line, you can go in to input gestures and change it by simply pressing the button where you'd normally add a keystroke. And if you want to see what's already assigned to that button, you' press NVDA and 1 and then press that button to see what NVDA announces about the command that button press currently invokes.
As for Narrator and Braille, I haven't tried that yet but I did discover that the Brltty service is loaded when Narrator starts and unloaded when it is exited. So that's why probably NVDA can't use that Brltty. I don't know if two copies of Brltty running is going to confuse Narrator or NVDA, so far I've used some funky old laptops for testing out Narrator with Braille because I didn't want to mess up any computer I had to do real work on.
Whether Narrator can use the Brltty I installed for NVDA is something I will fool with when I get the time.
Meanwhile, it is amazing how many old Braille displays show up on Ebay. If you hanker for Braille but don't have the budget, Brltty supports nearly everything out there that shows up on ebay. But get a sighted friend who has some tech knowledge, like a ham radio operator to take a look at the pictures before you purchase a display on ebay; you want to be sure it looks like it's in working condition.