Bluetooth Keyboard Keystrokes For iOS 7

Many of the VoiceOver gestures can be replicated on a bluetooth keyboard when paired with your Apple device.  To pair your Bluetooth keyboard with your Apple device, make sure the keyboard is turned on.  Then, go to Settings, Bluetooth, and flick right until you hear the name of your keyboard and double tap.  You may be asked to enter a series of numbers.  After you’ve done this, your keyboard should pair with your device.

In the table below, the Control and Option Keys will be referred to as VO when used in conjunction with other keystrokes.  So, holding down the Control and Option keys while pressing the Right-Arrow Key will be shown as VO right-arrow.



VoiceOver Keyboard Help

VO plus K

Exit Application


Move To Previous Item

VO plus Left-Arrow

Move to Next Item

VO plus Right-Arrow

Activate Selected Item

VO plus Spacebar

Use The Rotor

First, turn on QuickNav by pressing left and right-arrow together.  Then, press the Up-Arrow and Right-Arrow keys to twist right and Up-Arrow and Left Arrow to twist left.

Select Item With QuickNav On

Press Up and Down-Arrow together

With QuickNav Keys On, Scroll To Next Screen

Option plus Right-Arrow

With QuickNav Keys On, Scroll To Previous Screen

Option plus Left-Arrow

Return To home Screen

VO plus H

With QuickNav On, Move To Top Left Or Bottom Right Icon On The Screen

Control plus Up-Arrow or Control plus Down-Arrow

Activate The Back Button


Mute Speech

VO plus S

Turn Speech On

VO plus S

Go To Status Bar

VO plus M

Turn Screen Curtain On/Off

VO plus Shift plus S

Start or Stop Music

VO plus Dash

Answer A Call or Hang Up

VO plus Dash

Bring Up Item Chooser

VO plus I

Copy Something Spoken By VoiceOver

VO plus C

Move Command

VO plus Shift Plus M

Label Element

VO plus Slash

Read From Beginning Of Screen

VO plus B

Read From Current Cursor Position

VO plus A

Pause Speech

Two-Finger Tap (Control does not work in iOS 7_

Adjust Speech  Rate Or Volume, typing echo, sounds, punctuation, etc.

VO plus Command plus Right-Arrow to Choose one; then VO Plus Command Plus Up or Down-Arrow to Make Adjustment

Bring Up Spotlight Search

Option plus Up-Arrow

Turn On App Switcher

VO plus Command, then Press H twice

Close Running Items In App Switcher

Option plus Down-Arrow

Bring Up Notification Center

VO plus M to get to the Status Bar, then Option plus Up-Arrow

Go to Control Center

VO plus M to go to the Status Bar, then Option plus Down-Arrow

Volume Up


Volume Down


Mute Sound


Next Track


Stop/Start Current Track


Previous Track



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The New Victor Reader Stream: A New Look For A Popular Product

STREAM2_Face_optBy Michael D. Barber
Rehab Technology Specialist

Manufacturer: Humanware
(800) 722-3393

Do you remember when you first got your brand new Victor Reader Stream? Do you recall how excited you were to have a device that would play the NLS talking books as well as books, read books, play music and could even be used to record short voice notes and even meeting or classroom discussions? It has been about six years since that first little device became available.

Humanware has now come out with a major update to this little guy, which I think is very exciting. I was able to get my hands on this device at the twenty-eighth International CSUN Conference on Disabilities in San Diego last week and wanted to tell our readers all about it.

The first thing I noticed about the new Stream was the difference in size. It was noticeably smaller than the original Stream I have–perhaps 25 to 30% smaller. One would think smaller would mean less sound volume, but not so. Even in a crowded hall, I could tell that the sound volume was greater than the current product.

There are a few changes to the exterior of the device which will be of interest. First, there is no longer the sliding door on the back of the unit, which exposes the battery. Instead, there is a latch which, when pressed, allows removal of the entire battery. On the front of the unit, in the topmost row of buttons, right between the Go To and Bookmark buttons, you will now find a wi-fi activation button, which is a toggle for enabling or disabling wi-fi. We will come back to the wi-fi discussion in a moment. Where you used to find the AC power connector on top is where the earphone jack now resides. The stereo microphone/line in jack is on the side of the unit on the right, if the unit is facing you. The micro USB connector is on top of the unit just as before.

New Features

Before I list and describe the new features, let me say that the Stream still works just as it does now. No worries about having to learn a totally new method of using the unit.

Wi-fi Capability – The Stream is now capable of connecting wirelessly to either your home network or any other wireless hot spot available. Connecting wirelessly enables you to download and install the latest updates to the Stream when they become available. As of this writing, owners of the new Stream cannot download NLS or any other book content. Humanware tells me that the unit is ready but the providers of this content are not. You will, however, be able to connect wirelessly and download your NLS key.

Recording In Stereo – The unit has been updated to enable stereo recordings. You can create high quality MP3 or MP4 files rather than just the .WAV files created by the original unit. You will no longer need to purchase the softpack from Humanware to convert those files or use your own audio editor.

Line in Recording – Using the same microphone jack, you can now record directly from another device and create high-quality recordings.

USB Charging – Instead of using an AC power adapter to charge the unit, you may now use an adapter which plugs into the micro USB connector on top of the unit. You can either plug the other end of the USB cable into a USB port on your computer to charge it, or you can use the provided adapter which plugs into an AC outlet and charge it that way. Charging takes five hours using the AC adapter and longer when you plug it into your computer.

Improved Transfer Speed – This new unit has the capability of improved file transfer speeds.

Acapela Voices – I was very pleased to hear the much-improved Acapela voices in this new unit. The voices being used are the highest quality Heather and Ryan voices. I believe this will greatly improve your listening enjoyment as you read text, HTML, Docx, BRF or ePub files with the Stream.

No More Soft Packs to Purchase – Everything is now in the updates.

Card Capacity – Supports up to 32GB SD cards.

Battery Life – 15 hours of playing time between charges.

Customizable Sleep Timer – Although you still have the choices of 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes for the Sleep Timer, you can now customize it and choose, for instance, 28 minutes.

Clock – A clock has been added to the updated unit. It does not presently have an option to set an alarm.

At present, this unit does not support files, which is a major disappointment to me as I use Audible regularly. However, from an interview I heard on the Serotek Podcast Network (SPN), Humanware believes that this is only a short-term problem.
Stay tuned for the next issue of The White Cane when I will tell you about an interesting app for the iPhone which allows you to write in Braille.

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Freedom Scientific Releases JAWS for Windows Version 14

By Curtis Chong

On October 22, 2012, Freedom Scientific announced the official release of JAWS for Windows Version 14, called JAWS 14 by those who know the program well. JAWS for Windows continues to occupy a large share of the nonvisual access marketplace and to serve as a powerful screen access tool which makes it possible for a lot of blind people–including me–to perform their jobs.

I have been using JAWS 14 since the first public beta was released in September. In my experience, the program has been relatively stable and free from major problems.
In this post, I want to comment specifically about three features in JAWS 14 which I personally have used. There are many other features and enhancements that have been included with JAWS 14, but since I have had no personal experience with them, I will not mention them here. If you want to obtain a complete list of JAWS 14 enhancements, you should point your browser to the “What’s New in JAWS 14” page.

Microsoft Outlook 2010 and 2007 Virtual Buffer Message Support
In earlier versions of JAWS, when running Microsoft Outlook 2007 or 2010, it was difficult if not impossible to read HTML messages containing tables without first viewing the message in the default web browser (in Outlook 2010, this task is accomplished by entering the following keystrokes: ALT+H, then A, then V). As you might imagine, having to view each message in the browser was, at best, cumbersome, and at worst, a tremendous waste of time.

With JAWS 14, I no longer need to view each HTML message in the default Web browser. I can read the message the same way I read other email messages, and it all works quite nicely. The behavior of JAWS in this type of message is about the same as when reading the contents of a Web page, and this has certainly improved my over-all productivity.

Support for Vocalizer Direct Synthesizer
With JAWS 14, Vocalizer Direct voices from Nuance Communications are now supported. These new voices work exclusively with products from Freedom Scientific. They are not supplied automatically with the JAWS installation package; you need to download them from the Freedom Scientific Website at .

With these voices, JAWS can now sound like your iPhone (smile). On a more serious note, additional languages are supported, and in my experience, I have found the Vocalizer voices to be just as responsive as the default Eloquence speech that normally comes with JAWS, and in particular, I have found the Samantha voice particularly pleasant and easy to listen to. What I find remarkable is that the installation package for one of these voices is almost three times larger than the entire JAWS program. You are certainly going to need a hefty Internet connection to retrieve it.

Select between Temporary PlaceMarker and the Current Position in HTML
Starting with JAWS Version 13, Freedom Scientific provided a much more efficient way for the nonvisual user to select large blocks of text in Microsoft Word. This involved setting a temporary place marker within a Word document, moving the cursor to the beginning or end of a large block of text, and then instructing JAWS to select the text between the location of the temporary place marker and the current cursor position. Prior to JAWS 13, nonvisual users who wanted to select huge chunks of text in Microsoft Word were forced to hold down the shift key and move from line to line with the arrow keys. Anyone who has ever done this knows that this is an incredibly labor-intensive and inefficient procedure, which has been vastly improved with JAWS 13.

Now, in JAWS 14, the same efficient temporary place marking and selecting capability has been extended to HTML environments–that is, Web pages. I have used this feature on many occasions to lift text off of Web pages, and I find it a very useful timesaver.

In Conclusion
As I said earlier, there are many features and enhancements that have been included with JAWS 14. However, the three features described here are enough, in my opinion, to warrant an upgrade to JAWS Version 14.

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The Second-Generation iBill®

By Curtis Chong

On September 18, 2012, Orbit Research announced a second-generation version of the iBill® Talking Money Identifier. When the original iBill® was released in late 2009, it was truly a very competitive product. Other currency identifiers were priced over $300, and they were too large–so large, in fact, that they could not fit in your pocket. The original iBill®, on the other hand, was light, small, and priced at $99. Moreover, it could be set to speak, beep, or vibrate; and people who were deaf and blind could use it.

I am not one who automatically accepts the claims made by companies extoling the virtues of their products. I prefer to rely on personal experience or to solicit the informed views of people whose judgment I trust. In the case of the iBill®, Orbit Research claimed that it was able to identify paper currency in less than a second and that it was better than 99.9% accurate. My personal experience has proven this to be true. The iBill® has never misidentified paper currency; the worst thing that happens is that you get a message which says “error,” which means that you should try reading the currency again; and this happens so rarely that I can’t remember the last time it happened to me. For the hundreds of times I have asked the iBill® to read paper currency, it has always come through in less than a second.

Good as the iBill® was back in late 2009, there were two issues that seemed to come up over and over again. First, there were those who thought that the iBill® needed an earphone jack to support private listening to the announcements about currency denominations (this was not a view that I shared). Secondly (confirmed by my own personal experience), while it was very easy to insert newer currency into the reading slot, older paper money would often not slide in quite so easily, making the reading experience more than a little frustrating. Both of these problems have been quite handily solved with the second generation of the iBill®. Moreover, the new iBill® comes with other improvements as well. So, if you buy the second-generation iBill® today, you will notice these improvements:

  • The buttons on the second-generation iBill® are recessed so that they are not pressed inadvertently when it is placed in a purse or pocket.
  • The second-generation iBill® has corners that are more rounded, giving it a more compact feel.
  • The new iBill® has an earphone jack; you can now have your currency read out loud without other people listening (an earphone can be obtained from Orbit Research).
  • A new and improved reading slot makes it easier to insert older currency into the iBill®. You can now use a finger to push older currency further into the slot.
  • The volume has been enhanced so that the iBill® can speak even louder than ever.

The bottom line for me is that even though the price of the new iBill® is $20 more (it is now priced at $119) than the original, it is still well worth the price–that is, if you are looking for a reliable, long-lasting, and durable currency identifier. Smart phone users will be quick to point out that some very good currency identification apps exist for the iPhone and Android smart phones, and they are certainly far less expensive than the iBill®. For those of you who do not want or need a smart phone, the iBill® is there for you–and at an affordable price.

The iBill® can be purchased directly from Orbit Research through its Website: For more information, contact:
Orbit Research
3422 Old Capitol Trail
Suite 585
Wilmington, Delaware 19808
Phone: 888-606-7248

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Braille Sense U2 QWERTY 32: A New Look From HIMS Inc.

Michael D. Barber
Rehab Technology Specialist

Manufacturer:  HIMS Inc.
Sales:  (888) 520-4467
Technical Support:  (512) 837-2000
4616 W. Howard Lane
Suite 960
Austin, TX   78728

One of my biggest complaints about using a NoteTakers with a QWERTY keyboard was that the keys were too small for my big fingers, that they were all scrunched together so that typing was uncomfortable, and that the configuration of the keyboard didn’t make much sense to me.  The forward slash key wasn’t where one would normally find it; the arrow keys were hard to distinguish as were the shift and enter keys; and finally, the Help key could sometimes be found somewhere to the left of the spacebar.  The other problem was that the rows of keys were not graduated in an upward fashion like the keys on a USB keyboard.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I finally got my hands on the new Braille Sense U2 QWERTY 32 unit and found that the keyboard is refreshingly different!  While it is not exactly like the USB keyboards I use every day, it does contain many similarities which I have listed below:

  1. The arrow keys are easily distinguishable with the familiar upside-down T configuration found on the USB keyboard.
  2. There are actually two (count ’em, two) Alt keys like you’d find on the USB keyboard or on a laptop keyboard.
  3. There is a Windows Key which takes you directly to the main menu every time.
  4. There is an FN key like you’d find on a laptop keyboard which combines with many keys to perform various functions.
  5. There are two control keys.
  6. There are two easily distinguishable shift keys.
  7. The enter key is easily found because of its size and location above the shift key, just as you’d find on a USB  or laptop keyboard.

Typing on this newly designed keyboard is easy and smooth and the keys are whisper quiet.  So comfortable is it that, for the first time, I actually enjoyed web browsing as well as typing a document.

The unit is about 10 inches long by six inches wide and almost an inch high.  It boasts 32GB of RAM, which is more than any note taker on the market, except the Braille Sense U2 and comes with a nice carrying case which has a zippered pouch on top for storage, zips fully shut to enclose the whole unit, and also contains a solid piece inside the case which gives additional support when holding the unit on your lap while typing.  The unit also comes with a built-in compass and a built-in GPS receiver.  Other features include an “Extras” section which includes Google maps, Bookshare downloads, a dictionary, and a couple of games, as well as a social networking section which includes Twitter, GoogleTalk and MSN Messenger.

I created a document which I saved as a Word document.  When I typed in this document, I had the display set to show Grade 2 Braille, but when I pulled up the document on the computer, it came out as a nicely typed document with no reverse translation problems. Pressing Control plus S saved the document, just like my experience on a Windows computer.  When you have more than one program running, Alt plus Tab switches you between the running programs.

Things I’d like to see changed would be:

  1. A whole in the left rear of the case with an eyelet where the AC power adapter could be inserted.
  2. A velcroed flap on the right side of the case which would open to allow the insertion of the USB memory sticks while the unit remains in the case.
  3. I would like to see the Help files written as CHM files instead of text files.
  4. The Alt Key should be immediately to the right of the spacebar and not the Change Language Key.  Although one can go in and make that change in configuration, the default should be what one expects to find, which is the Alt Key right next to the Spacebar.

The unit costs $5,695.00.  I consider this QWERTY unit a vast improvement over the Braille Sense QWERTY unit and one which I believe you’ll enjoy typing on as much as I did.

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The Braille EDGE 40: The Newest Offering by HIMS, Inc.

By Michael D. Barber
Contributing Writer

My very first introduction to the world of refreshable Braille was in 1991 during my employment as the first totally blind customer service representative at then Norwest Card Services (later to become Wells Fargo Card Services).  My job was to help customers understand their monthly statements, assist with replacing lost or stolen cards, make necessary monetary adjustments to their statements, give balances, etc.

At that time, I was using Artic Business Vision, but because of unresolved conflicts between Norwest’s system and the screen reading technology, it was clear my short stay at Norwest was in jeopardy.  Enter Humanware and the Alva 280 Braille display.
I had never seen a Braille display and was totally unfamiliar with what it could do.  This Alva display was a job saver for me, because now I could, without any conflicts at all, do all the things my sighted coworkers were doing.

Since then, I’ve seen many different displays, ranging from an 80-cell display all the way down to a 12-cell display.  Some of these displays are simply that–Braille displays.  Other displays provide the ability to enter information through a Braille or QWERTY (typewriter-style) keyboard.  The Braille EDGE 40 from HIMS, Inc. is just such a display.

The Braille EDGE 40 is a very basic note-taking device and refreshable Braille display.  It is manufactured by HIMS, Inc.  It features a 40-cell Braille display, an nine-key Perkins style keyboard, 8 function keys, eight navigation buttons, four scroll buttons, and 40 cursor-routing keys.   Additionally, it operates using the Windows CE 5.0 operating system and has a Lithium polymer battery which will last approximately 20 hours before it needs recharging.  The package includes a USB cable, an AC power adapter, a CD containing the manual, and a 2 gigabyte SD card.

The unit measures approximately 12 inches long and about 4 inches deep.  It weighs about 2 pounds.  Its primary function is that of a Braille display that can work with a variety of screen access programs and IOS devices (presently, the Braille EDGE 40 does not work with IOS Version 5.1.1, but HIMS hopes that support will be forthcoming in IOS 6).
With the Braille EDGE 40, you can open formatted Braille (BRF) files such as those used by the National Library Service for the blind and Physically Handicapped to distribute Braille books electronically.  Also, you can edit text files which might contain Braille or ASCII text.  It also comes with a built-in calculator, planner, stopwatch, countdown timer, and an alarm.  Its price is slightly under $3,000, which is about half the price of other Braille note taking devices on the market.

While the Braille EDGE 40 provides a nice ergonomic design for the keyboard (the keys are easy to push and very responsive), there is a problem getting one particular setting to hold in the Options menu.  This setting is for the Braille EDGE 40 to start in a new document whenever it is turned on.  HIMS has informed me that this is a known problem.
Another shortcoming with the Braille EDGE 40 is the lack of a reverse Braille translation function.  Other Braille note-taking devices allow you to enter information using contracted Braille and then to have the contracted Braille converted to plain readable text when the file is saved as text.  This feature allows a person to write the basic document in contracted Braille and then to perform final editing on a computer using either speech or Braille.  With the Braille EDGE 40, information that is entered using contracted Braille cannot be conveniently edited on a computer using speech.

On the plus side, I was able to successfully install the driver software needed for the Braille EDGE 40 to work with the JAWS for Windows screen access program.  When you connect the unit to the computer with a USB cable, the Braille EDGE 40 automatically powers up, and you are immediately placed in Terminal mode.  You then have to unload and reload JAWS so that the Braille display becomes active.

The manual which accompanies the Braille EDGE 40 is easy enough to follow.  The steps to perform various functions are written in an easy-to-follow style.  The manual, which is on the provided CD, is accessible to the blind.

Positive Points
First, HIMS has developed an excellent product which can be used as a good refreshable Braille display.  As a bonus, it can be used to take personal notes which are best read on the unit itself and not transferred to a computer for final editing or review.

Secondly, the cost, which is about half that of a traditional Braille note-taker, will be appealing to individuals and agencies alike.

Thirdly, the Braille EDGE 40 is very comfortable to write with.  Its refreshable Braille dots are very firm and easy to read.

Fourth, the fact that the Braille EDGE 40 stores information on an SD card (a storage capacity of up to 32 gigabytes is supported) means that a vast amount of information can be stored.

Points of Concern
First, the lack of a reverse Braille translator detracts from the Braille EDGE 40’s appeal as a device that can be used to prepare an article that will be finalized on the computer.
Second, I fear that because of the small percentage of people reading or writing Braille, the Braille EDGE 40 may not sell as well as it would otherwise if, for example, it came with a QWERTY keyboard.

Finally, functional as the Braille EDGE 40 is, I could live with a unit half its size with 20 refreshable Braille cells, which I believe would offer improved portability.

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JAWS 13: The First Screen Reader To Recognize Text In Images

By Curtis Chong

On October 24, 2011, Freedom Scientific announced the release of JAWS® for Windows version 13.  Most significant about this newest release of JAWS is a new feature which Freedom Scientific calls Convenient OCR.  Simply put, Convenient OCR is able to recognize text from a graphical object which contains a picture of text.  To my knowledge, this is the first screen access program in America to have such a feature.

While I do not yet know what impact Convenient OCR will have on our over-all access to electronic information, I do believe that it is a development that needed to happen.  For years, screen reading programs have had to come up with creative (and oftentimes heroic and undocumented) ways to extract textual information that could be converted into speech or Braille.  However, before JAWS 13, no screen reading program in this country could analyze and extract information from a picture of text.

It seems that today, more and more organizations are storing images of documents with no text equivalent.  Oftentimes, a blind user will receive PDF (Portable Document Format) files which screen reading software simply can’t read; the user receives a message saying something like, “Alert! Empty Document.”  Now, with JAWS 13, the nonvisual user has a better chance at reading those text images that were previously not accessible without sighted help.

It should be pointed out, however, that Convenient OCR will not solve the problem of the visual CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart).  Those pesky, squiggly letters are meant to be undecipherable by any computer.  Nevertheless, I believe that Convenient OCR will, over time, prove to be an indispensable tool in our never-ending quest to get at electronically-stored information.

If you want to hear more about JAWS for Windows Version 13, you can listen to Freedom Scientific’s FSCast Episode 58, found on the Web page


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A Less Expensive Bar Code Scanning Alternative

By Curtis Chong
Contributing Writer

Just about everything you buy these days has a unique bar code identifier.  If a person has access to the appropriate data base, this bar code can be tremendously helpful to identify a product whose label is otherwise read visually.

A number of devices are on the market today that enable people who are blind or visually impaired to scan bar codes to identify food items and many other products.  The most well-known of these is the i.d. mate Summit from En-Vision America, which costs around $1,299.  The i.d. mate Summit is portable, and it does not require an Internet connection when a product is scanned.

Because I did not want to spend $1,299 for the ability to be able to identify a product by its bar code, I searched around for a cheaper albeit less convenient alternative, and wouldn’t you know, I found it.  I came across a bar code scanner sold by a company called A T Guys.  The Metrologic Fusion Bar Code Scanner sells for under $300.  It is an omnidirectional scanner, meaning that it only has to face the bar code in order to see it.  The scanner is connected to the computer through a USB port, and there is no software to be installed.  One simply opens the web page, positions the cursor over an edit box, and points the scanner at a barcode.  The result is a page of information about the product–information which often includes very specific directions for the use of that product.  The only cost incurred is for the scanner itself.  Everything else is free.

I have used my bar code scanner to identify a wide variety of products, including food items, sun tan lotion, toothpaste, soda, musical CD’s, and DVD’s.  Just about everything I have scanned could be identified, and for the items that were not recognized, I was given the option to enter the information into the website so that I and others would recognize the same item should it ever be scanned again.  As far as identifying music CD’s and DVD’s, I was pleasantly surprised to find that in many cases, a full track listing came along with the results of the scan.

In conclusion, while the bar code scanner from A T Guys is less costly than the i.d. mate Summit ($299 versus $1,299), it does require an active Internet connection and a computer, and it is highly unlikely that a person will want to bring a computer to the kitchen, where most product scanning is likely to occur.

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The Struggle To Upgrade My iPhone To iOS 5

By Curtis Chong

On October 12, 2011, Apple released iOS 5, the latest operating system for its line of “i” products.  Since my iPhone 4 had been purchased less than six months ago, I knew that I would probably not be eligible for an upgrade to the iPhone 4S, released on October 14, 2011.  But I really wanted to upgrade my iPhone’s operating system to iOS 5 to take advantage of some of the new VoiceOver features I had been reading about: the ability to assign text to unlabeled buttons which VoiceOver only identifies as “Button” and a much higher quality text-to-speech Nuance Vocalizer voice.  I also wanted to be able to update my iPhone without having to use the pesky iTunes program for Windows which (as you will see later) has caused me no end of frustration.

So, on the evening of the day on which iOS 5 was released to the public, I started up my iTunes program on my Windows computer and connected my iPhone.  As expected, I was informed that an update for my iPhone was available.  What I did not expect was another message, which told me that my iTunes program–which had worked fairly well until now–needed to be updated before I could update my iPhone.

So, I downloaded and installed the latest version of iTunes.  The installation went off without a hitch.  But when I actually tried to run the program, everything slowed down to a crawl; I could not move my cursor around the screen, it took minutes before I heard the message telling me that an iPhone update was available, and it took even longer to press the OK button to start the update process.  The cooling fan on my computer went into high gear, and a message popped up on the screen saying that my iPhone was being backed up.  Thinking that the system just needed a little time to do its thing, I decided to let the computer run for an entire day.  Lo and behold, when the day was over, nothing of any consequence had happened; my iPhone was still running the old iOS 4, and it didn’t look like I was going to get an update any time soon.

So, on Saturday, October 15, I took my iPhone to the Apple Store and verified that (no) I was not eligible for any early upgrades to the iPhone 4S and (yes) the people at the Apple Store could update my iPhone to iOS 5–in a mere fifteen minutes.  Needless to say, I was quite thrilled at the prospect since I had heard that updates to the iPhone using one’s own computer usually took more than two hours to complete.  Before the update actually happened, however, I made sure that the gentleman from the Apple Genius Bar understood that he needed to save my Contacts since they were not backed up.  As for the few apps that I had purchased previously, I was told that I would be able to restore them in short order simply by going to the App Store, selecting Update, and choosing the Purchased link.

Once the upgrade was finished, I found that my iPhone’s home screen had been rearranged to the default view and that all of my purchased apps were gone.  I was able to get my purchased apps back, but I did have to spend a good bit of time moving my iPhone icons around to get them organized the way I like them.

All in all, I am happy with the upgrade that has been done to my iPhone.  I am particularly pleased with the great service I received from Apple’s Genius Bar, and most of all, I am thrilled that I did not have to spend anything to have my phone upgraded to iOS 5. Kudos to the fine folks at the Apple Store!

Posted in Adapting for Accessibility, Devices, Software | 2 Comments

Just Me and My Netbook

By Susie Stageberg

Anybody who has tried to share a home with two teenagers and one computer can
understand why, a year or so ago, I put down my foot and shouted, “Enough!
I want my own computer.” My family greeted this announcement with
puzzlement: Mom has really gone round the bend this time. If we humor her,
she’ll subside into her normal self.

But subside I did not. I talked to some of my coworkers and learned that some of
them had recently purchased a portable computer called a Netbook. I was
intrigued, more so when one of my friends let me actually put my hands on a Netbook.

Netbook is a term used to describe a small laptop computer. Measuring approximately 10
inches by 7 inches by 1 inch, these diminutive machines might make you say
“Aw, it’s so cute” when you first see one. A Netbook’s screen is,
because of the size of the computer, smaller than a laptop or desktop computer
screen. The keyboard is more like a regular laptop keyboard than the standard
full-sized keyboard; it is flat, not tiered, and there is no number pad. The
mouse is built into the computer rather than separate from it. Netbooks
typically weigh a little over 2 pounds compared to 5 or 6 pounds for a standard
laptop. In short, it’s a compact little machine.

But the deciding factor was the price. The Netbook I bought cost around $400. I
already have my own copy of JAWS
for Windows
, so there was no extra cost for a screen reader. Within days of
my ultimatum, I was the proud owner of my very own Netbook computer.

My Netbook, like most, has wireless connectivity built in, so I can surf the Web or send
e-mail from my yard, at the kitchen table, or in bed. After some practice, and
with the addition of a few adhesive-backed dots to essential and hard-to-find
keys, I was able to type fairly well on the Netbook’s keyboard. If I want to
write something really long, I can plug in a standard keyboard to one of the
Netbook’s USB ports and type just as I would on a desktop computer. Since I
don’t use a mouse, I disabled the mouse on my Netbook. I put a password on my Netbook,
which nobody knows unless I want them to. The kids cannot get on and install
iTunes, Facebook, or war games. Even if they succeed in figuring out my
password, there’s no mouse for them to use, so they are effectively stumped. This
is all part of my evil master plan to keep my computer to myself.

How, you might ask, do they keep the price on this computer so low? One way is to
use older software. My Netbook came with Windows XP installed–fine by me, even
though the rest of the world is at least two versions of Windows ahead of me. The
small screen size is dismaying for people who want to look at the screen, but it
is no problem at all for me.

As with anything else, there are disadvantages to the Netbook. The speakers aren’t
very powerful, so if I’m in a room with a TV going and I want to read e-mail, I
have to use headphones. The initial Internet security program I installed did
not prevent the computer from getting a nasty virus that caused the whole
system to crash; this necessitated a re-installation of Windows (I changed
Internet security programs immediately). If you want refreshable Braille on your
Netbook, you have to have a separate Braille display, which cuts down on the

All of these negatives do not outweigh the positives. I can tuck my Netbook into a bag
or a suitcase and take it wherever I go without breaking my back. The built-in
wireless means I can do e-mail anywhere I can get a connection. All in all,
$400 well spent. And nobody uses it but me!

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