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MSI Wind U100 Function Key Commands

January 31, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

The MSI Wind U100 is being utilized by a growing number of blind college students and professionals who require a full-featured computer that is nearly as portable as one of the specialized note taking products on the assistive technology market. A number of special function key commands enable quick access to important features such as the adjustment of audio output volume, screen brightness and wireless networking.

The special function key commands are entered by holding the FN key, the farthest key on the leftmost end of the bottom row of the keyboard, while pressing one of the function keys on the top row. The following is a list of the available function key commands:

  • Enable or disable support for multiple monitors: FN+F2
  • Enable or disable the touchpad: FN+F3
  • Decrease screen brightness: FN+F4
  • Increase screen brightness: FN+F5
  • Enable or disable the built-in web cam: FN+F6
  • Decrease audio volume: FN+F7
  • Increase audio volume: FN+F8
  • Mute audio: FN+F9 (Be very careful!)
  • Switch between slow battery saving and regular CPU speed: FN+F10
  • Switch between Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and no wireless support: FN+F11
  • Switch into standby mode: FN+F12

Pay particular attention to the following notes covering the features controlled by the function key commands:

  • Turning off the touch pad remains effective only until the MSI Wind reboots. It is necessary to do this again after a reboot.
  • Decreasing the screen brightness will not completely disable the screen.
  • Exercise care when muting the system audio. The setting applies everywhere, including the screen reader, and lasts through a reboot.
  • When toggling wireless connectivity, observe the following conditions and sounds as you press FN+F11:

    • JAWS says “F24”, Wi-Fi is enabled and Bluetooth is disabled.
    • JAWS says “zoom”, two ascending tones are heard and Bluetooth is enabled.
    • JAWS says “zoom”, two descending tones are heard and both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are disabled.
  • After entering standby mode, press the power button to resume normal operation. You may need to select your username to complete the Windows Logon process.

The MSI Wind has been in regular service here at Blind Access Journal as a portable workstation and note taking device for almost two months. We continue to recommend this netbook as a possible substitute for traditional, expensive, specialized note taking products from the assistive technology industry.

Categories: tips

Catch the Pre-Super Bowl Desert Cafe Show Tomorrow Night on ACB Radio Interactive!

January 29, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
Hello Everyone,
  Join Darrell and me in the  Desert Cafe for a pre-Super Bowl Party Tomorrow night as we fill in for Jeff Bishop while he continues his training at Guide Dogs for the Blind in Portland, Oregon. We will not have beer or chili dogs or chips with salsa nor will we have the  television set on. We will, however, have the juke box playing with 3 hours of your favorite music from the 70’s through today. There  will be great food and drink and a wide variety of hits to entertain you. So, before the big game on Sunday, stop by the cafe. Hope you will grab a seat and have a tall cold beverage or a hot delicious  mug of coffee, tea or coco to keep you warm. It does not matter if your a Cardinals or Steelers fan or   don’t like football at all. There will be great tunes and  food to satisfy every appetite.
The show can be heard on ACB Radio Interactive at 02:00 Universal time on Saturday, that’s Friday evening in the United States at 6:00 Pacific, 7:00 Mountain (and Arizona), 8:00 Central and 9:00 Eastern. Visit to listen.
See you tomorrow night,
Karen and Darrell in the Desert Cafe on ACB Radio Interactive
Categories: Uncategorized

The SMA May be Dying, But I’m Not Celebrating

January 29, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Serotek has just announced that it will no longer charge its customers for a software maintenance agreement (SMA) in order to keep their products updated. This development is, of course, good for consumers in that it eliminates a nagging cost of owning assistive technology. It can, unfortunately, also be bad for us. At this point, you may be asking how on Earth can the removal of an SMA be a negative? The answer is, alas, remarkably simple. Without ongoing revenue, what is the ultimate motivation for a company to constantly enhance its product to cope with a dynamic, ever-changing environment full of inaccessible technology?

As a blind person who has worked in the mainstream technology industry for over 13 years and is now completing his college degree, I need a screen reader that is both capable and reliable. When new technology is developed, I need my screen reader to support it as soon as possible. It is absolutely critical that my screen reader not stop working or cause other problems that halt or limit my productivity. If other assistive technology companies follow suit by eliminating or reducing their SMA fees, I am concerned that we will be left even further behind than we are right now. Let’s just make sure we are wisely considering questions besides the all-too-often asked “how much does it cost?” We had all better be careful for that which we wish, as we might just get it and suffer some unintended negative consequences.

Categories: opinion, Serotek

Survey Grants Opportunity to Provide Feedback on Accessibility Issues with Adobe Reader

January 23, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

It appears we have an opportunity to provide feedback to Adobe’s developers concerning the ongoing accessibility issues we face with Adobe Reader:

  • Adobe Digital Editions content remains completely inaccessible with all versions of Adobe Reader above 7.0. The available “solution” with Adobe Reader 7 is inadequate at best.
  • There remain some text based PDF files that remain completely inaccessible due to the ability to turn off screen reader support in the security preferences when PDFs are created.
  • Adobe Reader remains excruciatingly slow when loading PDF files into the browse mode or virtual PC buffers of screen readers, causing crashes in some situations.

We ask all of you to complete this survey, making sure to take every possible opportunity to remind Adobe’s developers of these ongoing accessibility concerns. Once you complete the survey, please pass it along to your colleagues, friends and relatives. If we are doing our jobs as good accessibility evangelists, Adobe should be hearing from hundreds of blind and visually impaired users, as well as those who care about us.

Categories: PDF

Request for Assistance with Spanish 101 Course from an Accessibility Perspective

January 23, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

I am taking a Spanish 101 course in order to begin meeting the foreign language requirement for the journalism major at ASU. Unfortunately, the course seems to contain inaccessible, yet crucial, elements:

  • Most of the lab exercises presented on Blackboard must be completed by dragging and dropping the mouse, rely on pictures or seem to present other, unknown inaccessible elements.
  • Many of the practice elements for the Dos Mundos book companion web site are also similarly inaccessible.
  • The textbook relies on pictures more than on direct English to Spanish translation.

I would like to hear from anyone who has successfully taken a Spanish class as a blind student in the recent past using interactive technology. Which aspects of the technology could be made more accessible and how was it accomplished? When the book and interactive exercises could not be made directly accessible, what other reasonable accommodations were made and how successfully did they work for you? All ideas are appreciated as soon as possible, and I thank any of you in advance for any assistance you may be able to provide.

Categories: accessibility

ACB Radio to broadcast Presidential Inauguration Live

January 19, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Hello everyone,

ACB Radio, in association with ABC Television and ACB's Audio Description
Project, is proud to announce coverage of the inauguration of the 44th
President of the United States, live on ACB Radio World. ACB Radio will be
carrying the ABC telecast with audio description from 10 AM to 5 PM US
Eastern, that's 7 AM to 2 PM US Pacific and 15 to 22 hours Universal time.
We expect to commence our coverage shortly before these times in order to
introduce the coverage. During the broadcast, you will be able to contact
the ACB Radio team at with any questions or comments you
may have. Programs normally scheduled during this time will be preempted. To
listen, go to
We hope you will join us for this historic event, live on ACB Radio World.

Naama Erez
Program Director
ACB Radio World

Categories: Uncategorized

Voting for the 2008 Blind Bargains Access Awards is Underway With a Nice Surprise

January 18, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

J.J. and the gang at have done it again with their second annual Access Awards recognizing the accomplishments of individuals and organizations in the connected, online blind community. We are happily surprised to be nominated as a candidate for the “Best Blindness-related Blog” award. The Voting Round is now underway and open until 5:00 PM Eastern Time on January 25. It takes a great deal of encouragement, enthusiasm and passion to do the hard work necessary in order to advocate, create the podcasts and write the articles that make Blind Access Journal all it can be in the blind community. I appreciate the support of our fellow accessibility advocates and loyal readers over the years.

Categories: Uncategorized

Catch the First Desert Cafe Show of 2009!

January 5, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker
Hello Everyone,
Darrell and I invite you all to our First  show of 2009.   It will be a wonderful evening in the cafe,lots of  great music  and good  food.  The entertainment  will lyrically inspire you,  give you hope for the New Year and  help you  feel more  connected to friends and  family.
 The  cafe will be  crowded so come early to  get a seat.  We will have your  favorite beverages.  Polor  bear and frosty will   return later but we will be here. So, pull up your favorite web browser, visit and tune in using your media player of choice.
Happy New Year,
Darrell and Karen Shandrow
The Desert Cafe
Categories: Uncategorized