Useful Tricks And Tips For Your U2 Experience

No, I am not referring to Irish rockers U2, I am instead sharing some “how to” hints on the Hims U2 and U2 Mini Braille note-takers. So keep these commands handy for future reference …
One of the many useful features of the Hims line of products is the ability to backup or restore your settings if the machine ever needs to be reset to factory default, or it is updated with the latest firmware. Here are a couple of useful tips to help you in this situation.
It is possible to make a backup of all the settings you prefer on your machine, for example, start-up tune, power saving and voice all turned off, or Bluetooth and WiFi turned on. So before you perform a complete or hard reset, or update your device to the latest firmware, follow these easy steps.
1. From the main menu, choose Settings, then Backup/Restore Personalised Settings.
2. Next, tab to the Select All button and press enter.
3. Now tab once to the Backup button and press enter.
All your personalised settings on the machine will now be saved.
The next time your U2 has had a factory reset, or the firmware updated, it is very simple to restore all those settings you had previously, and here’s how.
a. As before, from the main menu, select Settings, then Backup/Restore Personalised Settings.
b. Tab to the Select All button and press enter.
c. Now tab to the Restore button and press enter.
d. At this point, the FlashDisk, or internal storage, is displayed. Press the space-bar to select it, noting the asterisk that indicates you have done so.
By pressing enter, you will soon see that your machine has restored all the settings you had before, and is a much quicker way than going through each setting to make your choice.
Another very useful feature of the U2 family is the ability to select individual files in a folder to copy or move them in one go. For example, if you want to copy the second file in a list, then the fourth, then the seventh to the clipboard, you can do so by pressing the space-bar to highlight each file you want to copy or move. You can determine the files you have selected because an asterisk appears before each one. When you have made your selection, simply use dots one-four with the enter key to copy them to the clipboard, or dots one-three-four-six to cut. Now go to the folder where you want to move the files, and press dots one-two-three-six with enter to paste them. Job done!
Finally, 10 quick commands you can use from the main menu of the device to speedily ascertain information, or perform actions directly. This is not an exhaustive list of shortcuts, but they are productive.
1. Dots one-two-three-six with space: provides the build number of your firmware.
2. Dots one-three-four-five with space: gives the current network status of your unit.
3. Dots one-two-five with space: offers a list of commonly used commands on the U2.
4. Dots one-two-four-five with space: toggles between contracted, uncontracted and computer Braille grades.
5. Dots two-four with space: tells you the remaining storage on your FlashDisk.
6. Dots two-four-five-six with space: opens the address bar to type in an URL.
7. Dots one-six with space: tells you the battery status.
8. Dots two-three-four-five with space: gives the current time.
9. Dots two-four-five with space: brings up the sleep timer.
10. Dots one-three-five with space: opens the Options menu within Settings.

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things

When it comes to technology, I have three categories in my love/hate relationship with it. Firstly, there are the items I love using whether they are essential or not. Secondly, there are items I tolerate because I need them to get certain jobs done. And lastly, there are pieces of kit I hate, either because I can’t come to terms with their steep learning curve, or they just frustrate me and bring out my bad side!

So, starting with the stuff I love …

I am an avid book reader, so my Victor Reader Stream would have to be one of my most used and loved pieces of access technology. I have tried several DAISY players, but none for me competes with the second generation Stream from HumanWare. I love its ability to hold lots of titles in the palm of my hand that I can read any time, anywhere.

Another product I really love is my U2 Mini note-taker from Hims. This too goes almost everywhere with me as it allows me to use all its PDA functions on the go. It is lightweight, portable and reliable for work, leisure and study.

The other item I carry around with me is my iPhone. While I don’t use all the apps daily that I have downloaded from the App Store, I have grown to like using a touch-screen. There is so much you can do with a Smartphone, and I like and admire Apple’s stance on accessibility, which puts blind people on some sort of level playing field with their sighted peers.

Now to my second category, the one where I have to tolerate my technology in order to get jobs done …

I like my desktop computer with printer, scanner, Braille display and other peripherals attached to it. I use it every day almost all day, and I need it. But I can get very frustrated when my screenreader, JAWS, doesn’t like a certain website for whatever reason, or just decides to crash. And I get really fed up with Windows Updates and other software update notifications intruding into my life at the most inopportune moments.

Sometimes I have to scan an instruction manual, mail, or other documentation. While it often gets me out of a hole, or provides the information I am looking for, I really don’t enjoy scanning at all. I find it laborious and time-consuming, yet I know it is something that has revolutionised the way I obtain the information I require.

Backing up my documents, music, books and other personal information is something I have been doing for years, having learnt the hard way. I have a few external hard drives on my desk that I turn on when I am doing that necessary backup of stuff I really don’t want to lose. Everything has to go into neat folders and even sub-folders, that is just the way my structure works. But I find it such a lengthy process at times, especially when there is a lot to copy round the system. You have to be very disciplined at backups, and as tiresome as it can be, I try to be rigid about doing it.

Finally to the stuff I hate using most for one reason or another that draws out my bad side with expletives and protestations aplenty …

I have had an iMac for around four years, and while I can use it, I don’t feel I get the most out of it. The difference between Windows and iOS is really quite substantial in my mind, and my hands wander over the Mac keyboard wanting to perform the Windows keystrokes I know so well. Its entire structure, not to mention iTunes, is so different to Windows that I avoid using it which, in turn, dents my confidence. I should know an awful lot more than I do by now.

This can also be said of my Google Nexus phone. I bought it so that I have a backup of my iPhone, but there is something different about navigating a touch-screen on Android to iOS. I have got better the longer I persevere, but it still doesn’t come as a natural, pleasant experience. While there are some aspects of Android I like better over iOS, I still prefer using my iPhone by far.

Installing software has, and will always be, my least favourite task on any operating system known to mankind. Perhaps it is the trepidation I feel when clicking on that Install button, and wondering whether the screenreader will speak everything to me. Or perhaps it is that awful feeling of not being in control when the device needs to be restarted to complete the process. Whatever it is, I find my stomach knotting, my head starting to hurt, and the need to cross everything in the hope it has all gone smoothly. In all seriousness, it isn’t as bad as that, but in the days of Windows 95 and 98, we were frequently treated to PC crashes. Even so …

All in all though, I love technology, and whenever there is an excuse to try out something new, frustrations or not, I’m there!

Branching Out

Since I became a guide dog owner again in November 2013, I have slowly got involved with volunteering for GDBA,

I started undertaking public speaking last year at schools, church groups and other community functions. What I do is go with Bumble and explain the work of Guide Dogs, and describe what having her means to me.

I have found this role incredibly rewarding, far more so than I would ever have imagined. It has given me a wonderful opportunity to interact with people in my local community, and talk to those who would probably never have given me a second glance had I just been using a long cane. There is no doubting in my mind that having a guide dog is a real ice-breaker when it comes to socialising with sighted people.

Now I want to embark on the next stage of my life here in Maghera, Northern Ireland, by setting up my own Guide Dogs branch for the MidUlster region. There are successful groups running in other parts of the Province, but there isn’t anything going on in my area, and I aim to change that. So, as a starting point, the Guide Dogs Development Manager and I organised a first public meeting for last night. We advertised for people to come along if they were interested in becoming a volunteer for Guide Dogs with a view to being part of my fundraising branch. The turnout was very good, and we now have a foundation on which to build.

I also volunteer for RNIB,,
British Wireless for the Blind Fund,,
and the British Computer Association of the Blind, BCAB,

My role with RNIB is being part of the Sound Vision Online magazine,

With BWBF, I evaluate radios that could be considered accessible to blind and visually impaired people, and test software on their established Internet Radio, the Sonata Plus.

I have just been invited to become secretary of BCAB, and to speak at their TechABreak conference in October.

Because it is so difficult to gain employment as a blind person, I find volunteering is the next best thing. It allows me to continue using my range of skills and knowledge, provides the opportunity to meet new people, and gives me a focus away from the pain of my back and neck condition.

Combine all that with some writing and studying, and I have a busy and fulfilling life.