My friend Arlie has a t-shirt with a picture of an old-school computer and the phrase: “Computers use to suck” underneath. I would like to fight whoever decided on the “used to.” Because, I am about ready to throw my BrailleNote and my Iphone out the window.

This is a long tale, a veritable slog through the frustration of trying to make computers that supposedly only “used to” suck do the things that they supposedly are designed to do. It is a tale familiar to everyone who has ever tried to do this and failed, so that’s basically everyone, unless you’re the smartest person in the world. (You know who you are.)

This tale begins with my completely radical notion that I would like to be able to type faster than ten words per minute on my Iphone. I thought, hmm, I should get a bluetooth keyboard. Then I remembered way back in my brain that at some point before acquiring my Iphone, I’d read that you could pair it with a BrailleNote. Hark! I thought, (whatever that means), I shall see about doing that instead of spending money on a keyboard that will not only be expensive, but also I’ll have to carry it around and who wants that when I already carry my BrailleNote around everywhere?

Now, I will admit that from the very beginning, I messed up. This is where having a little knowledge is a bad thing. I had already paired many bluetooth devices with my BrailleNote, so I assumed this would be the exact same process. So, I paired from my BrailleNote; my Iphone popped right up. I typed in the stupid, stupid authentication code. Later, you will hear why this code is going to put me in an early grave. Everything seemed to be paired. The BrailleNote actually said, “Iphone, paired.” But nothing else was happening. Which was strange. If I’d done it right, the BrailleNote should now be displaying the apps from my phone.

So, I went to Google. The manufacturer of the BrailleNote, Humanware, provided me a tutorial. It said that I must turn the “braille terminal” from “USB” to “bluetooth.” Okey dokey, that made reasonable sense. So, I did that. Still nothing. I did more Googling. HUMANWare informed meof this: “The BrailleNote Apex and the Iphone, a winning combination!” I was still slightly hopeful, but was definitely anxious for the “winning part.

Oh, good, Here we have “trouble-shooting.” My first mistake was that I needed to set up the pairing through the Iphone, not through the BrailleNote. Oops. And, you don’t set it up through the “bluetooth” menu, which to me makes the most sense. No, you must go to “settings”, “general”, “accessibility”, “voice over”, and THEN “braille”, and hope that your Braille display will show up there. Mine did. When you double tap to pair it, you have about 10 seconds to type in the authentication code before it tells you the pairing is unsuccessful. You may think this is easy, but here’s the thing: the code is 0000. To type it, you must double tap on the 0.” This means you must find the 0 on the number pad, and tap it eight times. One more time than eight and you’re effed. My finger was extra tappy due to the coffee and my annoyance, so I ended up messing up a lot. If you manage to type in the four 0’s, you must then navigate back to the “pair” button which means swiping left through the numbers 1-9, out of the “PIN” box, and then to the “pair” button. Ok, maybe I am just incompetent, but doing this in 10 seconds was giving me all kinds of whiplash. Oh and I forgot, if you don’t succeed at this in three attempts, you must START OVER, which means going back to the bluetooth menu, telling the Iphone to “forget” the BrailleNote, and then go back into the “Braille” menu to search for it again.

I did this approximately 10 thousand times. Nothing. Just the same error message, “Unable to connect to Apex”, with an “ok” button. Or, a few times, “unable to connect to apex. Makes sure it is turned on and within range.” No shit. OR, once or twice, “unable to load Apex driver.” Omgomgomg.

So, now what? The trouble-shooting instructions mention that if you tried to pair with the BrailleNote first, it might still be trying to pair, so do a hard reset. (This effectively restores all factory defaults. The only thing more extreme is a different reset which deletes all your files, from what I can tell.) So, I did that, to no avail. Also, suggested: make sure your BrailleNote name is correct in the “computer name” menu or the Iphone won’t recognize it. All righty, did that. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Back to feverishly typing in the authentication code: (what in the Goddess’s name is this for, anyway? It’s not a password, because it’s pretty much universal for all bluetooth devices. Just, why?)

Agh, I might have to call tech support. I really, REALLY don’t want to. I have never had anything good happen while calling tech support, except:
a. they tell me I need to learn to follow directions.
B. They ask me if my computer is actually on.
C. They tell me to “send it in”, which takes three months and never costs under 1000 dollars.

All I have to say is, really? Could we make this more complicated and unintuitive? And we’re telling ourselves that computers “used to” suck?

2 thoughts on “Winning Combination

  1. Hey Lauren,
    Have you tried changing your iPhone typing mode to “touch typing?” When in the touch typing mode, you don’t have to double tap.
    To switch to touch typing mode, get into something like the notes app and then use the iPhone rotor- a 2 finger clockwise rotation- and when you get to typing mode, swipe up for touch typing.
    I know how difficult it is to pair the Apex, but I know you’ll eventually get it!

  2. We’ve all been there with some *&^%$%^&UI piece of technology. I commiserate – and will spare you my own horror stories, but you might get a few in your comments. There is something about tech frustration that brings out such sharing.

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