Why silent function keys are a BAD THING!

Recently I spent 40 minutes on the phone dealing with my Aunt’s laptop, which had mysteriously stopped getting on their household WiFi Network. My mother also had a problem with her laptop’s touchpad–it had stopped working, and she could only use the laptop with a USB mouse attached. What did both of these problems have in common?

That’s right, a Fn-Fx key combination that disables hardware. Fn-F7 turns of the wireless card. Fn-F10 turns of the mousepad. Debugging why a piece of hardware isn’t working remotely is difficult, and neither my Mother or Aunt had any idea that they had accidentally hit a Fn-Fx key combination. I really wish laptop manufacturers would have large, prominent red LED’s that would light up when a piece of hardware was disabled. Also helpful would be OS support with an on-screen display. A simple, “You have just disabled your WiFi radio by pressing Fn-F7. Press Fn-F7 again to re-enable your WiFi connection.” message would prevent many of these problems.

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