Olio Keeps Trying

You have to hand it to a company that keeps on trying…

Over the past year, I’ve done a lot with wearables. Again, here’s all the links to the articles I’ve written on them.

Microsoft Band

Fitbit Surge

Pebble Time

Apple Watch Sport

Olio Model One

Waterproof-Watch-5

This list is in sharp contrast to the state of the wearable’s market now. It’s not as prolific, and its currently stagnating a bit, as everyone – and every device – that’s still in the market tries to decide where the next step is.

Case in point – the Olio Model One. It looks awesome; but at the time of review, if you tried to use it past a 2-4 hour window, you’d be out of luck. The battery life was atrocious. It was effectively, unusable due to the battery burning through a charge, especially if it was out of range of your phone.

However, Olio hasn’t given up on the Model One; and despite me being bitterly disappointed and down on it out of the gate, I continue to be hopeful as new software updates come out for it.

Another case in point – Olio has recently released Model One Software Version 1.4; and boy..! What a difference a release (or two) makes!

Olio has included the following in this update:
Gesture – You can now select ‘High’ for a sensitive gesture response, ‘Medium’ for the current default that you’ve been experiencing with gesture on, or ‘Low’ for a less sensitive gesture response and optimum battery life. The gesture feature is located in Settings on your Model One.
Bluetooth – This update also includes improvements to Bluetooth connectivity,
Overall UI Improvements,
Battery Life optimizations for iPhone users

I’ve noticed the following with this update:

1. Battery Life – Battery life is improved by 3x. I can now make it through the day – 12-14 hours without having my watch run out of power. The device is now (in the most basic terms) usable. I can use it without having to recharge or worry about if and when (not it… WHEN) my watch will run out of power.

I still have to make certain that I take my phone with me to meetings. Bluetooth will still go haywire, trying to reconnect to my phone if I’m out of range…

This still needs to improve. The Model One can’t be considered a success here until it can go at LEAST 24-36 hours without needing a charge. Heck, the Microsoft Band version 1 (Part 1 Part 2) can do that.
2. Bluetooth – Yes, it connects quicker. Yes, it seems to find my phone better; but when it loses connectivity, it still searches like mad.

What needs to happen here is that if the phone goes out of range or the watch “loses” the phone, the watch needs to check your schedule. If you have an appointment during the time of communication loss, then the watch shouldn’t try to reconnect until after the appointment ends. Then it should try three times on its own, and then give up. The watch face should turn red (or give some other visual clue that its lost connectivity and has stopped trying on its own to connect) and then give the user the opportunity to reconnect manually. Olio Assist can house the settings.
3. Gesture Sensitivity – High is too high, low is too low, and medium… can be a weird combination of the two at times. Unfortunately, for me, medium is NOT “just right.”

Stay tuned. Olio promises many more updates and improvements to the Model One in the coming months. I’ll have an update on those that make an impact posted to Soft 32 as soon as I can.

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Smartwatches for Everyone!

You Can Turn ANY Watch into a Smartwatch with Chronos

Chronos

Those of you that know me and have been following me over at LEAST the past year know that for me, 2015 was the year of the smartwatch. I reviewed the following smartwatches in 2015:

Microsoft Band
Part 1

Fitbit Surge
Pebble Time
Apple Watch Sport
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Olio Model One

There were good and bad smartwatches in this list. I’ve really chosen the Apple Watch Sport as my daily wearable. I’ve been wearing it more consistently than any other smartwatch that I reviewed. Both the Microsoft Band and the Fitbit Surge have been retired. I gave the Pebble Time to a friend of mine at Church; and I’m still working with Olio on what I would still consider some issues with the Model One.

However, if you have a standard, non-smartwatch, watch that you are totally in love with and don’t want to give up or put into semi-retirement but really want a smartwatch, then you really need to take a look at Chronos.

Chronos is a 3x33mm disk that adheres to the back of ANY watch via micro-suction. Its water resistant , non-magnetic, and provides both vibration and colored LED light notifications. In addition to this, it has an accelerometer for fitness tracking, allows you to use your watch as a remote for your smartphone’s camera and music player. You can even use gesture controls to skip songs. If you’ve misplaced your phone, you can use Chronos to “ping” it to help you locate it.

Chronos on Watch

Chronos has Bluetooth 4.0 LE with a 50 foot range; and has a rechargeable lithium polymer battery with a battery life range of up to three (3) days. The device charges via wireless charging, so you can charge it while it’s still connected to your favorite watch of choice.

The best thing here is the price – at least at the time of this writing. Chronos will begin shipping in Spring of 2016 and retails for an MSRP of $129. If you preorder yours now, you can get it for $40 off, or $89.

I’ve requested a review sample from Chronos and hope to hear back from them soon, as I feel this would make a wonderful, final edition to our Wearables Roundup. Stay tuned to Soft32 for more information, and hopefully, a full review!

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Microsoft Releases Surface Hub

The long awaited update to Microsoft’s Perceptive Pixel PC’s has finally shipped.

Surface-hub-1

This is a huge deal for the enterprise…

One of the things that I like the most about my current job and role in IT is that my company has a Windows 8.x powered Perceptive Pixel PC.  It sits in one very specific conference room, and quite honestly, I tend to live in that room, mostly because of this particular PC.

Perceptive Pixel is Surface Hub, before it was Surface Hub.  The update and launch of this device has been a long time coming, and Microsoft’s General Manager of Devices Marketing, Brian Hall said, “… our Surface team works together better because we have Surface Hub.”

The difference between Perceptive Pixel and Surface Hub is that PP is really a giant Surface Pro 3 styled touch screen.  Surface Hub is really more of an interactive whiteboard. It’s really designed to take advantage of Windows 10 and incorporates collaboration tools like Skype for Business, Office, including OneNote, and Windows Universal apps (if any of note actually existed…but I digress…)

Surface Hub can be mounted on a wall or movable stand and resembles a flat screen television but with a touch screen; and really has little to no difference than Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book.  Microsoft is targeting the device for the enterprise in the fields of healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, consulting, defense, finance and education.  However, it’s really going to work well in any corporate setting.  Not only does it allow physical attendees to interact with it, but via Skype for Business, even remote meeting attendees can use its interactive and collaboration features.

In today’s fast paced business environments that often include distributed teams, having the ability to have everyone see what you’re seeing at the same time as well as collectively and collaboratively interacting with meeting resources and files – sometimes at the SAME time – is going to be a huge productivity boosting benefit.

Surface Hub is said to come in two flavors – an 55″ model and an 84″ model.  Prospective pricing was announced for the devices about this time a year ago.  The 1080p equipped, 55″ model will cost $6,999 USD and the 4k capable, 84″ model will cost $19,999.  The devices actually started shipping in March 2016 (as opposed to the original September 2015), and have also seen a price increase over their initial pricing.  The 55″ device cost $8,999 and the 84″ device cost $21,999.

Now… I wonder how easy it will be to upgrade our Perceptive Pixel PC here in the office…?

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Government Cracks the iPhone 5c

The FBI was successful in jailbreaking, uh, I mean, cracking that iPhone 5c they have…

iphone 5c_unlockBefore I get into it, let me say, this is (probably) the best possible outcome of this whole crazy mess.

Early Monday evening, Chicago Time, the Department of Justice announced that its efforts to crack the iPhone 5c used by Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Milik. I’ve tried my best to cover this story while it has been going on. Just to recap:

Back door..?!? We don’ need your stinkin’ backdoor..!
The DoJ to Apple Computer – Byte Me…
The All Writs Act is an All Access Pass
Apple Tells the FBI to go Pound Bits

It’s not been exactly our best moments… with grandstanding and posturing on both sides. However, with the phone cracked and the data “safely” in the hands of the FBI, the DoJ has moved to vacate its court order compelling Apple to provide aid in giving them access to the phone in their ongoing investigation. Now that they’ve got a way in, they don’t need Apple to build them that back door.

Melanie Newman, a DoJ spokesman, provided the following statement via Twitter on their plans:

“It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties, or through the court system when cooperation fails… We will continue to pursue all available options for this mission, including seeking the cooperation of manufacturers and relying upon the creativity of both the public and private sectors.”

Apple has issued a brief statement, as reported by Buzz Feed’s John Paczkowski:

“From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.

We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated.

Apple believes deeply that people in the States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk.

This case raised issues which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy. Apple remains committed to participating in that discussion.”

There are a number of groups, that are calling for the government to disclose information on the actual exploit that was used to gain access to the iDevice in question, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

However, there are two takeaways here that everyone should be cognizant of, and that are near certainties:

1. The government isn’t going to share the information
If they disclose the method used to access the iDevice, Apple will certainly plug the hole, preventing the government from using it on other iDevices in the future. Besides, they’re probably a little more than miffed at Apple for not giving them what they wanted without putting up a fight.

2. Apple is going to devote a great deal of time hardening iOS
Apple is going to make certain that it goes on a big enough bug hunt that it squashes any and all security holes it finds. Its then going to go and improve the encryption and other security features in iOS to insure that end user data that is supposed to be private, remains private.

So, how is this likely the best outcome, given the above, and other developments?

That’s easy – because no one had to force their hand…

Simply put, the government didn’t have to (really) try to make Apple comply, and Apple didn’t have to refuse. The debate on the case, isn’t far from over, however, as I’m certain that its likely to come to a boil before Apple has a chance to release a version of iOS with “uncrackable” encryption.

What do you think of all of this? Is this the outcome you were hoping for? Are you Team Apple or Team DoJ? Should Apple build the back door the government was initially asking for, or should it harden iOS to the point where no one can get it without the proper password or biometric data?

I’d love to hear from you. Why don’t you sound off in the Discussion area, below and let me know what you think of all of this?

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Apple Introduces iPhone SE and iPad Pro Mini

There weren’t too many surprises at the recent Apple event, but let’s review to see what we’ve got…

iphone 6seYesterday, amidst what will likely be one of the very last product announcements on the existing Apple Campus, Tim Cook and Apple made some highly anticipated, rather expected product announcements in the iPhone, iPad and OS families. I’m going to run through these very quickly, as despite the small venue; the information coming out of this event was rather big.

iPhone SE

Apple’ latest entry into the smartphone arena is a 4″ model iPhone, dubbed the iPhone SE. The guts are similar to the iPhone 6s; but in a smaller package, with a smaller price. While the iPhone 6s starts at $649USD, the iPhone SE will start at $399 for the 16GB model , a full $250USD cheaper.

The main differences between the SE and the 6s are 1GB of RAM in the SE (vs. 2GB in the 6s), the smaller screen, 16GB and 64GB sizes only (the 6s has a 128GB option) and the lack of optical image stabilization (OIS). Orders for the iPhone SE will open up on Thursday 2016-03-24. The device ships on 2016-03-31.

The nitty gritty on the phone can be found below:

 

 

IPhone SE: 16GB – $399, 64GB – $499

  • 64bit A9 processor
  • M9 Motion Coprocessor
  • Always on, “Hey Siri!”
  • Improved Battery Life
  • Faster LTE
  • VoLTE
  • Faster Wi-Fi
  • Wi-Fi calling
  • BT 4.2
  • iOS 9.0
  • 12MP iSight Camera
  • Retina Flash
  • Live Photos
  • 63MP Panoramas
  • 4k Video, with duel 4k editing streams
  • 1080p @ 60fps
  • Slo-Mo @ 240fps
  • Apple Pay
  • New microphones

iPad Pro “mini”
While officially dubbed the iPad Pro 9.7-inch, the newest member to the iPad Pro family is really nothing more than the best of both worlds – and iPad Pro in the regular iPad form factor. It also has most of the improvements you see from the iPhone SE, minus any “voice” related features.

What most people are interested in, however, is the following:

  • Does it have a Smart Connector for powered keyboards and other accessories ?– Yes.
  • Does it support Apple Pencil? – Yes.
  • Does it work with my USB Camera Adaptor and SD Card Reader adapter? – Yes.

Some of the more specific details of this newest iPad Pro and its A9X processor include

  • 3rd generation A9X processor
  • 64bit architecture
  • Desktop class performance
  • CPU – 2.4x faster than A7
  • Graphics – 4.3x faster than A7

What can be taken away from all of this is that while the 9.7-inch iPad Pro does have desktop class performance, the 12.9-inch Pro is faster. It has an overall faster CPU, faster graphics performance, faster battery charging and faster data transfer, according to a report by Apple Insider.

The biggest take away here is that you now get most of the benefits of the original iPad Pro, but in the form factor of the original iPad Air. Wins and grins all the way around…

The new iPad Pro 9.7-inch comes in three models, two flavors

  • 32GB – $599 USD Wi-Fi Only, $729 USD Wi-Fi+LTE
  • 128GB – $749 USD, Wi-Fi Only, $879 USD Wi-Fi+LTE
  • 256GB – $899 USD, $1029 USD Wi-Fi+LTE

Prices for the 12.9-inch version have also been adjusted, and a 256GB option has been added here as well

  • 32GB – $799 USD Wi-Fi Only
  • 128GB – $949 USD, Wi-Fi Only, $1079 USD Wi-Fi+LTE
  • 256GB – $1099 USD, $1229 USD Wi-Fi+LTE

Orders for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro will open up on Thursday 2016-03-24. The device ships on 2016-03-31.

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Upgrading an HTC One (M8) to Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Why Verizon makes life so difficult is beyond me…

android marshmallow

About 12 years ago, I wrote a couple of reviews for pocketnow  related to very early PocketPC phones – the Samsung i700 and the hands free kit that went with it.  The i700 itself was about $500 – $600 depending on the length of the contract that your got with the phone. The hands free kit (read: car it), which in today’s much more advanced Bluetooth enabled world would be handled by your car radio and some kind of universal mounting kit, made it safe and easy to make and place calls on the go. It was $200. (I paid a combined total of $700, which translates to $987 in today’s dollars when you factor in inflation.)

The point in heading down memory lane is that back in the day, when anyone at Verizon Wireless saw a PocketPC phone coming, the store associates ran the other way. None of them understood it, and knew that their company made working with the devices very difficult.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t changed much…

If you remember, I spent a great deal of time with the HTC One (M8) about two years ago.  Thankfully, I was able to keep the M8 on an “extended loan;” and I’ve been covering Android using this device ever since.  If you’re interested, you can see the unboxing video I did of the device, here.

The M8 came with Kit Kat (Android 4.4.2). It got an upgrade to Lollipop (Android 5.0 and Android 5.0.1) in 2015.  The upgrade for Marshmallow (Android 6.0) for the M8 was announced in late 2015. It was actually expected in December 2015, but was (obviously) delayed.  The device finally got its upgrade on 2016-03-07; and in order for me to get it on this device, I had to jump through some pretty big and complicated hoops.

In the process, I learned some very interesting things about Verizon.  I’ll get to all of them as I run through this; but suffice it to say… I’m very glad they are no longer my carrier of choice.  If I had to do crap like this for every smartphone OS update, I’d probably dump them all over again.

Anyway, here’s what I learned:

  1. There’s no direct download for the upgrade
    The upgrade for Marshmallow for this phone is OTA (over the air) only. You used to be able to download device updates to a PC and then flip a couple of settings on the phone, connect it to your PC via USB cable and then push the device to the phone.  Not so much anymore…
  2. You MUST have an Active SIM
    The HTC One (M8), unlike many traditional Verizon Wireless devices, actually has a SIM card.  However, that SIM card is tied to one number and one number ONLY (it can’t be recycled like AT&T or T-Mobile SIM’s can after 3-6 months of inactivity), and its tied to ONE specific device. Period.Over and above that, I found that if you want any kind of device update from VzW, you have to have an active SIM card, which means that you have to have an active account, with that device on that account; or have to have had an active account, and a SIM card that is still able to communicate with VzW Towers as a “valid” SIM card.If your SIM card/ device has been out of service for more than 3 months, you’re kinda hosed. An active Wi-Fi connection and internet access is not enough to pull down the upgrade to the device.

Given these restrictions, the only way I was able to upgrade my M8 to Android 6.0 Marshmallow is to try to activate the device.

Long story short, I opened and closed a VzW account for that phone over a 24 hour period.  After getting the SIM recognized by the local Verizon towers, the upgrade and its associated pre-requisites were quickly installed on my M8.

Please note that I had three updates waiting for me after my device was back on the VzW network. One of them was an Android 5.01 related update.  It should have been installed months ago and didn’t due to my SIM card going inactive.

I’ll have a write up on Android 6.0 Marshmallow next month. At this point, I’m still playing with the device, trying to figure out the ins and outs of the update (and I’m also still arguing with Verizon about getting the $84 bill vacated for less than 24 hours of active service without ANY data, TXT or voice call usage).

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Apple Plans to make us Loopy

Apple Plans to make us “Loopy” with Press Event Scheduled for 2016-03-21

…and by “loopy” I mean, “keeping us in the loop…” Yeah. Let’s go with that…

Loop you in

You know, sometimes it makes me laugh.

The entire world extends a great deal of effort trying to guess exactly what Apple has up its sleeves. Very few people actually get it right, if at all; yet at least twice a year, everyone seems to want to do their Punxsutawney Phil impression and tries to guess what Apple is going to announce at their press events.

The ballet that ensues is often interesting, but is just as often incorrect.

This year is no different than any other. People have been spreading rumors around the next Apple press event, finally announced on 2016-03-10 with the title, “Let us loop you in.” The event is scheduled for 10am Pacific Time on 2016-03-21.

I’ve looked high and low, and I’ve found that the following is generally accepted to be the best guesses as to what Apple will ultimately introduce to the world at that time. I’ve divided this up into a couple of lists, as some new information has been circulated as of midday 2016-03-10 that may make this event rather interesting.

What’s Consistent

  1. iPhone SE
    Having the 4″ and similar build and form factor of the iPhone 5/5s, the iPhone SE is expected to be a replacement of the (now entry level ) iPhone 5s. The device is said to have a metal case, a curved edge design similar to the iPhone 6s, with the A9 processor, and NFC support for Apple Pay (which would also imply touch ID, but I haven’t found conformation of that just yet). Either way, 3D Touch is not said to be included.
  2. 9.7″ iPad Pro
    Initially, people thought this might be the iPad Air 3. Recent rumors indicate that this will instead be a smaller version of the Pro line, with all of its features and everything that makes an iPad Pro an iPad Pro (magnetic Smart Connector, A9X processor, quad-speakers and support for Apple Pencil)

What’s Possible

  1. MacBook/ MacBook Pro Updates
    Intel released its Skylake processor a while ago, and Apple has yet to update any of its notebooks with support for the new processor architecture yet. I’ve seen a few sites indicate that this update is likely possible as a side comment with perhaps 1-2 very quick slides on the subject at most. Unless they make drastic changes to the product lines, in which case, all bets are off.
  2. New Bands for Apple Watch
    Expect existing bands to be offered in new colors. There may also be new product(s) in this line announced (so, like, entirely new bands). Two of the most anticipated new bands include a nylon band and a Space Black Milanese Loop (a non-Apple brand has been available on Amazon for a while now).

Apple will be live streaming the event via its website and AppleTV. It’s also possible for you to get (near live) updates via Twitter or other websites around the internet.

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Verizon and T-Mobile Rolling out Marshmallow to HTC One M8 Users

I’ve been looking for it since December…

verizon and t-mobile

Back in December of last year (2015), HTC released Android 6.0 Marshmallow for its One M9 and M8 products. I began looking for it to hit my Verizon powered One M8 in January (as originally promised) but up to now, it hasn’t hit. I began to think that may have something to do with the fact that the VzW SIM I have in my One M8 is expired.

Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

On Thursday,2016-03-03, Mo Versi, HTC’s VP of Product Management, announced that Marshmallow would be coming to M8 owners on the Verizon and T-Mobile networks on 2016-03-07.

HTC’s 2014 flagship the HTC One (M8) will begin its OTA rollout Monday 07, March 2016. Most OTA upgrades are staggered and delivered in waves, so while this update is limited to both the largest and third largest mobile carrier in the US, don’t be surprised if it takes a week or two for your device to actually receive the update notification and bits.

For those that get this or any other major OS update – REGARDLESS of platform – the best thing you can do for yourself is to blow the device and reinstall the new OS from scratch.

Most device upgrades – despite the extensive testing done by both the OEM and the mobile carrier – don’t always go well. Nine times out of ten, it leaves legacy information and configuration files on the device that negatively impact or effect how well the device functions, post upgrade. The only way to insure that you have everything working right – AFTER – the initial upgrade finishes, is to insure that everything is backed up and then perform a factory (or hard) reset on the device, and then do NOT restore that backup, but instead set the device up as a new device (or as if you had just gotten it from your carrier as brand new).

While some may see this as a defeat of the purpose of the backup you took just before the upgrade – and in some ways it is – what you’re really doing is making certain that your devices runs the new OS without any misconfigurations.

In short, don’t fear the hard reset.

Back in the days of Windows Mobile in the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s I found myself doing that all the time. Really more often than I wanted to because, well, Windows Mobile was a total piece of crap. The thing never worked right, and often would function differently each and every time you either upgraded or rebuilt your device from the ground up. While things aren’t that drastic now a days – mobile device OS’ are much more sophisticated and better engineered in the 15-20 years since I started all of this stuff – being able to rebuild everything without worrying about or getting too attached to anything, is the best way to go.

Most devices have some level of configuration backup – what apps you installed, a cloud driven file system for all your data – email contacts and calendar all synchronized, etc. – so getting back to where you were BEFORE the hard reset is much easier than it used to be.

After I get the update, and have performed my hard reset, I will post a brief article on how the Marshmallow implementation looks and functions on my Verizon powered HTC One M8.

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