Connectify

Easily create and connect all of your wireless devices with this handy networking utility

connectify-hotspotI can remember back in the 1990’s when computing was just in its infancy. Back then, no one hardly ever got online. If you did, it was with a dialup connection, and then you likely had AOL, CompuServe, MSN or some other online service. Normally, what you did was dial up, get in, get what you needed and then IMMEDIATELY get off. If you didn’t, you likely ended up using (nearly) all of your monthly connect time, and after that, it got really expensive.

Computing today is TOTALLY different. People are connected all the time. Quite honestly now-a-days, NOT getting online often seems to be a waste of time unless you have specific computing tasks to do – writing a report, tweaking a presentation you already have on your hard drive, or working on a spreadsheet. Most other modern computing activities require some kind of internet connectivity. It’s simply a given.

When it comes to finding an available, trusted internet connection in today’s malware ridden, maze of untrusted networks isn’t easy. This is why apps like Connectify are so important. It’s a networking and hotspot tool for Windows.

connectify

With Connectify, you can easily create a Wi-Fi hotspot that will allow you to connect all of your wireless devices to the internet, while on the go. Connectify isn’t just the world’s most powerful hotspot app, it’s the easiest, to use. All you have to do is give your Hotspot a name and password. After that, you’re ready to go.

You can share any internet connection as a Wi-Fi hotspot. It doesn’t matter if that’s an existing Wi-Fi connection, a wired Ethernet connection, or even a 4G LTE network. However, doing THAT will require you to upgrade to Connectify’s Pro or Max version.

Some of the coolest parts of the app, however, don’t have much to do with actually creating a network signal. Some of the cool stuff comes from some of the ancillary functionality that’s included in the app. Connectify will monitory your network usage, by device. You can track down that friend who’s using all your bandwidth. Connectify’s newest feature gives you real-time graphs of your data usage at a glance.

Get access to the internet is a necessity for many people today. Much of what we use computers for today involves some kind of network functionality or connectivity from sharing files across devices to checking email, or sharing photos. Insuring you have the connectivity you need WHEN and WHERE you need it can sometimes be problematic, especially when you don’t have a data plan for every device you own. With Connectify, those troubles are greatly lessened.

The app is a huge boon to those that need internet on devices that for some reason don’t or won’t connect to some Wi-Fi networks but will connect to others. Keeping track of how much bandwidth you’ve burned and who’s the bandwidth hog on your network used to be mysteries, but now, with included utilities, you can easily figure out both of those things.

Connectify comes in four different flavors – free/ 30 day trial version, Hotspot Pro, Hotspot Max and Hotspot Max Bundle. Each version is subscription based, however, and unless you buy the lifetime version, you’re going to be renewing your license next year. If you like Connectify and feel that its bringing value to your online experience, do yourself a favor and buy the lifetime version of whatever flavor you’re interested in. The lifetime license isn’t all that much more expensive, and once you start your fourth year of use, you break even on the purchase.

download Connectify

 

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BullGuard Internet Security

Keep your PC safe with this must have internet security suite.

ThankYouDogIf there’s one thing that I know and know WELL, it’s that anyone and everyone can get a computer virus or piece of malware. It’s becoming too easy not to pick up a bug, no matter how computer savvy or experienced you are. If you use a Windows PC, as nearly everyone in the universe does, it becomes even more difficult, as most of the viruses in the wild are targeted and attack Windows PC’s specifically. This is the number one reason why I really like apps like BullGuard Internet Security. It’s a suite of security apps that can keep your Windows PC clean as well as protect it from a number of different threats.

BullGuard Internet Security is an all-in-one security suite that guards you, your kids and your PC against ever-evolving malware and cybercrime. The app protects you, your computer and your family from all online threats – identity theft, credit card fraud, hackers, viruses, spyware and much more – thanks to its broad range of features covering nearly every possibility. With BullGuard Internet Security and it’s at-a-glance update system, you will never worry about your digital safety again.

bullguard internet security

BullGuard Internet Security provides the following, holistic, protection:

Total Protection – its real time scanner can stop intruding malware in its tracks, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses and adware so you can compute without worry. The latest enhancements include better protection against advanced rootkits that can steal control of your computer as well as from ransomware so you’ll never have control of your life stolen from you.

Unwanted Apps – Adware sucks. BullGuard Internet Security stops adware cold in its tracks, protecting your data, your browser settings and search engine preferences.

Advanced Backup – BullGuard Internet Security includes 5GB of free online storage so you can keep all of your data, photos, music and home video off site and safe. You can backup data directly from folders with one click. If you want, you can view data on your computer or even your smartphone. If you have a Dropbox account, you can back up your data directly to it.

Firewall – stop unwanted intrusions from accessing your computer and other resources connected to it.

Spamfilter – stop unwanted junk email and email scams, phishing attempts, viruses and foreign language email from flooding your inbox.

Keeping your computer safe is important. Finding the right application or suite of applications to do it isn’t always easy. To be very honest, there’s a lot of crap out there. However, BullGuard Internet Security is one of the best security suites available on the internet today.

Other suites are often overpriced, bloated or difficult to work with. BullGuard Internet Security is fast, easy to use and provides protection for up to three computers in your home. It can protect your PC from adware, viruses, spam and malware. It can protect your PC from unwanted intrusions.

While its licensing is subscription based, that business model is the industry standard, and for three computers, that breaks down to just $20 per PC per year…and honestly, that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

download Bullguard Internet Security

 

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Five Most Popular Mobile Software Apps

We’ve done our homework over here and have pulled together the most popular mobile software downloads for you.

Introduction
As a mobile device expert I can tell you one thing for certainty about ALL mobile devices and smartphones- they’re only as good as the mobile software available for them. If you recall, I addressed this in part in an article on what I think will make or break the iPad Pro. To be very honest, its true for all mobile devices – Software. Popular mobile software will make or break any mobile platform.

With software so important to the mobile devices that it runs on, it’s important to insure you have the right apps for your device. I’ve spent some time, pulling together five (5) of the most popular mobile software downloads, regardless of platform and brought them here, in no particular order, for your consideration.

The Top Five Apps

Maps.Me for Android
maps.meGPS apps are perhaps some of the best mobile software around. Maps.Me is an Android software download that provides turn by turn directions anywhere in the world. It supports over 345 countries and islands. Its maps are highly detailed, and contain more information than any other map or GPS app anywhere. It has millions of points of interest including restaurants, gas/ petrol stations, ATM machines, etc. It will work both online and offline, provided you have enough local storage available so you won’t incur any data roaming charges. It’s also fast, and free.


UC Browser
uc browserIf you remember, we reviewed UC Browser a few years ago. If you get the opportunity and if you’re interested in the app, you should give it a read, as it has a really complete breakdown of what the app can and cannot do.

UC Browser is an Android app that will allow you to surf the internet. Its adaptable configuration helps you adjust the way your browsing works under different networking connections and conditions. This helps manage bandwidth usage, and ultimately, data costs. The browser can also preload pages, download files in the background, and has an add-on platform that can extend the functionality of the app.


Kingsoft Office for Android
kingsoft officeOne of the most important apps I have on many of my mobile devices – tablets, laptops, and to an extent, smartphones – is a productivity suite. Kingsoft Office for Android is a free android software download. With it, you can create and edit rich text documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The suite is also fully Microsoft Office compatible.

Having the ability to edit content on the go is an important ability. Its why many of us carry mobile devices. Having this ability on your Android smartphone or tablet may just make life easier or save your bacon when you need to edit something in a pinch.


Whatsapp
whatsappWhatsapp is perhaps the most used mobile application in the world, especially outside the US. With Android mobile software being the most popular type of mobile download, Whatsapp for Android is very popular. With Whatsapp being cross platform, meaning that it’s also very popular on iOS, its literally available and used on nearly every mobile device on the planet.

The app allows you to send and receive instant messages over a secure network. With it you can send text, pictures, audio notes, and video messages at no other cost than the cost of the app.

Let’s talk about that secure network thing. Whatsapp doesn’t function on its own network, it functions on any internet signal. However, it does employ encryption that can’t be broken, meaning that your messages can’t be read by “inquiring minds [that] want to know. Private and secure communications is what Whatsapp is all about.


Mobomarket
MoboMarketYour mobile device doesn’t do too much without the software that runs on it. When it comes to Android, you actually have a choice of stores to buy software from. You can use Google Play. You can use the Amazon Store; or you can use Mobomarket.

MoboMarket for Android is a third-party Android Market App that really focuses on free Android games and apps. MoboMarket has a geo-location based recommendation system, helping you discover the apps that you’re interested in most. Apps updated in MoboMarket are updated in real time, giving you full control of the apps installed on your mobile device.


Conclusion
Android mobile software downloads are something that every Android user wants and needs. Getting the right software for your device is something that everyone wants and needs. With Android being the most popular mobile operating system, powering some of the most popular devices in the world, having the best of the mobile software available is what it’s all about. The apps that I’ve included here are some of the best… some of the most popular mobile software downloads on Soft32. If you’re an Android user (or an iOS user in the case of Whatsapp), you need to check these out and see if these mobile apps are the right ones for you.

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FEATURE REVIEW – HTC 10

HTC sent me their new flagship Android smartphone to review, and it’s awesome.

Introduction
I’ve always been a gadget guy. If its electronic and it has buttons of any kind, then I’m usually all over it. Smartphones have always been a favorite gadget, as I’ve always been a huge Star Trek fan (it’s a well-known fact that the idea for the cell phone came from the Star Trek communicator). So yeah… gadgets.

Back in the day, an obscure company out of Taiwan began making smartphones for a company out of Dubai called i-mate. These smartphones were the elite of the smartphone world. EVERYONE that was anyone in the tech journalism world went out of their way to try to get one of them in their hands, including me.

Fast forward to today. That obscure little company out of Taiwan, turned out to be HTC… and their flagship phones are some of the most sought after devices on the market today. Case in point – the HTC 10 is HTC’s latest offering in their Android line. This one is going to be kinda quick; but let’s see how well it does…

Hardware
As I said, HTC has one of the best hardware reputations in the industry. It’s always been great at hardware engineering. That being said, let’s take a look at what you get when you purchase an HTC 10.

What’s in the Box?
When you get a new smartphone, you nearly always expect to find a few things included with the device. Back in the day, you got a number of different gadgets and goo-jams in the box. This nearly always included the device, some kind of device cradle or charging station, a USB cable, some kind of carrying case or pouch and a set of earbuds. Today, that’s just not the case. Nearly NO ONE includes a cradle or charging station. I find that very problematic, as I don’t like to leave my device – in a case or not – just sitting by itself on a desk. More likely than not, I’ve got a glass of something sweet and sticky also on my desk, and I’m the kind of guy that works cluttered, as I like to spread out. This potentially makes the desk a water (read: liquid) hazard zone for nearly EVERYTHING on my desk. I’m fairly good about NOT bumping or spilling anything, but accidents do happen. Having the device off my desk surface at least gives my smartphone a fighting chance; and that only happens with a sync/ charge cradle.

The ICE View Case
When I got the HTC 10, I was really surprised that it didn’t come with w case. The HTC One (M8) came with the Dot View case. It was included with the device. The HTC 10 has a similar case, but it – the ICE View Case – is a $50 USD add-on purchase. It’s not included.

Now the ICE View case is a cool HD update to the M8’s low-red DOT View case, but it’s expensive, and honestly, I don’t think it’s worth $50 USD. I happened to be fortunate enough to catch the case on sale for $20USD, direct from HTC, and my device is in one now. It’s nice and I think the device needs to have some kind of protective case. The ICE View case does a good job at $20 bucks, but a horrible one at $50 USD. At that price, it should do a lot more.

But enough about the case that should be, but isn’t, there…

OK, So What IS Included?
To be honest… not much. You get exactly the following:

  • HTC 10
  • SIM Card Removal Tool
  • USB-C Cable
  • Wall Wart Charger
  • Warranty Documentation

Notice, that you do NOT get any ear buds or other type of headphones with the device. I contacted HTC about the lack of accessories included with the device and got the following response:

“I know we used to include earphones but this time around we are teaming up with JBL to bring the highest quality earphones to consumers in a bundle package that will be coming soon to htc.com. The earphones have not hit the market yet. What you received in the package is partially due to carrier agreements as well.”

According to my contact at HTC, the JBL bundle was supposed to the partnership with JBL was supposed to come together in late June. From what I can see, it hasn’t happened. The JBL ear buds that they do show on the site, are just that – earbuds; and they’re currently priced at $200 USD. I don’t care how great they are. No earbuds are worth $200 bucks. Period.

HTC also offers as set of HTC Pro Studio Earphones for $80 bucks and a set of HTC Hi-Res Audio Earphones for $30 bucks. The Pro set has a better dynamic range, and support HTC’s BoomSound audio profile. The plain Jane set don’t. You have to ask yourself if the HTC BoomSound audio profile is worth $50 bucks. For me… it’s not. Quite frankly, their entry level ear buds aren’t worth $30 bucks in my opinion. If you want a decent set of headphones, do some research on the internet and then go to an electronics store. If you’re looking for earbuds to get you listening to audio on the go, go to Wal-Mart or some other value retailer and buy a pair for $10-$15 bucks. Save yourself some money. Earbuds aren’t worth much more than that, in my opinion.

The Full 360
As you can see from the pictures, below, the device is similar in form factor to its cousins, the M8 and the M9. However, the first moment I took it out of the box, the first thing I thought was, “wow. This looks exactly like an iPhone.” In fact, for a split second, I thought I was holding an iPhone instead of the HTC 10.

To be blunt, the hardware is awesome looking. Check it out!

 

IMG_5490 IMG_5491 IMG_5492
FULL FRONTAL: The HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10 LEFT SIDE: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10 TOP: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. Notice the audio jack placement on the HTC 10
IMG_5493 IMG_5494 IMG_5495
RIGHT SIDE: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. Both the M9 and the HTC 10 have power, volume rocker/ buttons and SIM card slots on the right side. BOTTOM: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. The M8 and M9 have microUSB connectors, off-centered. The HTC 10 has a centered, USB-C connector & a bottom speaker instead of the headphone jack. BACK: The HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. The M8’s dual camera setup was so disappointing, they did away with it.

Camera
I’ve been shooting amateur photographs for quite a while now. I’ve become pretty good, though I will be the very first to admit that I have a great deal to learn when it comes to the manual settings on my cameras. However, one of the things that I do well is compose and take a good picture.

So, when I found out that the HTC 10 supported RAW camera files, I got very excited. For those not familiar with Camera RAW and its benefits, here’s a quick explanation. Camera RAW is basically a dump of the actual camera image that the camera captures when it snaps a shot.

Usually when you take a picture the camera will take the data that it captures and then convert that data into a file that your PC – either Windows PC or Mac – can read. In many cases, in order to conserve space on the SD card you’re camera uses for storage, it also compresses that file. While the choice of this file type and its compression level is user controllable, compressing a file always strips detail out of the file, degrading the image. This happens with JPEG’s and JPG’s regardless of the compression level you use. JPEG/ JPG by default has some compression to it, even when you choose a compression level of “0.”

This is an issue because when you go to tweak your photos, you want to work with as much detail and data as possible in order to insure that you get the best results. When you add compression, you strip detail away, and well, by now, you get the point – you don’t get the best results. Camera RAW is the FULL detail of the image you took, and is really the one that every photographer wants access to when they go to retouch their images.

However, most consumer based digital cameras don’t support camera RAW. While it’s mostly because 1) Most consumers don’t care about or understand how the loss of detail effects their pictures, it’s also about 2) The camera manufacturer doesn’t want (for whatever reason) to write the translation filter for your computer so it can read and edit the RAW files for that camera (and yes, each camera/ camera brand has its own RAW file format).

With this in mind, you’re going to need to do a couple of things

  1. Understand that RAW files are big. Pictures normally range in file size from 20MB to 30MB, depending on the lighting, detail, type of shot (macro, zoom level, etc.)
  2. You’re going to want/ need to store files on an external SD card. If you keep files available on your phone, you’re going to run out of space, quickly.

All this said, I was very pleased with the performance of the camera on the HTC 10. Full camera specs can be found below.

Primary
  • 12 MP,
  • f/1.8, 26mm,
  • OIS,
  • laser autofocus,
  • dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Features
  • 1/2.3” sensor size,
  • 1.55µm pixel size,
  • geo-tagging,
  • touch focus,
  • face detection,
  • HDR,
  • panorama
Video
  • 2160p@30fps,
  • 720p@120fps,
  • HDR,
  • stereo sound rec.
Secondary (Front-facing)
  • 5 MP,
  • f/1.8, 23mm,
  • OIS,
  • autofocus,
  • 1.34 µm pixel size,
  • 1080p,
  • HDR

The camera here has decent low light exposure and a decent depth of field, but it’s strictly your basic point and shoot camera. This isn’t going to do pro or pro-sumer level photography. Don’t expect that. The pictures that it takes are decent at best. I’ve noticed that zoomed in photos taken near dusk (some are below) can be grainy, even when using camera RAW.

Here are some unretouched photos that I took with the HTC 10. These are in fact JPG’s, as the RAW files wouldn’t have displayed in this review. However, they are done with minimal compression. However, if you’ve got a good eye, you may see some image degradation and graininess in them. I can; but that’s due more to the “Save for the web” feature that I used in Photoshop Elements than anything else.

IMAG0028 IMAG0029 IMAG0031 IMAG0032
My family at my oldest son’s baseball game. My granddaughter making friends at the game The following pictures are of the coach’s review after the game (they won…) This shot is grainier at the top than it is at the bottom. I think that may be due to the stark color discrepancy between the top and bottom of the shot. Its more washed out near the extreme powder blue of the sky.
IMAG0033 IMAG0035 IMAG0036
The coaches review continues. You can see some graininess here The graininess isn’t as bad here, though, as the picture contains more elements of color than actual white.

Communication
The unlocked version of the HTC 10 that HTC sent me runs on both the AT&T and T-Mobile networks here in the US. The HTC 10 uses a nano SIM, and I was able to pull the card out of my iPhone 6 and immediately stick it in the HTC 10.

As expected, calls were clear. As expected coverage and radio reception were on par with my iPhone 6. The thing that DID go sideways with it was its communication with my car radio, the Pioneer AVH-X4800BS.

While the radio is Siri Eyes Free Compatible, it is neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto compatible. The radio uses an app called AppRadio One to display audio and video content and compatible apps on the radio’s 7-inch screen. If you want, you can call this the “poor man’s” version of CarPlay or Android Auto. It does much the same thing, but it’s a Pioneer product.

While I’ve learned that its nothing anywhere close to either Android Auto or CarPlay, I have found that the iPhone communicates and works much better than the HTC 10 does with this radio. I’m not certain if that’s a USB issue (the radio supports a direct, cabled, USB connection), a software issue (it seems to work better with iOS than with Android, in my opinion).

The radio does hands free calling via Bluetooth. That works, mostly, without issue. There are more minor Bluetooth communication quirks with the HTC 10 than with the iPhone 6. To be honest, it was one of the major reasons why I went back to the iPhone 6 much earlier than I had originally planned.

Android
The HTC 10 is an Android phone running Android 6.01 Marshmallow (or greater). The full platform specs are below.

OS Android OS, v6.0.1 (Marshmallow)
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820
CPU Dual-core 2.15 GHz Kryo & dual-core 1.6 GHz Kryo
GPU Adreno 530

I have been watching for updates to the operating system. Since I received the device about three months ago, I have received two OS updates and a carrier update. The device is running well.

The only real concern I have is how long HTC will support the device with upgrades. The device isn’t cheap, and one would usually expect to have it supported with updates and upgrades for at least 2 years (the average of a single “contract” term with any character. However, that may not be the case. HTC and the rest of the other OEM’s have made it clear they’d rather sell new devices than provide support.

Conclusion
I was impressed with the HTC One (M8), though it had its issues. The HTC 10 is a far cry better than the M8.

The HTC 10 is shy on accessories. You get little more than the device, a cable and a wall wart in the box. Even on HTC.com, the number of offered accessories is limited to the ICE View Case and a handful of headphones/ earbuds. If you want a lot of accessories for your smartphone, the HTC 10 may not be the device for you.

However, as the device has killer battery life, and a decent point and shoot camera. Marshmallow is a decent version of Android, though to be honest, while it does a good job with the HTC 10, it’s much like any other version of Android since Jellybean. If Android is your mobile OS of choice and you’re due for an upgrade or looking for a new mobile device, this is a GREAT device of choice.

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Opening up the HTC 10

HTC sent me an HTC 10 to review…

HTC-10

Introduction

I love mobile devices. For me, when it comes to electronics, smartphones and mobile devices are some of my most favorite things. So, you can imagine my delight when HTC contacted me two weeks ago and offered to send me an HTC 10 to review.

I was wanting to do a video unboxing of the device, but honestly… there’s little to nothing to unbox.  The device comes in a white, square shaped, box with rounded corners. It contains the device, a SIM tray ejector tool, a wall wart and a USB-C sync/ charging cable.  There’s also some minor regulatory documentation booklets that are included by law, but other than glancing at them to see exactly WHAT they are and maybe to see which side of the device the SIM tray is on, you’re never going to look at them… EVER.

I’m working on a full review for Soft32.  I’ve been in the device since late Sunday 2016-05-22, Chicago time. I’ve got a few first impressions that I’d like to pass on to everyone, without going into too much detail at this point. I’d like to save it for the review that I hope to file before the end of May 2016.

Hardware

When you open the device, the first thing you think is, “iPhone,” or “Samsung.” The device really looks like an iPhone wanna be.  That’s too bad, from a form factor perspective; but it’s not all doom and gloom or any kind of “fanboy” put down.  While the device REALLY does look like an iPhone, the hardware is pretty awesome.

I’ve got the device running around nekked right now; and that’s a bit of a shame. The device itself is truly impressive looking; but as I said, the contents of the box are a bit Spartan. Again, you get the device, the AC wall wart and the USB-C cable.  Clearly missing in my opinion, is a basic case, and a set of ear buds.

NOTE: I shot out an email to HTC on this while I was writing this inquiring about both the HTC Ice View case and the missing earbuds.  HTC is partnering with JBL on a set of exclusive earbuds for the HTC 10.  HTC will be offering them in a bundle package that will be “coming soon” to HTC.com. What I received from HTC was due to this as well as “carrier agreements.”

If you get your HTC 10 now, that’s all you’ll get. Starting in late June, HTC will ship the HTC 10 with JBL earbuds.  The bundle that I mentioned, will be an exclusive offer available only at HTC.com.

Battery

The battery life on the HTC 10 is simply amazing.  The device has 27 hours of talk time and up to 19 days of standby time.  The device can go from zero (0) to 50% charged in as little as 30 minutes with its Quick Charge 3.0 charging system.

I’m still trying to see how well the device lasts without a charge. During the week, I often listen to podcasts and make calls while driving, with my smartphone connected to my Pioneer AVH-4800BS in dash DVD receiver.

As such, battery life on my phone doesn’t usually drop below 60% by the time I leave the office during the day.  However, the weekends are a much different story. My phone usually ends up spending most of the time in my jacket, without being connected to power. We’ll see how well the battery holds up over this American Holiday three day weekend.

UPDATE: As of this writing, I last charged my HTC 10 on Friday 2016-05-27 at 6pm.  It’s been off the charger ever since, fully active and with moderate use – gaming, email, calls, etc. – as of 3pm 2016-05-30, I got my first low battery warning at 15%.  This battery is amazing and you should have no issues with the batter lasting you when using this device.  Normal use should have you no lower than 65% at the end of a normal day.

Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow

Suffice it to say I wasn’t too impressed with Marshmallow when I covered it last.  That hasn’t changed much. I am finding that Marshmallow – perhaps Android in and of itself – gets in its own way.  Half of the stuff that I’m trying to do with it seem simple enough, but it just doesn’t seem like it wants to work.

It may not be the mobile OS for me… and I’ll have more on this in the full review.

Connectivity

As with any smartphone, connectivity is the key to making any mobile device a success. Today’s mobile devices have a number of different radios in them, and the radios in the HTC 10 have a few quirks that you will need to be aware of.  While I hope to have more information on this in the full review, there are a few things that I need to cover here.

BT performance & connections

If there’s one thing that I really hate about Bluetooth is that its inherently unreliable.  In fact, more often than not for me, it doesn’t work right.

Now, while that is a general statement, it does hold true for the HTC 10.  All of the Bluetooth accessories that I have used with the HTC 10 do not perform as I, or anyone, would expect them to, as you’ll see below.

Olio Model One

This is the one device that seemed to work better with the HTC 10 than with my iPhone 6.  The watch seemed to connect with much form consistency and accuracy with the HTC 10. It connected with much more consistency and accuracy to the HTC 10 than it ever did with my iPhone 6.  However, I’m finding an issue with notifications that I hope to have more on in the full review.

Pioneer AVH-X4800BS
This car accessory is an issue.

Not only does it connect via Bluetooth for phone calls and the like, but it also connects via USB.  Both have issues.  The HTC 10 itself often doesn’t connect to the radio consistently without manual intervention.

Android phones also don’t automatically make any of their multimedia content available again, without manual intervention. Worse yet, this manual intervention must be done every time you connect the device to the radio…and that’s a pain in the butt.

USB Type C

This was an interesting choice for the HTC 10. While it does offer higher speed synching than nearly every other serial connectivity out there, USB C, like all other serial connections, it has its roots in RS-232, and in a technology that is well over 40 years old. As such, it’s not as reliable as you might think, or want it to be, especially when it comes to my car radio.  Yes, it charges well, and audio does play through the cable, but not as well as you might think or hope.  In fact, it doesn’t play through the cable consistently at all; and then, it doesn’t resume audio where you left off. It starts everything from the beginning again – beginning of the song that last played, beginning of the podcast, etc.

The biggest issue I have with USB C is that now, I have to get new cables to go everywhere I have and need cables – my home office, work, the car, and any other place I need to charge.  Type C cables are new, and are, unfortunately, somewhat expensive… and they will be until they become ubiquitous.

Call Quality

Call quality both via Bluetooth and the handset are good… much better than I would have hoped.  However, I’ve used HTC devices on and off for over 12 years. I have yet to run into one of their devices that doesn’t do well with call quality. The HTC 10 is no exception here.

Conclusion

So far, the HTC 10 is a decent device.  It’s got some state of the art hardware that includes one of the best batteries and battery technology that I’ve seen in the history of smartphones. It’s also running the latest version of Android Marshmallow, version 6.0.1.

It’s got some connectivity issues to get over, but this is one heck of a smartphone. If Android is your mobile OS of choice, and you’re in the market for a new device, then you really need to stop and give this one a serious look.

Over the next few weeks, I will be putting the HTC 10 through its paces. I’ll have a full review with pictures and additional information. I may also have some extra articles on the HTC 10 during this time as well.

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No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works…

Apparently, there’s a nasty bug that Microsoft is chasing…

No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works...

During a beta period, a tester or test manager should always expect to find bugs and, more importantly to expect run with buggy software. It’s never really end user ready, despite the fact that you’re opening your user base up to a wider audience.

Case in point – Microsoft has opened up Windows 10 to its Windows Insiders.  You can get prerelease builds of Windows on the Fast, Slow and Release Preview rings.

  • Fast Ring – You get (nearly) every build that Microsoft releases to its Insider program.  While there’s a lot of churn here, you get the most builds, and you’ll also likely see the most bugs. Builds are released almost every other week.
  • Slow Ring – Slow Ring is more stable than Fast Ring, but you don’t see as much churn. Things are still buggy; but there’s a bit more polish than with Fast Ring. While there’s still risk with Slow Ring, but with the right hardware combinations, it can still be very usable.
  • Release Preview – You can think of builds released in this ring being of Release Candidate quality.  This gets you things early, but nearly everything here is production ready, or can be considered Production Ready. Builds hit here a week or two before this hits Windows Update for everyone else.

So, with this model in mind, last week (as of this writing), Windows Insider guru Gabe Aul stated that there wouldn’t be any new builds of Windows 10 to the Fast Ring due to a bug that needed additional development time and attention.

According to Aul, there’s a bug in both Mobile and PC versions of Windows 10 that causes system crashes (what we used to call the Blue Screen of Death). Thankfully, the defect was caught before it hit Fast Ring (so, by Microsoft’s internal testing team), and as such, the details on the bug are sketchy at best. All we know is that it causes PC’s and phones to crash.

UPDATE – While writing this article, Microsoft released Insider Preview Build 14342 on 2016-05-10.  The updated build includes the following:

  • Updated Extensions in Microsoft Edge
  • Real-Time Web Notifications in Edge
  • Swipe navigation in Edge
  • Bash on Ubuntu on Windows Improvements
  • Skype Universal Windows Platform (UWP) Update
  • Updated Windows Ink Workspace Icon
  • Updated Visuals for UAC (User Account Control) dialog
  • Middle click to dismiss Action Center
  • Apps for Websites
  • Feedback Hub Improvements

The crashing bug noted above, has been resolved.

Are you installing preview builds of Windows 10?  How do you find the latest builds?  Are they worth the time and effort? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area, below, and give me your thoughts on them?

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Featured Review – Voila Screen Capture for Mac

Capture screen shots and video clips with this much needed Mac utility

voila-logo@2x

I’ve been a freelance writer for over 20 years.  I’m also a software QA guy.  I’ve always had a need for a screen capturing tool.  I either want to take screen shots of the programs I’m reviewing or of the errors in the software that I’m testing.  I’m actually a bit of a screen shot-aholic. Most everything that I do either for my writing gig here at Soft32 or during the day for my software testing job requires me to take screen shots of something.  This is why I really like Voila Screen Capture for Mac.  It’s a really cool utility for your Mac.

Voila is an ‘all-in-one’ screen capture solution that can capture, edit and share anything on your computer’s screen. Users can also video record the screens of their iOS device, like an iPhone or iPad in full resolution. After a screenshot is captured or recorded, the user can then share them on popular websites, send via e-mail or print using the buttons located on the UI. A complete set of tools including different capture methods, full webpage recording as well as easy sharing options make for a comprehensive and complete application that saves time and is easy to use.

Voila captures video with audio in high quality. You can capture the whole screen, or simply a user defined section. You can also capture video on your connected iDevice as well.

Voila captures full and partial screen stills as well.  Voila has a flexible capture option that allows you to grab full or user defined areas of your screen. If needed, you can also capture entire web pages along with important metadata like page title, menus and other page elements.

Once you get your screen grabs, you can also annotate them using different fonts, shapes, blur options and speech bubbles, or callouts. Once you have everything set, Voila can also help you manage your screen shot collections.  You can group similar images and videos together using custom labels.  You can add titles, tags and descriptions so you can catalog and search for just the media object you need.

Voila Screen Capture for Mac is a decent application.  It starts when you start your Mac and sits in the Menu Bar until its needed.  You’re supposed to be able to activate it via a set of user-definable hot keys, but these didn’t work consistently for me.  More often than not, pressing the hot key combinations didn’t do anything at all on my El Capitan powered 15″ MacBook Pro.

Download

VSCM-01 VSCM-02

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FEATURE REVIEW – Henge Docks Horizontal Dock

500636-5acf70732e3e9e0c2f604147eac3b5e8-medium_jpgIf you have a MacBook Pro and you’re looking for a docking station, I’ve got good news…

Introduction
I’ve been a portable computer user since the early to mid-1990’s. Back in the day of Windows 3.x, I got tight with a manager at a local Radio Shack and was able to purchase their early 8088, x286 and finally x386 before finally moving on to Dells and Toshibas. It’s been quite a journey.

Back during those early days, expansion options were limited to either an RS-232 compatible serial port or a parallel port. That was it. Token Ring and Ethernet networking was just getting started. IF a consumer based PC connected to anything, it was through a 300-1200 baud modem. 14.4k modems wouldn’t come out for another few years. The days of USB and SDXC cards weren’t even ideas or dreams yet. The internet, beyond research labs and connected universities, didn’t exist. Heck… AOL was the newest thing, and again… you connected via either an internal or external modem, and *70, was your best friend when it came to connection strings.

We’ve come a long way…

When I moved to Dell and Toshiba branded laptops, one of the biggest things that I got introduced to was the concept of a docking station. The idea of being able to connect cables, external drives, monitors, etc., to a stationary device that would quickly and cleanly allow you to connect and reconnect your computer to all of these external devices and cables really got my attention. It made it easy to take your laptop back and forth to work and the house. It also made it easy to take it to meetings where you could work and then come back and hook back up to your desktop resources without having to plug and chug all of your cables and other sources.

The clouds parted, the sun showed through… and cue the angelic music.

I had arrived.

Soon, I had a docking station for every laptop I’d ever owned – one at work and one at the house. It made bringing the work laptop home VERY easy, especially if they were either the same laptop, or the same series and used the same dock. However, the point is that my laptop(s) had a home and place to sit when I was at home and needed access to all of my peripherals and resources.

However, when I dropped Dell and Toshiba and other Windows based laptops for Apple and MacBook Pros, I also dropped support for my docking stations. Suddenly, I was back to plugging and chugging multiple cables in and out of my PC every time I wanted to get access to the internet, my monitor or other resources on my home network. That is, until now…

Now, thanks to Henge Docks, that’s changed. Now thanks to Henge Docks, the MacBook Pro has a home. Let’s take a look at its new home – the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock for MacBook Pro Retina and see how it looks.

Brief History
There’s good and bad here. If you remember, the Horizontal Dock has been a long time coming. There were a number of technical issues to resolve. There were a number of customers waiting. There were a few false starts; but here it is in a nutshell, from one of my last articles on this:

When I heard about the Horizontal Dock from Henge Docks, I jumped on early. There wasn’t much on the site at the time, and honestly over the next year or so (into late 2012 and early 2013), you couldn’t do much more other than sign up for an email list that got you on an internal pre-order list.

I honestly think I signed up like three times… That was partially due to the fact that so little information was available on the product, and there were large gaps of time in between the times that I checked.

During this time, there were many milestone and availability dates that came and went with little to no reported progress. In fact, looking back at it all, (and I’m certain I’ll say this more than once here) this has really been a 4-5 YEAR journey from the point of dock announcement to dock shipping and receipt.

However, in late 2014, we were told that orders would open up in early to mid-January 2014. At this point, you had a choice. Henge Docks announced their Early Adopters program.

With the Early Adopters program, users could, for an additional fee of $50, join the program. The Early Adopter program got you the Dock at least three months before everyone else and also got you access to pre-release versions of the Dock’s firmware as well as its desktop control app. The Dock would also have a limited edition, customized base plate identifying it as an Early Adopter unit, and (I think) would be numbered.

I ordered my Dock on 2015-01-14. Early Adopter units were scheduled to ship in March of 2015, with GA units (general availability) shipping in June. Both of those milestone dates came and went. The date for Early Adopter units was pushed to May, then July, and then (I think) August. All of those dates came and went as well.

At that point, I had already started a very frank dialog with Henge Docks’ CEO, Matt Vroom.

Matt… is an awesome guy. He was frank, open and as transparent as he possibly could be. Henge Docks had opened their Early Adopter Portal and at the time, it echoed in there. There was little to NO participation there; and honestly, in retrospect, it’s not surprising.

The Portal was designed to be a gathering place for Early Adopters to share views, usage, insight, suggestions, etc., about the Horizontal Dock. With the Dock behind schedule, there was no need for any activity about the dock.

Well, the dock is out now… and quite honestly, it’s one of the best things about my MacBook Pro.

Hardware and Pictures
The Henge Docks Horizontal Dock is a really cool Thunderbolt dock. Unlike its Vertical Docks, the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock has a number of different ports, including AC Power.

Ports
With a number of different ports available, the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock provides for your future expansion needs

My Setup
Here is my Henge Docks Horizontal Dock in my office. This is set up as a “true” docking station and not as a dock that also incorporates the laptop screen as a third monitor.

DSC_8527 DSC_8528
My Horizontal Dock in front of my Thunderbolt Display and 27″ AOC HD Monitor I think I have all of my USB ports used, as well as my TB and MDP port. My HDMI, Audio 2 port and SD card slot are free
DSC_8530 DSC_8531
My Horizontal Dock without my MBP in it. Sliding my MBP in place/ putting it into the dock seems to have scarred it up a bit… A close up of the Docking Ring – No activity
DSC_8532 DSC_8533
A close up of the Docking Ring – Flashing Amber. The Dock is actually moving the ports into the closed position A close up of the Docking Ring – Solid Green: Docking Complete. Light is green… Trap is clean.

Please note that if you have your MacBook Pro in any kind of a shell case, you’re going to have to take it out to use it with the dock. It simply will not fit, will not allow you to close your MBP or won’t dock correctly with any kind of shell casing on your Mac. This is disappointing, but when I brought this up to Henge Docks, they said that the dock was impossible to manufacture and have work correctly with a case with so MANY different cases, case types, etc. on the market. Your MBP is going to have to get nekked before it climbs in the Horizontal Dock.

I was also a bit disappointed with the scarring that the dock received simply by sliding my Mac in the Dock. As you can see from the pictures above, its significant. While it doesn’t affect the Dock’s functionality in anyway, it is a bit concerning that a $400 dock mars so easily.

Early Adopter Program
The Early Adopter Program for the Henge Docks Horizontal Dock was designed to give early access to not only the Horizontal Dock, but the software that drives it – DockApp – as well. With it, you get any easy way to not only connect all of your peripherals, but a way to control that access.

With that access to the latest, beta versions of Dock App, you also got a straight line to Henge Docks’ development team. You got the ability to file bug reports and then communicate directly via email, calls or chat about those defects. It’s been pretty cool.

However, things have been VERY quiet out of Henge Docks lately. There wasn’t an update to Dock App in over three (3) months. There has only been one communication out of Henge Docks about Dock App in the last four (4) months. It had me wondering whether or not the Early Adopter Program is over or not. It’s really just kind of withered. Thankfully, that’s not the case.

It looks like Henge Docks has been working on the Horizontal Dock for the 13″ MacBook Pro. As of this writing, it should hit the streets in a few days. What’s going to happen to Dock App at this point, is still up in the air. Though I think we’ve really come to the end of the feature hunt.

Dock app gives you the ability to dock, undock and auto dock your MacBook Pro. There’s not much more that the app does. It will give you the ability to manage peripherals and accessories that you have attached to the dock, but when I say manage, I really mean,

  1. Choose your audio in/ out devices
  2. Disconnect devices from your Mac before you pull your MBP out of the dock so you don’t corrupt any data.

Don’t look for Dock App to do too much more. There’s not much more that it or the dock really can do, anyway. It’s a docking station. As cool as I think it is – and it is really cool – it’s not going to save the world.

Issues and Problems
Over the past few months, I’ve had a few different issues with the Dock that I’ve reported to Henge Docks via their Early Adopter Program website. All of those defects are now closed. Unfortunately for me, not all of them were resolved and some of them are still a bit of a niggling issue.

Waking from Sleep
I can’t help but shake my head on this one… Not because of anything that Henge Docks has or hasn’t done, but largely because waking from sleep is a portable computing issue that goes back as far as laptops have had batteries.

The bloody things just don’t wake from sleep like they’re designed to do each and EVERY time they wake from sleep. Something (nearly) always gets in the way and mucks it up. The fact that I’m running into issues with the Dock when my Mac wakes from sleep doesn’t surprise me.

The most common problem is that none of the video comes through to my two (2) monitors. OR video will only go to my Thunderbolt Display and not to both it and my HD display coming through my mini display port, port.

I also have issues with audio sources after waking from sleep. I installed Boom 2, and for some reason, if I have my MBP on and undocked and then sleep and dock the computer, my audio source is still identified as “Boom 2 Device,” but no audio comes through. If I change it to the audio port with my external speakers, audio comes through. If I change it back to Boom 2 after that, enhanced audio comes through. I’m not certain what is going on, but it’s clearly a wake/ sleep issue…

Docking Indicator
The Henge Docks Horizontal Dock comes with a motorized dock. When you place your MBP in the dock, the dock itself will align and insert all of the connectors into your ports by itself. There is a dock indicator light ring on the right side front of the dock. When you put your MBP in the dock and it lights up green, it will auto “close” as all the ports are correctly lined up. It flashes orange while it moves everything into place and then flashes green again when it’s done and its correctly got all the inserts in all the ports. If there’s a problem, it will flash orange and then “open” so you can pull the MBP out and reseat it.

There’s a known issue – or at least there was a known issue, Henge Docks says its fixed – where the ring continues to flash orange even after the dock is closed and everything is correctly aligned. This is still happening on my dock.

To fix this, Henge Docks says that you should – with your MBP OUT of the dock – unplug the AC power from the dock and let it sit for a few moments. Then, you should plug the power back in and put your MBP back in the dock. The problem should be gone. If it persists, Henge Docks says you should recalibrate your dock (by docking and undocking your Mac 5-6 times in a row. After that, it should be fixed. If the problem persists, rinse/ repeat the above process until its gone.

This usually works for a while, but the problem always comes back. However, I have yet to have a situation where the functionality of the Dock is impaired because of the indicator light.

System Sounds vs. Standard Audio
I’ve had this problem since the Dock arrived. I’ve also logged a bug on this, but Henge Docks couldn’t replicate it.

Some system sounds won’t go through the correct audio port and instead go through PC speakers instead of the desktop speakers plugged into the Dock. This is usually the Mac’s system “thunk” sound that occurs when you, for example, press the audio “up” button past the last available “up” point, or my Mac generates some other minor audio cue sound.

Conclusion
The Henge Docks Horizontal Dock for both 13″ MBPr and 15″ MBPr sells for $399. While that’s a bit pricey, even for a Thunderbolt dock, it’s a GREAT docking station. It’s got

  • Two (2) audio ports
  • One (1) SD card slot
  • One full sized HDMI port
  • Six (6) USB 3.0 ports
  • Built in wired Ethernet
  • One (1) Mini Display Port
  • One (1) Thunderbolt 2 Port (supports up to 3 displays connected via TB2)
  • Kensington Lock support

I’ve been looking for a good docking station for my Macs for a while and honestly, this one should last me for the lift of my Late 2013 15″ MBP and beyond, provided they don’t’ change the ports or port alignment on any new MBP I would need to buy in the foreseeable future.

This was money well spent.

The Dock allows me to hook a lot of external devices to my Mac without having to plug and chug all of the cords on and off. It provides power to my MBP which means I can put my 85w charger back in my bag.

If you were on the fence about getting this dock for yourself, you can safely jump down. This is the dock you were looking for; and most definitely the dock you want for any compatible MacBook Pro. It was a LONG wait for me, but it was one that was definitely worth it.

I love my Henge Docks Horizontal Dock for my 15″ MacBook Pro Retina, and I’m certain you will too once yours arrives and you have it setup and running.

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