Windows 10 Mobile Released

Windows10-Mobile-wallpaper-img5

 

 

There’s at least some good news for those that have Windows Phones…

The last couple of days has been kinda brutal on Windows Phone. With Nokia essentially killing all of its Windows Phone apps, including HERE Maps, it’s been a rough week.

That is, until now… well… maybe.

If you have one of the following Windows Mobile devices, you need to stop everything and take a trip over to this link on your Windows Phone. When you do, Internet Explorer Mobile will open to a page for Upgrade Advisor. Tapping Get App will take you to the same page in the Windows Phone Store where you can download the app to your phone.

Upgrade Advisor is an app that will check to see if there’s a Windows 10 Mobile upgrade available for your device. Currently eligible devices include the following:

 

 

Lumia Devices:

  • 1520
  • 930
  • 640
  • 640XL
  • 730
  • 735
  • 830
  • 532
  • 535
  • 540
  • 635 1GB
  • 636 1GB
  • 638 1GB
  • 430
  • 435

BLU Devices

  • Win HD w510u
  • Win HD LTE
  • x150q

MCJ Devices

  • Madosma Q501

You should know that only supported devices will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile. Due to performance issues, not every existing Windows Phone 8 device will get the upgrade. According to Microsoft, “many older devices are not able to successfully upgrade without an impact on the customer experience.”

If you upgrade your device, and you don’t like the results, the experience; or if you feel the performance is bad, you can download the Windows Device Recovery Tool (Direct Download Link) and put Windows Phone 8 back on the device. The Windows Device Recovery Tool has been updated to support all of the noted devices, if they weren’t supported already.

WDRT 3.1.6

According to some support forums that I’ve seen, the following functionality is either missing or deprecated on upgraded devices:

  • Me Tile no longer supported
  • Me Card no longer supported.
  • Cortana can no longer search for
    • apps
    • settings
    • email
    • text messages
    • contacts
    • QR Codes
    • can no longer open apps through voice commands.
  • “Hey Cortana” is no longer available on some upgraded devices.
  • Group tiles can no longer be used to receive social networking status updates.
  • Indoor Maps are no longer available for some locations.
  • Certain enterprise features, including Data Protection Under Lock, are not available. Please contact your Microsoft Volume Licensing representative for more information.
  • At time of Windows 10 Mobile’s release Outlook Mail app cannot open .EML attachments.
  • Outlook Calendar app does not support Tasks.
  • The MDM functionality to prevent saving and sharing Office documents is not supported.

I am currently in the process of upgrading my BLU Win HD LTE device and will have an article posted on the actual upgrade, upgrade experience and anything of note that I find while playing with it afterwards.

Stay tuned for more coverage!

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Nokia Kills HERE Maps for Windows Phone

Now, you truly can’t get there from HERE…

here_maps

In a move that likely has many wondering how long Satya Nadella will allow Windows 10 Mobile to continue to exist, it seems that one of the main staples of the platform, HERE Maps will no longer be developed for Windows 10 Mobile or for Windows Phone, for that matter.

When Microsoft failed to purchase Nokia’s HERE software assets along with Nokia’s hardware business, Nokia decided to sell the asset(s) to an automotive consortium. When that happened, the software disappeared from the Windows Store. The app returned a while after, but apparently, the software is set to make a permanent exist from the platform entire.

Recently, HERE announced that it will be removing ALL of its apps from the Windows Store, including HERE Maps before the end of March 2016.

“In the last few months, we made the HERE apps compatible with Windows 10 by using a workaround that will no longer be effective after June 30, 2016. To continue offering the HERE apps for Windows 10 would require us to redevelop the apps from the ground up, a scenario that led to the business decision to remove our apps from the Windows 10 store.

This means the HERE apps will no longer work on devices running Windows 10 mobile after June 30, 2016. To prepare for this change, we have also decided to remove the HERE apps from the Windows 10 store on March 29, 2016.”

While HERE Maps will continue to work on Windows Phone 8 devices without any kind of disruption, post 2016-03-29, HERE has said that it won’t update the software OR the Maps on that platform at all, except for “critical bug fixes.”

According to HERE, the software is deeply integrated into the Windows Phone OS; and during the development of Windows 10 Mobile, platform changes were made. They felt that the required effort to make the software work on Windows 10 Mobile wasn’t worth the development and testing costs.

While I have a Windows Phone 8 device – a BLU Win HD LTE – that is supposed to be upgradable to Windows 10, this is a bit problematic. One of the biggest draws for Windows Phone/ Windows 10 Mobile is HERE Drive (part of HERE Maps). Without this flagship application, reasons for using devices on the Windows 10 Mobile or Windows Phone 8 platform have substantially decreased. Honestly, with the lack of apps out there for Windows Mobile/ Windows Phone, now that Maps is gone, there really isn’t much use for the platform at all.

Period.

What do you think of this development? Is this the [final] nail in the Windows Phone coffin? Does the platform have any kind of future at all? Why don’t you sound off in the comments section below and let me know what you think?

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The DoJ to Apple Computer – Byte Me…

Apparently, the FBI didn’t appreciate being told to go pound bits…

The battle between the FBI and Apple regarding a certain iPhone 5c got a bit nasty last week. Frankly, I’m not surprised. I really didn’t expect the FBI to go gentle into that goodnight just because Apple said, “no.”

fbivsapple

In fact, it got a lot nastier.

Last week, according to ComputerWorld, the government filed a brief where it hinted that it may demand the Apple hand over the source code to iOS 9 and the key used to sign the OS, so they can do what Apple is refusing to do on their own.

After the government filed its brief, Apple’s Bruce Sewell said the following

We received the brief [last week] and honestly we’re still absorbing it but we wanted to get a couple of points out for you guys as you’re working your way through it.

First, the tone of the brief reads like an indictment. We’ve all heard Director Comey and Attorney General Lynch thank Apple for its consistent help in working with law enforcement. Director Comey’s own statement that “there are no demons here.” Well, you certainly wouldn’t conclude it from this brief. In 30 years of practice I don’t think I’ve seen a legal brief that was more intended to smear the other side with false accusations and innuendo, and less intended to focus on the real merits of the case.

For the first time we see an allegation that Apple has deliberately made changes to block law enforcement requests for access. This should be deeply offensive to everyone that reads it. An unsupported, unsubstantiated effort to vilify Apple rather than confront the issues in the case.

Or the ridiculous section on China where an AUSA, an officer of the court, uses unidentified Internet sources to raise the specter that Apple has a different and sinister relationship with China. Of course that is not true, and the speculation is based on no substance at all.

To do this in a brief before a magistrate judge just shows the desperation that the Department of Justice now feels. We would never respond in kind, but imagine Apple asking a court if the FBI could be trusted “because there is this real question about whether J. Edgar Hoover ordered the assassination of Kennedy — see ConspiracyTheory.com as our supporting evidence.”

We add security features to protect our customers from hackers and criminals. And the FBI should be supporting us in this because it keeps everyone safe. To suggest otherwise is demeaning. It cheapens the debate and it tries to mask the real and serious issues. I can only conclude that the DoJ is so desperate at this point that it has thrown all decorum to the winds….

We know there are great people in the DoJ and the FBI. We work shoulder to shoulder with them all the time. That’s why this cheap shot brief surprises us so much. We help when we’re asked to. We’re honest about what we can and cannot do. Let’s at least treat one another with respect and get this case before the American people in a responsible way. We are going before court to exercise our legal rights. Everyone should beware because it seems like disagreeing with the Department of Justice means you must be evil and anti-American. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sewell is right to be a little shocked and confused on this. The government is starting to get a bit perturbed by all of this; and it’s starting to show on their end. I especially appreciate Sewell’s puzzled notion about disagreeing with the government. Just because they disagree doesn’t mean that Apple is evil and anti-American. At the very least, it just means they disagree.

It’s really the government in this case who is hurling threats and getting nasty. Which is a bit surprising… Honestly, if the government could do everything that they said they would do after receiving the iOS source code and OS signing key (should Apple actually agree to part with it) then why are they “requesting” Apple’s assistance? Requesting the OS and signing key means they can handle it by themselves. Demanding Apple assist them means they can’t; and this really seems like an empty threat.

In a related post on Twitter, my very good friend, Chris Pirillo tweeted a URL to perhaps one of the best summarization of the entire Apple v FBI case I’ve ever seen. While done as satire, its surprisingly accurate and very factual. If you’re still curious about all the facts in the case, this is a good video to watch and is entirely worth the time spent watching it from start to finish.

To further end on an additional jovial note, I saw this last week and nearly spit the contents of my mouth all over my monitors, I was laughing so hard.

While I am certain Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is serious about seeking a warrant for Time Cook’s arrest IF and WHEN they request Apple to unlock and phone and Apple refuses, he’s going to have a very difficult time enforcing a warrant from Polk County Florida in Cupertino, California, especially when its likely no “crime” has been committed.

Saying, “no” to a court order is part of the process. You can appeal the order. Sheriff Judd saying he’d arrest Tim Cook for non-compliance is just this guy trying to capture his 15 minutes of fame…and quite honestly, it clearly demonstrates his lack of understanding in the case at hand.

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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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Apple Releases Sixth Beta’s of its Operating System Suite

That suite includes iOS 9.3, watchOS 2.2 and OS X 10.11.4...

appleBeing in the beta business isn’t always the most glamorous of jobs. On the contrary – it’s often very difficult. In fact, beta testers tend to see not only the good and bad, but the downright ugly.

It’s one of the reasons why, after approximately 20 years of beta testing for both Microsoft (mostly) and Apple (most recently), I’m NOT jumping on that train on any of my production-level equipment. It’s just not worth it any more.

It used to be that when an operating system hit the BETA stage, it was pretty much operational. You could count on that version of (whatever it is) holding its own. While there would obviously be problems, those problems nearly always came with some level of (reasonable) work around that wouldn’t take your PC/ mobile device out of the picture.

That’s not the case now a days. More often than not, you could be taking your PC’s life into your hands if you aren’t careful.

So with this light of caution CLEARLY flashing in our faces, you may be interested to know that Apple has released the sixth beta of iOS 9.3, and OS X 10.11.4, both of which are available to both developers and public beta testers. Apple released watchOS 2.2 Beta 6 to its registered developers only.

This latest round of releases comes just six (6) days after Beta 5 of all three OS’. Prior to that, beta four (4) was released eight (8) days earlier. Everything prior to beta 4 was released on a strict biweekly schedule.

At this point, there are no new features; and while I haven’t had a chance to look at the seed notes for these beta 6 releases, I’d be very surprised if there were any remaining known, open issues. We should be very close to final release.

iOS 9.3 will add such as a Night Shift mode, secure Notes, and extra 3D Touch shortcuts to the mobile operating system, among other things. As of Beta 5, OS navigation via Apple Pencil has been restored to iPad Pro.

OS X 10.11.4 will include the ability to individual encrypt items in Notes and support for Live Photos (from iPhone 6s) in Messages among other things

watchOS 2.2 (when paired with an iPhone running iOS 9.3) will allow users to pair more than one Apple Watch to a single iPhone and also introduces a new look for Maps in Glances.

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The All Writs Act is an All Access Pass

Yeah… “It’s good to be the king…!

Those of you that recognize the comic line from Mel Brook’s History of the World: Part 1 will recall that it was used by Mel Brooks during the montage on pre-Revolutionary France where Brooks played King Louis XVI. The king gets to do whatever he wants. Therefore it’s good to be the king…

the all writs act

I’ve been looking for a simple explanation of the All Writs Act of 1789 and for a straight forward explanation on how it applies to the Apple v. FBI case. I found part of this, here. The Act in and of itself is a simple two sentence, two point piece of legislation that provides the government and law enforcement a great deal of latitude when pursuing justice. As its short and to the point, I’m including the full text of the statute, below:

28 U.S. Code § 1651 – Writs

(a) The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.
(b) An alternative writ or rule nisi may be issued by a justice or judge of a court which has jurisdiction.

(FYI – a “rule nisi” is an order to show cause; and its considered directly applicable, unless the party its directed at can prove that it isn’t)

Application of the All Writs Act requires the fulfillment of [specific] conditions:

  1. The absence of alternative remedies – the act is only applicable when other judicial tools are not available.
  2. An independent basis for jurisdiction – the act authorizes writs in aid of jurisdiction, but does not in itself create any federal subject-matter jurisdiction.
  3. Necessary or appropriate in aid of jurisdiction – the writ must be necessary or appropriate to the particular case.
  4. Usages and principles of law – the statute requires courts to issue writs “agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”

Now, I’m NOT a lawyer; but I was a Regulatory Affairs Manager for a medical device company here in the States for a number of years; and I’m used to reading over legislation, regulations and legal texts. So, the following is my interpretation of what I see going on with the above, and as it relates to the Apple v. FBI case:

  1. The All Writs Act is a Blank Check
    It’s very clear that the government (read: law enforcement) can effectively do whatever it wants when it comes to a legal dead end, if it chooses to. If the government attempts to get a warrant for what they feel is a specific bit of evidence and the warrant is denied or quashed, they can fire back with this; and as long as a judge agrees, they’re in. It’s completely subjective.
  2. The Act in and of itself does not Include Any Challenges or Limitations
    Other than the first condition in the statute, noted above requiring other remedies and statutes to be exhausted first, applying for and receiving the necessary writ need only be
    a. Applied for and executed in the appropriate jurisdiction (you can’t go to a judge in NY for something you want to do in CA)
    b. Must have a basis in law (but depending on the situation at hand, doesn’t necessarily require previous application or precedent).
    c. Necessary to the case

If you think about it, that covers just about everything.

So, for this to be applicable to the Apple v. FBI case where the FBI is looking to get past the password screen on the employer owned, iPhone 5c used by Syed Farook, all the government has had to do is

  1. Try to get past this screen (and they have)
  2. Have hit a technical roadblock (and they have)
  3. Have tried to other legal tools to compel Apple to unlock the phone (and they have)

What’s at issue here is twofold:

It sets a nasty legal precedent

The FBI has backtracked on its previous statements and said that “forcing Apple Inc. to give the FBI data from an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters would be ‘potentially precedential’ in other cases where the agency might request similar cooperation from technology companies.,” according to an article by Julia Harte and Julia Edwards on MSN.

The FBI stated during testimony given before Congress, and in response to a question from Representative John Conyers, FBI director Jim Comey stated, “of course the bureau would seek to apply the same tactic in other cases.”

Which, by the way, is a direct contradiction to statements that were made by Comey in earlier, taped, interviews where he said that all the FBI wanted was information off of this, one, individual iPhone 5c, in this case

Its unduly burdensome

In essence, as I understand it, the FBI is demanding that Apple create and maintain a new product, specifically for law enforcement, that will permit them to crack into any iPhone, any time they deem it necessary.

It’s not an add-on. It’s an entire new piece of firmware. It’s going to require all of the same development and testing and project resources that every other piece of Apple iPhone firmware requires, along with a secured, dedicated, classified, testing and development lab (in order to keep everything secret and safe.

While the All Writs Act doesn’t provide for safeguards against this, other legislation does. Unfortunately, the liability of proof of this burden lies with Apple, and not with the government. If Apple doesn’t want to do what the FBI is demanding, they’ll be required to demonstrate this to a judge (or to Congress) in federal court or in a formal hearing, respectively.

In an interesting twist, a New York Magistrate, Judge Hames Orenstein found that the government “lacks the legal authority necessary to force Apple or any company to break its own digital security protocols.”

In his ruling, Judge Orenstein indicated he agreed that forcing Apple to “[invent, code and distribute] a purposely vulnerable operating system in hopes of cracking existing device security was unreasonably burdensome.” The ruling in full can be seen here.

Armed with this, Apple has filed a formal objection to their case and has cited the decision noted above it its filing.

There’s more developing in this case, so stay tuned for additional updates as they develop.

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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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Oh How I Loathe thee, FreedomPop

The MVNO that couldn’t just pulled another boner…

photo (1)Four years ago (WOW! Has it really been THAT long??), I wrote an article on getting free mobile broadband if you lived in the United States. FreedomPop was all the rage back in the day, giving anyone who signed up for their $50 – $100 hotspot hardware access to 500MB per month of free, unrestricted, untrottled bandwidth. Even back in the day, 500MB really didn’t get you anything; but it could be rolled over (for a max of up to 2GB of free data) and was, most importantly, free.

As I said then,

“All you have to do is put a deposit down on either a 4G web stick ($50 bucks) or a 4G hot spot ($100 bucks). The device arrives via FedEx, and all you have to do is either plug it in or let it charge and turn it on. The device jumps on the network, and away you go.”

If you were stuck and you needed to get online to check email or reply to some kind of message, it was a quick way to get things done; and when the service was free… well, it just made sense.

The free deal went the way of the dodo a long time ago. FreedomPop no longer has free coverage or any free deal that I’m able to qualify or sign up for, though they do offer free, additional data that may add to your monthly allotment each month if you complete “special” offers or invite/ refer friends who sign up for the service. Their technology has turned over too. Freedom pop used to run on WiMAX, which was a 4G service that pre-dated the implementation of LTE. That service is now totally gone and the bandwidth it ran on repurposed and reprovisioned. Everything now runs on an LTE network that is effectively resold service from Sprint, Virgin Mobile or someone else that runs on either Verizon Wireless’ or Sprint’s mobile network.

A few years ago, I began working in Omaha and Lincoln, NE. During that time, I wanted to cancel my FreedomPop account, but to be very honest, every time I tried to call FreedomPop to cancel – and I tried a number of different times – I got connected with a customer service representative whose first language was not English. Unfortunately for me, I have a noticeable hearing loss and their accent was so thick, I could not understand them and I ended up hanging up on them. I tried a number of times and honestly spent well over five (5) hours total time trying – over the course of a few weeks – to get my account cancelled. Escalating my needs to a manager or supervisor didn’t resolve the situation either, as they were poor English speakers as well.

In the end, I gave up. I downgraded my account to the lowest tier and just ate the monthly cost.

Now, jump ahead about three years…

I’m a DirecTV customer and have been for about eight (8) years. I am also an AT&T Wireless customer, and since the two merged, AT&T is offering unlimited wireless data plans to customers of both services. Since I qualified, I called AT&T to inquire about it and found that it could save me nearly $400 a MONTH in wireless service charges for four (4) wireless lines, per month.

Yes… you’re reading that right – $400 per MONTH in savings.

It basically gives me one line for free, plus about an additional $75 off my previous monthly bill, AND each LINE has about 22GB of unrestricted, high speed wireless service before that INDIVIDUAL line gets shuttered to a slower speed.

The only problem that I’ve got is that now, AT&T is telling me that the personal hotspot feature of my iPhones won’t work… EVER… or at least, not on this particular wireless plan. This is really only a problem for either my wife and oldest son, as my youngest son may sponge off their mobile broadband connection for his iPod Touch or iPad when they’re out and about; or is a problem for my daughter and granddaughter as my granddaughter may use my daughter’s mobile broadband connection for much the same purposes.

Hence the need for the FreedomPop account at this point.

I dusted off my old hotspot and quickly found that it was no longer usable. FreedomPop offered an upgrade to an LTE hotspot, and it arrived today. That’s where the migraine began…

First, I had to upgrade my account from its 1GB, $10 per month account to a 2GB, $20 per month account just to get the new LTE hotspot device. Then, the hotspot was $90 bucks… and that just got me back ON the internet via the FreedomPop service.

As I said, the hotspot arrived and I spent a bit of time today trying to get it up and running. Like the original hotspot I got, I expected just to be able to pull it out of the box, plug it in, and jump on the Internet…

Yeah… It didn’t go that well.

First the device was a refurb device. I totally wasn’t expecting that. I paid for new hotness. I expected new hotness. Instead, I got old and rebuilt.

Secondly, the device – a Netgear Mingle Mobile Hotspot – appears to be riding the Virgin Mobile network. While Virgin Mobile is a Sprint MVNO, I totally did NOT expect to be riding Virgin Mobile’s service. This will prove to be significant in a moment…

After getting the device out of the box, put together (battery… back cover, etc.) the FreedomPop “quick start guide” – a easily overlooked and flimsy insert in the back of the very small product box – says to do nothing more than to put the battery and back on the device (which I had already done) and turn it on. After that, the FreedomPop hotspot SSID and password would appear on the LCD screen. You use that information to get online, and that should be it.

It wasn’t. My device indicated that it needed to be activated. This was where the fun began.

Since the device wasn’t charged, and it was a microUSB powered device, I plugged it into my Mac to charge. This brought up an install window that ran an app that installed drivers that would allow you to run the device as a tethered mobile modem. I installed the software and restarted my Mac.

After the restart, my Mac found the modem and I clicked the Wi-Fi icon on my Menu Bar and selected the mobile modem. At that point, Safari automatically started and I noticed the Virgin Mobile logo on the hotspot and on the activation web page it opened.
The device indicated that it needed to be activated. When I tried to activate it, it hit 20% in the progress bar window that appeared, and then failed. I tried a few different times both as a mobile modem and as a Wi-Fi hotspot before following the instructions on the activation web site and called Virgin Mobile.

That was a huge mistake. Initially I thought I wanted to call Virgin Mobile over FreedomPop. Again, big mistake. They didn’t know who I was and didn’t care. I got the run around from them for over 30 minutes before hanging up. When I called back, I somehow got the SAME customer service rep. I hung up on him again, completely dumbfounded that of all the customer service reps in the call center, I got him twice in a row… How does that happen??

With my hotspot still not activated, I grabbed the “quick start guide” again and found a FreedomPop phone number and called them. This time, I got someone who spoke better English, but couldn’t speak loudly enough for me to hear them. After turning up the volume on my handset all the way up, and insuring that they had access to my account, the rep indicated that I shouldn’t need to activate my device. It should already be activated. I agreed, but she asked for the IMEI of the device, anyway.

Then she said there was something wrong with the device and put me on hold. While I was on hold, the device miraculously activated and began downloading a firmware update. The update hung in the middle of the process.

Thankfully, I was able to log into the hot spot (FreedomPop instructs you to use the IP address 192.168.0.1 with the default password of “password” to log into the device on their “quick start guide.” The guide is wrong. The correct IP address is 192.168.1.1) and correct the problems. I was able to restart the download of the firmware update and complete it.

However, that took over 428MB (or 20%) of bandwidth off my 2GB allotment. It doesn’t seem right that downloading a firmware update should cost me 20% of my monthly bandwidth allowance… It also kinda sucks because I haven’t even really had a chance to use the hotspot for anything yet and I’m already 20% down.

FreedomPop’s data plans have changed. The table below outlines the original vs. current data plans:

freedompopchart

These aren’t as great a deal as they used to be. Combined with the stellar customer service I got today, this may end up being a very short lived venture…

Are you using FreedomPop? How is the coverage in your area? Are you on a grandfathered data plan, or are you on a current data plan? Do you think you have enough bandwidth every month? Do you have any rollover data? Have you completed any free offers or have you invited friends how have joined FreedomPop so that you can earn free data every month? Have you had any issues dealing with FreedomPop customer service? Has your experiences with the organization been as bad as mine, or are my experiences (hopefully) just isolated incidents? Why not tell me about your experience in the Discussion Area below? I’d love to hear about your interaction with the organization and your quality of service results in your area.

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