Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Build 10162 to Fast Ring Insiders

Wow! It’s been a busy week in Redmond!

Windows 10 Build 10162

I am so behind in my writing projects it’s not even funny. I relayed the status of my big summer projects this week. I was fortunate enough that I was able to knock out my review of the Pebble Time just a short time after that. That… was a big win for me.

It was a big deal because both my Windows machines – my Surface Pro 3 and Dell Latitude ST2 – are in varying states of train wreck status, even though both of them are using Build 10158 or later. Yes… I’m still having all sorts of train wreck classification errors with the Dell. I just don’t know if this thing is going to be a good candidate for Windows 10. Dell is going to have a lot of optimizing to do in order to make certain that they don’t run into support related issues with it.

While things are a bit better on the Surface Pro 3, Windows 10 is still in a pre-release state, and there are some potholes still out there. However…

In that regard, Microsoft has released a third build of  Windows 10 Build 10162  to Fast Ring Insiders today. According to Gabe Aul – Windows 10 and Windows Insider Grand Poohbah extraordinaire – Insiders normally on the Fast Ring can now consider themselves on the faster, Fast Ring. Says Aul,

“We’re at the point in the development of Windows 10 where nearly every build is getting out to our internal rings, and passing the criteria for release to Windows Insiders. We’re focused at this point on bug fixing and final polish, so it’s much easier for each build to get all the way through than earlier in the cycle when we’re adding big new features. So now we find ourselves in a great situation, with an abundance of build candidates. We’re deciding how long to let each build stay with Windows Insiders so you can really exercise them and send feedback on any problems that you’re hitting. I know many of you have said you’d love daily builds, but it is actually important sometimes to get a few days on a build so that all of the code that does deferred work (like OneDrive sync, search indexing, background updating, etc.) can run and we can get feedback and error reports.”

According to Aul, it’s very possible that Windows 10 Build 10162 may get released to Slow Ring Insiders as well, as early as next week. This would also kick off the release of official ISO images of the build (so that I can get it on my Dell. Did I mention getting Windows 10 on that machine was a bit of a train wreck..??)

With the release and RTM of Windows 10 so very close at hand (T minus 27 days and counting…), it’s very possible that we’ll see many more rapid fire releases of Windows 10 between now and then hit the Fast Ring. If you’re on that ring, expect to see more of this in the coming weeks leading up to the release of the new OS on 2015-07-29.

I suspect that testers on the Slow Ring will also see an increase in build releases during the same time frame.

Are you on the Windows 10 Insider Fast Ring track? Have you installed any of the builds released this week? If so, what do you think of them? I’ll have some updates on the state of my installs next week. Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below, though, and let me know how things are working for you.

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Pebble Time – Times Up

Here are my first (and likely last) impressions of the Pebble Time.
Pebble Time
Introduction

I’ve been a fan of Japanese anime and the like since I was a kid.  One series, however, Johnny Sakko and His Flying Robot was a favorite of mine when I was a kid, growing up in suburban Pittsburgh, PA for a couple of key reasons –

  1. It came on right after Ultraman
  2. Some of the tech it used – like a radio watch that allowed the story’s lead, Johnny, to control the actions of a towering, giant, defense robot – were pretty cool (especially for the late ’60’s and early ’70’s).

The concept behind the watch wasn’t completely new.  Dick Tracy has been using a radio watch to communicate with his team since the comic series launched in October of 1931.  However, it is a total geek-gasm, and it’s totally cool, especially since, we now possess THAT specific technology today.

In this light, I’ve approached my big writing project this summer – my Wearables Roundup – with a great deal of enthusiasm. I love gadgets, and I most especially love gadgets that I can take nearly everywhere with me.  Here’s what we’ve got so far in the series:

I’m still working through a lot of metal gyrations with the Apple Watch.  There’s good and bad there, and it’s going to take a little bit of time to work through a supportable position on it. (Yes, it’s totally cool, but why is it totally cool; and what (if any) is a compelling reason to buy one…?  I’m working on that…)

You may recall that I was – and in many ways still am – a big fan of the Pebble Steel.  Has that changed?  Does the Pebble Time improve on what Pebble and Pebble Steel introduced to the market? Let’s dig up our smartwatch review topics and find out.

Hardware

In many ways, the Pebble Time should be considered the baseline of all smartwatch hardware. It could be because they were one of the first modern smartwatches to hit the market, filling a gap vacated by the exit of the Microsoft SPOT Watch, first introduced to a short, four year lifespan back in 2004.  They continued to be supported three years beyond their death in 2008, finally losing support for their services on 2011-12-31. It could be because  – that’s all that it really does – the baseline of what many smartwatches really are capable of…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The hardware for the Pebble Time has the following basic specifications:

  • Dimensions: 40.5×37.5×9.5 mm
  • Weight: 42.5g (1.5oz, with strap)
  • Band: 22mm (compatible with all 22mm watch bands)

 

IMG_1372 IMG_1373

 

As you can see from the specs and from the pictures, below, this puts it in the same size category as the 38mm Apple Watch. The front casing has an Stainless Steel bezel, but don’t think that this device has a metal casing. It doesn’t, it has a plastic casing. The bezel is just that – a bezel, and while it may be made of Marine Grade Stainless Steel with PVD coating, it really looks more like anodized aluminum than Stainless.  I don’t think it provides much protection for the device.  It’s purely decoration only. However, it does have a nice matte finish and looks good. The watch body also has a thin, curved ergonomic profile, which is supposed to make it a more comfortable, long term wear than watches that don’t have the same type of bend.

 

IMG_1380 IMG_1381

The Time has a tough, 2.5D (Gorilla) glass crystal covering an always on, color e-paper display with LED backlight.  The display is clearly readable in both indoor and outdoor lighting, and even though it’s always on, the device comes with a 7-day rated battery life.  This improves on the Pebble and Pebble Steel which went about 5 or so days, depending on use. Seven solid days is pretty decent.  So, high marks to Pebble on this feature. I’ll have more on this in the Battery Life section, below.

However, it’s not all sunshine and daisies for the display.  The biggest problem with it, is that it’s difficult to read in low light situations.  You’d think that the backlight would help here, but it doesn’t. The backlight tends to wash out the display, so it looks more white than anything else, which is unfortunate.  Someone with not so great eyesight, like me, may have trouble reading it in low light situations, and that’s not good.

 

IMG_1589 IMG_1590

 

The Time also has a built in microphone for voice notes and quick replies, however, I don’t know how practical it is.  Yeah, I know, the whole Dick Tracy/ Johnny Sakko thing of talking to your watch is kinda cool, but I haven’t had any real luck with that feature in any other setting other than a quiet room or office; and honestly, if those kinds of places are the only ones that’s any good in, then having a microphone on the Pebble Time is a waste of internal space.

Finally, the Pebble time has a vibrating motor for discreet alerts and alarms, which allow you to silently notify or wake yourself, and not anyone else.  This is a great way of getting up in the morning without some ugly blaring, beeping noise going off in your ear, or the music on your clock radio sending you AND your cat to the ceiling because your kids are smart alecks and have turned the volume on it “all the way up to 11.”  The Time is also water resistant to 30 meters, insuring that an inerrant swim or shower won’t ruin the watch by having it come in contact with water.

On paper, the Pebble Time really looks like a cool smartwatch.  However, the hardware looks, well… campy, I guess is the best way to put it.  The original Pebble wasn’t very professional looking and while competitors like the Microsoft Band (Part 1,Part 2) and the Fitbit Surge are total dork magnets, their somewhat less than high-dollar look and feel can be completely excused due to their heavy fitness tracking functionality.

 IMG_1378 IMG_1381

Now, before everyone gets their compression pants in a knot, yes.  I know that the Time can “do” fitness related stuff too.  Yeah, but not really.  As with the Pebble, Pebble Steel and now the Pebble Time, all Pebble smartwatches can “do” fitness tracking. However, they are completely dependent on your smartphone or other device to count steps, track progress, etc.  What the watch can do is display data from your connected phone.

Yes, it has an accelerometer and a compass; but it doesn’t have an A/GPS receiver, so it can’t track your progress natively. If you forget your phone or leave it home when you go out on a run or walk, you’re not going to get any fitness data on your workout.  The watch also doesn’t have any heat or heart rate sensors, so don’t look to it to keep track of any physical attributes when you work out either.  The Time also doesn’t work with Google Fit, the Android answer to Apple Health (oh, and it doesn’t work with Apple Health, either…)

When you look at the device as a whole – plastic body and case, rubber/ silicone band, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed.  Maybe it’s because I’m also wearing the Apple Watch, and because I’ve also got an Olio Model One coming.  I don’t know. Honestly, both the Microsoft Band and the Fitbit Surge aren’t “high end” devices.so I know I’m not turning into a watch snob or anything; but I can’t help but be disappointed.

Wearability and Usability

So what is the Pebble Time like to wear and how usable is it?

Great questions.

Like the Fluoroelastomer band on the Apple Watch, the silicone band on the Pebble Time is just as comfortable and just as soft and silky feeling.  However, in long term wear, I had issues with it creating dry patches on my skin. I was not pleased with that at all.  The band simply doesn’t breathe very well, and it’s not surprising. It is, after all… a silicone band.

IMG_1374 IMG_1375

The curved hardware casing of the watch ads a level of comfort… I think. Honestly, it’s hard to tell, as with a device this small and thin, it’s difficult to know if a curved case vs. a standard shaped case – i.e. like any other watch – makes any real or noticeable difference.  Honestly, I can’t tell; but it is at least nice to know that the feature is there.

Notifications

Like its predecessors, the Pebble Time gets Notifications right.

Notifications are configurable on your phone and alert you when needed.  With the Time’s Timeline feature, you can even review them as part of your Present or Past Timelines.  The only caution I have here is that you take the time to configure your notifications correctly so that you don’t get bombarded by them . The idea behind the Time – and all other smartwatches for that matter – is to make dealing with them easier and less intrusive.  If you’re constantly checking your watch because you have your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc. social networking accounts dinging your watch, then you likely haven’t improved on anything and have overloaded your ability to effectively and discretely address notifications with the Time (or, again, any other smartwatch).

Connectivity

I do NOT like how the Time interfaces with my iPhone.

The Pebble Time connects to my iPhone 6 the same way my Pebble Steel does – with a regular Bluetooth partnership and then with a Bluetooth LE partnership.  This type of relationship has proven to be problematic in the past.  If the Bluetooth LE partnership doesn’t link up after pairing (and because the LE communication uses its own partnership vs sharing the main Bluetooth pairing, it often can), then you aren’t going to get notifications.  This starts to become evident after things are “too quiet” on the notification front after a while.

I haven’t run into this yet on the Time, but it happens quite often with my Pebble Steel, and it’s very frustrating.

Battery Life

The Pebble Time has a Lithium-ion polymer battery that Pebble rates for up to seven (7) days of battery life.  This is both good and bad.  The good is obvious. The bad may seem silly, but you’ll get it once you hear it.

Seven days of battery life (I got about five and a half during this review, due largely, to all of the fiddling and playing I did) is awesome. I love not having to remember to charge my battery every night. It makes for a much more familiar watch wearing experience.   The magnetic charging port on the Time has been moved to the back of the device as opposed to the side on the Pebble and Pebble Steel. The magnetic port on the Time is also supposed to support future smart accessories, that may be built into a watch strap (hence the move to the back of the watch).

IMG_1375

 

IMG_1588 IMG_1591

 

I have no idea what those accessories may be or when they may be available, so at this point, I wouldn’t worry too much about them or how much they may cost.  IF they show, they can be reviewed and commented on like any other smartwatch accessory for the Apple Watch (or other watch that may have available accessories…but right now, I can’t think of any others.  Can you..??)

Software and Interfaces

At the end of the day, while having a nice bit of hardware on your wrist is nice, what’s going to make or break the device is the software that it uses on device and on your smartphone.  Needless to say, yes… I have opinions on both the device software and the Pebble Time App.

At the end of the day, though, this winds up being nothing more than a shuffle of the cards and a coat of paint.  That is to say, yes… I’m calling the interface a total dud.  Let’s check out why…

Device Software

First and foremost, let’s be clear – from a software perspective, the Pebble Time didn’t bring anything new to the table except its color, ePaper display.

That’s all.

IMG_1380 IMG_1381

Yes, I know it has a new software interface. However, the interface on the Time is really nothing more than a reorganization of the information Pebble has had on their watches from day one (except now color enabled), with a new coat of paint.  Pebble Time now organizes your information into three different buckets Past (top, right, device-side button) Present (middle device-side button) and Future (bottom, right, device-side button).  You can review all of your notifications via your Timeline and see what’s most important to you “right now” by simply sticking to the middle and/ or bottom right buttons.  You can review anything you’ve missed by tapping the top right button.

The organization they’ve implemented isn’t a bad idea. In fact, it’s pretty cool; but tying it with the three right side, device buttons is very 2012; and with touch screens available on the Apple Watch and even the Microsoft Band, limiting how you’re reviewing notifications to actions and activities keyed off of buttons on the Time is (now) a bit clunky.  A touch screen implementation with swipes and taps would have been much better; and better received, too.

Finally, and I can’t put it off any longer – ‘cuz this is the right place to mention it – the interface itself is horrible. The screens look as though they were painted by my 7 year old son.  I am so upset about this, to the point where its infuriating.

Again, the word “campy,” comes to mind, and it’s such a shame.  While I know that the Pebble Time is a budget oriented smartwatch, it doesn’t have to look budget oriented.  I know there’s only so much you can do with a color ePaper display, but Pebble could have done so much more with the graphics and SDK to have the time present a more professional, much more mature interface.  With items like the Apple Watch and the Olio Model One out there, a little more sophistication out of the Pebble Time couldn’t hurt, and would have been much welcomed.

The thing that bothers me the most about this, is that UI design choice “A” vs. UI design choice “B” doesn’t necessarily cost more.  You still have to draft it all out, create the screens, review the designs, etc., and having a more sophisticated, more professional look couldn’t have been more costly during its initial development.  The Time is a budget watch, yes, but it doesn’t have to look that way, does it?!  I know I’ve repeated myself here, but I mean… COME ON, people!

The original monochrome UI elements on the Pebble and Pebble Steel looked better than this, I think. Unfortunately, the implementation of color into your UI can bring out its weaknesses as much as it can show its strengths.  The design language needs to be changed here to allow for a more professional look and feel.  It would be nice if Pebble provided that option to its users in a future firmware update.

Pebble Time App

I’ve found this to be yet another huge disappointment.

The new Pebble Time smartphone companion app is really nothing more than the ORIGINAL Pebble app with a new coat of paint to allow for apps with color screens to be offered. While I don’t think you can use the new app to connect to the original Pebble or Pebble Steel – you still need the original app for that – it’s clear that all of the familiar apps from the original monochrome store are offered and available for the Time.

IMG_1593 IMG_1594

New watch should have offered me a new companion app with a new UI and a new design and, as I mentioned above, a better app offering with much more professional graphics. I’ve got screen shots of the smartphone companion app below, and as you can see, and I think agree, this struck me as a “very familiar” (which isn’t necessarily bad) and “nothing special” experience (which isn’t good).

IMG_1595 IMG_1597

The new store and new watch do offer the opportunity to get a better set of watch faces, but as you notice by running through the store, many of them are really nothing more than the old monochrome faces, now colored for the new ePaper display.  Again, a huge disappointment.

As with the original Pebble and Pebble Steel, the Pebble Time works with both iOS (running iOS 8 and higher) and Android (running 4.0 ICS and higher) smartphones.  So this is about as cross platform a smartwatch offering as you can get.

IMG_1596 IMG_1598

The only downside to all of this is that if you really want to track any fitness info with the Time, you’re going to need a third party fitness tracker like the Misfit or Jawbone (recommended by Pebble) in order to do it.  Additional language and international character support for the Time is said to be coming soon.

Problems and Issues

I think I’ve covered most the of the issues that I’ve bumped into with the Pebble Time in other sections. I won’t go over them again here.

The biggest thing that you do need to be aware of if you’re upgrading to the Time from either the Pebble or Pebble Steel is that the bands are not interchangeable or reusable on the new watch.  Any favorite band styles will need to be repurchased for use with the Time. However, since the time uses a standard 22mm band, they shouldn’t be too difficult to find or replace.

Conclusion

The biggest problem that I have with the Pebble Time is that the device is a huge disappointment to me. It’s not a bad device, per se. There just isn’t anything here that would make me really WANT to upgrade from my Pebble Steel to the time – except its color ePaper display – and that certainly isn’t worth the cost of the new watch. In my opinion, the original Pebble Steel should have been introduced with a color display. It would have made much more sense, and honestly, would have totally negated the introduction or release of the Pebble Time. Perhaps we would have gotten something different or better if it had.

The Pebble Time should be considered the base line for any smartwatch.  It has all of the basic functionality that would be considered mandatory in a smartwatch.  The absence of any kind of native fitness tracking in the actual device, however, is a huge hole, and one that will really make individuals looking for a smartwatch stop and consider or reconsider its purchase.  Other devices exist for about or near the same cost that include the fitness stuff, and as such kinda make the Pebble Time a bit irrelevant even before it had a chance to make any kind of impact on the market.

The Pebble Time is currently available for pre-order (as of this writing) and will cost $199.99.

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Current Status – Where I’m at with the Summer Writing Projects

It’s been kinda quiet in “Christopher’s Corner” over the past few weeks. Here’s what’s been keeping me up late , with my summer writing projects.

Summer Writing Projects

This year has been an ambitious one for me. I’ve started a new job with a financial services firm in suburban Chicago in a senior leadership role. I’ve joined the Windows 10 Insider Team and am actively testing both the desktop and mobile versions of Windows 10.

In February of this year I began a smartwatch/ wearables roundup with the review of the Microsoft Band (that hyperlink is a link to Part 2 of my review. A link to part 1 can be found in the first line of that article). I followed that up in April with a review of the Fitbit Surge. I’ve also hit a couple of pot holes with Windows 10 that is really keeping me hopping. To be quite honest, things haven’t been very easy at all over here in the Windows 10 camp especially; and I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew…

Here’s why – I’m also looking at the Apple Watch, trying to decipher it (I was going to say, “figure out what makes it tick,” but thought the better of it…). I’m trying to look at the Pebble Time, which I have in hand; and I’m also beginning to look at OS X 10.11 El Capitan and iOS 9 (both of which have had Beta 2 versions released).

I’ve got a whole lot of beta in my life right now; and honestly, it’s really messy.

I honestly don’t have iOS 9 installed on any of my iDevices as I don’t want that train wreck to interfere with any of the reviews I’m doing in the Wearables Round-Up. I had El Capitan installed on my MacBook Pro, but nuked and rebuilt my Mac as I bumped into a adware/spyware element from some software that I didn’t get from Soft32 – a huge mistake, by the way… all of our software is certified malware free – and had to rebuild the machine in order to get rid of it. I’m still in the tail end of that, as the malware had also infected my Time Machine backups and I can’t use it to restore ANYTHING. After I figure out which apps I have to redownload, reinstall and then reregister (some, like A Better Finder Rename and ClamXav were downloaded, installed and registered outside of either the Mac App Store or any other self-downloading or updating system), then I have to blow my Time Machine drive and let it automatically reestablish its backup schedule.

There are also some really big issues with Windows 10 right now, that go beyond whether or not you’re going to get the software for free. Build 10130 is a bit of a turd; and to be quite honest, my Surface Pro 3 is very unstable. I’m also having issues wiping it and moving back to Windows 8.1 (not that I want to stay there, but if you really want to clean install a beta build, the best thing to do is to go back to the last RTM point for it and build forward). I’m not certain if that’s the recovery media I have, or if there’s a firmware or other system software issue, or what, that’s preventing THAT from working.

A new firmware update has come out for the Surface Pro 3, and MY device still wants to download and install the MAY firmware update (showing as Firmware (or Hardware) Update 05/14/2015, in Windows Update) over and over and over and over and over… you get the picture… even if it’s been successfully installed. …Very frustrating.

I also happen to be a bit impatient. This can be a bad thing during a beta software run or any other testing situation, as impatience can often lead to additional errors or support problems. However, seeing as my Surface Pro 3 likes to download the same firmware update over and over again AND seeing as how the latest firmware update was released three days ago (and my SP3 is still trying to download the MAY update), I decided to see if the firmware update couldn’t be downloaded manually.

Most hardware OEM’s have support pages for their devices. Dell is famous for all of this; and I figured Microsoft had to have something similar. I was right, too.

You can find all of the latest Surface and Surface Pro support software, here.

Simply navigate to that page and then click the download button. You’ll be taken to a page where you can select exactly what files you want or need to download for your supported device.

WARNING – Only download and install software meant for your SPECIFIC Surface model.

I know this seems like a silly thing to say; but ALL of the files for all six (6) Surface Models – Surface, Surface 2, Surface 3, Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3 – are mixed together. They’re all named appropriately, but the model names and file names are all similar and it’s very easy to miss a model number or a “pro” and download the wrong support file. Attempting to install a file not meant for your device can cause serious, perhaps irreparable, damage to it. You need to be very careful.

I was able to find and download the firmware file I was looking for for my Surface Pro 3, and get it installed. Problem solved.

Anyway… let’s take a moment and run down a check list of where I am with everything so that everyone knows what’s what –

Wearables Roundup

Microsoft Band Review – Completed (Part 1, Part 2)
Fitbit Surge Review – Completed
Apple Watch Review – In process (Latest article – Personal Setup of the Apple Watch
Pebble Time Review – In process
Olio Model One Review – Waiting on hardware
Final Conclusions & Round Up – Pending completion of all individual reviews

Windows 10 Coverage

Latest Fast Ring Build – Build 10130
Latest Slow Ring Build – Build 10130
Latest Article – Windows 10 Build 10122 Status Update
Latest Mobile Fast Ring Build – Build 10149 (Write up is pending)

Apple Coverage

OS X 10.11 – Waiting on Stability & Public Beta Release
Current Build – Developer Preview 2 (Build 15A204b)
With the Apple Watch Review in play, I don’t want to negatively affect any connectivity between my Mac, my iPhone and my Watch.
iOS 9
Current Build – Beta 2 (Build 13A4280e)
With the Apple Watch Review in play, I don’t want to negatively affect any connectivity between my Mac, my iPhone and my Watch.

watchOS
Current Build – Beta 2 (Build 13S5255c)
Likely will not install during the Wearables Roundup period. I don’t want to screw up the Watch while its being reviewed, as not everyone will have access to the beta bits until its formal release in the Fall of 2015 (or unless and until Apple releases a public beta).

So this, kids, is why you haven’t seen a lot from me this past month. I’m working… Oh, you can bet your babushkas I’m working… I just either don’t have much to report, or I’m busy trying to troubleshoot and dig myself out of a hole due to software (and/or hardware interaction) bugs. However, I do plan on providing coverage this summer for all of the items you see here.

Do you have a Windows Machine? Are you a Microsoft Windows 10 Insider? Are you on the Fast Ring or the Slow Ring? Which Build do you currently have installed on your Windows PC? How well (or not) is it working for you? Do YOU think they will be ready to ready to release to the public on 2015-07-29?

Do you have a Mac? Are you a Mac Developer Program member? Have you downloaded and installed OS X 10.11 El Capitan? Have you downloaded and installed the latest version of iOS 9 to your iDevice? How well (or not) is they working for you? If you’re not a Developer Program member, will you install any of the public betas on your Mac or iDevice(s)?

I’d love to hear from you to find out where you are and what your experience has been with all of this. What issues have you bumped into? What issues have you heard about, but not experienced? Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and give me your current status and tell me how things are (or are not) working for you?

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Personal Setup of the Apple Watch

Sometimes maybe, its just better to go it alone…

apple-watch-selling-points

Wearable computers aren’t as intuitive as you might think. In fact, the whole category is a bit confusing. Its so confusing, that you may have trouble figuring out what is and what isn’t a smartwatch vs. what is and isn’t a fitness band, and which ones really kinda “cross the streams” and are a bit of both.

When you constantly have new players making a splash in this pool full of offerings, its hard not to end up all wet. And that’s a HUGE statement, if you take a few moments and try to noodle that one through…

So, in order to try to make things a bit easier on my wife – who’s new to the whole wearables category – and to me – who knows a bit but not totally EVERYTHING on the Apple Watch in particular – I thought it might be a really great idea to have both of us. What I experienced wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be.

This whole post should be tagged with – your mileage may vary…The videos are also a bit long. So, you may want to skip through a bit. Apple’s Personal Setup process is free, and it takes you through the initial unboxing and setup of the device, right out of the box. You can, if you wish, have them take you through Personal Setup on any product you purchase, even AT time of purchase. I saw one person unbox a 27″ iMac and another, a 13″ MacBook Pro.

Initial Unboxing and Setup

Here, the unboxing has finished and the Genius is taking my wife through the pairing process with her iPhone. There’s a lot of clicking through that’s done here, and not enough explanation, in my opinion. The pairing process is interesting. You hold your phone, camera and Apple Watch app active, over your Watch, while the watch shows some sort of strange particle graphic on its screen. The active graphic’s pattern is supposed to uniquely identify the watch to your phone and silently pair both a regular and a Bluetooth-LE partnership (though only one partnership is listed in MY Devices under, Bluetooth Settings)

Pairing and Initial Setup

The pairing process is done here. My wife described the pairing pattern on the watch as looking like the Teseract from the Avengers. She wasn’t far off. After you pair the Watch with your phone, it wants to know where you’re going to wear it (right or left wrist) and then your Apple ID and password.

Configuring the Watch

Here, configuration choices are made for the Watch. Here, there’s a lot of tapping an OK button. The decision to put a passcode on your Watch is made. If you don’t want to put a passcode on your Watch, then you won’t be able to use Apple Pay on the Watch. Apple Pay = use a passcode!

Apps… here you have to be careful. Every app that you have on your phone that has a Glance, will automatically install that Glance on your phone. If you don’t be careful (I was going to say, “watch…” sheesh!!), you’re going to overload on Glances, and then, you’re likely never going to use ANY of them. You’re also going to get Notification overload, so you have to be careful about what you install on the Watch.

Oh, and if you’re stuck for a camera remote – so you can take a stickless selfie – you can use the Watch to snap the shutter on your iPhone’s camera. Its all kinda cool.

Its So Complicated

Changing your Watch face starts with a force touch. Right now you get about eight or so watch faces. All of the little information icons on any of the included Watch faces are called, “complications.” They can show you cool things like the phases of the moon, the current, local temperature, the time in other time zones, etc.

Some Watch faces can only have a couple complications on them. Others can have one in each corner, at least. What you can’t do, at this time, however, is construct your own Watch face from all of the elements available to the watch. You have to pick from preconfigured Watch faces and then only specific complications are available in each spot where one is placed. You also can’t move the complications to another location on the Watch face. There are a few options, but not many.

The Apple Watch is an amazing piece of electronic fare. It can do a lot, but can you get it to do what YOU really want it to do. I’m hard at work trying to crack this nut, and I’m close to the point where I can start writing this review. Look for it in the next few weeks!

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Anticipation… Its making me Wait

Y’all wanna pass me the Heinz Ketchup..?

watch

Every time I say I’m waiting for something, I hear Carly Simon in my head singing “that song;” and I see someone pouring Heinz Ketchup over a hamburger. Yes. Apparently, being a child of the ’70’s means I’m older than dirt…

Well, I have an update to my column, So…Like, I’m in Wait Mode; and I’d like to provide everyone an update. This is going to be a short one, and I’m going to hold myself to that, because if I don’t, I’m really going to go off on a specific vendor, and I really don’t want to torch the relationship I have with them. Up to now, it’s been pretty good.

Apple Watch

I ordered a 42mm Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch Sport with Black Sport Band 13 minutes into the open order cycle on 2015-04-10. I placed an order for a 38mm Silver Apple Watch Sport with Aluminum Case with Pink Sport Band on 2015-04-12, a full two days after orders opened. The 38mm Pink Sport arrived on 2015-05-11, or the day after Mother’s Day, here in the States. This morning, I was greeted with a wonderful surprise – my 42mm Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch Sport with Black Sport Band moved from “processing items” to “preparing for shipment” during the night. Charges for the device are pending on my credit card, and I anticipate having the Watch in my hands be week’s end.

apple watch

 Olio Model One

Olio sold out of both versions – black and silver – of all of their Model One’s. the device also seems to be doing very well. According to Olio,

“… we received the results of our latest round of water pressure testing. The Model One withstood the equivalent of 50M (164 feet) of water pressure, which is the high bar for traditional, non-dive watches, and something rarely, if ever seen in consumer electronics like smartphones. More impressively, when the microphone hole is sealed, and we air-pressure test the rest of the watch seals, we remain air-tight past 70M (230 feet), at which point standard watch pressure testing equipment can’t go higher. We’re purchasing specialty dive watch pressure testers to continue testing and optimizing those seals.

“The Model One so far has gone through over 300 distinct tests for everything from drop to impact; altitude to water pressure; extreme cold to sweltering heat; and Coca-Cola to dishwashing soap. To date, no Olio Model One front or rear crystal has broken during use. Not one. It is slated to go through many more tests in real world conditions before it reaches your wrists this summer. We are building our watches to handle whatever adventure you bring their way and we can’t wait to hear where you decide to take them.”

This is impressive. This guy isn’t going to get damaged from wearing it while exercising – be that working out or swimming – and will likely survive the standard snorkel or scuba dive – without getting damaged. However, an updated delivery date hasn’t come out of Olio yet. These are still expected sometime in “the summer of 2015.”

Pebble Time

Yeah, I have NO update at all on this guy. The original estimate for delivery of Pebble Time was “May 2015.” Pebble has just under two weeks left to make that delivery window, and there hasn’t been any kind of indication that the device will ship on time or even any kind of project update from them since 2015-05-09 (or the Friday before Mother’s Day, here in the States).

Update #17, sent out on 2015-05-04 indicated that mass production was scheduled to start that week (so, about two weeks ago, as of this writing). I am assuming everything is still on schedule. Pebble’s done this Kickstarter thing before, so they kinda know what they’re doing.

Henge Docks Horizontal Dock

Yeah… I’m not a happy camper about this one. Not happy at all.

Henge Docks announced the product in 2013. It was originally supposed to ship a year ago, but was pushed back. Henge Docks brought it to CES 2015 in the form of a prototype, and it was a HUGE success there. They opened up purchases of the dock, including its Early Adopter Program in mid-January 2015. They sold out almost instantly. Their scheduled delivery date for the Early Adopter edition, which for an extra charge, got you the dock before everyone else, plus special access to their beta firmwares and exclusive support community, was April 2015, with standard delivery for all other Horizontal Dock orders scheduled for June 2015.

They opened up the exclusive support area with an announcement they sent on 2015-03-06. You logged in, took a couple of surveys and were given the opportunity to submit bugs or suggestions. O 2015-04-10, Henge Docks announced that they were pushing back delivery of the dock due to a change in the power supply. They were upgrading the design to a 150 watt power supply from a 127 watt power supply. Between 2015-04-12 through 2015-04-26, the Henge Docks team were scheduled to travel to China to work with their manufacturing partner on assembly of the dock. Delivery of Early Adopter units had been pushed to EARLY May 2015.

I emailed Henge Docks on 2015-05-14 and received the following from their customer service department,

“At this time, we do not have a set, final ship date for the Early Adopter Horizontal Docks. As soon as we have additional information from our Product Development Team we will notify our Early Adopter Customers

“I understand the lack of information is frustrating, we are anxious to get this product out the door. If you prefer to opt out of the Early Adopter program, we understand.”

My response to them was a somewhat tepid, “thank you no. Don’t opt me out. I paid to get into that program. What I want and need is an updated delivery date for the RETAIL product I purchased.”

The organization hasn’t responded to my reply.

What’s bothering me the most here, is that there’s been no official update on this product since 2015-04-10. The organization has missed two (2) delivery dates. This was a RETAIL purchase. The dock wasn’t purchased via Kickstarter or IndieGo-Go. This was a retail purchase. The organization has taken my money and hasn’t delivered the product as of yet; and they’ve missed not only their initial shipment window, but their recast shipment window.

The Early Adopter program website so far is a ghost town. The docks haven’t been delivered; and its clear to me, given the lack of updates on the program, that there are additional engineering problems related to the 150 watt power supply. The units likely are getting too hot and there isn’t enough room for a bigger fan in the current case; or they ran onto some other engineering issue after respec-ing the bigger power supply. I’m guessing of course.

The big issue here is that Henge Docks took payment for my dock in January. They have my money. I don’t have my purchased product. The least they can do is update everyone that bought an Early Adopter unit on where we are with the whole process.

This is a big deal for me, as I want and need a true docking solution for my MacBook Pro, and have wanted one since purchasing my original MacBook Pro back in 2006. Thunderbolt docks aren’t really the way I wanted to go. I don’t want to plug and chug ANY cables in and out of my notebook computer.

I’ve purchased Henge Docks products in the past, and they’ve been totally awesome. However, I don’t like yanking my MBP in and out of a Vertical Dock. Too much torque and pressure are placed on the ports and on the device , especially when removing it from the dock, in my opinion.

That’s why I want the Horizontal Dock. Its docking mechanism is supposed to be much better on the device. I take my MacBook Pro with me everywhere I go, so it’s in and out of a dock – or would be – quite often. My other MBP’s were, as I had Vertical Docks for all of them.

I’m obviously going to keep an eye on this. If I have any additional information, I’ll post back. However, all I’m REALLY looking for here, outside of delivery of the actual product, is some kind of program update informing me when the product will ship and deliver.

In the meantime… would someone pass the ketchup..??

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So… Like, I’m in Wait Mode

There’s a lot happening and I’m all set to hurry up and wait; and it sucks.

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for and I truly feel blessed.

I have a wife and family that love me. I have a great job. I have a great gig here at Soft32. I actually think it’s one of the best sites I’ve ever written for, and I’ve written for a GREAT many over the past 20 or so years including CMPnet, WUGNET. AOL/CompuServe, Gear Diary, pocketnow, InformationWeek, LockerGnome, plus a number of print pubs including >, Computer Power User Magazine and a Sun-Times affiliated newspaper – The Aurora Beacon-News. Definitely blessed.

All of the writing over the years has kept me in baseball cards and bubble gum, for sure. I’ve been able to afford to buy a number of different technology items and write about them that in just about any other life scenario, I simply wouldn’t have been able to afford to do.

Case in point… I’ve got a number of different things cued up for this Summer and Fall, but I’m stuck in a wait and see mode, or stuck waiting for something to ship. Here’s a run-down of all that I’ve got queued up. I’m going to try to sort these by the time I am supposed to have something in hand, though it will likely be a few weeks after they are received before I have anything written and/ or posted about them.

Henge Docks Horizontal Dock – Mid-May 2015
This one has been a LONG time in coming.

henge_horizontal_dock1-100024094-orig

I’ve been a huge fan of docking stations since, like, the invention of the notebook computer; but really back in the mid to late 1990’s. I’ve had a number of Dell laptops – mostly Latitudes – that have had docks, and I’ve had docks at work and at home with nearly EVERY work PC I’ve ever used in my entire life, including every Dell and Lenovo I’ve ever put my hands on. However, Apple doesn’t believe in docking stations. Not even a little bit.

Apple’s take, even when they were still including a full blown Ethernet port in their notebooks, is that notebooks were meant to be portable; and you really don’t want to tie yourself down to a wired internet connection. You want to be wireless. That’s why you have a notebook PC.

Well, sorta.

I have a notebook PC because I want to be able to compute in a non-standard place like the beach, my deck, or a place where they sell overpriced coffee. The problem is, I still want to be able to use that notebook PC with some desktop styled resources – like a mouse, external keyboard (be they wired or wireless) and most importantly, a large, HD monitor. If you stick to Apple’s way of doing things when you get to a an office setting, you constantly plug and chug cables in out of ports on your MacBook or MacBook Pro… which totally sucks… hence the need/ desire for a docking station or port replicator

Henge Docks has been making (somewhat) affordable vertical docks for years. They announced their Horizontal Docking Station more than two years ago, and I pre-ordered it almost immediately. I’ve been waiting on it ever since.

The dock is finally supposed to ship in mid-May 2015; and as part of their Early Adopter Program, I’ll have access to enhanced functionality, frequent updates and special user forums where I and a number of other folks will be able to provide feedback on the device directly to Henge Docks.

When it arrives, I’m going to have to reconfigure the top of the desk in my office. Specifically, I’m going to need to reassess how I’ve got my dual monitors positioned. I may also need to get a bigger or different second/ third monitor, as the 22″ SD monitor I’ve got just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Apple Watch Sport Edition – Mid-to-Late May 2015
As I said the other day, I got my Apple Watch before things totally sold out. I should be getting mine in the third or fourth wave of shipments. My watch is scheduled to ship between 2015-05-13 and 2015-05-27.

apple-watch-side

I seem to remember seeing one or two articles over the past week or so indicating that preorders MIGHT ship earlier than originally estimated, but I haven’t heard anything else to refute or substantiate that claim. If I had to guess, I’d say things with either ship during my originally estimated window or later than that.

While people wait for their Watches to arrive, everyone everywhere is going to be inundating the internet with a bunch of fluff. You’ll see information about Apple supplied bands, third party bands, uses and ideas for Watch and of course, different apps. You’re also going to see a lot of coverage about how Watch isn’t going to be as intuitive or easy to use as every other Apple product on the market.

Concierge Appointments are going to be an interesting topic to follow and until Watches start arriving and people start making and attending appointments, we’re not going to know what they are really going to cover.

Pebble Time – May 2015
Pebble Time is Pebble’s latest venture into the wearables market. The device is an update to their previous Kickstarter Campaign provides a couple of new options.

Pebble_Time_colours-970-80

This time, you get a color display and up to seven days of battery life out of a single charge. While there are definitely updates to the Pebble watch OS to take advantage of the new color display and some new capabilities. I have no idea what we’re REALLY going to see with this, but we’ll have to wait and see. While I suspect that it’s going to be VERY Pebble – i.e. basically the same as Pebble and Pebble Steel, but with a color display, but again, I’m going to want to wait and see the actual device in my hands before making any final determinations.

Olio Model One – Summer 2015 (Meaning somewhere between July and October)
This is the one smartwatch that I really know little to nothing about. The only information that I have on it is what you can find on their home page. This isn’t much information to go on at all.

olio-watch-steel-steel-link-ui

I’ve spoken briefly with the organization’s CEO via email. He didn’t offer any additional information, other than the organization is excited to release the device in limited availability later this year.

The device looks amazing. The big thing that is going to make or break this device is notifications and the way it works with them. If it’s an all or nothing thing as it is with other smartwatches or fitness bands, then Olio isn’t going to do very well. Unfortunately, because there’s little to no additional information on how Olio intends to deal with notification overload, this is another wait and see item.

Windows 10 RTM – Summer 2015
Windows 10 is supposed to RTM (release to manufacturing) sometime this Summer, which again, means between July and October of 2015. If Microsoft wants to have Windows 10 in the hands of manufacturers and OEM’s in time for back to school computer sales, then it better be as early in the “summer” as possible. If they do hit their advertised release window, then they may make it in time to hit Back to School; but then again, it may not be enough time.

Based on what I know about my own experience right now, and the one huge bug that I have logged – Disappearing Ink – hitting this window is going to be difficult at best. They have a number of different issues to get past and with the way that builds are being released even to the Fast Ring, I’m really going to be surprised if they make it in time. I don’t think they will. My Disappearing Ink bug has been around for at least 6 Fast Ring builds, and it’s a huge defect. I don’t know that they’re going to get to the end game in time to make Back to School PC releases.

However, until they have a fix for Disappearing Ink, I’m off the Fast Ring, especially on my Surface Pro 3. I’ve got too much going on with OneNote at the office to risk losing information and notes during a meeting while using Windows 10. I also downloaded Windows 10 for Mobile 10051 on my Lumia 520, and I agree with Paul, Mary Jo and Leo. The latest Windows 10 build for Window Phones just plain sucks. Oh… it’s really horrible.

UPDATE: While writing this an article appeared on Microsoft News attributing AMD’s CEO, Lisa Su, with a statement that Windows 10 would RTM in July. Early Monday morning, 2015-04-20, as I was finishing up this column, I also stumbled upon a reiteration of this same attribution, but this time with a full quote on the Windows Supersite. Here’s the full quote, given during AMD’s Quarterly Earning’s call:

“…What we also are factoring in is, you know, with the Windows 10 launch at the end of July, we are watching sort of the impact of that on the back-to-school season, and expect that it might have a bit of a delay to the normal back-to-school season inventory build-up…”

This statement fails to indicate if the July release is Windows 10 for desktop, Phones or small tablets, or ALL devices.

Given the issues that are currently being encountered in all platforms, I’d be surprised if this was for everything. Desktop, maybe; but all platforms…? No.

iOS 9 and OS X 10.11
WWDC currently scheduled for 2015-06-08 through 2015-06-12. At that time, I’m expecting announcements for both iOS 9 and OS X 10.11. However, while this is pretty much a safe bet, there’s no guarantee on this either. No one has really started grinding the iOS 9 grindstone. No one has been beating the “I really need the next version of OS X to do ‘this'” drum.

So far as I can tell, the only thing that most people have been saying about both iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 is that they’d really like the next versions to work better than the current versions. So maybe both will be stability and bug fix releases. However, given that they’re both going up against a huge release in Windows 10, it’s unlikely that that will happen.

While this may be seen as a good thing for Apple fans and users, in the end, it may not be. Adding new features on top of a release that isn’t as solid as it could be could be a big problem in the end. Unfortunately, as information is going to be lacking until at least after the WWDC Keynote, this is yet another wait and see item.

So as you can see… I’m stuck.

I’ve got more wait and see items than I do actual stuff to look at right now.

What are you most interested in seeing this year? Are you waiting for anything in particular? Did you order an Apple Watch? Will you get it before school starts in the States in the Fall? Did you order another wearable? Is there going to be high demand for iOS 9 or OS X 10.11? Do you think that Windows 10 will make a July release date, or will it be delayed until later?

Why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below, and give me your thoughts.

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