Microsoft Devices 2015

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So Microsoft’s big hardware event has come and gone, much of the announcements were already known, but there was a big surprise at the end and now everything is official.

Hololens

Hololens is neat.  It’s a cool piece of hardware and it looks like we may now get to see what others can do with it.  But beyond that I’m not convinced I’d have a need for one.

Band 2

I’m not a big fan of wearables, but I have to say that the Band 2 looks to be a significant update.  Both aesthetically as well as functionally.

I’ve been tempted a couple of times to pick one up for the golf features, but just can’t quite bring myself to do it.

The one thing that stuck out to me was there was no announcement of expanding the number of countries it’s available in.

Lumia 950/XL

The specs on these leaked out ahead of the presentation so there isn’t really anything too surprising form the announcement.

The liquid cooling is a neat tech point but at the end of the day it’s not something that’s going to move phones 🙂

Continuum was demoed again and it’s impressive to say the least.  It was curious they didn’t demo it completely wire free (Bluetooth keyboard/mouse with a WiDi display) but I guess they wanted to show off the docking station.

The USB 3.1 connector is quickly becoming a must have on new phones and that’s a good thing.

One key point that I was interested in was the network bands that are supported by it, while it wasn’t talked about during the presentation, the Microsoft Store site had the tech details up just afterwards and it has a wide range of network support.

Most importantly for me, Wind Mobile looks to be supported.

Finally, they did announce the release, it was kind of vague.  November is a big month, can we expect it November 1st (no, obviously not) or Nov 30th?

Well pre-orders aren’t available yet, but should be soon, perhaps a ship date will be included then.

I’ll be ordering the 950 XL, I’m not sure I want that large of phone, but I have to admin my 925 seems very small these days so I’m going to hedge my bets on the larger handset and see what happens.

Lumia 550

This was mostly an afterthought, but I have to say the low-end Lumia look very slick, I would have liked to see some more details about it.

Surface Pro 4

There wasn’t as much known about the SP4 before the press conference, but in general it was expected to be a minor update to the SP3 and that was the case.

The larger display is nice along with the magnetic pen holder.  Thinner was good as well.  The new type cover is also a nice upgrade by the looks of it.

Before the announcement I was contemplating replacing my ASUS ZenBook with a SP4, but that all depended on two things

  1. Windows Hello support.
  2. USB 3.1 charging.

Well I got the Windows Hello support, but missed the USB 3.1 charging.  I can’t say how much I’m looking forward to replacing ALL my chargers with USB 3.1 power supplies.  I guess I’ll be waiting another year until the SP5 comes out 🙂

Surface Book

This one is a little weird, there was a rumor going around that a larger Surface would be announced but no one expected this.

Microsoft calls it a laptop, but it’s more like a hybrid.

It’s weird as Microsoft has been telling us for the last three years to replace our laptops with a Surface.  Then they announce a laptop at the end of the presentation.

It might have made more sense to announce the book before the SP4.

Either way, I’m not sure I’d ever buy one.  I look at that hinge and the gap between the keyboard and display and just know as soon as I set something relatively heavy on top of it that would be the end of it 🙁

Wrap Up

It was a good mix of hardware from Microsoft and the presentation went smooth.  The think that stood out to me though was the change in tone from previous presentations.

The presenters focused more on how it made you feel and how “magical” it was.  It sounded a lot like an Apple press conference when Steve Jobs ran them.

I don’t know if that’s a good way to go or not.  Either way though we’ll find out in the next few quarters when we see how the new hardware actually sells.

Kevo

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I picked up a Weiser Kevo Bluetooth door lock a while ago when I had to replace my main door lock, it seemed like a good idea but after a few months of using it I have to admit it’s not a good as it should be.

The idea of course is to use your phone or a key fob to open your door without having to fiddle with your key chain to find the right one.

Walk up to the door, touch the Kevo ring and it will automatically open for you.

The Kevo is easy to install (it was a drop in replacement to my old lock) and reasonably easy to setup.

It has several good features, like being able to tell the difference between the key fob being inside or outside the house (not a good idea to let an intruder activate the lock from the outside with the key fob sitting inside but within range).

However, there are a few downsides that really hurt it:

  • Doesn’t support Windows Phone and only a few Android devices (mostly due to the Bluetooth low power mode requirement).
  • The key fob is big and ugly.  The insides of the fob are tiny but Weiser has decided to encase it in a big, cheap plastic housing.
  • The key fob seems to eat batteries and isn’t rechargeable.
  • At best I’m getting 50% activation with the lock sometimes just doing nothing for a long time.
  • Even when it does activated it takes a long time to recognize the fob and unlock.
  • When the fob isn’t recognized, you have to pull it out of your pocket and hold it close to the door, defeating the purpose of the whole thing.
  • The powered lock mechanism seems a little underpowered, sometimes it stops half way through a cycle.
  • It’s too easy to accidentally touch the Kevo on the outside of the door if you have a tendency to grab the door by the edge and start a lock/unlock cycle.

I have to say I still like the idea of a Bluetooth enabled door lock, but the Kevo isn’t worth the cost and hassle.  Perhaps the second generation Kevo will be better but for now I couldn’t recommend it.

Surface 3

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I’ve been using my Dell Venue 8 Pro as my primary tablet for over 18 months and it’s been a good tablet.  The one area that it does kind of lack is memory.

Both disk and ram are pretty limited on the unit and it works fine as a single tasking device but my usage of a computer is seldom a single task.

One of the big issue I had with my original Surface RT was the weight and form factor.  The 16:9 screen was very wide for a table and, while light at the time, it was still something you didn’t want to hold for a long time.

And so now I’m pondering a Surface 3.  I looked at the Surface Pro 3, but for my usage it’s just too large.

The Surface 3 on the other hand has taken care of the big issue I had with the RT, the 16:9 screen layout has been replaced with the squarer 3:2 form factor.

The Surface 3 is still quite a bit heavier than the Dell but that may be a trade-off I’ll have to live with to get the extra ram to make multi-tasking more useable.

I need to feel one though first, I’ll be by a Microsoft store next week and will drop in and take a look.

Stay tuned…

 

WaterField Designs Backpack

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I’ve been using a SwissGear backpack as my primary travel bag for the last couple of years and it has done me well, but it had started to get a little frayed around the edges so it was time to take a look for something new.

The SwissGear bag is designed for a 15″ notebook, which makes it less than ideal for my ASUS Zenbook Ultrabook.  Likewise it has lots of large pockets that I don’t use and so decided to try to find something designed for a smaller laptop.

Surprisingly, that’s harder to do than you might think.  Most cases targeted at ultrabooks are just sleeves, which didn’t do what I wanted.  I spend probably six months looking for a new backpack and finally found one over at WaterField Designs.

The Staad Laptop Backpack is a custom backpack designed for smaller laptops and ultrabooks.  Of course the first thing you notice is the price 😉

I waffled for a while, but decided to splurge on one, so I ordered a black ballistic with black leather slim model and waited.

Waterfield takes care of the international shipping and duties, but it’s a two-step process.  First you place your order and pay for it and then they calculate the shipping and handling and send you a second ‘order’ to pay for it.

This went smoothly and they said to expect the backpack in a few days.

A week passed with nothing.  Then two so I decided to send an email and see what was going on.  The response was quick but I guess they missed the point as I received a request for another shipping ‘order’.

A quick e-mail exchange cleared things up and the backpack was on its way.  It looks like the international shipping is a manual process and I assume my second ‘order’ fell through the cracks.

Anyway, the bag itself is well made and quite beautiful.  The ZenBook fits in perfectly without a lot of extra room.

Overall it’s a great backpack, there are two external pockets that are easy to get to and large enough to hold a big phone or two.  The interior pockets are a little limited, there are two on the front part of the page which I put my mouse and power brick in.

The backpack is very slim and perfect for what I want.  There are a few things to point out:

  • Other than the two zippered pockets, there are not exterior holders of any kind, so if you want to carry a water bottle or an umbrella, your out of luck.
  • The interior pockets are a little small, if my power brick was larger I’d have to put it in the “bottom” of the bag, which is where I currently keep my backup power pack.

Of course the real questions with this kind of item is if it’s worth the cost?  The answer for me is yes, but it’s probably not for everyone.

External Hard Drive Case

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After upgrading my DFS drives on my servers I ran in to another problem, my external USB drive I use for backups didn’t support the 6tb drives.

Normally I keep an offsite backup of my data and VM’s, to do so I use two external USB drives.  A one terabyte USB3 (2.5 inch) to hold the VMDK files and a two terabyte USB2 (3.5 inch) to keep a copy of my DFS drive.

I use TrueCrypt to store the data on these drives.

Before I replaced the drives in my servers, I replaced the external drive in the USB2 case.  At first everything seemed fine, but when I went to create the 6tb partition things didn’t go so well.  At first it seemed to create it, then when I tried to encrypt it TrueCrypt stopped at 2tb.

Whatever chipset the SATA to USB bridge was using just didn’t understand the 6tb drive and so I looked around for a replacement.  Most of the current USB3 cases say they support drives up to 4tb but I couldn’t find any that directly said they supported 6 so I took a chance on one.

I dropped the drive in and re-created the partition.  Encryption succeeded without issue and a few hours of file copies later (ok, maybe more than a few 🙂 ) I had a valid backup of my DFS drive again.