Posts Tagged ‘hardware’

img_7298I like to peruse the blogs, ads, links, and Kickstarter for new products, and have come across a few over the years where I got in early and got a good deal.  My Thermodo for instance.  (if you are not sure what a Thermodo is check it out here.) I was hoping this little charge cable would be one of those things…. sadly, it fell short.  No pun intended.

The HandyCharger is basically a really short lightning cable for charging my iPhone/iPad.  It is meant to be kept on a keyring so you always have one handy in a jam, as long as you have your keys with you.  Sound great in theory.  But in practice, not quite ready for primetime as the saying goes.

I should have known something was off when I ordered back in april and got an email saying it could be 3 to 4 weeks to arrive due to “massive global demand” which turned into 6 weeks, with no explanation, or even a response from the manufacturer until after I had sent a few emails, and got told I would be informed when it shipped.  Gee, thanks, not even an ETA.

Fast forward to beginning of august, now almost 4 months after ordering, and I get notified it had shipped.  Apparently via rowboat from china it would seem since it took over  2 weeks after that notification for it to finally show up, and when it did, it was not as expected.

As in the email above, It should be noted, it didn’t come with a keyring, and the packaging as I noted was terrible, basically non-existent.  I showed it on a keyring to give scale to the photo and to show its intended use.  Another issue is the size of the connector that plugs into the iPhone/iPad.  Its too wide for most cases, so you either have to charge your device caseless or cut the opening in the case to allow the oversized connecto.  Yuck.

img_7297

This photo shows the packaging for it, a bubble wrap bag, not even a plastic bag inside it, or a piece of cardboard for rigidity and a little protection.  I emailed the manufacturer as you can see above, and did get a reply saying they were sorry, and to send photos of the damaged charge cable to them, but unfortunately I had already thrown out the faulty cable since it had to be held in place to actually work, and as luck would have it, the magnet on the ends of the cable that are supposed to keep it together are too weak and the darn thing fell off my keychain within a couple of days of receiving it.

Strangely, in searching around for info on the HandyCharger, I found a very similar looking product – like exactly the same looking product, by another manufacturer, InCharge.  (http://incharge.rocks/) Not sure which came first, but it makes me think the one I got is the poor rip-off version. Or maybe it did come first, but if so, the other company took the idea and did it better it seems.   At least it had packaging.  They even made a thin connector option.

handycharger-youtube incharge cable

Another thing to note is the look of the advertised product versus the actual received item.  The multi-colour cable, the actual name silkscreened onto it, etc.  Bait and switch anyone? Or just another example of a US company allowing their product to be manufactured in China and shipped direct to customer, and hoping it is done right without taking the time to inspect.

As I said, great in theory, terrible in practice.  That is my feeling on this one.  Waiting 4 months for a charge cable is ridiculous to begin with, but getting a faulty one after all that, as well as one that in my opinion is poorly constructed with respect to how it is supposed to stay together via the all-too-weak magnet, is enough for me to say stay away from this product until at least version 2.  If there is one.

PS:  I haven’t ordered an inCharge one yet, but probably will.  For one, it is cheaper, and says 2 day shipping with 6 to 10 days delivery.  So at least I won’t be waiting months to be disappointed.

barkerp

ipad proWhenever I get a new toy, I like to see how it works and try to find the flaws so there are no surprises later on. Whether it is a tech toy, or some new tool, or vehicle even, the need to see inside and figure out how it works and what its deficiencies are is always high on my priority list.

My latest toy, my iPad Pro is no exception.  As soon as the Apple Store started taking orders for it, I was logged on credit card in hand since i’d already poured over the specs, watched the keynote when it was announced, and determined I would be buying one.  Delivered to my office on Friday the 13th without having to fight the line ups or crowds in an actual store – to quote an overused TV ad – priceless.  I got to spend the morning on my bike en route to Port Dover as all friday the 13ths should be.

Speaking of fighting, I’ve fought off the urge to physically open it up (so far), but getting under the virtual hood is another thing.  Putting it thru its paces and seeing how it compares to my previous iPad is job one.

Its been a week and so far, the one thing that annoys me most is the lack of the on-screen split keyboard on the iPad Pro.  This is the one device that would really benefit from having a split keyboard, since it’s too wide to try and type on it without first sitting it down on something in order to use the full-size on-screen keyboard. The people who say it’s not necessary because it’s too large to use two-handed and type with your thumbs haven’t tried to do it obviously.  I used my iPad in landscape mode with a split keyboard all the time and this Pro version is narrower in portrait mode than the landscape mode of the iPad.  I don’t find it unwieldy at all, I just can’t reach all the keys using my thumbs and I think it would be easier to have a split keyboard than to get surgery and have my thumbs extended.  And less painful too.

From a hardware perspective, Audio on the Pro surprised me.  I expected it to be better than the mono iPad I had previously, but didn’t realize how good until I was listening to music on it without plugging in speakers like I usually do.  I’ve actually taken to just listening to music on it without external speakers.  Both volume and quality are quite good.  The new audio system in the iPad Pro has four speakers that can be cranked up reportedly three times louder than the max volume of an iPad Air, and I can believe it, but not only that, it adjusts the orientation of the high frequencies according to how you’re holding it.  Sweet.

Speedwise, this thing is noticeably quicker than my old iPad and right on par with my iPhone6 if not quicker I would say.  Hardware has a big effect on speed, but also some of that is probably the latest iOS which seems perfectly at home on here, and I finally get to use some of the great features they built into the latest iOS.

ipad pro split screen

Slide-over (shown opposite), or Split-screen mode (shown below) for instance.  Making multitasking actually work the way it should.  Depending upon the app of course, some still just pause it seems, while others continue to remain live while slide-over is active.

Slide-over lets you respond to texts easily, while showing you more of the history and not just the last message.  Very handy, and easy to use.  Just slide a finger over from the right side of the screen and you will see all the apps you have installed (that work with slide-over), and can select which one to use.  Once selected you can use it in the slide-over window, or continue to drag it towards the center of the screen and split the screen making both apps usable at the same time.

Software wise, MS Office was one group of apps I was looking forward to using on the larger screen.  As it turns out, without a valid subscription to Office 365, I’m not able to do any editing on my iPad Pro.  (notice the “read-only” on the right side of the split screen image.  That was Word letting me know that it is not going to work on the Pro for free.)  I took the time to let the people over at blogs.office.com know, but I’d bet that falls on deaf ears…

ipad pro office blogThis annoyed me, and I suppose I should have looked into this further prior to getting my Pro.  The writing was on the wall, er, well, website…

Word is ready for iPad Pro and looks amazing on the 12.9-inch screen. Read Word documents on iPad Pro for free. To create and edit docs, you need a qualifying Office 365 subscription. Try it for free for 30 days.  On iPhone, iPad Air, and iPad mini, the core Word experience, including viewing, creating and editing documents, is free. Or unlock the full Word experience with a qualifying Office 365 subscription. On iPad Pro, you need Office 365 to create and edit documents.”

 Argh.  It is annoying, but not “this-is-going-back-to-the-store” annoying.
The size is something you need to get used to, but once you do, its tough to go back to a smaller version of the iPad without feeling cramped.  I got the back cover and smart cover for it since it travels with me back and forth to the office, and they don’t add much weight or bulk to the Pro, which is good since it barely fits in my messenger bag as it is.
I ordered the Smart Keyboard when I placed my order for the Pro, but for whatever reason it is not available for 3 weeks, which seems like poor planning on Apple’s part… “You should see this, it works great, its made for it, you’ll definitely want one…. but you can’t have it for 3 weeks” – doh!  I think that accessory will change the way I use the iPad Pro, but will have to wait to see how much.  Right now I’m getting used to using it sans keyboard and have gotten pretty proficient using the onscreen keyboard while it rests in an inclined position on my desk.
With the larger screen and multi-tasking possibilities, the dust on my laptop (my trusty but getting long in the tooth MacBook Air) gets thicker and thicker as I find myself only using my iPad and iPhone of late.  The MBA rarely gets opened, and usually only to back up my idevices.  As much as I’d love to see a big update to the MBA, with the functionality and capabilities of the iPad Pro I’m not sure I’d be getting one even if they did.
This may not be the death knell for the laptop, but the bell is definitely swinging.
-barkerp

IMG_0376Well, we knew it was coming, although not for long due to Bell’s incompetence and the shitty way they are handling this “discontinuation of service”.  I was going to title this post “Bell, you suck“, but that title has been used way too often. (even in some variations by me, see here, and here.)

We’ve had the Portable internet or Unplugged service for quite some time now.  They’ve renamed it a few times over the years since Rogers bought up the Inukshuk internet service as part of the Microcell buy out, which ended up becoming a joint venture with Bell back in 2005.  It has never been great as far as speeds go, but at least it was available.  That is, up until now.  About a month back I found out purely by accident that the service was being discontinued at the end of March.  The story behind the shutting down seems different depending who you talk to, but in the end, it wasn’t making enough money is probably the real reason despite all the talk of the CRTC wanting that particular bandwidth back, or that the equipment was dated and in need of replacement, major repair, etc.

It seems this particular internet service has been in the process of being discontinued for some time now, depending upon your area.  I think the intention was to cancel the service once a reasonable replacement was in place.  Sadly, for those like me, that still hasn’t happened.  We are one of the lucky few not included in the government promises to bring high-speed to rural communities, seems we are too close to the city, and yet not far enough away to get coverage from the rural providers.

The worst part of the whole ordeal is the fact Bell really dropped the ball repeatedly in letting its customers know.  I found out while talking to a Bell tech about my slow internet, that the service was actually being discontinued.  I immediately got in touch with Bell internet customer service, and was informed that letters had been sent out to let people know, but strangely many people did not receive them.  WTF?  I was informed again later during another phone call that yes, in fact letters had been sent out a couple of times because there was an issue the first time.  But still, again, many people never got informed.  In this day and age how is it possible to screw up sending a letter to customers?  They would never miss making sure you get your bill, so why not just add it in there.

I got in touch with all the major players, Bell and Rogers, and long list of ISPs that I had never heard of or had little knowledge of.  Xplornet, Execulink, ISP Canada, Teksavvy, Canada Online, Falcon Internet, Allcore, and Terago to name just a few.  None of which could get a signal to my house, with the exception of Terago and they are just way too expensive to be considered a residential provider.  Wind mobile is available, but at a data cap of 10 gig per month, after which they throttle the speed down to 256kbs it is not a viable solution for a household internet service.  Especially one with teenagers that enjoy instagram, youtube, Facebook and netflix way too much.  10 gig would last about a weekend.

As it stands, we are awaiting our new turbo hub modem from Bell to start up our overpriced and data limited mobile internet service, since it is the only service anyone is offering that can reach my house.  I can physically see the city limits from my property, close enough I can read the population sign, but not close enough that any landline services have been upgraded in my area.  So for now, we are struggling by with our cell phones, trying to limit our data usage, and will be sitting in coffee shops and burger joints to do our updating of apps and OSes until such time that the powers that be finally bring real high-speed internet to ALL of the rural customers, and not just some.

barkerp

So, as mentioned in my last post,  I sent in my iPhone 5 to be fixed.  Day after day of calling the local Apple Store paid off and I managed to get in there when they had a loaner iPhone available for me so I would not be phone-less.

The sending in to repair process is fairly easy, but the first thing to do and most important is to make sure you have a good back up before the whole process starts.  (Do this at home before you get to the store).  Then you will need to turn off Find my iPhone. Then basically they wipe the phone removing all your information and resetting it to factory.  You did a backup, right? (even so, a sense of panic sets in as you click the “erase and reset”)

The next step is for them to install a diagnostic tool that checks all the components of the phone. If anything fails they make note of it, and some things may actually stop them from continuing with the battery/wake sleep replacement and repair.  Basically the phone has to be in good condition prior to it being sent in for repair. After the diagnostic tool completes, the next step is them checking over the phone cosmetically which could take some time.  This is really a CYA thing for Apple and you.  Making sure you don’t get your phone back and come in ranting about how it now has a big scratch on the screen, etc.  Then you fill out a bunch of forms, signed a bunch of stuff, and surrender your phone to them.  Next step is doing the cosmetic inspection of the loaner phone. Which finally they set up with your Sim card in it and you can restore from iCloud, or another backup if you choose. Whole process took about 1.5 hours. Thankfully the Apple guy that was helping me was quite sociable and there was another guy at the table doing the exact same thing with the replacement/repair of his wake/sleep button. So my ambidextrous Apple genius did both at the same time only screwing up once when entering information, but caught it before anything was submitted.

It took a lot longer to restore from iCloud than anything else. But I couldn’t restore using my computer because my iPhone 5 is a 64 gig and the replacement loaner is only 16.  It kind of weird having a loaner phone.  Sort of like wearing someone else’s shoes.  Even if they are the same, they still feel somehow “off”.  It is a 7 to 10 day return period typically, which gives you just enough time to get really frustrated with the lack of storage and the missing apps and data you had to delete just so you could use the loaner.

A week later (i was checking the progress on Apple.com), it was fixed and shipped back.  I followed that along with Fedex, which stated it was delivered to the local Apple store (after a few side-trips along the way – California to Memphis TN to Mississauga to London) so I called the store and was told it was still in transit.  “Um, no, its in your store and signed for at 4:10pm” after that I was told it needed to be unpacked and logged in as received, etc, and I would get notified shortly.  I ended up calling the next morning because I still hadn’t heard and again was told it was in transit, so again I explained that “no, in fact, it was in the store”.  Put on hold, then “what was the name again?” On hold again, and then “oh yes, it’s here.”  It took longer for them to receive and unpack it than it did to get from Memphis to London.  sheesh.

IMG_0283

Strangely enough I actually got the email notification that it was ready for pickup while standing in the store at the genius bar about to wipe the loaner phone.

Anyway, I have it back, repaired and after a very lengthy restore from a combination of iCloud and then connecting to my MBA, it was back to where it was a week ago.  And just in time to throw caution to the wind and install iOS8.  I figure now is the time to potentially screw it up, since it’s all fixed and I have a good back up of it all just in case things go horribly wrong.  But that’s not going to happen, right?  After all Apple doesn’t make mistakes.  *returns to drinking the apple koolaid

barkerp

Well, it seems my luck is holding up as usual. My iPhone 5 started to have problems with the “wake/sleep” button not working. At first I just thought it was a temporary thing, it was so random and intermittent in nature, but it quickly escalated to being nearly even time I try to use it.
A quick google of the issue and much to my surprise (sarcasm) I wasn’t the only one having the problem. Not only that, but there is a “wake/sleep button program” in effect right now.

current programs in effect

current programs in effect

If you go to http://www.apple.com/ca/support/iphone/ and scroll down you will see the “programs” that are currently in effect.  And clicking thru to the site for it lets you put in your iPhone 5 serial number and check to see if you are one of the lucky few.  Guess what? I spun the wheel and won (or is it lost?).  Not only that, but there is another program currently in effect for the battery issue of certain iPhone 5’s.  “Woohoo, spin the wheel again, big money no whammies”… and much to my surprise (yes, more sarcasm) my iPhone is on that list too.  Guess it serves me right for wanting to be on the bleeding edge and getting my iPhone 5 as soon as they came out.

How’s that saying go?  “if it wasn’t for bad luck I’d have none at all“.

So I went into my local Apple store and booked an appointment to see a Genius, and after waiting to see the person I thought would fix my problems, was told yes it is broken but they had no loaner phones available.  I’m not sure about you, but I cannot be without a phone for a week for both personal and work purposes, and I don’t have a spare one lying around I can use as a backup.  My phone is my constant companion and used for so many things in my day-to-day life, that I wouldn’t be able to function and do my job without it.  It is sad its gotten that ingrained in some ways, but I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling that way.

I was told to just keep checking back to see if they have any loaner iPhones available.

I thought I’d go another route and check with Apple.ca, so after a lengthy chat session with a very understanding service rep in which I explained the situation and the problem with sending in my phone to be fixed and then being phone-less, (in which he said “if i could give you my iPhone I would“) it basically came back to being stuck waiting for my local store to have a loaner available.  My main concern was that my iPhone was not going to be fixed before the 2 yr period since I bought it was up and I’d lose the chance to have it fixed free.  He did state that he’d send me the transcript of the convo via email and to get back in touch if it got close to that magic 2 yr date and still was unfixed.  At least that is something, I’m hoping it doesn’t get that far though.

So, for now, I’m one of the many awaiting my turn to get my phone fixed and trying to be patient about it.

All I can say is that when the machines do rise up against us and take over the world, I hope that it is the first generation of devices that does it.  Making them wait for repairs on themselves will serve them right.

-barkerp