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Here a tracker there a tracker … Apple Health to the rescue?

Getting all your activity/sleep etc data in one place is challenging. The makers like fitbit etc have no motivation whatsoever to allow you to have devices from different companies. In fact, they use it to trap you into their ecosystem. If you happen to change trackers, do you want to change your scale? Of all the companies I’ve played with Fitbit, Polar, Misfit, and Xiaomi only Fitbit allow you to export your data. And then it dawned on me, in the Apple world there is a bridge to bring this data in one place, Apple Health! So let’s have a look at this …

When you install an app that supports Apple Health, you can control what amount of access it can have to Apple Health, ie what it can read and write. When you uninstall an app you can also choose to remove all data in Apple health from that app. You can easily see what sources currently have read and write access and tailor it as you see fit.
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For this to be a savior you need to keep an eye on how well the individual app works with Apple health. I found Garmin connect had some anomalies that were polluting the sleep data. It seems Garmin did not think of the possibility that you might not always sleep with your Garmin device and it used the definition of normal bed time (which is used to mute the device) on those occasions to populate your sleep? WTF.
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Fortunately it’s pretty easy to simply remove Garmin Connect’s access to just the sleep data.

Fitbit have chosen for now to completely ignore Apple Health, likely to keep your data in their vault. Fortunately there is an app out there that simply takes your fitbit data and pushes it into Apple health called Health Sync. It works well.

Fitbit do an incredible job of taking data from multiple devices and merging them. You can wear your Flex for part of the day and switch up to a different tracker and it merges them nicely. Apple Health however makes not attempt to do this. It does however allow you to prioritize which data is likely to be more accurate.
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Additionally you can manually edit and delete entries easily.

Data can be exported from the Apple health app, but I see no way of importing it. This is potentially a challenge if you don’t use the backup/restore method of migrating to a new phone at some point. The exported data comes out in an XML file that is challenging at best to do anything with. Fortunately there is an app called QS Access that will allow you to export exactly what you want to a CSV that in turn can be imported into Excel for graphing and analysis.

So an in all it can be done, but definitely could use some work by Apple …

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November 15, 2016 Posted by | Activity Trackers, iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

Wahoo Blue SC bike speed and cadence sensor

I last tried the Wahoo speed sensor. A brilliant design requiring no magnets and is easy to install. Sadly Garmin did not include support for speed only sensor in older devices (like my Edge 305) so I returned it.

So onto this sensor. It is the traditional speed and cadence (rate of rotation of the pedals) sensor with two magnets one on the pedal arm and one on the spokes of the wheel. The sensor itself mounts on the chain stay and has to be adjusted to be able to get at each of the magnets. There are two LEDs that light up every time it sees one of the magnets so you can see you got it adjusted right.
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And thus comes the first challenge. The magnet to mount on the pedal arm is a continuous loop elastic. The only way to get this onto the arm is to remove the arm from the bottom bracket, or remove the pedal. Either requires special tools that most people won’t have. A stupid design. The easiest way around this would be to cut the loop and cable tie it, but Wahoo did not include holes for a cable ties in the loops so all in all this is really poorly though out for all but bike mechanics.

Ok so now to put this puppy to the test to see who does (and does not) support the sensor. So I went on a 2.5 hour mountain bike ride. On a ride that is tight and twisty like this you can see the difference in distance when compared to the GPS. The sensor will always be higher as the GPS will assume a straight line between sampling points. So to test it out I used Endomondo, Wahoo Fitness app, RunGPS (all on iOS) and then I used Garmin FR70, Edge 305 and Fenix 2.

To start off with Endomondo on iOS does not support a speed and cadence sensor so the only reason for this data point is a basis for GPS only data for trying to figure out if the app/device uses the wheel sensor to figure out speed and distance.

The Garmin FR70 does not have a GPS in it, so you are guaranteed that the speed/distance data it displays is from the sensor. So using these two data points we have our comparison points.

Let’s start out comparing cadence data over this ride. ANT+ can talk to multiple devices at a time, and iOS manages multiple apps wanting access to cadence data just like it does for GPS and heart rate. So here’s the average cadence data. In order FR70, Edge 305, Fenix 2, Wahoo fitness, Run GPS are 71, 71, 47, 68, and 69 RPM. So they all agree well except for the Fenix 2, no idea what’s going on with the Fenix 2. Now looking at Max cadence the data is VERY different 145, 163, 217, 136 and 196. So to say this is inconsistent is an understatement.

So now onto the speed side of the sensor: Comparing the GPS only Endomondo with the Speed sensor only FR70 for distance over the ride we have 24.48 Vs 28.21KM, or a difference of 13%.

The Edge 305 on the same ride saw 25.57KM, so in spite of seeing the speed sensor it is not using it for distance. In the owners manual Garmin state: “The speed data is only recorded and used for disatnce calculation when the GPS signal is weak or the GPS is turned off.” So I guess they really mean it. I had seen videos with the wheel being spun and the Edge showing speed even though it wasn’t moving. Seems that is misleading. Of course this also means me returning the Wahoo speed was unnecessary. Oops.

I did a second ride because on the first I had the speed side of the sensor off on the Fenix 2. Oops. On this second ride the Fr70 saw 23.25km and the Fenix saw 22.93 or a difference of only 1% confirming that the Fenix 2 does indeed support and use the speed sensor. Yay!

Now onto Wahoo Fitness app. One would hope if anyone would get this right it would be Wahoo. Why sell a sensor and then ignore the data from it. Sadly this is exactly what they do. The distance off Wahoo fitness came in at 24.4KM spot on with the GPS data. I am very disappointed in this.

Next onto Run GPS. They have BRILLIANTLY included a setting in the app to allow you to decide whether to use the sensor or the GPS for speed and distance. Why more don’t do this is beyond me. The consumer is left guess which it’s using, or in my case running a big test.
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The data from RunGPS shows that they are perfectly using the data and it comes in at 28.4KM.

So in summary Endomondo doesn’t support the sensor, the FR70 works perfectly with it, the Edge 305 ignores (unless you turn the GPS off) and RunGPS nails it perfectly.

September 11, 2016 Posted by | GPS Stuff, iPhone Stuff | Leave a comment

Mocreo 2500 mAH external battery

I’ve bought a few external batteries in the past and overall been underwhelmed. I was looking for one that was small, and light to allow me to carry it all the time for emergencies. Funny enough, more often when I am carrying the external battery pack it’s been used by colleagues rather than by me ๐Ÿ™‚ Probably something to do with my paranoia of running out of battery. This one caught my eye on Amazon as inexpensive, light and thing. So I bought it. The model number is a LAVO-2500 from Mocreo.

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iPhones even as far as the 6 only draw a max of 1A out of the charger. Android phones more often require 2A. This battery pack can only put out 1A max. So it’s of little use on Android devices. Check the output current on your charger before you buy a battery pack like this. Most of the smaller ones cap out at 1A. For the iPhone 6 this device is perfect.

Physically the device includes an integrated microUSB cable that is a little on the flimsy side. It also came with a microUSB to lightning converter. The converter has a bay but it is difficult to get it out and if you put it in the wrong way around it’s an even bigger challenge to get it out. If there is a bad part to the design this is definitely it. In fact, I wish the charger was available with a lightning connector on it.

So I put it to the test. The battery on an iPhone 6 is 1860 mAH. I did two runs. First run went from 56 to 92% in 45 mins. Second run went from 1% to 64% in 78 mins. So in all the combined runs were able to provide a 99% charge in 123 mins. The battery pack was able to keep a pretty constant charge current into the iPhone throughout. The charge curve is very close to the stock chargers which is impressive.
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Looking at efficiency the 2500 mAH was able to push a virtually full charge into the iPhone 6’s 1860mAH battery which comes out as 74% which is very good.

From completely dead it took around 4 hours to charge. It can only draw 1A on charge so plugging it into a 2A charger doesn’t help this. So this battery pack does not have quick charge circuitry built in as a lot of new phones do, but given the price …

The unit supports passthru meaning you can plug the battery into the wall, and the phone into the battery and both will charge. The current it can take is limited so the phone is given all it wants first and then once full the battery charges.

The pack lacks a flash light that some of these have and would be convenient, and there is no way to tell the charge in the battery pack. There’s only one LED, off when plugged in means fully charged, purple when on pass thru means charging the phone and red means charging the battery.

All in all this an excellent battery pack for every day carrying, at a reasonable price for an iPhone!

August 4, 2016 Posted by | iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

Shinecon VR headset mini review

I’ve been super curious about VR headsets. I’ve seen the ones from Samsung and wondered about them. So I found this one which fits my iPhone 6 and comes with a clicker to control the phone.

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First up comes content. VR, 3D, etc are all names for different forms of displaying 3D content. When you go to the movies or have a 3D TV in the house they rely on glasses that refocus an image that on it’s own is out of focus and in so doing creates a 3D image. As an example here is a Youtube video I thought was pretty decent.

This type of headset, is basically a more elborate Google Cardboard. It relies on side by side distortions to create the depth. So if you play it without the 3d what you see is two side by side movies. There’s lots of content out there for this type of headset. Everything from movies, to Youtube. You just need to look for the buzz words SBS (side by side), Google cardboard, 180 degree VR etc. Because of the side by side what you seeing is quite small (think half of a screen). The overall effect definitely gives a perspective of depth, but is no where near as immersive. You don’t get the holy crap that ball is going to hit me I better duck feeling you do in a movie theater. Some of the effects however are quite good.

The headset itself is simply a holder for your existing phone. This one folds down in the front you clip your phone in close the door and away you go.
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The headset is placed on your head and projects in front of you. Since you are playing from your phone, your device needs to be handle the demands of the specific movie. The headset is by no means light and the weight is quite noticeable. I found myself holding it with my hands to reduce the weight/discomfort. I have a hard time imagining watching a 3 hour movie with it.

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The bluetooth clicker that came with the phone is fairly limited in use on the iPhone. Since the iPhone does not support a mouse you are pretty much stuck with open the door, start the clip, quickly close the door, quickly slip on the headset and away you go. To say it is clumsy is an understatement. This would be a whole lot easier on Android which supports a mouse.

You quickly run into the next challenge, the menuing system for whatever your going to use, be it Kodi, a Youtube video etc all are (of course) not 3D. So your navigating a bizarre looking image. I found it best to close an eye or focus on one eye.

On iPhones you run into a number of additional challenges (beyond the mouse). Storing local content is problematic (although not impossible) and getting Kodi on your iPhone is also non-trivial. Of course none of these are an issue with Android ๐Ÿ™‚ Ya ya …

In the end, for $40, it amused me for a brief period of time, and satisfied a curiosity. I am not sure how much I will use it, but been there done that got the t-shirt ๐Ÿ™‚

June 10, 2016 Posted by | iPhone Stuff, Mutlimedia | Leave a comment

Apple AirPrint for iPads/iPhones

As with everything Apple they have their own way of doing things. Bringing a new disparate architecture device presents challenges. Everything else in my house is Windows so when I bought a iPhone and iPad I had to look into how to make printing working. One would hope that cloud printing would be possible, if it is I don’t see it, at least not without paying for apps. The google apps (Gmail for example) have some cloud printing within them. HP have an ePrint app but it literally creates it’s own app to get at your photos, to browse the web from, read email from etc. It does allow printing from anywhere but isn’t really what I was hoping for.
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The network standard for an iPad/iPhone is called Airplay. My HP 1102W while not officially on the Apple site does support Airplay and my iPhone found it when I was on the home network allowing me to print easily. But what if you have another printer that isn’t actually supported? Well, while not simple by any means, you can add AirPlay support to any printer on a Windows PC using this guide. I did it and got both my printers working on the network. While this does not solve the issue of cloud printing it does however give you a way to do it. That’s about it.

May 19, 2016 Posted by | iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

Whatsapp mini review

Many of us have multiple devices we use on a daily bases. Why companies continue to not understand and exploit this is beyond me. A desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a phone etc and it would be great to be able to have one cross platform app from which to chat with friends over. Google Hangouts is probably one of the best at this. It lets you use however many devices you want. And whatever was the last device to get used is where a notification is sent. BBM is one of the worst in that it can only be installed at one device at a time and you literally have to uninstall and reinstall to move it to a different device. And BBM has been absolutely plagued lately by a constant stream of spam from people asking to connect and businesses too.

So along come Whatapp. It is an interesting concept. You install an app on your phone (iPhone, Blackberry or Windows phone). This device becomes the gateway that all other devices can then send messages through. It’s worth noting that you have to keep your phone, on, and online or Whatsapp breaks.

In addition to your phone you can also use Whatsapp and sign into the web, a PC or Mac (No official iPad support and you can’t use the web app from an iPad either). You log onto the web interface (or start the PC or iPad app) and it brings up a QR code which you then from your phone you authorize. You can authorize as many devices at a time but can only log in to your phone plus one device at a time. Not perfect, but not horrible. You can logout from all computers from the phone but not just one device.

When you install it for the first time it goes through your contacts based on phone numbers and finds the list of people already on whatsapp and adds them to your favorites. Now that sounds like a good idea but it created a plague of people in my favorites. Fortunately there is a delete all favorites button and then add back the folks you really want. I see no way to see which of your friends is actually active on Whatsapp Vs tried it and are no longer using it. Once you start a chat you can see when they were last seen so at least at that point you will know if they are active on Whatsapp.

There is no approval process for adding friends, or allowing someone to send you a message. This would imply spam is quite possible. You can block people from within the phone app.

The default privacy policy is terrible (or should I say no privacy), but fortunately can be easily changed. Your status, profile photo, and Last seen are visible to everyone by default. Yuk. Be sure and change that. (Settings, account, privacy).
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Messages are confirmed when sent (single check mark), confirmed when read (two check marks), and you can see them typing (replying). Whatsapp supports text chats, and voice calls. But there is no voice out calling (as there is in Skype), and no voice in (other than from Whatsapp clients).

You can manually send your location (from the phone app only) to a contact, but I see no way to do live tracking of friends, and no way to request a persons location. A crying shame.

Messages are encrypted if you care.

May 12, 2016 Posted by | iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

Apple Pay now adds Canadian banks

I’ve had phones that would support NFC tap and go credit card payments for years now. But up until now it has been virtually useless/inaccessible to most Canadians. You could only do it with an American Express. Well all that changed As of Tuesday two of the major banks in Canada, and more to come soon now allow Apple Pay. I have a CIBC card that is supported, and I bank with BMO (that isn’t yet, although supposed to be coming). The process to add the card is dead easy. You take a picture of your credit card accept the end user agreement (I actually read it and it doesn’t seem too bad). And your done. Once setup from a powered off lock screen you can double tap the home button and Apple Pay comes up. You then enter your passcode (or use your fingerprint) and it’s ready to tap. You do not have to be using finger print for it to work. It is super convenient and works easily. I did quickly run into a vendor that did not have tap at all so you can’t abandon a physical card just yet. Once the transaction is complete you get a buzz on the device and record in Apple Pay to show the transaction. No email trace though. There is some discussion on the price the banks had to pay to make this happen.

My iPhone 6 is supported, it was one of the reasons I went with a 6 instead of a 5S!

All in all it’s been a long time coming and nice to see it finally here.

May 11, 2016 Posted by | iPhone Stuff | Leave a comment

iPad 2 mini review

Table of contents
Introduction
iPad Models
Physicals and specs
General stuff
Initial setup
Apps
Accessories
Pens (and OneNote)
Mobile Browsing
In car navigation
Kindle
Tethering
iPad/iPhone/Mac integration
Phone calls

Introduction
My digital tablet landscape is a little busy to say the least. My main device day to day is my a T300 chi, but honestly I use it more as a laptop than a tablet. Windows as a tablet even on Windows 10 is hog tied by a poor onscreen keyboard and an operating system that really is not all that touch friendly. even the new Edge browser was poorly designed in my opinion for touch. Look at the size of the forward and back buttons as one trivial example. Windows does some things really well, One note for example is best and the most feature rich on Windows. I take digital notes regularly and the hands down best experience to date is the Asus vivotab note.

But the only in car gps navigation app (on Windows) is Navmii and it is eccentric at best. Web browsing is hands down best on Windows (compared to iOS or Android). Constantly being forced onto mobile web sites is limiting. But most Windows tablets (T300 not included in the comment) have very low resolution. 8″ tablets are very convenient but are limited by the same size that makes them uber portable.

In the Windows space my devices are the T300 Chi, Asus Vivotab note, Dell venue 8 (largely a backup to the Vivotab that had been hugely unreliable), and a T100 (that is largely disabled due to issues between the tablet and keyboard).

In the Android space I have aSamsung Note 8. It is a very versatile tablet. Still one of my favorite tablets. Great for games, great for in car navigation (using CoPilot, and google maps), the pen is second only to the vivotab note (although the OneNote functionality is severely limited on Android) and has a cell radio in it making it very handy. Battery life is not great and charge times are slow. The biggest limitations are low resolution and the limitations of constantly being held back by the mobile browsing experience.

All this is said to set the stage for the iPad … This is my first ever iPad. The iPad is for all purposes a large iPhone. The app space is the same. And so on with the review.

I’ve gone through iOS fairly heavily in my recent post on the iPhone 5s. I will focus on what’s different on an iPad

iPad Models
Sorting through which iPad to choose was relatively straight forward for me. This Wikipedia article shows the generations. The iPad mini 2 is a much improved screen, and much faster processor so that was a no brainer. A little catch is that the WIFI only models do not have GPS which would remove the possibility of using it for in car navigation. And I have found having a built in cell very handy. Lastly comes memory size, to make it dead easy to manage I chose the exact same size as my iPhone so 64G. So this one is an iPad mini 2 LTE, 64G. I bought a refurb from Factory direct.

Physicals and specs
200×134.7×7.5 mm 341g
210.8×135.9×8 mm 340g (Samsung note 8 for comparison)
220.9×133.8×10.95 mm 380g (Asus Vivotab 8 for comparison)
Size and weight wise this is the space I like for uber portability. The limiting factor is one of screen size.

The power button is oddly on the top of the tablet (instead of being halfway on the side).

7.9-inch 2048×1536 resolution screen at 326 dpi (same dpi as an iPhone 5s/6)
800×1280 pixels (~189 dpi) (Samsung Note 8 and Asus Vivotab 8 for comparison)
as you can see the iPad is in a totally league.

Battery is 6471 mAH, more than triple that of an iPhone, and battery life is one of the strong suits for this device.
Mini 2’s come with a 10W charger (5V 2A). I found the mini 2 much more picky with higher current chargers than others, more often barely drawing 5W which sustains but really doesn’t charge much.

The processor on this one is an A7, same generation as an iPhone 5s (an iPhone 6 is the newer A8), you’d have to go all the way to an iPad mini 4 to get to an A8. The speed difference coming from my iPhone 6 is noticeably slower, but that said everything is still pretty darn instantaneous.

General stuff
First off, iOS devices including this one only support one userid on the tablet. So if you were thinking you could have one in the house that everyone can share … sorry not here. This is somewhere between clever (from Apple’s point of view) and dumb (from the users point of view). I guess they want you to buy one per person. Apparently this is something Apple are working on, at least for schools, have to see if the general public gets it too.

The launcher on the iPad seems particularly odd. There is a lot of wasted space between the icons. On an iPhone there is a zoomed and unzoomed mode which changes the number of icons on the screen. No such thing on the iPad. So your stuck with 5×4 in landscape and 4×5 in portrait. So this means the location of icons changes when the screen rotates. Screen rotation works well and is implemented everywhere including the home screen. No idea why Apple left that off of an iPhone.
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My music collection of around 25G sync’d in about 30 mins which would be around 14MB/s so like the 5S not earth shatteringly fast. Fortunately the device is usable while syncing and follow on sync only have to replicate what’s new.

For some odd reason Apple removed the tremendous Wallet app from the iPad. No idea what their thought process (if any) was on that.

Initial setup
An iPad can not be setup from a backup of an iPhone so sadly if this is your first iPad you will have to manually set it up from scratch. Future iPads can be setup using backups but for your first your on your own. Now this is at least partly because of the iPhone Vs iPad apps but still I think Apple could have done something to make this easier and encourage iPhone users to buy an iPad.

Apps
When the iPad first appeared in the market Apple needed to jump start it’s app list, so Apple allowed the iPad to run iPhone apps. This situation sadly still exists. I personally would prefer Apple make developers write for both. So in the app store when you are on a iPad you sometimes can not find an app that you can find on an iPhone (the developer decided to not allow iPads), apps custom written to take advantage of the higher res iPad and apps that were written for an iPhone but will run on an iPad. This last category can manifest itself in a number of ways from not rotating the screen to low resolution on the display (including large onscreen keyboard).

Accessories
There are tons of accessories available for the mini, but really they are the same ones available for the iPhone. There are keyboard cases, flash card readers, and the like. There is even an HDMI adapter for it, but Apples stubbornness to not allow Bluetooth mice makes this option a whole lot less useful since you will still need to touch the screen to select stuff. And try and do RDP without a mouse. There is no USB OTG cable or a cable that would allow you to charge your iPhone from your iPad. A shame. Given the size of the battery this would have been a neat feature.

Pens and OneNote
I tried a couple capacitive pens I have one thin, two fat. The thin one was completely ignored. One fat one was detected but was too sticky on the screen to be usable. The other thick one (that came with a cheap case I bought off Amazon) actually works fine for occasional use. One note on iPad has done something brilliant. You put it in draw mode and then the pen starts doing something. Gestures are then used for scrolling and zooming. So there are no issues with palm detection like there are on Windows 10. Microsoft wrote version of OneNote just for the iPad. It actually works reasonably well. Still missing are things like OCR, handwriting to text, ability to use templates and the like. All the usual things missing on mobile platforms. You still need to go to Windows to get the full OneNote experience, but that said, it’s wonderful to have this cross platform tool. I use it all the time.

As with the iPhone there is no Kodi available for the iPad. You can hack your way through installing it but the process is arduous at best. Unless you can get a friend like Johannes to do it for you ๐Ÿ™‚ There are people on Kiji that will do it for you for a fee. The fee seems pretty reasonable given the difficulty and time consuming nature of the task. Particularly so if you don’t already have a Mac.

Mobile Browsing
As with all but Windows tablet, the iPad suffers from constantly being handcuffed by mobile web sites, even when you ask for the desktop websites. This happens on both Safari and Chrome. It really is a plague. Not sure if webmasters know better than their customers or they have no idea how to process the request for the desktop web site but it’s annoying.

In car Navigation
In car navigation is well covered on the iPad (but remember, only the iPad minis with cell have GPS in them). There are three choices that I use, the built in Apple maps, Google maps and Copilot. Copilot license from Android is carried over into iOS and Copilot supports offline maps. The size of the iPad mini is perfect for in car navigation. You will however have to find a car mount for it. I did find the the iPad mini is about the same width as the height of my iPhone 6 so the same holder (if it’s strong enough) can be used for both.

Kindle
Amazon have created an iPad Kindle app. It works fine, and supports downloaded books (the Windows version does not) but oddly does not allow you to buy books on the app. It doesn’t even link to a web page to allow you to buy the book. All in all it is less than a seemless experience. I can imagine there are conflicts with Apple books but still …

Tethering
The iPad can be used to tether (yay they didn’t remove tethering) to another device in one of three ways, WIFI access point, blueooth and USB. It’s wonderful to have bluetooth back because it’s something you can enable on your phone, leave enabled and it uses little power. Then from the remote client you can connect to it when you need it without having to take the phone out. Of course bluetooth tethering is limit to about 1MB/s so everything has it’s price.
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iPad/iPhone/Mac integration
This is one of the main reasons I wanted to play with an iPad, to see how Apple has integrated the devices. Apple call this Continuity. This breaks down into a number of areas. First and foremost is text messaging. Apple use the iMessaging app to in the back end blend your devices. No matter where you are, no matter what device your on you get to see all your iMessage and text messages. This really is a thing of beauty. Now to use it you have to not have disabled iMessaging, but be warned, if you move your phone off iOS to another platform disable iMessage and wait “a while” before you move your SIM to a new phone or your messages from other iOS users will continue to go to iMessage and be lost in the ether. Until some magical timeout, measured in days, occurs. Why sit typing on a small screen text messages or iMessages when you could be at your Mac or iPad! Of course what is missing (intentionally) is a Windows or web client. This is to provide value to the Mac ecosystem. iMessage by the way includes the ability to see the progress of your message, delivered, and read (and when it was read).

The second level of integration is what Apple call hand offs. A number of default apps Safari, iMessage, mail etc all can be handed off between devices. So you can start surfing (for example) on one device and go to another device and pickup where you left off. The implementation of this is a tad clumsy but it does work. On your iPhone or iPad when you double click to see the list of running apps there will an icon for anything that is available to resume on this device.

The third and final level of integration is for phone calls. When a phone call comes in, if your Mac/iPad and iPhone are all on the same wifi network (it only works over WIFI) your call comes in and is magically sent over to your iPad or Mac through FaceTime audio. It really works smoothly. From your iPad you can also make phone calls again through FaceTime. Sadly all this ends if your not on the same WIFI network. When a call comes in on your iPhone there is not even a notification on your iPad.

There’s a number of things missing IMHO. For example it would be great to be able to see the battery level of your iPhone on your iPad. And if you left your iPhone at home it would be nice to remotely forward your phone. Neither of these can even be done on iCloud. And if you have the same app on both wouldn’t it be nice to have back end data syncd? Say progress on a game, or if your tracking a package from UPS for example why do you have to put the tracking number into both devices? These are a couple examples. Moving seamlessly between the two devices would create some real platform synergy.

I really see great value in this kind of work (integration between devices). Apple have gone way farther than Microsoft in this space. Which isn’t hard given Microsoft so far have done next to nothing ๐Ÿ™‚

Phone calls
Like on most of these tablets the ability to make and receive phone calls has been removed. Oddly on the phablets like the Samsung Notes they leave it. So that leaves a number of choices, but all of them are handcuffed by the way iOS handles background apps (which is not well). Skype out works but there are no Skype In phone numbers in Canada. BBM has audio but can only be used between two BBM clients. Call quality is very good on BBM audio and free. Why BBM has not monetized this and brought about a BBM out service is beyond me. For a company struggling as Blackberry are this could be a very welcome revenue source. Generic VOIP can be used if you have a VOIP provider. I found Media5-fone and setup it up with my VOIP provider (Anveo). This app is written for iPhones not iPads so it is small and low res. But it’s a dialer to kinda who cares. Apps in the background on an iOS device are always less responsive so incoming calls will take a bit to register on the phone.

Bluetooth keyboards work just fine, and brilliantly Apple turns off the onscreen keyboard once the Bluetooth keyboard is connected. Why can’t Microsoft learn that trick? Bluetooth mice as always with iPhone/iPads are ignored. If Apple would reverse this stubbornness it would open up new use cases for iPads. Sadly it’s been this way for years and doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.

Standby power management is really very good on this device. Probably one of the best I’ve seen to date. I left the iPad on WIFI and the cell network for 49 hours and it went down from 100 to 92. That would come out at .16%/hr or a projected standby life of 26 days. Unbelievable. The numbers were similar on LTE. Indistinguishable really.

Another missing utility (on top of wallet) is Apple Health. Wouldn’t it be nice to look at your health data on a bigger screen instead of your phone? This seems like a perfect opportunity for cross device integration …

So all in all I am thoroughly impressed with the iPad mini. Great size, performance, battery life and integration. I always use to say people that jump into Apples ecosystem have drunk the KoolAid but I think now I know they (and I) have really drank the Apple juice … ๐Ÿ™‚

March 2, 2016 Posted by | iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

Denon AVR S700W review

I’ve been using an older Panasonic SA HE70 receiver for a while now. It was a piece of crap, but then it was given to me so I guess I got what I paid for ๐Ÿ™‚ So when I went looking for a new one I started out with a list of features I was looking for. I am looking for an HDMI 5.1 receiver with lots of network connectivity. WIFI is fine but I would prefer wired. Bluetooth would be nice. DLNA and Airplay would be awesome. iPhone support is a must.

So I found this device and it seemed to hit on all my needs.
The front panel is a fairly generic receiver with a nice bright easy to read display. There are convenient front panel HDMI connectors as well as USB for iPhone/iPod/USB flash drives.
AVR-S700W
The back panel reveals the flexible input and output of this receiver.
denon-avr-s700w-back-panel
The unit comes with a basic remote. It does not have any learning capabilities.
EL_avrs700w_e3_bk_rt
Denon have created a Android and iOS app to act as a remote control that is a nice touch. Not perfect but given it’s a free app it’s a nice to have.
denon

For a complete list of specs check out the Denon web site.

Setup of all of the features can be done on the small screen of the receiver or it can output to the HDMI port which works very well and makes it easy.

A receiver is dominated by the inputs and outs and I will start with that as a focus.

Speaker wise the unit supports everything from stereo setups to 5.1 to 7.2, so it can grow with you as you add more speakers. The unit comes with a microphone you move around the round to calibrate the unit to your room. Well done, and simple to use. It was so well done it detected I reversed the polarity on one of the speakers. Wow.

Let’s start with the AM/FM receiver. This is very basic. It doesn’t even support RDS which is a disappointment. It does have presets which you can manually name (since there is no RDS support).

HDMI is the center of this receiver’s universe. And from this point of view this one is pretty basic. It supports 5 inputs and 1 one output. Don’t look for anything fancy, no picture in picture etc. And only one output. All in all it works and simply switches from numerous HDMI sources. But I ran into the first issue. My Ubuntu-Kodi system had issues with the Denon, the playback kept loosing sync. After a bunch of trouble shooting I found I needed to change the refresh rate to 60 from 30 and the issue was solved. And then I bumped into issue number two. Very poor power management. You would think that if the input source went to sleep that the receiver would also go to sleep. Well not only does the receiver not go into sleep, but even once the source goes to sleep it keeps the TV from going to sleep indefinitely. Pooh. The only solution I have found is to turn the receiver off manually. I eventually discovered that this was the default and you could change it so that it went to sleep automatically in the Settings, general, eco auto standby. Sweet problem solved.

They have cleverly put the receiver into pass through mode when you turn it off passing through whatever was the last input. At last a positive in this space.

When the receiver is on audio to the TV is turned off. They also designed in a TV input so you can take the sound from the TV into the receiver. This can be either SPDIF optical or coax. Perfect and exactly what I wanted.

Network wise the receiver can be connected by either WIFI or wired. Setup was easy. Once setup the receiver can update it’s firmware from the internet. Once connected to the network you now have a couple of additional input options including Airplay (for iPad/iPods) and DLNA for Android. Both only work for audio. But you do get a nice album cover showing you what is playing. There is no support for Airplay or DLNA video. Airplay/DLNA is initiated from the Phone and the receiver switches over automatically once the connection is started.

The receiver also supports Bluetooth and can remember numerous Bluetooth devices. Upon selecting Bluetooth from the remote the receiver will attempt to connect to the last device that connected. Initial pairing is done by putting the receiver in pairing mode. Once paired and playing you get a description of what is playing but no cover art. The receivers remote can be used to control the Bluetooth connected device for play/pause (enter button) and forward/reverse (up and down arrow). Control can also be done on the phone. Manually connecting the phone to the receiver from the Bluetooth menu then switches the receiver over to Bluetooth and away you go. It’s actually well done. I can’t think of how it could have been done better (other than cover art missing).

There is a front panel USB for connecting your iPhone or iPod. The playback can then be controlled by either the receiver or the iPhone/iPod. On screen you get a nice menu showing you what’s playing along with cover art. The port can put out 1A so should also be able to charge your iPad/iPhone.

There is also a front panel jack for HDMI input. Handy for occasional use.

When playing music the sound comes out only from the front speakers and subwoofer just the way it should. You can control special effects which then start using the other speakers to create the effect but frankly these always seem hokey to me.

Missing from the back panel of the unit is any form of switched or unswitched AC receptacles. In the old days we would use this to turn the cassette deck on and off when the receiver turned off (no I won’t mentioned 8 tracks or vinyl which is making a come back).

The unit also includes built in the ability to do online music from internet radio, Pandora, flickr, Sirius XM, etc.

So all in all some disappointments, but overall it does what I need it to do and given the cost is worth the money. And a huge step forward from the Panasonic.

February 14, 2016 Posted by | Android, iPhone Stuff, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Black listed phones (quick post)

A while back the government forced, at the carrier level, enforcement that if a phone that was listed as stolen tried to be used that it be denied service. This is called a black list. The problem is that onus is on the buyer to insure that when purchasing a used/refurbished phone that is not on the black list. I recently bought a refurbished phone from BestBuy auctions, now called 2nd turn. When I tried to get it on the network it simply reported no service. Upon contacting Fido I found to my horror I had been sold a black listed phone, by a reputable organization. Now clearly Fido/Rogers has this new process in place. I can only assume others like Bell/Telus etc do as well. So if you are buying used/refurb’d phones beware. If you were to buy one on Craigslist for example you would have absolutely no recourse. Be sure and check that the phone is on a network before you leave the sale. You can also check the IMEI (the phones serial number) in the database on a site like IMEIData.

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Android, Blackberry 10, iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad, Uncategorized | Leave a comment