Thursday, March 3, 2016

Microsoft Band 2

[Update: October 20, 2016]
Currently my band is on Build Version 2.0.5301.0
Latest version number on the update history page is 2.0.5202.0
Interestingly, also the Band app for Windows 10 (UWP) is currently 2.3.21004.0
Latest version number on the update history page is 2.3.20914.0
Realizing the band doesn't likely have a future...

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[Update: March 25, 2016]
And the update history page was updated - the timing is uncanny!

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[Update: March 23, 2016]
Currently my band is on Build Version 2.0.4313.0
Latest version number on the update history page is 2.0.4215.0
Interestingly, also the Band Sync App for Windows is currently 1.3.20307.2
Latest version number on the update history page is 1.3.20213.1
No issues I'm noticing but this seems to be a pattern...

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[Update: March 4, 2016]
I hardly believe that anything happened in response to my blog post but coincidentally Microsoft updated that "update history" page I mentioned here in the last 22 hours. The "Latest version number" reflected for Microsoft Band 2 firmware is now 2.0.4215.0 which corresponds with what I see on my Band 2. In addition, a description has been added. In case @microsoftband is reading this, thanks for updating!

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February 2016 was a bit of an interesting time for my Microsoft Band 2. I feel I should specify that this isn't a "review" or a critique of the band, just some observations.

Near the beginning of the month, I started having battery issues, meaning:

Until February 2016, I would plug in my band to my computer to charge around 10a and put it back on after it was finished charging before lunch. I'd then go about the rest of my day, track my sleep, use the stopwatch, rarely use any exercise functionality, make consistent use of the "watch" display, receive text and phone notifications but not much else. The battery lasted reliably so that the Band 2 never lost power/shut off between charges.

In February 2016 I started having the battery die during the night. I even started charging in the afternoon and still had the battery die overnight. This was a problem as I had to start setting a 2nd alarm to wake me up in the morning. This behavior persisted for a few weeks and I started contemplating taking my Band 2 into the Microsoft store to get them to replace it (thinking I must have a defective battery). Then Microsoft started pushing new firmware during the month - and this is why I'm writing a blog post.

My Microsoft Band 2 is currently (as of this writing, March 3, 2016) on Build Version 2.0.4215.0 26 R. This in itself isn't very interesting. What's interesting is that the "Latest version number" according to the "Microsoft Band and Health app update history" page, is 2.0.4117.0, with an "Update release date" of February 1, 2016.

So, maybe the update page is just trailing or someone forgot? It's more interesting than that. On February 19, 2016, I noticed my band was on Build Version 2.0.4212.0, and tweeted as much - no response from @microsoft (didn't expect one) or @microsoftband (sort of expected one). If I remember correctly, there was a firmware update between 4117 and 4212 as well, though I didn't bother to check on my Band 2 at the time.

On February 26, 2016 I tweeted @microsoftband directly, asking "is there a blog or twitter account that mentions firmware updates for band? the update-history page isn't updated much". An aside -  @microsoftband never seems to mention firmware or software updates.

@microsoftband responded, "Hi Josh, our updates site is handy and we also share information on our blog: http://cic.ms/DeGIys"

So I followed their link to the blog, which looks like it's updated more often than the "update history" page. That said, the blog doesn't mention versions but does mention "updates" in some of the posts. The latest post (as of this writing, March 3, 2016) is from February 18, 2016 and mentions an update - I assume this may be related to firmware 4212 but also may be related to a similarly-timed Microsoft Health app update.

Google searches reveal next to nothing, though searching on windowscentral.com forums I found that at least one person suggested that at least one of these updates has to do with API/developer updates.

Either way, I'd appreciated it (guessing you would too if you've made it this far through this post) if Microsoft was a little more clear & prompt on updates to the Band 2. A shining example of someone at Microsoft who's really delivered on communication is @GabeAul. Maybe there's someone who can try to shed that kind of light on the Microsoft Band firmware/software programs.

Lastly, I should point out that at some point in these firmware updates, the battery life started getting more reasonable again on my Band 2 so I'm thinking something was wrong in 4117 that was subsequently fixed - which is why I got curious in the first place. I realize I haven't accomplished a lot with this blog post though maybe this will serve as a record of some of the versions of Band 2 firmware for those curious. If I find out/learn anything more on this topic, I'll definitely share it.

To be clear, I like my Band 2.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A return to drip

A recent unfortunate incident at the coffee shop close to my office prompted me to stop going for my morning americano (it wasn't great, but it wasn't bad) and return to using my drip brewer at home.

I hadn't made coffee in a while. I have to admit that when I ground some (good, fresh) beans, added water and hit the button, what came out wasn't very good at all.

To put this in perspective, I was pretty sure this wasn't my equipment. I have an electric burr grinder from Bodum - it's not super expensive but it's not cheap either. By all accounts, I have a pretty fantastic drip brewer insofar as those are concerned. I even have pretty good water (though, candidly I don't filter it).

So I investigated and it turns out there were a few things I got right (good fresh beans, medium grind), and something I got very wrong - the amounts of my ingredients, namely beans and water.

As it turns out, one of the recommended (and simple) ways to measure these two important ingredients is by weight. A simple digital kitchen scale that can measure down to tenths of a gram is appropriate here.

I like to take my coffee to work in an insulated tumbler (btw, while they wear out after a while, I like the Starbucks tumblers more than any other I've found) that has a capacity of 16oz. In order to make ~16oz of coffee in the morning here's what I measure out:
  • 20g of coffee beans (before I grind them)
  • 500g of water (before I pour it into the drip brewer)
Throw the beans into your burr grinder (don't use a blade grinder if at all possible, there are a number of articles others have published about that) using a medium grind setting. Throw the coffee grinds into a paper filter in your drip brewer (fold the seams before you put the paper filter in there - I like to fold each seem towards the opposite side). Throw in the water and hit the button to brew. That's it.

After this small change of measuring my coffee beans and my water before I brew, I've been getting a consistent great cup of coffee day after day for many weeks. Of course I'm buying a lot more coffee beans, but spending a lot less at coffee shops.

I hope this little change (it takes 2 extra minutes in the morning in my experience) makes a little, but important, part of your day better. Let me know of questions, and if you're more advanced than I am at brewing a great cup of coffee, feel free to leave expert tips for anyone else that stumbles across this post - I'd love to learn more as well.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Windows Phone 7 Updates

I really enjoy my Windows Phone 7 device and I've been tracking on Windows Phone 7 very closely since November 2010. As such I'm posting Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Updates status link here for those of you in the US who are patiently waiting for Copy & Paste like I am:

HP Slate 500

I spent last week with an HP Slate 500 Windows 7 tablet. I don't recommend purchasing the device but that's a topic for another time. This post is about something HP calls "system recovery." Here's a little background:

HP's business support site says to use "system recovery to restore the computer to original operating condition," and further goes on to define system recovery as formatting the windows partition of the hard disk and re-installing Windows, the applicable drivers and software for the machine.

Now the fun part. The HP Slate 500 comes with two DVD's for restore purposes, one is Windows 7 Professional 32-bit and the other is the drivers and software disk to make all the extra bits like the camera and touch-screen work correctly. Neither of these disks have an automated system recovery procedure though I've seen on the various HP message boards that installing off the Windows DVD and then installing all the software from the auto-run procedure on the drivers and software DVD accomplishes a similar feat.

That said, I had trouble getting my external USB-connected DVD drive to boot the Windows DVD that came with the Slate (as it turns out HP support tells me that the DVD I have is bad) so I looked around a little more and heard about a USB thumb drive system recovery option from HP (you may have seen information posted elsewhere as well).

I spent about 3 hours on the phone with HP business support and here's the important piece of information that makes this long post worth the time you've spent reading it...

HP support can overnight you, for free (assuming you own or are supporting the HP Slate 500 and have the relevant ownership information) a USB thumb drive that does an automated system recovery.

The HP support rep can find the part number 638737-001 in their internal "CD order tool", specifically:

Item Number - 638737-001 KIT
Item Description - Windows 7 Pro 32-Bit Slate 500 USB STICK

When you receive the USB thumb drive you have to do the following:
1) Fully shut down the HP Slate 500
2) Plug in the HP Slate 500 with the AC adapter
3) Plug in the USB thumb drive to the USB port at the top of the device (it won't look like it fits all the way in but it does)
4) Boot the device and hit the "-" hard key at the top of the device to go to the boot menu
5) Select the boot device options by scrolling with the "+" and "-" hard keys at the top of the device and confirming your selection using the "home" hard key at the top of the device
6) Select the USB thumb drive from the boot devices using the same keys as in step 5
7) Next through the HP system recovery UI, selecting the options you want (Note that Tab functionality is accomplished with the "Keyboard button" hard key on the left side of the device)
8) When the device is ready to reboot, leave it plugged into AC power, remove the USB thumb drive and use the "home" hard key to tell the device to reboot

After that, all the rest is automated and after waiting a bit for the system recovery to complete you'll be asked for a new Windows user name like you were (or maybe someone else was if you're doing support for someone) when you started using the device the first time.