Review – Microsoft Band 2

Another Smartwatch! How does it compare?

I’ve reviewed the Fitbit Blaze (to /r/fitbit reader’s disgust, as I’m not a fitness freak) and the Samsung Gear 2 Neo – neither of which I loved.

I was hoping the Microsoft Band 2 would be a different experience for me. I still wasn’t fussed about the fitness side of things, so they won’t be covered in this review. A special came up where it was $249AU rather than the $389RRP which was enough of a push to order one.

A few days later, the box arrived. Inside was the nicely presented Band 2:

20160610_132619Semi-unboxed Microsoft Band 2

Setup wasn’t too bad – for my Samsung Galaxy S6, I had to download the Microsoft Health App and sync to my Band 2 (which took me a while to work out, I had to first remove the Band 1 I’d mucked around with ages ago but Microsoft still remembered, before adding the Band 2. That wasn’t clear at all!). Once that was done, I went through the config and changed a few settings around the shortcuts; I hid things like golf which I’d never use.

One thing I’d enabled was the Notification Centre, which was soon disabled again because I realised I didn’t want my wrist vibrating each time a notification turned up on my phone. Just the important stuff was what I wanted, and each of those (phone, sms, email) had it’s own app anyway.

Once it was on my wrist, I felt I couldn’t get it comfy and in the right spot. I’d opted for the large model as I’d measured and medium was too small, but there was something a bit lumpy about it.

20160620_094427Microsoft Band 2 Time Display

I knew battery life was still going to be an issue, with a best of 48 hours from the Band 2, but on paper the rest of the boxes were ticked for me:

Supported by iOS, Android and Windows Phone (so I’m not stuck on a type of mobile phone)
SMS/Email Notifications
Sleep Tracking (with the ability to turn off display at night)
Colour, readable screen.

Gizmodo recently ranked the Band 2 as their 5th best smartwatch (I have no idea why the pictures of the watches are on bikes, rather than wrists), which is a fairly reasonable ranking (even though I disagree with their reasons).

Anyway, if you’re after a detailed review on what the device is and does, there’s plenty of online content about that. Here’s what I found personally after using it for a while:

My Experience – Positives

Although the band can seem clunky and uncomfortable, it’s a matter of getting used to it. For me that only took a day, now I don’t notice it on my wrist at all. It’s not lumpy or awkward after a day (I was wearing an analog watch before this), so if you try one on and it feels weird, that will probably pass.

I also didn’t mind that it’s designed to be on the inside of your wrist. From a resting position, there’s less wrist turn required to see the bottom of your wrist rather than the top.

The screen is easy to read, the buttons easy to press. Touch is responsive, and I found navigating around easy to do. What surprised me the most though, was the device’s ability to write messages:

It works really well and for a short message, I’d generally not bother taking my phone out of my pocket.

Alerts about meetings, SMSes, calls etc work quite well. Feeling a small vibration on your wrist and glancing at it is still much better than fishing your phone out of your pocket.

I also like setting an alarm on the Band 2 itself rather than my smartphone. They don’t sync up, so you’ll have to turn your phone’s off… but a vibrating wrist is a nicer and quieter way to wake up than a sound, especially when you have a sleeping child in the next room.

The setup of the Band 2 is somewhat customisable, where you can decide which icons are shown or not, and what order they display in. There’s also a few third party apps such as The Associated Press’s news, but I didn’t find anything particularly interesting (news isn’t something I want to read on this screen).

My Experience – Negatives

Negatives, there’s a few. Battery life annoys me more than I’d hoped. Charging via the car wasn’t putting through enough juice, so over an hour each day wasn’t enough to keep it going. Charging at home while I get ready in the morning seems to be enough as long as I do it daily. I’ve already forgotten my Band more than once because of this change in routine.

Worse than the battery on the Band 2, is the heavily reduced battery life on my Samsung Galaxy S6 running Microsoft Health (required for the Band 2). For the first time ever, my phone was going flat before a working day was done:

band1Battery usage of Microsoft Health

 

band2That’s a lot of errors!

Microsoft Australia contacted me on Twitter when I posted about this. They said to reinstall Microsoft Health, which I’d already done. From there it was suggested to contact Microsoft Band support online, which was actually either Australian based, or more likely at least in an Australian time zone.

Their recommendation (after telling me “we’ve got you back”) was to reset the Band itself. Skeptical, but without any other option, I tried it. As mentioned previously, the setup process is pretty quick so it’s nowhere near as bad as resetting a smartphone.

Since then, the battery usage of Microsoft Health on my phone isn’t even listed, and my phone’s battery life seems to be back to normal. No errors either! I’m surprised this made a difference, but there you go.

Microsoft Band 2 vs Fitbit Blaze

This is a close one. Fitbit Blaze has a superior battery life, over double of the Band 2. It also (to me) looks a bit nicer, but I do like the watch look (Moto 360 is the winner in that area!), but the Fitbit Blaze is more of a fitness watch first. The Band 2 tries to make everyone happy, and I think does a better job of that. Support was better on the Band 2 by far too.

I’d rate them on par with each other, and you’ll need to work out what’s more important to you on features and differences to pick which one you prefer. Neither are a bad choice!

Summary

I like the Band 2, and it’s a big jump from the Band 1 which felt unresponsive and bulky (I tried one for a few days). I’ll keep going on about poor battery life, because it bothers me so much – hopefully with advancements in OLED screens which have power savings on dark screens due to no backlight… maybe the Microsoft Band 3 will have one. Give me a week without charge and I’ll be happy, so Sunday nights can be charge night!

That aside, it’s an all rounder that does everything it does reasonably well. Readability is quite high, anything that shows up as a notification I can quickly tell what’s going on. Navigation can take a little time to learn; not that it’s difficult, it’s just different to how you’d use a smartphone.

I still think it’s overpriced at $300AU, even though that’s a heavy discount from the RRP of $380. The $250 price I paid makes me feel a little better, but from the outside it doesn’t look like it should cost as much as it does. That price pain applies to all mainstream smartwatches really, and since they’re in the early stages still, we should see a ramp up of the technology used in them in the next few years to come.

 

Printers Showing Offline with Print Server

Quick one here which I thought was notable:

I had an issue where printer queues on Windows Server 2012 were showing as Offline. They worked perfectly fine though. I could ping the printers, so it wasn’t that SMNP was being blocked.

The strange fix was to go into the Printer Properties > Ports tab > Configure Port button. From there, I had to tick the option ‘SNMP Status Enabled’ and press OK (it was off by default). That didn’t fix it, but going back in and turning that option off again and pressing OK, fixed it. The printer I tested this on came online. After doing it to several more printers, each one changed it’s queue status to “Ready”.

SNMP Status Disabled:printer

SNMP Status Enabled:printer

SNMP Status Disabled again:printer

I have no idea why this was needed, or why it worked – but it did, and was reproducible many times. If you run into this problem, it might be the quick fix you need.

queue

It’s more advanced than turning off and on again, as there was the extra step at the start of turning on 🙂

Conspiracy theories as to the real reason for this are welcome in the comments

 

 

 

 

Azure AD B2B

Azure AD B2B has been a lifesaver for me, in giving external clients access to SharePoint Online portals.

There’s a great TechNet article on how it works and how to do it, as well as a great Channel 9 video demoing how it works if you want to dive deeper, but here’s an overview:

Azure AD B2B lets you invite external people via their email address, to use your Azure resources. For me, that’s SharePoint Online, but you can grant access to other Azure resources too.

The process is really simple – you need to fill out a very basic CSV file with each person’s email address and full name, along with a few basic details such as the site you want them to be redirected to, and an ID of the resource you’re granting access to.

The people you’re inviting don’t need their own Azure AD instance which is the best part – if they do, then they just get invited to your instance with the set permissions… but if they don’t, on the fly a pseudo-Azure AD gets set up by Microsoft for the domain their email address is on, and again they’ll get invited to your instance.

This method eliminates the need to do extensive account management, all you have to worry about is inviting them and giving them the permissions they need (which I do via group membership). Password resets they can do themselves, and get a code sent to their email address to use as part of the reset process.

On top of this, there’s no licensing required, which means if you are already covered for SharePoint Online through your Office 365 sub, this is a very cheap way to make customer facing portals to share information with, that’s locked down and hosted in the HA environment of Office 365.

I was surprised at how simple it was to invite, and even from the end user’s perspective of receiving the invitation – the process is very easy.

At the time of writing, Azure AD B2B is in public preview and may have a few bugs.

Playing With Intel’s 3D Camera with RealSense Technology

Intel kindly provided me with a Intel® RealSense™ Camera (R200) Developer Kit to muck around with. It was my job to work out what to do with it!

3D cameras have been around for a while, but Intel has continued to invest in this technology for several reasons. A RealSense camera is actually made up of three cameras acting together – a 1080p HD camera, an infrared camera, and an infrared laser projector.

The normal 1080p camera is for capturing the actual images you’re seeing, just like any other camera. As I understand it, the infrared camera picks up infrared light being broadcast by another part of the RealSense camera, in a mesh series of dots – which then measures the distances and surfaces between those dots to work out. A 3D mesh can be worked out based on this, which can then be used to fully render objects in 3D. Intel have some information that will give you an idea on this.

There’s a few free bits of software that can be downloaded for the camera I was provided, one of them being itSeez3D Scanner. By pointing the camera at someone (or something) and walking around them, you can create a 3D model of the whole person, or just their bust. Of course I had to have a 3D scan of myself:

Weird but very cool! Soon you’ll be able to send off your 3D scan, and get back a 3D printout of yourself.

This sort of technology leads to some pretty amazing and novel things. You can put your face in a game, such as NBA 2K16. Scanning in an object, and then sending it off or having a local 3D printer to make a copy of it has a lot of implications for the way we think about doing things.

The accuracy of these sort of cameras leads to Windows Hello which uses all these technologies to make sure it’s you looking at the camera of your PC to unlock it, rather than a 2D photo of yourself which can trick 2D cameras.

Another cool thing I found was the Chroma app which scans a person, and lets you replace the background with something else. Again I had to test this:

One idea would be to take a photo of your office, and if you’re actually at the beach, make it look like you’re at your desk 🙂

This particular camera didn’t support Windows Hello, otherwise I would have played with that too.

The Intel RealSense Camera should be turning up in more PC devices as well as tablets, so keep an eye on this space for a lot more awesome ways people come up with to use this technology.

 

Update 31st May 2016

I was put onto Uraniom by a reddit user, which lets you use the 3D scan in games like Fifa, Counter Strike, Fallout 4 and others. Here’s the results:

Fix Wrong Domain for Users Azure Active Directory

I ran into a problem where a user couldn’t sign into Intune, which uses Azure Active Directory to authenticate users.

After checking the user in question on the Azure Active Directory portal, I noticed the domain was wrong:

aad

The user was being synced from On Premise Active Directory, so I had a look via Users and Computers to see what was going on. The user’s User Principal Name domain field was set differently to other users – instead of the proper mydomain.com, it was set to mydomain.local – another valid internal domain to Active Directory, but not one that Azure Active Directory knew about:

aad2

The unknown domain caused Azure Active Directory to disregard it, and instead use it’s default tennancy domain of wrong.onmicrosoft.com. I thought just changing the dropdown menu to mydomain.com instead of mydomain.local would fix it, but a forced Azure Active Directory Sync sync reported the change was successfully synced, but didn’t actually change the value.

I’m going to guess this is by design, as you don’t usually want logins changing. There is an easy way to change the via PowerShell instead.

Once you’ve run the standard ‘Connect-MsolLService‘ cmdlet, you can use ‘Set-MsolUserPrincipalName‘ to change the user. The full command is:

Set-MSolUserPrincilapName – userprincipalname “existinguser@mydomain.local” -NewUserPrincipalName “existinguser@mydomain.com”

Pretty simple, and the change is immediate.

I then realised there may be other users with the same problem, so dediced to use the Active Directory PowerShell Module with this command:

get-aduser -filter * | where {$_.userprincipalname -like “*local*” -and $_.enabled -eq “true”} | select name

This showed all the users who had ‘local’ in their UPN. As there were only a few, I changed them all one by one with the first command above.

The same check can be run against Azure Active Directory users with this command:

get-msoluser -all | where userprincipalname -like “*local*”

Easy!

Your Personal Information Has Been Leaked

Opinion: The below is all my personal opinion, and although any company examples I give are true, this cannot be taken as 100% guaranteed evidence of a data leak.

Yep, you read the heading correct. If you’ve been online and signed up to even a handful of services, chances are some of your data has been stolen.

Troy Hunt’s website https://haveibeenpwned.com/ hosts some details on many millions of records that have been leaked one way or another from companies such as Adobe, Sony and Yahoo. Those are just known leaks though, where the data has been made publically available one way or another, and is only a snippet of what’s really out there.

How do I know this with such conviction? I’ve signed up to a LOT of things over the years, and using my methodology, each signup has a unique email address.

That unique email address per service gives me a pretty quick insight into who’s somehow lost my data. On a daily basis, I can have a look around my Google Apps spam folder, and see what email addresses were used to send spam to.

Often I’ll see the same email 15-20 times, sent to different email addresses on my domain. That’s pretty clear these spammers are finding multiple chunks of breached data, because my different email addresses aren’t going to be registered to a single site.

Today’s spam had the local part of the email address (the bit before the @) in the subject too, so here you can see what these emails were sent to:

spam

I tend to see a mix of gibberish (such as asYOyuPq) and leaked emails. In this example chunk of spam, there’s Adobe – which I know was leaked as confirmed on haveibeenpwned, but there’s also plenty of other worrying ones. Penguin is from Penguin Books Australia, Dropbox is obvious, Coles, Dell, and others.

Looking down my list in the last few days, I can see others like fringebenefits – an Adelaide Fringe run discount tickets I signed up to a couple of years ago. Viator, a service I booked a tourist attraction on when visiting the US a few years ago.

Then there’s ebay – that one I don’t know so well, because email addresses get passed around when you buy and sell things through a platform. Maybe I contacted a seller and they had my email address because of that, and was lost from there.  Acertabletforum from a few years ago when I downloaded custom ROMS for an Acer Android tablet. Umart, from when I bought some PC components a few years ago too. 

At this stage, you might be wondering how I know the problem isn’t me. As I said, I’ve signed up for probably thousands of services over the years, and continually only see a subset of addresses that get spam. If I was leaking the data somehow, I should see a big mix of everything I’ve used, or at least everything up to a certain point in time. This is definitely not the case.

On top of all these email addresses, I have no idea what other data was leaked with them. My name, date of birth, first pet’s name, my home address? I can’t remember which services required which pieces of info, nor will most of these data leaks ever be publicly known – so I have no idea.

I don’t know what the answer is to all of this. I called out one company recently asking if they had a data breach, as I started to get spam on the email address I’d signed up to their online store with, which resulted in them calling my personal mobile phone, finding me on Facebook, naming my wife and son to me and threatening to send friends around to my place of residence, which he had obtained from my domain registrar details. This happened 2 years after I explicitly requested the company delete all my details, which I happened to blog about here.

It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs, and I don’t see anything getting better soon. If you want real privacy, use a fake name, a PO box, a pre-paid mobile phone and so on – because as soon as you hand your details out to someone, the world’s going to know about it.

Thanks to Troy Hunt for giving me the idea to write this up.

Oppo R7s Android Phone Review

20160421_165037

Oppo. I’ve never heard of them before, but they’re a Chinese electronics manufacturer, if their Wikipedia page is to be believed. I was in the market for a cheap but decent Android phone, which doesn’t seem to be a common combination – you can either have cheap, or decent.

Luckily for me, I wandered into a Dick Smith store closing down and saw a few Oppo R7s’s in the cabinet:


20160421_144422Bargain!

After googling for a bit and seeing some positive reviews, I decided to go for it, at that bargain price of $317.40AU and I was impressed with the device contained within.

Opening up the box was a standard affair, with the handset itself, SIM card metal pokey device, USB cable and charger, headphones – and surprisingly, a clear soft plastic case. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a phone come with a case!

20160421_165143 20160421_165223Oppo R7s box contents

Specs

This is a pretty beefy phone. From Oppo’s website:

Dimensions/Weight
Height 151.8 mm
Width 75.4 mm
Thickness 6.95 mm
Weight 155g
Basic Parameters
Color Golden, Rose Gold
Operating System ColorOS 2.1, based on Android 5.1
GPU Adreno 405
RAM 4GB
Storage 32GB (Expandable up to 128GB)
Battery Typical Capacity: 3070 mAh (Non-removable)
Processor Qualcomm MSM8939 Octa-core
Display
Size 5.5 inches
Type AMOLED
Resolution Full HD (1920 by 1080 pixels)
Colors 16 million colors
Touchscreen Multi-touch, Capacitive Screen, Gorilla Glass 4
Support for Gloved and Wet Touch Input
Camera
Main Sensor 13-megapixel
Front Sensor 8-megapixel
Flash LED Flash
Aperture Rear: f/2.2
Sec: f/2.4
Other Features 720p/ 1080p videos
Connectivity
Frequencies International Version:
GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
LTE Bands 1/3/5/7/8/20/TD-40
Taiwan Version:
GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
LTE Bands 1/3/5/7/8/28/TD-38/39/40/41
US Version:
GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
LTE Bands 1/2/4/7/17
SIM Card Type Dual-SIM: Micro-SIM Card and Nano-SIM Card
GPS Supported
Bluetooth 4
Wi-Fi 2.4/5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
OTG Supported
NFC No
Sensors
Distance sensor
Light sensor
G-sensor
E-compass
In The Box
OPPO R7s
In-ear type earphones
Micro USB cable
VOOC Flash Charger mini
SIM ejector tool
Documentation
Case

4GB of RAM and a nice Octa-core CPU make this a pretty high end phone. The screen is AMOLED which makes is very pretty to look at, and a 1080p resolution is enough for a 5.5″ screen in my opinion.

It’s running ‘ColorOS’ which is a modified version of Android. That normally is a bad thing, as manufacturers seem to bloat and slow down the user experience, but I found it really snappy to use.

20160421_165638ColorOS

The battery isn’t removable, but is easily big enough for a day’s usage.

There’s also VOOC Flash Charge – this gives you a really quick charging capability. If you use the charger and cable that comes with the phone, you can charge for 2 minutes to get 2 hours of talking mode power. 30 minutes of charge will give you 75% of your battery back, which is really impressive. You can still use a standard MicroUSB charger for slower charging times, so you don’t need to change over all your existing cables.

Another nifty feature of the R7s is the dual SIM option. You can either have two different SIMs in the device, or use one of the slots for added memory via a MicroSD card. A cool option I thought.

 
20160422_082841
Oppo R7s Main Screen

I *really* like this phone. Compared to my Samsung Galaxy S6, I like this MORE, and it cost almost 1/4 of the price on sale. Even not on sale, it’s half the price. It’s snappy to use, there’s no bloatware from Oppo that I can see – they have designed this as a lightweight, easy to use Android phone with some cool features. The camera is really good too. I’m not sure there’s anything better about my Samsung Galaxy S6 compared to this. It feels nice to hold, is light and thin.

If you want a bigger screen, there’s the almost identical Oppo R7 plus which has a 6″ screen rather than 5.5″ and only costs a little more.

I can’t fault it, so if you’re in the market for an Android phone, this is worth checking out!