July 2017

Logitech improves Harmony integration into Sonos

by Volker Weber

Harmony LI

I don't have a Harmony Hub but this sounds promising.

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Logitech updates the Circle camera

by Volker Weber

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Of all the net connected cameras I tried I only ever liked two systems: Netgear Arlo and Logitech Circle. Arlo has broadened its original architecture of wireless, waterproof cameras to the wired Arlo Q, the mobile network Arlo Go and the Arlo Baby monitor. Logitech started with the indoor wired Circle and is now expanding into weather resistant and potentially wireless cameras with the Circle 2. Time to take a closer look.

Both companies started from different ends of the spectrum. Arlo wanted to be a security camera first. IR motion detection switches the camera on, it records a clip, uploads it to the base which uploads to the cloud, and alerts its owner. Circle wanted to be a home camera that records the whole day and compresses it into a 30 seconds day brief video. It has excellent "noise" detection and is able to compile the most significant events into this video. It also stores all events for 24 hours for free. These videos are AES-256 encrypted and uploaded into your private cloud where you can watch them via web browser or mobile app.

Then Circle evolved into a security camera. It added two service layers for Circle Safe. The basic service provided 14 days of storage, the premium service allowed for 31 days and added smart features like people detection and motion zones. Now Logitech has significantly changed the hardware to make it fit the security camera profile.

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Circle 2 has a much wider angle of view (180 degrees). It comes in two versions: wired and wire-free. They both share the basic camera, but the wire-free camera has a large battery that attaches to the back and is supposed to provide up to three months of service between charges. I have the wired model, which attaches a 3 meter cable with a USB-A port and a USB power supply. The cone with the cable also serves as a table or wall mount.

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The are more accessories available for this camera. One attaches the camera directly to a window so you can see what is happening outside without moving the camera outside. You can also buy a weatherproof extension for the wired camera if you do want to mount it outside. For the wire-free camera Logitech sells you spare battery packs.

Circle 2 is a better security camera thanCircle since you have more ways to set it up. The only thing missing is the rechargeable battery in the Circle base that let you move the camera around with you. But that is only necessary in a lifestyle camera, not a security camera. Circle 2 can be mounted outside or inside, it's more versatile and has a wider field of view.

Is it better than Arlo/Arlo Q? Only if you want to record more video like in-store surveillance. Arlo stores seven days for free, for a system with up to five cameras. Then you have to go to a paid subscription. Circle 2 stores only 24 hours before you need to go to the basic subscription with 14 days and no added features. Only the premium subscription gives you the advanced features and 31 days of storage. And that is going to cost $10 a month, per camera. The Arlo subscription plan is also $10 a month, but for up to ten cameras.

I continue to use Arlo for outdoor security and Circle for indoor video to check on the dog while I am away. Spoiler alert: she is just sleeping and chases away people who get too close to the house.

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A few additional thoughts on the moto TurboPower Pack

by Volker Weber

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[Photo taken with Hasselblad mod at very close range]

Nils asked about the connection between moto mods and the moto Z series phones. Yes, it's magnets, and they are actually quite strong. There is a groove at the bottom of each mod where you can insert your fingernail to pry the mod and the phone apart. Magnets alone would not be strong enough to prevent the mod from sliding off. There is a fixed pin between the spring loaded pogo pins that inserts into a hole on the phone which prevents this from happening. The second lock is the camera hump that fits into the large hole on the mod. Once the mod has attached itself to the phone, it feels like a unit.

A bit of math. I am used to carrying a 5.5" iPhone 7 Plus in a silicone case. That is 188g for the phone and 29g for the case which makes it 217g. The 5.5" Moto Z2 play weighs in at 144 g, the moto TurboPower Pack weighs 96g, taking the combination to 240g. And it has more than double the battery capacity of the iPhone. Two interesting use cases:

  1. If you keep the mod on, it will keep the phone at 80% battery charge for more than a day, most likely the end of the next day. At which point you can quickly recharge it while the phone continues to run on the internal battery.
  2. If you keep the mod off you can put it back on when the phone is at 20% and quickly top the phone off to 80% or even 100%.

While you recharge the mod, you never have to let go of your phone. Unlike the phone that can be attacked via a USB port, you never need to worry about the mod. When you are in a safe space, you can also just attach the 15 W charger to the phone/mod combination and recharge both in one session. It will first fill the phone to 100% and then the mod.

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moto TurboPower Pack vs Incipio offGRID Power Pack

by Volker Weber

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I love these moto mods. Last year Incipio built the offGRID Power Pack that gave you an additional 2200mAh/8.2Wh for your Moto Z series phones. You can still use it with the 2017 Z2 series. But there is big bad brother now, the 3490mAh/13.5Wh moto TurboPower Pack. It's not only bigger, but also faster. It provides the phone with the same 5V/3A/15W where the Incipio only delivered 5V/1.3A/6.5W. That is lot of numbers, but let's just say it is two times faster with the Z2 series.

And there are two additional benefits: four LEDs show you how full the battery pack is and you can charge it while it's off the phone. Like the Incipio power pack it will also charge through the phone, only after the phone is fully charged. And it takes up to 6A from a 5V charger, in case you have one. The only small penalty is that the new power pack weighs 96 instead of 85 grams.

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Verdi: IBM will entlassene Mitarbeiter nach Protest wieder einstellen

by Volker Weber

In vielen Arbeitsrechtsverfahren zog IBM in erster Instanz den Kürzeren. Gegen etwa 150 erfolgreiche Kündigungsschutzklagen verzichtet das Unternehmen auf die Revision.

Wenn ich richtig rechne, hat IBM 'viele' (300?) Verfahren verloren und will bei 'viele' minus 150 (150?) noch mal. Der Rest kriegt gleich ein besseres Angebot oder wird wieder eingestellt. Sieht nach einem Problem in der Personalabteilung aus.

Die 300, die die Kündigung geschluckt haben, dürfen sich ärgern.

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IBM Connections Engagement Center V6.0 becomes available

by Volker Weber

At the end of May, IBM announced it had acquired an asset from Timetoact that was known as XCC and that it would become available as IBM Connections Engagement Center. This acquisition was driven by Ed Brill, Vice President Product Management and Design, IBM Collaboration Solutions, and Felix Binsack, founder and CEO of Timetoact Group. It probably helped that both have known and trusted each other for many years.

In less than two months IBM and Timetoact have completed the "bluewashing" of the asset. That means you have to touch every single line of code, vet the intellectual property, provide proper language support and turn a business partner product into an IBM product. Here is the annoucement letter, availability is in two days.

If you read the announcement letter, it may not become perfectly clear what the product does. But it's quite simple. Engagement Center augments the collaborate applications from Connections with additional modules you would find in an intranet. It completes the experience, and I believe it's a must-have for a successful Connections portal. Employees will find everything in one place.

Engagement Center is priced between 28 and 35 € per user, if you acquire a license for on premises installation. For enterprise customers, IBM likes to provide special bids.

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Moto Z2 Force announced

by Volker Weber

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What makes the Moto Z2 Force so interesting is a 5.5-inch Quad HD POLED display with ShatterShield, which is a layer of shatter resistant coating on top. It makes the display more prone to scratches but it is highly unlikely you ever damage the display by dropping your phone. The Z2 is ridiculously thin and built from reinforced 7000 series aluminum for added rigidity.

On the back of the phone is a new dual camera system witout optical image stabilisation, consisting of two 12 megapixel f2.0 cameras. One captures full color and the other is monochrome. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset brings signal processing to the table that will combine both sensors for color photos with a shallow depth of field. You can also shoot monochrome images with the second sensor only.

The Z2 Force is a flagship smartphone, given its chipset and cameras, and comes with gigabit LTE, dual band Wi-Fi 802.11ac with MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2 with 5.0 support coming with Android O update. It has water repellant nano coating, a USB-C port for data and audio, but no headphone jack. Battery capacity is 2730mAh and thus 10% less than the Z2 Play. It should charge reasonably fast with its 15 W charger. The battery capacity and wireless charging can be upgraded via Moto Mods.

Pricing and availability hasn't been announced for Europe. While the US version comes with 4 GB of RAM, the EU version is rumored to have 6 GB. Internal storage of 64 GB can be expanded via MicroSD.

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IBM Connections Mobile 6.0 now available for iOS and Android

by Volker Weber

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The IBM Connections Mobile app now provides a new tabbed navigation which allows users to easily switch between the different Connections services. The navigation is customizable allowing individuals to determine which of the services they want displayed in the navigation menu. Also available in this release is the new updates view, allowing users to quickly see the most recent updates in the network.

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Stuff that works :: Marshall Monitor Bluetooth

by Volker Weber

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The AirPods are my favorite earbuds. And the Marshall Monitor is my favorite over-the-ear headset. It fits my large head and my ears, it plays well with my very own set of music, and the battery seems to last forever. No active noise cancellation but excellent passive isolation, a single brass knob to control everything. Not to forget that is goes to eleven.

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Update for Ralph: yes, it shows its battery level both in the header and the widget. More importantly, volume is coordinated. It does not matter if you adjust it via the brass knob, the iPhone volume rocker or the Apple Watch. Be careful here. I hardly ever have this headset over 50 percent volume.

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Wishlist for #Sonos :: The results

by Volker Weber

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Thank you for your votes on this poll. A few comments:

The strong vote for AirPlay is even more significant if you take into account that only Apple users will benefit from this. Android users couldn't care less. I deduct that almost all Apple users want AirPlay support. We know that Sonos is working on Alexa integration as announced last year in New York, but we don't know about the other options.

I also got a lot of other suggestions as replies to this poll. Here is a short list: battery-powered PLAY:1, Apple Watch and Siri integration, a kids' mode for the app, a touch-friendly Windows 10 app, support for IPv6, Audible, Bluetooth, SMBv2/v3, 24/96, and TV remotes, list albums by year, HDMI switch in/out on Playbar/Playbase.

I think the strong vote for AirPlay and Alexa means that people are OK with their current remotes but want additional alternative options. I am using Sonos mostly via Spotify Connect these days. And the biggest item I have isn't even on the list. I want to be able to direct any sound, from a Windows PC, a Mac, an Android or an iPhone to a Sonos speaker. And I want the choices to be presented to be smart. There are many ways to detect a speaker near me.

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Bad streaming and good streaming

by Volker Weber

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When Apple started AirPlay, it would stream everything three times across the network. From your library or music service through your access point to the app on your device, then back to the access point, then to your speaker. When you stream to a Bluetooth connected speaker, you are also streaming everything to your app and then via Bluetooth to the speaker. That's bad streaming.

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What Spotify Connect does is good streaming. You start streaming to your app, but then you tell it to cast to your speaker instead. A Spotify Connect enabled speaker knows how to pull your music from the service, without going through your phone. There are plenty of Spotify Connect certified speakers and amps on the market, and Sonos only entered this game in 2017. The downside of Spotify Connect is that it only works with Spotify, not with anything else. If you want to switch to Apple Music, you are locked in.

Sonos is agnostic to streaming services. When you add them to your household, they will all use good streaming. Your controller tells your players what to pull from where, and the music traverses your network only once. If you stream to multiple rooms, the music is pulled from the service only once and then distributed inside your local network from Sonos speaker to Sonos speaker. You will also notice that you can play multiple different streams from Spotify and it only counts as one user. The downside is that you have to use the Sonos controller plugin to select your music and fill your queue. That plugin is often less capable than the native app.

How do you know you are using good streaming? Take your device off the network by going into flight mode. If the music stops, you are using bad streaming. Sonos calls this the beer test. Can you leave the party to get more beer without the music stopping?

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Spotify is not the only service that can cast to your Sonos speaker directly from the native app using good streaming. On Android you can also use Google Play Music and then cast to your Sonos speaker, at which point it will pull directly from Google without going through your device. If you try the same on iOS, you will find that Google Play Music has no mechanism to cast to Sonos.

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What is badly missing is a way to tell Apple Music to play to Sonos from its native app. That is going to become very obvious when Apple HomePod ships. iOS users are likely to be Apple Music subscribers and Sonos speakers will be at a terrible disadvantage. If a customer buys a HomePod instead of a PLAY:1 he is unlikely to buy a PLAY:5 or other Sonos speakers later. And if an existing Sonos customer with Apple Music buys a HomePod, he may be using his Sonos speakers a lot less.

When AirPlay launched you needed to buy a piece of silicon from Apple to enable your speaker to receivce the encrypted stream. That is no longer the case and you can build an AirPlay-compatible device in software. I always thought that Apple was hard to work with but I have learned they are actually pushing vendors to support their architecture.

Now would be a good time for Sonos customers to convince their vendor to support AirPlay.

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Sonos, please update your ancient network stack

by Volker Weber

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We love that Sonos keeps its old gear updated and functional. That is pretty much unheard of in this industry. However, there is one big omission. You really need to work on your network stack. Two problems:

  1. Every recent piece of malware used SMBv1 as its attack vector. If you disable it Sonos is unable to find its music libary anymore. No support for SMBv2 or SMBv3. This needs to be fixed ASAP.
  2. Your STP implementation is ancient. If you add Sonos to a network with smart components that use STP (spanning tree protocol) it messes up the network. Yes, you can fix the path costs everywhere else, but why don't you just fix it in your own stack? This discussion is already seven years old.

If you like to discuss this, you know where to find me.

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IBM Dumps Remote Work, Blows Off Its Productivity Kneecap

by Volker Weber

With a focus on US policy:

IBM has destroyed a remote work policy that brought them provable gains, because a fashion exec says it’ll save the entire company. The IBM decision-makers are either voluntarily ignorant, or they think they’re above the market.

20 straight quarters of declining revenue says they are wrong.

Make that 21.

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Listen to podcasts on Sonos

by Volker Weber

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Today we’re excited to announce that Pocket Casts support for Sonos has gone into Beta! Judging by the amount of tweets and emails we’ve had over the years this is one of your most requested features and we’re excited to finally share it with you.

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Drei Android-Smartphones

by Volker Weber

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Die Welt ist ein bisschen einfacher geworden für mich. Früher hatte ich ein halbes Dutzend verschiedene Smartphone-Betriebssysteme im Auge zu behalten. Heute sind es nur noch zwei. Damit ich nicht nur das iPhone kenne, benutze ich täglich mehrere Stunden auch ein Android-Gerät. Bisher waren das zwei: BlackBerry KEYone und Huawei P10. Jetzt ist mit dem Moto Z2 Play ein drittes dazu gekommen. Bemerkenswert beim Moto: wenn man es nur im Standby rumliegt, dann sagt es nach zwei Tagen, es habe noch Saft für sechs weitere.

Ich könnte mich nur sehr schwer für eines dieses Telefone entscheiden. Das KEYone hat die aktuellste Software und ist am dichtesten dran an Pure Android. Es greift sich am besten, das heißt man kann es sehr leicht aufnehmen und in der Hand halten. Deshalb nutze ich es gerne, um Nachrichten zu lesen. Das Hardware-Keyboard macht mich nicht schneller, wie man eigentlich meinen sollte.

Das P10 ist das mit Abstand eleganteste. Sehr zurückhaltend, ohne hervorstechende Merkmale. Die Kamera passt komplett in das dünne Gehäuse. Anders als bei den anderen beiden ist es nicht so leicht zu fühlen, ob man es richtig herum in der Hand hat. Und ich bin immer etwas besorgt, dass es mir aus der Hand fällt. Wenn ich auf dem Sofa lümmle, dann passiert das ziemlich oft, natürlich ohne Schaden. Mittlerweile nutze ich die P10-Kamera bevorzugt, weil sie gute Makro-Shots produziert.

Moto und Huawei sind bei den Security Patches hinten dran. Bei Huawei wird das wegen der umfangreichen Android-Anpassungen wohl auch nicht besser. Moto hätte die Chance. Ich warte auf die große Malware-Epidemie, bei der das Überleben stark von aktueller Software abhängt. Immerhin ist erkennbar, dass sich immer mehr Hersteller darum bemühen.

Was mich bei jedem Einschalten flasht, ist der Sperrbildschirm des P10. Huawei hat eine wunderbare Auswahl wechselnder Bilder, die mich tatsächlich den Einschaltknopf vor dem blitzschnellen Fingerabdrucksensor drücken lässt.

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Verkehrte Welt :: Lenovo Soft Keyboard vs BlackBerry Hard Keyboard

by Volker Weber

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Laptops haben echte Tastaturen, Smartphones virtuelle auf dem Bildschirm, so die Regel. Bei diesen beiden Geräten ist es umgekehrt: Lenovo Yoga Book und BlackBerry KEYone. Ich mag beide. Jetzt bin ich wild entschlossen, auf dem Halo Keyboard des Yoga Book schreiben zu lernen. Warum? Weil es schwierig ist. Aber ich habe gelernt, dass man auf einem BlackBerry Keyboard nicht schneller ist als auf einer iPhone-Tastatur. Und was dort geht, sollte auch auf dem Halo möglich sein. Ich muss halt nur üben.

Das Yoga Book hat mittlerweile viele der Bugs abgelegt, die meinen ersten Eindruck geprägt haben. So schläft und wacht es zuverlässig wieder auf. Das Halo Keyboard hat aber zwei Probleme behalten. Wenn man in ein Textfeld klickt, dann springt immer erst mal das Soft Keyboard von Windows 10 auf, um dann beim ersten Tastendruck wieder zu verschwinden. Dazu kommt, dass der erste Buchstabe häufig verschluckt wird. Bei Fließtext sieht man das, bei Passwörtern nicht. Da muss Lenovo noch mal ran, wenn sie diese Lösung weiterverfolgen wollen - was ich nicht weiß. Auf der Supportseite steht immer noch die Version 1.0.0 des Treibers zum Download.

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Windows 10 on iPad Pro?

by Volker Weber

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Since iDisplay was free today on the iTunes App store, I had to turn my iPad Pro into a second screen for Surface Pro. Why? Because we try stuff so that you don't have to. Works for macOS or Windows, with Android or iOS devices.

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Moto Z2 Play :: Let's talk about the phone

by Volker Weber

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Three most useless things in an aviation emergency:

  • Fuel on the ground
  • Runway behind you
  • Sky above you

When I looked at all the Z2 Play reviews I found a common theme: Moto dared to make the device thinner and the battery smaller. And I was reminded of the old adage above. What does it help you if you have 30% battery left when you are about to charge your phone anyway? What difference does it make that a phone runs 36 instead of 30 hours?

I think the Z2 Play is much nicer than the Z Play. The matte aluminium back feels and looks much better than last year's scratch-happy glass back. And without a mod attached, it is really thin, much like last year's Z proper. This is by all means a premium device. Don't throw tech specs at me. This thing is fast, no matter what you do. And the camera hump does not bother me at all. You always know which way is up.

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What I like most about the Z2 Play is how clean it is. There is no bloatware added to Android, no duplicate apps, no arbitrary redesign of the skin. Moto just adds a nice touch to the clock that reflects the design of the camera hump. And it adds some great Moto stuff.

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Moto Actions let you hide the Android buttons and navigate with the fingerprint sensor. It becomes the on/off button, the home button, you swipe it for other actions. If you chop the phone twice (Karate Kid) it will turn on/off the flashlight, it you twist it twice it starts the camera and even the Hasselblad mod. You can flip the phone over to go into Do Not Disturb mode or silence the ringer when you pick up the phone. The display fades in/out with notifications and you can respond to them without unlocking. And then there is Moto Voice that I haven't tried yet.

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The 2016 Incipio battery mod is pretty clever. You can either keep the phone battery at 100 percent, or better yet, you keep it at 80 percent which is more efficient. The new 2017 Moto battery mod adds an important option: you can charge it seperately when it's not on the phone. I bet the 2018 version will add a loop for inductive charging.

Bottom line: there are no bad smartphones anymore. Benchmarks are b/s. All cameras are very capable. But there are interesting phones and less interesting ones.

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Earn the National Park Challenge award today

by Volker Weber

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You need to walk or run 3.5 miles (5.633 km) with an outdoor workout today to earn this fourth special award.

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Moto Z2 Play :: A modular smartphone

by Volker Weber

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Yesterday, I had total gadget overload. Moto sent a big box with the brand new Moto Z2 Play and alll these Moto Mods. And here is the good news. This is a 2017 smartphone and mostly 2016 Moto Mods. I like backwards compatibility.

I was very sceptical when Moto announced the Moto Z series last year. They had three models: the high end Z, the midrange Z Play and the Verizon exclusive Z Force. They were the top line Moto phones and shared the Moto Mod design. Moto Mods snap to the back of the phone via magnets, held in place by the camera hump and a protruding pin between the two rows of pogo pins which connect phone and Mod. The top row shows the Hasselblad 4116 zoom camera, a JBL speaker, and a Moto pico projector. Bottom row is an Incipio external battery, a Moto wireless charging plate and a simple plastic backplate that came with the Z2 Play. In Germany Moto is bundling a second generation JBL speaker with the Z2 Play for an initial 519 €.

The initial Z Play earned its place as a long distance runner. 3500 mAh battery which held up for two days. Add a battery pack to the back and you have an ultra runner. The new Z2 Play has an all metal body and improved components. It is thinner and the battery is slightly smaller with 3000 mAh. Since it runs on Android Nougat, which is more aggressive putting background apps to sleep, it is probably going to last as long as the original.

Since the Moto Mods concept has survived the initial year and is being expanded on, I have become less sceptical about them. Adding a battery pack to the back maybe more expensive than a power bank, but you don't have a dangling power cord, the phone charger will top off the phone first and then battery without needing two wires. A wireless charging plate can add inductive Qi charging for daily use. The pico projector and the speaker show the limits of the concept. You can't use both of them at the same time but they would compliment each other. Those are the only two you need to charge via USB C.

The Hasselblad camera is the odd one out. I provides a 10x optical zoom and turns your Z phone into a point&shoot camera. Frankly, a separate p&s camera is cheaper than this Mod and with a f/3.5-6.5 lens the Hasselblad needs lots of bright light. Since it does not have its own battery, you can just leave it in your backpack and whip it out when you need it. It will always be ready. I am including a few samples zoomed out and zoomed in below the fold.

This post is more about the modular concept than the phone itself. My initial experience has been great. Almost stock Android with some great additions from Moto. No bloatware at all. Moto wants to publish monthly security updates for the Z series but they aren't quite there yet. This phone runs on 7.1.1 Nougat with a May patch.

The Z2 Play will most likely not be the only model in this range. Leaks have shown there will be higher end version later this year, probably with the shatter proof display technology of the original Z Force, a model that was never sold here. If I had to pick three of the mods, those would be the charging plate, the external battery and of course the Hasselblad.

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Closing the Sonos chapter

by Volker Weber

Everything ends. In the past, Sonos would trust me with future information and they would value my feedback. I never disclosed any of that information, not once in ten years, but you had a source of informed opinion. That does not work any more. The old band members are sidelined, the new ones don't know better. Now it's just a company. The love is gone.

But we have opened a new chapter. Read from the top: communicate :: collaborate. Since you are sharing what you know with me, I actually know a lot more than I used to. And once again, I will never disclose any of that information. This is where the love has gone.

The keyword here is trust. It takes years to build it. I earned your trust and I will do everything to not lose it.

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BlackBerry patzt erneut bei den Android-Updates

by Volker Weber

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Seit gut einem Monat warten DTEK-Nutzer auf die vollmundig versprochenen Updates. Die Geräte sind auf dem Mai-Sicherheitsstand. BlackBerry kommentiert die Misere mit donnerndem Schweigen.

Einen Tag nach Veröffentlichung dieses Artikels hat BlackBerry die Juni-Updates geliefert. Aktueller Stand, jeweils Build und Security Patch:

PRIV: AAM489, July 1
DTEK50: AAM312, June 5
DTEK60: AAM326, June 5
KEYone: AAL682, June 5

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Jefferies: Creating Shareholder Value with AI? Not so Elementary, My Dear Watson

by Volker Weber

Our checks suggest that while IBM offers one of the more mature cognitive computing platforms today, the hefty services component of many AI deployments will be a hindrance to adoption. We also believe IBM appears outgunned in the war for AI talent and will likely see increasing competition. Finally, our analysis suggests that the returns on IBM's investments aren't likely to be above the cost of capital. Reiterate Underperform.

IBM from a financial analyst perspective.

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387 + 388 = 775

by Volker Weber

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On June 20th of last year I missed my daily move goal by 3 calories and broke the chain. I picked it up the next day and today it got a new link. 225 to get to one thousand.

I am not walking much right now, only about 5000 to 7000 since my knee was suffering four weeks ago. Joints take a long time to recover. Bicycle it is for now, and exercise at home.

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Six weeks with the Huawei P10

by Volker Weber

It's been six weeks with the Huawei P10. And they have been absolutely boring, in the best possible way. This thing just works. It has received two updates since I got it, but they are not the very latest Android security fixes. It's currently two months old, but Huawei does make an effort to not only update the very latest phones but also older ones.

I have made fun of Huawei when they announced the Leica partnership. But the camera in the P10 delivers. Great colors, sharp photos, beautiful monochrome pictures from the 20MP sensor. In low light others perform better, but in normal to bright light I love the results.

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I like close-up shots and those turn out better on the P10 than on the iPhone. If I only had the P10, I would not be missing much, just the iPhone telephoto lens. The selfie camera is very capable as well, but you do have to switch off the beautify filter. Otherwise you won't recognize yourself. The camera app has some neat tricks like the open aperture or the portrait mode as well as a ton of other modes that I find distracting. Unless I have a real camera with buttons and dials I want a camera app that does the thinking for me. Frame the shot, set focus and light, shoot. Modify later.

I dislike custom Android shells, and that extends to EMUI, the Android experience Huawei delivers. It's holding the company back. The P10 runs on Android 7.0 instead of 7.1.1 and it is their most recent flagship. The hardware however is perfect. Slim yet solid, great screen, no camera hump. It charges very quickly over USB C when connected to the Huawei charger. In SuperCharge mode it only takes half an hour to get over 50% from a dead battery. The fingerprint reader is impressive. It's the quickest I have ever seen. I customized EMUI to make the fingerprint reader also my home button. The off-button sits right where your right thumb rests, it is easily distinguishable from the volume rocker above.

I recommend the matte black version. No logo on the front, a very subdued Huawei logo on the back. It's a good phone to buy, if you really want to avoid the iPhone.

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Stuff that works :: Apple AirPods

by Volker Weber

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I was very cautious when I first heard about the AirPods. They looked ridiculous and over-priced. People made jokes about losing them. Then I tried a pair for a few minutes and really liked the fit and the sound. My only reserve was that they weren't particularly loud and they would not isolate me from surrounding noise.

Then I got a pair for review and was allowed to keep them. I mean, who wants the dirt from my ears back? And they turned out to be my favorite headphones by a wide margin. For longer travel I still like over-the-ear headsets, for phone calls in noisy environments Plantronics still has the edge. But day in, day out, whether I am listening to music or making family IT support calls, I always use the AirPods. Their storage and recharging is second to none, they fit my ears perfectly (but possibly not yours), connecting them to my iThings is effortless.

As far as I am concerned, best Apple innovation in a long time.

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Android update situation

by Volker Weber

Follow the link and you get to the July security bulletin:

BlackBerry has released a security update to address multiple vulnerabilities in BlackBerry powered by Android smartphones. We recommend users update to the latest available software build.

When BlackBerry says "release" it does not mean they also deliver. DTEK50 and DTEK60 received no update in all of June and are wating for the latest and greatest in July. PRIV received a 14 MB small update bringing the patch level to July 1 (not the full patch July 5). KEYone, which BlackBerry Mobile takes responsibility for is also waiting for AAM481 which is available in some regions but not here. That should take the phone to July 05.

To add some perspective, the Huawei P10 recently received an update, taking it to May 5, the same level as the DTEKs are sitting on.

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End of Life: Windows Phone ist offiziell tot

by Volker Weber

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Der geschätze Kollege und bekennende Windows-Phone-Fan Volker Briegleb schreibt einen Nachruf:

Am Dienstag ist der Support für Windows Phone 8.1 ausgelaufen. Smartphones mit der letzten Windows-Phone-Version erhalten ab sofort keine Sicherheits-Updates mehr. Besitzer einiger jüngerer Lumias können noch upgraden.

Im Prinzip können alle PCs auf Windows 10 updaten. Für Smartphones ist das nicht der Fall und so fallen nun 80 Prozent der aktiven Windows-Phones hinten runter. Ich bedaure dieses Scheitern, aber es muss einmal ein Ende haben.

Dabei ist nicht einmal Windows Phone das wahre Opfer. Nokia war ein Unternehmen mit Stil, ein Europäisches Unternehmen mit großen Fertigungsstätten rund um die Welt. Nokia vermisse ich mehr als Windows Phone. Die gute Nachricht: einige großartige Leute, die ich kennen lernen durfte, haben heute Arbeit bei Microsoft und HERE.

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IBM Watson Workspace has a desktop app

by Volker Weber

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Watson Workspace seems to take forever to develop while the market is still trying to figure out if Slack helps or does not help to get more stuff done. Like Slack it now has a desktop app which is basically the web app bundled with a Chromium browser. These things are big and may be slow, but it saves a ton of testing on different browsers. The web app only runs on Firefox and Chrome, so bundling a Chromium engine helps.

If you haven't looked at Workspace, it is finally coming together. I find it still lacks many features, but it's designed to be just one showcare for the Watson Workspace Services which you can build your own applications around.

More >

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Looking forward to the HomePod

by Volker Weber

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Have to detox my brain and started thinking about the HomePod. This speaker is announced, but it is still far away. Apple says December, but that was also the plan for the AirPods last year, so I am not holding my breath until it ships. Why the delay and the early announcement? I think Apple announced it to keep Apple fans at bay against the onslaught from Amazon and Google. And the delay? I believe it's the software. Siri needs to learn a lot for this to work well.

Everything about this speaker is interesting. But the most important part is that it adjusts to the room, and it does so without any setup. We have long learned that speaker placement is important for good sound. With Trueplay Tuning we had a tool to adjust the speaker to a room with just an iDevice. But it's a manual process and it does not take any later changes into account. HomePod adjusts itself as needed. If there are more people in a "hard" room, they would soften up the acoustics with more damping. Whether the room acoustics change or you move the speaker around, it can adjust. Actually, if you add a second one, HomePod discovers it and coordinates itself with it.

What I cannot imagine without hearing one is the sound. From what other people have told me, it sounds way larger than it is. That is of course a good thing. And with its tweeter array it can direct sound to where it needs to go. When Apple announced it they demoed it against an Amazon Echo, which is popular for its Alexa integration despite its bad sound and against a Play:3 which is the oldest speaker in the line-up. No wonder, it blew them both away.

And then there is the microphone array and the A8 chip. You need this array of six microphones for farfield voice recognition. And you need the oomph of the CPU to discover the "Hey Siri" wake words to start listening. That part is not handled by the backend but needs to happen in the speaker itself. HomePod can do it, so can Echo and Echo Dot, but Play:5 can't.

Once I get my hand on a HomePod we will find out how well Siri works, how AirPlay 2 has evolved, and if it is smart enough to support 3rd party services like Spotify. I am very much looking forward to that.

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BlackBerry Security Summit

by Volker Weber

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Attending the BlackBerry Security Summit just got easier. Instead of one event in New York, there are now two. I would not be surprised if customers told BlackBerry to spare them a trip to Trumpistan.

More >

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Stuff that works :: Microsoft Surface Pro

by Volker Weber

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It has been more than half a year since I started using a Surface Pro 4 with i7/8GB/256 GB. At the time I was using a Surface 3 with Atom X7/4GB/128GB for travel, but most of my work was done on a MacBook Pro. Surface Pro 4 changed that equation.

Surface Pro 4 is a vastly more powerful machine than Surface 3. Since I have only very light workloads, I did not expect this to make much of a difference, but it did. Surface Pro never felt any less powerful than the MacBook Pro. The other really big difference was the keyboard/trackpad. You can't really go from a MacBook Pro trackpad to a PC trackpad. What I had on Surface 3 was barely usable, and the keyboard was a bit too small. The Alcantara-clad Signature keyboard cover on the Surface Pro changed all that. Not only were both the keyboard and the trackpad excellent, but the fabric around the actual keys felt so much friendlier than aluminium.

Now that the hardware was more than sufficient for my use, everything depended on the software. I am an Office 365 user, I have mail accounts on Gmail and Outlook.com, I use the Microsoft and Google cloud, and I have used both Windows and MacOS extensively. I cannot live with Windows 7, which feels last century, I did like Windows 8 somewhat, but I became a Windows 10 fan ever since Microsoft added extensive ink support to it. Apple will be catching up with iOS 11, but obviously not on MacOS.

The main reason that I like Surface Pro so much is that I don't have to worry about file sync. With my Mac/iPad combination I had to go into Good Reader and first sync the PDF files from my OneDrive account before I could read them. With Surface Pro I just rip off the keyboard and turn in into a tablet. I can grab the pen to annotate a screenshot or take notes in OneNote, which I could not easily do on a MacBook.

Not everything is perfect. I have not found an inexpensive photo editor like Pixelmator on Windows 10. There isn't really a blog editor like Marsedit that works with my ancient CMS. The MacBook or the iPad haven't retired, but most of the time I just grab the Surface Pro.

If I needed to replace the Surface Pro 4 I have, I would want a Surface Pro i5/8/256, because it is fanless. I hardly ever hear my SP4 fan, but occasionally I do. I would not want the Surface Notebook, since it cannot be used as a tablet. And I also would not opt for the Surface Book, because it is just too much and I cannot utilize its power. The clipboard is very light, but it only has a small battery and no kickstand. Surface Pro is the best design for my use. Your mileage may vary.

Could I drop the Surface and go back to the Mac? Yes, in a split second. I love them both.

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Sonos without WiFi :: Revisiting an old topic

by Volker Weber

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Warning: this is not a beginner's practice. If you don't know about network design, do not try any of the things I am talking about. I have written about it before, but that post is no longer valid as of Sonos 7.3. The web interface at port 1400 now expects a hidden CSRF token and the player no longer accepts parameters as GET variables. The good news is that WiFi Control has been redesigned so that this form now works.

Sonos pretty much takes care of networking all by itself. There are two ways it works. The simpler and newer approach is that all players just connect to your WiFi access point. The original and more elaborate scheme is that you connect one player or a BOOST device to your router via an Ethernet cable and Sonos manages its very own mesh network. This can cause problems in more elaborate networks since Sonos uses STP (Spanning Tree Protocol) to avoid building loops which can lead to broadcast storms. If your network has a Smart Switch, you need to make sure that Sonos does not mess up your network via STP. Disabling the mesh takes care of that. The network matrix of a large-ish Sonos mesh can be quite daunting:

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With WiFi Control there is a third way to run your network. You have to run an Ethernet wire to each player and then you disable the WiFi component inside the Sonos player. The default is ON, and if you set it to OFF, it will turn back on when the player reboots. That means, if you make a mistake and cannot see your player any more you only have to recycle it to get it back. The third option Persist Off means, it will not come back on after a reboot. Handle with care.

You can see the active interfaces by issuing the same ifconfig command as you would on a Mac or Linux. ath0 is the WiFi interface. You just have to pass it as a URL to the player:

http://192.168.1.129:1400/status/ifconfig

You will find the IP address of your players either inside your DHCP server or via the About my Sonos option in your Sonos controller. The WiFi Control interface is at

http://192.168.1.129:1400/wifictrl

This setting only affects one player. You need to apply it to all players that are supposed to run without WiFi.

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A short update on the Sonos situation

by Volker Weber

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A few weeks ago I explained that I talked to a Sonos manager to clear up any misunderstanding. I offered my friendship, sent in a long list of things I would need and be interested in, and then I waited. As I said, I wasn't going to be mad, if Sonos took their ball and moved on.

Time passes. Crickets.

On Monday I decided to go back into beta mode. I have been running Sonos betas continously for many years. It's not much fun since I have to update the system and multiple controllers every week or so, but it was worth it. I dropped out of beta earlier this year since I had serious network issues and Support suggested to downgrade from beta back to release to resolve. It turned out to be a tough problem but we solved it.

Long story short, I asked to go back into beta mode. That was extremely easy. Support handed me over to Beta Support, which connected me with Beta Coordination, which then sent me a short questionaire to capture some essential data. I was supposed to be provisioned today and be operational mid next week.

Then lightning struck.

I got an email from the manager mentioned above. He had blocked me from going into beta. He does not actually run beta, but here I am. Cannot contribute anything back to Sonos anymore. But that is only Sonos' loss. You can't fight the enemy inside. The big question is why is this train wreck happening? This could all be so easy. My current assessment is that somebody like me isn't supposed to exist. Fear sets in, and fear is the path to the dark side.

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As you know, I believe in collaboration and you have done me proud. My network is thousands of people and you have come forward with more information about what Sonos is doing within 24 hours than what Sonos has told me in a year. This is working well and it remains my only option now that I am cut off from any development.

A word of warning: do not use email. If you want to share information with me, only use Signal, iMessage or Whatsapp, in that order. I am +49-176-24799915 on all of them. This way the information stays safe, and there will not be any leaks which could potentially damage Sonos. As far as I am concerned, my NDA is written with blood.

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End of life for PRIV and DTEK :: Needs confirmation

by Volker Weber

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From the Crackberry forums:

Today I ordered another batch of 50 DTKE50 phones from our UK mobile service provider. I was shocked, they told me that the DTEK50 phones reached end of life and the replacement model is the existing DTEK60. But that will cost ¢380, instead the ¢210 of the DTEK50. This time, they will be able to provide the ordered type and quantity from their current stock, but most probably soon they will run out of it.

This is the second time that I heard about EOL within one week. It appears existing stock of PRIV, DTEK50 and DTEK60 are being sold out. BlackBerry Mobile (TCL) only talks about the KEYone and BlackBerry does not talk about any handsets anymore.

DTEK60 never sold well, PRIV sold a lot less than initially expected and DTEK50 was relatively successful. If you look at download numbers for BlackBerry Keyboard on Google Play, you will find it was downloaded 500k+ times. That means there were less than one million BlackBerry Androids activated.

Do you have insights into the channel for BlackBerry handsets? Are the PRIV and the DTEKs still available in quantity? Do you have any statements regarding EOL? I don't expect a press release.

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Merke, die anderen sind nicht blöd

by Volker Weber

Vor einigen Jahren hatte ich mal ein Interview mit dem Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius. Das ist ein sehr erfahrener Manager, der völlig in sich ruht und Fragen einfach so beantwortet, wie sie gestellt werden. Ein Kollege fragte ihn zu einem Sicherheitsproblem, das ein anderes Unternehmen aktuell hatte. Hortensius verweigerte jeden Kommentar und sagte statt dessen, wir müssten bitte ganz bescheiden sein und jeder vor seiner eigenen Tür kehren. Das erinnerte mich an etwas, was mein Vater seinem großkotzigen Sohn beibringen wollte: "Die anderen sind nicht blöd." Ich vergesse es leider zu oft. Deshalb zur Erinnerung:

Das kriegt man konsistent über Jahre nur dann hin, wenn man unglaublich viele kluge Köpfe beschäftigt. Wer glaubt, dass diese erfolgreichen Unternehmen zu blöd sind, ist wahrscheinlich selbst der Geisterfahrer.

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Ceci n'est pas un blog

I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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