Scott Hanselman

Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard - Dual Bluetooth Pairing and Three Operating Systems

August 9, '15 Comments [12] Posted in Hardware | Reviews
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Microsoft Universal Foldable KeyboardI have a Surface Pro 3, an iPad 2, and an iPhone 6+. I also have a few Android devices for development. Sometimes I'm on a plane and want to do email, or I'm playing a game on my iPad and I've got my iPhone off to the side. You know, various combinations like you do.

For a while I used the Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard. (To be clear, NOT the Foldable one...that will show up in a moment) It's universally well-reviewed and with discounts can be found as low as US$58. One of the big pros of the Universal Mobile Keyboard is that the cover separates via magnets from the keyboard and includes a notch to hold your tablet up at an angle.

However, for me it had a few nits. It's about 75% of full-size which is just a little "off" for larger hands. It's also quite large. You can't really put it in an inside jacket pocket, it's definitely a backpack item. It's great, but it's not perfect...so, I tried the:

Universal Foldable Keyboard

Fast forward a year and the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard is out. I preordered it as soon as I saw it in April. I swear if I had a dozen of these in my backpack I could sell them in a day of just sitting in a cafe. Folks always ask about it. It's lighter than most mobile keyboards, the folding is cool, the battery life is months (they say...I've never charged it yet, but it charges with micro-USB so that's trivial), and it supports basically any device.

I was at OSCON using the keyboard and the two things I consistently heard were:

  • Why have I never heard of this?
  • This is from Microsoft and it supports any device?

Seriously, Microsoft needs to do more than just word-of-mouth to advertise cool stuff like this. I realize I'm gushing, but I like the keyboard.

Here's the details. It's about 6 inches by 5 inches. Pictured below next to my Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse (which also rocks) for size comparison.

The Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard

It unfolds, of course, and it's deceptively thin. Here it is pictured next to my Surface Pro 3 keyboard. The material and keys are basically the same. Surprisingly the fold in the middle looks a lot more dramatic than it feels in practice. Notice that the T and N and G and H are wider than they should be? That subtle but significant change makes touch typing very easy, in fact.

The keys are advertised as "full-sized" but you can see in the pic they are likely about 90-95% of full size. So "darn near full-sized" would be a fair statement. They aren't significantly smaller than my Surface that they slowed me down, but it's worth pointing out.

Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard - Multiple Bluetooth Pairings Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard - OS Button

The killer feature - besides the folding - is that you can pair two devices to it at the same time and switch between them. See the [1] and [2] buttons there? You long-press to switch devices. You can be typing on your Surface or Tablet, then get a text message on your phone, then just long press to reply to it then long press to return to the main device. The keyboard also has an OS button in the upper right corner to manage keyboard mappings, and it remembers them for each paired device.

For example, the Escape Key on iOS is also Home, or a double-press is the iOS task switcher. The Home button is home or the Windows Key depending on your device. There's also a CMD key for Macs as well as the usual Alt/Option key.

Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard - Compared to Surface  Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard - Home Keys

A only real con of this keyboard is that it does need a flat surface to sit on. It won't work well on your lap. Also, I haven't figured out how to force the FN key to reverse the functionality so there is no easy way to do things like ALT-F4. The default functionality for the top row is for more "Consumer" things like muting the volume and such, not for coders and hotkeys. For many folks that will be a deal-breaker, but for blog posts, emails, and surfing around, it's fine for me. I'm not going to code for hours on it.

I also did an unboxing video the day I got it in the mail, filmed with a potato, so check it out and subscribe to my YouTube.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro Micro-HDMI not working? Easy fix.

June 23, '15 Comments [28] Posted in Hardware
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Micro HDMI sucks.This blog post is likely not for you, unless it totally is. Which is why I'm posting it.

My Dad's Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro was driving him batty for months. It was bugging me even more, as I am the assigned IT manager for my family. I'm sure you are also, as you're reading this blog, right?

Anyway, I talk this computer up for months, he gets the computer, and it has this tiny Micro-HDMI connector.

Let me just say that Micro-HDMI is the most evil of all display connectors. I mean, it literally does everything wrong.

Micro-HDMI sucks because:

  • Micro-HDMI looks like Micro USB and I can't explain to my Dad that they are different.
  • Micro-HDMI is the most fragile of all ports. If you blow on it you'll lose signal.
  • It's like the tiny shorty soda pop can of Tab. It's not Diet Coke. It's not enough. It's useless.

Which brings me to the point. His didn't work. Never worked. I tried new drivers, flashing BIOS, new cables, jiggling the connector, everything.

Except the obvious - cutting up the cable.

It turns out that many cables (especially cheap ones from Amazon) don't expose enough metal to make a decent connection.

Take a razor blade and cut a good millimeter around the cable's rubber housing to expose more metal.

Yep, I cut the cableCut around the cable. Remove 1mm or so.

Boom. It works immediately. Dad's thrilled. I'm a good son again and Micro-HDMI continues to suck as a display connector.

Full-sized HDMI or Mini-DP (Display Port) from now on, my friends.

Please, regale me in the comments with tales of why YOU too hate Micro-HDMI, Dear Reader.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Setting up a VPN and Remote Desktop back into your home with a Synology (from an iPhone)

April 2, '15 Comments [29] Posted in Hardware | Open Source | Win8
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It's amazing that I can basically be my own IT Department. The kinds of things we can do in our homes as individuals with off-the-shelf hardware would have needed an IT Dept of a dozen just 10 years ago, ya know? Amazing.

I wanted to be able to VPN into my home and remotely access my machines and files. I do very much realize there are a lot of different options to do this, and have been for years. From GoToMyPc to Hamachi, again, there's dozens of ways. I wanted a VPN solution I could use on my iPhone/iPad and Surface. I wanted it to be standards-based and not require any additional software installations.

I have a a Synology 1511+ NAS appliance and I love it. It's not just a file server, it's an everything server, in my house. I use it for Plex, it hosts my files and photos, it manages my surveillance cameras and acts as a camera DVR, it runs a Minecraft Server, it's a Git server, it even runs Docker.

The Synology will act as my VPN server as well.

Here's how I set up four things. The Synology, my Router, my iOS device, and my Windows PC/Surface.

The result is I can now remote into my home and manage things from any device I own.

Setting up a Synology for L2TP VPN

First, in the Synology Package Manager, ensure that you've got the Synology VPN Server package installed and running.

Adding VPN Server on Synology

You should give some though as to which VPN technique you want to use. I decided on L2TP, although there is some concern the NSA has weakened it. Benefits are that it's on all major platform, it's generally considered secure, and it's easy to setup.

Select L2TP (or whatever you want), and Enable it. Notice also that I selected my INTERNAL DNS server. I found this worked best for me when trying to access internal resources. You can also setup a hosts file if you want to just hit a few things inside your house.

L2TP in Synology

Now click on Privilege. Just give the minimum privileges to the user that needs them. NO need to give VPN access to users who won't use it.

VPN Server in Synology

Setup your Router for VPN (L2TP)

My router is a Linksys WRT1900ac that I like very much. It supports port forwarding, and the Synology can often talk directly to a router and request open ports. However, there's something to be said for handling things yourself. It lets you know exactly what's going on, and it can be less of a "black box."

Login to your router and in this case of L2TP, forward UDP ports 1701, 500, and 4500. On my Linksys, it's under Security, Apps and Gaming.

The Device IP is the internal IP address of your Synology. It's best to have your Synology use a Static IP address, or at least have a DHCP reservation so this IP doesn't change and things stop lining up.

Port Forwarding in a Router

Also, ensure that your Router is passing L2TP traffic as well. I changed this under Security.

L2TP Passthrough

At this point, you should be able to at least try to connect to your house via VPN. I did this as a quick test by taking my iPhone off the wireless networking (thereby being on the open internet) and VPN'ing back in.

If you succeed, you should be able to see yourself in the VPN Server | Connection List area on our Synology.

VPN Server

Here's what I did on my iDevice to setup VPN.

Setting up iOS/iPhone/IPad for VPN

From the iOS Settings app, go General | VPN. Touch Add VPN Configuration. I selected L2TP and put in my Server name or IP and named the account "home."

NOTE: If you don't want to use your IP address, you can use the Synology.me dynamic DNS feature built into your Synology, or any one of many dynamic DNS systems that will give you a nice domain like "myhanselmanhouse.foofoo.com" or whatever. You can also, if you like, setup a CNAME with your own domain and point it to that dynamic domain. So vpn.hanselman.com could be your server, if you wanted.

With L2TP you'll need your username and password, as well as a Shared Secret. That's like another password. Specifically the Secret text box in iOS is the "pre-shared key" from your Synology L2TP VPN setup.

Add VPN in iOS

At this point you'll get a nice VPN option on your Settings app under Personal Hotspot that wasn't there before. You can turn it on and off now, easily.

VPN Connecting in Settings

Once I'm VPN'ed in I can see a [VPN] indicator in the top status bar. I've installed the FREE Microsoft Remote Desktop Client for iOS.

RD Client on an iPhone - Remote Desktop

And here's me VPN'ed into my home PC from my iPhone. This of course, can be done on Android and Windows Phone as well.

Remoted into my desktop at home with RDP

It looks small, but in reality it's very usable, especially from an iPad with a Bluetooth Keyboard.

Setting up L2TP VPN on Windows 8.1

Now I'll setup VPN back to home on my Windows 8.1 machine. For some reason this was super easy in Windows 7, but in Windows 8.1 there isn't a clear way to just add a L2TP VPN. You can add other simpler (or Vendor) VPNs in a straightforward manner, but not L2TP.

Just hit the Windows key (or Start Menu) and type "Add VPN." When you get to the VPN management screen, you'll see this and can fill it out.

Adding VPN

But L2TP VPN setup with a pre-shared key requires some more work. If you know of a simpler way, let me know. I can see about three different ways to get to the same result.

Go ahead and create a new VPN connection with the menu above. Select Microsoft as the VPN type and put in your server address and optionally name and password. This will create the VPN connection.

Pay attention now. Go back to the Start Menu and type "Network Connection." You want the first item called "View Network Connection" (a classic control panel, not a fullscreen 'metro' one).

Opening Network Connections

From there, you'll open a classic control panel and see your VPN connection. Right click and click Properties.

Network Connections with VPN

Click Security, make sure L2TP is set, then click Advanced Settings.

L2TP VPN in Windows 8'

Put your pre-shared key there.

Setting a preshared key

Connect to your home VPN and have fun

Of course, please do remember to use strong passwords, strong pre-shared keys, and change them. Don't be lazy.

At this point you can connect to your home/office and work to your heart's content.

VPN Connection in Windows 8

For some of you this is "duh" or old hat, but for me it was something I just never got around to doing. Mostly laziness prevented. But just last week I had to drive 30 miles back to my house from a dinner in order to move a file from my Desktop into Dropbox. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only reasonably smart techie with a story like that. This VPN setup would have meant I could do that from my phone and it would have saved me a big hassle and over an hour of my time.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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March was for Makers - Fantastic Hardware Tutorials, Videos, Podcasts and more!

April 1, '15 Comments [2] Posted in Hardware
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I'd like to take a moment and be proud of myself and my friend Saron. This last month, March of 2015, we teamed up at decided to come up with a scheme to get folks excited about Making. By making, I mean creating physical things with hardware like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, soldering things, and generally using electricity and software to do awesome stuff.

A lot of us are software engineers, but we don't realize how powerful we can feel when we do things with the software and hardware.

Getting that LED to flash is just the beginning. When you can affect your physical world, the sense of empowerment is intoxicating. This is fantastic not only for old-timers like myself, but also young people and kids who may be looking into engineering as a career.

All month long we did podcasts, blog posts, Twitter chats, and live Google hangouts, all with the goal to get you, dear reader, excited about hardware. I'm REALLY proud of what we accomplished. Note that we both do this on the side as volunteers while holding down regular jobs.

Please Subscribe Now

I don't think I ask you for much, but I will ask you right now to take a moment and subscribe to our two podcasts using your favorite podcast application:

  • CodeNewbie is the most supportive community of programmers and people learning to code. Tune in every week for stories about people on their coding journey.
  • Hanselminutes: Fresh Air for Developers is a weekly talk show that brings interesting people together to talk about the web, culture, education, technology and more.

March Is For Makers

Our little mini event was a great success, as far as we're concerned. We were not measuring things like page views, but rather excited people. Here's a few choice tweets.

The http://www.marchisformakers.com site will continue to live on year-round with occasional updates, and we are planning next years event to be even bigger and more exciting. Until then, all of our content lives on.

Here's some of the highlights of this fantastic month. You can get ALL the content on our site.

And there's SO MUCH MORE.

Again, please subscribe, and SHARE our adventure with your family, friends, teachers, students, kids, and others who you think would be great makers! #MarchIsForMakers.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Bridging Dexcom Share CGM Receivers and Nightscout

March 14, '15 Comments [20] Posted in Diabetes | Hardware | Open Source
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Dexcom Share

I've long lamented the sad state of Diabetes technology. For the last 20 years I've been told that it'll be cured in the next few years. (Spoiler: That hasn't happened.)

Fortunately some technological breakthroughs have happened, like the CGM (Continuous Glucose Meter). This device has a transmitted embedded in my belly that transmits to a small receiver. However, my wife couldn't see my blood sugar remotely, so the Nightscout open source project pretends to be computer connected to the receiver, then uploads it to your own website. Then you can see your blood sugar on your watch, or family and friends can log in also. This project has been moving along nicely for a year or so now.

Just last month Dexcom, the CGM maker, released an update to their receiver that includes Bluetooth, called the Dexcom Share. Now my transmitter goes to my Dexcom device which then bounces via Bluetooth LE to my phone, which is then uploaded to the Dexcom site. The Dexcom iPhone app will support the Apple Watch in the future as well, they say.

However, I'd like more control over my data. Dexcom's solution (as of the time of this writing) is iPhone/iPad only. Not everyone can afford an iWatch and iDevices. I'd like to use my Pebble Watch, for example, which is supported in Nightscout today.

I got the Dexcom Share at 3:30pm today in the mail. By 4:40pm it was paired to my iPhone and working nicely. So what I really need is a simple bridge that takes my Dexcom Share data and copies it to Nightscout. From there I can analyze it, send it to my Pebble, or do whatever.

Watching iPhone Traffic from a Windows Machine

First, I need to understand the Dexcom Api. Let's watch the iPhone talk to Dexcom. I'll install Fiddler on my Windows machine and configure Fiddler as a proxy server. I'll need to trust the Fiddler SSL cert (only for dev purposes) on both the iPhone and the Windows machine. My machine is called Hexpower7 and the proxy is on port 8888. I'll visit http://hexpower7:8888 on my iPhone and install the cert there also, which will allow me to watch the traffic and learn about the API.

I learned a few things by watching the traffic.

Watching Traffic

Calling Dexcom with CURL

First, when you login to the Dexcom API you get a Session ID, which is common and to be expected. With that Session ID you can get your sugar values. After the login I retrieved my latest sugar number:

curl -k -X POST "https://share1.dexcom.com/ShareWebServices/Services/Publisher/ReadPublisherLatestGlucoseValues?sessionID=GUID&minutes=1440&maxCount=1" -H "Accept: application/json" -H "Content-Length: 0"

resulting in:

[{"DT":"\/Date(1426290216000-0700)\/","ST":"\/Date(1426293817000)\/","Trend":4,"Value":113,"WT":"\/Date(1426290240000)\/"}]

Here's a screenshot:

Talking to Dexcom Share from CURL

Cool. So I pair-programmed with Benjamin West from the Nightscout project and we spent an hour writing a script to get my Dexcom Share data and bridge/POST it to Nightscout.

I put the script in an Azure WebJob and it's pulling my Share data and putting it into Nightscout every few minutes. I won't post the code here, rather the Nightscout team will take our prototype from here, but the result is lovely.

I don't have to carry an extra Android device anymore, I just use my Dexcom Share and its supported iPhone uploader application. Very cool.

Now it's 7:30pm, just a few hours after I got my Dexcom Share and I've got the best of both worlds. The API was easy to use and we didn't spend more than two hours on it. Most of the time was waiting for the transmitter to complete its warmup cycle.

My Blood Sugar in the Cloud

I'll do a formal Dexcom review soon, but I can already tell you it's a winner. Everyone who can get a CGM should get a Dexcom Share. It's a thrilling device. I would like the iPhone app to support iPhone 6 and 6+ screen-sizes better, and a nicer UI, but all in all, it's a great device.

Don't forget, visit http://marchisformakers.com, tell your friends and tweet us at #MarchIsForMakers!


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.