Alas poor Blackberry … end of the road for a classic

It’s finally happened. Blackberry is putting their venerable and ground breaking Classic out to pasture:

Sometimes it can be very tough to let go. For BlackBerry, and more importantly for our customers, the hardest part in letting go is accepting that change makes way for new and better experiences.
Ralph Pini, Chief Operating Officer and General Manager for Devices at BlackBerry (see Blackberry’s blog)

It looks like the company is going to focus on their smartphone line and no longer have room for this older model  Production of the now iconic Blackberry with keyboard will come to an end this year although Blackberry will continue offering support.



Tech support tales – Microsoft Store support

Last week my beloved out of warranty, Surface 2 died.  I’m surprised you couldn’t hear the wails of despair coming out of Toronto. It has been lugged all over the city on service calls, espresso breaks, sitting on my bed reading newspapers, watching Netflix, reading books, listening to radio – it was rarely off.  I LOVED MY SURFACE…. yea, a bit sad and nerdy but the tablet did everything I needed in a portable device. The big bonus has always been the inclusion of Office.  All my invoices were quick and easy to use, Word to peck away at and OneNote. I’ve become a OneNote power user by the way.  It’s like carting a big ass binder around, without the hassles of paper falling all over the place.

Anyone who knows me, also knows my legendary and epic tales of disastrous tech support calls I’ve encountered. I’m a computer consultant (fancy schmancy way of saying “I go to the customers and fix what needs fixing) for home and SOHOs, and often have to call companies on tech issues.  I tend to avoid contacting companies  because I can often resolve the problem long before I move past “Please wait, your business is important” phase  or get overly frustrated with the level of knowledge. Too often staff is reading from a script and can’t vary from it or worse still are so unresponsive, you spend a month trying to find out why they haven’t fixed a tablet (hint, hint ASUS). I girded myself for the usual bullshit, fired up my laptop and contacted Microsoft support via their on line chat. Well, I have to admit, I was a bit taken aback. No, no…wait … it’s not a tale of horror. I was kind of gobsmacked actually – support was efficient and helpful. I nearly fell off my chair. The fellow on the other end of the chat went through a number of steps and suggested it will likely need replacement or a new battery and after chatting, suggested it would be far faster to take it directly to the Microsoft Store here in Toronto.  He sent me a follow up email to use in case I was unhappy with the service at the store, just incase.

Next day, I trotted down the Microsoft Store in the Eaton Centre (downtown) and waylaid the first staffer I saw, a young man called Jacob.  He sat down with me and went through a number of troubleshooting steps and we chatted while he worked. We talked about Windows 10, tablets, laptops and more. It took quite a bit of time to check out the device, in the meantime, he showed me some great features on Windows 10, and a couple of laptops that would be perfect for a few of my customers and showed me some things about Surface tablets I’d been oblivious to.  Not only that, he showed me some seminars that might help my customers (some free, some paid) and told me about their in store support such as free virus removal. So, the morning was actually … er … um … kinda fun. Yea, yea, my Surface was DOA and I was heartbroken, yada yada yada, but it had to have been one of the most hassle free tech calls I’ve ever experienced. Let me tell you, I’ve dealt with some epically stupid tech support people in my day (the one that comes to mind is “go to the basement and find the main circuit breaker and shut off all the power. When you turn it back on your email will work”) so, this was exciting. Tech support without the ritual gnashing of teeth and head banging on desk.  Novel.

Oh and they will do tech support on any windows machine, no matter where you purchased it. Remember that…

And yes, Microsoft did make a deal on a replacement, that was above and beyond. so I walked out of the store happy. I also walked out armed with a ton of info for customers, which I’ve already started passing along to them.  I really wished I had it in my budget to take them up on their offer to upgrade to a Surface 3, but that just wasn’t possible this month. However, I had my tablet, I was back at work with it that afternoon. So, happy endings.

If you are interested in any of the seminars they run, look up the nearest store here and click in-store events. Some are free, some you pay for.  If you are still struggling with Win 8.1, check out their Windows 8.1: Fundamentals workshop. You can also go to the Word 2013: Fundamentals workshop to get up to speed on the changes in Word.  But the one I’d recommend, if you don’t have handy tech support you can rely on is their PC TuneUp in a Snap seminar. It will help the average user tune-up and speedup their computer. This means fewer hassles, faster computers and fewer trips to the repair shop. Do yourself a favour – go.

Ok, gushing is over, move along. I’ll be back to my crabby tech support self tomorrow.

Microsoft’s HoloLens – lot of possibilities but ….

Microsoft’s HoloLens – lot of possibilities but ….

Microsoft has developed their own smartlens, but upped it to a complete holograph device without the cumbersome headgear. It’s an intriging project – basically putting your computer into a wearable lens and using the world as your screen. Windows 10 will be the first OS to support the project and the headgear has already been developed.  HoloLens will untether users from the monitor and allow them to call up 3d screens to work with.

The software/lens creates a full 3d holographic world that can be used/manipulated with a few flicks of the hand. No physical mouse or keyboard.  Think of it, you’re in the kitchen and  you want to look up your email – just flick a few fingers and there’s your mail floating infront of you.  The program will be full 3 dimensional and usable.  Shrink the app to a smaller size, push it out of the way, call up a virtual keyboard, send a message, do whatever you want.

Sounds great, but will people be willing to wear the headgear? Past efforts by other companies have either developed devices that cover the head (wonderful if you wanted to have perpetual motion sickness) that blacked out the real world, or relied on eyeglass style devices that left myopics out in the cold. It’s impossible to wear much of the tech if you wear glasses – you have a choice, seeing the screen or seeing the real world.  The HoloLens has moved beyond both the bulky full headgear and the irritating eyeglass replacement. It uses an adjustable headband that rotates to suit the user. Theoretically, eyeglass wearers should have no issues with it.hololens tn

Now, the problem is, as stated, can they convince people to wear this ->

It’s supposed to be roomy enough to allow eyeglass wearers to use it. It’s novel to have tech designers realise eyeglasses aren’t a frivious accessory.  Early testers reported their eyeglass were pushed down on their nose constantly. Seriously irritating if this is the case.  On the upside, it also doesn’t block your vision, so you see the real world mixed in with the holographic one.  Good news – no more banging into walls if you wear it.  It also gets around the other nasty side effect of wearing the full mask version – no more motion sickness because the device isn’t trying to rework your surroundings.   HoloLens isn’t doing that – it works with the natural environment and is basically a portable holographic computer. No need to play mind games with your vision. The HoloLens will use a combination of gestures and voice recognition. It also has built in speakers – no earbuds, so if you have a roommate, it might get irritating in a hurry.

I couldn’t find full specs on the HoloLens. I’m curious about the weight. It’ll be a hard sell to the home market if they weight a pound or more. But a big selling point will be the adjustability of the device. It’s not a one size fits all piece of hardware.  Will people want to sit around the house wearing it? Me? Personally? In a heart beat. I’ve tried to come up with a compelling reason for Microsoft to “lend” me a pair to play with, but alas, all my ideas have boiled down to “THIS IS SOOOO COOL”. Not exactly a strong selling point.

I can see potential in the Hololens for my older customers. If I can overcome their initial resistance, the HoloLens could be amazing for people with disabilities like arthritis and Multiple Sclorosis. The big issue with standard computers is the pain factor of having to sit and type for any amount of time. If they could sit in their comfy chairs and simply flick away at a hologram, it could be transforming.

In the meantime, I’ll wait until I can see a demo of one here in Toronto. Doubtful I’ll be able to con **cough cough ** convince Microsoft to give me a pair to test on my customers.

Read more on the HoloLens here.