Barbs Connected World

tomorrow's connected future is here today

Add a Fingerprint Reader to Surface 3

You read the title correctly. I’ve added a fingerprint reader to my Surface 3. (And you can do this with any Windows 10 device that has a USB port). Windows Hello is a wonderful feature that provides an extra level of protection from prying eyes while traveling. While I’m not necessarily paranoid, I don’t want strangers seeing my password or PIN while I’m lunching and computing. I feel more secure.

While you can purchase a typecover for the Surface Pro 4 (that also works with Surface Pro 3, but this combo has some power management issues), there is no similar option to purchase a typecover with a fingerprint reader for a Surface 3.

Luckily, there’s a way to do this (if you don’t mind using the single USB port on the Surface 3 and tying it up at least while you log in; you can remove and attach this peripheral while Windows is running so for me it is no big deal).

Amazon sells this super tiny add-on fingerprint reader from “Eikon” at a good price. It’s made by Authentech, who made many of the built in fingerprint readers for nearly all the big computer vendors (they were purchased by Apple in 2012).

authentech

I attached this device to my Surface 3 (green arrow below) and Windows immediately recognized this device and installed what it needed (red arrow) in a few seconds.

attached to S3

I’m currently using Windows 10 Insider Build 14388, but this device will also set up in a similar manner on Windows 10 10586.xxx.

1. Go to Sign in options in Settings.

2. If you don’t already have a PIN, set one up as this is required to use a fingerprint reader.

3. Windows Hello will change the Require sign-in to Every Time as part of the setup and you will see this when setup is completed.

 

setup1

4. Next, you will need to “enroll” or setup at least one fingerprint; select Get started to launch the wizard.

setup2

5. Confirm your PIN when prompted.

setup3

6. Follow the prompts to swipe a finger and setup the first fingerprint (and add additional fingers if you wish to do so).

setup4

When complete, you’ll be able to log in using Windows Hello.

hello

This is a neat little device and it installs and sets up seamlessly and flawlessly. I recommend it highly.

If you have any questions on this, you can contact me on Twitter @barbbowman or in the Microsoft Surface and Windows/Windows Insider Forums.

Installing Windows Insider Builds on a Low Capacity Tablet

 

There has been a lot of misinformation in the Insider’s Forum (from customers) about the necessary free space to install an Insider’s Build. I decided to take my only low memory device, an ASUS Vivo Tab 8 M81C-B1-MSBK Signature Edition Tablet that I purchased from the Microsoft Store, and test this out for myself. The device is 32GB to start with and was VERY full. A little over 4GB free space was available. Nevertheless, I was able to install an Insiders Build from a mounted ISO and subsequently download and install the latest Fast Ring Insider’s Build from Windows Update.

Here’s how I did all of this:

I used the following procedure to install 14372 from an ISO image. This is the process that should work for folks upgrading from 10586.xxx 1511 to the official release of the Windows Anniversary Update (with a few changes on where and how to get the ISO) with minimal free space.

The first problem is that the default Downloads folder was on C:\ and only a bit over 4GB of free space was available, so I needed to move Downloads to my 128GB microSD card. I wanted to move this at the System level as opposed to just specifying a different folder. The ISO for 32 bit Windows is 3GB+ and to say the least, with only 4+ free, I needed to download to a drive other than C:\.

4 gigs free

The process to move the folder is to right click/tap and hold the Downloads Folder and then select Properties, then the Location tab.

4 gigs free again

Then, select the Move button.

move to D

Then, navigate to the alternate or external storage you want to use (in my case it was my 128GB microSD card) and select Apply. A windows will display asking you to confirm the move and ask whether you want to move existing content (which is what you should do). Again, I specified the root drive, but you can easily create a folder and specify it as instead.

confirm move

Once the default Download folder was moved off the C:\ drive, the next step was to download the 14372 ISO and then mount it. After I ran setup.exe, a message displayed stating more space was needed. Use Disk Cleanup is the default choice, but I selected “Choose another drive or attach an external drive…”

need more space

 

I already had a microSD card with 70+GB free so I used the drop down to select that drive.

drop down

Once the D:\ drive was selected, I selected Refresh and the installation continued.

use drive D

Windows Insider Build 14372 proceeded to install without any issues. Once I had the desktop up, I checked a few things and then opened Disk Cleanup (easily discoverable using Search/Cortana) and used the Advanced button which after a few minutes displayed everything I could delete on the main C:\ drive. I proceeded by selecting “Previous Windows Installations” and acknowledged all prompts.

The Disk Cleanup process gave me a whopping 6GB free.

6 gigs free

Next, I opened Settings, Updates and Security, and since this tablet was configured for the Fast Ring, lo and behold, 14385 was offered. And it downloaded and installed beautifully.

installing 14385

Update: I just installed 14393 following basically the same process (run disk cleanup and remove previous Windows installations, insure that the Downloads location is moved to a drive other than C:\ and then install from Windows Update).

This system worked for me and I hope this is helpful. You can reach me on Twitter @barbbowman or in the Microsoft Windows/Windows Insider Forums.

Alexa, Sonos, Smart Things, Harmony, Oh My

So I wasn’t invited to the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Alexa beta and I have some concerns about how Sonos activities are going to be handled with respect to Alexa’s voice recognition.

It isn’t exactly transparent how to add/configure the Harmony->Sonos->Smart Things->Alexa routines to start Playlists or Stations from your Sonos favorites after you’ve done an initial setup. You have to roll up your sleeves and get a little dirty.

When you edit your Sonos favorites in any official Sonos App (add/remove, etc.) the Harmony App/Remote doesn’t necessarily reread the Sonos lists. To get a revised Sonos Favorites list to refresh for Harmony, you need to START a Sonos favorite, hit the star key on the bottom of the app, then scroll and hit REFRESH. Then you can edit that activity and select a new channel or add Activities and specify a Sonos favorite from the refreshed, up to date list.

Below is a screen shot of the first “page” of (scrollable) activities. The naming convention is something I’m working on, and I’ll explain a little further along in this post. Ideally, I should be able to use the same Activity Name across the board, but this turns out to be problematic and confusing.

harmony

When you’ve configured and tested your new or edited Activities, next step is to add a Thing to SmartThings. This, too, isn’t intuitive. Select the + on the Things screen on your phone, then Entertainment, Buttons/remotes. Select Logitech. Your already configured Harmony Hub will appear. Select it, watch the spinning cursor as it refreshes and pulls down your revised, increased list of Harmony Activities. Then select additional activities, watch the cursor spin and the app will populate with the revised list of activities.

Smart Things insists on adding [Harmony Remote] to the end of activities imported from Harmony; you’ll need to edit them to at least remove the [Harmony Remote]. To edit, tap the activity to open its page and then the gear wheel to edit the name. Here’s where the name game becomes interesting. I’ll come back to this when I’m done explaining the process to get all of this hooked up to Alexa for voice control.

smartthings

The final step is to access the Smart Home tab in the Alexa Echo app. If you have the SmartThings skill enabled, you will need to disable it and then enable it so that it can re-read the list of “Things”. Then you’ll need to re-run Discovery (a pop-up should automatically appear to action this). All of your new activities should now show in the Your Devices list. And you’ll need to do this each and every time you edit or add a “Thing”.

There’s a big gotcha to be aware of. You can’t use the Station name/Playlist Name in your Sonos Favorites. You can’t use any Artist name or recognizable Playlist Name because Alexa will ignore the SmartThings skill and play music natively on Echo/Dot.

Here’s how I learned what works and what doesn’t.

I discovered that when I selected an Amazon Playlist named ABBA (or even the Pandora ABBA Station) from Favorites for the channel to play from Sonos on the Harmony Activity named Sonos Music and linked it with SmartThings and enabled Alexa that every single time Alexa played something else named Sonos on the current Sonos speaker (or already grouped speakers). And completely ignored the SmartThings list. When I renamed the “Thing” to My Sonos in SmartThings and removed/re-added the skill in the Alexa App, I had better luck, but only some of the time.

I similarly had problems with a John Denver and a Judy Collins playlist in Favorites. Alexa consistently ignored the SmartThings skill and played music by (whomever) on the Echo or DOT. .

After the above limitations sunk in, I decided to try a task based name, Exercise Workout. I set that up and was able to use ANY Sonos favorite without confusing Alexa. So in SmartThings, I currently have Sonos Colorado for John Denver and Sonos Folk for Judy Collins (these work). I’ll have to come up with better, memorable names that are task based.

So now I’m going to finish the task of renaming activities on the Harmony and in SmartThings to get this Harmony-Sonos-SmartThings-Alexa setup to work 100% of the time. Probably using task based and/or some other convention that Alexa won’t recognize. If you have any ideas, let me know on Twitter @barbbowman.

And I hope that the same situation isn’t true with the coming “native” Alexa support for the Logi Harmony Ultimate.

Alexa, turn on my home theater–AnyMote Awesomeness

Heaven forbid that I should have to lift a handheld remote in my very Smart Home. I got to thinking that with everything I’ve voice enabled here, I had not done anything with my home theater equipment. I’ve got a bunch of stuff downstairs in the Living Room and a bunch of stuff in the Master Bedroom. I’ve already got a Harmony Ultimate Hub/Remote in the Bedroom and an old and dying Harmony 1100 in the Living Room that I’m replacing with AnyMote Home.

I decided it was time to experiment with Alexa voice control. The TLDR; version of this post is that AnyMote, which takes concentration and time to set up (and is pretty geeky when it comes to advanced functions), coupled with the Alexa AnyMote skill is awesome.

Here’s a quick list of what my two Home Theater’s include for major components:

Living Room Bedroom
Samsung LN52B750 TV

Sony STR-DA4ES Receiver

Samsung BD-F5900 BD Player

Comcast DCX 3400 DVR

Apple TV

Amazon Fire TV

WD Live Hub

Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter

5.1 Surround Speakers

Old Yamaha Receiver

Old LT-P326W Samsung TV

Comcast DCX 3400 DVR

Samsung BD-5900 BD Player

5.1 Surround Speakers

anymoteHarmony 1100 harmony hub

The Living Room (My Main Home Theater)

In my Living Room, my goal was to replace the dying Harmony 1100. I thought about getting another Harmony Hub for the Living Room to use with my iPad Air, but was concerned that when I got to voice enabling it that there would be conflicts with the Bedroom Harmony Hub (see below on the Master Bedroom) AND I’m not very fond of the individual device control interface for Harmony on the iPad. And Amazon had the AnyMote Home on sale for $89.00. Plus, AnyMote allows Alexa voice control of individual “buttons” (which is not the case with using the Harmony routines) as well as macros (activities).

AnyMote is an amazing tool. It’s a geek treasure hunt (like peeling back layers of an onion) that leads to discovery of the many things this little gadget can do when coupled with a supported device and I’ve barely scratched the surface. I used my iPad Air to set things up (and will also be using my iPhone) as I wanted the larger screen for first time set up. I pretty much found built in codes for most of my (aging) home theater components; I had to use the record a button feature to get a few things to work properly, but I got the basic functions working and tested fairly quickly.

After insuring the remotes were configured correctly and buttons were working properly, I jumped in and created macros that turned on three devices and set the proper inputs, etc. I started with 4 so that I could control my set top box and my BD ROM player; one each to turn everything on and one each to turn everything off. I used longish delays between powering on and off components so that I could properly test (see image below) and have been adjusting the delays as I go. Below is one of the macro in progress where I can stack commands and delays.

macro

I created a blank Smart Home Remote and named it Home Theater and imported the 4 macros. I was itching to try the Alexa AnyMote Skill, so I stopped there and got that up and running. Pairing with Alexa is built in to the AnyMote App; a phrase is displayed that you speak, and Alexa complies and acknowledges.

pair alexa

After pairing is complete, the AnyMote App displays an abbreviated tutorial (which didn’t cover everything I needed, but there is more information on the AnyMote Knowledge Base which answered most of my questions. Basically, you tell Alexa the name of the button to action and the device remote to use, e.g., “Alexa, tell AnyMote to MUTE my Sony Receiver”. For macros, the syntax is “Alexa, ask AnyMote to execute [macro_name]”.

pairing tutor

Watch Alexa and AnyMote in action in my Living Room. Alexa runs my macro to turn on three components to watch Cable TV. Next, Alexa opens MyDVR via AnyMote:

I created some macros for my favorite TV channels as well. When I tested them, I found that Alexa didn’t like some of the names I’d selected – neither MAX HD or MAX was recognized by Alexa, but CINEMAX worked fine. Go figure. Below is a screen shot that pretty much shows where I am at this point (with lots more to figure out and implement)

anymote finished

One of the gotchas’s is that every time you create new macros, apparently you need to disable the AnyMote Alexa Skill in the Echo App, repair your AnyMote with Alexa (which resynchronizes everything). It isn’t a big deal, but it is annoying.

Editing the visuals of a remote is also available. Inside the remote editor, I can change themes, button colors and text and use built in icons. I couldn’t get the channel icons for the United States to appear/work, so I settled for color coding the channels that I created macros for. I’m probably missing something obvious, but for now I can tell Alexa “Ask AnyMote to execute HBO” and the channel changes. Or I can push the buttons on the iPad.

I saw some negative comments about AnyMote, but I highly recommend this device and app if you’re comfortable with doing tweaking and fine tuning to get things “just right”.

The Master Bedroom

I have a SmartThings Hub that I was not using (I’d bought it in my quest to voice enable my Sonos speakers, but it didn’t meet my expectations so I went elsewhere to fill that need). I remembered that SmartThings was supposed to work with Logitech Harmony Wi-Fi based remotes, so with nothing to lose, my first task was to see what I could accomplish with my bedroom home theater gear.

SmartThings requires a whole series of steps, done in a particular order, to add “things” and authorize for use with Alexa (I’d previously disabled SmartThings in the Alexa App after the Sonos experiment.) Harmony remotes use “Activity” based commands (macros) and it looked like that these activities could be voice enabled (but not individual control of devices, like Play, Pause, Stop, Eject, etc. for an individual component). The process for me was a little rocky. SmartThings discovered my activities after I linked with my Harmony account and imported them as “Watch TV [Harmony Control]”, “Watch a DVD [Harmony Control]”, etc., so I had to rename them (deleted the [Harmony Control] part) and then relink SmartThings with Alexa.

Fortunately, the Alexa App is very smart and lets you pick which SmartThings devices to control.

smartthings1

I ran Discovery in the Alexa App and the two “activities” were discovered and added. However, Alexa just didn’t seem to understand the “Watch a DVD” or “Watch TV” syntax. I tried speaking slowly, quickly, but Alexa kept offering to play songs from my Music Library or other responses. After a while I decided that maybe renaming the activities was the solution. So I renamed to “My Movie Theater” and “Xfinity”.

 

smartthings2

I then disabled SmartThings in the Alexa App and unlinked SmartThings and relinked, etc. but couldn’t get Discovery to find the new named activities. I had to unlink/remove AND remove the Harmony Remote from SmartThings and re-run discovery for Things, rename to My Movie Theater and Xfinity, relink to Alexa and THEN run discovery to get the selected activity/Things to appear. Eureka. This works.

When I tell Alexa (via my upstairs Dot) to “Turn on My Movie Theater”, all the right things happen. The components are properly powered on and the handheld Harmony remote actually changes to reflect the running Activity so that I can use the buttons to Play, Pause, FFW, etc. I wish I could tell Alexa to “Play”, “Pause”, etc. and maybe someday I WILL be able to do this. I wasn’t too enthralled by the SmartThings setup process. I know Yonomi also can link to Harmony, but I wanted to first try my neglected SmartThings Hub. I’m sure Yonomi will be smoother, but again, only the Activities (macros) will be supported.

For me, AnyMote is the clear winner in Home Theater control. I’m using maybe 25% of its capabilities and as time goes on, I’ll be experimenting with other functionality.

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