Fixing MacBook Pro Keyboard and Trackpad in Windows Boot Camp

After a recent major Windows 10 update in Boot Camp on my 2016 MacBook Pro, the integrated keyboard and trackpad just completely stopped working. I was able to connect an external USB keyboard and mouse so that I could continue using Windows, and confirm that everything else seemed to be working just fine.

The Boot Camp "Repair" option in the Programs and Features Control Panel did not restore any of the functionality. I managed to get things working properly again after a full re-install of the Boot Camp drivers. Someone has developed a utility to download the drivers directly in Windows, or you can follow these steps.

  1. Boot into Mac OS and run Boot Camp Assistant.
  2. Click the Action menu and select Download Windows Support Software. Make note of where the files are being downloaded.
  3. Copy the files to a USB drive, or upload them to cloud storage somewhere (recommended for future use).
  4. Reboot into Windows, copy the files from the USB or cloud, and run the setup.exe file. This will present a "Repair" option again, similar to the Control Panel option, but this really does reinstall all the drivers.
  5. Reboot into Windows again.
I found the keyboard and trackpad began working immediately after the Repair/Install completed, but rebooted as recommended. After rebooting, the keyboard and trackpad again didn't seem to be working, but they started working normally less than a minute after the Windows login screen appeared.

Making the Switch: The move from Android to iOS

This is a follow up post to the previous post about switching from Android to iOS.

It has been about a month since I made the switch, and so far there haven't been any big surprises. I have argued for years that when you consider what you use a smartphone for these days, the day-to-day use of an iPhone versus Android are quite minimal. Most of what I (and pretty much everyone I know) do include email, web browsing, and some social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc). The experience of these activities really doesn't change much across devices.

There are things that I knew would be slightly different (and annoying). For example, I use Chrome as my browser across all devices. I do not want to use Safari, but Apple does not let you change the default browser in iOS. So, I sometimes have to click on a link to open a page in Safari, copy the link, close the tab in Safari (so I don't end up with 500 zombie tabs), then open Chrome and paste in the link.

Using iMessage and FaceTime with family is nice. Again, I wish iPhone users were more willing to use a messaging platform that was inclusive, but generally speaking they just aren't.

The resale value of Android phones that I mentioned in the previous post really hit home. I managed to sell my Samsung A5 2017 for roughly 25% of its original value. That hurt.

Overall, the transition has been relatively painless (apart from losing so much value in the resale of my Android device).

Making the switch: Moving from Android to iOS

I have used Android phones for nearly 10 years now. My first Android phone was the first Android phone; the T-Mobile G1. I transitioned through a few different phones, and was appreciative of the developer community that kept these phones up to date long after the manufacturers had abandoned them.

I did get tired of replacing my phone so often, but the combination of rapidly improving hardware and unstable unofficial Android ROMs made it hard to stick with a phone for more than a year or so.

Then I bought the Nexus 5. I bought it at launch. It was a phone with high-end specs and a $400 price. Google provided three years of updates for their Nexus line, and I kept my Nexus 5 for just over three years. It had a mediocre (at best) camera, and poor battery life, but I loved that phone.

I tried switching to the Axon Pro, another Android with high-end specs and reasonable price. Sadly, it only received one update despite being ZTE's flagship phone, and it was much larger than I wanted my phone to be. I switch again in less than a year to the mid-range Samsung Galaxy A5. It's not a bad phone, but it's not great and I honestly don't know how long Samsung plans to keep the A5 updated.

So, what kept me from Apple all those years, and what has changed?

Price was a big factor. The iPhone is a very expensive phone. Unfortunately, if I want to repeat my "Nexus 5" experience, I would need to look at getting one of Google's Pixel phones and long gone are the days of Google's flagship phone costing $400.

From a personal perspective, most of my family use iPhones. While I wished people would transition to a cross-platform messaging system (like WhatsApp), Apple has successfully sucked people into the iMessage/FaceTime vortex. I don't like it, but not liking something doesn't keep it from being a reality.

Phone hardware is also not changing as rapidly as it once did. Keeping a phone for over three years isn't as crazy sounding as it once was, as long as the manufacturer is still supporting it. This fall, Apple released iOS 12 for the iPhone 5S, a 5-year old device! I have a family member with that phone. It still works great, and it has current software! I am not aware of a single Android device that has official support after 3 years, let alone 5.

One final note is that every time I have changed my Android device, the depreciation was significant. I am blown away by the resale value of used iPhones. Maybe in the long run the iPhone won't be as expensive as it first seems.

So, I'm giving the iPhone thing a whirl. I know there will be things that drive me crazy, and only time will tell whether this experiment will be a positive experience.

Misadventures with Thunderbolt

The Promising Technology

Thunderbolt is a port technology by Intel, and first appeared on Macs in 2011. Originally, the primary use for Thunderbolt was as a video port (mini DisplayPort), though there were some other peripherals, such as external storage. With Thunderbolt 3, things got very interesting. The connector switched to USB Type-C, and the port included USB compatibility. The peak bandwidth was also increased to 40Gbps, opening up many possibilities for extremely high bandwidth devices such as external graphics. Even better, Thunderbolt 3 could deliver up to 100W of power, either to devices attached to the computer, or to the computer from the attached device.

On paper, things sounded amazing. Reality, as is often the case, was quite a bit different.

In 2016 I purchased an Asus GL702VM gaming laptop. Asus proudly advertised "Onboard Intel® Thunderbolt™ technology" that "gives you single-cable data and signal transmission rates of up to 40Gbits/s". I had kept my previous gaming laptop for 4 years, and the only reason I upgraded from it was the aging graphics chip it used. I figured a Thunderbolt 3 port would allow me to upgrade the graphics chips down the road, extending the life of the laptop.

At work, to support our Mac users, I use a 2016 MacBook Pro with 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports.

This year, we decided that new laptops acquired for staff should also include Thunderbolt 3, and that we could start looking for a universal docking station for use with any laptop going forward. We ordered a Dell Latitude 5480, which reviews showed as having a Thunderbolt 3 port.

Things were looking promising for Thunderbolt 3; the one port to rule them all.

And then...

I recently acquired a Gigabyte Aorus GTX 1080 eGPU (external graphics) box. Graphics cards are extremely expensive due to the cryptocurrency mining craze, but somehow the Gigabyte eGPU managed to be the cheapest GTX 1080 available. While researching eGPU configurations for my Asus laptop, I discovered that the Thunderbolt 3 chip Asus used was an "LP" version that only worked at 20Gbps (half of Thunderbolt 3's advertised peak speed). Asus does not list this anywhere on the product page, and this chip is essentially Intel's dirty little Thunderbolt 3 secret.

Next, our order for the Dell Latitude 5480 came in, along with the Thunderbolt 3 docks. I connected the dock to the Dell and discovered that only a specific configuration of the 5480 (with a completely unrelated GeForce 930MX graphics chip) includes Thunderbolt 3. The model we received has a regular USB Type-C port. Fortunately we were able to return the laptops and order replacements with the Thunderbolt 3 port, but Dell is needlessly creating confusion on this laptop. If you've been considering it, be careful ordering.

Finally, I connected the Dell Thunderbolt 3 dock to the 2016 MacBook Pro. Nothing. Apple has a "whitelist" of supported Thunderbolt 3 devices, and unsupported devices simply won't work. There is a hack that removes Apple's arbitrary and artificial device check. Once I went through those steps, the dock functioned mostly OK; everything worked but only one external display can be used.

Someday?

Perhaps there is some hope for Thunderbolt 3. Intel is making Thunderbolt 3 royalty-free, so it may start showing up in more devices. I just hope that laptop manufacturers stop using the slower version of Intel's Thunderbolt 3 chip, or at least are more clear which chip they are using. Other Thunderbolt 3 docks are supported by Apple (though they are significantly more expensive of course), and offer Windows compatibility as well. Although I could say I hope that Apple removes their ridiculous "supported" check, Apple's history makes that scenario unlikely.

Putting ICE on IT

I have worked in what is traditionally viewed as "IT", or Information Technology for a very long time now. However, since I began working in the Faculty of Education at Brock University, my initial IT position has evolved in wonderful and important ways. To support the Teacher Candidates and our faculty, I became increasingly involved with what has been traditionally viewed (apologies for the redundancy) as Educational Technology.

Over the last few years, I have realized that neither IT nor ET can adequately capture what is truly happening in education, from K-12 through higher education.

There are many technologies that enable teaching, learning, and research. Some technologies are commonly used in education, but can hardly be described as educational technology. Examples include presentation tools and learning management systems. I am more inclined to describe these as Instructional Technologies (though IT already exists as a separate entity). Similarly, technologies such as video conferencing and shared document editing are commonly used in education, but are better described as Collaboration Technologies. There are indeed Educational Technologies, but which category they fall under depends on their specific use. Tablets are a good example.

Almost hand-in-hand with these technologies there tend to be associated staff members, focused on specific areas.

For several months now I have been considering a more holistic approach; a combination of Instructional, Collaboration, Educational, and Information Technology. Although I am not a huge fan of acronyms, I feel that describing all of the relevant technology pieces would be a little too cumbersome.

Welcome to ICEIT.

This is more than just a name. It reflects that these individual pieces are stronger together; that there needs to be a collaborative approach to technology. Each letter does not represent an individual territory to be claimed by individual staff or units. It is a whole, and all of the members need to work together for it to be effective.

I look forward to the coming months as we start to look at this approach in the Faculty of Education.

Bashing a broken feature of Apple Configurator 2

I have commented before on some of Apple Configurator 2's (AC2) broken features. There are even some new annoyances that have come to light that make me wonder if Apple hired some high school students for a weekend to program AC2.

One of the biggest things that Apple broke in AC2 that worked just fine in Configurator 1 (AC1) is related to the device names. If you manage a large set of shared iPads, you probably need to fully wipe the iPads from time-to-time to clear out personal user data. Wiping the iPads with a Prepare job is easy enough. Unfortunately, when you run the Prepare job, AC2 resets the names of the iPads and completely forgets the previously assigned names! This is a huge problem when you're trying to troubleshoot issues with a specific iPad. In AC1, the iPads would get renamed to the previously assigned name. I have no idea why Apple removed this functionality in AC2.

In my previous post, I described how to use AC2 in combination with AC1. The Prepare is done via AC2 (which has some iOS 9+ specific Prepare options not found in AC1), and then run AC1 to rename the iPads. Unfortunately, we just replaced the Macs used to manage our iPads and AC1 doesn't just want to rename the iPads, but now wipes them too (undoing the Prepare job). There may also be people out there who don't have AC1 (and don't feel comfortable retrieving it from some sketchy download site).

Bash to the rescue!

AC2 does include a very handy command-line utility that can be used in bash shell scripts to both capture the current device names, and apply those names back to the right iPads. To ensure the command-line utility is installed, click the Apple Configurator 2 menu, and choose "Install Automation Tools...". Now to create the files you will need.

First, let's create a mapping of device ID to current name. Make sure all of the iPads you want to manage are connected. Open a Terminal window and run the following commands.

mkdir ~/Desktop/Rename
/usr/local/bin/cfgutil list | sed -e 's/.*ECID: 0x/0x/' | sed -e 's/[ ]*UDID: .*Name: /,/' >> ~/Desktop/Rename/ipad_lookup.txt

Note that is a tab between the [ ]. You cannot just hit the tab key in Terminal for a tab. You must first press CTRL+V, then the tab key.

This will create a CSV (comma separated values) text file with the device ID to name mapping in a folder called "Rename" on your desktop. Save this file (make a backup somewhere). You don't want to lose it. Open the file with a text editor to make sure all of the iPads are listed. You should only need to run this command once unless you add more iPads or decide to rename them.

Once you have the above file, you can safely run a Prepare job. After the Prepare job is done, you will need a script to rename the iPads. Rather than give full details about how to create a script here, I will simply refer you to another site describing the process. It isn't hard, and you just need to do this once. Simply follow the steps there, copying in the following lines into the script.

#!/bin/bash
WORKDIR=~/Desktop/Rename
/usr/local/bin/cfgutil list | sed -e 's/.*ECID: 0x/0x/' | sed -e 's/.UDID:.*//' > $WORKDIR/connected_iPads
while read ECID; do
  IPADNAME=`grep $ECID $WORKDIR/ipad_lookup.txt | sed -e 's/.*,//'`
  /usr/local/bin/cfgutil -e $ECID rename "$IPADNAME"
done < "$WORKDIR/connected_iPads"
rm $WORKDIR/connected_iPads

Make sure to save the script in the Rename folder on your desktop. I named the script file "renameConnectediPads.sh".

That script first detects all connected devices. For each connected device, it looks up the unique device ID in the previously created ipad_lookup.txt file, and renames the iPad accordingly. You can run this script while AC2 is running, and watch the names change as the script runs.

There you have it. Bash scripting is extremely powerful, and in just a few lines it solves one of the most annoying problems with AC2.

The Physical Web

This will just be a quick post for an experiment over the next few days.

If you are at FETC 2017 and get notified about this post, take a look around. I should be nearby. Introduce yourself and let me know your experiences with beacons and the physical web.

For those of you reading this and wondering what the heck is the physical web, take a look at bkon.com's Physical Web Q&A.

As for my own personal experiences, I have yet to stumble across a single beacon in my travels. Maybe that will change this week since this is the first large technology conference I will be at since enabling the physical web settings on my device.