Sierra Bluetooth Connection Problems

As of this morning, without any changes to either device I’m aware of, my TB keeps losing Bluetooth connection to my MacBook Pro (Retina, Mid 2012, running Sierra 10.12.13). It starts OK but then drops the connection and simply refuses to reconnect. It still connects to my iPad Pro, so I am suspecting it’s the Mac, but as I said, as far as I can see nothing has changed since yesterday when everything was still working fine.

Questions: how do I diagnose what is going wrong? Are there any know workarounds or hacks to deal with this issue?

I was just getting very attached to using my TB as my single keyboard, and find typing on the MacBook’s own keyboard quite cumbersome in comparison, so this sudden connection problem has me both worried and annoyed.

While waiting for the release of the next update which is supposed to be about connections, you might want to check if your Mac has “HandOff” turned on. It’s handy, but I can do just fine without it. With it off, I’ve had far fewer issues. When I turned it on last week, just as an experiment, it was pretty bad - worse than it was back before I turned it off before. So I assume this connection thing can be pretty erratic in how much it hits you.

If it is already off, I have no idea what to try.

It is in system preferences under General, near the bottom, on Sierra. This is, apparently, a problem created when Apple come out with the new OS and is what WT is trying to work around. Other low energy bluetooth keyboards have similar problems.

Thanks. I will try with HandOff turned off. I wasn’t using it much anyway.

Tookithegreat - we can check a couple things online together with you to see what’s going on with your mac, but DBK’s comments are correct.

FYI - one objective of the new firmware release is to add monitors to detect and recover when sierra gets into this funky state. This quirk has affected other Bluetooth devices on sierra as well, and we believe apple is working on it. In the meantime, we’re testing our own methods to work around it until apple updates.

It is also likely that the recent sierra changes behave differently on 2012 machines vs. recent hardware, so it usually takes apple some time to get through testing it on all the earlier versions. (Your 2012 mbp uses a different Bluetooth modem chip).

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Thanks for getting back to me. I have followed DBKs suggestion and turned off HandOff on my MacBook. That seems to have solved the problem (for now). I am aware of the bluetooth headaches Apple is causing at the moment. I have several devices playing up, so I absolutely don’t blame WayTools or assume my TB is faulty. It’s just bloody annoying.

Would you believe my MacBook has suddenly learned to turn on my AppleTV (and connected stereo and TV set) at random moments? I was using a remote control app on my MacBook that connects via Bluetooth, and that now randomly turns my AppleTV on at night. There IS a ghost in the machine ;-).

By the way: you should hire DBK or pay him some bonus for his services. He has helped me out several times already and he seems to be always on ;-).

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Words to live by! Sorry, couldn’t resist. :innocent:

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DBK is always online because it’s an IA

Sounds like a great idea! Or just send me a Tesla. Don’t want to burden them with paying me for a full time job! Oh, and they’ll also need to buy me a new place to live since the high-rise condo I live in wouldn’t give me an opportunity to charge it!

In one sense I actually am online “all the time”. That is, my computer is normally not turned off and I have a bunch of tabs always open (news, sports, technology), which includes this site.

So when I am home and working on other things on the computer, any time I need a break from other work, I can quickly reload each of those tabs and see if anything has happened. Or do a quick typing tests (two tabs just for that), etc.

I’ll have quick access when out with my phone too, typically when waiting for a student to show up or waiting for a dental appointment, etc. But I rarely post in those situations. Just read. But I love the fact that times when normally I would have nothing to do but wait, I can do other things now.

I can’t believe it. You are taking time to write workarounds for Apple’s bugs? We have been waiting 2 years and I just want a keyboard to work with my Android devices. Let Apple fix their own problems and get your product out.

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On a related point to the OP and not detracting from DBK’s greatness:wink: I’m assuming in all of this testing a bluetooth dongle will become known as the most reliable. It would be great to get a heads up so we can order it to make the connection to other machines bulletproof as much as possible.
BW

Unless you’re dealing with the special case where the dongle has a small Bluetooth stack running on it, I’d think that the stack running on the host would play a much bigger role in reliability than the actual hardware. It’s why everyone’s TextBlade started having connection problems when Apple changed something in Sierra – the hardware stayed the same, but the stack changed.

It might end up being that the “safest” way to make it work is actually using a dongle where the stack runs on the dongle itself. Dongles based on CSR 8510 A10 chip having 64 kb EEPROM will work. We’ve had luck with a few brands of ones sold at retail in Japan, or one particular brand (Laird BT820) sold online in the UK and the US. However, the process is a bit cumbersome if you’re not a nerd, and my understanding is that WayTools has been experimenting with doing that in the factory and sending them pre-paired with TextBlades. I don’t really have any information besides the occasional snippet that I see here, but that might be your best bet, dongle-wise. I suspect that it won’t go on sale at initial shipment time, anyway.

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From a new-ish TREG participant (I’m aiming to get a “first impressions” post up within the next few days)…

During my first few days with the TextBlade I had lots of problems with the Bluetooth connection to my iMac. At WayTools’ suggestion I moved the Bluetooth dongle from another machine (MacBook Air running W10 in Boot Camp) to the iMac. The connection to the iMac through the dongle has been rock solid since then with no issues arising during jumps, when waking the TextBlade, or while typing.

As a bit of additional background, the Bluetooth dongle was provided by WayTools as part of the TREG package. Aesthetically the dongle is a bit hideous- it’s a fairly large (for a dongle) grey plastic thing with a blue light that flashes constantly- thankfully it’s plugged in where I can’t see it! Functionally, however, the device has been great. It comes pre-paired with the TextBlade on jump slot 6 and essentially allows the TextBlade to function as a standard plug-and-play USB keyboard. I think a WayTools Bluetooth dongle is something that many TextBlade owners will find useful. I have no idea what WayTools’ plans are at this point with respect to selling them as an accessory. Assuming they do sell them, I sincerely hope the form factor is greatly reduced (similar to something like the Logitech Unifying Receiver, perhaps) and there is no blinking blue light. If you’re looking for additional info on dongles and the TextBlade, there’s a useful page here on the waytools.rocks website (BTW, the dongle I received is different from the Laird one pictured on that page).

And one final tidbit related to the Mac Bluetooth connection issue… if I understood this part of my conversation with Mark correctly (yes, the standard 3+ hour intro call!), it sounds like the troubleshooting that WayTools is currently doing as a result of the Bluetooth issue is leading to some firmware improvements that will benefit all users of the TextBlade. The technical details are a bit beyond me but the bottom line is that jumps are being made more reliable, especially for people who may be changing their jump slots multiple times. I don’t think there have been any major issues with jumps to date, but refining the code is always a good thing and likely helps to reduce the inevitable issues that pop up when something like the TextBlade gets released at large scale to the general public.

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The problem with jumps, when people would sometimes change what device was assigned a specific jump slot, was that later there could be confusion if both the newly assigned device and the previous one were both in range. I don’t know all the tech on that, but they have made a change the end of last week which seems to solve that problem. At least it has for me so far.

Thanks for the additional info on this and glad to hear things are working better. I’ve been following along fairly closely with the feedback since TREG started last year but it’s been going on long enough (and my memory is sometimes flaky enough!) that I don’t recall whether certain topics (like jumps, for example) were just discussion items or whether there were problems that are still being tested and resolved.

With jumps, I think the issue (as Mark explained it) was that when someone added a device to a jump slot that had previously been used for another device, there was sometimes some residual pairing info left over from the first device. This could occasionally cause issues when jumping and may have been contributing to the Bluetooth connection problems. It’s my understanding that a new version of the firmware (I don’t believe I have it yet) improves the way jump slots store pairing info.

While it is a kind of connection issue, it is separate from the one where some lose connections at random or it won’t connect at initial startup.

That latter one is, I think, due to be addressed in the next update to the app.

Again, thanks for the additional info and clarification DBK. I mentioned the jump issue above because even though it is separate from the Bluetooth connection issue(s), it’s my understanding that troubleshooting one of the problems is having the added benefit of helping to solve another problem. This technical stuff is well beyond my expertise, though, so it’s entirely possible that I’m not getting it quite right :slight_smile:!

My understanding is that the WayTools one is actually a Laird BT820 on the inside, in a custom case that matches the colour of the TextBlade.

Here’s the one that I use, which has the same innards and is programmed the same way, but is a bit smaller (probably at the expense of antenna size and thus range):

I haven’t found any this size sold outside of Japan that have the required EEPROM capacity, though.

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Interesting- thanks for the info awh_tokyo. I took a closer look at the dongle WayTools sent me and it looks like you’re exactly correct. The printing on one side of the device clearly says “BT820”- see photo below (note that I’ve blurred out the rest of the printing because I have no idea if it’s appropriate to share publicly- I assume there’s nothing particularly secret about it but I’d rather err on the side of caution).

For reference I’ve also included a pic of the WayTools dongle next to the Logitech one I mentioned previously. From a functional perspective the WayTools dongle has been great and the size (and blinking blue light) is not currently an issue because I’ve got it plugged into the back of an iMac. If I were using it on a laptop that I was traveling with, however, I’d be a bit less enthusiastic about it :slight_smile:. Given the fantastic build quality and design standards of the TextBlade, NanoStand, and the packaging they arrive in, I’d be very surprised if the dongle shown below is what WayTools intends to ship at general release.

edit: I’ve sent a note to WayTools asking if they’re able to provide any additional info at this point on their plans for the dongle- I’ll provide an update if I hear anything back.

edit 2: see update below with some info from WayTools.

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Here are 3 USB Dongles:

  • Swiftpoint GT Charger & “pretends to be USB Mouse” dongle
  • Wifi dongle - for size comparison
  • Cinolink Bluetooth 4.0 (Class 1 50 Meter) with a CSR 8510 chipset

The Swiftpoint GT mouse can be paired to only 1 device via Bluetooth, but the moment its dongle is plugged in, it will send the mouse events to the dongle instead. If its built-in pairing was Bluetooth, and it would accept a TextBlade as well, it would be perfect for my use cases - mouse and keyboard paired to iPad Pro, and 1 dongle for Pair Programming.

The Cinolink is the one I think I would use with the TextBlade (because it is small), if I could know for sure it had the 64KiB EEPROM. Currently the tools don’t check for that, and I’m not willing to brick a perfectly usable device. If they upgrade the tool to check, I’ll definitely try it out. Unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to use it with the Swiftpoint GT mouse because, again, only 1 pairing on the GT mouse, and from what I read, pairing it back to the dongle is a pain.

I once read on the forums an imaginary scenario where something the size of the Nano Charger could also double as the HID Proxy Bluetooth BLE dongle. After seeing the Cinolink - I’d believe it too. The Cinolink looks like “more plastic than board & chips” so all the active components are on a sliver of a circuit board. If the ceramic antenna could be countersunk beneath the surface - it would be totally flat!

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