Wearable watch woes

Amazafit-GTR4 smartwatch

A little while ago posted how I have finally stopped using the Pebble smartwatch (I still own one and hold on to it). Funny enough a few people sent me posts about how about a quarter of a million people still use the pebble smartwatch. Of course I was one them for a long time.

I moved to a TicWatch3 which is a Android wear OS smartwatch. It was good and the Android wear system was quite good but the Android overhead is a massive resource hog. It was on a recent trip to London while using using the sleep tracking, I woke up to find the watch dead after 36hrs. I decided enough and swapped it for the Amazfit GTR4.

Its a good smartwatch with lots of options and great battery life (generally about 6-8 days on a charge). I was aware of the complexity of options but the interface and ecosystem makes things more tricky.

For example, I currently have two apps installed on my phone. Zepp and Notify. Main reason for Notify is because of sleep as android. There has been a few times when the watch has disconnected from the phone during night leaving zero feedback about my sleep stages, heart-rate, etc. The disconnection happens more than I’d like and the only way to get it back is to restart the watch or mess with my phones bluetooth.

Other annoying things include not being able to voice reply to messages, this was built into Pebble’s since the Pebble Time & Pebble 2. Its strange because it has everything needed to do it like the voice assistant (which is annoyingly the Alexa voice assistant, wish I could change that)

Right now I’m looking through the FAQ, forums like XDA and even Reddit.

Generally its a great smartwatch and I’m generally happy but really need to  spend time understanding how to do simple things like control my remote music. Ideally it needs a well thought out UI with a paradigm like the Pebble has.

Sorry Pebble Rebble

Pebble time and Ticwatch pro

Over the last few months, I kept using my Pebble watches for many things but over time every single Pebble 2 (I have 2 which still kinda work) died, even with no buttons.The last survivor is the Pebble time but it got to a point where I need to charge it everyday and partly in the day. I looked into moving the battery from some of the dead Pebble 2’s to the pebble time but its so simple.

The pebble is a great smartwatch but I had to look at my options, so decided to look at the hybrid smartwatches again and wasn’t impressed. After looking at smartwatches which have longer battery lives, I found a number changes and low power modes increasing the battery lives from 1 day to a 3-5 days.

In the end I bought the Ticwatch Pro 3 Ultra with Wear OS (automatically updated to wear 0s 3), although I did originally buy the Samsung Galaxy watch 4 and considered one of the Huawei smartwatches, but I decided I should stick with Wear OS (even with the battery drain). I had hoped the Google Pixel watch would be the answer to my needs but was let down.

Idle mode on the pebble time and ticwatch pro 3

The idle mode seems to be the key to battery usage, and the viewable screen on the ticwatch 3, although not as clear as the epaper screen of the pebble time. Is still good even at extreme angles.

Its a shame having to say goodbye to the rebble (post pebble community, they were amazing and the rebble software engineering is incredible. But it had to happen, as little things like not knowing who is calling and not being able to reply to non-sms messages (signal for example) was grinding on me. The health side is useful but mainly covered by the Oura ring.

Roughly 4 days of app tracking with Duck duck go’s app tracking

4 days of app tracking with Duck duck go's app tracking system

Following the post a couple of days ago about Duck Duck Go’s app tracking system.

I had planned to make an update to the original post but after reading a few other pieces about it, thought it deserves another post.

So here is 4 days of data, and there are some really questionable tracking in there. For example I didn’t open my ereader prestigio app over the last 4 days but there was a tracking call to Google. Oura and Beeper are sending a lot of tracking calls. Wasn’t pleased with the calls to Facebook from Orfi and surprised OKCupid and POF apps were not tracking more.

I am thinking about maybe installing another app which does similar but unsure if I trust them as much duck duck go right now. Oh and I got my invite for Duck Duck Go’s mail tracking today too.

Fixing the pebble smartwatch with the new 3D buttons (Kinda)

Fixed pebble2 smartwatch

Over the last few weeks I have switched from the Pebble Time watch which a friend gave me. To the slightly fixed button Pebble 2 watch. I finally tried decided to just go with superglue in strategic positions.

The buttons are 3D printed to fit without glue but they didn’t quite pop like described in the video which came with the buttons. I obviously didn’t watch enough as I assumed I would need to open the pebble watch to fit the buttons (no idea why I did this). The upside of this being not breaking the watch and understanding how to maybe replace the battery too.

So far its good although the pressure of pressing the buttons did crack the plastic and I had to re-glue it again in even tighter positions. But its generally staying put now. I’ll likely do similar for the other pebble which  has broken buttons.

Its a good fix as the watch battery is much longer lasting than the Pebble time, even with the HR sensor and other features turned on. Maybe a charge every 4-5 days currently.

I would certainly recommend the 3D printed buttons for those looking to extend the life of the pebble.

 

Trying out duck duck go’s app tracking protection

Duck duck go's app tracking protection on Android

I was in the queue to get access to the Duck Duck Go’s app tracking protection and yesterday caught a invite on my old Pixel 4 phone.

Its only been one day but you can see above there has been 1650 tracking attempts. Many from Beeper app, which is my instant messaging app of choice. I can forgive them as beeper is under heavy development and segment & functional seems to be a customer/feedback data platforms.
This is similar to Oura and I can see why Google would be tracking as I do connect it to Google Fit anyway.

On the annoying side, Orfi is a app which my volleyball teams have switched to from using facebook events. The Facebook and Google trackers is worry some but its only when the app is open, which isn’t most of the time. Likewise the Philips Hue app tracking is annoying, as I do have that open a lot for controlling my lights. Plume is a tricky one but I will look through the settings to see if there is something which could be turned off.

Frankly its all really interesting to see and funny enough, the battery life of my Pixel 6 has completely changed. Usually its at about 75% after a day but today its at 85%. Not much different but the apps using the most battery power has completely changed.

Of course this is all after one day, so I expect I’ll see what happens over time and likely write a follow up.

Duck Duck Go are on fire and we need to see more of this…

 

Pixel6 magic eraser, pushed to the limit

I posted a quick picture on Mastdon of my Google Pixel 4 using my new Google Pixel 6 magic eraser feature.

Pixel 6 image

Here is the original shot, no edit no filters in my living room as I setup my Pixel 6.

This is the same picture just quickly wiping my finger over the Chromebook at the top right of the picture.

I guess I could have tried the other objects but I thought the reflection in my Pixel 4 would have looked very strange. The nice thing is I can go back and make that change at any time. So here is the that picture

Pixel 6 magic

If you hadn’t seen the other pictures, you might think the reflection is from objects much further away but knowing the fact it looks a bit strange.

magic erase looking strange

Finally magic erase can only go so far and you won’t get away with this picture at all.

Regardless of everything, its super fast and took longer for me to resize the photos (I reduced them down by 5x) on my laptop than use the tool. Computational photography has certainly stepped up a gear since my Pixel 2 days. I look forward to removing all those people who photo bomb my photos.

Growing up in the age of the search

Gnome shell search

This has been massively shared on the internet but I did find it interesting as something to look at how I organise myself.

Generally I use folders of hierarchy on most of my systems including my Android devices. I find the linux operating system encourages you put files in certain locations, especially when you are using different applications and different app systems. For example using snap, flatpak, apt and appimage. Its quite a diverse (sometimes complex) ecosystem compared to OSx and Windows I found.

I do use symbolic links (shortcuts) a lot on my systems and find it useful to link things within remote locations like my NAS or online storage.

Gnome shell has search built in from the super key (windows key on most laptops). I don’t tend to use the search for files or folders, which in hindsight is a bit silly because its much quicker. I guess it just wasn’t as good & quick as it is now, and so never got use to using it. Even now I still would put the files in a certain folder to be clear where it is for my mind.

I use dropbox, which kind of forces you to use a folder hierarchy. There is most of my files on there and that includes personal, work, app, etc. I have my Google drive mounted as a folder inside of Linux, so I also manage that in a similar way.

Now I’m looking at the list of Gnome shell search extensions and thinking about using it much more. Heck I can search my email, files, music, etc from Gnome shell (no Joplin however) time to start using it more.

Paypal goes crypto

Use Paypal to buy Crypto We all knew it was coming but it feels so strange seeing Paypal supporting Crypto. Especially certain ones over others.

Confirming crypto in Paypal

At least there is more terms and conditions before you can actually buy.

Buying etherum in PaypalActually buying some Ethereum is pretty straight forward. You can pick anything linked to Paypal including your credit and debit cards (which is slightly troubling).

Having bought a little bit, it seems to be stuck in Paypal. I couldn’t find any wallet address or a way to send the bought funds to other own crypto wallets. Maybe that might come but I doubt it.

 

Update your Chrome browser now

The amount of times I have been on zoom during work, someone shares their own screen and you can see there Chrome browser almost begging the user to hit update.

Most people put these updates off and I have really hard time understanding why, especially because the most updates are done in seconds and you are back to where you left off. Maybe its different on Windows and Mac but on Linux very few updates require a reboot. If a browser required a reboot I would be shocked.

The chrome updates recently have become critical with a number of zero-day exploits running wild.

I found this post explaining the colour differences in Chrome updates.

Get a Chrome update when available

Normally updates happen in the background when you close and reopen your computer’s browser. But if you haven’t closed your browser in a while, you might see a pending update:

  1. On your computer, open Chrome.
  2. At the top right, look at More More.
  3. If an update is pending, the icon will be coloured:
    • Green: An update was released less than 2 days ago.
    • Orange: An update was released about 4 days ago.
    • Red: An update was released at least a week ago.

The amount of the people I have seen with the Red update is incredible. Of course if you are not sure how to update Chrome…

To update Google Chrome:

  1. On your computer, open Chrome.
  2. At the top right, click More More.
  3. Click Update Google Chrome.
    • Important: If you can’t find this button, you’re on the latest version.
  4. Click Relaunch.

The browser saves your opened tabs and windows and reopens them automatically when it restarts. Your incognito windows won’t reopen when Chrome restarts. If you’d prefer not to restart straight away, click Not now. The next time you restart your browser, the update will be applied.

Its that easy…

Fixing the pebble buttons by leaning on the community

My Pebble with Sugru

I am still holding on to my pebble 2 smartwatches, although I have said in my new years resolutions. I was going to find an alternative to the pebble watch.

I still haven’t found anything. I had hoped the new Android Wear 3.0 and the Fitbit buy might have done something positive in this space. However its not happening.

There was a study I took part in recently from Dr. Susan Lechelt of Edinburgh University about IOT & connected devices after they become non-supported, unusable, broken, etc. Of course I won’t go into details but through-out the study it made me revisit my ongoing task to fix the pebble smartwatch.

Broken pebble 2 smart watches

The pebble community is incredible, you only have to look at rebble to see how amazing. iFix it came up with guides to fix most of the most common problems including my pebble 2 button failures. So with this, I finally decided to skip the 3D print your own buttons which I had planned once I get back into work and bought them at Shapeways.

Pebble 2 and new buttons

After ordering 2 buttons and identifying two of my pebble 2 watches really just need new buttons, I’m ready to go this weekend – or maybe one of these weekends in summer.

Looking forward to extending the life of the pebble smartwatch like how I have extended the life of my Pacemaker device way beyond its limitations.

QNAP ransomware attack

Its the first time I have owned a NAS when a big ransomware attack is underway. Its clear QNAP haven’t done enough and learned about this a 5 days ago via bleeping computer.

I am very aware of ransomware attacks on standard computers and keep the firmware and software up to date when I see the updates. Its clear the notification of updates could be more viable, as its not that often I’m logged into the NAS. I have email and push on but I’d like to see more options on this front.

Bleeping computer has the full details of what you need to look out for and what you should do if you are being attacked.

A slightly better solution

xps13 camera cover
My Dell XPS 13 with the little microdot

A while ago I mentioned how the super tiny bevels on my new Dell XPS13 and Acer Chromebook make a camera cover look so silly. Some people mentioned to me about using duck tape, which I gather doesn’t leave as much stickyness after use.

chromebook camera cover
My chromebook with the microdot camera cover

But I also was pointed to little micro-dots which use the same glue as duck tape but are a lot more discreet than a slice of duck tape. The sheet I got has a number of them in different sizes.

lens covers

Its a lot better than what I had before but lets see how long they stick around with general use.

Presentation problems with Ubuntu, think I might have found the problem?

I have no idea why or what happen, but this is likely the 4 or 5th time my Ubuntu machine has become unstable while presenting live on zoom.

Tonight I gave a presentation for the Mozilla Festival about adaptive podcasting. I did some tests because I wanted to see if I could switch the audio from my headset mic to the Android phone running the app. Things were not working, so I decided to use the audio captures instead. Everything was fine, presentation in Google Chrome using google slides and Miro in Firefox for the workshop portion later. Zoom for video sharing.

Everything was smooth then I started Chrome in presentation mode but remember I need to turn on auto-generated subtitles. I switch to Zoom on my second screen try and turn it on but everything refreshes and freezes except my mouse cursor. The camera light is still on and sound is working (both mic and audio). I am forced to run the whole hour long workshop with no access to my slides, zoom or anything else. So I freestyle it.

I remembered a few times before something similar things happening while giving a presentation at Agile Manchester, UCD gathering, Immersive Arts Lab 8 and last week at the publicspaces conference. However the difference has been the laptop had paused for a short while (couple of minutes) before returning to normal state. This time I ended up rebooting the whole laptop.

Thinking about the circumstances of the other times, I suspected it might be Zoom but then its happened with Hopin too. It can’t be the laptop because I now I have a brand new laptop and although they are both Ubuntu the first three were Ubuntu 18.04.3 LTS. While I was running Ubuntu 20.4.2 LTS for the publicspaces conference and Mozilla festival. This leads me to the other common element which is Google chrome, which I use because its google slides (I tend to only sign into my google account with chrome).

Then I found problems with Chrome and fullscreen.

Even if its not quite right, I’ll be testing running Google slides from Firefox instead.

One upside of todays presentation is the amazing response I got from people on the call who really enjoyed the pure storytelling. Although I am glad for my co-host, having shared the slides and miro whiteboard right at the start.

Big thanks to everyone and the lovely words people have shared with me.

We got to do better than this… Webcam covers

Camera cover on the new XPS13
How attractive on a new laptop

I agree this is a privileged thing but I got a replacement for my aging Dell XPS 13 work laptop. Another Dell XPS 13 but the updated version with much better support for Ubuntu. Its a great machine!

Dell XPS13 with that camera cover
My Dell XPS13 with that SD card, I mean camera cover sticking out

One thing I did look forward to was the new position of the webcam from the hinge alongside the keyboard. To the top of the screen like most laptops. There is a problem however, as the bezels get smaller the camera covers are not keeping up.

This isn’t just my new Dell XPS but also the Chromebook I got last year.

Chromebook camera cover sticking out
Looks like there is a SD card sticking out of my Chromebook

I gather there is sticker packs which don’t leave that usual glue stuff, which I’ll give a try but I certainly feel like I’m putting a plaster (literately) on a much deeper rooted problem. Camera should never be possible to enable without the light coming on full stop.