Android Oreo upgrade on my Nexus 5x

Nexus 5x with Oreo upgrade

3 days ago I received the OTA update for Android Oreo on my Nexus 5x. I wasn’t really expecting it, as I’ve been keeping an eye out for my next phone (which is likely to be a Google Pixel 2 even at its much higher cost than my Nexus 5x)

Honestly I haven’t seen much differences except the background tasks are now in your face. Which isn’t a problem as I don’t have a lot running all the time (Timeused, Pebble & Twlight), be interesting to see how long apps like Uber stay in the background

I have noticed a drain on battery, for example my battery is at 88% right now and will stay alive for the next 9 hours. But to be fair its a old battery, I think the same use on Android N would be closer to 92% maybe.

Some of regular menus are shifted around and the small text which I have my phone set to, really is actually small. I am surprised there is no native bluelight filter (redshift, twilight, etc) but I guess it might upset all those apps which do this.

The upgrade was painless, it took 42mins as I was watching an American TV show as it upgraded its self.

Generally I’m happy with the state of the upgrade and although I know this is the last upgrade for the Nexus 5x; it might keep the phone going even longer.

Quantifying your smartphone usage mentioned recently

There’s a recent BBC documentary titled Secrets Of Silicon Valley, its not a bad watch at all. In part 2, the presenter installs an app to see how much time he spends on his phone through out the day. Very similar to what happened at the Quantified Self 2017 conference, but even I almost coked on my tea when the final figure of over 5 hours was announced for the day.

My monthly smartphone usage

Looking at my own usage, over the last month I spent 19hrs 1minute over 384 pickups, looking at my mobile phone.

I admit this is so very low in comparison to others.

By the way I’m still looking for a decent way to do this without abundance of features, battery use and in a data ethical way.

There’s life in Pebble still

Pebbles growing in work
Me, Jimmy and Alex – Photo credit to Jimmy Lee

Its ironic that since Fitbit bought Pebble and even Vector. There has been a bunch of interesting projects to keep Pebble going. Even Fitbit have been friendly to the idea of keep it going once they switch off their servers later this year.

At least two projects are hot on my task list.

What I find really interesting is the amount of Apple watch users who have switched to Pebble. First it started with my line manager (phil) who bought a pebble 1 a while ago, scratched it then sold it to me. He then bought a Apple Watch to go with his new apple phone; but it wasn’t long till he was frustrated with the charging and not being able to see the screen without the shake. I made clear my reasons for kickstarting the Pebble 2 and left it at that.

One day he totally surprised me one day with a pebble 2 watch in white and green. Good choice I said, even with the fear of what Fitbit would do with Pebble still looming.

I also sold my old pebble 1 watch to Andy at work with the warning of what Fitbit might or rather not do, but he was happy with the price.

Third was Jimmy, who had a old classic Casio watch he use to wear. He one day rocked up with a black pebble 2 watch and suddenly I felt the waters was turning.

Pebble 2.0

But the final surprise recently was with a Apple die-hard, Alex. Alex has apple stamped on his heart; me and Jimmy once had a conversation about the turning tide of pebble watches in work and thought who could be next? Jimmy did suggest Alex and I said nahh never, too tied to Apple. I even remember having a conversation with Alex about the Apple watch vs Pebble. I somehow forgot Alex use to own a Samsung Galaxy S4 plus a long time ago, mainly for VR.

He agreed on the advantages, and as designer to designer we critiqued the design decisions of the LCD screen and wondered if jobs would be happy with the one day battery? (to be fair me and Jimmy had a similar discussion before he turned up with one) Any way, that was a while ago and I almost fell out my chair when recently Jimmy announced Alex had ditched his Apple watch for a Pebble 2. I honestly thought he was kidding then I saw it on him.

Jimmy & Alex also have found services doing interesting custom watch faces, but I’m on the look out for more diverse apps (makers would be a plus). As I’d really like to see more things like ifttt on pebble. For example why not Monzo, Paypal balance status?

Pebble 2

Right now you can buy a Pebble on Amazon for between £40 – £90 depending on which one you get. I’d also say if you were considering a smartwatch, the pebble is still the only one I would consider even now.

My weekly smartphone use…

At the Quantified Self conference a few weeks ago there was a very interesting conversation & social experiment about smartphone use. Ever since I’ve been getting more interested in the good and bad uses of smartphones, even gave a summary of ideas collected over the different sessions.

But I’ve been thinking about my low usage at the conference and decided to seek out an app which just counts the usage and nothing more (most have other types of permissions to do all types of other things). Found Timefactory’s Time used did pretty much this (although I’d like a proper data export option), seems low on resources and very simple.

So above is my regular usage of my Nexus 5X over the last week, and this week was a regular go to work everyday and social event most evenings kind of a week.

Its low, agreed but I didn’t go out to not check it or anything. I carry my Nexus with me pretty much everywhere. But having my pebble smartwatch and other devices around me certainly has a massive effect on how many times I actually have to turn on the phone screen.

Look forward to sharing the month summary too.

Standardnotes my alternative choice to Evernote

Standardnotes

This is continuous fight I keep having with myself… For quite some time I’ve been looking for an alternative to Evernote on Linux & Android. I got it down to 3, Turtl, laverna and standardnotes.

In the end I decided Standardnotes mainly because I needed something which easily syncs like simplenote and I guess evernote. I liked the idea of being able to run my own standardnote server in the future. But the biggest thing for me was being able to convert my evernote notes. Yes it costs but I was happy with the terms (client side encryption) and comfortable with the payment which is less than evernote anyway. I also been looking a little deeper at Standardnotes. The privacy and sustainability statements are just stuff of dreams. Theres very few other services which can say and do these things.

What about the others?

Turtl, was good but the interface drove me a little nutty, having to login each time and no offline support? Maybe in a few years if the project gets more development it grow into something special and I’ll check it out again.

laverna is also good and is very quick and easy to get going but its mainly built around the browser as it uses javascript. There is a android app coming but its not there yet and syncing is tricky because it stores everything in the browser. I think you can move this to a sync container like dropbox, google drive, etc.

Standardnotes

With Standardnotes., I have added it to Wavebox, installed the Android apps (doesn’t install on my ereader as it needs Android 5+) and paid for a year subscription.

So far so good!

I do still use Simplenote for quick and temporary notes, but not I installed the the Linux app, this may go away too. Now I just need to sort out my imported 2177 evernotes!

Wavebox for productivity wins

Wavebox intro

I was using Wmail for a while since I got a little fed up with using Gmail in Chrome, it was good but sometimes I found it zapping resources. I tried using Evolution, Thunderbird and a few other native email apps but missed some of the nice things Gmail does and supports. So when I first saw Wmail I thought I’d give it a try even with the slight skepticism from some around Electron.

So impressed with Wmail, that I donate to the development for it. It wasn’t long till they got in touch and said they were moving to Wavebox and as a nice extra I would get a year subscription to Wavebox pro.

The things I love about Wavebox is being able to hook up multiple gmail accounts including drive, contacts, calender, etc. Trello works great as does Slack (but I opted to keep the slack app for now). But the killer is being able to hook up any site you like. For example I use Mastodon and WordPress (the official linux app locks up a lot). I was tempted to setup Evernote and maybe laverna, standardnotes, a few other things but this will do for now.

The Verge seem to agree too

Its pretty great and the ability to add almost any site is pretty useful, especially with the lack of Linux support for some things. Yes you have to pay for the pro features but its worth it.

There is also a misconception that I won’t pay for software and thats rubbish. Its about the terms, for example Wavebox is actually open source but the terms of what you pay for are fine with me.

Tiny tiny RSS experience a week later?

I have had quite a bit of feedback from my post about moving away from Feedly to a self hosted solution called Tiny Tiny RSS.

Some interesting questions have emerged from people and to be fair it certainly deserves a follow up.

I made my instance of TT-RSS available on the public netw, because I didn’t see the point of installing my VPN software on my eink reader. I also installed the official TT-RSS app which is a 7 day trail before you buy the full version for 4 pounds. I haven’t bought the full version yet because the app doesn’t seem to work well when offline? It would be great if the app understood if the device was offline and automaticilly disabled the update feeds option. It currently doesn’t seem to do this well… I much prefer Greader for this, but ttrss app isn’t far behind.

Simon commented he paid for Feedly because of the IFTTT options, but it seems weird to pay for this  because you can easily turn most of TT-RSS into a another feed and IFTTT has a RSS option which you can use to trigger most things. This reminds me of my work along while back about pipelines.

Because of this, I have been thinking about feeding Greader with the RSS from my TTRSS install. The only real disadvantage is nothing would be synced to the server? This is also something I’ve been thinking about with a linux desktop reader like thunderbird because I can’t seem to install a TTRSS reader which works.

I tried a few but each has had problems.

Feed the Moneky looked very promising but when I finally get the appimage loaded, it shows nothing? Feedreader looked great and after finally getting flatpak working, I’m faced with the error that I need to install the api-feedreader plugin in my TTRSS server. How I do this when I’m using docker is a question I have no answer for, except it seems I need to use another docker container?

So generally its going well but hitting a few points which need straighing out. It would be so useful to compile supported applications into a wiki page.

Oh I found this useful when understanding about appimages, snap, flatpak, etc.

Over 10 years of serious Ubuntu

Desktop Screenshot

Its ironic to hear Microsoft Windows Vista has finally come to its end of life (i’d argue it was dead on arrival), it was the move to Vista which sparked me to stop running Linux on a spare machine/as a second operating system and wipe windows XP off. One day I decided enough playing around, I’m not moving to Vista, I’m moving to Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn.

Before then I was playing with Knoppix, Debian and earlier versions of Ubuntu 6.06 and 6.10 but it was 7.04 when I took things serious. Since then I’ve not really looked back. It quite amazing to think how Ubuntu has changed over the last 10 years, especially with Unity and Gnome; but the dominance of linux generally is fascinating.

Hater: Dating against humanity

hater app on iphone
The first dating app that matches people on the things they hate.

I’m hardly surprised… hate conjures up many feelings and heck I even include in my dating profile, things I hate. Because of this I get some very strongly worded messages one way or another.

If I was on this service, I would hate, hater for not having a android app (can’t get much more meta than this?)

But it was a surprise to see the cards against humanity used for this. Had to take a second glance as I suddenly thought there was a connection to my TedXManchester 2016 talk.

Sony’s new digital paper

It was Steve who first pointed me at Sony’s new digital tablets. Its impressive but of course I don’t read japanese, even with google translate. But of course others do and did the work for me.

sony dpt-rp1 eink A4 tablet

Although it looks amazing, I can’t help but think about the software.

Using the digital pen, users will be able to annotate PDF documents, as with the previous version, but the compatibility is still locked to that format, so you won’t be drawing on anything other than PDFs unfortunately.

Maybe I’ve been slightly spoiled by the Eink tablet I bought, which runs Android 4.3 allowing most Android apps to run smoothly. I can’t imagine living within Sony’s view of the world hoping someone will hack it. It reminds me of the Ipad pro in more than just looks.

Updated

Jason pointed me at remarkable which I hadn’t seen before. Its also pretty pricey but looks very nice. The worry is lack of support for 3rd party applications and their FAQ doesn’t really encourage any joy.

The reMarkable will not initially ship with an officially supported SDK. We might initially, however, release an unsupported SDK for developers we choose to work with.

Shame… but interesting tablet regardless.

Pebble update opens the door

ef433d2391d654aa37817295ce10f4a0_original

Been very happy to hear FitBit are contuning to make the pebble operational after they sunset the pebble servers.

One of the biggest questions for Pebble owners following the company’s acquisition by Fitbit last year has been how long their watches would keep working going forward. And while Pebble had announced at the time that Fitbit would be “going out of its way” to keep the smartwatch platform’s software and services running through 2017, there hasn’t been much news of what would happen past that point, especially given that a fair portion of Pebble’s software is cloud based.

To help address those issues, Pebble released an update this week that decouples the smartwatches from their dependency on cloud services, meaning that whenever Pebble’s servers do shut down, users will still be able to side load apps and new firmware to their smartwatches.

It’s not a perfect fix, and there are still plenty of answered questions. Features like dictation, messaging, and weather, for example, are all based on cloud services, and Pebble still hasn’t commented on whether or not it’s found a way to keep those working for users going forward. Still, at least Pebble fans will be able to continue to use the basic features of their watches, even as the rest of Pebble is absorbed into Fitbit.

I have been looking at alternatives to the pebble and not finding much especially when Fitbit bought Vector too.

GadgetBridge logo

But I’ve been looking at alternative ways to get the same fuctionality as whats currently available. The big one seems to be GadgetBridge, which seems to be growing in fuctionality quickly.  The other great thing about gadgetbridge is it supports the MiBand too, which may be a saver to the crappy MiBand application, which I can’t seem to get syncing with anything.

Love Linux but sometimes…

DELL XPS13&XPS15_29

Sometimes I come across simple things which just need someone to think about it from a user point of view.

One such example is adjusting the sensitivity on my XPS 13 trackpad. The XPS 13 has a widescreen trackpad which is good (although I do miss the Thinkpad pointer) but the right hand tends to hover around the edge, as there isn’t much room to rest my hand due to the keyboard and trackpad. The solution is to adjust the sensentivity of the trackpad, so I get less hover mistakes trigger from my thumb. Simple!

On my ubuntu setup, the trackpad driver is called synaptics and it can be configured anyway you like. Except to do so, you need to mess with the terminal and maybe even log out and in for the changes to stick.

If I was doing one #lazyweb request, it would be to automaticlly create a gui/wrapper for terminal operations like changing your mouse settings.

How to run two Whisper systems Signal clients on Linux side by side

Running two signal clients on Ubuntu
Running two signal clients on Ubuntu without the stress, made one d.ark and other light themed to remind me which one is which

I’m very sure I’m not the only one with 2 mobile phones (heck I really have 3 actual active SIM cards in 3 phones but thats another story).

I have chosen not to use WhatsApp as their EULA doesn’t fit well with me, so instead I always suggest Whisper Systems Signal client. I have many reasons including a linux web client but I have been wondering why one client couldn’t support multiple accounts? Especially since you can easily and securely verify the phone to the desktop client, using a generated token.

I’ve been wondering if I could run two signal apps or run them under different system users… then it dawned on me, its using Google Chrome’s app framework, maybe I could use Open Source Chrome aka Chromium to do the same? Surprisingly without having to setup another user account for the Chrome store, I was able to download Signal again and make Chromium launch it.

Now I have 2 completely separate signal apps which are linked to different phones but using the same Ubuntu desktop environment.

I know it might seem obvious but there seems to be a few people asking for multiple users using a single signal desktop app. I also saw if it could be installed in Firefox, but it looks more tricky that just hitting install from an app store. Sure my tip will work for MacOSX and likely Windows too?

Little tip for friends and followers which I thought was worth sharing… Now get yourself on Signal

M14 impresses all the dragons in their den

vlcsnap-2017-02-20-00h55m42s512

I have to give a massive congrats to John Kershaw from M14 industries, who took the previoulsy mentioned Bristlr app from niche dating to hosted matching platform (very much selling shovles during a goldrush). Yesterday he appeared on the BBC’s Dragons Den and struck a great deal with Peter and Nick for a reasonable percentage of the business.

Of course John had a viewing party with friends, investers and family. Its season 14 episode 15 if you are looking for it.

John’s written his thoughts up here.

Before Nick showed his hand, and it was looking like I might get investment from all five dragons simultaneously, I started to internally panic. This isn’t how this happens.

After all the Dragons had given their offers, I knew I’d have to go with Nick and Peter; they have the experience and if they’re not willing to share, I don’t have much choice.

And it’s at this point where an interesting thing happens: I forgot everyone’s names.

Certainly another great story for Manchester’s Startup community and the early investors who saw the potential of M14 industries early on. I personally was always impressed with John and although we sometimes disagreed about what should be next on the task list, its great to get the validation that it wasn’t just a silly app!

The broken promise of one power supply

laptop-xps-13-9350-pdp-polaris-03

I recently got a Dell XPS 13 to replace my slightly aging Lenovo thinkpad X230, which has been giving me a lot of head aches recently. Its a very attractive machine, being super thin and mainly metal instead of plastic. I thought about it long and hard before ordering it because of the lack of ports and extendable battery. In actual fact its got a similar battery to those seen in phones and tablets, aka non-removable. I guess Mac users will say “so what?” but no laptop I’ve ever had, has had nonremovable batteries.

The thing which nudged me about the Dell XPS 13 was a USB C port. USB C I’ve had ups and downs with since my Nexus 5X, but a year later I like the technology and want everything with USB C. I had imagined charging my laptop & phone with my new portable battery pack with Solar Power. But plugging my Nexus 5X into the laptop with my nice new USB C to USB C cable, selecting reverse charge; expecting something to happen but nothing. I thought it might supply a tiny current at least. I wrote it off as not enough current and waited till I got home.

At home I tried my solar battery charger with USB C, once again thinking this would supply enough charge to power the laptop even for a short while. Once again I was disappointed to find it not charging.

What gives! My dream collapsing, I hot the web and found a reddit thread and the PC World piece which made it crystal clear.

usb_c_laptop_charting-100649896-large

Seems the dream isn’t dead but its not looking good for portable batteries packs. Maybe it might work with some of the wall chargers however, will have to try my Nexus 5X wall charger later.