Down to my last Pebble smartwatch

Pebble 2 with and without a glitch

It was bound to happen but the last few days my pebble 2 watch has experienced a number of very bad glitches. The last glitch made it unreadable and although it was still working as normal which makes a difference from when the last two caved in on themselves.

So I think its time to stop buying old pebbles and maybe look at the hybrid smartwatch market instead.

To be honest I haven’t bought a pebble for quite some time, as I have happily taken from friends who no longer have use for them. The one which broke came from my line manager and my friend Ahmed. Gave me his colour Pebble time, which wil be my last after my pebble 2 white, which I had in storage.

My last lot of pebble watches side by side

Could a hybrid smartwatch be a replacement for the pebble?

fossil hybrid HR smartwatch face

I was reading about the Fossil hybrid HR smartwatch recently, and on the face of it (pun intended) it looks like a good smartwatch with all the features I would be after to replace my pebble smartwatch.

What’s the difference between a hybrid smartwatch and a regular smartwatch? In the hybrid category, Fossil’s Hybrid HR mixes physical watch hands with an always-on display that shows information and notifications. It almost feels like an old-school Pebble watch fused with an everyday analog-style watch.

I always swear by eink for these type of things, and I’m happy to hear its using eink too.

Keeping a smartwatch charged is incredibly annoying. Fossil’s newest line of hybrid smartwatches may have found an answer, and it’s E Ink. The Hybrid HR’s added display feels less like a screen and more of an extension of the watch, the sort of basic readouts that you might expect on a digital watch. Or, like what Google’s Wear OS watches offer, but in E Ink. To be clear, though, this isn’t Wear OS. It almost reminds me of what the TicWatch Pro tried for by layering an always-on display on top of a feature-packed smartwatch, but the Hybrid HR looks a lot nicer.

Earlier this year, Google reportedly paid $40 million for Fossil smartwatch technology that could enable hybrid watches. The Hybrid HR looks like it is, indeed, the watch tech that earlier reports thought Google was interested in… and it’s here now.

I will be keeping en eye on this category, because although I like the Hybrid HR, I’m not so keen on round faces and I’d need to get a sense if theres sleep tracking support? Or more so if theres going to be a standard for watch apps like WearOS and the Pebble OS.

The Google Pixel 4 battery needs some help

89% battery on my Pixel4

There is a lot of discussion about the lack of battery for the Google Pixel 4. To be fair its been pretty good to me, but its certainly not the same type of battery life of my pixel2 or nokia8 which lasted a few days at ease.

More details about the battery use
Fedilab what the?

The picture above is with Wifi, Bluetooth (with my pebble, motiv ring attached), NFC,  KDEconnect, dark mode and most of the apps I run daily.

To be fair I don’t use the screen much, relying on my pebble watch, KDEconnect for some interactions.

34% battery on my Pixel4

After a day of usage, I end up with 34% but it claims to last till 8:15 if I decided to keep it going, however I think that would drop massively with my sleep tracking.

Its all workable right now but I do hope they will drop the high refresh rate in favor of better battery life? Its super slick but I was happy with my Pixel2, so I’m not so bothered about higher refresh rates.

As I talk about the Pixel4… here’s a few things which I have done.

I turned off the radar ambient stuff because I found it annoying, so it won’t do the face unlock till I press the power button on the side. As usual I turn off the ambient display because like notification lights/sounds its annoying. The Face unlock is stupidly fast and its worked in almost every single scenario including a pitch black room with no lights. I do find the no eyes quite scary as I do take security pretty seriously and find Google’s lockdown not the most workable thing but its a stopgap. I do wish there was a fingerprint option or something to fill the void between the two, as typing in passwords each time is quite painful, especially when I have some stupid length passwords.

Expect more about the Pixel4 soon…

 

Why I bought the Google Pixel 4?

I decided after watching the Made by Google Pixel event, that its time to upgrade my Pixel 2 with a new phone. The biggest issue I have had with the Pixel 2 recently is the Bluetooth support with my Pebble watch but more importantly the battery life of the phone is down to 18 hours.

The Pixel 4’s camera looks amazing but I was most impressed with the live transcription which google claim works offline and is done completely on the device. This is impressive if it really works, although I expect it won’t be perfect it will be impressive and powerful for myself as a person with dyslexia. Easily overlooked by most people I guess.

There seemed to be more offline and on-device based processing across the google range which is great but I will desperately miss the fingerprint ID because I’m not super keen on the face ID stuff as proven in the recent news.

Pebble 2 smartwatch won’t re-connect after Android 10

Pebbles growing in work

I like many Google Pixel users recently got the Android 10 upgrade. It was smooth and everything was in order except there was a notification that the Pebble/Rebble smartwatch software may need to be upgraded as it might be incompatible with the Android 10.

What follows was a long painful process trying to pair the Pebble 2 with my Pixel 2 phone. It took forever and ended up with me unpairing both rebooting both and repairing the whole lot again. Nothing was lost in the process but its a real painful process and I thought, once its done, its done forever.

However I was wrong. It seems like this happens every few weeks? Others have suggested it happens when the Pixel doesn’t see the pebble for a little while. Someone started a bug issue with Google, thankfully and I added my own comment to the growing list.

If you are having similar issues, do add a comment to show Google there is a problem and maybe the Bluetooth LE stack might be at fault? Although I’ve not had a problem with my Motiv Ring yet?

Pacemaker big battery replacement

Old Pacemaker with new 1500mAh battery

Thanks to our excellent lab technician Elizabeth. I bought a 3.7v battery to replace the one in my 2nd pacemaker. I previously had replaced the 1.8 inch SSD with a SD card, so knew there was more room in the pacemaker case.

I had hoped to buy a very thin battery which I could slip under the SD card but I couldn’t find one with a higher capacity than 500mAh. Instead I looked for the highest capacity I could get which fit into the same battery space. I found a few 1100mAh batteries but then finally found one which was 1500mAh and the same voltage.

Old Pacemaker with new 1500mAh battery

I unfortunately couldn’t didn’t quite get the right size, I was about 1-2mm’s off in height. The only way to make it fit was to remove the brackets which protected the old SSD/HD from the battery. As there was no drive anymore I decided its ok to remove them. With them gone, I could shift the battery over a bit and fit it in.

Old Pacemaker with new 1500mAh battery

With some great soldering from Elizabeth, I was able to get everything back in the case and screw the whole thing together.

Looking forward to doing similar with my main pacemaker device, maybe?

iPhone XR ad promotes smartphone addiction as a way of life?

Found via Hannah while working away, Latest iPhone XR ad promotes smartphone addiction as a way of life, and that’s bad
I hadn’t seen these Apple adverts but yes this isn’t good and strange for a company who was pushing for time well spent a while ago.

If you are affected by any of this, I would recommend having a look at my guide to take control of your smartphone and likely improve your phone and personal batteries

Throw back to the past, my first PocketPC

HP 200lx pocketpc

The HP 200LX was my first pocketpc and it was quite a device. It nicely had a PCMCIA slot (remember those things?!) which means I could upgrade the storage to a massive 8meg. The big thing I found extremely useful was the installed version of DOS which meant I could do lots of things the device was never setup for. The infrared was great for actually getting things remotely over my 2.5g connection. Not really the web but the internet.

I can’t even tell you how many times I was busy writing stuff on this, while in the booth of the cinema box office.

Thanks to Phil for this flash back from the past.

Google takeout to the rescue?

My Motiv ring on my hand

So recently I’ve gone into Quantified Self overload with my new Motiv Ring, added to my Pebble smartwatch for sleep tracking.

The ring is very good, but the app isn’t the best, its seems to work but isn’t very clear when its not syncing with the ring. Also I knew the 2 day battery was going to be a pain but to date I’ve been charging it every 2 days and never got to the point where its gotten below 44%.

As the app is pretty rubbish, I have sent everything to Google fit. I pretty much have everything synced with Google fit now.

The first time I noticed it was all working, was when I looked at sleep as android which I use with my pebble smartwatch and noticed my heart rate over the top of my sleep data.

Sleep data with heart rate
I warn you the sleep is a mess due to my flu I currently have… also why I’ve not blogged those great conferences I’ve been to recently.

Likewise I recently hooked up my Withings/Nokia iot scale to Google fit. The scale has its own app which isn’t bad but frankly its not great. It suffers from the similar problems as most of the quantified apps attached to a device or service; they want to be the centre of the world. Reminds me of my Fitbit which import everything but export little.

I understand Google fit is mining the heck out of my quantified data but with Google takeout, I can get the raw numbers in one place. Everyone wants to sync with Google fit and the dashboard view is far better than what everyone else right now.

I’ve also set it up to send me an update every 2 months. Now that’s pretty neat. Would I pay for a service to do this? Yes I would, how much is the question…

I decided to get the Motiv Ring

Oura Ring vs Motiv Ring

I have been considering something else to help track different activities, since I lost the Mi Band 1. The pebble smartwatch is great for this but there is no way I can wear it while playing volleyball. I also found using gadgetbridge more painful than it needed to be.

While keeping my eyes open for alternatives, I seen Oura but not the Motiv. After reading about it against the Oura and then further reviews. I decided its worth trying. FIDO and 2FA swung it for me, so put down the money and bought one. I’m looking forward to giving it a proper review once I get it and try syncing data, etc. Hopefully its more spa proof than the pebble.

The pebble maybe water resistance but not spa resistance…

Dead pebble

Sadly its the 2nd Pebble smartwatch I have lost to my love of spas. First one died during a spa visit in the Midland hotel, weirdly about a year ago. I instantly got another one exactly the same as my kickstarter version. It worked great but I didn’t learn the lesson and kept wearing the smartwatch at spas and swimming pools.

Then a few days in a hotel spa in London and Liquidrome in Berlin, caused my smartwatch to fail again.

Dead pebble

Looking at the damage I think its the intense steam of the steam room (to be fair, was in the steam room for over 30mins) mixed with the heat of a sauna. Then floating in a salt water pool just killed it for good. I really should have done the bag of rice trick but I was mitte, Berlin and well bags of rice wasn’t easily available at midnight while leaving Liquidrome.

After a few days in Berlin with no smartwatch I realised how much I missed it and looked online to get a replacement. Black pebble 2’s were closer to the 400 pound mark, while the white one was less than half that brand new. So I got a white one.

All the my pebbles
From left to right, My dead pebble from 2017, then my new white pebble and finally the one which just died in Berlin

I did spend some serious time looking at alternatives to the pebble but couldn’t find a decent alternative for anywhere near the price. My list was simply this…

  • Non LCD, so I can get more than 3 days battery on a charge
  • Basic apps to do sleep/fitness tracking, read Google tasks, etc
  • Clear display in sunlight and darkness
  • Replacement straps which are not custom to the device
  • Android WearOS support to get notifications, etc

Nothing too complex but the smartwatch still seems lacking in diversity. As most seem to be clearly copies of previous with beefed up specs. I even consider the Fitbit charge but I hated the straps and the size was massive.

How good is the Oura ring tracker?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5U4F9xvWY

Its a nice looking device, seems to work well but at £300+ its a high price.

I do find the back story interesting however, especially since its been floating around the Quantified Self community for quite some time.

My usual worries about data-portability, app access (the android app looks like it needs work), etc all come into play but as a replacement for myband2 and sleep tracking on my pebble smart watch. It does interest me.

I don’t usually wear rings but I did obviously have a wedding ring and also did try wearing one of those cheap NFC rings.

Love your pebble, don’t want to see it turn into plain watch? Setup a rebble account now!

Pebbles growing in work

If like me you love the pebble and although I hate that Fitbit bought them, can’t really slate their support to keep the watch alive and working with the rebble team.

The Rebble team have been literally everywhere urging pebble users to create an account on the rebble servers before the pebble servers are switched off for good.

The Rebble account system is up and running, and now is the time for you to create your accounts. Head over to Rebble Auth and log in using your preferred site. You’ll then be asked to link your Pebble account. Please do: we will use this to import information from the Pebble servers before they shut down in order to help make the transition smoother.

It is especially important for developers to link their Pebble accounts now. Once the Pebble services shut down at the end of this month, we will no longer be able to identify developers who did not link their accounts, and so we will be unable to let them update or otherwise change their apps.

We are also going to use the number of accounts created to assist us in determining service usage and attempt to validate our assumptions about the number of users we expect to see.

That’s all there is to do right now: there is no app to install, and we are not yet ready for users to switch over to Rebble services. We will be sure to update you when we are!

Do it now, it takes a minute or so and will save you a lot of heartache later!

The realm of third-party trackers on Android

Luman android root cert

I was excited to learn about Lumen Privacy Monitor, as I’ve always wondered about the apps I have installed even when I have restricted the permissions wanted from the installed app.

New research co-authored by Mozilla Fellow Rishab Nithyanand explores just this: The opaque realm of third-party trackers and what they know about us. The research is titled “Apps, Trackers, Privacy, and Regulators: A Global Study of the Mobile Tracking Ecosystem,” and is authored by researchers at Stony Brook University, Data & Society, IMDEA Networks, ICSI, Princeton University, Corelight, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“This is the start of a long project to uncover all the hidden data collection and data dissemination practices on the internet,” Nithyanand explains.

“There’s a huge lack of transparency around how mobile applications behave,” adds Narseo Vallina-Rodriguez, a co-author and researcher at ICSI. “People install software, but don’t know what that software is doing.”

The paper’s introduction lays out a troubling scenario: “Third-party services inherit the set of application permissions requested by the host app, allowing them access to a wealth of valuable user data, often beyond what they need to provide the expected service.”

To study this scenario, the researchers used Lumen Privacy Monitor, an Android app they built themselves over a two-year period.

So I installed it just to see what was going on with my Android devices. But there is a problem… Best summed up in this comment from Wcat.

Not open source? TLS interception? Before you install this stop and think about TLS interception. “Those who would trade privacy for security deserve neither.”

Luman asks for permissions to install its own root certificate, and this deeply worries me. TLS inception isn’t a trivial thing to be honest, I know its needed but it had me questioning how I really want to monitor the apps? Also if I remove the app, will the certificate be removed too/how would I know?

Right now, I’m keeping an eye on the app but haven’t installed the root cert yet.

Google clip, decentralised intelligence?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AD48ZEltaSo

The reviews are appearing about the Google Clip camera. Its not great but to be honest, the only thing I found interesting about it on the announcement, was all the logic/intelligence was onboard. Google has become well known for doing the logic via their own cloud systems, so this was a surprise.

the main reason Google Clips isn’t as worrying as “Google camera that recognizes your family’s faces and records them automatically” sounds is that Google made a few carefully considered technical choices to protect its users’ privacy.

The first is that everything on Clips happens locally. Nothing is synced with Google’s cloud at all — except the photos you save into Google Photos. All the facial recognition happens on the device using its own processing power. None of it is paired up with whatever facial recognition you may have set up in Google Photos. It doesn’t pair faces with names, it just recognizes faces it sees a bunch over time. It also tries to ignore faces it doesn’t recognize. So if you’re at a park with your kids, Clips will endeavor to only take photos of your kids.

The clips the camera takes are also stored only on the camera itself. They don’t try to sync over to your phone unless you ask for them. They’re also encrypted on the camera, in case you lose it.

On first look, I thought it might be a similar replacement for Google Glass, then I thought maybe its the Google GoPro but it doesn’t seem to operate like a point and shoot. So I thought maybe a lifeblogging devices like the autographer and narrative clip. But it seems to be a different category all together.

Its a interesting device, but certainly pricey for a new category camera.