M14 impresses all the dragons in the 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!

How to copy contacts from Windows phone to Android, without going crazy

Nokia Lumia 635 and HTC Desire 635

Short answer: Setup a Microsoft Outlook account on the windows phone, sync everything to it then export a CSV of all the contacts on a laptop. Login to your Google account on the laptop and import them all. Sync that google account with the Android phone.

My painful experience

My dad has had a Nokia Lumia 635 for a while (over a year). He wanted to upgrade his ageing Nokia and went into Carphone warehouse to get a upgrade. The sales person must have rubbed their hands (I felt they took advantage of my dad saying he wanted a Nokia) and sold him a Nokia Lumia with Windows Phone on it. I was pretty pissed about this because my dad already has a google account, chromebook and my mum has this and a Samsung android phone.

On Boxing day we went back and looked into buying him out of his contract. This was fine and he choose a HTC desire 626 as it had a big screen and didn’t cost anything to his contract. After taking it home, I set it up for him and boy did the fun start.

Some quick things… I’m running Ubuntu on a laptop, my parents have a chromebook, we all have google accounts and we now all have android phones. My parents are not technical and mainly use text and voice. They have broadband with wifi in the house plus a chromecast I bought a few years ago. The Nokia couldn’t connect to any wifi unless it was open with no security/encryption (I tried many ways to get this working but it seems to be a common fault, which requires a total wipe!)

Nokia Lumia 635

I plugged the Nokia into my Ubuntu laptop then copied everything off it I could see. Then copied it to the HTC phone, I also turned off my WPA security on my Nexus 5x phone to allow the Nokia to actually connect to the internet without using my dads low 4g data usage. Then setup his google account which I set to sync everything. When trying to sync contact information with the google account nothing would sync. I had my laptop open with the google account so I could see what was syncing and what wasn’t. I tried forcing the sync and Windows phone kept forcing me to sync with Outlook.com. In the end I setup a temporary outlook account and synced everything with that. I could see things syncing correctly on my laptop screen.

I thought with both accounts on the Windows phone it would now sync but no. So I had to export the lot out of Outlook.com on the laptop as a CSV file then import them into the google account via my laptop. Once syncing, I could setup the google account on the Android phone and everything was good except Gmail automatically creates a group for the imported contacts which I had to delete but keep the contacts.

HTC Desire 820_11

Once that was done, I forced a system update and greeted with the Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) upgrade, meaning my mums new phone and dads phones are very similar making the learning experience a little easier between both my parents.

Ultimately I was quite shocked how difficult a simple thing task was. I mean dataportability should be simple and at one point I was going to give up and get my dad to write out all the contacts to a new his new phone. It wasn’t helped by not having wifi access on the Nokia. I did try Bluetooth and sending contacts as emails but nothing quite worked.

I hope this helps others as I was tearing my hair out to get such a simple thing working. No wonder Nokia has dumped Windows mobile and gone Android.

Not happy with Pebble being bought by fitbit

Pebble 2.0

I recently bought a Xiaomi Mi band because I got fed up of the Fitbit ecosystem not interoperating with anything else I used. You can see evidence of this on the Quantified Self website, with one of the number one querys being how to get data out of the Fitbit ecosystem. Fitbit although useful to see my daily steps wasn’t much more use than that. I didn’t really pay attention to the leaderboards with friends or use the sleep tracking feature (I used the Pebble and Sleep as Android for this). I did like the fact it wasn’t a watch/on a wrist, This was a major selling point for when I’m playing volleyball. When I saw the Mi Band could be attached in a non wrist way, I was sold.

The Mi Band isn’t perfect but I like the magnet system, which is better than the clip Fitbit used.

Anyway, although I moved away from Fitbit step tracking. I also relied on my Pebble smart watch to do sleep tracking (maybe I should enable the step count now I upgraded to pebble 2).

Then I heard the news Pebble is being bought by Fitbit.

Digital health and fitness-tracking company Fitbit has just officially announced that it is buying key assets from smartwatch startup Pebble, after reports emerged last week that a deal between the two was close to being completed.

Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park said in a release that the company “sees an opportunity to build on our strengths and extend our leadership position in the wearables category.”

Not great news for myself and others… Then the kicker (pun intended) was worst still, knowing Pebble was under some major financial strain. My Pebble 2 was delayed 2-3 months for example but I did get at least. Happy I didn’t get the Pebble time 2!

But Pebble has been struggling to stay afloat financially for the past year, according to three sources, and the new Pebble Time 2 had been delayed. In a statement released on its website this morning, Pebble said that it is “no longer able to operate as an independent entity” and that it had made the difficult decision to shut down the company. It will no longer make hardware. Its newest products, the Pebble Time 2 and Core, are canceled, with refunds expected to go out to Kickstarter backers in the next four to eight weeks.

Existing Pebble smartwatches will continue to work, the company said, but functionality will be reduced in the future due to a lack of support.

Reduced functionality deeply worries me, as the pebble OS is very centralised, although I have seen other operating systems loaded on to the generic enough hardware. Of course others are already thinking the same thankfully.

Do I think Fitbit will ruin Pebble?
Yes I do and this interview certainly confirms some of my fears.

Fitbit hasn’t explicitly said it is making a “real” smartwatch, one with more advanced capabilities than the is-it-or-isn’t-it-a-smartwatch Blaze. But all signs point in that direction. First, the Pebble acquisition earlier this week: Fitbit has said more than once that it bought the company for its smartwatch software platform, not its hardware.

And on Fitbit’s most recent earnings call, Park himself said the company was planning to expand into “new form factors” next year.

Pebble’s timeline and OS was smart and made perfect sense for a smartwatch. I get smartwatches haven’t really kicked off but I did feel Pebble were the only ones which really got a sense of what could be possible. The Pebble core was just the start and I almost bought one myself, I don’t think Fitbit or Apple will really get what’s really possible with this new technology if its open rather than locked into their own ecosystems.

Shame…

I have a blog saved about mainstream’ing, venture capital, startup culture, the long tail and the nature of niches. Still needs some work but this is certainly one of the examples.

Updated

Fitbit confirmed the buying Pebble and they came out and said we got at least a year of functionality.

Pebble 2 first thoughts

Pebble 2.0
I kickstarted the Pebble smartwatch 2.0, it was my first kickstarter backing.

Previously I’ve not been keen on the kickstarter EULA but this time I decided the balance was worth the flip. I had hoped to have it sooner but while I was in Berlin, it came.

Opening the package it was clear they had really thought about the unboxing experience and it was simple and quick. So quick I actually switched watches in less than 30mins.
Pebble 2.0
I opted for the Pebble 2.0 not the Pebble time 2.0 because I didn’t really see the benefit of colour epaper in a smartwatch. The first thing which struck me was the sheer thinness of the watch. Its like twice the thinness and about the same lighter. Its about the size of those calculator watches you use to get/are retro cool now. Its also fast, everything feels snappy compared to the Pebble 1.0. No idea how many apps will run side by side but I suspect its many more.

The feature I looked forward to using was the voice reply, and it works pretty well. Its not exactly what you can do while on a scooter at lights but its good enough. The Pebble health stuff is good too but I haven’t really explored it much since I just ditched my Fitbit for a Xiaomi mi band with magnet waist clip, actually works better than the fitbit clip when playing volleyball. If I could use the Pebble while playing Volleyball, I would of course.

Pebble 2.0

Right now, I decided to see how I felt about the rubber strap, instead of the strap I bought from Tokyo. I quite like the fact its the same size as the previous pebble making them easily interchangeable.

So far the only downside I have found is the battery seems to take longer to charge but it also lasts longer unless you have the heart rate thing on. Also I noticed the timeline doesn’t seem to go into the past anymore, which is a shame. But generally most of these things are tiny issues.

So far I’m still very glad I stuck with Pebble. A lot of friends who bought Android Wear and Apple Watches have given up on them. The Pebble is a ideal smartwatch and the 2nd edition really puts it closer to the standard watches.

The biggest question is what to do with my old one?

Worm attacks over unsecured protocals

Philips Elevation Ambilight+hue

Bruce Schneier isn’t the only person worried about this type of attack. I already turned off external access to my Hue lights following the IOT bot net news.

This is exactly the sort of Internet-of-Things attack that has me worried:

“IoT Goes Nuclear: Creating a ZigBee Chain Reaction” by Eyal Ronen, Colin OFlynn, Adi Shamir and Achi-Or Weingarten.

Abstract: Within the next few years, billions of IoT devices will densely populate our cities. In this paper we describe a new type of threat in which adjacent IoT devices will infect each other with a worm that will spread explosively over large areas in a kind of nuclear chain reaction, provided that the density of compatible IoT devices exceeds a certain critical mass. In particular, we developed and verified such an infection using the popular Philips Hue smart lamps as a platform. The worm spreads by jumping directly from one lamp to its neighbors, using only their built-in ZigBee wireless connectivity and their physical proximity. The attack can start by plugging in a single infected bulb anywhere in the city, and then catastrophically spread everywhere within minutes, enabling the attacker to turn all the city lights on or off, permanently brick them, or exploit them in a massive DDOS attack.

Instant Apps are the most fascinating thing

I like Dieter Bohn, was blown away by Google IO’s demonstration of instant apps.

The basic idea is simple: when you click on a link, if that link has an associated Instant App at the URL you get a tiny version of that app instead of the website. We played around with it a bit today at Google IO, and found that it was as fast (if not faster!) than loading up a web page with the same functionality. It works because developers can “modularize” their apps so they only serve you the parts that you need for whatever you clicked on — points on a map, a video, some home listings, a payment system, or whatever.

But take that idea and think on it a second: there’s a whole class of apps that you use once and never want to bother with again. Google’s example is a parking meter app. It works better as an app because it ties into Android Pay, but honestly you don’t want that thing cluttering up your app drawer most of the time.

YES!

This is why I tend to keep my Nexus 5X phone quite clean and clear of apps, I upload apps to my Nexus 7. If at all possible. Its discipline and I’ll be honest a bit of a pain, as my Nexus 7 relies on Wifi for network connectivity, but generally I think through the positives and negatives of installing each app and where it should go before hitting install.

Recently I installed the Easyjet app on my nexus 7, just so I didn’t have to print out my boarding pass (I have no printer and kinda hate printing). I used the app twice over a period of a week and that was it, uninstalled and gone. If I had instant apps, I would have been very happy with using it instead. Theres also other apps I just need for one task, like at a conference to vote (hey Thinking Digital & Herb), instant apps would so solve this problem; and if really that fast…!

Yes I hear the privacy concerns, but maybe it could be a standard android chooser/selector. Go to the play store and install the app, use instant app or force the service to give me a mobile alternative version.

Yes I hear, developers need to write their apps in a more structured way. But there can’t be much wrong with that? I remember back when I was still in Bristol, a talk about streaming apps, well its almost getting there; although I’m sure many will argue the webapp has already made this a reality.

Classic Pebble meets OS 3.0

Late last night my pebble watch got a firmware upgrade to version 3.0 of the Pebble software. It required a reboot and the new pebble app on my phone. I have been wanting this upgrade for a long while since I first saw the timeline feature.

I’m very happy to say its a incredible interface for a smartwatch.

My nexus 5x battery is pleasingly decent

I got to say this isn’t bad going for my nexus 5x with 4g, WiFi, Bluetooth and NFC on all the time. I was using my Bluetooth headphones at work for music and calls. Plus I got my pebble smartwatch on all the time.

I was pleased to see so much power without turning anything off or doing anything special to save power.

Nexus 5 with that X factor

Nexus 5x

My Nexus 5 which I have still but developed a problem a little while ago needed replacing. With that I decided the Nexus 5x makes the most sense and tried to get one over the holiday period. The Google Play Store had a discount, but there was a problem with the store and I missed out on the discount.

However, I was walking along Tottenham Court Road in London last week and saw Google had a special display in Currys. Funny enough the price they were selling it at was the same as the discounted price. I double checked the price on the Play store and it was still higher. So I bought it in store with additional bits thrown in, including a new Google Cardboard, £50 curry gift card and a android badge (yeah I know, not my thing either).

OnePlus 2

It was a reasonable deal but it was frustrating that I couldn’t buy a USB C cable in the Currys store. This was even more painful when I finally got the phone back to the hotel and found it was USB C on both ends, meaning I could only use the wall charger it come with. Could I find another USB C to USB A cable anywhere on Totternham Court Road or Oxford Street? Could I heck. Luckily I ordered cables and USB Micro to USB C from Amazon over the Holidays, so once I got back to Manchester I could use those.

It did remind me of when my HTC One X came with MicroUSB not MiniUSB. I would ask in shops and they would bring out MiniUSB or look at me with a question mark in their heads. I’m just very surprise Currys would sell the Nexus5X and not even supply accessories.

Advice for google, insist there is accessories and cases alongside a place you sell the phones!

Nexus5X_3

Ok so my thoughts about the actual phone.

Its good! But I really miss not having MicroUSB and having to replace a ton of my cables. I also haven’t seen the benefit of USB C (yet!) yes its reversable but without my MicroUSB adapter, I felt like a iPhone user, asking for some insane cable.

The actual phones construct is similar to the Nexus 5 in feel but looks like a Moto G with dual stereo speakers. Its also a tiny bit bigger at 5.2 inches with the headphone jack at the bottom instead of the top. I won’t lie the phone is big but not like the Nexus 6P, so it just about fits in one of man hands. It is a stretch to reach the top but with all the buttons on the side theres less need to do so.

Google Nexus 5X

The finger print sensor is actually in the right place. I heard elsewhere the Moto G’s area on the back was meant to be a finger sensor, and the finger does hover there all the time. You can also train the finger sensor at different angles, positions and fingers. I think you can do up to 10 configurations and the phone will unlock and turn on once its accepted. The nice thing is you can still apply other methods, such as smart lock, pattern and many other method. The time from finger to unlock is in the less than 500ms. Its bloody fast, needs no pressure and is the same quickness as pressing the power button! I keep forgetting its there and going for my lock pattern, its just muscle memory I guess.

The screen resolution has a crazy dots per inch and it really shows. Seeing my old Nexus 5 next to the 5x is quite something. Its like when I bought the new Nexus 7 and put it side by side with the old Nexus 7. There is so much extra space and google has used this space by include another row and column of icons on the home screens. The camera seems pretty good too, but not really played with it much. Surprising detail for low light and a shaky hand in the cold.

London with Nexus 5x
Shot of London from the south bank

On a whole the Nexus 5x is a great phone and I’m glad I waited for it. Now I just need to setup most of the apps again. I’m moving apps like Fitbit, Withings, etc off to my Nexus 7; as I noticed I only really use them when at home.

I’m sure once USB type C is everywhere, I’ll be a lot more happy. Also a shame I’ll have less use for my conductive chargers…

Looks like I may end up getting the Nexus 5X after all

Dead pixels on Nexus 5 screen

I saw the Google Nexus 5x on launch and was interested but decided my old Nexus 5 was still doing fine, so I won’t be considering the upgrade.

However yesterday on the train to Bristol, while my phone lied on the table next to my laptop, I suddenly found my phone screen had experienced a major dead pixel problem. The phone is 2 years old and way out of warranty period so I doubt google will send me a new one, but a discount would be very grateful.

Its not unusable but certainly a pain to use. At least my contract is finished, so I can get the best phone and sell it to make up the price of the new Nexus 5x. Maybe I’ll keep the Nexus 5 as a backup phone.

Pebble, time to dump Apple?

Pebble time

Iphone users who bought a pebble have been complaining that the pebble smartwatch’s connection with the phone is getting more and more flaky.

While on the other side the connection with Android phones is getting tighter (especially with some support for Android wear). I’m Apple are also going to/has restricted access to more apis since they want exclusive access for the apple watch.

This makes me wonder how long pebble will support the iphone?

Its great they support both operating systems but when one of them wants you off their closed platform? How long do you stay and keep struggling to support it while the walls close in, crushing your development efforts and driving your customers against you?

Food for thought, pebble?

Its Pebble time…?

I do enjoy my pebble smartwatch. Just recently it starting supporting Android wear notifications and replies, making it much closer to the other smart watches you can buy on the market but still with 7 day battery life and a readable screen in bright sunlight.

But even with that, I was thinking it would be great if they just included a microphone, so you could reply instead of using prewritten messages or emoticons. Well its almost like they heard me and not only added a microphone but also a 64 colour epaper display in their new kickstarter project, Pebble time…

I’ll be interested to see the timeline interface in daily life too.

Android App inventor 2 tempting me away from Webstandards

A long time ago , I blogged about Google’s App inventor. then  noticed Google gave it away to MIT who redeveloped it into something more usable. Recently App inventor has been upgraded to version 2 and it has some niffy features, including a live view which shows you the working app on a connected phone.

I’ve have been thinking about creating little apps for personal reason, for example a Tokyo maps app which doesn’t show ads. Its the little things. But something keeps me thinking about using the web standards and instead building a webapp.

I almost added to my new years resolutions

Develop a webapp which runs on the Mozilla Firefox phone and takes advantage of Ubuntu’s webapp features.

I was slightly inspired by Bristlr not going the standard app way. I was a little deflated by the way Android didn’t have a way to launch straight into the webapp (except as a bookmark it seems).

I prefer to work directly with open webstandards but App inventor is very tempting… Now if I could create webapps using app inventor…

What is Fitbit trying to do?

new fitbit permissions

For a while now, I have been declining the fitbit upgrade on my Android devices. I kept tweeting fitbit to ask why on earth my digital pedometer needs access to my SMS, Camera and Location?

I can imagine, Location is passable but SMS and Camera? Really? I voted with my feet and kept the upgrade on hiatus till I heard a reason why.

Finally I got a message from Fitbit support…

So basically fitbit is trying to break its way into the wearable market with phone and messages notifications?

I think I’ll hold off on upgrading even longer now. I’m sure you can turn it off but I’m just not interested, especially since I have the pebble smartwatch which already does this and so much more.

Firefox OS on a new phone

Firefox OS upgrade

One of the big things which came out of the Mozilla Festival was the brand new Firefox phone, the flame… I heard about it but to own a version was frankly kind of exciting. I believe they gave out about 500 to the people who attended the festival. You also had to be there early on Sunday morning if you wanted one.

Unlike the previous version which was made by Geekphone and was technically a developer edition, this one was closer to 4.75 inches. The build quality had also been upped from the previous one.  When in my pocket, it feels very much like my Nexus 5 but a little less polished. A little frustrating to move the power button to the top instead of the right hand side to match the Nexus 5.

Firefox phones

When you open up the phones back cover (because you can do that, the novelty!) you find not only a micro SD card slot but also 2 sim slots! 2 Sims in Europe, what on earth? How great is that? I can finally buy a crappy sim from another country and still use my number for everything else. I currently have my work sim and a spare pay as you go sim in place. Another thing which surprised me about the phone also was the NFC support. Now that was something I was not expecting at all. Haven’t tested to see if the Bluetooth is 4.0 LE (looks like it maybe 3.0) or not but everything else looks good. It feels like last years chipset, not quite but comparable to my HTC 1X.

Enough about the hardware how does it work? Well I have to say its not bad. Compared to the previous one, its far more quicker and snappy. Its was pretty much what you experienced on the previous phone but quicker and more responsive. I say it was… because recently I got an upgrade pushed through to the next version of Firefox OS. Now its zippy and looks quite a bit different from what Android, iOS and Windows phone are doing.

Firefox OS upgrade

Now the icons are very big and super colourful. To be honest although Iike it, I would reduce the size if it was my only phone. People like Aral will hate the setup process because there are some gotcha’s which still disappoint, but as a whole Mozilla have listened to the critical feedback and tried to improve the user experience a lot.

The biggest problem I find with Firefox OS is the lack of apps. Its frustrating as it should make grabbing parts of websites or services easy (or maybe I’m missing something).  Don’t get me wrong the marketplace has much more that it use to have but its no where near even the Microsoft app store.

That is the one thing holding back Firefox OS. I do believe the web as a platform for development is a good one but the APIs are not there yet. For example I looked at the Web NFC API spec and found this. I’d love to write something to take advantage of it but its still not there for serious use.

I did notice that some of the things like Ubuntu unity webapp stuff does seem to work with the phone too. So I assume it got supported by the W3C? This brings me a bit of joy, because I can write simple stuff which will have utility across Ubuntu and Firefox phone. My hope is since I have Firefox installed on my Android, some of those features will also happen on Android.

As a whole, I like the Firefox phone, it reminds me how important it is to be free of the clutches of the big 5 stacks who hoover up data for their own means and lock you in forever. Firefox OS can be pretty much run like a feature phone if required but there is the ability to sync and have accounts if you so wish. If the flame really is meant to be a 100 dollar phone, its not value for money. I would happily have paid about that for it, as a 2nd phone. Looking forward to the next update… Good work Mozilla.