Pebble update opens the door

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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.

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.

Graceful degradation of apps via permissions under android 6.0

Android 6.0 Marshmallow has a very nice feature, something I have been wanting to see more across all services and applications. Granular permissions, which can be applied and revoked by the user at anytime.

It was obvious that iOS had it right as far as transparent, granular app permissions were concerned, and Android Marshmallow admits as much, because it now has a very similar system. Permissions are asked for as and when they’re needed, rather than all at once during installation.

That gives you a better idea of what’s going on and also let’s you, for example, give Facebook access to your camera but not your contacts. If you want to check which apps have what permissions (and edit them), go to Settings: tap Apps then the cog icon, then choose App permissions.

Android 6.0 permission system
Why does BBC iPlayer Radio need access to my phone?

Since android 6.0 marshmallow, i’ve wanted to try out the app permission tweaker. I’m interested to see what happens when I block certain apps from key permissions. Will they explode will they gracefully handle it and still operate without it?
For example could I run facebook app and deny access to the internet, or local storage? OK that might be a little too far but what about facebook without access to the mic and camera? Surely that would work right?

So I tried it with the Amazon kindle app, which I always thought had too many permissions anyway. I mean why does the kindle app need access to my contacts and my telephone?!

Android 6.0 permission system

Haven turned them off, I thought I’d better see if the app still actually worked?

Android 6.0 permission system

It did! So I started revoking permissions from apps which I felt didn’t need the permissions. For example Fitbit, which I refused to upgrade in the past due to the permissions.

Android 6.0 permission system

Why does Fitbit need so many permissions anyway!

Android 6.0 permission system

Andorid warms me the app may break as its not written for Android 6.0. But it still works as I want it to., so this has to be a case of them over reaching with the data they want to consume?
Say hello to your new permissions Fitbit, and it works fine when syncing data from the Fitbit.

Android 6.0 permission system

Fitbit better get use to the sandbox I put it in, and they are not the only one!

Android 6.0 permission system
Android 6.0 permission system

This for me is a key part of the VRM infrastructure as Adriana said

If you cannot reject them, if you cannot actually say well, I’m fine with that but not with that, what’s the point?

Great to see it working as expected, graceful degradation of applications based on permissions. I might be able to install Facebook again.

Update

I installed Facebook messenger again with the permissions I felt comfortable with.

Then decided actually I want to break FB messenger as its meant to be written for Android 6.0, so denied it access to my location too.

Installing Facebook messenger under Android 6.0

I can say everything  works, and I haven’t seen any problems so far with my permissions. I did notice you can start to mess with the data usage too, which maybe a way to restrict network usage.?

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.

Fitbit One just started working?

Fitbit tracking

I don’t understand what happened but my Fitbit One just started working. As you may remember, I running Ubuntu and the client doesn’t work on Linux (tried libfitbit), so I had hoped the Android app would be my way of syncing data to their website. However syncing was in beta on Android and seems to only work on newer Samsung devices I gather.

It must be one of the following, because my data was update on Friday 4:16pm

  1. The Bluetooth beta syncing is working on my Samsung Tab 7 plus. Even though forcing it to sync never works and its only got Bluetooth 3.0 not 4.0. I do have background sync turned on and the option to sync now is actually there, even if it fails everytime.
  2. The Fitbit sync app works on my HTC One X (which does have bluetooth 4.0), even thought there is no options for syncing the device like on my Samsung Tab 7 plus. However bluetooth is usually on for my headphones and its never failed (mainly because theres no actual button to force sync)
  3. The Fitbit sync’ed via someone elses device on Friday afternoon while at the Future Everything summit.

Option 2 looks like it will happen but not quite yet. HTC’s bluetooth stack is quite different from Samsungs and I guess its the downside of a diverse ecosystem. Option 1 is likely but its strange that when ever I try and force a sync, it just fails. I also have not seen an update to the app for at least a week now and I don’t know how compatible Bluetooth 3.0 is with 4.0?

As crazy as it seems, option 3 is looking likely because the timing looks about right and its never sync’ed before or after then. However does the Fitbit work that way, why only now? And isn’t there major privacy issues with this? (I am aware the fitbit sends its data in the clear over bluetooth already, keep meaning to fire up wireshark to see exactly how and what). Not having to use your own machine does have a lot of advantages. I can sync with a machine which isn’t mine or even a public machine. The password in the clear is a problem but like all my passwords, there just made up nonsense in keepass, so it won’t be used anywhere else. However I must relook at Libfitbit because must be pretty simple for it to work with the Fitbit One?

On the plus side, the Fitbit seemed to keep all the data from the moment I first ever switched it on. I did ask about how much it stored and most people said about 1-2 weeks at a time. But it seems 2 months is more correct.

I should be happy and I am but I’d really like to update it regularly…

Fitbit wireless syncing, almost…

I have been using my fit bit everyday to give me feedback of how much exercise I’m getting or rather not getting in most cases. However I have no real log of details because the Fitbit won’t sync on Ubuntu or even my Android devices.

However this seems to be coming to an end…

From Fitbit’s blog

Additionally, we waited until now to launch a wristband because we wanted to be able to offer wireless syncing with Android phones as well as iPhones, iPads, and iPods with Bluetooth 4.0. We’re very excited to announce that our products will start syncing with the Samsung Galaxy SIII and Samsung Note 2 in late January/early February, and more devices will follow soon! Viva la mobile!

Its frustrating still because of course i don’t own of those devices however I noticed a comment on the Fitbit app feedback

I was extremely surprised to discover that Sync works on the Galaxy Note 10.1 (n8010) even though it’s not in the supported device list. Super app, though it does loose one star as the functionality and experience is still so far removed from the desktop interface. A little consistency would be welcome, such as the ability to access activity records. Useful if you want to sync your Fitbit on the go and log driving / traveling or any exercises. Keep up the great work though! Looking forward to the next update

Seems most of the samsung bluetooth stack is supported, so when I tried it out on my Samsung Tab 7+ it almost worked. Can’t quite get the sync working but its trying. While on my HTC One X it doesn’t even give me the option.

Indeed frustrating… but I can’t wait for the next update. Reminds me I need to check in on what happening with LibFitbit

I bought a Fitbit twice?

Fitbit Ultra

One of my new year’s resolutions was to Be fitter and heather

Been consistently loosing weight at a slow pace but I do need to do more exercise. I’m hoping to find more of the things I like doing including volleyball in the next year. I’ve been consider a lot of what happens in the QS (quantified self) world and eying up the FitBit Ultra as it seems just open enough to do interesting things and work with my setup. My family got me enough Amazon credits to buy one which is great.

So I bought a Fitbit Ultra… Unfortunately its certainly a pain… More of a pain that I was prepared for originally.

First problem was the fact you need to get it started by using its own proprietary dock and software. I don’t have a spare Virtual Machine on my new laptop and I rather not go through the hassle of running a VM just to setup it up. So I went to my neighbor and he set it up instead.

Once that was done, I was able to see the stats on the website and the android apps which I installed. However I wasn’t getting updates…

In the end I saw they launched another Fitbit, titled Fitbit One which synced over Bluetooth 4.0 instead. So I swapped it and paid the difference on Amazon…

Although I still had to do the original setup using a mac or pc. The hope is I will be able to do the syncing from now on over the Bluetooth connection of my ubuntu laptop, or my phone/tablet with the fitbit app. Weirdly I can’t seem to find Ubuntu drivers for Bluetooth 4.0, altought Bluez says they have some support. Frustratingly this “feature” is still coming on Android although it works on iOS devices (as usual)

I’m holding out hope for the OpenYou project. But right now, it seems to be a process of waiting and waiting. During that time I’ll keep using it and hoping it keeps the data till its sorted…