Hitting $1M in Pebble Time

I waited a long long time for my Pebble to arrive after backing it on Kickstarter. But since the arrival of iOS8 and several updates to the watch firmware it was worked well and I really like the watch.

My only gripe would be that the font size is a bit small (even on the largest setting) and I wish that they would make it bigger. Apart from that it is just about perfect.

With all the news about the Apple Watch I had wondered what Pebble’s answer to it would be and yesterday we found out with the launch of the Pebble Time. It looks awesome and I have ordered one but it seems that I am not the only person to think so.

The above image shows when Pebble Time reached it’s first $1M in under an hour making it the fastest to that price point on Kickstarter. As I type this the total is just a shade over $9m and there are still 30 days to go! Deliveries begin in May.

FYI the image above has been reduced from 1 minute 20 seconds to nine seconds.

Setting the Nest to Away

I love the Nest learning thermostat now that it has built up a schedule but I feel that it could be doing more to help us save money.

One way to do this is set the Nest to away when I am, well, away. I currently have two ways of doing that:

1. via the standard Nest iPhone app, or
2. via the Nest Pebble app, Leaf.


Both these work well but you need to remember to actually do it and I never do. Worse than that if I do remember I then forget to turn it back on again.

Enter Skylark, an iPhone app that connects with your Nest to automatically set it away and back to home. It works by checking the proximity of your phone to your Nest and setting it to away when you get a certain distance away and then back on again when you are within proximity. It can also work by when you connect/disconnect to your home wi-fi.


One of the great things about Skylark is that if multiple people have the app installed connected to the same Nest then it will only be set to Away when everyone is out of the house.

The only problems seem to be that: it only works with iOS 8.1 and it doesn’t work on Android. Apart from that it is pretty perfect.

Here’s to lower energy bills.

Twitter Cards Validation Error

Twitter have had a neat feature for a while now that allows for additional information to be included with a tweet that is then displayed when you expand the tweet. This is how it looks:

Card on the Web

Card on the Web

And on a mobile client:

Card on a mobile device

Card on a mobile device

To enable these you need to set-up some meta data on your website (there is a good guide here) and then validate this information with Twitter here. When I did so I was greeted by the following message:

ERROR: FetchError:exceeded 4.seconds to Portal.Pink-constructor-safecore while waiting for a response for the request, including retries (if applicable) (Card error)

This message while not the most clear means that your website is taking too long to return the requested page, more than four seconds in fact. This led me on a journey to try and get the response time down to something respectable because if Twitter was having problems you can bet that potential customers would be experiencing the same thing.

In the end, in our case,  I determined that the server was underpowered and so threw some resources at it and the problem went away. Given that Twitter cards are free and easy to set-up I would thoroughly recommend  doing so, they even work through link shorteners as you can see from the images above.

Adding New Fonts to iOS for use in Word, Drafts and other Apps

I have long loved the font that is used in iA’s Writer app but while I love the app I really wanted to be able to use the font elsewhere and particularly in Drafts.


After a bit of searching it was clear that the font used in Writer wasn’t available but there was a free alternative as part of Google Fonts called Cousine. The rest of this post will show you how you can get this font onto your iOS device. Firstly download the font package from the Google site.

You will need a copy of a font installation app. There are a number available but the one I am using is InstaFont which costs £1.49. You will also need a way of getting the font onto the device. I used Dropbox but anything that can allow you to download the file and open it in another app will do so you should be able to use Google Drive/OneDrive/Box or a Mail app.


Once transferred you should see the font appear in your custom font list. Select it and the install button in the top right will show (1). You can then click this to move on to the installation.


When you press the Install button the app will switch to Safari and them almost immediately to the settings app where you will then see the Install Profile screen:


You will then see a warning message about the profile being unsigned. You can safely ignore this and press Install:


For some reason pressing Install twice isn’t enough for Apple so go ahead and press it once again:


The installation is now complete and so you can press the Done button:


The font is now installed and ready to use in other apps. For example here it is being selected for use in Drafts:


And finally here it is in use. You can compare with the original in iA Writer immediately below it. Pretty similar I think.



Why I can’t get my Head Around Evernote’s Work Chat Feature

In the last major release of Evernote a new feature called Work Chat was introduced. It is described by Evernote as allowing you to “discuss your work in Evernote, in real time, with the people who help you get it done.”. So it is sort of like an inbuilt chat facility and as that it works as described.

The problem is that what is the most natural thing to want to do while chatting over a note? For me it is to update it with the other party and for both to see the updates but when you do that you get the following and an unholy mess to have to unpick.


Playing with Work Chat yesterday leads me to conclude that, as it stands, this feature is no better than, say, using Skype and passing Word documents around via email and much better would to use a Google Doc or a third party service such as Live Minutes.

I know that the syncing was changed in the last version of Evernote so I can only hope that live and true collaborative editing of documents is something that is achievable and coming soon.

Seeing Double – Duet Display for iPad

There has been a lot of noise this week about a new iOS app called Duet Display. This allows you to turn your iPad into an extra display for your Mac. This has been done before but the difference with Duet Display is that it claims to have no lag as it is connected over the lightning/dock cable rather than using wifi.

Duet Display was release yesterday afternoon and I installed it on my iPad Mini and iPhone 6 along with the mandatory companion app on my iMac.

The good news is that it certainly works as described. I was able to manage the device as an additional monitor through System Preferences dragging it to where I wanted it to appear in relation to my other two existing monitors. I was then, as you can see from the images, able to drag Skype to my device and use it from there. The touch screen works on the device allowing you to move the cursor around the screen and interact as you would with a mouse, which is pretty cool.

The bad news is that it has made my iMac incredibly unstable with Chrome and the Messages apps both crashing at will. How can I be certain that this is to do with Duet Display? Because as soon as I quit the app normal stability was resumed.

So right now I couldn’t recommend the app. Of course your mileage may vary, as they say, and I haven’t seen any problems highlighted in the reviews I have read but for me it is unfortunately unusable.

Duet Display on iPhone 6

Duet Display on iPhone 6

You can download the app from here.

Fitbit vs Misfit on the Pebble Smartwatch

I’ve been a happy Fitbit Flex user for some 18 months now but when Pebble released an update that allowed activity tracking I thought that I would give it a go to see how the two compared.

The first thing to point out is that I am only interested in two things: accuracy and battery life. The second thing is that while I am happy with both the watch and fitness band on my (non-dominant) wrist I would prefer it all in one package.

I chose to run the test over a couple of weeks. The first when I would be at home and doing little walking (I work from home so the number of steps from the bedroom to the office is about 10) and the second when I was on holiday when I would be doing a lot of walking. This would allow me to do a comparison between low and high usage.


Of the two criteria this was the most important for me. I know that neither will be 100% accurate but I do want them to be close. In order to baseline the tests I ran a small test where I recorded the step count on both devices before taking 130 steps and the recording the counts again. As you can see from below in this very unscientific test the Fitbit was spot on and the Pebble out by a factor of 35%.

  Start End Difference
Pebble 116 200 46
Fitbit 234 362 2

The graph below shows the number of steps recorded by each device over a two week period.


What is pretty clear is that the more steps you take the greater the divergence between the Fitbit and the Pebble. At the high end this difference was about 25% meaning that you had to do many more steps in order to reach your goal, which in both cases was 10,000 steps. I found this a bit dispiriting and meant that I hardly ever saw this:

2014-10-06 15.47.11

Battery Life

The first thing to note here was that battery life on the Pebble could vary enormously. One one occasion I got only 24 hours of usage from a single charge but this was exceptional and I don’t think that this had anything to do with the step tracking, for me Pebble battery usage varies wildly for no apparent reason.

I was surprised to find that the battery life from both the Fitbit and the Pebble was almost identical coming in at an average of four days usage between charges. This is certainly less than Pebble quotes as expected life between charges but is still better than both my phone and the forthcoming Apple Watch.

The graph below shows the battery usage on the Pebble as it wasn’t possible to get an accurate battery level from the Fitbit.


Given that both devices are pretty small and therefore have a correspondingly small battery I don’t think that four days between charges is too bad (providing it is consistent, which it wasn’t on the Pebble). It is, however, considerably easier to charge the Pebble but in both cases it won’t be logging while being charged. This may be more of an issue if you use either device to monitor sleep and usually charge overnight.


As I have already said I am very happy with my Fitbit but as I already wear the Pebble if it too could carry out the same functions then that would be a win for me. Unfortunately I just didn’t get the sense that the accuracy of the Pebble step tracker was as accurate as the Fitbit and that knocked it on the head for me. Also at the time of writing it isn’t possible to synchronise your stats from the watch to your Misfit account meaning that I cannot keep a history which is something I also wanted to do.

Of course it is possible that these are software issues and that the accuracy can be improved with future revisions of the Pebble firmware. If that is the case I will happily come back and revist.

Your Own Link Shortener (Yourls)

I have written about the Yourls system previously that allows you to host your own link shortener. I have been using it for years now and it works incredibly well.

However, when I logged in last week I noticed that it had been flooded with spam entries. I immediately changed my api key and password but neither stopped the entries. I was confused until I read this post on the Yourls blog.

I removed all the sample-*.php.txt pages and all the spam went away so I strongly suggest that you do so too. I ave looked at the latest release and those files don’t seem to be present any more so this may only apply to old versions.

iStick – USB Flash Drive for iPhone and iPad

When I upgraded my iPad Mini I made a huge mistake by not checking the memory size of my existing device. Consequently I got home and discovered too late that I had purchased one with only 16gb. I was (and am) distraught over having to judiciously manage the apps and the space they use in order to be able to do what I want and need to do. If only there was a way to increase the capacity of an iPad.

Well, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign that successfully funded last June there now is a way. Effectively it is a memory stick that has the normal USB connection at one end and a slider reveals a lightning connector at the other. I pledged for a 32gb version and it was delivered yesterday.

It looks and feels like any other flash drive and using the USB end it operates exactly the same as any other drive. It was detected by my Macs without issue and allowed me to transfer files between them without issue, something that these days I would normally use Dropbox for.

Of course it is not that functionality that I wanted the iStick for. Sliding the button on the iStick reveals a lightning connector which allows it to be plugged into either an iPad or and iPhone. You can only access the memory stick through the free app. You can see both in action below:

2014-12-02 15.19.24-1

From the app you are able to view content such as photos and watch movies, crucially without having to copy them onto the device. The movie is slow to start but once it gets going worked fine. You can also copy other documents onto the stick and using the iOS share sheet open the file in another app, such as opening a spreadsheet in Excel. This, however, does copy the file to your device so takes up additional space.

There is also the ability to backup your contacts and pictures. I’m not sure of the value of the former as they are synced across multiple places anyway but being able to get photos off and onto the stick is really useful. Unfortunately while you can copy them onto the iStick you cannot then delete them. I would much prefer a move option.

So that’s the good. The bad is the the companion app is a bit clunky and not terribly intuitive, it really needs some work. Not only because it is essential for the useful operation but also because it is incomplete compared to what was agreed as part of the funding stretch goals which were as follows:

$1.0M: Airplay/Subtitle support in movie player. API for 3rd party apps (Unlocked!)
$750K: Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, Google Drive Integration (Unlocked!)
$500K: Passcode/Password functionality for iStick (Unlocked!)

To date none have been delivered but it’s early days yet and as long as these are I will be happy with the iStick and maybe it will save me having to replace my iPad earlier than I would have otherwise.