iPhone / iPad / Mac

Lightwave brainwave..

Gadgets are fun, right?

I love the idea of Smart Homes. I am a geek after all! There’s a few barriers without considerable investment to shoehorning this kind of thing into belligerently traditional non-smart home infrastructure, and of course the perennial problem with tech, especially the early stages of it, of compatibility or multiple choices of ecosystems, and of course the cost.

As someone already pretty deep into the Apple ecosystem, and the stronger focus on security it offers HomeKit was always going to be my preference over the other frontrunners in Alexa and Google Home. The drawback to this being a more limited choice of compatible kit, and a sometimes convoluted set up process. What I’ve found since playing with this is the default Home app used to configure it is actually pretty hobbled when it comes to tweaking your automations.

But there is a workaround to that, more on that later.

I do have a light in my office that connects to a Nest Home Mini just to control on/off and dimming, it doesn’t really interact with anything else so I’ll pass on that. I only bought it as it was a cheap way to better light my office which obviously in recent times I’ve been spending a lot more time in, and since it had smart capabilities I couldn’t resist picking up a cheap Nest Home Mini to play with it.

I’ve always wanted to start with my lights at home – partly because of having a pet bird and being able to control her lighting on a schedule is appealing for times (hopefully soon) when I’m likely to be out the house more at work or socially. Her UV light is sort of semi-smart being on a WeMo plug with a schedule, but obviously as autumn and winter comes I need to think about the normal non-UV lighting too.

Having scoured various options I plumped for LightwaveRF being the solution I wanted.

Lightwave RF switches are simple, functional but also pretty stylish

A couple of years ago an email enquiry even resulting in a chap coming round with a sales pitch. It’s not cheap, I pondered it but even with a discount for attempting the whole house was a bit much to find. I guess spending 6+ months at home makes you consider your environment more so I reconsidered this the other week!

I opted for switches rather than bulbs for a number of reasons – your bulbs can be as smart as you like, but if you turn off the switch then they’re off (I find this with my office light), and you’ve got strong muscle memory to simply flick off a light switch as you leave a room rather than asking a Virtual Assistant to do the honours.

Also, smart bulbs are expensive – most of my home lighting are recessed GU10 bulbs. Whilst there are options out there with Hue and Lifx offering options that work with HomeKit, with a switch I can use regular dimmable LED bulbs which is much more cost effective when you consider I have ten lamps in my lounge alone. The advantage individual bulbs would have is that you could have colour temperature / RGB colour options, or even do funky things by only lighting some of the bulbs or varying the colours of them etc.

I didn’t really want to do that – being able to control on/off and brightness was my only real drive.

Installing the Eufy doorbell came with its own complications but that’s not really relevant here!

Probably the main catalyst was succumbing to the whim of getting a video doorbell, I picked up a Eufy wired doorbell – currently this doesn’t connect to HomeKit (hopefully it will in the future), but it did signpost me to their internal security cameras. I use cameras at home to monitor the house when I’m not in, again, largely precipitated by being able to keep an eye on the pet birds as well as being mindful of security.

I replaced my ye old and slightly rubbish first generation Hive cameras with two very reasonably priced Eufy pan and tilt cameras, added them to HomeKit with no problems then realised as well as being security cameras (I set them to not do anything when I’m at home, based on Geofencing linked to my phone), but when I’m away they kick into actually acting as security cameras when I’m not at home.

Whilst the panning and tilting is cool, the field of view of these cameras is sufficient and it’s a bit freaky having the cameras following you around even when they’re not in active recording mode, so I disabled that.

Eufy pan and tilt cameras are ace in their own right, but add HomeKit in and they’re a steal – Eufy frequently have decent discounts too, so worth keeping an eye out!

By using HomeKit for this and being able to invite people to join your home, the same goes for others who might be spending time at home – if they have an iPhone of course – which is one of those nuisance limiting factors that plague these different systems.

So anyway, having a motion sensor in my living room made me start thinking about Lightwave switches again. As the living room simply has a single switch, it was the easiest starting point so I started stalking eBay for starter kits to save a few quid and eventually won one. Lightwave requires a hub, I connected that up to the router and set about wiring up the switch – I won’t detail that, follow the instructions, it’s pretty simple for one way lighting!

The initial barrier was occasionally a single lamp in my living room would light up – LED lamps obviously require much less power, and with dimmer switches sometimes even when off they let enough through to cause some flickering or single lamps to come on. Not a good start! A quick google led me to pick up an inexpensive bypass – it was actually designed to work with the Z-Wave dimmer system but does the same thing.

It was simply a case of wiring this behind one of the GU10 lights in the circuit, and recalibrating the Lightwave switch in the app – and voila, no residual light when powered off or flickering, and lovely smooth dimming working through both the Lightwave app and – once added – the Home app utilising HomeKit.

I think it’s the first time I’ve had decent dimming since switching the lights out from the halogen bulbs when I moved in to LEDs. Which then leads to doing clever things utilising the motion sensor.

A lot of this is kinda ‘because you can’ rather than making a game changer in your life – but it’s nice to have. I set up an overnight automation that if motion is detected (the motion detection on the indoor cameras are set to low sensitivity to try to limited false triggers) then the lights will come on to 40% if they’re not already on. When motion is not detected, and the lights are at 40% or less, then it will switch them off.

If everyone in my home leaves the immediate area based on Geofencing then the lights switch off. Then I’ve also set the lights to incrementally dim over the course of the evening to start to subliminally remind me that it’s getting closer to bed time. It remains to be seen whether this makes any difference or not, but it’s kinda cool regardless!

So that’s a total of seven automations:

The Home app is slick and easy to understand, but lacks the conditional nuances you really want to be able to properly automate things
  • Motion detected in Living Room, only when somebody is at home and only if living room light is off – turn lights on to 40% – so this means if one of us staggers downstairs at night the lights will turn on, obviously there’s a chance that a random movement or lights throught the window could trigger this.. so…
  • No motion detected in Living Room, only from 01:00 to 18:00 and living room light is on at 40% or less – turn lights off – if the lights are on at 40% then the chances are it was triggered by a movement, if that movement stops then switches the lights back off – if it’s less than 40% then it’s likely to be post 11pm when the lights dim to 20%
  • When the last person leaves home, only when living room light is on – turn off living room light – of course, having smart lights means you can check via the app if you’ve left them on – but why not just get the technology to compensate for potential forgetfulness?
  • At 8pm, only when Living Room light is on – set lights to 80% brightness
  • At 9pm, only when Living Room light is on – set lights to 60% brightness
  • At 10pm, only when Living Room light is on – set lights to 40% brightness
  • At 11pm, only when Living Room light is on – set lights to 20% brightness
Controller lets you either set up new or tweak existing automations with multiple conditions

Setting up automations in the Home app is really easy, but doesn’t give you all of the conditional tweaks that you might want (at least not that I’ve found), but if you download an app called Controller even with the free version you can both set up or customise existing automations to add conditions around presence, time or values for accessories. Home tends to focus on just one element rather than combining them, which is where the really clever stuff kicks in.

I can kinda understand that – but they could have an ‘expert’ mode or similar to manage these kind of automations in the native app rather than having to nip out to hack it, once you’ve done that, you can actually adjust the condition parameters in the Home app.

As a proof of concept I’m happy with my results – and definitely the bird room is next, the only reason that I didn’t start with it is because it’s a triple switch and Lightwave triple switches are double-width so there’ll be some work to do on extending the back box behind the existing switch in there. When I start considering upstairs there will be the combination of extending back boxes AND 2 or 3 way circuits to contemplate – so I shall see how I feel about that later! That’s the joy of a modular system.

That was a bit waffly but buried in there might be some helpful nuggets for anyone contemplating something similar! There’s something really satisfying about how the lights fade in / out when they’re turning on or off or changing brightness, and of course in addition to all the automations you can simply ask Siri to control them too!

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Blank playlists on Apple Watch

Since adding the perhaps inevitable final piece of the Apple ecosystem into my life one of the small bugbears I’ve had with my Apple Watch is that the music app had a long list of blank playlists before reaching my actual playlists. A quick Google search revealed this is clearly a reasonably common experience – but was quite light on providing solutions, which I’ve stumbled on today.

To be honest – it’s not really a big deal, but just a bit annoying. The ‘blank’ playlists are not visible on iTunes on my Mac, on my iPhone nor my iPad. I use iTunes Match to store my library in iCloud and stream from there or download on demand on whatever device I happen to be using – so I’m not sure whether the same issue occurs / is fixable in the same way if you use Apple Music or a locally stored library.

I should also add that I’m currently using the 3rd Beta of WatchOS 6 on my watch, which is a Series 4 cellular version. The fix is so obvious I’m kicking myself on not finding / trying it when I was using the latest production WatchOS. It’s a simple as opening the Music app on your watch, clicking playlists, then swiping right to left on the blank ones, tap the three dots that appear, tap Remove and finally confirm by tapping Delete.

Voila. They are gone. As I said above, a relatively trivial niggle in an otherwise fine experience – but one that’s surprisingly easy to fix but I’ve found no reference to online so figured I’d post it here if anyone is searching like I was for a solution!

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HomePod works for me

Even as a self-confessed fan of Apple products, and someone fairly well engrained into their ecosystem I wasn’t initially sold on the HomePod – even though I had been holding out for its release as a solution to my lack of general music listening. And as I’m sure you know I do rather like music!

Initial reports suggested that if you didn’t subscribe to Apple Music then as a ‘smart’ music player you don’t really get much other than stuff you’ve bought from iTunes, the ability to play Podcasts and some probably awful radio station called Beats something or other. Apple Music doesn’t work for me, much like Spotify, as a chunk of music I listen to isn’t available on those platforms.

I do however subscribe to iTunes Match – which is a service that matches my iTunes library with the Apple Music database, and anything it doesn’t match it will upload from my library. Ostensibly I use it as a back up really, I still prefer to manually manage the music I sync across to my phone which is (or was) my principal source of music playing – but sometimes at home you might want to listen to something not on your edited playlist.

After it had been out in the wild it emerged that HomePod works with iTunes Match too, which meant that I probably fall into a niche use-case for it. I’m not that arsed about home assistant features where Echo and Google Home excel, I am interested in good quality sound, and a seamless integration into the Apple infrastructure which my digital life is wedded to. The price still seemed high, but armed with some vouchers I got from work that had limited retailer options, I felt I could justify it.

So today I got my box of excitement – a surprisingly weighty box, predictably elegant and simplistic in design it simply held the HomePod itself. After plugging in it powers up, then holding my iPhone close by allowed me to set it up in about 2 minutes – there’s a few options to click through and boom, it’s done and accessing your music library in iCloud.

I tested it with playlists, with music I know for certain doesn’t exist outside of my weird collection, it was all there and playable – of course, it couldn’t tell me who the drummer was, or any of the other facile enhanced features you could get by linking it to an Apple Music account – but then I don’t really care about that either!

The home assistant options are less impressive than Alexa or Google Assistant – but it can send messages, take notes or act as a speaker phone. I’m not sure I’ll do that. It was able to tell me the weather, read the news, tell me the traffic conditions on the way to work and delightfully inform me Nottingham Forest were three nil up against Queens Park Rangers, though! My limited Smart home kit (Hive thermostat and cameras) aren’t Apple HomeKit compatible so there’s no turning on the heating with my voice, but well, that’s not really a big deal!

The sound quality is excellent – I’ve tried a mixture of styles of music, it packs some bass for a small unit and doesn’t distort, drum and bass, dodgy live recordings and all things in between sound great. I’m not an audiophile, by any stretch, but it does sound ace. All my music is now easily available by just asking for it, and any other stuff I might want to play is streamable easily using Airplay.

If you’re a Spotify user this isn’t a great solution, if you are wanting to control lots of home tasks it probably isn’t either – that said, I expect to see improvements to support for more of the areas where rival smart speakers beat HomePod as they are software updates which will surely be forthcoming over time. That for me is a bonus, as I noted above, I had a specific use-case for this and it fulfils that perfectly. You can even utilise your iPhone’s music app to control music if you prefer that or want to build a playlist on the fly.

I probably wouldn’t have spent the full £319 on it, in spite of all that, but having some vouchers to take a sizeable dent out of that price made it a bit more tempting, and I’ve had a very happy afternoon listening to music at home which I’ve not really done much as I’ve been stuck with Bluetooth speakers and their ilk – Siri can hear me over surprisingly loud playback volumes and she’s only faltered a couple of times with my requests.

It’s a fairly unassuming looking canister covered in mesh, I went for the space grey one and it sits just to the side of my TV. When playing the touch screen on the top displays volume controls, when listening a colourful blob lights up – as I’m generally sat down when using it, I can’t really see it anyway!

In a nutshell I can say it works for me, but I can understand the general sense or reservation to the usual anti-Apple derision out there in review land. I do think when paired up with Apple’s under-publicised iTunes Match service then you have a match made in heaven if you do use iTunes to manage your music library, and that’s only £20odd a year rather than a tenner a month.

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Taking sides

It’s normally the case when Apple release some new tech. As an unashamed fan of their products there’s normally a queue of people waiting gleefully to try to derail whatever modicum of excitement or interest folk such as me may show. Who knew aluminium would bend under sustained pressure? Did you know that a Samsung something or other could perform that new feature x years ago? Yawn.

None of this really bothers me (although sometimes I bite on Facebook 😉 ) but it’s interesting and got me thinking more widely about such motivations, and how people still readily jump to polarities with little provocation or need.

It seems to me as a species we seem very prone to irrational polarities. Which has always sat rather uncomfortably with me, I’m a creature of comfort when people are in harmony. If someone especially loves whatever flavour of Android phone they have then I’m pleased for them – indeed, as a selfish consumer of shiny things the more the competition up their game then the pressure remains on Apple to keep improving too – and vice versa, of course.

At secondary school people were divided into liking Rock or Rave – before the needless subsubsubgenrefication of music took sway, I secretly liked a bit of both. On the tech front you either liked Commodore Amigas (naturally!) or Atari ST’s (urgh!). The meagre differences in their merits built up to gigantic gulfs during bolshy playground debates (I was pretty entrenched in camp Amiga on this one – although when networked up together the ST always seemed to win on Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge 2!).

In the sixth form we were told we must either like Blur or Oasis by an overexcited Britpop obsessed media, I liked both with a slight preference for Blur, although Pulp were and are better than both. It’d be around this time that I’d begin an enduring affair with the Levellers of course which quickly resolved that ‘debate’ for me in a different direction – but even then (and still now amazingly) rather than focus on the frankly amazing music they produced (and indeed, continue to produce) instead people make snide tabloid-inspired remarks about dogs on bits of string or being a crusty.

This is a band who’ve endured 25 years of being, have a veritable string of hits so are even validated somewhat by the facile trappings of the music industry, and continue to tour to thousands of people every year and run their own festival as well as appearing at countless others. They must be doing something right! If you doubt me, grab their recently released Greatest Hits album and decide for yourself.

People who like similar music even fall into the division trap – I always imagine a continuum of folky-indie style music (now who is subgenreing?!) starting (this won’t be an exhaustive list!) with bands like The Wonder Stuff and 3 Daft Monkeys – plenty to say, but with a sense of fun and not taking themselves too seriously through to say, New Model Army who I’ve always found more serious and sometimes bleak (that’s not a critique, I really like NMA too!) – the Levs sit somewhere in the middle with aficionados of the former group finding them too serious, those of the latter too frivolous.

I guess being a football fan is the ultimate expression of our tendency to polarise things that are fundamentally very similar – being a staunch Forest fan obviously the city of Derby is the worst place in the world, and its fans are remorselessly moronic. Which is palpably absurd – I’ve had some great nights out in Derby and count a number of ‘sheepshaggers’ as my dearest friends. Obviously that all goes out the window for 180 minutes or so per season, but normally I can be pretty rational even on this most divisive of topics.

Politics of course is like football fandom taken up a notch – although because I don’t really feel much affinity for any of them – and vote generally tactically to try to thwart the one I like the least – but I see staunch supporters of either red or blue passionately debating what to me seem like minuscule differences between the policies, performance and conduct of their respective parties – whereas I’m left thinking they’re both a bit pants really.

I’m not sure what conclusion I was leading to here really – I’m sat in a hotel room having been on a course for the last few days and I’m bored blogging on my phone! But wouldn’t it be nice if – certainly for trivial differences such as these – people didn’t leap to create division and conflict?

Okay, maybe not for the football, as that’s fun (so long as it doesn’t lead to genuine abuse or violence). In truth though, even the footy ‘banter’ (god I hate how that word has been misappropriated!) is probably symptomatic of a fairly fundamental flaw in our collective nature which leads to cataclysmic consequences particularly in the political and religious spheres.

This is all probably a residual tendency from our more tribal past. Or something. It’s worrying though because it’s precisely these motivations that organisations like Britain First or even UKIP leap upon to exploit – fortunately for me my Facebook feed is relatively clear of such bilious content but I see plenty of folk complaining about theirs.

So what started as a covetous piece about my desire for shiny capitalistic consumerism has started to make me reminisce about manipulation of needs and other university time heavily left-leaning learning – goddammit, maybe I’d be less of a schizophrenic paradox if I had more of a proclivity to just irrationally pick a side and stick with it!

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Gratuitous cockatiel photography..

This is Lloydie being all comfy and snoozy and wondering why I keep pointing my phone at her. Made with Giffer on my iPhone which is a pretty nifty little app for making animated gifs.

And here’s a non-animated picture of her doing an impression of Bruce Forsyth, just because it made me chuckle.
20130429-222241.jpgAnd that’s it – just gratuitous cockatiel photography! I did warn you in the title..

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Life’s a (Pebble) beach..

After more than a week of Pebble ownership it’s definitely as awesome as I hoped it would be pending the inclusion of further apps and watch-faces.  Having already covered the basics of that initial moment of acquiring the watch and first use (I should note that the Pebble support team did respond to my premature pleas of anguish via email and had found the blog post to ascertain that I was in fact okay and happy with my Pebble).

On battery life – mine’s been happily running non-stop since I charged it overnight from Sunday to Monday.  So that’s almost a full week of use, I did have a strange screen issue where the display had become scrambled in the middle of the week.  I wondered if that might be a flat battery, but it wasn’t as I shut down and switched on the watch and it’s been normal ever since.  So that’s pretty impressive stuff in my book!

Having your phone constantly connected via Bluetooth inevitable rinses the battery more than it would if you didn’t (well, duh!).  Generally I have my phone plugged in in the car as part of my music/navigation set up anyway, and will often have it plugged in at work or at home.  If you’re going to be out and about for extended periods without the opportunity to charge then you are going to struggle (as, in fairness, you would without the Pebble connection for many Smartphones).

It’s easy enough just to pop Bluetooth off on your phone for a spell, your Pebble will retain the time quite happily – obviously you will miss out on notifications or music control but you will have a functioning timepiece which is of course the primary function.  With festival season upon us too it’s good to know it will comfortable go a long weekend on a single charge, indeed, if you disabled Bluetooth on the watch too in the settings I’m assuming you’d extend the battery life a bit on the watch too.


91 Dub watch face – retro-tastic.

I’ve definitely preferred the text-based watch faces and the Wordsquare one I chose for my previous post wins, I also rather like this one – called ’91 Dub’ it has a deliciously retro vibe that reminds me of the first watches I regularly encountered at school.  The drawback of the word-based faces is the lack of accuracy as it rounds time to five minutes (fine for day to day, less so if you’re timing a pizza cooking in the oven!).  That’s where switchability of watch faces is rather useful.

On notifications, texts and iMessages worked right away for me, subsequently tweaking my notification settings on my iPhone seems to have also enabled email notifications on my Pebble too.  In both cases the sender, subject (for emails) and body text is displayed on the screen and is scrollable.  It’s understandably truncated for larger messages.  I’m not sure how I managed to activate email notifications, but my primary account has banners enabled on my phone which seems to translate through to the watch.

Other notifying apps like Facebook or Twitter don’t pass through to the watch (which is probably a good thing considering frequency!).  In future firmware updates it would be nice to be able to choose which notifications to receive on the watch itself, with a list of those available selectable through the settings menu.  It’s a nice-to-have really though rather than a deal breaker – but at the moment it seems you have an all-or-nothing option (the VIP option in iPhones is good here – you could disable notifications for all emails except those you deem important).


Missed call!

Considering the primary function of a mobile phone is, well, a phone I receive a tragically small number of calls.  In an age where text-based communication seems to be preferred (I prefer it too, admittedly) – the only calls I’ve had have mostly been from blocked numbers, the one I received from a contact in my address book displayed the number initially then resolved the name of the contact from my phone, as well as the type of number I’d classified in my contacts, and remains as a flag if you miss the call.

Once firmware tweaks kick in (a battery life status option somewhere would be useful – although I’m now comfortable that I could have a weekly charge cycle) and additional apps and watch-faces start to filter through and the Smartphone app evolves to cope with this extra functionality then the watch could continue to throw in a few new surprises, but as it stands it’s a robust bit of kit both in terms of hardware and software and well worth the money and wait for it.

My colleague Ade picked his up last week too so I will be comparing notes with him when he’s back in the office next week, but he’s certainly not sent me loads of messages asking for support so I’m going to assume he’s been having a similarly happy time with his Pebble!

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IMG_5336[1]After almost a year since I first backed the Kickstarter campaign, I finally have my Pebble watch on my wrist.  It’s been a long wait, and it’s worth it, just about!

It was the middle of March when I got the long-awaited “Confirm your address, please” email, at the end of March came the shipping notification – although being on a slow boat from Singapore gave a lead time of two weeks – despite getting a tracking code that the receiving Royal Mail system understood, it would only give me information upon delivery – which is, well, kinda useless!

Of course, I checked it anyway and discovered a delivery attempt had indeed been made – it was small enough to fit through the letter box, but it required a signature and – annoyingly – a customs payment plus associated Royal Mail fleecery totalling a smidge over £25.  So it was off to the collection office armed with cash to retrieve my prize.

I resisted the urge to open it immediately, instead I took it to work and did so at my desk.  The box is neat, but minimalistic – there’s a URL to visit, a watch and a charge cable – nothing else, no instructions or anything else.  Emblazoned on the back panel is ‘Kickstarter Edition’ along with the serial number to indicate it was one of the original batch thanks to the Kickstarter campaign.

I had assumed it would come with some charge in it as seems to be normal for devices these days, but it wouldn’t power on (achieved by pressing any button for 2 seconds).  A quick google search didn’t find any other users reporting similar issues, so naturally tried pressing the buttons for longer to no avail.

A little worried, plugged it into the USB port on my PC at work and opted to let it get some juice.  Still no response to the buttons, oh no – I’ve got a duff!  A little panicked I fired off a support email via the Pebble website and sent them a Tweet to ask for advice – their overwhelmed status is confirmed because as I type I’ve had no response to either of them!

Sure enough, around half an hour later – still connected to the charger – the watch had indeed powered up and was asking to be paired with something!  The process to connect to my iPhone 5 was absolutely fine, I enabled notifications in the iPhone’s bluetooth profile for the Pebble, and duly fired open the Pebble app to connect and copy some watch faces over, to be immediately asked to update the Pebble’s firmware to the latest version which went without a hitch.

The watch has three faces by default – an analog face, a simplistic digital one and ‘fuzzy time’ which gives you the time in ‘language’ rather than numbers, for example – if it’s 9:53am it will say “Five to ten” – quite nifty.  My favourite watch face is ‘Wordsquare’ which operates on a similar principle to fuzzy time, but does it by highlighting the words to give you the easy-read version of the time.  Not one for people who crave precision.

As well as telling the time in a myriad of funky ways, the watch also picks up your phone’s music that is currently playing, it will display id3 tag info in its’ music app and enable you play/pause or skip backward or forward through whatever playlist/album you have playing.  Fairly rudimentary, but clever nonetheless – potentially useful for times when your phone might be stowed in a bag and you want to skip a track or stop your music playing or as a remote control when using a docking speaker system.

Perhaps the most exciting feature is the coupling with your phone’s principal functions – ie, phone calls and text messaging.  If a call is received it is displayed on the watch with the caller id and the option to either answer or hang up, whereas text messages are displayed along with sender’s name on the watch itself.  Alerts are signalled via a fairly robust vibration from the watch unit, it doesn’t make any sounds.

Currently the only other function is an alarm which also is restricted to vibrations (unless you opt to download the game ‘Snake’ from the Pebble app on your phone! The novelty of this wore off quite quickly for me though, despite loving the game on my old Nokia phones!)  In the future there should be further applications which you can deploy via the Smartphone app you use to connect to the watch, so it could be pretty exciting.

As for the watch itself, the build quality looks solid and well constructed – it is, by definition, plasticky and the buttons a bit clunky but it works nicely and I’m pleased with the finish.  The strap is sturdy, comfortable and has a nice rubberised finish which is better than I was expecting.

Whilst charging I didn’t find a means of determining how full the battery is, which seems a bit daft.  I’ve not had it long enough to accurately judge battery life – only having one charging lead could be a challenge, they are bespoke designs held to the watch by magnets to enable the water resistant nature of the Pebble to remain intact – a nifty design but of course unique and as such if you wanted one for work, home, car etc then you’ll need to buy them from Pebble.

All in all, worth the wait – clearly Pebble was a victim of its’ own success and the way the manufacturing, shipping and communications has been conducted is symptomatic of a small company taking on a gigantic task and – frankly – struggling a bit.  But it’s resulted in a product to be proud of, which I’m sure will probably be amongst the pioneers in a slew of ‘smart’ wearable technology which is quite exciting for a geek like me.

Recommended if you’re not in a hurry to get your hands on one – those Kickstarter backers who opted for anything other than a black watch are still waiting for theirs to arrive, so heaven only knows how long it will take them to fulfill their pre-orders they’re now taking over on their website.

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I kept them with me, babe. I put them with my own.

December photo

Where’s Wally (aka Alan?)

I’m not quite sure how 2012 has gone through quite so quickly – it’s bloody Christmas Eve already (well, it’s five minutes old).  Christmas Eve isn’t my favourite day of the year these days, so it’s perhaps apt that I’ll be off to work later ostensibly for a normal day’s slog.  It should be quiet, which is good as it’ll give me a chance to get stuff finished off.

So as 2012 draws to a close without the world ending, it seems a natural point for pausing and reflecting a bit.  I ended the year in style on the musical front, as well as lots of Ferocious Dog gigs there’s also been Levellers, Wonder Stuff and New Model Army at the back end of this year, not to mention The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and The Moulettes.  Some damn fine awesomeness upon the stage, and indeed, I made it backstage for the Levs!

On the football pitch Forest have undergone rather a few changes in this last year too, and well, probably need to undergo a few more to kick on to try to claw their way back to the top flight.  I must admit that whilst I have many excellent friends thanks to football, I’ve found the experience of going less motivating this last year.  I’m not quite sure why, but it quite often doesn’t quite live up to the exuberance you get from live music – maybe that shift in emphasis has given me an obvious basis for comparison.

Maybe it’s also that increased exposure to music that seems to have awoken that stark regret I’ve always harboured that I never picked up any musical ability at all, aside from my half-arsed didge-playing ability.  Our school had some really talented musicians in it, right from primary school and through secondary school and I either never really showed much interest, or perhaps somehow missed out opportunities to learn.  I’m not sure.  Knowing me it was probably my own doing, though!

I do remember embryonic guitar lessons courtesy of an enthusiastic primary school teacher and an acoustic guitar borrowed from my Grandad, but I don’t think the club lasted very long owing to a few genuinely talented players who perhaps understandably drew the focus of the teacher with the remedials being left very much behind!  I’m really tempted to buy a guitar and see if I can learn to play it a bit though – not to live performance standards, but for my own indulgence more than anything.

We shall see.  If there’s anything I’m very good at then it’s procrastinating!  I am watching a guitar on eBay though, and can be quite an impulsive so and so when I want to be.

Speaking of indulgences it was over the middle of 2012 that saw me drop from a 16.5 stone behemoth to a snake-hipped 12.5 stone dude.  It’s true a few Christmas pounds have already snuck back on but that’s something I’m not too fussed about, once 2013 is underway I can get back on to being sensible and shedding any results of over-indulgence.  The trick isn’t total denial, it’s not letting things slide quite as badly as they did last time!

Work too has changed at the back end of this year too, so there’s some adaptation and consideration to put in to there.  Sufficed to say I’m pleased to be preparing for a healthy slug of time away from the place to relax a bit, and eventually to start to think about some degree of future planning for my career.  I’m not very good at that, so I really do need to work out how to go about doing that.  It’s tricky when work itself has been so busy.

Still, one more day of that to get through then ’tis officially the season of good will for me.  Once Cat and I have shifted our confounded colds then it should be ace.  Rich and Em are hosting Christmas this year, so for me it will be the first ever time I’ve not been at a parental-hosted Christmas Day, having said that, the family will all be present – I’m really looking forward to some quality time with them before Forest inevitably bring me back down to Earth on Boxing Day!

But to be positive, there’s two Ferocious Dog gigs in the bank for next year already (including one they’ve kindly agreed to play on my birthday in the Rescue Rooms (for those wanting to ‘come dogging’ for my birthday, then tickets can be acquired here!)), and we’re off to Krakow at the end of February for Paul’s stag do which will be awesome.  So a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to anyone bored enough to have read to the end of this introspection.

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So I’ve got my iPhone 5.

I’m very pleased with it indeed.  I wasn’t expecting a revolution, I was expecting significant evolution from my previous phone that was 2 generations older.  That’s what I’ve got, and it’s splendid.  Once the Three network resolves whatever gremlins prevent me sending MMS messages, I’ll be sorted – even then, I don’t send them that often.  Three doesn’t have a great signal at home though, so I might be lured into spending a bit more on Orange who do have decent coverage here – and of course offer the promise of 4G in the future.

In terms of the silly hype that comes with Apple devices, I won’t deny I was excited by the prospect of the phone – but it seemed to me that there was more fervour from people who laud other devices to disparage it.  Odd behaviour.  It reminds me of the kind of ‘banter’ we indulged in as children when some of us had Amigas and other kids had Atari STs.  Of course, back then it was excusable as after all we were children.  And Amigas were clearly vastly superior and if you had an ST you smelled of wee.

Anyway, I digress.. I was excited to get my nice shiny iPhone 5, and having had a week of using it I feel that excitement was justified – and if anyone wants to try to piss on that particular bonfire then that’s their prerogative.

To build upon this excitement I’ve got an awesome weekend lined up – tomorrow Cat and I are off to Buxton where I’ll hook up with lots of my Levellers friends to see, unsurprisingly – the Levellers – play an acoustic gig at the Opera House there.  We’ve booked lunch on the way, and got a hotel to stay in once we get to Buxton.  They’ve just played Exeter and Salisbury cathedrals – I kinda wish I’d made the effort to get down to one of those, what a great opportunity to see them in an unusual and dramatic setting!  Mustn’t be greedy, though!

Saturday is a return to Nottingham, and with Rich, Rich and Chris and assorted Ferocious Dog friends I’m off to see Ferocious Dog play the Bodega which will be awesome.  I’ve seen them rock that venue before when supporting 3 Daft Monkeys, now they’re headlining it and it’ll be brilliant.  Then of course there’s the small matter of Forest hosting our dear neighbours Derby County on Sunday.

Hopefully good things come in threes and the Reds can get a favourable result to make amends for last season!

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Gimme Five..

The countdown is on for the iPhone 5 arriving – according to my order from Apple it should be delivered on launch day when, helpfully, Cat will be at home so able to take delivery of it.  It seems to be most uncool to consider the launch exciting, but I am anyway – so there.  I’d planned to upgrade to this version for some time, and saved up the cash to do it direct from Apple rather than tying myself into a lengthy contract.

With that in mind, I’m going to move away from Giffgaff and use Three.  Giffgaff were okay, but the coverage where I live isn’t that good – and since they’ve started considering capping their data allowance, and they can’t get hold of nanosims for ‘a week weeks’ it would render me unable to use my new phone.  Annoyingness unbounded!  Three’s coverage looks like it should be okay (home might be sketchy, but we are in a dip), and they offer all-you-can-eat data for £13 a month.

I was cunning enough to sign up to a phone recycling place before Apple announced the iPhone 5 so got a decent price for my iPhone 4.  Whilst my phone is in good nick and working okay, the home button does get sticky so I’ll be glad to upgrade.  iOS 6 looks to have added some nifty features – not least I’ve enjoyed using Siri on my iPad.  That’s probably something that will have the novelty wear off, but I’m not so sure – I found a few genuine uses.

It does have an annoying voice though.  I think, much like with sat nav, I would prefer the ladies voice – the trouble is the only way to do that would be to switch to Australian or American – in which instance Siri would respond best to me speaking in an American or Australian accent.  Damn!  Ya flamin’ galaar… hmm, it could be tempting, after all!

The other idea I liked was the option for shared Photostreams – Photostream is something I’ve found quite useful for not having to worry about moving photos between my own iDevices, but if I were to – for example – set up shared Photostreams with friends with common interests it could be a really nifty way of us sharing photos of common events – e.g., football matches, gigs, nights out, etc.  iPhones are becoming quite ubiquitous amongst my assorted social groups so it could happen.

So even for those of you not partaking in iPhone 5 action later this week, wednesday’s iOS 6 update should give you a few interesting tidbits to play with too.  The 3D maps look ace (if limited on locations – New York looks nice though, which is sod all use to me!), the default map views look not dissimilar to Google Maps.  One thing, a small thing, but something that has delighted me – you can finally reorder your mailboxes if you are using several of them.. that was a serious vexation.

So yeah, lots of gadget ponderations.  I’m such a fascinating person, aren’t I? Sigh!

Categories: blog, iPhone / iPad / Mac | Leave a comment

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