Digital Nerve Center

I have been thinking for some time just how much my iPhone is the central processor of my digital life. In some ways my real world life too. I do not carry a personal laptop. In fact, despite being in information security I rarely carry around a work laptop. I tend to just leave it at home for when I need it. My iphone even serves as my car\’s central brain for user functions. Sure Apple Maps gets a bad rap but it works well for me. Bluetooth hands free for both Siri and Phone calls. I rarely even turn on my XMRadio in my car because I just stream content from my phone to my car audio system using my TuneLink bluetooth adapter.

Using just my iPhone I do 90% of what I need. I download podcasts and audiobooks on a daily basis. I check email, twitter with Tweetbot, etc all using my phone. It was a little difficult to manage at times due to power. Even with having two Mophie Air iPhone cases. I airplay content such as my audio books to an appleTV while gives plenty of volume for whole room audio via a TV. It could be inconvenient if I needed check a message, pause playback etc when the phone was on the charger. Now enter my Pebble watch. I put in a few minutes and cleaned up what types of notifications get sent to the Pebble. Now I can actually leave my iPhone plugged in on my Kensington Night Stand, with the iHandy Alarm Clock up and still stream my content and check messages all with the iPhone as the central management point.

It just amazes me to live in the future. I grew up with the Vic20 and Commodore64 and recall when modems went from acoustic couplers to plug in modular cables. Now, I even write full blog posts using my iPad with a bluetooth keyboard. Sometimes I even edit those posts via my iPhone prior to posting. Got to love it.

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Product Review – Pebble Watch

Pebble

I was excited to find my Pebble waiting for me this weekend. Reviews by other backers have generally been good. You can find several others listed below so I will not rehash all of the common details. Instead, I want to touch on a couple of issues specific to my experience.

I wore my Pebble to dinner on Friday night. The $spouse’s comment was that it looked like something out of a cereal box due to the black plastic. My reply was: I was just as excited to get it as when digging the prize out of said cereal box. Granted, it is not formal wear like a Rolex. It does handle the things that I wanted it for. Viewing information and controlling music on my iPhone when walking to and from the office or working out. Even the black rubber band it comes with works best for my immediate needs. I won’t mess it up with water or sweat.

Issues – Siri and Bluetooth

I have run into a couple of the reported issues. The Siri blocking issue frustrates me most. This occurs most of the time when the Pebble is active with my iPhone and I try and trigger Siri. You will see the bluetooth selector next to Siri’s microphone icon. If the pebble is selected then it dead ends the audio and Siri cannot hear you. Sometimes you can select the iPhone to get Siri working again. Often it will flip back to the Pebble if you have lost Bluetooth connectivity. Such as leaving the watch on your desk and carrying your iPhone around the house.

I did find that I never have the Siri issue when I am in my car. My iPhone is set to automatically pair with my car handsfree system. The non phone audio of my iPhone also automatically associates with my TuneLink bluetooth adapter that goes to the line in of my car audio system. Siri functions every time normally without hooking into the Pebble by accident.

There is another issue I have noticed that no one else seems to have mentioned. If I open an app that consumes a lot of iPhone memory and other resources I think the iPhone is killing the Pebble app. It comes back when the Pebble communicates with the iPhone. That triggers the popup to request approval for allowing the Pebble to talk to the phone again. This is something I hope Pebble can fix in a software update to better hook approved status and not keep prompting going forward.

Issues – Notifications

I have had a mixed experience on notifications. I had some sporadic issues with even normal notifications working such as iMessages. A reboot of my iPhone seemed to clear that up.

Email notifications gave me a brief headache. I did not want every single email showing up on my Pebble. So I killed display in lock screen on the main settings for my two primary mail accounts in the iPhone. However I left it active on my VIP list which is supposed to override the settings. I had hoped this would mean that I only saw email on the Pebble from that list of people. Unfortunately that temporarily broke email notifications.

I did a run through to reset all notification styles and got it working again. Then moved it back to VIP list only and that seems to have cleared it up for me. I am now just seeing email notifications on my Pebble from those on my VIP list.

I strongly suspect the reset notification hook dance has a tie to the Bluetooth reconnection after the iPhone and Pebble gets back into range of each other.

Update 2/17/13 7PM I have found I definitely have to do the trick of changing notification type to none and back to the desired type like banner after I have gotten the pop up requesting permission to give the Pebble permission to connect to my phone. It is consistent.

Summary Opinion

I love the watch so far despite the odd bluetooth and Siri issues. I think it will fit the need exactly as I intended. Future software updates should keep the experience improving. It is not going to be a purchase for everyone for a while yet. But perfect for my walking and exercising needs. One other scenario I look forward to with the Pebble. I listen to a lot of audio books. Now I can leave my iPhone plugged in and charging on the night stand with airplay of my books to speakers. I get to see important messages and pause the book if needed all without having to take the phone from it’s charger.

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Product Review – Philips Hue Light Bulbs

I have been using the Hue bulbs for a monthnow. I purchased the starter three bulb kit from the Apple store. It worked out well since I have a floor, table and kitchen overhead lamp in my apartment.

Setup

The setup was very straight forward. I just have to install the Hue app on my iPhone after hooking up the controller box to my router andinstalling the three bulbs. You just press the button on the controller and the app sees and associates the unit to your app. Nowyou can control the bulbs with any of the preset lighting profiles.

The App

Now the bad part of all this is the app. It is nearly pure garbage. It tries to sync the profiles between your online account and to alldevices with the Hue app connected to your controller. My experience has been that it often glitches and you get duplicate or missing profiles across devices. They would have done better to support iCloudor dropbox sync support. The worst part of the app by far is the timer function. You can set profiles to start and stop on a timer. Youwould think that the timer settings get loaded into the controllerunit. The best I can tell is that the timers only work if you leave the app running on the device where you set the schedule. Any glitches in connectivity can cause them to fail to go off as well. In a nutshell they are completely unreliable.

General Experience

Overall the setup was very simple. The app is the worst part of the experience for automation. The bulbs are 60W equivalent. If you needbrighter then these are not the bulbs for you. I did enjoy takingphotos and setting my own color profiles as long as I was satisfied manually switching to those profiles rather than scheduling them. I definitely do not regret the purchase, since I can climb into bed and flip all the lights off at once. If I need to get up in the middle of the night I can flip them all to a low power profile like “moonlight.”That is great so I can move around without waking myself up too muchfrom bright light.

Keep in mind the limitations of the scheduling if you are considering this purchase. That might be a deal breaker for most folks. Instead look at the Belkin WeMo to control your existing lights.

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