Pebble or Fitbit Versa

I love my Pebble smartwatch. I’m on my third one, having backed them from the start on Kickstarter. And so I was naturally quite upset to learn that Pebble closed down just over a year ago.

Knowing that the Pebble servers are due to be switched off at the end of June 2018, I feel a pressing need to look into alternatives. I’ve already bought and abandoned a Wear OS watch, and am now considering the Fitbit Versa as an alternative, but I’m torn.

A lifeline for Pebble

It’s heartening to know that a group of enthusiasts at Rebble.io are working hard to keep Pebble watches working after the servers are switched off in June. And if their efforts pay off, I could keep using my Pebble with pretty-much all of its functionality still intact.

The only problem is that the Pebble is now old technology. There’s never going to be an updated version of the hardware, and with the best will in the world the good folks at Rebble.io are probably not going to do more than keep the lights on. They’re not going to have the resources to innovate and add new features.

And that’s the heart of my concern. Pebble watches are only ever going to decline in usage. You can’t buy them any more, except for the odd one that pops up on Amazon or eBay at inflated prices. So when my current watch breaks, or the battery becomes too old to hold a charge, I won’t be able to get my Pebble repaired or replaced.

Fitbit Versa as an alternative?

So I’m looking at the Fitbit Versa as an alternative. There are plenty of good things going for it. It seems to have a decent 4-day battery life, and the fitness tracking would probably be a step-up from the Pebble. But there’s one or two things holding me back from buying:

  • It doesn’t support Spotify. Fitbit seem to have done a deal with Pandora and Deezer as their music streaming partners, and have no plans to support Spotify.
  • The screen doesn’t stay on. I would need to flick my wrist or press a button to get the screen to light up and see the time. And because its motion-enabled the watch screen has the potential to come on when I don’t want it – say in the cinema or in bed at night.
  • The smartwatch features aren’t very mature. Support for quick replies to messages is coming for Android phone users (but not iOS) later this year, but this will be limited to picking from a pre-defined list. There is no support for voice dictation of replies. Also I’ve heard that the range of watch faces and apps available is still pretty limited.

On the other hand, I like the fact that I will be able to wear it 24 hours – due to it being waterproof and having a 4-day battery life. The Wear OS watch I tried ran out of juice after a day’s usage, so I could never use it for sleep tracking.

I also like the Fitbit dashboard for viewing health tracking stats. I’m not exactly an athlete, but I do like to track my daily steps and my cycle commuting to make sure I’m getting some exercise. I used to use a Fitbit Charge HR (until it literally fell apart), and liked checking the Fitbit app and website.

So I don’t know. Should I go head and try out the Versa? I’d be interested to hear from people who are using one – especially if you have migrated from using a Pebble!

MasterChef music chops

Watched the series final of MasterChef UK this evening, and one of my favourite things of the series returned to tonight’s episode.

It’s probably something that a lot of people don’t even notice as they watch, but the background music was timed and punctuated by the clinks of utensils and the chops of vegetables.

I think it’s very clever, and I appreciate the skill and attention to detail that the sound/vision editor has for their work.

As if to illustrate the point here’s a tweet from MasterChef UK senior video editor:

Non-Irish banks and eir

I was on the phone earlier to the telecoms operator eir to change something related to do with my mobile phone contract, and for some reason they requested that I give them my payment details again.

I gave them my details – both the 16 digit number from my debit card and the IBAN for my account – but their system wouldn’t accept either. The problem? They’re for an account run by the German-based mobile bank N26.

eir don’t seem able to accept payment instructions over the phone from non-Irish banks. Instead their direct debit instructions indicate that you have fill in a paper-based mandate form and either post it or fax it (but not email – they don’t accept email) to their office in Clonakilty in Co. Cork.

The Single European Payment Area (SEPA) regulations that came in around 10 years ago are meant to allow customers to make cashless payment in Euros to anyone located in any of the Eurozone counties. So, you should be able to receive your salary into any Eurozone bank account, and may payments to any company around Europe using your IBAN.

It’s entirely possible for business to accept verbal instructions for SEPA direct debits over the telephone and electronically, but for some reason eir doesn’t support this.

To resolve the matter today my customer care agent suggested that I get a friend to volunteer the use of their Irish bank card to set up payment on my account, and then arrange to switch over to my German bank over the next few days.

I asked whether he could guarantee that my friend would not be inadvertently charged for my mobile service, and he said yes. I then asked, if that was the case, whether the agent himself would be willing to use his own personal bank card to set me up. Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t keen!

Password length for my eir

While many online portals are embracing two-factor authentication and other security best practice, our telecoms utility eir seems determined to stop us using good quality passwords.

As you can see from the screenshot below, the self-service portal my.eir.ie doesn’t allow users to set passwords longer than 10 characters.

The error message on screen also notifies anyone (including potential hackers) that all passwords for the system are between 6 and 10 characters – which would be a massive help to anyone attempting a brute-force attack on the site, as it would reduce the number of password combinations they need to try.

This is a shocking example of bad security by design, and is a carryover from the old Meteor self-service portal. Someone at some time in the past chose to limit password length, which forces people to use short insecure passwords.

I love all beauteous things

I was reminded that it’s been 10 years since I was involved in the recording of an album of works by Herbert Howells while I was a member of the choir of Christ Church Cathedral Dublin.

The album, called I love all beauteous things, was recorded in February 2008. The choral pieces were recorded in the church of St Bart’s Ballsbridge rather than in Christ Church Cathedral itself – as the cathedral is situated right in the middle of the city, and there’s much too much traffic and other noise that would disturb a recording session.

I have very fond memories of doing the recording. I had only been in the choir for just less than a year myself, but had already made some really good friends – lifelong friends – that helped relieve the pressure of the hard work with a few laughs along the way.

The excitement in the room is evident!

Some of the organ music was pre-recorded in Christ Church using the cathedral organ, but they had to record in the middle of the night and hope that no ambulances went by at the wrong moment!

The choir recording took three days and finished on what would have been my 36th birthday.

Anyway, I was listening to the album for the first time in a very long time on Friday, and was blown away about the beauty of the music. I can’t even remember most of it, and wouldn’t have a hope’s chance of being able to sing the pieces today – but I’m very proud to have been involved in it.

If you fancy a listen, here’s the link on Spotify:

For a special bonus prize see if you can hear my tiny solo in one of the tracks!