Pebble

An Open Letter – No, a *Love* Letter – to Pebble and the Pebble Community

Time for Another Round - WIN!I want to start by being clear up front what this is: this is not an even-handed, cold analysis of Pebble’s history and future. It’s not me ranting about what I think they should or shouldn’t have done based on my woefully inadequate understanding of the facts or what it’s like to be in that position or have to make those types of decisions. It’s purely an appreciation of Pebble as a platform and as a people, and a way for me to try to process what’s happened. I’m not here to defend any positions I may take along the way – I’m doing this for me – and should others find meaning in it, that’s just a bonus.

As I type this, I am wearing a Pebble Rocks Boulder t-shirt (a perk of attending the event) and Pebble PJ pants (a prize for being the first to demonstrate a working smartstrap connection at the event). And of course my Pebble 2 (given to me free by Pebble, several months before release). I’m not going to pretend this is my daily uniform (other than the P2!), but it’s the right one for today. And it helps provide context for how deeply involved and committed to this product and this community I am. Again, do not expect anything but fanboy swooning should you choose to read on!

I was extremely excited about Pebble from the moment I discovered the Kickstarter (and experienced Kickstarter itself for the first time). Things did not start off well when my grey Pebble died hours after arrival – that arrival being approximately 9 months beyond the original estimate, and most damningly after the black version was already available to non-backers on Best Buy’s shelves. I’m somewhat taken aback now, reading my description of what has become a beloved device as an “unapologetic lump of plastic and disappointment” and my threats to switch my attention to the AGENT smartwatch, which ended up being an absolute catastrophe of a project. A great Pebble support experience meant a replacement on my wrist and renewed enthusiasm for the product, and it was all uphill from there!

PW-DOS Command Line Watchface Version 1.9 for Diorite / Pebble 2Fast-forward 18 months, and I had published my first Pebble watchface. I’d tried my hand at Pebble development as far back as SDK 2.0-BETA1, but it was with the Developer Preview releases of 3.0 that I really found the tools, documentation, and examples compelling enough to really start getting involved. I’d backed the next-generation Pebble Time and was excited to be up and running w/ the SDK in time for its arrival. The fantastic tutorial, which is still fairly intact today (though expanded upon) just happened to use a DOS font – which is what gave me the idea for my PW-DOS Command Line Watchface – and the silly “enhancements” such as an animated DIR command each minute, “abort, retry, fail” on Bluetooth disconnect, and faux-BIOS splash just flowed from there.

Pebble Rocks Boulder - WIN!The next major chapter for me was attending the Pebble Rocks Boulder hackathon, at which the firmware to enable smartstrap development was made available for the first time. All of my non-Pebble hobby development time is spent with Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, and the like, so the notion of these worlds coming together on my wrist was irresistable to me. I had assembled a prototype before the firmware to support it was even published, and was the first at the event to demonstrate a working connection. And as it turns out, our Altimeter smartstrap ended up winning! Yet as rewarding as our victory was, the best part of the weekend was spending time with other developers, and even actual real-life Pebble employees themselves! In particular, I remember Matthew Hungerford‘s excitement and sheer brilliance, and Thomas Sarlandie‘s incredible helpfulness and vision. Overall it was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and it would not have happened without Pebble’s visionary smartstrap functionality, or their amazing team and approach (shout-out to Viget and Galvanize for organizing/hosting too!).

Healthy Hackathon - Pizza time!Another major event in my Pebble timeline was attending the Time for Another Round Pebble hackathon in Ottawa, Canada. I’d heard about the event via the the pebbledev Slack channel, but had no serious intentions of driving however far north that was, even for a Pebble event! Then @robisodd and I happened upon each other during some off-topic discussion, wherein it was revealed that we were both in the Metro-Detroit area – and his plans to attend morphed into an exciting joint trip to the frosty north, during which we became fast friends, not to mention met many more, including the event’s organizer, @fletchto99, who even put us up for the night! Our Healthy (Happy?) Hackathon project, which combined Timeline, Health, and Clay integration, as well as a Firebase back end, ended up winning, but again, it was the experience, and friendships made, that were the most valuable part of the event. Sadly, just before the event, Pebble announced significant cutbacks, and the staff that were slated to attend had their travel plans canceled, but @fletchto99 managed to pull off an amazing event, with the help of Music Boss maestro @RebootRamblings and others.

PebbleA2Attending the Ottawa event gave me the confidence to do something I’d long dreamed of, but never believed myself capable of: start a local Pebble Meetup. Although we were are a small group, we had have a fantastic time together, sharing projects, ideas, thoughts, and laughs. Providing support for these events was just one more way that Pebble got things right in my opinion, especially when it came to developers. I am continually referencing their documentation and approach when discussing with others what good docs look like, or how to foster community. Their internal hackathons, which I learned of from discussions with employees at the Pebble Rocks Boulder event, are something I have replicated with my own team, resulting in some of our most exciting projects and features. And it’s the community that Pebble fostered that I’ve turned to for support during the uncertainty, then despair of the past week.

Pokemon GO Radar Pebble Watchapp PoCThat community was also behind many other exciting projects that I have had the pleasure of taking part in recently. A discussion on Slack resulted in one of the most fantastic collaborations I’ve ever been involved in: the Pokemon GO Radar Pebble Watchapp, which, despite the back end being crippled by Niantic, made it to number 10 of all time in the Games category on the Pebble appstore. Another amazing community collaboration that I’ve had the pleasure to contribute to was “the book” which is a college-level course in C development, targeting the Pebble platform. The chance to collaborate with many good friends from the community as well as @frethop, while contributing to a valuable publication, was one I particularly relished.

ishotjr x TimeDocksThe above is really just an overly detailed attempt at context for what I originally set out to share with this post, and that is what Pebble has meant to me. Over the past few years, Pebble development has grown to be my most beloved hobby, almost addictive to the point where I typically forego almost all sleep regularly on the weekends in order to try out the latest API feature or indulge myself in another absurd smartstrap idea. The seeds of this “letter” came before today’s announcement, with the intention of showing support during a period of uncertainty (and bilious outbursts from angry Kickstarter backers and others), but given what we now know, it’s evolved into somewhat of a love letter, or chronicle of my wonderful experiences and relationship with the world’s first and best smartwatch. I can’t begin to name everyone that I’ve come to know and appreciate along the journey, but in addition to those mentioned above, I wanted to specifically thank @orviwan and @katharineberry for all of their support, wisdom, and general awesomeness, and to thank the Pebble organization, developer community and community as a whole. Some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had have been seeing my work on someone’s wrist in Japan or learning of others’ appreciation of my silly ideas. Regardless of what happens next, I’m not done with Pebble (or smartstrap!) development, and I encourage others to reach out to me if you need help getting started, or keeping going. <3

In closing: Pebble, you will always have a special place in my heart, and for as long as technically feasible, on my wrist. <3

PSA: while the future is still somewhat unclear, the following resources may be of assistance:
* Pebble Dev Discord serverofficial unofficial real-time discussion for Pebble development
* pebble-dev wiki – community-powered resource for Pebble development, tips and tricks, and – coming soon – how to survive in a post-Pebble world
* pebble-dev – community-powered GitHub org providing above wiki and other resources, including a replacement app store for if/when the official version ceases to exist

PW-DOS 1.10: #ReadyForPebble2

PW-DOS Command Line Watchface Version 1.5

Wow! Bit of a nostalgic one, this! Although the lack of updates here might not belay it, Pebble development has become one of my greatest passions over the last year and a half. Before Pokemon GO Radar blew up in ways I never could have imagined, before the Ottawa PTR hackathon win, before the Boulder smartstrap hackathon win, before the smartstrap obsession or the PW-DOS smartstrap…there was the lowly PW-DOS Command Line Watchfacemy first publication to the Pebble appstore. It was thus my pleasure to update it for the new Diorite platform and give it pride of place on my wrist, and hopefully on the wrists of other Pebble 2 users! 八( ^□^*)

Coming Soon: the all-new, fully configurable PW-DOS 2.0 with heart rate, battery level, and…I don’t know…HIMEM.SYS or something? (≧o≦)

Pokemon GO Radar Pebble Watchapp PoC

Pokemon GO Radar Pebble Watchapp PoC

Here’s a dangerously early preview of the Pokemon GO Radar Pebble Watchapp I’ve been working on with @mathew and an all-star cast on the #pokemon channel on pebbledev.slack.com!

To reiterate, this is an extremely early preview, and lacks basic courtesies such as ensuring the back end is up or that Bluetooth or network connectivity exist. What it does do is show you what Pokemon are nearest to you, updated every fifteen seconds. Hopefully. If the all the required servers are up, and everything’s talking to everything properly… (。_゜)

Who's that Pokemon? It's...Wigglytuff - just like my Pebble said!

This is just a poorly-coded sliver of planned functionality – to find out more, or share feedback, join us on #pokemon channel on pebbledev.slack.com, or hit me up on Twitter or in the Comments below…(^_-)

Download .pbw

Update: Subscribe to the Pokemon GO Radar mailing list for development updates, beta testing opportunities, and more…

Seeed RePhone Strap Kit for Pebble Time Unboxing

The Seeed RePhone Strap Kit for Pebble Time that I backed on Kickstarter finally arrived today! I say arrived – what actually happened is that I chased down our mailperson after realizing that the mysterious slip that was signed and placed back in our mailbox yesterday would actually result in Tuesday delivery due to the holiday – and then took the reclaimed form to our local USPS to pick up the package in person once I realized what it might be! (≧o≦)

I’ve taken a few unboxing pics for others who may not have received theirs yet, as well as made a quick video of the RePhone watchapp and smartstrap:

I’ve also assembled what scant information I’ve been able to locate into a RePhone smartstrap wiki, in the hopes that others may spend less time hunting around for info when getting started!  ̄~ ̄

PW-DOS 1.4 Release Notes

PW-DOS Command Line Watchface Version 1.4

The latest release of PW-DOS Command Line Watchface for Pebble is focused on optimization of existing functionality. All animations have been rewritten around sparing use of timers, vs. the original functionality which was more “clockwork”-like with each visible change corresponding to a second ticking over. Instead of the cursor blinking once per second, and the DIR/refresh being tied to the last few seconds of each minute/first few of the following, everything has been reduced to a single once-per-minute cycle (the display remains static until DIR and the scrolling are triggered at HH:MM:57, yielding significant power savings).

As alluded to above, the cursor no longer blinks once per second. In fact, it no longer blinks at all, unless you ask it to. Given that Pebble watchfaces cannot use the device’s buttons, the classic “shake” gesture is employed to trigger the cursor blink. And a faster, more “realistic” blink has been made possible now that it’s no longer tied to the clock’s second ticks. Enjoy, and please leave any and all feedback in the comments below! □_ヾ(・_・ )

PW-DOS 1.2 Release Notes

PW-DOS Command Line Watchface Version 1.2With a dozen hearts and over 5 dozen installs in under 24 hours, PW-DOS Command Line Watchface for Pebble is taking off in ways I’d never imagined! Version 1.2 brings a new “animated” DIR, simulating an unseen user typing the command in the closing seconds of each minute, followed by the “old” file listing scrolling up and being replaced with the new. □_ヾ(・_・ )

Technically there’s a subtle inaccuracy in the present functionality – if you notice it, let me know in the comments below!  ̄~ ̄

The Elephant on Your Wrist: Evernote for Pebble

The launch of the Pebble appstore has brought Kickstarter’s most funded project of all time dramatically closer to the promise made to backers almost two years ago. With Evernote for Pebble, the wearable evolves from pretty face to legitimate business tool.

Evernote for Pebble allows users to browse Notebooks, Reminders, Checklists, Shortcuts, Tags, “Nearby” Notes (based on current location), and Saved Searches and view basic, raw note text. Formatting is not preserved – this has been problematic for me since I tend to use strikethrough to cross items off of lists – though I may start using more Checklists since these are the one type of content that can be edited right from the Pebble. The app is being marketed as v1.0, but at times feels more like a beta. I have 1000s of Notes, and dozens of Notebooks, so may be an edge case, but I encounter frequent “Loading…” messages while waiting for content to be displayed, and even the occasional “App crashed” – but Pebble users, like any earlier adopters, are used to the occasional hiccup. Such convenient access to the immense body of information that is my Notes is of tremendous value, and less-than-stellar performance and the occasional crash is a small price to pay. Evernote and Pebble are an obvious symbiotic pair, each of whose utility and enjoyment are increased by the other.

I Have Forgiven You Pebble

Almost seventeen months after backing Pebble on Kickstarter, and two and a half after the initial (severely delayed) unit died within hours of arrival, I finally have a working replacement!  The RMA process was actually pretty impressive – a little over a week from filling out the form to holding a replacement in my hand (or…wearing it on my wrist!).  Despite the initial disappointment, I’m quite pleased with the device now – controlling music while driving and being able to see who’s calling when I’m not next to my phone so that I can decide whether or not to run for it is just as good as it was in my imagination for the year and a half during which the Pebble existed as no more than a figment of it.  It still seems rather limited and beta-y, but ignoring the wait and other tribulations, I’m happy enough with its current out-of-the-box functionality, and look forward to finally getting a chance to hack on it! (⌒o⌒)

Disappointing Pebble is Disappointing

My excitement about the Pebble watch had already started to wane long before the unapologetic lump of plastic and disappointment finally made its way to my wrist. I received shipment notification over 13 months after backing the Kickstarter project, yet this was preceded by numerous milestones of disenchantment. The failure to make good on the original September 2012 delivery estimate was to be just the first of many upsets. The device being available for retail purchase in Best Buy before mine had even shipped was perhaps the most bold, in that it required a decision to be made by Pebble to intentionally mistreat original backers (unlike for example OUYA, which I backed a month after Pebble and which I received only 3 months after the original estimated delivery date (over a month before Pebble), and as promised by OUYA, before they started selling in retail stores). It was at that point that I became completely disillusioned with the product and with the team, no longer anticipating the watch’s arrival with excitement, nor bothering to be offended by subsequent delays and other missteps.

When it arrived, I opened the box more out of morbid curiosity than of hope that after Read More…

Pebble Digital Watches are a Pretty Neat Idea

Perhaps I’m just amazingly primitive, but the Pebble E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android on Kickstarter may be compelling enough to rekindle my childhood obsession; this was a time when things like temperature and altitude were not so easily obtained as they are now via apps and widgets, and I couldn’t help but bore anyone who’d listen with continual updates of these exciting (to me) measurements (even when up to 50 meters underwater!)!  I can’t recall the last time I donned a timepiece on my arm, but the concept of a fourth screen to supplement my third – not to mention one with its own SDK – may prove irresistible!  ̄~ ̄

[Update 2012.05.09: It did - I'm now a backer!]

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