Thumby has arrived

You may remember that I posted about this a little while ago. Finally it has arrived, in a somewhat inauspicious package, but arrived nevertheless.

Of course, it is tiny, really tiny. Actually thumb sized.

And it comes in a tiny box too. Yes I bought two of them.

I had thought that it would be so small that I wouldn’t be able to read the screen at all, but I can, just about, and I even managed to play one of the games that comes pre-loaded.

This gives you an idea of the size of the thing.

It even makes a very tiny sound too. At this point I have no idea what I will do with it. I had been trying for a very long time to not buy any tech that I had no use for, and this is certainly a piece of tech that I have no use for. I am no gamer at all, so playing games is not something that I will be doing much of, but perhaps I will find a way to make it useful. If not it’ll find it’s way on to eBay in a few months.

Thank you Apple

I have had an iPhone 8 for a few years now, and, as with these kind of devices, the battery fades away over time. I decided that I would rather keep this device, as, for the most part, I have little or no need for anything more right now. So I thought I would try to get the battery replaced. I got booked in to the Apple store at Covent Garden and took it in. The staff told me that it would take about an hour.

I went off and got a drink and wandered back to the Apple store to pick it up. Sadly though, Apple had managed to break the phone whilst trying to replace the battery. I was a bit shocked to be honest. They had said when I left it that they might end up wiping the device, but not that they could break it.

However, to make up for this, they have replaced it entirely. Not with a newer device, but with a new iPhone 8. Which is nice. Of course this meant restoring everything to the new device, and that takes time.

Overall this was a good experience, although for the most part a little annoying as I am still restoring things to the new phone, but for the price of a new battery I got a new phone. Not bad really.

Goodbye Sony Clie

A little while ago I posted about trying to make old technology useful again, and specifically, useful to me rather than in some general sense. The first device in my list, was a Sony Clie NX73V. This is a lovely device, a lovely piece of engineering, and, in its day, an incredibly useful.

I tried a variety of things (mainly software) to make it useful, but, in the end, I had to concede that I had no real use for it whatsoever. Which is a shame. However, on the upside, I sold it to someone who had always wanted one. Which is great.

I backed Thumby on Kickstarter

I backed this even though I really try not to back tech stuff these days. It always feels like I end up with a device that I really don’t need and then eventually sell it. However, this was reasonably priced and just such a cool idea. Plus, I had been thinking about devices that sit alongside your keys. This certainly fits that description.

Over the last few years I have pulled back from backing things on Kickstarter, at least backing technology projects. This is in no small part due to the experience of backing blocks smart watch, which failed to deliver anything at all, but also as I backed too many projects where I subsequently never used the final product.

However, I couldn’t resist Thumby. It is so cool that I have made an exception. I do expect that I will struggle to be able to use it. Especially with a screen of that size and eyesight that is less than great these days. But maybe it will be fun, and maybe, just maybe, it might even be useful. Although I am not holding my breath on that.

The device itself can be programmed using the arduino IDE, which is cool, and, whilst I am nothing like a good programmer, I am at least familiar with it. I doubt that I will write much original code for it, but I might amend something that others have written to make it suit my needs. Maybe.

According to Kickstarter it is due to be shipped later this month. When it arrives I’ll post something about it with some pictures I expect.

Finding new uses for old technology (or not)

I recently read an article about people finding new uses for old technology. When I saw the article I was very keen to find out the what and the how, but I was sadly disappointed to discover that it was mostly about people using iPod Shuffles as hair clips. Which is not what I was after really.

For ages I’ve been trying to think of ways to make use of old technology. Uses for the technology that make sense, that are productive and interesting. I’m not really interested in using an old iPod as a hair clip. I don’t think it would suit me for one thing.

One thing I did manage to cobble together was using my old Pebble smartwatch as a key chain.

Not that it is a very useful device if I am honest. It is kind of useful to have the time on my keys, and some notifications are helpful there too, but aside from that it has not been the most successful of experiments.

So what else?

Ideally I would like to find a way to make real use of the old PDAs I have. Over the last couple of years I have sold off a lot of the old devices I owned, and I owned a lot. But I still have a few left that I feel unable to part with. Most of these devices don’t connect to the internet, and if they do they are painfully slow.

A few of them can be used for rudimentary music making, but that is really all it is though. So what could I use them for? That’s the question that is on my mind a lot of the time. Ok, not a lot of the time, but periodically and it is something that I seem to go back to on a regular basis.

As you can see I have used these devices in a variety of different ways over the years, and, whilst some of them have been interesting and fun, none of them have really had long term appeal or efficacy.

Most of the time I find that I need less technology these days rather than more, so finding a real use for any of these devices seems to become harder all the time.

To start off with I am reviving the Sony NX73V. This is a lovely device and one that I actually bought from new.

I found that there was a restore image on the memory stick from 2018, which is probably the last time I went through this process. Next I need to go through all the stuff that is now on the device from the restore process, but that is a post for another day.

When will WordPress and DayOne integrate

When WordPress bought the journal app DayOne I thought that after some time there would be some kind of integration between to the two. But so far nothing.

The DayOne people posted this on their blog. Which does more than allude to integrations, in fact it promises them. That was back in June last year. The announcement from Automattic goes further still:

That doesn’t mean that everything you journal has to stay private, though. When you want to share specific entries – or even entire journals with the world – you can expect seamless integrations with both WordPress.com and Tumblr to do just that. On the flip side of that, importing your favorite content from WordPress.com and Tumblr into Day One is on the near-term roadmap. 

But so far nothing at all. As a long time user of both apps I have to say that I am a little bit disappointed. I kind of thought that about six months was enough time to get something working, but obviously I am wrong about that.

Goodbye walkman

Earlier this year my old walkman finally gave up. I had owned this walkman for a long time, and by that I mean a few decades. It was a lovely device, a lovely piece of engineering. It was barely bigger than a cassette itself and it would run for ages on just a single AA battery.

But it stopped, just stopped working one day and I have no idea why at all.

You might ask if I tried to repair it. The answer is no. The technology was so small that you’d have to have been a specialist to even attempt a repair. I knew that I wouldn’t be up for it.

But I have considered replacing it. I had a good look around eBay and I was amazed at the prices that a functioning walkman will go for. I’m sure that I had looked some years ago and they were going for next to nothing. My guess is that the prices spiked after the first ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movie came out.

Anyway, so far I haven’t replaced it, I’m not sure that I will now. I still have cassettes. I still like them. So I expect that one day I will.

Impressions of the Apple Watch

I bought an Apple Watch around half way through 2020, over a year ago now. It was a device that I had always been tempted by, but never got around to buying. Initially I didn’t like the Apple Watch because it was actually thicker than the Pebble Time smartwatch I had for a long time, but with the more recent series Apple seem to have made them slimmer, and to me, more acceptable as a watch.

There are lots of reasons why I got it. One major one was around data. Data about me, and being able to use that data to create music. But enough of that for now. It is a subject for another day at some point in the future.

When I bought an Apple Watch it was before OS 14, so some of the functionality that I now enjoy wasn’t there, but it was a series 5 watch so hopefully it will last a few years at least. I don’t expect it to have the same replacement cycle as an iPhone. Sadly, for me, they brought out the series 6 watch just under two months after I got mine, which was annoying, but never mind, these things happen. At least I will be able to time my next purchase a bit better.

The device itself is a nice piece of technology, and the connection between it and the iPhone is very solid. The health data is interesting and useful, and as a device for receiving, and in some cases acting on notifications it is actually extremely useful. Certainly more useful than my old Pebble devices.

However, what I really want, is for it to useful as a device in its own right and not just as an adjunct to other devices. That has been my aim with most of the wearables I’ve had over the years, and my expectation was that the Apple Watch should be the device that meets those expectations.

So far there are only a few things it does completely on its own. For the most part it is a companion to my phone, and, whilst that’s ok, it isn’t quite what I want.

The apps I am finding useful at the moment are:

  • Just Record – A very simple audio recorder, but a very useful app to have on your watch
  • Shazam – Finding tracks using my watch is very handy (yes, pun intended)
  • Wotja – Generative music controlled from my watch
  • Holonist – Music data created from my own motion and bio data

There are a few others too, but the above are things are use regularly.

I was skeptical about having an Apple Watch. It was an experiment, and, thankfully, one that paid off. Since buying it have used it every day and now I’m not sure that I would be very comfortable without it.

I expect I will write again about how I’m getting on with it. Probably in a few months. Well, maybe.

The quantified self, the sonified self

The idea of the quantified self is not a new one at all. Capturing data on steps, heart rate, weight etc is something that a lot of people do on a regular basis. I’ve been slowly taking this on board for over a year. It started with just step counting but now extends to all manner of data. However, in the last few months I’ve began to extend this into a new concept which I call ‘the sonified self’, that might be something that already exists, but if it does I’m not aware of it. This involved the capture of data, again like steps, motion, heart rate etc and turning that data into sound, or in fact music when that’s possible

I’ve been experimenting with this idea for a few months now, and more recently I think some of my experiments have got to the point where I might even share them. Not in this post, but perhaps in the coming weeks.

Before I do share some of the experimental output I plan to go into more detail about how the process works for me, or at least the component parts of the process and the technologies involved in it. As you might imagine the process involves a number of different devices and apps. However, in the centre of all of this is an app called Holonist. Holonist is in many ways the operating system for my ‘sonified self’ concept. Without it the whole process would not hang together at all.

Holonist really deserves a post all on its own. It’s a complex piece of software and I have barely scratched the surface of it. There’s a lot more to learn and experiment with, and I’m very aware that I am at the start of what could be a long journey.

The next post on this topic will probably focus entirely on the Holonist app itself, after that I’ll cover the process, and, hopefully by then I’ll be able to share some output.

Endlesss, collaborative music making on iOS

I’ve been playing with Endlesss for a little while now. A few weeks anyway. To begin with I wasn’t sure quite what to make of it. Now I’m beginning to realise that I’ve only just scratched the surface and that there is a huge amount more that I can do with it, and also that I can do with others, after all, it is collaborative.

The idea of Endlesss is really simple. You create what Endlesss calls ‘Jams’. Each jam is like a track, except it isn’t. It is much more than that. A jam consists of ‘riffs’ (or it may be ‘rifffs’, I’m not sure). Each of these is like a moment in time when you add something to the jam, and as you build these up, adding instruments etc, you get a journal of sorts showing how this track (I use that term simply for ease) has developed and changed.

Here’s what the journal looks like

In isolation that’s pretty interesting in itself. But the more impressive feature is that you can take any point in the journal and then take your jam in a different direction. For me this is probably the most interesting aspect of Endlesss.

Endlesss Journal view

As you can see there are a number of different iterations of this jam and they’re grouped by date. This makes taking ideas in different directions very easy.