One week with Pebble Time

Pebble TimeTwo and a half years ago (wow – really that long?!) I wrote a post on my impressions of the Pebble watch, one of the very first projects I backed on Kickstarter. At the time, I was pretty unimpressed by the product as a whole package – while the hardware was impressive (at the time), the software really let the watch down, and sadly never saw a terrific improvement. The SDK alluded to in the original release did eventually turn up, and was followed by swathes of watchfaces and apps to run on your wrist, but none of these really captured my imagination, the watch remained a second-screen for my wrist on which I could view notifications.

Given my nonplussed attitude towards the product, I was surprised when I found myself throwing money at the new Pebble Time Kickstarter. The videos of the new watch grabbed me in a way that the original product had failed to – colour, animations, design, apps – this iteration seemed to correct everything that the original lacked. So, I waited patiently for the watch to arrive (they definitely improved their logistics since their first attempt), and have now had a week to play. So I repeat the question I answered last time – have I fallen in love with this watch?

The answer – slightly more than last time! The watch is definitely a much better designed product, it looks and feels a lot better on my wrist, as the original was starting to look very dated in this Apple Watch/Android Wear golden era of wearable technology. The menus flow an awful lot better with some slick animation, and even though I find the screen a little harder to read, the colours really do improve the display. It feels like much more of a product, rather than a proof-of-concept piece of hardware with some poorly thought out software thrown on top. Integration with my phone is much more seamless as well, the new Pebble Time app has replaced the need to have separate applications installed for receiving third-party notifications, and the watchface/app store seems better integrated.

So what’s putting me off? To me, it still seems like a convenient device to view notifications on, and not a lot more. It’s missing a few “killer apps” like the Android Wear integration with Maps, or gestures on the Apple Watch. While the Pebble Time may be a much more desirable piece of hardware, and streets ahead of the original edition, I feel the software has fallen short of the mark yet again.

That said, I won’t be rushing out to buy the Apple or Android equivalent – the price points, battery life and physically large size of the alternatives have put me off for the time being, so the Pebble Time does have a place on my wrist for the foreseeable future.

PCTV tripleStick 292e with TVHeadend

I’ve blogged before about my home AV set up, but something I’ve not talked about is the recent addition of a couple of TV tuners so that I can watch and record live Freeview channels. Until recently I’d been using TVHeadend version 3.2 on a Raspberry Pi, with a PCTV nanoStick T2 that worked out of the box on Raspbian for me. However, the time came when I wanted to be able to record and/or view multiple channels at once, so I set about getting a second tuner to be able to do this. Through a lack of attention paid while ordering, I ended up with a PCTV tripleStick rather than a second nanoStick, and this one sadly was not as easy to set up. I bounced around a lot of forums and blog posts in getting mine working, so I thought I’d consolidate my learnings here, in the hope that someone else may find this useful!

First off, the chipset on the tripleStick (Silicon Labs Si2168) is different to the nanoStick (Sony CXD2820R), hence the incompatibility with the old drivers. There’s a very detailed teardown and comments at Antti’s LinuxTV Blog which does a great job of explaining what’s under the hood, and the comments do offer some useful guidance (but also some misdirection!). I was previously running an older version of Raspbian (kernel 3.12 if I recall correctly), which failed to recognise the tripleStick as a DVB tuner at all, but several sources suggested that firmware was included in 3.16 and higher. I updated my Raspberry Pi with the usual apt-get update; apt-get upgrade; apt-get dist-upgrade to move up to a newer kernel version (3.18) which did get the dongle recognised in TVHeadend, however it appeared to not get any signal, despite being plugged in to the same aerial as the working nanoStick.

At this point I attempted upgrading to TVHeadend 4.0, something I should have done a considerable time ago anyway, however this had no effect and the dongle continued to show no signal through TVHeadend. Checking my logs, I found that my /var/log/syslog had repeated entries referring to “found a 'Silicon Labs Si2168' in cold state“, and claiming that firmware files had not been found. Many different message boards carried many different links to firmware, and suggesting different combinations that needed to be installed, several of which I found to be corrupt, however the one that worked for me was installed using the following:

$ wget -O /lib/firmware/dvb-demod-si2168-02.fw

There are many suggestions that the file dvb-demod-si2168-b40-01.fw is also needed from that same source, however it seems to be working fine for me without this present. I’ve seen some reports that the tuner should appear as two separate entries in TVHeadend (one as a DVB-T tuner, and another as a a DVB-S), however since I’m only using DVB-T I’ve not seen any problems – your mileage may vary!