Monday Technical.

I’m writing this on Sunday night because this week is going to involve a lot of travel, appointments, and general moving around. The old laptop I have is flakey. The atheros wifi card does work with Free BSD, and Mate on Ghost is fairly lightweight, but… it’s at least five years old and not very robust. Hardware issues, not software. It has been abused: things just don’t connect, the battery is basically gone, and the screen is going.

So I will be taking a commercial alternate– an slightly newer and better cared for mac. I need a commercial solution for a few reasons, sadly.

  • Most of the work I do is writing, and editors want word documents. With track changes. Open office does not handle that well.
  • My employer uses Outlook for email and scheduling. Macs do run microsoft office. BSDs and Linuxen run open office.
  • Citrix. Again, needed for work.

For other things that I do there are open source products I know and can use on BSD.

The latest upgrade, however, has broken (on the mac) all 32 bit programs. I lost a day trying to find a robust method of referencing (writing) and found that Zotero works still best — and it is cross plaform, as a bonus.

Anyway, onto the tech news I bother following this week. Fitbit may be staying independent, due antitrust. If you can trust the industry press, Fitbit was losing its way.

Throughout the following year and into the summer of 2019, there were successes at Fitbit, in particular the popularity of the first Versa smartwatch, but according to several sources who spoke to WIRED on condition of anonymity, Fitbit was plagued by management issues, ever-changing priorities and high staff turnover. This led to a focus on incremental product upgrades, with little effort put towards more significant future-facing technologies. Work with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to add more health features to its devices, such as sleep apnea detection, was dragging along. Apple, meanwhile, was leading the wearables market and was innovating at a much faster rate. Fitbit had lost its way.

But some staff had started to notice a change in messaging. Internally, the directive from on high was to make sure things were in good shape and publicly, Fitbit was puffing out its chest more than usual, boasting about its unrivalled troves of user health data. Something was happening, but no one outside the top brass knew, exactly, what.
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Then, on November 1, moments after a press release went out, Fitbit CEO James Park held an all-hands meeting – “probably the most attended all-hands for two years” – to make an announcement: Fitbit had agreed to be acquired by Google for $2.1 billion (£1.6bn). Some employees were blindsided by the news, but most were relieved. Failing Fitbit, it seemed, had been rescued.

Some had actually seen the Google news coming for a while; more specifically, since April 2018, when Google and Fitbit announced a partnership that would push both companies further into the healthcare sector. The collaboration was, per a joint press release at the time, to “accelerate innovation in digital health and wellness,” and would involve Fitbit making use of Google’s Cloud Healthcare API.

After the announcement, there were whispers around the San Francisco office that Google was “taking a look at the engine,” according to one source familiar with the matter. “There was talk that Google was eyeing us up,” they say. “Some people stuck around longer just because they thought Google would buy us.”

There was also a sense that Fitbit was trying to “buddy up” to Google, sources say, encouraging project managers to find ways to work with the company.

Hugh Langley, Wired UK

This has made me consider what Thom Hogan calls pain points. When Kea and I first met, she picked up my main camera. Same brand as hers, but different model line. The buttons were in the wrong place, and she found it impossible to use. Upgrading in the “same lane” of cameras worked for her, because she can use the upgraded camera without having to relearn anything. With cameras, we stick with two lens mounts — one for traveling (light and cheap) and one for her work.

I’m analogue when it comes to watches. I like my Seiko 5, but when traveling use an old olympus eco drive — ugly but effective. What would it take me to go back to a smartphone?

The answer is more sensors, but not in the way you’d think. I want to see lactate and glucose levels. Ketone levels would be nice. The correct treatment for sleep apnoea is losing weight or CPAP. I would not put an effort into this. I would wear an ugly and expensive watch with that. GPS helps — particularly “ball of string” for if and when you get lost. Emergency beacons are good (though it it still cheaper to buy a separate one: don’t go into the bush alone without one) Weather warnings are good. Very long battery life or no need for batteries is good.

I don’t need a coach, or to be told to walk, or the data shared with the googleplex. I want the data for me. I want safety for me. I’d also like to see such sensors available for kids, particularly kids with type I diabetes. At present this is clunky.

In particular, I don’t want texts, phone calls, or music in my phone. I don’t want the screen to switch off. I need the time all the time — this morning I looked at my watch and realized it was time to leave for work right now… when I would not have looked at my cellphone.

The closest things to what I want on the market now are not smartwatches. They are outdoors watches, and not cheap.

However, I don’t need them at present. In a few months, when fitter, things may change. But now? The pain point does not hurt sufficiently to open my wallet.