Bluetooth Beacon Aquisition

I’m working on an interesting project for a client. It involves Bluetooth LE Beacons and there are lots of them in an the office. About 43 in the 10 metre square office space. But the problem is that not all the Beacons are being seen by our test handsets. I did some investigating.

It turns out that although Android and the Bluetooth LE spec don’t place a limit on the number of beacons in a given area at any one time, physics does. After you get to about 35 beacons in a small area the time taken to find further beacons increases exponentially. 

Given that the Beacons operate on the 2.4ghz part of the spectrum the issue is probably crowding, causing back offs from each device. To many individuals shouting at the same time. Whatever the cause, an interesting phenomenon.

I tested using a Samsung S7, a Nexus 5X and a Moto X (Gen 1). The Samsung performed best taking only 1.23 minutes to find all 43 beacons. The Moto took just over 6 and a half minutes. In dead last place, the Nexus took a huge 12 and a half minutes. Complete stats below. Times are given in miliseconds, except for the last row which is in minutes.

It will be interesting to compare performance on iOS compared to Android.


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Things 3 keeps getting better

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A while ago I was complaining that Things 3 was never going to get released. Now months later it still took too long, but I am happy and slightly surprised with the progress Cultured Code are making. 

Since the release of Things 3, there have been a steady stream of new features. The most important have been automation related;

  • Email to Things
  • A much improved URL scheme

Both these features have improved the utility of the Things apps. I have a number of IFTTT rules set up which send emails to my Things inbox as well as a few URL schemes which generate tasks with checklists (for things like App releases). At the moment I have these URL schemes triggered via Workflow on iOS, and Alfred on the Mac.

Hopefully the foundation that Cultured Code spent so long laying will continue to pay dividends to its users for a good long while.


I have a Plex set up at home. It did run on my 2012 iMac, a machine whose job is simply to run Plex and to be a monitor for my MacBook Pro. This iMac is connected to an ageing Drobo which acts as media storage and a local archive. It’s a set up that has worked wonderfully for me for years. However, keeping the iMac and the Drobo powered on all the time has a not insignificant cumulative cost in terms of energy consumption and hardware wear and tear. Add to that the ever more impressive array of content on Netflix, Amazon Video, iPlayer etc has meant I use the Plex server less and less. I still want access to my local files (both Locally and remotely). So I decided to do something I’d meaning to do for some time; make something with a Raspberry Pi.

It was amazingly easy. I purchased the following…

  • Raspberry Pi 3
  • 16gb Micro-SD Card
  • A USB power supply
  • A case

That all came to about £35, and I probably didn’t need the power supply. I also made use of an old 300gb hard disk I had laying around.

Not to ruin the end of the story, but it was amazed how easy it was and by how well it now works.

I’ll hopefully go into the following in more detail at a later date, but the steps I took were;

  • Install Raspbian (Debian derived OS). This was a doddle. You can download the image from their website and flash it onto a card, or you can just get a card with Noobs already installed on it. If you do the latter, it’s simply a matter of choosing an OS. The whole process is painless. Wifi works, sound works, it all “just works“. A far cry from my last experience (many many years ago) of trying to install Linux.
  • Install Open VPN. This makes it so much easier to work with the Pi. No need for desk space, monitors, keyboards and mice. I gave Pi a reserved address on the network and used Screens on my Mac and iPad to work on the Pi.
  • Installed Netcat. This allowed me to access the filesystem via my Macs. The Pi just pops up in the devices list in Finder. You can use SFTP as easily.
  • Installed and setup Plex. Again, easy to do and well documented online.
  • Plugged in the hard drive. This is where I ran into problems. As I configured the libraries in Plex, I found that I couldn’t’t read from the drive at it’s default mount point. After some reading I discover that I needed to permanently mount the device. I mounted it and made it point to a folder in my ~home/videos folder. You can find the instructions I used on

And really, that’s it. It took a couple of evenings of playing around. It now works wonderfully. It can transcode all but the biggest MKVs without a problem. It’s always available on or off my network, it’s. Totally silent and it sips power. If the iMac and the Drobo cost 0.5p and hour to run then this setup will pay for itself in less than 3 months.More importantly, my iMac and Drobo will last many years longer no they’re not been made to just sit powered on day and idle after day.

The everything device

I remember way back in 2001 I wrote in a tech briefing for our MoD customer that predicted the mobile phone would swallow a number of key technologies. Not particular precient, as it was already happening, but I think I quoted the camera and the wallet. Well somehow it’s 16 years later and it looks like the phone has become the only piece of technology that most people need to carry. For me it replaces the following;

  • The phone (obvs)
  • Portable music player
  • Radio
  • Pocket TV
  • PVR
  • Camera / Camcorder
  • Photo album
  • Note book
  • Calendar
  • Maps
  • GPS
  • Alarm clock
  • Torch
  • Voice recorder
  • Calculator
  • Document scanner
  • Diary
  • Gameboy
  • Books
  • Credit and Debit cards (though not the whole wallet)

For many it replaces the functions of a PC. In addition there is a whole host of things it didn’t replace, because they just didn’t exist before. Makes you wonder what it will have swallowed in 10 years time, or what will have swallowed it.

WWDC Preditions: Results

It was a packed presentation. How did I do?

iPhone (2 out of 3)

Not much time was spent on iOS for iPhone. Lets face it, like Mac OS it’s pretty feature complete until the tech changes that.

  • UI Refresh: DING!
  • More music features: DING! But not much was made of this on stage. But still… DING!
  • Dark Mode: UH UH!

iPad (3 out of 5)

iOS 11 == iPad Biggly

  • Drag and Drop: Double DING!!!!
  • Split View App Picker: Kinda DING. The dock counts. Right? I’m counting it
  • A finder type app: OH DING!
  • No 10.5. UH UH! I have one next to me right now. Lovely it is too.

Mac (1 out of 2)

  • Spec bumped Mac Pros. DING! I’m writing this on a 15 inch Kaby Lake Aluminium slab
  • New version with touch bar updates: Ok, there was a new version (D’Uh) but no touch bar changes of any significance. I’ll take this as a UH UH!
Apple Watch (0 out of 2)

Not much meat here.
  • More sports biz waz. Not really
  • A step away from the app model. There is a Siri face, but I don’t think that really counts.
tvOS (1 out of 3)

More on this later in the year according to Timmy Cee, but not much today. It did get a dark mode though. At least there was some dark mode action
  • Amazon Instant: DING!
  • TV app outside US. UH UH!
  • Talk of Apples TV shows: NOPE!
Siri (2 out of 3)

Some changes, but not the focus people expected.
  • Siri Speaker: It was announced. Not sure why, but it was so; UH UH!
  • New Siri domains. There were a few, but not the number I expected. Technically I was right though: DING! *sigh*
  • New AI smarts: Not really on Siri, but lots of talk of Machine Learning so kinda: DING!

Total: 9 out of 18

Not great, but very happy to be right about the Mac and delighted to be wrong about the 10.5 inch iPad

Troops in the streets and more surveillance


Well, it took all of 2 days to happen. Despite the proclamations that the terrorists will not change our values, we’re already doing exactly that. Less privacy and troops on the streets.

Government officials appear to have briefed newspapers that they will put many of the most invasive parts of the relatively new Investigatory Powers Act into effect after the bombing at Manchester Arena.

The specific powers being discussed – named Technical Capability Orders – require big technology and internet companies to break their own security so that messages can be read by intelligence agencies. Government will ask parliament to allow the use of those powers if Theresa May is re-elected, senior ministers told The Sun.

From the Independent

There is no indication that it would have prevented Manchester, it would be almost impossible to implement and is gross violation of civil liberties. If it were implemented then it would cause no end of security issues.

All this comes one week after the NHS was taken down using an technique developed by a US government agency, and leaked online.

At best this is the government looking to give the appearance of action, and to make Teresa May look like the strong leader she isn’t. At worst it’s the latest step in a deliberate and continuing plan to erode civil liberties. Whatever the truth is, it’s a stupid move.

Things 3 released on May 18th

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I’m not sure why I have such an obsession with this app. It is without a doubt beautiful in all its incarnations, but it’s by no means the most usable and it’s not close to being in feature parity with the likes of OmniFocus and Todoist. It is delightful to use though, even if too many taps are needed for simple tasks.

Anyway, suffice it to say I am excited by the imminent arrival of Things 3 and on my birthday no less. It was meant to be!

I truly hope that they’ve added functionality and not just updated the UI. Unfortunately the tease UI of the quick entry field does not bolster my hopes. Tags look to have been relegated to a selection item, and there is no sign of an option to attach files to a todo. There are a couple of new items, one of which looks like a flag option, the other is a mystery. Perhaps sub items on a task?

I guess I’ll find out on the 18th.