Lifelogging

A frustrating first week with the Narrative Clip 2

I've been lifelogging with the Narrative Clip 1 for a little over two years now. It has become a habit. In fact, I feel sort of naked on the rare occasion when I don't have the clip with me. I've also learned to live with, even embrace, the limitations of the clip. But being a geek and a gadget lover, I did of course pre-order the Narrative Clip 2 when it was announced.

It took quite a while to arrive, but last week finally brought a shiny new box with a shiny new gadget in it. It didn't take long for the joy to turn into frustration, though.

At first sight, not a lot has changed with the Clip 2. It's still about the same square size. A little bit bulkier, due to the replaceable clip, and the camera itself is now covered and flush with the rest of the front of the device. The camera itself now has an 8 MP sensor (up from 5 MP). The most prominent, yet invisible, change is that the Clip 2 now talks to a mobile phone via Bluetooth and uploads photos directly via Wifi. And that is where a lot of my frustration comes from ...

Setting up the Clip 2 via Bluetooth from iOS was simple enough and went without a hitch. But then I couldn't get it to connect to my WLAN. I tried copy&paste for the password as well as typing it in, carefully - nothing helped. Trying to get it to connect to an unsecured Freifunk node didn't work either.

So I sent off an email to Narrative support and went out, wearing the Clip 2. That's when I noticed that the four LEDs on the side did actually blink each time the device was about to take a photo. The original Clip only did that when you double-tapped it, to trigger taking a photo now. Fortunately, it seems, the blinking was removed with the next firmware update which the Clip 2 installed automatically, once I got it to connect to a WLAN.

Narrative support seems to be getting a lot of email at the moment, probably as other new users are struggling with their devices, so it takes them a while to get back to me. Also, the answers aren't always too helpful, including the usual "things to try", even if I mentioned that I already tried these things.

Anyway, after support recommended I try using a shorter password for my WLAN, the clip was able to connect. I had to change the password back, though, since I have quite a few devices connected to this particular WLAN and for some of them changing the password is a real pain. As it turns out, the Clip 2 simply can't cope with long passwords. I find this irritating, to put it mildly, as the WPA2 standard allows up to 63 characters for a password and I simply expect a new Wifi-enabled device to be compatible with standards these days.

I found another workaround for the WLAN issues for me eventually. So now I can finally see my photos. Or so I thought; alas, the first couple of photos or moments I took with the Clip 2 are nowhere to be found. Neither the iOS app nor the web app show anything between Monday morning and Thursday morning of last week, even though the clip did take photos and supposedly even uploaded them. Not sure what changed on Thursday morning, but I do have photos from then on.

Next issue: Battery life. I noticed right away that the battery status, displayed in the iOS app, was decreasing rapidly. It took a few days for a realistic test scenario to come up: The battery died after just under six hours of continuous use of the Clip 2. That's disappointing, if not to say disastrous. How can I life-log with six hours of battery? Narrative support informs me that an upcoming firmware update is supposed to address this. We'll see by how much the battery life improves. Right now, I keep the clip connected to a power source for as often and as long as possible.

View from the S-Bahn After so many complaints, it's time to say something nice about the Clip 2: Image quality is much improved over the Narrative Clip 1. You don't really have to compare shots between the two - just looking at the photos from the new version, after having lived with the old one for two years, shows obvious improvements. So that's a big plus.

I haven't tried the ability to record video yet as, frankly, I'm not really interested in it. I assume it will come in handy on occasion, but I'll leave that for another time.

Looking happily through my photos, I noticed another thing I didn't like, though: It seems to be missing photos on occasion. Sometimes, the time jumps ahead two to four minutes without any photos in between. Narrative support assumes that's because the app filters out photos that are blurry or blocked. The old clip used the Uploader on a computer and has an option to keep local copies of the photos - all photos, that is, even the blurry ones. With the new direct upload from the clip, that is no longer an option. But I really want to keep those blurry photos, too. For some situations, I'd rather have a bad photo than no photo at all.

At the same time, my old Narrative Clip has started acting up. It is no longer being recognised by the Uploader. So I have some photos stuck on it that I can't get to at the moment. I'll have to try some of the diagnostics Narrative support asked me to do.

So in summary, this was a first week full of frustrating experiences. When the Clip 2 works, it works very well and the photos are definitely of a better quality. But Narrative really needs to fix the Wifi connection issues and, most of all, the battery life before the Clip 2 can be recommended over the Clip 1.

I skipped over some of the other things that are new with the Clip 2 - I'll leave those for another article, once things have settled down a bit.

The Good:

  • Image quality is quite noticeably better, not only in low-light conditions
  • Being able to control settings (like the capture interval) from your smartphone while using the clip is a big plus

The Bad:

  • Battery life is bad; so bad that it makes the clip unusable for the intended purpose in its current state (supposedly being fixed with an upcoming firmware update).
  • Disappearing moments
  • No local backup any more
  • Wifi connection problems
  • Somewhat irregular photo intervals
  • Somewhat bulkier and heavier than the previous version

Creative Commons Licence "A frustrating first week with the Narrative Clip 2" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

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