Current status?

Chat about Hammerhead's Karoo in general.
Nik
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Current status?

Post by Nik » Sat Nov 02, 2019 11:16 am

Hi, I’m out shopping for a biking computer next spring and heard about Karoo. I’m a software developer so I’m no stranger to ”it compiles, ship it!” so I’m asking (and hopefully not starting a flamewar)

1. Is the hardware sound?
2. Is the basic functionality stable?
3. Is the company stable enough to fix the remaining issues?

Bonus question: does it fit (length-wise) on a Garmin out-front mount for Canyon aerobars?

Thanks in advance,
Nik

JohnJ80
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Re: Current status?

Post by JohnJ80 » Sat Nov 02, 2019 3:16 pm

I would say at this point that the answers to your questions are “yes” but with qualifications. I probably wouldn’t have said that two months ago but I think the company has made good progress over the summer. Getting a stable platform from a software perspective was a task that they greatly underestimated.

Most of my riding is rural and gravel style riding. From that perspective, I find the Karoo to be pretty strong. What especially appeals to me is the ability to add other Android apps although it’s not directly supported by the HH. I find that useful because I can add capability like weather radar and alternative mapping alternatives such as Osmand and Komoot (with both, you can have audio TbT over Bluetooth for example). No map source has all the information you need (especially in rural areas) so this is invaluable. Being able to ride/hide from precipitation and weather is really helpful. I continue to push HH to release a curated App Store for the Karoo. I believe that is in their road map at some point but they hold it close. Fortunately, a lot of Android apps can be easily ported to the Karoo via the Google ADB tools and with the right application switcher, you can have virtual integration with the native Karoo UI.

Is it perfect? No - not even close. But in general, and almost without exception, it’s what I reach for to go riding over my Edge 1000 from Garmin and my Wahoo ELEMNT.

The display is class leading in the bike computer world. So it’s the responsiveness of the controls and touchscreen (literally, smartphone-like) and is easy to discount until you do without. The ability to control selections with buttons (as opposed to touchscreen) is important to me here in the frozen north where riding with gloves is an issue.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for HH, the state of the bike computer market in terms of meeting norms for consumer electronics is poor. Most of the bike computers out there sort of remind me of the state of smartphones prior to the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 - you have to understand the underlying dynamics to make it work right. The Karoo is not unlike that but tries to break out of that mold especially in terms of UI.

Nik
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Re: Current status?

Post by Nik » Sun Nov 03, 2019 6:44 am

Thank you for the long answer! I think I’ll give it a try, after all they do give full refunds should it not meet my expectations.

I ride a road bike exclusively mostly on known routes so I can live with it if ”works”, for the definition of ”it doesn’t suddenly freeze/boot or drop GPS/sensors”. Hopefully they release a documented SDK at some point so you could play with customizations yourself.

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Steve
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Re: Current status?

Post by Steve » Sun Nov 03, 2019 3:05 pm

My answers to your main questions (sorry, I don't know the answer to your bonus question) are as follows:

1. Vaguely. It's very big and heavy. The good thing about it being big is that the screen is very nice indeed. That's the best feature by far of the Karoo for me. But I'm on my second replacement hardware unit and this one still has the same problem that quite a few others have seen - random reboots in cold weather. That's especially annoying because unlike a Garmin it can't continue the same ride recording, you have to start a new ride and manually stitch together the pieces with online Fit file tools.

2. Vaguely. Be prepared for every software update to break some existing functionality and/or introduce new bugs. Hammerhead still haven't learned much about software QA, apparently.

3. Not sure. I'm amazed they're still in business given their apparent low sales. They must still be relying on their various investors. They appear to have an incredibly small software development team, e.g. it takes them a hugely long time (e.g. over a year) to bring out essential major new functionality like Di2 integration. They can do very very minor functionality more quickly, but not very well because it usually takes them a few releases to get it working properly. They are still way way behind their competitors on functionality.

I wish I could say better things, but ever since the beginning Hammerhead have over-promised and under-delivered.

Nik
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Re: Current status?

Post by Nik » Sun Nov 03, 2019 6:10 pm

Steve wrote:
Sun Nov 03, 2019 3:05 pm
My answers to your main questions (sorry, I don't know the answer to your bonus question) are as follows:
It is unfortunately common in Kickstarter-type projects. People are full of energy and momentum so wrong estimates and promises are made. Cash is needed so marketing gets three times the budget of software development. The developers are under press so unit tests are skipped (leading to regression bugs) and corners cut (increasing technical debt). ”We’ll clean it up before next release”. Soon the code is so messy the developers are afraid of touching the code (or the devs just burn out or quit). Throwing more (fresh) coders at the problem at this point only makes it worse. At some point even the truest fanboi or venture capitalist loses hope.

I’m not saying it’s the case here but I’ve seen more than a few of those in my two decades in the field)

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Re: Current status?

Post by dthempel » Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:31 pm

I'm probably just preaching to the choir here, but I guess I'll chime in so you have multiple perspectives.

1. Mostly? There are reports here and elsewhere about dodgy units. Mine has been stable and until recently I had avoided a reset. Had to do one recently because the unit got stuck in a loop regarding an update, but I guess that's not "hardware" related? Battery quality and life are my main concerns with my unit (and I'm guessing others would offer the same from the hardware side).

2. Depends on what you consider "basic", but I guess the answer is "yes". It records (usually successfully) and routes and connects to a wide range of sensors. They've added stuff like Di2 and radar support that I consider niche instead of better, more widely popular features recently, so overall "progress" on the software is way too slow, in my opinion, and should Garmin or Wahoo consider them a threat, they could likely update hardware for screen prettiness and make up any perceived gaps.

3. I don't really think so. The $4M they got recently is going to disappear fast, but my understanding is that the family behind the product has deep pockets?

They're not leveraging the unit properly. Once they realized that dev was slowing, they should have targeted at least a curated app store and off-loaded some of that to those that are good at it. Could have had a *great* unit by now without having to sideload and do "weird stuff" if they had just opened the door just a bit to outside aid. My biggest complaint currently. (Yes... I could fool around with sideloading, but haven't for a variety of reasons.)

Nik
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Re: Current status?

Post by Nik » Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:44 pm

dthempel wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:31 pm
They're not leveraging the unit properly. Once they realized that dev was slowing, they should have targeted at least a curated app store and off-loaded some of that to those that are good at it. Could have had a *great* unit by now without having to sideload and do "weird stuff" if they had just opened the door just a bit to outside aid. My biggest complaint currently. (Yes... I could fool around with sideloading, but haven't for a variety of reasons.)
What I'd do if I were a VC would to a) make a clear statement of direction where the unit is going to keep the flame burning (can only be done once without delivering, though) and b) bring in a software team with a proven track record

JohnJ80
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Re: Current status?

Post by JohnJ80 » Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:11 pm

The new money came in at the height of their instability problems and when things looked the worst. So the money guys knew what they were getting.

The condition of the device and the quality of the software has improved and the process looks a lot more programmatic that it did at the start. When money guys like this show up (and most of these are high net worth individuals in the cycling industry) it’s pretty much a given that they understand that they may have to pony up at least once more to secure the investment (been there, done that). They maintain control and urgency by how they release the money - nothing gets the attention of a CEO who is not yet profitable than direction from the money guys (and this is a CEO that I think needed the oversight to be successful - often the case). So I think the funding is secure for longer than one round of this.

No one who has introduced a cycling computer in pretty much the history of the industry has had it go smoothly or as quickly as they had hoped. Look at Garmin’s long history of releasing beta level units even as of recently.

I’ve had a lot of engineering and business experience with some of the major players in this market from a development/component perspective and it’s never easy and is usually pretty messy. I’m not sure if it’s that the standards are not as tight as they should be (i.e. ANT+, BT and the cycling specific profiles) or that there is just not enough volume in any of this to force the industry to iron out the bugs. The volume of the industry as a whole, while it may seem significant is pretty tiny when you look at it from a consumer electronics perspective. Even the market share borg Garmin has hardware and software that is kludgy, arcane and requires a fair amount of geek factor to operate successfully - case in point.

So fortunately or unfortunately, once you get in and get a user base, the competition is not all that cutthroat compared to other consumer electronic markets and there are barriers to users exiting more or less. Bottom line: I think they have both the staying power and are close to the right numbers to make this all work long haul. But, there is no company on the planet that doesn’t have an ironclad 30 day lease on life. So we’ll see.

I agree with the notion that getting an App Store up and running and producing a solid APK/SDK for developers to plug into the Karoo OS would be Both very smart and a no-brainer. I’ve been advocating this from the start. In point of fact, in the early dark days when the Karoo was not reliable and the software was a mess, sideloading was the only way to get decent functionality. Now, that I’ve managed to write my own scripts for backup and restore using the Google ADB tools for Android, it’s a pretty simple proposition to keep it configured the way I want it to be. I also agree that had they just made it easily for an App Store to be installed (either theirs or Amazon), then this would be a huge benefit. Getting their own curated App Store released and populated with just a few solid apps would instantly add a ton of new features and capability.

My main use of the Karoo is for ride navigation, ride recording (complete set of sensors - HRM, PM, Speed), and other ride amenities (on occasion podcasts, weather radar, Varia etc...). The display is great for my far sighted eyes, and for my purposes it works better than any of the other computers I have such as the Edge 1000 and Wahoo ELEMNT. They, however, haven’t gotten close to the naive hype that they put out when the whole thing started. They’re getting there but it’s slow. It’s better now that they have some more competent software development management and devs but it should be faster.

That said, until something better comes along or HH goes away, this is probably what I’m going to be using as my main computer for the foreseeable future. I do centralize all my ride recording in Strava and I do all my route development in either dynamic.watch or RideWithGPS. I don’t depend much on the Hammerhead dashboard except as the portal for route download to the Karoo.

Nik
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Re: Current status?

Post by Nik » Tue Nov 05, 2019 5:33 pm

JohnJ80 wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:11 pm
No one who has introduced a cycling computer in pretty much the history of the industry has had it go smoothly or as quickly as they had hoped. Look at Garmin’s long history of releasing beta level units even as of recently.
I'm not dissing Hammerhead, it's nice that someone dares to do something new. Writing software is hard. Writing software for a tweaked OS on a custom device that is used in roughish conditions with various external devices is not for the faint of heart. As you said, the market forces will take care of the limbo-situation one way or another sooner or later. If you have a device that costs 50$, people might say "well, it didn't work" and leave it at that but if you pony up 300-400$, you're going to have a tough audience if you don't deliver.
Last edited by Nik on Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

JohnJ80
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Re: Current status?

Post by JohnJ80 » Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:04 pm

Not dissing them either. I guess my point is that bike computer software development looks easy to the uninitiated and then it’s death by a thousand cuts when they get into it. RF variability between sensors, slack in the specs, all sensors being the same except that one guy with decent but not dominant market share, etc... the exceptions are the killer and just destroy schedules.

For instances, I could never get my Stages gen2 power meter to work reliably under ANT+. Stages was sort of closed mouth about it. HH was going nuts trying to figure it out. Then another rider and I started doing some RF testing after Stages updated my PM under warranty to gen3 and discovered it had probably 4-16x the ant+ signal strength and worked fine. That took a couple of months to get to the bottom of the problem.

Stages knew they had a problem but kept quiet. They’d optimized it to work with Garmin and were quietly replacing units like mine that were even out of warranty but had issues. They did the right thing but when you don’t trust you own software you crawl over that to fix it. And then it turns out it wasn’t even HH’s issue. Multiply that by HRM, the zoo that is the PM space and then speed sensors and the permutations with each of those mean your schedule gets blown to pieces. Wahoo had similar problems when they first introduce the ELEMNT (I lived through that one too).

So it’s a lot harder than it looks. Even Garmin new units seem to have stability problems for about a year after introduction.

Nik
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Re: Current status?

Post by Nik » Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:34 pm

JohnJ80 wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:04 pm
Not dissing them either. I guess my point is that bike computer software development looks easy to the uninitiated and then it’s death by a thousand cuts when they get into it. RF variability between sensors, slack in the specs, all sensors being the same except that one guy with decent but not dominant market share, etc... the exceptions are the killer and just destroy schedules.
"The first 80% takes 90% of the estimated time, the remaining 10% another 90%"

JohnJ80
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Re: Current status?

Post by JohnJ80 » Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:34 pm

Exactly. The corollaries to this are

1. All programmers are optimists.

2. Software is always 90% finished.

3. New features are “simply a matter of programming.” aka SMOP.

4. Software will always expand in size or complexity to exceed system resources.

Nik
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Re: Current status?

Post by Nik » Wed Nov 06, 2019 7:11 am

The primary concern for a project at this stage is probably the quality and architecture of the existing code base. If it's a big ball of mud, nothing short of a rewrite will remove the technical debt in order to prevent it from grinding to a screeching halt when adding more features. And that takes time.

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Steve
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Re: Current status?

Post by Steve » Wed Nov 06, 2019 4:18 pm

JohnJ80 wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:11 pm
No one who has introduced a cycling computer in pretty much the history of the industry has had it go smoothly or as quickly as they had hoped.
No, but Wahoo progressed 1000x more in their first year than Hammerhead did.

Hammerhead were so overly optimistic to start with it was foolhardy (and Wahoo didn't do the same thing - Wahoo released a much better product from the start), with a non-functioning product until a few releases went by, and even then the functionality was incredibly basic. Even after all this time the progress hasn't been enormous. And they don't seem to have grown really, so the progress will still be really slow. They missed the boat.

JohnJ80
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Re: Current status?

Post by JohnJ80 » Wed Nov 06, 2019 8:49 pm

That’s a little hyperbolic. 1000x? Really?

At least they got it tuned around and they are making steady progress. I guess I see it as “glass half full”. I am taken aback a bit at your consistent negative view of the whole thing. If you think it’s that bad, why do you keep on with it?

nordog
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Re: Current status?

Post by nordog » Thu Nov 07, 2019 12:39 pm

Every person using any smart gadget will want more than it can do, that is why we all buy another gadget in the hope that it is better than the last gadget. The grass is always greener the other side they say. ;)

Nik
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Re: Current status?

Post by Nik » Thu Nov 07, 2019 11:25 pm

nordog wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 12:39 pm
Every person using any smart gadget will want more than it can do, that is why we all buy another gadget in the hope that it is better than the last gadget. The grass is always greener the other side they say. ;)
Unfortunately, if the company goes belly up, it's the end of the road for upgrades etc. And because of that, the unit is almost impossible to sell. Well, that's life on the bleeding edge. I'm not going shopping until next season (that's about April in my part of Finland :x ) so perhaps the future of the product is a bit more clear then...

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Re: Current status?

Post by Dobbel » Fri Nov 08, 2019 10:52 am

@nik : you are using the "if" word and that is speculation, ...... it is all negative speculation.

be wise, and base your writing on facts or go

For now, we have a stable engine and useful navigation. It can still improve.
We receive periodically software-updates and yes we still need more basic as well as advanced features.

In other parts of the world outside Finland, we just keep on cycling. Also during autumn, winter and spring.
So we will do the testing further for you :)

Kind regards, Alexander

Nik
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Re: Current status?

Post by Nik » Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:00 am

Dobbel wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 10:52 am
@nik : you are using the "if" word and that is speculation, ...... it is all negative speculation.

be wise, and base your writing on facts or go
Well, since the roadmap is no longer available, there is little else to do than speculate, hope and wait. Or do you mean that nothing should be said at all due to lack of verified information? Wouldn't be worse if nobody even cared?

I thought I made clear that "I don't know if this is the case" and "I'm not dissing Hammerhead" and have kept (In my opinion) a quite reasonable tone of voice in my writings and kept my speculations on a general level. I am sure the site moderators/admin will remove my posts or kick me if they're in violation of some code of conduct(?)

Dobbel
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Re: Current status?

Post by Dobbel » Sat Nov 09, 2019 12:25 pm

Hi Nik,

Thats´s fine. No worries about your tone. Only that some words may be misinterpreted by other people reading it.
Words written can be interpreted differently than spoken words. And with mimics included it would be even better, but hey.... this is a forum, so we have to live with reading.

And I agree with you: it´s certainly a miss that there is no roadmap, and not even a list of features than can be rated/prioritised by end users

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