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Apple Watch First Impressions

I have used the Apple Watch for a week now and wanted to share my first impressions and observations.  Not going to review specific features or how to's, but just things I have noticed.

First, it is a nice looking watch.  I received the 42mm Stainless Steel model and when I opened the box, my first thought was that it is smaller than expected.  The watch face was smaller and the thickness was thinner than my expectation.  No, I did not go into an Apple Store to view one or try one on before ordering and receiving mine.  My expectation was a big pillow shaped watch.   It is much sleeker than expected.

Screen is amazing.  So clear and bright.  Love the OLED.  The user interface takes a bit of time to get use to.  Thus all of the Apple demo's on their site.  It is not intuitive.   You have to learn new ways of doing things (buttons vs. swipes, etc..).  But it does get easier to use each day and slowly becomes second nature.

Not sure about the utility of most of the apps that can be used from your iPhone.  Certainly not going to read Yahoo News on my watch.  My advice is to select the option to "NOT" install all the apps during setup.  Only install the ones you really want to use as you need them.  That said, some are more convenient on the Watch than on the phone. Checking status of Apple orders on my iPhone Apple Store App requires a lot more work than checking on the Watch.  My package tracking app is quicker and easier on the Watch as well.

Some frustrations has been getting my calendar onto the phone (does not want my Work Outlook Calendar for some reason) which seems to pick and choose at random and receiving appropriate notifications on the watch.  Everything looks set up correctly but it is not working consistently.  Rebooting both phone and watch did help a little.  Even a wipe and start over did not fix the issue completely. Now am syncing one way from Outlook to Google Calendar.  Still a work in progress.   Which brings me to the biggest problem...

Notifications is frustrating since on both my Pebble and Fitbit, it worked perfectly.  In fact, on my Fitbit, I would get the notification there before they popped up on the iPhone screen!  This should be the simplest, most basic thing to work... and it seems hit and miss on the watch.  Some may come 30 seconds after the notification on the phone or not at all.  Over time it seems to be getting better, but still a few issues. What I do like with Messages and notifications is based upon the content of the message, it provides one touch answers.  For example, my wife sent a message asking if I wanted the usual or something new from a restaurant for a to go order.  When I selected “reply”, the first two options to send where “the usual” and “something new”.  One click of “the usual” and response done.

Another big issue is I have 2 Apple ID's.  A main ID that I use for most everything, and another just for iCloud.  The watch will only allow me to use the iCloud ID.  It does not give you the option to put in the username for the ID I want to use, it just pulls it from your phone (I guess) and wants the password.  I have found no work around.  I even deactivated iCloud on my iPhone and reset the watch and installed again.  No change.   I tend to believe this is the source to my calendar and notifications issues?

The watch also seems to be affecting my battery on the iPhone more than expected.  That may be from me in the Watch App customizing everything over and over.  But I will keep an eye out.  But the battery on the Watch itself seems pretty good.  One day it ran for 15 hrs and was still around 40% left, even with fitness activities on the Watch used that day.  

Other abnormalities that have started since pairing the watch with my iphone.  When using some bluetooth headphones, they loose connection all of the time. Coincidence?  I did not have that problem before. 

I can only hope that Apple will fix some of these issues.  I am prepared for them as I know I was getting a 1st generation product and would be a tester.  It was expected.

Has it or will it replace my Fitbit?  Yes and No.  It will replace the Surge, but because the watch can not be used while sleeping, I will go back to a simpler Fitbit model.  I love the Fitbit sleep tracking and alarm feature to wake me in the morning (no noise!).  Also I am so invested in the data from the Fitbit, it is difficult to quit cold turkey.  So yes, I will be one of those nerds with both.

First Impressions - Fitbit Surge

I received the Fitbit Surge on my Birthday and have been using for 1 week now, so wanted to share my first impressions.  I feel I am a Fitbit "expert user" as I owned the original Fitbit (still in my drawer) from December 2009 and have owned and used every version since except for the Zip and the New Fitbit Charge & ChargeHR.  My favorites have been the Fitbit One and the Fitbit Force (my most recent version prior to the Surge).  So basically 5 full years of wearing a Fitbit nonstop.

Past blog posts:

 

Form and Style - The Surge is basically a double wide Force or Charge without the band clasp issue.  It is a watch band type clasp which has been needed for a while.  Unfortunately the new Charge  still has the clasp mechinism that does not hold, but the ChargeHR 'does' due to the heart rate monitor.  For that reason alone (the watch style clasp) you will want the ChargeHR over the Charge.  Trust me. 

 

The band on the Surge may not be replaceable and is of a material that does not feel it will last long.  There are two screws at each end at the base, but I do not know if it allows a change.  The Surge fits at an angle on your wrist for easy viewing and is comfortable enough to wear all the time, even to bed.  The Surge instructions did recommend moving to the other wrist at night when you sleep as well as keeping it loose in normal wearing, but tightening when excercising for better heart rate readings.  It has 3 buttons, one on the left which is the main "return" button and two on the left for navigation and selecting inputs based upon the screen.

 

And true to form with Fitbit, another new proprietory charge cable.  Ugg.

The Surge does show the time and date all of the time and you can turn on/off/auto the backlighting.  But using this as a watch does not seem to work as every time I look at it to see what time, I see the number of floors I have walked instead.  It will also get notifications from your phone so you know when you get a phone call or text message.  However, the amount of data it shows regarding text messages is minimal.  The buzz on the Surge just sends me to my phone.

As with my Fitbit Force, I can browse quickly through steps, miles, cals, floors, with the additional heart bpm.  Other new additions are specific activities: Run, Exercise, Alarms, and Settings.

  • Within Run, it has Free Run (GPS,Heartrate), Treadmill run (Heartrate), and Lap Run (GPS,Heartrate)
  • Within Exercise, it has Hike (GPS,Heartrate), Weights (Heartrate), Workout (Heartrate), Elliptical (Heartrate), Spinning (Heartrate), and Yoga (Heartrate)
  • Within Alarms, you can view all of your alarms you have set and turn them off and on.
  • Within Settings, you can turn notifications off and on, Set backlight options (on/off/auto), shutdown your fitbit, view regulatory info, view version, and set heartrate options (on/off/auto)

Where is Treadmill?  Maybe use Elliptical instead.  Where is cycling with GPS & Heartrate? I guess you can use Run or Hike and change to Cycling on the Website?  Well, maybe, maybe not as the Edit function for a recorded activity on the website is very limited.


Last thoughts.  If indeed the Charge and ChargeHR are just updated Force, I would probably go with the ChargeHR over the Surge.  The GPS does not seem reliable or that useful(heck, I have a phone with GPS, a Garmin with GPS also, do I need another?) and the "watch" capabilities suck.  I would just rather wear a watch for the time and a Fitbit for the tracking.  Plus, you save a lot of money.

Update 12/16/2014 - Still does not work as a watch. Hardly ever see the time when I look.  Just steps or stairs.  Also stopped syncing via App on Mac or iOS today.  Put in an issue with Fitbit.  Will not use Bluetooth to connect to iPhone for music either.  Thinking Bluetooth may have died...

Update 12/27/2014 - Still having syncing issues.  Can not get it to sync via Mac.  Dongle installed and working but does not see the Surge.  Have tried on multiple dongles and have tried to reset as a new Fitbit.  Still can't see.  Issue with iOS on my iPhone 6 Plus continues as well.  Have to reboot phone to get it to recognize the Surge.  Had none of these problems with Force.  Very unsatisfied.  Fitbit support is next to useless this time.  They have always been very attentive in the past.  This is really making me want an Apple Watch.  Goodbye to Fitbit forever?

Fitbit Flex - Almost Ready for Primetime

I have been a Fitbit user since December 2009.  I owned the original Fitbit, then the Fitbit Ultra, then Fitbit One, and now the Fitbit Flex.

 

Now that I have been using the Flex for about a month, I thought it would be a good time for a full review. 

I have loved them all and Fitbit has continually upgraded and bettered the product with each release.  My hope is the Flex is no exception.  It is finally the "wear and forget" Fitbit.  No longer do I forget to put it on, lose it in the yard, run it through the washing machine, etc….  You put it on your wrist and you are done.  Wear it while working out, sleeping, showering, ….always.

But with this advance, there are a few concessions.  Starting and stopping the sleeping mode is frustrating.  Not counting stairs (and Fitbit not giving you a way to add manually) is disappointing especially since the last Fitbit (One) did this so well.  The lack of status detail other than lighted dots on the  Fitbit itself is quite an adjustment down from the One.

Finally is the frustrating quirks similar to those I had with the original Fitbit.  For example, waking up in the morning and trying to stop the sleeping mode only to have the Flex not reacting to anything you do.  Having to plug it into a computer to  get it to light up and be useful again, and loosing all of the sleep data from that night. Makes me want to return to the Fitbit One.  But I am trying to hold out and continue with the Flex.

I get the feeling that the Flex is a start over, and not a continuance of the previous models.  Thus it has the version 1 issues.  Buyer beware regarding the Flex.  Let me introduce you to the Fitbit One.

Garmin Swim

I recently started back to swimming (it has only been about 25 yrs) and I originally used my Garmin 910XT   for my weekly swim, but the result was not satisfactory.  See Blog post here
 

I recently purchased the Garmin Swim and wanted to provide the intial results of using it for the first time this morning.  Overall, I was satisfied with the Swim.  It is much smaller than my 910XT and you hardly notice you are wearing while swimming.  I was suprised by it's accuracy during my swim.  It only provided a mistake on my last 50 yrd backstroke "float" as 100 yrs.  It was correct at the turn as I looked, so it thought the last 25 yrds was 75 yrds.  So out of a 2500 yrd swim, it reported 2550 yrds and the only mistake happened at the very last lap. You can see my results here.
 

Starting and Stopping the watch during my 100 yrd and 50 yrd sprints was a bit cumbersome.  I thought I paused after one of the 100's, but did not catch it until it was time to start for the next.  The pausing and starting probably adds about 5 seconds per due to starting the watch before and pausing the watch after you touch the wall.  I would like it to recognize when you start and stop via an accellerometer.  But of course if you stop during a swim to adjust your googles, it would think you are stopping one swim and then starting another.  So I am unsure of the best way for this to work.
When I uploaded the data via Garmin Connect, it did provide the wrong day and time (August 28 vs. Sept 4). Not sure why this happened but I have seen others state the same.   I manually changed it after. 
Also I could not get the data to upload to other sites that connect to my Garmin (RunKeeper and Daily Mile)  even though both sites accept swim data. RunKeeper would only pull my Garmin 910XT data and Daily Mile allowed me to select the Garmin Swim, but stated that there was no new data.
So overall it has some minor issues that hopefully will be worked out.  I will post if the date and time issue continues after my next swim here.

 

Why I hate & Love eBooks

I love the idea of eBooks.  I have been an eBook reader for years since I had Microsoft Reader on my iPaq.  Now I have a Kindle and iPhone and this means I have more books to read than I really can handle.  But there is another dark side to eBooks beyond the quantity…. DRM. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_e-book_formats

My first choice right now is to buy a Kindle book so that I can read and sync on both the Kindle and the Kindle app on my iPhone or even a computer. 

kindle

Unfortunately, no all the books I like to read are on the Kindle.  Some are free and although can be sent to my Kindle, they can not be shared and synced with my other Kindle devices.  Also are books that I get at other eBook stores in which require their own eBook reader.  Thus I currently have 3 eBook readers on my iPhone.

ebookreaders

Stanza – For free and open eBooks (http://www.lexcycle.com/supported-formats)

Kindle – for Amazon Kindle eBooks (.AZW, .MOBI & .PRC – without DRM)

eReader – for Barnes & Noble/eReader/Fictionwise eBooks

Thus a book is stuck on one reader and can not be shared and synced to the Kindle.  This is frustrating.

Help me Apple, you are my only hope! 

iPad

Now we have the iPad and does it add to the complexity with it’s own iBook store?  It says it will support ePub, but I am sure it will be a DRM version. But what the iPad can solve, is due to having all of the ebook readers available on the device, I will no longer need the Kindle itself and can read any book from any format, all on one device.  The next question is… will they sink to the iPhone for on-the-go reading??

Run More than 1 Process on iPhone?

Unfortunately, the Apple iPhone does not allow multiple processes to run at the same time.  This has been a topic since it's origin.  Although this has not been an issue for me since 1.0, now that 3.0 is out and GPS turn by turn directions are becoming available, as well as other dashboard types of applications, this has now become a "possible" hinderence.


Gokivo GPS

I now have a windshield mount for my iPhone and like to run the Heads Up Display app aSmartHUD (this app is so cool, you must check out the website).

But can I run this App at the same time I am listening to a podcast or music?  Well I am happy to say you can!  Will this translate to the upcoming GPS applications (TomTom) or current app (Gokivo)?  I am praying it will.  Certainly let me know if you already know!



How I Use iPhone Slingplayer via 3G

Not only can I use Slingplayer via 3G, any other WiFi required iPhone application I now can use via 3G.

The key is not to use AT&T, but to use Verizon.  But how to use Verizon on the iPhone?  Well, you must have a Verizon data account, then you will need the Verizon MiFi.   The Verizon MiFi takes your 3G and turns it into WiFi.  You just then connect the iPhone to WiFi.


The MiFi is very small, about the size of a credit card.

I just received my Verizon MiFi 2200, plugged into my laptop and connected. Then unconnected the MiFi from laptop and pluged into AC power.  Once connected to the Verizon network, you can unplug the MiFi since it has a battery so you can then unplug and move around. The MiFi only needs to be connected to a computer to initially access the network.  It then runs as a secure WPA wifi network.

I ran the speedtest on my Macbook and am getting 1294 kbps down and 487 kbps.  I also ran the test on my iphone and got 762 (876 max) kbps down and 194 (211 max) kbps up.

My next test was how far away from the MiFi would my iPhone still be connected.  It was about 50ft from my office that I loose connection.  That is through 2 doors and into the lobby of my office.  Much further than expected.

So far I am completely impressed with the MiFi, it works as advertised, and would highly recommend.



Vudu Wireless Kit

Since upgrading my home router, one of the issues that arose was the wireless connection to my Vudu box. The issue was not with the Vudu box, but the Belkin Wireless G gaming adapter attached to it. The Belkin would not connect to the network.

The solution to the issue was something new sold by Vudu called Vudu Wireless kit. The kit contains two small wireless adapters made by Asus.

Adapter 1 has a power plug and a network cable to connect directly to a port on your router. Adapter 2 plugs via network cable into your Vudu Box and a USB/Power cable that connects and powers from your Vudu box. As it creates its own wireless network, there is no set up. It is simply plug in and you are working. What a concept. I was thoroughly impressed by the ease of which this product works. HIGHLY RECOMMEND for Vudu users.

For more on the Vudu box, see my earlier posts at Vudu Part 1, Vudu Part 2, Vudu Part 3

My New Wireless Router

I finally did it.  I have been thinking of upgrading my wireless network at home for some time (since the upgrade to "N" on my Macbook and iMac).  Also, my current Linksys router was disconnecting from the internet for no reason.

But I have a lot of requirements to do so.  And anything meeting those requirements was to expensive until recently.

The requirements were as follows:

  • Have dual radio bands, so "G" devices would not degrade or interfere with "N" devices.
  • Gigabit for my wired connections.
  • USB port to add a HD to the network directly.

What met my criteria was the Linksys WRT600N.  Since I have only owned Linksys routers, I was happy.  Also, the price dropped quite a bit recently.

I was concerned as I have many wireless devices, so was very specific when setting the router up.  The router is set up just like you have 2 routers.  One I made a specific "N" and the other specific "G" vs. mixed for both.  I gave them SSID's that identified them as "N" or "G".  I then crossed my fingers to see what would happen.

  1. Macbook connected with "N" and has had no problems at all.
  2. iMac connected with "N" but would consistently disconnect from the network.  I switched it to "G" and have had no problem since.  The difference between the iMac and Macbook is the Macbook is OS X 10.5 and the iMac is OS X 10.4.  Not sure what the 10.4 issue is.
  3. MacMini connected with "G" and has had no problems at all.
  4. Chumby connected with "G" and has had no problems at all.
  5. iPhone connected with "G" and has had no problems at all.
  6. Belkin Wireless G Gaming adapter would not connect at all.  I used this to connect my Vudu box.  I have switched to the Vudu Wireless Kit which works fine.
  7. IBM Thinkpad would not connect to "G".  This may be due to the weird wireless network software work requires on the laptop.

The new router has been up and working great for a month now and I highly recommend it, but be aware there could be issues with some "G" components.



Chumby: Day 1

Received my Chumby via UPS direct from China yesterday. Did you know that when they ship from China, it actually arrives in the US before it was shipped?

Anyway, I ordered the white version since that would look best in the bedroom where it will reside. Upon opening the Chumby packaging, the "white" is more of an off white or light tan color. But it still looks good next to the bed.

It is fun checking out all of the widgets and adding them or removing them from the Chumby. You can view what is on my Chumby here. Set up was easy including the networking. Putting in my network passphrase was a bit tough based upon how the Chumby virtual keyboard works. Other than that, it is simple and quick.

So far my only complaint is that there is no SmugMug widget. I am sure other widget wants will arise, but new ones are being added all the time. Looking through the Chumby forums, it looks like a pretty active community as well.

This morning, the Chumby woke me to a pleasant alarm and immediately I was viewing my Twitter feed and weather before crawling out of bed. I just love this thing.



Vudu: Part 3

I know it has been awhile since part 2 of this review, but I have not had as much time as I would like to devote to the Vudu. It seems, that when I ask my wife what movie she wants to watch since we can watch almost any movie with the Vudu, she answers by wanting to watch one of our Netflix DVD's. This, in fact, may be important as you will see later in this review.


I am still having the yellow network light issue, as well as my network connection is always full-on active sending and receiving packets. I have confirmed that this activity is due to Vudu and can only assume it is downloading and sharing movie content all the time.
I did have one experience over the last few days. After work one evening, I was searching through the Vudu catelog to find something to watch as I had an hour or so free. I found a Babylon 5 movie that I was not sure if I had ever seen and it was only $2.99 to rent, so I went for it. It initially said that the show would be ready to view in 15 minutes. Hmmm. I thought I could view immediately. After about 10 minutes it did switch to view mode so I began to watch the show. It was in widescreen and filled up my HDTV nicely, however I could see a lot of artifacts similar to standard definition tv - not as nice as DVD quality. After the intro of the movie, my wife came home and needed some help so I paused the movie with the intention to finish it later. Later ended up being after work the next night. I turned on the Vudu, went to "My Movies" and guess what? No movie. It expired. It seems that anything you rent expires within 24 hrs of starting the movie! Yes, Vudu gives you 30 days to watch it, but once you do, you better finish it!
Needless to say, I did not know about the 24hr rule and I am not happy. I look at the Netflix DVD sitting on the table in front of me and think about how I do not have any such issue with it. Although I do not have the ability to watch any netflix movie within 10 minutes unless I use their streaming service, I do have the flexibility to watch the DVD's I have rented when I want to watch and start & stop anytime without the DVD going bad. Even in the old days of renting movies from Blockbuster, you had 3-5 days with the movie to watch as much as you wanted when you wanted. Vudu needs to change the 24hr rule to 72-120 hrs. Otherwise I feel it looses alot of the value it could provide. Especially if it wants to compete with Netflix. Even On-Demand movies via cable or satellite can be rented and recorded with your DVR to watch when you want. Vudu is the most restrictive regarding the "life" of rented movies.
Part 4 will be the final part of this review. Stay tuned.
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Vudu: Part 2

Since installing, I have had some interesting times. After about 24-48 hrs, the network light changed from green (connection is good enough for immediate movie watching) to yellow (connection is slow and unable to watch movies immediately). Therefore I started checking my network, running bandwidth tests, etc.. with no solution found. Everything seemed fine. I then looked on the Vudu forums and found that at anytime there is a connection issue (something else using up the bandwidth, a disconnect, Vudu servers down, etc...) that the light stays yellow until you tell the Vudu to "Clear bandwidth history". So I did this and it turned green again. So I can only assume that once there is a bandwidth crunch on your network, once it is no longer an issue, the Vudu does not recognize that it is back up and running by itself.

I have also noticed on my router, that the wireless led and internet led are flashing constantly with activity since installing the Vudu. Nothing else in my house is on and the Vudu is always actively sending and/or receiving packets 24hrs a day. I assume it is pulling in movies even though I have not purchased or rented any as of yet. It would be nice to somehow monitor that activity to be sure what is happening.

After another 48 - 72 hours, again the network light changed from green to yellow. Again I selected to "Clear bandwidth history" and it fixed it. This seems to be a bug unless I can find a logical reason for this activity.

Stay tuned for Part 3.

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