In search of the perfect Wrist-Wearable

You have two wrists – (well, one or none in some cases – see I don’t generalize.) and there are a lot of corporations out there, who seem to be vying for the real estate on them. I have no interest in comparing the offerings, or suggesting what might or might not work for you. I just like to think about what I might like, and think out aloud sometimes – that way, like minded people can resonate with me and there is this cosmic resonance… (ok, that’s a lot of bull, so I’ll cut it.) Anyhoo, here are my thoughts,

  • What do I need and what don’t I need ?

This is a difficult one – let’s see what I would actually want.

  • An ABC watch with Solar charging, and Atomic time syncing. It should be able to measure changes in altitude, temperature, barometric pressure and record the same, and be able to export it into fitness apps …etc. Currently my Casio Protrek, comes pretty close, although it has no way of showing a trend graph, (except for the small barometric change graph it displays) or exporting the data. It also has a compass and temperature sensor. This should never have to be charged, and the protrek series is indeed like that, not to mention it looks brilliant. The compass might be useful if you are into trekking. (But I’ll be honest and admit, I don’t know how to get my bearings 😀 (pun intended) )
  • To this, add a triathlon watch (like many Garmin offerings, or the Suunto offerings) – GPS, ability to sync to a tracking website – can differentiate between cycling, swimming and running. (or, you have to explicitly choose a mode) Also, has a HR strap, (or a wrist based HR tracker if it is sufficiently accurate) a foot dongle (or whatever else you call it) and cadence sensors for the bicycle with which it can sync. There are watches like these – and they are getting better, although a common complaint seems to be – they don’t last an entire triathlon with GPS on. Maybe with the tracking granularity turned way down, they do. Did I mention “to this add” – meaning, I want only a single device that can do ABC + this, and more. See a GPS takes care of the altitude information at least. so that becomes redundant in an ABC. I am not too sure about the digital compass. I would assume this device needs to be charged before every serious workout.
  • An activity tracker that can track my activity throughout the day and track my sleep if it claims so. I wouldn’t mind a heart rate tracking sensor in there either. I have read the heart rate sensors in activity trackers are tuned to normal activity and don’t do well in extreme conditions i.e., when you are actually exercising. That’s ok – we have the heart rate monitor strap from (ii) remember. This device should also be able to sync it’s data wirelessly and hold charge at least for a week. Water proofing is always good – especially, if I don’t have to take it off in the shower. The aim of this is, to perform the function of a pedometer, when my phone is not on my pocket – for instance in office my phone is almost never in my pocket – at home, my phone is almost never in my pocket – it’s always on a desk somewhere. Also, sleep tracking is a nice feature I’d like to try out. One thing I am kind of worried is double counting – i.e., if I track a run with my GPS watch, and sync that to a site, I don’t want this double counting my steps for that workout. I’d then  have to take it off when performing actual runs, or at least turn it off. (considering the HR data will be junk anyway, who cares.) Of course, if a single device has things integrated, I’d assume it would automatically complement the run data with this step counting, and not double count things.

Now if someone can make a device that does all of the above, and for base minimal functionality – you never have to charge the device, for the activity tracking, you charge it once a week, and for the workout tracking (GPS based), you charge it before every workout, even if it costs $500 – consider me sold. So, in essence even if you device cannot track GPS data, it should still perform ABC functionality based on the battery that is solar charged. I don’t see why the solar charging can’t be efficient enough to also include the activity tracking functionality, but maybe it isn’t yet.

  • Now on to what I don’t need:

I definitely don’t need a device – no matter how fancy, that needs to be charged once a day or once in two days. I find it hard enough to charge my phone once or twice a day. It would be a tremendous pain to keep including devices that run out of charge. Yes, I’m talking about a smart watch. Also, if it needs to sync to my phone and my phone runs out of charge it is redundant anyway. 

I am also wondering if I need the triathlon watch at all. Sure, if I did a lot of swimming- which I don’t – I might. But if I am going to carry my phone, which I do for running and cycling anyway, I’m not sure I need a GPS device inside a watch to do that – considering it drains battery pretty quickly. Plus, I’ll use my phone to listen to music as well. I use a BT headset which I pair with my phone, and it gives me voice feedback when I use apps like Endomondo on it. Now, there are specialized headphones which can play music without the need for a phone (Sony has some offerings – but I’d get bored of listening to the same music over and over again.) There are also other bluetooth headsets that come with a FM radio – which might actually be pretty useful in case you’re not carrying your phone. This is one scenario where you might need a GPS chip in your watch – and can leave your phone at home. Or if you feel you are not used to running professional events with a phone, then you might need GPS in your watch.

I also don’t think I have any use for the smart watch functions – looking at texts on the watch, answer phone calls with the watch, change music tracks on the watch (that might actually be useful on the runs, but I can do it on my headset as well.) Did I mention I don’t want to charge it every day. However, displaying workout related metrics on screen is always nice to get instant feedback while running or cycling.

Now, since no single device exists that can do all I want it to do – not today at least. (maybe not in the near future either), I think from the above, since I already own the Protrek – which I think will soon be going away as a useful device, I think the only other device that makes sense is an activity tracker. Fitbit’s new ones looks like a good one. I’d be interested in both the Charge HR and the Surge – especially if the Surge’s battery can last the same as the Charge HR. (5 days is the claim)

As a footnote, the recently released Microsoft Band is supposed to have a host of sensors, but I don’t know what it does with it anyway. (apart from the HR monitor and the accelerometer that is.) What would you do with a UV sensor and a galvanic skin temperature sensor ? (The ABC watch has a temperature sensor anyway 😉 ) Some people say the UV sensor can tell you the UV index. Well, you should be able to tell that by the place you live in, and how sunny it looks. For instance, in Arizona, that sensor might be stating the obvious. Even otherwise, the most this can probably tell you if you should use sunscreen. In the larger scheme of things, maybe it can be used to study skin cancer in athletes or something like that based on the exposure levels and duration of exposure – now, that would definitely be useful.

There are other activity trackers out there – from Polar, Garmin, Basis, Jawbone and so many more. You should check out the DC Rainmaker website if you haven’t – especially if you are looking for meaningful comparisons and looking at buying something.

Update 11-17-2014

After some consideration and thought, I decided to buy myself a Jawbone Up. (Ver 1.0) I thought I could use the continuous step tracking for the times I don’t have my phone, and don’t want to necessarily track it as an activity. I am pretty meticulous about tracking any outdoor activity or any activity on the treadmill, but this was to get an idea as to how well I was doing otherwise. The band itself is pretty un-obtrusive, and I like the sleep tracking function it has. I also like the idle alert. However, I need all of my data to be exportable, and to be viewed on a computer, and not just on a phone. I love Endomondo for this. I hope Jawbone will come up with a web interface sometime soon. I don’t mind waiting for that. But if they don’t I have no qualms about jumping ship to someone else that does.

As an interesting afterthought, I wonder if having a smartphone in your pocket while cycling gives you pretty decent cadence data compared to wearing something on your wrist. I feel it does, when your leg moves up and down, I think the accelerometer can register it, and count it as a step.

Also, I read about the fact that using it on your dominant vs non-dominant hand is supposed to make a difference. I currently thus use it on my non-dominant hand.

Another big consideration for me is that if a GPS tracker claims to do sport based tracking, it has to handle at least running and cycling, even if not swimming. I almost bought the nike+ watch a few months back, but then read that it doesn’t support a bicycling mode. Bummer! I like the foot pod though – but I guess the wrist based trackers myst be just as accurate if not more.

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Worst Ad Ever – Powered by Acer, Inspired by Intel ?

I have nothing against Intel – It’s a great company that has given us processors that have powered our desktops and laptops for many many years, and done extremely well at it. I also think that if they thought of the ultra-book, then it is a pretty neat idea, (Sure, calling it Windows air would have meant Apple took to the courts before you could say sue.) although with some of the laptops Dell claims to be Ultrabooks, one wonders what an Ultrabook really is.

But see, when someone [Acer] makes an advertisement [attaching the Ultrabook name to it] which is so dumb, that even the dumb will find it hard not to think of it as dumb, it’s just very sad.

In this particular advertisement, Megan Fox (yes, Megan Fox) apparently uses an ‘Ultrabook’ to inspire herself ? and a bunch of other scientists to hear a Dolphin talk.

There are so many things that are not right with the advertisement, that you find yourself shaking your head, twisting your mouth, wrinkling your nose, doing strange things with your eyebrows, while it plays out. Here are some irritants,

  • I Googled on Megan Fox (no no, not images 😀 ), and did not find any place, where it said she was involved in any kind of research, leave alone with dolphins. Her Wikipedia article doesn’t carry any such information either.
  • When you want to do a lot of research, and let’s say you want to crunch a lot of numbers, or run complex programs, what kind of computer do you use ? A server ? A server farm ? Vector Processors ? (aha, you know your Computer Architecture) Of course not – you use a sleek laptop, or wait, Ultrabook. Right ?
  • I am sure loads of people that have been researching Dolphins, and have dedicated their lives to it must be going – ‘Duh! I should have bought an Ultrabook’. Oh, and have Megan Fox read stories to the Dolphins.
  • There are at least 6 other researchers in the video, but it has to be Megan Fox that has to do the ‘adjusting’ before the Dolphin’s voice can be deciphered. That’s how inspired you can be with an Ultrabook, you can go to NASA mission control, and say, “ok, thrusters full power”, and all the scientists who spent the better part of their lives giving to the program will go, “Oooh, let’s clap and hug other scientists”
  • Oh, and on day 103, Intel announced their next processor. 😀

So, she asks ‘How’s it going’, and suggests something like ‘Let’s increase the high frequency by 10%’. All of you guys and girls out there, who want to sound intelligent in team meetings, take note. That’s all you need to sound/seem like a researcher. Oh, that and you always have to wear a white coat to seem like a researcher. 😀

I think one Youtube comment (and not even a mean or nasty one) sums it up for me, “All I got from this ad is that Megan Fox owes some poor restaurant two lobsters.

Edit:

Youtube does some justice, by blocking Megan off the video 🙂 Life is fair after all. 😀

youtube

5 Reasons Not To Buy K810i or K790i

I own the K810i and my friend Vibushan has K790i. Except for a few cosmetic changes and 3G, the phones are pretty much the same. I had earlier written about K810i here Sony Ericsson K810i

While there are plenty of reasons why you should buy the phone (and I am not just saying that because I own it), there are also a few reasons why you shouldn’t buy the phone. Sony Ericsson needs to know that they are idiots to miss out on these features,

  1. Lack of keypad password protect-Now, this is on top, because it is the most annoying feature or rather the absence of it which drives me crazy. Most entry level Nokia phones have this feature. Some Motorola phones go a step further by having separate passwords for each application. While that might not be necessary, here’s why you need at least one master password for your phone: Would you like to have your contacts taken from your phone ? Would you like people to peek into your camera folder and see all the pictures you shot ? Would you like people to simply take your phone and make calls ? Or use the internet for that matter ?
  2. Cannot Pause Videos-I installed ImToo the other day and cracked it at the expense of having to re-install XP (thanks to the spyware it introduced) just so that I could watch a few videos on my phone. But Guess what ? You cannot pause a video!! That’s just lame. You expect me to watch a 30 minute video without ever pausing it once ? You must be really crazy. As Manish points out in his comment, it is indeed possible to pause videos when you launch them through the video player. Thanks to him for that piece of information.
  3. Cannot FFWD ,RWD Videos-You also cannot fast forward or rewind videos.Now, this is just as bad, if not worse than the lack of the pause feature. Not only can you not pause videos now, you can’t go forward to the scene where you stopped the video. In a day and age where players can remember the pause location of multiple videos, this is lame. As Manish points out again in his comment, it is also possible to fast forward and rewind videos when you launch them through the video player.
  4. Stopwatch lacks save feature-If you have used Nokia phones, then you know that after you have used the stopwatch, you can save the timings and later on look at it. With Sony Ericsson though, you can’t. That’s just plain dumb. What would it take to add such a feature (assuming Nokia didn’t patent it. Even if they did, why can’t SE license it ?) For someone who times walks and stuff, this feature even if only small is infinitely annoying.
  5. I like some individuality– 🙂 This has nothing to do with the phone. It’s just that I like to own things that the majority of the people don’t normally consider. So, buy another phone.

There are some other reasons too, but I’ll compile them and post it sometime later. Till then, don’t consider buying Sony Erisccon K810i and K790i. Also K800i

Curiosity = -18.64

That was my cell phone balance a few days back. So, I am sitting home getting bored and I decide to explore my phone. I landed somehow on the RSS feeds. Had a few default feeds there. So decided to check it out. I updated the Sony Ericsson feed and to my surprise, it worked. I was literally jumping with joy ( a joy that wouldn’t last long, as I found out later)

Now, you need to know that I use a prepaid connection and a few days back I activated Vodafone Live. (Don’t ask me why.)

Coming back, so I clicked on a link from the feed and was excited to see a web page open. (For the record, I have never previously used GPRS in my life. I previously had a 1100 you see. 🙂 ) Then I was curious and went right ahead and checked out my blog. Man, was it beautiful. I was thrilled really. I know it’s not much. But I appreciate technology. If you can read your blog (or someone else’s for that matter) from your phone, it’s a big deal. (I know it’s been around for a while. Doesn’t mean I can’t marvel it.)

So I clicked on a couple of pictures and links. I checked the balance after having quit the browser. It was some 12 Rupees. Man, I had 20 odd rupees balance. 8 rupees for this ? Not worth it. Then I go to sleep.

When I get up, I make a call and the call doesn’t go through. I try a couple more times. Then I check my balance. Freakin -(minus)18 rupees!! What ? Where did the money go ? Then I realised it must be the RSS feeds. (Still can’t be certain.) So I am frantically searching for options to turn them off and I can’t find them. Great!! So, instead I delete all my feeds.

Yelp all the way

I wanted to call Vodafone Care and yell at them, but after my last experience calling them, I decided against it

Sony Ericsson PC Suite

Ok, I know I said Sony Ericsson PC Suite doesn’t allow you to send messages, receive messages ..etc from your computer in my earlier post. However, looks like I was wrong.

No, it’s not like I did not check the features before going on my blog and criticizing Sony people. I am not a trigger happy kind of person. 😉 It’s just that the version that shipped with my phone didn’t have any useful features. (Sony guys, make a note of that.) 

Now, I installed Vista today and hence had to reinstall all the software. So, I decided to pop my Sony CD in and install the PC suite. To my astonishment, the PC suite that shipped with me phone was compatible only with Xp or below. What dumbasses ? For a phone that was released I think in 2007, I don’t see why they did not include a Vista specific software. Really sad.

So, I went online to search for a Vista compatible PC suite, even if it was a third party software. I however wanted to give Sony guys a shot and check out what was available on their website. This is what I found,

English Sony Ericsson PC Suite 3.204.00

And this is the PC suite that shipped with my phone,

PC Suite 2.0.60 (for Windows 2000)

So, I decided to download the new PC suite and it installed fine. However, I am still having some trouble setting my phone up. This is what I get to see when I connect it, almost indefinitely.

Sony Ericsson PC Suite

WTF ? How long does it take to install the drivers ?

The Other Side of PCB

Well, here are some pics of my PCB. Worst PCB ever!! Yet, I have to make do with it. 😦 Sad isn’t it ?

PCB-01PCB-02

It’s the most pathetic board I have ever seen. At first glance, it misses your naked eye, but on closer inspection or when using your Multimeter, you find out that all the traces that are not supposed to be in contact are in-fact  touching. Sadly for me, I noticed this after having soldered a couple of IC’s in. For a while I thought the problem was with the solder itself. After several attempts to set it right, I had a hunch that the tracks itself could be touching each other. And man, was my hunch right. Almost every track was touching the other track!! And I had to use a Swiss Army Knife to remove the copper between tracks 😦 Imagine!!

PCB-03

(IC’s in place)

PCB-04

(IC’s and a few wires. Takes longer than you can imagine)

PCB-05

(Flipsyde)

The original idea was to make my own PCB. But I couldn’t find my drilling machine and to be honest, it involves a lot more effort. I would have used a breadboard, but then one of my IC’s refused to sit in it.  

Microsoft SMS Sender

SMS Sender

It’s a shame really that Sony Ericsson’s PC suite allows you to do very little. You can copy files and stuff and charge your phone (duh!!) maybe, but other than that, it’s not so great. It has this feature wherein you can synchronise contacts and appointments and stuff. Like I am ever going to need one. 

I remember some 5-6 years back when Nokia has this 5100 phone, that we could send and receive messages form your PC using the PC suite. So I set out the find an application that would allow me to do the same with my Sony Ericsson phone. I found the Microsoft SMS Sender.

You can find the original article that I stumbled upon, here: (I don’t wish to repeat stuff that’s already there elsewhere on the Internet.) 

Sending SMS Using Windows XP

However, on going to the Windows site to download the same, it asked me to verify if my Windows XP was genuine. Else it would not allow me to download this crappy 625KB application. What the heck ? Well, my Windows XP is genuine alright, but nevertheless, I am not going to allow these guys to check that before I can download this application. So I got it from another site anyway. Here’s the download link:

Microsoft SMS Sender 1.0

In XP it seems you can only send messages and not recieve them. It maintains a crappy log on a notepad file and the sent message cannot be found on your phone. But then I was pleased that it actually worked. It is supposed to work with data cable, IR or Bluetooth.

I did find a better software afterwards and it rocks. I shall be writing on the same later. I am sure there are more such software available on the Internet.