Microsoft Band–First Look

So I got a Microsoft Band as a late Christmas present and I’ve been using it for a few days and I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts on the device.

First though, I’d like to point out that I’ve been looking for quite a few months for a device that would:

  1. Give me continuous heart rate monitoring
  2. Give me calorie counts as I’m working out
  3. Not be tied to a particular Operating System (yes Apple Watch I’m talking to you here🙂 )
  4. Sync to my phone or PC
  5. But can use it without having to have my phone with me (Samsung, I’m talking to you…:) )
  6. And do all of the above without needing to wear a chest strap

I’ve tried a few different watches/devices and have returned them all as they didn’t do any of the above things. Even when I returned the Samsung watch to Best Buy, they kind of admitted that the watch sucked🙂

So I picked up the my Microsoft Band a few days ago and here’s what I’ve found

  1. I have a Galaxy S4 phone and the Band synced up using Bluetooth easily. (In fact the Band won’t work without a smartphone sync).
  2. But the nicest part…….I can use the band when I run or workout and don’t have to have my phone next to me. This is something that is pretty important to me
  3. I get email, text and phone notifications. I can even pay for my Starbucks with my Band.🙂
  4. When using the Band as a workout device, it continually displays my heart rate, calories burned, and exercise duration.
  5. It is moderately uncomfortable (although I haven’t worn a watch in 20 years…..).
  6. The reports generated by the Band give a lot of interesting information.. for example:

First Boot Camp info

You’ll notice the spikes in heart rate and the timing durations. Now lets look at a sample run

First Run

And the part I found the most interesting….Tracking my tennis match

Singles Tennis Match which I won 6-3, 6-2

As you can see, I work really hard at tennis

 

Although I plan to further discuss this when I’ve had the Band a few weeks, my initial reaction to the Band is that I think I’m really going to like this product🙂

 

2015: The year I got rid of my Ipad Part1

People who know me know that I have a hate/hate relationship with Apple🙂 It’s not that I don’t like their products (I usually do), but my usual complaints with Apple stem around 3 specific things:

  1. Apple products are overpriced.
  2. Apple requires me to install Itunes on my PC. As any self-respecting computer geek will tell you🙂, Itunes is a buggy piece of software, it slows your computer down, and it is a PITA to deal with🙂
  3. The lack of available storage space on any Apple product is ridiculous!

About 4 years ago, however, I purchased an Ipad 2. The biggest reason that I purchased an Ipad was to use the device as a Comic Book reader. I had tried to use my Nook Color e-book reader to read my comics, but the screen size was too small. Apple was the first company to come up with a tablet that was large enough to read digital comics without having to resort to using a magnifying glass🙂

I bought an Ipad 2 (16GB) for $499 and started to use it. As I started to use the device, a couple of things became quite clear to me.

  1. I loved the idea of having a tablet to use for general web surfing, reading magazines, and reading comics books. As the years passed, I used the Ipad an awful lot.
  2. Apple makes really good products. I’ve used my Ipad multiple times daily for about 4 years and I’ve never had a problem with it.
  3. I REALLY HATE ITUNES
  4. 16GB is not nearly enough space for any device that you want to store a lot of digital media on.
  5. Why the heck didn’t Apple put a USB port on the damn thing?

Although I’ve used the Ipad for over 4 years, the limitations really started to annoy me.

  • The contortions necessary to import my comics to my Ipad were cumbersome at best. I had to hook the Ipad up to my PC, select in Itunes what comics I wanted to import, and then have Itunes copy my comics to the Ipad.
  • I teach at a local community college and we use Canvas to interact with the students. Canvas is also the method that the students use to turn in their papers. Although Canvas had an Ipad app, I could only use it to grade homework questions. I still had to use the PC versions of Canvas to take attendance, grade long papers, and other necessary things.
  • It’s still a Windows world.🙂 If I wanted to demonstrate a network traffic sniffer to my class, I still had to use my laptop. If I needed to show my students how to use a PC based program I had to use my laptop. So as a result, I needed to bring my laptop AND my Ipad to class.
  • I was constantly running out of space on my Ipad. As I mentioned before, 16GB’s is not nearly enough storage space for an Ipad. I ended up deleting apps and content that I really didn’t want to delete because of the lack of space on my Ipad.

Although I certainly got my moneys worth out of my Ipad, it was time to look at something else. The next part of this will look at the choice I made to replace my Ipad

 

The Windows 8 Preview Experience-First Impressions

So I downloaded the Windows 8 Consumer Preview (I guess we don’t call these things Beta’s anymore) and installed it last night. Here are a few quick inpressions

Test Machine:

Dell Latitude D430

2 GB RAM

Dual Core Processor

This machine is slightly better that a netbook, but because of the motherboard, will only take a 2GB of RAM at most.  This machine is not a powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination, so this might be interesting. As I go through living with this machine (I have a real desktop, so I won’t lose too much sleep with bad productivity🙂

I downloaded the consumer preview ISO and started the install at 8:39 PM. By 9:00 I had a new operating system. This is probably the fastest I’ve ever been able to install an operating system.

So my first impressions:

  1. Where the @#$%  is my Start button! The default interface is the Metro interface that is presently used by Windows phone. Although I’m somewhat familiar with the Metro interface, I can see that the change will be quite jarring for many users.
  2. Where’s my Windows Live Apps? For whatever reason, Microsoft doesn’t have a Windows 8 version of Windows Live yet.
  3. The boot time is really fast!
  4. I really wish I had a touch screen on this laptop. Although Microsoft claims that Windows 8 will work with just a mouse and keyboard, I’d really like to see what a convertible tablet (Lenovo, I’m  available for beta testing) would do with this OS.

I’ll periodically post on this subject. If you have questions, leave a comment, and if I can, I’ll try to answer them

Video Resolution, DVD’s and Hi-Def TV’s

So a person at work asked me a question the other day asking what 480p and 720p up scaling on DVD players meant as this person (I’ll refer to them as AK) was still using an old Playstation to play DVD’s on a brand new Hi-Def TV. Sometimes I forget that not everyone is as much of a geek like me🙂. So a quick answer…

For all practical purposes, TV definition is measured by vertical scanning lines, hence the 480, 720, 1080 numbers. The p stands for progressive scan. For AK, this means that the actual resolution that they are getting on their brand new Hi-Def TV is only 25% of what they could be seeing as the Playstation they are using for their DVD’s only outputs in 240p. Just using a regular 19.99 DVD player (which at a minimum will output at 480p) will double the resolution of the DVD.

So AK’s next question was what does the up scaling mean that is listed on some of the specifications the DVD players have. Another quick answer:

With the advent of Hi-Def TV’s, a way was developed to use computer chips in DVD players to adding resolution to 480 source material (DVD’s) to make them look better on larger TV’s. This is called upscaling. Most newer DVD players and Blue Ray players have this capability. Depending on the DVD, a decent case could be made that the upscaling on DVD’s looks almost as good as a Blue Ray. And please, before the comments go ballistic, I’m not saying that it looks as good as a Blue Ray, but it does look close.

So the last question from AK…Do I really need need a Blue Ray player? Hmmm..Depends..

Although at one time I’d say yes, now, I’ll say maybe. Here’s why:

1) AK gets most of the DVD’s watched via RedBox. Although some RedBox sites have Blue Ray’s, the selection of Blue Ray disks are slim at some sites.

2) Although I’m on record (see here for more specifics) as loving the combination of a Blue Ray player and HDTV, I can see reasons that it’s not necessary. Although I usually watch stuff with a lot of special effects that really pop on a Blue Ray player, if you don’t watch a lot of those types of movies, you may not get as much “bang for your buck” as someone like me.

3) Blue Ray players take a long, long time to boot up. Depending on the Blue Ray player, the updates that might be necessary, etc. I’ve seen 3 to 5 minutes before I’m actually watching the movie in question. Sorry, that’s too long for some people🙂

4) In AK’s case, a reasonably priced upscaling DVD player will run about 30 bucks. Add a couple of bucks for HDMI cable, and viola, a much better looking picture for just a little bit of money..

 

SO AK…Get a dad-blamed player and stop watching DVD via your playstation!!!

OK, this year I resolve to regularly post on this blog

I promise to try and post more regularly on this blog. My present plan is to write a post every week. Plan on reading about how I love my iPad, Windows 7 phone, and how I lost 100 lbs in a year. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Adding A Video Card To Your Computer

Although I know I’m supposed to be working on the method of watching your TV over the Internet, I’ve had a hardware breakdown of my 7.1 sound system, so I thought I’d show you how to upgrade your Video Card on your computer.

First, let’s examine why you’d want to upgrade your computer’s video card. With Windows Vista , if you’ve bought a computer without a dedicated video card, you’ll lose a lot of speed in the Operating System as Vista needs a lot of computer resources to draw the screen on your monitor. In Windows XP, not having a dedicated video card wasn’t as big of a deal, as the OS wasn’t as big of a resource hog🙂 In Vista, if you don’t have a dedicated video card, then the OS uses both processor cycles and your computer’s memory to draw the screen. The idea of having a dedicated video card means that the video card does all of the work, freeing up processor cycles and memory for real work.

In this instance, I’m using a Vista launch machine that did not have a dedicated video card. It’s now my wife’s machine, and the main goal here was to speed up Vista/Windows 7 and to allow her to use a dual monitor setup (she’s jealous of mine) :)So to order the right video card, I need to find out what available expansion slots I have on the computer. If you don’t know by looking (or didn’t feel like cracking the case right this second), then just go to the manufacturers website (in this case HP) enter your model #, and the system as originally configured will tell you what available slots there are. In my case, I have a free PCI-e slot, so that’s what type of video card I looked for.

A word about NewEgg. This is where I order any computer part that I may need. Although I’m too lazy to have an affiliate click thru link on this blog 🙂 I’m of the position that they are the best place to purchase needed computer parts. So I need a PCI-e video card. One with memory, a PIC-e interface, and cheap:) I decided on the ASUS EN8400GS. At 41 dollars after shipping, it’s a pretty good deal. It has 512MB of RAM, and three outputs. You can spend as much as 600 dollars on a video card, but in this case it’s a bit much.

So now, let’s’ crack the box and look at the card

Instead of a fan, this video card uses a Heat Sink to disapate the incredible amount of heat that a video card creates. This makes the video card quieter. So now let’s crack the case of the computer

And now to insert the card. A word of caution here…I usually don’t use a grounding strap, but should, and I usually wear a hat when doing this in case I happen to be sweating. 🙂Additionally, make sure the computer is UNPLUGGED not just turned off for this.

Generally, you just place the card in the slot and gently (but firmly) place the card in the slot. And you may want to be a bit careful. This card can easily be broken if you aren’t careful. If you take a look at the next slot over, you’ll see that the open slot next to the PCI-e slot is now pretty useless. 🙂 After screwing in the card, put the cover back on and restart your computer.

Once you restart the computer, just put the driver CD in, and you should be set. This procedure took me about 15 minutes including the taking of the pictures.

Hack of the Month #2 Telling the Cable company To @#$% off Preview

OK, First the ground rules :)  Off and On during the next month I’m going to try and pretend that I’ve turned Cable TV off, but being the TV junkie I am, have to get my fix from the Internet. There are a couple of possibilities, one of them requires hooking a computer to your TV, one of them requires setting up what is called a Media Extender, and in some cases, I may be able to access this from my Playstation 3

This will be a work in progress, as my sound system is in the shop being repaired. I don’t expect to get all of these part finished until the end of July. In the next few days, I’m going to cover the basic terminology. For my purposes, I’m going to grade each of these methods by seeing if I can watch the following shows:

Rescue Me

Burn Notice

The Closer

Kings

I’m interested in seeing what happens

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