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The Nike Fuelband – A daily reminder of just how lazy you are!

Nike FuelBand

Nike FuelBand

The idea of constant 24 hr feedback on daily activity has always intrigued me especially as our lives become more and more sedentary.  Pedometers have been around for a while but with the latest improvements in technology the growth in offerings for personal activity recorders has vastly improved.  I picked the Nike Fuelband from the options as its worn directly on the body (right or left wrist) versus attached to a piece of clothing or a belt which doesn’t appeal to me.  It is always on and recording my activity, aside from when I have it charging or updating on the laptop, so it gives a great insight into a 24 hour window of activity without being specifically focused on steps.

The device is very easy to use with a single button bringing up all displays and controlling all options.  The device itself will show you readouts at the touch of a button on Fuel(an activity calculation), Calories, Steps and Time.  You can also disable the Bluetooth for when in flight and it gives feedback on battery level to warn when you need to charge.  The battery life is excellent and I only need to charge every 3 or 4 days.  I sync it daily with my iPhone Nike Fuelband app to upload the data to my Nike+ account. See screen shot below from the iPhone of data display for a particular day.

Nike iPhone App

Nike iPhone App

The screen shot below is from my Nike+ web account.  It gives a nice breakdown of activity over the whole day showing number of steps, calories, distance and when you were most active similar to the iPhone app above.  As with other Nike apps you can set targets and challenges and share your progress across Twitter or Facebook. My Nike+ web account has the added advantage in that it pulls together the info from my Nike iPhone App and the Fuelband (and other Nike tracking devices if you have them).

Nike Web Screen

Nike Web Screen

I wanted to try these 24 hr monitors to get a better sense of my activity(which is not a lot!).  Working on a computer all day combined with relatively long commutes and small kids can leave very little time to indulge in multiple trips to the gym each week.  Even at that when the health fit kicked in it seemed hard to shift all those pounds that have added on over the years.  The Nike Fuelband has given me a much better insight into my average and particularly worst days.  It has reinforced the fact that a number of small things over a whole day versus 3 or 4 trips to the gym every week can be significantly more rewarding from the health point of view.  All common sense stuff but when the figures are thrown in front of you on a daily basis and you can analyze the last day, week and month it can be quite shocking and eye-opening.

My worst days were those I worked from home.  There is obviously no walk for the train, to the car, to the bus, to the office and then to meetings or lunch.  I go from my kitchen to the attic conversion and sit in front of the computer from maybe 7am or 8am until 5pm or 6pm.  With a couple of breaks for lunch and a cup of coffee.  I normally got a score of 400-600 Fuel points on these days.  That compared with an average work day of about 1800 Fuel points or a Saturday cutting the grass, playing a game of tennis with the kids and just doing a few bits around the house where I would score over 3000 Fuel points.

Other simple small changes like the healthy heart ad states ‘get off a bus stop earlier’ can make a big difference.  Wise words, common sense and very obvious but I (we) all too often hear these messages but don’t action them.  Amazing over a day how a number of these small changes can help you hit your fuel target easier than trying to make time for a trip to the gym.  So the device won’t lose the weight for me but it might just be that piece that reinforces the serious need for a whole lifestyle habit change and helps me do it at a more consistent level across my day versus spurts a few times a week.

If considering buying there are a few things to note.  If your main activity is biking or swimming then this is not the device for you.  Its worn on the wrist so I am not sure if on a bike how accurate it would capture your activity if at all.  Nike state you can shower with the device but it’s not waterproof.  So swimming is not an option which frustrates me a little as I do like to go for a swim.  Also I haven’t had the cojones to wear it in the shower for fear I kill it.  In my head if it’s not waterproof then it stays away from water, showers included!

Feedback for Nike and improvements?

  • Make it waterproof!
  • It would be great if there was GPS and thus location and elevation info captured (or at least integrated better with your smartphone app to capture this – see next point)
  • Nike Apps – presently there are a number of Nike Apps. So when I go for a run (fast walk!) I use the Nike Running app and then when I come back I have to sync my Fuelband to my Nike Fuelband app.  This just seems a little crazy.  There should be one Nike app that can integrate the data across the different devices you have be that the Nike App, Fuelband, Sportswatch, etc
  • Continue to improve on the Nike+ web piece.  While it has improved greatly over the last year they should(will)) continue to develop and they should add some features like weight tracking and body measurements.

So that is it.  I think it’s a great piece of tech and when used correctly could really help some of us to improve our lifestyle on a more consistent basis.  The fact it is a 24 hr all day tracking system means its a lifestyle monitor for anyone to use and learn from and not just a piece of gear for serious runners and athletes. People have made the odd comment such as ‘oh you can fool it by shaking your arm!’ but in these cases it’s not really the device you are fooling.  When it’s used as it is designed it really is an excellent, easy to use, put on and forget piece of tech.  Highly recommended for those so inclined!

My shelves are paperless thanks to the iPad

Where once there stood books, print-outs and folders there only stands a few ornaments and keepsakes.  The paper is all gone.  I have a couple of posts already on trying to go paperless and honestly it has taken a few years to get here and the final piece has been possible because of the iPad.  After getting rid of filing cabinets in favour of electronic files on Sharepoint I also tried to go paperless with a tablet computer but it all seemed like too much work so paper still played a large part of both my personal and work life.  However, with the addition of the iPad and the growing number of good apps and gadgets that accompany it I am glad to say that now I am truly paperless.  All the papers that sat on my shelves mostly gathering dust are gone.  Donated, recycled or shredded.  Obviously some companies still send paper invoices by post but that is the exception rather than the rule now and mostly outside of my control.  Companies that allow selection of paperless invoicing such as O2 I have selected that option.

So yes I use the iPad!  The apps I use that enable me to go paperless are:

  • Studio Basic + > Using this app in conjunction with the Studio i pen means I really can forget the pen and paper.  From note taking to signing off on invoices it’s all possible and better than the capacitive pens. See post on the Studio i here
  • Evernote > at last I am starting to really use Evernote and using it to store and categorise relevant items on the web, documents and for work.  Easily accessible from any of my computers or mobile devices.
  • Instapaper > Loving this to aggregate pieces from all over the web and then maybe once a week I can flick through and mark items as favourites, send to Evernote, archive or delete.  No more printing of articles and stacked on a shelf
  • Adobe Createpdf > If I get a Powerpoint presentation, Word Document or Excel file that I want to read and mark up I quickly use CreatePDF to turn it into a pdf and then I open it in Studio Basic where I can use the excellent Studio i pen to mark up the document as I would if it were printed on a piece of paper.
  • QuickOffice > For opening any Powerpoint, Excel or Word office document
  • Scanner Pro > This little app is for the iPhone but works on the iPad2 OK.  I can take a pic with the iPad2 with this app and ‘scan’ it straight as a pdf to Evernote, photo library, google docs or share it via email.  No need to walk and look for a scanner or carry the paper around with me.  Scan it and go.
  • Flipboard > For consumption of my favourite web sites. News, tech, cars and more…..
  • Kindle > For all my books both personal and work.  Any good books I had I have purchased the electronic version and recycled\donated the paper ones I had on the shelf.
  • Newsstand – Focus Magazine > The BBC science magazine I subscribe to.  (Excellent app – see post here )
  • Newsstand – The Guardian Newspaper > – For the daily news obviously
  • Zinio – For the F1 Racing magazine > My subscription to the paper mag has ended so from now on I’ll be purchasing the electronic version on Zinio
  • The Journal > For daily news with an Irish focus
  • Dropbox > If needed for file access but I  am favouring Evernote over this lately just for document storage.

In my last post I mentioned Goodreader but while they have added features I feel it is clunky to use and navigate around.  Evernote is a much slicker app.  And for my pdfs and marking up as mentioned I now use Studio Basic.  A few other apps have fallen by the wayside along the way.

I am really enjoying my clutter free desk and note needing to carry books, magazines and print outs when ever I travel or even to and from work.  Its takes some time to get used to and at the start it can be tempting to just print something out of habit but I would recommend it to all.  Spend some time finding the apps you need to lighten your paper load and enjoy only carrying an iPad wherever you go.

Is the iPad the best personal gaming device out there?

F1 Game

Yes it is! OK so I am not a huge gaming person and have spent very little time on devices like a PSP or Nintendo DS or other variants so you may ask what qualifies me to judge just what the best one is.  I can obviously appreciate the basics that they offer (or at least try!) and have at times been somewhat envious on long trips watching people pass the hours saving the universe or other such heroic deeds.  However I never once wanted to purchase one personally for a multitude of reasons but there are kids in my house now so there are DS’s and a PSP.  I have spent a little bit of time on them and either the small screen or button location and/or configuration meant I soon put them down.

I wrote another blog post here about a game Modern Combat 3 I downloaded recently for the iPad and really liked.  For the first time in a long time I got the urge to continue playing a computer game.  The game is excellent but a big piece for me was the fact it was on the iPad. While I had talked and wrote about the flexibility of the iPad for such pursuits I hadn’t really gotten submerged in using it in such a ‘pastime’ as it honestly has mostly been more work\learning focused way.

The iPad screen size for gaming is fantastic and so much better than any of those other gaming devices.  It is light, easy to use and I can move and place the buttons for game play anywhere I want (at least in some games).  The battery life is superb and best of all is the price of each game.  Instead of paying €40, €50, €60 or more for a game as they are on other personal devices they range mostly from free to €10.  My favourite was only €5.49! To enhance the experience you could purchase something like the fling joystick for iPad or a Padpivot and your iPad is supported and your device becomes the perfect steering wheel for a driving games or is just help for you while you play.  See video below:

I have a first gen iPad but those with the iPad 2 and an Apple TV can output the game to their TV and the device just becomes the controller.  Imagine those games on a 42″ TV as you sit with you personally customised controller and take on the world as you jump online as with any gaming console or device and play multiplayer games.  How very cool is that? If I was looking for a gaming device for anyone now I would only look at the iPad.  A very cool game platform with all the other uses tagged on.  An absolute arsenal of devices in one.

An app that means I don’t hate Dublin Bus! Real-time bus times!

I have thrown my fair share of colourful language at Dublin Bus over the years. Standing waiting 20, 30, 40 or 50 mins for buses that are supposed to be every 10 mins. Not knowing if I had just missed one and have an hour of waiting or if there is one just around the corner. The frustration and annoyance on time lost and trains missed on many an evening has often been enough to ruin an otherwise good day.

The Dublin Bus free app has gone a long way to eliminate all that. It doesn’t guarantee the buses will be every 10 mins but unlike the train table it’s not a static list of expected times it’s a list in real-time when your next bus will be at your stop. No more waiting and time-wasting. I can check the app in the office. Leg it out the door if a bus is a few minutes down the road or hang on and get some more work done if its 30 or 40 mins away. A more efficient use of my time. I am not getting frustrated with Dublin Bus, and I am missing a lot less trains. The buses are not running any more frequently, the traffic is not any better, it’s simply that I have real-time info to hand that helps me use my time better and lets me know when I can get a bus.

I have added the 2 stops I use every day to favourites in the app and thus can jump in and out to check whenever I need. The app does so much more that I havent even explored as I haven’t had the need such as planning a route, searching for nearby stops based on GPS, searching for stops based on address, bus info based on route or stop number.

I don’t need the latest shiniest phone. I can get it on the current models and there is a version for Android (or coming in November I believe). This is surely what mobile tech and apps are all about. Simple, practical real-time info that actually helps improve our everyday lives if even just a little bit. It’s very simple but for me it has been very very effective. So for this Dublin Bus I say thank you!

Nike+ GPS for iPhone. Just Download it!

In a recent effort to try to get back doing some regular exercise I downloaded the Nike+ GPS app to help.  I talk about all the mushy reasons on the health kick here  if you really want to know.  However, back to the app.  I like my lists.  I like some visual reinforcement of what I have done and what I need to do so was looking for an app to help track my progress.  I knew of the Nike app but thought you had to purchase some do-da thing that tracked your movement and linked to your iPhone and was pleasantly surprised with the new (or new to me) Nike+ GPS app when I came across it.  The app itself tracks and records my runs.  The duration, pace and GPS data.  It then allows me to update my run with pieces of info such as weather, how I felt and the type of terrain.   It plays music from the iPod and gives audio feedback on distance and speed.  It’ll share your run on Twitter or Facebook if you wish.  The GPS data it gathers is great and it maps out with extraordinary accuracy your route and shows you on the route map your pace so you can see where exactly you slowed down or speeded up.  It also works indoors.  As in you can jump up on your treadmill to record your runs.  It uses the accelerometer in the iPhone.  The first few times you may need to calibrate it (and make sure you select indoor) but it was very accurate and within a few metres of the distance recorded on the treadmill in my testing.

However the best bit for me is the website and app combination.  You can set-up your account on the website and have your runs sync with your web profile automatically.  On the site you can set targets, track your progress and get training schedules.  And it caters for all.  Not just marathon runners but for people like me starting off just trying to get back into running (or fast walking!).  There are a few more options for real runners like challenges but the above was just what I needed.  For €1.49 it is a superb app that gives the main features of much more expensive GPS training devices and for me it suits just perfect.  There are a few things I would like to see changed.  The little sound bites when you record a new distance or fastest speed that get blasted in your ears are a little cringing and too much use of the word ‘awesome’.  The website I think could be improved but it doesn’t really take away from the core usefulness of the app.

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