2014 Carbon Steel Basis vs. Fitbit Force: Same Day, Different Readings!

About 3 years ago I started wearing a Fitbit fitness tracker. A year or so later I upgraded to the Fitbit Ultra, and then in October 2012 to the Fitbit One. This last November I bought a Fitbit Force. While I’ve been generally happy with the Fitbits I’ve had, for reasons both hardware and software, the 2014 Carbon Steel Basis health tracker tempted me into buying it (Well that and the fact I’m a Smartwatch enthusiast, so I can kill 2 birds with 1 device). I’ve worn both simultaneously for about a week now, and aside from looking pretty funny, I have come up with some conclusions when it comes to accuracy, software ability, tracking ability, and appearance. Let’s dive in!

The 2014 Carbon Steel Basis
The 2014 Carbon Steel Basis

 

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One Line Wisdom: Windows Mobile Edition

In the past we’ve asked you to share your best tips with the community, and in the same vein comes my newest talking point, the elusive yet useful joys of a small nugget of wisdom. Your mission, dear community, is to share one short line of wisdom that you might give to new users of Windows Mobile devices, old vets, and recent converts from “dumbphones”. Feel free to expound on your one-liner, but the one-liner should be able to stand on it’s own. Here’s mine:

When it comes to software, less is more

My line refers to the temptation some users get to trick out their phones with every conceivable application under the sun. And trust me – I was no exception to this when I started out with Windows Mobile. I had (still have actually) registration codes for easily the top 30 applications for Windows Mobile. I tried everything, bought most of it, and today use almost none of it. Aside from 3-5 applications I install, my device remains stock. Why? Well it isn’t that the software isn’t well written, it’s simply that I know what I use and try to avoid the clutter of unused doodads. When you find the software that really works for you, you don’t need to spend hours tinkering with everything else. Your smartphone just works, smartly, for you.

Now it’s your turn – share your line of wisdom and explanation (Perhaps it’s When it comes to software, use everything!”)!

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LocateMe Locates Us a Contest!

http://www.appliedpda.com/

“Easily share your coordinates with others through Email or SMS. Simply select a recipient then press the ‘Send’ button. It is that quick! No extra typing required. The messages are automatically constructed for you by LocateMe.”

LocateMe provides a novel way to let others know what’s going on when you’re running late, or simply want them to be able to find you. I can see myself wanting this for those moments I know I’m going to be a bit late and want others to know where I am so they can estimate when I’ll be there. And for those of us who are late and lucky, Applied PDA Software has offered to give away 5 copies of LocateMe to lucky Thoughts readers. All you need to do is tell us what you would use LocateMe for. When the contest closes, the publisher will pick their top answers and we’ll announce the winners! You have until 12 Noon MST on 1/29/2009 to enter in your answer. Good Luck Everyone!

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Jon’s Linux Experiment – Part 3 – Watching DVDs

This last Christmas (the one a few weeks ago), my totally awesome in-laws bought me something every geek should own, Star Trek: The Next Generation – that’s right, all 179 stupendous episodes (Yes, even “The Naked Now” counts as stupendous… just barely). So when I started messing around with my new Linux machine, I wanted to watch my TNG as I had with the old Compaq.

Which brings me to a funny point about Ubuntu: An almost fanatical devotion to Open Source. Open Source means software has to be licensed under particular licenses – and that little piece of software that actually plays back an encrypted (e.g. store-bought) DVD is not under the right sort of license. Therefore, it isn’t available out of the box. Boo! (for the pain, not for Open Source).

Fortunately many  other geeks have had the same desire to watch Star Trek and have put together a plethora of posts like this one explaining what to do to solve the problem. I could post to any one of them, but figured I’d write it up again with the help of two websites I found particularly helpful – this one and this one. For Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) here’s what I did to get DVD playback going as well as playing it with my media browser of choice, VLC.

1. Add the Medibuntu sources to your aptitude sources list:

sudo wget http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/intrepid.list --output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list<br /><br /><font face="sans-serif">2. Run this pretty awesome command line and answer "yes" when it prompts you:<br /><br /></font>sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install medibuntu-keyring && sudo apt-get update<br /><br /><font face="sans-serif">3. Install the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.videolan.org/developers/libdvdcss.html">libdvdcss2</a> package, which you need to view DVDs</font><br /><br /><font face="Courier New">sudo apt-get install libdvdcss2</font><br /><br /><font face="sans-serif">4. (Optional) Install another package that will let you play non-free codecs that you may want to view if you're coming from a windows world (such as Real player, quicktime, etc...)</font><br />

sudo apt-get install w32codecs

5. (Optional) Install VLC and make it your default video player for DVDs

sudo apt-get -y install vlc

6. Change file associations to VLC (if you installed it in step 5)

a) Edit /etc/gnome/defaults.list  and change “totem.desktop” to “vlc.desktop” in the line containing “x-content/video-dvd)
b) In Nautilus go to Edit, then Preferences. On the Media tab, select VLC as the drop down choice for DVD-Video.
c) Right click on Applications and choose “edit Menus”. Find VLC and change it’s source to vlc %m instead of vlc %f

So there you have it, how I was able to get down to enjoying ST:TNG on my new Ubuntu system. One rather strange caveat though: My DVD drive decided to spin like a freaking monster while playing the first DVD. I realized it was spinning as fast as possible, not spun down when it was just going along at a steady pace. I used the following command to change it to 4x which was fast enough for all my purposes, and made it sound less like my laptop was planning to take off:

sudo hdparm -E 4 /dev/scd0

You can always change it back later by changing the 4 to whatever multiplier you’d like (e.g. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, etc…)

Feel In Touch: The Samsung Omnia Reviewed

http://omnia.samsungmobile.com/

Product Category: Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional SmartphoneManufacturer: SamsungWhere to Buy: Expansys [Affiliate]Price: $689 USD (16 GB), $634 USD (8 GB)Specifications: 5 MP Camera, 3.2 TFT WQVGA Touch screen (240 x 400), Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi 802.11g, Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE, HSDPA 7.2 Mbits, TV-out, FM Radio, Integrated GPS, microSDHC, 1440mA battery

Pros:

  • Fun to use & responsive;
  • Sleek design;
  • Innovative value-added features (e.g. flashlight, haptic feedback).

Cons:

  • Widget Bar: full of promise, low on usability;
  • No multitouch ability;
  • Price and availability.

Summary: I’ve posted news on the Samsung Omnia over the last few months and found it to be interesting enough to purchase. What I found when I opened the box got me excited to be using Windows Mobile again, something I doubted could ever happen. Read on for my experience re-discovering the OS through Samsung’s vision of usability.Getting To Know The Omnia

The Omnia measures 113 x 49 x 15.1 mm (4.45 x 1.93 x .59 in) and weighs in at 140g (4.94 oz). It feels nice and light to the touch without feeling cheap. The first thing that a Windows Mobile user will notice is the absence of a normal D-Pad. The Omnia sports a call send, call end, and action button on the front, with the action button holding a surprise. Not only does it work like the normal center button on a D-Pad, it IS the D-Pad. Moving your finger from side to side or up and down will scroll as if using a normal D-Pad. And if that doesn’t float your boat, Samsung has also built in a mouse function that will let the little black action button control an on-screen mouse pointer. Functionality similar to a laptop’s touch pad is provided, with fairly good accuracy while mousing around the screen. Turning the device on shows Samsung’s unique homescreen, slightly customized below (I needed a time readout!).

Figure 1: Samsung’s widget bar, which is shown by clicking the arrow has widgets that can be dragged onto the home screen. The widgets, however, are not customizable (e.g. you cannot add new or remove existing).

For those of you not into Samsung’s new look, they also provide a more normal home screen layout sans widgets. Below is the layout I’ve been using.

Figure 2: Alternate home screen, pressing Settings slides the icons to the right and shows Figure 3.

Figure 3: The settings panel, allowing you to quickly toggle vibrate, Motion (the ability to detect orientation changes and adjust screen rotation), USB mode (Activesync vs. Mass Storage), on-screen mouse, and flashlight (activating the LED flash in continuous mode).

In addition to the funky home screen that is pretty usable, the device also has its own Main Menu, in a further attempt to prevent you from ever having to deal with Windows Mobile’s ugly Programs menu (well, ugly by some standards – I actually like it…)

Figure 4: Samsung’s Main Menu.

Figure 5: Modifying the Shortcuts.

The Omnia also includes Samsung’s “Touch Player”, a more finger centric and friendly interface to listen to music compared to regular old Windows Media Player that we’ve had since the stylus-intense days of old.

Which brings up an interesting point regarding a stylus and the Omnia – namely they don’t want you putting the thing anywhere near the screen. Sure, they include a stylus (a retractable one at that), but it doesn’t have a silo in the device to store it. In fact, the best they can do is put a loop on the end of it so you can hook it to a hook on the device. Why? Well, they want you using your fingers see – and they will not be deterred by us old timers who long for our styli!

Figure 6: Samsung’s Touch Player

Integrated Camera

The Omnia sports a 5mp camera, with LED flash as well as video recording support. The camera works very well under direct lighting, and in the dark thanks to the flash. It’s medium lighting situations where you may get some blurring (as in the third example shot below). Overall the Omnia’s 5mp means that I don’t have to carry around my pocket camera/camcorder, however I find myself still putting it in my bag – just to be on the safe side. For each of the sample shots below, click on the image to get the full, undoctored, picture.

Figure 7: Looks warmer than it really is…

Figure 8: Everyone needs a dressed-up Jamaican Head.

Figure 9: Notice how the medium light makes this picture the blurriest of the three.

“Wow Cool” Features

The Omnia shines in the areas that Samsung has taken the time to improve over a stock Windows Mobile 6.1 core. While WinMo 6.1 is extremely powerful, it’s not anything new or interesting for those of us who have been using these devices for quite some time, and it darn sure isn’t anything that would make you stop and go “Wow… Cool”. But here are some things I found somewhat innovative and “Wow… Cool”-ish about the Omnia.

  • The front camera that is actually useful for those without voice calling: it detects light level to increase or decrease screen brightness, and also (in conjunction with the accelerometer) can enter an “etiquette” mode. You turn the phone over on its face, and it automatically mutes all sounds.
  • The Finger Mouse. Toggle-able from the homescreen, it turns the D-Button (the black button that is sensitive to touch and can act like a D-Pad in one mode or control an on-screen mouse in another). Not useful in all situations, but in some it really shines. Hence the much appreciated toggle on the Samsung today screen for it.
  • The built-in Samsung SIP that’s actually surprisingly useful for someone with big fingers to enter text into. For the ultimate dream though, a third-party app like SPB’s Full-Screen Keyboard really makes one forget about a dedicated keyboard.
  • The flashlight feature that lets the light used for a “flash” actually serves some function. Hold the volume key down for 5 seconds and it turns on, letting you navigate your way through a dark room.
  • The haptic feedback (how did I get to bullet four without mentioning this already): it’s very nice to get some responsiveness after a keypress, a screen rotation, even a quick button press. The weird thing? This could have been implemented years ago – we all had “vibrate” motors!
  • The value added applications such as an RSS feed reader, world clock, reader, converter and even video editor. Nevermind the FM radio built in as well as TV-OUT capabilities.
  • The smoothness of integration. While some gaps are present, Samsung excels at providing one of the best integrations of OEM components and Windows Mobile that I’ve seen to date.

Head to Head: Omnia vs. Touch Pro

The Omnia came to me mid-October, and after playing with it for awhile, I realized that I needed to view it in comparison to another popular device of its generation, the Touch Pro (a.k.a. the AT&T Fuze). So, without another Windows Mobile Maven around me to bum a device off of, I did the only sensible thing – I bought a Fuze at my local AT&T store (WM Devices are my only real vice, I decided to forgo excessive drinking in my undergraduate days to have cash for them..;). Anyway, it is that purchase that was the genesis of this piece of the review: the head to head comparison. I’ll compare the two devices on four important qualities: Touch Responsiveness, Windows Mobile Customization, Daily Use, and Subjective Value (i.e. my own opinion).

Touch Responsiveness

Quick Response is something near and dear to most Windows Mobile Enthusiasts, and let’s face it, our beloved operating system can at times have the quick response of a party-loving college freshman on Saturday morning. Especially important is the fact that these devices need to respond quickly to touch as touch is really the only thing that you’re encouraged to do with them. The Omnia has a nice haptic feedback feature that I’ve already mentioned that lets you ‘feel’ when some touches are recorded, which is nice if the screen doesn’t draw quickly to let you know that you’re changing. But the Touch Pro will not be outdone – its screen draws in a side-by-side comparison were faster about 80% of the time for me. I know others out there have been critical of the Touch Pro and Touch Diamond’s graphics performance, but at least for the devices I’m using, it seemed to draw quicker. Finally, the last test is entering text. Samsung gives a nice finger-keyboard SIP they custom designed, as does the Touch Pro. I swapped Samsung’s out for a copy of SPB Keyboard 3.0 and was not disappointed. But as it comes stock, I do have to admit that the Omnia does a bit better keying in data, of course the Touch Pro has a real keyboard that can prevent finger-tap-keying in the first place. It’s a touch decision, but in the end I’ll have to go with the one that vibrates.

ADVANTAGE: Omnia

Windows Mobile Customization

Samsung certainly has made a bold statement with their widget bar, and the Touch Pro’s TouchFlo interface doesn’t much resemble the home screen we all known and love (loathe) either. If you’re after information, and a quick way to find it, you’ll like TouchFlo much better than the widget bar, or even Samsung’s alternate interface (See Figures 2 & 3). TouchFlo, however, can be a bit sluggish until you learn the tricks (e.g. that you can hold down your finger on each icon at the bottom and rapidly scroll to the other icons). In the useful category, I’m going to have to give HTC Props, but in the “cool” category, the widget bar does have a more impressive show to put on. Which wins out in the end?

ADVANTAGE: Touch Pro

Daily Use

I recently took a trip to Chicago for a conference and brought both the Touch Pro and the Omnia along with me. Over four days I used the Touch Pro for 2 and the Omnia for the other 2. Interestingly enough, I found that while the Touch Pro could be excellent to browse quick e-mails (e.g. by using the e-mail and text tabs in TouchFlo), it had some strange quirks. The version of Google Maps I’d loaded on it took forever to get a GPS lock, even with a fresh “hint” file download. Google Maps also had the strange habit of going zombie on me. It would minimize but refuse to re-open, even if I stopped it in memory and tried to open it again. Only a soft-reset would help, causing some rather embarrassing moments while trying to navigate my way around another city (But on another note, Thank goodness for Google’s new public transit routing in major US cities!). The Touch Pro, aside from its zombieness did do an admirable job and does have a beautiful VGA screen that puts Samsung’s WQVGA to shame. It is my go-to device when I know I’ll need to enter a lot of text. The Omnia, however, never zombied up on me, got quick GPS locks, was adequate to read my e-mail, and has remained my daily driver ever since the trip.

ADVANTAGE: Omnia

Subjective Value

Subjectively, I like both of these devices (after all, I bought both…). But the Omnia seems to have a certain sexiness that the boxiness and thickness of the Touch Pro lack. Now I know that the Touch Pro needs to be a bit more bloated since it has a keyboard, but why couldn’t it include some of the “sexy” features like a 5mp camera, or better use of the accelerometer like the Omnia does out of the box? But like I mentioned before, if I plan on doing a lot of work using text input, the built-in keyboard will always win over the graphical based one. So My recommendation: if you do a lot of text, grab a Touch pro. If you don’t, or you just really love finger tapping out letters, go with an Omnia.

ADVANTAGE: Draw

Conclusion

After using the Omnia for about a month, I can actually say something I’ve been wishing were true for awhile: this is a device that makes me excited to use Windows Mobile again! Samsung has done a good job on their first attempt to seriously tweak the OS, and may have even outdone modifying kingpin HTC in some areas. I didn’t even mention the fact that the Omnia has at least 8 GB of on-board storage to play with, and there are many other nuances that make the Omnia very attractive. The Omnia is my new daily driver, and I’m eager to see what the next generation hardware/software combo from Samsung will be.

Jon Westfall is a Microsoft MVP, frequent contributor to the Thoughts Media family of sites, avid City of Hero player, and most importantly a person adrift in the sea of a doctoral dissertation, looking for an island on which to rest. Track his journey and learn more than you really want to know at JonWestfall.Com

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Pandora Puts Personalized Music On Windows Mobile Devices

http://www.phonescoop.com/news/item.php?n=3731

“Pandora provides a personalized, Internet-based radio service. Today, Pandora announced that it is extending its PC-based software to select Windows Mobile devices. The mobile version will have the same features as the online version, such as creating new stations, bookmarking songs, and rating songs with thumbs up or thumbs down. Pandora will initially support the Motorola Q9c and HTC XV6900 on Verizon’s network, and the Motorola Q9c and HTC Touch on Sprint’s network.”

Pandora provides a nice alternative when shuffle on your iPod/Zune/MP3 Player of choice is just being too repetitive. I’ve even found more than one new song that I like through it, and it’s nice to see that eventually we’ll all be able to play it on our WinMo devices, with initial support for a select few VZW & Sprint customers.

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Pharos Unveils New Traveler 117 and 127 Phones

http://www.pharosgps.com/buzz/buzz_…eler117_127.pdf

“Pharos introduced two new GPS smartphones that offer full-featured navigation and lightning-fast 3.5G connectivity on an unlocked, Windows Mobile handset. The Pharos Traveler 117 and 127 are Pharos’ first phones to include Pharos Smart Navigator, a unique hybrid navigation product that is the first to combine navigation software + location services on a Windows Mobile device”

I’ve long been a fan of Pharos Ostia GPS package, and their new hybrid phones that include the Smart Navigator component look pretty nice. Pharos has been at this phone thing now for a year or two – anyone out there have one or have an opinion on one?


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Building Software Based Experiments: Techniques, Tools, and Tips

Welcome to Jon Westfall’s Software Based Experiment Resource site. This site will begin it’s life to serve as a supplement to my contribution to the SJDM Computing Symposium, and continue on as a resource to other social scientists that seek simple solutions to building software. (Whoa, Holy Alliteration Batman!) If you have any questions, feel free to contact me for more information.

SK3 : An example of using Microsoft Visual Studio, Microsoft Internet Information Server, and Microsoft Frontpage extensions to build rich web-delivered data collection software. SK3 is a multi-stage escalation of commiment / Sunk Cost problem that presents the user various pieces of information and tracks what they look at, how long they look, and in what order they look before making a decision to continue to the next part or terminate the project. The problem used in SK3 is adapted from Schmidt & Calantone, “Escalation of commitment during new product development”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 30(2), 103-118

The source code provided here is licensed under the GPL. You are free to modify the work, however I do ask that you let me know of any modifications or revisions

SK3 is written in VB.NET, Visual Studio 2005

Pebl: The Psychology Experiment Based Language

LimeSurvey


Microsoft Dreamspark Program (Provides free versions of Microsoft development tools to undergraduate and graduate students at colleges or universities around the world)

Happy SysAdmin Day Everyone

Today is the last Friday in July, which means it’s SysAdmin day. The 9th annual SysAdmin day to be specific. Check out http://www.sysadminday.com/ for more information. The blurb on their frontpage pretty much says it all. Here it is, edited for length:
“A sysadmin unpacked the server for this website from its box, installed an operating system, patched it for security, made sure the power and air conditioning was working in the server room, monitored it for stability, set up the software, and kept backups in case anything went wrong. All to serve this webpage. A sysadmin installed the routers, laid the cables, configured the networks, set up the firewalls, and watched and guided the traffic for each hop of the network that runs over copper, fiber optic glass, and even the air itself to bring the Internet to your computer. All to make sure the webpage found its way from the server to your computer. When the email server goes down at 2 AM on a Sunday, your sysadmin is paged, wakes up, and goes to work.
A sysadmin is a professional, who plans, worries, hacks, fixes, pushes, advocates, protects and creates good computer
networks, to get you your data, to help you do work — to bring the potential of computing ever closer to reality. So if you can read this, thank your sysadmin — and know he or she is only one of dozens or possibly hundreds whose work brings you the email from your aunt on the West Coast, the instant message from your son at college, the free phone call from the friend in Australia, and this webpage. Friday, July 25th, 2008, is the 9th annual System Administrator Appreciation Day. On this special international day, give your System Administrator something that shows that you truly appreciate their hard work and dedication. Let’s face it, System Administrators get no respect 364 days a year. This is the day that all fellow System Administrators across the globe, will be showered with expensive sports cars and large piles of cash in appreciation of their diligent work. But seriously, we are asking for a nice token gift and some public acknowledgement. It’s the least you could do. ”
That being said, anyone want to know every SysAdmin’s favorite sight? The following, kudos if you know what generated it:
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