Tuesday, May 7, 2013

An so it begins...

I've gone cycling four days now. Once last weekend (40kms), once this past weekend (33kms), yesterday to and from work (42kms), and now today (21kms so far, until I ride home).

My shoulder and neck feel pretty good (knock on wood). There have been a few times that I felt my bicep tingle, as a result of my neck, but pulling my shoulders back seems to alleviate that.

The morning rides to work are still a little on the chilly side at 10c.

I'm finding it a little difficult to motivate myself to ride. In past years, I wouldn't hesitate to go, but now I have to guilt myself into doing it. :) I haven't done any Nike+ workouts in weeks, so this is my one and only major physical activity.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pebble: E-Paper Watch

After almost a year of waiting, my Pebble E-Paper Watch finally arrived yesterday!

I invested in this Kickstarter project at the $115 level a few weeks before it had ended. Because I'm in Canada, I paid an extra $10 for S&H.

What this got me was a black Pebble watch.

The box it arrived in was pretty cool. The unboxing was really uneventful  Pull the cardboard "zipper", flip open the top and voila.

A watch and a USB charging cable, with instructions on the inside telling me to go to go.getpebble.com to configure it.

I already had the iOS app installed, so the phone was paired via Bluetooth and running in no time, after it received a firmware update during this process. (I read messages after on the Pebble Facebook that some people's watches were bricked during firmware updates..)


Some of the watch faces I loaded,
displayed with the backlight on.
Even when off, it's still very readable.
Using the phone app, I can send a "ping" to the watch to verify that it is paired (it makes the watch vibrate), or I can choose from 11 additional watch faces to add to the 3 or 4 that came with the watch. You can't load them all at the same time. I tried and it told me I had to remove some before I could add more. I narrowed my choices down to 7 for now. I assume if I ever add an other functionality to the watch in the future, I may have to remove more to make room.

I don't think the app does much else that I can see. During the initial fundraising they talked about a cycling app to track stats in conjunction with your phone. I hope that's still coming because that's the main reason I invested.

The watch itself is plastic and seems quite durable and lightweight. The strap is some kind of rubber and I think it'll last as well. It supposedly a standard size strap so can be replaced by any watch strap if I wish.

One thing that I'm not particularly fond of is its size. Maybe my wrists are a little narrow for a 6'3" 230lb man, but as you can see in the photo, it's fairly large.

You can also see how readable it is without the backlight
in this photo.
On top of that, I haven't worn a watch in a long time so this will take some getting used to.

There's a grand total of four buttons on the watch. One on the left, beside the magnetic charging... err... nubs? This is basically the "home/back" button. On the right, there's an "up", "select/menu", and "down" button.

The watch can be turned on by holding down any of the buttons for 2 seconds. Pressing the middle (select/menu) button opens the menu where you can choose the music feature (to control your phone's default music player), set an alarm, choose from the installed watch faces, or go into settings where there are some very basic configuration settings, and an option to shutdown the watch.

What exactly does the watch DO?

Well, I can only speak for the iPhone pairing, but when your SMS/iMessages are configured to display notifications on the home screen, they will also appear on the watch. The watch will also vibrate to let you know. That's pretty handy if your phone in your pocket or bag. Not that you can only read the message while it's displayed. If you press the home/back button, it's gone and you'll need to read it from your phone. I know that's by design, and probably not such a big deal to most people. I just think it would have been cool if it cached a few messages to read later. It also does the same thing for emails. If the message is long, the up/down buttons will let you scroll to read it all.

It can also control the iPhone's default music player. Play/pause and skip fwd/rev. It seems to play your music list in shuffle mode.

That's about it. For now?

The battery life is supposed to be 2-7 days. That seems like quite a varied range. The last firmware update supposedly improved it after some were complaining it was less. We'll see how this goes.

The charger cable is kinda cool. It connects via two small magnets and plugs into any 5v USB port/charger. This also makes the watch waterproof up to 5ATM.

Because it is waterproof, there is no way to replace the battery when the watch finally dies. That's it, that's all, it's dead.

The watch now sells for $150 USD from the Pebble web site. They're still fulfilling Kickstarter backers and then the pre-orders, so expect a very long wait if you decide to order one. Many backers are becoming irate.

Is this watch worth $150 USD? I'm somewhat undecided, at least with its existing functionality. If apps start coming out for it, then may I'd lean more toward yes. I'm still hoping for the cycling stats app.

But then again, if you're the extremely geeky "must have" type, you might want one anyway.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Almost time

Today I was thinking that it's almost time to start cycling again. I checked my saved GPS logs to see what day I started last year and it's actually 1 year ago tomorrow.

There's still a little bit of snow on the ground due to a surprise snow storm over the last two days, but I think next weekend will be the first time out for this year. I hope so anyway.

My shoulder has been feeling pretty good, overall. I've had a few days where it didn't feel quite right, but I can associate those days with not doing any workouts in the days prior.

Whenever I go for a couple of days without any workouts, I can feel my arm and my shoulder begin to stiffen up, and then I also feel it in my neck.

Ever since I pull my calf muscle, my workouts have been very sporadic. I'm sure there's some laziness thrown in there, but mostly it's because of a fear that it's going to happen again. A few times last week, I felt the calf muscle tighten up just from walking up stairs. It's been ok for the last week though.

I have to make more of an effort to do something. Anything, to keep them loosened up, or I'm going to be in the same situation as last year.

For such a lazy bastard that I can be, I sure love cycling. Without it... I don't know what I'd do. I don't think of it as exercise as some people might. A motorcyclist could probably relate to the same feeling that it gives me. Except this is under my own power.

A 360 degree sight and sound freedom experience.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Do you really "Like" it?

Complaints about advertising on Facebook aren't new. Neither are the complaints about the type of advertising being shown. Some are outraged and what appears on their timeline because it's so unrelated to the type of things they like.

I mean, does anyone really like "Spamlamdex Quick'n'Easy Hair Removal"?  So I made that one up, but it isn't too far fetched if what this article describes is true: Facing Up To Facebook Scams

It's apparently called "Like farming". I'll paraphrase what the article says:
  1. Your friend "likes" a photo, for whatever reason (we'll get into the reasons in a moment)
  2. You see that they liked it and you decide to like it too.
  3. The photo goes viral and receives tens of thousands of "Likes".
  4. The person who posted the photo sells the group the photo was posted in to some shady product/brand.
  5. That product/brand now has a group with thousands of likes on one of their photos, and in return — because you "Liked" their photo — they can share their advertising with you on your timeline.
Shady, low, sneaky, evil... but genius.

What kinds of images are we talking about?

The linked article mentions images with "Name a city without an 'R' in it. It's harder than it looks!", "'Like' if you hate cancer.", "'Like' if you hate bullying.", "If I get enough 'likes,' my dad will quit drugs."

Others that come to mind are "How many squares in this picture?", "Type (some word) in the comments to see what happens next!", and any mathematical equation images like "4+1x0+2=?".

There are hundreds of groups that consist of nothing but funny pictures. Humourous greeting cards. Cute kitten pics. Inspirational sayings. Funny quotes.

It wouldn't surprise me if many of those exist for this very reason.

If you Google "Like farming" you 'll find other similar articles about it.

The way I see it, unless your friend actually uploaded that image you Liked, expect the unexpected to appear on your timeline.

You can probably minimize the like-related ads by going into your Likes on Facebook and cleaning them up, "Unlike" anything that looks suspicious or that you don't remember liking.

Friday, March 29, 2013

They say that all good things must come to an end



A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while


On April 2nd, Don McLean's "American Pie" will be the very last Rock Band song.

Ever.

Supposedly.

But from what I read on Twitter, it may not be the last ever, but it is the end of the weekly download content that has been flowing for years.


We bough so many songs. We probably have more invested in Rock Band songs than we do in the Xbox and all the other games we own.

I have some good memories of playing Rock Band, Rock Band 2, and Rock Band 3 over the years. It's the only video game that my wife played often on our Xbox. She refused to play any instrument other than guitar. Bass was boring. Guitar was a challenge. And she was pretty damn good at it too.

I remember struggling to move from Medium difficulty to Hard, and having to deal with more than 3 buttons. I thought for sure that I would never learn to play without looking at the neck of the guitar and be able to transition my fingers up and down the neck of the guitar without forgetting where I was.

I remember the first time my wife and I gold starred a song and how awesome it felt. Sounds silly, I know, but it was a cool moment.

I remember the day my wife and I decided to go for the "Never-ending Setlist" achievement, and how it took much longer than we expected, and how patient our kids were waiting to be fed, late, that evening. :)

I remember the first time playing drums. And how "real" it felt to nail a tricky beat on expert as if it had never been a problem.

It still amazes me how my fingers seem to magically press all the right buttons in sequence to a seemingly impossible stream of notes cruising down the TV screen.


I remember the first time I got 100% on a song, on expert, and how it made want to thrust my fist in the air and yell "FUCK YEH!"

And sometimes I did just that.

There has always been criticism from the naysayers about how "real" Rock Band is — or not real, as the case may be. "Play a real instrument!" they'd say.

It's a game. A fun game. And for some people, it inspired them to learn real instrument. How can that be so bad?

Good times. Lots of them. With family and friends. And as long as I can make our remaining guitars and drum kit last, the good times will last.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Calf Update

That almost sounds like I'm a farming blog entry...

Anyway, my left calf seems to be healing well. I still don't know exactly what was wrong with it, but I'm limping less and the discomfort isn't happening as often.

At one point last night, while I was walking up to my front door, I realized that I wasn't limping at all and there was absolutely no tightness for about 10 steps. That's promising.

I'm anxious to resume my workouts, but I think when I do I'll be skipping anything that involves jumping or hopping or jogging for a while. Doing half the routines will be better than none at all.

I had a dream last night that I was cycling. I'm hoping that's a good omen of what's to come this spring. :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Otter Box arrived

It took a little longer than the last time, but the new warranty replacement Otter Box for my iPhone arrived today.

Again, I love the no hassle warranty on these. Clearly the original investment was worth it since it has spared my phone from damage after (more than) a few accidental drops. While it's a bulkier case than most, it does the job and it does it well. I don't think I could use any other case.