John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Tracking ski/board on the Fenix 3

I took a little hiatus from snow boarding but went to get back into it. Fortunately I checked ahead and found the ski/board app was missing from my Fenix. I searched and searched and could not find how to add it back. It turns out you can not do it from the phone, from what I can see. On the watch select settings, app, scroll down and select add. Then select Alpine ski. This adds the ski/board app onto the Fenix. Once there this app works very well. It can easily tell going down hill Vs being on the lift. It tacks the number of runs you got in and then the stats for each and every run. You do get a map of the run as well. The runs are visible in the Splits on Garmin connect. And at the end of your day you get moving time, elevation, and speed. The stats that come out of it are very good. If there is anything missing it’s that you don’t get the run names, or at least I didn’t but I was at a small private hill. Here’s some examples of the data you get. The whole data set is here for you. Of course temperature being on your wrist and under a jacket at bogus.

I did find it super easy to interrupt your recording, jacket cuffs, glove cuffs can all push on the buttons. I found it necessary to lock the Garmin which you can do by pressing and holding the power button and then selecting lock. Unlocking is done by pushing and holding the power button.

All in all it works well, and I was impressed.

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February 6, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Should I upgrade my Fenix 3 or should I buy a Fenix 3

This is a topic I see discussed frequently so I thought I would summarize everything I could think of on the subject, sort of a what’s new in the Fenix 5 (as well as other options) compare with the Fenix 3. I am the proud and happy owner of Fenix 3 (non-HR) and find myself pondering just this question. The Fenix 3 is an awesome watch. I use to completely love it’s smart watch function, well until I bought an Apple watch. But when it comes to activity tracking, back end website, navigation etc nothing beats Garmin. As a weekend warrior, weekends were made for my Garmin.

The Fenix 5 has now been on the market for a little while now so it’s been a real temptation for me, knowing there is something better out there … Like an itch you just wanna scratch :). Given my Fenix 3 does not have a heart rate monitor it means I have to either wear a chest strap or a wrist based HR in addition to the Fenix like my Scosche Rhythm+ or my Garmin Vivosmart HR (which can broadcast heart rate over to the fenix). So this added convenience would be a plus for me. And because it has no HR sensor it means I don’t get any all day heart rate data from the Fenix 3. Of course if you have a Fenix 3 HR then this particular point does not apply, but everything else will. I will also toss into the mix the Forerunner 645 and 935 into the thoughts as well …

Longevity
At this point Garmin are only releasing minor bug fixes for the Fenix 3/HR. No end of life date has been set (that I know of) for the Fenix 3, but one can see the writing on the wall, no future enhancements are likely in the cards for the Fenix 3. The Fenix 5 by comparison has seen additional functionality (HRV/VO2 etc) added since it’s announcement.

Additionally the building blocks of all apps, widgets and watch faces is called Connect IQ. From connect IQ 2.0 and going forward the Fenix 3/HR are not supported. So this means that certain apps/widgets/watch faces will not work. This is unlikely to change and is likely a permanent limitation going forward. DCR article on ConnectiQ.

Additional metrics
There are a number of additional metrics that the Fenix 5 offers that the Fenix 3/HR are likely to never offer. These include VO2Max, and HRV, and of course by wearing a heart rate monitor all day you also get your resting heart rate. The Fenix 3 HR does resting too just to be clear. Unfortunately the Fenix 5 hides the HRV behind an algorithm and calls it an all day stress score making this particular stat USELESS IMHO.

The Fenix 5 has an improved heart rate sensor over the Fenix 3 HR in that it gives more frequent checking of the heart rate. “A notable change to the Fenix 5 series is the updated optical HR sensor in relation to 24×7 monitoring. While the Fenix 3 HR had an optical sensor, and it also monitored your HR 24×7, it didn’t quite update as frequently as it could have. Sometimes it’d be every few seconds, and yet other times it’d be hours in between updates (during workouts, it was always every second). With the Fenix 5 however, the optical sensor has been reengineered to sample every 1-2 seconds.” from DC Rainmaker’s Fenix 5 review.

There are multiple sizes of Fenix 5 so if you don’t like the size of the Fenix 3 you can choose a smaller one. Here are the dimensions (shamelessly pilfered from DCRainmaker):
Fenix 5S 42.0 x 42.0 x 14.5 mm – 67g
Fenix 5  47.0 x 47.0 x 15.5 mm – 87g
Fenix 5X   51.0 x 51.0 x 17.5 mm – 98g
Fenix 3 HR  51.5 x 51.5 x 16.0 mm – 86g
Fenix 3 51.0 x 51.0 x 15.5 mm – 85g Sapphire with rubber strap instead of metal
FR935 47.0 x 47.0 x 13.9 mm – 49g
FR645 42.5 x 42.5 x 13.5 mm – 42g

The Forerunner 935 is for all purposes a Fenix 5 plastic.

The Fenix 5X also supports full topographic maps, a brand new feature and only available on this model.

All Fenix 5’s support bluetooth sensors (heart rate, wheel and cadence), something the Fenix 3 (and all previous Garmins) did not. Of course if you already have ANT+ sensors this is a yawner … The FR935/645 also support BT sensors.

Sapphire glass is available on the Fenix 3 and mine is a Sapphire. Sapphire makes the glass a LOT more resistant to scratches and breaking, IE more durable.
Fenix 5S: – offered in regular glass and Sapphire glass
Fenix 5: – offered in regular glass and Sapphire glass
Fenix 5X: – all are Sapphire glass
Neither the FR 935/FR645 are available with Sapphire

WIFI is a feature that the Fenix 3 has and it allows you to sync, and keep your Fenix up to date over WIFI. It’s convenient but not a big deal IMHO. All Sapphire models of the Fenix 5 have WIFI, non Sapphire do not. The FR 935 and FR645 also have WIFI .

None of the Fenix support the new wireless payment system Garmin Pay, the FR645 does.

None of the Fenix support storing and listening to music without a phone, only the FR645 does (if you get the music model). Be aware though, listening to music has a DRAMATIC effect on battery life. By Garmin’s specs battery life in GPS mode drops from 12 hours down to a mere 5 when playing music (and GPS). Honestly this shocks me, but it is what they say.

All of the devices support Garmins new quick release bands, even the older Fenix 3.

Here’s a detailed comparison of all of the devices on DCRainmaker.

What’s next?
Now we move into my opinion and is entirely speculative. To state the obvious, I do not work for Garmin, however it seems to me, having a flagship product (the Fenix) that does not support a Flagship feature (Garmin Pay) is something Garmin will address. All reports indicate the Fenix does NOT have the hardware to support NFC. So it needs a new rev of the hardware.

It is worth noting, that the battery life on the FR645 is 12 hours, Vs 20 hours for the Fenix 3, and 24 hours for the Forerunner 935. And one can only imagine this will decrease over time, and will be less in the cold. So sadly the FR645 would be marginal for my use during a day of snowboarding.

Price:
I live in Canada so these prices represent that. And doing an exhausting search for the lowest price is not all that useful. Not to mention prices change all the time. So to that end this point is almost useless. But here it is none the less. I am going to use GPS City for pricing. I’ve dealt with them a couple of times and have been happy with them. Good price, reasonable business practices, reasonable priced shipping, and reasonable shipping time.
Fenix 3 $460 (with rubber band)
Fenix 3 HR $419 (with stainless steel band)
Fenix 5 $719 (non Sapphire)
Fenix 5 $849 Sapphire
Fenix 5X $849 Sapphire
Fenix 5S $719
Forerunner 645 Music $559
Forerunner 645 No Music $498.51
Forerunner 935 $679

Given this pricing here are my thoughts … if you were buying today there is no point to a Fenix 3, might as well get the Fenix 3 HR (less money for more features, the wrist HR monitor).

Price delta to the Forerunner 645 Vs Fenix 3 HR = $79.51
If you can live with the decreased battery life the 645 would seem an obvious choice.

Price delta for Forerunner Music Vs non $60.49
Price delta to Fenix 5 Vs Fenix 3 HR $300
Price delta between the Fenix 5 and the FR 935 $40

Give the pricing if you were to buy the Fenix 5 Sapphire you might as well get the Fenix 5X, same price (assuming you can live with the size boost).

Given the price difference between the FR935 and the Fenix 5, you might as well get the Fenix 5 for better durability (plastic vs metal case).

January 25, 2018 Posted by | Activity Trackers, GPS Stuff | Leave a comment

Garmin Fenix 3 VO2 Max

I was doing a little reading on the Fenix 3 and VO2 max and thought I’d share. For cycling you need a power meter (which I don’t have) and a heart rate monitor. For running however you need to run continuously to at least 70% max HR effort for 10 or more minutes. Finding Vo2 is also challenging it’s on Garmin connect but buried behind your 7 day running stats, or on the device in your stats. It does not however seem to put Vo2 Max in Apple Health. A number of other Garmin devices pickup VO2 max on a simple brisk walk (as does the Apple watch) but no joy for the Fenix 3. This article was helpful. Fenix 3 manual on VO2Max.

January 9, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

iPhone 8 wireless charging

As I’ve mentioned a few times in previous posts I love the convenience of wireless charging. The market however is in a state of complete and utter chaos, and Apple has done nothing to make things better, and in ways made things worse. the iPhone 8 apparently supports 7.5W wireless charging. But what does that even mean? Is that input wattage to the coil, input wattage to the phone? Apple itself, today do not even offer an official charge pad, apparently one is coming in the new year. We are already 3 months past the release of the iPhone 8, come on Apple get your ducks in a row.

So I’ve been trying to sort that out. The plethora of options available on Amazon and other places is dizzying. A fact made worse by the fact that chargers attempt to be a broad product with support for multiple phones. Reading specs from the products, if they even bother giving them isn’t helpful either. Reading reviews from other people go into more detail about the nice light or the physicals of the charger Vs the details of it’s charge speed, or heaven forbid actual details. I really wish I could find a wireless charger for the iPhone 8, that included a power adapter, and came right out and said that it support the iPhone 8’s 7.5W.

As in the past be careful you get a multi coil charger or you have to get the phone on exactly the right place to get it to charge.

So let’s have a look at what I have been able to find … First off lets set a baseline, the iPhone’s default 5W charger. Below 60% the charger charges the phone at a rate of around 1%/min. So this gives a nice easy number to relate to. As the charge rises above 60% the phone slows down the charge rate, and slows down again at 80%. By 90% it’s down to .5%/min. This is important to note when trying to measure the charge rate of your phone on any charger.

What’s also important is to insure you are using the correct power adapter for your wireless charger. Sometimes they are quite clear on what you need to use … other times, not so much.

So on with what I have found … These results are with the iPhone 8, so your results on a different phone may have completely different results. Sorry … That’s the Qi industry right now. By the way, I have included links to Amazon where I can to help you out. But be aware, these do not pay me in any way.

One of the first multi coil chargers I bought is DoCooler 6300. It turned out to be not a bad charger being able to get an average charge rate of 0.57%/hr and a peak of around 0.63%/hr. So this is around 57% the speed of the wired charger. This seems to be hard to find these days.

Next up I tried one of my favorite chargers, an Itian. It has been beside my bed and I use it pretty much every night. A subtle light, a nice angle, and multi coil make it super easy to use. This one was only able to get 0.36%/hr average and a max of 0.45. So this was about 36% the speed of wired. Now since I use this one at night, I’m not bothered by it’s charge rate, but if your looking to put a quick boost into your iPhone 8, this is not the charger for you. Amazon Link. Interestingly enough when I was using my Getto iPhone 6 Qi wireless case this was one of the faster chargers. An example of what’s good for one phone, sucks for another.

Next up comes a new one, that claims to be a quick charger, a Seneo. In conversations with the company they encouraged the use of a QC 2.0 adapter (Qualcom Quick charge). QC can put out 9V 2A so 18 Watts of power. I tested this one on a 5V 2A as well as 9V 2A and got the exact same numbers 0.57%/hr average with a peak of 0.63. So to call this quick is rubbish. Further conversations led them to admit that it does not quick charge an iPhone 8. So, don’t rush out on this one, as you can see it’s no better than the rest, but I guess it does work, just not so fast. Amazon Link.

By the way I bought an Aukey 5 port USB adapter that includes a QC2 port and found it to be a very useful device to have around rather than multiple adapters. Amazon link.

Next up I looked at a charger that claimed it supported Apple’s 7.5W charge mode. A Qi 10W Fast Wireless Charging Pad from Kcpella. In fact their rep said in answer to the question: “Yep.This fast wireless charger output power is 10W. In our lab test yesterday, it supports iPhone 8/ iPhone 8 Plus / iPhone X for 7.5W charging if using QC2.0 / QC3.0 adapter.” So on with the results. I was able to get 0.8%/hr average and it was spot on consistent when plugged into a QC 2 charger. It dropped down to 0.6%/hr with a 5V 2A charger. So this would be about 80% the speed of wired. So this is definitely faster than most but not as good as I was hoping for. At it’s peak I was able to see 9V 0.7A or 6.3W being drawn from the adapter. So comparing this to 80% of a 5W wired charger the losses due to wireless drop down to 26% Vs what I have seen in the past of 50% losses. So a fairly efficient charger. So is this the face of a fast charger for Apple? Well without having a benchmark from Apple who friggin knows. And how we get from 7.5W advertised down to 5.4W measured I don’t really get either. Amazon link.

Next up I looked at a Wofalodata car charger that explicitly says it supports the iPhone 8. Humorously though the arms push on the volume control of the iPhone 8. DOH. This was hands down the slowest coming in at an average of only 0.42%/hr with a max of 0.6%/hr or about 42% of wired. So while this held the charge of the phone even using an intensive app like Waze, it was just barely keeping up. Better than nothing I suppose. Amazon link although I DO NOT RECOMMEND this for the iPhone 8 due to the issue with the volume control. That goodness for the fantastic return policy of Amazon.

Here’s a table of the data:

And this graph shows you the difference in charge between wired, and the fastest Vs slowest wireless charge speeds over time

So for now, the Kcpella is the fastest kid on the block (if plugged into a QC 2 adapter) … BUT … always remember the iPhone 8 also supports wired Quick charge.

December 21, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Apple iPhone 8

I’m on an iPhone 6 which is getting a little long in the tooth, and I was off contract so I decided to take the plunge. At almost 2 years this is pretty much the LONGEST I’ve kept any phone. A statement of how much I have enjoyed my iPhone. I left Samsung after the debacle that was the S5 and haven’t looked back. Honestly if I had bought an S6 instead of the S5 I may have never ventured back into the iPhone space.

I looked at the iPhone X but it was going to be another $320 so I passed on it. What was I looking for out of the new device? A number of things. Nothing spoils you when it comes to instantaneous quite like an iPhone. And my 6 was getting sluggish. I’ve been using a third party wireless charging case on my iPhone 6 and while it works, it’s clumsy. I also wanted to get hey siri working when not on power which the 6 can’t do. Lastly my battery isn’t exactly new so some improved battery life is always appreciated. So with that in mind on we go …

Physicals:
To say the iPhone 8 looks like every other iPhone is an understatement of epic proportions. Physically the differences are subtle. So if part of your reason to upgrade is status … don’t bother. Outside of the X no one will notice.

Upgrade/Restore Process:
I’ve used the Apple upgrade process in the past and it was painless. This time … not so much. It turns out that the Apple upgrade process requires the new phone to be at the same or newer level of iOS, and this I only figured out after numerous attempts at restores. And to say Apple don’t guide you through this, is being gentle. And I’m irritated so … Apple WTF. My new iPhone was at 11.02 which is over 2.5 months old at this point compared to current. And since the release of the iPhone X the rate of change appears to be more brisk. So here are the steps:
1) Activate new phone as a new device not from backup. I recommend highly that you use a SIM from a different provider than your current provider to insure that the phone is indeed unlocked. As of Dec 1 2017, by law all phones sold in Canada MUST be unlocked. Once activated you can now bring your phone up to date using either iTunes or on the phone itself. This is a long process taking a lot of bandwidth. Your looking easily at over an hour. And you want to do this on WIFI because the update can be as much as 1.5G or more.
2) Reset the new phone
3) Backup your old phone using iTunes. Be sure you know the backup password. And be sure to use an encrypted backup so passwords and Health data come across
4) Activate the new phone again, this time restoring from backup. Again this will take some time. Restoring Gs of music is a slow process. Again your looking at hours

Restore results:
Restore this time around came down into a number of areas. WIFI worked perfectly and all previous settings were kept. All previous apps were installed. Some apps worked straight away, others had to re-authenticate. Apple health worked perfectly. Account settings all came across as well. Apple Pay of course has to be re-setup. But the BIG miss this time around was bluetooth. For some reason each and every bluetooth device had to be re-setup. Sometimes this went well. Others not so much. On my Garmin Fenix I had to delete it from Garmin connect and re add it. Others just had to be re-paired. The Apple watch surprisingly was stubborn and took a long time (10 mins) for first sync once I got it to re-pair.

Overall I have to say, this took A LOT more time than I allocated. Probably close to 4 hours in all. Now the memory of this will soon fade, but geez Louise …

Specs:
Display size and resolution on the 8 is the exact same as the 6 at 750×1334 pixels, on a 4.7 inch screen. Processors get upgraded from the dual core A8 to the hex (six) core A11. According to Apple it’s got four efficiency cores that are up to 70 percent faster than A10 Fusion, and two performance cores that are up to 25 percent faster. The focus of this new hex core is similar to the octa cores you see on Android devices. Have high speed high power processors for when you need it, and low power low performance for standby. On Android it has made a significant difference, reducing standby power.

The cameras get upgraded to 12/7Mp Vs 8/1.2 on the 6. So this is a pretty significant bump, the front facing selfie camera now being almost as good as the main camera on the 6. Battery wise it’s the same at 1810 mAH. It’s always amusing to see how small the battery on an iPhone is compared to Android phones, yet the iPhones get as good or better battery life. Dimensions are 138.40 x 67.30 x 7.30 vs 138.10 x 67.00 x 6.90 for the 6. So the 8 is actually thicker. Weight is 148g Vs 129 for the 6. So the 8 is actually heavier.

The iPhone 8 continues to use the lightning cable, yay! They have however NOT upgraded it to USB 3. One of the reasons why it takes so long to load up your music, backup, and sync your device. Apple have removed the headphone jack, but included a lightning to normal 3.5mm headphone jack. This does limit you to using the headset or charge, not both. Personally I always use a bluetooth headset to listen to music so I don’t care. My two favorites are Jumbl and Sony MW600.

I’ve noticed the iPhone 8 turns on automatically when you lift the phone up to look at it without you having to press any buttons.

The iPhone 8 still ships with the anemic 5W (5V 1A) charger meaning default charge time is the same as the old iPhone 6, at under 2 hours. I’ve done a whole article on iPhone 8 quick charging which you can read … or to cut to the summary, buy yourself a 2A USB charger and use it instead of the 5W iPhone charger.

The iPhone 8 finally supports wireless charging. But as of now Apple do not include a wireless charging pad with the phone and Apple currently do not even offer one to buy. You can buy third party Qi chargers and they do work. I played with a Seneco and Itian both of which I bought from Amazon. The iPhone is said to support up to 7.5W Qi. I’m not sure if that means input to the coil or output to the phone. There are losses of roughly 50% that is normal in wireless charging. That said, with the two Qi chargers the best I could muster was about 0.6%/hr. This is roughly 60% of the speed of the Apple 5W charger. So it will definitely be a slow charge, taking charge times from under 2 hours to around 4.5 hours. This is best used, for example, when sleeping. Here you can see the speed of charge difference between the iPhones default charger and the wireless charging. By 50 mins the difference is over 15%. And this is without even considering a faster 2A charger.
I found this article on good wireless chargers.

I bought the silver, to me it looks a whole lot more like white. I’m underwhelmed by the color but given it will be under a case anyway not sure that I care.

I moved from Rogers to Bell and have seen a significant improvement in both speed and signal strength almost everywhere. I have seen speeds as high as 80Mb/s down and 30MB/s up. I use to see speeds like this from Rogers but have not seen them in quite a while as LTE has got busier. Of course because of changing carriers I can’t attribute that to the phone, it could just be the change in carriers.

Initial battery tests are showing very similar results to the iPhone 6, with some slight improvements on LTE battery life. I’ll update this once I get more data. I’m kinda surprised the new processors haven’t made much of a difference. In the Android world the Octa core was a profound shift in battery life.

So all in all, the 8 from the 6 is an entirely incremental step, evolutionary in nature. I got all the things I wanted from the upgrade and lost nothing. I had read issues with bluetooth incompatibilities but other than setup issues it has been a non-issue for the devices I use. So in the end, I’m happy, specifically with the speed of the device and the wireless charger. Am I thrilled and blown away? Nope …

December 14, 2017 Posted by | iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

iPhone 8 (and presumably X) quick charging

The iPhone 8 still ships with the ubiquitous 5W (5V 1A) charger. This results in an unimpressive charge from dead speed under 2 hours. Pretty much every other current phone has quick charge modes. Well Apple has them too, they just choose to not ship it with the phone so they can extract additional $$s from the consumer. Cause you certainly can’t say their phones are cheap. So let’s have a look at the new quick charge mode on the iPhone and see if it’s worth it … According to an Apple article what you need to experience quick charge are the following:
1) Apple USB-C to Lightning cable ($35CDN) and one of these adapters:
2 Apple 29W, 61W, or 87W USB-C Power Adapter, or a comparable third-party USB-C power adapter that supports USB Power Delivery (USB-PD). (The Apple 29W is $59CDN)

So the total price of this is $94CDN + taxes and shipping. Of course you can find other USBC-PD adapters on places like Amazon but be super careful and make sure they can put out at least the 29W Apple recommend or you might not get full speed.

Apple went this way to align with their Mac books, or so the argument could be had. Of course amusing is that the iPhone 8 continues with the lightning cable rather than USB C. For your troubles Apple claims “Your iPhone fast charges up to 50 percent in 30 minutes.

I happen to have an iPad 12W charger, which is capable of 2.4A at 5V using a standard USB to lightning cable, so I thought I’d see what it can do, and compare it to what Apple says the fast charge can do. I saw an Article about this but found it missing details.

Ok lets start with some things I have learned. First of all the charging rate slows down after 80%. This is quite common on most new phones. I also found using the 12W charger that the charge rate draws the most current (as measured by a USB amp meter) between 0 and 50%, exactly the range Apple refer to as their quick charge. A picture goes a long way, here is a graph of the current drawn from the 12W charger Vs the Phone’s battery percent.

Anytime the curve is above the 1A mark you have benefited from being on the 12W charger Vs the standard 5W, which as you can see is a good portion of time.

To look at this another way, here is a graph that shows %of phone charge per min vs the % of the phone is charged. Again you can see a couple things from this, first of all the highest rate of charge occurs when the phone is in the 0-50% range. Second you can see the drop off of the charge rate at around 80%. And lastly you can see the chasm difference between the 2A chargers and the stock iPhone 1A charger. The third charger is an Aukey multi port USB charger which also pumps out 2A.

One more view of the data compares the phone charge Vs time between the Apple 12W Vs the default 5W. As you can see in the graph in 30 mins the difference between the two is around 30% more charge into the phone! (And remembering other 5V 2A chargers will be similar).

And here is a pic of the Aukey I used.

Looking at the data I can see that the Apple 12W or a standard 2A USB charger is pretty much as good as the expensive Apple fast charge option for a whole lot less money! Being able to quick charge a device is as important IMHO as it’s battery life. And this is a HUGE step forward for the platform!

BTW I tried the iPhone 8 with a QC 2 adapter and confirm it does NOT support QC 2. And thus a 9V 2A charger is of no use with the iPhone 8.

December 14, 2017 Posted by | iPhone Stuff, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SHARK S3901C LIFT AWAY STEAM POCKET MOP

Ok to say this is a little off topic is an understatement. I’ve seen these advertised on factory direct and wondered how well they work. I spoke with two colleagues at work, one swore by it and the other said it was no more effective than a mop and pinesol. Not that I can stand the smell of pinesol but … So I decided to buy one. What it is, is a steaming floor mop. Now they claim it cleans deeper and sanitizes. Now I don’t much buy the sanitation part but wondered if it might clean better. For example according to the CDC to kill salmonella takes a rolling boil of 3-5 minutes so the chance of a passing of steam has little chance of killing it, as one example is NIL.

Putting it together was a bit of a brain test with little to no instructions, but then this is a refurb I bought. Once together it was time to take it for a spin.

So I set out a little test. I vacuumed my kitchen floor. Then mopped it with water and vinegar. As usual the water came up pretty dirty. Then I set out to use the shark. I put it on max steam level, scrub. It took about 2-3 minutes to get ready to start and ran for about 8 mins on max steam. Again I used water and vinegar. They recommend using distilled water for obvious reasons. Ever looked at the scale on your kettle? Here’s what the pad looked like when I was done, and this is on a small sized kitchen.

So what you can see is it definitely lifted more dirt off of what I would have considered a clean floor. The pad can be machine washed and you can get lots of extras on Amazon. Be sure that pads are still available if your going to buy an older model. The one thing that can be said about the pad, is they grab and hold onto dirt. And that is good and bad. Cleaning the pad afterwards is a pain.

The steaming unit can be removed from the floor unit and used to clean things like bathroom tiles/showers and the like, but be aware the unit itself is fairly heavy and it does not come with a hose to leave the unit on the floor while you were cleaning walls for example.

So overall, for $49 which is all I paid for the refurb, it seem like it’s doing something.

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Windows 10 feature continue on PC

Recently Microsoft added a new feature to Windows 10 called Continue on PC. What this does is allow you to transfer a web page you were viewing on your phone or tablet to your PC once you get home. It’s one directional (to the PC), a little clumsy, only works with Edge browser, but it does work. The setup is poorly done. The easiest way to set it up is to do it manually. On an iPad or iPhone go to the app store and find Continue on PC. Install it. Then open it. It will tell you have to manually add Continue on PC to your share app list. Once done from a web page click on the share icon and select continue on PC. You can have multiple phones/tablets setup to send pages and multiple PCs setup to receive them, it asks you which. It’s all linked through your Microsoft account you use to logon to your PC. A good article on Continue on PC.

November 25, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Apple watch review

I’ve played with a number of Android smartwatches, as well as a few Garmins and often wondered what I might be missing about the Apple watch. So a friend had made the switch from Apple to Android and had an Apple watch he wasn’t using so he let me play to try and see … The watch is a Sport 38mm 1st Gen running 3.2.3 (updated to 4.1) to be specific. I was able to find out the version of the watch I had by entering it’s serial number into the Apple check coverage web site.

Android wear works on an iPhone but the functionality is so limited as to wonder why they even bothered. So when I moved to an iPhone my Android wear watch became a whole lot less functional.

The 38mm is shockingly small. I was REALLY surprised how small it is. And super light as well. The 38mm would be perfect for women, and people with super small wrists, otherwise the 42 is the way to go.

The Apple watch charges by magnetic induction charging, which is amusing given Apple have only recently (iPhone 8) embraced wireless charging on the iPhones. The wireless charger does not draw a lot of power, like .2A so it can be plugged into almost any USB port, even an older USB 2 port. Charging time from a 100% dead watch appears to be about 84 mins based on a charge rate of about 1.2%/min. I tried putting the watch on a standard Qi wireless charging base and it didn’t work. Apple have provided a lollipop that magnetically sticks to the bottom of the watch.

If you prop your watch on it’s side while charging it can be used a “nightstand” clock. It then dims and comes on when jiggled/prodded. The only thing missing in this mode is a way to have it stay on all night which for me would have eliminated the need for a clock. And when you unplug the watch, the cord falls to the floor. I’m a surprised Apple did not create more of a cradle to hold the watch/charge it on it’s side like say the moto 360 does. Fret not the aftermarket has them. But be aware do not have the charger themselves they use the Apple one. I bought an Orzly on Amazon

The 1st series watches do not have a GPS in them, so they can not be used as stand alone exercise tracking.

Initial setup is super smooth and easy, just as one has come to expect from Apple. Watch apps are often extensions of iPhone apps. As such when I first setup the watch with my phone there were a PILE of watch apps to be loaded. In addition to the 17 built in Apple apps, 26 of the apps on my phone had watch apps that loaded onto the watch. The initial sync took quite a bit of time to complete. It does give you the option to not install the watch apps, and you can add the ones you want later.

Apple have done a nice job of making it super easy to manage a bunch of the settings, and app installs/uninstalls from the phone itself (rather than on the watch). This is pretty well done. Or they can be uninstalled from the watch if you prefer. By contrast, my Garmin for example has to be setup on the watch itself, so your futzing about with little buttons on a little screen through pages of menus to find the setting you want to change. It’s not impossible, but not elegant either.

A PIN can be setup on the watch and anytime you take the watch off and then back on the PIN has to be entered. A nice feature should you misplace your watch.

Apple include an Emergency SOS button a nice feature!

Messages received can be read on the watch and replied to using canned replies as well as using SIRI to dictate. Android wear had this, but my Garmin does not.

There are number of canned watch faces you can choose from, and each can be thoroughly customized. The biggest limitation here being screen size and your vision 🙂 Apple includes a Face Gallery for easily finding more watch faces. These can be easily added to the watch from the phone as well as activated from the phone. The number of watch faces available pales in comparison to the dizzying array available for Android wear through Facer/Watchmaker. And with Facer/watchmaker anyone can make there own simply and easily. I don’t see an easy way for a user to make their own watchface. This is one area where Apple is a serious let down compared to other smartwatches. Very little choice and not a lot of pizzazz to their watch faces.

The watch’s firmware can easily be updated from the phone. Updates are downloaded while on WIFI to the phone then onto the watch. Firmware updates are around 500MB in size. I do not believe the watch has WIFI and don’t see other ways to update the firmware other than this. Downloading this amount of data over bluetooth takes some time, so it’s best done when your not in a rush. Even installing a new version of the update took over an hour to complete (after it was downloaded). The whole process took over 2 hours.

Apple Pay can be setup so you can use the watch to pay for transactions, however it requires a passcode be setup on the watch. This is one area Apple really blazed trails. Fitbit and Garmin years later are only now adding this. Paying with the Apple watch is SUPER convenient. But there is one catch … you still end up digging out your phone or wallet for your loyalty card.

Music can be stored directly on the watch and can be played/paused etc from the watch. And the watch shows you what is playing. From the watch you can completely see your phones library and pick music from that library. This is the most complete set of remote controls I’ve seen on a watch to date. Music can very easily be added to the watch from the phone. The watch can then play music directly to a bluetooth paired headset when without the phone. For people that like to workout without their phone this is a fabulous option and pretty easily setup. Well done Apple, although not something I would bother with. When I workout (kayak/mountain biking etc) I want my phone with me for emergencies anyway. While playing music a now playing comes up which I think is awesome. How many times have you heard a song and wondered the name or artist it was?

I don’t use Apple maps much, but if you do, your navigation instructions come to your watch, including vibrations as you approach turns. This is quite well done. And one of the few wearables to do this!

Activity tracking has been implemented (step and heart rate tracking through the day, no stair counting though, it lacks a barometric altimeter) and customizable move reminders are there too! How long did it take Fitbit to add this feature? You also get resting heart rate for the day. Given that Fitbit have chosen to not add support for Apple health, this is another plus for the Apple watch. It integrates (as you would expect) very well with Apple health. Steps are pretty close to my Garmin Vivosmart HR, but as expected both translate that into calories and kms differently.

An actual workout tracking however, is fairly basic. I did a 30 min walk and it was recorded as 2.8KM Vs 2.9 on my Garmin Vivosmart HR. Average heart rate was spot on between the two at 115 BPM which is impressive. You do get a map of the workout (after the workout) inside Apple Healthkit which used the iPhone’s GPS to create, but I don’t see any easy way to share it. If you did the workout without the iPhone I would presume you would loose the map. I don’t see a way of seeing graphs of your speed, heart rate data etc after the workout. I see no way to create waypoints and navigate to those waypoints (other than using the Maps app). I also see no way to see on a map where you’ve been during a hike for example. Or a way to follow a previously defined route. External bluetooth heart rate monitors can be paired with the phone for better accuracy during workouts. I don’t see a way to export workouts either, nor do I see a interconnectivity to things like Strava or MyFitnesspal etc. In this particular area Apple are way behind and this is a CLEAR statement to me that the Apple watch does not stand a chance (nor did I expect it to) to replace my Garmin Fenix 3 for things like hiking, biking, snowboarding, kayaking etc, basically sports.

The Apple watch actually gives you your estimated VO2 max (only available after a workout is recorded on the watch), something even my Garmin Fenix 3 doesn’t do. How accurate it is, who knows. To get a VO2Max number you track an outdoor walk for 10 mins+ and then it shows up in the Apple health data, just search on VO2. They call it a sub-max exercise prediction. I tried an outdoor cycle but this doesn’t create a VO2 max.

They also include heart rate variability (done during a breath session, and workout), but don’t tell you what parameter they are displaying or how to interpret it, so a one hour support call and they told me the parameter they are displaying is SDDN (No RR, rMSSD etc.). And again, no idea how accurate it is. With this you can compare the results with other aps like EliteHRV. If you want to learn more about HRV I have a post on How to use HRV as well as one on HRV Tools.

Apple also included heart rate recovery, something I only recently discovered. Heart rate recovery is how quickly your heart rate comes down after an exercise is complete. The main issue is that Apple do not tell you it’s doing this and if you are not completely still during this time the number is inaccurate … by a LOT. By the way my Garmin does the same and is measuring recovery rate without your knowledge. For goodness sake just put up a counter and say measuring recovery rate. And Apple tell you your heart rate at the end of the exercise, then at 1 min and 2 mins. They do not do the simple math to give you your actual recovery rate. And your recovery rate is not put in Apple healthkit. And what is really important in this stat is how it is trending. IE are you getting in better heart health or worse. A higher number is better. So to give an example, before I knew it did heart rate recovery it showed a recovery rate at 1 and 2 mins of 112-100 = 12 and 112-100 = 12 because I was not still. After I knew to stay still I showed a recovery rate of 138-104 = 34 and 138-99 = 39. So quite a difference. By the way the heart rate recovery can be found in the workout inside the Activity app by sliding to the right of the heart rate graph. Super hidden and so not obvious.

The Apple watch can be used to make and receive phone calls. You talk to, and hear from the watch. Something neither the Android wear watches, nor my Gamin can do.

There’s both a stopwatch as well as a timer feature on the watch. The timer is a little clumsy to setup but is easy to use with Siri. This is a super basic feature but something I use ALL the time. Whether timing cooking, baking etc.

Notifications on the watch are extremely well done and easily customized. They include both an audio as well as a vibration, both of which can be customized. You can even go back and see previous notifications. Overall this is probably one of the best, most comprehensive notification systems I’ve seen to date. Fitbit by comparison is one of the worst when paired with an iPhone.

You can use Apple maps on the watch and directions requested on the phone show up on the app on the watch. Quite impressively done.

From iCloud you can remotely play a sound (to help find it) and even erase the watch. You can not add a message to the watch (say something like call me yadda yadda) and the location of the watch is not displayed, not even it’s last seen location. This is an area where others have done better to help you find your missing watch. Interestingly enough location was shown correctly on a newer Series 1 Gen 2 watch, so this seems to be a limitation of the 1 Gen. Of course all of this functionality would ONLY work if the watch is in bluetooth range of your phone.

One of the greatest features of the watch is to be able to use Siri without ever pulling your phone out!! But Siri does require your connection to your phone. You can also use siri to “take a note” which makes this quick and easy!

The Apple watch is NOT waterproof, only splash resistant. So from an exercise point of view better hope to not get caught in the rain.

I tried to sleep with the Apple watch, mistake. I put it in do not disturb mode. At some point it took itself out of do not disturb and woke me a couple times for notifications. One of which was to tell me to stand up and move 🙂 And even with that it did not track sleep. Now given the battery life of the watch this is not a loss but be aware.

On every other smart watch I have played with the wrist detection has been hit and miss. So much so I have considered always on a MUST. Apple have actually perfected this, it’s rare for it to miss your wrist being raised to see the time.

On day one I had the watch on for 11 hours and still had about 25% of battery left with light use through the day. So this is definitely a charge ever day device. You can completely power down the watch so if it’s not going to be used for a bit you come back to a charged device. Like most wirelessly charged devices, while being charged it is on. Fitbit continue to leave out the ability to power off their devices. Surely your going to wear it every day right?

Apple wisely made it pretty easy to swap bands by designing a unique way the band locks into the watch. The aftermarket stepped in and adapted Apples lugs so they take more standard bands. And there are a cornucopia of bands available on Amazon/ebay from leather to metal. And who doesn’t like to accesorize their gadgets 🙂 There are two colors of Apple watches, a flashy silver and a gun metal grey. Be sure and grab a band with the right color lugs to match your watch!

Apple have included something they call power reserve. But this puts the watch in such a deep sleep mode as to be useless. Even seeing the time took pushing buttons. If you need to save power the easiest way is simply to put it in airplane mode which cuts the watch off from everything, dramatically improving battery life. But then it’s just a watch rather than a smartwatch. In airplane mode you will get DAYS of battery life. Oddly it seems move reminders stop when in airplane mode.

Because of the smooth edges on the watch I have not found it catches on sleeves like pretty much every other smart watch!

If there is one place I think Apple really missed the mark it’s the user interface. Which is bizarre because Apple are usually stellar at it. Samsung’s current generation using a dial around the watch to control it, brilliant and elegant. With Apple you get this melage of tennie tiny icons you have to find the one app that your looking for. If you have large fingers or bad eye sight this is a challenge to say the least. Numerous times I found myself starting the wrong app.

There is a dock that’s much easier to use for your most commonly used apps but even this is not what I would call elegant. I personally found the UI complex enough I had to read a manual/watch a youtube video to get started.

Summary:
In the end, outside of Apple pay, the Apple watch didn’t really innovate, they more perfect/iterated. However, if your going to carry an iPhone the Apple watch is pretty much, hands down the best, most complete offering to date. For me it’s a product drag rather than draw. I wouldn’t convert to an iPhone to use an Apple watch. Given there are now 3 series of watches in the market you can pick up a Series one pretty inexpensively on ebay/Kijiji. I found a 42mm still under warranty for $250 so the entry point now is low enough, and the functionality high enough, I bought one! While there is not a chance the Apple watch could ever replace my Fenix 3 … it can also be said the Fenix 3’s smartwatch features don’t measure up to the Apple watch for day to day.

Apple Watch complete beginners guide

Update:
I bought a few accessories you might find useful:

This is a super convenient dock to make it simple to charge your watch. It’s inexpensive and works well. It does not include the charge cable itself. There are more elaborate ones you can buy. Amazon link. I highly recommend this dock.

Bands:
This one is my fav band. It’s super comfortable, light, soft, and is very stylish. The price is excellent, unfortunately it only comes with silver lugs which look bad on the dark grey watch. The clasp is easy to do up. As it’s aging it’s looking better and better.Amazon link

This is great metal band. It has the fine length adjustments in the middle like normal watch bands. it’s light, easy to adjust, includes a tool to adjust it and looks nice. The lugs are a solid piece so that the screws can’t fall out. It’s a JETech 42mm Stainless Steel Strap Wrist Band Replacement w/ Metal Clasp (Black) – 2106. Amazon Link. I can highly recommend this band, and is a very reasonable price.

The Apple Milanese band looks nice and is comfortable and light. It’s a bit of a pin to get done up, the magnet keeps liking to stick in all the wrong places. And the band could easily be one of the more effective hair removal tools. I’m not sure I would recommend this one. Apple link.

This black leather band is nice and soft, comfortable and fits well. Price is very good. If there’s any complaint it’s that it’s kind of bland and stylish, innocuous. Amazon link.

If you have a band that just happens to be the right width you can use these lugs to adapt onto the Apple watch. And if the band you buy comes with the wrong color lugs then this is also a good option, and is inexpensive. It comes with the driver for the screws. But be ware that the screws easily be stripped and do not come with spare screws. Amazon link.

November 21, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

VPN

If you download movies, music, torrents or whatever, or just don’t like being tracked you may want to consider using a VPN. It stands for virtual private network. What it does is create an encrypted communication (called a tunnel) between your home and the VPN provider. The communication then comes out of the VPN provider instead of you creating a level of indirection. It makes it harder (although still not impossible) to track your movements on the net. This is a super basic but useful step.

There are lots of VPN providers out there, so how do you find one you like? Well first off is what are you willing to pay for what could amount to paranoia? Well just remember, your only paranoid if it turned out they weren’t watching you 🙂 I started by looking at one a friend (thanks Lance) recommended PureVPN. PureVPN provide a simple to use app that is supported on a lot of different platforms to make setting up a VPN as trouble free and easy as possible. But this isn’t what I wanted. So I asked them if they support Windows built in VPN connections (ie no need to install or trust an app) and they said yes. So I ventured into it. They have a guide for setting it up. While not massively difficult (for an IT guy like me) it does take some work. There are three options for the underlying technology of the tunnel, PPTP, L2TP and SSTP. I hadn’t heard of SSTP before so read into it. I like the sound of it so chose that. Be sure and review the settings for the tunnel. I made sure encryption was required (which wasn’t the default), and I tuned off file and print sharing and client for microsoft networks.

In the setup of your VPN you can choose a VPN server located anywhere in the world. I chose a place that has serious laws on privacy the Cayman Islands!! Remember that your data is flowing through the VPN provider so your going to want to make sure they have unlimited data (which PureVPN does).

Once setup the next thought is to find a way to make sure it’s always there. I have a VM that I do my torrents on so I can turn VPN on for all traffic from the VM. The tunnel will ignore local traffic so it has no effect on local file sharing rdp and the like. I also wanted to make sure the VPN is always on, and if disconnected it was obvious. So first up I found a way to automate the connection to the VPN. You can call rasdial with the name of the VPN connection from a batch file to setup the tunnel, so for example:
rasdial PureVPNUT

Next up to insure it is obvious if it is disconnected I took the extreme measure of deleting the default gateway from my TCPIP stack (I’m on fixed IP address within my home network). Then added a route just to VPN server using this command:
netsh interface ipv4 add route 45.74.25.129/32 wired 192.168.1.1 store=persistent (for example)

Now I can get only to the VPN server from this machine and then if VPN becomes disconnected it will be painfully obvious. It would be irksome if after paying for VPN I discovered that it wasn’t been used and I hadn’t noticed.

PureVPN allows up to 5 machine to be simultaneously connected so you can move on to setup other machines next.

Ok now comes the testing … First up I want to prove that the tunnel is working. By going to ipaddress.com you can see what your IP looks like, what country it thinks your in and who is your internet provider. By doing this with the tunnel on and off you can see that your IP is now hidden, making it less easy to track your movements.

Your probably going to want to test bandwidth of the connection with the tunnel on and off using a tool like DSL Reports. Personally unless it is dead slow, I’m not sure I care a lot.

Next up is the issue of the VPN connection dropping. Oddly Microsoft does not include an auto reconnect feature for VPNs. So I decided to create an automated script. This script logs the VPN connection/disconnection and retries to connect. Here’s the script. You would need to set the parameter for the name of the VPN connection you created.

With that the VPN is setup and working …

November 17, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment