John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Here a tracker there a tracker … Apple Health to the rescue?

Getting all your activity/sleep etc data in one place is challenging. The makers like fitbit etc have no motivation whatsoever to allow you to have devices from different companies. In fact, they use it to trap you into their ecosystem. If you happen to change trackers, do you want to change your scale? Of all the companies I’ve played with Fitbit, Polar, Misfit, and Xiaomi only Fitbit allow you to export your data. And then it dawned on me, in the Apple world there is a bridge to bring this data in one place, Apple Health! So let’s have a look at this …

When you install an app that supports Apple Health, you can control what amount of access it can have to Apple Health, ie what it can read and write. When you uninstall an app you can also choose to remove all data in Apple health from that app. You can easily see what sources currently have read and write access and tailor it as you see fit.

For this to be a savior you need to keep an eye on how well the individual app works with Apple health. I found Garmin connect had some anomalies that were polluting the sleep data. It seems Garmin did not think of the possibility that you might not always sleep with your Garmin device and it used the definition of normal bed time (which is used to mute the device) on those occasions to populate your sleep? WTF.

Fortunately it’s pretty easy to simply remove Garmin Connect’s access to just the sleep data.

Fitbit have chosen for now to completely ignore Apple Health, likely to keep your data in their vault. Fortunately there is an app out there that simply takes your fitbit data and pushes it into Apple health called Health Sync. It works well.

Fitbit do an incredible job of taking data from multiple devices and merging them. You can wear your Flex for part of the day and switch up to a different tracker and it merges them nicely. Apple Health however makes not attempt to do this. It does however allow you to prioritize which data is likely to be more accurate.

Additionally you can manually edit and delete entries easily.

Data can be exported from the Apple health app, but I see no way of importing it. This is potentially a challenge if you don’t use the backup/restore method of migrating to a new phone at some point. The exported data comes out in an XML file that is challenging at best to do anything with. Fortunately there is an app called QS Access that will allow you to export exactly what you want to a CSV that in turn can be imported into Excel for graphing and analysis.

So an in all it can be done, but definitely could use some work by Apple …


November 15, 2016 Posted by | Activity Trackers, iPhone Stuff, iPhone/iPad | Leave a comment

Misfit Shine

I’ve owned a number of the Fitbits and love the data you get out of them. I’ve seen the Misfit product line and been curious. I got a chance to snag one on the cheap so it’s time to satisfy some curiosity. This is by no means a new device, and in fact there is a shine 2 out.

The Shine takes a different approach to tracking, in that it makes no attempt to be anything but a tracker. Don’t go looking for notifications (I don’t think there is even a vibrate motor in it), doesn’t attempt to add a display (although there are lights on it that if you take the time to interpret can be used to read the time and percent to your goal you’ve done) nada. It just goes about it’s business tracking your steps and sleep while you get on with your day. There’s nothing to recharge, it runs on a disposable CR2032 battery that should last months. And within the app you can see the charge on the battery.

The Shine can be worn in two ways out of the box. Either with a band on your wrist or a clever magnet that can wrap around belt loops, pockets etc.
There are also optional necklaces that can be bought or you can just carry it in your pocket. But I can only imagine the black will get scratched off by keys/coins.

The magnetic based loop works well and has a reasonably firm grip. Using this or the necklace frees up your wrist for other things like watches. A couple of cautions about the magnetic loop. Call me captain obvious but be careful not to have it close to things like credit cards, ID badges etc because it might just erase the magnetic strip. I also found that the magnet would latch onto belt buckles and rivets in belts. When it did that it was very easy to get loose (and potentially fall off). Speaking of fall off if you walk away from your phone or loose your Shine, sadly, the app will not inform you. It’s just gone. And misplace it and you can manually get it to light up, but it can’t buzz. So finding it can be a challenge. Same thing was true of Fitbits by the way. And there’s no signal strength within the app (there are apps for that) that might help you at least figure out the general area it’s in.

The app was dead easy to initially setup (I did it on an Iphone) and every time you open the app it syncs the data off. No idea how much memory it has for wearing it disconnected.

The Shine picks up cycling as steps, but with a Fitbit it uses some back end data processing to massage out the data. No such luck on the Shine.

The home screen of the app gives you a non-customizable view of your activity.
It prominently displays some bizarre point system, and you can’t change it. Give me my steps instead in that nice display. It does however give you what more you need to do to meet your goals for the day. All in all the app is fine. All data is then uploaded to the Misfit portal by your phone. Default units were miles etc, I changed it over to Kms.

You can share you progress from the home screen to variety of different places.

The portal itself is also fine, a little basic. I see no way to export the data, although you can enable it to send your data to Apple health (something Fitbit has chosen to not do). I am not sure I understand where companies come off thinking your data belongs to them and shall never be removed from there cloud. It irks me. At least Fitbit allow you to export it one month at a time for external data analysis. We live in a world that is data rich, and information poor. If you don’t analyse and mine the data what are you collecting it for? End rant …

And don’t expect to be able to have apps like Endomondo feed into Misfit so you can get a total picture of your exercise. This is a HUGE miss … I like getting a complete picture of my exercise in one place. The apps it does support are VERY limited, and sadly none of the ones I currently use, but on the positive side they have included a link to Walgreens so you can ear rewards for your healthy choices? Seriously I couldn’t make something this silly up 🙂

Like Fitbits the Shine lacks an activity reminder, a prod to get off your butt and walk around …

Socially speaking the app can search your Facebook/Twitter and Contacts for people using a Misfit product. Oddly it found no one for me. It does give you a friend it calls Mr.Fit and average of all Misfit users today to compare yourself against. If you deny access to your contacts your going to go and manually dig to approve it (Setting, privacy, contacts). Once it finds friends you can add them, but you can not see if they are active or not (Fitbit does).

Sleep wise the shine supports auto sleep and gives you a view of how well you slept including how long in bed, how much restful sleep and how much light sleep.

I had to replace the battery and had a devil of a time. I eventually figured out I had misread the instructions but in the process had gouged the aluminum. Then putting it back together the battery clip on the circuit board bent, and then broke off. Presumably I did not get the rotation of the lid correct. So this gave me the opportunity to try Misfit’s customer support. They are very limited in ways to get a hold of them, email was the only option. I tried to find a way to call them, no joy. It took Misfit support 6 business days to even return my email. They eventually sent me a new one which was generous of them. They could have said it was my fault for not following instructions. Of course I could say it was poorly designed (which I think it is). In the end it took a whopping 21 business days to get a new tracker. Wow.

If your looking for no muss, no fuss, no glitz, no glamour tracker, the Misfit Shine may very well fit the bill. But do be super careful when changing the battery 🙂

November 9, 2016 Posted by | Activity Trackers | Leave a comment

Windows 10 Lock screen Spotlight images

If you’ve turned on Windows 10 lock screen spotlight images (how to enable spotlight) every now and then you see an image you like, and would like to save. Sadly Microsoft left out this capability. A quick Google found a number of suggestions for how to do this, all of which are way too complicated. So I decided to make it simpler. Here’s a simple series of commands you can run to save them off. It isn’t perfect in that it grabs some other crap in the process but it’s relatively easy to clean these up. Here are the commands. Note there are only a few of the images saved so if you like what you see do it sooner rather than later.

mkdir c:\windows-images
xcopy %userprofile%\AppData\Local\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.ContentDeliveryManager_cw5n1h2txyewy\LocalState\Assets\*.* c:\windows-images\
ren c:\windows-images\*. *.jpg

Here’s the commands in a text file for you :).

November 8, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Today’s lighting market

Today’s lighting market has become increasingly complicated leaving a consumer with lots of options to wade through. Especially so when buying a new fixture, however evening existing lighting fixtures can give consumers options. Let’s take a quick look …

The obvious starting place is physical. In the halogen area the base size is called G8 or G9 (as well as others):
There are increasingly options albeit pricey ones to replace halogen bulbs with LED which offer better energy efficiency thus less heat.

In the incandescent space there is a small, medium and standard base. A medium base can screw into a standard base but sometimes not the otherway around, and small is unique in size.

There are other sizes I could ramble on about but these are the most common.

Next up is the technology used to generate the light. The older style is simply called incandescent and dates back into the early days of tungsten bulbs. Incandescents consume the most power, generate the most heat, wear out the fastest, are the cheapest, but deliver more normal color of light (more beige than white).

Halogens have made a lot of headway in track and pot lamps. Honestly I hate them, I find them expensive, don’t last anywhere near as long as they say they should, deliver a narrow beam of light and as mentioned above I’ve had issues getting them out of sockets.

CFL or compact florescent entered the market a while back. The designers got clever and figured out how to make them fit in a normal standard incandescent socket. Honestly, again, I hate CFLs and have no idea why they are in the market. Each and every CFL contains mercury which creates a health hazard if it’s broken and a disposal challenge. If you simply throw them in the garbage that mercury ends up in our landfill and potentially our water table. Mercury is a NASTY chemical. CFLs take less power than incandescent but can be slower to turn on especially in the cold (we do live in Canada eh), and deliver a more white light.

Lately LED bulbs have been hitting the market in a variety of existing form factors promising lower power consumption and longer life. Let’s have a look at a box of a particular LED bulb.
There’s lots of information on the label to digest. Lets start with how bright it is. Because incandescent, LED, and CFL all use different methods to generate light comparing them based on the old way of watts makes no sense (or cents for that matter:)) So instead they use a unit of measure of the brightness called lumens. Here’s a chart comparing lumen levels. You can use it if you are replacing an existing light/fixture.

Next up you can see the number of watts this particular bulb consumes to generate those lumens. In this case it consumes 10W to generate the same lumens as a 60W incandescent bulb.

You can also see the color of the light which you can use to compare to an existing incandescent bulb:

Next up you can see the projected life of the bulb. In this case it is 10,000 hours. Compare this with the incandescent which translates into 1971 hours. This would imply the LED bulb will last 5 times as long as the incandescent. If you look at the price of incandescent bulbs not even counting the inconvenience to change them, buy them and dispose of them they are between 0.50 and $1.25 at CanadianTire. I paid $15 for a 6 pack which works out to be $2.50 a pop. So if the projections of life can be believed LEDs can be justified solely on the basis of their life.

Next up we can look at the savings from an electricity point of view. For every hour they are on they save 50WH and will run for 10,000 hrs according to the manufacturer. So that’s a savings of 500KWH for the life of the bulb (per bulb). According to my hydro bill the cheapest hydro is during off peak hours is $.087 per KWH so this would translate into a savings of a min of $43.50 in hydro bills over the life of the bulb. At a fixture level I replaced a 4 bulb 60W chandelier with a 5 bulb 10W (not that it needed 5 just the one I bought) so that would be a savings of 190WH which translates into 1900KWH over the life of the bulb or a savings of a min of $165.30!

One word of caution some manufacturers quote years based on number of hours per day the bulb is on. Be careful, this can be misleading and is VERY dependent on your use case of the bulb. If you were to leave a bulb on 24×7 this would be 8760 hours so a 10,000 bulb would only last 1.1 years. This is particularly notable on fixtures I noticed when I was buying that did not have a replaceable bulb. IE you replace the fixture not the bulb.

Another thing worth noting is that some of the LED bulbs are not compatible with dimmers. If you want to use a dimmer you need to be careful with the bulbs you choose.

Well I would have to say, I have been slow to jump on the LED bandwagon and I am SUPER skeptical on the number of projected hours for the bulbs life but it looks promising with NONE of the negative effects of CFLs!

Update 6/6/2017
A mere 6 months after buying 12 of these bulbs 7 of them are either now flashing on and off, or not working at all. Reading reviews on the Canadian Tire site these NOMA bulbs I bought seem to be utter crap. Don’t buy them.

Update 10/11/2017
4 months after getting the bulbs replaced by Canadian tire this second batch is also dieing young. Ok I can say with some certainly, these Nomas are CRAP.

November 7, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment