John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

8 Cups digital water bottle

My sister got given this at a conference and wasn’t sure what to do with it so she gave it to me to play. So what the heck is this thing? A digital water bottle that tracks the amount of water you are consuming during a day and reminds you to take a drink. Now give me one of these that measures beer or wine and now we are talking 🙂 It sells for $129 (no idea what currency that is) from the company’s web site. The box is pretty simple and the included manual is minimalistic. Your going to have to figure stuff out on your own. It comes with a wireless charging pad which is a nice touch (I tried it on a standard Qi wireless charging pad but it just flashed at me), as well as a USB to microUSB cable, no AC adapter is included. The company says it can charge in 3-4 hours and lasts 4 days. The water bottle has no buttons on it whatsoever, and just one light.

And so on we go … the minimalistic approach continues into the iPhone app. It asks you a bunch of personal questions, age, sex, weight, height and then later asks for access to the iPhones healthkit information (which it could have got that data from there). The app starts up and you make your account. There is no web portal to see your data. Each time you take a drink it blinks to say heh thanks for having a drink and eventually syncs to your phone. The bluetooth connection to my iPhone 6 was flakey and I had to repeatedly close and reopen the app to keep it connected. The bottle has no buttons so it can not be turned off. There is a washing mode that you can put it in, in which case it stops counting.

The biggest miss on the app, amongst others, is the inability to add/remove or edit the amount you’ve drunk. I mountain bike and carry a camel back when I ride. There’s no way to enter that amount of water. Nor is there a way for it to adjust to the fact that because of exercise in the heat that I should drink more. I forgot to turn the bottle into wash mode, rinsed the bottle and next thing I know the data for the day is skewed. I’m at work during the day, home at night, am I going to carry this bottle with me at all times? Have two maybe? All this makes the data out of the app useless.

The bottle itself is super small in how much water fits in it, 11 ounces, or 1.4 cups. The design of the bottle, tall and skinny, means it is easily tipped. And I did just that on day one. And of course the app counts that spilled water as drank.

Looking inside the bottle they made the inside clear, so you can see the electronics. Not a comforting thought when your looking into something your going to drink out of.

It does blink when you should take a drink, but if you aren’t facing the LED, you can easily miss it. There’s no buzz.

The app does not even include a find my bottle button.

I’d love to say this is the best idea ever … I’d love to say they have done an incredible job. Sadly what you have is a silly idea, half baked implementation, and so many flaws in whatever might have been the thought process as to be laughable.

If you ever think of buying one of these, give the money to charity, you’ll feel better for it and it will have a much greater impact on your day/life than this bottle could EVER make.

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

Blackberry Passport mini review

I know … your thinking … what? Ya I know … I got a chance to play with a Blackberry Passport from a friend (thanks Lance). So I was bored so I decided to play. First and foremost the lay of the land at this point is that any BB10 based devices which this is, are for all purposes DEAD. They will continue to work but to expect any form of evolution path for these is delusional. Blackberry as a company has moved onto Android based phones manufactured by a Chinese company. With that out of the way …

Ok so let’s start with the number one reason people choose BB … the keyboard. This particular one is unique in many ways. First off the keys are rectangular rather than square. So the spacing is odd. So you need to retrain your brain to use it. And the feel is nothing like say the old bold. The overall results is an eccentric feeling keyboard. Couple this with a line of soft keys above the keyboard and you have a weird experience that is going to take time to get use to.

The screen on this device is definitely the highlight. It’s big and largely square making it perfect for reading email etc. The ppi is very good at 453 which actually better than the iPhone 6. The screen is bright, crisp, vivid and big.

The other benefit to how big this phone is, is that the battery is equally big at 3450 mAH, compared with an iPhone 6 (for example at 1810). The net result is you have a multi day phone. As important as battery life is, charge time is equally important. The included charger is only 1A charger. With a 2A charger I was able to get it to draw 1.4A and that projected out to a full charge in 2.4 hours. Not great but not horrible either, but that would be really slow on the 1A charger. I found the passport to be a little more picky than others when it came to cables/chargers.

Weight and thickness of the phone are good and overall the device feels good in the hands.

The number one weakness of all BB10 devices is apps. BB brilliantly added Android compatibility a while back but stopped short of solving the problem. BB did NOT provide access to the Android Playstore and expected Android app makers to port their apps into the BB App store. This enmass did not happen. You can add the Google Playstore to BB10 pretty easily but then you run into the next major hurdle, there is no way to get Google Play services on BB10. So without this a LOT of Android apps just don’t work, are buggy, freeze, lack functionality and the like. The net result is a suite of apps that’s like a piece of Swiss cheese with all kinds of missing apps. The chances you could ever exist on this device ONLY as a power user are Nil. Some Android apps do work, but don’t get your hopes up.

Functionality of Google/Microsoft/Exchange etc are of course excellent. This includes, mail/contacts and calendar. This is one place this device shines, and frankly if it didn’t I’d wonder about BB as a company. If there is anything missing it is the Google priority inbox. The BB Priority hub is really not well done and is missing OBVIOUS things like, if they aren’t in my contact this, they aren’t a priority. The lack of this means you get bothered constantly with junk mail. And notifications can’t be set for things only in the Priority hub so all in all it was poorly implemented.

LTE radio is excellent as is the hotspot on this device, battery life on the hotspot is also quite good. Unlike an iPhone that after a period of inactivity turns off the WIFI part of the hotspot the Passport soldiers on making it much more of a set it and forget it hotspot.

All in all I like the passport. It’s a great upgrade from Q10 who’s miniscule screen is laughable for anything other than super short emails. Should you run out and grab one? Ahhh nope. But if you were given one it is an excellent device.

August 18, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nikon AW120 waterproof camera review

I love taking pictures. I’m not a HUGE camera buff, but love having the pics to share with friends and have a memento. Having recently added Kayaking into the mix and my new Kayaking blog I’ve been fussing with what I wanted to do to take pictures while kayaking. So many beautiful images waiting to be captured! At first I started using my iPhone in a waterpoof bag. This was clumsy and overall the pics while adequate weren’t great. I dug out an older Canon SD450 I had stopped using and figured if it ended up in the drink so be it. This improved the picture quality over the iPhone but this camera’s days are long past. I’d love to take my Canon rebel XS DSLR but the idea of it ending up in the drink would make me want to cry. If I can come up with a way to carry it around, and get it in and out easily while in the kayak I’ll eventually do that, but for now … For comparison, my main point and shoot is Canon ELPH 330 HS. By the way, the AW120 is by no means a current camera, it’s at least 4 years old, I bought it used off Kiji. There is a newer AW 130 but there’s shockingly little new in the 130.

Let’s start with some simple comparisons:

SD450/330HS/AW120
5 / 12 / 16 mp
4 / 10 / 5 x zoom
4.94 / 4.41 / 7.5 oz (weight)

This camera could replace the SD450, on paper at least, but the 330HS is still a better camera IMHO.

Physically the camera is a bit on the chubby side, compare to my Canons. To make this camera waterproof all of the moving parts of the lens are hidden inside the camera, it’s one of the reasons why the zoom is so low. There is digital zoom you can use, but this has always seemed silly to me, just crop it afterwards. Fortunately it can be turned off. The lens is nicely recessed to protect it, but there is no lens cover or auto closing shutter on the front. The positive side of this is that the camera jumps to life almost instantaneously whereas the Canons all have a slight delay while the lens opens up. This may seem trivial but as a bird unexpectedly jumps into flight that delay can result in missing the picture.

Like most of these waterproof cameras all of the ports (micro USB, micro HDMI, SD slot and battery) are all hidden behind a rubber sealed door. The camera attempts to detect when this isn’t sealed properly and alerts you to reseal it.

The battery for this camera is a EN-EL12 and it can be replaced, or you can carry a spare. They are readily available on Amazon. The battery is charged using a standard micro USB cable. There is no external battery charger although you can buy it as an option if you wish. According to Nikon it charges in about 2 hours. This same micro USB cable is also used to transfer the images off the camera without removing the SD card. Once plugged in (on Windows) the camera shows as usual as a media device and you can simply and easily copy off the pics. The camera can not be powered on while charging, so you will need to wait until charging is done to play …

This camera is packed with sensors/features … let’s jump into them briefly.

Barometric altimeter displays on the screen your current elevation/depth. A neat add, but the data is NOT stored in the meta data. Electronic compass is displayed on the screen and the data is stored in the log files of your pictures, but not in the picture itself. More about the logging in a bit … There’s even a GPS in the device to add Geotagging automatically to your pics meta data. I love this, and would be an incentive to upgrade my current camera. It gets suprisingly quick locks. I’m sure it has impact on the battery life, and you can turn it off if you wish, but I love this feature. GPS can also be used to set the clock automatically which would also take care of time zone changes …

Update: To create quick position locks for geotagging, the GPS is always on. Past cameras I am told were notorious for ending up with constantly dead batteries. On this one I brought the phone in the house in between uses and got 3 weeks before the battery was showing half dead. When in the car however when there was constant motion the camera was dead in a week. So if you think your going to be not using the camera for a while and don’t want to come back to a dead camera when you need it, turn off GPS or always have a spare battery!

The camera has WIFI, well sort of. The ONLY thing you can do with the WIFI is use it to connect to a smart phone. Connecting is SUPER clumsy and poorly implemented. Nikon could learn a thing or two from EYE-FI. To use it you have to first set it up on the camera/phone. Once setup you need to initiate from the camera the connection to the smart phone, then go to the smart phone (I’m on an iPhone, no idea if Android is any better), start up the Nikon app, then manually transfer the files you want. If there is a way to make this happen automatically to keep your camera backed up to your phone, I sure don’t see it. You can also use the WIFI connection to remotely take pics, a nice touch. Lastly you can see the exact battery level of the camera on the phone.

There’s internal storage on the camera (320MB) but it’s really not meant for using. When there is no card present WIFI is disabled, a bizarre combination. Images stored on the internal storage are copied over by the camera itself when you insert an SD card. But other than that the only way to get images off the camera would be the USB cable.

Most of the back of the camera is dominated by a large screen. It’s a HUGE scratch magnet. If you buy one of these cameras your going to want a screen protector, a case or both. The buttons to control the settings are all fairly small. Almost impossible with any form of glove and challenging if you have large fingers. Fortunately the zoom control is on it’s own and relatively easy to control.

Turning the camera on shows you the battery status (in a small indicator) as well as the number of shots left. Pretty standard stuff. There are a MYRIAD of icons all showing the status of the camera and it’s sensors. I mean a LOT!

There are mount points for lanyards on both sides of the camera, allowing this point and shoot to be carried using a shoulder mount. There’s also an optional floating strap that will provide enough buoyancy to make sure the camera doesn’t sink if dropped into the water. If yours didn’t come with one you can find them on Amazon. There’s also a tripod mount on the bottom of the camera, a must in my mind!

The camera shoots pretty quickly onto internal storage, and then seems to write it back to the SD card. If you try and view the image before it’s done you will be told to wait 🙂

The camera has an interesting log mode, that uses the internal GPS and takes and stores bread crumbs of where you were that day. This can be viewed on a map. It also logs anywhere you took photos. An interesting feature that would take some sorting out to figure out what to do with it.

Scene shooting modes are super limited at just Easy Auto mode, Scene mode, Special effects, smart portrait and auto mode. Flash can easily be turned on, off or auto, something Canon buries behind a number of menus for some BIZARRE reason. Self timer is easily accessible from a dedicated button. Very well done.

Overall this is a good camera, but honestly if I paid full price for it, around $350 I would likely return it. At the price I paid it just now depends on if the resulting image quality is good enough … The edges of the picture once zoomed in are definitely soft as you can see below.

Complete list of specs.

Here are some sample images, my use case is 100% outdoors …

There is no macro mode on this camera so super close ups are not as good as other cameras.

August 3, 2017 Posted by | Other reviews, Uncategorized | Leave a comment