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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 …

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 …

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

Advancedframe® Expedition AE1009 inflatable Kayak (mini review)

I recently purchased/reviewed an Advanced Elements AE1012 inflatable kayak, and I love it. It has opened up a whole new sport to make it accessible without the issues of storage and handling of a regular kayak. A friend, Susan, bought the Expedition and let me give it a whirl and thus you have this post. This post will cover off what’s different between them. From a specs point of view:

As you can see the major difference is in the length, with the expedition being 2.5 ft longer. This added length is quite visibly noticeable. It also means it takes a little longer to inflate as the chamber is larger. This added length allows more leg room, something some may need over the AE1012. The longer front deck also means this boat does a little better in waves. I’ve found, on occasion a wave will break over the deck of the 1012, but even in 2 foot swells the Expedition did better. There’s also a adjustable foot rest, along with positioning of the back of the seat that you can use to position yourself where you want to be in the cockpit of the kayak. It’s a little finicky to get set just right, but once you’ve got it set right your good to go assuming you don’t have more than one person using the boat.

There’ also some additional storage space behind the seat to store stuff. To call this an expedition ready kayak is a bit of a stretch IMHO.

This boat was made in 2008, it looks like later models added some dry storage in the back of the boat that would be helpful.

Once inflated the boat handles a little differently than the 1012 due to the added length. I would say it takes a little more effort to paddle, but to be honest that is a perception, it is not quantifiable. The expedition seemed to be a little more rigid front to back the AE1012 and thus flexed less in the waves. It was noticeable.

The boat we got also seemed to have the optional lumbar supported seat.

There is an optional rib you can buy they call a backbone that will increase the boats rigidity as well as make it track better.

There’s also an optional hard floor you can buy that they call the dropstitch floor also designed to increase rigidty.

Here’s a great video showing these two optional components.

All in all the Expedition is a nice boat, slightly larger than the 1012. It’s not a night and day difference.

Here’s a comparison of all of their models.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Advanced elements AE1012 Inflatable kayak

Ok I know this is a little off my normal topic, but thought I’d share anyway. I have loved kayaking every time I have tried it. The major stumbling block to buying one has been putting a roof rack on my car. Those of you that know (and some of you who love me :)) know I am a bit obsessive about my car. And the thought of on my own lifting a clumsy, 40 lb+ kayak over my head onto the roof rack just sounded like a pulled back waiting to happen. So I haven’t bought one … And then a friend (thanks Val) last fall introduced me to products from this company. And to make matters even better another friend (thanks John) offered to lend me one to try! Can you believe my luck!

Advanced elements web site

So what I am looking for is a kayak to take on short trips in rivers near me. 1-2 hour trips near home in gentle flowing rivers. The kayack is about the size of a hockey bag folded up and weighs 36 lbs. The newer hockey backs come on wheels, this could use that idea 🙂 The bag even includes a pouch for the manual. A nice touch would have been to include a laminated picture, sadly they didn’t.

Setting up this kayak is as simple as it appears in the videos on Youtube. I won’t bother making one there are tons out there already. Here’s one for a slightly different model. The first time I tried to set this up after watching the videos it took me 15 minutes, and deflation even less. It really is as simple and easy as it seems. A standard high capacity pump just like you’d use for an air mattress is all you need. Absolutely no need for a power pump, don’t waste your time, money and hearing (the damn things are loud). There is one trick, these pumps have an inflation and a deflation port allowing you to suck the air out of the kayak to make disassembly even faster. The vales on the boat include a switch between inflation and deflation making it easier to pump it up and then remove the pump loosing little to know air. Finding each of the tubes to inflate can be a bit challenging and they could have done a better job in the manual to show them. The caps for the inflation ports are tethered to the boat so you don’t loose them, but unfortunately they are pretty easy to snap off (I did on first use). Now your challenged to not loose the cap 😦

The bottom of the boat is covered in a rubber coating over the firm front and back of the boat. But this can easily be damaged dragging the boat so be careful. They could have made this more robust … I would consider this the Achilles heal of the boat. In the front they added a drag protector but not at the back. And in the front where the boat beaches is also quite susceptible to damage.

Once in the water the boat because of it’s width is surprisingly stable. More so than other Kayaks I’ve been in. Getting in is made easier if you undo the front zipper.

There’s an adjustable seat back that makes the boat a whole lot more comfortable. I’m not all that tall at 5’9, with a distance of 40 inches from my toes to my waste and my feet are at the end of the boat with the seat mostly to the back. So if your super tall this boat might not fit. There is a bit of storage on the back of the seat, but not all that convenient to get at.

The boat has a little keel and hard parts in the boat that make it track as well as, and as fast as a normal kayak. I have to say I was thoroughly impressed. Even in a fairly windy day (24km/h) it stayed on track and was easy to handle. I don’t have all the right words and phrases, I’m a beginner when it comes to kayaks, but this had what I wanted from a performance point of view.

If there is one thing missing it would be a water proof storage compartment for your gadgets and a bottle holder. You can buy your own and strap them into the front of the boat but this seems like a simple thing they could have added

Folding it up and getting it back in the bag was simple and easy, easier than I thought. The hard parts of the kayak make it obvious where to fold it up. The bottom inside of the kayak has a rubber coating making it easy to dry off the boat. I wish they had used the same coating on the deck of the boat. When your paddling the water from the paddle gets the deck quite wet.

This boat does not have a lot of end to end rigidity so would not be the best in rough waters. You can get an optional hard floor for it that would improve this somewhat. The boat does very well in very shallow waters too.

The boat all in all is amazing, there are always things that could have been improved, but that said this is an impressively designed and executed product. Something you don’t often hear from me 🙂

Owners manual

As an interesting side note, the Garmin Fenix 3 that I love has a rowing mode. In this mode you get lots of stats about your rowing, as well as a nice map of your trek. Here’s a sample of the data you get from it.

And another interesting side note, I did three different types of exercises and compared the calorie counts. The results are interesting.

If your looking to pick one of these up Atmosphere, The Paddle Store as well as Steveston Marine (in BC)here in Canada carry them.

If your looking at used I got this from their forums: Each kayak has a number on it that identifies it. This is called the Hull ID Number. The Hull Id # is located on the kayak and begins with XZE. The last two digits are the ones that will tell us what year it was made in. It will look something like this….XZE0186AA202. The “02” tells us that the kayak was made in 2002. It should be this way with all of the kayaks unless you bought a sample model or any other non-production model.

By the way, I’ve found customer support from Advanced Elements to be excellent, prompt and efficient. While they don’t on their web site support clients from countries other than the US, I contacted them and they shipped to Canada parts for reasonable fees.

I also found out from them that if you need more glue to repair holes (the boat came with a repair kit, but very little glue) you can use M Essentials Aquaseal Urethane Repair Adhesive, readily available on Amazon.

What do I need to get into kayaking?
To start off lets make a statement of the obvious, your going to get wet. And while tipping a kayak isn’t an easy thing to do, it’s by no means impossible. Get it sideways in a wave and you could be tipping. An unfortunately placed sharp rock or brank and it could be torn (although unlikely). So you need to wear clothes that are ok in the wet, and you can swim in them if you had to. Since there is no dry storage in the boat you may want to buy a dry bag or dry box to put stuff like cell phones or cameras in. I bought a waterproof bag for my phone. It comes with a tether and a place for a key. It works well.

Safety wise you need a life jacket, and you should get a whistle to call for help if you needed it. You will need a paddle. This boat is a little wider than some and a little higher so you need a longer one. I bought a 213 cm long one and it was too short. I moved up to a 230 and it is much better, I think 240 would be even better. The one I ended up with is a Protex Logan. Cheap at Sail. One of the previous paddles I tried came with a nice soft grip on the handle and I really liked it.

For your feet since you will need to get wet a pair of water sandals I found work best and are the most comfortable. Undoing the front zipper makes getting in and out of the boat easier. And taking the sandals off once in the boat is just more comfortable. You will need a high volume pump if your boat did not come with one. Be sure and get one that is double action so you can deflate the boat more quickly. There are foot pumps, but the they move less air.

And if your a gadget guy like me a Fenix 3 can help you track your route, get stats on the trip and be used to navigate. It can also be used for live tracking.

June 12, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jumbl Bluetooth headset/receiver

I know, I know, not another bluetooth receiver … As you maye have guessed I am having trouble finding one to do exactly what I want. I find it odd, because with the move of iPhone 7 to removing the 3.5mm jack I would have thought these would be become even more popular. What do I know … So I now try this one … Nice and small with nice BIG (sort of) buttons. And this time they made sure volume controls are two of them. Is that not blatantly obvious? Moving on … The device has a standard 3.5 mm audio plug and is compatible with both 3 pin stereo and 4 pin stereo and mic headphones. It charges with a standard micro USB charger. This unit seems to be sold under a number of names (judging from physical appearance). This includes a Noisehush and Griffin iTrip, from a preliminary look, there may be others.

The unit clips to clothes with what appears to be a fairly robust clip that just might not break as easily as others in the past.

Spec wise they quote: “On a single charge, the built-in 120mAh rechargeable li-polymer battery keeps you going for 8 hours of music playback, 10 hours of hands-free call time, and up to 150 hours of standby.” The unit from dead took just under two hours to charge and you can use it while it’s being charged. It claims to be the newer bluetooth 4 spec, but there is no mention of APTX support. The iPhone doesn’t support APTX so not an issue for me.

It is compatible with the iPhone bluetooth battery headset widget. In case your new to this it’s a widget called battery that you can see by swiping to the left from the home screen. If the bluetooth headset is attached you will see the battery status of the headset in what appears to be 20% increments (for this headset anyway). There is no alert of an almost dead headset and I didn’t find any apps that you can use to do this. I found the count went from 100% to 80, then 60 and then dead with only a brief warning. I got approx 7 hours streaming battery life so the 8 seems possible. But the misleading 60% to dead is disappointing. Not sure how common this is. The widget also does not show the state of charge of the headset.

Pairing the device was easy, push and hold the center button until the two lights flash and away you go. Turning it on requires you to push and hold the center button but just long enough to turn it on without putting it in pairing mode. I found this hit or miss. The easiest way is to carefully listen to the beep or watch for the blue LED to come on, takes about 2 seconds. Once powered on you need to wait a bit of time, what seemed longer than most other bluetooth headsets before you could use it for streaming music. And sometimes in spite of being connected as a phone headset the music would not stream to it and I had to turn it off and back on and try again. I found this buggy at best. Once connected it works well and sound quality is good, with no drop outs.

When a call comes in you simply press the center button to accept and end the call and then your back to your music. It works smoothly.

There does not seem to be a way to call up SIRI … pooh.

When pressing the buttons on the outside (volume or fwd/rwd) it’s pretty easy, especially with gloves, to hit the play pause instead.

All in all this is a good device, not perfect, but it does work, has good battery life and sound quality is good.

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mengk bluetooth headset Eurobird HM2000

I was looking for an inexpensive bluetooth headset to replace my iKross BT19 which is no longer available. I saw this one and decided to try it.

Size and weight are good, buttons are very minimalistic, so much so as to make this device super clumsy to use. There is a fwd/rwd button that if you push and hold act as the volume up and down. Seems to me one would use volume more so why it isn’t the one that does not require holding is beyond me. The button on the front turns the unit on, and changes between streaming bluetooth and FM and powering off. Getting the front button right is all about pushing and holding just the right amount of time. Too long and you just powered it off. It’s irritating

The 3.5mm audio plug is NOT compatible with 4 pin stereo/mic headsets, only stereo ones. Sound quality is really not great even in blutooth streaming.

FM radio is reasonable well done and includes simple to use audio prompts in english.

The device can not be used while charging so it is useless as a permanent bridge.

In the end I returned this device due to poor audio quality, the lack of support for a 4 pin audio plug and maddening usability.

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sony Ericsson MW600 bluetooth headset review

When I mountain bike I love listening to music. But having a wire to the phone in your pocket is a pain (sometimes literally). So I like to use a bluetooth headset. It also makes it possible to take a call if there was something urgent. In the past I have owned a Samsung HS3000 as well as an iKross BT19, both of which I liked and used a lot, but neither are still available and both are either broken or lost. I particularly liked the big buttons on the iKross for use with gloves while riding … Finding a replacement has been surprisingly challenging. One of the problems I have is that for whatever reason in ear headphones, never stay in place on me.

So I thought I’d try this one. First off, it’s worth noting that this device is no longer sold by Sony Ericsson so if you want one buy it while you can. There are some still on Amazon.

First off the headphone connector is a standard 3.5mm, and is compatible with both stereo (3 pin) and stereo with a mic (4 pin) headphones. This comes in handy. Sound wise this is one of the best to date with the right headphones. The included ones are fine, a little lacking in base and as usual they don’t stay in my ears.

The unit is capable of pairing with two devices simultaneously, so say a phone and tablet.

Size wise, it’s about the size of a AA battery and light. Buttons are a power and micro USB for charging on the end, fwd/rwd/play-pause on the bottom and a bizarre slider for volume on the top. If there is a weakness or annoying thing about this device it’s the volume. You slide your finger along it and a visual slider comes up on the display and you slide up or down. It’s hokey at best. I have no idea what they were thinking of when they decided to do this. And it is impossible with any kind of gloves on. I could go on about how stupid this is … On the front is a single easy to use button that allows you to receive and end incoming calls. Double click and up comes SIRI! Perfect

There is an OLED display on the unit and it works super well … kind of. The display will show you the FM station your on (more about FM in a bit), the song playing when on bluetooth streaming, shows the bluetooth connection and battery state, time, and who is calling . The display is comprehensive in what it displays … but … and there is always a but, the OLED display is completely unreadable in any amount of sunlight. Really bad. And there is no way to tell what radio station your listening to without the display. There are no audio prompt whatsoever on this device. An over sight IMHO.

Sadly the device can not be used while charging so you could not use this device as a permanent bluetooth receiver. Dumb and limiting.

The clip that holds it to your clothes is quite soft and the spring is not all that robust. I can only hope it will last.

Battery life is claimed to be talk time up to 11 hours, standby time up to 500 hours, stream time up to 8 hours 30 mins, FM radio playing time up to 11 hours and charging time approximately 2 hours. Like most devices in this category there is no accurate way to tell the current battery status. The display shows the battery status but it’s too small to be able to discern much of anything.

There is an FM radio on this device and it works reasonable well and supports RDS so you get the radio stations call sign and the song playing. Impressive! Press and hold fwd/rwd and it will scan for the next radio station it finds. Reception seemed ok.

This headset can be paired to two devices at the same time, and from the headset menu you can choose which one you want to listen to and control. It’s not as seamless as the HS3000 but at least it does work.

If there was anything I wished most for, it would be an app that would run on the phone and allow you to control and see what’s going on with the headset. Now to be honest, I have NEVER seen anyone do this, but one can dream.

This headset does not support the Apple ability to display the headset’s battery status.

All in all I am pretty happy with this headset. The biggest niggle would be the silly volume control. But given how good everything else is on this headset, I guess its not so bad. But why they felt it necessary to reinvent the wheel is beyond me. There does seem to be a slightly newer model Sony SBH54.

May 24, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to use HRV

I last did a post about HRV, an introduction of sorts, I’ve learned a little more so I thought it was time for another post on the subject. HRV or heart rate variability is a way to tell what shape your body is mentally and physically. It can be used to judge when it’s time to go all out on the next workout and when it’s time for a light stroll. It can be used to measure physical and mental stress as well. Some devices such as Garmin Vivosmart 3 and Lifetrak Zoom HRV are attempting to do all day HRV measurements. How good or accurate (or even useful) these are is very much a TBD. I am skeptical.

HRV is a measure of the variance of time between heart beats. A healthy and well rested system can react quickly to needs of the body. There is good HRV and bad HRV but the reality is there is a range. Too high is bad and an indication of one issue, too low is bad and an indication of another issue. Now I am not a Dr, I am an engineer :). So I will make no attempt to explain the physiology of any of this. What I will try and do is discuss what you can glean from HRV and how to use it.

First up is tools, you will need a highly accurate heart rate monitor. For now that seems to be chest straps. I have a Wahoo TICKR and a Polar H7 both of which seem to do just fine with HRV and give consistent readings. Next up is an app on your phone. The last time around I put a few through their paces and decided on EliteHRV. It is simple to use, easy to understand and works well. If there is anything I wish for, is a portal, where I could see the data offline, on something other than my little phone screen. Oddly enough the app does send the data up to the cloud, I guess for their use.

Taking a measurement is pretty simple, get your chest strap, wet it (most chest straps have to be wet to be accurate), sit still start the app and wait two minutes. Two minutes seems to be about the right amount of time to get a reliable accurate consistent HRV reading. The more still you are the better the measurement. For the first couple of days you will get nothing out of the app while it figures out your baseline, normal, state. Once done you are now ready to start getting some meaningful data out of the app.

I am not going to try and discuss HRV during an activity, at this point I have not figured out what it means, or even how accurate or useful it might be,

So let’s get started. After taking measurements for a bit it was time to see what shape I was in before a ride. So I took the measurement, and as you can see I am in the green and good to go! The intra chart shows a pretty stable reading.

The reading isn’t right in the middle of perfection but it’s well within the range of what it considers good for me. So off I go on a ride. I rode for 2.5 hours, and then retook my measurement. Sure enough it shows that my body has been under some considerable exertion for me). My HRV had dropped from 59 in the morning to 36 after the ride. The only thing missing would have been a nice simple dial again. I have no idea why they only do this for morning readings.

So the next morning I measure my HRV again. Here you see I have recovered from 36 back up to 51, but it’s still in the yellow meaning if I were to go out an hard exercise it might be a bad idea. I would be at risk of performing badly or even injuring myself pulling muscles and the like.

By the next day you can see my HRV had recovered back up to 58 (now two mornings, and roughly 36 hours after my ride). As an interesting note, my Garmin Fenix 3 gives you a guess at what it thinks is your time to recover from your workout, and it guessed 29 hours so in the same range.

Now to see the affect of things other than exercise, I had a really bad night of sleep. And low and behold my HRV, down to 51, reflected it and showed a deccrease and the fact that I would not be in a good place to do a hard workout, something I felt anyway.

Here’s another pre exercise HRV, then a post exercise and then the next morning. This time it dropped from 54 to 43. This was an easier ride 688 calories Vs 1244 (according to my Fenix 3) from the previous example and as you can see my HRV dropped only 11 this time Vs 23. And as you can see it took less time to recover from my exercise, the next morning I would have been good to go again for another workout (albeit just barely).

And for completeness here is an almost perfect HRV after a good long nights rest. Right smack in the middle of the good range!

This last image is a way of seeing it all in one. You can see here it’s about a range. Too high is bad, too low is bad. It’s about distance from center of your normal. You get the best readings and accuracy when you take your HRV regularly.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leg based heart rate monitors

I’m always looking around for new ways to track my heart rate. In my mind the heart rate can tell a lot about you and your day. Warning … This post is going to be a bit of a ramble. A couple of new products have come on the market and I have been thinking of splurging on. The new Garmin Vivosmart 3 looks interesting and includes true all day heart rate monitoring. This allows you to get a couple interesting tid bits of information including your resting heart rate and your HRV. HRV (heart rate variability) is a measure of how stressed/tired/exhausted you may be and can be used to guide you in when and how long/hard you ought to work out. A quick read on DC Rainmakers web site reveals, as expected, wrist based heart rate monitoring for cycling is not practical. In Ray’s words “In case it’s not overwhelmingly obvious above (the yellow line): It sucked.  Badly.” On the positive side it would give me more data in the Garmin connect world, and would land all my data including sleep/tracking all in one place, the holy grail. So if I bought this one, I wouldn’t be using it on my rides.

Another gadget that caught my eye and what triggered this post is the Lifetrak Zoom HRV. This is again a wrist based all day heart rate monitor that also provides HRV (thus the name Captain Obvious :)). One of the unique things they did was provide an optional arm/leg band so you can move the sensor to somewhere it might get more accurate data during workouts (ie off the wrist). They claim they can get accurate data from multiple places on the body. So it got me thinking, I wonder if it’s actually possible to get an accurate heart rate from the leg? The lifetrak even recommends using it on the leg for cycling in which case it will also get cadence (rate of rotation of the peddles). Hmmmm.

And thus we have the experiment. So first off, I do not own a LifeTrak Zoom HRV, I do however own a Scosche rhythm + that can be worn on the leg. I’ve never seen anything talking about whether you can or can not do this so …. I wore the sensor on the leg above the calf, below the knee. This insured it wouldn’t fall off when cycling.

One of the first things you have to ask yourself is what are you trying to do with the heart rate? If you are trying to use it to keep your workout in zones then accurate data is a MUST. If all you want is an accurate calorie count then accuracy of the data at a given point is less important, average are all that really matter.

First off lets have a look at simple sedentary measurement. Sitting around not doing much. In this case the data actually looks quite promising. Both the point accuracy and average look good. For this comparison I used a polar h7 chest strap.


Expecting more than a 10% accuracy is unrealistic in this market segment IMHO, however having a variance of 8 bpm is getting up there as impractical for use for heart rate zone management.

Now let’s have a look at quick stair climb. This time the leg will actually be doing something. This time around it looks bad. There’s a short period of time where it’s just an act of fiction. Then a period of time where it lags (somewhat expected) and lastly it seems to somehow catch up.


Again it did reasonably ok from averages point of view, but bad for point comparisons.

Now I went on a short walk 20 mins. In this case for the most part the data tracked reasonably well, although there’s some noticeable lag in the heart rate being detected on the leg, and then something bizarre on the end of the graph.

And last but not least we get to my real use case, cycling. Visually comparing the data during the ride the leg based heart rate monitor was REALLY BAD. Like unusable, an utter act of fiction. If you were using it to guide you in zones you would be completely off. Average wise, shockingly it’s not so bad. I can only imagine the pounding of mountain biking could make this even worse.

Update:
I had another thought … What about the ankle, would it be any better? Again the scosche is on the ankle and the tickr is a chest strap. As you can see, other than an odd drop out for a period of time it was not totally out to lunch. Now that said, again, it would not be accurate enough to use for keeping you in zones. There were definitely times when I could see 10 or BPM off. Enough to effect what zone your in. And again, average wise it was not half bad.

So what does all this mean? First up for cycling, the Rhythm can not be worn on the leg for accurate heart rate data. I would also be skeptical that when worn on the leg that the Lifetrak Zoom HRV could be considered accurate enough for cycling. Now I admit to making a HUGE leap having done this test using a different monitor, but I have seen comments around the web that have also indicated that the Zoom on the legs accuracy on heart rate is BAD.

I asked Scosche about using the sensor on the leg, here is what they said: “Greetings John we have had customer use our monitor on their leg. As far as testing, no real testing has been performed on the leg application only the forearm.”

May 11, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Storage pools

Storage pools are not a new concept they have existed in the Unix/Linux world for a long time but finally entered the Windows world in Windows 8, and Server 2012 (I don’t think Server 2008 had them). In the past the size of a physical drive in turn translated into the drive letter. In the olden days people would even split drives into different drive letters, but this is a maintenance nightmare leading to space on one drive letter and none on the other. The idea of storage pools for the most part is convenience. To remove the limitations imposed by the physical size of the drive an thus on a given drive letter. You simply add drives into a pool and let the operating system manage what physical drive it’s on. Need more space, add another drive and increase the pool size. Gone are the days of shuffling around files between drives to balance or free space. You can also decide on a smaller size than that of the physical drive, to have redundancy (RAID). So for example on 2TB drives you could decide only 100G of that needs to be mirrored. All this is then managed by the volume manager. There are a couple of gotchas you need to be aware of with storage pools.

  • if you think your drive size could exceed 2TB (and is not starting above 2TB) be sure the partition table you choose is GPT not GUID or you will not be able to grow beyond it.
  • if you choose to use thin provisioning (allowing logical partitions to allocate space only as needed) be aware that if you end up running out of space this is REALLY not handled elegantly at all. Here’s an example. Windows thinks 10G is available but tells you it can not copy 1G. That would confuse most people:
    over-prov-fail

  • there is no way to change the RAID level of an existing partition. This one is a particularly HUGE issue. It means you basically need to start from a blank system with blank drives. Existing partitions/drives can NOT be added to a storage pool either. So you basically need to start green field, embrace storage pools, copy your stuff onto it and stay there until time ends.
  • logical drive sizes can be increased, but shrinking is dicey
  • performance is likely NOT going to be your motivator
  • performance of a RAID 5 stripe (done in software) on Windows is bad, I mean REALLY bad, I mean so bad don’t even think about it. Read is fine, writing is super slow.

Storage pools a super convenience that would take a HUGE leap of faith and cash to jump into, but once your there, the days of running out of space on this drive or the other would be long gone!

So where to get started? In Windows 8 in control panel search for Storage (it’s called Spaces in Windows 8, Windows Server calls it pools).

As you can see only unformatted blank disks can be entered into a new storage pool. Once the pool is created your now ready to create a storage space. A space in windows terms is a virtual drive. Here you specify if your looking for any redundancy, referred to as resiliency. This would allow you to tolerate a full drive failure (in the case of a mirror), but at the cost of space. Everything is written twice thus halving the space available.

You now have a shiny new drive letter. It’s worth noting if you choose simple (re resiliency) it’s even worse than that. Because your drive is actually stored across two drives (or more) potentially, you could loose everything if one drive failed. Not just what was on one drive. Now amplify this out and say you did simple over 5 drives (as an example). If any one of the 5 drives failed you could loose everything. This is a VERY bad choice, one that Windows sadly does not warn you about.

So now you decide, okay I am going to change the resiliency to add redundancy. Nope you can’t do that even if the drive is empty without deleting it and starting again.

So that’s about it, a little sneak peek into Storage pools/Spaces in Windows.

March 16, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment