John Galea's Blog

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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.

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

Garmin Fenix 3 navigation

There are a number of ways to use the Garmin Fenix 3 to navigate and make course.

1) You can save a waypoint such as your start or whatever and then select navigation saved location (which will be direction/distance as the crow flies to the waypoint)
2) In the middle of the track you can say trackback to start (which will retrace your exact route including giving you turn by turn navigation instructions, and indications when you are on course or off course)
3) If you have previous waypoints you can make a course out of it. Click Navigation, courses, create new, then add waypoints. Then do the course
4) You can record a course on the fenix, then upload it to Garmin Connect, then go to the garmin connect web site and convert it to a course.

This course can then be sent back to the Fenix with a nice title using the Garmin connect app on your phone. Click Garmin connect, more, courses, click the course, then click the icon in the top left corner to send it to your Fenix.

5) Once you have recorded a course on your fenix you can click history, find the recorded activity, then click Go.
6) You can use Garmin basecamp on your computer to make a route. To do this connect your Fenix to your computer and start basecamp. Find devices in Basecamp and your Fenix will be there. You can right click and “Send to” the entire contents of your Fenix to your computers library.

It’s better to add them to your computers library because it makes it possible to edit without the Fenix. Find the waypoint that is your starting point, right click and select create route using selected waypoint.

From there you can add as many waypoints to the route as you want. If working from the library you need to send the route to your Fenix (with the Fenix connected over USB). If editing on the devices internal storage it’s there. Oddly once you resync the route does not seem to show up in Basemap on the internal storage so editing is challenging unless you use the local library (rather than editing the Fenix’s internal storage). Routes created on Basemap never seem to get uploaded to Garmin connect even after you sync the Fenix either through bluetooth of USB. No idea why that is. You can also use Basemap to copy courses created on one Garmin device over to another but the names of the waypoints don’t copy over even if they are identical on this device. To say this whole process is imperfect is an understatement.

March 17, 2017 Posted by | Activity Trackers, GPS Stuff | 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:

  • 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

Xiaomi Band 2 review

At this point I have a variety of gadgets in my drawer. My fav right now is the Garmin Fenix 3. The best combination of GPS watch, fitness/sleep tracker, and smart watch functions. Amazing device. But at the end of the day, it’s big, isn’t the best sleep tracker and some days you just want to wear a normal watch and not look like a geek. The Polar A 300 is an excellent every day watch. Always on display, easy to read, good notifications, good sleep tracking and good battery life. But it has no GPS so for activities like hiking/cycling it is only somewhat useful. At this point I have two Fitbits, the Flex (which is really my daughters) and a Charge . Fitbit as one of the companies that invented this sector and still dominate it, have been irritating me. They have fallen asleep at the wheel. Innovation seems to me to have stalled. None of them do the whole suite of notifications (on an iPhone). Move reminders have been added to only the newest devices. Watch faces on the Blaze are so lacking as to be laughable. The latest products the Flex 2 and Charge 2 just aren’t what I am looking for. They just don’t cut it.

So what am I looking for? Well … the requirements boil down to this (in order of importance):
1) small enough as to be barely noticable
2) smart watch like vibration notificatons (not just call)
3) good battery life (5 days or better)
4) automatic sleep tracking. Having to manually start/stop sleep is just a complete non starter
5) move reminder

Right off the bat a number of the Garmins that I would otherwise consider drop off. This includes Vivofit (no vibration alert only audible, which can get missed when your in noisy places). All of the Fitbits miss the mark with only call or call/text notifications (again on iPhone).

And so we at long last move onto the Xiaomi Band 2 and the reason for this point. Physically this band is as small as one could want.

The unit consists of a removable peanut (similar to the first gen of this device as well as the flex).
The charge clip is firm and simply designed. I have no idea if it is the same one as the first gen band. The removable nature of this means you also can change the band (and also makes cleaning the band simple and easy). There are lots of options from leather to metal available inexpensively on Amazon.
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I have not been able to find a belt clip for it like I did for the fitbit Flex, nor have a I found a protector that would allow me to just throw it in the pocket.

The default band is the usual rubber but it is well designed and easy to do up. Fitbit could learn a thing or two from this. I still prefer a simple watch band like clasp but none the less it’s fine. The extra loop insure that if it comes undone there is a chance you might not loose it

Over bluetooth the device’s firmware can be updated, which there was one for me. Not sure how active they are with updates, time will tell.

The display is a simple affair and reasonably readable especially in lower light situations. You can customize the display to rotate through all of your stats. It is not an always on display (sadly). You can have it attempt to detect your wrist turning to turn it on if you want. I found this like on other devices messes up and comes on when sleeping. How hard is it to combine the fact you detected I’d sleeping and do not turn the display on? It will cycle through them as you tap the button (or optionally when you rotate your wrist, which is hit or miss). Its simple, efficient and well done. It’s a little on the smaller side so reading it without my glasses is sadly not possible (for me).

So now we have loaded the app (called mi Fit) onto your phone and are ready to pair. The registration process is not the smoothest experience. And if you are trying to use an existing account your in for a challenge of your patience. By default your user id is your country code and phone number. So in my case +1905xxxxxx. And you need to manually type and remember this (including the + sign). To say it’s not obvious is an understatement. Once you EVENTUALLY get past this part your onto the next. And I bumped into my second MAJOR hurdle. I bought my band on ebay, second hand. It was cheap, and in my country so why not … well I will tell you why not. It turns out Xiaomi have decided on the band 2 to try and prevent theft or reuse after loss. If the band is tied to an existing account it can not be tied to a new account until it is removed from the previous account. To do this the previous owner needs to unpair it within the Mi Fit app. This releases the band so it can be registered to a new account. There seems to be no way around this. I was able to get the previous owner to do this after a bit of chatter, but none the less, I was able to get it going. But this is something to be aware of. And if something happened to your Xiaomi account the band is garbage.

The app itself is simple and easy to use and gives you your current step count/calories and kms. The calories is activity calories only, which is nice. Fitibit insist on blurring your activity calories with your basal calories. Something that in my mind trivializes your activity calories. So be careful if your comparing calories with other devices …

Battery life is reported to be as much as 20 days, I managed a whopping 37 days before it asked to be charged! This so trounces the Fitbit as to be earth shattering. And my experience with the previous Gen says it’s possible. One of the things I like is that they tell you very clearly the percentage of battery remaining (Vs fitbits high medium/low) as well as when it was last charged. They are not afraid to let you see what the battery life of the device is.

Notification wise the device is the most comprehensive, and flexible series of notifications on the market. Again, Fitbit could learn a thing or two. Oddly the Google Mail app can not be selected for notifications, only the default mail app 😦 The vibration motor is fine and gets the job done, silently alerting you. Oddly alert setup is hidden behind the play icon? The message comes up briefly and then goes away. There seems to be no way to recall the message on the band you may have missed.
img_1854 img_1855

I have found bluetooth connection (on iPhone) to be a bit spotty which means the notifications can get missed. And re connection when you walk away from your phone takes some time, again affecting notifications. So this is definitely an area of weakness.

There is a band finder but it simply buzzes the band and turns on the display, so not all that helpful. There are bluetooth signal strength apps that could help you find it. Like most devices in this category it does not alert you when you walk away from your phone (or loose the band). Why they don’t do this is beyond me.

The device does do move reminders (and they can be turned off). It’s set for 1 hr inactivity and this can not be changed. You can define the hours that move alerts are active for which is nice. It also just gives you a simple buzz to get off your butt 🙂

Interestingly enough this unit actually has a heart rate sensor on the bottom of it. You can call up your heart rate anytime you like (which can be initiated on the phone or on the band). It doesn’t, oddly enough, seem to sample your heart rate through the day? The heart rate monitor can be configured to be used while sleeping to be more accurate at detecting you level of sleep. The sensor itself is quite smooth on the bottom, unlike others, so it ought to be reasonably comfortable in the long run. Accuracy is another matter, and one should not expect much. There is a way to use the heart rate monitor to track say a workout. Just press the Runner in the top left corner and click start. You can do an indoor run (no gps) or an outdoor run. Interestingly enough it even includes a high heart rate alert feature. There is a third party app on iPhone called

Finding friends that might also have a Xiamoi band is utterly useless. You can pull up a QR code on your phone and a friend can scan it. You can’t do it unless you are physically next to each other. There is a share button but this can only be done to Facebook and twitter (no email), although you can save it and email it yourself?

Like Apple Health, there is no web portal to view your data. Nor is there an ability to export your data from within the app. Fortunately, unlike Fitbit, Xiaomi does completely support sending it’s data into Apple Health. Impressive!

Ok let’s talk data. First up is steps. Every company uses different algorithms to determine steps. In my mind if they are within 10-15% of each other I can live with that. What is actually more important anyway is relative day to day. From steps, Kms and calories are calculated. Kms is particularly unimportant IMHO.

Day 1 I compared to a Garmin Fenix 3’s step tracker:
Garmin 11215 steps 9.1 kms 229 calories
Miband 105338 steps 8 kms 299 calories
Difference% -6 -12 +31
So steps are well within my tolerance. It’s worth noting I see nowhere to adjust your stride which would adjust Kms per step. Calorie wise not sure what to say.

Day 2 I compared to a Fitbit Flex
Flex 13444 steps 10.1 kms
MiBand 13090 steps 9.7 kms
Difference% -3 -4
So it did very well compared even to a Fitbit! Calorie wise Fitbit have always been absolutely stupid IMHO in that they blend activity calories with Basal calories. Basal is the calories it takes to exist. Basal is such a larger number that it totally overwhelms and makes activity calories look irrelevant. This can be demotivating. Even Fitbits activity calories which you can find by exporting the data from the portal end up being astronomical. So for the above day Fitbit says I burned 2438 calories, and 1183 of those were activity calories (Xiaomi calculated 312. Now when you care about calories is when you are trying to watch your weight. Calories in Vs calories out. So … I have no idea what to say about that. Moving on …

Now onto sleep! The big issue with comparing sleep is each company from Garmin, to Polar etc all decide to track different things. Some times awake, some restless, some deep sleep …

I compared a Fitbit Flex with a Polar A300 with the Xiaomi:
7.4 7.4 7.6 hours of sleep
I had to manually adjust the Flex, it totally missed when I went to bed. The Polar and the Xiaomi nailed it. And in fact the Xiaomi got it within mins.

Xiaomi track deep sleep (which they say is aided by the heart rate monitor) and then subtract from the total sleep to give you light sleep. I found the green light from the heart rate monitor creeps out and disturbs my sleep. The time we are in true deep sleep, at least for me is small. According to them: 1.7hrs of deep sleep so 5.9 hours of light sleep. Xiamoi make no attempt to give you a number of quality of sleep. On the second day it nailed when I went to bed but messed up when I got out of bed taking when I got up to go to the bathroom as me getting up. There is an edit button but it doesn’t seem to work and just says that a record for this time already exists. This is unfortunate as it would allow you to correct it.

Let’s have a look at the heart rate monitor, in inactive, sitting relatively still for 15 mins with the band tight. Optical heart rate sensors like this one need close contact with the skin to insure light doesn’t interfere with it. Now doing this test was a challenge to say the least. There is a buggy app called Mi HR that will allow you to use the Mi Band’s heart rate monitor in other apps. A clever piece of software. So I used Endomondo with the Mi Band and used a Scosche Rhythm+ with my Garmin Fenix 3 for the comparison. So let’s go with the good first. Over the 15 mins the Mi band showed an average heart rate of 74 and the scosche 78 or a delta of only 4 BPM (or 5%). This is really quite acceptable. I am shocked how overall it is quite good. If you were using this simply to estimate calories this is definitely acceptable. Now lets have a look at data points. In the 15 minutes there were 147 data points in common. During the 15 minutes the two differed by as much as 31 BPM topping out at a delta of 37%. This is shockingly bad and would be unusable if you were trying to use this to alert yourself when your heart rate was too low or two high. At a threshold of a delta of 5 BPM it was off by more than that 23% of the time. 10 BPM 12% and 15 BPM 11%. Here’s a graph of the data:

Update 4/12
I did a 2.5 hour road bike ride and compared the Xiaomi using the Mi HR app on iOS to a Wahoo Tickr chest strap and the results were abysmal. According to the Xiaomi the average heart was 102, Vs the Wahoo Tickr at 165. And the graph between the two is so bad as to be laughable. And I can only imagine how bad a mountain bike would be (given the added bumps etc).

I was able to do this using an app called Mi HR on an iPhone that will allow you to use your Mi Band 2 HR in apps like Endomondo (not all see it). You start My Fit and let it sync, then start Mi HR, then start something like Endomondo and pair the HR monitor. .

So in summary: size is perfect (exactly what I was looking for), comfort is good, battery life is excellent (I’d go so far as to say industry leading), activity tracking is fine, notifications are good, sleep tracking is barely adequate, app is basic and buggy, heart rate monitor is barely implemented, and activity tracking outside of walking is barely implemented. It’s for me, good enough and well worth the money.

February 26, 2017 Posted by | Activity Trackers | Leave a comment

Pokemon Gen 2 changes

Generation 2 of Pokemon is out and there’s lots of new characters, with the Pokedex now up to 242. I won’t go into the new characters, but I wanted to highlight some details on what’s new. I have briefly reviewed a few of the new Pokemon and have not found anything fight wise that is better than the previous Pokedex, ie, no better fighters are in the new characters.

There are new candies collected at Pokestops. Razz berries are the same old ones that are used to “make it easier to catch”. The Nanab berry is used to “calm it down” think a swinub running around of a Zubat flying in different directions. But the most useful one is the Pinap berry which increases the number of candies you get for catching the Pokemon! You can only use one berry at a time.

There are new stones collected at Pokestops. These stones are needed when evolving certain Pokemon.
The whole list is as follows:
Sun Stone (needed to evolve Gloom to Bellossom)
King’s Rock (needed to evolve Poliwhirl and Slowpoke to Sloking)
Metal Coat (needed to evolve Onix and Scyther)
Dubious disc (needed to evolve the Ploygon)
Dragon Scale (Needed to evolve Seadra)

New Evolves:
An Evee now has two additional evolution possibilities, and like before you can manipulate these by renaming the Evee before you evolve it to Sakura and Tamao. In all:
Rename as Sakura to evolve into Psychic-type Espeon
Rename as Tamao to evolve into Dark-type Umbreon
Rename as Rainer to evolve into water type Vaporeon
Rename as Sparky to evolve into lightning type Jolteon
Rename as Pyro to evolve into fire type Flareon

A Gloom (which evolves from an Oddish) now evolves to Bellossom #182 if you have a Sun stone (one of the new stones found at Pokestops), otherwise it still evolves to Villeplum.

A Lickitung which previously had no evolution now evolves to a Lickilicky #463 once you learn rollout (which I have yet to sort out)

An Onix that previously had no evolution path now Evolves to a Steelix #208.

A Poliwhirl (which evolves from a Poliwag) can now evolve to Politoed #186 Poliwhirl with a kings rock (again one of the new stones found at a Pokestop), otherwise it still evolves to a Poliwrath.

A Porygon which previously had no evolution path now evolves to a Porygon2 #233.

A Scyther which previously had no evolution path now evolves to Scizor #212.

A Seadra that previously had no evolution path now evolves to Kingdra #230 with Dragons scale (again one of the new stones you can find a pokestops).

A Slowpoke now evolves to a Sloking #199 with Kings Rock (again one of the new stones you can find a pokestops) otherwise it still evolves to a Slowbro.

As before: Mr Mime is exclusive to Europe, Farfetch’d can only be found in Asia, and Kangaskhan is available solely in Australia and New Zealand. Tauros is the North American exclusive. I don’t know of any new region specific pokemon. (So 3 not available in North America)

No legendary Pokemon are currently catchable. That accounts for the absence of five Pokemon – Mew and Mewtwo as well as the three birds of Articuno, Moltres and Zapdos. The Legendary Pokemon from Generation 2 are Raikou, Entei, Suicune, Lugia, Ho-Oh, and Celebi. You can expect to not find these in the game, as the legendaries from Generation 1 still haven’t appeared yet. (So a total of 10 legendaries).

This brings a total of 13 of the 242 unavailable so really the Pokedex consists of 229.

As I learn more I’ll update this page.

February 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Home power line adapters

I colleague at work had a pair of home power line network adapters so I borrowed them to play. The idea is that if you can’t pull a wire (or won’t) and can’t do wireless then this is a last choice solution to providing networking to a remote machine in your home, dorm or whatever. The way it works is it uses the power lines in your walls to create a network between the two adapters (you need at least a pair). The adapters work like a hub and create a link for you. You can put one next to your home router for example and that will allow you to have this network join your existing network in your home as well as to provide internet to the remote computer. The adapter have absolutely no configuration possible. They do not have a DHCP server so if you are not plugging into an existing home network then you will have to do manual IP address. The ones I tested provide one Ethernet wired connection and plug into the wall. The item is a little bulky so blocks the use of splitters/octupus, and they do not have passthru on them. They can not be plugged into surge suppressors or UPS because the transformers in these will block the signal. Security wise this is none. So be aware, while I have not proven it, it seems likely that your neighbor could purchase the same adapter and tap into your network (and your internet) without your knowledge. This is a bit troubling for me … To use this particular layout would require a wired ethernet adapter, something not all laptops have. Speed wise from these devices (which are VERY old) I got about 1MB/s when one was upstairs and the other downstairs. When they were right next to each other this picked up to about 3-4MB/s but either way a far cry below the advertised 85Mb/s (notice that’s bit/s). So in the end the work, are simple as pie to setup but are slow (well these ones are anyway).


January 30, 2017 Posted by | Other reviews, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Converting old home movies

If your like me you have some old video tapes. Mine are home movies of my daughter when she was young. They are precious and I didn’t want to loose them. Some are more than 15 years old and I was concerned they would eventually degrade so I wanted to digitize them to keep them for all time, as well as make them more convenient to watch. So I looked around a bit and found a cheap USB video capture adapter on Amazon. It was supposed to come with uLead but came with a barely functional PVR from a company called Honetech. I dug out the VCR (actually had to borrow one from a friend the drive belt on mine had disintegrated), found the cables and hooked it up. The code once installed is super basic but does work. I didn’t bother trying to edit the captured video, rather simply pressed play and pause and separated the videos by topic. On default settings here are the capture settings:
The captured video ends up being 16.3M/min. So a 55 min video ends up around 900MB. This works out to only be around .27M/s so a USB 2 device is more than adequate. All of the encoding is done in hardware by the device so you don’t need anything too powerful to do the capture. The file once captured seems to require a video codec that isn’t there by default on Windows. Kodi had no issue playing it on a variety of platforms. DVD players also had no issues with it. At the end of the day the output is adequate and well worth the time to preserve important videos. The capture adapter was cheap, $20 so well worth it. Time wise it is very time consuming. 1hr takes 1hr (thanks Captain Obvious).

January 30, 2017 Posted by | Mutlimedia, Other reviews, Uncategorized, Video Encoding | 2 Comments

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