Archive for the ‘Portable Tech’ Category

A Sad Day in Pyslent History

February 24th, 2021, 4:45pm by Mike

Fry’s Electronics is going out of business. I think about Fry’s every time I go to Microcenter, the crappier version of Fry’s here in Boston.

When was the last time that you guys went to Fry’s?

Switch!

December 30th, 2019, 9:54am by Mike
Somebody else’s Switch.

This Christmas, Santa bought our house a new Nintendo Switch! It’s our first gaming system. Actually, I just realized that I think this is my first dedicated game system since my Atari 2600! I never owned another Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox, Sega, or any of those. Other than playing Metal Gear at Kelvin’s house in San Diego, I haven’t even really played the games, so most of the Mario characters are new to me.

So far, we have a couple of games: MarioKart 8 Deluxe (the kids’ favorite), Mario Tennis Aces, and Just Dance 2020. Our library also has Switch games for checkout — I’ve played the Zelda Breath of the Wild game a little and it’s really fun. We also bought an extra set of joy cons so the four of us can play MarioKart.

Since our kids don’t have iPads or anything, they aren’t used to having a portable game, and we’re trying to keep it as a home-based console for now (we would have gladly bought a TV-only Switch if there were one available).

Do any of you have a Switch? Any tips on games, other accessories we need, or how to manage kids’ screen time?

The Board App!

January 10th, 2017, 8:20pm by Mike

No, not an app of the blog, but rather one for the original Board. I think it’s seriously exactly The Board algorithm put into a modern iOS app

It looks pretty good!

CES 2017

January 4th, 2017, 3:24pm by Mike

I’ve heard that you can keep people coming to a blog if you keep giving them new content. We’ve obviously proven the converse (no new posts = no visits), so let’s give it a try. I’m checking out the news from CES — here’s what I see that’s interesting:

Smart watches. I don’t know why, but I just don’t like the Apple Watch, for me. It’s too big in every dimension (you could say my wrists are too small). But with the demise of Pebble, my Pebble Time Round isn’t long for this world, so I need to start looking around. Today at CES are a couple of cool contenders:

      • Garmin Fenix 5S: Unofficially, this is the ladies version of the watch, but it’s 42mm diameter, so on the same order of size as the Apple Watch, but round. It’s definitely more of a fitness/sports watch, but I think it looks more like a normal watch. Unfortunately, it starts at $599, so no way that’s going to happen. You can read all about it here.
      • A much more compelling-looking option is the Withings Steel HR. Looks like an analog watch, but does activity tracking and as the name suggests, measures heart rate. Also has a small inset screen that does notifications, HR, steps, etc. And has a 25-day battery life. And it’s round, and either 40mm or 36mm. And costs $180. I’m nearly sold.

Antenna. Not the most exciting space, but Mohu (maker of the famous Leaf HD antenna) has a new product that’s pretty cool. According to Engadget:

The AirWave promises free TV “everywhere” across a variety of mobile and connected TV devices, since it catches the OTA signal and turns it into an IPTV stream for its app, sort of like a localized Aereo (RIP).

Aereo was pretty cool, and worked well for me until it was shut down. I’m excited that I could potentially get HD channels, since I haven’t found an antenna yet that works in my living room. With this one, I could put it somewhere else in the house, since all it needs is to connect to my Wifi network to stream video. $150, so probably not the first thing on my wish list, but cool nonetheless.

Anybody else paying attention?

iPhone Headphones

January 8th, 2016, 3:46pm by Jake

This rumor has been going around for years now: Apple is killing the ubiquitous 3.5mm headphone jack on the next iPhones. What’s odd is that’s the headline on Techmeme, but the story on 9to5 Mac doesn’t mention the headphone jack at all. What gives?

 

Personally, I use so many different headphones — breaking, losing or just alternating– that losing the headphone jack is a near deal breaker, and probably keeps me in the 5S a bit longer. Or upgrading to a 6S in a year. I had a set of Bluetooth headphones I liked, but they stopped working after two years. And never stayed in my ears well for long runs. I have over the ear noise canceling headphones for traveling. Sets I leave in my travel bag and gym bag permanently. And so on. If Apple got rid of 3.5mm headphones, it would be a major expense or hassle. What’s the rationale anyways?

New Tech

November 19th, 2015, 10:03pm by Mike

I can’t do this in 140 characters, but wanted to run down the new tech I’ve gotten lately. Let’s bring The Board back to its roots!

First, I got a new job, which got me:

  • An iPhone 6, 64GB. Best thing by far is the Touch ID, and I’m already used to the bigger screen — probably because it’s getting cold here and I have coat pockets. I would have wanted the 6S, but this one was free from work. 
  • A Dell laptop. It’s actually pretty nice. At this point, I love having a Mac at home (esp with an iPhone), but I’m addicted to features in Excel for Windows (keyboard shortcuts and pivot tables, to start), PowerPoint add-ins and macros, and OneNote, none of which have feature parity in the Mac. 

I’ve also recently gotten:

  • A Lenovo laptop. I bought this before leaving my last job, since I need a machine that doesn’t belong to some company that can do things like open archived emails. I got this refurbed ThinkPad X220 for $250, and we got Office 2016 for $10 from Joanie’s work. Btw, are any of you using Win10? Should I upgrade from 7?
  • A Pebble Time Round. My third Pebble. It looks like a normal watch (I got the black one), and is about the thickness of one of those thin Skagen watches. The software is much improved from the original Pebbles, and I really like the Timeline UI. And it was $225, so much cheaper than the Apple Watch. We’ll revisit the Apple Watch when v2.0 comes out, but so far, this one is great. 
  • Lots of bike stuff. I’ve been riding indoors on a trainer in my basement, where I have our old TV set up to watch videos or use Zwift. It’s not nearly as good as riding outside, but better than not riding. 

And not tech, but I’m excited to go and pick up our Advent Beer Box in the next couple of days. 

Anything new and exciting from you guys?

Another keynote

September 9th, 2015, 8:13pm by Mike

I could be stranded on another planet, but when Apple keynote time comes around, I feel the need to head over to The Board to make a post. This pretty much fits with the frequency of new posts around here. I haven’t watched the keynote itself, but I’ve read a bit today.

 

So, what did we get today?

  • iPhone 6S. Looks like more than the usual speedbump for the “S” designation. I’m pretty sure I’ll be jumping in on this one, to replace the now-three-generations-old iPhone 5 I have. Besides the things I’m most excited about (more storage, Touch ID, Apple Pay — which aren’t new), the new camera looks good, but I’m not sure about “3D Touch.”  I think the iOS interface is getting way to complicated — they keep adding on new, more complicated ways to “get out of our way,” and it’s getting to be a mess. Maybe it’ll be better in person, but now, in addition to where I touch, and whether I move my finger(s) while touching, I also have to think about how hard I’m touching. I guess it’ll either be intuitive or completely confusing, we’ll have to see.
  • AppleTV. Since getting our new TV, we only use the AppleTV for one thing — AirPlay. Looking at the features of the new AppleTV, we already have all the streaming services, a nice interface (thanks to WebOS), and even a remote that allows us to do the “smart search” that Apple is touting (we can say, “Modern Family,” and it’ll tell us which streaming services have it, and also search YouTube, and give links onscreen. It’s pretty awesome.). As such, we’re probably not in the market for this anytime soon. We do want another Airplay receiver for our old TV, but I may save $80 and get an “old” AppleTV instead. Interesting, too, that the new AppleTV did away with optical audio out, which we actually used with our soundbar.
  • iPad Pro. No interest. Interesting that in an atmosphere of declining iPad sales, they’ve decided that what the world needs is a bigger, more expensive iPad. I wonder whether I’ll ever see one of these in public.
  • Apple Watch. Not sure what’s new other than a pink color, but I guess we’re still waiting for the updated OS. I’ll leave this to our Apple Watch correspondent.

So, that’s that. Anybody psyched about any of this?

Jawbone UP2

April 26th, 2015, 4:28pm by Mike

  

I’ve been thinking about diving into the fitness tracker world for a while, but never had seen any band that I actually thought I’d wear all the time. I wanted something that I could wear at the same time as my Pebble on the days I wear it (I don’t wear it every day), and that tracked sleep, but that didn’t look like a watch (though I’d wear on the other hand, not looking for the 80s throwback look). 

From what I could tell, the options were these:

  • Fitbit: Almost universally seen as the best out there (the Charge HR, in particular), but I don’t want a display, since that would just look dorky. Also, it’s expensive. And big (wide band). 
  • I like the looks of the Garmin Vivosmart (I know someone who has one), but again, don’t need the “smart” features, and it’s a little big (tall). I like that when it’s not displaying anything, it looks like there’s no display. If I didn’t have a Pebble, I may have gone for this (or an Apple Watch!). 
  • Jawbone has been making the UP line for a good while, and they have gotten mixed reviews. People love the software, but are so-so on the hardware, which I think just looked weird

In the fall, Jawbone announced the UP3, the latest in their line of fitness trackers that looked like a contender. Small, HR monitor, no display. I was all ready to plunk down some money around the holidays, but the release was delayed… And delayed… And delayed. When it was finally released, it was announced that it measures your heart rate once a day, when you wake up, with the argument that resting heart rate is a good proxy for a overall health. Lots of bad press, and in the end, it sounds like it was just not that great, especially for the price. 

So I ended up with the UP2 from Jawbone. The best comparison I have for it sizewise is that it’s like one of those Lance Armstrong “Live Strong” rubber bracelets — but a tad taller. It’s unobstusive, light, and doesn’t get in the way of long-sleeved shirts. It doesn’t have the heart rate monitor of the UP3, but it’s also ~$80 cheaper. And our old friend Dieter Bohn liked it, too. In fact, the subtitle of the Verge’s lukewarm review of the UP3 (linked above) was “Just buy the UP2.”

So, here we are. I don’t know anybody else in the Jawbone universe, so I guess I won’t have the social aspect. at least that’s what I thought until I found matchup.io, which allows you to “compete” with almost any platform out there as far as step counting, which could be fun. If you have one of these things and want to challenge me (you have a good chance of winning!), feel free to do so. Joanie has a Misfit, so we’re looking forward to giving it a shot and hopefully motivating ourselves a bit. 

We’ll see how this goes!
Last bit: Jawbone has also announce an UP4, which is the same as the UP3, but with an Amex wireless pay option, along the lines of Apple Pay. Sounds like a loser to me — guess they’re struggling to remain relevant. At least they’re not Garmin — it’s as if the world is conspiring against Garmin to make them completely irrelevant, one technology at a time.

Phones

April 23rd, 2015, 3:26pm by Mike

OK, it’s time to try to resuscitate The Board one more time — and we have a topic where three of us seem pretty engaged on Twitter. 

By the way, I’ll plug the new WordPress app, makes it super-easy to post, even photos. Give it a shot!

The topic: phones. Where we stand right now, from oldest to newest phone:

  • Mike: iPhone 5, 16GB. Love the physical size, very cramped on memory, somewhat tempted by Touch ID and Apple Pay. Want the next phone to be the size of a 5, but with up-to-date hardware. If not, then maybe going all the way for a 6S Plus. What the hell. 
  • Jake: iPhone 5S, 32 GB (I think). Talks like he feels trapped in iOS and wants to get out! Cheap Windows Phones seem compelling. 
  • Kelvin: iPhone 6, seems pretty satisfied, no upgrade plans. Apple Watch on the way! 

Ok, discuss! Here’s a start — do you guys use Touch ID? Or Apple Pay? I’ve forgotten my wallet on trips to the grocery store twice in the last 2 months, but had my phone both times — wouldn’t have been a problem with a modern iPhone. 

Apple Event, 9/9/2014

September 10th, 2014, 6:40pm by Mike

I think yesterday’s Apple event needs some discussion.

For me, I’m pretty likely to get a new iPhone, and was of course psyched to see what they’d put forward, but it was more a question of “how big is too big.” And what else I’d give up if I decided to stay with the smaller model — battery life and some minor camera features. So far, my verdict is the iPhone 6, 64 GB. Glad they don’t offer a 32 GB, makes the choice easy.

I was much more interested in the watch, and I’m veering between crazy excitement and thinking it sounds kinda dumb. And this is from a guy who’s been wearing a smartwatch for a good while. My real feeling is that it’s going to create a lot of disappointment in the market — the tech really isn’t there yet. I already understand this from experience — it’s a little bit of a pain that your whiz bang watch needs your phone for most of its cool functionality — if you want your mail on your wrist, your phone had better be in your pocket. Same with maps. Same with text messages. And a big one — same with GPS (if you want to map your run, or accurately measure your distance, you need your phone — which means you don’t need your watch). Oh, and it’s not waterproof. So the fitness watch can’t replace my current fitness watch.

And how well does it maintain the Bluetooth connection? How well does it re-pair when you leave the phone on your desk while walking across the office?

And the battery life? This is one thing that Pebble actually (comparatively) nailed — I’m good for at least a week, and don’t travel with the power cord. But no mention of battery life from Apple, presumably because it sucks and they’re trying to improve it before launch.

It just feels like Apple is promising a lot, and I didn’t hear a lot about how they’re addressing the problems that already exist with smart watches. As an early adopter who wants to buy another smartwatch, I should be their target audience — I was really hoping they’d solve the problems I actually have with my current smartwatch.


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