The “Smart” watch: The first few weeks

timexmessWhen I was a wee whippersnapper, I loved watches. Even at that age I was a technophile, so not only did I have a bunch of them, they were all the highest tech watches I could find. By today’s standards the watches are crude, but I had one that could tell the temperature (very handy in stuffy BART cars during class field trips), calculate (duh), and I even had one that functioned as a pager. Of course as technology progressed I started to spend my spare cash on computer related goodies instead of watches. Later the cellphone supplanted watches in terms of my interests. Now the “smart watch” revolution is in full swing and I’m taking a stab at it again.

A few weeks ago I saw the release of the Pebble Steel, which looks REALLY nice, along with the announcements of Android Wear. Since smart wearables are effectively the outcome of one of my childhood dreams (that and eBooks), I figured it was about time to get in on the action. Rather than plunking down $250 on a Pebble Steel, I bought a regular Pebble smart watch (in red, of course). Since, like most people, I haven’t worn a watch in years, I wanted to give it a trial run before I started to spend big money.

natoOne of the first upgrades I made to watch was a purchase of a NATO style watchband. Somehow I’d never run into these before, but my usual google search trick of appending the word “tactical” really paid off. If you’re a modern person that owns a computer and spends a fair amount of time on it, I highly recommend you trying out one of these watch bands. The key to them is that the “clasp” is on the side rather than the bottom, so it doesn’t irritate the wrist while on the keyboard.

As for the Pebble watch itself, you’re going to get basically exactly what they advertise. It’s a plastic-ish watch on which you can load multiple watch apps and watch faces. The hardware is 4 buttons, a charging port, and an eInk display. The Pebble is a very simple device, certainly not the sex appeal of a Rolex, but it is a functional item.

2014-04-12-14.40.22 That leads me to the real debate of wearable tech, is it functional? Is it useful? Does it serve a purpose? For me, I’ve found some very good uses in a business environment. Like many, I attend many meetings so I’ve built my phone as the hub of my communication. I can do a large portion of my job as long as I have my cellphone – via text, IMs, email, HipChat, and the calendar. The unfortunate part of this plan is that my phone gets a lot of notifications.
Now my Pebble steps in as my notification device. Rather than sitting in a meeting with the CFO and pulling out my phone, which to many implies boredom (not something you want to imply to a high level executive), I can just check my watch. Now I can see if the notification is an IM from one of my staff about the latest meme amusement, or if Webpass has tried to set our office on fire, again.

Many would argue that looking at one’s watch also implies boredom/impatience, but you can look at your watch in a much more subtle manner. A quick glance down rarely offends. However, there is no way you can pull a 5.5” Samsung Galaxy Note 3 out of your pocket in a subtle fashion. The reality is, of course, everyone has notifications pushed to their phones these days. I’ve sat in meetings with C-levels who’ve gotten/checked their text messages. They aren’t impatient, we’re just a very connected society (at least if you live/work in the San Francisco Bay Area). The key is to be subtle about it and not disrupt others.

So what else does my Pebble do beyond let me be stealthy in meetings? The only other use I’ve got for it currently is an app called “Music Boss” which allows me to control Spotify. This is very useful to me when listening to music while riding the motorcycle. It is also an assurance that I haven’t missed a notification. Its amazing, but now that I have the watch, I find myself habit checking my phone much less often.

How do I feel about all the smart wearables? As with most things, it only stays with me if it is useful to me (which is why I don’t carry tablets, I have a phablet for that). My Pebble has stayed with me most of the time since I bought it (other than briefly losing it for a little while) and I don’t feel as if it is a waste of money. I’d only recommend it to others if you can find utility in it. If you plan on getting it to use one of the picture viewing apps on the Pebble, well, you’re not going to use it for very long.

Oh yeah, and it tells time too!

Stamina Products Can Blow Me

I had a Stamina InTone Folding Recumbent Bike. I say had because a belt broke inside it about a month ago. I disassembled it to find the busted part and contacted the manufacturer for a replacement part. “Sure,” they said. “$13.99 covers the part, shipping, and handling and it will be to you in 7-13 days.”

Being the fool that I am, I took them at their word. However, after 13 days had gone by without a new part, I began to worry. I tried to call, but they were out of the office, so I emailed. No response 4 days later, so I call.

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Myke Cole’s Breach Zone is out now!

The final book in Myke Cole‘s Shadow Ops trilogy, Breach Zone is out as of today.
If you liked Control Point or Fortress Frontier, this book will be right up your alley.
If you haven’t read the other 2, then go get all three right now and start reading Control Point. They’re wonderful reads.

Plus, if you buy now, then he’ll be even more influenced to write more stories in that universe.

Happy Birthday Snowulf!

keep-calm-and-eat-more-cake-2Recently, I was looking back into the Snowulf blog history books and noticed a date of importance was coming up. The title of this blog post should give it away but Snowulf’s introductory post, titled “Nift New Toys & New Domains“, was posted on this day… NINE years ago. Just this Christmas holiday I was talking to someone about how I’d been blogging for “6 or so years”. When I did the math and realized that six years was actually nine, damn how time flies.

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Taking the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 for a spin

samsung-galaxy-note-10-2014Before I even talk about this device, I have to say something about its name. I know many journalists were bitching about model names being reduced to something like “GT-I9500″ or “SM-P600″ as being very confusing. That might be true, but “Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition” does not exactly roll off the tongue either. While I might have some issue with the name, I generally can’t find any issues with the device itself – except for the battery. As far as tablets I’ve used recently (including the new barrage of iPads), it’s probably my favorite large tablet.

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Ride Friday: Pt Reyes

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted any of the ride routes I’ve been on. Not all of them are easy to remember the exact routes, so I won’t share misinformation with you. However this route was fairly easy to map out (and I had made notes!). This particular ride I originally took back on a sunny October morning with Panda in the slot.

General Area: Point Reyes and Mt Tamalpais
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Ride Length: ~3 hours

Leg 1 is from San Francisco up 101 North. This isn’t anything to write home about, it’s just the freeway. However you’ll exit onto Lucas Valley Rd and this is where the fun begins. LVR is a nice road to get started on for the day, it’s got some decent turns, but most of it is rolling/wandering country road. The major downside to LVR is that there seems to be a fair amount of sluggish cage traffic. Once you turn onto Point Reyes Petaluma Rd, the speeds go up quite a bit. This means a speedy entrance into Pt Reyes Station for lunch!

After lunch is Leg 2, down Highway 1. Hwy 1 is nice, everyone knows this. It has some lovely views along with being windy enough to be interesting. You could stay on Hwy 1 all the way down to 101, however the Stinson Beach area almost ALWAYS sucks traffic-wise. I generally try to avoid Stinson Beach on any nice day because it just turns Hwy 1 into a parking lot. On this route, we opted to turn left off of Hwy 1 onto a little side road named “Fairfax – Bolinas Rd”. This is a tiny little side shoot that is really easy to miss, so easy to miss that Panda slowed & turned where as I kept going. Sometimes I think she’s purposefully trying to lose me.

This section is why I marked the difficulty as “Moderate”. The rest of the ride is easy, however this is a bunch of very twisty, kinda-not-really-two-lane road. It is a lot of fun, but if you happen to be riding a big R1100RTP, it tends to be slow going. Oh, and watching for oncoming traffic. However, once you get to the top (Ridgecrest), it’s an AMAZING view. You are literally on the very top of the ridge line that divides the coastals from the inland hills. Unfortunately, I was in such a rush chasing Panda that I didn’t get a chance to stop and take pictures – next time.

After this, you’re just wandering down the Mt Tam Park and back towards San Francisco. If you wanted to, one could easily stop in the Marin Headlands and take some pictures, but that’d be terribly touristy… and we’re motorcyclists damn it.

Happy New Year, Now with 50% less slacking off

badsignLets be honest, 2013 was a fairly bad year as far as the blog here is concerned. I was doing an “OK” job posting through June. In late July I was on vacation (for the first time in several years) which lead to a flurry of posts for July and August. The September came… and things took a turn for the worst. On September 3rd you can read my review of “The Node Beginner Book“, which was something I read while on vacation (and mentioned in the article), however you won’t find another post for the rest of 2013 on the blog. Not good.

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Digital Holiday Sales

Just in time for winter breaks, holiday travels, and last minute gifts, it’s Steam and sales!

The Steam holiday sale started today, but I’ve been much more enamored with lately. They are on Day 8 of their sale, offering “Turn-based 4X Classics”: Alpha Centauri (with Alien Crossfire), Master of Orion 1-2, Colonization, Fragile Allegiance, Galactic Civilizations, and Space Empires IV for $10.99.
Plus, unlike some other etailers, if you own part of the deal already, they give you a discount on purchasing the rest of it.’s Winter Sale allows you to vote on the following day’s deal. At time of writing, it looks likely that it will be Sci-Fi Combat Sims. They also provide you with a choice of 3 options for an additional discount. Choose either Timeless Classics, Brave New Worlds, and Random Magic and you will get a special discount for whatever item happens to be inside there.

Countdown to Black Friday

It is the day after Halloween, so that means it is countdown to Black Friday, or so I’ve been informed by advertisers. Amazon (as usual) will be doing Black Friday Deals Week. They will also, as usual, be doing a Countdown to Black Friday Week, starting today.

As the month progresses, I’m sure will see the major retailers and e-tailers provide information on their “doorbusters” and big ticket items.

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