Review – Fitbit Charge 3

Dear Fitbit,

Look I know it’s an activity tracker, not a full on sport watch/GPS thingy, but I have a few concerns.

First up – I need a way to pause or turn off the tracking. I ride a motorcycle and this gets detected as a 35km “outside bike” in 30 mins (with no change to heart rate mind you!). This even happens when I’m not wearing it and have it in my pocket or in my backpack. Heck this would be a pretty awesome “exercise” to have stored, but it also adds floor counts and there is no way to “fix” all this data, skewing my stats for 5 days a week. Never mind the time I rode nearly 200km and this was counted too…. the Fitbit was in my bag the whole time!

Second concern – So I went for a run. It was about 10mins into the run and nothing visible on the device that it had started tracking (I later discovered it had tracked an exercise, but not the GPS). So I manually started it (and it tracked the GPS this time). And at some point it turned this off automatically. And then started to automatically attempt to track on and off a few times, I gave up. Very inconsistent.

On the plus size – it’s small, light and not too hard to read (when I have my glasses on, which isn’t when I’m running) and I like the sleep tracking (though with the earlier problems, I’m not sure it’s accurate anymore).

I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone even half serious about exercise (I’m not sure that counts me in) and more for someone who needs to get up and do something and this would be a good device to track that.

It has been an interesting foray into smart devices and made me more keen on the Apple Watch I will likely replace this with soon.

Thanks

BattleTech – a longer review

Battletech – I promised a review later, and it’s now later.

I am only a little way through the story, and I know that there are many who have finished. I do not know how long the story is, I think I am up to about the 4th or 5th story mission (called Liberation:Smithon). At the moment I am leaving that mission aside as I train and gear up my lance.

My first impressions of a faithful recreation of the table top game, along with decent graphics and AI are still pretty much unchanged. The first, that its a faithful recreation of the table top is for me a real positive. I think that has made it easy for them in that balance and such have basically been play tested for 30 years. The great big positive for me is that turn based copes very easily with random interruptions. I can stop and sort out life stuff without stressing about what the enemy are up to. I know it isn’t everyone’s favourite way of playing, but I don’t mind it.

The graphics look good on my iMac. I imagine there are more impressive games and on more capable systems there are more impressive games. But graphics aren’t everything.

The story is fine. It’s very similar to the really old “MechWarrior” game, where you are a merc with a story and the intent is to carry out some contracts until you’re geared up enough to finish the story. What I do like in this version is that the story engages you as you go. In the old game every time I headed back into the story I was arrested and the game ended. I gave up and just set about getting awesome mechs and lots of money. Turns out I should have gone back at that stage.

Anyway, the game does get a little slow during some combats when there is a lot of actions queued up. The random number generator can be a bit vicious sometimes, but it works both ways. Sometimes a game will be tough, sometimes its not.

The rounds can take quite a bit of time, an hour or more. But I don’t find that a bad thing 🙂

So overall I am very happy.

One word

and it’s not Avengers, it’s Battletech.

The new Battletech from Paradox (also available through Steam) is excellent.

And personally the best news, its ON THE IMAC as well. So I can play it.

And its really interesting and really well done.

 

I’ll do a longer review with pics in a bit. But if you’ve ever been a table top player, then I think you’ll enjoy it.

AirPods – A Review

Like many people, I listen to music a lot. I listen in the car, on the bike, around the house (when I don’t get shouted down by the family), studying, walking around town, at work etc. And a fair chunk of that is using earphones. I’m no audiophile, so I’m generally happy with my normal earphones, which at the moment are the ones that came with my iPhones. They sit well in my ear and the cord is a nice length.

But the length isn’t always great, like when I’m working on a computer at home or at work. The cord dangles across the keyboard, or when it’s plugged into the back of the iMac it doesn’t really let me move about much.

So I thought about trying these AirPods out. I figured that as they also work with the iMac at the very least, it will make my study at home more pleasant. At work, I could use them to drown out all the other people’s radios and not have the cord dangling across my keyboard.

As I’m walking down the mall I unpacked the small box and was pleasantly surprised to find them partially charged, so they paired straight away and there I was, using them. I did feel a little self-conscious at first, but you have to realise this. If you put the normal Apple earphones (EarPods?) without the cord, next to the AirPod, they’re actually about the same dimensions, so they only look weird because there’s no cord, not because they are massive. And they are a LOT smaller than some of the Bluetooth phone earpieces that I’ve seen.

They have been really handy over the past month. When using them the range (as long as there are no walls in the way) is up to around 10m, which means I can move around the desk area, or the kitchen with the phone charging in one place, and listen to music without interruption. No cords to dangle over the keyboard or restrain your head.

Swapping between devices is probably the letdown. I vaguely recall Apple saying that they would swap automatically and they don’t. To be honest, I don’t know how you would implement that. Imagine you’re watching a video on your iPad and Facebooking on your phone. You probably wouldn’t want that pop-up video on Facebook to suddenly override the dramatic reveal in the movie.

But swapping is simple. Swipe up on iOS and then from the music widget select the little (almost looks like wifi symbol) and choose your headphones. A few seconds later you’ll hear a tone and the AirPods are now connected. Even on the iMac you select your Bluetooth drop down and connect to your AirPods.

I’ve set one ear to start/stop with a double tap and the other works on Siri. Voice clarity for someone on the other end seems pretty good, even on a busy street. Their volume level does seem a little quieter than the normal EarPods. Battery lasts for a while (several hours) and it’s only a short rest in the case and they have significant charge. I haven’t managed to empty the case yet, so not sure how many charges you’ll get out of that.

They are pricey, and I haven’t looked at any other Bluetooth headsets to compare.

Overall I have found the lack of cords as by far the best part of them. They are quieter with somewhat less bass than the regular iPhone earphones

Scala Rider Freecom4 – first 24 Hours

I have finally gone out and replaced my Bluetooth headset. I was tempted by the Sena series, however, I have seen lots of problems on the internet with them. I have used the Scala Rider, mostly successfully, for a few years now, and a quick search didn’t bring up any problems, certainly not to the scale of the Senas.

scala-rider-freecom-4-duo~699913The Freecom 4 is new to Australia – when I went looking about a month ago they weren’t in any of the stores. They are the more budget series and miss out on the Mesh grouping set up that the more expensive PackTalk and SmartTalk get. I never ride in groups, so it was of little interest. Besides, the last time I rode with someone else with a Bluetooth, they had a Sena anyway.

I think that they are basically my old Q3, repackaged. Software a little updated too. First impressions opening the box was, smaller and slimmer. I bought the Duo as it wasn’t much less than a single SmartTalk and meant I could attach it to the second helmet if my kids wanted to come riding. And with discounting, wasn’t a whole lot out of my pocket. It turns out it was an astute decision.

8000001355583_1__18699.1490711297.500.750

The mount has changed significantly. It now just slides up into the helmet. This was super easy the old unknown brand my wife uses, but in my AGV was a little more difficult and required some cutting of the pad around the bottom of the helmet. In both cases, there was plenty of cord length and the application of a couple of velcro pads and it was installed. This setup is going to make it super easy to remove at a track (sometimes the track staff don’t like things attached to your helmet, at least at SMSP anyway). It does come with a stick on version as well, but I’m not a fan of doing that.

Switching them on and connecting them to various devices was easy, and they start and connect MUCH faster than the older ones. I’m also not required to fuss about in order to have the music play when I hit the button. I suspect that was caused by several phone OS updates with no Headset software updates, but it was nice to have that working properly.

First ride, a commute, and initially the music was very quiet. I remembered on arrival at work that I hadn’t turned up the Bluetooth volume on the iPhone, so it was much better on the way home. The speakers aren’t going to set the world on fire and do seem to struggle when the music is very full (?) like crescendos and big parts of the song. But they are clear and loud.

The next day the Mrs and I rode into the city and apart from a delay a couple of times, when the connection had gone to sleep, they worked excellently.

Overall I’m very happy and would certainly recommend them as an option. It’s also fantastic after the past 3 months of trying to keep my earbuds in my ears as I don my helmet and not being able to answer calls etc.

Marvel’s Agents of zzzzz….

marvels_agents_of_shield_640_large_verge_medium_landscapeOk, this was going to be a review, but I think my title sums up my opinion pretty quickly. I don’t know about you guys but I find it pretty boring.

It’s great to see Ming-na on screen again, but that’s not enough for me to keep watching. I got through two and a half episodes, but not interested enough to finish the third one.

The stories are pretty simple, there’s little tension and it seems to have little imagination in it. The Fitz-Simmons characters grate and the action man guy is awful. Still I suppose they are supposed to comic book folks, but that doesn’t mean one dimensional these days.

So I won’t be watching it. Still watching Heroes anyway, and there’s no way MAoS compares to the twists and performances in that show.

Random Trivia – Sherlock revisited

Here’s something random I just discovered. The BBC show Sherlock that I talked about here, Sherlock is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who will appear shortly as the villain in the new Star Trek movie and plays the voice of Smaug (I think I said that in the other post), but Dr Watson, played by Martin Freeman, is none other than Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, and was also Arthur Dent in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

It’s Elementary, Sherlock.

An interesting coincidence has occurred in my viewing. Recently I discovered the BBC short series “Sherlock”, a modern interpretation of the Sherlock stories. Produced as 2 (so far) series of three 90 minute episodes it has Sherlock doing his deduction work in modern day London. Dr Watson is a recovering (retired? reservist?) British Army doctor who has served in Afghanistan. Sherlock is played by Benedict Cumberbatch who we will see as the villain in the new Star Trek movie and is the voice of Smaug in The Hobbit. (Note, the original Dr Watson was also a British Army doctor who served in Afghanistan, as at the time of his novels, that’s where the wars had been in Sir Conan Doyle’s time…. 125 years later and the British Army and others are there again!)

sherlock Then, Channel Ten has started showing “Elementary”. This is a US produced show, with Sherlock doing his deduction work in modern day New York. This time Dr Watson, played by the lovely Lucy Liu, is a Doctor who has given up practicing, who acts as a live in buddy for recovering addicts (who have rich parents). Elementary is broadcast in the standard 45min episodes setup.

PILOTBoth shows are high quality productions, and both have their mysteries wrapped up by the time the credits roll. Sherlock however does have some story elements that carry through the episodes, something that is missing from Elementary. Sherlock also seems to use the original material as a basis for much of some of the episodes, cleverly rewritten to take place in the modern world. The Hound of the Baskervilles episode is a good example of this, quite different plot to the original, yet still the same. Elementary doesn’t seem to be using much of the source material, apart from the lead characters. However I’m certainly no Sherlock aficionado so could well be on the wrong track there.

I am enjoying both, but Sherlock is a level higher than Elementary. Elementary seems like the other shows, like Numb3rs, The Mentalist, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and other crime dramas, where a oddly smart person solves crimes for the police (or as one). While a bit eccentric and very smart, Holmes in Elementary seems not as far different from the other “genius” in the other shows. However Holmes in Sherlock seems to be operating in a totally different world from everyone else, with a level of intellect almost unfathomable.

The longer episodes also lend the BBC the ability to have more intricate puzzles and more twists than the shorter episodes. Carry over characters (Moriaty, Holmes’ brother Mycroft, the landlord, the medical tech) other than just the police contact, Holmes and Watson also let us get more attached to the other people in the Sherlock series.

Overall I enjoy both, and will keep watching them. However I hungrily await the next episode of Sherlock, whilst I watch Elementary when I don’t have higher priority shows to watch (like Sherlock, lol).

Sherlock has 2 series and is confirmed for a third.
Elementary has one series completed but I’m not sure if a second has been confirmed

The Journey Begins – MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS… (or nuts)

If you haven’t seen The Hobbit, STOP READING NOW. I’m not certain I won’t have spoilers…

However, if you’ve read the book a bunch of times (or even seen LOTR) there really isn’t a lot of big PLOT spoilers to be spoiled.

The-Hobbit-HERO-2I really enjoyed the movie. Being that he’s made the book into three movies, it stopped about where I expected it too, being the completion of their escape from the Misty Mountains, but before their adventures in Mirkwood.

I watched it in 3D and the new framerate and to be honest, I didn’t think much of it – I mean it still doesn’t seem like either of those technologies significantly adds to the viewing pleasure.

The movie itself – as I said it was good. I already feel like you should watch this series before you watch LotR, but I’m not sure how that will hold up through the trilogy. One of the biggest things I noticed was the omens and portents of what is coming in LotR. They were eventually made clear (to us, not to the characters), however fans would pick up on them a lot earlier. For non fans, they do get explained, but a little later (so the fans can lord it over the others for about 30 mins). As the Lady Galadriel says “Something is moving in the dark and in the shadows.” Saruman already seems a little out of touch, or is he being duplicitous.

It had a lot of humour (but I noticed myself giggling a lot more than most in the cinema, so maybe it was just me) and was overall pretty well paced, with only a couple of moments of boredom. I have read some comments about the songs, but I quite enjoyed the action of “That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates”. 

Uninvited Guests
Uninvited Guests

Dwarves… Ever since reading The Hobbit (think I was about 8, as I know I read LotR later, when I was 10) I have been a huge fan of dwarves. In RPG and computer games, if given the choice I would play a Dwarf. I was always sad that both the LotR book and Jackson’s movies had such small parts for dwarves.

Thinking about it though it does make sense. Dwarves have never really engaged with the world, content as they are to mine and mind their own business. Sauron’s influence on the rings of power didn’t really work on the Dwarven Rings either, certainly not as he had hoped.

But, YAY, three movies of serious dwarf 🙂

It was a great movie, I can’t wait for the next two and then to watch them all in order….  Hey Lucas, maybe you should have got Jackson (or Tolkien) to pen Eps 1 to 3….