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My experiences with shit

Misfit Flash Review: Can cheap also be good?

Currently there is an extremely fast growing market for fitness and sleep trackers. The leaders in the wearables industry are Jawbone and Fitbit, you have the premium options such as the Apple Watch, and there are entry-level contenders including from the likes of Misfit, in the form of the Flash. In our Misfit Flash Review, we aim to suss out whether this tracker can blur the lines between the terms ‘affordable’ and ‘quality’.

The Flash isn’t the newest contender to the market, it is just over a year old. It is the cut-price version of the Misfit Shine, which offers a more premium look and feel, but has the same features. As the focus is on price with the Flash, the hard plastic body isn’t much of a surprise, neither is the omission of a heart rate monitor or GPS.

Specifications

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The Flash runs off of a coin cell battery which gives it an impressive battery life of up to 6 months! This means it doesn’t matter if you forget to charge it; just pop in a new battery every 6 months. The advantage of this extended battery life means that you can actually use it to track your sleep. With other fitness trackers needing to be charged, sleep tracking often takes a back seat.

The Flash claims to be water resistant (rather than waterproof), however I had no troubles showering or swimming with it. The fact that it can track swimming may be very appealing to some. Not having to worry about it getting wet is a bonus.

As with most fitness trackers, the Flash connects to your smartphone with Bluetooth Low Energy. This is the technology that gives it that amazing battery life. It tracks movement with a 3-axis accelerometer. This enables it to measure steps, calories burned, distance, and sleep quality.

In the box, you’ll find the Flash, a sport band as well as a clasp to attach it to almost anything. It can be attached to your belt, collar, pocket, wrist, or even your shoe whilst running.

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An interesting addition and possible stand out feature allows you to use the single button on the Flash as a remote control. You can use it as a camera remote trigger, music remote, presentation clicker or even a light switch if you have a smart light bulb.

User Experience

Connecting it to the app was fast and simple. Once you set a goal – I chose moderate activity as I sit at a desk most of the day – you’re good to go. I started out wearing the Flash on my wrist with the sport band. It is extremely light at only six grams, so it is barely noticeable. The sport band is made of cheap plastic, similar to what you would expect to find on a child’s toy. It is fairly comfortable, but becomes less so when you sweat. This is a bit of a problem as it is an activity tracker.

I set the wearing position to my wrist and went about my day. A single press on the Flash’s button lights up LEDs on the face. These can be configured to show you your daily progress towards your goal, the time or both. It took a little while to get used to telling the time by flashing lights but once I got the hang of it, I found it to be quite useful. I reached my goal fairly easily on the first day. Once I synced it to the app, I could view how far I had walked, my step count, and how many calories I had burned.

During my time with the Misfit Flash, I found the Flash’s step and calorie count to be rather optimistic. It registered almost twice as many steps as my Apple Watch. The calorie count and distance walked were also considerably higher than the Apple Watch. Once I switched to wearing the Flash on my belt, the readings were more in line with the Apple Watch but were still higher. I suspect it may register normal movement as steps and this is exaggerated when on your wrist.

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The feature I was most excited about was the sleep tracking. It did a good job with this and I found it to be on par with the Sleep Cycle app I use on my phone. The biggest advantage I found to using the Flash over an app is that it can detect when you are sleeping so you don’t need to remember to enable it.

The companion apps for the iPhone were well made, user friendly and pretty much just worked. The fitness focused Misfit app integrates with Apple’s Health app so that you can have a central store of all your fitness data. Strangely Misfit offers an Apple Watch app.

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The Apple Watch app was rather disappointing as it only offers coaching for either a one, four of seven minute quick workout. I was hoping I would be able to view my daily progress on it when wearing the Flash on my belt. The Link app is used for the remote functionality. You choose what function you’d like the Flash’s button to perform, sync it, and it just works. My only complaint here is that you can’t save different presets, you have to run through the setup each time you want to change that functionality.

Over the course of a week during my Misfit Flash Review, I found that using the belt clip was the most comfortable. It was so light, I didn’t even notice it. Initially I was worried about losing it but the clip is very sturdy and this didn’t turn out to be a problem. I had very little use for the remote functions, but they could be quite a cool party trick.

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Conclusion

Overall, for an entry-level contender, the Misfit Flash isn’t bad. It doesn’t have a premium look or feel, but the build quality is good. The sport band is not great and if I wanted to wear this on my wrist for extended periods of time, I’d look at getting a better band for it.

The fact that it is missing a heart rate monitor or GPS doesn’t hurt it’s performance at all. The amazing battery life, and lower price, more than makes up for these omissions.

The biggest problem was the over-reporting of steps and calories I experienced in my Misfit Flash Review. This can be minimised by wearing position but is still a concern.

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The sleep tracking was difficult to fault, which was spot on. I really wish the companion app gave more insight into sleeping patterns. It shows you your highest, lowest and average amount of sleep for each week or month, but it omits sleep quality, and the times you went to bed and woke up.

Overall I found the Misfit Flash to be a good contender in the entry-level market. It is more versatile than some of its more expensive competitors. It has a few tricks up its sleeve, and works pretty much as advertised. For the price of R500 ZAR, it may be worth a shot if you’d like get into tracking your fitness or sleep, or even if you just want to use it as a PowerPoint remote.

Score: 5/10

 

This review was written as a guest post on Bandwidth Blog, please see the original article here: Misfit Flash Review

Cool Shit: Netflix has Launched in SA

In what was the most chilled launch in history, Netflix kind of just appeared in South Africa. I would imagine some techie just got an email and flicked a switch and that was that.

The time for Netflix and Chill is NOW! You get a 1 Month free trial to see if it actually works.

Compared to the US version, some shows are missing, but do you really care? ShowMax is the bastard child of DStv so we can give that one a skip.

Oh, one note, you’ll be charged in US Dollars because our currency is about as stable as your mother in law.

Cool Shit: Keurig Kold

When I was growing up we had a Soda-stream machine and I thought that was pretty cool. The Keurig Kold takes that concept to a whole new level!

Just like a Nespresso machine (Or Keurig Coffee Machine) you buy capsules. You insert the capsule and out comes your drink. It is as simple as that. Except this time, the drinks are cold and possibly carbonated.

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What sets the Keurig Kold apart is actually their licensing agreements. (Something I never thought I’d say) They have deals in place with brands of drink so that you can create your own Coke Zero or obscure iced tea.

At almost US$400 this thing isn’t cheap but just like the Nespresso machines, I doubt that is their target market anyway.

If Keurig is listening, I’d love a test device thrown my way. I promise I’ll give it back.

Check out a video of it in action below:

[Keurig]

My Infinity Project – Building The Best Media Centre

For my day job I’m a developer. That entails learning new technologies all the time. Time after time I’ve battled to keep interest making “To do” list apps and “Hello World” programs. A few years back a needed to learn PHP. Not just the basics, I needed to learn it well enough to make a production system for a client.

At the time I lived with my parents and our internet was poor to say the least. I used the internet at work to download things at night. I needed a way to manage these downloads remotely. I started looking at APIs and remote access. I decided setting up a simple PHP site pulling from APIs would be the best option. And so started my media centre infinity project.

I have to thank Johann Du Toit for the term “Infinity Project.” He introduced me to the term as an individual project that never ends. You keep evolving it over and over again making it better and better as you learn along the way.

I started with a basic page that showed downloads, their progress and I kept track of upcoming episodes of the series I liked to watch. I ran if off a RaspberryPi. Soon I updated an old laptop with some extra hard drive space and I put the extra power to good use.

Fast forward a few months and we had uncapped internet at home. I installed Kodi (then XBMC) and left the laptop plugged into my TV. Soon I stumbled across SickBeard and CouchPotato and started automating movie and TV show downloads. My basic PHP script got a make over and pulled from those APIs.

Soon my site was getting too large to manage so I rebuilt it from the ground up using CodeIgniter. I chose CodeIgniter because the learning curve wasn’t big at all. I got a lot of functionality out in a very short space of time. I was well on my way to “productising” my media centre manager. I made the mistake of using a Bootstrap based but paid admin theme. It seemed like a very good idea at the time, but without it being open source I couldn’t release any of my code. By this time I had moved to Cape Town and my media centre was my primary source of entertainment. I also had much better internet.

Web technologies are always evolving and recently I decided it would be a good idea to learn AngularJS. That way I would be able to make web based apps for iOS and Android as well as it being a stepping stone to really learning Swift properly. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to update my media centre.

I started with a few tutorials online and soon I had the basics down. I’ve always battled with markup. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, I just didn’t enjoy it. I found AngularMaterial. I started over and soon I had a really good base to work from. I refactored my old code into an API with a REST library I wrote for CodeIgniter. (Based on this one but heavily updated for performance.) I learned about JSON Web Tokens along the way as a good way to authenticate requests.

Some of you may have noticed me being a little missing in action over the past few weeks. I’ve been focussing on work, some freelance work and helping build an Uber Style App for a startup. On top of all of this I managed to get my media centre into a presentable form.

So this is what I’ve come up with so far:

I made everything responsive as I use it on my phone the most often. I linked it to the Kodi API so I have “Play Now” buttons on the movies and series. I also have the “Now Playing” remote. This pulls whatever is playing from Kodi and the progress. I added in some play/pause and stop buttons. The side effect of having this available over the internet is that I can troll my girlfriend and pause whatever she is watching when I’m at work.

This project is far from over, I will keep updating it. As and when I learn new technologies. I’m hoping an iOS app can be next. Currently I’m running this off of a Mac Mini with OS X Server on it connected to a 4K TV. I’ve moved from SickBeard to SickRage as it is much more actively developed. I can run 4K movies and series at 30fps. (More than enough for video) I serve it to the world over my Telkom Fibre line. This is more than sufficient for my personal needs.

I look forward to your ideas and feedback, please leave them in the comments below or give me a shout on Facebook or Twitter. I’ll look into releasing what I’ve done on GitHub when I’m properly using environment variables and remove a few hard coded hacks. I hope you guys enjoyed this little write up.

Apple’s Magic Trackpad 2 and Magic Keyboard 2 Are Beautiful

I don’t care much for the Magic Mouse but wow, the Trackpad and Keyboard look so good!

They have build in lightning ports for charging so no more AA batteries. They pair automatically when plugged in with a Lightning cable, a handy feature.

The Trackpad has Apple’s Force Touch (Still a terrible name) build in bring that feature to existing MacBooks as well as iMacs.

New toys do not come cheaply though:

Magic Keyboard is available starting today for $99 (US). Magic Mouse 2 is available starting today for $79 (US). And the Magic Trackpad 2 is available starting today for $129 (US).

I suppose I better start saving because I think those will look great on my desk.

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