A few years ago a company called FitBit decided to take old school pedometers to the next level by connecting them to web services to make exercise social. Several different devices have followed, and this year it has all culminated in the release of their best product yet, the FitBit Force.
The original FitBit was about the size of a pack of gum, and clipped onto your pocket, or with an optional holder your belt to track the steps you take and the number of calories burned by measuring the periods of higher activity in conjunction with motion. That device required a base station which connected via USB to your computer, sending your data to their web portal whenever you were in range of the antenna, allowing for a "gamification" of your workouts. You could link up via social networks with other friends using the device, and compare your activity with theirs. While the portal remains largely unchanged over the years, the device has evolved from a large clip-on device that needed nightly charging and it's own base station to the Force, which connects via your smart phone's bluetooth connection, and is worn like a bracelet.
Last year they released the Flex, which was a bracelet with just five lights showing you your progress towards your step goal for the day. The flex which began shipping this week now has the OLED display from the FitBit One in the Flex's easy to wear form factor, and I think they have finally nailed the design here.
I have had mine for a few days, and have worn it constantly with no irritation, often times even forgetting it is there unless my jacket tugs at it. At night I hold down the button on the side to tell it I am going to bed, and it tracks how well I sleep, the number of times I wake up, and several other metrics.
Through the iOS app I can log food intake, water intake, and track my step totals. I can also input types of exercises done to further help it determine the number of calories burned for the day, giving me a good snapshot of how I am doing along the way.
If you are in need of, or simply want this type of tracker, FitBit has been in this space the longest and really has their product down. I have used every version they have released, and this is by far their best offering yet.
When SkyDog launched a KickStarter campaign in April, it struck a cord with families. A Web-controlled router giving you very targeted control of al devices and people accessing your wireless network. They raised 162% of their requested funding in just over a month, and their product just released to the public this week. I got a-hold of their Skydog Web App and Smart Family Wi-Fi Router to try in out house, and I'm not ever going back to a normal router.
Powercloud Systems, the company behind SkyDog has built a very well thought out and functional product. I get a text alert and email any time an unknown device connects to the router. I can then ban it if it is unknown, leave it with the default security access on the router, or assign it to a known user so that it receives the limits I have set for that person.
While that may not make sense to all of you, here is an example that will: My son connects to the wireless network with his Xbox to play a game. I have already set his access to limit use to certain times of day, and to further limit his access to appropriate sites during the time he has access. As soon as the xbox connects it gets the default access level (family safe browsing/streaming) for the network he is attached to, and as soon as I tell the router it is the boy, his access increases during allowed hours, and is turned off during limited time slots. If he wants to stay up a little later than usual because there is no school tomorrow, I can override his turnoff time for just tonight by hitting the override button and setting a time limit. Here is what his access profile looks like:
What makes this even better is that I can set up multiple virtual networks and limit the ammount of our internet bandwidth each network can access. In real world application the network is set up like this:
So my wife and I connect to the main network with 75% of the bandwidth. All of the streaming boxes except for the sons XBox connect to the main network as well. The kids are sequestered to their own virtual network, where I can make sure that their usage doesn't interfere with anyone's TV watching.
In all there is much more control than this, and we may dial things down even more in time. The big thing is how easy it is to use this system, and being able to put so much control into anyone's hands to limit access to their home networks.
I highly recomend this router to anyone wanting to make sure they know what and when their kids are on the internet.
Ok, after six day of waiting for the iPad that I was supposed to have on launch day it is finally in my hands. The first thing that strikes you when it comes out of the box is how light it is in compared to the previous model. The Air weighs in at just 1 pound, and the previous generation was 1.35 pounds. That 5.5 ounces doesn't sound like much, but the reality of it losing almost a quarter of it's weight is astounding. I ran PerformanceTest on both the iPad Mini and iPad Air, and here are the results:
As you can see, the new A7 processor blows the A5X of the iPad Mini out of the water. Not a surprise, but this just shows how far performance has gained in the year since the Mini was released. The display is crisp and clear, and so much more responsive than I ever could have believed with the number of pixels it is pushing.
In all this is an amazing upgrade to anyoe with a previous iPad, and one that really has to be held and sued to be appreciated. If it had not been such a long struggle to get my order processed I would be comepletely thrilled with everything involved in this process, but even with the troubles getting the device I can't see myself letting this thing out of my hands...at least until the next one arrives.
As anyone who knows me can attest, I have for more than 12 years been a very Large Apple fan. Going to work for AppleCare in 2007 was a dream come true, and leaving to launch this site and Fatboyheaven.com was a very hard decision.
I set the stage thus to let you know that in this light the fact that my experience with Apple today has me re-thinking my love of this company. I placed an order for in-store pickup of the new iPad Air last night, and was given a guaranteed pickup of today. I have been in the Apple Store since receiving an alert almost 2 hours ago informing me that my order was ready for pickup. The iPad with a crisp white label and my name is here in the store managers hands, but I am leaving without an iPad today. Something has gone wrong in the system that transmits online orders to the store, and my order is stuck in a limbo state to the point that no one in the company can even cancel it.
For a company that is renowned (and often heralded by myself and this website) to have a failure of this magnitude is ludicrous.
I was hoping to have a hands on review up for you all to read today, but I am not likely to have an iPad in my hands before the store closes tonight.
For this I apologize deeply, and hope that I have something to review at some later time.
It has now been 36 hours since I placed my order, and I have still not been able to get my iPad or even cancel the order. I once again called and spoke with Apple Online Sales Support, and was told that my only option was to wait, or to pay for ANOTHER ipad (and get one other than what I ordered as the one I ordered is not in stock at any Apple Retail store in the state).
I asked for a supervisor at this point, and was escalated to Tier 2. There I was informed that there were a "limited number" of orders that had gotten stuck in the interchange between the Web Sales system and the retail system, causing this indefinite hold on orders. I was very clear with her that I run this site and needed the unit to write a review, to which I was told it was now being referred to an "Order Maintenance Team" that was trying to manually process these stuck orderes, but she was unsure how long it would take.
It is now five days since this process started, and Apple has informed me that they still have no ETA on resolution. Apparently a glitch between the systems of Apple Online Sales and Apple Retail affected several thousand orders, and mine is one of several hundred still unresolved. The Sales Support Supervisor I spoke with said that she was "sorry and embarassed" that she was having to give me that news, and that everyone in her group was appaled that the issue was as of yet unresolved.
I'll continue to post updates as available.
Today I recieved the Kevo Bluetooth Enabled Deadbolt for iPhone, and I have to say, this is pretty slick. Installation took about 10 minutes to remove the old deadbolt and install the new one. From there it was as simple as installing the app from the app store and registering. Once I was registered it paired quickly with my phone and was operational in minutes. Now I simply touch the lock with my phone still in my pocket and the door unlocks!
The Kevo system runs on four AA batteries, and it says they should last a year or more. The system also includes a keyless entry fob that when calibrated can stay in your pocket and identify itself just as the phone does for those folks you have that need access but do not have an iPhone. It also includes two standard keys in case batterries die or something goes wrong with the programing.
I was able to send electronic keys to my whole family in about 5 minutes so that they have them on their iPhones, and programming the two extra keyless entry fobs they sent took seconds each.
In all this is a very simple to use system that brings my door lock into the 21st century quite simply and easily. Highly recomended.