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The Bands: Who should I believe?

You think you have problems?  I’m lopsided.  It would appear that my right arm has taken 1,717 steps this morning, while my left arm has only taken 1,520.

For the last few days I was thinking that either the Fitbit Charge or the Microsoft Band was more accurate than the other… but I couldn’t figure out which.  I started to think that to solve the problem I was going to have to buy a third device and let it be the tie-breaker, but then it dawned on me… there are several factors that could affect the devices registering steps, and it would not necessarily mean one or the other was inaccurate, rather that my body is lopsided… or more accurately, my lifestyle is:

  • When I walk down the stairs at my girlfriend’s house in the morning my left hand is on the bannister;
  • When I walked Gingit this morning I held her leash in my left hand (and picked up after her with my right, but that is probably inconsequential);
  • I carry my laptop bag with my left hand.

All  of these behaviours and more can affect how steps are registered… and it is entirely possible that (and in fact likely) that were I to switch the wrists of the devices, the ‘bias’ would weigh in favour of the Microsoft Band rather than the Fitbit – in other words, the bias would weigh in favour of whatever device is on my right (and non-dominant) hand.

Another day, another lesson.  Everything I learn puts a different… slant? on things! Smile

Server Core on VMware

When I was a Virtual Technical Evangelist for Microsoft Canada I spent a lot of time telling you why you should use Server Core… especially if you were on Hyper-V.  Why?  You save resources.

It is now over two years since I turned in my Purple Badge, and I still think Server Core rocks.  In fact, when Windows Server 2016 comes out I will probably spend a lot of time telling you about the new Nano Server option that they are including in that version.  More on that to come.

Of course, I still like Hyper-V, but as an independent consultant I recognize (as I did quietly when I was with the Big Blue Machine) that the vast majority of the world is still running VMware for their enterprise-level server virtualization needs.  That does not change my opinion of Server Core… it still rocks, even on VMware.

Of course, in order to get the full benefits of the virtualized environment, a VMware machine requires the installation of the VMware Tools (as Hyper-V requires the installation of Integration Services).  With a Server with a GUI that is easy to do… but since Server Core is missing many of the hooks of the GUI, it has to be done from the command line.  Here’s how:

1. As you would with any other server, click Install VMware Tools

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2. Connect to and log on to the virtual machine.  You will have to do this with Administrator credentials.

3. navigate to the mounted ISO (if you only have a single hard drive attached it will usually be D:)

4. type in the following command line: setup64.exe /S /v “/qn reboot=Y”

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Once you have done this, the VMware tools will install, and your server will reboot.  Nothing to it!

Smartphone Etiquette

I have often heard discussions on how rude it is to pull out your smartphone during meetings, during meals, and so on.  Personally I am against it, but I understand where there may be mitigating circumstances – sick parents or sick children for example.  With that said, there are a lot of people who will disagree with me, and that is fine… it is their right to be wrong Winking smile

Yes, I say that as a joke… some people will accept it more readily than I would, just like some people would sit in a restaurant wearing a hat.  According to the etiquette of polite society that is completely wrong, but welcome to 2016, right?

Because it has not been drilled into me (the way the hat thing was) I am never tempted to tell people sitting at other tables in restaurants to put their smartphones away.  It’s not my business what they do, and frankly I don’t care.  It doesn’t even bother me.  Yes, hats in restaurants do bother me, but again, I can’t save the world… I can only be responsible for myself.

So the question is, when does it become my business?

Several times over the past couple of years I have been sitting in a restaurant when someone at another table starts playing a game, watching a video, having a speakerphone conversation on their smartphone.  They make no effort to silence it – they don’t wear headphones, they don’t mute it, they don’t even turn the volume down.  That disturbs me.

Let me clarify… I am not talking about loud restaurants or fast-food joints like McDonald’s.  I am talking about sit-down restaurants with menus and cutlery and wait staff and all that.

What should I say?  So far I have not said a word… I have just sat there grinding my teeth at the disturbance.

I had the conversation about this with a friend recently, and he was on the fence about it.  After all, he said, except in the hoity-toitiest of restaurants patrons are not expected to remain silent… is their electronic device (smart phone, tablet, hand-held game machine) not simply an extension of them and if so, is the noise from said device not simply the same thing as them talking and having a conversation?

I thought about this for quite some time, and I do not agree with this position.

I am not an audiologist; I am not a sound engineer.  I am however a pretty observant person.  There is a difference between the noise generated by conversation and the noise generated by an electronic device – especially if one is watching a movie or playing a video game with diverse sounds effects such as beeps, explosions, music, and whatnot.  Sitting in a coffee shop with people having conversations all around is not at all the same thing as walking into the middle of a video game arcade or a movie theatre.

And then there was the family who decided to call grandma while they were having breakfast together.  Everyone else in the restaurant was having a nice, quiet meal, and then all of a sudden this family has grandma on the speakerphone… and I have no issue with grandma, but when speaking into a speakerphone and especially speaking to grandma… and especially speaking to grandma on a speakerphone where there is ambient noise trying to compete with you… you are going to raise your voice; it is natural and expected behaviour.  That is not to say that in the middle of a restaurant it should be acceptable behaviour.

I know society has changed… and G-d knows I do not think that I was raised well in a lot of respects; but when it comes to manners in public my parents made it very clear: behave according to polite society, or face the consequences.  The consequences with my mother were not idle threats – they hurt.  While I am completely against corporal punishment, I think it is a shame that when I see someone wearing a hat in a restaurant or playing video games or watching movies at full volume the answer is not to confront them, rather ‘Hey, it’s the new millennium… what can you do?’

Unfortunately I seem to be in a minority… and the words ‘publicly acceptable behaviour’ seem to have been changed from what I was taught to what is not specifically against the law.

Sigh.  Welcome to the new millennium.  Have a great week-end.

The Bands: Battery Fail!

Had you asked me last night which device was winning, it was a pretty easy call… I am really loving the Microsoft Band 2.  So when I went to bed and turned out the light, I was happy to click the appropriate buttons to set my Sleep cycle… which was really easy to learn on this device.  I was glad that when I woke up in the morning I would know exactly how well I slept.

Wrong.

When I woke up I pressed the Action Button on the side of my Band and… nothing.  The screen was blank.  The battery, obviously, was dead.

I am not unreasonable.  I know that batteries die.  Heck, in the First Impressions article the other day I even stated that the Fitbit had a better battery life than the Band.  Andrew at the Microsoft Store told me that the life span would be about two days.  I was ready for all of that.

But let me show you an e-mail I got the other day.  It came from Fitbit, and it came when I left the Microsoft Store having just given the new device a very short charge:

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See that?  Fitbit told me that my device needed to be charged.  What did I get from Microsoft?

Silence… a dead device is what I got.  And because I had left the charging cable in my car, I would not have an opportunity to charge it until I got to the office.  Result?  Right now my right hand says I have taken 3,747 steps and climbed 5 flights of stairs, while my left hand says I have taken 1,728 steps.  Oddly enough, because the two systems count ‘flights of stairs’ differently, it also thinks I have climbed 5 flights of stairs.

Ok… so now I know.  There is no warning or notice, there is simply DEAD BATTERY.  I’ll know for next time.  But if you guys are listening, hey Microsoft Band Team how difficult would a LOW BATTERY notification be?

The Bands: Compatible Systems

On Monday I published my first article in the “Battle of the Bands” series between the Microsoft Band (left hand) and the Fitbit Charge (right hand).  Yesterday I spoke about my first impressions, and the Microsoft Band seemed to be ahead.  Today’s piece – connected applications – weighs heavily in Fitbit’s favour.

I have been using the Fitbit applications for as long as I have been wearing a Fitbit – that is, since April, 2011.  So it is natural that I would favour the application until I give Microsoft’s tools a chance.  That is not what we are talking about.  There are myriad health related sites and applications out there, and over the years the different companies have come to understand that rather than competing with each other they could complement each other.  Even so, in order for them to do that, agreements and development has to take place.  I do not know whether it is because the Fitbit system is more mature or it the company just plays nicer with others than Microsoft does.  Even so, let’s compare:

Third Party Applications compatible with Fitbit

  • FitStar Personal Trainer
  • FitStar Yoga
  • MyFitnessPal
  • Strava
  • Weight Watchers
  • Lose It!
  • Thermos Hydration Bottle with Smart Lid
  • Walgreens Balance Rewards
  • MapMyRun
  • RunKeeper
  • Endomondo
  • SparkPeople
  • EveryMove
  • Fitline
  • Wristband Manager
  • Pact
  • Tactio Health App
  • DriveBit
  • Fitwatchr: Advanced Activity Tracker
  • Matchup
  • Lumosity
  • DietBet
  • Waterlogged
  • FitTap
  • Trendweight
  • MyNetDiary Calorie Counter
  • Walkadoo
  • Wokamon – Monster Walk Quest
  • LFconnect
  • Running for Weight Loss
  • Nudge Health Tracking
  • Fitbase
  • Under Armour Record
  • MINDBODY
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods

Italics show apps that I use or have used

 

Third Party Applications compatible with Microsoft Band

  • Lose It!
  • RunKeeper
  • MyFitnessPal
  • HealthVault TELUS Health Space
  • Cortana
  • MapMyFitness
  • Strava
  • TaylorMade MyRoundPro

 

Italics show apps that I use or have used

Crossed Out shows apps unavailable in certain geographic locations (i.e.: Canada)

 

I’m sorry Microsoft, but Fitbit beats you hands down here… and please don’t tell me ‘Oh, but our product provides many of the features the others do.’ I like Endomondo and wish I could continue to use it… which of course I can, just not in the same connected fashion as I do with Fitbit.

Winner: Fitbit

The Bands: First Impressions

On Monday I published my article announcing that I was going to spend a month wearing two fitness bands: The Fitbit Charge (on my right hand) and the Microsoft Band 2 (on my left hand).  In truth I picked them both up and started wearing them on Saturday, so as I sit here (Monday evening) I have a couple of days from which to give my first impressions.  Here they are!

Design

The Microsoft Band is the clear winner here.  I appreciate the craftsmanship of both devices – both can be mistaken for a bracelet if you are not paying attention – but whereas the Charge comes in four sizes (and you cannot buy the XL in stores) the Band comes as one-size-fits-all, with an extremely comfortable, ergonomic metal clasp that snaps in and then allows you to resize to your comfort.  Additionally the Fitbit strap is a cheaper rubber material, and the clasp is just two rubber clips that you have to push in tight.

Battery

Even before I left the store I knew that the Fitbit Charge was going to win this category – Andrew (the store rep) told me that I would have to charge the Band every two days, and the Charge would last five to seven days.  Andrew’s solution was that he charges it while he watches TV at night; I charged both devices on Saturday, but did not give either a full charge.  The Band died on Monday morning, and I had to charge it in my car again.  The Charge is still going, and if my experience with Fitbit is any indicator the charge will last most of the week.

Winner: Fitbit Charge

Charging

I have a love/hate relationship with charging Fitbit devices.  Every time I get a new device I have to change out the chargers… and as the devices evolve the charging solutions deteriorate.  The Fitbit Surge had the flimsiest charging cable I’ve ever used for any device… you had to balance the watch just so in order for it to charge.

The Charge has a better cable than the Surge did… but not by much.  When I plugged it in to charge at the Microsoft Store (as I wrote my first piece) it did stay put.  The cable is certainly flimsy – could easily be mistaken for a non-standard phone cable – but for this sort of device we have to weigh the benefits of weight versus requirement.  It is sufficient… so far.

The Band, on the other hand, has a solid cable with a quasi-dock that does not plug in to the back of the watch, rather it clips magnetically to the metallic clasp.  Of course, this means that there are wires running through your device’s band… but if the band is cut off your arm you likely have more important issues to contend with.

Winner: Microsoft Band

Apps

I want to reserve judgement on this category for a few reasons.  I have been using the Fitbit app for iPhone for over two years, and the Windows 8/10 app for even longer than that.  The first time I downloaded Microsoft Health for the iPhone was… well, Saturday evening.  I have not yet looked at it on Windows 10 yet… but I will. 

I will say that I was less than impressed with the pairing process of the Charge… my phone found it okay, but then crashed while the device was updating, and needed several retries to get it working… and only after I paired it with my Windows 10 machine did it finally work properly.  However once that was done it did add the steps I had taken before surrendering my Fitbit Surge (I synced it immediately before giving it back) and the steps I took with the Charge before it synced.  I think I’ll give it a pass on this one… but only because I lived with Windows Vista and learned to accept things not always working right the first five times.

Syncing my Microsoft Band onto my iPhone was easy… I downloaded the app (Microsoft Health) from the App Store and then followed the instructions to pair it on the device.  It took seconds and worked flawlessly.  I have not spent a lot of time getting to know the app (nor have I downloaded the equivalent on my Surface yet) but I will… and until then I will reserve judgement.

Winner: TBD

Comfort

The Band is going to be the clear winner here because I probably should be wearing the XL size of Charge, but the store only sells Large.  However again, this is my fault so I do not blame Fitbit

Display

This is not a fair comparison… if I was comparing the Fitbit Surge against the Microsoft Band it would be fair… and I think the Band would still win based on its crisp and clear multi-colour display, making excellent use of less real estate for a truly incredible result.  However it is probably still not a fair comparison… Microsoft has throngs of people working in User Experience (UX) for myriad devices while the Fitbit team is likely a fraction of the Microsoft UX guys.  Still and all, I do appreciate that for $80 less the Band takes a solid win over the Surge.

Winner: Microsoft Band

Accuracy

It is 6:30pm in Oakville, and according to my Microsoft Band I have taken 5,208 steps while climbing the equivalent of 16 flights of stairs.  According to my Fitbit Charge, I’ve taken 5,916 steps while climbing the equivalent of 11 flights of stairs.  What accounts for this amazing imbalance?  Simple… The Band’s battery died this morning, so while I did charge it in the car, I got out of the car and ran several errands before putting it back on.  What accounts for it registering more flights of stairs?  I don’t know… possibly it considers a flight of stairs to be 15 stairs while Fitbit is 20… I don’t know.  I will have to get on a treadmill at the gym tomorrow to determine which is more accurate.

Winner: TBD

Conclusion

If I had to take back one of the devices today it would be the Fitbit Charge, but it would be close… and don’t forget, while the Band may be more device, it is also double the cost.  I have not yet been to the gym with these devices, and that will come tomorrow.  I’ll let you know how that goes!

Battle of the Bands

Are you looking forward to the show?  Do you want to rock?  Yeah?  Well… then you’ve come to the wrong place.

Battle of the Bands is not going to be about music… it is going to be about wearable fitness devices.

Once upon a time, a long long time ago (say… 2010) I bought a device called a Fitbit Ultra.  It was a wonderful little device, even though it seemed to break quite a lot.  No problem, the Fitbit team replaced them for me every time.  And then one day they told me that it was no longer available… and I upgraded to a Fitbit One.  Just like the Ultra it was a great device… and frankly it did not break nearly as much. 

Of course, technology moves forward, and then about eighteen months ago Fitbit announced their new device line… and I was really looking forward to – no, I was chomping at the bit! – for the new Fitbit Surge.  Man, did it look incredible!  I was so excited about it, I was willing to wait the six months until it was released… and I was willing to pay the ridiculous price ($299 Canadian), and I was even willing to stop wearing the fashionable wristwatch in lieu of this device. 

It was ugly.  It was big, it was bulky, it was black and square.  Done were the nice little subtle devices I was used to – anyone who saw me would see this watch and they would ask about it.  Okay, here it is.  I was even willing to put up with it being ugly.

I was not willing to put up with the fact that it broke… a lot; it was inaccurate, and often it just stopped working for no good reason.

Nearly a year into the experiment I decided to call it quits.  On the last Saturday in February I went in to the Microsoft Store (for something else) and decided to trade it in.

Bands

I have heard a lot of good reviews about the Fitbit Charge, but I have also heard great things about the Microsoft Band 2.  I was speaking with Andrew (one of the great clerks at the Microsoft Store in Square One, Mississauga) who is a former Fitbitter, and now wears a Band.  He gave me his opinions of both, the pros and the cons.  Then I thought for a few minutes.

  • I like telling my readers about great technology;
  • I have just started a new workout regimen, trying to get back into shape; and
  • I’m still a geek!

I decided to buy both… I picked up one Microsoft Band and one Fitbit Charge.  For the next month I am going to wear both of them and compare, and in the end I will return one of the devices and declare the other the winner.

There’s a bias though… I have used Fitbit for five years… not only the device, but the on-line communities, the apps, and even the Aria scale.  Everything works together, and if I decide to go with the Band I am going to lose all of that… although I can still use the scale and type my number into Microsoft Health, it will not all be the same system.

I have always said that IT should not be about religion, it should be about the best tool for the job.  For that reason I am going to keep an open mind.  Andrew assures me that all of the original Day 1 and Version 1 issues that came with the original Band and even the Band 2 are history, so I am going to try it out. 

At the same time I have to remember that I decided to pick a lower-end Fitbit… the Fitbit Charge HR would have been a slightly better comparison, but really the only difference between the two is that the HR also measures my heart rate.  If the Charge wins out over the Band then I might consider switching it out for the higher-end device, but the $119.99 price tag of the Charge was a lot more appealing than the $179.99 price tag of the Charge HR.  We shouldn’t forget that the Band out-prices both devices, at a serious $249.99.  Whichever device I select it will still be a huge cost saving over the seriously over-priced Fitbit Surge, currently selling for $329.99 (As the Canadian Dollar drops, the prices of these devices rise).

It will be an interesting month… but over this time I will be writing about both of them, and letting you know how they compare.  Yes, I expect I will look a little silly wearing both of them, but never mind… That’s the length I am willing to go for you, my beloved user!

Stay tuned…

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