Fitbit Charge HR — A week and one update later

So I’ve had my Charge HR for a little while now, so I figured an updated review was in order.

TL;DR I love it.

There was a recent update to the firmware that seems to have made the heart rate much more accurate for me, especially when I work out on the elliptical.  Here’s my chest-strap HRM vs the fitbit on my last workout:

 

Chest strap

Chest strap

Fitbit HR

Fitbit HR

Not too bad eh?  I think the chest strap will *always* be just a little bit more accurate than any wrist-based heart rate monitor, but that’s totally fine for me.  I hated having to put on a chest strap to get my heart rate while I exercised, and I’d be willing to give up way more accuracy than this to get that data for free while wearing something I was going to wear anyway. Now for some other points I’ve come across after wearing it for a week or two:

  • Coming from using a Fitbit One, I’m loving the wrist-based tracker.  I never have to worry about it falling out of my pockets (which happened all the time) or always having to be sure to transfer it whenever I change pants
  • The auto sleep detection is awesome and so far for me, super accurate.  I still don’t really know what to do with this data yet, but it is backing up my belief that I suck at sleeping, real bad.
  • The silent alarm is pretty great, I like being able to wake up earlier than my fiancee without having to wake her up with my obnoxious phone alarm
  • I love the constant heart rate as it seems to get me much more accurate calorie burn, especially when I do stuff like clean the house, which for some reason raises my heart rate to the fat burn zone
  • The only thing I wish was better was battery life, and even that’s not bad.  I don’t even charge it all the way til it’s full, I’ve just gotten in the habit of plugging it in for a few minutes at a time when I’m standing at my desk and know that I won’t be moving for awhile
  • To get the best, most accurate heart rate while using the elliptical, I found it best to make it one notch tighter than I usually wear it, and push it up my wrist a bit more so it stays put.  With this I’ve gotten much fewer random dips and spikes

Overall, I’m very impressed with the new Fitbit.  I may be a bit biased, as I love Fitbit for A) Playing a pretty big part of me losing 150 pounds and B) Having a pretty awesome API, allowing me to do some fun stuff, but I really do think the Charge HR is awesome, and the best Fitbit yet.

 

Posted in Being not fat.

Fitbit Charge HR

I finally got my new Fitbit!  I was emailed a code to buy the Charge HR, and I jumped all over it, as I’ve been really excited about the all-day heart rate monitoring (I really like to know how many calories I burn throughout the day, because then I know how much food I can stuff into my facehole).

It's like a watch that helps you stop being fat

It’s like a watch that helps you stop being fat

So far, my first impressions have been pretty positive.  It feels like it’s built pretty well, it looks nice, and seems to work quite well.  The heart rate seems pretty accurate when at rest (or when running up and down the stairs a few times just to see if it changes).  I decided I should also go ahead and do a workout on the elliptical and compare the results to my chest-strap heart rate monitor to see whether or not this thing is full of shit.

So off I went into the hell that is working out (you’d think I would actually like it by now, but nope, still sucks.)  It took a few minutes for the fitbit to catch up with what the chest-strap HRM was showing me, and then I had some issues getting a proper reading for awhile.  I think this may very well have been because of me playing with it trying to get it in the right spot to get the most accurate reading, but after about 20 minutes or so, I seem to have finally found the sweet spot and stopped playing with it.  So for the first 20 minutes, the Fitbit was wayy behind what my chest-strap was showing, but the last 25 minutes or so were spot-on (with one small dip for less than a minute).  Now, for some charts!

This is what digifit (iCardio) told me I did (using my 60beat HRM)

This is what digifit (iCardio) told me I did (using my 60beat HRM)

And here's what fitbit told me I did

And here’s what fitbit told me I did

To be honest, I was pretty damn frustrated for those first 20 minutes, fiddling with it trying to get it to get a good read, but once I just started leaving it alone, I was pretty impressed.  I’m a big fan of a few things here:

  1. Not having to put on a pretty uncomfortable and tight chest strap (where you have to get it wet first, which is still weird and gross to me)
  2. Not having to sync through like 3 things (Digifit -> MyFitnessPal -> Fitbit) to get my workouts counted in the Fitbit app
  3. Getting way more data available within the Fitbit app due to number 2

The things I didn’t like:

  1. That whole first 20 minutes (which seems to have cost me about 150 calories worth of things I can stuff into my face without Fitbit calling me fat)
  2. It counted a lot fewer steps on the elliptical than my Fitbit One did in my pocket (I kind of expected that though, since I don’t move my arms around as much as on the treadmill)

So while I’d like to get another workout in without that initial 20 minutes of fiddling and crap, I’d say overall I’m pretty excited about this.  I’d love to have to never wear a chest strap again, and also love that now I get credit for burning more calories for all the random stuff I do now (like doing pullups when waiting for something to compile, or running up the stairs as fast as I can for no good reason at all).

 

TL;DR: Pretty impressed with my first few hours with the Charge HR (and even more excited about getting more data now from their API)

 

UPDATE

Here’s what I got for my next workout.  It still took about 5 minutes for the fitbit to catch up, but once it did, it was pretty close throughout, and the average BPM only differed by 3, the calories by around 30, and the calories per minute were very close.  Overall, much more impressed.  I think next time I may just do a warmup for 5 minutes or so to get it caught up, then start my workout.

iCardio -- Take 2

iCardio — Take 2

Fitbit 2

Posted in Being not fat Tagged , .

Galileo updated in PPA

Sorry I had neglected this for a bit, but the latest version of Galileo is now available in my PPA.  It has also been uploaded for 12.04, 14.04, 14.10, and vivid (15.04).  Please test and if you find any issues, shoot me an email at cwayne@ubuntu.com

Posted in Ubuntu Tagged , , .

Sync your fitbit one/force/flex/zip from Ubuntu with galileo

Thanks to Benoit Allard, there is now a way to sync the newer fitbit devices from within Ubuntu!  I’ve packaged it up and put it in my PPA, so now it’s easier than ever to sync your Fitbit.  To install (make sure the USB dongle is plugged in):

 

The sync should now happen in the background, and will sync automatically every 15 minutes.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , .

Why I use Unity: Part 1

There was recently a thread on reddit about whether or not people use scopes, and as usual, the vocal “UNITY SUCKS I HATE CANONICAL BECAUSE I LOVE GNOME2 AND WISH IT WAS STILL 1996″ crowd was present, although there were also quite a few positive answers.  What it made me realize most, though, is how much Unity/scopes can do that people don’t seem to know about, so I thought I’d take the time to highlight some of these cool features that I use on a pretty regular basis.  Most of these utilize a super basic feature that most people don’t even know exist: the use of keywords in Unity.  So without any further ado:

 

Local Weather

Like most people, I find myself wondering what the weather is like outside, while I sit inside and work on my computer anyway, you know, just in case maybe I want to go outside.  Now I could open up Chromium, go to weather.com, then search for my zip code, and figure it out that way, OR I could just hit the super key, then type ‘weather’.  That’s it, no location necessary, it will use GeoIP to figure out where I am, and will give me the relevant weather data right there!  If I wanted to figure out the weather anywhere else in the world, I could simply search “weather: city name” and get it.

Clicking on a specific day will give you more information, including the High/Low temperature, as well as a button to open more info in your browser.

LET IT SNOW

Hey look, I'm not gonna leave the house this weekend

 

Calculator

This is one scope that I use probably every single day.  A simple calculator is built directly into Unity.  No keywords are needed, just type in some math, and Unity will spit out an answer.  Simple as that!  Note if you’re worried about other results showing up, you can use the info: or calculator: keywords to get just the results.

MATH!

Use info: if you want just the results

 

Dictionary

Sometimes, I’ll come across some word that I don’t understand.  It happens to the best of us… right?  Well, instead of loading up dictionary.com, I can just press super, and type “define:word” and get my definition right there.  Easy right?  Doing that will bring up a list of words, and clicking one will get you the definition, as seen here:

oo-boon-too

So THAT'S what it means

 

Foursquare

Sometimes, you just want to know where the closest Dunkin Donuts is.  Luckily, I live in Boston, so it’s never more than like 20 feet away.  But to find out where it is (especially useful if you’re on vacation or a business trip), just hit super, then type foursquare:dunkin donuts (info: will work as well!).  In some cases, you may not even need the keyword at all, but if you want to be sure you’re getting foursquare results, be sure to add it.  Selecting a result will show you the address, and a link to open up a browser to its Foursquare page.

COFFEE

We really like our Dunkins

There are many, many more awesome scopes to use (github, virtualbox, news, stocks, and wikipedia come to mind) that I’ll try and write about soon, but this will hopefully at least help some people discover some of the awesome features in Unity that most people don’t seem to know about.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged .

fitbit-steps-indicator ready for initial testing

Inspired by Stuart Langridge’s Ubuntu Edge Progress Indicator, I decided that it would be a good idea to make a new indicator.  The first thing that came to mind was my Fitbit, so that I can keep track of my steps straight from my OS.  So, I updated the account-plugin-fitbit online account, and made a new indicator to show you the number of steps you’ve made so far today.  The indicator looks like this:

 

Currently it’s not very configurable, and will show a notification once you reach your steps goal.  This is still in an alpha state, but I think it is ready to be tested by people that aren’t me.  To install:

To start, log in and log out, or simply reboot.  Any questions or comments, please email me at cwayne@ubuntu.com.  I’m currently working on fixing this up to get it into Universe for Saucy.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged .

check ubuntu edge’s progress with ubuntu-edge-indicator

Stuart Langridge wrote a great little indicator app to keep track of Ubuntu Edge’s Indiegogo crowd-funding progress.  The one thing it was missing was being packaged, so i went ahead and took care of that.  To get the indicator and keep track of the progress straight from the desktop!  To get the indicator:

To run, either run ubuntu-edge-indicator from terminal, or simply reboot

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged .

on weight loss and being healthier

Back in November, I realized that I needed to make a change.  I’ve always been a big guy, but I was now the huge guy, and I was sick of it.  Since then, I’ve lost nearly 100 pounds (99.5 at the moment).  I realized that someone else may be able to learn from my experiences, and so I figured I’d write up some of my findings in the off-chance that it can help someone.  For those that are lazy like me, here is the TL;DR of my key points:

  • You have to actually want to lose weight.  It is a simple thing to do, but it is by no means easy.  It takes real commitment.
  • A successful diet is not a temporary fix.  It is a lifestyle change.
  • It’s okay if you stray from your diet once in a while.  The key to making it work is to get back on as soon as possible.
  • Exercise is hard, it’s boring, and overall it kinda sucks.  Make it fun by playing something (play catch with a football, play basketball, anything like that)
  • Weight loss at its core is simple.  It’s calories in minus calories out.

You have to want to lose weight

Losing weight is hard.  Food tastes good, and exercise sucks.  If losing weight were easy, fat people wouldn’t exist.  I think one of the reasons that my diet has been successful is that I understood this from the start.  I knew that this would be hard, I knew it would take a lot of work, and I knew at first it would be straight up hell.  It turns out that it wasn’t quite hell, but it sure was difficult.  Knowing and understanding this gives you a leg up already, over people that think “oh this is easy! I just wont eat cake anymore”.   Acknowledging how hard it is will help you ensure that you actually want to lose weight, and are willing to fight through it.  If you’re reading this and thinking ‘screw that, it sounds hard’ then maybe you really don’t want to lose weight.  And if you don’t want to badly enough, you won’t do it.

It’s a lifestyle change, not a quick fix

One of the problems that people have with diets is that they’ll successfully lose a bunch of weight, and then think ‘ALRIGHT now I’m done, I can do whatever I want’.  Unfortunately, this isn’t true.  If you go back to doing whatever you want and not watching what you eat, you will gain weight back.  The fix for this?  Realize that you’re not just going on a temporary diet.  You’re changing your lifestyle for the better.  You will need to continue to eat healthy, you will need to continue to exercise.  The good news, is that you can be way less strict once you reach your goal, you just have to make sure to keep up the lifestyle to a certain degree.  When you reach your goal, maybe you only have to go to the gym 3 times a week instead of 5.  The point is, that you do still have to go to the gym/exercise, and you do still need to watch what you eat.

You can cheat every once in a while

The difference between a successful diet and a failed diet is simple.  It’s not whether or not you stray from your diet, because everyone does sometimes.  The difference is how quickly you get back on the diet.  If you mess up your diet on Friday, and think ‘well I already ruined it, I’ll start over on Monday’, you are much more likely to fail.  If you mess up lunch on Friday and think ‘I’ll get back on for dinner’, you are that much more likely to succeed.  It’s a simple tip, but it is definitely easier said than done.  Also if you do go off your diet, go to the gym again.  Take a 15 minute walk.  Do something to make up for it.

Exercise sucks.  Make it fun and/or find a way to make yourself do it.

There’s a bunch of different ways to do this.  Find someone to play catch with.  Play basketball.  One thing that I did to make sure I exercised and didn’t hate it was made sure that I always had something to watch.  The first few months I only let myself watch TV while I was exercising.  This was also when I was about 3 seasons into Doctor Who.  You can’t just not watch like 3 episodes at a time of that.  Needless to say, I got a lot of exercise that month.  Another thing I do to make it fun is make it a competition.  I got a FitBit (a glorified pedometer), and I have a bit of a competition with one of my coworkers.  I’ll be tired and not want to go to the gym one day, and then think ‘well, if I don’t go, Matt might.  I can’t let him win!” and then I’ll end up going.

Weight loss = Calories In – Calories Out

It’s pretty simple, really.  That said, you still shouldn’t eat 2000 calories of nothing but twinkies in a day and expect to be healthier too.  But remembering this simple formula will help you get back on track if you stray.  Say you had too much ice cream, well, now you either need to go work off that extra 300 calories, or have 300 fewer calories than normal for dinner.  As long as you’ve got a caloric deficit, you’re losing weight.  I’ve found that trying to eat around 2000-2200 calories in a day works best for me.

Random Tips/Tricks

  • Use ground turkey instead of ground beef whenever possible
  • Use wheat pasta instead of white pasta
  • If you want to go even lower calories, use spaghetti squash instead of pasta (it’s like 20% of the calories)
  • Snacks are good.  Fruit makes for good snacks.
  • Find a routine and stick to it.
  • Fish is very low calorie and generally easy to make

Posted in Uncategorized.

Connect with your FitBit account to get your FitBit accomplishments!

The FitBit is a small device, essentially a pedometer on steroids, that counts your steps and stairs climbed, and uses this information (along with your weight) to calculate your calories burned throughout the day.  The goal of this is to show the user how active they are on that day, and to persuade them to become more active.  FiBit also awards badges to the user depending on how many steps they took (5,000 steps, 10,000 steps, etc) to further motivate the user.  You can pickup a fitbit here

I’ve been using my fitbit for some time now, and realized that the badges reminded me of something in Ubuntu — the Ubuntu Accomplishments!  The only problem was that the FitBit API needs to be authenticated over OAuth.  The answer to that became obvious when I happened to look at the System Settings in Ubuntu and found Online Accounts.  After spending a weekend reading up on Online Accounts and how they work, I started hacking.

The result of this hacking, is the new FitBit account plugin!  You can now authenticate to FitBit through Online Accounts, and use that plugin to check for your awarded badges, and will display them as Ubuntu Accomplishments.  Matt Fischer did a phenomenal job writing the accomplishments, as well as the scripts to check for the badges over the FitBit API.  After installing the fitbit accomplishments collection, you can see all of your badges in the Accomplishment Viewer, seen below.

Some of the badges you can earn in Fitbit Accomplishments Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To get these accomplishments, you need to authenticate FitBit first.  To do this , open the Online Accounts from System Settings.  You should see this:

Online Accounts UI

Click on “Add account “, and select FitBit.  This will bring up the FitBit authentication page, which will look like this:

Simply Authenticate with your FitBit email/password, and select “Authorize” . This will complete the process, and allow the Accomplishments system to get all of your fitbit badges!

To get the account plugin, and Fitbit Accomplishments simply run:

P.S.  Be sure to join the Ubuntu Fitbit Group!

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , .

github lens — now with previews

After reading Michael Hall’s blog about adding Unity Previews to Singlet, I knew it was something I needed to add to my singlet lenses.  The most obvious choice to me was allowing users to git clone a GitHub repo from the Preview.  After a couple days of experimenting, I finally figured out what to do and how to do it.  Instead of git cloning repos into any random directory, I had the lens search for a gconf key for your “Projects Directory”, where you would want to git clone projects to.  (In my case, ~/Projects).  That gconf key is found at /app/unity-lens-github/project-dir.  If you don’t supply a directory, it will default to your home directory.

If you search @username, it will use the users gravatar as an image

To get some feedback for the user, I decided to run git clone in a newly opened gnome-terminal, as well as to ensure no hiccups happened along the way.

Github Lens Previews from chris wayne on Vimeo.

The lens is again available in the Scopes Packagers PPA. To upgrade simply run apt-get update && apt-get upgrade. To install, run:

 

Note that this update will only be available for 12.10 users, and you will need quantal-backports enabled to get the updated version of python-unity-singlet.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , .