Thursday, October 02, 2014

Trust Me


Although Marcus and Agata have lived in Lausanne for over 5 years now it was not until recently that we started to regularly use the 400 metre running track by the lake in Vidy.

It is always a refreshing and invigorating experience.   We get to see young people   (I mean ever younger than us!! :-) training and exercising together.

And today we had something even more wonderful to celebrate.

Since we were going out socially afterwards and had no time to shower at home we found the changing rooms and some shower facilities.

Both the track and showers are open to all.  Free access but there is a little sign as shown above asking that if you use the showers please could you please  pay 1 Swiss Franc (about 1 dollar or 0.6 GBP).

We paid (into the honesty box). Of course!

How wonderfully charming.  Agata and Marcus know of many other countries where this level of reciprocated trust no longer exists.   We can only say that here in Switzerland, in our Lausanne it does.  Thanks again Lausanne.  A great place to live and exercise!



Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Mio Link continuous heartrate monitor

Marcus has been a moderately contented user of the Mio Link continuous heart rate monitor for over 6 months now.

Time for a mini review!

So why bother?







First seen on the Mio Alpha heart rate monitor and then on the BASIS fitness tracker there is an optical sensor underneath the Mio Link to measure heartrate.   No more ugly and for me constraining chest band!




What we found


  • It has lasted for more than 5 hours of monitoring
  • It has both Ant+ and Bluetooth Low Energy Connections.  I have only used the latter, working perfectly with Android and Windows Smartphones and TomTom and Garmin Sports Watches
  • There is a hopeless Android Application useful only for setup whilst the Apple Smartphone app is more capable. There is no Windows Mobile application.
  • You can only pair it to one device, not more this is not actually a Bluetooth Limitation per se just that nobody has implemented the one ot many connectivity specs
  • Physically it is small and light  I have no connectivity issues with the Mio Link on the opposite wrist to my GPS SportsWatch
  • When on the activity light flashes 3 different colours to indicate which heart rate zone that you configured you are in
  • Initially you press a button to switch on and if a link is made to your SmartWatch or Phone application within about 30 seconds it stays on else it switches itself back off
  • Charging is from a tiny USB adapter.  Tiny but a little awkward.
  • The unit can pop out of its strap so you can wash them to clean or replace with another strap  (which I've not actually seen on sale separately)
  • The price is under 100 USD so it not a great wallet buster

For Marcus the Mio Link is now an integral part of his fitness monitoring regime.  It's small and lightweight and lasts long enough for all but longer Ultra races, making it perfect for daily fitness training (since sessions are always under 5 hours continuous, and between sessions you can pop it back on charge).

I love not wearing a Chest mounted heart rate monitor!

In the current marketplace watches with integrated Heart Rate sensors are still being released, Garmin for example has none so far.  

The Mio Link works, and is able to upgrade your current GPS watch to provide heart rate monitoring without a chest strap.  

You can thus wait for your perfect future GPS Sports Watch to be released with this technology in your own time!  And until then use your existing watch and the Mio Link.




Links
Mio Link official

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jaybird Bluebuds X Bluetooth Headphones


This is a review of the Jaybird Bluebuds X Bluetooth wireless headphones.

Unfortunate foreword

Agata previously bought the Jaybird JF4 Sprint headphones in 2012, but these failed in late 2013.  Unfortunately despite the claimed warranty Jaybird refused to replace them

Normally with this level of service we would not buy any more Jaybird, however we surveyed the marketplace and still thought they were the best around.  Hmmm.

Enter Bluebuds X




The headphone is supplied with 3 differently sized sets of earbuds.  Agata's are constantly falling off now, so far we've have not lost them.




Note the rubberised wing that slots into the top of the ear and means that it does not fall off whilst running or performing sports. Different sizes provided.



A tiny little hatch opens up and you can then charge up via a standard micro USB connector.


  • Small, no unnecessarily long cables
  • Sits well in ears
  • Sweat proof
  • Good Sound Quality
  • Comfortable controls on cable start/stop vol up/down, iPhone voice control
  • At least 4 hours battery life
  • Microphone for use in phone calls and Apple Voice Control
  • Female voice feedback of status e.g. power-on, headphones-connected, power-off, battery-low
  • When paired to iPhone when a call comes in any playing music is paused for call duration and resumed afterward.
  • Hard case, but so large we never use it

Jaybird at still the best Bluetooth headphones, though this performance comes at a steep price.




Links

Jaybird Bluebuds X

Monday, September 29, 2014

Swisscom Cleans the Contacts




Well the results are not yet conclusive, but much to my surprise Swisscom have been around and made some positive alterations to our Optical Internet connection


What was the trouble?



Before 
Before we had an Optical transmit and receive attenuation shown above







A very nice man called Aziz from Swisscom called.

He verified that the problem was at the exchange and went off to clean the contacts.  (Sanity note: They could have checked the Exchange first and determined that was the source of the problem, but apparently they like to make house calls?)




And afterwards you can see that once the cleaning was performed the optical receive drop is much smaller.  That is to say our signal is a lot stronger.

We also replaced the Optical router

And now we wait to see if our relatively erratic Fibre service is transformed back to its once stable conterpart.



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Sermon:So what do you do at the Weekend


The Floyd: Time


When you have no excuse to devote time money and attention to what many would regard as talking to and listening to preachers of your <insert denomination> imaginary friends, people often ask what on earth Marcus and Agata do on a Sunday

01 Music and Audio


Stars 4-Ever

Both Marcus and Agata listen to at least 4 hours of audio per day.   This is in the form of Audiobooks, Podcasts and for marcus BBC Radio4 and some Radio1.  Sunday is a time to download, convert, archive, transfer and prepare much as possible for the forthcoming week



02 Agata cooks the Beans

Our diet keeps getting healthier.  We have take the best unprocessed food that we can and make sure we have it setup for the week to come.


03 We pay more taxes
We don't cheat on our taxes or bills.  We calculate fairly and pay heavily. Let us just say that we could already exchange our paid Swiss taxes for a Bugatti, well and then some.


04 Weekend Exercise
Long exercise is possible at weekends.  Fancy an Ironman distance swim? Or a 100Km cycle? Or Both?  Perhaps that difficult mountain run.  Using Agata's incredible planning and Marcus's determination, we make an effective team


05 Simplify, Sell or Gift or Sunset One Item


For example, we don't have a bed, just a mattress.

We are forever conscious that we have an oversupply of stuff.   We continuously evaluate whether we have too much and what may be discarded.





We continue to ask ourselves the questions posed in the Apple promo how do we make the our lives, our environment just better. 


06 Communicate

In 2014 when practically all our communication to friends or loved ones are at no cost and instantaneous via the Internet it is an opportunity to send that email, to post pictures to loved ones, to start that video Google Hangouts call with relations.  There is simply no excuse for not keeping in touch in this connected world.


07 Plan for the Future

Where do you want to be in 1 month, 1 year and in a decades time?   What is the plan to get there?   Are you on track?  If you have enough, why do you need more?

08 Listen to Each Other
In a loving relationship it is important to talk and listen to each other.   This means about each others hopes, desires, concerns and problems.   It also means not sidetracking about other people, including kids, or property issues! 

09 Sports Prep

In these modern times sans Butler we make sure our Sports equipment is ready for the next weeks challenges. Particularly important that our Bicycles are safe, because at speeds of over 50Km/h accidents can be life changing/ threatening.

It's also an opportunity to consider and perhaps book any forthcoming races which we find via datasport.ch



10 Getting Religious
Apart from writing the Sunday Sermon this is a time to make a sincere investigation of some other religious faiths.  This weekend I invite you to

First look at the Raelians



Raelians - The Basics
(We have seen Raelians in our hometown of Lausanne)

And then maybe something more rational:





TAM (The Amazing Meeting) 2014: Australian Science


A full video list for TAM 2014 is here


Ramen.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

No Coke, No Joke




And very soon,  when all our household reserves have been drunk  there will be an end to all Coke (or Pepsi) drinking in the Marcus and Agata household


Why drink Coke / Soda?

Well primarily because it tastes great!   I suppose carbonated drinks are an acquired taste but rather like chocolates; once discovered they are difficult to forgo.

In diet form an entire 0.5 Litre bottle contains a single calorie and so this can really be a tremendously beneficial part of your reduced calorie intake diet.

So Why Stop Then?

It has been a slow journey but Agata and Marcus are striving to live a healthier lifestyle not only for ourselves but to minimise the effects of transporting liquids around, with the high Carbon and Environmental cost it bears compared to, well, just opening a tap at home.

(It's the same as the bottled water argument, just that this is Coke we are drinking)

Peer Pressure

As you become fitter and healthier and want to achieve the next level in your fitness goals you need to analyse whether a past lifetime of learnt behaviours were, well, let us say non-optimal.

Some athletes I speak to regard Diet Coke with the same level of horror and disbelief as I would if you said your pre-race food was a Chicken Bucket from the Colonel.



When is Coke acceptable?

Common sports consensus is that flat, full fat coke original is a valid sports drink for parts of a Marathon length race.

Bubbles and sugar are a great pick-me-up combination

But don't attempt to run a Marathon just on Coke!

And for Ultra Marathons that Marcus has personally tried, Coke is good in our opinion for upto say 30Km of a race.  Any longer and it becomes too sickly, even if alternated with Water and Hydration powders.









What will Replace Sodas?

The first choice at home will be Tea!  

Follow on choices are freshly squeezed juice  (although too much will lead to Weight gain and obesity so caution),  coffee, then water flavoured with Sports Hydration tablets, and finally water.

The issue that most of us have with drinking just water is that the taste compared to just about anything flavoured, especially say Diet Coke, is extremely boring.

Water is an acquired taste, or absence of taste, and that takes some re-acquiring.

Still, slowly but surely, we will get there.   Coke Zero in the future: by exception only.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Really NOT Interested

(Well if I ruled the world ... read on)


As Engineers both Marcus and Agata have a professional obligation to be interested in Science and Technology.  And so we always carefully scrutinise major vendors including Apple Computer.

Post iPhone6 launch it seems the cult of celebrity or some might say stupidity has now further invaded this technology sphere.

Many online demonstrations are now available on YouTube and other plaforms showing how a new, beautiful Apple iPhone6 can be destroyed


  • In a Blender
  • Submersion  (it is not water resistant)
  • Being Shot
  • Runover by a car
  • Being bent using excessive force

Humour not Destruction
Now don't get us wrong.   We are all for a little humour, we just don't enjoy mindless violence.

We have not searched for, nor watched, nor intend to watch a single destruction video.

Whilst Marcus is normally quite critical of Apple I am disgusted and annoyed both by the destroyers of this property but also by the watchers.

As such I won't even link to any of these videos to dignify them, they just don't deserve it.


I think this TED talk summarises the issue



Links
Weren't you listening!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Will it Bend


Curved not Bent



We Flex not Bend






Burton, designed to bend

















Conan: Rigid and Stiff baby

Okay, I formally apologise.  Twitter (where I found said images) does have its uses after all.

marcus  ( anbncn )

It is just a theorem.

Garmin Vivofit review



Actually, the best Vivofit review is of course on the DC rainmaker site.  it is here

Vivofit is a wrist mounted fitness/ activity tracker.   It measures the steps that you have walked or run and transmits this information usually via Bluetooth to your Smartphone and then to the Garmin Connect application/ website.

All we can do is comment on our user experiences since Agata is now a happy customer and user of her Vivofit for at least 6 months.


 Time


Bottom of clasp is secure.  But some users report it opening and if you call Garmin support they'll send you the update free.


 For not very much you can order extra multi coloured straps



 The Date


 How many steps today


 Steps necessary to meet your goal for today



 How many KM have you walked today


Calories today





Garmin Connect


What does Agata think?


  • The killer feature is the 1 year battery life.  No other activity tracker comes close.  Others need recharging between 1 day and 1 week.
  • The tradeoff is the not very bright display
  • Does not switch on unless you press the button and cycle through the options/ statistics
  • It is water resistant.  You can swim with it no problem
  • Data is best uploaded via the Bluetooth Low Energy BTLE connection to your Smartphone/ Tablet
  • Data integrates into Garmin Connect which is used by Garmin's GPS sports watches.   So you blend seamlessly into the Garmin ecosystem.
Agata says: I am very pleased with the device, the only other Garmin activity tracker is the as yet unavailable but shipping soon Garmin Vivosmart (The Vivosmart looks sexier but it has a short  1 week battery life.

Back to Vivosmart.  If you already invested in the Garmin Ecosystem with a Garmin GPS watch then this fitness tracker is going to suit you better than any non Garmin product.








Links
DC Rainmaker reviews Vivofit

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Batterytastic




Marcus and Agata recently visited Dusseldorf and for this short visit we had limitations on what we could carry.  So we had to think about what Gadgets to take and moreover what chargers we could leave at home.

Above you will see Marcus and Agata's roadwarrior weapons these being the Lenovo U430 laptop and the Apple iPad Air respectively.

Neither of us took a charger and we managed quite fine!


Different Strokes
Marcus Policy:  When I get home, plug it in

Agata Policy: Laissez faire ... when I remember I might plug something in.

This leads to Marcus doing a lot of plugging, Agata occasionally running out of battery power unexpectedly, and Agata accusing Marcus of not understanding that overcharging will shorten battery life (something that Marcus rejects with modern Lithium Ion and advanced charging circuitry)


Comparisons
As Engineers we are precisely aware of the limitations of Battery technology but in the last 20 years power requirements from computers have eased leading to quite remarkable (to us) battery lives.

For the Lenovo at least 8 hours and over 10 hours for the iPad. Astonishing

From that we began to think about our daily technology devices and which ones had us dashing to an available power outlet daily, or even hourly ....


Device - Battery Life

Mobile Phone Agata iPhone 4 - 1 day
It's old slow and tired.  It desperately needs retirement and replacement.  Remind me, didn't Apple announce a new iPhone recently?

Mobile Phone Marcus Nokia 635 - 1 day
Even with hard surfing, and use as a handlebar mounted screen always on Bicycle Computer (daily for at least 2 hours) the Nokia, Windows Phone always easily lasts a day.

Since this is still a temporary phone, my next choice of a <real> phone will have to be one with exceptional battery life.  As a  Internet Portal, Camera, GPS, Bicycle and running computer, flashlight, Map, step tracker backup, oh and Phone   it is in use practically the whole day long.

GPS Sports Watch Marcus - 2 days
Actually the TomTom can last over 60 hours just as a watch, but as a GPS watch it has about a 7 hour life with the GPS on and recording activities.  So it's able to last 2 days of normal training

Laptop Marcus Lenovo U430 - 4 days
My first laptop with what I regard as an almost infinite battery life.  My old HP Envy laptop  (Quad Core, 16GB) was down to 90 minutes without the additional battery slab.


iPad Air Tablet Agata - 4 days
Agata is a heavy iPad Air user but it's 4 days at the very minimum between charges based on her 2 hours per day usage average.

MP3 player (iPod nano) Marcus - 2 days
It's old faithful, my beloved Nano, my second one after the first one drowned.   Used every day for at least 4 hours, but battery life is still at least 10 hours. Plugged into the Lenovo laptop to charge  (the U430 has an always on USB socket even with laptop off) or to synchronise with iTunes.

On a long Ultramarathon race, say anything over 10 hours I'd carry this Nano and a backup iPod Shuffle  because running without music for say upto 24 hours can get really boring I can tell you! 

Toothbrush Oral B - 7 days
It lasts a week if used sparingly (2 people, twice per day).  We know this because whilst camping we don't take an adapter.


Heart Rate Monitor Mio Link - 1 day
The actual battery life is only about 5 hours, enough for a marathon or a moderately long trail run but nothing longer.  If you pair it to a GPS watch or smartphone this isn't a showstopper (just annoying), after it dies the heart rate is simply shown as zero.


Weight Scales Withings WS50 - 2 months
It might last a few months on rechargable AAA cells but it does not die gracefully.  It takes the measurement but then can't send it anywhere.  Most annoying!


Bank Security - UBS - 1 year
Our UBS Bank security devices last 1 year, luckily we can use each others because the replacements we have ordered twice now have come with flat batteries.


Compex Fitness - 5 hours usage
This is an essential tool helping you recover from exercise or injury.  Marcus uses it for at least 1 hour per day

Swimp3 Finis swim music player - 2 sessions
Whilst it can last longer, it is normally sufficient to plug it into a power source and in the hour that it takes to get everything together for an Open Water or Pool swim/ Paddle  you can put in at least a 2 hour charge, and that is enough!

Bluetooth Jaybird X Earphones - 1 day
It claims to have an 8 hour battery life but Agata might say more like 4 hours.  That's enough (4 hours) for 1 day of travelling and exercise but no more!

iRobot Braava Vacuum Cleaner - Always on
This is continuously plugged into a docking station when not in use.  It's able to do 2 sets of cleaning tasks per day (one after each other) without a recharge.

Bicycle Light Cateye 625 - 1 day
In normal mode it can last for 3 hours of motorist shocking brilliance or 1.5 hours in high mode.  At currently cycling rates this means I must recharge it daily.

Bluetooth Tempo Thermometer - 1 year
I did not change it yet!

Withings Pulse Fitness Tracker - 1 week
It charges in about 1 hour from a micro USB socket.  A small price to pay for the highest functioning step tracker with an integrated heart rate and oxygen sensor.

Garmin Vivofit - 1 year
Agata's step counter with its low power display lasts an amazing year unlike most other trackers which last from 1 day to 1 week.

In Summary
Marcus and Agata are possibly a little unusual but generally we have realised that we depend on a consistent and easily available, reliable Electricity supply to keep our Gadgets topped up for use.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Salomon XA Pro 3D Womens Trail Shoes

This is a first look at the women's Salomon XA Pro 3D trail shoes

Agata's old Salomon Crossmax  were completely shot at over 500Km running and so after essential research we ordered the XA Pro from Chain Reaction UK (62GBP + Import Duty + 8% Swiss VAT)


As usual you can save money ordering the SS (Spring Summer) shoe instead of the AW (Autumn Winter) shoe once you have checked the only difference is the colour!

To test out the shoes we decided to venture on a 30 minute journey from our home in Lausanne Switzerland to Saint Cergue



We found this Swiss town, small, quiet and they are building new apartments if you are interested!  Transport links from the Motorway are via a 10Km twisty mountain road, which seems to be a racetrack for local bikers.



For this experiment Marcus was wearing his uncomfortable ultra lightweight Salmon S-Lab shoes.  For our 20Km test run I thought it would be okay



Our whole route was dominated by beautiful scenery and also a lot of cows!





The route is described below but you can see that the first half was basically up, up and up.


 We've just come from there



 More contented cows


Marcus wears his cycling top because lot of pockets in the back for food!


Next the big descent and then home to dinner!



Agata's mini review


  • At the 62 GBP price these shoes are bonkersly good value
  • Also available from Zalando for about 170CHF in Switzerland
  • The shoes are stiff on tarmac as one might expect because the soles are structured for mountain trails of grass and/ or stone
  • As usual Salomon grip on wet/ damp surfaces was appalling  (both these shoes and Marcus's s-lab)
  • The shoes in size 39 are 360 grams each - quite heavy
  • As with other elite Salomon shoes the tongue is not loose but extends down to the shoe sole base to form a sort of upside down U shaped sock for the foot
  • The quick lacing system is excellent as usual.  You can quickly adjust tension say before a steep descent almost without stopping.  Much superior to laces
  • The shoe can be easily washed after a trail run and then hung out to dry, the quicklace system helps.
  • The shoes are narrower than I expected at the front, still okay for me, just.


Statistics

Marcus Grumbles!

The almost pedestrian pace today (see heart rate) was due to quite severe pains on Marcus's right side that started last week. Probably I should not have run at all, but I had to try.  Agata was very diplomatic and kept waiting for me to catch her up with just smiles of encouragement.


Technical Notes
We have taken to loading up Agata's Garmin Fenix 2 watch with an exact trail route.  It displays the track in dots on the screen with any turns etc. It's a bit of work but it means that it's impossible to get lost when the trail signs can't be found. This happened on multiple occasions on this run.



Links

Salomon XA Pro 3D Womens Shoes SS14
Salomon XA Pro 3D in CH Zalando