I don’t usually shop at Best Buy, but I had a $25 gift card that had been floating around with me for a year or two and I finally decided to use it on January 15th 2014. I stepped into the store and surveyed my options. Ahh, here was a Dynex Wireless Keyboard and Wireless Optical Mouse (Model: DX-WLC1401) for around the right price.
My standing desk at home is a bit cluttered with cables and all – eliminating two of them seemed like a reasonably good use of a gift card. I took the unit home and set it up. It worked grand for the first few days, maybe two or three weeks – I don’t recall exactly…but then the v key got stuck – and it hasn’t worked correctly since.
I’ll just return it to Best Buy…except for I didn’t keep the receipt and Best Buy returns require a receipt. Bahh, humbug. For larger IT purchases I’d usually keep a receipt – but come on, keyboards/mice are so simple and should be so reliable – I figured there was no need…I was wrong.
I’ve pried the key off and checked for debris, I’ve reset the key and so on, all to no avail. So, here I am, typing away and pounding repeatedly the v key every time I need it – not a lot of fun…so soon I’ll be buying another wireless keyboard and mouse…but it won’t be a Dynex.
Besides this failure there is one feature lacking that really: A cap lock notification LED. This is pretty much standard on every keyboard I’ve ever used – but not on this one. Sure it has nice music controls at the top, and a notification LED regarding whether the unit has successfully paired and how low the battery is – but no LED for the caps lock button. The only way to tell if caps lock is on is to type – and if it is, delete and hit caps lock.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I occasionally hit the caps lock key by accident…so this becomes a real nuisance spread out over hundreds of occasions over a period of weeks/months.
So, there you have it…my not so great experience with the Dynex wireless keyboard and mouse.
One other note is that the battery light has been glaring at me for a few days now, complaining that it is running low (the keyboard uses 2 AAA batteries), and its been less than two months since I purchased and began using the unit. This isn’t a huge deal – but the lifespan for the batteries seems a bit on the low side – especially for not having LED features like caps lock on it.
For Christmas my brother (Paul) and sister-in-law (Kiki) bought me a Fitbit One. I’ve been eyeing these quantified self devices long before they came into the public awareness – but have held off and held off…now I finally have one and I LOVE it.
I really wasn’t sure how great it was going to be. There are still a few features I’m waiting for a QS device to offer – like monitoring my blood pressure, heart rate, and automatic caloric intake analysis – and while I would have probably waited until these features became available – I’m really glad that Paul and Kiki didn’t – b/c I love the FitBit and would recommend others who are holding out for the “next generation” to make the leap – what it can do currently is quite helpful.
Let me tell you why I love my FitBit
I have been using my smartphone (currently a Samsung Galaxy S3) as my QS device for a couple years now. I thought, “hey, I have it in my pocket all the time, it isn’t that big, why buy a separate device?” Boy, was I ever wrong! I find myself taking my smartphone out of my pocket all the time now – knowing that I’m still collecting QS data via the FitBit. Now carrying the smartphone around the house or office feels like an absolute drag – and I don’t even notice the FitBit is clipped to the inside of my pants pocket!
I’ve used Noom and other applications for food logging – but I’ve never been very good at it. I always ended up skipping meals – but the FitBit offers me enough other data that I want to login every day (and, hear this Noom – it also has a web-based interface – which I strongly prefer over a mobile first interface) – e.g. it tracks my sleep and my caloric burn.
FitBit’s food logging is no harder or easier than other options I’ve used – I figure there isn’t much room for innovation or improvement on this front until automatic food logging comes into play (which could be quite a while, though some basic caloric intake analysis is hopefully just down the road).
Dynamic Caloric Goals
Each day FitBit not only tracks how many calories I am expending but also calculates (based on my input to the food log) how many calories I am consuming – and tells me on a constantly revised basis how many more calories I should consume for the day. This is great in helping me determine whether I really want to have that bowl of ice cream or that bag of popcorn, etc. I also enjoy driving my caloric intake numbers down and my caloric expenditure numbers up (no, not crazily).
The FitBit is no Zeo, that is for sure. But with Zeo out of business and my sensor on the wonk, the FitBit has become my only sleep tracking mechanism. It does a good job of keeping track when I am asleep, how long I stay asleep, how long it takes me to fall asleep, how many times I am awakened and so on. Unfortunately, it does make me tell it when I am trying to go to sleep and when I awake – otherwise it won’t begin tracking / won’t end tracking. This is annoying, I wish it could figure this out on its own.
That said, I’ve been able to remember most days to both start and stop the sleep tracking functionality – which is saying something for its ease of use when you consider my ADD nature.
I mainly use Food, Activities (exercise), and Sleep but Fitbit can also track weight (which I use, but pretty much only actual weight, not BMI, etc.), Journal (for general reporting on one’s day – I do this separately), heart, blood pressure, and glucose. You can also add custom trackers (I haven’t).
I’m hoping that soon we’ll see more of these items being gathered automatically. I saw that FitBit has partnered with Aria to create a weight scale – I didn’t notice whether it integrates with FitBit and performs automatic weight, BMI, etc. recording – but I’d think it would. Cost is $130 which is too much for me – especially when similar devices sell for $35 on Amazon (FitBit integration would be worth a $15 price premium to me, not but nearly $100).
The real question is, “Are you losing any weight using the FitBit?” Okay, maybe that isn’t your question, but that is mine. I was 135 lb. as a teenager, 150 lb. my first year in college, and ballooned to 195 lb. a few years ago. Since then I’ve battled back from 195 lb. to 185 lb – but that has been a real battle.
When I began using the FitBit on December 31st I clocked in at 176.6 lbs. (I was sick over the holidays, so food consumption was low – even lower than normal). As of the 20th of January (around one month later) I am at a fairly steady 172 lbs. (I oftentimes fluctuate around 5 lbs. in weight between measurements) – or a lost of 4.6 lbs. Not too shabby.
Now a FitBit by itself won’t make this happened – but paired with monitoring my caloric intake/expenditure (which FitBit makes easy) it can be a real help.
What I Want
So where could the FitBit improve? Boy, I’m so glad we think alike! I was just about to share that with you!
Automatic Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
As I noted earlier, I would like to see FitBit automatically and continuously tracking my blood pressure and heart rate – I believe these should be very easy additions for FitBit. At first they might use an app on the phone to integrate these – as with the FitBit clipped on it may not be able to track these accurately (though with the wrist band it should be able to). Eventually it would be nice if this functionality was integrated directly into the device (which is where their newer wristband models come into play).
Automatic Sleep Monitoring
Additionally, I’d like to see automatic sleep monitoring – w/out the need to start/stop it. This is especially the case for me, b/c I have Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS) which results in me napping several times a day, and I’d like to be able to easily analyze these sleeping patterns in conjunction with my nighttime sleeping patterns…but I usually forget to start/stop the FitBit when I am napping (as it is a very heavy, quick, overwhelming sleepiness that descends upon me).
Again, I think with a little refinement this should be fairly easy to accomplish. An algorithm should be able to detect when an individual is sleeping (perhaps due to lack of movement, location (GPS), and body temperature (which it doesn’t measure, but could, and would be useful as well – “Hey Mom, I have a temperature of 101 – the FitBit says so – must stay home from school today!”).
Automatic Glucose and Caloric Intake Monitoring
I believe these two will be difficult to achieve – but they should be on FitBit’s radar. There is a company that claims it is able to do caloric intake analysis based on looking at the blood through the skin and its coloring – but this is in dispute and the company has not yet released its product.
I’m not diabetic (at least the last several times I’ve asked to be tested they’ve told me I’m not), but I do have severe craving for sweets (mainly candy) and I’d like to be able to better monitor what my glucose levels are at throughout the day, whether there is a correlation between levels and cravings, and what my body does as far as glucose levels when I consume large amounts of sweets (I used to be able to consume absolutely monstrous amounts of candy – but I can still consume a giant box of Good and Plenties, a giant box of Hot Tamales, and a good number of jelly beans in a single sitting! [I try not to.]).
Automatic Weight / BMI / Body Fat Measurements
I’m fine if this uses another device (a separate weight scale), but it should integrate automatically and not be excessively pricey. This is a fairly easy goal and may already be available with the Aria, I’ll have to look into that…
Help! I’m Lost!
One of my great fears is losing my FitBit. Accidentally knocking it out of my pocket (the clip is pretty tight and I haven’t had any problems thus far), putting it through the wash, or just losing it when I take it off (and when the cats get to it!).
Recently I misplaced my FitBit. I was distressed and searched everywhere multiple times. I was able to check on the FitBit Dashboard and see it had successfully synced only a few minutes ago – so I knew it had to be in the vicinity but I couldn’t figure out where!
I love how smartphones can now be configured to ring or make other noise when needed to help you find them – I’ve used this feature on several occasions. The FitBit should offer the same functionality.
There is also that new credit card replacement company (that offers a card that can “accumulate” all your cards within it), I cannot recall their name at the moment, but they have a pretty nifty feature where if your “card” becomes separated from your “smartphone” by over a certain geographical distance your phone starts screaming. That would be helpful.
On a side-note, which will probably become less needful as I think we’ll be moving to wristband and then transparent patches for QS devices – it would be nice if the FitBit had a water sensor that would similarly cause a smartphone to start screaming when it detects it is getting wet. This could save folks a lot of agony when they discover that, yes, they did just run their FitBit through the washer and dryer! (I was really afraid of doing this at first, now I don’t worry as much, but I know it is still a real possibility!)
When I go to the Langhorne Coffee House I always get the same thing – two eggs scrambled, home fries, and multi-grain toast. When I go to Panera Bread it is chicken noodle soup in a bread bowl, bread as the side, and a wild berry smoothie. At Red Robin it is a Royal Red Robin Burger with bottomless fries and bottomless freckled lemonades.
Right now in FitBit (as in all other food logging services I’ve used) one has to enter each component of a meal. It would be nice if one could create “common” meals and choose these which would then include all the components rather than having to add each one individually. So far it hasn’t been too big of an inconvenience – but a year from now or three years from now – I may grow tired of entering the same old components in individually.
When you go to sleep at night you are supposed to place your Fitbit in a comfortable wristband and place this on your non-dominant arm. I do so but have run into an issue with some regularity – the wristband comes off. I move around in my sleep (I think) and so it just comes apart. This could be easily rectified by using something besides simple Velcro to hold the wristband together. For the time being I am placing a rubber band around the wristband to hold it in place – this worked without incident last night and hopefully will become a sustainable (if hodge podge) solution.
From Aug. 2005 until Feb. 2013 I worked full-time in various Information Technology positions. As such I had access to robust computing equipment and frequent upgrades. When I became a full-time pastor in 2013, those benefits of working in IT became significantly less available. What does that mean? On a practical level, that I’m still using the same laptop I had three years ago – even though that is way beyond my usual “upgrade cycle” historically.
So, what does one do when its time to upgrade one’s workstation but you don’t want to spend the money to purchase an entirely new system? In the past my answer would be “upgrade the RAM” but now it is “maybe upgrade the RAM and definitely go to a SSD hard drive.”
See, most computers I buy these days come with a decent bit of RAM – 4 GB or more. For the average user, you aren’t going to see a “big” performance boost adding RAM above 2 GB or 4 GB to your system…at least, the performance boost becomes less with each additional upgrade.
Replace a standard “mechanical” hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD) though and you will see an huge performance difference. I’d probably have broken down and bought a new machine by now if I hadn’t bought and installed an SSD drive for this laptop in January before I left Cairn University.
The SSD drive took my boot time down from several minutes to under a minute (and I have a pretty heavy load of stuff on my system, many individuals doing lighter work might see load times around thirty seconds). It also makes system performance overall much more snappy – especially anything that involves reading/writing data from the hard drive (aka, almost everything).
I chose the Vertex 4 because (a) it was compatible with my laptop, (b) the drive has massively positive reviews from hundreds of customers, and (c) it comes with a 5-year warranty.
You’ll notice that the price is significantly more than for a traditional hard drive (HDD), but the price is worth it. Still, one will want to avoid buying too much disk space and wasting money – that is why I went with a 128 GB drive. I wouldn’t go smaller than that, unless all you do is browse the internet – and I wouldn’t go larger than that unless you really need the extra space.
If you do need the extra space, you might want to look at a second internal hard drive (this is usually possible with desktops, only a few laptops include this feature) or an external hard drive (this will work with desktops and laptops) or a cloud drive (e.g. from Google, Microsoft, SugarSync, Dropbox, etc.).
One final important note: It has always been critical to backup your data. I can’t tell you the number of individuals and businesses I know that have lost significant amounts of critical data due to hard drive failures. This problem is only exasperated with SSD drives, which tend to be harder to recover data from than their HDD equivalents.
Even as the new tech apparatus trickles into the hands of developers and testers, the future of Google’s Glass remains unclear. Although Glass will not hit store shelves till 2014, analysts have plenty of opinions about how successful it will (or won’t) be and why. Aside from its current projected price of $1,500, Glass has several other hoops it will need to jump through before it becomes a viable product for many consumers.
Unless Google has an secret ophthalmology department in the works, it is certainly not equipped to supply consumers with prescription lenses. The company many have figured out a way to address this particular issue, according to CNET, by partnering up with eyewear designer Warby Parker.
Neither Parker nor Google would confirm any deal, but teaming with a trendy eyewear producer would make sense for Google. The company may have its hands in many different products, but prescription eyewear is not one of them. It will need assistance to provide a usable Glass product for those with a need for vision correction. The addition of stylish frames and lenses may also help make Glass a bit more fashion friendly.
CNN recently discussed how Google Glass resembled other unappealing tech gadgets like the Bluetooth headset and the Segway. Both were actually quite useful, but both also looked ridiculous enough that few people adopted them as fervently as designers would have hoped. One could wear a Bluetooth all of the time, but few do, because it looks incredibly pretentious. Segways function just as intended but no one, save the fictional GOB Bluth, really wants to be seen on one.
CNN argues that Glass will not be highly successful because it fails to deal with reality. The product will not be useful enough to make people get over the way they look while wearing it.
Not everyone is down on Google Glass, however. Chicago Now discusses how a new perspective provided by Glass could change the way viewers watch hockey games, and maybe do something to increase the popularity of the sport. The NHL has always been low man on the totem pole amongst the top four North American sports, and Chicago Now argues that a large part of that is because it is too hard to follow the puck.
One of Google’s “Explorers” – people trying out Glass before it goes to market – posted a video of him playing hockey while wearing the product. First-person perspective on a sports game, especially hockey, may change the way viewers experience games of all kinds.
Fast Company discusses how Glass could potentially be used as a replacement for the standard remote control in television. Currently Google TV is working on a way for users to have a second screen in their hands to help control and search, because it is easier than using a remote. While Google would not comment on linking Glass and Google TV together, the possibilities are appealing.
With ever-increasing levels of video streaming online, cable companies are doing what they can to keep up. Direct tv packages start around $30 a month. Many providers allow users to stream their television to tablets and phones. Widespread Glass use would likely increase the use of streaming services, and increase competition even more.
Google has stated that Glass will release for around $1,500 to start. As with all tech gadgets, the price is likely to decrease as demand goes up. As proven by tech reviewers taking pictures of them in the shower, the product is at least durable enough to be water resistant. How long Glass will continue to function as intended, and its basic longevity, is not yet known.
Conclusion – Worth Watching
Whether Google Glass is successful or not, the idea is intriguing. It will change the way people view wearable technology, for good or ill. By that measurement, Glass has already made a huge impact without even hitting store shelves.
Google glass photo from Flickr user loiclemeur / Loic Le Meur.
I’ve been using Open-Mesh for several years now, first at Calvary Community Church and more recently at a consulting client’s location. Recently I decided to reach out to Open-Mesh and ask if they’d provide me with an interview and included a number of questions. Michael Burmeister-Brown, President of Open-Mesh, responded to my questions and I have included his answers along with any commentary I might have below.
I’ve also included additional information I gathered from Open-Mesh representatives in recent conversations as I’ve been installing this new mesh network for a client and I’ve included what information I could dig up about Open-Mesh’s corporate background as well…Enjoy!
Dave: What happened to the MR500 line of products?
Michael: The MR500 has been discontinued. It was never designed as a successor to the OM2P series, but a second, dual band line. Its successor will come out this summer (2013). The successor will include:
Clients and Mesh will occur on both bands (MR500 was mesh on 5 ghz, clients on 2.4 ghz).
Much higher power / receive sensitivity providing greatly improved range / speed. [Dave: From personal experience, the distance was a real issue with MR500 units, a limitation inherent in the 5 ghz spectrum which has a more difficult time penetrating walls and other obstacles.]
Each band will support 450 mbps, providing an aggregate output of 900 mbps.
The addition of 802.3af POE support, meaning the new units will support standard POE switches. [Dave: Current units in both the MR500 and OM2P lines require injectors and the warranty is voided if units are directly connected to a standard POE switch.]
Layer 7 (application) bandwidth control and monitoring. This will allow administrators to control which websites / web applications users can run and how much bandwidth they will be allowed.
Active Directory / RADIUS support allowing integrated authentication to company servers.
The POE version will have a single gigabit ethernet port while another variation without POE will have five ports.
Price point will be $299. While this is more expensive than the MR500 it is still almost $1,000 less than the equivalent Meraki model (MR24).
Dave: What about the future of other products?
Michael: We will be introducing a 5 ghz-only OM5P model identical to the OM2P-HS but operating on 5 ghz. This will allow customers to use all the OM2P-series housing options and build out a 5 ghz or hybrid network consisting of 5 ghz and 2.4 ghz models. Most computers / tables phones in the last couple of years support 5 ghz so this will be an increasingly viable option. It will also be considerably lower in cost than dual-band units while providing more flexibility in installation. The OM5P will have an MSRP of $99.
Dave: The site is pretty simple and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of advertising out about Open-Mesh. Will this change?
Michael: To date we have not done extensive sales or marketing outreach, but I think you can see this is beginning to change by the website and especially the resources page. This summer/fall will see significant increases in this area as new people come onboard.
Dave: How many employees do you have at Open-Mesh?
Michael: I am not sure of the exact count – we are a geographically diverse company with two separate teams in Germany and others in Italy, Canada, China, and of course, the United States.
Dave: For organizations interested in Open-Mesh, how do they know your product will work and that you’ll be around in the future?
Michael: Our sales have doubled each year for the last three years and we have just under 40,000 networks managed on Cloudtrax. Feel free to reach out in a couple months and I’ll be able to share more information on new offerings – especially regarding Cloudtrax.
Open-Mesh Corporate Profile
Open-Mesh is a low profile organization. Unlike many sites that have detailed information about their corporate officers posted on the site, Open-Mesh has none. Go over to CrunchBase and you’ll find a bare-bones company profile. There is no company page on LinkedIn and searching for Open-Mesh employees surfaces only two.
One could take this as a sign that the company is small and unstable, but when it comes to technical companies this is oftentimes the sign that employees are pretty hard-core geeks who spend more time coding and building than they do marketing themselves. It seems to be the latter in the case of Open-Mesh.
Luckily, finding information on Open-Mesh President Michael Burmeister-Brown, who provided the above interview, is a little easier than finding information on employees generally – and Burmeister-Brown’s background is nothing to laugh at.
Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek tells us that Michael founded Central Point Software in 1981 where he served as President, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) until 1991. Central Point would be acquired by Symantec in 1994 for $60 million.
In 1992 Michael founded another company – Second Nature Software – and began serving as its president. This company had an environmental focus and committed all its profits to The Nature Conservancy – over $2.5 million. It appears to have closed its doors as of 2012.
Michael founded another company, NetControls.com in the mid-1990’s and in 1997 this company was acquired by Yahoo!. Michael continued at Yahoo for five years working on Yahoo’s News Ticker and Yahoo Messenger products.
He has also served as a Director of WebTrends since October 1996. I am unsure whether this position is ongoing – Bloomberg doesn’t clarify.
In 2011 I purchased several MR500 wireless mesh units from Open-Mesh and documented the installation, configuration, and troubleshooting experience. At the time I had some significant issues – specifically units that wouldn’t communicate with each other (due to distance limitations inherent in 802.11n). As time progressed I experienced fairly regular speed interruptions and a variety of issues. Granted, I was using beta units, meant for testing and not production – and overall I didn’t feel that upset about the issues I encountered – and still liked Open-Mesh overall – just hoped that their implementation and support would improve.
It has been nearly two years since I wrote that initial article and I’m happy to be able to update my report and say that I am now satisfied with Open-Mesh’s product and would recommend it to others.
A chain of unfortunate events resulted in this change in my attitude – namely a hot water baseboard pipe burst flooding portions of the church and destroying a significant amount of equipment. All of the AP units were taken down during the remediation process. I then reinstalled them following the remediation process and now have one MR500 in the “source” room (where our Verizon FiOS router is), one in a large room, and one in the church office. I found it was necessary to have the unit in-between in the large room as the Mr500 units were unable to communicate directly with sufficient quality to allow for VoIP communications.
Now I have two computers – a Dell desktop and a Toshiba laptop running wirelessly on the network. I also have a Cisco SPA504G phone (hard wired) which has crystal clear audio quality, and two Dell printers (a color laser and a MFP) that are hard wired into the office MR500. The MR500 units have been running for several days without any downtime or connectivity issues.
I posit that the change in performance may be due to two factors. First, the firmware has been updated on the MR500 units and some bugs may have been ironed out. Secondly, we knocked down a wall in the downstairs of the church which would make it easier for the middle MR500 unit to broadcast its signal both to the source MR500 and to the office MR500.
Interestingly enough, you can’t buy the MR500 units from Open-Mesh anymore and there is very little mention of them on the site. I was under the impression (perhaps wrong?) that the MR500 was the successor to the OM2P series, but it appears that the MR500 series has ceased and Open-Mesh has invested in further developing the OM2P series.
I purchased two of these OM2P units but have not installed them yet. They are tiny compared to the MR-500! They are nice units, though I wish Open-Mesh still had a MR-500-like unit, b/c they have four ports for hard wired LAN connectivity and one for WAN, whereas the OM2P has two total.
If I had all OM2P units instead of the MR500 units, I would have to have a switch in addition to the OM2P unit in the church office to connect the two printers and the phone into. It is nice to have everything in one small unit.
But, having to buy a switch isn’t a big deal for those who are purchasing OM2P units and, in general, OM2P units are used to provide wireless access, not wired access.
I’ve also needed tech support (in fact, I’m getting tech support for configuring the OM2P units as I write this) several times and have been happy with the response times and the quality of the answers. That said, none of the problems near the severity I was having initially (in 2011), so I am unsure whether the ability to handle more advanced problems has improved.
I do think Open-Mesh could improve their CloudTrax cloud-based network controller which manages the mesh network and each of the individual nodes. A little time ironing out the bugs in the interface and tightening up the UI‘s snazziness could go a long way. That said, I’ve used Meru’s network controller and it is a nightmare compared to CloudTrax.
I also think that from a business perspective Open-Mesh needs to work on their publicity and communication. I’ve been a customer for over two years now and don’t think I’ve ever received a communication from them. What is going on? They are obviously still in business and progressing forward, but communication with existing customers, potential customers, and the press could be improved. I’d love to know more about where Open-Mesh is heading, how sales are going, who the team behind Open-Mesh and the other standard corporate site information that Open-Mesh lacks.
At the end of the day, Open-Mesh offers for a tenth of the price devices which (in my experience) operate with similar effectiveness to Meru or Meraki’s much more expensive units. Getting yourself setup with a mesh network is fairly easy and the price is right. I wish Open-Mesh all the best luck and look forward to continuing to utilize their products in the future.