Category Archives: Technology

My first week with the Garmin vivosmart

When I think of a smart band I would wear I think of something small, sleek, simple, could tell the time, and have decent battery life. The Garmin vivosmart has everything I wanted and I was happy to hear about its’ release.  I’ve been looking at the Razer Nabu for a while but I was not approved for the beta program or the developer program. The Garmin vivosmart looks very similar to the Nabu but the vivosmart’s screen looks better protected and designed. I love the pixelated screen. It’s much better than the ugly led screens that the Nike fuel band has or the Polar Loop.

After I opened my vivosmart I wanted to use it right away. The instructions that came with the box told me to sync it with my phone. It would have been great if I could use it as a watch and fitness tracker without syncing it to my phone right away. I don’t see why that couldn’t be done. Perhaps it is and I just couldn’t figure it out. Without hardware buttons, the interface can get confusing.

I received my vivosmart with version 2.20 firmware. There was an update available but as of day three, it has yet to automatically update. You are supposed to be able to update via the phone’s application but that wasn’t working. Garmin Express is the other option but it was unable to find the watch. I eventually found out that you are supposed to touch and hold on the device screen to switch the device to USB mode to enable updating via Garmin Express

I have my watch on the lowest brightness setting. This is perfect for any indoor situation. Outside makes it a little difficult to see but I’ve managed. I actually wish there was a less bright setting as it is a little bright for night time settings – a yellow hint would be awesome as well for night time (f.lux).

One of the big “features” of the vivosmart is that it is waterproof. Many other smart bands and watches are only water resistant. However, due to how the touch screen works, water can activate the screen and change things. If you have ever got your iPhone or iPad screen wet and tried to use it… it’s the same concept.

The Garmin Connect web app and web UI is pretty terrible. They take a dashboard approach to everything and you can’t do everything on the app. They force you to use their website. The Garmin Connect software you download on your computer is just for updating the watch. Garmin is trying to support a fitness-social-network on Garmin Connect which I find weird. It would be interesting if more people had their devices but not many of my friends do. You can create workouts (only cardio) and compete with your connections/friends. Apparently there is a way to create run courses and share those as well but I have yet to figure that out as the website is so poorly laid out and slow.

The vivosmart has music controls built into the watch for you phone. These don’t work though.

I have gone on runs with my vivofit. I don’t run with my phone so I rely on the pedometer. It is surprisingly accurate. It said I ran 3.42 miles when in actuality I ran about 3 miles. I was expecting a much bigger gap.

I’d love an external device that I could attach to my shoes or shorts that would allow me to have GPS without carrying my huge phone. You can attach ANT+ devices to the watch so it could be possible. If it is, please let me know!

One reason why I really want the Nabu is that is has a developer SDK. I asked Garmin if they had one as I could not find one on their website or via google and they said no. I’d love to be able to see my 2 factor authentication keys on my vivosmart and have an audio record play/stop button for my iPhone.

The vivosmart has an advertised 7 days of battery life. I have my brightness at the lowest setting, and auto-turn-on set to on. The battery has lasted me the 7 days and is still going.

PROS: Style, Fitness tracker pretty accurate even without phone, notifications

CONS: Garmin Connect, Have to have your phone for GPS, no developer SDK, music controls

OVERALL: I thoroughly enjoy my vivosmart. It has everything that most smart bands have plus the time and notifications

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Wirelessly Controlled USB Missile Launcher on iRobot with Arduino (Files)

I. Introduction:

The purpose of the final project was to allow us to put the information we learned in class to practical use through a project. We decided to choose a project that would challenge our ability to solve problems and ultimately prove to ourselves that we actually did learn in EE360 this semester. We chose to attempt to gain remote control of an iRobot Create with a USB Missile launcher mounted on it. The project turned out to be quite a challenge but we conquered the problem in the end.

Download files: http://idzr.org/o9tn

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Play PS3/xbox with PC monitor and speakers for under $10

I recently bought a PS3. I do not own a TV, only a computer monitor so I needed to figure out a way to hook my PS3 up. Below is what I am currently using and hopefully you all can find this guide useful.

Materials

  1. HDMI to DVI cord

    Alternative: Standard HDMI cord and HDMI to DVI adapter
  2. Female to Female 3.5mm audio
  3. RCA to 3.5 Audio Converter

    Alternative
  4. Xbox 360 Cord

Directions

If you own a PS3, you do not need to buy the Xbox 360 Cord (#4). If you own an xbox you do not need to buy the HDMI to DVI cord (#1) if you buy the Xbox cord (#4). The RCA to 3.5MM audio adapter (#3) and the 3.5mm female-female (#2) are for audio and are optional if your speakers support RCA input. Most monitors do not.

PS3
For the PS3, you use the HDMI to DVI cord to plug that into your monitor. A HDMI to VGA cord will not work as it is not digital. Also, make sure your monitor is HDCP enabled – most are.
Use the standard cables that came with your PS3 for audio. If you do not have speakers with regular audio input then that is where #2 and #3 come into play. Plug #3 into the standard audio cables (color coordinated), then plug #2 into that. You can then plug your headphones or other speakers into that. The layout should look something like the following:

If things do not work right away you will have to adjust the settings. Go to display settings on your PS3.

Xbox 360

The Xbox 360 is similar to the PS3 instructions. You can try the same thing as the PS3 or buy the official Xbox 360 to VGA cord (#4). This has the audio built in the cord which is really nice, however it isn’t a standard like HDMI.

Hope this helped everyone. Let me know if you have any questions.

Web Design is Dead

Dead, yes but don’t worry! Most freelancers and designers on small teams should not be in fear of job loss.  You just have your terms a little wrong.  A web designer is someone who creates the images for websites and the basic idea for interaction. They do not code (html and css) the design at all. That is your most basic definition of a web designer – they do nothing more than create the  images.

What Killed Web Design?

  1. The clients
    • They don’t know what good design is
    • They are cheap
  2. Templates for CMS & PSD to HTML
    • Gives potential clients custom, cheap attractive options
  3. The School Systems & Social Networks
    • Too many people are learning the same skill
    • Everyone thinks they are a “web designer” now

Embrace its Death!

  • Don’t worry. You still have options!
    • If you love what you do then nothing will stop you
  • Keep learning
    • Try javascript frameworks – jQuery or MooTools
    • Try new content methods – Flash
    • Try a CMSJoomla!
    • Keep at each skill for a week and try to focus one project on just that skill
  • Always work on something – look at open source projects or contests
    • Help other out while tring to use or learn your new skills
    • Ask for critiques of your work
  • Get involved! – Network
    • Actually talk to others that share your passion
    • Join social networks like twitter or LinkedIn
    • Attend meetups in your area
    • Create a blog and write articles about topics you know or are learning

Just because you should not be a web designer anymore does not mean you can’t still do it. You may enjoy being a user interface developer.  A user interface developer does all the things a web designer does but a little more.  A web designer does just the graphics while an user interface developer does all of that plus the front-end work for a web site.  Front-end developer is actually coding what the web designer makes.  This is usually in (x)html, css and some sort of javascript or javascript framework.  They take the content given by the back-end developer and make it look pretty – which is what design should be all about.

Just being a web designer is not good enough anymore. In these tough times you need to work harder and faster to stay on top.  For web designers that means learning new skills and becoming an user interface developer.  It is not a huge leap but it is still a leap.  Have fun!

If you are still curious about this subject please read My Job Went to India: 52 Ways to Save Your Job by the Pragmatic Programmers and the article Why Creatives Make the Best Progammers by The Denver Egotist.

Asus VK222H 22″ Monitor Review

Last weeks ago, I anounced that I bought an Asus VK222H 22″ Monitor from Newegg. I got it 3 days after that posting – record shipping (good job Newegg!). You can now get this monitor for $179.99 after mail-in-rebate ($20 less than it was one weeks ago). I have yet to recieve my rebate from Asus.

At first I tried to setup dual monitors. That is a little tricky in Ubuntu so I quite trying to do that. Make sure  you backup your .xorg fie. I have a nVidia grapics card so it wasn’t so hard to set up just the Asus monitor. Just make sure you enable your graphics card (System -> Administration -> Hardware Drivers) because for some reason it disabled itself. I will try to set up the dual monitor again later in the year.

Once the monitor was setup correctly, it was great. I love the HDMI connection (even though I haven’t used it yet). It will let me play my new PS3 once I get it. Some of the reviews on Newegg said that there was LCD bleeding – there is.  The bleeding is only noticeable on a dark background on the top and a little on the bottom.  The response rate is also very slow.  My 19″ monitor loads the screen faster than my new Asus. This might be because when you turn on the monitor, it shows an Asus splash screen instead of the image you want to see – you desktop. I have not used the web cam but there is no audio input so there is little purpose in doing so.

For those on a budget, the Asus VK222H is a great buy with its different connection options. For serious color-lovers or fans of darker screens (for games) you may want to check into something else though.

UPDATE: Webcam driver support it terrible. If you buy this for a webcam – don’t. The webcam should not be listed as a feature beacuse it does not work.

ASUS VK222H 22″ Monitor

Update: Review!

I just purchased a ASUS VK222H 22 inch widescreen monitor from newegg.com.

I was also looking at the SCEPTRE X22HG-Naga but the ASUS has HDMI and a built in web cam for only $20 more. With the mail in rebate the ASUS VK222H was only $200. The reviews for the ASUS monitor have been OK so far, the main complaint is about the web cam – which I won’t use anyways. There have also been reports about LCD bleeding and washed out colors (which was usually fixed by adjusting settings). I will provide a full review once I get it. Right now anything is better than my 19″ monitor with 500 dead pixels.