A little followup to my FuelBand review because I forgot to mention some limitations, workarounds, and more hopes for the future.
As mentioned the main issue is that it’s essentially an accelerometer on your wrist. The bulk of my exercise is on a stationary bike. You can see the problem here. Luckily there’s two simple workarounds: stick it in my pocket where the thigh motion seems to be enough to accumulate points, or put it on my ankle. It’s not big enough around to close the band (and barely stretches wide enough to get onto the ankle in the first place) but it stays on fine.
The motion based tracking can also an issue for strength training, albeit since stuff like weight lifting isn’t necessarily great at calorie burning in the first place it’s arguably not a big deal.
Another issue, albeit one that doesn’t affect me, is that it’s merely “water resistant,” so swimmers are out of luck. It works fine getting wet while washing hands, and supposedly survives showers (never wanted to test it myself), but it’s not meant to be fully submerged for long periods.
As for the battery, the life itself is fine. I have no clue how often I charge, but at worst it’s every few days when I think about it. It varies depending on how much you hit the button to turn on the screen though (or hold down to sync), like I think I ran low in two days when I first got it and was playing with it more often.
And one more thing is the initial setup, it requires connecting to a computer. Sure there’s an iOS app, but it can’t do the initial setup or firmware updates or resets. It’s mostly a one time thing but pretty annoying, what makes it worse is that the app doesn’t even have any sort of firmware update notification. I connected mine to my computer just now, and found out there was an update that fixed a little complaint I had. I’d never known about it if it weren’t for typing all this crap up.
For the future there’s already some rumors from earlier this year: faster display, Bluetooth 4.0, which will enable auto syncing and continuous monitoring thanks to the lower battery consumption, possibly a third party API, and a heart rate monitor…supposedly enabled by pinching to put the sensor against your wrist.
Those improvements sound great, but the manual heart rate monitor interaction would fall to the same issue as what I mentioned about watch use: it’d require two hands. At best it’d be a useful but cumbersome feature, at worst it wouldn’t be used much due to the inconvenience. Ideally it’ll be able to monitor it continuously without interaction, which would further open up the possibilities, like how some competing products can do sleep tracking.
Of course the real fun stuff is the grander idea of smart watches…
I asked for and received a Nike FuelBand for my birthday a few months ago, partially because I couldn’t think of anything1 plus I was on a bit of a health kick at the time. I had read many reviews up to that point and they sum it up well as far as a fitness device.
To sum up, since it’s entirely motion based and only on your wrist, it’s fairly limited accuracy wise. One key though, is that it’s fairly consistent, so you can mentally normalize the daily goal value after a few regular or active days. Like after a while I figured out a slow day for me is usually under 1,500 points (I’ll get to those shortly), while a realistically achievable goal with my regular exercise is more like 2,500.
As for the “points” themselves, they’re some normalized value based on your personal stats (age, height, weight). They say they use this because it’s directly comparable for different folks, whereas calories burned varies wildly per individual. And why they need that in the first place, they have some social component of course. Group up with your friends and compete for more motivation! Not that I use it…and not that I’d ever win.
So with the basics out of the way, as a fitness device of some sort, it sort of works. Once you have a baseline for yourself, the consistency makes it usable as a rough gauge of how much you (or just your arm) has moved around.
Speaking of which, I forgot to mention a big part of the FuelBand equation: an iDevice and the FuelBand iOS app, or alternatively a computer and the Nike+ site. By holding down the button it will sync over Bluetooth to your iOS device, or plug into a computer through USB (the band latch itself is a USB connector+plug). By doing this you can get a history of activity to quantify how poorly you’re doing, like so:
Anyway the data and visuals it gives can work to get you off your ass. I don’t call it motivation as much as just guilt. Whatever the case, while it’s fairly basic, it’s something at least.
Now as a fancy piece of nerdiness to flaunt around, it’s somewhat neat. Ultimately (at least in black) it’s a black band until you hit a button and all these little lights some to life in a small animation! And that’s about it. Then you have to explain what it is, then what the hell the points are, and I generally just don’t want to talk about it.
The other way to look at it as a watch, which is the hip thing these days, but honestly it sucks as a watch. It works sure, but not well. It’s a pretty simple reason: you need two hands.
The convenience of a watch is just looking at your wrist and seeing time at a glance. With the FuelBand you have to hit the button first for the time to show up. It’s a major barrier to using it as a watch…albeit necessary due to the battery life and straight up brightness of the lights, damn things are blinding in a movie theater for instance. A phone is more convenient as a watch because I can just pull it out with one hand, and with that same hand hit the button to turn on the screen.2
So as a little fitness motivator, it’s fine if simplistic. As a tech toy on top of that it’s pretty neat. But as a watch it’s surprisingly inconvenient…but admittedly still looks cool when the lights come on.
So the Mac Pro was announced, and as feared by some, it turned out to be a small sealed box. Well, the cylinder part came out of nowhere. But since Apple just teased it we’re still in the dark about everything but price and a few top end spec details. The CPU appears to be a Xeon E5-2697 v2 (going by this Geekbench result), a $3,000 part, and the dual GPUs seem to match up closely to dual FirePro W9000s, which are around $3,600 each…or the consumer equivalent, Radeon 7970s at around $400 each. Whatever the case, the top end will be expensive as hell. Everything below that is still a big question mark, but here’s some wild hopeful guesses!
Assuming they use an LGA 2011 socket board across the line, the possible options are the E5-1600 and 2600 v2 (Ivy Bridge) lines. 1600 specs haven’t been leaked yet, but here are the current models for reference:
I highlighted the 1650 there because it seems like the best option for a low end part. From a basic appearance standpoint, it’s clocked about as high as the highest end iMac but has two more cores, and pricing wise it’s reasonable (albeit pricing will go up a bit for v2). I used those same criteria to select a few from the leaked 2600 v2 lineup (provided by CPU World):
Xeon E5-2603 v2
Xeon E5-2609 v2
Xeon E5-2637 v2
Xeon E5-2620 v2
Xeon E5-2630 v2
Xeon E5-2630L v2
Xeon E5-2643 v2
Xeon E5-2640 v2
Xeon E5-2650 v2
Xeon E5-2667 v2
Xeon E5-2687W v2
Xeon E5-2650L v2
Xeon E5-2660 v2
Xeon E5-2670 v2
Xeon E5-2680 v2
Xeon E5-2690 v2
Xeon E5-2695 v2
Xeon E5-2697 v2
Took a few guesses at the blank prices based on current model prices and relative increases for other parts. Anyway if they don’t use a 1600 series chip, the 2630 seems like a reasonable low end, even though the clock will be lower than the iMac. Either way the 2643 could be a BTO upgrade from that.
Everything else gets a bit murky as you go up in price with the tradeoffs and differences lessen between each. If there’s an 8 core model, the 2650 at $1335 seems like the only reasonable one due to the price and speed. Then if that’s in the lineup, if they want to keep a similar price spread going up, the next model up would be a 10 core, either the 2.5 or 2.8 GHz parts (2670, 2680) around $1,700-2,000, with perhaps the 3 GHz 2690 as a BTO upgrade. Then at the very top would be the 12 core parts at the $texas price point.
As for the GPUs, if there’s not much crazy customization involved, the likely candidates are the FirePro W series. From what Apple has said, the Mac Pro has six outputs and supports 4K resolution, and the W series is the only one that fits those criteria (albeit with dual GPUs in most cases). A little price/performance comparison chart, and for reference, the Radeons they’re based on:
TFLOPs Single Precision
GFLOPs Double Precision
Specs from AMD, Wikipedia; Pricing from Newegg
The W600 doesn’t seem likely, if only because performance is apparently low enough that AMD doesn’t even bother publishing them, it’s essentially just meant to be used for multi display digital signage. On the other end of the spectrum, the W8000 and W9000 appear to be shoo-ins, particularly because the equivalent Radeons happen to show up as those FirePros in OS X Mavericks.
It’s the W5000 and W7000 that are the biggest question marks, I don’t think anyone has tested the equivalent Radeons in Mavericks, so the closest thing to a clue is the extra Radeon drivers that showed up in 10.8.3, which has the HD 7870 (W7000) but not 7850 (W5000)…albeit strangely enough it has the 7750 (W600), go figure. There are some Mac retail cards so the 10.8.3 support may be related to that rather than any real clues.
They’re low or midrange cards I guess, especially in light of the double precision performance, but they’re significantly more affordable (at least in FirePro form) and appear decent performers otherwise. Plus doubling them up gives more leeway in performance, although OS X doesn’t have CrossFire support so hell if I know what’s happening there. Hopefully Mavericks or the Mac Pro itself has it some implementation to take advantage of all the power.
Anyway now that the data is out of the way, my hope for the low end is a Xeon E5-1650 v2 (6 core, ~3.2 GHz, ~12MB L3), and dual FirePro W7000s…assuming they have good deal with AMD to get something more akin to Radeon pricing. Not that Apple will pass on that savings, but I’m calling it “my hope” for a reason.
The rest, who knows. Here’s a BS semi hopeful (and perhaps loosely realistic?) table for the hell of it:
And don’t forget the ample CPU, GPU, RAM, and SSD upgrade options for each model!
For people that need full size PCIe cards, my wacky Cube was a bit too wacky. So designing around full size cards, I have an all new disaster! Approximately 7″ x 8.5″ x 14″, actually narrower and just a bit shorter than the Cube, but significantly longer. For reference the big blank box next to it is the size of the current Mac Pro (minus handles) for comparison.
Cut out a PCIe slot, down to three single width slots vs four, to fit in monstrous heatsinks like on the current Mac Pro, but otherwise the same specs, except now it can fit full length cards. Of course a little additional width or height to play with would change things up, like back to four PCIe slots or adding four more RAM slots.1
…actually there’s just a little space above the heatsinks for a riser and more RAM slots.
WWDC 2013 is coming soon and hardware wise all eyes are on Mac Pro rumors. Well MacBook rumors too but who gives a damn about those.1 While the rumors sound a bit confusing or underwhelming, perhaps pointing to something like this crazy ass modular mockup, my ideal for years has been the triumphant return and redemption of the Mac Cube.
With that obsession I’ve given much thought about the cubic form factor before, but basically gave up on the dream because good GPU cards are long.2 Fine in a rectangular tower, but extending the dimensions out horizontally into a cube you end up with a big ass box, not unlike the NeXTcube. Admittedly cool in its own right, but not in the spirit of the much smaller G4 Cube.
After thinking about layouts and workflows a bit I grabbed my iPad and scribbled this out in SketchBook Pro:
8″ cube, dual CPU sockets, eight RAM slots, seven PCIe slots, two 3.5″ SATA bays (or four 2.5″ bays), and redundant power…mostly just because I forgot about the PSU and figured it might as well have two power connections just in case if the PSU is going to be external to begin with. The upgradable parts would be accessible by popping off the top/right door section, plop in PCIe cards from the top, HD and RAM from the side.
Then I decided to try my hand at 3D to see if it’d actually fit. Searched the Mac App Store a bit and ended up using the free Shade 3D for Unity.3 A few hours and various revisions and refinements later I ended up with this monstrosity:
No case…cause I don’t know how basically, and it ended up bigger than 8″ cubed, but I got it within a 5U (8.75″) space at least. The stuff there with no case is 8.32″ x 8.46″ x 8.48″. On to the features:
Dual CPU sockets
Four short PCIe slots, three with a double width GPU
Four (desktop size) RAM slots
Three 3.5″ drive bays, each swappable with dual 2.5″ drive carriers
One big ass fan
And the caveats for each:
CPUs – Are those heatsinks (2.45″ x 2.95″ x 3.07″) and air flow enough for dual Xeons?4 Who knows!
PCIe – They’re short which limits selection, including to many useful “pro” cards. That riser board construction can’t be simple either.
RAM – Hey this actually seems ok. Other than the riser board implementation possibly being a pain in the ass.
Drives – Either the second 2.5″ drive’s ports have to be staggered, or the drive carrier itself needs some circuitry (SATA port multiplier?) to work.
PSU – Seems big enough to work (1.57″ x 8.15″ x 6.4″), would have to be custom but that would be nothing new for Apple.
Fan – Single fan enough to get airflow through everything?
Sure it’s flawed, but closer than ever. The Cube dream will never die.
…I will when something points to the existence of an 11″ MacBook Air.
As are many other cards, but I figure a new Cube would be a more affordable enthusiast machine, where a good GPU would be the primary use for the slots.
I tried others, like Inventor Fusion but couldn’t get my head around how to use them. Probably because I am an idiot and have no clue how to use 3D software.
If it isn’t, who cares! Just give me an E3 Xeon instead!
Well I have hosting again, time to crap up the internet like I used to. Today’s adventures come from Fire Emblem: Awakening, sold out most places so I guess buy it on the eShop to take it with you everywhere regardless of whatever game carts you might have.
Why take it everywhere you ask? The Hubba Tester! First off here’s my guy:
Let’s see how he does with the ladies:
Well…that’s a bad start.
And that one sums up the story of my life. (Well the other way around…)
And she’s not even a real character in the game!
In case you swing other ways, the Hubba Tester supports that too. This guy is a killing machine but apparently has a thing for me:
Meanwhile this is brother and sister:
Oh and the core gameplay (strategery) is really awesome, the Hubba Tester is just a fun random extra on top of that.
EA bought the NBA JAM and NFL Blitz licenses a while back and recently came out with new versions to bring these great franchises back to glory.
What. The. Hell.
BLITZ IS SLIGHTLY LESS HORRIBLE:
For reference the original controls were:
And extended to many other functions by chording or double tapping. The new Blitz controls are at least pretty close to the originals, once you get past all the extra labels and crap they have on screen, while JAM is is messed up because some functions get moved around once you switch to defense. When the iOS version has better more faithful controls,1 YOU SCREWED UP.2 The new controls just make me think “MODERN GAMING!” How many buttons do you really need?3
Oh and those are the only control options, so if you happened to have a stick and wanted to relive the arcade joy (and better feeling control in general), well you’re screwed.
And I haven’t even mentioned core gameplay changes to JAM. Super dunking without turbo is a horrible, horrible change that screws up gameplay within the three point line. Remember put backs? Apparently none of the devs did! Not that it matters because the ball action above the rim after a shot is nearly nonexistent. Blocking is pretty nice, although perhaps overpowered now, and even more so considering how crippled you now are offensively.
Basically this is what I think about the new JAM:
[There was a video here, of the end scene of Planet of the Apes]
Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it. You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!
Meanwhile Blitz could at least be awesome, if I could get used to playing on a controller. If they just let you configure buttons so you could play on a stick, it seems like it would be as good as the old games. Unlike JAM the gameplay appears to be intact.4
…except after the whistle. Getting in as many cheap shots as possible after the play is a thing of the past. It doesn’t sound bad since it was basically extraneous stuff, but in action it’s pretty noticeable since the post play time as the camera pans around is lacking that little bit gameplay all of a sudden. Instead you’re left with a plain old post play cutscene rather than a sort of “hurt everyone in x seconds!” mini game.
Like many things in the NFL these days I blame Goodell, so I don’t hold that against the new Blitz team. They got most of the important stuff within their control right. It’s amazing how screwed up JAM is in comparison.
There’s a few things they screwed up…but after playing the console version it appears the major issues are pretty much carry overs from that one. IDIOTS.
Seriously, I thought you guys were big fans of the original. HOW DID YOU SCREW IT UP SO MUCH?
Well there’s AI partner controls…but really a lot of stuff on their own buttons or split up to separate buttons could be done with the aforementioned chording or double tapping on the old games. They had an established simple deep scheme to work with and just…ugh.
Ok so there’s a juke left/right buttons now…but like the new stuff in JAM they feel like a poorly thought out tacked on feature. The juke animation is small, slow, and out of place, it feels like it was lifted from Madden. On the plus side there’s a lateral button…although I figure that could’ve been accomplished with the pass button.
Tearjerker plans to use his masterpiece tragedy film, Oscar Gold, depicting a mentally retarded alcoholic Jewish boy and his cancer-ridden puppy during The Holocaust, to make the moviegoers cry themselves to death literally.
Now with that out of the way…War Horse is pretty similar. It’s basically the story of a horse where everything gets taken away, as well as for everyone else associated with the horse.
The basic setup is that a horse (Joey) gets born, and a boy (Albert? I’ll call him Albert) nearby tries to gain its affection over the years as they grow up. Joey is close to his mother, and they get separated at an auction. Albert’s father is the winner, although he put pretty much everything on the line just to beat his landlord.
Joey isn’t a workhorse like the family needed, but he miraculously pulls off plowing the fields, and the crops come in nicely! Then thunderstorms take it away and Albert’s dad takes the Joey away to sell to an soldier on the way to war. Albert catches up and pleads so the soldier promises he’ll return Joey after the war if possible.
The soldier soon dies after a poorly planned raid against Ze Germans.
But hey Joey befriends another horse (Topthorn?) at least (whose rider is also killed), and some nice German horse trainer takes them both in for medic cart towing work. Then that guy’s little brother gets pulled to serve on the front lines, so he hijacks both horses and yanks his brother out of the line ready to leave. Freedom!
Then while at a windmill where they’re hiding out, the Germans find and execute them. But they leave the horses at least.
Then a little French girl (Emilie) finds and takes care of them with the help from her grandfather. Her parents are dead and she has some ailment of course. The Germans come around and raid their house and crops to serve the troops, but Emilie manages to hide the horses in her room. They survive the raid!
Later as a birthday gift the grandpa gives Emilie a saddle and finally lets her ride the Joey (which he prevented before because of her mystery ailment), whee!
Then she rides over the hill and is gone for a uncomfortably long time. Joey’s pal horse Topthorn makes chase frantically with the grandpa following behind, only to see Emilie and Joey surrounded by German troops, with them eventually taking Joey and Topthorn away from the sickly girl and her grandpa. The soldier says they’ll be in artillery duty where they’ll be run until they die in about a month or whenever the war is over.
But good news, there happens to be another nice German horse trainer! He tries to leave them out of the heavy duty work to no avail. Topthorn gets pulled to take over for a fallen horse and once again the trainer tries to save him, only to be overruled by his leader. Luckily Joey rushes out of the ranks to volunteer in place to save his pal.
Not that it matters because Topthorn soon gives up on life and Joey goes mad, taking off and ending up in a dead end against a tank. He appears stuck but through some magic of a dip in the path and a wedge shaped front end he manages to gallop over the tank and runs free, no man’s land be damned.
Of course he eventually gets caught up in a crapload of barbed wire during a lull in the battle.
He manages to be freed by a soldier from each side during one of the funnier scenes in the movie, and goes back to the British side, decided by a coin flip.
The soldier takes Joey back to whatever base town looking for a veterinarian, only to get turned down by the human doctors due to the amount of wounded humans already there. After enough pleading (he went through no man’s land!) the doc checks Joey out, only to determine he has some infected wounds and says to put him down. Of course.
Now interspersed in all this Adventures of Joey and Topthorn stuff is Albert’s own journey. I forgot to mention that when Joey was sold he tried to enlist on the spot, but he was too young at the time. Later we find out he did eventually join the cause, along with some other guys introduced early in the film.
In their tour we see the jackass of the group injured, while Albert helps him to safety. Albert’s buddy is scared stiff and remains in the foxhole as everyone charges out. Eventually Albert reaches the German foxhole with some grenade heroics, and his friend later makes a mad dash and ends up there as well. After Albert panics and almost shoots him, they cry and embrace knowing they’ve made it safely.
Then someone else yells “GAS!” as gas bombs go off in the hole and presumably kill Albert’s pal, while Albert himself is just temporarily blinded, as we find out later at that medic facility.
Which brings us back to Joey about to get his head blown up in front of everyone. But someone does a little “toot toot” whistle sound (Albert’s original training call) and gets Joey’s attention! And again right before the soldier is about to fire! Joey is saved by his original owner!
OR IS HE?
Albert says this is his horse from back in the day but the doc doesn’t believe him, particularly after he describes his appearance (four “socks” and a white marking on his head)…which doesn’t match Joey because he’s all dirty and his marks are covered up. Back to face blowin’ up time.
But then Albert says it’s because of the mud and they clean off his legs and face to reveal yes, it is him. Now considering Albert is blind right now I have no clue how he knew Joey was covered in mud, but whatever. Soon the war is declared over, and Joey is finally reunited with Albert in peace.
OR IS HE?
Of course not. Military horses are to be auctioned off, no exceptions. But wait, the troops have all pitched in for an excessively high bid on Joey, day is saved!
NO, NOT THE FRENCHMAN!
Some rich French guy bids it up too high for the boys, and all hope is lost, until Emilie’s grandpa shows up out of nowhere and blows all their bids out of the water. Albert tries to thank him for saving the day only to find out the old man is keeping the horse for himself, since it’s the only thing left to remind him of Emilie (apparently dead at this point).
But the old man pulls out a little flag (a little war thing Albert put on Joey way back) and Albert says it was his father’s, so now the old man gives Joey back saying it’s what Emilie would’ve wanted.
NO MORE TWISTS AND TURNS FINALLY.
The movie ends in GOLD. Literally the only color on screen is from golden glow from the sun providing backlighting as the silhouette of Joey and Albert come home to the farm where Albert’s mother managed to stay alive and his father didn’t drink himself to death.
Oh yeah I forgot to mention his dad has a drinking problem. And a limp.
Like a crapload of people, I’m a victim of identity theft. I had another post written up with all the details but figured if by chance this guy comes across the site I should probably hold back a bit on that for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to post a semi conclusion about the thief one day, perhaps post his number (if the one I found is real) and whatever other details I find out about him.1
For now I’ll just write about my experiences with the companies I’ve dealt with in trying to clear this up. Luckily most companies have been pretty cool, they tend to have actual humans that seem to understand context and situations and can respond accordingly. From horror stories I’ve read online I may be lucky, I’m guessing because from what I can tell I seem to have caught on to it pretty early (by chance really).
Meanwhile the credit reporting agencies suck. First the whole free annual credit report thing seems to be fairly limited in terms of security to begin with. Just as easy to steal someone else’s single annual free credit report as it is to open various credit cards! If this happens to you, and you’ll know immediately because the sites will tell you that you already got your free report on xx/xx/xxxx, look for a little “fraud” link somewhere on each agency’s page. It’s a pretty straight forward process to get your report after that. I think there were even extra security questions at that point!2
Except with TransUnion.
Their site was down when I first found out and tried getting my report. Then later when the site was working I found out the only way to get the report was to first register for an account with them.3 That in itself wouldn’t be too horrible, annoying at best really, but the site was still having issues. It died in the last verification step…yet still went through? So uh, hell if I know how their security really is.
And back to that fraudulently accessed free credit report, apparently you can’t do crap about that. Can’t mark it as fraudulent, can’t get any information on who may have accessed it, even an IP address could potentially help! If you manage to reach a human by any chance, they seem to be as dumb as the automated machines, limited to either getting you a copy of your credit report or forwarding you to someone that can sell you their credit monitoring services.
So the moral of the story is to check your credit report. I guess. Just keep on top of your crap.