Saturday, March 18, 2017

January and February Fitness

Activity app medals.One of the days.When I posted my year-end fitness stats back in December I had to use three different applications to extract and tabulate the data from HealthKit. And that’s not counting Excel to calculate averages and max values. It took a lot of effort.

But soon after the year started I wanted to install an app for my dad that would let him view his stats in a better way than HealthKit presents it in. And while doing it I got an ad for another similar app which I did not see before even though I did search for these things. It turned out to be perfect.

The app is called HealthView and is a great dashboard for HealthKit data. Even though the app is a little buggy — sometimes it takes too long to update and loads the data from a wrong date or crashes — it still lets you view your stats in a good, beautiful, clear way after a few restarts or reloads.

HealthView dashboard. Day view.HealthView dashboard. Month view.My move (the number of days I achieved my calorie goal on) streak is currently at 278 days. Here are my numbers from the first two months of this year. January is first table, February is second.
MertricUnitsPer DayMaxTotal
Walkingstesps3,68410,093114,228
Active Energycalories52382516,233
Cyclingmiles6.829.90211.40
Excerciseminutes45921,395
Walkingmiles1.785.0755.32

MertricUnitsPer DayMaxTotal
Walkingstesps3,55711,68799,604
Active Energycalories5811,27216,276
Cyclingmiles8.6824.88243.09
Excerciseminutes491271,363
Walkingmiles1.705.7347.68

HealthView metric drill down. Month view.Activity app. Filling in the circles.At this point we do the most of the work on a stationary bike. We did put a real bicycle on a trainer in the begging of the year and it was a lot more pleasant. However it was sadly producing way too much vibration and living in the apartment we just didn’t feel at easy working out in this way. We’re thinking of investing in a much more high quality stationary bike than our current one.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

iPhone 6

iPhone 6.It’s been more than a month now since I’ve gotten a new iPhone and I wanted to jot down my views and impressions to this point. This is not really a review, but a story about my personal usage of hardware and software that is available on iOS. I’ll start with the fact that I’ve bought iPhone 6 (4.7″ version) with 64GB1 (16GB was getting tight) in white. I just like to alternate my colors and I think this one looks particularly great in white.

Form Factor


As we all know this is the first time that Apple has released two new iPhones at the same time2 — iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Right from the start I knew that 5.5″ iPhone is not for me. I wasn’t quite sure how happy the fact that I had to go from 4″ to 4.7″ was. On one hand having a bigger screen was appealing. On another I really valued the portability of iPhone 5.

iPhone 6. Not possible for me to reach all places of the screen holding it this way.Now having the new phone for a while I can says that I wish it was a little bit smaller than it is. It just is big enough not to fit into my hand comfortably. I can’t grip it the way I want and as a result I end up resting the phone on my fingers when I use it with one hand and turns out I do use it with one hand quite often. The back side is quite slippery and I often feel that I might drop it. It makes it feel so insecure that I’m considering getting a leather case for it.

This is how I need to hold it to use with one hand. Unsafe.This brings me to the my next point — the actual design. It feels great. The rounded edges and tapered glass is so pleasant to the touch — a real contrast to the previous 4 hard edged phones. Sliding from the edge of the phone (back gesture for example) feels so natural. By putting a case on it this nice feel would go away. I’m not sure I want that trade off. The case would make it less slippery, a bit bulkier and would tuck the camera in. It would also hide a nice handy little mirror on the back of the phone in the form of Apple logo.

This is how I used to hold older iPhones. How tiny is this iPhone 4S though?Back to the screen size itself — it really is nice having a larger screen. Lately I have been doing quite a bit more reading on the phone since there is a lot of competition for iPad in our house between Arosha, Alena and myself. And being able to read on this new screen I don’t even have a need for iPad anymore. Also it’s amazing how quickly we get used to good things. When I had to set something up on Alena’s old 4S3 I was really shocked how tiny tiny that screen is. It really seemed astonishing to me.

iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPhone 6.The phone fits just OK in my pockets and even here it could be a little bit smaller. I’m looking forward to the day when Apple makes the screen go from edge to edge and reduce the physical size of this device just a tad. iPhone 6 Plus is just way too enormous and would in no way work for me.

New Features


Since I’m going from iPhone 5 directly to iPhone 6 there is a slew of new features for me. I’ve covered the most obvious upgrade of the screen, but there is a number of less visible (no pun intended) features. I’m really enjoying Touch ID. I’ve always had my phone locked with a pass code and having an ability to replace that with a longer password and not having to type it in is great. Touch ID works very well — it’s precise and quick.

Touch ID.The processor is much faster, but I don’t really notice it as the old phone was plenty fast. However this phone has a new motion chip (5S had it too) that tracks your steps and now stairs you climb. I found it really motivational and prefer to take the steps every time I have a chance instead of riding an elevator.

I’m also looking forward to using a new Apple Pay system with an NFC chip that is present in the new phone. Hopefully it becomes a real thing and becomes widely supported. It just got rolled out this past Monday. Adding cards was a breeze, and it seems to work in more places than I originally believed. I had a chance to try it at a no-name gas station that had an NFC enabled pay machine and it worked. And judging from the Internet buzz that will be the case — any place that has NFC machines will take Apple Pay.

But one of the biggest and most enjoyable upgrades is the camera. That one deserves its own section.

Camera


I’ll start with the fact that this phone comes with a little bit of a “non-Apple” quirk with the regards to the camera — it sticks out of the phone. It’s clear that Apple was faced with a decision of either making it flush with this thin phone and thus degrading its quality or make a sacrifice in “design perfection” to preserve and improve the functionality of the camera. I’m very very happy with the choice they made.

iPhone 6 camera and flash.My iPhone is by far my most used camera. Alena and I take tons and tons of family photographs with it. By making it focus faster and improving night time photography it gives us even more value. I’m also quite impressed with the True Tone flash Apple has introduced in 5S and carried over to this new phone. Before I would always have the camera on off and would never bother with it as it would just ruin the mood of any photograph with its cold blue light. After a few tests of the new flash I have it set to auto.

Taken with iPhone 6.The auto HDR mode also works well. It’s easier to capture a high dynamic range photograph with an iPhone than my SLR. SLR would need to be set on a tripod, and then it would take some amount of work in post to get the desired image. iPhone just takes one button press. Of course that works if the light range is a tad more than a single SLR shot can capture, but if the light range is high enough — well, SLR is your weapon.

iPhone mounted on tripod via Glif by Studio Neat.The new camera also has very cool video capabilities — slow-motion video at 240FPS is quite impressive. Actually the fact that the phone can capture video at such speed is not just impressive — it’s amazing. Fast focusing during video also works very well. I also enjoy making timelapse4 and hyperlapse videos. iPhone being our only video camera sure gets it a lot of use. And there is zero need for anything else.

Taken with iPhone 6.During our latest trip to Pocono Mountains I also have discovered the fact that it can take great macro photos. I’m using Camera+ (3rd party app) for it — check it out if you like the samples.

iPhone 6.Overall I’m very very happy with what Apple has been doing with regards to the camera. Even though it’s no SLR, I have it with me everywhere and all the time, while that is far from the case with my SLR which I still love dearly.

Taken with iPhone 6, post-processed.A side note is that I use two camera apps the most — swipe from the bottom for stock camera and Instagram. Also on some occasions I use Camera+ as I mentioned above.

Software


iOS 8 brought a lot of nice behind the scenes changes — extensions being the biggest one. I already have a lot of great apps that have instantly became much more useful once they have been updated to utilize the new extensions. 1Password is one obvious example — automatically inputs your credentials into login forms not inside an internal browser, but in Safari itself.

Before update for iPhone 6 screen.After update to support iPhone 6 screen.A lot of developers are taking their sweet time to get their apps updated for the bigger screen. Most apps run in zoom mode, which essentially rends apps in 4″ screen mode and then scales them up. I don’t really notice any blur, but the ones that have been updated do take full advantage of the bigger screen. The biggest tell if the app has been updated or not is the status bar on top. It gets blown up when any non-updated app starts.

My Homescreen


The most important thing of any platform is software. Software is what makes the phone. Now here is a list of software on my phone that I find the most useful. It’s organized in a quite simple manner — dock has my most used apps, home screen has apps that I use on daily basis, second screen has software that I use almost daily, third screen has a bunch of games my fourth screen has a collection of folders that I don’t use as often, but still like having on my phone.

Homescreen.Second screen.

I won’t go over every single one, but I will make a short list of the most interesting stuff on my phone:
  • Instagram — I personally don’t use it for its social aspects, but for its integration with Twitter. This is the fastest way for me to take a photograph and post it to our blog thanks to that Twitter integration and my blog to Twitter integration.

    I also love the fact that we can order posters and calendars from our Instagram collections with services like Printstagram. I like the map that it builds with its geolocation feature.

    Having said all that I have to point out that I use the stock camera app a lot as well by sliding to it from the lock screen.

  • Google Maps — I have given Apple Maps a go when it came out. I gave it another chance when iOS 8 came out. It still doesn’t cut it. Google Maps along with its search capability is unbeatable.

  • Fantastical — the best calendar replacement out there. With a lot of meetings and appointments spread out between different calendars stock calendar app doesn’t cut it at all. Fantastical presents you with a great visual view as to how your day looks. It also supports natural language to create and manage events among many other great features.
  • Continue Reading

  1. All my previous phones have been 16GB, but the current version is a rip-off. []
  2. 5C doesn’t really fall into this category as it was iPhone 5 “recased”. []
  3. Alena got my iPhone 5 after we got it back from Apple with a warranty repaired sleep button. []
  4. Using old mini-tripod with Glif mount from Studio Neat works really well. []
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Friday, March 14, 2014

Instagram Invasion

Our new Instagram bar version 1.Lately we have started to get annoyed by how pervasive the Instagram has became on our blog. All the content was pushed down by an unending stream of photographs.

While we do like the ability to document our daily life via photography and enjoy looking through the pictures after some time has passed we felt that we needed to demote this stream from its front and center position that it occupied.

Now only the latest five photos will show up in a special bar on the homepage and any older ones will be accessible by clicking an arrow next to that new bar. Also they will show on all the other pages as they did before. Only the homepage is changed.
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Monday, October 14, 2013

Linode Upgrades

Linode hosting.Three years ago I switched my hosting to Linode and I have to report back as to how happy of a customer I am. It’s very typical for a person to buy into a certain plan and sometime later into the future realize that you are now paying for something that could be gotten elsewhere for a lot cheaper at this point. The nice thing with Linode is that it never happens.

The reason for that is the fact that they constantly keep giving upgrades to their customers. I started up with Linode 720 plan which gave me 720MB of RAM and 32GB of storage space. Over the past 3 years Linode kept bumping up the parameters. For quite some time I stayed with my initial specifications because I didn’t want to reset my uptime counter1 — I know, I know, very geeky of me. But I relented today because of yet another slew of free upgrades.

So now after 835 days (!!!) of running without a reboot I’m paying the same amount of money that I initially committed to pay for 2GB of RAM and 96GB of storage. Thank you, Linode, from yet another happy customer. To many more years of the same!

  1. VM needs to be restarted in order for new specs to take effect. []
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

iOS 7

iPhone 5 running iOS 7.This year I’m making a serious attempt at demonstrating an inkling of self control and not buying a new iPhone 5S even though the new Touch ID and update to the camera and flash are quite tempting. Maybe we’ll trade-in our iPhone 4 and 4S some time later when things calm down to see if that would cover the cost of a new one.

However we still do get to have some fun with a brand new iOS 7. Just finished getting all our iOS devices updated which took quite some time. Apple servers are coming apart at the seams from all the demand right now.
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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

iPad Retina Wallpapers

When Apple released iPad 3 with a retina screen I had to update some of my favorite wallpapers to take advantage of the full resolution of the new device. I have been meaning to share these wallpapers with whoever might want to use them. For those of you who like the photographs, but have an older generation iPads I’m posting the images in both resolutions — 2048×2048 and 1024×1024.

Path


Path

Wood


Wood

Grass


Grass

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

iPad 2 — A Year Later

With an imminent arrival of iPad 3 tomorrow (barring any FedEx screw ups) I decided to write down some of my thoughts on the past year of my “relationship” with iPad 2.

My iPad home screen.The most important thing that stands out is the fact that there really haven’t been a single day (with very rare exceptions) when I have not used it. I use it at work, I use it at home and I use it for travel. This last vacation was the first in 10 years when I finally felt brave enough to leave my laptop at home.

At this point I can state without any hesitation that it was money well spent and the only thing that can and did make me give this device up is the arrival of the new model of the same very thing. And I did stop using iPhone at home for anything but phone calls because it feels so tiny in comparison, but it still is the best on the go.

Software


Obviously iPad is nothing without its software. Good, quality software is what makes this device so addictively useful. Below is a list of my favorite and most used applications.

Reeder for iPad.Reeder is my by far the most used application. I do a lot of reading on my iPad and most of it happens inside this app. Reeder is a great RSS client which actually made me love and use RSS. Beautiful and simple design makes it a pleasure to use. This is the best Google Reader client out there.

New York Times for iPad.New York Times is my favorite news source on iPad. I read it every morning before going to work. After their subscription wall went into effect the app has been very limited, but I’m happy to report that I have subscribed to a print version of the paper which comes with all digital access — much more economical way to go than their actual digital plans. As of today I have full access to all the sections.

Tweetbot for iPad.Tweetbot is my Twitter client of choice for both iPad and iPhone. I’m not a heavy Twitter user, but after the iPhone version of Tweetbot came out I just could no longer stand using the official app — it’s been getting progressively worse since it has been aquired by Twitter. I liked Tweetbot so much that I started using the iPhone version on my iPad. Needless to say I was very happy to learn that Tapbots came out with an iPad version of their Twitter client a couple of weeks ago. Beautiful UI and UX. Has everything that I want from a client and more.

Instapaper.Instapaper is another one of my favorite reading apps. I don’t often have need for it as I’m always on Wi-Fi, but for those times when I do not have Wi-Fi — planes, vacations — it’s amazing. Just find a bunch of articles that you’d like to read, hit Instapaper bookmarklet, sync Instapaper and go. Now you can read all those in a nice streamlined and cleaned up format offline.

Portfolio for iPad.Portfolio is the way to showcase one’s photography work. When I was buying an iPad having my photographic portfolio on it was one of the reasons. The app could use some polish around the corners, but it has a lot of functionality — it lets me create as many albums as I want, give those albums a cover and arrange the photos in any order I want among other things. Photos can be loaded from numerous sources — Dropbox being my preferred one. And then it just lets you let anybody browse your portfolio with photos showing up in full screen.

iA Writer.iA Writer is one of many minimalistic writing apps available for iPad, but iA Writer is an especially beautiful one. I do not use it very often, but it’s really nice to write in when on vacation. It also has Dropbox and iCloud support and it works especially well with a wireless Bluetooth keyboard which I plan to carry with me when I travel.

1Password Pro.1Password is an app that I bought to replace SplashData — an app I used to use during Palm days. Initially I was quite unimpressed with 1Password because at that point they just came out with an iPad version and it was full of bugs. It all got sorted out by now and I keep all my data that needs to be secured inside of it now. I also use an iPhone companion app with it. SplashData has been long retired — good riddance.

Calcbot.Calcbot is another beautifully designed app from Tapbots. Since iPad comes with no built-in calculator app I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Calcbot for iPhone that I already had turned out to be a universal app. It is convenient to do “math” on a large screen of iPad.

Prompt.Prompt is a really nice SSH client. I tried a good number of them and when Prompt came out I couldn’t resist. At first it had a few issues, but they all had been worked out a long time ago and rather quickly by Prompt’s creators. This one also works very well with a Bluetooth keyboard and some actual coding can be done pretty comfortably in Vim or Emacs. By now I have deleted all the rest of SSH clients I had and Prompt is my client of choice.

The apps that I didn’t list and still use pretty often are — Zagat, Dropbox, IMDb, Articles, OffMaps 2, Facebook, Skype, BeejiveIM, Magical Weather, 500px and many others.

I also have a couple of magazine subscriptions that I read primarily or only on iPad — Popular Photography, The New Yorker, Time Magazine and The Economist. I’ll probably add a couple more in a near future. But some of these guys have to figure out a better format for serving their content or the files will get extremely huge for retina display of iPad 3. And I wish they would all update their apps to support Newsstand too.

Some of my iPad games.I also play some games on my iPad sometimes. I actually have a whole bunch of them installed on it — taking up 2 full folders, but I usually get bored with them quickly and rarely revisit. They are just sitting there for the most part.

Well, there you have it. An amazing device and an amazing set of apps. Hopefully somebody will find this useful and discover a new good app or two for themselves. I certainly am a big fan of all of the apps featured above and am thankful to those developers for making iPad so useful and pleasant to use.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Machinarium

MachinariumI started seeing the game named Machinarium get mentioned on multiple blogs that I read. I looked at it, but tried not to be temped and just moved on. But it kept coming up in various places and eventually ended up on number 1 spot in the App Store.

Getting the police robot to drop the bridge.So I bought it. Turned out to be a lot of fun. Probably the first adventure game that I finished. Made by a small independent studio the game is very well drawn and is filled with clever puzzles for the player to solve. I just couldn’t stop. It’s not very long. I finished it in two nights. But it was great while it lasted. Five bucks well spent.

Getting the robo-cat.
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

NYC Panorama

NYC Panorama wallpaper on dual monitors.I found a cool use for my 6,000 pixel wide panorama of New York City that I took several months ago. Looks awesome on dual monitors.

NYC panorama wallpaper for dual monitors.You can download a 3840×1080 version that will work perfectly on a pair of 1980×1080 monitors. I use Actual Dual Monitors tool to manage my dual montors and it lets me set a single wallpaper for both screens.
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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

AJAX Powered Photography Tab

Photography tab is now powered by AJAX.I’ve been wanting to add some AJAX functionality to the Photography (Photostream) Section of this blog for some time now. The browsing of photos seems like a perfect fit to be done this way to speed up the process and not have to reload the same stylesheets, javascripts and static images over and over again.

I used jQuery (comes bundled with WordPress) to implement the functionality. I created an XML output based on the same very template that is used to display the normal photo page and the generation of the dynamic XML itself is handled natively by WordPress. I’ve ran into some conflicts with Prototype (used to power Lightbox feature), but was able to sort all of them out. Continue Reading
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wallpapers

Workstation wallpapers.Here is a small number of my photographs converted to desktop wallpapers as has been requested. There are 2 resolutions — 2048×1152 (16:9) and 1920×1200 (16:10).

Big Meadow


Big Meadow

Last Days


Last Days

Last Leaf


Last Leaf

New York


New York
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Friday, May 7, 2010

Linode VPS

LinodeAfter over 10 years of having a dedicated server in one data center or another and paying the bill I decided to put those days behind me. And no, I’m not going to give up having an access to a Linux box on a high speed connection, nor am I planning giving up my root access to such a machine.

We’re simply moving to virtual hosting. Hosting has evolved considerably in the past several years and VPS business has matured to a point where it is a perfect solution for somebody like me. All the same benefits as having a dedicated server without the cost. My monthly bill is going to go down from $130 to $40. And that considering that $130 just came down to that number from $170 only a couple of months ago. Continue Reading
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gowalla

Home screen shows me some basic stats about my account.It seems Alena and I have developed a bit of obsession with an iPhone app I stumbled upon a couple of days ago. I don’t think that most people will understand, but I’m sure Ignat and Mike will.

You see, Gowalla is an iPhone based geocaching app on steroids. Throw my passion for National Park stamp collecting into that and you got a killer app, at least as far as I go. ) Ignat and Mike have been into geocaching a while ago and it didn’t really appeal to me as there was no record of your discoveries or check-ins left.

Stamps that I have collected, or the places that I've checked-in into once or more.With Gowalla you have a list of spots located close to you. If there are places you go to often and they are not on the map you can commission a spot yourself. Then you can become a founder by leaving one of the items behind. And each of your check-ins is logged in your stamp list.

A list of spots near by. The closest one shows up first in the list and as you move the distances changes. Check mark denotes that fact that I've been there before.A screen showing a specific spot. In this case JFK is a featured location which is denoted by a custom icon assigned to it.Each user is given 5 items at the start. As you check-in into more places you have a chance of discovering more items. If a place already has founder(s) you can pick up the item left by other people on the condition that you leave one behind too.

Each item has a history attached to it and you can see where it has been from the start to the point that you got it and then after you left it somewhere. But you can read more about items on Gowalla blog.

List of people who have checked into this location recently.Then there are special stamps and pins. There are goals like visiting 5 pre-set locations in Central Park and you’ll earn a pin. Or commission 10 places. And so on. Also if you check-in into any location inside New York state you’ll get an NY stamp and the same happens for any other state.

And you can also see the activity of your friends and what kind of achievements they have.Overall the feel and the design of the application and their web-site (where you can check for spots and multiple other stats) are pretty amazing. I usually like to nitpick on the smallest details and here everything just looks great. So if you have an iPhone or any other phone with location aware browser do join in with us.
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Friday, November 6, 2009

Twitter Integration

Here’s a small Twitter integration showcase. The idea behind it is that it’s much easier to leave a simple note or observation through one of the numerous Twitter applications available than to make a blog post. And I tend to leave such simple notes during vacations, when we’re away from any computers, through iPhone.

Single PostI used a slightly modified1 version of Alex King’s Twitter Tools. Now this plug-in is actually a bit of an overkill for what I needed it to do, but nobody is forced to use more than needed. I also put together an ugly hack to force this thing to import tweets from both myself and Alena. It runs every 10 minutes and imports all the new stuff it finds.

Multiple PostsI’ve modified Rubinary template and devised a new way to display this type of posts. One special thing about it is that it groups consecutive tweets into a single post. The time “sticker” on my posts shows up in blue and on Alena’s in green — as all other things on the blog.

Tweet ReplyIf you mouse-over over a “sticker” you will see a reply option. By clicking it, you indeed, can reply. But there is a catch — you need to have a Twitter account to do so.

That’s pretty much it. For those who care — I personally use a free version of Twitterrific on the iPhone. And of course no post of this kind would be complete without a mandatory “I hate IE” conclusion.

  1. Modification allowed me to pull and import our older tweets. []

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