Posts from the “Technology” Category

The wallet for tech folks

(Obligatory, this is NOT an ad or sponsorship), moving on.

Herschel makes incredible wallets, especially the Men’s Johnny, taking on a classic pouch design with slots for credit cards and ample space for other things.

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Herschel Supply Co. Johnny Leather Wallet

As noted above, space for other things. Some of those can include microfiber cloths, which if you’re serious about removing smudges and fingerprints from your devices you’re bound to need. Not only does the leather Johnny wallet feature the usual inside compartments, it also has a pocket on the outside which can hold an additional item, such as a work badge or more.


Overall, this is a trooper of a wallet, being well made, sturdy and spacious are all benefits of owning one and comes in at a strong positive suggestion.

Oura Ring Review, Biohacking at it’s finest

An Intro

This is the definitive Oura Ring review.

Starting with what an Oura Ring is. The Oura Ring is an overall health and wellness tracker focusing on sleep, that works remarkably well because it’s something that’s designed to be worn 24/7, and be directly on your person in the form of a ring. This allows for data collection of sleep (it’s primary and most touted function), HRV (heart rate variability) and more to determine your overall “Readiness” score for a given day. The key is to use all of the data points that compose your readiness score to improve it day by day, whether that is going to sleep earlier, not drinking alcohol before bed or trying to lower stress levels — all of which contribute to you being more in control of your day and making your overall life better.

We are all creatures of habit and in the year 2018, we have a habit of creating lots of data, whether it is traces of our location, shared with Google, all over the interwebs, health and fitness or list after list or pin after pin — we create data. Sometimes that data is seamlessly collected, such as fitness data from your favorite smartwatch; yet, at times, it can be difficult, such as logging each meal.

Every piece of data is valuable, especially when it’s aggregated, and presented to the user in a concise manner that is easily interpreted and can be utilized for deep analytics. That is where biohacking comes in. What exactly is this word? Isn’t hacking usually associated with computers? The answer to that question is yes, usually.

Biohacking is “the process of making changes to your lifestyle in order to hack your body’s biology and feel your best.” (Source: Dr.Axe)

Oura Ring, version 2.

The Oura Ring is the perfect companion for a biohacker because it focuses on it’s niche and hones in on what it does really well.

  • Sleep tracking
  • Readiness tracking
  • Heart rate variability
  • Activity
  • (anything in between)

The Oura Ring is designed to be worn 24/7 to help provide these statistics, the number that users all know, associate with and love is your daily “Readiness” score, which is a compilation of a number of factors including sleep, heart rate and more from your previous day that is an overall measure of how ready you are for the upcoming day.


Initial Impressions

The experience of Oura begins from the moment that it arrives in a very well designed box. This entire review is based off of the second iteration of the ring, which is more streamlined than that of the first version.

As soon as the box is lifted off, you are greeted by the ring and it’s beautifully crafted inductive charger, which tops the ring off to 100% in about an hour with a battery that lasts for at least a week, easily being that smart device that lasts and lasts. Thank you Oura, thank you.


Day to Day Use

Once the ring is on your finger, it’s off to the races! Before placing your final order with Oura, part of the process is to get a sizing kit, in which the company sends a variety of sizes so that you can practice wearing the ring on any finger you’d like. This is very important because while you may be a certain size in a traditional ring, the Oura contains a set of sensors inside of the band that may throw that size off. In short, get the sizing kit or else you would’ve wished that you had.

The ring is very light and a pleasure to wear, so much so that it’s a bit unnerving of it’s lack of significant weight; however, that helps the device get out of the way so that it can collect valuable data for you. Throughout the day, the Oura app will buzz you in order to promote movement, asking if “it’s time to stretch your legs a bit?” when you’ve been sedentary for too long — which is a jolt that all of us need from time to time. This may be a feature that if you’re an Apple Watch user can become a bit redundant, but I found it welcoming as I’m a firm believer in overall wellness and movement.

The true magic of Oura comes at night, as this is when all of your sleep data is tracked, which is the largest selling point of the ring as a whole and it does not disappoint. As noted earlier, the big daily number is your Readiness score, which is a compilation of a variety of measures that are taken during your sleep time to determine how “ready” you are for the day. All of your statistics are stored inside of the Oura app and once opened, you’re greeted by your readiness score, then once clicked — you’re hit with a multitude of values to help you “hack” your way to better readiness.

Home screen of the Oura app for iOS. (I didn’t get the best night sleep the prior night — which is excellent to see all of the factors, as this is why I purchased the ring to begin with.)

Tapping on your Readiness score will give you a breakdown of all of the factors that contributed to that score:

Readiness score comprise.

Once tapped, each item can be expanded upon giving the user a detailed definition of what is being tracked, along with graphs which go back over the lifetime of the ring, which allow for deep analysis into trends of how your body responds to certain stimuli such as lack of sleep, alcohol before bed, increased heart rate due to a late meal or workout — the range of factors are endless, yet the data speaks for itself and is backed up quite well. Read over this study (Source: NCBI, PubMed which contains biomedical literature), which measured the performance of the Oura ring against polysomnography, which is used for the study of sleep and as a diagnostic tool in sleep medicine (Source: Wikipedia).


King of Sleep

The Oura Ring has made a name for itself because of it’s ability to track sleep like no other wearable on the market and provide deep dives into all of the sleep cycles that our body goes through on a nightly basis.

The Oura Ring notably measures REM, light and deep sleep, providing the amount of time that what spent in each, as well as an intensive breakdown of what percentage of your sleep it should be along with a definition of what defines it. Take a look below at a previous day’s sleep breakdown and an example of REM sleep defined:

Screenshots inside of the Oura App, pertaining to the Sleep section.

This definition and overview is seen after tapping one of the sleep stages from the previous screen above.

Overall, the information on your sleep data that can be garnered by simply swiping and tapping your way through the app is extremely valuable, rich and extensive, truly making this wearable the King of Sleep.


Wrapping Up

After having the Oura Ring for a little bit over 2 weeks, it has changed how I view my sleep (lack thereof) and I am consistently working to make my readiness score better.  Whether that is being mindful of a late drink, workout or cup of coffee — anything and everything can help — isn’t that the purpose of biohacking?  Using the data you have to make your life better going forward.

Starting off at $299, for the amount of data that you get is simply invaluable, so if you’re interested head on over to the Oura site and check out what they have to offer.  (No, I am not sponsored and do not have any codes I can give you to get money off; however, try watching the review view from Alex Furgus, which will give more information on the ring itself and show the discount code ALEXFERGUS)

If you’re even thinking about it, this device is worth every penny.

Hands-on with iPhone XS and iPhone XR

iPhones XS, XS Max and XR are available and I’ve gotten a chance to spend time with each.

In previous episodes of my In the Weeds podcast, I’ve been vocal about my dismay towards the notched display; however, I’ve always heaped praise upon the secure and stable iOS.  My in person feelings are exactly the same; yet, I’ve got a few different opinions regarding Apple’s implementation of the display notch housing the True Depth camera array for FaceID.


Quick & Dirty

These new iPhones feel fantastic in the hand, whether you are holding the XS or the special XR, in fact, I would argue that the XR feels a bit heavier and more substantial in the hand — which isn’t a bad thing.

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iPhone XR in Product Red.

Starting off at $749, the iPhone XR is likely the most compelling device for most users looking to upgrade.  Featuring a large 6.1″ display, featuring Apple’s distinct notch housing FaceID components, although this display is LCD and less than 1080p, it still looks great from most angles.  Additionally, since this display technology isn’t quite as robust as the OLED panels on iPhones XS and XS Max, the bezel surrounding the display is slightly larger — yet still bearable and unobtrusive.  Performance is notably great; however, the model I experienced in store appeared just a slight step behind its XS and XS Max counterparts.

iPhones XS and XS Max offer that same design except sleeker, and wrapped in a stainless steel band. iPhone XS Max especially felt great, not only due to the increased screen size, but the fact that it truly displayed more information on webpages and in apps versus those assets simply appearing larger, which is a huge selling point.  Performance is what you’d expect — simply unmatched in consistency and speed.

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iPhone XS Max

Furthermore, let’s talk about these notches. On the smaller devices, I found the notch a touch more intrusive; however, with the larger iPhone XS Max, it almost (almost) seemed to disappear. The larger screen, giving you more information is almost certainly a win in every case.

Wrapping Up

Overall, the device experience is great on all of the new Apple smartphones. iPhones XS and XR are here for the taking with arguably the best hardware and software experience on the market.

Made By Google 2018

On Tuesday October 9, 2018, Google showcased a variety of updated services and hardware offerings to the delight of many Google fans.  We knew all about the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, in all of it’s “notchy” embarrassment, thanks to a variety of leaks, although Google teased as if we didn’t.  Overall, the keynote was lacking due to the leaks and due to several technical miscues throughout.

In the keynote we learned more about Google’s future for home, portable computing and services all through it’s products.  A future that is interesting, fun and oftentimes confusing, but with Google at the helm, it won’t be boring.

Let’s begin.


Google Home Hub

Every smarthome needs a centerpiece and Google Home Hub plans to be just that.  Over the course of the keynote, this proved to be one of the most well-thought out, polished pieces of the day.  From showing you recipe tutorials on YouTube, to weather and driving conditions and photos from your most recent trip — this device is designed in such a way that brings it all together and is excellent if you already have a variety of smart devices.  In addition to the Home Hub, the Google Home app received a significant update that mirrors what HomeView on the Hub screen, putting all of your connected devices first.  This is the way that it should be and the way that it should’ve been.

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Updated Google Home app, iOS.

The Google Home Hub is meant to be that home device that blends in with the rest of your home and buy offering different color options like Google Home, Home Mini and Max devices, it accomplishes that easily.  Interacting with Google Assistant on any of the Google Home devices is very simple and straightforward although during the keynote, that was muddied my interactions that had bad timing because they were prerecorded.

Featuring a 7″ display, the Home Hub is perfect for an office or a kitchen device; however, it can also go safely into a bedroom since there is no camera on the device — unlike the Amazon Echo Show.  This large and bright display is how you will interact with Hub and discover new things it can do.  Coming in at $149 and available on October 22nd, this little guy is bound to shake things up.

Source: YouTube, The Verge.


Pixel Slate

Is it a tablet?  Is it a computer?

The introduction of Pixel Slate started on a high note, with a stone thrown at it’s competitors Apple and Microsoft with the statement, “..something that isn’t a laptop trying to be a tablet…or a tablet, that’s really a phone, pretending to be a computer“.

It’s Pixel Slate and it’s neither.  Yet, it is a combination of both depending on how you utilize it.  A tablet is nothing more than a different type of a personal computer, just like your smartphone, laptop or gaming PC.

Pixel Slate is an interesting device.  Starting at $599 you get a tablet-esque device featuring a re-imagined “molecular” 12.3″ display featuring 293 PPI, Intel inside starting at the Celeron and fully equipped with an i7.

PixelSlateLineup

This device is the spiritual successor to Google’s Pixelbook and ultimately Google’s long game in the space and puts itself in a direct fight between Apple’s iPad and Microsoft’s Surface.  Chromebooks are ubiquitous in the classroom and with those who are entrenched in Google’s ecosystem for all of the right reasons.  Most computing today is done through the browser, whether you utilize Google Chrome, Edge, Firefox or something else — you’re still in browser.  One of the reasons why Chrome, Firefox and others have such a large userbase is due to the many add ons and “apps” that can be accessed through the window of a browser.

Nowadays, Google has been pumping Chrome OS to be much more than just a browser, to having Android app support and support for some Linux applications, the gap between a Chrome OS device and traditional desktop operating system is blurring more and more and the Pixel Slate seems to be a solid device the enter that “gap” with.  Pairing this device with the optional Pixel Slate Keyboard transforms this from tablet to that traditional laptop feel; however, Google did something different with it’s keyboard, allowing the user to have many different positions to the screen unlike the iPad Pro keyboard, mimicking a majority of the angles that a Microsoft Surface can reach.

Source: YouTube, The Verge

This is the future of mobile computing through Google’s Chrome OS and with this operating system becoming more open to other platforms, this increased interoperability is making it a more viable solution as most are simply in the business of content consumption rather than creation.


Pixel 3

It was noted that Pixel 3 was “built with exceptionally beautiful and design choices”, which is the biggest fable of the entire keynote.  While the Pixel 3 may be of good design, no person will agree with anyone on that stage that the Pixel 3 XL is a beautiful device.  This is absolutely one of the most tasteless and awful design decisions in all of smartphones with the largest and most obtrusive notch on any device.

Don’t believe me?  See for yourself.  It’s laughably bad and as I noted on #150 of the In the Weeds podcast, it looks like hot garbage.

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Pixel 3 XL close-up of the the display notch.

Aside from the addition of a notch, that no one asked for, there are several small additions to the Pixel 3 that push it slightly over it’s older sibling Pixel 2.

The design of the device was completely re-engineered by giving it an all glass back with custom milling to make the lower portion soft-touch, making it almost indistinguishable from the Pixel 2 and an additional second camera on the front, which extends the camera angle 184 degrees.  Camera upgrades don’t stop on the front as Google builds in a new feature called Top Shot, which utilizes frames before and after the shutter is pressed giving the user the opportunity to select the “top” frame as the still image.

Additionally, Google takes advantage of the best digital assistant in the business with it’s new Screen Call feature, which allows you to interact with a potential spam caller utilizing Google Assistant so that you don’t have to in an interactive exchange and potentially even mark the call as spam.  Lastly, with your shiny new Pixel 3 in hand, you need a charging stand to take advantage of the newly added wireless charging.  Meet Pixel Stand, which charges your device wirelessly, but also gives you an overview of your home, recent photos and more.  While this stand may not charge multiple devices at once — it is actually going to ship unlike Apple’s Air Power.  Pixel 3 starts at $799, with its large sibling at $899, up from last year and available on October 19th.

Source: YouTube, Made by Google

Here, the device you like the most comes to personal preference.  The notch is such a horrible design trend that doesn’t give the consumer any additional benefit, but allows the OEM the ability to tout “edge to edge” display while developers cannot utilize all of the space thanks to rounded corners and other elements of the display that need to be shown — this space that can be used is typically called a “safe area”, coined initially by Apple, read more here.


Overall

Google’s devices aren’t usually meant to be big mainstream hits, Google Home and Assistant are the exceptions, while Pixel devices are usually for the enthusiast with the aim of pushing either a platform, software solution or ideal forward.  The Made by Google event of 2018 was hit and miss, as presenters seemed spaced out and presentations early on were marred by off cue interactions.  With all of that aside, the future looks bright, we just have to hope that Google, who frequently changes it’s mind in the direction department, actually stays true to the course and continues pushing the ideals they’ve displayed ahead.

In The Weeds Podcast Post | Episode 139: Is Siri Shortcuts NOT for the Average Joe?

Apple bought the Workflow app a little over a year ago because of all of the automations that could be sequenced together and create powerful workflows. That is now now as Shortcuts and is integrated directly into iOS AND Siri. But how discoverable are these neat little nuggets and how easy or difficult are they to construct? It seems that this automation platform is for the power user and not for the Average Joe, which will leave the gap left by Siri being subpar…left WIDE open. ||
Let’s continue our discussion! Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @dexter_johnson and visit http://DexJohnsPC.com to stay on top of my latest posts.
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