Glowforge 3D Laser Printer

Glowforge 3D Laser Printer Pre-ordered

Came across this intriguing 3D Laser Printer from Glowforge. It can cut a piece of wood, leather, acrylic, fabric, cardboard and paper up to a quarter-inch thick. It can engrave on metal like the back of an iPhone or MacBook laptop. I have been working on some craft ideas lately, and the Glowforge might be just the thing that can turn my crude prototypes into reality.

The company is having a 50% pre-order discount for the next twenty days. The printer is not inexpensive — the discounted prices range from $2000 to $4000 — but I would imagine making the things it can create by hand or via outsourcing would cost much more. Use the referral code to get $100 your own Glowforge; I’ll get $100 off mine as well.

Shipments are expected to start in December, 2015 to early 2016. They’ve already amassed $6 million dollars in pre-orders. The team behind the Glowforge seem more experienced when it comes to shipping products, so I’m hopeful that they will ship on-time.

My 20-year old bike is ready for another ascent up Montebello.
Cycling, Exercise

Low-Key Hillclimbs 2015 #1: Montebello Road

This has been a very good year for completing my fitness goals. I have been able to lose a significant amount of weight, break my high school running times in the 5K and half marathon, and build good strength through pull-ups.

Until this weekend, however, I had been neglecting my cycling. Most of my Strava friends are cyclists, and I admit to a bit of jealousy when I see their rides on my dashboard. With the new kiddo at home, it’s easier for me to go out for a 30-60 minute run near my home than to pack up the bike, drive to Stanford or Canada Road, and cycle my favorite routes.

Fortunately, I have Dan Connelly and the Low-Key Hillclimbs to temporarily get me out of my running and pull-up habit, if only for a weekend. I received Dan’s email about the start of the 2015 series last week and quickly signed up for the annual kickoff event up Montebello Road in Cupertino. Last year I set a PR in the Low-Key series 41:13 (40:19 according to Strava). Since last October, I had lost an additional 12 pounds, going from 146-148 to 134-136 pounds. Would the weight loss be enough to get me under 40 minutes? Would I be able to best my all-time PR of 39:15-39:30 that I set back in September, 2003? Though I was cautiously optimistic, I knew there was only one way to find out — climb it!

Cyclists gather at the start of the ride up Montebello.

Cyclists gather at the start of the ride up Montebello.

On Saturday morning, I arrived at the parking lot off of Stevens Canyon Road shortly after 9:00 am. The air was crisp and the forecast signaled a relatively cool day compared with last year’s blistering heat. I saw my Low-Key friends, Garrett, Stephen, Han, Larry, and Christine. Dan and Richard were volunteers this week, so they were not cycling. I warmed up with a slow ride to the base of Mt. Eden with Stephen, Han, and Garrett. By the time I got back to the start-line at the second parking lot, it was 9:45 am. I filled up my bike’s tires and waited in the back of the group for the next 25 minutes, mentally preparing myself for the 40 minute, 5.3 mile, and 1940 foot ride up Montebello Road.

During the mass start events, Low-Key riders organize themselves by groups. The first group are the fast cyclists, followed by groups 2, 3, and 4. The fifth and final group are for the “slow” riders, and that’s where I placed myself again.

What I wrote last year is pretty spot on as to my gameplan:

Montebello is pretty unrelenting for the first two miles until it evens out for 0.75 miles at the school. The last two miles aren’t as bad as the first, but they are still pretty steep… One thing that I wanted to try differently from previous rides was not spinning on the easiest gear too much. I have a compact crank on my aging 1995-era Trek 5200 and a 12-25 8-speed cassette. I stuck with the 19, 21, and 23 cogs for the majority of the ride. I figured I’d rather spin more slowly but go faster than spin quickly but go more slowly up the climb.

Besides the cooler weather, they have paved the road near the top of Montebello and I only brought one water bottle with me on the ride.

Grinding up Montebello. Photo by Tom Everman

Grinding up Montebello. Photo by Tom Everman

Han told me before the event that he was gunning for 36 minutes. I figured if I could keep him in my sights, I would be in good shape to break 40 minutes. Within minutes of the start of the climb, I could tell from his steady and strong pace that I was not going to keep up with him. I then focused my pedaling attention on this kid who must have been 12 years old (turns out he was 14 years old and completed the climb in 34:30!). Spinning his gears so fast, the kid was also going too fast for me. So, I looked at the next guy, and the next guy, and the next guy, until it was basically just me and the road all by myself for 10 meters ahead and behind. I settled into a hard yet manageable pace. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I was going that much faster, and the flat section and last two miles were especially hard on me. I felt more comfortable and powerful riding out of the saddle, but I only did that on the really steep portions. Were I to ride Montebello again, I’d go all Pantani more often. Maybe it would feel more like running. I was amazed at the two participants, John Burton and Lisa Penzel, who ran up the mountain and finished in 49 and 51 minutes! I might make it a goal next year to compete in the running division; I just need someone to drive me back down, since I know my legs will be shot!

My time according to Strava was 38:43 and the Low-Key official time was 39:09. I broke 40 minutes and bested my PR up Montebello! Congrats also go out to Stephen, who confided in me that he had no climbing legs this year and thought he would be closer to 50 minutes than the 40:40 he crossed the line at. Overall, I’m pleased with my performance, and I know I can do better. I credit this ride to my improved overall fitness; were I to have more cycling miles under my belt, I think 35-36 minutes is do-able. That would put me right around the middle of the pack, which is fine with me.

I won’t be able to attend next’s week climb up Page Mill Road, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to make Old La Honda on November 14. My fastest time up OLH was somewhere around 21:40 some 18 years ago. I’d be happy to get 22 minutes at this point.

Both Stephen and I were happy with our performances today up Montebello.

Both Stephen and I were happy with our performances today up Montebello.

Cyclists hang out after reaching the summit of Montebello Road.

Cyclists hang out after reaching the summit of Montebello Road.

We visited Alex at his home in Colorado in August, 2015.
AllThingsD, Life

Remembering Alex King

It is with great sadness that I learned my friend, Alex King passed away last night. We were fortunate to visit him and his family last month in Colorado. Alex and I shared a love for photography and technology. We worked on many projects over the years, including the original AllThingsD website for Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. His work in the WordPress community helped make WordPress what it is today. Alex, you will be sorely missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Meeting Alex

I first met Alex through a mutual friend, Eric Cheng, who was working at E.piphany. I learned from Eric that a co-worker of his was looking to buy a digital camera. I happened to be selling my Canon EOS-D30. So, on February 7, 2002, I went to the office to meet up with Luke.

Meeting Alex King for the first time while selling my Canon EOS-D30 to his cube mate.

Meeting Alex King for the first time while selling my Canon EOS-D30 to his cube mate.

This is how I met Alex for the first time, as he was Luke’s cube-mate at E.piphany. Little did both of us know at the time, but our paths would cross many times in software, photography and friendship over the next decade.


Alex and I worked on several projects together in the early 2000s. We hacked together an application called Read it to Me, which created MP3 files from unread items in one’s NetNewsWire RSS feed using Apple’s Text-to-Speech feature.

Alex also gave me the idea to develop MsgFiler, an application that allows OS X Mail users to file their messages to mailboxes quickly using only the keyboard. It’s since become one of my most popular software applications, with thousands of devoted customers around the world.

Holding up old Palm and Handspring devices in Cupertino on January 23, 2003. The one Alex is displaying is actually a phone!

Holding up old Palm and Handspring devices in Cupertino on January 23, 2003. The one Alex is displaying is actually a phone!

Furiously typing away on our keyboards for the camera’s sake on February 26, 2003.

Furiously typing away on our keyboards for the camera’s sake on February 26, 2003.

Stanford Golf

In 2003, I was spending the year as a Digital Vision Fellow at Stanford University. I was also doing photography for the campus newspaper and was tasked to photograph the Stanford Golf team during the Nelson Invitational held at the Stanford Golf Course on October 26, 2003.

Knowing that Alex was an avid golfer, I invited him to tag along. For both of us, it was our first time photographing a golf tournament. He gave me a number of tips about shooting golf, and his photos turned out much better than mine that day.

We followed two groups of Stanford golfers, Pat Phillips and Brandon Lawson and Matt Savage and Scott MacDonald, through the front nine before calling it a day. I figured that there would be crowds of people following the matches, so I was surprised to see that it was just the two of us for much of the morning.

Photographing the Stanford golf team with Alex.

Photographing the Stanford golf team with Alex.

Camera Owners of the Bay Area

In August 2003, Alex spoke at COBA, the digital camera user group I ran, about his Photos web application for managing, storing, cataloging and retrieving digital photos.

Alex spoke at my Camera Owners of the Bay Area user group.

Alex spoke at my Camera Owners of the Bay Area user group.

Alex spoke at my Camera Owners of the Bay Area user group.

Alex spoke at my Camera Owners of the Bay Area user group.

Portraits of Alex in Cupertino

Alex wanted a headshot of himself done for his website. On December 19, 2003, he came to my house in Cupertino. We set up the lights and camera in the living room and started clicking away. The photo to the right was the last shot of the day and the one he most liked. Alex used this photo for nearly a decade as his digital avatar. It remains one of my favorite photos of Alex.

I took the photo of Alex that he used for many years as his online avatar.

I took the photo of Alex that he used for many years as his online avatar.

Here are three other photos that we took during the portrait session that winter afternoon in the Bay Area.

All Things Digital

Near the end of 2006, Alex emailed me and asked me if I wanted to work with him on a large WordPress project with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, two prominent journalists at The Wall Street Journal. They were creating an online extension to their popular D: All Things Digital conference called I jumped at the opportunity to work with Alex again, as I had recently left a startup a few months earlier.

This opportunity directed the path of both of our careers for almost a decade. I continued to work with Walt and Kara at, Recode, and Vox Media. Alex launched Crowd Favorite, and it went on to do great things within the WordPress community and beyond.
It’s safe to say that I owe Alex an incredible debt of gratitude. I don’t know where my professional career would be today had we not worked together on this project.

Alex and Walt Mossberg

Alex and Walt Mossberg

Alex at the AllThings Launch Party

Alex at the AllThings Launch Party

Alex speaking with Megan Smith, now the CTO of America

Alex speaking with Megan Smith, now the CTO of America

Alex and Eric Cheng

Alex and Eric Cheng

The AllThingsD Launch Party in April, 2007.

The AllThingsD Launch Party in April, 2007.

Alex with Matt Mullenweg, Barry Abrahamson, and me.

Alex with Matt Mullenweg, Barry Abrahamson, and me.

Random Snapshots

Here’s a collection of photos of Alex that I have taken. Since moving to Colorado, we’ve tried to meet up whenever he was in the San Francisco Bay Area on business.

Visiting Alex and his family in 2015

Rae and I returned to Colorado in 2015 with our son Dashiell. We were fortunate to visit Alex, his father, Heather and Caitlin at their home in Arvada. I finally got to see his custom-built office desk and basement. We reconnected like it was old times, and I’ll cherish our talk forever.

Visiting Alex in Colorado

Visiting Alex in Colorado

Further Reading

An update on my minimalist uniform project. Photo from Superior Court in San Jose, CA.
Decluttering, Minimalism

Minimalist Uniform Update – July 2015

It’s been five months since I started my minimalist uniform project, and I’m still wearing the same set of clothes when I go outside of the house.

After the first week, I got the sleeves shortened on the Wool & Prince button-down gray oxford shirt. It was also the first and last time it was dry-cleaned. Since then, I’ve worn the shirt out of the house whenever the weather is cooler or for business meetings. It has stayed relatively wrinkle free, stink free and clean. There’s some slight ring around the collar, but it’s barely noticeable; I’d imagine it’d be worse if I purchased one of Wool & Prince’s lighter colored shirts. I’m very happy with this shirt and would consider buying additional ones in the future; I just can’t decide which color I’d get!

Due to the warm weather we’ve been experiencing in the Bay Area, the Icebreaker Anatomica t-shirt continues to get more use than the button-down. I ran a half-marathon in Laguna Niguel in the middle of February wherein the shirt got drenched with sweat. Yet, after washing it in the sink and air drying, I was happy to smell no stink from the shirt! I have since added a a black v-neck Anatomica and a gray long sleeved Anatomica1 to my collection after finding a 40% off deal online. One negative with the Anatomica shirt is that they are prone to tearing due to their thinness. I poked out a small hole underneath the left arm area in the gray shirt. It’s not noticeable when I wear it, and I’ve been more careful when I put it on and take it off so as not to make the hole bigger.

I've been wearing the Icebreaker Anatomica t-shirt more because of the hot weather in the Bay Area.

I’ve been wearing the Icebreaker Anatomica t-shirt more because of the hot weather in the Bay Area.

As for the pants, I continue to rotate between the Bluff Works pants and the Levi’s 559 jeans. I have washed the Bluff Works a couple of times but the Levi’s have remained unwashed. Bluff Works recently released relaxed fit and Chino styles to their lineup. The regular fit pants fit me well standing up, but they can get a little tight when I sit down or kneel. I’m curious to see if the relaxed fit pants are better without looking too baggy.

The Scottevest Hidden Cargo Pants, unfortunately, are too large around the waist and legs, even after getting them altered. I haven’t worn them at all and have relegated them to my emergency clothes kit. Scottevest pants start at 30/30, and I’d prefer a 29/28 or 29/28, so it’s unlikely I’ll be ordering any more pants from them until they offer smaller sizes.

The biggest news is that I’ve donated one of my two boxes of clothes to Goodwill this afternoon. That’s right, I’ve cut the cord with half of the clothes that I’ve worn for the past decade and a half.

Two boxes enter, one box leaves!

Two boxes enter, one box leaves!

Left in the remaining box are some t-shirts for doing yard work and for lounging around the house, a couple pairs of pants for house work, a couple of shirts that I could use for exercising in cooler weather, two scarves and some knit caps. I certainly don’t need those clothes seeing that it’s been five months since I last looked at the clothes, but I decided to give them a reprieve for now. Gone are several pairs of pants that no longer fit me, six button-down shirts, a hoodie, and numerous free t-shirts that I’ve accumulated over the years.

The box of clothes that I donated to Goodwill this afternoon.

The box of clothes that I donated to Goodwill this afternoon.

It’s been great to not have to think about what outfit I’m going to wear each day. How long will this Minimalist Uniform Project go? I see no reason to stop, so I’ll keep this going for the rest of the year. Onward!

1 I’m still wearing the gray Anatomica more than the other two Anatomica shirts. When the weather is too warm for the W&P but still cool, I’ll wear the long sleeved Anatomica. The black is there to alternate with the gray.

New LaserJet M252dw says goodbye to the old LaserJet 6MP

The HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw – Successor to the Venerable HP LaserJet 6MP Printer

I’m finally retiring the HP LaserJet 6MP printer that I’ve had since graduating from college and replacing it with an HP Color LaserJet M252dw. Released in October, 1996, LaserJet 6MP was designed to work best with Macintosh computers. It featured a Postscript compatibility, a LocalTalk port, two Parallel Ports, and an Infrared port.

One of the earliest photos I could find of the HP LaserJet 6MP that I have used for over 16 years. Yes, that's a Ricochet wireless modem attached to my PowerBook G3 laptop.

One of the earliest photos I could find of the HP LaserJet 6MP that I have used for over 16 years. Attached to my PowerBook G3 is a Ricochet wireless modem that allowed me to get on the Internet wirelessly in the late 90s.

Now a vestige from the days of computing long past, my 6MP was kept operational over the years even as those printing interfaces became obsolete. When the LocalTalk/AppleTalk port disappeared on later Macintosh computers, I bought a Farallon EtherMac iPrint Adapter to bridge the printer to my Ethernet network. When that stopped working, I connected a Parallel port-to-USB cable to my Airport Wi-Fi base station. Out of all the technology that I still use today, it’s by far the longest serving device I’ve had. How many tech gadgets or computers do you still use that are nearly two decades old?

I was able to connect my HP LaserJet 6MP to my network using a Parallel Port-to-USB cable.

I was able to connect my HP LaserJet 6MP to my network using a Parallel Port-to-USB cable.

As the years went by, the 6MP started printing documents, especially more complex PDFs — slower. It didn’t help that the printer only has 3 Megabytes of RAM! More recently, the toner cartridge was running low, and the paper rollers had developed a nasty habit of leaving black streak marks all over the printouts. It was time to start looking in earnest for a replacement to the venerable workhorse.

Last month, I bought an HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw Printer for my parents and was impressed with the ease of setup and automatic duplex features of this multi-function printer. Because I did not require the M277dw’s scanner/copy/fax capabilities, I ordered the HP Color LaserJet Pro M252dw Printer — that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue like the LaserJet 6MP — from Amazon. The printer supports color and duplex printing and comes with Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and AirPrint communication interfaces. In a case of three steps forward and one step back, the paper tray is measly at only 150 sheets and the multi-purpose tray only supports one sheet or a single envelope — compared to the 6MP’s 250 sheet capacity paper tray and 100 sheet or 10 envelope multi-purpose tray.

The LaserJet M252dw is connected to my network via Wi-Fi, so that's one less cable to worry about.

The LaserJet M252dw is connected to my network via Wi-Fi, so that’s one less cable to worry about.

For the most part, I expect to be printing in black and white, but having the ability to print in color will come in handy from time to time and saves me from having to buy a color inkjet (I’ve been down that road before and won’t go there again). One thing that I’m not looking forward to is paying $400 for a set of four high-capacity toner cartridges (black, cyan, magenta and yellow). That’s nearly twice as much as the printer itself! So, I’m looking forward to the day when more affordable third-party toner cartridges are available. Finally, I don’t know if they make them like they used to, but I’m hoping to get at least five to ten years out of this printer. We’ll see!

The Apple Watch and the Basis B1 without their bands.
Reviews, Technology

Apple Watch, Basis B1 Band, the Gamification of Fitness and Apps

It had been many years since I had worn a watch. The last time that I could remember wearing one was back in college, and I stopped wearing it when I started carrying a pocketable PDA or cellphone.

On my desk in 1995: a watch, my laptop, and a Newton. On my desk in 2015: a laptop, an iPhone, and an Apple Watch.

On my desk in Paris, circa 1995: a PowerBook 180, an Apple Newton MessagePad and an analog watch. On my desk in 2015: a MacBook Pro, an iPhone 6 Plus and an Apple Watch.

Prior to ordering and receiving my Apple Watch, I had been wearing a Basis B1 Band1 for the past 9 months. The Basis was on my wrist through my transformation from dad-bod to beach bod, tracking my steps, calories, resting heart rate, and sleep activity. It worked passively, meaning I didn’t have to tell the Basis what I was doing — running, walking, biking or sleeping — for it to work. Alas, it could not detect when I was doing pull-ups! Knowing that Apple was going to come out with a watch was another reason why I wore the Basis; I wanted to reacquaint myself with wearing a watch.

Body and Design

The Apple Watch is slimmer than the Basis B1 Band.

The Apple Watch is slimmer than the Basis B1 Band.

As you uffan see in the photos, the Apple Watch is thinner than the Basis. While it’s much thicker than my old analog watch, the Apple Watch actually smaller than I thought it would be (from looking at the Apple Watch webpage or watching the commercials). The Sport band is also more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time than the Basis. I found the metal buckle of the Basis annoying when it would bang against the table when trying to work. I often ended up just taking off the watch during the workday. The Sport Band also makes a noise when I place my wrists on the table to start typing, but it’s less annoying than the Basis. The fluroelastomer material in the Sport Band makes the Apple Watch more pleasant to wear throughout the day.

I find it easier to put on when I placed the band with the loop closure on the bottom rather than the top.

I find it easier to put on when I placed the band with the loop closure on the bottom rather than the top.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that I have swapped the position of the bands on my Apple Watch. I found it difficult to put it on each morning the original way the bands were oriented, so I removed the top band and installed it on the bottom. Now, when I put it on, I use my thumb to hold the free band in place; my other fingers grasp the band with the adjustment holes and pin and tuck it securely to my wrist2. While I find this much easier, your mileage may vary. I also tested rotating the Apple Watch 180 degrees so that the Digital Crown was in the bottom-left position, but I ultimately switched to back. It’s good that Apple allows this level of customization in the Apple Watch’s Settings > General > Orientation panel.

Finally, I didn’t like wearing the Basis Watch on my wrist when I was dressed in my Wool & Prince button-down shirt. The height of the watch made it difficult to fit under the cuff the left sleeve, a problem that doesn’t exist with my Apple Watch. My minimalist uniform project also informed my choice of the space gray Apple Watch with the black sport band. If a red sports band was available, I’d buy one!

Battery Life

The Basis B1 has much better battery life than the Apple Watch. I routinely can get five or more days of usage out of the Basis before having to recharge it. Admittedly, the Basis is doing a lot less than the Apple Watch, but I was quite pleased with not having to charge it every night. The increased battery life of the Basis is critical because I used it to record my sleep patterns. I would wear the Basis to sleep, and it would track how many times I woke up, my amount of REM, Light, and Deep sleep I would have. It would then tabulate all this data on the Web and give me a daily and weekly Sleep Score.

The Apple Watch, like my iPhone, requires nightly charging and does not track sleep patterns. Ultimately, it would be great if the Apple Watch would last days or weeks without needing to be recharged, but it’s not a deal-breaker for me. I usually have between 20-40% of battery life left in the evening before I go to bed; one night, I got down to 3% battery life with just one more hour left to complete my Stand goal; fortunately, I made it and was able to complete all the Activity circles for the day!

It's all on the wrist. The Apple Watch and the Basis B1 Band.

It’s all on the wrist. The Apple Watch and the Basis B1 Band.

Activity Tracking and the Gamification of Fitness

One thing that I liked with the Basis was its clever game mechanic call Habits. As I wore the Basis passively throughout the day, I would get points for the number of steps per day, the time I would go to sleep or wake up, how many calories I would burn in a day, or how long I wore the watch. As I collected more points, I unlocked additional Habits to track. A few months ago, I gathered enough points to unlock every Habit. It was at that point, however, that my motivation for wearing the watch waned, and I stopped wearing it in the month before the Apple Watch arrived.

I've been diligent at completing the three rings each and every day since getting my Apple Watch.

I’ve been diligent at completing the three rings each and every day since getting my Apple Watch.

The Activity app for the Apple Watch also lets users collect achievements for fitness tasks. Here’s the list of current achievements in the Activity app. Checkmarks denote the ones I’ve unlocked thus far:

  • First Running Workout: Awarded on your first run with the Workout app.
  • First Walking Workout: Awarded on your first walk with the Workout app.
  • Workout Record: Awarded after 5 calorie-based sessions with the Workout app, earn this award for the most calories burned doing your selected workout.
  • 7-Workout Week: Complete at least 7 workouts of any kind in a single week with the Workout app.
  • New Record: Earn this award when you set a new personal record for most calories burned in a day after your first 10 days.
  • New Award: Earn this award when you set a new personal record for most minutes of exercise in a day after your first 10 days.
  • Move Goal 200%: Earn this award every time you double your daily Move goal.
  • Move Goal 300%: Earn this award every time you triple your daily Move goal.
  • Move Goal 400%: Earn this award every time you quadruple your daily Move goal.
  • New Move Goal:Earn this award for reaching a new calorie burn goal.
  • Perfect Week (Exercise): Earn this award for reaching your Exercise goal every day of a single week.
  • Perfect Week (Stand): Earn this award for reaching your Stand goal every day of a single week.
  • Perfect Week (Move): Earn this award for reaching your Move goal every day of a single week.
  • Perfect Week (All Activity): Complete all three activity goals every day of a single week.
  • Perfect Month: Earn this award when you reach your Move goal every day of a single month, from the month’s first day to its last.
  • Longest Move Streak: Earn this award for your longest consecutive daily Move streak.
  • 100 Move Goals: Earn this award when you reach your daily Move goal 100 times.
  • 365 Move Goals: Earn this award when you reach your daily Move goal 365 times.
  • 500 Move Goals: Earn this award when you reach your daily Move goal 500 times.
  • 1000 Move Goals: Earn this award when you reach your daily Move goal 1000 times.

Although I’ve been exercising a lot, I have not been doing it every day lately, so getting the Perfect Week achievement was a bit of a slog to get. As you can see in the screenshot above, I now have completed the Perfect Week twice. I now have my sights on the Perfect Month achievement!

The Basis B1 also gives you achievements for the following habits that you regularly maintain:

  • Wear It: Wear the watch for a certain number of hours in a day.
  • Consistent Bedtime: Set the time at which you fall asleep every night.
  • Run Club: Run for a set number of minutes.
  • Evening Lap: After 5pm, take a set number of steps.
  • Let’s Ride: Bike for a set number of minutes.
  • Regular Rising: Wake up at a set time each morning.
  • Morning Lap: Before 12pm, take a set number of steps.
  • Don’t Be A Sitter: From 9-5pm, get up every hour.
  • Torch More Calories: Burn a set number of calories each day.
  • Afternoon Lap: From 12-5pm, take a set number of steps.
  • Move It: Be active for 1 hour.
  • Step It Up: Take a set number of steps.

Basis Achievements

As I mentioned earlier, in the eight months that I wore the Basis band, I was able to accumulate enough points to unlock all of the Habits. Yet, I consistently did not complete each habit on a daily basis. Obviously, it wasn’t practical to run and bike in the same day, nor be able to go to sleep or wake up at the exact same time. Basis highlights in green which days you accomplish the goal. Progress that has yet to be completed is shown in red. Unless you’re a Basis freak, there’ll be more days when you don’t complete Habits than days that you do. This is a key difference with Apple’s Activity rings. With the Apple Watch, you see more of what you did than what you didn’t do (as with the Basis). I think this ultimately helps people maintain their motivation to keep moving, exercising, and standing day in, day out.

Fitness Accuracy of the Apple Watch

I use RunKeeper and Strava to keep track of my runs and cycling activities. In the twenty days that I’ve been using the Apple Watch, I’ve gone on fourteen runs and a handful of walks. According to Apple’s support page on calibration, the Apple Watch should have a good sense of my stride rate3 by now. Yet, I have found the Workout app to consistently underestimate the distances I’ve run compared with Strava and RunKeeper. A 3.1 mile run in Strava or RunKeeper would be interpreted as a 2.9 or 3.0 mile run by the Workout app. I’ve also found that pace as recorded by Workout is slower than both RunKeeper and Strava. Because the Watch apps for RunKeeper and Strava are not that good yet (slow to load or have usability issues), I’ll continue to use all three apps — Workout on the watch, Strava and RunKeeper on my iPhone — when I hit the trails. And, I’ll look on the bright side to Workout’s underestimation of my pace and distance; it’ll make me run faster since I’ll think I’m running too slow!

Update May 19, 2015 @ 10:00 AM: Apple released Watch OS 1.0.1, which promises to bring more accurate “distance and pace during outdoor walk and run workouts”

As for the Basis B1, I liked how I didn’t have to tell the watch what activity I was doing (run, walk, or bike). It just figured it out. On the other hand, the Basis didn’t always interpret what I was doing correctly. For instance, if I ran with the stroller, the Basis would think I did all three activities, giving me less points for running than I wanted.

Watch Apps

Third-party Watch apps currently leave much to be desired; the majority of the ones I’ve tried are useless to me because they take so long to load. It’s easier to do what I need done from my iPhone instead of pressing the Digital Crown, swiping to the app (those tap targets are small!), waiting for it to load, and hoping that the information retrieved is of some use.

This sad state of Watch Apps can be attributed to the current limitations set forth by Apple; developers have no direct access to the watch’s accelerometer, gyroscope, Bluetooth radio, Taptic engine, microphone and speaker. This will undoubtedly improve over time, as (1) developers gain more experience with the current WatchKit SDK and (2) Apple decides to allow native applications on the Apple Watch4.

As for the built-in apps supplied by Apple, I frequently use the timer and stopwatch apps. I found dictating Messages replies using Siri to be fairly accurate as long as I’m not trying to say too much. The Camera Remote app is nice, but I haven’t had the opportunity to use it beyond demoing the feature to friends and family. It’s easier to use the Remote app to control the Apple TV over the Apple TV remote — up to the point where I get tired holding my left arm out. I’ve used Apple Pay just once, and I can see it can be even more convenient than using the iPhone. I have yet to transfer any songs or playlists to the Music app.

Is It Worth It?

I’m enjoying wearing the Apple Watch, despite its current set of limitations. As a frequent early adopter of nascent technologies, I realize and accept these limitations. Right now, I’d categorize the Apple Watch as a nice to have. It’s not essential like my iPhone or my laptop. Future Apple Watch iterations will have improved battery life, be faster at loading and running applications, and feature additional sensors. At that point, I see it becoming a must-have device for myself, my family and friends.

1 I received the Basis B1 for free at a tech conference. The B1 has been superseded by the Basis Peak.

2 It’s interesting to note that the Apple Watch’s sensors are designed to work when the watch is on top of the wrist. In my youth, I preferred to wear a watch on the inside of my wrist.

3 Other people have chimed in regarding the fitness accuracy of the Apple Watch that’s worth reading.

4 Third-party applications were initially not supported on the iPhone. Steve Jobs encouraged developers to write web applications for the iPhone instead. A native-SDK was made available a year later in 2008.

My body-fat composition as calculated by BodySpec
Exercise, Running

I Got My Body Composition Analyzed by Body-Spec’s DXA Scanner, and Here are the Results

On Saturday, I went to the Brick House Fitness center in San Jose, where BodySpec was conducting body fat, muscle and bone scans using a General Electric dual energy x-ray absorptiometry scanner (DXA or DEXA) housed inside the BodySpec RV.

I spoke with the Co-Founder and CEO of BodySpec, Jason Belvill, prior to my scan. He was impressed when I showed him my photos of my 30-pound weight loss and openly wished that I had gotten a scan before losing all that weight. I agree! Unfortunately, I didn’t think about getting a body composition baseline while I was in my chubbier state.

The process of being scanned was painless and relatively quick. Ari, the x-ray tech, had me close my eyes in the beginning as the scanner started head-first. Over six minutes, I lay still as the scan head passed over my entire body; now I know what it’s like to be a piece of paper in a Xerox machine! I was a little concerned that the results would be skewed because the whole truck would shake each time the scan head moved; fortunately, the results don’t seem to have been affected. Bringing the DXA to the customers was a good idea on the part of Body-Spec. The company charges $40 for the initial scan ($55 for each scan thereafter), and it sells packages of up to four scans at a discount.

Read more about my body composition analysis »