New LaserJet M252dw says goodbye to the old LaserJet 6MP
Technology

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!

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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.

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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 »

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A before and after photo of my weight loss journey.
Exercise, Running

Fit at 40… Before and After a 30 Pound Weight Loss

This post serves as a marker for my weight loss journey as I say goodbye to my 30s and say hello to my 40s. Regular readers, friends and family will note that I’ve been running and doing pull-ups like a madman over the past 8-9 months.

At my heaviest, I weighed 166 pounds. Before, I used to joke with Rae that I had a 5-point Photoshop stroke of blubber around my body. I told her that the lean, muscular Adam was always there, but he was hidden and waiting for the right moment to reveal himself. The shock on the scale, some poor health markers and the impending arrival of our son signaled to me that the time was now to get back into championship form.

As you can see, the hard work has paid off, and the difference in body composition is dramatic. Today, I weighed in at 136.8 pounds.

I might be pushing out the gut out a little bit in the before image, but the stomach had definitely gotten a little paunchy. It's in a much flatter state now!

From the side: I might be pushing it out a little bit in the before image, but the stomach had gotten paunchy. It’s much flatter now!

Read more on how I lost 30 pounds »

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Motorola Arris 6141 Cable Modem
Technology

Save Money Each Month By Buying Your Cable Modem

Late in 2014, I was making some adjustments to my Comcast plan and I realized that I was paying an additional $8.00/month to rent a cable modem for the past eight years — nearly $800! I recommend people to ditch the rental and buy your own cable modem. From Amazon, I purchased the highly regarded ARRIS / Motorola SurfBoard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem1 for $89.99 (regular price $99.99). In eleven months, the modem will have paid for itself.

Continue reading

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My minimalist closet. On the right are all the clothes that I will wear. On the left are dress clothes and my former clothes.
Decluttering, Exercise, Minimalism

The Minimalist Closet

It’s been a week since I started my minimalist uniform project; it’s going well, but I’ve made a few tweaks into the plan. First, I decided that having fifty cotton t-shirts to wear around the house defeated the purpose of the project. So, I found a deal on an Icebreaker Men’s Anatomica Short Sleeve Crew T-Shirt on Amazon1. The Anatomica is also made from merino wool, with a little lycra to give it a nice form-fitting stretch. The t-shirt in Monsoon gray color (last year’s edition) was on sale for $38.99, which is $30 cheaper than the Wool & Prince t-shirt. Sold. The Icebreaker now goes with the button-down oxford in my rotation of shirts that I’ll wear on a daily basis.

I’m a size small, but I’ll take the medium, please

This Miyajima deer doesn't care for the fact that I have worn baggy and ill-fitted clothes for many years, but I do!

This Miyajima deer doesn’t care for the fact that I have worn baggy clothes the past several years, but I do!

As I looked back on old photos of me from high school, college, and my adult years, I realized I wore a lot of clothes that were often one size too big. As I thought about why I would do this for twenty or more years, I concluded that it was to avoid accepting the fact that I had a small frame. I bought shirts in medium or larger to look bigger, but that decision just made it appear that I either (1) liked baggy clothes or (2) had little fashion sense (probably both!). Sadly, as the years went by and pounds added up, those medium shirts and jackets began to fit better.

Read the rest of this post and see the minimalist closet in action

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Wearing my new personal uniform while doing pull-ups at the local park.
Decluttering, Journal, Minimalism, Travel

My Minimalist Uniform Project for 2015

Since my exercise and weight loss journey began in the middle of 2014, I have lost about five inches off my waist (34 inches to 29 inches). That custom tailored double-breasted suit from Hong Kong that I got in the summer of 1995? I’m glad that style is coming back into fashion because the muffin top is gone, and the suit fits me again! Those durable North Face shorts I wore on my Desolation Wilderness backpacking trips in the late 90s and early 2000s but hid in my closet the last decade because they had gotten too tight? Time to start planning another backpacking trip because they’re loose and comfy now!

Getting my suit fitted and adjusted in Hong Kong circa 1994. After my weight loss, it fits again!

Getting my suit fitted and adjusted in Hong Kong circa 1994. After my weight loss, it fits again!

Seeing that the clothes I’ve been wearing the past several years are now too big, I’m jumping head-first into this sartorial opportunity to do something I’ve long wanted to do but was afraid to commit to: creating a minimalist uniform for myself. I’ve been inspired by people like Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg, President Obama and others who have adopted a minimalist clothing approach or a personal uniform. They’ve chosen to wear the same or identical clothes every day in order to concentrate on the things that are most important to them instead of wasting time on deciding what to wear. While my daily decisions don’t yet affect the financial future of multi-billion, multi-national companies nor the fate of the free world, I can still benefit from simplifying my life and freeing myself of the clothing decision every day.

Read more on my Minimalist Uniform Project

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