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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pocket - How I Save The Internet

How do you consume your news?  Do you buy a traditional newspaper?  Do you just read the free newspaper on your daily commute?
Or, do you use your phone, tablet or PC to read the news?

I rarely read a newspaper; but I do read the news on my phone; each morning, as I wend my way to work, I flick through feedly and find articles of interest in my curated news feeds.  I also use Flipboard for more in-depth articles of interest.  When I find something I want to save for later, I add to Pocket.  This is how I "save the internet".

It's not just feedly.  It's possible to save articles from almost anywhere; especially by using the "share" feature, I select Pocket, and away it goes.





The next time I fire up the Pocket app on my mobile, or the site; all my saved articles are ready to ready to read.

Once I've added tags, I can then select tags to read, see where the videos are, or pictures.  Articles I want to keep handy I mark as favourites, others, when read can either be deleted for good, or simply archived.

Saving the internet has never been so easy.

Do you use Pocket?  Is there some other way in which you save articles for reading later?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New Tech - Episode 6 - Fitbit Fit

I will start this post by telling you that I am not, repeat not, a fitness fanatic.

It's been years since I went to the gym, or took part in any organised fitness activity.  I don't run.  I haven't been swimming for ages.  In fact, the only exercise I do is walking.

For a while I've been contemplating losing weight, and thought I'd get myself a pedometer - measure how far I walk, in an effort to concentrate my mind.

You can track various attributes such as steps, stairs,
calories burned and more...
Then I heard about Fitbit.  I did some research.  Thought about it.  Continued my walking and thought some more.  There is a range to choose from, from the small Fitbit Zip, to the top of the range Surge.

Now, that's a little over the top, but the Zip wasn't enough (even though it's exactly what I was looking for in a pedometer).

I opted for the Fitbit One.  It's a small device that can easily fit into a pocket, or clipped onto a waistband using the supplied clip.  It tracks a number of things:

  • Steps (that's the obvious one)
  • Floors climbed
  • Distance walked
  • Calories burned
  • Sleep
There's even a little plant that grows or shrinks based on how active you are!

Used in conjunction with the app (available on iOS or Android) and the web interface, the entire Fitbit philosophy is about getting fit, losing weight and keeping fit.

The website dashboard is where you go to log your food and drink.  There is a database of almost every food type, as well as ranges that can be purchased from supermarkets.  You can also scan the barcode on the packaging and most of the time it finds it.  This is a little hit and miss, there have been a few occasions where my food isn't recognised.  It's not a major issue, but it would be nice if the database was kept up to date.

Fitbit Dashboard
The Fitbit dashboard shows how you're doing
against the targets you've set

At night, slip the Fitbit One into a sleeve and wear it on your wrist. Set it going as you fall asleep and it tracks how soundly (or not) you sleep.

It's an activity monitor in reverse, recording times when you wake or are restless; and giving you an efficiency rating of your sleep.

Should you go running, cycling, roller-skating, play tennis; or any other physical activity, then you can set the timer off again, and it will record it as active time.

As I mentioned right at the start, I am not a fitness fanatic; however, using my Fitbit One is driving me to better my tracking scores each day.  Increasing the number of steps I do, watching what I eat and seeing it all reported on the website.  For the very serious, for a premium, you can get a whole host of reports - the first week is free, to try them out; and they are very detailed.

If you so desire, there's also a whole community to join in with, and compete against!  This isn't something I do, but I can see the benefits.  The website also hosts a great forum, for asking all sorts of questions.

Overall, my Fitbit One has seamlessly become part of my dress code, and I am often joked at for scanning barcodes and capturing my eating habits!

The last laugh will be on me, as I reach my goal.

Do you use a fitness tracker?  How has it helped you?




Sunday, May 24, 2015

New Tech - Episode 5

I like tech, and whilst I can't afford to buy new tech on a regular basis, when I see a potential, value-for-money opportunity, then I will grab it.

I did this with the Amazon Fire TV, and wrote about that here.

When the Amazon Fire TV Stick was announced I was intrigued; so I bought one.  Why?  Well, I love the main Fire TV - it's used almost everyday, both for Amazon Prime content, but also for BBC iPlayer.  The kids enjoy playing some of the games too.

So, why get the Stick version?  Well, since the Fire TV can only be watched on one TV, and it's not always convenient to watch when I want, having a second device, means I can access the content in another room.

Why not a second box?  That's a good question, but I suppose it comes down to cost.  The new Fire TV Stick is currently available for £25; so doesn't break the bank.  Also, the stick is small, and doesn't need a table top - so, it's ideal for a wall-mounted television.

It's so simple to set up (although the one downside is that you must have a dedicated power supply - the USB port on the TV isn't powerful enough!)  This is a shame, but not a showstopper.

So, I plugged it into the HDMI port, connected the power cable and within seconds I was asked to select the language, enter the password for my network and away it went.  Since I purchased it from my Amazon account, I was asked if I wanted to use my account on the stick, and then the setup was completed.




The included remote is different to the one supplied with the main Fire TV box; it's not quite as sleek, and there is no voice search (although you can do this via the free Fire TV app, available from Google Play, or App store).

With 8Gb of flash storage, to download apps or games, and a dual core processor, this small stick is not sluggish.

As well as BBC iPlayer, there is Demand5, Vevo, Netflix, Vimeo, Sky News, BBC News and much much more.

Performance was as expected; no buffering, and the picture quality is excellent; as is the sound.  The selections played flawlessly and as it's a cloud based service, it knew the last point I'd watched an episode of a programme, and asked if I wanted to resume.  You can also see photos or videos stored in your Amazon Prime cloud storage.

The question is, should you get one?  If you have an Amazon Prime account, this is a no-brainer.  And having the TV Stick means you can easily move it from room to room; take it away, use in student digs etc.

For me, this is the best way to get the most value for money from my Prime account, and at just £25 (the current offer; normal price £35), means I can consume even more Prime content.

Fab!

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