Tuesday, September 29

Getting Smaller with iPhone #5: RunKeeper

Two weeks ago I talked about using Couch to 5K to start running. I more-or-less finished the program and ran 5K during a workout.

At least, I think I ran 5K. This is an open question because I was tracking my run with Nike+, and got a funny result:

That speed plummet near the end there? That was when I was feeling pretty good, turned on “Fel Del Av Gården,” and really picked up the pace.

That it registered as a significant drop in speed is disappointing to say the least.

My guess is that when I sped up, my stride changed from the one I had calibrated the sensor with. I was moving faster, but my foot must have been in contact with the ground longer [pdf], so Nike+ thought I had slowed down.

Since distance = speed × time, and I no longer trust the speed measurement, how far am I really going? Luckily, government satellites are here to answer the question.

WSJ: Dvorak Users Oppose Qwerty Layouts on Smart Phones, iPhones

Dvorak Users Oppose Qwerty Layouts on Smart Phones, iPhones:
But so far, most smart phone makers have ignored Dvorak fans begging to compose emails and text messages on the devices with their preferred keyboard layout. That has forced Dvorak users to settle for jerry-rigged solutions.
I switched to Dvorak about three or four years ago. It physically hurt. I had headaches for a few days as I reprogrammed my brain to use the new letter positions.

It was worth it in the end, though: the reduced wrist movement I think has been a contributing factor to the end of the RSI I had in college. (Other factors: switching to a thumby trackball and no longer playing Diablo II.)

Nevertheless, I definitely am not interested in Dvorak support on iPhone.

I’m worried that putting useful letters close together would break iPhone’s clever software keyboard. It already gets confused enough with the “u,” “i,” “o” letters, which can often substitute for one another. Imagine throwing “e” into the middle of that!

(I find it amusing that, long after jammed keys stopped being a problem, there still may be a valid physical reason to put commonly-used keys far away from each other.)

Also, I’ve found that I just haven’t forgotten QWERTY enough to make typing on the iPhone’s keyboard a chore. While I definitely cannot touch-type in QWERTY anymore (I suppose one can only hold a single keyboard layout in muscle memory at a time), I still feel pretty comfortable with where the keys are when I’m looking at the screen. The auto-correction is also good enough that speed at which I can actually move my thumb is the limiting factor for my typing on the phone.

(Thanks to Gwen for the link to the article!)

Friday, September 25

Graveyard Panorama

Taken in Salem, stitched together with Pano. 

(Sent with http://go.blogger.com/ yo!)

Multimedia message

Test for mobile video blogging.

Multimedia message

Taken at tonight's Harvard/Brown game. Brown almost pulled it out, thanks to a great late game drive followed by a successful on-sides kick, but it was not to be.

This is also a test of using go@blogger.com MMS from iPhone. 

Wednesday, September 23

Getting Bloggy With iPhone #1: BlogPressLite

Just a quick post to test out the new, free, semi-official iPhone app for Blogger, BlogPressLite [iTunes].

Set up's a bit confusing (bet you didn't know that you already have a PicasaWeb account if you're signed up for Blogger) but it beats Mail-to-Blogger for posting photos. Tip: tap a photo for size and alignment options.

Since the app is a birthday present, I thought I'd post a picture of our cake.

Since this is also a blog, here's a picture of my cat:

Edited from the iPhone version to remove some blank lines, add the iTunes link, and include this message.

Monday, September 14

Getting Smaller with iPhone #4: Couch to 5k

In the past few posts, I’ve talked about starting The Hacker’s Diet, counting calories with Lose It!, and graphing my weight with True Weight. Now I’m going to switch over to talking about exercise.

I read Wired’s “Live by the Numbers” article on Nike+ just as I was starting the diet, and, apparently being in a fairly suggestible state, decided to try it out. Exercise is good for periodically burning a chunk of calories (with Lose It! there to ensure that I don’t eat even more to compensate) but better for overall helping me become a healthier person.

I had tried running for a brief time in college, but both individual runs and the entire habit were quickly abandoned. I did learn two important lessons, however:
  • Do not just put on a pair of shoes and start running.
  • Do not try to match pace with Andrew W.K. songs.

Friday, September 11

Rachel Efron: Home to Me

“Home to Me” performed by Rachel Efron. From the 4AM CD release party at Café du Nord.

I saw Rachel Efron when she played Jupiter in Berkeley a year or so ago. She has a great mellow jazzy-pop sound and a beautiful voice.

She’s touring in support of her new album, 4AM, and is playing tonight in Cambridge at the Lily Pad.

I’ve found two more videos on YouTube from the 4AM CD release party in SF: “A Fool Could Find a Way” and “Goodnight My Dear” (which is from her first album, Say Goodbye).

Thursday, September 10

Getting Smaller with iPhone #3: True Weight

I mentioned in yesterday’s diet post that Lose It!, while otherwise pretty awesome, does not include the Hacker’s Diet–proscribed moving average graph of your weight. A moving average graph is pretty crucial for smoothing out the inevitable weight fluctuations that you’ll see when weighing yourself every day.

The app I’m using to fill this need is True Weight [app store]. It’s 99¢, though there’s also a lite version with no import / export and limited graph ranges if you really want a risk-free trial.

True Weight is a simple, straightforward app that asks for your weight and then graphs it with a moving average. It also does the math for a few key dieting stats. (In case you’re curious, that’s not my data over there. The image is taken from the official True Weight screenshot page.)

As you can see, the interface is quite pleasant and streamlined.

Wednesday, September 9

Getting Smaller with iPhone #2: Lose It!

In my last post I pitched The Hacker’s Diet and shared a bit about my initial, positive results on a calorie counting diet. In this one I’ll talk about Lose It!, the highly-recommended iPhone app that I used for budgeting and actually counting those calories.

(I’d like to thank Daniel Jalkut and Steven Frank for writing about Lose It! on Twitter, which both introduced me to it and sparked trying out a calorie counting diet in the first place.)

Lose It! is a free (as in “go try it right now because you don’t have to pay any money for it”) app for iPhone and iPod Touch that tallies up your food and exercise and tracks it against your day’s budget.

Lose It! has a built-in database of a variety of generic and brand-name foods that is fairly comprehensive. When it falls short, you can add a “custom food” by specifying a calorie count and also an amount, for which Lose It! has a nice diversity of units (“bottle,” “ounce,” “slice,” “scoop,” “stick,” &tc.). I’ve found I’ve had to go to the Web to find between a third and a half of a meal’s components, though this has lessened over time. (As an engineer, I’m pretty much willing to eat the same thing day after day after day.)

Your food calories are added (and your exercise calories subtracted) from your daily budget, which Lose It! calculates using your current and goal weights, and an estimation of your metabolism from height, age, and gender. Lose It! is clever enough to adjust the budget down as your weight changes, since your burn rate will be lower when there’s less of you.

Getting Smaller with iPhone #1: The Hacker’s Diet

About two months ago, more or less on a whim, I started on a diet. I had had intentions of trimming down with EA Sports Active’s 30 day challenges, but a broken Wii disrupted my rhythm, and after it got back I just couldn’t get myself excited about doing poorly-detected squats and lunges again*.

This is probably just as well, as I would have been disappointed with the results. Burning 200–300 calories three or four days a week won’t lead to impressive weight loss, especially since I’d probably just drink it all back on without noticing: unless one is prepared to forego taste, alcohol, and pride, at 160–180 calories each two bottles of actual beer can easily negate an entire Wii-based workout.

(Also, squats hurt and I don’t like to do them. They hurt in the moment, they hurt later in the afternoon, they hurt the next day. If “regular pain” is a component of your diet and weight loss routine you’ll need a lot more dedication than I to be successful.)

The better strategy for weight loss is to count calories. I recommend reading The Hacker’s Diet for the full explanation, but here’s a quick summary: