Friday, December 13, 2013

Pencil from FiftyThree

I just received my Pencil from FiftyThree today, and here’s how it looks like and how it feels like.

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It comes within a nice paper tube. When you open it, you will notice the packaging is really nice. You would first pull out the Pencil, and then you would see the quick start manual. The plastic wrapper around the Pencil says you have to charge it first, so I pulled out the battery and plug it into an USB port.

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It took maybe an hour to charge, and then the light turned from yellow to green. I don’t know how long the battery will last, but I think Bluetooth LE shouldn’t use a lot of energy. Now let’s start the Paper app.

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I picked the walnut version. My piece of walnut wood doesn’t look as good as advertised, with less wooden color strips but more of those small cracks on the surface. I wouldn’t say it’s ugly, but just not as polished as I imagined. I tried to smell it. It was a silly idea because it doesn’t smell like wood at all.

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Establishing connection with the app is much easier than Pogo Connect. You don’t need to install another app (of course), and you don’t need to click a button on the stylus to initiate the connection. Just use the Pencil to touch the pencil icon in Paper for a few seconds and it’s connected. Then you can start drawing without worrying about how it recognizes the Pencil (including the eraser), your fingers and your palm.

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During my drawing, I noticed that Paper might recognize the Pencil (including eraser) as my finger. I guess it’s because I was not pressing the Pencil hard enough, so Paper received a touch without receiving Pencil down through Bluetooth. I tried to press harder when I use the Pencil and it seems that fixed the issue.

Drawing with Pencil is quite comfortable to me. It’s easier to control where the tip goes compared to Pogo Connect (or maybe my control over stylus has improved). The erasing area is not as big as the eraser, so I’d rather use undo if possible, because erasing a large area needs a lot of movement. Overall, I like drawing with Pencil more than with my previous styli, and $60 seems like a reasonable price to me.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

W/Me - health tracker or notifier?

If you don’t know what W/Me is, here’s its Kickstarter introduction:

It’s the fastest Kickstarter project delivery I’ve ever seen. It’s funded on 7/2 and shipped on 8/26. That’s less than 2 months. I don’t know if they’ve secured funding and built the thing then used Kickstarter to get some early adopters. This speed is really amazing to me.

I got mine a few days ago. It came with a Kickstarter limited edition wooden box. Inside the box, there’s W/Me plus 3 color bands. (I grabbed the last early bird spot at the last moment. Maybe somebody got cold feet?) There’s quick start guide, alcohol pad and a small note that says “the device may not be functioning perfectly in some particular individuals”. (Hope I’m not that special!)

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Before I received my W/Me, I noticed some Kickstarter backers said that it’s too small for them. However it’s obvious that W/Me is too large for my wrist. That made me wonder whether I should wear it around my wrist or around my forearm. (Later I found out I have to wear it around my wrist.)

Setting up the Bluetooth was easy, but starting the first measurement was rough. It kept saying that it couldn’t get good signal. I tried to touch it with different positions and my first measurement was still ended with a time-out. So I cleaned the sensors and tried again. The measurement wasn’t easy. It needs 3 minutes of data and any interruption requires at least 5 seconds to resume. At the end of the measurement I got 3 numbers: Agility, ANS Age, BPM. The problem is I don’t know their accuracy and I can’t verify them. (I can verify BPM with another app.)

W/Me measurement

After a few measurements, I started to learn how to do it properly. The best position to measure is above my wrist bone. Touching that area of the skin will give me stablest signal. However that only means no interruption. It doesn’t mean anything in terms of data quality. When the app shows a line that doesn’t look like a normal pulse line or a BPM way beyond 100, it’s collecting garbage. (Garbage in, garbage out.) So the real goal is to get data that makes sense to me.

W/Me measurement

(As you can see, when I tried to touch two buttons at the same time in order to take this screenshot, the pulse line went awry immediately.) I have to say that collecting the right data takes determination plus a little bit of luck. That discourages me from taking more measurement and makes coaching really hard to follow. Without the right data there’s no feedback, and without feedback coaching is a useless feature.

Besides health tracker features, W/Me has some small utility features. For example, in flashlight mode it turns on all its white LED lights and that’s actually brighter than my iPhone screen when in dark. It can be used as a remote control to iPhone camera, but I wish it works with Camera+. (Update: It actually works with Camera+ but in a weird way. I need to turn on find-my-iPhone and that signals Camera+ to take one photo.)

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It vibrates when there’s new email or Facebook notification, but the unread number disappears so fast that I usually only get to know that there’s unread email or there’s unread Facebook notification. I wish they increase that delay (or allow me to adjust it) in next update. It can signal the iPhone to start playing W/Me theme music, which acts a find-my-iPhone feature. However when my iPhone was connected to a Bluetooth speaker, that music was played through that Bluetooth speaker, which makes the feature useless.

In conclusion, W/Me is a cool gadget but it’s not something that “just works”. If you just want some reliable health tracker, go back to Fitbit. To me, as long as it doesn’t break like Jawbone UP, I’m okay with it.