Category Archives: Product Reviews

Using Digital Health to help lose weight

As mentioned in my post Resolutions I have been on a mission to lose weight. This all started around October when I was hovering around 226-228 lbs. This is the heaviest I ever recall being and made me realize that I wasn’t helping by going out to eat as much as I was. It was also around that time that I read an interesting article about the Twinkie Diet. It was inspiring to see a knowledgeable (he is a nutrition professor after all)  man not only successfully lose a good deal of weight (27 lbs in 10 weeks), but also reduce his body fat index, improve his blood pressure, and make improvements to his cholesterol levels. The core concept of the diet is not eating crap food (that was just to prove a point), rather it was to reduce the daily caloric intake to 1,800 calories. I figured if he could do it eating crap, I could do it eating the same things I was eating, but adjusting the amounts to get as close to 1,800 calories/day. Now if you have been following this blog you’ll know that I am a gadget nerd and I just knew that using gadgets would greatly help me stay motivated and more involved in the diet process. Here is a full list of all things I have used during my time dieting to help me:

Gym

I have been a member at the local neighborhood YMCA for several years now. We have a family membership and all enjoy the activities and atmosphere. The only thing that sucks is that a bunch of people make new year resolutions and take up a lot of space in the month of January (thankfully a most never last more then a month).

Hardware

fitbit Wireless Trainer – Ever since I first saw this device announced I was interested in it. It is a pedometer and activity monitor. I actually purchased this device because of its ability to monitor your activity while sleeping (kind of a minimalist C-PAP monitor), but have enjoyed using it to track my daily activity and their website is great (but I’ll get to that in a second). If you use the link I provided you can get the fitbit rather quickly but will pay a premium for it (about $150 retail), however you order from fitbit.com you will only pay about $100, but beware that your direct order may be back-ordered for 2-3 months (as mine was).

Withings Wifi Body Scale – Alright I know what you may be thinking “$150 bucks for a scale!”, but this has been so crucial for me as I monitor my weight management progress. I have had a scale, but nothing that made me check back and regularly make weighing myself an enjoyable game. Plus their web interface is pure sweetness!

Timex Easy Trainer Heart Rate Monitor – Now this is a more recent addition to my equipment regimen, but it has been so great using it. There is a lot of evidence that using heart rate to tailor your workout is great for maximizing your workout efficiency (seriously just Google it). I love how the monitor automatically syncs with the treadmills I use at the YMCA. However I will say it takes a little getting used to the chest strap.

Nike+ Sport Band – This is even more new for me. I got this as a Christmas gift and have only gotten a chance to use it one time. Although the amount of workout detail it provides is awesome! I hope to come back to this post after more uses and provide additional details.

Websites

fitbit.com – So I totally just planned on using the fitbit website because I had the fitbit, but when I first ordered the fitbit there was a delay of several months I had to wait due to a large backorder. During my waiting for the device I regularly checked the website and found myself using it to track my daily calorie intake. This has been a great site for daily management of my food, activities, and fitbit statistics now that I have my fitbit.

withings.com – The withings website goes hand-in-hand with the withings scale. Their online experience is fantastic (it is a wifi scale after all), plus they have some great apps for smart phones too.

These are all things that have helped me make my weight loss challenge more of a game. In doing so they have assisted in keeping me motivated to continue changing my lifestyle. In reality it has been a change in my eating habits and working out habits that have led to weight loss.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. If you are considering adjusting your diet don’t do so based on my advice, talk to your doctor. While I do personally use all products above, the links provided are affiliate links that I earn credit for if you decide to purchase.

Nook Color – Rooted with Full Android Access

I have been keeping my eye on the Android tablet market for a while now. Especially the 7 inch tablet form factor. I wanted something that provided a great portable user experience that was relatively inexpensive (sub $250). I also had a requirement that the tablet must NOT include a wireless contract; my plan was to exclusively use wifi. After reading all about the Nook Color rooting that was released on many sites this week, I thought I most certainly found my tablet, so I bit the bullet and made the purchase. At the $250 price point the cost will pay for itself simply as an eBook reader since the savings on eBooks for my last few college text books is that much cheaper then the physical books. So lets jump right into it:

The Nook Color device:

Tenny Unboxing the Nook Color

The Nook Color packaging is pretty tight, there is the Nook Color tablet, a USB cable, a power adaptor and some support materials. When first turning it on you immediately get a sense of it’s capabilities with the stock Nook Color getting started video:

The reason the Nook Color is so powerful is that it runs on the Google Android Platform.  Out of the box it is quite locked down, but in a few hours you can unlock the power of this machine. The focus of this post is unlocking or rooting a Nook Color so that you can install the apps of your choosing, but if you are interested in the stock Nook Color interface please see these videos from the Barnes & Noble website.

Rooting Nook Color:

I did not figure out these steps,that was done by a skilled group of folks at xda-developers.com and nookdevs.com. If you do have problems I would be more then happy to try and help you, but the XDA forum folks and the NookColor IRC group at webchat.freenode.net #NookColor are far more qualified.

Before starting I would like to mention that while some people have gotten this to work with Windows 7 I was not. All instructions I provide will be for Ubuntu 10.10 desktop. If you don’t have Ubuntu (or experience using it) you can download it from the Ubuntu Downloads page. There is a CD/Thumbdrive loader so you can use it without installing it (which is what I needed to do on my Win7 laptop which had a SD slot).

You will NEED the following items before getting starter:

Steps to Root the Nook Color:

  1. Boot into Ubuntu and open your browser
  2. Download Pokey9000’s “nooter” (I used the 0.2 file update 1/Dec/2010) to your Downloads folder:
  3. Extract the file to your Downloads folder
  4. Write the microSD card image
    • Insert the microSD card into the card reader
    • Click System > Administration > Disk Utility
    • Locate your SD card and click it.
    • On the right click Unmount Volume
    • Under Volumes write down the name of your device: (mine is /dev/mmcsd1)
    • Close the Disk Utility
    • Go to Applications > Accessories > Terminal
    • Navigate to the Downloads directory (type: cd Downloads)
    • Write the image to your microSD card.
      • WARNING: This will completely erase your microSD card. Be sure to back it up!
      • Type: sudo dd if=nooter_sdcard_40mb.img of=/dev/<sdcard name>
    • Remove the microSD card from your computer.
    • I suggest reinserting the SD card into your computer and making sure the card now shows as a 40MB drive named “nooter002”. When opened it should have 4 total files in it. If it doesn’t redo step 4, if it does remove the card and continue.
  5. Make sure the Nook Color is completely turned off (holding the Power button for 15 seconds will ensure that it is completely off) and then insert the microSD card into the Nook Color.
  6. Plug the USB cable into the Nook Color and then into the computer.
  7. It is ideal to use the provided USB cable from the Nook kit since it show you that it is communicating by lighting up the LED may blink. The Nook Color should NOT boot into the Nook interface when plugged in, if it does it means that it is not reading the card properly.
    • I would just advise waiting about 4-5 minutes at this point. There is no confirmation screens or anything so it is difficult to know when the root access is definitively applied.
      • You may notice a popup that shows a new ethernet and serial combo device but you may ignore this.
      • Disconnect the USB cable.
  8. Disconnect the USB cable and remove the microSD card.
  9. Now to turn on the nook Color hold down the power button for about 15 seconds. You can release it once you see text appear on the screen. The Nook Color will boot normally (there will be no real indication that anything happened at this point)
  10. Reconnect the USB cable to the Nook Color and the Computer
  11. At this point you should be able to access the Nook Color, but this will require installing the Android Development SDK (which I’ll cover next).
  12. Before doing this we do want to make sure to add the device as an acceptable Android device. To do this we need to add the Nook Color vendor id to your computer (the id is 0x2080).
  13. Back in the terminal window type the following:
  • sudo sh -c “mkdir -p ~/.android; echo 0x2080 >  ~/.android/adb_usb.ini”

Adding Android Development SDK to your computer so that you can add Apps to the Nook Color:

There are multiple methods to doing this, I choose the Eclipse method since I plan on doing some Android development once I get everything up and running.

  1. On your computer Applications > Ubuntu Software Center
  2. In the search type Eclipse
  3. When the results are shown click the Eclipse Integrated Development Environment and then click install (this may take a little while).
  4. While Eclipse is installing, go online to the Android website and download the SDK. Make sure you choose the Linux version.
  5. When this download is complete, extract it to the folder of your choosing. I choose to extract it to my home folder.
  6. Once the SDK is extracted I right-click the extracted folder and renamed it to androidsdk
  7. Now check the progress of your Eclipse install, once it is finished lets start the Eclipse program.
  8. Launch Eclipse by clicking Applications > Programming > Eclipse
  9. On the Eclipse menubar, click on Help > Install new software
  10. At the Work with field, enter http://download.eclipse.org/releases/galileo and then click Add.
  11. Check all the check boxes in the bottom of the window and then click Next to install.
  12. Once the installation is done, restart Eclipse.
  13. Once Eclipse has reloaded, on the menubar go to Windows -> Preferences. On the left, select the Android entry.
  14. Enter the Android filepath (which if you remember from above should be at /home/androidsdk/) in the SDK location field. Click Apply follow by OK.
  15. Now in the menubar go to Windows -> Android SDK and AVD Manager.
  16. On the left pane, select the “Available Packages” entry. On the right, place a check on the version of the Android SDK (2.1 is the version on the Nook Color as of 12/3/10) that you want to install. Once done, click the Install Selected button.
  17. That’s it. You have now installed and  set up Android SDK in your Ubuntu and will be able to access the Nook Color from terminal to install apps. You can close out of Eclipse at this time.Open terminal again (Applications > Accessories > Terminal)

Accessing the rooted Nook Color from Ubuntu

Now to see if you did everything correctly…

  1. Open terminal again (Applications > Accessories > Terminal)
  2. Navigate to the androidsdk tools folder
    • If you have followed every direction so far you should be able to type: cd ../android/tools
  3. Now we will verify that the Nook Color and Ubuntu are communicating by typing: adb devices
    • When I type this I actually need to type ./adb devices
  4. You should see an entry that is a series of numbers followed by the word device if everything worked out correctly.

Troubleshooting step here. If your device returns as “??????????????? no permission” it is due to not having started the server with root authority. To fix this type the following into terminal:

  1. ./adb kill-server
  2. sudo ./adb start-server

This should address the issue and show your device correctly.

Configuring the rooted Nook Color to install directly from the device

There are 2 methods to installing files to your rooted Nook Color; using the Android ADB process from the computer to the Nook Color or directly installing APK files on the Nook Color without hooking it up to a computer.

  • In your open terminal window (which should still be open in your home/androidsdk/toolslocation) type the following (and then press Enter at the end of each line:
    • adb pull /data/data/com.android.providers.settings/databases/settings.db settings.db
    • sqlite3 settings.db
    • sqlite> update secure set value=1 where name=’install_non_market_apps’;
    • sqlite> .q
    • adb push settings.db /data/data/com.android.providers.settings/databases/settings.db
  • Now if you get any errors on the adb lines (I know I did) you should replace adb with ./adb and try again.
  • Once the script works remove the USB cable from the Nook Color and reboot it.

Adding apps to the rooted Nook Color

This is how you install an app using the adb method. After I how to install an app using adb I am going share with you my recommendations for how to setup your Nook Color to get the ideal tablet experience. The instructions for adding an app is pretty simple at this point.

  1. Plug the USB cable back into the Nook Color (once connected run the adb devices command again in terminal again to make sure it is showing the device)
  2. Now open the web browser and download a publicly posted APK. One of the more popular places to find Android APK files is http://www.freewarelovers.com/android. To make this easy in my example I am going to use the Andappstore APK since it adds an easy to use appstore to your Nook Color.
  3. You can download the Andappstore APK from http://andappstore.com/AndroidApplications/apps/AndAppStore_Client
  4. I recommend creating a folder in your androidsdk folder called APK. This will make it easier to follow along as I am giving my examples.
  5. Save the download to the APK folder and call it andappstore.apk
  6. In your open terminal window (which should still be open in your home/androidsdk/tools location) type: cd ../APK
  7. Now we need to apply the APK file to the nook by typing the following and then pressing enter: ../tools/adb install andappstore.apk
  8. It may take a few seconds, but you should see a message returned that shows transfer speed and confirms that the install is a Success
  9. Now unplug the USB cable from your Nook Color, click the extras button on the Nook Color home screen and you should see Andappstore as an application. If you don’t see it you may need to reboot the Nook Color in order to see the app.
  10. Open the Andappstore and start installing applications directly on to your Nook Color.

note: SlideMe is another appstore that can be added to the Nook Color to install apps. The big difference with SlideMe is that it requires that a microSD card be installed in the Nook Color in order to install the apps. I have also noticed that SlideMe’s app store is a little more robust then Andappstore. You can download SlideMe at http://slideme.org/sam2.apk

Tenny’s recommended Nook Color Android Tablet configuration

I want to use my Nook Color as an Android Tablet first and foremost, so these steps will explain how to set up the Nook Color to get a true tablet experience. These steps assume you have followed all of the steps outlined in this post and have the Andappstore setup and running.

  1. First I want to replace my home screen from the default Nook Color home screen to something more usable. To do this I will be adding Launcher Pro and Home Switcher.
    1. Launcher Pro install
    2. Home Switcher
    3. Once both Launcher Pro and Home Switcher are installed on your Nook Color, remove the Nook Color from USB
    4. On your Nook Color go to Extras > Home Switcher
    5. Click on set default next to Launcher Pro
    6. Press the Home Button on the Nook Color and your home screen should have changed.
    7. Press the menu button (it looks like an = symbol with 3 lines instead of 2) and then click Preferences
    8. Click Homescreen Settings and then change Number of columns and Number of rows to your linking. (I went with 6×6)
    9. After you click ok to the reset Launcher Pro box that appears click the Home Button and your new layout should appear.
    10. To move apps to your new homescreen click the button and then press and hold the app until the app appears on the homescreen. Drag to the desired location and then remove your hand.
  2. Task management is an issue with any pre-2.2 Android release. Apps stay open and end up slowing the Nook Color down big time! To combat this we can install a task manager to keep tabs on what is running. My personal favorite is SystemPanel.
    1. SystemPanel
      1. SystemPanel is not available on the Andappstore so you will need to follow steps 1-8 of Adding apps to the rooted Nook Color in order to install it.
      2. The SystemPanel APK can be downloaded at http://www.megaupload.com/?d=MSJIJZVA

After adding additional apps, applying a widget here and there and configuring it to your liking you should get a screen similar to this:

I also plan on doing a follow up post highlighting some of key Android apps out there and how they work on the Nook Color. As a sneak preview some of the apps that will be dicussed will be Angry Birds, Kindle, Aldiko, Dolphin HD, OfficeSuite, Pandora, and many more!

The Kindle app is freakin awesome!

It isn’t often that something technology based really moves me, but this week that happened. I have been going to Upper Iowa for 5 years now in the evenings to complete my Bachelors Degree in Business Administration. I have a big stack of various text books stored near my computer desk. When it comes to text books I have a number of issues

  • They cost way more then they should (stupid old fashioned monopolies)
  • They are rarely reusable (although I have referenced a few over time)
  • They just take up a lot of space
  • I have used a few ebook solutions such as CourseSmart and VitalSource Bookshelf, but have always hated using them due to craptastic DRM and terrible software user interfaces. This week was different though, when looking for solutions for my Entrepreneurship and Small Business class, I found the book as a Kindle download:

    Now before I say anything else, I need to explain that I don’t actually have a Kindle. I do however have the Kindle app on my laptop. I have a few books for the Kindle app as well, but I never thought much of the experience. This time was different though. I was ready to buy and because I am a loyal Amazon customer I had the option to 1-click purchase. Again, I have purchased several things on a 1-click purchase and while it was cool, I was never compelled to blog about it. Well less then 10 seconds after clicking the 1-click purchase my Kindle app had cataloged the new text book. As a student who doesn’t always purchase everything way in advanced this was awesome! I wish every text book was on the kindle app because their delivery process alone is far superior to anything else I have ever used.

    Then it came time for reading our first assignment. It took me 15 minutes to get the app configured just right so that the reading was comfortable for me. This is another incredible aspect of the Kindle app for me. Being able to customize the display to this degree was something else that the Kindle app does that no other ebook reader comes close on.

    I am just overall blown away by how great the Kindle app experience has been so far. So take it from me, if you want a quality ebook experience (especially for text books) I highly recommend using the Kindle app.

    Foursquare is awesome but…

    The timing of this post is appropriate for a number of reasons. First, in the next 48 hours it is speculated that Facebook will be launching places to directly compete with Foursquare check-ins. Second, (even though I signed up last September) I have been using foursquare consistently for over 9 months now. You can find me on Foursquare at http://www.foursquare.com/jmtenny. Third, Foursquare continues to grow at an amazing pace!!

    I have to admit, Foursquare has been a lot of fun. For someone competitive like me, it has been a fantastic way to turn various aspects of daily life into a game. Additionally, it has introduced me to some awesome people who were present at the same location I was (shoutout to @Terrenceisdaman & @sunset_escape). Hell it has even allowed my wife Marcia (who is also now using Foursquare as @marcha)and I to save money at the Gap.

    So I am sure you may be thinking “then why the but”? Well, I feel that Foursquare is still lacking in several areas. Part of the reason I choose Foursquare over Gowalla was the incredible smartphone app support available for Foursquare. But my experience (using the Blackberry app) has been mixed to say the least. Issues with inconsistent availability, incorrect location (admittedly this may be more of an issue with my provider then with Foursquare), and difficulty finding venues have been just some of the more troubling issues.

    The single biggest issue I have is the Venue versus Event conflict. As I see it Foursquare was designed to allow you check in at a place, but more and more I see people bending the behavior by checking into events. An example of this occurred this summer at the Wisconsin State Fair in Milwaukee, WI. People should have been checking into the location (Wisconsin State Fair Park), but were instead checking into Wisconsin State Fair. I know this is nitpicking, but it is too inconsistent. I feel like Foursquare should have both options: “Check into Venue” and “Check into Event”. All events should be required to be tied into at least 1 venue, but it could be multiple as well for events such as the Olympics, Worldcup, World Series, etc. Then when you check into a Venue you should be asked if you’re at an event there. Likewise if you check into an Event you should be asked which Venue you’re attending the Event at.

    The last issue I have at this time is that there is no way to self select favorites. When I am near certain locations chances are that is where I will be checking in at. So going through a huge list of other random places I have never checked in at just takes time and adds to my check-in fatigue.

    Despite some of these issues I will continue using Foursquare for the time being. I would use others as well if I had a single place to check into all (Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places?, Google Places?, etc), but for the time being Foursquare will continue to remain my geo-checkin solution.

    I highly recommend this…

    I know what your thinking, you recommend what?  One of my favorite things to read on some other blogs I frequent is a good product review and recommendation. I am also trying to hold true to my promise to myself to be more active on the blog for 2010 and felt that this would be a good topic to share.

    With all the crazy sickness going around taking one’s temperature is pretty important to gauge if your body is impacted by a certain sickness. Well my family has always been the traditional stick-it-under-your-tongue thermometer people, but that all changed last week when we got an Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer. Here is a link to the exact model on Amazon that we got:

    This thing is so awesome and it makes me wonder how we managed for so long with the old fashioned thermometer we had been using. You literally hold it to the forehead, swipe across towards the hair line and you have your temp. The other night we were trying it out and it was quick (we managed to take 3 people’s temp twice each in under a minute), easy (my 4 year-old used it on me without issue), and really quite inexpensive at about $30.

    Now we did have some slight variations in temperature but it didn’t appear to be significant enough to cause alarm. It is said to be slightly less accurate then the old fashioned under the tongue thermometer, but more accurate then the in-the-ear thermometer. With a new baby on the way I am just excited by the fact that we don’t need to do a in-the-butt or in-the-armpit temp taking any more!