Fitbit Activity Tracking at The Gadget Show

Fitbit is well-known in the activity tracking space with their diminutive gadgets which monitor the wearer’s every move and snooze. It’s a busy space, with competitors hot on their heels, Fitbit has been expanding its portfolio with new colours, swappable wrist bands, wireless syncing with more devices and pre-installing its app on new smartphones. I chat with Peter from Fitbit about the company’s recent activity and the direction of travel for activity watchers.

Fitbit Range

How To Lose Weight

You might be forgiven in thinking that we’ve moved from a tech blog into a lifestyle magazine but I wanted to share a little of my life from the past 18 months. In late spring last year, I visited my doctor and she pointed out that in the 20 years since I joined her practice, I’d put on over 20 kg in weight – about 44 lb – and that my blood pressure was up. All classic signs of a heart attack waiting to happen. I had to lose some weight, get the pounds off and lower that blood pressure or an early exit beckoned. Obviously I’m still here but did I shed the pounds and how did I do it.

First of all, let’s get over the fact that there’s no diet in existence that will make you magically lose weight; you have to work at it. However, the recipe for weight loss is very straightforward – there are only three ingredients really.

  • Eat less
  • Eat better
  • Exercise more

While the recipe for weight loss is easy, I’ll admit that following it isn’t. The good news is that you can have three square meals a day; the bad news is that it means no junk – no crisps (chips), sweets or late night peanut butter sandwiches. There’s no need to starve: just take smaller portions and if you are full, stop eating.

Wii Fit Balance BoardAs a geek, I also employed a bit of tech to help achieve my goal – a Nintendo Wii with Balance Board, a Fitbit Zip and food apps / web sites.

Most people will be familiar with the Nintendo Wii though sadly its discontinuation has been announced in the past few day. The Balance Board is bundled with WiiFit and WiiFit Plus, and while the associated programs are fun enough, I used the Balance Board as electronic scales to record my weight. Each morning, shortly after getting up, I’d weigh myself on the Balance Board. If my weight was down, I gave myself a mental high five. If my weight was up, it was a mental “you need to do better”. The Wii records your weight day by day and will show a graph of your progress.

Fitbit ZipThe second piece of gadgetry is the Fitbit Zip. It’s an advanced digital pedometer that will upload its data to your PC and onwards to Fitbit’s portal. I received this for Christmas and Fitbit tries to gamify the activity of walking further by competing against friends and awarding badges. While I don’t need any stinkin’ badges, I was quite chuffed to be awarded my 1000 mile badge last month. The Zip doesn’t make you fitter by itself, but it does make you aware of walking and now I often choose to walk where previously I might have taken the car. Every little bit helps.

Finally to help eat better, I used a range of foodie websites and apps to find new, interesting and low calorie recipes. I find the BBC’s offerings both on their main site and on the Good Food site are excellent. Many of the supermarkets, such as Tesco, have good recipes too. Look for sections on healthy eating. App-wise, there’s a Good Food app on Android too. It helps if the app and website cater to metric as well as imperial units and do the conversions properly as directly converting from oz to g doesn’t work terribly well.

A word of advice. When browsing the supermarket shelves, “low fat” is not a particular benefit when the product is laden with sugar to make up the taste so approach with caution any food which loudly makes those claims. Ultimately, I found that weight and calories were the best guides so read the nutritional information on the back of food.

Did I succeed in losing weight with help from this tech? Absolutely – I’ve managed to lose nearly 18 kg (40 lb) and 4″ in waistline. There’s still a few pounds to lose but I do feel tremendously better for it. It has been hard work even with the tech – it requires willpower to say “no” to food, and food is so very much part of Western culture. But you can do it as I did. Remember; eat less, eat better, exercise more. Take encouragement from your success and determination from your setbacks.

WobZIP, An Online Unzipper

Have you ever downloaded some data off the ‘net only to find it’s in a compressed or archive file format that your PC doesn’t have a helper app for? Or you’re fixing up a friend’s PC, you download some drivers and ditto, you can’t get them unpacked?

If so, you’ll be interested in WobZIP. It’s a web site where you can upload an archive file and it will uncompress it for you.  Once uncompressed, you can either download the files one by one, or else the site will bundle the files back up into a zip archive for you to download.

The site is still in beta but claims to support the following archive formats – 7z, zip, gzip, bzip2, tar, rar, cab, iso, arj, lzh, chm, z, cpio, rpm, deb and nsis.  Obviously quite a few of those formats are Unix and Linux, but there’s a fair collection of DOS / Windows ones too.  As it’s a website, it doesn’t care what OS you’re running either. From the FAQ, WobZIP uses the open source 7-zip program as the decompression engine.

Cleverly, there’s also a feature to unpack or uncompress from a URL so you don’t always have to download to your PC and then upload back to WobZIP – you can just enter the URL and it will go and get the file for you.  Also, it will scan the unpacked files for viruses.

Put this site in your bookmarks.  You may not need it right now, but you will one day.

Goodbye, My Floppy Disks

In the process of moving. It’s always fun – especially when you find stuff you didn’t think you had. For example, I found a spring jacket I thought I lost 2 years ago. I also found all the power adaptor plugs and re-matched them to their original item (then marked them so I can tell where they are suppose to go).

As I was sorting out, I found a box of floppy disks I thought I discarded in the last move. There was no real data on it. They were utility discs like “Wipedisk”, a Ghost loading program, Partition Magic 4.0 and old copies of Windows software I thought I would keep around “just in case”.

Well, that case is over.

I think I only have one computer with a floppy drive attached. I decided it wasn’t worth it to check the disk, then format, because if there was data, it would be pictures that could be discarded.

But it did bring back some memories. The 150 – floppy disk computer backup I made back in 1999, the stack of “Utility” disks I carried for 5 years. Even the “retreads” – disks that could be erased on a moments notice because I needed the disk. Oh, can’t forget WinZip and the spanning feature to put 10 meg files on 10 disks.

Along with the Floppies, I also discarded a few Zip 100 disks. I don’t even have a Zip drive anymore. Still waiting on the Iomega rebate, too. Therefore, the disks are history.

I could open the cases and clip the contents. But once again, if someone wants a series of pictures from 1999, then they are welcome to them.

I just hope Goodwill takes them. I suppose the local “Radioactive Waste disposal” site will take them…

CD’s will be next. Especially if the 10 Terrabyte Disc is developed for consumer use.