Is the iPhone 6 a Viable Fitness Band Alternative?

The iPhone 5S brought a pedometer with it and now the iPhone 6 includes a barometer, so with these tools along with new features in iOS 8, I thought I’d look and see if just the phone was a good alternative to buying a standalone fitness band.

I’ve been interested in fitness bands since they began to gain in popularity and thought they provided some neat ways to save/track fitness data, but with some issues with skin irritations I was reluctant to plunk down the $100+ for one. The only exception that I can really close to buying the last year was the Fitbit One which can be clipped onto your waist rather than having to be worn on your wrist. It is also a bit more subtle than wearing a bright colored object on your wrist at work.

Health App In iOS 8


iOS 8 included a new health app which I think gets a bit confused by people as to what it healthbook1smallactually does and is for. I’ve observed that most people think that it is a fitness app like many on the app store, but now one made by Apple. This thought is actually incorrect and it should be more looked at as the hub of your health data that works in conjunction with the other apps. It allows health apps to write data to it and at the same time read data from it. This way if you use a combination of apps, you aren’t having to input the same data twice as you might like entering calorie data in one app and workouts in another. You can then use health as an easy way to get a birds eye view of your health data with the graphs it provides and in some cases if you so feel inclined share them with a health professional.



Apotassium user can add the most important things they want to track in the dashboard section, but can also dig further into the health data tab for other items anytime they want. This is handy if for example you needed a low potassium diet, so you’d just add that to the dashboard and throughout the day have a quick way to check that. However, rather than entering the potassium each time manually, you’d use another app that might have a barcode scanner to track most of your food and it automatically sends the nutritional values to the health app and then it makes it easier to find that information in the health app.

Now that I’ve covered the Health app, let’s go in to some of the apps I use for collecting the data. I mainly use two for this with the first being:


Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker By My Fitness Pal

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 2.33.01 PMI use the My Fitness Pal Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker as mainly an app for tracking my caloric intake and keeping track of my weight. It works really well for this. It includes a nice barcode scanner for inputing prepackaged food and I’ve also found almost everything I have had to input manually has also been on file with a simple search within the app. It can read my steps from the health app and adjusts the caloric intake accordingly. I have a pretty sedentary job, so I went with the option to lose 1lb a week and I’ve found that I’ve been able to do that based on the requirements it set for me. I’ve been taking about a 30 minute walk during my lunch time to get in most of the exercise I get each day. There is also a Facebook like feed that is in the home section of the app if you have several friends using it where you can like/comment on their activity to help motivate each other.




The other app I use is Lark, which I found, because of a great review at This app is almost like having a fitness assistant to help you throughout the day, give you tips, and congratulate you on accomplishments. Even though it isn’t talking with a really person, it’s nice after doing my walk to have a notification pop up telling me I’m doing a good job. It’s a good way to help keep you motivated. I like it for these features and this adds something that I also wanted that other apps didn’t do yet and that is sleep tracking. By using the iPhones motions sensors it can get a pretty good idea when my phone is sedentary on the nightstand all night and when I wake up to turn off the alarm in the morning. It is a pretty basic overview and there are apps that can try and track what kind of sleep you get, but I don’t like the idea of sleeping on my phone while it is under my pillow. This is also an area that a fitness band could take over if you wore it over night, but for now it at least gives me an idea of when I set out to go to bed and when I woke up. I can then decide if I should change my schedule or not.



I’ve been using this combination of apps and iPhone 6 hardware for about a month now and have lost 4 pounds. 🙂 So far, I think they are a very good option rather than spending the extra cost for a dedicated fitness band. Obviously, your mileage might vary if you have very specific needs in what to track, but based on what I wanted, the only area I feel that could be lacking is the sleep tracking, but it is a compromise I can live with. There is unfortunately a little bit of a learning curve to all of this, but it isn’t too bad once you make it a habit. It’s at least nice that there is now a way for these apps to communicate with each other, so if you prefer the way one app works in one area over another you can easily have your data in multiple fitness apps.


The Mac Turns 30


Today the Mac turns 30 and while I haven’t been a Mac user that whole time, I thought it was a good time in reflecting on my journey with the Mac.

I was familiar with Apple computers in school, but grew up mostly as a PC guy. In fact if I would have been asked any time in the 90’s if I would have considered a Mac it would have been a flat out NO. I even had an I Hate Macintosh graphic on my personal website back then. At that time, I worked for an ISP and my limited experience was with System 7 and how difficult it seemed to get that OS on the Internet, so we dreaded any time that someone brought in a Mac. I remember when the iMac was released in ’98 and my friends father who was always a Mac user got one. I was not a fan of the hockey puck mouse and the lack of floppy drive. That just seemed so crazy at that time as it was before cd burners had even become affordable, so I didn’t get how anyone was supposed to share files easily then.

I continued being a PC user into the early 2000s and kept up with every Windows release up to XP when they finally moved everyone over to the NT codebase after that was delayed by the stopgap of ME. I had moved on from that ISP job, but still very much in the support field. I still dreaded anytime someone had a Mac problem and I’ll admit now that it was because I didn’t know the system. Eventually, we lost our Mac support technician and it was put on me to take his place. While dreading it at the time, it was really something that I needed. I began to learn the ins and outs of OS X and how the system worked. It eventually started to click and I began finding myself wondering why Windows had done things so differently. I loved the fact that there was no registry to deal with and that to delete a program it was a simple matter of dragging that application to the trash instead of having to use add/remove programs in the control panel. Also, the fact that a virus scanner, adware removal tools, and things of that nature didn’t have to be installed because Windows was the target for those problems.

The first Mac I actually owned was a very old one, but I thought it was a good way to give it a try at home and decide if it was something I really wanted for home use. This Mac was a beige G3 desktop. It could still run OS X and I learned how easy it was to upgrade the RAM and optical drive since they took the same as a PC which I didn’t realize was possible until before then. Needless to say, that machine worked well, but I did find fairly quickly that it wasn’t fast enough for me. So, shortly after I went for a refurbished white g3 iBook. After that, I was officially hooked. I was still going to college at the time and it became my school computer. I all of a sudden understood why these Mac users in the past were so passionate about their systems. The Apple system just felt so polished compared to what I was used to. The hardware had all these little details that you typically wouldn’t consider, but you knew that the person who designed it spent countless hours grueling over all the little details to make the best computer possible.

There are various other reasons why I like the Mac experience and I’ll gladly talk about it, but that was where it started. I still realize it isn’t for everyone and I also realize that, but I don’t think anyone can deny that it has its place in history and it is amazing that it is still going strong today especially when Apple almost saw its demise in the 90’s.

Here’s an image of my Mac evolution up to my current Retina Macbook Pro.


35 Years of Terror

Well, on November 16th this year, I hit the 35 year old mark. Sarah went all out to help make it a birthday to remember. We planned it all around a little vacation to California and the 35 Years of Terror convention which was celebrating 35 years since the first Halloween movie was released.


The festivities began, before we left, when Sarah treated me to a haircut and straight razor shave. It was quite the experience with the hot towels on my face and everything. Sweeny Todd jokes aside, the person who did it was great and did not cut me at all. I’d certainly do it again.

We flew to California on the 14th direct from Provo which was nice, so we didn’t have to take the time to drive. That day we went to the beach for a little bit, checked into our hotel, and ordered a nice Pizza from Papa Johns for dinner. We also got to see the Anaheim convention center which will be the place that Star Wars Celebration VII will be held in 2015, so it was kind of like getting a sneak peek.

10914228464_69e50df934_bThe 15th was the day we went to Disneyland. Sarah got me my birthday button that I wore all day, so all the staff said, “Happy Birthday Shawn!”, to me everywhere we went. It was a really fun experience and the first time that I’d been there on my birthday. They had just gotten finished the prior week setting up all the decorations for the holidays, so it was all set up for Christmas and the Haunted Mansion ride redone with the Nightmare Before Christmas theme. 10914161286_76ea9e8d6e_b

They also still had the Iron Man exhibit where you could see a bunch of the prop suits set up like in the most recent movie. As I understand it, this was supposed to be gone by now, but because it has been such a success, they’ve kept it around a lot longer.


Now that most know, we’re expecting our first child, so it meant that Sarah couldn’t ride a lot of the rides while we were there. She still insisted I ride some of our favorites though and enjoy them for her too. One of the most interesting was Space Mountain. We always do this one a couple of times while we are there and it just so happened the one time I rode it the ride stopped while I was in the middle of it. They turned on the lights while they were fixing whatever


happened and it looked nothing like how I thought it would. I was expecting something a little more roller coaster looking and instead it is all enclosed in various levels. It was long enough that I took my iPhone out and snapped a quick picture. They quickly fixed the problem, ran us through the end, and then let us ride it again normally, so in the end I got to ride it twice.


I also had planned on the photo near the end of the ride. I had hoped Sarah would see it on the monitor when I came out that I was thinking of her while I was on there.







One of the times I was off on a ride, Sarah was getting some food. I came back to meet her at the restaurant she was at and the waiter saw my birthday button and out of the blue brought me a cupcake. I was really surprised by that where I wasn’t even the customer, so Disney really knows how to go out of their way.



We stayed at the park most of the day and then left for a birthday dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack. I like my seafood, so it was an excellent choice. I had a combination of Lobster, Crab Legs, and Shrimp. I was definitely very full after a meal like that. They of course had to humiliate me 🙂 with a bib, a game of trying to find a cherry in a bowl of whip cream with no hands, and sang to me. It was a fun time.


After the festivities we went back to Disneyland and downtown Disney for a little bit of shopping. I think I did Star Tours one more time for roughly 4 times throughout the day. We also picked up a few of our Star Wars vinylmation figures that have become a tradition when we visit the parks.

We did a lot for one day that day, but it will definitely be a memorable one.

10914222366_5d1b3d7259_bOn the 16th, my actual birthday, we went to Pasadena for the 35 Years of Terror convention. We purposely got a little early start as the original movie was filmed there and also quite a bit of the Rob Zombie reimagining. I planned on two locations to visit that I thought were iconic. The first, was the Meyers house at the beginning of the film where Michael kills his sister. Apparently the house was moved at some point, so it isn’t in the exact location it was in the film, but it is definitely the house. Abandoned at the time of filming, It is now being used as a Chiropractors office. They had a sign that photos were fine, but not to get up onto the balcony area. The other location we went to was an intersection that was used to establish Haddonfield Illinois in another opening shot. The trees have obviously gotten taller and the cars a little more modern, but it still looked a lot like the film. Even while driving around in that area the location felt very much like the streets that Laurie and her friends are walking on in the movie. The experience made me want to find some of the Salt Lake filming locations that were used in Halloween 4 and 5.


After that it was almost time for the actual convention to start. We got there, bought our tickets, and then had a little bit of time to relax while waiting for the general admission holders to be let in. One of the first places I wanted to go was the Mondo table. They had a limited edition poster that a collector wanted me to try and get for him, but I quickly found out they had sold out the first day and didn’t bring very much stock with them. They also had the Halloween soundtrack on vinyl in a limited cover which I had wanted, so I quickly picked that up.

BZXsnvqCIAAHek8.jpg-largeThe convention was very low key compared to SDCC or the Star Wars Celebrations that we have been to. For most of the actors that were there, it was simply just walk up to the table to get an autograph and the pricing was very good too. I’ve never been a huge autograph collector, but one I did want to get was Danielle Harris, who as a young girl starred in Halloween 4 and 5, then later on as an adult was in the two Rob Zombie reimaginings. She seemed very down to earth and was having fun. Sarah and I were a little starstruck, so the conversation was very light, but I picked up a nice autograph and got a quick picture with her. We also attended the Halloween 4 panel with a good portion of the original cast.

10914503053_4f7b9107bd_bLike any convention, there were of course people dressed up and some good photo ops. Here’s one that Sarah and I did with a good looking Michael Myers. He did a great job in just wandering around and being a spooky. For example, you’d be sitting in a panel and just look across the room and there would be Michael just standing there.

Overall, it was an amazing time and a birthday I will never forget. Sarah really outdid herself and the bar is set high for me to try and do something just as nice for her. 🙂

Jobs: The Movie

ashton-kutcher-as-steve-jobsLate last night, I was able to attend a showing of the new movie, Jobs. I have been interested in this movie ever since production started and I saw some of the stills of Ashton Kutcher in the role of Steve Jobs. Kutcher certainly had the look down, but the obvious question was, could someone who was more associated with comedy and typically plays an airhead, do this role justice? It seemed like most of the tech media didn’t even want to give him a chance because to many, he’ll always be Michael Kelso from That 70’s Show. That 70’s Show is one of my favorite television comedies of all time, but I was willing to look passed that and see what he could do and hoped they did a good job with the story.

This movie does cover a lot of the same ground that has been covered before. It focuses mostly on the early life of Jobs/Apple Computer. From working out of Steve’s parents garage, up to his ousting at Apple in 1985. All of this had been shown in the T.V. movie, Pirates of Silicon Valley, already and while the previous movie is a bit more historically accurate, this movie does present it in a more pleasing way for the viewer to ingest who wants the quick version. This movie does go a little beyond that with the mention of NeXT and showing when Steve was actually asked to come back to Apple.

One of the things I was curious about was wether or not this movie would glorify Steve Jobs as the perfect man that sometimes people think he was. Like anyone, he had some serious faults, especially in the early days and quite a few of these come out in the film. One of the big ones was how he treated people including the real brains behind the technology, Steve Wozniak. I was actually surprised that the movie even took the time to show Jobs time at Atari when he had Wozniak created the game Breakout and then took full credit and the majority of the money. The other obvious one, that was also shown even more so in Pirates of Silicon Valley , is how he handled things with his daughter Lisa in denying that she was even his daughter in the first place. There are also some of the more obvious things like really hammering on employees who didn’t see things his way, parking in handicapped parking stalls, and not giving stock options to some of the people who were helping Apple from the very beginning. One big omission, in the last one mentioned, was the fact that Steve Wozniak actually sacrificed some of his shares to give to those employees, so they weren’t completely left out. I kept waiting for a little mention of that during that part of the movie, but it never happened. I know the main focus of the movie is Jobs, but I think do think that is one of those little details that should have been covered.

Another omission, that I thought should have been in the movie, was the visit to Xerox PARC and the impact that it had on the Lisa and Mac. My only guess is that it had to do with run time of the film and the fact that it was also covered in Pirate of Silicon Valley as well, so they didn’t want to do a rehash, but it is certainly an important event in the Apple timeline.  However, I did like the quick mention later on about the new Mac OS (OS X) being built off of NeXT OS. I think that is a little tidbit that not everyone knows that isn’t a techie and where a lot of the design elements from OS X actually came from like the dock.

Now, the big question, is how do I think Ashton did with the performance? Personally, I think he did very well. Along with the look, he was able to get a lot of the mannerisms and speech down. I think this role certainly pushed him to his limits and overall I was impressed. I would say though that two more emotional type scenes did take me out of the movie a little bit with how his performance was in those. One was just after Steve Wozniak tells him that he’s going to leave Apple and Jobs visits the garage at home with an emotional visit with his father. Ashton is supposed to be crying, but it comes off as almost like he’s laughing or just some kind of weird sound that just doesn’t seem quite right. The other was when things were starting to go sour with him at Apple and on a drive home he does a huge yell that also just doesn’t quite have the emotional impact that it should. However, having said that, I think these are two minor things and shouldn’t stop someone from seeing the movie if they have an interest.

Overall, I think the film is enjoyable and does what I think it was probably set out to do. I think if you have an interest in the founding of Apple, Steve being ousted, and then the comeback that you’ll enjoy it for what it is. It isn’t a perfect factual representation, but I think any movie like this should be the gateway drug in making the viewer wanting to find out more and I think it accomplishes that. Anyone who hasn’t done so after this movie, should then go on to watch Pirate of Silicon Valley or read the Walter Isaacson biography.

This also isn’t the last film to come out ,as there is one based on the biography by Sony, that is in the works as well. It will be interesting to see how that one pans out and which one truly does end up being the better movie. I think the early story of Apple has been covered very well at this point and I’d more interested now in the story from the 2nd rise of Apple when Steve came back, Apple becoming a success again, and how behind the scenes he had to deal with cancer.

Here’s a couple of videos that I thought were relevant to see again. The first is the iPod introduction which is very different from the movie. In the film Steve is presented as being much older and the crowd is more like a WWDC conference rather than a room of journalists at the Apple campus.

This other video is a demo of NeXT OS that anyone familiar with OS X will see the similarities that were then incorporated into OS X.

iOS 7

icon-ios7Well I figured I better post something finally now that the year is close to half over. On Monday Apple finally broke their year silence at the World Wide Developer Conference Keynote where they announced some new hardware and software that would be available later this year. I think I’ve done a post on iOS each year ever since I bought my first iPhone and this one is definitely one that I shouldn’t ignore.

Late last year, there was a reshuffling of some of the leadership at Apple. Johnny Ive was also given responsibility of human interface, in addition to his role in the industrial design of Apple products. It was at this time that rumors started to fly that iOS was going to get a major design change and that the “skeuomorphism” of using real life objects in the software was going to go away. It was also rumored that iOS was going to become more flat where that has become the current design trend as compared to the more 3D look that was the trend when the original iPhone first launched.

On Monday those rumors turned out correct. I didn’t like any of the mock ups that people had done with their own interpretations, but I do like Apple’s implementation. It certainly is a bit jarring at first when you’ve been used to something for so long, but the look has grown on me over the last few days. Here’s a side by side comparison.


Seeing that, it doesn’t look like a huge difference. I know there were some advocates wanting something more major for the redesign and getting rid of the grid of icons. I personally think this is still the best way to go and keeps the basic OS out of the way, as the apps should be the main focus and not trying to fumble around OS with widgets and the like. Also, any of the general public who has been using an iPhone won’t have to relearn the basic navigation of the system since it is fundamentally the same. However, the design is definitely different. The new system font makes text look clearer and easier to read. The new zoom animation when navigating to a folder is neat and the almost 3d view of seeing the wallpaper and icon grids independently move as you tilt the phone give it a polished effect. The new icons are either loved or hated and I personally like them. I think for the most part they represent their tasks well with a few exceptions that might get changed before it goes to the general public.

There’s a few new features in addition to these changes and this video will also give a good look at the new interfaces in most of the apps.

A lot of the new features are welcomed additions to iOS, but I also realize that most have existed in Android, Windows Phone, Web OS, and the Jailbreak community before. However, I think Apple implemented most of them in their own way and put some thought into them.

Overall, I think it is a great update. I think some will either love or hate the new design, but I recommend at least giving it a try before making that decision. The only feature that seemed missing, that was shown on the new OS X, was being able to send a quick reply right from a message notification. When it was shown on OS X, I thought that was a given for iOS7. While jumping to the messages app really isn’t a problem, that might be something for next year with iOS 8. 🙂