Categories
Devices Mobile Tech Sports

A few more thoughts about my Garmin Vivoactive 4

I’ve had my Garmin Vivoactive 4 for just over two months now, and I thought I’d share a couple more thoughts about this device.

To begin with, I still really enjoy using this watch. I’m very glad that I bought it, and I find it enormously helpful, day to day.

I’ve been running pretty regularly, and the experience of using this Garmin device to track my runs, and sync with Strava is really smooth, especially compared to my Fitbit Charge 3.

The data

On the whole, the data seem fairly accurate, and useful. There are some exceptions, though.

I mentioned in my initial post that sleep data was a little hit and miss. This remains the case. I’ve noticed that the Vivoactive 4 will think I’m sleeping even if I’m awake, but still lazing in bed.

It also seems to think that I’m sleeping while watching TV some nights (I’m clearly pretty relaxed).

I realised that a possible explanation is that I’ve set my Data Recording option (in System settings) to Smart, and not Every Second to preserve battery life. I suspect this may be the reason for the inaccurate data that I see, so I’ll test sleep tracking with the Data Recording option set to Every Second.

Interestingly the Body Battery feature tends to give me values that correspond fairly well to how I feel at a given point in time. It’s also a little stingy with recharges though. It seems to expect me to get about eight hours of sleep before it regards me as pretty well charged for my next day. 😜

Touch screen

The touch screen works pretty well for the most part. I noticed one app or screen where it’s not that reliable, the coaching app.

I’m using the Garmin Coach feature to train for 5km races (I’m enjoying the program so far). I usually go running in the mornings, and often can’t seem to activate the touch target on the coaching app screen unless my fingers are warm.

I’ll find myself tapping with different fingers, in different positions, just to get it to progress to the next screen where I can tap to start the workout (no issues on the second screen).

From there, the UI works just fine for me.

I haven’t really had an issue with any other screens, just this one. At the same time, this has me wondering if a Garmin watch without a touch screen (and more buttons) like the Forerunner 645 may be a way to go when I upgrade down the line.

Still, it’s not a major issue for me at the moment, just a little frustrating when I want to get started with my coaching-guided runs in the mornings.

The running experience

I started connecting my headphones directly to the watch for my runs because my phone seems to have a dislike for sustained Bluetooth connections, and frequently cuts the connection at random intervals.

I use the built-in Spotify support to sync my playlists, and off I go. Here’s my current, preferred playlist:

I would like to buy a lower profile Bluetooth headset for my runs.

An Aftershokz headset would be great given that they don’t block your ears, and seem a safer option when running around the city. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be readily available in Israel, and can be a little pricey. Still, they may be worth the investment.

Overall, I really enjoy running with the Vivoactive 4. I’m running more frequently, seem to be improving as a runner, and that’s largely thanks to the motivation on my wrist.

I know it’s a bit materialistic because obviously you can run well without a watch, but this works well for me.

Categories
Devices Sports Wellbeing

Switching from a Fitbit Charge to a Garmin Vivoactive 4

Change happens

As you may remember, I bought a Fitbit Charge 3 in October 2018. I hadn’t worn a watch, let alone a fitness tracker like this, before that. I soon came to enjoy having it, and the data it gave me.

Unfortunately, the screen stopped working soon after the warranty expired on the device, and I made the decision to switch to a Garmin Vivoactive 4. I’ve had the Vivoactive 4 for a few weeks now, and I’m really enjoying it.

My failing Fitbit Charge 3

My Fitbit worked really well for most of the time that I’ve owned it. I found the data I received from it when I exercised (whether that was running, walking, or something else) to be great motivation to get back out there and do more exercise.

I noticed that the device started becoming a bit sluggish when I swiped the screen while running sometime in November. I would swipe the screen to switch to a different option, and it would take a moment longer to change.

I went for a run after my 5km race, and the device just stopped responding to my gestures, and I basically lost the tracking on the run between trying to get it to respond, and just giving up.

My disabled Fitbit Charge 3

Following the recommended troubleshooting steps helped the first time, and seemed to restore the device to normal functioning. Unfortunately, it failed again, and this time the screen stopped responding altogether.

Troubleshooting steps for the Fitbit Charge 3

These are the troubleshooting steps the Fitbit Support team recommended:

  1. Connect the device to the charging cable.
  2. While the device is plugged into the charging cable, press and hold the button down for 15 seconds.
  3. The device turns on and shows a battery icon. Two vibrations occur: first a short vibration, then a medium vibration.
  4. The device turns off.
  5. The device turns on and shows a progress bar and short vibrations occur. The progress bar completes. Note: A total of 7 short vibrations occur.
  6. Remove the device from the charging cable. The device shuts down.
  7. Important: Plug the device into the charging cable again.

I reached out to the Fitbit Support team on Twitter. They were pretty responsive, and were clearly trying to help me out. Ultimately, though, the device was out of warranty, so they couldn’t really do much more.

They suggested that I purchase a new Fitbit device. I considered going for the Fitbit Versa 2, but I was reluctant to buy another device that could die just outside its warranty period.

Researching alternatives to the Fitbit Charge 3

As you may gather, by this point I wanted something more than a simple tracker, so I started exploring something closer to a smart watch/fitness watch.

In the meantime, the Fitbit was still tracking my biometrics passively, so I still wore the device for step, and sleep tracking until my new device arrived.

I narrowed my options down to the Vivoactive 4, and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. In the reviews I watched, both received great feedback. Here are some of the reviews that I found helpful:

Galaxy Watch Active 2

Vivoactive 4

I made my choice

I ultimately decided to go for the Vivoactive 4 because it seemed like a more robust fitness tracker, with smart watch features. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 seemed to be a smart watch first, with fitness tracking features.

I also liked that the Vivoactive 4 seemed to have better battery life, and offers a lot more data. The data really appealed to me.

So I ordered the device earlier this month from a local reseller, and switched over to it almost right away. For the most part, I really like this device, and I’m glad I chose it.

I won’t go into specs, and details. You can find plenty of that information in the reviews I shared above (and many others). Instead, I’ll share some thoughts and experiences.

Nitpicking the Vivoactive 4

As much as I like the device, there are a couple small issues that detract from the experience a little. To begin with, the sleep tracking doesn’t seem to be as accurate as the Fitbit. I wore both devices one night, and noticed a few differences between the data I received.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 sleep tracking data
Garmin Vivoactive 4 sleep tracking data
Fitbit Charge 3 sleep tracking data
Fitbit Charge 3 sleep tracking data

Subjectively, the Fitbit seemed to be more accurate. I’ve noticed that my Garmin seems to regard anything short of actually getting out of bed and walking around to be part of the sleep cycle. If I lie in bed reading, for example, it tends to think I’m still sleeping.

I’ve started manually editing my wake times for a little more accuracy.

I like the Vivoactive’s Stress Tracking and Body Battery features (tracking stress levels, and energy levels, respectively), although I’m not sure how accurate they are. They roughly correspond with how I feel at a given point in time, but they either seem to exaggerate levels, or understate them.

Still, as general indicators, they can be helpful.

What I really like about the Vivoactive 4

In general, I really like this device. It looks great, it’s comfortable to wear, and I find it pretty easy to operate.

Garmin Vivoactive 4
Garmin Vivoactive 4

I’ve had some fun switching between watch faces to find a watch face that offers me enough data points. The one above is called Crystal. It’s pretty customisable, and gives me all the data points I want to have at a glance.

I’m currently using Simple TDB that has a cleaner look, and with enough data points to persuade me to stick with it.

Simple TDB watch face
Simple TDB watch face

Using the Vivoactive 4 to track my runs is really easy. I push the top button, wait a few seconds for the GPS to start tracking, and then run.

It’s really easy to see a number of data points when running, at a glance, and my watch quickly sends my activity data up to Strava when I finish a run. By contrast, the Fitbit Charge 3 had to connect through my phone for GPS tracking, and that didn’t always work.

If my phone’s Bluetooth wasn’t working well at the time (which happens at times), I’d had to restart my phone to get it to sync correctly. My Garmin still uses the phone to send data to Strava, but it seems to sync more reliably.

I also really like that I have built-in GPS!

Performance

The device’s battery life really depends on what you’re using. If you’re running with music, and GPS, you’ll probably need to charge in a day or two.

On the days when I’m not running (and using GPS), the watch goes for a few days before I need to charge it. The battery life isn’t quite like the Fitbit Charge 3, but it’s ok.

It takes an hour, at most, to charge the Vivoactive 4, and then I’m ready to go again. I’ll often charge it while I’m working, or watching TV.

Is it right for you?

Just based on what I know about Garmin’s fitness trackers/watches in this price range, the Vivoactive 4 seems to be a sort of “general” use device. It handle fitness tracking for a large number of activities pretty well, and it’s a good fit for me.

If you’re a dedicated runner, it will probably be great for you, too. At the same time, I found this comparison between the Vivoactive 4 and the Forerunner 245 to be really interesting from the perspective of additional features that the Forerunner has for, well, runners:

I’m really happy with my purchase, and I’ve been for a few runs with it already. As I had hoped, being able to track my activity is motivating me to get out there more often (which is the point).

Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web Useful stuff

How to send a Webmention in comments?

I’ve had Webmentions enabled on this site for some time now. Sending a Webmention is pretty straightforward thanks to plugins like Webmention for WordPress and Semantic-Linkbacks. The question is how to send Webmentions in comments when someone replies to one of my posts? 🤔

I reached out to Chris Aldrich on Twitter, and he pointed me to a few resources in response. I did some testing between two test sites, and sent a couple replies to the initial Webmention (that came through as a comment), like these:

Unfortunately, the Webmentions appear like this on the post I’m replying to:

That’s not especially informative, though.

I’m aiming for a more substantive mention/comment like this:

Chris’ reply originated from his post on his site, here:

I’m pretty sure I’m missing something on my side. I’ll keep digging, and update this post when I find a solution.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Mathyas Kurmann
Categories
Events and Life Mindsets Policy issues Politics and government Social Web

The greatest propaganda machine in history

Sacha Baron Cohen recently spoke about how social media services have become the “greatest propaganda machine in history”.

Much of the media’s focus, when reporting on his remarks, was on his attack on Facebook. While he certainly targeted Facebook, he also spoke about how Google, YouTube, and Twitter shape online discourse, and how they help spread lies, bigotry, and attacks on fact-based discussions.

Think about it.  Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others—they reach billions of people.  The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged—stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear.  It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times.  It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth.  And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history—the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous.  As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”

Sacha Baron Cohen

As much as we embrace free expression, we find it difficult to draw a line when liars and bigots abuse their right to free expression because doing that feels like hypocrisy.

Free expression isn’t unlimited, though. And pushing back against channels that help propagate misinformation, abuse, and false statements that impact substantial segments of the population is becoming more important.

At the very least, it’s worth watching Cohen’s talk, or reading his remarks:

We should also think carefully about how much trust we place in services that profit from the social chaos we see around us.

Featured image by Miguel Henriques
Categories
Blogs and blogging Business and work Creative expression

Build a membership site with recurring payments

We launched a new Recurring Payments feature for self-hosted WordPress.org sites (powered by Jetpack) or WordPress.com sites today. It’s an awesome new way for anyone with a paid WordPress.com plan to earn money through their sites.

Our new Recurring Payments feature for WordPress.com and Jetpack-powered sites lets you do just that: it’s a monetization tool for content creators who want to collect repeat contributions from their supporters, and it’s available with any paid plan on WordPress.com.

Let your followers support you with periodic, scheduled payments. Charge for your weekly newsletter, accept monthly donations, sell yearly access to exclusive content — and do it all with an automated payment system.

A New Way to Earn Money on WordPress.com — The WordPress.com Blog

The model is similar to Patreon in that you can give your fans a way to support you with recurring payments. This is a great way to build an income through your site.

Here are a few things you can do with this new feature (borrowing from our announcement post):

  • Accept ongoing payments from visitors directly on your site.
  • Bill supporters automatically, on a set schedule. Subscribers can cancel anytime from their WordPress.com account.
  • Offer ongoing subscriptions, site memberships, monthly donations, and more, growing your fan base with exclusive content.
  • Integrate your site with Stripe to process payments and collect funds.

One reason I really like the Recurring Payments feature is that it gives anyone with a paid plan (whether it’s a WordPress.com Personal plan, or a higher plan) a way to create a membership site that can help them grow a following, and a new income stream.

Ad revenue is a popular way of earning money through your site (we offer a WordAds ad platform, for example), but ad revenue really depends on substantial numbers of visitors to turn into meaningful income.

On the other hand, receiving recurring payments from a smaller group of passionate supporters just seems to be more sustainable, and meaningful.

It’s hard to be creative when you’re worried about money. Running ads on your site helps, but for many creators, ad revenue isn’t enough. Top publishers and creators sustain their businesses by building reliable income streams through ongoing contributions.

This new feature empowers creators, bloggers, knowledge workers, <insert your title here> to share something of value with your audience, and build a sustainable business in the process.

Find out more here: Recurring Payments — Support — WordPress.com.

Featured image by Nicholas Green
Categories
Blogs and blogging Design

My new Twenty Twenty look

I decided to switch my site over to the new Twenty Twenty theme that will be released with WordPress 5.3 next week. I downloaded a pre-release version from the GitHub repo, and uploaded it directly.

A fresh coat of Twenty Twenty

I like the default themes that ship with WordPress, and the themes that our team is building. Even though the new generation of themes aren’t perfect*, they’re built for the block editor. I keep forgetting how much flexibility that brings to WordPress.

Preview of the Twenty Twenty theme.

So far, I like this new theme. I think the content container is a bit narrow on a larger screen, so I may tweak that a bit. The mobile view is pretty great, though.

Main image by Anna Kolosyuk

For example, I’d love to see custom fonts return to the Customizer, although with Full Site Editing on the way, we won’t be using the Customizer for much longer.

Categories
Coding Design Social Web

Owning your tweets

I really like how Zach Leatherman has taken control over his tweets, and is sharing them on his site with some great analytics. He provides some insights into how he’s taking his tweets, and republishing them on his site in his post “I’m Taking Ownership of My Tweets” –

I fully expect my personal website to outlive Twitter and as such have decided to take full ownership of the content I’ve posted there. In true IndieWeb fashion, I’m taking ownership of my data.

Zach Leatherman

I started doing something similar on a test site here: @pauljacobson tweets – All the tweets

My test site uses a relatively old plugin that hasn’t been updated recently. At the same time, it seems to be working relatively called Ozh’ Tweet Archiver. I prefer how Zach has formatted his tweets, and how the images and links are modified for more sustainable presentation on the assumption that Twitter has gone offline.

I also really like how he’s captured replies, and has added analytics to his tweets to surface all sorts of insights such as more popular tweets, retweets data, and more.

I’ve love to know how he’s actually capturing, and reformatting his tweets, but I don’t see a link to the code he’s using for this. I’d eventually like to bring something like that to this site, so this site becomes a complete archive of my tweets too.

At least with the Ozh’ Tweet Archiver plugin running on my test site, I’ll have a WordPress archive that I can readily import as a starting point. I’d like to have linked media load from my site, and not as embeds from Twitter, for example. The idea here is to capture your tweets, and preserve them so they contain their links and media should Twitter no longer exist.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Ridham Nagralawala
Categories
Applications Coding Entertainment Semantic Web

A curious sequence of events with Google and its YouTube recommendations

Well spotted there, Google! 🔭

I noticed a curious sequence of events this morning. I responded to a tweet about Donald Trump’s latest tweet where he referred to his “great and unmatched wisdom” using the Twitter app on my Android phone –

I then turned to our Android TV box where we were watching YouTube videos in the YouTube app, and I saw a recommendation for this Late Late Show video about Trump’s tweets:

That’s some pretty snappy algorithmic matching there, Google! 🤔

unsplash-logoCover image by Scott Webb