Tag Archives: tech

I do not know me

When I happened upon what advertisers think I am interested in, I realized that I clearly do not know myself.

I had no idea I was a big griller (our grill is a piece of wire fencing on an old automobile hub) into road trips (going somewhere on a small island is hardly a road trip) with my family (more often solo) in our Dodge Journey (never seen one of whatever this is) with a secret penchant for Liz Claiborne beauty and fragrance products (so secret that I too was blissfully unaware of that side of my personality).

If you tweet, then you can see what advertisers think you want to see too. Most curiously the list misses the areas in which I have recently spent actual money: running shoes, smartphones, ChromeBase, and various Kindle books in mathematics, running, and statistics. Either the advertisers do not know me or I do not know me.

The former is somewhat puzzling. Twitter’s own list of my interests aligns better with my perception of my own interests.

With some quibbles over Reality TV and Romance, and the absences of my running and juggling life, Twitter knows me well. So why do the advertisers misread where my money is likely to go next?

If you also Twitter, you can see Twitter’s read on you as well.  Of course this depends on whether you let Twitter study you. Turns out Twitter studies you by default, so unless you turned off the Personalization and Data Settings, Twitter is collecting all sorts of information about you as a Twitter user. I let Twitter run wild with my data. I treat all social media as a public presence with zero privacy. If one wants privacy then one can never use a computer, cell phone, telephone, or any other communication capable technology. Including snail mail. No tech. Period. And one should probably not live on a small island.

Now you’ll have to excuse me as I need to go load up my new luxury Nissan SUV (I have a 25 year old Toyota Exiv sedan that was purchased used) with my Fisher-Price toys (I played with those fifty years ago) and Converse sneakers (I would never buy an athletic shoe I cannot run in) for a trip to the spa (as soon as I find one on Pohnpei) where I am a well known high spender (I have a dollar in my pocket that has to last until Friday).  Oh, and, yes, I will be dropping by the mall on the way home to pick up more Liz Claiborne products and jewelry. Just as soon as I find the mall on this island.

Goodbye to the cable TV era

I looked around the house the other night. Each and every zombie was staring at a glowing obelisk clutched tightly in their hand. I pointed at the cable TV. “Does that thing even work?” Without looking up, each zombie shrugged their shoulders.

I turned on the television to check the only channel I still check on the cable – ChannelNewsAsia. I was disappointed to find that Russia Today had replaced ChannelNewsAsia. I flipped off the set. “Works, but nothing on that I want to see.” No zombie even looked up.

For twenty years my personal money manager has paid the cable bill bimonthly, fifty dollars. That’s part of the budget cycle that keeps the family operational paycheck to paycheck. And for twenty years the good folks at ICTV have obliged my money manager.

Now ICTV is in receivership, apparently bankrupt, and operating under court appointed management. The interim management must have decided to clean up the books. A team came by the house the very next day and threatened my money manager to pay up for January or get disconnected. I could have predicted the result. Threatening my money manager is not only bad customer relations (perhaps the ICTV team could benefit from the college’s HTM training, there are ways to handle these things) but also will not yield the desired long term result (customer retention and future cash flow). My money manager told the team to go ahead and disconnect the cable.

My money manager called me to tell me what had happened. I paused, thought for a moment, and then realized that was money better spent in other ways. I was the last cable denizen in the house, the rest are netizens. And even I had shifted primarily to online sources of news and information. With the loss of CNA, there was nothing left worth the money.

I later went down and paid off January at the office, but told the clerk to leave us disconnected. Cable had become irrelevant. Like VCR tapes, and now DVDs, a new tech era has supplanted an older technology. Anyone remember BetaMax? NetFlix is killing DVDs and cable programming. Internet video on demand is crowding out cable.

Little wonder cable television is in receivership – I wonder how many other customers have shifted resources to bandwidth and dropped their cable subscription.

I gather FSMTC wants to buy the assets, which makes sense. Not necessarily for distributing cable television. Those cable lines provide a high speed Internet pipe into every home. ADSL on the uplink side, cable coax on the downlink. That has potential future value.

Google PhotoScan

When a Windows 7 rig on my work desk was replaced with an iMac, the Windows driven scanner I used also went on permanent vacation. And with that went efforts to scan old print photographs. Taking pictures of glossy photos from the past yields only a flash point and darkness.

img_20161117_142200187Shrue Dana Gallen Joel photograph

Note that the background border was not black but was actually a maroon colored towel that the photograph was placed on.

Enter Google PhotoScan, an Android app that turns your cell phone into a photo scanner that is as good as your cell phone camera. The app uses an initial reference photo and then has the user move the phone to new locations using white guide dots on the screen. Then Photoscan digitally assembles the five images into a single glare-free image, cropping to the original edge of the image. Note that I took the next photo from the same distance as the photo above, the frame included the maroon towel.

Shrue Dana Gallen Joel Photoscan

Google PhotoScan automatically detected and deleted the maroon towel, retaining the edge of the photograph automatically. The original has water damage at the top as seen in both images. The photo was taken on Yap circa 1999 and includes Shrue, myself, and the family of Gallen Joel. A Motorola Moto G4 Play was used to scan the photograph.

I made the initial mistake of trying to crop out the towel in the cell phone screen. That actually yields poor results. The software is looking for the edge of the photograph, depriving the software of that edge led to at least one distorted image as the software tried to correct perspective without having the edge to work with. The app deleted the maroon towel as part of the processing. The app also included part of the image under the PhotoScan “take picture” button – something that was not obvious to me the first time I used the app.

The app appeared to find the larger span of an eight and half by eleven sheet of paper more challenging, and I found the large movements more challenging as well, but I did capture a reasonable photocopy of the page. Attempts to PhotoScan a whiteboard with notes on the white board proved even more challenging. Here the distances are greater, both from the board and across which one has to scan, and there is no edge of a photograph to work with. Although the scanner claimed to have failed to capture the board, I did find that a glare free image of the white board had been captured.

The app is available in the Google Play store and requires Android 5.0 or higher. Available also on iOS. My thanks to my son for bringing this app to my attention!

Strava

Strava running app was the next shiny thing to attract my attention using Amazon Underground. I was nonplussed by Adidas’ Runtastic, and deleted ASICS’ RunKeeper as being redundant to Nike+ running but without the friends. I found no friends in RunKeeper space. 

I tried UnderArmour’s MapMyRun but on install the app demanded to upgrade to a new version. Which failed. And then I could not log in. Deleted. 

Using again the Amazon “Underground” app store for Android cell phones I installed one of the last independent mainstream running apps, Strava. 


Knowing that my phone has limited capabilities, I ran a first test run with no pauses, no pictures. Nothing that might stall Strava. 

I did not see a built in music controller such as Nike+ includes. The run included running under trees and ended in rain. I turned on auto-pause and voice options prior to the run. These options were not obvious as the settings appear only once one selects to start a run. 


I was pleased with the post run data. Well laid out screens, logically located, with all of the data details. I had set voice to half mile notifications and was happy to see half mile split data. Nike+ provided only mile splits. 

The Strava voice was quicker in cadence than Nike+, without the pauses I am familiar with in Nike+. I saw no voice choices, the default is female.​


Elevation is notoriously inaccurate, but fun to see. And the continuous pace chart was noisy but informative. 
​I was impressed with the GPS track. The line was sharp and spot on. 


I was shocked to see my ninety degree turn along the Spanish Wall basketball court. I do not recall any app catching that before.


My phone has limited resources. Nike+ uses 50 Mb while Adidas train and run uses 80 Mb. Thus seeing Strava only using 32 Mb was a pleasant surprise.

Strava, like RunKeeper, successfully posted to FaceBook, but then I did use FB as my log in for both, which I did not do with Nike+.


There are premium features for a subscription, but all of the basic run data is available in the free version.


If I run identical routes, Strava will apparently track the runs as “matched” runs.

I did see a few FaceBook friends listed in my Strava friends list, but nothing like the over one hundred friends I enjoy on Nike+.

Strava is intriguing enough to keep on my LG P715 Android phone for now. Still, Nike+ is where my friends are, and that is a big plus. 

My own sense is that over the longer haul only the apps backed by major corporations will survive – Nike, Adidas, ASICS, UnderArmour. Strava too may one day be acquired, but for now its independence is attractive. 

RunKeeper

Grandpa is a kid in an app candy store at Christmas. Out here in Micronesia the Google Play store has a limited app selection. For running, my LG P715 Android rig has a choice of Nike+ running or Adidas train and run. 

​On a whim I downloaded the Amazon app store for Android phones which Amazon is marketing as “Amazon Underground.” To install one must enable installation of apps from unknown sources in the security settings of the phone. This has security implications and will make the phone vulnerable to malware if you have seven year old handling your phone. Enough said. 

Amazon Underground picked up my Amazon credentials automatically, possibly from my Kindle app. This appears to make me a “registered” user. Using Amazon Underground I was able to download Runtastic, an app not in the Google Play store for Micronesia. Runtastic, however, then wanted to download a separate music app for in-run music. Nonplussed, I found I could download RunKeeper too! Runkeeper has no built in music player, but had a click- through to the Google Player. Good enough for taking RunKeeper out for a test drive. Interesting app. 

First impression? Although minor, I have come to prefer the sequence and cadence of the Nike+ voice. Unlike Adidas train and run, RunKeeper seemed rock solid on hanging on to the GPS or interpolating losses seamlessly. Map was blank, but those sometimes load later. I will explore and see if Strata is an option too. Note RunKeeper is a two tier app, a free app with limited features and a premium pro app with all features on a subscription price basis.

​By the way, my use of the FaceBook Lite app provides me the space to download the many apps I do use on my memory limited LG. 

As I said, a kid in app candy store!

Where will your running data be tomorrow?

A friend posted a screenshot of a fitness app I had not yet seen. Indulging my shiny object fascination of the moment, running and fitness apps, I had a look at the capabilities of the app. The app appears to be a good fit to what he is trying to do.

Some veteran runners like to keep running logs, track their running over the years. I ran for years without intentionally logging my runs. In 1998 Runner’s World sent a free running log, and I began to use the log to record fitness activities including running. I began to have data I wanted to retain. Data that has to be stored and conserved.

Running log June 1998
Running log June 1998

Some thirty-five years ago I had an Atari 800 computer. The simple programs I wrote had to be stored on a audio cassette tape. During that same era the 5.25 inch floppy disk provided removable storage for the Apple II computer. Within a few short years the 3.25 inch floppy disk would supersede the 5.25 inch floppy disk. This past week the last computer with a 3.25 inch floppy disk drive was retired from the division in which I work. I still have data on 3.25 inch floppy disks, but that data will never again be accessible.

Running log
Running log early days

In 1996 I created a web site in CompuServe. In 1998 the FSM lost the dial-up connectivity to CompuServe and switched on direct connectivity to the Internet. I had to recover the orphaned data from a hard drive mirroring my on line site, moving the data to GeoCities. Within three years I was again moving that data to college servers.

Running log
Running log, September 2000. ASICS Gel MC+ 98 shoes.

Over the years I have learned that with changes in technology come orphaned, abandoned, and sometimes unrecoverable data. Today data is often stored in cloud services, which is almost more vulnerable to sudden change than hardware based technology. A storage provider may suddenly decide to depart the storage market (Ubuntu One) or start charging fees for what was once free storage (Amazon Cloud Drive).

Running log notebook 2010
Running log notebook style 2010

If the data is in a proprietary format, the loss of a software package may make the data unrecoverable.

When I first acquired a GPS enabled Android smart phone in late 2014, I looked for an app that could provide time, distance, and mapping capabilities for my running. Thirty years of rescuing and moving data is always on my mind when I make a data storage choice. I always want to know how a company plans to stay in business. If there is no clear way for the company to benefit from me or my data, then that is not a secure data storage choice. And the company should be big enough to fend off being acquired and taken apart by a competitor.

Running log 17 May 2015
Google MyTracks “running log” 17 May 2015

I opted for Google MyTracks reasoning that Google might just be big enough to not fail anytime soon. Google thrives on user data, MyTracks provides more information about me (where I am and where I tend to go) that has potential marketing value.

Google MyTracks Trace
Google MyTracks Trace

MyTracks provided only basic total time, distance, speed, and mapping capability.

NIke+ running app
NIke+ running app

During the summer of 2015 I became aware of a running app option that was functional in Micronesia, an option I had not seen in 2014. Although two of the market leaders, Runtastic and Runkeeper, are not available in the Google Play app store in Micronesia, Nike+ running was available. Runtastic and Runkeeper have a two tiered business model. The lower tier appears to be a lite version for free, possibly with advertising, and a paid subscription model with more features. Nike+ running is free – all features -and apparently an outgrowth of their abandoned fitness FuelBand.

Nike+ mapping
Nike+ mapping

Nike+ running provided data on splits, personal bests, and nice touches such as tracking total kilometers per shoe. All of the data a runner might want to access. Yet what of tomorrow? Nike has a business model that may be more sustainable than a small operation supporting a dedicated running app. Nike as a company certainly has the size and resources to survive. Yet the app is peripheral to their core business and could be shed like the FuelBand product. Whither one’s running data then? Where Google MyTracks could upload KMZ files to Google Drive, Nike+ has no clear path to data export nor extraction.

A dedicated app housed in a small independent software developer is equally insecure over the long haul. A company the size of a Nike or Google could buy the app or acquire the development team to enhance their own fitness apps should they choose to do so. Data may remain trapped in a proprietary format on cloud servers, inaccessible when the app no longer exists. A veritable 3.25 inch floppy disk of the modern era: without the drive the data is effectively lost. Without the app, the data generated by the app is lost.

Paper is not a particularly secure data storage option, but keeping a log in a notebook remains a viable option. I continue to echo run information into locally available composition notebook. That is the only way I have of knowing where my running data will be tomorrow. Where is your data sleeping tonight and will it be accessible tomorrow?

Nike+ running app first light

Having seen friends using the Nike+ running app here on Pohnpei, I thought I would give Nike+ running a spin. This blog pulls together a series of observations I have made over the past couple weeks in other places.

I have been using Google MyTracks since October 2014. MyTracks is not specifically a running app, more a general purpose track and trace route tool. Nike+ reports total time, calories, average pace, NikeFuel earned, splits, and maps the route one has run if outdoors.

11796471_10155853318095274_2063102030357421365_n

I’m using Nike+ running 1.7.2 on an LG Optimus II P715 Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean rig. Note that the temperature reported in the screen above only appears after synchronization. I suspect that the temperature is the result of an online lookup on the server side, not a reading from the telephone.

The app also tracks total distance logged on each shoe, a statistic for which I have never had any information. I really do not know how many kilometers I rack up in a shoe before the shoe delaminates, and I always run a shoe until that delamination point. Way beyond loss of cushioning in the EVA foam.

Nike+ has running specific features including reporting of splits, a capability MyTracks does not have. Determining road splits in the past usually meant hauling a Garmin eTrex, a piece of paper, and a pen, to record the splits. Having them automatically available feels luxurious. I have used splits in my statistics class, data the students can use to calculate 95% confidence intervals and other metrics. This is also the first time I have known splits for joggling. When I run, I usually juggle three tennis balls. I cannot carry a GPS and juggle, so splits while joggling were completely unknown.

2015-07-27-20-02-14

The LG P715 has an accelerometer, which the Nike+ running app can use when indoors on a treadmill to estimate distance based on steps. The app apparently uses a generic step distance to calculate distance. The uncalibrated app credited me with 1.83 km (1.137 miles) for 1.00 miles displayed on the treadmill (14% long).

5.4 mph steady pace run on treadmill for one treadmill mile
5.4 mph steady pace run on treadmill for one treadmill mile

I ran the treadmill mile at 5.4 mph. Note the mile measure is based on the treadmill as seen below, not the app. The app is set in kilometers, the default for Nike+ running is in miles.

Treadmill data
Treadmill data

1830 meters by the app for 1806 steps on the treadmill suggests the app was using 1.01 meters per step, or about a meter per step. If the treadmill is correct, then my actual stride on the treadmill was 0.89 meters. This difference is also roughly 14%.

Calibration run
Calibration run

On the fourth of August I attempted a calibration run with the Nike+ running app. In retrospect I suspect I should have done this with the settings set to miles not kilometers. I used a Garmin GPS to run 1.61 km on the track. I do not now recall the app distance, but the app was short at about 1.53 some kilometers. I used edit run to enter the correct distance, but on closing that screen the app reported a different value than I typed in. Eventually I found I had to enter 2.0 km for the app to report that I had run 1.61 km, as seen in the screen shot. I suspect some sort of faulty conversion process in the edit run module of the app.

The Nike+ running app feeds data to the nikeplus web site, providing another way to pull up data and statistics.

Nike+ home page
Nike+ home page

The full site includes an animation of the most recent run route.

Route with satellite view
Route with satellite view

A satellite view option is also available on the desktop version of the web site.

Trophies and badges
Trophies and badges

One feature of a running app is typically the awarding of badges and trophies, along with tracking personal bests. The awards for NikeFuel levels are based on Nike’s proprietary NikeFuel score. Nike wanted to be able to combine all possible athletic activities into a single metric. Working with Glen Gaesser, an exercise and wellness professor at Arizona State University, Nike generated a correlation between wrist acceleration and oxygen uptake. This was then turned into a dimensionless value referred to as NikeFuel. The original work was aimed at a wrist based accelerometer, but the cell phone based apps also generate NikeFuel scores. The Nike+ Fuelband is claimed to be a valid and reliable estimate of  physical activity energy expenditure.

Whether the FuelBand is still available is unclear to this author. I suspect the $149 retail price, the same price as an Android phone that can run apps that also generate NikeFuel, was probably beyond what the market would bear for a dedicated fitness device. NikeFuel is an attempt to “gamify” fitness, find a way to generate a video game like score that one can then tout to one’s friends, but the “black box” nature of NikeFuel makes this hard to do. Runners talk in terms of distances run, times, pace, these are the “smack talk” of running. I have trouble seeing how an effectively dimensionless black box of a number will compete with existing physical metrics.

supersonic
Supersonic

Sure, I cracked off 18 NikeFuel points per minute for thirty minutes three times in one week. But what does that actually mean? Even my children laughed at me when I tried to brag about being supersonic. Without a clear link to the physical world, NikeFuel is ultimately doomed to irrelevance.

5k personal record
5k personal record

Error and uncertainty are central to statistics and physical science. One cannot measure anything twice and get the same result.

Nike+ running app on LG P715 Android phone.
Nike+ running app on LG P715 Android phone.

I ran on the road with two GPS equipped devices on the same day as the calibration run above. A Garmin eTrex Venture HC held in my hand produced 8.18 kilometers. Nike+ said 8.94 km for my cell phone mounted on the same arm. Now I suppose that my upper arm could have traveled 760 meters further than my hand, but as both are still attached to me, I doubt it. Seven runs to the airport gate and back 2009-2010 average 7.898 km using a Garmin eTrex, the dock gate is a tad farther. Out to the dock and back has averaged 8.42 km on prior runs with my phone, which is reasonable in light of the 2009-2010 data. 8.94 seems a tad long.

Garmin eTrex Venture HC
Garmin eTrex Venture HC

Middle numbers are safer choices in measurements, thus I suspect the Garmin was short and the LG P715 was long. The trace from that day suggests that there was an error in measurement.

Note two to three km is longer than six to seven
Note two to three km is longer than six to seven

As noted in the caption above, the distance from two to three kilometers is longer than from six to seven kilometers. As I was running the same route out and back, that is a significant difference and an indication of some form of error. The Deketik gate out-and-back run is somewhere out around the 8.42 kilometer average.

By default I leave my GPS on, even when running inside. On the ninth of August I set Nike+ running to indoor. The next day I switched back to outdoor. At some point in this process the app must have switched off my always on GPS, as I discovered it was off after I came in from my run on the tenth. So switching from outdoor to indoor may inactivate the GPS, but switching back to outdoor does not reactivate the GPS.

NBFS via Kaselehlie Elenieng
NBFS via Kaselehlie Elenieng

The Nike+ running app can apparently disable the GPS but not re-enable the GPS. This makes sense as the GPS adds load to the battery – unloading the battery is less protected than loading the battery. Google MyTracks used to ask permission to re-enable the GPS. Noting that I did run a calibration of the Nike+ running app, the distance is in concurrence with other distance numbers for that route. Seven runs with a Garmin unit in 2009-2010 averaged 7.923 km on that route. Google MyTracks reported 8.47  km on 03 November 2014. This fits a pattern where the LG P715 is generating longer distances that the Garmin eTrex units. Lesson learned: manually re-enable the GPS in the Nike+ running app after running inside.

Note that the Nike+ running app cannot automatically post to FaceBook for those of us in the 691 telephone area code. The issues is probably the security and verification systems in FaceBook. FaceBook cannot send an account verification code to a 691 number, and thus the Nike+ app is blocked from automatically posting (no auto-post to an unverified account). That also means a 691 runner cannot post to FaceBook while running and receive cheers in return.

Real time cheering
Real time cheering

A runner in the United States with autoposting to FaceBook activated. If liked or commented on during the run, the app cheers for the runner.

There are some other caveats for the Nike+ runner in the Federated States of Micronesia. The app appears to award badges and count weeks of activity based on the time zone of Nike headquarters in Oregon. Thus I do not get a weekly based badge until Oregon gets over into the new week. I also earn Night Owl run badges for running between midnight and 0300 hours. I do not run at those times here in GMT +11, but the time over in Oregon at GMT -8 is the small hours of the night.

Meanwhile my children will laugh at me even harder when they learn that I have exceeded supersonic.

hypersonic
hypersonic

First light is an astronomical reference to the first light to fall on a telescopic lens or mirror. The article is an early days overview of the app, first use by the author.

Post-script: NikeFuel on the Nike+ running app might not be a completely black box. There are high correlations to the distance run (r = 0.9995, n = 22) and the duration of a run ((r = 0.9907, n = 22). Pace is not well correlated (r = 0.4724, n = 22), what correlation does exist can be explained by the distance and duration.

Nikefuel correlations
Nikefuel correlations

Distance is in miles, pace in minutes per mile, and duration is in minutes. NikeFuel values are on the x-axis. NikeFuel for the running app may be based solely on distance as duration is dependent on distance for a runner at a fairly constant pace. Note that some runs were done on treadmills. All but one treadmill run was post-calibration.

Post-script, three months of use, update on trophies only

Nikeplus trophies and banners
Trophies and banners including 150K

Information age based generations

Just yesterday a friend and I were noting that another friend simply never checks email when off-island. In my mind I realized I thought of the friend as being of an older generation than the friend belongs to biologically. I realized I no longer think in terms of generations by age but rather by cyber-information handling habits.

Old system age based generations (which may vary with source, this is only my take on generation names)

  • Baby boomers
  • Generation X
  • Millenials

New system information age based generations

  • Generally do not monitor email during vacations and do not comfortably use social media. Use email at work only because that is a core communication system in their work place.
  • Monitor email regularly during vacations but do not comfortably use social media. Email is first checked and can be their only check. 
  • Social media is first checked on a daily basis whether or not on vacation, email is monitored but can be a once a week check or less often when on vacation. Tend to also post information and photos to social media while on vacation. When really busy at work, email checks are dropped before social media checks.
A cumulonimbus cloud over Palikir

The Cloud, Complexified

The issue of ways to store information and images going forward is one that continues to occupy my thoughts. Back in 2008 I realized that storage on the institutional servers where I work are not a long term storage solution as the institution purges files upon employee departure. Thus I moved into the cloud.

My fear of boxes of glass slides had helped propel me into the cloud. The cloud felt soft, fuzzy, and safe for three years, until those accounts were temporarily disabled in the wake of the cloud accounts being hacked. Compromised computer equipment had enabled a key logger to grab usernames and passwords, turning an on line email provider I used into a spambot. I was able to recover control of the accounts and lost nothing in the process.

Despite the recovery, I realized that life in the cloud is probably better lived by sitting on multiple different clouds and distributing data. Thus loss of a single provider will not lead to a loss of all information. Hence I added WordPress using Flickr to handle images.

Deciding how to juggle yet another set of sites remains to be determined. My blogging life is now forked, but simply forking content by category would defeat the intent of having material backed up via multiple clouds. Loss of one blog would wipe out that category.