David Ancell's Virtual Home

Videocast: Stone Mountain Hike

  /   Tuesday, February 28, 2017   /   Comments(0)

Just before Lent, I wanted to get this posted . . .

Last fall, my family and I took a trip to Stone Mountain near Atlanta, Georgia.  I managed to take a few minutes away to hike up the mountain, and it’s a beautiful and fun hike.  Here I share some footage as well as my comments about the hike.

Category: Videos


Podcast: New Season of Podcasting

  /   Thursday, February 23, 2017   /   Comments(0)

I have just posted another podcast after a long hiatus.  I’m starting my new season.

Go hear or download the episode here.

This one’s really just a brief introduction to what I’m hoping to accomplish with the blog, video, and the podcast.  I’ll try to get another episode up later about Lent.

Category: Podcasts


Tracking Those Steps: Garmin Vivosmart HR vs. Charge 2

  /   Sunday, February 12, 2017   /   Comments(0)

I have been trying to do some things to get in better shape over the last year. One thing I’ve found is that an activity tracker is great to help set a goal and make sure I am reaching it. I have used two different ones, and I thought it would be helpful if I wrote a bit about how they compared. I got the Garmin Vivosmart HR through a rewards program at my work, but I switched to the Fitbit Charge 2 after Christmas. I’ll mention that the Garmin is also available as the Vivosmart HR that also has GPS for those of you who are interested. However, I have never owned one of those, so I’ll be comparing the Vivosmart HR without GPS to the Charge 2.

The Garmin Vivosmart HR feels kind of like a plastic toy. The band is a kind of stretchy rubber, and it didn’t feel as good as the Fitbit on my wrist. The interface, however, is really nice. The screen is always on, and it’s a touchscreen that works like something I’d expect. To go from one screen to the next, just swipe the screen. There’s a backlight if needed, but I turned off the feature that had it come on when I lifted my wrist because it drained the battery too much.

The Garmin measured all the basics like steps taken, floors climbed, and “intensity minutes,” which is the time you spent doing exercise. The step goal started at 7500 steps and increased every time I made it and decreased when I didn’t. There were exercise modes, but they were limited to run, walk, cardio, and other. I liked up the MapMyFitness app from Under Armour, and it would sync the workouts. However, they all came through as generic workout, and I’d have to manually modify them in MapMyFitness. Like the Fitbit Charge 2, it includes a wrist heart rate monitor, but neither device is one that I’d trust to be spot on. Unlike the Fitbit, it actually has a screen where it would show weather from the smartphone. However, I was never sure how often it updated. The battery always seemed to last the five days claimed by Garmin.

When I had first heard of wrist notifications, I didn’t think they would be all that useful. However, the Garmin showed me otherwise. You can configure it to vibrate when you get a notification from your smartphone. However, with an iPhone, it had an all or nothing policy on it. Either I got every notification that came through your phone (including Facebook and the News app), or I didn’t get anything. Sometimes, the device would quit receiving notifications, and I’d have to turn it off and back on. The vibration was something I wouldn’t miss when it went off, but it was so loud that people around me could hear it buzzing. The device has a screen where you can go back and read missed alerts, but it wasn’t the easiest to use due to the small screen. Since I need an alarm on my watch, I was glad it had a silent alarm that is supposed to vibrate on my wrist and wake me up without waking up my wife. However, you are limited to one alarm at a time, and I like having multiple. Also, don’t forget the aforementioned loudness of the alert. I’m not so sure that the alarm always succeeded in not waking up my wife.

When I switched to the Fitbit Charge 2, I noticed right away that it had a more premium look to it, and the band was so much more comfortable on my wrist. The interface took a bit of getting used to. It’s not so much a touchscreen as a “tap screen,” or so I would call it. The display is not always on, so you have to lift your wrist, push the side button, or double-tap the screen to get it to come up. Once you do, if you configuredthe screen a certain way (you can customize it), you can see your steps and heart rate all at once on a well-lit screen. You can tap it to see other statistics. The button on the side lets you go through other menus. However, the lift to see the screen and the tap feature don’t work perfectly. It can be aggravating to have to tap the thing multiple times to get it to work.

Like the Garmin device, the Fitbit Charge 2 measures steps taken, floors climbed, and time spent in exercise. Exercise modes are available for several different exercises, from walking to lifting weights. However, I had to customize the device to get it to track my walking. You can include connected GPS to allow it to connect with your smartphone and map where you went. I use this every time I go for a walk. Both devices automatically detect a lengthy time period spent active, but only the Fitbit stores it in the main exercise part of the app where it’s easily found. The battery seems like it lasted longer than the rated five days, but it takes longer to charge (1 – 2 hours vs 30 minutes) than the Garmin’s battery. I tried to connect it to MapMyFitness twice, but it didn’t work. However, I found that I no longer need MapMyFitness because the Fitbit app does all that I need it to do.

In fact, the Fitbit app is a major strength of the Fitbit system. You can use it to track not only activity synced from the tracker, but it will track calorie intake, water drinking, and how many days a week you exercise. You can set individual goals for each. However, the step goal that it sets is always a static goal. It doesn’t adjust like the Garmin device does. The app is much nicer to use than the Garmin app. I liked how I could just use the device to start a workout, and I could get it into my phone in my workout history without ever having to actually interact with the phone. My iPhone 5S is rather old and getting slower, so this makes it faster for me to start my walk.

The Fitbit Charge 2 does have wrist alerts. Unlike the Garmin, they are limited to call, text, and calendar alerts. Also unlike the Garmin, you can choose to receive any, all, or none of the available types of alerts. If you only want phone call alerts, you can choose to only be alerted when you have a phone call. The Fitbit does have silent (vibrating) alarms as well, and you can set up to eight different ones. The vibration is more subtle than with the Garmin. This means that it won’t alert everyone around you, but it’s more likely that the alert will be missed. I’ve missed my alarm two or three times since I’ve had the Fitbit.

In the end, I’m still using the Fitbit Charge 2, and I like it better. Despite the fact that the tap interface of the Charge 2 isn’t as smooth as I’d like, the iPhone app, exercise tracking, multiple alarms, the ability to limit what alerts I get, and the comfort of the device on my wrist made me decide that it was a good decision to switch. The Garmin is now available at a lower price, and it’s a good option for people who don’t want to spend the extra money. If you are willing to spend the extra (about $50), I think the Fitbit gives a better experience, and I’d recommend it over the Garmin.

Category: Technology


Videocast: Panasonic GX850 Review

  /   Thursday, February 09, 2017   /   Comments(0)

I’ve been looking for a compact camera to carry around with me, and at just the right time, Panasonic releases the GX850.  I really like Panasonic’s cameras, and this is the second one for me.  In fact, I decided I’d do a video review on my YouTube channel.  I’ve included both sample video and photos from this camera so you can see how well it does.  I think it does pretty well.  It seems like it will be a great camera for vlogging, selfies, and travel.  Oh, and it can even shoot 4K video in clips of up to 5 minutes long.

 

UPDATE:  I had to exchange the first camera I bought because the touch screen stopped responding.  Then, with the second one, I noticed the lens motor in the video, which made it unusable for my purposes.  I returned the camera and will be getting something else, and you can see the video I posted about it here.

Category: Technology, Videos


The Pro-Life Movement and the Behavior of our Mainstream Media Towards Trump

  /   Wednesday, February 01, 2017   /   Comments(0)

I was all set to write about the March for Life. As I did this, I wanted to address something that comes across the debate all the time that makes no sense to me. A number of people, many of whom are either pro-abortion, or want to justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate (even if personally pro-life) will bring in their views on other social issues. Of course, there are other issues that are legitimate. Of course, we need to have support for mothers facing a difficult pregnancy before and after birth. However, if I have to choose between having legal abortion and more support for pregnant women or having abortion ended but not having it, I am choosing the latter. Saying that we should let the mother kill the child in the womb since that support may not be available is not even close to taking a moral high ground.

I hope that choice won’t be necessary though. If I listen to today’s politics, it almost seems like that is the choice we are given at the voting booth. However, I think there are good pregnancy centers that do provide support, and pro-life people support them out of their own pockets. Not all support has to come from tax dollars. Rather than go further, let me just link to the excellent article that addresses this better.

Well, anyway, the marches that took place in the past week have been crowded out of the news now by Trump’s recent executive order stopping people from certain countries from entering. I’ve read a lot of things written by people from different sides of the issue, and I do think the order was overall problematic. I’m very concerned about how innocent people are being affected by it. However, I’m not the expert on the potential dangers from those particular countries. Innocent people should not be affected, but we also can’t let political correctness keep us from recognizing real threats.

I do want to address an interesting phenomenon among the comments I have seen. Many of the people who are defending Trump would mention something along the same lines that Obama did. The response to this from others is that “just because Obama did it doesn’t make it right.” I think that misses the point. The last thing on earth that Trump defenders would want to convey is that something must be right because Obama did it.

The point they are trying to make is that no one seemed to worry about similar actions taken by Obama, but they demonized Trump for taking the actions that aren’t that far off from what Obama did. Do journalists have short memories? The mainstream media had made a big emotional drama over what Trump is doing, and I’m having a hard time figuring out if I can believe what they say or not. Is Trump really doing bad things, or is the mainstream media going crazy because there is someone in office whom they don’t like. I think his article sums up the issue better than I could.

Then there’s the firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates. She basically disobeyed the president’s order, whether rightly or wrongly. The media are making dramatic statements like “conform or you’re out” or saying that Yates was “treated like someone on The Apprentice.” The issue here is that, had the issue at hand been refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or to provide free contraception in accordance with the Obamacare contraceptive mandate, most of these same people would be saying things like “You can’t pick and choose which laws to obey.” or “Your job is to enforce the law.” So, now the liberals are basically admitting that there are laws that are unjust and therefore should not be followed.

Okay, so maybe this post was a bit winding Its trajectory. I guess this is what happens when I try to blog about news events, and then I get behind. I meant to post days ago but haven’t had the chance. Next post, I’ll try a technology topic instead.

Category: Pro-life


           



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