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For the past three weeks, I’ve been wearing the new Fitbit Flex, a new competitor in the health wristband market. As a former unofficial beta tester of the original Jawbone Up, I was excited to start using a new wristband to track my steps and sleep. With great battery life promised and a sleek design, I had high expectations. Did Fitbit pull it off? Read on to see my full review:
Inside the box
The Fitbit Flex box comes with a USB charger to juice up the battery, a USB wireless syncing dongle to update the grab the information from the device, the Flex itself, and two rubbery wristbands – small and large. The included wristbands should fit most users (and have many adjustment positions like a belt), but other sizes are available from their online store.
Rather than the Flex being part of the wristband, it’s actually a black device that fits right inside. This makes it less expensive to change colors – in fact, you can change colors every day to match your outfit. Yet, I find this intelligent design to be flawed. The cavity where the Flex fits in has room for water to enter. While the device is water-resistent (not water proof, meaning you can shower with it but can’t go deep under water where there is pressure), I have given up on showering with the Flex since water enters the band and slowly drains out throughout the day and makes a funny squishy noise until all of the water is gone. I also clean out the inside cavity every few days to make sure sweat doesn’t add up and start smelling.
The Flex, just like its sister products like the One, Zip, and Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale, syncs to the free Fitbit app. The Flex syncs wirelessly over Bluetooth 4.0 every 15 minutes (and can be forced to sync at any time). The device sends over steps, distance walked, and sleep. In addition, you can use the application to keep tabs on your water consumption, calories burned, weight, activity, food, and even keep tabs on your friends.
Sadly, there are no reminders asking for you to input the information. In addition, if you haven’t logged water consumption for many days, there is no dramatic push notification asking if you’re dehydrated and requesting that you drink immediately. This is definitely the killer for the Fitbit ecosystem – it depends on your own self-motivation, rather than acting as a personal trainer always pushing you to watch your weight or drink the necessary amount of water every day. While some may find that to be too pushy, the option to be pushed to eat the right amount and find more time to sleep would be the next step in health-related smart devices.
How it works
Once you’ve put the band on, you can double tap the wristband and it’ll display LED lights. There are five LED lights total, representing the progress towards your stepping goal for the day. If you’ve set the walking goal for 10,000 steps a day and have walked less than 2,000 steps today, only one LED will appear. Beyond 2,000, two LED lights will appear. Once you’ve met your goal, your Fitbit has a fun celebration by vibrating and lighting up all five LEDs.
When you’re ready to go to sleep, you tap the Flex five times rapidly (this takes a bit of practice since it’s picky). I usually forget to do this, since I always manage to fall asleep in the middle of a Netflix episode. I wish the Fitbit would realize that you were asleep eventually and go into sleep mode. You must also tap five times when you wake up to tell the device that you’re out of your slumber. Once again, I forget to do this so the app will report later that I was trying to sleep yet I was walking around. No, Fitbit, I don’t sleep walk that often! Also, Fitbit doesn’t talk about the five-tap-for-sleep in the setup process, so I had to find out about that by looking it up online.
On the Flex specs page, the company says the battery life for the device is 5 days. However, I’ve found that this is an area where the Flex really shines, as I have been charging just about every 7 days. Charging through USB to my computer, it takes just about 90 minutes to go from dead to fully charged. As an added bonus, the app will send a push notification to your phone when the battery is running low so you never miss a step. The battery definitely gets an A+ from me.
The first few days of having the Flex, I was really excited to type in every single meal, every ounce of water, and I even took extra walks around my apartment complex to meet my daily goals. Over time, I would forget to tell the device that I was going to sleep, I stopped walking (at 11:50pm it’ll still show that I’m under 2,000 steps… oops), and my general usage of the application is definitely lower.
It’s a wonderful device, don’t get me wrong. As compared to the buggy original Jawbone Up, this device is definitely more stable and, from my experiences, tracks steps with an error less than 5%. However, I do long for a more complete “personal trainer” device that bugs me more often. I want the push notifications that tell me to go take a walk. I miss the Up feature that makes the device vibrate if you haven’t walked in a certain interval of time. I want a device that doesn’t make squishy noises after I get out of the shower. For the $99 price point, it’s a wonderful buy for those who are ready to be self-motivated and ready to push themselves to be fit. For me, however, I’ve gone back to my old ways of sitting at my desk for 18 hours a day.
The Fitbit Flex is a sleek device with tight app integration. But it’s “part of a complete breakfast”, you might say. The device itself will not make you fit. If you’re ready to make a change in your lifestyle and you’re prepared to push yourself into the next level of fitness, then this device is definitely for you.
To buy the Flex, check it out on the Fitbit store online. It’s been sold out since it’s launch, so you will have to wait a few weeks if you buy it from their store, Amazon, or Best Buy. I was able to grab it with a local pick-up at Best Buy, so be sure to check the inventory of your local stores.
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Yesterday iDownloadBlog reported on Flex, an upcoming jailbreak app that allows users to create their own tweaks on the fly. We had reason to be excited, as Flex can create custom patches for the Springboard or almost any app, all without requiring programming knowledge from users.
While we were optimistic about Flex, some of our readers were curious about how Flex works, and others raised concerns about the unreleased app. Because we felt these concerns deserved addressing, we got in touch with Flex’s developer, John Coates, who was kind enough to answer our questions and provide more screenshots for our readers…
What kind of user is Flex for?
What’s interesting about Flex is that it encompasses two target markets that are so distinct from each other. On one hand Flex is perfect for a regular person who doesn’t have any interest or knowledge of programming. They can download patches from the cloud and activate them without ever knowing how or why they work. On the other hand Flex is also perfect for people who make complicated tweaks and release them on Cydia, and it gives them a lot of flexibility.
What can users do with Flex and what is beyond the scope of the app?
With Flex you can change the way apps behave. You’re limited to what’s already in the app, so don’t think you can add anything that doesn’t exist within it already. You basically change the rules, so if you want to hide something, remove a restriction, give yourself more points than you have, etc. then Flex gives you the freedom to do that. You won’t be able to make a patch that adds a new icon to Springboard, but if you want to remove the Newsstand icon then that’s definitely within the capacity.
On Reddit you suggested that “absolutely no programming knowledge is needed” to make patches in Flex. What do people need to know about the variables they’re messing with, and how badly can someone like me (a muggle) break my iPhone in Flex?
The variables you mess with are usually named quite descriptively, so you can always tell pretty well what you’re changing in the app. You can’t break your Phone in Flex. You’re always protected by MobileSubstrate’s safe mode if you somehow make Springboard crash. But if you’re not playing with Springboard then the worst that could happen is that the app you’re running a patch on crashes until you disable the patch.
How will Flex’s community-submitted patches be maintained to protect users from malicious patches and abuse? How will users find the most useful patches?
Flex doesn’t currently have a rating system for shared patches, but I’m definitely looking into adding something that in the future. As far as malicious patches, that’s not very much of a concern at the moment for a couple reasons. First of all it’s a no-win scenario. You’ll need to have bought Flex to submit a patch, and submitting something malicious will get your patch downloading privileges revoked. Downloaded patches are fully editable and viewable, so users have the option to go into a patch and see what it does before activating it.
I haven’t noticed anything odd myself, but I don’t have any other tweaks installed besides my own. The beta test has just kicked off so I’ll have more feedback about that soon.
Were you able to do anything in Flex that surprised you? What’s your favorite patch?
I keep getting surprised about how easy it is to make these Patches. I usually have one in working order 1-2 minutes after I think about something I want changed in an app. My favorite one right now is unlimited safari tabs, because I’ve hit that tab limit many times!
Do you have any other questions?
Tesla will demo its self-driving progress this month
Tesla has made some big promises about autonomous driving, and the electric automaker plans to show off some of the fruits of its efforts at an Autonomy Investor Day later this month. The company has invited investors to visit Tesla HQ in Palo Alto on April 19, for test drives of prototype self-driving EVs and more.
“Tesla is making significant progress in the development of its autonomous driving software and hardware, including our FSD computer, which is currently in production and which will enable full-self driving via future over-the-air software updates,” the company said today. The Autonomy Investor Day will offer “a deep dive” into the technology behind that, as well as insights into the roadmap for their release.
It will be a hands-on opportunity, too. “Investors will be able to take test-drives to experience our Autopilot software first-hand,” Tesla promises, “including features and functionality that are under active development.” On-site will be not only Tesla CEO Elon Musk, but the automaker’s VP of engineering, Stuart Bowers, VP of Hardware Engineering, Pete Bannon, and Sr. Director of AI, Andrej Karpathy.
It’s fair to say that Tesla has been more bullish on the commercial roadmap for autonomous driving than most of its peers in the auto industry. Its Autopilot system has effectively branded a combination of adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, and lane-changing assistance, to the point where there’s confusion among some drivers and would-be drivers of cars like the Model 3 and Model S as to just how much responsibility the EV itself can take on.
Meanwhile, Tesla has been selling the promise of fully autonomous driving as an option for some time now. The “Full Self-Driving Capability” is a $5,000 addition on top of the $3,000 Autopilot option. It currently includes Navigate on Autopilot, which promises on-ramp to off-ramp driving on highways, Autopark, and Summon. “Coming later this year,” Tesla says, is the ability to recognize and respond to traffic lights and stop signs, as well as do automatic driving on city streets.
Just how close to Level 4 and Level 5 self-driving Tesla’s current system of onboard processing, cameras, ultrasonic sensors, and radar – though, conspicuously, not LIDAR – is able to get is an ongoing controversy in the car and autonomous research industries. Elon Musk has been dismissive of concerns that, without laser rangefinders, Tesla will never be able to offer entirely satisfactory driverless vehicles. The automaker argues that its computer vision systems are more than sufficient to deal with what’s necessary on the road.
This investor demo day is likely to tackle that, along with other questions around Autopilot safety and the evolution of the system, in-depth. Tesla certainly has plenty of data to work on: its cars have been gathering driving data while on the road, with autonomous AI algorithms working in silent mode to figure out what the car should do in each situation. Already there has been more than a billion miles of that information collected, the company has said.
If you’re not a Tesla investor, meanwhile, there’ll still be something to see. The company plans to webcast the event, though it’s unclear whether every aspect of what’s previewed will be publicly visible. We’ll know more about the webcast closer to the April 19 event.
Fans have been clamouring for a new Fitbit ever since it last launched actual hardware back in August 2023; with the unveiling of its Charge 5 tracker. In the meantime, we’ve seen little more than a few updates, accessories, enhancements to the company’s Premium service and the occasional (slightly concerning) product recall.
The company’s wearable hardware can be divided into two distinct form factors: activity trackers (like the Inspire 2, Luxe and Charge 5) and more sizeable smartwatch-style Fitbits. The last two entries of the latter form factor to launch were the Versa 3 and Sense, both of which inherited the ’squircle’ silhouette previously sported by the Versa 2 and both of which ditched physical buttons entirely.
Instead, these Fitbit smartwatches served up an indented element on the right side of their frames with no visible moving parts that returned haptic feedback in the form of subtle vibration, when pressed. This made for a more elegant design overall but didn’t necessarily offer a better user experience; with some reporting inconsistent touch response from this ‘virtual’ button that hindered navigation.
Imagery seeded to 9to5Google in early May shows an unreleased Fitbit, thought to be the unannounced Versa 4 and one of the most intriguing parts of the shot is that it looks as though it sports a button on its right side. A real one.
Whether this design trait will remain exclusive to the Versa 4 or also be found on its similarly-styled sibling – the rumoured Sense 2 – is unclear but it’s a definite shift that would help validate the user push-back the company received against the capacitive alternative found on its 2023 smartwatches.
It’s part of the reason why the iPhone SE lives on in its current form; sporting a design first scribed back in 2014 by the iPhone 6 (itself a humble adaptation of the 2007 original).
The phone’s physical home button is an iconic piece of hardware design that some fans just can’t quit. Some simply prefer the look and feel, others favour Touch ID over Face ID (especially right now, as support for Face ID while wearing a mask only just arrived in iOS 15.4).
Manufacturers have tried pushing the envelope in the other direction too, with the touchscreen-based volume controls along the edge of the Huawei Mate 30 Pro‘s ‘Horizon’ display, and entries like the Meizu Zero and Vivo Apex 2023 giving us the opportunity to experience life with a truly buttonless, portless device, with varying levels of success.
Reinstating the side button on Fitbit’s wearables is primarily a practically-driven argument that’s not solely informed by problematic predecessors or tied up in Fitbit fandom. Adding back that one physical button could help in matters of accessibility and in scenarios where capacity buttons struggle to function (such as when swimming or when handled with wet/sweaty fingers).
We’ll know Fitbit’s decision on the matter sooner rather than later, it seems, with this latest leak pointing to near-complete hardware and Fitbit-adjacent events like Google I/O 2023 only days away, with the potential to shed at least some light on what the company is cooking up.
DroboPro FS puts 16TB of self-healing backup onto your network
Data Robotics has announced its latest network backup system, the Data Robotics DroboPro FS. Based on the Drobo FS launched back in April and the DroboPro from the year before, the DroboPro FS is targeted at small businesses and supports up to eight 3.5-inch SATA-II hard-drives for a maximum 16TB capacity. Network connectivity consists of two gigabit ethernet ports.
As with other Data Robotics products there is single or dual drive redundancy using the company’s BeyondRAID system. There’s also a new Drobo Sync application for automating backups across multiple machines, while the DroboPro FS supports simultaneous off-site replication to a remote unit as well.
The basic unit starts at $1,999 without drives, but various preconfigured packages will also be available. These will top out at $3,299 for a full 16TB unit made up of eight 2TB hard-drives.
DATA ROBOTICS CONTINUES INNOVATION FOR SMALL BUSINESS WITH BREAKTHROUGH FILE SHARING AND OFFSITE BACKUP SOLUTION
New DroboPro FS Leverages Proven BeyondRAID Technology and Drobo Sync Backup Application to Deliver Unprecedented Ease, Affordability, and Data Safety
SANTA CLARA, CA – October 5, 2010 – Data Robotics, Inc. (“Drobo”), the company that is changing the way the world stores and protects digital content, today introduced DroboPro FS, the newest member of the Drobo family of automated storage products. Building on the success of the award-winning Drobo FS (introduced in April, 2010), the DroboPro FS with the newly integrated Drobo Sync application is tailored to enable small businesses to deploy network storage and offsite backup without complexity. DroboPro FS is ideal for any small office environment that requires a simple, safe, and affordable device for sharing and backing up files over the network.
“There is a significant need for simple, expandable storage solutions that address the relentless data growth happening within personal and small to medium business markets,” said Liz Conner, Senior Research Analyst, Storage Systems and Personal Storage at IDC. “Data Robotics has had success in addressing the personal and SOHO storage market with its Drobo FS. The company is aiming to meet the increasingly rigid requirements for data availability with its DroboPro FS by enabling off-site backups while preserving its simple-to-use nature that can scale with the capacity needs of its users.”
“We are reinventing storage solutions that meet the specific requirements of small business owners,” said Tom Buiocchi, chief executive officer, Data Robotics. “Your typical small business needs data storage and protection, but has limited budget and technical resources. We provide the smart alternative to the overly complex and expensive solutions being offered. The DroboPro FS delivers ease of use, functionality, and affordability that many small businesses did not know could exist in a single solution.”
DroboPro FS Features and Benefits
BeyondRAID Technology for The Best Storage Experience Ever: Like all Drobo products, the new DroboPro FS is based on patented BeyondRAID technology, which provides unprecedented and unmatched ease of use, affordability, self-healing data protection, and expandability.
Pay-as-you-Grow Storage Capacity – Small businesses with growing storage requirements can easily and affordably add data capacity by simply inserting a new SATA hard drive or by replacing the smallest drive with a larger one, even when all eight drive bays of the DroboPro FS are full.
Network File Sharing: The DroboPro FS connects directly to any Gigabit Ethernet network for a true plug in and share set-up experience, supporting Microsoft, Apple, and Linux computer systems.
Automated Backup: Every DroboPro FS includes the new Drobo Sync application that will automatically backup (locally or remotely) all data to another DroboPro FS. Drobo Sync is both efficient and flexible, only transmitting portions of files that have changed and allowing backups to be conveniently scheduled.
Redundant Network Connections for High Availability: DroboPro FS provides two Gigabit Ethernet ports with network protection mode to ensure the highest data availability over the network.
Automated and Continuous Thin Provisioning: Unlike any competitive storage system in the market, the new DroboPro FS provides automated and perpetual thin provisioning to customers, allowing users to further stretch their storage investment and utilization.
“Our SMB customers are looking for a cost-effective storage product like the DroboPro FS that combines key features including instant expansion, self-healing technology, and offsite backup and recovery. Data Robotics clearly understands the needs of SMBs and we’re excited to be the preferred launch partner for the DroboPro FS”.
Pricing and Availability
Choose your colors. You can make this pattern with just one color, but it looks great with 2 or 3. You’ll need about 50 bands total, so count up to make sure you have enough of each color.
Loop the first band around the tines of a fork. Hold a fork so that the handle is up and the tines are facing you. This will act as your loom. Take the first band and loop it around the outer right tine. Lift it with your finger and thumb.
This sounds tricky, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be able to do it really quickly. If you need help handling the tiny band, you can use a crochet hook to help you pull it out and twist it.
Once the band is twisted around all of the tines, push it down a bit so that the twists are in an even line. Pull on either end to adjust the band so that all the twists are the same size.
Loop a second band around the tines of the fork. Using the exact same technique, add a second band. Choose the next one in your pattern, whether it’s the same color or a different one. Loop it around the outer right tine, twist it, loop it over the next tine, twist it, loop it over the next one, twist it, then loop it over the last tine. Push it down so that it’s stacked up against the first band.
Weave the loops. Orient the fork so that the tines are pointing down. Take a look at the outer right tine of the fork: you’ll see a stack of two loops. Take the top loop (the one closer to the handle of the fork) and pull it over the bottom loop and over the tip of the fork tine. Do the same with the other tines: take the top loops and pull them over the tips of the tines.
Loop a new band around the tines. Take the next color in your pattern, loop it over the outer right tine of the fork, twist it, then loop and twist it around the remaining tines. Now you have a stack of 2 looped bands on the fork again.
Weave the loops. With the fork oriented so that the tines are pointing down, look at the outer right tine. Take the top loop (the once closer to the handle of the fork) and pull it over the bottom loop and over the tip of the tine. Do the same with the other tines: take the top loops and pull them over the tips of the tines.
Keep going until the chevron bracelet is as long as you want it. Loop the next band in your pattern around the tines, then weave the loops by taking the top loop on each tine and pull it up and over the tips of the tines. Keep adding new bands and weaving the loops until the bracelet is big enough to fit your wrist.
Finish the bracelet. Transfer the remaining loops from the fork to your finger, then hook them into a C-clip to hold them all together. Finally, pull up the first loop from the beginning of the bracelet and connect it to the other end by slipping it into the C-clip. Your bracelet is complete.
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