Bad Voltage Episode 69 Has Been Released: Bill and Ted and Jeremy and Bryan and Jono and Stuart’s Excellent Adventure

Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke, Stuart Langridge and myself bring you Bad Voltage, in which none of us like each other’s books, this is actually a real actual show, and also:

  • 00:03:00 The Nextcloud project has been formed by people leaving the Owncloud company and forking the product. What’s this all about? What does it mean for {Own,Next}cloud, and for self-hosted file syncing?
  • 00:25:30 Bryan reviews the Dell XPS 13 developer laptop, 2016 edition
  • 00:40:42 Money and open source projects. As more projects start putting together ways to get money from donations or Patreon or funding, what should they do with that money? How do you decide how to parcel it out fairly?

Listen to 1×69: Bill and Ted and Jeremy and Bryan and Jono and Stuart’s Excellent Adventure

From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

Are You Involved With an Open Source Project That’s In Need of Funding? I May Be Able to Help.

A while back, I agreed to join the Linux Fund board. For those unfamiliar with the organization, our mission reads as follows: “Linux Fund is a community-neutral 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides financial and administrative support to the open source community.” With that in mind, are you involved with an Open Source project that would benefit from a targeted donation to accomplish a specific goal or task? If so please contact me with details and we’ll see if Linux Fund is a good fit. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact me directly or post here.

–jeremy

Withings Aura Smart Sleep System Review

In the most recent episode of Bad Voltage, I reviewed the Withings Aura Smart Sleep System. Tune in to listen to the ensuing discussion and the rest of the show.

Long time listeners will recall I reviewed the Withings WS-50 Smart Body Analyzer a couple years ago. As I mentioned in that review, I’m someone who makes a concerted effort to stay relatively healthy. Part of that means exercising regularly and being cognizant of my eating habits, but as an Open Source tech guy, I’m someone who prefers to make empirical decisions. I like data. I like being able to spot trends and from there see if I can find causation. A large part of staying healthy is getting enough sleep, any studies have shown that many people simply don’t get enough. While I was interested in getting data about my sleep, having to wear a device to bed every night or remember to activate a device regularly is anathema to me. Enter the Withings Aura Smart Sleep System, which aims to track your sleep without any manual interaction.61Ngbyn-QTL._SY400_

The Aura consists of two pieces: A plastic bedside device that serves as a control panel, speaker, digital clock, USB port and LED light that works in conjunction with the sleep programs and alarms, and a flat cloth sleep sensor that you place under your mattress. Once configured the device will automatically track and measure Temperature, Luminosity, Sound levels, Heart rate and amount of sleep. Sleep is broken up into light, deep and REM cycles which are then combined with time awake to give you a number for total time in bed, including how long it took you to initially fall asleep. The data is sent to the same Android or iOS Health Mate app as the WS-50, which syncs the data with the online portal. In addition to tracking, you can set a sleep program which combines soothing sound with a sunset light spectrum (which is various shades of red, from lighter to darker), use the nap program which allows you to sleep for a specific duration of time or set a traditional alarm. One nice alarm feature is that you tell the app not only what time you need to get up, but how many minutes before that you are willing to get up. It uses this data along with the sleep tracking to slowly start waking you using sunrise spectrum light (various shades of blue, from dark to light) and soft sounds once it detects you’re in the optimum part of your sleep cycle during that time window. You can even be woken up to a custom Spotify playlist.

Once you’ve had the device for a while, the app and online dashboard start to build activity and sleep patterns. While it’s easy to see how much sleep you’re getting and what kind of sleep you’re getting, there’s unfortunately no attempt to explain why you may not be getting enough sleep or what actions you could take to try to improve your sleep. I should note that I initially had some issues with connectivity and the alarm function, but recent firmware updates seem to have addressed those. Withings has consistently improved the app and online control panel, and has added additional functionality (most recently Nest integration). The device retails for $299 with one sleep sensor or $369 with two. Roughly a week before this review, Withings was acquired by Nokia, so it’s too soon to know what long term impact that will have.

So, what’s the Bad Voltage verdict? The Withings Aura Smart Sleep System gives you a lot of data and in my experience has been surprisingly accurate. The passive nature of the device appeals to me and ensures you have consistent and reliable data. While it would be nice if there was an attempt to further analyze the data and give customized actionable advice, you have the raw data to do this yourself. Overall the device works well, and if the concept appeals to you it’s something I’d recommend.

–jeremy

Ambient Weather WS-1001-Wifi Observer Review

In the most recent episode of Bad Voltage, I reviewed the Ambient Weather WS-1001-Wifi Observer Personal Weather Station. Tune in to listen to the ensuing discussion and the rest of the show.

Regular listeners will know I’m an avid runner and sports fan. Add in the fact that I live in a city where weather can change in an instant and a personal weather station was irresistible to the tech and data enthusiast inside me. After doing a bit of research, I decided on the Ambient Weather WS-1001-Wifi Observer. While it only needs to be performed once, I should note that setup is fairly involved. The product comes with three components: An outdoor sensor array which should be mounted on a pole, chimney or other suitable area, a small indoor sensor and an LCD control panel/display console. The first step is to mount the all-in-one outdoor sensor, which remains powered using a solar panel and rechargeable batteries. It measures and transmits outdoor temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall, and both UV and solar radiation. Next, mount the indoor sensor which measures and transmits indoor temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. Finally, plug in the control panel and complete the setup procedure which will walk you through configuring your wifi network, setting up NTP, syncing the two sensors and picking your units of measurement. Note that all three devices must be within 100-330 feet of each other, depending on layout and what materials are between them.

With everything setup, data will now start collecting on your display console and is updated every 14 seconds. In addition to showing all the data previously mentioned you will also see wind gusts, wind chill, sunrise, sunset, phases of the moon, dew point, rainfall rate and some historical graphs. There is a ton of data presented and while the sparse dense layout works for me, it has been described as unintuitive and overwhelming by some.

While seeing the data in real-time is interesting, you’ll likely also want to see long term trends and historical data. While the device can export all data to an SD card in CSV format, it becomes much more compelling when you connect it with the Weather Underground personal weather station network. Once connected, the unit becomes a public weather station that also feeds data to the Wunderground prediction model. That means you’ll be helping everyone get more accurate data for your specific area and better forecasts for your general area. You can even see how many people are using your PWS to get their weather report. There’s also a very slick Wunderstation app that is a great replacement for the somewhat antiquated display console, although unfortunately it’s currently only available for the iPad.

So, what’s the Bad Voltage verdict? At $289 the Ambient Weather WS-1001-WIFI OBSERVER isn’t cheap. In an era of touchscreens and sleek design, it’s definitely not going to win any design awards. That said, it’s a durable well built device that transmits and displays a huge amount of data. The Wunderground integration is seamless and knowing that you’re improving the predictive model for your neighborhood is surprisingly satisfying. If you’re a weather data junkie, this is a great device for you.

ws-1001-wifi-bd A1001PWS1

–jeremy

Bad Voltage Episode 61 Has Been Released: Head Boiling

Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke, Stuart Langridge and myself bring you Bad Voltage, in which we ask, to distro or not to distro? We are also apparently twonkles, we don’t fit inside the case, and:

  • 00:02:03 KDE Neon is a new distribution from some of the KDE team designed to show off the latest and greatest KDE, based on Ubuntu. Or maybe it’s just a technology showcase and not intended to be your actual main OS. It seems to not be very clear exactly what KDE Neon is for, either within or without the KDE project; what might this all be about?
  • 00:23:28 Jono reviews the Bluesmart suitcase: a piece of luggage with Bluetooth and a battery and more technology than the USS Enterprise
  • 00:34:10 Karen Sandler and Bradley Kuhn from the Software Freedom Conservancy talk about what the SFC is and enforcing GPL compliance in a world of violating Internet of Things devices
  • 01:00:00 Rachel Roumeliotis from O’Reilly and organiser of OSCON follows up on a previous discussion about tech conferences and talks about how OSCON is changing to stay fresh

Listen to 1×61: Head Boiling

From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

Bad Voltage Episode 60 Has Been Released: New Again

Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke, Stuart Langridge and myself bring you Bad Voltage, in which Bryan wants to be Benjamin Disraeli, it’s not worth spending twenty minutes to get free money, and:

  • 00:02:00 Brave is a new web browser focused around privacy and micropayments by blocking ads and trackers. We discuss what it’s like to run and what we think of it!
  • 00:20:54 Jeremy reviews the Moto 360 Gen 2 smartwatch, and we discuss it being pretty and actually good at its job
  • 00:37:53 Project Ara is a Google initiative to build a modular smartphone. Are we convinced by it as a concept? Would we buy one?
  • 00:54:35 Conference review: SCaLE and linux.conf.au

Listen to 1×60: New Again

From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

Moto 360 Generation 2 Smartwatch Review

In the next episode of Bad Voltage, I’ll be reviewing the Motorola Moto 360 Generation 2 (2015 edition). Tune in tomorrow to listen to the ensuing discussion and the rest of the show. In the interim, here’s the review:

Moto360_ambient

While I’m both a watch aficionado and a huge tech enthusiast, I’ve not traditionally been super impressed with smart watches. Sure, I backed the original pebble but the first few generations of devices in this category just didn’t impress me. Sub par displays, laggy unintuitive interfaces and terrible battery life weren’t the only issues. They just weren’t aesthetically pleasing. Shortly before our trip to Germany for Bad Voltage Live, friend of the show Tarus Balog mentioned the translation feature on his original Moto 360. I was intrigued as I unfortunately don’t speak much German. After taking a look at the Moto 360 generation two (or 2015 version as it’s sometimes called), I saw a watch that actually appealed to me. Evidently it’s not just me, as I’ve gotten several comments on how nice the device looks from random enthusiasts since my purchase.

The first thing you’ll notice when you start to build your watch using Moto Maker is that there are quite a few options. You can choose from 42mm or 46mm faces designed in men’s style, or a 42mm women’s style. There are multiple bezel choices, the case is available in a variety of colors based on which style you choose and there are myriad bands in both leather and metal. The price ranges from $299 – $449, depending on which options you choose, but given the large number of variables there should be something for everyone.

Moving on to specs, all models have gorilla glass, wireless charging, an ambient light sensor, heart rate sensor, Gyroscope, Accelerometer, are IP67* dust and water resistant, and have both wifi and bluetooth connectivity. The smaller style has a 300mAH battery that should last a little over one day, while the 46mm style has a 400mAH battery that should last almost two. In my experience, that estimate is pretty accurate but does depend on whether you utilize ambient mode. The wireless charger is a little stand that turns the watch into a small clock while charging, which is a nice touch. The watch does work with both Android and iOS. It appears Motorola plans to be a good Android citizen on the upgrade side, as I literally got the Marshmallow upgrade notification as I was writing this review.

Moto360

With specs out of the way, let’s move on to using and wearing the watch. I’ve already mentioned that I like the look of the watch, but I should mention that it’s also well built and comfortable to wear. Getting notifications on your wrist does come in handy at times, and not having to reach for your phone to check your calendar is nice. You can dictate text messages using the watch, but I just don’t *ever* see myself doing that. To be fair, I don’t do that with my phone either. The Google Now card implementation is both intuitive and useful. The translation feature that led me to first look into buying the watch works as advertised and came in handy on multiple occasions. The Google Fit and Moto Body functionality is also there for those who are interested, although keep in mind Motorola has a dedicated Sport Watch.  Overall I like the device more than I anticipated, but there are some downsides. I’ve only been using the marshmallow version of Wear for 15 minutes or so, but overall Wear is not quite where it needs to be. It is getting closer though, and that isn’t specific to the Moto 360. While battery life on the device is acceptable, I think for a watch to get mainstream adoption it will need to be able to last for “a weekend” and so far I’m not aware of a non e-ink one that does. I should note that while the original 360 was the first round smartwatch, both it and the generation 2 model have a small notch out of the bottom part of the display that has derisively been nicknamed the flat tire. While it doesn’t bother me much, it seems to drive some people absolutely bonkers. Competing round watches from LG, Samsung, Huawei and others do not have the tire.

So, what’s the Bad Voltage verdict? The Moto 360 generation 2 is a sleek, well built, reasonably priced device with enough customization options to appeal to traditional watch enthusiasts. If you’ve been holding out on getting a smartwatch, it may well be time to take another look.

–jeremy

Note, I’ve heard good things about the latest Huawei Watch but don’t currently have one. If I get one, I’ll certainly review it here as well as post a comparison to the Moto 360 2. If you think there’s another watch I should be looking at, let me know.

  • IP67 – Withstands immersion in up to 3 feet of fresh water for up to 30 minutes. Not designed to work while submerged underwater. Do not use while swimming, or subject it to pressurized streams of water. Avoid exposure of leather band to water. Not dust proof.