Author Archives: ivan

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Thoughts on Nike+ FuelBand

In November I’ve got a Nike+ FuelBand as an early Christmas present. At first I was a bit skeptical of it since I thought that a fitness tracker can’t really tell me anything I won’t already know about yourself, but actually using it has proved quite fun.

Nike+ FuelBand along with Fitbit and Jawbone Up have found a relative success on the markets so far. At CES this year a whole load more fitness trackers have been announced – the market is rapidly expanding and it is only going to get more competitive. A huge boost in popularity of these devices remind me a bit when Foursquare launched a couple of years back. Suddenly such a trivial activity as going out for a meal or a drink became competitive and fun – Foursquare has turned it in to an exciting social game. Now activity trackers could change how we stay fit and active. Only this time around you won’t have to actively log anything yourself, instead wearing a tiny device that it does it all for you.

In the recent years Nike has been expanding it’s Nike+ ecosystem, strengthening it’s hold on the new sports electronics market, Nike+ FuelBand represents it’s latest effort. It is a simple device worn around a wrist that has a 3-axis accelerometer, constantly recording your activity. It then calculates your activity as well as steps and calories. The FuelBand is beautifully designed and engineered – you can tell that Nike has made an effort to create an excellent product. An array of white LEDs making up the screen is beautiful to look at and single-button interface is simple without any unnecessarily menus or options cluttering up the experience.

For anything more then looking up your current scores you have to use the mobile app. Syncing is handled by Bluetooth and is extremely quick and easy. The app can show your activity for a given week, month or year. This is where the FuelBand is most useful. The more you wear it, the more interesting and complete this information becomes, giving you an insight in to your life that you might not have otherwise known.

Though using FuelBand has been really enjoyable, it is not without it’s shortcomings. The biggest one is that it is simply not waterproof. A persistent activity tracker worn on your body is just begging to be protected from water so that it could keep on collecting data no matter what you do. The whole point of it is to record your activity for entire day and show exactly how active you have been and when. The fact that you can’t do it with anything involving water defeats the purpose.

For example now I’m on vacation and I have been much more active here then normally, however my daily NikeFuel scores do not reflect that. I even fail to meet my goals most of the time because I can’t wear the device when swimming. Of course I could put it on every time when I get out of the pool or the sea but it’s hardly practical and still does not change the fact that activity in the water can’t be recorded. Nike should have known better.

Nike+ perhaps represents a big leap for sports electronics from a niche market of specialized devices for athletes to a wide consumer market. A device like this can show a truly insightful information helping you stay fit and healthy. With the market rapidly growing it is really exciting what would come next.

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New blog theme

Last time I’ve redesigned my website when I was still in the university, though I was happy with it at the time it didn’t look quite modern anymore. Pages were a bit cluttered and UI elements got in the way of content. I needed a clean minimal design that could serve as a good platform for my blog and photos while being more subtle and non-intrusive.

An ability to create child themes in WordPress makes designing themes a breeze. My new theme is based on the recently released with WordPress 3.5 new default theme Twenty Twelve. Choosing it offered me quite a few advantages:

  • A robust community-designed theme that uses the best WordPress practices;
  • Mobile-first responsive layout;
  • Support for a wide variety of browsers and platforms;
  • Minimal default styling, making it perfect for building upon;
  • Additional post formats, allowing publishing other content then blog posts.

My new theme is optimised for mobile, tablet and desktop screens. There is no sidebar, articles take up most of page width so nothing would get in a way of the content.

When I blog I always like to take a photograph to go with the text. Before on my website they used to look small and obscured by sidebar widgets. Now featured images are large and go from edge to edge of the content box. This makes photos really stand out, especially the wide shots. Each article container has rounded corners and a box-shadow with featured image sitting right on top. It makes blog posts look a bit like cards arranged vertically.

The text is now also more readable and visually pleasing thanks to Google’s Open Sans font. For the headings I used a beautiful sans-serif typeface Raleway by The League of Moveable Type. It’s thin and light letters look especially good in large type.

This is still very much a work in progress as several aspects need tweaking and improving,  namely I still need to add a proper image gallery among other things. But I wanted to update the design as soon as possible. It’s probably better to make incremental improvements rather then let the grass grow under my feet.

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iPhone 5 unboxing and first impressions

I finally got around to getting the iPhone 5. Due to an overwhelming demand Apple offers reservations of the iPhone 5 at the retail stores, helping you to avoid long queues and disappointment. It’s quite quick and easy process, once your reservation has been confirmed you can choose a convenient time to pick it up the next day.

Much has already been said about the iPhone 5, but to me the first thing I’ve noticed was an exceptional build quality. It feels in your hand like a precisely engineered slab of anodized aluminum. The iPhone 4/4S were great no complaints there, but the new iPhone takes it to a whole new level.

Another thing I love about the iPhone 5 is the new taller screen. I must admit that I was a bit anxious about it before getting the phone as I thought it might be awkward to use in one hand. After using the new iPhone for a little while the shorter 4S screen fells small and squashed. The new taller screen is so natural and organic, it kind of makes me wonder why Apple didn’t do it sooner. It is a joy to use and look at and the added real estate makes all the difference when it comes to reading, playing games and watching videos. Any list-based app like Mail or Reminders benefit immensely from an additional space and I love the ability to fit more apps on the home screens.

Of course there is no new iPhone without unboxing pictures. Sadly it was already getting dark and the weather was quite cold and windy, so these definitely aren’t the best pictures ever.

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Chrome Experiments in London

This summer Google opened Web Lab exhibition at the Science Museum in London, showcasing the incredible things that can be done in a web browser and of course promoting Google Chrome along the way. Recently I’ve paid a visit myself to see what it’s all about.

The exhibition is in quite a sharp contrast to some of the museum’s other displays. For example I found a Mac running System 7 (first released all the way back in 1991) that was still being used for a medical exhibit. If anything it is of course a testament to Apple’s engineering, a computer that’s still running daily for two decades.

But anyway, Google Web Lab is meant to showcase latest cutting edge technology. Entering a spacious basement filled with weird music, you immediately notice everywhere futuristic devices and décor. It reminds me somewhat of a sci-fi spaceship, but in a good, a little bit geeky sort of way. You are then given a card by one of the attendants, that will serve as a passport to all the “experiments” that you try, allowing you to not only save your progress, but also to retrieve it once you get home. Some of the experiments are equipped with cameras and microphones, with your recorded footage going straight to the YouTube.

There are five experiments you can play with, all controlled on the client side through Google Chrome. One traces a remote image to its physical location on the map, accompanied by a nice visuals on the wall. Another one let’s you compose music by dragging objects on the grid that represent instruments in front of you. And my favourite experiment takes a picture of you and draws it on the sand with a robotic arm. The whole process from photo to a finished sand painting takes about a minute and results are pretty awesome.

Google is trying to connect something purely virtual with a real physical world. It’s quite difficult to do because they are so far apart, especially when it comes to browsers. If anything, Google is bringing the Web closer then ever, albeit in quite an unusual way.

Photos after the break

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The Social Games

A lot has changed since Beijing four years ago. Back then the iPhone was one year old and Twitter celebrated only it’s second birthday. Unlike previous opening ceremonies, this year most of the athletes were marching with their smartphones, capturing the moment as it happens. Even the official Olympics broadcasts sometimes showed a close up of someone’s phone held up high, allowing viewers to see through it. All this footage captured by the athletes and spectators ends up straight on the social media sites for everyone to see.

Instead of getting a distilled coverage from trusted media partners many turned to social media to get the news right from the heart of the Games. It offered sometimes different perspective on events and raw and unbiased opinions. In fact Twitter saw a staggering 150 million tweets about Olympics during the Games. There’s a terrific infographic showing just how much social media changed since Beijing in 2008.

Like millions other people, I was checking Twitter for live coverage from the events. Last Saturday I’ve been to Earls Court to see woman’s volleyball bronze medal match. Despite being at the actual event I kept checking Twitter for updates. It makes a much more interesting and immersive experience, regardless of where you are. Simply watching event might be no longer enough. If anything, social media made these Games more open, made people feel like they are a part of something big.

Thanks to social media, London 2012 games are probably the most documented and talked about Games so far. It’s interesting to think how user-generated content is affecting big sporting events like Olympic Games and what challenges the organizers would face in the future. International Olympic Committee has set a very strict rules for athletes and volunteers about use of social media but it looks like it didn’t stop people form sharing anyway. At the end of the day social media will only serve good both people and the Games alike.

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London and the Games

The Olympic Games are in full swing now in London, bringing so many people together in their passion for sport and pride for their nations. The actual Games might be happening only at select few venues, but it does not matter because literally anywhere you look you could see a mark that the Games have left. It is such a landmark event that can happen only once in a generation.

It’s worth to remember how the Games changed London and it’s people. Below are pictures I’ve taken during my lunch break at the Bankside.

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My Degree Show

This June I was really happy to get my work shown at the Menier Gallery at London Bridge. It was my university degree show, where all the students could show what they’ve been working on.

For my project I’ve collaborated with the National Theatre to build an iPad app, based around a timeline of all Shakespeare productions at the Theatre since it’s foundation in the 60s. It’s really exiting project to work on, especially thanks to all the rich content that the theatre collected over the years. All the footage, such as posters and images have extremely high production values and quality. It’s really interesting to find the best way to present this footage in a digital form on the iPad.

I’m still working on the project, but it’s nearing completion very soon.

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The Royal Barge

On Monday I was fortunate to see Gloriana – a Royal Barge that led the Diamond Jubilee pageant on the Thames the day before. I saw it at London Bridge, the barge passed under it towards HMS Belfast and turned back again. Although it’s a rowing boat, it does have an engine as no one was rowing it on Monday. The barge is really beautiful, I can only imagine how it was like to watch the entire Jubilee pageant on the Thames.

Below are pictures of the Barge and a few other boats that took part in the event.

More images on Flickr.

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Brighton Marathon’12

The third Brighton Marathon was on Sunday. This year over ten thousand runners took part. It has been a big success: weather was great and sunny, people were happy, it was just a great day out.
All around the 26 mile course streets were lined with people, cheering for the runners. Ten thousand runners is a lot for a relatively small city with a population of about half a million. It’s awesome to see hordes of people running through small and usually quite streets. I love that you can watch a big sporting event from your street without a need to travel. Events like this really bring the community together!

Here are some of the pictures I took.

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World of Warcraft server blade

World of Warcraft is one of my favourite games ever. I used to be a little hesitant about MMO games in general but I could not resist to try WoW after seeing a Wrath of the Lich King cinematic trailer. In fact it looked so good that I even thought it was a new Hollywood blockbuster. Needless to say I got hooked instantly and after 3 and a half years I’m still absolutely captivated by the game.

Warcraft universe is so vast, expansive and highly developed that few other games can attempt to match it. Blizzard put so much work in it that when you play the game it feels fluid and natural – like a parallel world that lives on it’s own. Over the years playing World of Warcraft I’ve met so many amazing people. This was an experience unlike anything else.

Unfortunately lately time constraints mean that I can’t play the game as much as I would like to (I don’t play at all at the moment), but I found other ways to enjoy Warcraft, namely collecting stuff. I have Collectors Editions of the game, books, etc. – the usual stuff. But during last year’s BlizzCon it was announced that retired server blades that were used to run the actual game are going to be auctioned off for a charity. This is what got me really excited! This is the ultimate collectors item! And not only it helps the environment by getting rid of e-waste, preserves an important part of gaming history but it’s also helping a good cause: all the benefits are going to St. Jude children’s research hospital in Tennessee.

I was fortunate to be able to get a blade server that used to run my realm, Azuremyst EU. Operational datas engraved on a metal plaque are October 24, 2008 (a few weeks before I joined the game) to June 15, 2010. Below is a text about it and signatures of the World of Warcraft team. All the components and circuits are covered by a sheet of plexiglass engraved with WoW logo, held by magnets. All in all pretty cool stuff!

It’s quite interesting to have a real physical object, a huge server weighting 10kg in a world where almost everything is digital. Collectors Editions of the game with all the goodies inside, mouse pads, T-Shirts, books they are all physical objects as well, but are just representations of a digital work created on a computer. Mostly images printed on various objects. The blade server is something different, it is closely related to the game, yet it’s not based on it’s IP. It is nice to have an analogue object in a digital world.

Below are a few pictures of my server blade and more can be found on Flickr.