Episode 032: Tech Talk Tuesday – Noise Cancelling Headphones

This Podcast is published on Anchor.FM or you can subscribe via Apple PodcastsGoogle Play PodcastsPocketCastsTuneIn and Stitcher.

They have been an aspirational item on many an overnight business flight, yet time and time again, I resisted the urge to drop the cash required to own a pair of the best noise cancelling headphones around.

Working for some of the top hardware companies globally, I have had the opportunity to use various noise cancelling headphones and found the experience to be pleasing, but due to past medical issues, the use of in and on-ear style headphones is limited to an hour or two at the most before the experience becomes painful.

What pushed me over the edge, however, was when I moved to Lagos Nigeria for work and had the generator for our building, running for several hours a night, usually for several nights a week, right outside the bedroom windows. Trying to sleep at night is like being on an overnight flight. So when I found myself in the USA recently, I took the plunge and added the Bose QC35 to my shopping cart of gadgets. Of everything I got while I was there, these have got to have been the best thing I bought.

Competition

So the Bose QC35 were not the only headphones I was looking at. Sony’s MDR-1000X have had fantastic reviews and in multiples tests, I found their noise cancellation for sounds outside of engine drone, to be superior to the Bose, however, the way they sealed around my ears created pressure on my eardrums that was a tad too uncomfortable.

This is really the only reason, that I picked the Bose over the Sony offering, that and the reports of Bose stores being able to service and replace padding and parts on older headphones still which seemed to me to make them a good investment.

Fast forward several months, every time I put these headphones on when the generators are roaring outside, I cannot help but smile and instantly feel my stress levels dissolve away. I never thought I could justify spending a few hundred dollars on headphones, but now, I wonder why I took so long.

(Listen to the previous episode here.)

Episode 023: Tech Talk Tuesday – Africa

This Podcast is published on Anchor.FM or you can subscribe via Apple PodcastsGoogle Play PodcastsPocketCastsTuneIn and Stitcher.

Normally I apologise for the background noise in my podcasts but today I will not be apologetic as I talk about what tech is like in Africa. I think the droning generator noise makes a good background for such a topic.

Africa Lite

Many people in business experience Africa for the first time as a trip to South Africa, usually to Johannesburg and it’s economic powerhouse suburb of Sandton, the supposedly majestic mountain in the middle of the Mother City, Cape Town.

These visitors leave thinking Africa is not so bad and a land full of opportunities.

While they are not wrong about the opportunities, their perception of the infrastructure and development of Africa cannot be measured by a short stop in SA.

One person who is not in the dark about what real Africa is like, is Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai who was in Nigeria last week for a special Google event. You can find the details of what was announced on Google’s Africa blog here.

The truth is that Africa has great opportunities but requires a lot of work. Over fifty countries with their own regulations and practices make for a much tougher market than the single country, billion plus population markets of maybe India.

(Listen to last week’s Tech Talk Tuesday podcast here.)

Episode 018: Tech Talk Tuesday – Fitness Trackers

This Podcast is published on Anchor.FM or you can subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Google Play PodcastsPocketCastsTuneIn and Stitcher.

Today I am not going to focus so much on current tech news and more on something that I have been struggling with in technology myself lately and that is Wearable technology or specifically, Fitness Trackers in the wearable tech space.

This topic is a branch of a gripe I have with technology which is that it makes life really simple when it works, but when it doesn’t go as smooth as the commercials make it seem like it should, it can smuggle away precious minutes and even hours away from you.

Product and Service Fails

An example, I have a non-smart TV presently because I seldom watch TV, I do not even have the satellite TV decoder for the dish already provided in our apartment building. Instead, I have a Google Chrome Cast plugged into the back of my TV which I may use for some Netflix or YouTube while on the treadmill. This evening, it took several attempts to get the Netflix to launch on the Chromecast and then eventually play the content I wanted to play. I almost gave up.

I am digressing a little but my point is that these things are great when they work but when they do not they are extremely frustrating.

The same can apply to services like medical or life insurance providers and their incentive programmes to track your health and fitness – thereby reducing their risk – by dangling the carrot of premium reductions or other perks if you try to be more healthy.

South Africans listening to this show are all too familiar with Discovery and their Vitality programme. They have also worked to bring their clients access to the top wearable products at a discounted rate – depending on their fitness level – including the Apple Watch or Samsung Gear range of devices.

Personally, I am not a Discovery member of any of their products, instead, I subscribe to some of their rivals including Momentum’s Multiply, a Vitality variation. This has got me looking into fitness trackers again recently as I am trying to improve on my weight and general health.

Samsung Gear S3Samsung Gear S3 and Gear Fit 2

So let me start off with the disclaimer that I am employed by Samsung and have the opportunity from time to time, to experience their products for different periods of time. The same is true for the Gear S3.

For a few months, I had the fortune of making use of this product. It was not the first time I had used a Gear smart watch having even owned the very first Gear before I even worked for Samsung.

There are two versions of the Gear S3, I prefer the Frontier edition styling wise plus the leather straps that generally come with the Classic version are not ideal for exercising with. I must point out that in Africa, the Gear S3 is only available in Bluetooth option so that you cannot make calls from it if it is not in range of your phone. (Something I miss about the first Gear S model which had a SIM slot that you could change SIM cards on yourself).

While the Gear S3 it a little big for many, I enjoyed the size of the watch generally. While you cannot swim with it, it is water resistant and I never had issues with it getting wet on occasion.

Coming back to the ability to take and make calls when the watch is paired and within the range of your phone, this is likely the feature I miss the most on a daily basis from the Gear S3. It is extremely handy to make a quick call or chat while busy in the kitchen etc.

The other thing I have come to miss about the Gear S3 since having to hand it back in is the interface. The rotating dial around the face of the watch is fantastic, it has to be the best device to navigate. If you have the budget to allow you to purchase the Gear S3, it really is a great smartwatch.

Since I had to return the Gear S3 and still wanted to track my fitness activities mainly, I opted to get myself a Gear Fit 2. It features the built in GPS and Heartrate monitor like the Gear S3 and benefits from a sleek design.

It offers a great compromise product on features vs price particularly if you just need the fitness tracking functionality.

My only issue personally, is that my insurance provider does not support the Samsung (and to the best of my knowledge, even the Apple) health applications in their Incentive programme for healthier living. This then requires me to connect Samsung Health apps with a few other apps to share data that can then sync back to the health incentive platform. It is frustrating. In light of this, I have had to explore some other options potentially or face paying more for premiums.

Fitness Trackers – The Top Players

As I have looked at other products, with the critical criteria being that they must cost 200USD or less, I have kept coming back to three or four main products for the general fitness tracking requirements. They all came from Fitbit and Garmin.

I must highlight that my search is biased by the fact that I am looking at brands supported by my insurance provider’s platform, but even in reviews, these two brands seem to face off often, and I suspect this will increase given that some wearable companies are exiting the consumer market.

This raises the point though for me, is the wearable market in trouble?

My personal view is that while sales are maybe flattening out faster than people expected, retailers continue to have a big focus on the segment and consumers seem to still have an interest in the products, but it is also not a need for many and I think the sector suffers from hype that feels a little familiar.

Turn the clock back to Apple’s launch of the iPad and the craze that followed. The market was meant to be massive for tablet devices and sales shot up rapidly with a graph that made people feel certain they had found the next product to replace smartphones. Sadly a few year later people realised they were wrong.

The upgrade cycles were longer and the use case for tablets different to smartphones, the product was just not as essential and the sector never really got near the volumes that smartphones offered.

The same for wearables. There is certainly no need for every smartphone to have a wearable paired to it, yet that doesn’t mean that wearable devices, particularly smart watches and other fitness trackers, do not have a viable business model now or in the future. It will just feature fewer brands moving forward.

Somehow though, I think the market is too cluttered with products and so consumers are to baffled with products to buy.

Let me just highlight this with the models I have identified.

Fitbit Blaze and Charge 2

At the time the Fitbit Blaze launched, I figured it might have a short life cycle. It was entering the market where other brands offered a lot more in smart watch design and functionality. I was wrong perhaps.

My dad was given one as a gift and he is happy with it. He is not a fitness geek by a long shot, but I think it has created a sense of curiosity in him regarding his health.

The Fitbit Blaze recently got a software update that also brought it up to speed in features with Fitbit’s most popular device among those of my friends who responded to a Facebook poll, the Charge 2.

Like most other smartwatches, the Blaze is water resistant but not suitable for swimming or even really taking a long shower. It offers heart rate monitor but no built in GPS relying rather on being paired to your phone and using the phones GPS.

I am not going to go into all the feature here, but my main point with this device is that it has benefited from a software update that gives the same hardware a new lease on life. This is really the kind of tech people want. You don’t want to spend a few hundred dollars on something that will be obsolete in a year with no new features being supported by updates.

In many ways, the Charge 2 offers the same fitness functionality lacking only really the smart watch, touchscreen features of the Blaze. it is by far the most popular tracker among those I know it seems.

Garmin Vivosmart HR+ and Vivosmart 3

The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ is a bit of a different device from the two Fitbits I mentioned (keep in mind I am focused on devices under $200).

It is suitable for swimming (though reports say it is not great at tracking swimming) and offers GPS built in when many of the rival products at this price do not.

The Vivosmart 3 drops the GPS but offers additional fitness tracking features including VO2 max and stress-tracking. This is where Garmin seems to be differing in their approach compared to Fitbit. The update to the Fitbit Blaze I mentioned, brought to the older hardware the features of the Charge 2 like stress tracking for example. Garmin however, has not been able to, or have chosen not to, give Vivosmart HR+ the features of Vivosmart 3 in an update.

Conclusion

There you have some short ramblings and views on fitness trackers and the wearable market.

What fitness tracker are you using and what made you choose to buy it? Let me know.

(Find last week’s episode of Tech Talk Tuesday here.)

Episode 013: Tech Talk Tuesday – Elon Musk on AI

This Podcast is published on Anchor.FM or you can subscribe on iTunesPocketCastsTuneIn and Stitcher.

Welcome to this weeks Tech Talk Tuesday where we will look at some tech tales that caught my eye online and a personal experience with Facebook Fraud, but first, Elon Musk is worried about the Artificial Intelligence Apocolypse.

Elon Musk Warns Governors to act on AI now

Recode is reporting that Elon Musk – the South African born, real life equivalent of Tony Stark or Iron Man – spoke at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island USA, labelling AI as the “biggest risk we face as a civilisation”.

He is calling on the government to regulate artificial intelligence proactively warning that it is too late then “people see robots going down the street killing people”.

I recently watched the 2004 movie ‘I, Robot’ starring Will Smith. If you have seen the film, you will realise that it illustrates the fear Elon has been warning about since 2014.

Is it possible that the programme to Mars is a plan B not just to escape Global Warming?

 

Fraud on Facebook

About a month ago, I engaged in a sale of a product through a closed group on Facebook which I think could be beneficial for some of you.

Let me start that my “spider senses” if you will, went off early on in my experience, nevertheless I had an amount I was prepared to risk and see if I was right.

Because of the closed nature of the group on Facebook, I had assumed that people might be more trustworthy. I saw a product that had been listed for a while and thought it might be that the seller would be more negotiable. The initial advert was not badly priced, but the condition in the photos looked like I would be justified in seeking a lower sales price.

It turned out that the selling – through messenger – came out with a price a little under half. At this point, I became a little concerned. I decided to engage the process further though and if proven right in my suspicion, I might warn others on the group.

I sent a little money ahead to cover overnight shipping and the much reduced asking price.

After 24 hours of having a tracking number that did not pull up any results, I contacted the courier company. It turned out the waybill number give was being phased out and the store from where the parcel was supposedly being sent, was already using the newer sequence waybill.

I started digging into the profile of the person and also found a profile by the same name with one or two common friends. I started to suspect that the account was cloned from that person as the real person’s account had posts in the timeline while the suspected clone did not. Also the account I suspected to be a clone had posts in our groups for selling items. Some of these ads were too good to be true in terms of pricing.

While this was happening I was still engaging the person and when they realised I was on to them, they blocked me from their profile.

This meant I could not report their profile or see their ads. All I had was the chat history with them.

Last week I noticed the profile picture of the account had changed. I then asked a friend in the same group to check if the person was posting because I had been blocked from seeing their profile. My friend could see a repost of the same product and ran a Google Image search of the photos posted. It was a match for a forum by a person in the USA from a few years ago. The fraudster was just using images stolen from the web. When my friend asked for extra pictures the fraudster was on the run again.

So some key takeaway points.

  • If something is too good to be true it probably is
  • Ask for as many details and extra pictures of a product as you can.
  • Do a Google Image search for the images in the ad.
  • If things seem legit, always try to meet in person at a public place and take a friend
  • Trust your gut or ‘spider-senses’ if it just doesn’t seem right.

Are you Addicted to your Smartphone

Lastly today, I wanted to share this video from the TWiT network about smartphone addiction. It is very enlightening with Psychotherapist Georgia Dow from iMore joining the discussion on the topic.


(Find last weeks edition of Tech Talk Tuesday here)

Episode 007: Tech Talk Tuesday – Ubuntu and Podcasts

This Podcast is published on Anchor.FM or you can subscribe on iTunes, PocketCasts, TuneIn and Stitcher.

Welcome to another Tech Talk Tuesday segment of the podcast. For those that are in the USA, I believe it is happy Amazon Prime Day too.

Despite residing outside of the USA, I decided to browse some of the deals. Here are some items you may want to check out.

Echo and Echo Dot

So some of the functionality on Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot is still limited outside of the USA (for example, you have to ask for the weather of the city your reside in by name as geolocation for asking what the temperature is “outside” won’t work and the answer will still be in Fahrenheit) but it is still a cool gadget that also keeps little kids amused for a while.

Acer Chromebook 15

The Acer Chromebook 15 is not thin and light, but it offers great specs (for a Chromebook) at a great price, even when it is not on sale.

It sports a 15-inch Full HD screen, Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM and a 16GB SSD. Keep in mind this is a Chromebook so most of your work will be stored in Google Drive. This is a great machine for home use without sacrificing a quality screen.

Okra 7-Port USB Charger

This device just appealed to me because when you have a family there are always multiple phones and tablets needing to be charged and taking turns on half as many chargers as devices.

This desktop charger can power seven devices at once with a stand that resembles the organisation of a filing cabinet drawer. Check out the Okra 7-Port Hub USB Desktop Universal Charging Station (what a name) and see for yourself.

Ubuntu in the Windows App Store

As reported on The Verge, Ubuntu is now available in the Windows Store. This flavour of Linux will run in a sandbox alongside Windows 10 which will allow it to access shared files and hardware with your Windows 10 installation.

You will need to navigate to your Control Panel in Windows and select a setting in the “Turn Windows Features On or Off” menu called “Windows Subsystem for Linux”.

To be honest, I cannot say I geeking out too much about this, but are there some of you out there that find this really exciting? What am I missing by not playing with Linux?

Podcast Services

So with this podcast being in its second week, I have been looking at all the places you can listen to your favourite audio feasts. Just over the weekend, this humble show has gone from being published with Anchor.FM and in iTunes, to now also being available on PocketCast, Stitcher, TuneIn and – sadly not working in Africa but confirmed by my family in the USA – Google Play podcasts as well.

For those who maybe do not know what all of these services are, let me break down a few of them briefly.

Anchor.FM

Anchor is an audio service that runs best out of their apps for Android or Apple’s iOS. It is like radio for the modern age, even more so than traditional podcasting I think.

I say this because, in one app, creators of content can record their own voice, interviews, insert music and even receive and share call-ins to their show. It is simple to create your own station and easy to listen to other people’s stations. It used to be that segments you recorded were only available for 24hrs but a recent update introduced the option to select your segments before the 24hrs window is up and push them into a single episode that is broadcast as a podcast (hosted by Anchor) and syndicated to iTune and Google etc for you. Without this app, this podcast would never have got off the ground.

Stitcher and TuneIn

Both of these services are similar to my mind at least. Before I got PocketCast as my go-to app for listening to my favourite podcasts on Android, I used to use Stitcher. I also tried TuneIn as bit as well. Both services offer you thousands of live radio stations from around the world as well as various podcasts and archived radio shows in case you missed them when they were broadcasting live.

Conclusion

So as you can see, there is no shortage of places to listen to this and many other podcasts out there. I am interested to know which services you use to listen to audio on your smartphone, tablet or laptop? Maybe you even listen on your Amazon Echo! Either way, let me know by calling in on the Anchor app or drop a comment in the blog post for this episode.

(Find last weeks Tech Talk Tuesday episode here.)

Episode 002: Tech Talk Tuesday – Internet Speed

This Podcast is published on Anchor.FM or you can subscribe on iTunesPocketCastsTuneIn, and Stitcher.

This is the first episode of Tech Talk Tuesday and today I am going to touch on internet speeds and an interesting headline I saw about Tencent. Let me kick off with the story on Tencent.

Tencent Caps Gaming Time

For those of you who don’t know, Tencent is a large media and gaming company based in China. It offers online advertising and payment platforms as well as a large social network in China and messaging services including WeChat.

Reuters reported this week that the company would be restricting the game time of minors on the company’s popular “Honour of Kings” stating that:

Parents and teachers have complained that children were becoming addicted to the multiplayer online battle game, which, according to the company, has more than 200 million users, mostly in China, and is the top-grossing mobile game in the world.

Children under 12 will reportedly be limited to one hour of play time per day while children 12 to 18 would be restricted to two hours of play and blocking minors from playing at all after 9 pm.

This story is of particular interest to me given that Naspers, a South Africa’s leading media business, hold a large one-third investment in Tencent.

My question to you is, do you think that companies should be made responsible for restricting or governing game time for minors? What role or accountability should parents take in this matter?

Lastly, considering this is a role-playing game, should children under 12 even be playing such a game, or owning a smartphone capable of playing the game at all? Surely if this distraction is blocked, kids will find another app to pour their time into?

What Internet Speed is Enough

This evening on a WhatsApp group, we got into a conversation about what internet speed is enough, given that a friend was juggling the idea of upping his current connection package or downgrading and saving some cash.

Given that in some parts of the world you can get intern speeds in excess of 4Mbps, the debate begins on what is actually enough?

A recent trip back to South Africa to be with the family put me into a situation where the only connection in my in-law’s home is a 2Mbps ADSL connection. In this situation, two of us were surprisingly able to stream YouTube at the same time, although it was as 360p, though it seemed good enough at the time.

It turns out that Netflix – as an example – recommends a 5Mbps connection for streaming HD content. Using this benchmark, one could argue that a 10Mbps line for the average household could be good enough for a single HD stream and when occasion requires,  two standard definition stream will likely be suitable for many.

So then why, one should ask, are we being pitched 100Mbps speeds for the average home user? For revenue most likely would be the answer.

Here is the truth of the matter, what is more, important than the speed is firstly the stability of your connection. Here in Nigeria, this has been my ongoing issue.

So for the average home user, I would recommend trying out a 10Mbps line with a stable connection and see if you really need more from there. Money in the pocket or savings account is, after all a wiser investment I think.