Random (but not really)

Monday, March 23, 2015


Yup, it’s that time again, where I get ahold of multiple pedometers AND TEST THEM TO WITHIN AN INCH OF THEIR TRI-AXES.

Or something like that.

Here are this round’s contenders.

FitBit One
Garmin Vivofit
Omron HJ-323U

pedometers 1

pedometers 2


Accupedo is solely a phone app, so its size is your cell phone.

Accupedo tracks steps, kcal burned, miles walked, and active minutes. The feature that makes Accupedo so good is that it has a sensitivity setting. At the base setting, I found it was over-counting steps (dramatically so), but decreasing the sensitivity made is very accurate (when compared to the other devices).

The calorie tracking is only for activities. If you do nothing all day (or leave your phone sitting on a table) your kcal count will be zero. This makes it difficult to compare it directly to the FitBit and the VivoFit, since both of those calculate your calorie use on top of your resting rate.

FitBit One

FitBitThe FitBit one tracks steps, elevation, kcal burned, miles walked, and active minutes. The elevation is one of my favorite things it tracks, because I live in the land of hills, and I always take the stairs.

It’s small, and even if the silicone case fits easily in that little tiny pocket of your jeans, which is where I keep mine (which reduces the amount of incidental abuse it takes.)

It syncs over bluetooth with your phone, or over a dongle you plug into the USB port of your computer. I quite like that you have two different options for syncing, since I don’t generally leave my phone’s bluetooth on.

The One is a rechargeable device that you slip into an odd little USB dongle you plug into the USB slot of your computer. This dongle does not sync–it just charges, which seems like a waste to me, but what do I know?

The One is supposedly water resistant. I haven’t gotten this one particularly wet, however, this is my second One. The first One was accidentally put through the washer by Michael when I was sick (he was being helpful, so I can’t really blame him for not checking my pockets). It didn’t recover from the experience.

The silicone clip is quite sturdy, and I’ve clipped it onto the waistbands of skirts with no ill effect.

Garmin Vivofit

GarminThe Vivofit is a wristband fitness tracker that I got when Michael decided he really didn’t care for it. (He now has a FitBit One.)

The VivoFit tracks steps, kcal and miles and activity.

Although there is a website, the device syncs only through your phone’s bluetooth, and only when you tell it to sync. The later is nice, because it saves the battery. Instead of being rechargable it uses a watch battery. I bought the VivoFit for Michael at the end of October, and we haven’t had to change the battery yet, so it’s got a pretty decent life for what it does.

It is water resistant, and I’ve repeatedly splashed water on it, and no ill signs yet.

It displays the time, just like a watch, although to reserve the battery you can’t read it in low light. I consider that a feature, not a bug.

I find myself strangely pleased with the VivoFit, probably because I always wear a watch, so this does double duty. (I’ll note that I am VERY hard on watches, and regularly destroy them. So we’ll see how much abuse this can take.)

Omron HJ-323U

OmronThe Omron Activa is the third Omron pedometer I’ve had, and it is unfortunately my least favorite.

On the plus side, it’s smaller than previous Omron pedometers, and is built upon a USB stick, so to upload your data, you just remove the cap and plug it into a USB port on your computer. It’s also extremely accurate (assuming it’s in my pocket and not just dropped down the front of my bra, where it does not, in fact, count very accurately).

On the negative side, I don’t trust the clip, so I don’t wear it if I’m not wearing something with pockets, and I utterly despise the current software that comes with it. As in–the software doesn’t work for me and this makes me very unhappy.

It runs off a watch battery, and the battery lasts quite awhile, so no complaints there.

But as I said, the software is currently abysmal and non-functional for me. And although the design is smaller than previous versions, I don’t particularly trust the clip, so unless I have pockets, I don’t wear it. (If you are female, you understand that this happens quite frequently since women’s clothes are STUPID.)


So design-wise, I like the VivoFit and the FitBit One, as I find both unobtrusive.

Written by Michelle at 7:11 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Computers & Technology,Fun & Games,Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

For Fellow DS9 Fans:

The local college radio station jazz show was playing an old standard, and I found myself thinking, “that’s why the lady is a scamp!”

Written by Michelle at 1:10 pm      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Geek  

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Ark!

We went to Frostburg to have dinner for my Dad’s birthday, and I talked my parents into stopping by The Ark!

Look! Here we are!


Ta DA!


We’re in luck! Clear skies!


It’s large, but it’s not THAT large. Guess that’s why the dinosaurs couldn’t fit.



I’m guessing this is the ramp for the animals to go down into the hold. Not much headroom for the elephants and giraffes.


All the cement is crumbling.


The footers (again, crumbling) were poured for a much larger structure than the existing steel super structure.



There you go! A closer look at the Ark, a structure that has provided hours of amusement over the years.

There are several more pictures if you click through to Flickr.

Written by Michelle at 8:54 am      Comments (5)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Non-Sequiturs,Photos  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Walk 100 Miles in 100 Days

I believe I’ve talked before about participating in the Walk 100 Miles in 100 Days program at WVU.

I’ve done it every year since at least 2005 (that’s the oldest record in the Excel file I used to keep track), and except 2010, when I broke my ankle, I got way over the minimum every year.

What I find fascinating (because I am a huge geek) are the pattern differences from year to year.

Here is a chart for last year:


Here is a chart for this year:


I’m thinking that the Saturday change is due to the number of rainy Saturdays we had this year, where we couldn’t get out and go hiking. But I find it just as fascinating that my peak walking day during the week shifted from Wednesday to Friday. Most likely because Wednesday is the day I’m most likely to go out to lunch with friends.

And if you’re curious, the number of miles I walked this year during the program was 477 (longer than the distance from Morgantown to Fayetteville, NC). Only 176 (just a bit longer than the distance from Morgantown to Charles Town, WV) of those counted towards the program, because you can only count 12 miles/week for the program, and that’s pretty much the max you can get.

So, it was fun. Both the walking and the tracking.

(And my team? We walked 1972 miles, which is longer than the trip from Morgantown to Denver, CO (1465).)

Written by Michelle at 6:26 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Non-Sequiturs  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pedometer Testing: The Results

Now! (drum roll of wooden pencils on a desktop) the uber geeky results!

Pedometer Testing: Round II – Revenge of the Pedometers
Pedometer Testing: Data Tracking
Issues with the Withings Pulse & Elevation: Part I: Dissed by the Pulse, Part II: Withings Pulse Doesn’t Track Elevation for Crap and Part III: THIS IS NOT HOW MATH WORKS

First, the pedometers:
Omron HJ-720
Withings Pulse
FitBit Ultra
Omron HJ-323
FitBit One
Noom Walk

Essentially, if a pedometer gave me a measurement, I tracked it, and compared it to other pedometers that measured the same thing.

All pedometers measured step count (of course). I knew from previous testing that the FitBit Ultra over-counted steps, and that held true this time. The FitBit One, however, seemed far more accurate, or at least closer to the average.

To see how different activities affected step count, I noted the step count at various points in the day. I then averaged those measurements, and plotted how far each pedometer was from the average for that time period. (I did this for every day, but I chose Thursday to show here, because it was easy to read, while being a good representative of what I saw over the course of the testing.


Here is a look at how each pedometer differed from the average over the entire 11 day course.

Difference from avg steps over time

Even those these measurements are against the average for each time period, you can see that the FitBit Ultra gets more and more inaccurate as the day progresses. My observation is that it over-counts when I am at rest, as I tend to doing most of my running around in the morning, and stick closer to my desk in the afternoon (and in the evening, plop my butt on the couch).

The Noom Walk step count was quite off from the average–it was always higher than another other pedometer, so I didn’t count those steps when calculating the average, although I did add it to the Thursday chart, so you can see how far off the average it was.

This chart is showing how each pedometer performed over the entire time period as compared to the average.

difference from avg step count

The first section shows whether the step count for each pedometer for 11 days was over or under the average. The next section is the minimum–the most each pedometer under-counted. The third section is the maximum–the most that each pedometer over-counted. You can see that the Ultra and the Noom had the highest over-counts.

That chart is essentially showing you both consistency and accuracy. (The Ultra consistently over-counts. The Omrons consistently under-count.

Most converted your step count into miles (the Noom Walk didn’t).

I compared the pedometers against each other (I took the average mileage (throwing out the Noom, which was an obvious outlier) and saw how each pedometer did compared to the average.


mileage-gpsDon’t hold that 3/15 data against the pedometers. We took a bike ride that day, and pedometers don’t do well with bike rides (unless you tie the pedometer to your shoe, which I was not willing to do).

I also compared mileage over a period of hours with the mileage generated by my GPS.

In this case, the pedometers which gave a slightly higher mileage are probably closer to true, because as anyone who has every walked with me can attest, I wander all over the path/sidewalk.

Only the Omron pedometers counted aerobic steps. For the Omron, aerobic steps are when you have been walking for ten minutes without stopping.

Active TimeThe Omron HJ-720, Withings Pulse, FitBit Ultra, FitBit One, and Accupedo all gave measures of Active / Aerobic time. These were all slightly different, and FitBit and Withings both gave you measure of different levels of activity.

I used only Very Active and Intense Activity for my comparison data. Because there are different activity levels and measurements, the different pedometers had very different measures, although they all seemed to be consistent within themselves.

To be honest, I don’t pay a lot of attention to Active Time. I’m measuring activities I’d be doing anyway. I’m not looking to break any records or train harder.

Calorie count was very interesting.

CalorieFirst and foremost, FitBit gives you your total calorie output, including the calories you expend just because you’re breathing and your heart as beating. To get a comparable measurement, I arbitrarily decided FitBit was giving me a BMR (basal metabolic rate) of 1600, and subtracted that from the daily totals.

The results were… odd.

The FitBit One and Accupedo were closest to average, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the most accurate. Just that they were similar. Why were the Pulse and the Ultra so high? I would guess part is because the Ultra consistently has a higher step count than any other pedometer.

If you’ve been reading along, you’ve seen that I have some serious issues with the Withings elevation count.

As in, it doesn’t seem to be reality based, or even based on any math system with which I’m familiar.

I figured the best comparison would be to take what the pedometers gave me over a set period of time (when I was walking outside) and compare that to what the GPS gave me.

Because the Withings data was so cracked out, I chose the elevation counts generated by the website, because they seemed to be the closest to reality. But as you can see, that didn’t make them very accurate.


The 3/21 data was a walk into town and back. The 3/22 data was from a 4 3/4 mile hike at Coopers Rock.

I fully expected the GPS to have a higher elevation gain than the pedometers, because it counts all elevation, even slight rises that aren’t really noticeable when you’re walking (such as walking up High Street). I was surprised at how close the FitBits were to the GPS readings for our hike at Coopers Rock. Perhaps the steep terrain made them more accurate.

So what does all this mean in the long run?

From a practical point, I’m going to use the FitBit One, so I can monitor whether I’m getting enough exercise to justify eating dessert. I’m also going to keep the Accupedo app, because it’s surprisingly accurate. And for now, I’m going to keep wearing the Omron HJ-323, but I’m not sure if I’ll keep wearing it.

I hope you found that useful, and if you have any questions, I’ll be delighted to answer them. I can also share my raw data if you’d like to see if you trust my manipulations.

But I fully admit that I did this solely because I am a tremendous dork and love doing weirdo things like this.

Written by Michelle at 7:01 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pedometer Testing: The Contenders

I wore five pedometers and tested two pedometer apps.

Yes, I really am that much of a dork.

The five pedometers were:

Omron HJ-720
Withings Pulse
FitBit Ultra
Omron HJ-323
FitBit One

I discussed four of the five in an earlier post, so I’ll only talk about the FitBit One in this post.

The two pedometer apps were:

Noom Walk

I hadn’t used a pedometer app before, but quite liked one of the two I tried.

First up, the FitBit One. (For perspective on the size of the FitBit Ultra, please see this post.)

Here’s what you get:

Front view, including wireless dongle, and charging dongle:


Back view, with same as above:


The two shiny bits are where the One matches with the charging dongle to charge.

Unlike the Ultra, the FitBit One is a single piece, so the device shouldn’t chip the way the Ultra did. It is also supposed to be water resistant (not water proof). We shall see about that as well.

The protective case/belt clip is silicone, with embedded metal bits. I have concerns about the silicone case tearing (this happened with the silicone case of the pulse) so I’m going to try to avoid removing it from the case except to charge it.

Here is how the FitBit One (in its silicone case) compares in size to the FitBit Ultra:


They’re basically the same size; not at all bulky.

It also comes with a wristband for slipping the One into while you sleep. As I always wear long sleeve sleep shirts, I can just clip the One onto the hem of my sleeve for the same thing. I can also clip it into the old wristband for the Ultra. This saves me from having to pull the thing out of the silicone case every day.

The FitBit one fits perfectly into the little square pocket in your jeans, so that’s where I’ve been keeping mine. It’s unlikely to fall out there, and it’s protected from the other things in my pocket (currently, that would be four other pedometers, though I also carry a multi-tool for work).

You can sync the FitBit One in two different ways: via the tiny dongle that fits into your USB port, or via Bluetooth on your phone.

The old charging stations don’t work. Bluetooth on a computer doesn’t work. But, if you have a bluetooth phone, it’s easy to turn on the Bluetooth, open the FitBit app to sync and then turn the Bluetooth back off. It syncs smoothly and quickly, and I didn’t run into a single transfer hitch the entire time I’ve been using it.

The bad thing is I only have three USB ports on my laptop, and one of those ports already holds the USB dongle for my wireless mouse. Yeah, not a huge issue, but if you’re short USB slots on a laptop, you might want to make sure the Bluetooth works with your phone.

In summary, the FitBit One has been a surprising pleasure to use. The site is exactly the same as for the Ultra, so no surprise there. But the app has been updated and gives you relevant data at a glance.

As I said before, I’d never installed a pedometer app previous, mostly because I didn’t know they existed. I knew programs like Runkeeper etc existed, but they generally use GPS, do don’t work for indoor walking, of which I do a lot.

The Noom Walk is very bare bones, and (as you’ll see later when I look at the data) not particularly accurate.


It really wants you to socialize, and I really had no interest in doing so, I didn’t much go into the app. You see there’s also a huge push to get you to use the other apps.

No thanks, I’ll be deleting Noom Walk as soon as I finish up these reviews.

Both the Noom Walk and Accupedo had widgets, which is how I checked my step counts. The Noom Walk displays only step counts.


The Accupedo has several widgets of different sizes. This is the 4×1 widget that displays step count, mileage, kcal burned and active time.

The Accupedo, on the other hand, was surprisingly wonderful.


It has a number of inputs to personalize your profile, including height, weight, age, stride length, and number of consecutive steps before it starts counting.

It ALSO (most importantly) has a setting to decrease or increase the sensitivity. I discovered that I needed to reduce the sensitivity, but when I did, the accuracy was very close to what the other pedometers were giving me.

There is a start time, end time, and pause option. This allows you to turn off the pedometer at night, and also when you’re doing activities where you aren’t walking, such as riding in a car.

You can also have it notify you when you’re reached your daily step goal.

I currently have the free version, but think I might splurge for the “pro” version, because I really like the app, and like to support people who create things I like.

So those are the contenders. Next up, results.

Written by Michelle at 7:00 am      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Science, Health & Nature  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Weekend Ramblings: Coopers Rock, Scott’s Run Trail

For our Saturday hike, Michael decided we should take the Scott’s Run Trail, which we had not taken before.

It was gorgeous.

It was also subtly educational, although I doubt most people would notice. We started from the main entrance and ended at the camp ground.

The beginning of the trail was, essentially, a muddy water run-off track. Some sections were muddier than others, and I’m glad I had my hiking stick, because the ground was often rocky and uneven.

Then, the run-off track turned into a small creek.


From here, to the bottom of the valley, the trail was mostly along the side of this creek (I’m guessing along an old logging trail)–you were rarely out of sight (or at least hearing) of the water.

Other springs and run off areas join in, and the creek now occasionally has small pools.


Soon it looks like a “real” creek, and you need a bridge to cross.


There are now deeper pools, areas that look like they would have water even at the height of summer’s heat.


At the bottom of the trail, multiple springs and run-off areas have created this shaded stream that continues on.


If you continue on the trail, it’s all uphill to the camp ground, and you see more springs that run down the side of the mountain to feed into the stream in the valley.


The end of the trail (or the beginning if you were starting at the campground) is again a rocky muddy water run-off area. (This part was less fun, as I was already tired and I had to be careful of my ankle on the rocks.) If we did this hike again I believe I would instead stop at the lowest part of the trail and backtrack form whence we came.

Of course there were a couple random things that caught my eye.


My theory on this is it dates back to when the forest was logged. That a truck broke down, and when they brought the replacement part, the just dumped the old part in the woods, because no one cared. Now, it’s an oddity, and a glimpse into the past.


Some woodpeckers went NUTS on this tree.

If you click through to Flickr, all of the above pictures have their GPS coordinates, if you’d like to find a specific spot yourself.

ADDENDUM the First:

I’ve started playing with the GPS data, because I’m a geek. Here’s a map of our hike:


(via GPS Visualizer)

Here’s the elevation change:


And here are the stats:


Written by Michelle at 9:52 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Morgantown,Photos,West Virginia  
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