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Will the Apple Watch Track Fitness Accurately?

I have repeatedly highlighted how inaccurate fitness trackers can be, showing how wrist-worn devices have much worse accuracy than devices you wear on your belt, such as old-fashioned pedometers. It’s surprising that this more people don’t complain about this. I think most people never have the opportunity to compare two devices, to see how inaccurate one of them can be. I’ve compared the Fitbit One to a number of devices – such as the grossly inaccurate Fitbit Charge – and found that the One is the most accurate fitness tracker I’ve tried, simply because it is worn like a pedometer.

This isn’t a simple problem. If you want to wear a device on your wrist, you have to accept that some of your movements will be interpreted as steps. At one point, I found that merely tying my shoes while wearing the Fitbit Charge led to 20 steps being counted.

Nike realized this by using “Nike+ Fuel,” rather than counting steps. What’s most important in tracking activity is trends; were you more active today than yesterday? Did you attain your activity goal? Nike+ Fuel was designed to measure overall activity, since steps are not the only metric that should be counted. (Of course, even movement is not the only metric worth counting; you don’t move a lot when you work out with weights, yet you burn a lot of calories.) Personally, I think steps are a useful metric, because my exercise of choice is walking. So I want to continue to count steps no matter what.

Also, not all steps are equal. Steps on a slow treadmill desk are in no way equivalent to steps you make when walking briskly, or when running. Lots of people use treadmill desks, thinking that clocking 20,000 steps a day is somehow worth 20,000 steps of walking or running. While standing for a long time can be beneficial, treadmill desks, due to their unnatural pace, can cause injury, and even make you less productive, and less accurate in your work.

Apple will come under scrutiny about the accuracy of the Apple Watch. Unlike Fitbit, who offered no explanation when I contacted the company about how inaccurate the Fitbit Charge is, Apple has much more at stake.

Will Apple be able to make the Apple Watch more accurate? I think they will, and I have a feeling that they’re going to couple the Apple Watch and the iPhone to count steps and activity much better than other devices. The Apple Watch will be able to count steps without the iPhone, but when you have the iPhone in your pocket, it’s nearly as accurate as a pedometer. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple has figured out a way to compare your activity on both devices, using the iPhone as the benchmark, so movements made with the watch alone are counted more precisely.

Apple watch activityThe other possibility is that, while the iPhone can count steps, the Apple Watch will not present this metric to users. The Activity app, on the Apple Watch, only displays three metrics: Move, Exercise, and Stand. Move is a calorie-based count of your activity (which, while probably linked to a step count, since it’s called “Move,” is probably more than that. Exercise is a time-based count of activity “at the level of a brisk walk or above.” And Stand is the amount of time you stand during the day. Ignoring steps as the default metric may mean that Apple doesn’t have to worry about accuracy.

Yet that brings up another question: how much activity will get recorded by wrist movements? We’ll find out in a month, but, for now, I’m curious as to whether Apple has solved the problem of accurate fitness tracking.

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Apple has a lady problem: the new version of HealthKit still doesn’t track periods — Fusion

Last night, Apple pushed out iOS 8.2 to my iPhone, an update to its operating system. The blurb for the update promised “improvements to the Health app.” Finally, I thought. When HealthKit was first introduced last year, it came under criticism for not taking women’s health needs into consideration. The Apple app tracks an amazing assortment of possible health indicators: sleep, body mass index, number of times fallen, “electrodermal activity,” sleep, weight, sodium intake, copper intake, and even selenium intake. But it didn’t track the one thing most women want to track: their periods.

It seems kind of obvious that Apple should include this.

One note: it’s not HealthKit that the author of the article launched, but the Health app. The latter is an interface for the HealthKit framework. It might be possible for HealthKit to manage metrics other than those displayed in the Health app, allowing other apps to access that data. I’m not sure if this is the case, but I would expect that HealthKit might be extensible.

via Apple has a lady problem: the new version of HealthKit still doesn’t track periods — Fusion.

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How to Switch Search Engines on Mac OS X and iOS (And Why You Should)

If you’re like most people, you search the web a lot. Google handles more than 40,000 searches per second, or 3.5 billion per day, or more than 1 trillion searches every year. Your share of that may be small: if you’re just an average person, you may search the web 3-5 times a day, but some of us, such as writers, may perform several dozen searches in a single day when researching articles and books.

Searching the web is free. But nothing is really free. In exchange for providing you with such a powerful tool, Google collects data about you. It creates a unique profile of you, of your interests, your medical conditions (because _everyone_ searches Google when they have health questions), and your browsing activity, and uses this to provide carefully targeted ads. It also tracks the websites you visit, ensuring not to miss anything you do.

This is why you often see ads related to your web searches. For example, you may have a question about your pet, and use Google to find the answer. You’ll end up seeing ads for pet food on various web pages. Google is the biggest advertising provider on the web, and millions of websites use Google Ads. So by storing information about you on Google’s servers, the company can know which ads are most likely to interest you. (Of course they don’t know if that search about the cat was really for a friend or neighbor, in which case the ads are incorrectly targeted.)

In other words, using a search engine is the same as giving away lots of private information about you, your habits, and your life. You may not want to do that.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

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The Committed Podcast Looks at Automation

The Committed Podcast Icon 1400x1400 01In this week’s episode of The Committed podcast, Ian Schray, Rob Griffiths, and I welcome David Sparks, and we talk about the new MacBook, the Apple Watch, and then have a long discussion about automating tasks on Macs and iOS devices. What can you automate, and what are the best tools to start automating tasks?

Listen to The Committed, Episode 73: “Maximum Thinness”.

If you like The Committed podcast, you can subscribe or leave a rating or review on iTunes, or with your favorite podcatcher.

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The 10 (Plus 4) Best Grateful Dead Songs

Dead 50th

The Grateful Dead will be celebrating the band’s 50th anniversary this year, notably with a few “reunion” concerts at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the location of the last ever Dead show, July 9, 1995. Singer and guitarist Jerry Garcia has been gone since that summer, but in addition to the surviving band members – Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman – the Dead will consist of Trey Anastasio (guitar), Jeff Chimenti (keyboards), and Bruce Hornsby (piano).

I’ve been a Deadhead since my teen years; I “got on the bus,” as Deadheads say, in 1977, seeing the band for the first time at New York’s Palladium Theater. I used to trade tapes, then CDs, and have most of the band’s official releases of their live concerts.

I thought it would be interesting to create a list of the Dead’s 10 best songs for those unfamiliar with the band. But I couldn’t just choose ten; there are four essential songs that simply cannot be omitted. So I list them separately to leave room for ten other great songs.

I’ve not included Amazon links for the various albums I mention, and not all the songs I mention are best heard on a specific album. If you want to discover most of these songs, the excellent Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack is perhaps the best way to check out the Dead. It’s got five CDs chock full of great music, from one of their most fecund periods. Sunshine Daydream (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) contains one of the Dead’s best concerts, 8/27/72, Veneta, Oregon, and has a partial film of the day. And One from the Vault (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) has the 8/13/75 show, from the Great American Music Hall, which contains the three-song combo I mention below, but also one of the rare performances of Blues for Allah. After that, you’re on your own. Read More

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Writings about Macs, music and more by Kirk McElhearn

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