Category: Gadgets

Withings Smart Baby Monitor review from a parent

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Review of Withings Smart Baby Monitor – from a first time parent and geek.

Update
The review below was started some 6 months ago. I can now say that almost exactly one year after buying it, it crashed and would not start. I suspect this is because of the fact that it works like a cellphone in the way that all power goes through a small lithium battery. This is one hell of a stupid design for something that is plugged into an outlet 99.9% of the time.

I’m pretty sure the battery burned in my unit, a battery that should – of course – be easily replaceable but isn’t. Instead they seem to have taken some HTC type battery and slightly modified..just enough so that it’s impossible to find the SKU anywhere. Idiotic!

I emailed the support at Withings but I have yet to this day, almost 2-3 months later got a reply. I did however get an instant reply from the awesome Komplett.se and they replaced the unit from me.

Waiting for my new unit I ordered two Foscams from Amazon in the UK.. and wow. Sure, it doesnt have humidity sensor, doesnt play songs or show the temperature.. but a Foscam along with Foscam Pro for iOS BLOWS Withings out of the water in quality, stability – but not in ease if you’re not at least somewhat tech savy (if you are, the Foscams are silly easy to set up).

Using the Foscams on your own Wifi is instant, as opposed to the solution by Withings where all video data is passed through their servers (which is also a bit creepy). Going through their servers means you are at their hands, if they have an outage then your stuck on Bluetooth. Foscams on the other hand allows you to record the video, use different apps, watch theough a web browser, etc – everything that you can expect from a true web cam. There are also a variety of apps that will allow you to use it more like a Babycam than a webcam, personally though I think Foscam Pro works best.

If you’re not completley clueless when it comes to networking, or know someone who can help you, my strong advice is to skip Withings Smart Baby Monitor and all camera baby monitors for that matter and just get a couple of Foscams. You can buy 3-4 Foscams for the price of one Withings SBM. And you dont have to deal with Withings horrible slow and sometimes non-existant support.

All that said and done though, we have got a lot of miles out of our SBM and it has been very useful and followed us and our son on our trips. He still sleeps with Chopin Nocturne playing softly in a loop in the background ;) We’re saving the replacement unit for if/when we get another kid!


Review

This review has been a long time coming. I wanted to take my time using the monitor and trying it out. I have been using it for 6 months12 months.

Setup
Very simple. I only had trouble with getting past an iPhone screen after configuring my babys profile. This was a bug in the iPhone app Withbaby, I’m pretty sure it has been dealt with but I’m not sure.

I use my camera with my two Airport Express (one, older model extends the other newer).

Quality
The quality of image is good enough to detect if your baby is breathing during night time. It’s far from super but all in all it’s good enough, sub par for the hefty price tag however. The quality of the built in speakers are also fine. We have never really used the function to speak to our son, I have however used it to tell my wife to pick up the phone when she has had it muted.

What Withings Needs Bad

Redundant service
It has happened too many times that their service has stopped working, this is not acceptable for a product such as a baby monitor.

Service status indicator
Withings should have a service status indicator, just like Google, Steam (Valve software) so that I can check if the problem I am having is local or a problem on their side.

There should also be a logic in the iPhone app that checks this service, and of it’s down – tries to use the Bluetooth connection. Something like this probably exists today but it does not show a warning if you have your Bluetooth disabled – which it of course should.

Built in error reporting/feesback tickets. Atleast have a big “help” button in-app. Using email for support is just not very self explanatory.

In general Withings support is their achilles heel. While always pleasant to deal with it can be slow..slow..slow and slow. And it’s frustrating to use a slow channel such as email, especially when you are on Twitter and Facebook. I often see people using their Facebook page as a support channel because they feel their support emails are taking top long – that says a lot of how the email is not working.

Instead use some sort of public bug/issue tracker – I want to be able to follow up progress on my reported problems.

Withings should use a system such as uservoice where people can chime in on each others feature requests/problems. This would increase transparancy for the customer, decrease repeated emails with the same sort of errors and increase user satisfaction.

You can’t hide your problems by obfuscating them and your support pathways and time to respond.

Ouya

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Kevin Dent, CEO of Tiswaz Entertainment from the article on The Verge

“This isn’t a thing where it’s hip to own a Prius. When you want a gaming machine, you want a Hummer, in terms of the environmental impact. You want the EPA coming to your house and saying you’re violating so many laws because you’re using so much power on that gaming rig. That’s what we do as gamers. We want power.”

I partially agree. But people also wants simplicity and more efficient designs that can be always on/paused without a 100-450W drain. For casual gaming or younger audiences I also think that It will be hard to disrupt the short life cycle of mobile phones. The prime reason I could see Apple not going into the “console” business is that cell phones will be bought and picked up at a much faster rate than consoles. I think for a cheap console such as the Ouya to be successfull it needs to be bundled with a broadband offering / streaming games, that way it can be almost free every two years.

If I was Apple I’d just put a dock on the Apple TV and make it an option to just dock your iPhone to the TV and use it as a console with a third party/first party controller. The first party controller could be a slightly modified Apple Remote (think Nintendo 8 bit but cleaner).. then let third party explode.

Nintendo – are you listening? Dare to canabalize and disrupt your own revenue stream or die a slow death as hardware maker and join Sega as a software developer.

Apple Events Checker

Made a small simple script that checks if there are any new Apple Events videos posted for the current month. It also does email alerts but I haven’t exposed that to anyone yet, contact me via email if you want an alert, I might add a sign up box later.

I did the script so that I can get a clean simple email alert when and if there is a new keynote or other special event video available. The alert email simple gives you a link to the event page and tells you that yep, there is now a new video up.

Howto downgrade iPhone from iOS 4 to 2.2.1 or 3.1.3 and all other firmware versions

This evening I’ve downgraded an iPhone 3G from iOS 4 all the way back to 2.2.1. It was a little bit tricky but I finally figured it out. I’m back at 3.1.3 since not enough apps worked on 2.2.1 (for a brief iOS history on what has changed, see here).

Should you ever want to do it, this is how you do it. Note: The guides that were out there did not work for me, I kept getting Error 1600 all the time so this is what I did to make it work.

First off, at least for me, I could not jump straight from 4.0 to 2.2.1, you have to downgrade in steps. This means we first have to go from 4.0 to 3.1.3 and then to 3.0 and then to 2.2.1. Going from 3.0 to 2.2.1 also requires iTunes version 7.7, so if you’re on a Mac with the latest iTunes, you’re shit out of luck – get on an old PC or run windows through a VM. I had to run iTunes 7.7 on an old crappy XP machine to make it work right also, it didn’t vibe well with Windows 7 x64.. And YES, I really had to go from 3.1.3 to 3.0 and THEN to 2.2.1.

To get a hold of all the old firmware revisions for the iPhone visit this page and select the right one, remember, you have to do it in steps, so if you want to go from 4.0 to 2.2.1, first you got to hit 3.1.3.

You’re also going to be needing a tool called iRecovery to get the iPhone out of DFU mode. If you’re on a Mac, unpack the tool into some directory then navigate to that directory (for instance Downloads) and in terminal type:

./iRecovery -s

Yeah that’s right, I had to drop in an absolute path to make it fly. Oh and if you’re going to be using iRecovery on Windows, instead of in Mac, don’t forget to install this little bad boy (Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 Redistributable Package), otherwise the executable won’t work!

Anyway, to downgrade, you can follow this guide for instance, but don’t forget about the extra stuff I told you above – this is the shit that took me time to figure out.

Why I THINK I will buy an iPad (and don’t care if you do)

Just read the Boing Boing article again (Why I won’t buy an iPad (and think you shouldn’t, either). First of all that article reads like the worst kind of troll thread ever. But ok, I’ll bite :)

Incumbents made bad revolutionaries
I was a comic-book kid, and I’m a comic-book grownup, and the thing that made comics for me was sharing them

Gee, thats a nice story grandpa but we live in the real world where content publishers don’t want you to resell your shit. It goes for music, movies, games, books and…well yeah, just about everything. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it either but what the hell has that to do with the iPad? You really think the Marvel app for a desktop would be any different?

Infantalizing hardware
..Maker Manifesto: if you can’t open it, you don’t own it. Screws not glue…

Yeah I don’t care. I don’t care about that for my coffee machine, my fridge, my owen, my TV, my land-line phone, any of my previous or current cell phones, my remote, my car, my heating system and not even really for my desktop to some extent. See I don’t have the time or energy to screw in that shit. And I rather not have to either. But I see where you are coming from and to some extent I do agree, but again I just fail to see how this is very much relevant as an argument against the iPad since this argument can easily be applied to most of our house hold electronics (and yeah, even if you CAN screw something open doesn’t mean I or most people will, it’s a far cry between including schematics and having screws instead of glue if you ask me).

Wal-Martization of the software channel
And let’s look at the iStore. For a company whose CEO professes a hatred of DRM, Apple sure has made DRM its alpha and omega

I’m sorry but I think this is just dumb. First of all as I recall it the App Store was created because people wanted it, developers wanted to create native apps for the iPhone and not only apps built in XHTML/CSS/JS. Developers wanted to get payed, they don’t want to see their shit get stolen and they wanted to create native apps on the iPhone OS. Well it just so happens the weapon of choice for this platform isn’t Java and oh shit, I guess not enough people cared about that since iPhone and iPhone apps have been selling like crazy. I don’t really know how to put it any other way…hmm..lemme think…

PEOPLE DON’T CARE AS LONG AS IT WORKS AND WORKS GREAT. IF THEY DID THEY WOULD NOT BUY IT.

But that’s also the reason why I think the whole article is pretty much..blah. If someone doesn’t want to buy something, don’t buy it. To make a religion out of it is just stupid. I love open source, I think the latest Android devices rocks, I hope their will be a zillion Tablets that kicks ass! Anyway..where were I..

Journalism is looking for a daddy figure
I think that the press has been all over the iPad because Apple puts on a good show, and because everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who’ll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff.

NO. They’re looking for a slick, easy to use tablet with a content distribution network so easy a five year old could get it. GET IT?

Gadgets come and gadgets go
Gadgets come and gadgets go. The iPad you buy today will be e-waste in a year or two (less, if you decide not to pay to have the battery changed for you). The real issue isn’t the capabilities of the piece of plastic you unwrap today, but the technical and social infrastructure that accompanies it.

Yes. And don’t buy hard-bread from Sweden (or Swedish crackers as Liam would say) because that means you’re supporting a socialist regime and that in turn could lead to the end of times. Wow man, way to be a downer. I’d say it’s far worse to buy a Windows copy or low and behold, a copy of the MS Office suite since that will truly and utterly means you’re supporting a social infrastructure of technically handicapped individuals (shit..not to mention enterprises!).

If you want to live in the creative universe where anyone with a cool idea can make it and give it to you to run on your hardware, the iPad isn’t for you.

..not unless you have an IQ over 30 and know that some of the largest companies of today didn’t build something you can physically touch but created software that runs on a little something called a web browser. But yeah, if you’re one of those many lucky individuals out there who surround yourself with friends who constantly create their own USB devices, for sure, the iPad is not for you…then instead get something which has a terminal prompt..oh and the ability to install drivers.

If you want to live in the fair world where you get to keep (or give away) the stuff you buy, the iPad isn’t for you.

..and neither is anything else so just off yourself why don’t you. Or well. Hmm. I guess you could try to influence the lawmakers in your country not to support out dated idiotic copyright laws. Or yeah, you could just vote with your wallet and make sure you buy awesome digital CONTENT that doesn’t have DRM (good luck).

If you want to write code for a platform where the only thing that determines whether you’re going to succeed with it is whether your audience loves it, the iPad isn’t for you.

Neither is Linux really where you can have a really awesome audience, problem is it’s not big enough. And don’t write music either since apparently (someone told me) making it in the music biz isn’t just about writing great music. Don’t write books either..or make movies..hmm shit…come to think of it.. most things are not really black and white.

Personally I’m on the fence about the iPad, I mean.. yeah I want one. But I think I’ll wait for some more candy in it. I do know I’m way more skeptical about using the HP Slate than the iPad. Why? Well because you can put as much lipstick on that Windows pig as you want, it’s still a pig. At least that’s my limited experience with everything Windows mobile. Come to think of it, that was an insult to all the pigs I’ve ever met :)

On the subject of Adobe and Flash and Apple

I just read a little something by Grant Skinner and what I don’t get is why not open source the player if it’s such a head ache for Adobe that some people make it seem? Because of course its profitable not to. See if it was open source there would be a LOT more “respect” throwed around than when you essentially lock your customers in and dont give them a choice. This is why I am frustrated with Adobe as with many other companies that has any form of monopoly, a history thereof or are part of an ogliopoly. This is why customers used to (and a lot still) dislike Microsoft, AT&T, Vattenfall, ComCast and even my own employer Telia.

This is why I dig companies such as MindTouch and others that have an open source core with Enterprise options/closed source built around it, and has a product that generates an output built in standards readable by all (in MindTouch case XML/XHTML).

To say that Adobe deserve respect and so on is true, all human beings deserve respect (plus Photoshop kicks ass…even though they are really bloating down their CS). To say that Adobe deserves CREDIT for being business savvy, buying up sweet IP, developing this IP and making good decions to get where they are now is equally true. But we are all doing them a HUGE favor by bitching and moaning. This all helps to give rise to popular opinion and in the end – options. For Adobe, just like with any other company that gets negative attention from its customers, it becomes crystal – it’s do or die time. And yes, everyone using a Flash Player IS a customer.

In the end I think Apple are actually doing the web as a tool for communication a favor by NOT including support for a closed prop. system that is A) WIDELY misused and B) a resource hog that for me in 90% of the time is making my browser blink, pop and crackle when I don’t want it too (ads). And I really couldn’t care less about Flash games.

To say that a user can uninstall Flash on their workstation/laptop if they don’t like it..well that’s kind of childish, that’s like me not getting any electricity from a company I dislike – see I can’t.. because I like hot showers .. just like to watch embedded web video. But believe me when those video sites go full frontal HTML5, my Flash player will go the same way Macromedia Shockwave player did a long time ago. Or maybe I won’t, maybe things will shape up and they will kick ass. Just look at what their doing with Flash 5 and converting AS to IPA.

Anyway. I don’t mind the “i-platform”, here I do get a choice because companies are FORCED to open up and build more effecient no-nonsense ways to deliver HQ video. And it doesn’t really matter if it’s Android or Iphone OS, you can bet your ass they will reuse those HQ streams in fast, efficient native apps for those platforms.

Hulk explains why the Hulk iPod Touch (iPad) will rock

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Kapow bitches! The Hulk is sick of puny homans whining!
  1. “It’s just a big iPod Touch”
    Yeah? So? What were you expecting? Mac OS X + touch? So you’re telling me that if you could use your fingers on your laptop…that would be better than using the mouse? HAHA PUNY BRAIN!
  2. “It’s got no camera”
    Hulk SAD about this too. Was expecting to cyber with She-Hulk….he he. But will probably be in next version. HULK IS HULK!
  3. “No multitasking!”
    Puny! Hulk doesn’t care! Only time Hulk wants to multitask is to listen to music while bashing skulls. No biggie. NOT LIKE HULK!
  4. “No really cool software”
    That’s why there is an App Store. HULK SMASH!
  5. “No USB ports”
    PUNY! HULK IS NOT AFRAID…HULK IS STRONGEST ONE THERE IS!!! YOU WANT USB IN YOUR IPOD TOO? IT’S NOT A LAPTOP. USB YOUR FACE!
NOW Hulk says ENOUGH!
NOW Hulk says ENOUGH!

No News Day tomorrow

No news

As usual I will wait for the Quicktime to be posted from Apples event tomorrow and stay away from online news sites, live blogs, email, chat, blahblah.

Written by Comments Off on No News Day tomorrow Posted in Gadgets, Mac