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.

Chasing UFOs review

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Update
I do have to give credit to Ben however, he has a blog that goes into way more detail than the actual show. The show is short and has an air of sensationalism – but I guess that is to be expexted with the attention span of most viewers today.

My initial review
Just watched the first two episodes of National Geographics “Chasing UFOs”. Man, what a disappointment. Another poorly scripted show with retarded, unwarranted night time “investigations” with FLIR and IR cameras.

They go into a deep mountain that has access to a hydro electric plant and get a hit on the geiger counter, gee I wonder why when you have a couple of thousand tons of rock above you.

They get chased by wild boar – or as it sounded to me – a disgruntled cow, they shoot a very inconclusive video of a round thing flashing (looks like it could a be a transformator pole or just a lens flare) Sure would have been interesting to see how that spot looked..I don’t know..during DAYTIME?

The icing on the cake is when they “investigate” Fresno freaking airport during night in the second episode. Ryder climbes a fence with a flashlight and they act surprised they get a military chopper interested in them

I was a little taken back by the fact that James Fox is a part of the show or that it is being aired by National Geographic. Fox has previously made the brilliant “Out of the blue” documentary.

Anyway, it’s fun that there is at least something UFO related on TV and it will fall into my guilty pleasure category of entertainment on the tube.. but I really hope they improve the quality of their show and tone down the sensationalism. Less monster hunt and more science, thanks!

Prometheus review (spoilers)

Prometheus

Spoiler Inside: This is also loong:) Do not read if you haven't seen the movie SelectShow

Split Fish Frag FX Rev 2 Review

So I just got my Frag Fx Rev 2 yesterday and it performs a lot better than I actually expected (then again, I was NOT expecting a true mouse/keyboard emulator). In general looking up/down works somewhat less as well as looking to the sides..but it still works a WHOLE lot better than the PS3 controls for an old PC FPS gamer. Here are the list of games (most of em the demos) I have tried it with so far along with my reactions:

Killzone 2
Sluggish, not the best of the bunch that’s for sure. 4/10 (doubtful if the fx will actually improve things much here). boring game though so i dont care

WarHawk
Pretty decent, much better than KZ2
7/10

Mirror’s Edge
Really great actually, I ran through the demo quickly.
8/10

Battlefield Bad Company
Awesome much.
9/10

QuakeWars Enemy Territory
Felt very nice.
8/10

In general it feels like where the games have been made for multi-platform in mind – the control works much better, like if the game were designed around a mouse and keyboard this control will work better. My guess is that’s because on those games they start out with mouse/keyboard and then add support for the PS3 control as where with a native PS3 only title they might never involve the M/K in the same way. Me guesses this will mean that most games will work pretty darn great with the Frag FX. For me it was certainly a halleluljah moment since I have completley given up FPS on the PS3 (can’t stand it).