Sunday, November 28, 2010

Suunto Vyper Air Dive Computer w/Transmitter Review

This was originally posted on Search N Recovery in November of 2010. 

The Suunto Vyper Air is a wrist top dive computer that gives the diver depth, dive time, regular time, temperature, computes decompression limits, advises safety stops and with the wireless transmitter provides tank pressure information. I’ve been using the Vyper Air for almost a year after upgrading from an older Suunto Vytec DS with a wireless transmitter and I have to say I love the Air.

If you compare pictures of previous models to pictures of the Vyper Air you can see an immediate advantage in the larger screen and text display area. Moreover, the navigation buttons are larger and covered in full plastic which means easier navigation as you don’t have to use your fingernail to change settings or view past dive logs.

One of the newest features introduced in the Vyper Air is the digital compass. When you first get the Air you’ll need to walk around above water to configure the compass. Once you’ve configured it the compass works in a three dimensional manner below water - almost as easily as a regular compass. Personally the only problem I’ve had with using the Air as a compass was it took the focus away from being a dive computer. I like having a separate wrist top compass and wrist top computer but the compass display is large enough to cause me to loose focus of other important information the computer is trying to tell me.  Then again having a backup compass is quite nice.

As soon as you enter the water the Vyper Air switches over from a watch to a dive computer / pressure gauge mode without any input from the user. Any computer error codes from being unable to sync or out of range don’t last for long. There are only a few features I haven’t tried, one of those being the multi-gas mixtures.

The computer comes with an extra gauge protector which really is quite nice. After all you don't want to scratch up the face of the computer or you'll never be able to read from it. This isn't a problem with the computer as much as it may be a problem with the gauge protector but I've already scratched up both the original and extra gauge protector in less than 100 dives. Scratched to the point where I have trouble viewing the screen. Now I’m forced to order another replacement or two from Amazon.

The only other thing I don’t like about the dive computer is the same thing I didn’t like about the Suunto Vytec DS and that is the standard Suunto dive manager software. The software isn't aging very well. The graphical interface is poorly laid out which makes it hard to locate the appropriate information, the “database” is stored locally which is nice but it can’t be used with any other software and of course there is no web accessible version. This means that any information you attach to your dive "logs" in the software only stays in the software. It can't be shared with friends nor accessed outside of a desktop computer with the Suunto software.

The bottom line is the Vyper Air with the transmitter is an excellent dive computer with a great graphical interface that is easy to navigate even for the beginner. That is, of course, assuming you are comfortable with a wireless wrist top computer.

For more information check out Suunto’s website.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to Verify an Email Address

How to Verify an Email Address? by Digital Inspiration is a good article and great reference to have for those occasions when you can't tell if an email is fake or not. Using telnet or putty the article shows users how to ping MX servers, then connect to the mail server(s) to verify the recipient's email address.

This article (and it's subsequent articles) had a few interesting references:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Add extra USB ports to your Laptop

Tip: If you have a laptop with few available USB ports consider adding an external monitor that has USB ports built in (USB hub). Take for example my Macbook Air. It has only 1 USB port (bummer) but when I hook it up to my Dell Ultra Sharp 19" monitor I now have 4.
2 USB ports on the Side and 2 on the bottom. Everything runs perfectly and I get an extra monitor out of it. If you need more than 4 just add another hub to the USB upstream port.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Windows turns 25 years old

There's a good article on Windows turning 25 years old tomorrow (it was published yesterday). It takes a look back in time and all the consumer versions of Microsoft Windows from Windows 1 to Windows 7.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A cool electric car

In a perfect world (or at least later in my life) I’d like to think I’ll own a few vehicles: a sports car, an SUV, a motorcycle and an electric car. (Maybe I should shoot for an electric sports car!?!) I just don’t think I’d want to own an electric car of today.

When I think of an electric car I think of a vehicle that is the very definition of high tech. It has full navigation / entertainment system that blends perfectly with the computer dashboard which provides countless performance statistics and diagnostic information about my vehicle. The vehicle syncs with all my mobile devices, takes voice commands, gets great gas mileage, hopefully it can drive itself (ok, maybe not), comes in countless variations and is stylish. Not $100k Tesla sports car stylish. But not Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Volt or Toyota Prius boring. Also nothing against the Prius, its just a boring car.

As an end consumer I wouldn’t really care if the electric car is a plug in, a full electric or a regular hybrid as long as it offers the things above. I probably wouldn’t be buying it because it gets 100 MPH since I don’t drive for work although it would be nice not to have to fill up twice on a round trip from LA to Vegas.
The only affordable and cool electric car I’ve seen (in print or real life) is one that doesn’t exist and probably won’t. The Cadillac Converj offered, in my opinion, something all other electrics have yet to offer (again except for maybe the Tesla) and that is an appealing shell.

True it didn’t have any / all of the requirements I listed above and would most likely have come out a lot different looking as it was put into production but it would have been a step in the right direction.

Just imagine a stylish, affordable, cool electric car - in the future. Perhaps by the time a cool, stylish, affordable electric car comes around it will be able to drive itself and our highways will look something like a blend of Minority Report and iRobot.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Set VLAN ID on a Network Adapter in Windows 7

Here are the steps to set a VLAN (Virtual LAN) ID on a network adapter in Windows 7:
  1. Right click on Computer > Click Properties
  2. Click Device Manager
  3. Expand Network Adapters
  4. Right click on the adapter you want to set the VLAN for > Click Properties
  5. Click on the Advanced Tab
  6. Under the Property window select VLAN ID
  7. In the Value window set your VLAN ID
  8. Click OK.

Your VLAN ID is now set. This same procedure should work in other versions of Windows with a sleight variation.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Hacking your car

    I randomly came across the Max Energy Power Programmer Chip by Hypertech months ago. It’s a programmable chip that's used to “hack” your car / truck's on board computer for improved MPG, improved horsepower, to adjust your speedometer due to modifications, etc. I’ve been considering one for my 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe for the those same reasons. From what I can tell you just hook it up to your computer via a USB cable, select what options or "hacks" you want and then attach it to your vehicle using the ODB-II connection and that's it. The chips also allow simple rollback options for returning the settings back to the default manufacturer guidelines.

    Every time I’ve needed to have an engine code read it has cost at least $100. So if you have one engine code a year (as you might expect with an older vehicle) the device could pay for itself within a few years. The problem of course is the manufacturer knows this and so the device retails for (my specific model) about $350. I found it here on Amazon.

    It’s a shame it’s so expensive. $350 is just too much to take a risk on, especially with only a 30 day money back guarantee.

    Review: Fitbit (Classic)


    I first noticed the fitbit when randomly browsing the Microsoft Store. (I'm not sure why I was browsing it, let's just assume this is normal. ) I found the idea intriguing so I went to their website to follow up on the details. It appears the fitbit was created by a small startup in San Francisco with the idea of making a small (perhaps unobtrusive) way for people to measure personal health data such as number of steps walked, calories burned and quality of sleep (aka a pedometer on steroids). The fitbit tracker device itself is about the size of a thumb drive.

    I've wandered to myself what my sleeping patterns look like (especially those days I wake up tired) and how many calories I burn in a day. Yet I’ve never been a fan of attaching giant devices (the Bodybugg) to my arm nor am I a fan of the pedometer watches – most of which are expensive and/or very bad looking. The fitbit solves both of these problems.

    Sleeping Patterns: 

    The fitbit gives users information on their sleeping patterns based on the motion of their arms during the night. You attach the fitbit to your arm using the supplied strap and it monitors at what times you move and for how long. If you know when you fell asleep you can log that information online and then see how many times you tossed and turned during the restful night. Unfortunately if you don't remember when you fell asleep or forget to record it daily the sleeping pattern data probably won't do you much good. I stopped using the arm strap after a few weeks because the strap is small and started to cut off my circulation in my hand. (I wonder if that creates a conflict? I wake up because the fitbit is cutting off my circulation.)


    The fitbit can be attached to your body in an unobtrusive way by clipping onto your belt or being put into your pocket. When positioned on or near your hip (central body location) it tracks your movements throughout the day in the form of steps. Users are unaware of the formula being used although one can assume by using your height and your body movement it "estimates" how many steps you take. Perhaps then by estimating how many steps you've made it can then calculate how many calories you've burned.

    The most important tracking device isn't the fitbit device itself it's through their free online system where you can update / add additional exercises for a more realistic picture of your day. Probably the best thing about this device is the fact it wireless transmits the data to a base station that attaches to your computer and then uploads the data to the fitbit website - so you don't have to. If you look at the screen shots in the Product Manual of the website and it looks simple yet effective. (And a little web 2.0-y.) It’s also a website with a free subscription unlike some other tracking devices I’ve seen.


    Another impressive techy thing is that your Google Health will sync with your website data. I don’t know about you but I signed up for both Google Health and Microsoft Health Vault years ago but have never really used them. Those services don't really offer me much utility since I don’t have prescription drugs.

    A month back log is kind of crazy, luckily 24 Hour Fitness sells them. I just wish they’d offer a return policy!

    Updated on 10/26/2011:

    I've updated the title of this post to reflect this review was based on the 1st generation model (I jokingly refer to as the classic model). The newest generation appears to be called the Fitbit Ultra.

    Anyone else use a fitibt? If so let us know what you think in the comments section!

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Review: Men's Health Personal Trainer

    As you’ve probably guessed from the title Men’s Health (or Personal Trainer is an online “personal training” program that helps you to set and track your workout goals. You select the type of workout routine you want to do from a list of 20 options, each with a different focus and the “personal trainer” creates the reps and sets for you to follow. You can also input specifics about yourself (weight, size of muscles, body fat %, etc.) and set additional goals which the system helps you track.

    You can print (or download) the workouts with the goals to fill in as you workout or with the goals and descriptions of how to properly complete the workouts. The “personal trainer” varies the workouts every few weeks so you don’t end up doing the same things over and over again. Each exercise has a full description of how to properly perform the exercise along with some animation for easy viewing. The system also offers articles from Men’s Health Magazine, a Nutrition Plan with daily recipes and a ton of other features.