Tag Archives: The Gadget Guy

SIMPLY TECH: Fitbit Feedback

SIMPLY TECH: Fitbit Feedback

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SIMPLY TECH: Fitbit Feedback

by Greg Gazin

Much more than a step tracker

Fitness trackers have come a long way since the pedometer – the original step counter. Not just for health enthusiasts, the latest Fitbit models also include practical applications to help you to enjoy your day. In addition, Fitbits are now downright stylish and affordable. And to top it all off, they’re app-enabled and can connect wirelessly to over 200 devices, like iOS, Android and Windows, as well as smartphones and tablets for even greater functionality.

The Fitbit Charge 2 really shines when partnered with your smartphone or tablet.
The Fitbit Charge 2 really shines when partnered with your smartphone or tablet.

A helping hand

The Fitbit Charge 2 has been a permanent fixture on my wrist since the beginning of the year. At first glance it looks like a sleek digital watch – which it is. But its simplicity stops there. If I push the side button or lightly tap on its OLED display, it brings up the time, the date and the number of steps that I’ve taken. Tap it again and I’ll see my heart rate, so that I can ensure that I’m not overdoing it. Tap it again, and I’ll see what distance I travelled throughout the day, how many calories I’ve burned and more. The side button also gives me access to a stopwatch, as well as a battery indicator, so that I’ll know when it’s time to recharge.

Two additional functions that might seem like redundant smartphone features, save you from having to fumble in your pocket or purse for your phone. It’s a definite plus to have an alarm alert, as well as message display capabilities on the Fitbit.

As a handy wake-up call in the morning, preset alarms can alert you to upcoming appointments and serve as a reminder to take medication. You can set up to three alarm times via the companion Fitbit app, and you’ll be notified by a gentle vibrating on your wrist.

Memory trigger

Your Fitbit can also be configured to receive notifications, and will vibrate with calendar alerts and text messages. With an inconspicuous glance, you can check to see who’s calling. This is a convenient feature when out with friends, in a meeting, or in a place where it’s inappropriate to have your phone out.

Fitbit really shines when partnered with your smartphone or tablet. From the app’s dashboard, you can set your goals and see your stats. You can also track workout routines, and it will help you to navigate new adventures, guided in real-time through your smartphone’s GPS.

Even if you’re not in training, a little motivation can provide that much-needed nudge so that you do at least 250 steps every hour, and it rewards you when you do so. Fitbit apps offer tools for managing your weight and nutrition, and measures your hydration. And if you feel the need for a little mindfulness, it will guide you through a two-minute relaxation.

Fitbit never sleeps, but it can keep tabs on you when you do, as well as the quality of sleep that you’re getting.

Stylish Options

The Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate and Fitness Wristband comes in a variety of colours and band styles, including leather and metal. It has a built-in battery and comes with a proprietary USB charger. It retails for less than $200, and is available through Best Buy, Staples, The Source, and Sport Check.

Greg Gazin (a.k.a The Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg) is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to Canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life.

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SIMPLY TECH: Phones ON

SIMPLY TECH: Phones ON

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SIMPLY TECH: Phones ON

by Greg Gazin

Save money when travelling

Worried about outrageous phone and data charges, many people turn off their phones when travelling, so that they don’t come home to massive cell phone bills. Rules and regulations are starting to change, and there are now more affordable choices.

Your carrier or service provider may offer special travel add-ons to your current plan. While this would be the most convenient route, it’s not the most economical. Canadian mobile phone and data rates are very expensive compared to other parts of the world. In fact, as a result of a 2016 study by Nordicity Group, CBC reported that Canadians pay much higher rates compared to other G7 countries and Australia. In one example, an entry-level wireless package in Canada was quoted at $41.08 (on average) compared to $17.15 for a comparable package in Germany.

Photo, bigstock.com
Photo, bigstock.com

If you pick up a cheap phone when you’re abroad, you won’t have your apps and contacts with you. A great solution is to purchase a local SIM card and insert it into your own phone. Previously this wasn’t an option for Canadians, as phones sold in Canada were locked with the carrier that you were under contract with. Even if you bought an unlocked phone, it would often be locked with the carrier that it was first used with. This all changed on December 1, 2017 when the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) ruled to update the Canadian Wireless Code of Conduct, giving you the right to have your phone unlocked by your service provider upon your request – at no charge. New phones that were purchased after December 1st are to be unlocked.

The carrier that your phone is locked with, must unlock your phone. If that’s Bell or Rogers, call them and they will do so. Telus can’t help you. If your device was previously lost or stolen, you may be blacklisted. Or, you may have an issue if you have an outstanding balance.

When travelling, you’ll still want to use Wi-Fi whenever you can, but in addition to cheaper calling with an unlocked phone, you’ll be able to leverage lower data rates, which is handy when using maps and apps that require connectivity. You can find local SIM cards just about everywhere, like the airport, electronic shops, gas stations and convenience stores. Often they’ll also work in nearby countries.

If you spend your winters south of the border, companies like Vancouver-based Roam Mobility offers complete Talk+Text+Data monthly plans, which may turn out to be lower than your current bill. You can pick up a SIM card in Canada before you go, including 7-Eleven stores.

Do your homework. Newer smartphones should work globally, but there are always exceptions. A local SIM card, as well as a pay-as-you-go phone, will have a different phone number, so you’ll have to alert family and friends. The advantage is that your number will be local to the country that you’re staying in.

Whether you’re travelling or not, an unlocked phone makes it easier to switch providers, and if you choose to sell it, you’ll have a larger pool of potential buyers if your phone isn’t tethered to a specific carrier.

Greg Gazin (a.k.a The Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg) is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to Canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life.

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Simply Tech: Is Your Home Safe?

Simply Tech: Is Your Home Safe?

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Simply Tech: Is Your Home Safe?

by Greg Gazin

Health Canada recommends that homes be tested for radon for a minimum of three months.

It lurks in your home, but it’s invisible. You can’t see or smell it, but it may just be putting your life at risk. It’s not carbon dioxide – it’s radon gas. Most of us have heard of it, but according to Health Canada, it’s the second leading cause of lung cancer – after smoking.

It doesn’t matter if you’re living in a new home or one from the turn of the century, every home has some level of radon – and it’s that level that determines the potential hazard.

Radon is produced naturally by the decomposition of uranium in the soil under your home. It travels in the form of an invisible gas that seeps into your home because of the differences in indoor and outdoor air pressure. It makes its way through openings like floor drains and sump pumps, as well as foundation and floor cracks, and tiny gaps around pipes that enter the home. As a result, it’s more likely to be more concentrated in basements and crawl spaces, rather than upper levels.

Don’t hit the panic button. Unlike carbon monoxide, or fumes from a fire, that pose immediate danger, radon is something that can be hazardous over time. A professional can test for radon levels in your home, or you can do it yourself with a detection system called Wave.

By Airthings, the Wave looks similar to a typical smoke detector. Once the Wave is installed, initial test results are available within an hour by simply waving your hand across the face of the device – thus the name. If everything is OK, a glow ring will turn green. Like a stop light, it will turn yellow for caution, and red if the reading is in the danger zone – exceeding acceptable standards, which according to Health Canada is 200 Bq/m3.

The beauty of the Wave system is that you get real results from the free companion app. Unlike other test kits, you don’t have to send the data to a lab for analysis. You simply pair the Wave with your iOS, or Android smartphone or tablet, and it will keep track of the radon levels, as well as the humidity levels and the temperature in the room. In addition to tracking current values, you can also plot an historical graph over the previous 48 hours, week, month or year. The app is also designed to track multiple Wave units, labelled as basement, dining room, etc.

You can receive notifications through the app, and receive email and audio alerts when the radon is too high, as well as sync current information when you are within Bluetooth range of the device.

Since radon levels are always fluctuating, the longer the test period, the more accurate your results. In fact, Health Canada recommends that homes be tested for radon for a minimum of three months – ideally during the heating season when windows are closed.

If radon levels consistently read high, call in a professional to help determine what remedial action should be taken to mitigate the situation.

Wave comes with a magnetic plate that can be mounted on any wall with a single screw, and is powered by two AA batteries (included). The Wave retails for $249.99, and is available at Best Buy and The Home Depot.

airthings.com

For more information on radon, and its risks, visit Health Canada’s web section at canada.ca.

Greg Gazin (a.k.a The Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg) is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to Canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life.

GadgetGuy.ca


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