Words On Wednesday

Fitness, Phones, and fffffff…Name Change

I was going for alliteration in the title, but it was not to be. Another eclectic dive into my mind, covering fitness tools, an update on my opinion of the Moto G, and my take on blogging.

Name Change

Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice is that the title of this post no longer follows my previous naming scheme of “Words on Wednesday, [Month] [Date], [Year].” Here’s why.

On a “Community Pool” post from The Daily Post offering for WordPress users to ask each other for feedback, I posted a link to my own blog and dropped some criticism on others. One user mentioned that my post titles could get extremely confusing as my blog grows, and it gives no indication of the content of the post. Sure, I have a brief headline at the top of each post, but you actually have to look at the post itself to see that. Therefore, I’ll try to give each post a descriptive title to differentiate posts by more than just date.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/community-pool-97/

StepBOT Description source: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1503017678/stepbot
StepBOT Description
source: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1503017678/stepbot

StepBOT

Exercise is good, games are fun; support this app and let’s go for a run.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1503017678/stepbot

I’m aware my poetry is terrible, that’s not the point. The point is, this app has the potential to get people moving AND to entertain them in the process. I try to walk pretty regularly on my lunch break. Unless I have something specifically required of me during lunch or the weather is particularly bad, I walk around town for an hour every day. The health benefits are undeniable (especially for a sedentary occupation like software development), and it helps me clear my head.

Not everyone enjoys exercise, though. Frankly, I don’t necessarily enjoy anything more than walking and the occasional weight lifting. Jogging? Nope. Running? Absolutely not. Jumping rope? Meh, I’m uncoordinated. Having an incentive to exercise is a huge deal. Sure, it’s awesome to be more healthy and lose weight. Those are long term results, though, and it’s very difficult to notice them when you’re huffing and puffing after 2 minutes of light jogging. While games may not be the way to motivate everyone, so many people enjoy a quick game on their phones or tablets and it’s one step closer to getting everyone moving.

So far, the kickstarter page is still somewhat vague on the idea. Steps are recorded on a pedometer device of some sort and registered within the app. These provide energy for your avatar, a Tamagotchi-style virtual pet of sorts. You can level up somehow and there are missions, but I couldn’t exactly deduce the details there. They still have a long way to go in polishing this game into something everyone can get into, but the pieces they have together now look promising.

I sincerely hope that this becomes something I could see myself playing reliably over a long period of time. Most of the mobile games I’ve played interest me for all of a week, only to be left in my app drawer and deleted later when I notice that I haven’t played it in forever. I need something that keeps me coming back. The level up system could be one key feature if it gives incentive for continued play. Leveling up needs to give a genuine sense of progress. Missions could be added later, either as DLC or included updates to the game.

As a primarily console gamer, I don’t want any sort of microtransactions in the game. I don’t mind paying a little upfront if the game is good, but I hate games that push for pay-to-win purchases. Aesthetic skins and such can be available for extra real-world money, but don’t allow people to buy their way to the top. The game is primarily an activity based application, so the most active people should be the ones that are most successful in-game.

One issue I’m concerned about is the requirement of a pedometer device. Paying $5 or less for an app is FAR less than dropping $60 or more for one of the latest step-monitoring tools. Google Fit has some way of monitoring steps with phone sensors (probably the accelerometer and maybe GPS for location), so I would think that should be sufficient. If not, the requirement to purchase a fairly expensive outside peripheral could deter the achievement of this team and their creation. If smart watches become more prolific, that could ease the transition. Until then, those are even more expensive than simple pedometer devices. If they can somehow erase the need for an external purchase, or at least reduce the introductory cost, I would have far more confidence in the game.

Over the coming months, I’ll definitely keep an eye on this kickstarter team’s progression. I would love for them to be successful and put out an app that everyone can get behind. America especially needs more motivation to get in shape. The obesity rate and health consequences of it are completely out of control.

How to WordPress

I’m fairly new to this whole blogging thing, but I’ve picked up a few bits of knowledge over these past few months.

Include a Picture

Though I’ve heard it preached over and over again since I first got on Google Plus, pictures are the best way to draw attention to posts. It makes sense, honestly. Pictures make a post take up more room on the screen, they give your eyes something to look at besides pages and pages of plain text, and as the old adage goes, “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” I’m hard headed, so I rarely listen to advice even if it’s good. However, the stats of my blog make it undeniable. The posts that I’ve included pictures with get FAR more traffic.

Tags and Categories

Since Twitter popularized the hashtag for grouping posts about the same topic (or whatever the cool kids are doing with them now), reading relevant material from a variety of sources and authors has never been easier. If you want other people to read what you’re talking about, throw in some related tags. I did this some when I was blogging from Google Plus and added more when I migrated to WordPress. For an easy example of how well tags work, use them once and then click on each tag individually to peruse other posts with the same tag. It’s an enlightening experience to see what others have to say about topics you’ve written on, from people who agree with you and others who disagree with you on a subject.

Be Consistent

Don’t make new posts regularly and then stop for long periods of time. As a reader and a writer, it annoys me to read a webcomic or other publication regularly for a while, only to have the author cease for a while and then resume. When I finally noticed that the author is producing new material, I’ve gotten way behind and have to catch up on all the new posts. Similar to the distinction between precision and accuracy, don’t think that I’m saying you have to post AT LEAST once every day, once a week, or anything other threshold. Instead, pick a pace and stick with it. Sure, you can throw in some extra posts more than you’d normally write from time to time, or even slow up the rate of production over time. The main thing is to avoid having large gaps of production between hyper-active periods. Be consistent, like peanut butter.

Source: http://cdn1.xda-developers.com/devdb/deviceForum/screenshots/3593/20140907T054736.jpg
Source:
http://cdn1.xda-developers.com/devdb/deviceForum/screenshots/3593/20140907T054736.jpg

Moto G: Revisited

I’ve had the Motorola Moto G (2014) for roughly 2 weeks now. This is what I think of it.

Screen

The screen is still phenomenal. People may complain about pixel density, but I personally think the display looks great. The colors are all bright and vivid, even with the brightness turned down. Viewing angles are perfectly acceptable to me, but it’s not like I regularly turn my phone away from my face just to see how it looks. Everything is crisp and at 5”, there’s plenty of real estate to look at. The extra 0.3” definitely makes a difference over my Nexus 4, but it isn’t so big that the entire device is large and bulky.

Battery Life

I’m not sure where the battery of the Moto G falls in line with all other devices available, but it lasts noticeably longer than my Nexus 4. So far, the device easily lasts all day, even with heavy use. If I take the device off charge around 2pm with a full battery, it typically has around 40% left before I go to bed around 11. With my Nexus, I could very easily drain a full battery in that time and have to charge again before bed.  Even with a larger screen, this phone has the juice to stay powered on for a while.

Performance

The decreased performance of the Moto G is the one gripe I have with it. Overall, it’s not a huge deal. Apps take slightly longer to load, but not by much. There’s a brief stutter when returning to the home screen or switching between apps, but not something that inhibits my use of the phone. It just looks funny to see a blank screen on top of my wallpaper and then have my widgets pop up. The only truly frustrating problem I have is Netflix. This could be due to the lower end specs of the phone, or it could be due to bad programming on part of Netflix, but I have about a 30% chance of actually having the Netflix app work on my phone. Roughly half of the time (maybe more), the app will start and show the loading icon… and keep loading…. and keep loading. Eventually, it will time out and give an error about connecting to the service. Another 20% or so, I can get past the loading icon, but the app stays at a blank screen with just a search button that doesn’t work. The Moto G isn’t the most powerful device on the market by any stretch of the imagination, but it should have no trouble with a simple video streaming service. Maybe I’m biased, but Netflix needs to optimize the app to run on any device without faltering.

Netflix Error Screenshot

Sound

If nothing else, the Moto G is loud. If I crank the volume up to max, it seems as loud as any of the portable speakers I’ve had through the years. Sounds do get slightly distorted near max, but not terrible. I’ve noticed that the speakers don’t have much of that tinny sound that most phone speakers have. It doesn’t have the bass of larger speakers, of course, but it’s a good middle ground. The fact that the speakers are on the front of the phone makes it great for watching videos or getting GPS navigation cues WHILE looking at the screen. Sound quality is definitely more than I could ask for in a phone, no matter what price point.

Camera

The camera on the Moto G is… weird. I don’t really like the software. I’m aware that I could procure other camera software, but I want to give it a solid chance before I dismiss it completely. The HDR seems to work pretty well, but I leave that setting turned off most of the time. Maybe I haven’t yet figured out how to work the software properly, but the camera doesn’t seem to want to auto focus usually. I can move the focus point anywhere on the screen, but I expect the camera to focus when I tap the screen to capture. If the subject has gotten out of focus, the phone just captures it as blurry as it is. Any sort of movement seems to blur images, but that’s pretty much the case with any phone camera. At the end of the day, it’s just a so-so camera that I have on me at all times. If I want to take good pictures, I’ll use my DSLR.

One weird thing I noticed is that one of my videos had a green line across the top of the frame during playback. There was nothing in the video that would’ve given a green tint, so I have no idea where it came from. Maybe it was just a random glitch, but that’s something I would expect should’ve already been ironed out. So far, it’s only happened once, which is fine if it doesn’t happen again.

Video Green Bar Screenshot

Call Quality

I don’t make a whole lot of voice calls, but any that I have made sound good. Not as good as a landline, but I can hear the other party clearly and they haven’t complained about being unable to hear me. Chances are, voice calls probably aren’t your main focus for getting this phone, but don’t worry about them sounding bad. We’re not talking HiFi quality, but it’s enough for me.

Form Factor

The phone feels very good in the hand. In order to avoid breaking yet another device, I’ve enclosed it in a case and screen protector. Without those, the texture of the back is nice, and it fits reasonably well for one handed use. The power and volume buttons are all on the right side of the phone, which takes some getting used to, but it works. I don’t like taking screen captures since I have to hold the phone in a weird fashion to press volume down and power at the same time, but it isn’t really a hassle. There doesn’t seem to be any flexing or creaking, so it appears to be extremely sturdy. It isn’t as flashy as my Nexus 4, but it does look and feel nice.

Overall

The Moto G is a good phone, a great phone for the price point. Other than the weird Netflix behavior, I have no issue using the device. It’s snappy enough, takes decent photos, and it didn’t cost much. If you want top of the line and you’re willing to drop the cash for it, go nuts on the latest flagships. If you want a device that you can use without qualms and won’t break the bank, this is the phone for you. Even after 2 weeks, I can say with certainty that I have no regrets on buying the phone.

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