• Marc A. Brown

I've had my Band since Thursday evening (November 20) and am happy with it overall. At first, it was undercounting my steps, but I've figured out that I was walking slowly and softly -- it would appear that it doesn't detect those as steps, which probably helps it to avoid overcounting activities that aren't steps. Overcounting was always a problem with my FitBit Flex, so this is a nice change.

Getting started was quite easy. Plug the Band in, download the Health app to my Lumia 1520 and log into it with my Microsoft account, then follow the instructions on the Band to connect it to the phone.

Hardware-wise, it's bigger and heavier than the Flex, but it's smaller than any men's watch I've ever owned and about the same weight. I've seen some complaints about the clasp being difficult to use, but haven't experienced any problems with that. It's been comfortable to wear, though I haven't figured out how snug it should be to work most effectively.

The software on the Band works well and is nicely designed for a minimalistic device like this. I like being able to get notifications on my wrist rather than reaching for my phone whenever it dings. My only gripe about notifications is that clearing one on the Band doesn't clear it on the phone and clearing it on the phone doesn't clear it on the Band. I guess that's a complaint about all wearables right now, but I'm hopeful that Microsoft will solve the problem.

The other gripe I have is that when I engage Quiet Hours on my phone, I still get notifications on the Band. Since the point behind Quiet Hours is to silence those notifications so that I can concentrate on that meeting I'm in or that complicated bit of code I'm working through, having them buzz me on my wrist is kind of counterproductive. Even if the "other" smartphone platforms don't have some form of Quiet Hours, Microsoft can certainly build the capability to "hold" notifications into the Windows Phone version of the Health app.

Speaking of the Health app, it's easy to use. I haven't used the workout/guided workout pieces of the Band software, so I can't say anything about that part of the Health app. I find it strange that the "Sleep" piece of the app doesn't show any history -- only the last night's stats. The "Steps" and "Calories" tiles have the ability to flip between today's information and the past week's summary. To see prior sleep stats, you have to tap the menu button in the upper left, then select "Activity History".

I've been looking at some of the guided workouts and like they way they're set up. There are videos of each individual exercise and there seem to be a lot of workouts to choose from. I've found several that look interesting.

After spending a few hours over the weekend attempting to get a data-bound VariableSizedWrapGrid to play nicely with text data that, after wrapping, will have variable heights, I discovered that the height for each element gets set to the height of the first element when setting the ItemHeight property to "Auto". I had resigned myself to having to do some code-behind magic to get the effect I wanted and sat down this evening to figure out exactly what I would need to do. However, I found this page that discussed this very issue. As it turns out, this isn't a bug -- it's by design (which is what I figured when I couldn't find any way around it) and in order to get the effect I need, I would need to (somehow) calculate the height of each item (as it would be displayed) and set each item's RowSpan property to a multiple of the height of the first item in the list (or of the value of ItemHeight if not set to "Auto"). In reading to the bottom of the post, one response pointed to the WinRT XAML Toolkit on CodePlex, which contains a port of a number of Silverlight Toolkit controls, including the WrapPanel. WrapPanel behaves in the fashion I need without the need for the code-behind magic I was contemplating.

UPDATE: The Callisto toolkit also contains the WrapPanel control. Because I'm already using Callisto controls in the project, I switched to that version of the control.

  • Marc A. Brown

On October 26, I received my new Surface RT 64 GB via FedEx and, a short time later my wife received her 32 GB model via UPS. As I begin this article, it has been about 12 hours and I have to say that I'm quite impressed and happy with it. My wife is also. The touch cover keyboard is terrific, the screen is crisp and beautiful, and Windows RT is fast and responsive. If other tablet manufacturers can produce devices this good, the tablet market is going to get quite interesting. The store needs to grow, of course, but I don't see why it won't since developers are going to be able to target these RT tablets and desktop computers without any extra work.

I've now been using my Surface quite a bit for almost a week and my initial impressions have stood up over that time. This is a sexy device -- it looks nice, it is well built, and it works very well. In spite of being essentially a version 1 OS at this point, Windows RT doesn't feel like a version 1 OS. I've had a couple of application crashes (from apps included with the OS), but those are few and far between. I've even started testing my first Windows 8 app on the device.

My wife has been happy with hers as well, with the exception of finding that the website she uses for her business fails to work properly, producing a JavaScript error that prevents her from entering orders. This is frustrating since one of the selling points of the tablet for her was that she would be able to take it with her and enter orders as they're given to her. Hopefully that problem (which I believe is an IE 10 compatibility issue with the website rather than an issue with the Surface) will be resolved soon, especially since Windows 8 is in the wild now.

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© Marc A. Brown. All rights reserved.