1st Run – Nike+ iPod (Nike Plus)

Greetings readers…

I hope this post finds you well. Some of you that have known me for years also know that I regularly try to exercise and have been working out more on than off since college. For those that regularly exercise, often times it can take just *one* break to get you to fall off the fitness wagon for a good long time. I suffered such a break and have been off the wagon for about TWO YEARS (thank goodness for muscle memory and a decent knowledge of a good diet), luckily during that two years, people still have occasionally asked me if I work out, so that’s a good thing.

In the same vein, some of you know I’m a techie and a mild gadget guy. Being such, one of the gadgets I own and enjoy is a 2nd generation iPod Touch. Late last year when I graduated up from a failing 1st generation one, I noticed it came loaded with the Nike Plus app. I knew of the Nike Plus system primarily as an app to track runs. There are many other free and paid fitness apps at the iTunes store, a few that I tried, but I paid no attention to the Nike Plus app.

Unsatisfied with being off the wagon for so long, I recently took another look at the Nike Plus app and then went to the website to see how this thing really works. I first found out that the sensor in the sports kit transmits data from your work to your iPod at 2.4 GHz…that immediately interested the techie in me (wireless transmission anything gets me, and as an engineer, I’ve worked for years in fields that use it). Now that I became more interested in it, the biggest thing I wasn’t interested in was……running. I never really cared for it and REALLY had my share of it while pledging a fraternity (Alpha Phi Alpha) in undergrad. During those 12 weeks I had to run just about everywhere I went…in combat boots…class to class, class to the dining hall, dining hall to my dorm, my dorm to class…you get the picture.

Consequently, from a fitness popularity standpoint, all I saw around me regularly, were runners. Since I let my World Gym monthly membership go, I wanted to adopt another form of exercise that would get me in shape and keep me that way. After some thought, running seemed to be the best. I went back to Nike’s site, and became wowed not only by their marketing of Nike Plus (this IS Nike, right?) but the resources that it offers to new and season runners alike. Still loving this whole tech + fitness combination, I became even MORE interested.

Nike (unsurprisingly) makes special shoes that house the sensor which sends the data to your iPod Nano or 2nd Generation iPod Touch. The most popular shoes in the Nike Plus line are in excess of $80….I have NEVER paid $80 for a pair of sneakers in my life and wasn’t about to. Even the New Balance and Nike crosstrainers I’ve had over the years didn’t exceed that price. So…of course, I hop on the net to find out other ways of using this sensor on non-Nike Plus shoes. Unsurprisingly, I found hacks, mods, and actual products that allow you to use the sensor with other shoes…hence saving you money if already have running shoes OR don’t prefer Nike shoes for whatever reason (I’ll provide some links below). Along with some Google search results, I decided to hop to my fave place for info, Twitter, to get some feedback on those in my stream that run and post their results to various places on the web. I got feedback by those who use the Nike Plus shoes and those who don’t…a perfect sample size to help me decided which way I want to go. Primarily, I didn’t want to spend that amount of money on a pair of running shoes, but as I gave it more thought, I realized that I’ll be running and should get a pair of shoes designed for that, as opposed to any sneaker. Still seeing some ASICS, NB, Sauconys, Nike and others in excess of $125, I was like…whew. After my three hours of article reading, Twitter feedback, and Nike Plus related videos on YouTube, I decided that as an engineer, I thrive on accuracy. I found that mounting the sensor in the sole of the shoe (as opposed to in the tongue/laces area), would provide the most accurate data results….I couldn’t let go of the need for accuracy LOL (it’s ingrained in my from professional training and being a techie, what can I say?) It was this post that made me decide to get a pair of Nike Plus running shoes (instead of cutting a hole in the current (but old) NB crosstrainers I own (wifey was shocked to see me with a new pair of sneakers on top of that …LOL). That being said, I chose, at $63, the Nike Air Alaris+ (I feel I got the best of both worlds…the tech, and a good shoe at a decent price – think I’ll hit Sports Authority for a second pair):

Fast forward to day one of the run (today). After reading up on how to set up the sensor with iPod Touch, I was psyched to do my first run this morning. The only issue I had was though the sensor was linked to the iPod, when I was prompted to calibrate it by walking around, the iPod Touch couldn’t find the sensor. After a few times last night, I gave up and decided to try in the morning.

I arise at 5:30am, get dressed, grab some juice and a cup of apple sauce and head out. I open the garage door and………….rain….ugh! After watching it for a bit and seeing it let up, I decided to take a first time drive to the nearby community college that has the track that I’ll run on. I stay in the garage and try to calibrate the sensor, but still no luck. The rain let up on my side of town, so I drove out the track and tried once more to calibrate the sensor with the iPod…no luck! Still being excited about the run, the tech, the whole thing. I warm up by walking a few laps. At 7am, in light rain, there were already one runner and another walker. Within 30 mins, another runner and 3 more walkers arrive. After finishing lap 4, I was a bit disappointed that the iPod Touch still couldn’t find the sensor. I knew that it wasn’t necessary to calibrate it but I’m a fiend for accuracy. Being that this was the first time I ever ran for fitness, I stretched, and did one (yes one) lap only. Halfway through the lap, it started raining heavier, but the temperature didn’t make the rain feel that bad. I finish the lap and head home. Soaking wet and still no data to post online, I get home, dry off and hop in the shower.

After the shower and breakfast with my son (who was a lil ticked I didn’t take him with me at 6:30am), I decided to engage in my usual problem solving activity – hit Google search to see if anyone else has had this problem. Sure enough I found good amount of folk that experienced the same. It turns out that the sensor can be put to sleep by holding a small button on the bottom of it for three seconds. Though the sensor, as I understand, is supposed to come in the package awake (ready to use), I suspect mine was sent asleep. I read the guide again (finding nothing about having to wake it upon first use), as well as a few posts online, then flipped the sensor over, pressed the button, placed it back in the shoe, followed the instructions from the iPod Touch, walked around a bit and ….voila…received a sensor found message on the iPod Touch 🙂 Now, I’m definitely happy. I run back up stairs thinking I can do a run around the neighborhood, open the garage and…..rain!. Oh well.

As you can guess, I’m looking forward to my next opportunity for a run AND to be able to post my results on line. I’m excited about joining the Nike Plus running community.

Special shout outs to my Twitterati for the input and advice:

@fave and Mrs Fave
and my new online running coach (haha..THX!) @FITTorrent

I’m exciting, and hope to keep it alive. Here’s a few links for anyone interested.

Nike Running (Nike+)
Nike + iPod FAQ (Technical)
100 Beginner Running Tips (CompleteRunning.com)
How To Start Running Without Feeling Like A Failure
Hacking Nike Plus, Part 1Creating Your Own Nike Plus Sensor holder in any running shoe sole
Nike Plus Sensor Mod (YouTube)
Tweet Your Run Data
Nike Plus on Twitter

Thanks for the long read! Catch up with u later!


Why minidisc? (….in 2010)

Jazzy chilled beats - MD

Greetings readers….

For those who have been following my posts here, as well as on Twitter, you know that I’ve been ,along with another friend, on the minidisc technology topic for some time now – reasoning pretty much alludes to a recent post of mine here. Recently, a good friend of mine and mutual friend of the other, posted this question. While I referred him back to the post I wrote, I thought I’d further expand on why I hold on to the technology.

1. HIGH QUALITY SOUND – Copies from SACD / DVD-A, VINYL ALBUMS and CDs sound so much better than mp3 compressed sounds. While I am not an audiophile by any great length, I’ve heard the difference and definitely believe this to be true. I’ve recorded live rehearsals and concerts over the air (meaning via a mic) straight to MD and have even achieved true stereo recordings (especially of band rehearsals) to MD…with crystal clear sound. Sony has added support for CD Audio quality recording and playback on the latest HI-MD recorders. This gives you that capability to have 1.4 hours of uncompressed PCM CD quality recording on your little HI-MD MiniDisc unit. Again ATRAC3+ at high bit rates can yield even better sound in my opinion because it uses a 20 bit engine even though it compresses the sound. Good thing is you have a choice of now being able to record with CD quality and not having to convert it if you want to make a regular CD .[COUNTERPOINT} – Yes, there are many digital recorders out (Zoom H4n, for one) that use standard removable media to store audio, record in stereo with built in mics, and can dump the audio to your computer via USB (without the care of proprietary designs), but for me…I don’t need to purchase one because of the MD units I own. You can download music to the from iTunes or import .m4a, .wav, mp3 files, yes, but not without a computer with iTunes loaded.

2. CONVENIENCE – Grab a few discs and go for the day. With the amount of music u can load to an 80 min disc alone (I just put 28 songs on one disc), that’s more music than you;d probably listen to in a day Discs are smaller than CDs and hold more. {COUNTERPOINT} – I’ve iPods since the original 5GB model costing almost $300. Today all iPods hold thousands of songs, which gives you the convenience of taking your whole collection everywhere you go, to listen to anyway you’d like. Should you come across some music you’d like to add to your collection that may be hard to come by, without connection to iTunes (library or online), you’re out of luck (unless you have an iPod Touch 2G or iPhone that you can record that music live as it’s played back from another unit – but then we’re back to sound quality).

3. FULLY EDITABLE DISK’s – you can add, delete, move, cut, join, and re-label MiniDisc’s up to 1,000,000 million times. NICE… [COUNTERPOINT] – Yes, this can be done with an iPod…but again, not without iTunes.

4. PROTECTIVE SHELL – All MiniDisc’s are protected by a plastic shell which stops dust, fingerprints and scratches from hurting your precious music and data. [COUNTERPOINT] – Deal with mp3s only and you back them up to your hard drive? No need to consider a protective shell, only concern is if your hard drive crashes and your music is not archived to CD.

5. MP3 PLAYBACK – With the latest generation of HI-MD players from Sony you can now playback regular MP3 files. Sony added support for native MP3 Playback on the newest HI-MD portable units. AAC (ITunes files) and WMA – windows media files would have been even better for great compatibility Having native MP3 support does allow you to quickly copy those MP3’s onto a 1 gig MiniDisc. Very nice. Fan of album art? If you happen to own the Sony MZ-DH10P, it will even show you the album artwork on the mp3.

6. TACTILITY – Here’s more of an odd reason why I like using MD technology. I like the tactile and sensory aspect of using a MD units, being portable or a deck. I like the sound of opening the unit, popping a disc in, and closing it. Yeah, the MD unit has moving parts (unlike an iPod), but I’ve owned many and only had a problem with one (which was old and purchased used).

7. A friend, Darrenkeith, recently said minidiscs are like having “mini-LPs”. Should you chose to do so, you can make great covers for your disc jewel cases and nice labels for the MDs themselves. Again, kind of a tactile thing that collectors of CDs, LPs, cassettes could more relate to then those who pretty much deal solely with mp3s, etc. Labels and covers that are striking, take a look at some of Jay Tilson’s work.

Anyway, there are 7 complete (7 IS a number of completeness) reasons why I like the MD technology. Love my iPod Classic too, but they both live in coexistence pretty nicely…. Would I steer a newcomer to portable music towards a MD player today? If it was to be their only medium to play music, honestly probably not, but as a unit to use with their current portable player of choice, I’d tout the same merits as I have above.

For some active discussion on MD technology and users who still are into it, check out this article


Note: quoted items are excerpts and shared thoughts of Paul DeMara ofThe Minidisc Collector Homepage