qs

Gyroscope vs. Exist – Quantified Self Aggregator Review

I’m fascinated by the Quantified Self movement where people collect masses of data about themselves and aggregate it to show some meaning. For example you might every day record your weight, steps taken and the weather and map them out to see if there is any correlation between them. This is exactly what both Gyroscope and Exist do to one extent or another.

Both work in the same way by linking your account with the feeds of other providers such as FitBit, Runkeeper, MyFitnessPal, Forecast and others and bringing it together in a graphical form. Exist has been around for over a year now while Gyroscope has launched only this month but is based on the original site of the creator.

Gyroscope

Neil_Thompson_on_Gyroscope

The first thing to say about Gyroscope is that it is beautiful, it looks like something out of a science fiction movie. The graphics are fluid and your information is presented in a really engaging way.

Information is grouped into three areas: Sport (such as FitBit, RunKeeper etc), Explorer (Foursquare checkins) and Digital (Twitter). A slight oddity on sport is that it has me down for one trip to a gym in Wales when in reality this was a business presentation. Still a workout where I was made to sweat I guess but not quite what most would expect to see here. Also this section for me is weighted towards cycling when, in fact, my most recent activities have been walks which aren’t really shown.

The other problem with Gyroscope is that it seems to have stopped updating which is a shame as that limits its usefulness but given that it is early days for them I’m sure these sorts of kinks will be ironed out.

You get a pretty full featured account for free with Gyroscope and there is a paid plan (currently $7 a month) that adds themes, your own domain and early access to features but for most the regular plan is going to be sufficient.

Exist

Dashboard_·_Exist

Exist has been around longer and it shows in that the sources you can import are greater and the site feels more rounded. They also take a much more analytical approach to the data than Gyroscope.

The main dashboard covers all your stats in one place and can be pretty overwhelming with the amount of the data that is presented. However, what you also get is an eight and 30 day overview of your data too making it easy to see progress and any trends.

Don’t want to work out trends for yourself? Exist has got you covered with trends, correlations and averages. So, for example, it is able to look at steps and productivity and say “You are moderately less likely (53%) to be productive when you walk more”. It is here that Exist scores over Gyroscope which feels like a slick way of presenting your data whereas Exist allows you to make something of it. And this is what quantified self should be about – analysing the data that you collect so that you can act upon it otherwise it is just a pretty way of collecting data.

One thing that I would like to see from Exist is the ability to go back in time. At present the dashboard shows you data for today after which the data is consigned to bar charts and then after 30 days disappears altogether. I would love to be able to go to a specific day and see all the data for it.

Exist also offers two things that Gyroscope doesn’t – the ability to record your mood on a five point scale with a short text description and an api that allows you to get some of the data out for other uses – I use this to send a formatted summary to Evernote for example.

Conclusion

In some ways it is a bit unfair to be comparing two products that are at different stages of their development but Gyroscope has been around a while albeit not open to all.

The bottom line is that if you want to simply be able to visualise your stats in a slick fashion then Gyroscope is for you. If you want more from your data to help you understand and to make changes then Exist is the one.

2015-03-20 09.22.29

Solar Eclipse

As I write this and look out of my window it is a beautiful day. The sun is shining down and there is not a cloud in the sky.

Wind back to this morning when the solar eclipse was supposed to be happening it was grey and overcast with zero chance of seeing what the BBC described as ‘Breathtaking’. I think that this is a prime example of ‘sod’s law‘.

So I have drawn a picture of what it would have looked like had the skys been clear…

2015-03-20 09.22.29

FreegleLogoInvertedNeo

Recognising the Value of Free

There’s a real problem with free in that it has zero cost (obviously) so people seem to think that means it also has zero value.

I hate to see any waste and my heart sinks with everything that gets put into the bin and not recycled. My kids are fed up with me saying that I am just saving the planet’s precious resources for their children. Despite, or perhaps because of, my views on recycling they have switched off but I am not sure what excuses the members of Freegle have.

Freegle, Freecycle and sites like them exist to allow people to reuse and repurpose items that they no longer want or need and allow others to taken them from you – for free. I’m all for it and regularly offer items.

Just recently we had a big clear out of things from my younger sons room now that he is away at Uni and it looks like he won’t be moving back in with us. All these items went onto our local Freegle. It is not untypical to get a response within minutes of the item being posted, quote often with some elaborate story attached as to why they are worth of the item. This emotional pleading doesn’t work on me as I just want the item out of my house but away from landfill.

After a while I’ll settle upon someone to receive the item. Sometimes this is the first person to respond, sometimes not. One of three things happens now:

1. they respond, fix a time, turn up and take the item :-D
2. they don’t respond :-(
3. they respond, fix a time and don’t ever turn up :-x

A variant on 2 is where I subsequently get an email after I have written to find out what happened and am told that “something else came up and they couldn’t make it at the allotted time”. I would say that two thirds of all posts fall into the don’t turn up or don’t respond categories. TWO THIRDS!

Which raises a question. Why are people so fucking rude? And I suspect that the answer is that they just don’t see any value in an item that has no monetary value attached to it. Perhaps what they also don’t stop to consider is that I might have a bookcase sat in my hall waiting for them or that I made arrangements to be in that evening when they said they were going to come.

So I am re-evaluating my use of Freegle and prioritising charity shops and friends on Facebook as more reliable methods of reusing items and, quite frankly, the people aren’t so fucking rude.

house

Every Episode of House M.D.

Opening scene somebody gets ill, others around are concerned but this is misdirection as ta-dah it’s one of the concerned others that falls sick and needs a trip to the hospital.

Someone tries to entice House to take the case by offering up tidbits of information about the illness but he is not interested. Then someone mentions something inconsequential and he snatches the case file and accepts.

Initial diagnosis is unclear but it could just be Lupus but ‘it’s not Lupus’ (except for when it is). Patient is started on a series of meds but they get worse, usually involving a lot of blood from some unusual orifice. An alternative diagnosis rears its head at this point and the patient begins to respond to the change of medicines but we are not fooled as it is only half way through the episode and know there is an imminent relapse coming.

At this point Foreman is sent to break into the home of said patient to rifle through their draws and find something that might relate to the case. Often this will show up nothing but later in the episode Foreman will casually mention something trivial such as a bus pass they had seen and House will chide Foreman for not mentioning it earlier. The next diagnosis will related to something caught off the seat of a public bus.

By now prospects for a healthy recovery are looking low and you fear the worst – that House might finally fail and a person might actually die. But no, wait a minute, perhaps it is the thing that we thought it was in the first place just hiding as something else! Start them on the meds and they’ll be right as rain.

Literally minutes later the colour is back in the patients cheeks and within 24 hours they are discharged and are last seen running a marathon.

Three cheers for Doctor House!

de101_invasionofthedaleks_1417_cover_large

Making a Case for Audio Books

I love music. It’s really unusual for me to not have music playing somewhere. If it’s blaring out of my computer, music streamer in the lounge or out of my headphones when on the move it is pretty unusual.

Music, for me, can be background noise, something that doesn’t require too much concentration and fills a void that would be silence otherwise. Sometimes, however, I want something different, something that does require concentration but is still aural and I have found that is audio books.

This is something of a rediscovery for me as I had got out of the habit of listening but having to make a couple of long car journeys for work recently led me to rediscover. In a trip to Wales and Gloucester I was able to manage to polish off Michael Palin’s Halfway to Hollywood and which simultaneously also got me back into the habit of diary writing.

For the last couple of weeks I have been working my way through Big Finish’s Dalek Empire collection, which I have to say has been superb. One of the things that has drawn me into this so much is the excellent production and cast which includes Gareth Thomas (Blake in Blake’s 7). It is also the first Doctor Who spin-off that does feature or even mention the Doctor at all.

Audio books don’t replace books, or music for that matter, but it does give me something else to concentrate on other than the road when driving or I’m on the bus or train. It’s good to get lost in another world.

How_Dare_You

Thoughts on Size

When I posted recently about the tracks added to my music library over last year something that struck me was that it required 35gb of additional storage. That still seems like an enormous amount of disk space to me. This now takes the total amount of storage for all my music to 266gb. This is much much more than my old iPod classic would hold and certainly more than the amount of music I used to carry around.

When memory sticks first became affordable I used to have one on which I had my favourite tracks in a folder called 256mb and used to play them via winamp (if you don’t remember Winamp you can see a reimplementation of it in HTML5 here). You don’t get many tracks in 256mb – from memory I had about 30.

Subsonic

Such was my affection for this playlist that I still have one called that today, although it has slightly more tracks in it these days and I stream it from Subsonic.

I guess that’s what you call progress.

Screenshot_01_05_2014_14_23

Tracks Added – A Review of the Year

Last year I ran a series of monthly blog posts recording all the music that I had acquired over the previous month, you can see all those posts here, but I thought it would be good to do a summary.

Here are the raw stats over the year

49 Artists
89 Albums
959 Songs
97 hours of listening
35.16gb of storage

This averages out at seven(ish) a month, although not all were full albums. This also includes 26 Society of Sound albums which works out at about £1.34 each, not a bad price.

And here is a list of all of them:

  • Steve Hackett – Carpet Crawlers
  • Hassan Hakmoun – Unity (SoS)
  • LSO – Brahms Symphony No.2 (SoS)
  • King King – Take My Hand
  • Samantha Crain – Kid Face (SoS)
  • LSO – Bruckner – Symphony No 9 (SoS)
  • De La Soul – AOI: Bionix
  • De La Soul – Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump
  • De La Soul – Stakes Is High
  • De La Soul – Buhloone Mindstate
  • De La Soul – De La Soul Is Dead
  • De La Soul – 3 Feet High And Rising
  • Neil Finn – Dizzy Heights
  • Jesca Hoop – Undress
  • Mike + The Mechanics – Living Years (Deluxe Edition)
  • Asia – Gravitas
  • John Mayer – Paradise Valley
  • Roller Trio – Tracer (SoS)
  • LSO – Sibelius Symphony No.2 (SoS)
  • Prides – Covers
  • Prides – The Seeds You Sow EP
  • Alex Turner – Submarine
  • John Wetton – Raised in Captivity
  • 9Bach- Tincian (SoS)
  • LSO – Britten The Turn of the Screw (SoS)
  • Trevor Rabin – 90124
  • Electronic – Electronic
  • Bronski Beat – The Singles Collection
  • Ben Folds Five – The Unauthorized Biography
  • Space – Suburban Rock ‘N’ Roll
  • Semisonic – Feeling Strangely Fine
  • John Squire – Time Changes Everything
  • Ocean Colour Scene – Songs For The Front Row
  • Mogwai – No Education = No Future (Fuck The Curfew) EP
  • Prince – The Gold Experience
  • Morrissey – You Are The Quarry
  • LSO – Berlioz Te Deum (SoS)
  • Edwyn Collins – Studio Live Session Lichtenstein (SoS)
  • OK Go – Upside Out
  • Boo Hewerdine – 59 Yds
  • Boo Hewerdine – God Bless The Pretty Things & The Toy Box EPs [Deluxe Edition]
  • Hafdís Huld – Home
  • Tim Carleton & Darrick Deel – The Arcata Sessions
  • Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything
  • Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther
  • Midlake – Antiphon
  • Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited – Live at the Royal Albert Hall
  • Laura Mvula – Live with Metropole Orkest (SoS)
  • LSO – Vaughan Williams – Symphony No. 4 (SoS)
  • OKGO – Upside Out
  • Foxes – Amazon Artist Lounge Live
  • Various – Best of the 60’s
  • Amarante – The Problem was Me EP
  • Amarante – Udana Prana
  • Amarante – Elapsed Euphoria
  • Tom Cawley’s Curios – Captive (SoS)
  • LSO – Brahms – German Requiem (SoS)
  • Kokomo – Kokomo
  • Kokomo – Rise & Shine
  • All About Eve – Fairy Night Lights
  • Yes – Heaven & Earth
  • Asia – Omega
  • Roddy Woomble & Band – Live at Kings Place (SoS)
  • LSO – Haydn – Symphonies No.9 (SoS)
  • Man May’d – Living at the Speed of Love
  • Paul Carrack – The Best of Paul Carrack
  • U2 – Songs of Innocence
  • Joe Bonamassa – Amazon Artist Lounge
  • Del Amitri – Lies & Hadrian’s Wall
  • Mar de Leva – A Selection from Polen (SoS)
  • LSO – Brahms – Symphonies Nos 3 & 4 (SoS)
  • Neil Finn – Don’t Dream it’s Over  (Live from the US Dizzy Heights Tour 2014)
  • Fish – A Feast of Consequences
  • Peter Maxwell-Davies – Symphony 10 (SoS)
  • Jef Neve – One (SoS)
  • OK Go – Hungry Ghosts
  • John, Paul, George & Ringo – 4
  • Berlioz – Symphonie Fantastique (SoS)
  • Cara Dillon – A Thousand Hearts (SoS)
  • Maria Callas – Maria Callas Remastered (SoS)
  • Train – Bulletproof Picasso
  • Simple Minds – Big Music
  • The The – Mind Bomb
  • Prides – Mixtape 2014 (single)
  • Peter Gabriel – Back to Front EP (SoS)
  • Alpine – A is for Alpine
  • Tchaikovsky – Serenade in C (SoS)
  • Radiophonic Workshop -Radiophonic Workshop (SoS)
  • Taylor Swift – Shake it Off (single)
2014-12-29 12.44.25

Seven Days, Five Counties, Five National Trust Properties

In keeping with many we used the time between Christmas and the New Year to blow off a few cobwebs and get out and about. After a few lapsed years we had renewed our National Trust membership this year and so decided to try and get to a different property each time we went out. In the end we managed five in five different counties, which I don’t think is too shabby.

On the first few visits the weather was cold and crisp with a frost on the ground. By the end of the week the weather had turned and it was drizzly and grey and that is very much reflected in the pictures below. If you wrap up well the former is much prefered.

So without further ado here are the places we visited:

Grey’s Court, Oxfordshire
Grey’s is a good place to visit as it has a mixture of walks, a walled garden and maze to explore. The five-bean soup was also welcome after a walk round the grounds.
Sunday 28th December
Amount saved: £21.60

Osterley Park, Middlesex
We’d not been to Osterley before but again it has a good mixture of woodland walks and some formal gardens to explore. I can imagine that the latter would look great during spring and summer and so I can imagine that we will be visiting again. Lunch was in the old stables and was good.
Monday 29th December
£8.50

The Vyne, Hampshire
Another family favourite with a long walk through the woods adjoining the property. We arrived at the tea shop too early for lunch but Helen enjoyed her cream tea.
Wednesday 31st December
£14.40

Claremont Landscape Gardens, Surrey
This was the place that I enjoyed the least as it was too formal for my liking and was relatively small compared to the others which meant that even though it wasn’t crowded you did keep bumping into people on the way round, not something that happened on the woodland walks of the others. Just a cup of tea for me please!
Thursday 1st January
£14.50

Basildon Park, Berkshire
My absolute favourite place to be. Once, a long time ago, at NCT classes were were given an exercise to imagine a calming place that we would like to be. Both Helen and I, independently, chose Basildon and it still is a lovely calming place to be. This was particularly true on this damp and drizzly day and we were the only ones to brave the long walk through the woods. We certainly felt that that we had earnt our soup (butternut squash and red pepper) and cream teas!
Saturday 3rd January
£14.40

Whilst this wasn’t an exercise in saving money we do like to think that we have made the most of our membership so I totted up how much the entrance fees would have been had we paid separately and it came to a total of £73.40. From memory we paid about £75 for a (discounted) annual membership for two and given that we have been to several other properties since rejoining we have definitely more than saved the membership fee. Of course we could have chosen to go to some public places instead but would the soup and cream teas have been as good. I very much doubt it!

hub_network

The Weakest (City) Link

This is a personally motivated post and will without a doubt be biased for which I make no apologies but then what politically motivated speeches aren’t?

Earlier this year my eldest son started looking for jobs in marketing as that would allow him to make use of his talent for writing. He quickly got three interviews set up, one of which was with City Link and he was quickly offered a job as a Marketing Assistant. Prior to him starting I did a quick Google search and found that the company had been sold last year by Initial to a VC for the princely sum of one pound – not something that was a great sign of a health business but the VC were turnaround specialists.

Starting at the bottom he had to learn tasks such as “making coffee and tea”, something he had astutely kept clear of until that point. Those there were supportive of him and it was a team of people he enjoyed working with. He seemed to have found the job holy grail in something that he loved doing with a good set of colleagues.

Keen to move out of the family home and find some independence he looked at flats closer to the office and after viewing a few that weren’t great he found a nice place just 20 minutes walk from the office. A couple of days before he was due to move in the agency called to say that there was a problem with the bathroom where they had found a leak and it would take a couple of weeks to dry out and repair. Helen and I put on hold plans we had to redecorate his room!

A few weeks later the agency said that repairs had been completed and when could he move in? At roughly the same time a senior director in the business called him into an office and suggested that he might hold off on signing for a while as there was a restructure being reviewed. Eventually with no information from the office he backed out of the flat.

Then on Christmas Day, he received this as an extra present:

BBC_News_-_City_Link_parcel_delivery_company_goes_into_administration

And then a week later as the new year began he was out of a job.

The timing was awful and that the staff had to find out via the media was indefensible. I don’t know if the VC thought that by announcing on Christmas Day they might be able to bury bad news but they misjudged that completely if they did. It’s bad enough finding out that you have lost your job though the press but to do so on Christmas Day was just cowardly as has the way that John Moulton has acted since then, although I am not sure we should be unduly surprised by the attitude of a large Tory donor.

I have to say that unlike the unions I never expected the government to step in and nationalise the company but some expression of sympathy would have been appropriate and Vince Cable’s refusal to meet until the New Year was also pretty disgraceful. It is some wonder that people choose not to vote when this is what you get.

Alex is young, bright, talented and motivated and so will quickly get a another job. I just hope that he can find a set of people to work with that have been as good for him as those at City Link. You spend so much of your time working that it is important to find something you love with people you respect.

Image above used without permission of City Link but I don’t think that they are going to come after me.