Living with the Casio GWF -D1000 Frogman watch

When you typically look at reviews of products, there are usually reviewed over a short time when they are new-and-shiny. Often a products features and character come out over time – a symbiotic process between product and user.

I picked up a GWF-D1000 soon after it went on sale for considerably less than the £800 that it is the current street price. Up until I bought the GWF-D1000 (which I will call the D1000 through the rest of the copy for brevity), I had owned its predecessor the GWF-1000 (which I will call the 1000 from here on in).

So what is the GWF-D1000 anyway?

The D1000 is the latest in an a series of G-Shock watches aimed at scuba divers. The first Frogman came out in 1993. The overall design has largely been the same with an asymmetric case and a large display to make operation easier. The positioning of the watches and price points changed over time – some of the previous models had titanium cases and came under the Mr-G sub-brand. The last few models have a stainless steel core case with a DLC (diamond like coating) to protect the surface.

Over time it has picked up features as the technology improved. It became illuminated by a small green bulb, then electro-luminescent material. It moved from relying purely on battery power to having solar cells and a rechargeable battery. The watch became more accurate by picking up time signals via radio from six locations around the world that are calibrated with an atomic clock (precursors to the NTP services around the world that keep your computer and smartphone bang on time.)

The key technology gains over the 1000 include:

  • A dive computer rather than a dive timer (neither matter to me), it has the same basic functionality that dive computers used to have 20 years ago (minus PC connectivity). No big shakes until you remember that it is doing this all from a solar-powered rechargeable watch battery
  • Digital compass which is surprisingly handy, it is very forgiving of the way you hold it, expect this in other Casio watches soon.
  • Temperature reading (again more for the diver) or when you are running a bath
  • The display has been rearranged and a bit easier to read
  • Much better display light and crisper to read at night

The real benefits for me were in the build quality:

  • You get a sapphire crystal rather than the usual hardened mineral glass. This isn’t the first time that Casio has used a sapphire crystal on a watch, but they are harder to manufacture and more expensive than the usual mineral glass face
  • The manner in which the strap is secured to the case has been completely revised. There is are new Allen key screws and a carbon fibre rod to secure the strap to the case
  • The strap is made of polyurethane resin reinforced with carbon fibre. The loop that holds the excess strap length is now a section of stainless steel which has been bent around the strap

How do I use it?

It makes sense to tell a little bit around why I wear a Frogman. I want an accurate watch (who doesn’t?). I want a reliable watch (again, probably a hygiene factor for most people; but one that hints at why the G-Shock has replaced Rolex as the default watch I have seen on Hong Kongers over the past 10 years or so. G-Shock offers robustness that 20 years ago would have come from fine Swiss engineering – at a much lower price point.

I love my Swiss dive watches but there is a time and place for everything.  The knockabout case and its water resistance means that you can forget about the watch. You don’t have to coddle it or worry that it will pick up undue attention. You don’t have to worry if you get a bang on an elevator (lift) door, dropped on the bathroom floor or going for a swim.

The G-Shock is an everyman watch – unless its got a lurid colour scheme it isn’t likely to attract the attention of your average petty criminal. I’ve often taken it off in the office so that I can type in greater comfort and left it there by accident when going home. I’ve never had a G-Shock go missing.

It is relatively easy to use, despite the modal nature of its interface design. To change settings, use functions or see recorded information you have to cycle through a series of text menus – it has more in common with a 1980s vintage video cassette recorder or a DEC VAX. Quite how this goes down with consumers more used to iPads and SnapChat is interesting. Casio seems to do alright by attracting them with bright plastic cases reminiscent of Lego -based colour schemes.

I haven’t dived seriously in a long time, I took up scuba diving while working in the oil industry and have never got back into it since moving to London.  PADI diving at resorts is tame compared to British diving club scene I had been used to.

My work environment is creative which means that t-shirts, flannel shirts,  jeans and suede hiking boots make the G-Shock an ideal accessory. I work in the London office of an American digital marketing agency, owned by a French multinational and my clients are scattered in the different offices around the world of pharmaceutical companies. The functions I tend to use most are the world time, date/time and the night light. My iPhone is now my alarm clock.

The reality is that most of these watches will end up on the wrists of people like me rather than people who dive for a living.

What’s it like to live to live with the D1000

The D1000 is only incrementally heavier than the 1000, it felt a bit strange to wear for about 30 minutes after swapping over to the newer model. But in some ways the D1000 doesn’t yet feel like its my watch.

The 1000 strap became shiny in places over time and more pliable, it felt like it became adjusted to me. Give the D1000 a rub over and it still looks box fresh. The downside is that the strap feels stiff and I still feel its edges on occasion – this isn’t about discomfort, but about the watch not feeling like part of you. There are no shiny parts of wear – it feels less like a ‘personal item”. It lacks what a designer friend calls authenticity; unlike distressed jeans, customised flight jackets or combat Zippos.

Zippo Lighters

This sounds great for the resale value, but I feel that it provides a worse experience for the wearer of the watch.

The reinforced strap does have one bonus, it holds securely to the case. Look at these pictures of my two year old 1000

Casio GWF 1000 Frogman

You can see how the retaining screw that held the strap to the case came undone and disappeared over time. You don’t have these kind of problems with the D1000.

The screen on the D1000 uses its real estate in a different way to the 1000.

Here is the 1000

Casio GWF 1000 Frogman

Here is the D1000

Casio GWF D1000 Frogman

At first the differences aren’t obvious. If you look at the top right side of the screen, the tide and moon segments are replaced by a multi-use screen on the D1000. The small icons for alarms and hourly alerts are moved to the bottom and left of the screen on the D1000, the moon icon now moves to the left of the main screen down from the top right. This probably marginally increases the screen real estate and helps make legibility a bit clearer at night.

GWF 1000

The biggest 1000 feature that I miss is the ability to toggle with one press of the top left button from showing the date on the screen to showing a second time zone; it was extremely handy for work. And having come from the 1000 to the D1000 it was a real ‘what the fuck’ moment.

By comparison I have to press six times to get to the world time screen. Instead, it now toggles between a tide table and the day. Even giving it a two press option would be a better fix than what the D1000 currently has. It’s a small gripe, but it annoyed the heck out of me.

My work around has been to keep the watch in world time mode and if I need to know the day or date, I find myself reaching for my iPhone.

If you are really that worried about tide tables, you will be likely using a specialist service as they vary a good deal over relatively short distances.

If the D1000 still sounds like the kind of watch you want, you can get it here.

What the IFTTT is going on?

So first it started with an email just under three weeks ago:

Hello,

We have been busy bringing improvements to the IFTTT platform. Because of these technical updates, some Channels will no longer be supported.

On March 23rd, the following Channels and their Recipes will be removed from IFTTT: App.net, BuzzFeed, Campfire, Diigo, Etsy, ffffound, Last.fm, Readability, Yahoo Fantasy Sports, and Yammer.

Since the beginning of the year, we’ve added over 30 Channels and encourage you come check out what’s new and noteworthy on IFTTT!

—The IFTTT Team

Now this list includes a mix of former digital titans like last.fm and Yahoo!. But some of the others listed there are business that still have a lot of heat behind them like Buzzfeed.

Then Sunday I get this:

Hi,

We’re working on a new IFTTT platform for developers that makes building Channels and Recipes a breeze.

Recently, we’ve worked with our partners to migrate to the improved platform, but some have chosen not to do so. Unfortunately, the Pinboard Channel did not migrate to the new platform and will be removed on April 4th.

Pinboard is one of our favorite services and we’re all sad to see it go. We hope down the road it may be back.

Stay tuned to the latest Channels launching on IFTTT!

— The IFTTT Team

Ok, pinboard.in isn’t a service that huge amounts of people rely on. But for those of us that do rely on it, its as important as Evernote or email.  It’s user base tends to be tech forward kind of people.

But it begs a wider question, why the short notice and how come IFTTT can’t bring services along with them that have tech forward users? Pinboard have posted their version of what happened on their blog and it makes for disturbing reading. The link is at the bottom of this post, I recommend that you take some time to check it out.

A quick look on Google News shows that this loss of services from IFTTT hasn’t been covered, and there is nothing on the IFTTT blog that I could see.

I have rebuilt my recipes that use pinboard.in in a services called Botize. It costs €4.99 a month or €49.99 a year and only accepts payments by PayPal.  If I come across better services I will share them on here.

More information

My Heroic and Lazy Stand Against IFTTT | Pinboard blog – disturbing guide to IFTTT’s designs on your data and business model.

8 life hacks using terminal.app in OS X

Terminal is a way of getting to the Unix underpinnings of Apple’s Mac OS X operating system. It is generally kept out of the way because an uneducated user could do a lot of damage. I have put together eight of my favourite life hacks using Terminal here. Your mileage will vary. Over time Apple has stopped supporting some commands and introduced others grep used to come in handy for finding and removing duplicate files.  A new command called ditto makes it really easy to make copies of folders.
Check the weather
Ping a website
Find the address of every device on your network
Get details about a domain name
Change the screenshot format
Show hidden files in Finder
Show path view in Finder
Strip out unnecessary system animations
I have put together each of these as a presentation as well

On wearing a smart watch

At the beginning of the month I took the plunge and decided to buy a Casio G-Shock connected watch. After a week or so I have a pretty good sense of the pros and cons of using it.
Casio G-Shock Bluetooth

The connection with the iPhone makes a major leap forward in the G-Shock experience. Using a G-Shock is rather like using an old computer system like a DEC VAX minicomputer, the experience is modal. Everything revolves around combinations of button pushes to get to the functionality of the watch.  The manual is a quarter of an inch thick and the commands not exactly memorable. If you have clumsy fingers or are not paying attention you have to cycle through the complete set of button commands again
g-shock modal nature
The G+ iPhone application deals with every setting on the watch bar setting the time and date itself (which still requires a bit of button juggling).
Untitled
The achilles heel is battery life. Most of the facilities about the watch are about husbanding a relatively meagre lithium ion battery. What Casio’s engineers managed to achieve is imperfect but impressive. The battery life is the silent hand that ruled all aspects of the product design. In order to have a sealed in battery that lasted more than a day, Casio had to go with an old school battery. Out went modern G-Shock features such as the GPS module and atomic clock radio units used to provide accurate time based on location.

Out too went the solar power option. Alerts seem to be polled every quarter of an hour for things like email. But then in this connected age, having a message to let me know that I don’t have email would be more noteworthy.

This all had a number of effects:

  • The watch didn’t alert me to everything – that isn’t a bad thing. I do want my alerts to be consistent, so I shut down alerts from everything but Twitter, calendar and calls. I would have loved to have alerts for WeChat, SMS / iMessage messages, FaceTime and Skype calls but they aren’t on the programme (so far)
  • The watch did cure ‘phantom’ rings. I got to ignore ringtones out in public and at home unless my wrist shook. It also worked well when I couldn’t feel my phone vibrating in my Carhartt jacket
  • I remembered to take my phone with me on more occasions, the watch would vibrate if the Bluetooth link was broken

The best bit of the phone for me was that it was still a G-Shock, it could be worn in the gym, the shower, whilst shaving, washing dishes or swimming. It is a watch for living rather than a Bluetooth-enabled human leash.

More information
On smart watches, I’ve decided to take the plunge

I like: Nomad ChargeKey

I have a pouch that travels with me full of cables. iPod cables, iPhone cables and a USB to micro USB connector for my smartphone battery pack. The challenge is with travelling, how do you make products that are robust, yet take up less space?
Nomad ChargeKey
Nomad’s ChargeKey aims to cut the travelling volume down with short flexible rubber cables that look like keys.
Nomad ChargeKey
The micro-USB version is straight forward, the one I was more concerned about was the new iPhone connector, mainly because it has some smarts inside the connector on the official Apple cables. I found that it worked perfectly, synching my phone to iTunes and charging the device.
Nomad ChargeKey
As they are key shaped, Nomad didn’t let the innovation stop with just the ChargeKeys themselves but also the packaging which is a slick card envelope.
Nomad ChargeKey
Nomad ChargeKey
More information:
Nomad

I like: Rocket Fuel instant coffee

I was dubious when I first saw Rocket Fuel with a packaging and copywriting that brought me back to the early 1990s.

First a velvet rush  like no other of caffeine rich smoothness, then a sustained hit of all natural Guarana

I presume this is to try and tap into a mind hack caffiene culture like they have in the US where Jolt cola and Penguin caffeineated mints are sold. In essence, it is caffeine in two forms: coffee beans and guarana. I presume that one is a faster release than the other so you get more bang for your buck. So what’s it like?

Firstly, whilst the flavour isn’t amazing, it compares favourably with the likes of Nescafé Original or Maxwell House.

Secondly, the caffeine up seems to last appreciably longer than when I usually drink instant coffee. You can get your fix via Amazon.
Rocket Fuel

Rebel Mouse initial thoughts

RebelMouse is a new way of aggregating social presence as a dynamic profile page. Articles have talked about it being visually similar to Tumblr, but from what I can tell it’s more like about.me or flavors.me but you can submit additional content by using a bookmarklet.

I can just see the product launching a thousand PowerPoint decks about how this is the next new thing that brands need to be on because:

  • Its new
  • Social media people can be over-excitable
  • It has a cartoon mouse that reminded me of Mao’s red guards during the Cultural Revolution. Since the Twitter logo is looking more Bird’s Custard than Tweetie Pie we need a new playful icon
  • It offers agency a bit of work modifying the look and feel of Rebel Mouse

Where it may fall down for brands is that it will show a content strategy that is heavy on syndication across platforms as being repetitive  and it isn’t clear how a community would form around it. By all means register your brand space, just don’t expect a huge amount out of it at the moment.

This post is archived here from a blog that used to write for PR Week.

The IFTTT post | 回顾 ifttt.com

This has been a while in the making. I was reluctant to use IFTTT mainly because I had heard it described as the new Yahoo! Pipes. Yahoo! Pipes was something that I had used a number of times for client work and had found to be unreliable. But for the kind of client budgets that I was dealing with at that time; Pipes was the right price – free.

Pipes allowed you to do a number of things that as a non-technical user would have been otherwise out of your power.

Here is a simple example of one I built for a semiconductor industry client a number of years ago.
Yahoo! pipe
The idea was very simple. Use a battery of search engines to pull together news alerts. Filter those news alerts by keyboards and then provide a ‘good news’ link feed that was going to be used on a website to address a limited number of influencers. You could do so much more with it, pulling in different sources like Flickr or uploading a CSV document as a data source.

This was a simple use of pipes, it would recognise KML for location-based information where available and you could build these strings of operators as long as you like. I’ve used the machine translation option a lot to get a Heath Robinson-esque international monitoring programme in place that could be mailed out or output to an RSS feed.

But the reason why I went away from it in the end was that it was unreliable. If it was a car it would have been a late 1970s/early 1980s vintage Alfa Romeo or Lancia – it was that bad. Now yes it was a free service and five years after its launch it still bears a ‘beta’ label and most importantly; it relies on lots of other peoples APIs and RSS feeds to work properly all the time.

Enter IFTTT.

IFTTT realised the people want to connect different things together to make them useful and it’s managed to do this reliably. A key part in its success has been by lowering ambition in terms of what its trying to achieve as implied the the acronym of a name (If Then That – one of the simplest logic commands imaginable).

It defines from a basket of services what APIs you can use and doesn’t allow operators in the same way that Pipes does. This makes IFTTT a completely different beast. So far I’ve been using it to syndicate contents between accounts: publishing to Delicious when I post on Pinboard.in in case by some miracle it transforms from its current ugly duckling into a social search swan (I can live in hope); or publishing updates to my blog on Twitter, LinkedIn and its facebook page (through separate rules).

Looking at the recipes provided by people seem to be RSS to email conversions of sorts to notify them of special offers  and weather news.

I like IFTTT. It does lack ambition, but it works very reliably. It won’t change the world, but it will help you automate some of the more tedious parts of your online social life.

More information
Yahoo! Pipes blog
About IFTTT

The Google+ Spam mystery

I’ve lurked on Google+ as the network hadn’t grown big enough for me to gain much use out of it. And then I started to receive updates from people I vaguely knew directly to my work email address. Basically spam. So I decided to run a trial update myself on the service to understand how this would have happened.
Google+
Here is a screenshot of the update that I created. I could see from drafting my update what the problem was, I’ve taken a detailed screen grab of the area just above Peter Cashmore’s head
Google+
This box is ticked by default, I guess Google thinks that this is the equivalent of HoTMaiL’s original viral signature: get your private, free email from Hotmail. However it is interesting to note that even early adopters ignore the tickboxes.

Driving seat: 8minut.es

Yaron Eisenstein got in contact and asked me to have a look at 8minut.es. The service is a Digg-like crowdsourced news / attention service. One of the key difference is the ticking clock where content gets pushed away if no one shares it in 8 minut.es which means that it keeps things cleaner as spamming would require a sustained effort. It also means that in some ways is more of a compete against Twitter as a zeitgest temperature taker.
8minutes
One thing that is missing is a method of citation like a link to a trusted source, it relies on people’s inner BS meter which is fallible.

UPDATE: Actually, every post does have a link section in the share action. – Yaron Eisenstein

Driving seat: social location check-in service 街旁 | Jiepang

If Weibo was last year’s Chinese breakout product Jiepang looks like a contender in 2011. Inevitably there will be a cadre of readers who will say that this is a rip-off of Foursquare. I think that that’s too strong a word to use, and point out that Foursquare is an evolution of Dodgeball and where does that put Gowalla and SCVNGR?

Secondly, Jiepang are no slouches; they have managed to start monetising their service already getting on board brand partners including Yahoo! China, Louis Vuitton, Lenovo, McDonald’s and Puma. Jiepang also has had giveaways and promotions on offer through the application.

There is also a desire to check-in to places where celebrities have checked in. An aspect of the linkage in web services and celebrity that you have seen on Chinese micro-blogs and blogging platforms in the past.

Jiepang has applications for a number of platforms:

Like Foursquare most of the business happens in the mobile application, the website is more for controlling your social graph on Jiepang. Jiepang’s iPhone app is billed as supporting both English and Chinese but all the notifications are in Chinese. Jiepang is integrated into Baidu Maps which again only recognises place names in Chinese characters.

It’s an impressive app and maybe in a few versions time it could be expanding beyond the Chinese market.

 

Driving seat: Blackbox i10 ANR Active Noise Cancelling Earphone for iPod | 产品评测

I have been using the Blackbox i10 noise-cancelling headphones for commuting to work and to aid concentration at work. The headphones come in a hard box which can also hold an iPod which is a nice thoughtful detail. The headset themselves aren’t very bulky at all. Instead of a headphone jack it is has an iPhone connector. This is a careful choice, Steve Jobs himself said that a product is often defined by what is left out. Using the power of the iPod means that you don’t have a bulky battery pack, but aren’t as versatile.

I personally think that this was the right call. The middle module on the headset has a volume control and a kill switch to allow the ambient noise back in. You need the volume control because the click wheel on your iPod won’t control it, it took me a little while to work this one out as I tried to use the wheel out of reflex. The wheel still works for track and menu navigation though. This module also seems to be where the microphone is for the electronics to measure the sound and cancel it out. More expensive headsets have a microphone on each headphone, but for 89 quid I think you get your money’s worth.

The headphones themselves have an unusual shape which looks uncomfortable but works really well and they are held in with a silicone casket.

So do they work? In terms of cancelling out noise it is effective unless its directional, this is because there was only microphone in the device. In terms of the sound that comes from these headphones, its a little bright and on a couple of tracks, notably the introduction to Hellalujah by The Happy Mondays you hear high-end distortion.

What you need to remember however is that BlackBox came up a set of great value noise-cancelling headphones.

Unboxing Lëkki ‘back to basics’ StarTAC | 手机 Lëkki ‘back to basics’ StarTAC

French design house Lëkki are taking vintage phones and refurbishing them so that they can be used again. The phones are colourised to add a bit of designer appeal. The first model they have released is the Motorola StarTAC. This comes in 900MHZ GSM only. The pictures below are of a yellow one that I received.

I find this downshifting concept fascinating. The first thing I have learned before turning anything on is that Motorola managed to make phones with nicer feeling plastic than some of the modern dual-SIM Samsung feature phones and Apple iPhones that we currently have around the house.  From a tactile point-of-view the StarTAC is more rewarding.

Then there is small design touches like the spare battery sits in a compact cradle with a lock to prevent it being short circuited by the change in my pocket and giving me a nasty burn.

I am sure much of that appeal would disappear as soon as I turn the phone on and am greeted by vintage Motorola software.  This would go further downhill when the contacts in the hinge break at about week 16 of regular usage.

Driving seat: Weibo microblogging service by Sina.com | 网站检讨 t.sina.com

China has its own unique ecosystem of web properties. It has a passionate blogging culture where some blogs by celebrities, experts and populist pundits can attract an audience of millions. Sina.com is a portal and blogging platform. They also have the most popular micro-blogging service. I thought I would have a poke around it and try to work out how it was to use despite my complete lack of ability to speak or read Chinese.  Here is my account details, feel free to friend me.

So what’s it like?

Whilst Weibo is similar to Twitter it is a much more fully-formed service. Signing up was pretty straight forward and Weibo tried to recommend 20 existing members that I should follow, my favorite being the feed for a branch of the Chinese police. They have a name which Google translates into English as ‘Starsky Guardian‘ – that alone is a cool enough reason to follow them.

I quickly managed to get the service to accept the RSS feed from this blog and convert it into alerts on the Weibo service. (In order to give a potential audience something to read, I have started carrying bilingual titles to my posts in pidgin Chinese courtesy of Google Translate. I try and boil the title down into a simple concept of two or three words and then hit the translate button). Something that I would have done on Twitter through a third-party service like ping.fm, dlvr.it or twitterfeed.

Weibo also has a built-in URI shortener, but it has no analytics for seeing how many people click on a link. So marketing campaigns on Weibo could be harder to measure than on Twitter. As far as I can tell Weibo gives you a lot less opportunity to alter the look-and-feel of your account to reflect your personal brand than the likes of Twitter.

Another absence that I noticed about Weibo was the lack of spam invites or follows from people wanting to sell me Viagra or fake watches. I suspect that Sina.com must carefully tend its community, partly to ensure government compliance, but a secondary benefit is fostering a better community online.

In conclusion I think that Weibo provides consumers with a superior experience to Twitter, but as a marketer Twitter offers more opportunity for brand communicators.