Brydge 10.5 Series II iPad Keyboard

My new keyboard came for the iPad Pro 10.5″. It’s a Brydge 10.5 Series II and it turns the iPad into a small laptop.

This is something of a first impressions post. I’ll do a fuller review in a few weeks. I’m coming to the Brydge from the older Apple Smart Keyboard Cover that I bought with the iPad about two years ago. It’s started getting flaky recently, so a new keyboard was required.

The Brydge keyboard is sort of like the old Macbook Pro keyboards from a few years back with decent key travel and a bit softer feel. Obviously it’s smaller in size since it has to fit the small iPad form factor.

The Brydge 10.5″ Series II when attached kind of makes the iPad Pro look like a tiny Macbook sans touchpad.

The hinge design is nice and more secure than I expected it to be. It’s not ideal in that respect, as the Apple Keyboard Cover is much easier to rip off the iPad to play a game or watch a video. We’ll see how that works out over time and maybe the action to remove and replace will be something that starts to become more natural to me.

I actually think the trade off on detach-ability is good since it comes with some additional features like a backlit keyboard and media keys across the top. It’s more “tiny, iOS laptop” now compared to “iPad with a keyboard attached”.

I’m actually typing this on the Brydge and while it’ll take some getting used to, the keyboard is easy to type on and I’m pretty accurate with it right out of the box. Bluetooth lag seems to not exist although I do have the occasional missed keystroke, I think because maybe I am hitting the keys very close together.

To sum up, first impressions are good and I think this will make the iPad more useful again since the old keyboard was dying and made typing a bit of a frustrating exercise of late. It was also substantially cheaper than the Apple keyboard is.

Swiss Chalet vs. St-Hubert

For our last dinner in Montreal we decided to hit the St-Hubert that was very close to the hotel. This gave me an opportunity to compare Quebec’s favourite rotisserie chicken restaurant to Swiss Chalet which is the favourite across the rest of Canada.

Both Swiss Chalet and St-Hubert are primarily rotisserie chicken restaurants, with each chain offering a fairly diverse menu with ribs and roast beef as well as more standard chain options like burgers, soups and salads.

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St-Hubert’s first location was opened in Montreal in 1951 while Swiss Chalet began in Toronto in 1954. Since 2016, both chains are owned by Recipe Unlimited (formerly known as Cara Operations Limited). Despite the common ownership, they seem to have left the two businesses alone to continue to operate as rivals with their own unique traits.

Historically the St-Hubert vs. Swiss Chalet rivalry is very much a regional/cultural thing with St-Hubert dominating the French-speaking areas of Canada in Quebec and New Brunswick and Swiss Chalet being a fixture in the rest of the country.

Breaking it down

Here’s the pros and cons as I saw it last night. Suffice to say, it was a close competition and I suspect that those who grew up on Swiss Chalet will see it the same way I did, while those who are used to St-Hubert will disagree. Welcome to Canada.

Where it’s a tie:

  1. The chicken. It’s basically the same, although the skin at Swiss Chalet is maybe a bit crispier and has more seasoning on it making for a deliciously salty experience. It also looks a little nicer in my opinion. That said, the chicken meat is basically identical tasting although I could argue that Swiss Chalet has a slight edge here.

Where Swiss Chalet wins over St-Hubert:

  1. Chalet Sauce is far better than St-Hubert sauce. The St-Hubert sauce is more of a thin chicken gravy. There’s a real chicken gravy flavour to it and it lacks the thickness to properly coat either the fries or the chicken when dipped. Chalet Sauce has more spice and flavour overall and from a dipping perspective, it’s clearly superior.
  2. The fries at Swiss Chalet are generally better. I see the fries as a sauce delivery system, and Chalet fries deliver in this regard. They can be mushy if you get takeout or delivery, but they are a bit thicker cut than the St-Hubert fries and more potato-y overall. That said, this was a close battle and St-Hubert fries are quite good.
  3. The roll at Swiss Chalet beats the bun at St-Hubert. This isn’t even a close competition. The Swiss roll is a proper little roll that delivers a great dipping experience. The bun at St-Hubert is basically a toasted cheap hamburger bun bottom.

Where St-Hubert wins over Swiss Chalet:

  1. The coleslaw is included and excellent. You can pick between traditional (vinegar) and creamy (with mayo). Both were good and you get the coleslaw with the meal along with your choice of side. I had the opportunity to try both varieties and while I preferred the traditionaly (nicely vinegary and tasty), the creamy type was also good. If you’ve had the creamy coleslaw at Swiss Chalet, they are very similar, but St-Hubert wins here because you get the coleslaw with your meal as a bonus side.
  2. Sandwich options are better at St-Hubert. Swiss Chalet offers a tasty Chicken on a Kaiser sandwich or a hot chicken sandwich with gravy. St-Hubert ups the sandwich game with a really good club sandwich on toasted bread with generous amounts of rotisserie chicken (dark or white meat).
  3. The ambience/style of the restaurant is better at St-Hubert. Neither are a fine dining experience, but Swiss Chalet feels more like a fast-food place than St-Hubert which advertises itself as a resto-bar.
  4. The delivery cars at St-Hubert are fun. They have a fleet of yellow and red Toyota Yaris hatchbacks with red chicken combs on the roof. Swiss Chalet generally shows up in a rusted out ten-year-old winter beater with mismatched tires.

The final judgement

The chicken is pretty similar although I give the edge to Swiss Chalet for flavour. The fries are close, but again, Swiss Chalet wins by a small margin. The “free” coleslaw is a nice touch at St-Hubert, but in the end it’s just coleslaw and if you really want that, you can get some for a reasonable cost at Swiss Chalet.

The real difference maker is the sauce and while St-Hubert sauce is decent, Swiss Chalet sauce is a national treasure and for that reason Swiss Chalet wins.

Environment Canada Releases iOS and Android Weather Apps

This is great news for all Canadians looking for a reliable weather app that doesn’t come with pervasive tracking and ads like The Weather Channel and other commercial apps feature.

The new WeatherCAN app (iOS and Android) gives you exactly what you’d expect from an official Government of Canada app with hourly and seven day forecasts for locations across Canada. The radar views aren’t as good as what an app like Storm Radar from the US Weather Channel offers, but that’s more a function of the outdated weather radar infrastructure in Canada.

WeatherCAN also offers all-important push notifications for severe weather and other Environment Canada advisories and weather statements.

On the downside, it’s only Canadian weather, so if you want weather for locations around the world, then you’ll need another app for that. It’s also not as fancy graphically as something like the Weather Network app, but as mentioned above, commercial weather apps are not the best in terms of tracking and ads. They also have a bunch of cruft like “viral” videos, and other junk that clutters up the whole app.

Check it out if you want a no-frills, functional weather app that will keep you in the know.

Priced out of Apple Stuff

Hey Tim,

Nice updates to the iPad Pro and that Mac mini looks pretty cool (finally). But can we talk about the price of this stuff? I literally can’t afford it and I’m pretty well off. Every single product you announced is hundreds of dollars more expensive than the products they replace. And in many cases, you kept the old one around at the same price as it was selling for yesterday.

That’s just crazy.

Bikeshare Toronto

I signed up for an annual Bike Share Toronto membership today. The economics make a ton of sense. $69.99 for a year of unlimited rides of 30 minutes or less (with the Presto Card holder discount) is a steal.

The Transit App makes the whole experience unbelievably simple. I can plan my ride on Transit and it’ll tell me which Bike Share station to start and finish at (including how many bikes are at the starting station and how many empty slots are at the finishing station. Plus it provides a route that is bike-friendly and a pretty accurate time estimate for the trip.

I used Bike Share yesterday to go from my office in Liberty Village over to Ginny’s office on the east side of downtown. It took about 25 minutes door-to-door which easily beat the TTC over that route (even with the King St. Pilot Project in play). The bike lanes across Adelaide and Richmond make for a safer trip and there are tons of other cyclists which helps with visibility.

I can’t make it to and from work under 30 minutes so I don’t think a full commute on Bike Share will ever replace the current TTC streetcar ride I take, but for these trips around downtown, it’s a perfect solution.

Switching to WordPress.com

I’ve been a user of self-hosted WordPress for many, many years. But with my hosting plan at Siteground coming up for renewal in a week or two, I decided to see if WordPress.com would be a better option.

The Personal Plan at WordPress.com provides an ad-free site, free custom domain and enough storage for me for $60/year (in Canadian dollars). The coupon code “personal25” gave me 25% off meaning I could get a year of hosting for $45CAD. That’s per site, mind you, and I have two sites right now between this one and my running blog.

wpcom-vertCompare that to Siteground which is $3.95USD/month for the first year, and then a hefty $19.95USD/month once that first year is up. Even next year when WordPress.com is $60CAD/year for each site, I’m coming out way ahead.

Some limitations

WordPress.com does have a few limitations that I needed to see if I could handle. First up, they limit the themes you can use. There are a bunch of free ones and then some premium ones that cost more money.

It turned out that the theme I was using on my self-hosted blog called Independent Publisher 2  is one of the free ones that WordPress offers for free. For my running blog, I’ve been using a theme called Hueman for a couple of years and that isn’t available as a free theme on WordPress.com. However, a visually similar theme called Rowling is available for free and it was pretty trivial to switch over since I’ve actually used this theme on my self-hosted setup in the past.

WordPress.com also doesn’t allow for the use of plugins. I did a check of the plugins I was using on my self-hosted blogs and came to the realization that none were required if I switched to WordPress.com. This included a plugin to add 2FA to my admin login, the WordPress Jetpack plugin and an SSL plugin that helped with ensuring my Let’s Encrypt SSL cert worked well.

Again, this didn’t turn out to be a problem since WordPress.com includes 2FA support for logins natively, includes Jetpack for all blogs natively and also handles SSL natively and automatically.

Making the switch

In the end, I opted to go with WordPress.com for both sites and set about to make the move over the weekend.

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The WordPress app on iOS

Migration was super simple. I exported everything from my old sites using the WordPress Export tool and used the corresponding Import tool at WordPress.com to bring my posts and pages over. That tool also pulled over all the media and attachments automatically. No FTP, no nothing. And everything in my posts was remapped to the new URLs.

I did a bit of work to get the theme widgets arranged and setup like they were on my old self-hosted sites which took about 15 minutes total. With about an hour of work total, I had both sites moved over and up and running.

One of the unexpected bonuses of switching is using the WordPress.com apps on my laptop and also on my iOS devices. I had used it with my self-hosted sites in the past, but it just feels faster and more tightly integrated into WordPress.com making posting and managing the sites easy.

There’s still a place for self-hosted WordPress if you need the flexibility of choosing whatever theme you want, or if you need to use some custom plugin. But for the average blogger? WordPress.com is the way to go.

 

Review: Q Energy Drink

Like most runners, I drink a specialized energy drink while I run instead of plain water. But unlike most, I don’t drink Gatorade, Powerade or any of the other big name energy drinks.

Instead I carry Q Energy in my bottle. I first started drinking Q back in 2011 (after my bike crash) and found it to be a great alternative to the sugary concoctions that the big sports drink makers peddle. When you consider that Powerade and Gatorade are made by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo respectively, you’ll get an idea of what you’re really drinking. It’s basically high fructose corn syrup and water, with some salt, potassium and a ton of marketing.

Q Energy, on the other hand, is an all natural product developed in Vancouver, Canada. It’s Health Canada approved and scientifically tested. 4 grams of natural cane sugar and a bit of stevia provide the sweetness, and there’s also a bit of caffeine added for that little boost during exercise.

What’s in it? And what’s not?

The Q stands for quercetin, a natural antioxidant that helps deliver energy at the cellular level. Along with that, Q also contains herbal extracts, vitamins and electrolytes. The flavour is mild, and they make lemon-lime, wildberry (my fav) and orange.

A good bit of scientific study has shown that quercetin provides proven performance improvements. I’m no scientist, but I do know from using Q for a few years, that it provides everything I look for in an energy drink: good taste, thirst quench and additional energy.

Compared to Gatorade and Powerade, Q is missing a few things: that oily texture, overly sweet taste, and gut-rot inducing levels of carbs. It also lacks things like chemical anti-foaming agents and preservatives.

Q comes as a powder in a single serve packet and you mix it with water yourself. Because it lacks those anti-foaming agents and chemical dispersants, Q has a cloudy look and sometimes foams up a bit. I don’t notice either of those things when I drink it from the bottle. Even the colour of Q is natural, derived from sweet potatoes.

Online, or in stores

I get my Q from the Q Drink Healthy website since it’s not available in too many stores in the Toronto area. Thanks to the Q Drink Healthy Club, they automatically send me a six week supply every six weeks or so. When I’m between training cycles, it’s easy to delay a shipment or change the timing if needed. If you live in Western Canada, you can find it in local health food stores.

If you want to give Q a shot, you can get a free sampler pack from the website. Normally they charge $3 to cover shipping, but if you use code “Koole” (that’s my last name) on checkout, you’ll get the shipping for free too.

Disclosure: I use Q Energy Drink on pretty much every run and have for years. Once or twice they’ve sent me some extra Q free of charge to share with friends.

Review: Pace! – Running Pace Calculator by Endorphin Apps

Looking to track your personal bests, or calculate target pace for your next race? Pace! – Running Pace Calculator by Endorphin Apps has you covered.

paceThis iOS app from the makers of Runcast lets you keep track of personal bests, and make a plan to set new ones. The app was recently updated to version 3.0 which brings metric and imperial measurements (automatically set based on your location), as well as a new design that makes it easy to enter new pace goals.

Easily plan, share and calculate

Once you’ve entered your race distance and goal time, you can call up splits for the race so you can make a pace band. Or share your goal on Twitter or Facebook with a neat image to make it official.

The app also includes a handy Boston Marathon Qualification calculator. Enter your birthday and gender, and the app will tell you your BQ time and pace.

Made by runners, for runners, the Pace app is a nice addition to your running toolkit.

Pace Screenshots

Available for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad

Pace from Endorphin Apps is available in the iOS App Store for $0.99 (USD) or $1.39 (CAD) App Store Link.

Review: Running by Gyroscope

Running by Gyroscope lets you take your GPS run data and combine it with a photo to create stunning images to share on your favourite social media service.

Terrain layout

The “Terrain” layout lets you overlay your stats over a map of your run.

GPS data from your runs is automatically loaded into the app via integrations with both Strava and Runkeeper. Once a new activity is detected, the app alerts you with a push notification to let you know that you can create a new image.

Multiple Templates

There are a number of templates including map views (terrain, satellite and a dark street map) along with overlays that you can put over a photo taken on your run.

Each of the templates is really slick looking. Some, like the bar template, put the key metrics from your run along the bottom of the photo. The route template adds a small map of your run.

There are also a pair of fun images including the Donuts template (how many donuts you burned on your run) and the Elevation template that provides a visual on how much climbing you did on your run.

Post to Social Media

Once you’ve created your image, you can either save it to the camera roll for sharing to Twitter, Facebook or Dailymile, or use the built-in “share to Instagram” feature that makes it easy to post to the popular photo sharing service. You can also share and view it on Gyroscope’s own service, alongside other runners’ pics.

Why I Like It

I’ve used a few other apps to make these kinds of photos including Fitframe, and FitSnap. The images that Running by Gyroscope creates are more visually pleasing to me, and the integration with Strava makes it easy to choose a run to visualize. The addition of a route overlay also set it apart from competitors.

As mentioned, Running by Gyroscope is a free app, available on the App Store for iOS. Learn more at Gyroscope’s website.

Here’s some sample images to give you an idea of what you can create with the app:

 

Review: Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless Earbuds

Ask a runner what the worst thing about running with music is and they’ll likely tell you it’s the headphone wires.

Those who know me, know that I’m not a fan of running with headphones for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest is the headphone wires that always seem to be in the way.

Jabra Sport PulseI used to treadmill run with an iPod and a pair of Apple headphones, but after snagging the headphone cord and dropping my iPod or iPhone off the treadmill for about the millionth time a few years back, I swore off the headphones for good.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve a chance to test out a pair of Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless earbuds to see if going wireless would get me back into running with music.

Disclaimer: Jabra provided me with a pair of their earbuds for me to test out at no cost. As with other reviews where I’ve either paid for or received products at no cost, these are my own opinions and there was no pressure or input from Jabra on the content of this review.

Unboxing and setup

First impressions were good. The packaging is nice, and documentation is good. It’s actually a little weird at first to be holding a pair of headphones where the earbuds have a wire that only goes from one bud to the other instead of to a 1/4″ headphone jack.

The headphones are very light and the box included a nice carry case and a variety of different sized ear bud covers along with a variety of sizes of what Jabra calls ear wings so you can get a comfortable fit for your ears.

IMG_3964After a couple of test fittings, I settled on a good combination that felt snug in my ear, but not too snug. I was worried that the headphones would slip out on runs, but a bit of jumping around confirmed that wouldn’t be a problem.

Once the fit was figured out, the next step was getting them hooked up to my iPhone via Bluetooth.

I put the headphones on and held down the middle button on the remote (yes, there’s a standard iPhone remote and mic on the wire, so no need to pull your phone out to change tracks, or even to make a call). After a little beep, the woman’s voice guided me through the setup process. That was a nice touch, and a bit of a surprise, to be honest. Usually these things are a bit of a mystery to setup with flashing lights or no prompts at all.

It took just a few seconds for my iPhone to detect the Jabra earbuds and that was it – all done. Last step before a test run was to charge the battery. Charging is handled by a hidden micro USB port in the right earbud and a short USB charging cable is included. Battery level can be seen in the Jabra iOS app, or right in the menu bar of your phone when connected.

Sound quality

I’m not an audiophile, and I generally wear Apple EarPods headphones when I’m out and about, and a pair of Bose over-the-ear headphones at the office when I’m working.

The Jabra earbuds were no match for the Bose (as expected), but were the equal of the Apple EarPods, if not a bit better. Because they are in-ear, they do filter out a bit more of the noise around you than the EarPods do. That’s maybe a plus for music, but potentially a bit of a minus for runners from a safety perspective. That said, I didn’t find there was too much sound isolation when I ran with them and didn’t feel like they compromised my safety.

The takeaway here is that if you are used to decent headphones, you’ll find these sufficient. The sound quality is nothing to write home about, but they do the job and provide good sound on the run.

Heart rate monitor functions

You’ll note that Jabra calls these the Sport Pulse Wireless Earbubs. That’s because they’ve incorporated a heart rate monitor (HRM) into the left earbud. It measures heart rate during your workouts through an optical sensor.

Having the HRM in your ear means one less thing to worry about – no need to wear the usual HRM chest strap, or in my case a wrist-worn Mio Link HRM. That’s the theory, at least.

In practice, my testing showed the HRM was sometimes fussy and also inaccurate.

Maybe with some additional practice putting them in, or with more runs to play around with the fit, I could have made it better, but I wished it would have just worked right from the start. I felt that the fit was snug (almost too snug) and the HRM did accurately detect my heart rate some of the time. Bummer.

As a result, on test runs, I heard a voice in my ear a few times on the run telling me that the left earbud needed to be adjusted. It caused a great deal of distraction throughout the latter stages of my run.

A other consideration is that headphone-based HRMs only work if you have them in. Take your headphones off to take a break from the tunes, or to have a chat with a buddy, and your heart rate data stops. I couldn’t imagine wearing these for a full long run, but I’d definitely want heart rate data for the full run.

The biggest downside for me was that there’s no way to get that heart rate data to a Garmin or other running watch. I could use the Strava iOS app instead of Jabra’s app and get the data that way, but that’s limiting for me since I’m not a heavy Strava user and my running friends are mostly on Dailymile and Garmin Connect.

The Jabra Sport Life app

To get the most out of the Sport Pulse, you really need to use the Jabra Sport Life app. It’s available on iOS and Android for free and provides similar functionality to other running apps like Runkeeper or Runmeter.

During the run, the app announces pace, heart rate, distance and other metrics at regular intervals. I found the voice a bit difficult to understand because of a heavy British accent. I’d prefer something less distinctive, but you might think otherwise.

The app itself is servicable, but if you already run with a different app (or a watch), you likely won’t be keen on making the switch. One nice touch in the app is four fitness tests that can help you determine things like your resting heart rate, endurance capability, and even to see if you are pushing it too hard and over training.

Like the run mode, all the fitness tests include vocal prompts and combine the data from the heart rate monitor along with pace and distance info (from the phone’s GPS) to come to its conclusions.

 

Compatibility with other apps

Users of the Strava, Runkeeper, Endomondo, Runtastic and MapMyFitness apps can get the heart rate data to those apps as they have the required support built in. Users of other popular running apps like Dailymile or Runmeter are out of luck in terms of heart rate data.

If you are just interested in listening to music or podcasts on your run, the headphones work with any of the music apps out there, including iTunes, Rdio, Spotify, etc. I tested it with Rdio and Castro (a podcast app on iOS) and experienced no issues with dropouts.

As mentioned, the built in mic means you can take calls without pulling the phone out of your pocket, or waterbelt pouch. And in my testing Siri worked fine for sending texts or doing quick searches where the results were read back to you (like the weather, baseball scores or the time).

The verdict

Based on my couple of weeks of testing, if you are a runner who like to run with music, the Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless earbuds are a good choice to get rid of the annoying wires. They fit pretty well (with lots of sizing options included) and stayed put during my runs. Sound quality was good and the Bluetooth connection worked well with no dropouts.

On the other hand, while the Sport Pulse offers a nifty in-ear heart rate monitor, more serious runners may be annoyed by occasional inaccuracy in heart rate readings, and some fussiness in getting them working reliably. Additionally, the lack of integration with Garmin and other fitness watches could be a dealbreaker for some. For that reason, I probably wouldn’t recommend them if you were buying them specifically for the heart rate monitor function.

On the app side, the Jabra Sport Life app is well-designed and decently executed. It it does the job if you are looking for a good GPS-enabled tracker app, but the lack of community means many runners will opt for Strava, MapMyFitness or one of the other fitness apps with Sport Pulse HRM support. Having audio feedback during your run is nice, although more voices would be appreciated. The addition of some fitness tests sets the app apart from others that just track your runs.

Personally, I’d probably opt for the less expensive, but similar Jabra Sport Coach and save the $50-$80, or the Jabra Sport Wireless+ which are $100-$150 less (but with a different, over-the-ear design). The design of the Sport Coach model is nearly identical, and while the focus of those is more on cross-training, they’ll do the job as a pair of wireless headphones.

Pros:

  • No wires to mess with
  • Good sound quality
  • Easy to setup and use
  • Built-in optical heart rate monitor
  • Integration with some popular running apps

Cons:

  • Heart rate monitor function is inaccurate and fussy
  • HRM doesn’t work with Garmin or other fitness watches
  • Pricey if you only use the wireless headphone functions
  • One more thing to remember to charge

 

You can find the Jabra Sport Pulse earbuds (and other models) at BestBuy and London Drugs, or direct from the Jabra website. Retail price is $249 (CDN), or about $200 (USD) south of the border.