Take that Apple Watch with your wimpy battery life

Over a month's worth of battery life on my original Pebble Watch. I put it into 'Airplane Mode' with the bluetooth radio turned-off. Normally you'd leave BT on but in a pinch and you don't have a charger handy you can still tell the time for over a month on a charge.
Over a month’s worth of battery life on my original Pebble Watch. I put it into ‘Airplane Mode’ with the bluetooth radio turned-off. Normally you’d leave BT on but in a pinch and you don’t have a charger handy you can still tell the time for over a month on a charge.

I had turned the Bluetooth radio off in my original Pebble Watch since I don’t really wear it anymore and the battery went over a month on a single charge. My new Pebble Time Watch probably works almost as long if I turned the radio off. But any smartwatch would be hampered without using the wireless radio. And now my PT watch can answer text messages via voice, it has a mic built-in, and it’s now tied into HealthKit on the iPhone. Even less of a reason for the overpriced Apple Watch.

Can you hear me now? Now you can.

A pair of AT&T first generation MicroCells. The one on the right is activated.
A pair of AT&T first generation MicroCells. The one on the right is activated.

AT&T cellphone coverage on the Big Island is abysmal unless you’re living in the shadow of one of their cell towers. I’ve had bad coverage in Holualoa, terrible to non-existant coverage in Hawaiian Paradise Park, excellent coverage in Glenwood and now that I’m in Hilo, which is the biggest town in the county, terrible coverage.

I finally caved and bought an AT&T MicroCell (actually a femtocell). This device connects to a broadband connection, either a cable modem or ADSL modem, and acts like a mini cellphone tower routing voice calls over the Internet. AT&T used to give out free ones to people in areas of poor coverage but they don’t consider Hilo to be a poor coverage area despite it being a poster child of why folks should switch to Verizon Wireless. And despite the fact that you’ll be using your own bandwidth for calls over the MicroCell AT&T still counts those minutes against your plan, shysters.

New MicroCells cost about $150, those are the second generation models, but you can find first generation MicroCells on Ebay for $70-$100 fairly easily. So I bought one for $95 off Ebay. But there’s a catch with the MicroCell, it has to be deactivated from the owner’s account before someone else can use it. The seller of the MicroCell I bought assured me I could activate it but this didn’t turn out to be true so it’s more of a paperweight. But they did refund my money and I was able to buy another deactivated MicroCell for $80. So that’s why I have two, a working one and a stunt-double that doesn’t do anything.

In the photo below you’ll see the difference in signal strength before and after MicroCell set-up. So hopefully I won’t be missing so many calls and text messages anymore. Also since I’ve got five bars of coverage my cellphone won’t be blasting at full power trying to grab onto the cellphone tower outside while bathing my head with radio waves.

Cellphone signal strength before MicroCell (top) and after (bottom). A full five bars of strength using the MicroCell.
Cellphone signal strength before MicroCell (top) and after (bottom). A full five bars of strength using the MicroCell.

Bringing the best out of the iPhone with the Beastgrip

An iPhone 4 in a Beastgrip tripod mount, audio from the board coming in on the left, external power supply coming in on the right, video streaming live on Ustream. This was at the Senate candidates debate in Hilo, Hawaii. Photo by Baron Sekiya
An iPhone 4 in a Beastgrip tripod mount, audio from the board coming in on the left, external power supply coming in on the right, video streaming live on Ustream. This was at the Senate candidates debate in Hilo, Hawaii. Photo by Baron Sekiya

Got a new iPhone tripod mount and I have to say it’s the best out of the four I’ve used. It’s called the Beastgrip and can accomodate just about any smartphone, not just iPhones, so you won’t have to worry about obsolesence with the design. Most of the parts are made on a 3D printer in Chicago as they’re in the start-up stage of the company and don’t have full manufacturing yet.

One of the great things about the Beastgrip is that it has a 37mm thread in front of the camera lens so you can screw-on wide or telephoto adapters. Here’s a video below of my iPhone 5S with a telephoto adapter, no adapter and a wide angle adapter attached. The telephoto vignettes so you have to zoom in slightly. Watch the video for a sample view.

The Beastgrip feels great in the hands as it’s easy to hold the iPhone steady, has plenty of 1/4″-20 sockets and a cold-shoe mount on top, I just wish it had more than one cold-shoe but I could just mount another in one of the sockets I guess.