Two weeks with Nike Fuelband

I’ve been interested in the convergence of technology and everyday life. The ability to learn more about our own behaviors can be extremely enlightening. Prime example, Nicolas Feltron’s annual report.

I’m a healthy guy, but by no means a health nut or workout addict, but I wanna make sure I stay healthy. I have inactive days behind a computer, active days photographing buildings, and then my sporting pursuits of ice hockey and fencing. I wanted to measure all that and then improve on it.

This concept isn’t new. Nike’s been working on this for years with Nike+, largely for runners. It required a shoe attachment, and well running. It was interesting, but not for me.

A similar product, Jawbone UP, had terrible reviews and a mass recall. I hoped the Fuelband would be better.

Quick overview, the Fuelband concept is simple. Set a goal for yourself, Fuelband keeps track of your activity as you try to meet and exceed your goal.

The band

A subtle black band with a slightly rubbery feel to it. One button interface, easy to wear, water resistant, and doesn’t get in the way of life. LED lights provide feed back on your day’s progress, only when asked for. The band isn’t quite as polished as the marketing images but I think that’s ok.

The battery is rechargeable via standard USB and lasts 2-4 days between charges.


The software is really what makes this work. Nike’s iPhone app is terrific. To sync your activity you open the app, hold the button on the band down and your account updates via Bluetooth. You can see activity on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. You can note how you feel that day. And if you wanna be one of those people, you can share your results via Twitter or Facebook…


Nike’s slogan is “Life is a sport. Make is count.” It’s all part of the message of challenging yourself, treating life like a game, always trying to better your totals. You meet your goal, you get on streaks, rewards, etc.

The other day, I had a modest two day streak. It was 11:30pm and I was 600 fuel points away from my goal. I grabbed the dog and off we went for a run. I met my goal just before midnight, and frankly that felt awesome. (see graph)


In 13 days, I’ve burned 12000 calories, been active for 90 hours, taken 110,000 steps, and gone 54 miles via foot. I’m not quite sure what that means to me yet but as I have this longer I think it can help inform me to continue to make healthier decisions.

A few years ago my friend joked, “wouldn’t it be great if we had someone to keep stats on our lives?”

Now we do. Make it count.

Visual Pollution in Cities

As an architectural photographer and card carrying city lover I spend an inordinate amount of time studying the visual characteristics of our built environment.

One thing that’s caught my attention and seems to be an increasing problem is visual pollution. I’m talking about poles everywhere, numerous confusing street signs, park here, no parking here, and outlandish commercial signage.

Catering to the Automobile

Obviously over the last fifty years our cultural love affair with the automobile has had an enormous effect on our cities. This behavior has in effect placed the automobile as the dominate member of the urban fabric relegating the pedestrian to an after thought. This is the state of our cities.

The infrastructure necessary to cater to our automobile dependent cities over a more pedestrian friendly environment is the number one junk contributor

Pictured here is a small two lane urban road, running along Columbus’s Goodale Park and four story residential.

Seems like a simple situation and yet it was deemed necessary to install three highway signs.

Same street, contrasting bike/car parking.

Worse, same street, a simple intersection requires 2 stop signs, 2 do not enter, a parking information sign, a blocked one way sign, 2 street signs, and a no turn right sign. Got that?

This sort of excessive, out of scale signage is rampant. I hold out hope that urban designers, landscape architects and planners begin to look at this issue. It’s an issue of waste and degrading of the urban experience for everyone.

Extreme Corporate Sponsorship

Public/Private partnerships have grown in popularity as city budgets have been under pressure for decades now. In Columbus, no company has been more involved in the growth and development of Columbus than Nationwide Insurance.

Nationwide has been a driving influence behind: numerous downtown office and residential developments, the entire Arena District, supporting our NHL team, Children’s Hospital, a major United Way sponsor, and the list goes on. You could easily estimate their contributions to Columbus in the billions. 

This doesn’t exempt Nationwide from my criticism though.

Nationwide One, a strong, late 1970’s modern designed 40 story tower recently underwent serious change. I’ve always given Nationwide credit for how they used their prominent location and visibility for good civic engagement. They do a good job of lighting the exterior, using their windows to write messages, both of which change for seasons and events. There also used to be a restaurant at the top, however it closed in mid-90’s. 

Recently, at Nationwide One, they’ve put up two outrageously large Nationwide signs. One facing south is complete, the matching northern sign is going up now. They are so large, and bright that you can see them at first sight of the skyline — many miles away.

I have it on good authority that when requesting approval from the downtown commission, Nationwide was actually requesting LARGER signage. Honestly, how much larger could it have been!?

It’s not like they have a lack of signage. I took a walk around the perimeter of their campus and photographed each piece of signage.

That’s a lot! It’s like they’re scared will forget about them. Nationwide, you’ve done a lot of really nice things for Columbus — but please have a little self confidence and restraint.

Even Gotham City suffers from the same problem, although Batman seems to be on top of the situation. 

I joke about Gotham City, but honestly neither Chicago or New York suffer from this level of overt corporate signage as we do in Columbus. Upon a quick estimation, I’m counting 17 buildings in downtown Columbus with large, bright signage on them. That’s about half of our large buildings.

More should take the approach of the interesting and subtle rather than obvious and overt. Milstein Hall, at Cornell University is a terrific example of this.

It’s impractical to think that the automobile’s dominance will change drastically in the next decade or that corporations will decide not to slap their logo on buildings but we can do better.

Start with straight forward reform inside the transportation department. Clean up this mess of signs that exist everywhere.

Buy the right products. Columbus just replaced most of their parking meters to accept credit cards. This kept all the ugly meters on the street — better would have been one ticket printing machine and identify a parking zone. This is common in other cities.

Straight forward parking rules. Make it clear with one, two maximum signs that in this specific area is where you park. If it isn’t a confirmed parking zone, you can’t park there.

These simple, intelligent improvements can make it better for everyone.

We can only hope we won’t be blinded by the corporate light.


A few weeks ago, the conversation on how major internet content sites have been junking up the web.

-Please let this not be the future of reading on the web

-Roger Black: The holy grail, part 1

-Brent Simmons: The Readable Future

Hat tip to Jon Gruber at DaringFireball for the links.

Very nerdy.

Few weeks ago I realized my internal hard drive had only 25% storage space available. I could have made it through the year with ‘just’ 250GBs of free space but I wanted to a solution. Not just a short term solution but I wanted to set a new course for my data mangement, back ups, etc.

Here’s a quick look at an incredibly nerdy topic.

Two years ago I was running my studio soley off of a 15” MacBook Pro with an external monitor and a few external hard drives. This wasn’t how I wanted things set up. Last year I made the much needed investment into a Mac Pro.


Mac Pro - 3.33ghz 6 core Xeon , 12GB of RAM

Internal Drive Bays

#1: 1 TB 7200

#2: Empty

#3: Empty

#4: Empty

External HDs

Lacie d2 Quadra Drives, connected by eSATA + FW800, racked

#1: 1 TB 7200 (Aperture Photo Library Vault)

#2: 1 TB 7200 (Aperture Photo Library Vault)

#3: 1 TB 7200 (SuperDuper Clone of Internal HD)

#4: 1 TB 7200 (Time Machine Back Up)

Two complete copies of my computer, and four copies of my photo library. This was nice, simple setup, with fairly strong data redundancy.

This worked prefectly until I realized my photo library was approaching 500GB. Large grey bar being my entire DLSR library, purple section being 3 days of shooting medium format digital. (Yikes)

I asked a few people, did my research and purchased an internal Western Digital 2TB “Black” drive. This drive is fast, reliable, and should serve it’s purpose well. More importantly is the roadmap I’ve laid out for the near future.

2011+ Plan

Mac Pro - 3.33ghz 6 core Xeon, *16GB of RAM, upgraded as well*

Internal Drive Bays

#1: 1 TB 7200 (Apps+User accounts only, 750GB free, Poor Man’s SSD)

#2: 2 TB WD “Black” 7200 (Sole purpose is to host Aperture Photo Library)

#3: Empty (Future: 2 TB WD “Black” 7200 or Higher - Purpose: Aperture Photo Library Vault)

#4: Empty (Future: 2 TB WD “Black” 7200 or Higher - Purpose: Aperture Photo Library Vault)

External HDs

Lacie d2 Quadra Drives, connected by eSATA + FW800, racked

#1: 1 TB 7200 (Aperture Photo Library Vault)

#2: 1 TB 7200 (Aperture Photo Library Vault)

#3: 1 TB 7200 (SuperDuper Clone of Internal HD)

#4: 1 TB 7200 (Time Machine Back Up)


Internal bays will be used before replacing any external drives. It’d be nice to get that little extra desk space back.

Current external HDs will continue to serve their purposes for another year or two. I’ll swap them out with higher capacity Lacie drives as needed.

And yes, eventually, when the price of SSD’s become remotely sane I’ll use one as a boot drive.

Visuals from and the “About This Mac” in OS X Lion.

Steve Jobs.

The passing of Steve Jobs has brought me great sadness.

I’ve always felt a strong connection to Apple. Born during the year of the Macintosh, 1984. I grew up with an Apple IIgs. I would sneak out of my room while my parents were asleep just to get a few extra hours of, Dungeon Master, my favorite game. I remember always adding “Sonja” to my band of warriors because she was pretty. My sister and I would spend hours playing Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego. We would also design and print giant banners for family birthdays and holidays. That was certainly one of my first experiences creating. I have many fond childhood memories, and for a fair portion of them our little Apple IIgs was there.

It wasn’t until the mid 90’s that I learned about Steve Jobs and Apple the company. Steve had yet to come back to Apple; the company had been written off and buried a hundred times over. Yet as a 13 year old, my foolishness led me believe they’d somehow turn it all around.

No need to recap what happened next.

But, beyond the products, Steve left a lasting and unique impact on many of us.

The first iMac was incredibly cool, completely new, and compared to the anything else it seemed from the future. It was original, it was authentic.

Response from the competition was “let’s slap translucent plastic pieces on the front of our beige boxes.” Copycats! No respect for their products, no respect for their customers.

While maybe a silly example, I was an impressionable 14 year. In a very meaningful way I learned the value that I placed on authenticity and the creation of original work.

People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. -Steve Jobs, NY Times 2003

This was about the time I became really interested in design, in exactly this way. What problems is design solving? What problems is design capable of solving?

So this line of thinking has been part of my foundation for my own personal dialogue with design ever since. 

There used to be saying at Apple, “Isn’t it funny? A ship that leaks from the top.” That’s what they used to say about me in my 20s. -Steve Jobs, All Things D, 2007

I interpreted this as a reference to his own short comings earlier in life. The very faults that perhaps made him so successful but also ultimately lead to him being fired from Apple.

His exile from grace, out of the limelight of Apple and to NeXT where he would keep working, reinvent himself, and define a new vision for his next great act.

For me, these last 15 years are proof, that it is possible to reinvent, to change your world, positively affect those around you. A lesson we should all remember as we face our own difficult times in life.

Looking up this quote, I realize that years ago I had misinterpreted it. Steve was referring to the leaking of product information. However, the message still stands.

I feel very fortunate to have lived when Steve lived, and to have benefitted so greatly from his passion.

Thank you, Steve, I’ll miss you.

Photo: Diana Walker, 1982