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5 beautiful Apple watch bands

5 beautiful Apple watch bands

I’ve had my Apple Watch for awhile now, because I stayed up until midnight to preorder it. Because I am like that.

I have a space grey 38mm one, with the black sports band. The Apple sports band is very comfortable, and actually much less SPORTS than it looks in pictures. However, it’s hard not to start looking into replacement straps pretty much straight away. Here are my favourite options so far.

CASETIFY_greymarble

Casetify Make your own band with your own photos, or pick from their selection of patterns. Personally, I am loving this faux marble one.

MakerGrafix_leatherred

Maker Grafix Traditional leather watch bands have their own appeal. Get your initials stamps on the inner side too.

CUBIFY_bluefibre

Cubify Very tactile, these 3D-printed nylon bands come in several colours and a few different textures.

LEATHERSY_brownstrap

Leathersy Bespoke leather strap with minimalist single peg closure? Yes please. Vegetable-dyed, and gorgeous.

MONOWEAR_greynylon

Monowear The nylon strap with the multiple loops has a nice utilitarian thing going, a little bit tougher than the sports band.

 

Images courtesy Casetify, Maker Grafix, Cubify, Leathersy, and Monowear, respectively.

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Finally, track your period and your steps

Finally, track your period and your steps

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I bought an Apple Watch. More specifically, I decided my Christmas presents would add up to an Apple Watch. Before that, I supported the Pebble smartwatch on kickstarter. I had a fitbit for awhile.

So you know, I’m into this smart watch/tracking stuff thing.

I track my bike rides, the food I eat, the steps I take, how long I sleep. But for some reason, none of these neat little things track something all women I know have tracked since they were about 13: our periods.

Yes I know there are many apps for that, but how can the all-knowing Apple Health app offer to track practically everything, but not my menstrual cycle? Is it really just because there’s only men in the room when they plan these features?

Then there’s tracking apps themselves. Why are they all pink with flowers? Menstruating is not a big deal, it’s just a monthly biological cycle. I don’t like talking or looking at people’s teeth, but I don’t feel any need to make a huge deal about it when someone talks about their dentist appointment, toothpaste, or bleaching stuff.

bellabeat2

Now that we’ve all agreed we’re grownups, I have to tell you about this new tracking gadget. The Leaf by Bellabeat. It’s not sporty, it’s doesn’t scream TECH OBJECT, it’s wearable in several ways. You can track your monthly cycle, and see how your exercise, sleep, and breathing changes in relation to it. Doesn’t that sound interesting and useful? I have to say, this isn’t hard stuff, but somehow no one has bothered before now. Possibly my favourite part of this is the 6-month battery life. Yes, you read that correctly. Six. Months. All of this for about $130 US. The preorders are flying out the door, so if you’re thinking about it, do it now. I ordered mine yesterday.

Congratulations to Bellabeat’s Urška Sršen, and thanks for making a piece of tech that addresses our needs.

Images courtesy of Bellabeat. This post contains affiliate links. 

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Robotics and electronics for kids: where to start

Robotics and electronics for kids: where to start

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Wouldn’t it be cool to ask your child: ’Do you want to build a robot that feeds your fish?’

The answer is clearly yes, but that’s going to take a degree in engineering and a large workshop full of tools you don’t have to sort out isn’t it? Actually, no.

There’s been a cool scene brewing out there, sometimes referred to as ‘maker culture’, all about getting down to brass tacks and building something cool. Parents have been at the forefront –  making neat stuff with and for their kids. I’m sure you’ve done the same, really, whether it’s involving your kids in baking cookies, feeding the chickens, gardening, crocheting, tie-dying, and whatever else you happen to know about. This particular corner of the maker universe is all about electronics, coding, robotics, and wearable technology.

What I find fascinating about this whole scene is the positivity. There are loads of companies focused on enabling everyone to build Cool Stuff. The sheer volume of creativity is stunning. Frozen cosplay? Totally, here are 27 tutorials on everything from Elsa’s tiara to using bits of glass to truly capture the idea of that glittery cape. Light up your shoes with flexible LEDs? Sure. Stitch lights and sensors into your skirt so it lights up when you move? Yep.

If you’re looking to get started in the world of electronic stuff, there are a couple routes to take. Key things to know here: as the supervising adult, you will have to help if your child is younger than about 8 or 9, but my 5 year old is perfectly able to get in there and do a project with adult assistance. You don’t need any previous electronics or coding experience to do these beginner steps. The documentation and videos that go with these kits are excellent and easy to follow.

There two main companies that make beginner kits for kids: Snap Circuits and littleBits.

Snap Circuits is electrical engineering for kids. You get a basic breadboard (that flat thing you attach wires and components to) and things like resistors, LEDs, and sound-producing components. The Snap Circuits Jr kit includes 100 different experiments to build, including a doorbell, flying saucer, and alarm. Everything is in plastic holders, and it requires no additional tools. Snap Circuits is all about the technical elements of electronics: how parallel circuits work, how resistors work, that kind of thing. The basic 100 experiments kit costs $30.

littleBits, however, is more like programming for kids. Each piece snaps to another, which you can attach to a person, a playdough sculpture, a LEGO car, a windmill made of craft sticks… really anything. The base kit includes things like a DC motor, a pressure sensor, a light sensor, and a bright LED. It’s much more 3D than the Snap Circuits, and would be a good entry point into robotics. However, it’s more expensive. The littleBits base kit is $100 US, and it’s a challenge to get in Canada without paying their (starting at) $37 shipping charges. It seems expensive when you think of it as a toy, but when viewed as a beginner robotics kit, it seems more reasonable.

If you have older children who are really keen, the world of Arduino is like peeking into Narnia through the wardrobe. This is where you get into the really cool wearable tech, complicated robotics, and, it should be said, requirements for more tools. Though all you really need to start out is a $10 wire stripper. Arduino is an open-source electronics platform that was designed to make building robots and things like that easier for hobbyists. There are countless books, blogs, instructions, and plans out there for incredible things you can build with Arduino components. Start with the Arduino site, then move on to Make: magazine, and adafruit to see what’s possible.

Electronics shops sell Arduino kits and components, and it’s easier to find in Canada than littleBits. The Official Arduino Starter Kit is about $125, and includes instructions (and all the bits) for projects like a light theremin, a lamp that responds to touch, a colour-mixing lamp, and a motorized pinwheel. It does require some basic coding, so this wouldn’t be very fun for kids much younger than 12. The sky’s the limit with additional components. You can find cheaper base kits at about $50, and if you know exactly what you want, you can buy the Arduino microprocessor itself for about $30. However, I can’t be held responsible if you’re pricing out 3D printers by next Christmas.

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Do a science with Snapshot Serengeti

Do a science with Snapshot Serengeti

Screen Shot 2013-08-03 at 8.57.51 AM

I can tell the difference between a Thompson’s gazelle and a Grant’s gazelle from the back quarter of a leg.

Well, now I can, anyway, since starting my obsession with Snapshot Serengeti.

The University of Minnesota Lion Project has 225 motion-activated cameras across Tanzania, waiting to capture animal activity as it happens. Of course, this means there are thousands upon thousands of images to sort through. Differentiating between waving grass and three zebras in the middle distance is one of those things humans are very good at, and computer image recognition software is not.

Enter crowd sourcing!

Through an easy to use little website, we can all help identify animals in the motion capture photos for the researchers. There is a great tutorial to walk you through the simple system, and then off you go. The opportunities for older children are obvious – learn about what the animals look like and get a window into what they’re doing in the wild.

The images are strangely intimate – my cheetah face above is from my first go at identifying. I’ve seen a crowd of hippos at night, a giraffe’s chest backlit by the setting sun, a herd of wildebeest napping right in front of the lens, gazelles running past.

Thankfully, the project met their Indie-go-go funding goal with less than 24 hours to go, so we can continue to peer into the lives of these animals for awhile longer.

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Very Cool Thing: Eat Your Books + giveaway!

Very Cool Thing: Eat Your Books + giveaway!

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I’m standing in front of my fridge, staring at the contents. I got it together to have pork ready to go, and I know I have some sage in the garden.

What was that recipe I made once? Which book was it in? It involved pork and sage… what was it. Hmmm.

This happens to me, oh, three times a week. I do sometimes wonder what the point of those piles of cookbooks are if I don’t use them. It’s not that I don’t want to, I know the perfect thing is in one of them. It’s just… which one?

Enter the most useful online service I’ve seen in ages: Eat Your Books.

It is this simple: enter your cookbooks, cooking blogs you use, dog-eared cooking magazines propping up the rice cooker into their easy system and you can then search by ingredient, recipe name or cuisine. A list will pop up with all the recipes in your collection that fit.

How brilliant is that?

No, the recipe is not online, as this is an indexing service. However, telling me where to find it is nearly as valuable.

For example, I popped in 32 of my cookbooks, and then ticked off 19 different food blogs I have read at some point. I now have 23,355 recipes to hand. Well, technically I always did, but now I can actually find one of them. Quickly.

You can add five cookbooks to your library for free, but to get the best use out of Eat Your Books, adding your whole library is worth it. It’s $2.50 a month or $25 a year (USD). Personally, as soon as I understood the concept, I scrambled to pay my annual membership straight away*.

I love being able to sort my recipes by ‘buzz’, which means how many people have made comments about each one. It’s a great way of discovering what may have looked a bit lack lustre on the page (or screen) but in fact loads of people make it and love it every week. Not only that, you can then lose a few hours by checking out other users’ libraries and oh… right. I was supposed to make dinner.

Eat Your Books has generously offered up a lifetime membership to their service to one of my readers. Go forth and enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I found Eat Your Books through a friend’s blog and approached them myself about hosting a giveaway. *I paid for my annual membership myself, which was extended to a lifetime membership for hosting the widget you see in the sidebar.

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