Kreyos Meteor Review

Photo of Kreyos Meteor on my wrist.A year ago, I was extremely psyched about the Kreyos Meteor smartwatch. It had a lot of great features that made it more than just a wrist notification device, which most of the smartwatches on the market at the time were. Kreyos claimed they had a working prototype and basically just needed the cash to put it into production. The features, and claimed timeline sold me so I went ahead and backed the Indiegogo project.

Fast forward to the expected ship date and I got the “we’re very sorry for the delay” email. This message was followed up time and time again. Then, about eight or nine months after the first shipping date, and after many excuses, I got an email with my Kreyos Meteor’s tracking number.

I received my watch and eagerly opened the ridiculous shipping package (basically a manilla envelope with some packing tape). That should have been a red flag about what was inside, but I shrugged it off as just a sub-par fulfillment partner.

The retail packaging of the Kreyos Meteor was decent, so my high hopes started to creep back into my mind. I quickly unpacked everything, plugged in the charger and got to work pairing the watch with my phone.

The instructions were anything but clear. In fact, there are no instructions included with the watch. I downloaded the iOS app and used the step by step guide in that. I got it connected, but I had to forget and reconnect later that night as it seemed to completely stop working. Upon some online research and troubleshooting, I think it only paired to the Bluetooth LE, and not to the Bluetooth 2.0 first, then the LE. It seems like there could be a better way to do this. It was not a very favorable first impression.

The first step after connection was a firmware update. It took a few tries and a bit of time, but I realized it was important, and I waited (mostly) patiently for it to finish.

The watch face is a detachable little box. It’s not huge, but no one would call it small. It can be snapped in place on a watch band, belt clip or lanyard. I have both a watch band and belt clip. The band makes the thing rather bulky on your wrist (full disclosure: I have skinny wrists). It definitely looks like a piece of technology and not a nice watch when you’re wearing it. This is something all smartwatches up to this point have also suffered from.

The big buttons make it easy to push them without a lot of effort, but I had to stumble upon the button descriptions via Google (they are not easily found from the Kreyos site). This is where a small instruction sheet in the box would be quite useful.

I tried to pull up Siri from the watch (a feature I was very excited about). While I could get to the voice command screen, it did not seem to actually respond to any voice commands. I tried activating Sir from the phone, and she did listen from and reply from the watch. That said, the microphone must suck because it did not recognize even close to what I was saying, and Siri’s voice response via the Meteor’s speaker was not discernible. The hardware for these seems to be really cheap. Maybe this has something to do with the software controlling it, but I’m not holding my breath. I’d like to know the specs on what is actually inside this thing. It doesn’t feel like it’s the same as what they advertised.

Speaking of software, the iOS app is extremely buggy. It hangs, crashes and is all-around unresponsive at times. The watch’s system responds to button presses without too much delay, so at least it’s got that going for it? The watch includes a series of analog-esque and digital watch faces to choose from, a stopwatch, timer, calendar (although it doesn’t seem linked to your phone’s calendar), activity, sports, music and settings. It appears the watch is sending “step” data to the app on the phone, but I’m not sure of its accuracy. It seems a bit inflated to me.

When the watch actually receives notifications, it buzzes for a really long time. I’d really like to be able to customize the buzz length. Perhaps in a software update, we could even customize rhythms for different types of notifications. Many notifications seemed to never show up, and occasionally old notifications showed up hours later. The notifications also seem to fully ignore if a phone is do not disturb mode. My phone automatically goes into this mode while I sleep at night. My watch, however, buzzed through the night. That’s just unacceptable. There’s clearly a lot of bugs that need attention. You’d think with an extra nine months, they could have put a little more effort into making this thing work better. The latest version of the iOS app seems to fix some (but definitely not all) of the connectivity issues. I’m keeping my fingers crossed they can resolve the rest of the issues very soon.

I’d also like to see a way to manage notifications. It’d be useful to have a way to exclude certain things from buzzing your watch. For example, someone checking-in on Swarm is nice to know, but doesn’t call for the attention a new text message does. This might be an Apple API limitation, but having the ability review a notification on the watch, and having it then be marked read on the phone would be useful too.

Overall, I can’t begin to describe how disappointed I am in the Kreyos Meteor. It doesn’t seem to deliver on most of what was promised, and after such a long series of delays, I can’t help but feel bitter about it. This watch is not worth the price; maybe not even half the price. The hardware seems a lot cheaper and incapable of delivering on all the features promised in their campaign. At this point, anything that set the Meteor apart from the Pebble doesn’t actually work, or behaves so poorly it might as well not work. They need to spend some serious time on the software and get it to the users fast. It’s going to be extremely difficult to recover from all the bad impressions the Kreyos Meteor is giving customers.

I’ll be anxiously awaiting the new players in the smartwatch market. Maybe someone like Motorola or Apple can finally bring a smartwatch worth owning to market; Kreyos certainly has not done so.

Did you get a Kreyos Meteor? Tell me about your experience in the comments.

2014 U.S. National Kubb Championship

Recently, a few friends and I took a road trip to Eau Claire, Wis. for the 2014 U.S. National Kubb Championship. For those of you unfamiliar with the game of kubb, I recommend checking out the Wikipedia page and the video below.

Basically, kubb is a yard game that involves tossing wooden batons at wooden blocks, called kubbs. My friends and I have played for nearly two years now (but probably playing by the real rules for closer to a year).

The team

My friend Jesse started researching the game and came across a number of tournaments and groups in the United States. The biggest tournament being the national championship in Eau Claire. Jesse made the decision that he was going to check it out, even if that meant going by himself and just observing. Being the great friends we are, Joey, Al and myself decided to tag along and together we formed The Settlers of Baton.

Once our team name was picked (combining both one of our favorite board games with one of our favorite yard games), it was time for a logo and shirts. I took major inspiration from The Settlers of Caton. I replaced the horizontal rule in their logo with a baton you would toss in kubb. For the back of the shirt I did a sunset, which is repeated in various Settlers materials. I then added our team motto, “Wood for wood?” This is a play on the common “Wood for sheep?” question associated with the board game. Since kubb is pretty much trading blocks of wood back and forth, it seemed to really work well.

A mockup of The Settlers of Baton t-shirts.

The shirts and team name were a big hit. We received many compliments and “oh I love that game!” shout outs all weekend long.

After about a seven and a half hour drive from Kalamazoo, Mich. we finally arrived in Eau Claire, Wis. We checked into our motel and headed over to the soccer fields where the tournament was to be held the following morning. There was a decent crowd of people who brought their own kubb sets to get a bit of last-minute practice. We set up a set of our own and joined in on the fun.

On Saturday morning, we woke up early, downed a few waffles and headed back to the soccer fields. It was finally here, the big day. We set our expectations low, vowing to have a great time no matter what the outcome.

Group play

We started our group play with Team Norway. It was a best of three match, and despite some good competition, we took it in two games. Team Norway were a great bunch and we had a wonderful time playing them.

A photo of The Settlers of Baton with Team Norway at the 2014 U.S. National Kubb Championship.

Group play continued with La Kubba Nostra, a match that went to three games and actually was called for time. We didn’t finish that third game and the tie-breaker was remaining kubbs on the back line. We ended up losing that, and therefore the match. The last group match was against Kubbarb Pie. That match took three games, but we pulled off a win. That meant we tied for first in our group with La Kubba Nostra. Since they had won our earlier match tie-breaker, they also won the group tie-breaker. This left us a number two seed in the tournament bracket.

Championship bracket

Our first match-up was against the Barrakubbas. This team was made up of people from the Virginia and Washington D.C. area. They made our seven and a half hour journey seem rather short. They were again a friendly team and a pleasure to play with. We took the match 2-0.

As with most brackets, each level increases the level of competition, and our next round was no different. We took the first game, but struggled in the second. The third game looked like we were cooked, but we made a nice comeback and stayed with it to the end, finally defeating them 2-1.

Now we hit the round of 32 and were matched with Kubb’d. This was a team we had read about and seen online. It was a cool feeling to play a team like that. Kubb’d wouldn’t make this easy. We held our own and brought them to a third game. We had knocked down all the field kubbs and only had one back-row kubb and the king remaining. Joey had two batons in hand. He tossed one at the back row and it made contact… but wobbled… and didn’t go down. He throws the next one and it falls. We lost our shot at ending the game, but by now we’ve drawn a bit of a crowd. Our game had all 10 kubbs in play.


In the end, Kubb’d and their spectacular grouping finally defeated us. It was an epic match and despite losing, we felt like winners. We truly felt that last game could go either way.


After that, we became spectators. We watched the last round of the day and then were ready to watch the finals on Sunday.


Sunday started with the quarter-finals. There was a great turn-out crowded around the four kubb pitches. After some hard-fought battles the field narrowed to four. We intently watched these matches, trying to take away any tips and tricks we could.

By the time the championship match got underway, you could really tell you were watching the cream of the crop. Kubbsicles and Knockerheads were doing almost everything right. They were inspirational to watch and put on a great show for the crowd. It was a really exciting match, all the way to the end when the Kockerheads last shot made contact with the king and it didn’t look as if it was going to fall for a moment. I caught it on video.

The coolest part of the tournament was that while everyone wanted to win, everyone cheered for a great shot or a beautiful grouping. There was always a sense of fun and sportsmanship you don’t find in many competitions these days. I can’t wait for next year. Settlers of Baton is already developing a practice routine so we’ll be in tip-top shape for 2015. Thanks for the wonderful experience, USA Kubb!

If you’re interested, I posted some photos on Facebook from the event. You can also follow The Settlers of Baton and Kalamazoo Kubb on Twitter to keep up with all the kubb happenings in the Zoo.

Oru Kayak Review

Abby and I recently bought Oru Kayaks. We’ve both wanted kayaks for a ridiculously long time, but the combination of expense, storage and transportation was an issue. The Oru Kayak was the perfect answer.

Oru Kayaks

We were finally pushed over the edge from wanting to fully being behind buying them after we spent an afternoon test paddling a variety of kayaks at a demo day. After that, we knew it was something we really should do and so we worked out a budget. Unfortunately, we still had a big problem… kayaks are huge, and we live in a one-bedroom apartment.

That Saturday we went from “let’s just have some fun and try these kayaks” to “yes, we totally should buy kayaks” to “where will we store them?” in a matter of hours. It was a rollercoaster of emotions to say the least. I posted about the problem on Facebook and then a friend reminded me of the Oru Kayak. I recalled seeing it as a Kickstarter a while back, but never followed up after it was funded, so I looked into it further.

It had just recently been on Shark Tank. One of the sharks jumped on board and they increased production capacity. I started looking at reviews and everyone seemed happy and most importantly, it seemed to solve the problems we had. We made the decision to buy a couple.

Fast forward about six weeks and our Oru Kayaks arrived (well, one did, then the second a week later). The 32 by 28 by 13 inch boxes fit easily in our cars as well as our apartment. When unfolded, they transform into a sturdy 12 foot kayak. It’s an amazing process to take the Oru from box to boat, and it only takes about five minutes (after the first couple times). The company claims you can fold them up to 20,000 times. I’m pretty sure that will take many years to hit that number, so that’s reassuring.

Photo of Oru Kayaks being folded on the beach.

We’ve paddled our Oru Kayaks many times already. We’ve done a few lakes (both calm and active) and the Kalamazoo River. In all situations, the boat performs better than you’d expect for something that folds up. It keeps it’s rigid structure in the water and lets you easily paddle where you want.

The Oru weighs only 26 pounds, which is about half of what a regular kayak of the same length would weigh. This is great for transporting. The included shoulder strap makes small trips from apartment to car, and car to water pretty easy. It’s also great for paddling. Because it’s so light, I think it’s a little easier to maneuver the boat. The only downside I’ve found is it can be affected by a strong wind fairly easily. I’m not familiar enough with traditional kayaks to know if that’s just a kayak thing, or if it’s a result of the lighter Oru.

Christopher in Oru Kayak

I wasn’t sure how comfortable the Oru might be, but it performs pretty well there too. It has a padded seat and adjustable back. There is an adjustable foot bar as well. Comparing this to the few times I’ve paddled other kayaks, it seems to provide just as much comfort. It’s not sitting on a couch, but it will let you enjoy a good amount of time on the water.

My biggest issue is entering and exiting the boat. To be fair, this isn’t just an Oru problem. Being six foot two and not the most flexible, it can be a struggle to cram my legs into the boat. The issue is getting the necessary clearance under the front deck. There’s a couple of inches of latches that are necessary for the Oru to stay closed together, but that’s space I wish my legs could use. I have some scraped up shins at the moment. I’m getting better at it, but it’s something I wanted to note.

The other downside to an Oru is the lack of storage bins. The water-tight containers built into traditional boats just aren’t feasible on a folding kayak. There are deck-straps so I’m planning on buying something to strap on instead. You can still stick stuff in the kayak with you, but it’s not water-tight or accessible while you’re paddling.

Overall, I couldn’t be much happier. The Oru Kayak solved the biggest problems preventing us from joining the paddling world sooner. They’re easy to store in our tiny apartment and easy to transport. They may seem expensive at first glance ($1,195), but I encourage you to compare that price to other 12 foot boats, not the cheap little things you can find at Dunham’s or Meijer. Adventure awaits, and Abby and I are ready to paddle our way towards it.

Photo of Abby Anderson Jones in Oru Kayak.

Hacking Hulu to your TV

So you’ve discovered a great show on Hulu, but those old guys at the network it’s from decided that they don’t understand technology and haven’t given Hulu to rights to view it on a TV or mobile device… This happens more than it should.

I’ve got a way to “hack” any Hulu show to your TV. If you’ve got an Apple TV and a Mac  it is easy.

  1. Set up your Apple TV to allow screen sharing.
  2. Fire up your Mac.
  3. Select your Apple TV in the AirPlay menu (if you don’t see an AirPlay menu, open the display preferences).
  4. You can mirror your screen or use it as an additional screen. I prefer the extra screen so I can still use my laptop for other things at the same time.
  5. Open in a new browser window and then make it go full screen.

That’s it. Your Hulu video will play full screen on your TV, regardless of what rights it has. I suppose this trick could also be used for people who aren’t Hulu Plus subscribers too, or even for other sites that don’t have TV streaming options.

In theory this would probably work with Chromecast or other casting devices in combination with a compatible computer. I’ve only tested the Apple TV solution, so that’s all I can speak for from experience.

Have you tried something like this? Let me hear about it in the comments.

May is keeping me busy

I’ve neglected this blog for a while. I have a number of posts almost ready for posting (like my continuing series of calendar app reviews), but I’ve been preoccupied with other endeavors. Mainly, I’ve been developing a board game. My lawyer has advised not getting into too many details at this point, but it’s been a fun project that I hope to be able to share with you soon. In the meantime I’m going to attempt to finish some of the almost-there blog posts.

New Blog Design

jonesin for a blog April Fools logo-02This blog is just over two years old now, so I thought it was time to spruce it up with a new design. What better way to usher in spring than with brighter colors and a more laid-back typography choice? The old design was so white and boring. I tried to capture energy and excitement with this visual update. What do you think?


Obviously, this was an April Fools’ Day joke. I’ve included a screenshot below if you missed it. Hopefully no one actually thought I had completely lost my mind (and design sensibilities).

Screenshot of the April Fools' Day Redesign

Review: Google Chromecast

Google ChromecastDespite already owning both an Apple TV and a Roku box (not to mention the PS3 and Wii that support many streaming options), I went ahead and picked up a Google Chromecast. At $35 (I found it on sale at Amazon for $30), it wasn’t a huge investment.

My first impression was that it was extremely simple and unobtrusive. It’s small enough that it hides away behind my TV and will even charge through the USB port on my TV (which is good, because I’m running out of surge protector spots). Setup wasn’t very hard at all and I’m pretty sure just about anyone could handle it. I went the laptop setup route, but I believe you could also do it from your phone with the Chromecast app.

Once it is setup it just waits there for you to “cast” content to it. The casting happens via another device, like your phone, tablet or Chrome browser. There’s no remote. Chromecast is simply an HDMI dongle. Google says this is a feature, but I find it a bit of an annoyance. It’s my biggest complaint. The nice thing about an Apple TV or Roku (or any of the dedicated streamers) is that you can just browse and start content with a remote. The other problem is that only a handful of apps support Chromecast at this time. It has plenty of potential, but the current state of things leaves a lot to be desired.

My experience was pretty good with casting. It seemed to handle a variety of media just fine like YouTube videos (from both my iPhone and my iPad) as well as a bit of the Chrome tab-mirroring from my laptop. The only issue with the tab is it seems to lag and any scrolling or interaction can become a bit choppy. If you’re just trying to watch content it works ok. That said, I did see some issues at a friend’s house while we were casting the WMU hockey game via his laptop in another room to the living room TV. It kept cutting out every five to 10 minutes. It may have been a computer or network issue, but it seemed to stream fine just on the computer. The whole thing is still considered a beta and there are sure to be a few hiccups like this.

The tab mirroring is a huge plus and something Roku currently can’t offer. Apple TV can mirror your whole screen or even act as another display via AirPlay. I’ve personally had a little better luck with AirPlay, but it’s also had more time to work out its bugs.

The verdict? Google Chromecast is one of the cheapest and easiest solutions for people wanting to get Internet content on their TVs. I think as time goes on and more support arrives, the dongle will become more and more useful. If you’re looking for something to stream a lot of content, this might not be your best option. You still need a device (phone, tablet, laptop) to get anything started with Chromecast. If that seems like a problem or hassle, I recommend checking out some other options like Roku or Apple TV.

Opinion: iOS notification center still sucks

Screenshot of iOS Notification CenterI was overjoyed when Apple said they had completely reworked the notification center in iOS 7. Then I updated my phone and actually used it… the joy quickly faded.

It’s now been months and I can officially say, the iOS notification center still sucks. I waited to write this, hoping that I was just overreacting and/or the 7.1 update would address these issues. They haven’t. Here is why I can’t stand it:

Missing features

I love upgrades, but please don’t take away useful features from an earlier version. Why are the Twitter and Facebook shortcuts gone? I used to tweet or post messages all the time from the handy little buttons at the top of my notification screen in iOS 6. It was a huge blow to my workflow to lose shortcuts. Maybe the notification center isn’t the right place for actions like that, but couldn’t they at least be moved to a more appropriate section (perhaps the new control center tray)?

Less useful features

I’m not sure if this is better or worse: taking a feature and making it less useful. I’m leaning towards worse. The “Today” tab is great in concept, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. In previous versions of iOS, there was a handy weather widget which quickly told you the weather conditions at a glance. Important info like temperature and an icon showing if it was sunny or snowing were easy to read. Now, iOS 7’s notification center replaces this widget with a line or two written about the weather today. It’s not necessarily the current temperature (sometimes it is, but not always, why is that?) and it certainly isn’t as easy to process at a glance.

Same old problems

While made slightly bigger, the clear buttons are still a pain to use. Why must I clear all notifications for an app? I’d love to just swipe one or two things away or maybe the first tap of the clear button shows clear buttons next to each item, allowing you to tap single notifications or all of them. In fact, why isn’t there a master clear button. After your phone has been off for a while (say during a movie) you end up with a ton of notifications from various apps. It’s a little tedious to tap twice for each application’s notifications. I’d like to see one option at the top to “Clear All.” Options are good, and the notification center is lacking them.

On the home screen, a swipe of a notification will bring you to that notification’s app, but once you’ve pulled down the notification center, swiping moves you between the tabs at the top. Why does the act of swiping a notification change behaviors? It just seems strange to change that on something so closely related.

Wish list

So what would I add? I’d love to see widgets. I’m certain Apple will never allow home screen widgets (at least third-party ones), but why can’t they open up the API for a few notification center widgets. Then we could get a more useful weather widget back, or perhaps a quick Foursquare check-in. The Today tab has a lot of potential and I’d like to see where that could lead with some third-party integration. The larger screen real estate on iPads could open this up to even more innovations. Please unlock it, just a little, and let developers show us what’s possible, Apple.

This one is more notification related in general, not just for the notification center. I want custom alert tones that can be assigned on a per app basis. Some apps use custom alerts but you can’t customize it yourself. Again, Apple, options are good, please let us have some. One of the few things I miss from my old Android phone was the ability to change the sounds of each app’s alerts. Then I knew if it was a new email, a text or just some dumb game trying to get me to play. It’s useful for discerning if it’s worth checking your phone.

I’m pretty sure I remember hearing something about the Mac notification center integrating with the iOS notification center. This seems to have never really come about. It would be useful, however it would HAVE to synch cleared and read notifications across devices. There’s nothing worse than having to clear hundreds of notifications, except having to do that on two or three devices.

What’s your experience with the iOS notification center? What would you like to see added or removed? Sound off in the comments.

Why I Love OpenStreetMap

OpenStreetMap logo drawn by Ken Vermette.What have I been up to lately? Mostly editing OpenStreetMap. It’s an online map free for the world to edit and use. Think of it as the Wikipedia of maps. It lets users correct errors and add new data to keep it up to date. My wife would say it’s become an obsession, but I just love good data so I’ve been very active in mapping the world around me.

The whole idea behind OpenStreetMap is to create a useful, up-to-date map for the people, by the people. It’s free to use in your projects (just requires an attribution, no payments). You can style the data however you’d like, in fact some services like Mapbox make it super easy to create stunningly beautiful maps.

I first heard of OpenStreetMap when Foursquare made the jump from Google Maps. I was intrigued by the project. I was already a very active super user on Foursquare, editing their data, so it seemed like a natural step to edit the mapping data they were now relying on behind the scenes.

It’s been very rewarding. Kalamazoo wasn’t terrible road-wise, but they had barely any other data on the map. I started with Western Michigan University’s campus. As an alumnus and employee spanning nearly a decade, I’ve become pretty familiar with the area. I traced all the buildings, parking lots and sidewalks. I tracked down the info on WMU websites to fill in correct building names and information. As I travel around campus for meetings, I make note of certain things (like bus stops) and add those in too.

I expanded my reach far beyond WMU, or even Kalamazoo at this point. I’ve taken part in some of Scout’s OSM challenges and have made edits throughout the United States. I haven’t won yet, but I’m going to keep trying. I really enjoy cleaning up and adding data. I find it strangely soothing and absolutely satisfying. One of the coolest parts is seeing that data pulled into Foursquare. When on their site, the maps show all the building traces that I (and others) have done. It’s nice to see some more context to the maps than just empty gray space between white road lines.

One of the best part of OSM is that it’s an ongoing project. It will never be finished because the world is constantly changing. New roads, new buildings, they’re being built everyday. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the project and I highly encourage everyone to find out what it’s all about. Edits can be as simple as fixing a one-way street or as massive as mapping out all of your city’s schools. OSM relies on everyday people with local knowledge. You could really make a difference.

Are you intrigued yet? Start with this welcome page and then check out the wiki and help sites to dive further into the OpenStreetMap world.