Saturday, June 10, 2006

School is all but over, I'm happy to say. Instruction concluded, I just have to navigate a few finals, and then it's smooth sailing to summer. School's kept me busy the last two weeks or so, especially with some group projects for my information technology class. But that's history, and now I can move on to a nice relaxing summer. No summer school this year, but I do have some projects I've been working on, which I'll finally have the time to complete.

While school was in session, I of course tried to cut down on distractions that might hinder my studies. That's why I purchased Guitar Hero. Guitar Hero is basically a toy guitar that plugs into the Playstation 2, and lets you participate in an activity vaguely resembling "rocking out." I played an in-store demo and decided that this was something I needed to have. The irony was not lost on me that I could have purchased a real guitar at Target for almost the same price (though how good is a Target guitar on sale for $88 gonna be?). I haven't had a whole lot of time to play it, but it's pretty fun so far. Difficult, but not frustratingly hard, and decent song selection.

But that wasn't my biggest purchase of the week. I was reading Runner's World, and they were discussing websites like Bones in Motion and Motion Based, where you can upload GPS data you gather while running and trace your runs on a map and extract data to improve your training. Reading about these sites, it was obvious that GPS has evolved a bit since I last bought a GPS unit, the Timex Speed and Distance Monitor, a few years back. My system doesn't even store actual latitude/longitude data, so the whole mapping thing wouldn't work without an upgrade. The latest Timex system does track such data, but while the components are sold seperately, I would have still had to upgrade all my equipment save the heart rate monitor. Which meant it wasn't economically unfeasible to switch over to Garmin. Their Forerunner series is well-reviewed, especially the newest models. The main difficulty was in choosing a model, as the older models are still available, and the price difference between them is substantial. I ultimatly decided on the Forerunner 305, which is the most expensive of the models, but includes everything, and is rather compact. I've only used it once so far, but was very satisfied with the hardware. Found a signal on the first use in just about a minute, and had no signal problems. It does seem designed to be worn on the left arm, as much righties would, but I wear my watch on my right hand. But that's not a major problem, it just means I have to turn my wrist slightly to read the display (it also means the satelite antanna is pointed towards the ground, but it still seems to work fine). I was actually surprised, after looking at it online, when I went over to REI and actually saw just how small the unit is. Larger than a wristwatch, certainly, but not by all that much. Of course, the question remains how well the much cheaper 301 would have served me. But I've gotten burned quite a few times, buying the cheapest model just to have to upgrade to the deluxe model eventually anyways. So I decided to go for the best product currently available, and hope that will serve me well for years to come. And by purchasing a new fancy toy, it will encourage me to run more regularly (that's why I originally got a GPS distance monitor, and the plan worked that time).

As for the websites that help you track your data, Bones In Motion seems like the best choice. Only drawback (not a minor one): Bones In Motion doesn't collect data from your heart rate monitor. Motion Based does, but seems a little clunky overall, and doesn't offer much. Even some real basic features, like mile splits, are unavailable unless you subscribe. Which is aggravating both because the website is owned by Garmin, and after giving them over $300, they should be giving me this stuff for free. But I could get over that, if a subscription was priced reasonably, but $11/month is outrageous for what you get. I'll be sticking to Bones In Motion, and most likely just use the software that came with the GPS to track heart rate, though I might use the free options on Motion Based for that.

No comments: