Sunday, March 31, 2013

Weight Watchers, It Works!

My wife and I started Weight Watchers on January 11, 2013. Obviously, the primary goal is to lose weight and it is working.  As of today, we each have lost about 20 pounds each, so about 2 pounds  a week, which is a healthy amount to lose each week.

Weight Watchers is not about watching calories but uses a points system to help with weight loss.  A male weighing about 255 pounds has a daily point target of 48 points, a set of weekly 49 points and finally when you exercise you get so many points to use later that week based on the amount of exercise you do. For instance, if you do 40 minutes of elliptical training you earned 4 points.  Your primary goal is to use your daily points and if need be dip into your weekly points.

With Weight Watchers, you track your points each day and your weight once-a-week.  In addition, you can track some body measurements since you may not just lose weight but you are probably losing inches as well.  In some cases, in a particular week you may not lose weight but you may gain weight and the only indicator that things are changing with your body are the different measurements.

For tracking, you use the Weight Watchers web site and if you have a smart phone you can use the Weight Watchers application.  There is even an application for doing bar code scans of products at the store to determine their point value.  Newer products are probably not in the scanner tool but you can enter the fat, carbohydrate, fiber and protein values to get a point value per serving.

The cool thing about the points plan, is that you look at serving size and later when on maintenance after losing the weight you want, it will help you remember what a is a reasonable serving size.

There are times when using all your points can be tough, since you want to lose weight and try to eat less then you should eat.  One thing that helps is if you have a partner and you are working together on the points.   My wife and I each have our own accounts and we do breakfast and lunch separately, but dinner we do together.  We usually end up with between 18 and 20 points for dinner and it can be tough to fill those at times.  We bounce ideas off each other and come up with a plan for dinner.

The one thing we have a tough time figuring out is pasta and other items that are based on dry uncooked servings and what you have to measure out is cooked.  Still working on this one but we work around it the best we can.

I started to workout on the elliptical trainer about three times a week and built up to 40 minutes until March when I had to have surgery.  Since the surgery I have not worked out but I am still losing weight and I find that I am not hungry and usually pretty full 95% of the time.  If I need something extra like chocolate or peeps on graham crackers, I can do it since there are weekly points.  You just have to watch that you don't over do it and stay within the points.

I was a little reluctant to try Weight Watchers but wanted to lose weight and support my wife in her weight loss goals.  It is working and easy to use.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Backups, Who Needs Them!

Do you do backups of your data, of your photographs?  Do you do on-site or off-site backups or both?

Consider this: You have 10 years worth of +Quicken data for your home or business.  In addition, you have 25 years worth of family photos that you paid hundreds of dollars to digitize.  Your house gets hit by a tornado, lightning or even a fire destroying everything and you have no backups.  How do you get your data back?  You don't if you are not doing backups.  This loss is going to potentially cost money and the emotional lose is there as well.

Tomorrow March 31, 2013, is World Backup Day,  It is a reminder to look at what you are doing or not doing for backups.  Backups should be a multi-tiered approach a combination of on-site backups and off-site backups.  The backup plan should include a plan for daily, to weekly and even monthly backups along with regular testing of a recovery.  Backups without the ability to recover your data is only half the solution.

On-site backups include using a Network Access Storage (NAS) something like +Drobo 5N 5-Bay NAS Storage Array filled with disk or even a Drobo 5D 5-Bay Storage Array, Thunderbolt/USB 3.0.  You may consider in the long-term to get two of these devices and use one for off-site storage and swap the devices out every couple of weeks.

Currently, my plan includes getting one of the Drobo NAS devices filled to the brim along with the 3 TB USB backup device and the 1 TB USB backup device I am currently using.  The plan includes backing up to each and then ultimately to the Drobo.

One solution for off-site backups include the cloud.  To me the cloud was a very scary place but the technology and bandwidth considerations have improved a great deal.  Using, you would originally have a 205 GB limit per month, but last year Comcast took that limitation away.  The part was the technology issue.  How to get a full initial backup done in a reasonable amount of time.  The backups needed in my office took up 650 GB and grows about 2 GB to 20 GB after each photo shoot along with all the other data within the office.

Two solutions possible solutions, +Carbonite and +CrashPlan.  Carbonite minimizes the use of bandwidth, is secure and has several reasonable options for one, two or more computers. Carbonite does not offer a SEEDing service at the time I tested it.  My testing lasted about 9 months and in that time I could not get a full initial backup completed especially with the weekly growth I was experiencing.

CrashPlan has multiple options for the home or business, is secure, options for one, two or more computers plus the ability to backup a friends computer or backup to a friends computer. CrashPlan even offers a SEEDing solution for a cost. CrashPlan backs up the most current files first then goes through to the older files.  CrashPlan did not seem to care about bandwidth usage other then what the ISP might limit.

I ended up on February 15, 2013, moving from Carbonite to CrashPlan.  The solution I select was the CrashPlan+ Family Unlimited Plan.  I did get a significant discount for moving from Carbonite to CrashPlan for the first year but the yearly rate was even better than Carbonite's.  I was concerned about how long my initial full backup would take since I was not planning on using the SEEDing solution.  Based on information from the CrashPlan site and my available bandwidth via Comcast, I was pretty sure the backup would take about a month.  I am please to say it took a month to the day.

Each month, I select a directory and do a test recovery to validate I can get the data back to my machine.  CrashPlan has some great FAQs about switching machines if you get a new or if the worse case happens and you lose your entire machine how do you get all your data back.  I recommend before doing any kind of recovery you read the FAQs and if you are uncertain about how to proceed reach out to CrashPlan support.

Now, backups occur daily or right after a photo shoot to my local devices and an on-going backup everyday to CrashPlan.  I still need a new NAS solution to buy as my old NAS device has given up the ghost.

Your backup plan should consider both multiple on-site backup solutions and an off-site solution.  For off-site it is as simple as taking a backup device to the office or putting one in a safety deposit box or backing up to the cloud.  If you have no plan in place, create a plan, start small and grow your plan to fit your needs.

One concern I have with the cloud is what happens if the service I use goes out of business?  This is a concern for any cloud service.  Ensure you have built into your plan a solution in event this scenario happens.

If you do not have a backup plan or you are not doing backups, consider getting started today and worse case start tomorrow.  Realize everyday you put of doing any kind of backups off, you risk of losing data goes up.

If you have any comments or ideas, please comment.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Getting Fit and Losing Weight

On January 11th, 2013, my wife and I started on +Weight Watchers and have had some good success.  No we did not lose 100 pounds in 3 months but we have lost about 10% of our original body weight and that is great.  A 10% loss in 3 months is good from a health standpoint.  In addition, we are learning what a real portion size is and when we reach our goal weight, we should be able to maintain that weight.  I would recommend Weight Watchers for guys.

One thing I was missing was how I was doing fitness wise.  Last time I lost a lot of weight, I tracked steps each day and other exercise.  So I started looking for a pedometer that would track steps but more.  My ideal pedometer would track steps, heart rate, calories and help motivate me.

I looked at Jawbone Up band by +Jawbone and it looked cool, but I did not like the interface to download the data, it seemed a little clunky.  The one feature I liked was the silent alarm that buzzed you every hour you were sitting still and got you moving.  The ability to keep it on wrist was good but if I went swimming I would probably have to take it off.  The price was okay at about $129 but just a bit more then what I wanted to spend.

I looked at the  Nike+ Fuelband but between price and that it did not do as much as the Jawbone Up, I dismissed it. Also, Nike has a habit of interfaces that a clunky and just a pain to work with.  The Fuelband and its interface could be great but $149 is a bit overkill.

After some thought, I remember a friend who had a Fitbit One  by +Fitbit and was having success with it.  It was not a band but Fitbit was coming out with a band.  The Fitbit One tracks steps, stairs climbed, sleep, calories and gives you an activity score.  Priced at $99 from, though if you search on Amazon you can find one for around $95.  My thought was get the Fitbit One start tracking steps and I pre-ordered the Fitbit Flex and then compare the two. Based on the initial information provided by Fitbit, the Flex would provide all the same information as the Fitbit One but on my wrist so I would not have to worry about taking it off and losing it.  The one problem I have had with the Fitbit One was I forgot to put it on after a shower so I lost 4 hours worth of data.  Also, it would sync with the iPhone via Bluetooth and have the data on their website.

Still the feature missing is a heart monitor.  I did get a Polar H7 heart rate monitor that will sync with my iPhone and then I can transfer data to the Fitbit site manually.  It would be nice to have a heart rate monitor that works with the Fitbit and have all the data in one place without manual intervention.

Right now I think the best fitness tracking device is the Fitbit One and until I can try the Fitbit Flex, I'll stick with the Fitbit One.

One thing I would like to see happen would be if Fitbit and Weight Watchers partnered together and you could get all the food and exercise data in one place.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

First Infrared Pictures with the D800

On March 02, I went up Pingree Park Road past the Jack's Gulch camp ground to take pictures with +Justin King.  I thought I would try some infrared photography with the D800 looking over the High Park Fire burn area.

The Gear

Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: Nikon 28-300mm F3.5-5.6
Filter: Hoya 77mm RM-72 Infrared Filter
Remote shutter release

The Picture Details

Aperture: f8
Shutter Speed: 30 seconds
Lens: 28mm

The Shoot

I setup just off the road in a small valley with a creek running through it.  One of the things I wanted to happen with the picture was to get the wispy clouds that a long exposure would give as well as seeing what the burn area would look like in infrared as compared to trees not burned.  First goal was to get the focus right, so first I used the auto focus without the Hoya filter and then set the focus to manual and put the filter on.  In addition,  making sure the vibration reduction was turned off.

The picture below is the result and partially what I expected but also there is a oval of over exposure which was very disappointing. All of the pictures I took with the filter looked similar to this one.

After some research, a hypothesis was formed.  The D800 view finder has a switch to put a cover in place which I did not use.  It was an extremely bright day and the sun was off my right shoulder.  So I'll be doing some testing of this hypothesis over the next couple of weeks.  Closing the view finder will probably have an impact on my night time photography as well, so this will need to be tested out at night as well.

I was able to salvage the picture somewhat and experiment with Lightroom 4.3 and Photoshop CS6 setting to get the look of an actual infrared picture.

The cool part is I was able to validate that I got the clouds looking like I wanted and to try out the infrared filter under actual conditions in a setting where I was not rushed.

As I test out infrared in the future, I'll post more information about the post processing with Lightroom and Photoshop.

See update at Second Infrared Pictures with the D800.