21/12/2017

Nokia puts the pressure on (your arm)

Nokia Health (as was Withings) has a blood pressure cuff - the BPM, though there's a newer version out now, the BPM+.

The BPM is quite bulky (the newer BPM+ looks quite a bit smaller in the cuff design) with a metal cylinder which has a power switch on the top and this connects to the white (quite stiff) cuff which you uncurl and wrap around your arm. It takes 4 AAA batteries

The cylinder is placed forward and it's recommended that you sit upright with your upper arm by your side and forearm at right angles forward (say resting on a desk).

Initially you have to go into the Nokia Heath app and add it as a device (there's a choice of the BPM and the BPM+), then in future when the cuff is turned on, the app will automatically open and offer to take a reading.

There are two modes when taking a reading, the first will just take a single reading while the second mode takes 3 readings (over 3 minutes). Both your systolic and diastolic readings are stored as well as your blood pressure.

The app can then display a record of the readings over time, to show how progress is being made (for example).

This could be especially useful if you have a medical condition (and results can also be emailed to your doctor).

The BPM costs £89.95 and the BPM+ £109.95 (though they function identically, they BPM+ uses a softer smaller cuff which means it can be put in a bag or similar and taken with you much more easily than the original BPM).

Paragon, allowing users to mount the world

Paragon Software makes software that allows users to mount disks from other operating systems. So say you're a Mac user, then you could mount a Windows disk that's formatted with NTFS and access it normally just as you would a disk that's formatted in a native macOS system. Once installed, the system should be rebooted, then external drives should appear as native drives through the file system.

On macOS Paragon support Windows NTFS and also extFS (used by Linux and supporting Ext2, Ext3 and Ext4 disks). There's also a 'value' pack which contains both and support for older Apple formats such as HFS+.

Windows users are also supported so there's support for HFS+ and Linux ExtFS.

Paragon have just announced Windows support for the new Apple File System, APFS and it's a FREE download. Again it will install so that drives are available through the Windows Explorer (and available to any Windows program). Drives will auto mount on start-up. Currently only read-access to the drive is supported.

The Mac version does work nicely and accessing an old hard disk from a Linux system was painless and fast. An added bonus is that it makes access RaspberryPi SD cards a breeze, use any of the SD card utilities to get Raspbian or other operating system on to the SD card, then access it as an attached disk and modify any of the configuration files before installing it into the Pi itself. Can save a lot of time rather than having to boot up the Pi, log into the Pi and then configure everything locally, reboot, etc.

Though not relevant to home users, Paragon also specialise in making drivers for iOS, Android and other embedded operating systems such as QNX and embedded Linux. There's also drivers for UEFI (i.e. the replacement for the BIOS on systems), so that a system, even before the operating system is loaded, can access various drives.

Embedded Linux is used in a lot of systems like Network Attached Storage (NAS) and the drivers allow the NAS to access content on external disks or SD cards in not native formats. QNX is used in a lot of system that use a Real-time OS and again the drivers allow access to non-native disks.

Pricing varies, ExtFS for Mac is £29.00, NTFS for Mac is £15.95 or the UFSD value pack (allowing NTFS and ExtFS on Mac and HFS+ and ExtFS on Windows) is $49.95 (oddly only seems available in dollars).

19/12/2017

It's a tablet with re-markable electronic ink display that almost feels like paper

The reMarkable tablet is an e-ink device (and pressure sensitive stylus) that is meant to be a replacement for pen and paper. While it's not quite there, it actually does a pretty remarkable job. The stylus is pressure sensitive (with 2048 levels) and tilt is also detected, allowing the pencil tool to emulate a real pencil (and other tools thinner or thicker lines dependant on pressure).

The unit is well made with a aluminium back and the e-ink display (monochrome) has a special coating so the stylus does feel somewhat like pen on paper. The black and white contrast is very clear with a 1872x1404 resolution (226 DPI) on a 10.3 inch screen. The whole unit is 6.9 x 10.1 x .26 inches and weighs 350g. It also comes with a wallet that holds both the device and stylus and spare nibs for the stylus (and a tool to extract the old nib).

Battery life is pretty good and it will last a few days, though if not using it turn it off rather than putting in standby) having a capacity of 3000 mAh. It has a standard micro-USB for charging (which can also be used to connect to a computer and then access through a web browser to access the files). Internal storage is 8GB (claimed 100,000 pages) and 512MB of RAM coupled with a 1GHz ARM A9 CPU which makes the system pretty responsive. It runs a mobile version of Linux (Codex) which has been optimised to drive the e-eink display.

Though the tablet can be run by itself, it can also be used with the reMarkable web service, so documents will be automatically sync'ed and then can be made available to the desktop (macOS/Windows) or mobile (iOS/Android) clients. It's also possible to import documents into the clients, then they'll be upload to the tablet when it next goes on-line.

Currently the software understands ePub and PDF documents. A nice feature is that PDF documents can be imported, then a new layer created and then use the new layer to annotate etc. Then the document can be exported again with the annotations.

There are several ways to list documents, but in the start-up mode the tablet will have a rM (access to settings etc), then below that and My Files, then Notebooks, Documents, Ebooks and Bookmarks.

Notebooks are where you create documents., which can also be organised into folders. Each page can support multiple layers and there are several templates available (plain pages, isometric, ruled, dots, etc).

It's possible to delete Notebooks/EBooks etc from the device.

A slight oddity is with Quick sheets which is a single notebook that's always there. Multiple pages can be created and functionality is identical to a Notebook, though there doesn't seem to be anyway of deleting them, so once a page is created, though it's possible to erase the data of it, there's no way to delete the actual pages themselves.

The 3 keys at the bottom of the tablet are for navigation, left button goes back a page, middle is home and right goes forward a page.

At some point in the future there will be a system to convert hand written text to text, but that's not there yet and there's no timescales for when it will be implemented (there's been no software updates for the device since it arrived).

Should you get one? It's a really good idea and it's transportable i.e. you'd use this instead of a pad of paper. However there are quirks and the software could do with improving. It's nice to be able to annotate existing documents or use it to draw (if your writing is illegible with a pen, it will be just as illegible on the reMarkable). It is nice to be able to export straight to a PDF of JPG.

Pre-orders were heavily discounted but it's now shipping for £579