KW1202 – One Linux to Rule Them All

One Linux

Sometimes the way to achieve “less” is to make more use of the things you already have. If the thing you already have is a fairly powerful old laptop, what you may find is that it makes the perfect home server. This week Knightwise tells us all about the laptop with the new lease on life.

Credits

Episode produced by Keith Murray
Home screen picture courtesy of PixaBay

 

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KW1201 – Less Is More

minimalist

Less. It’s often been said that less is more. For those of us who lean towards a more technology-inspired lifestyle it can often be challenging not to try out the next new thing. One more app, one more device, one more Linux distro. But maybe, just maybe, sometimes we’re better off seeing what we can accomplish with what we have, and maybe churning out a bit more stuff with a bit less gear.

Credits

Episode produced by Keith Murray
Home screen picture courtesy of MaxPixel

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Fight Your Digital Redundancy

Device Overload

How About “Just” the iPad?

Whenever I have been pack my bag for my morning commute I get annoyed with the sheer redundancy of the stuff I take with me. Here I am packing not one, but three or four “computer capable” devices into a bag to haul off to some office somewhere.

Not only am I carrying around more devices then I could possibly operate at one time, the software on these devices is redundant as well. For some reason I cannot fathom I have 3 different versions of Microsoft Word on my person. One on my PC, One on my smartphone and one on my tablet. It is possible to dream up a situation in which I might be required to use said trifecta of Microsoft’s favorite text-blender simultaneously… but that would involve an alien invasion and myself in the unlikely role of the geek that saves the world with a bulleted list.

Blame the Lizard Brain

So why do we (still) cling to this redundancy? The answer is simple: because it feels safe. After 7 years in the tablet era we still have not come to “trust” these devices in a way we trust our beloved PC’s (which by now are seriously starting to mimmic our tablets in both appearance and behavior). God knows its not because the tablet apps are by some means sub-standard or don’t offer what we need. The one major hurdle the tablet haters could never get over was the lack of an ‘actual’ filesystem on iOS or Android. Sandboxed applications drove them insane. Yet what do we see today? PC based operating systems are – out of sheer self-preservation – starting to move in a very similar direction. Windows 10 supports installation of unified apps from its app store (in essence a sandbox) and Linux is embracing a more contained approach to applications with their container-oriented Snap packages. With the average smartphone having enough RAM and CPU power to put a PC from 2013 to shame and even the most low-end tablet having a screen resolution that matches the TV in the living room, technical shortcomings are no excuse either. Then what is it that turns us into digital packrats?

The real answer is in the fact that we only think we are carrying around redundant devices because we make them redundant.

We install Word on our phone, our tablet and our laptop because we can. We try to read a spreadsheet on our phone because we can. We even try to edit family photos on a 7 inch laptop using nothing but our stubby fingers. All because we can. Certainly not because we have to.

Somehow with the overabundant availability of identical software on different devices we have started to think that we have to click on “install” everywhere. No wonder it feels redundant.

Specialization is the Key

If we truly where to look at the real strength of each device, we would figure out what do do where pretty quickly. Short messages and communication? Phone. Watching video’s on the go or browsing through news articles while sitting on the train? Tablet. Full blown posture friendly photo editing? PC/Laptop.

You see? No more redundancy. Instead you have a sense that your devices are complementary, depending on the task you do and the situation you are in.

Don’t do a 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle with chopsticks. Don’t use a lawnmower to trim your nails. Stay away from the firehose when you want to water that delicate orchid in the living room. Each device has its use, its purpose and its strength (just like you btw). So remember that next time you feel tempted to install Powerpoint on your smartphone: (to quote commander Scott in Star Trek V) “Use the right tool for the right job!” So ask yourself: “is this really the right device for the job? And if it’s not, do it somewhere else.

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Things to consider when hunting for the perfect laptop bag.

Call it geek envy, but sometimes you see somebody walking around with a piece of gear and you think by yourself : I want this too. No matter if you need it, or even have a use for it, you want it. Just because the other geek has it to. I regularly get a case of the “geek envies” when I see people use cool smartphones, fancy laptops or … Laptop bags. Yes: My name is Knightwise and i’m a laptop bag junkie.

My wife regularly makes fun of me when I am relentlessly drawn towards the ‘bag’ section of some store, looking for the ‘ideal geek bag’. For some reason I’ve collected several messenger bags to lug around all my gear. Yet for some reason none of them is ‘perfect’ and I’m always on the look for that “ideal bag”.

So as you might have noticed: Laptop-bag-geek-envy struck me this week after watching a couple of episodes of Mr Robot, where the hero walks around with one of these giant “Tactical backpacks” that hold his laptop. It triggered me into an hour long Amazon click-fest researching which backpack Eliot was using and what the pro’s and cons were of using a setup like that. What it basically comes down to is that there is no ‘perfect’ laptopbag because every bag has its ups and downs

Plopping one of these babies down on a table might confuse people because the don’t know if you are going to pull out an  iPad or a couple of fully automatic machine guns

Tough but Rough

Picking up on the ‘Tactical Laptop bag’ that our hero uses in “Mr Robot” you run into your first problem. These rugged military grade laptop bags are very cool to cary around and basically indestructible. They make you look like a special ops member on his day off. Plopping one of these babies down on a table might confuse people because the don’t know if you are going to pull out an  iPad or a couple of fully automatic machine guns. As a result having a military grade laptop bag might not be the best choice if  you are in a corporate environment where a little elegance is required. So at come point you might need to choose between Rough & Tough or elegant and smart.

Roomie but bulky.

The other factor you might need to consider is the size of your laptop backpack. These things come in all shapes and sizes depending on what you want to tuck in there. Ranging from a size that can barely hold an adult tribble to a backpack that would allow you to cross the himalaya in a single go, there is a lot to choose from. Going for a backpack that is roomy might be  very convenient when you want to cram in your entire mobile office for the day: Laptop, Lunchbox, extra sweater, perhaps some  books, your tablet .. you name it. Some of these larger size backpacks eat it up like black holes eat stars .. the downside is that they also increase in mass. What you might end up with is a backpack that weighs  a ton and is very very hard on your back and  shoulders. The fact that you can keep cramming stuff in does not mean that its actually healthy to haul all of that around without the additional use of an antigrav unit or a pair or repulser lifts.

Slick but tight.

The one way to decrease the weight of your backpack is by going for something smaller. The less crap you can shove into your backpack, the better .. right ? Perhaps, but the downside here is that there is a ‘bare minimum’ of stuff you need to  carry with you. Having a small and slick backpack does increase the chance that your gear does not have enough protection because  there is hardly any room between the corner of your laptop and the edge of your backpack. One strategically placed ‘bump’ and you might end up with a cracked screen. The other thing that is also a risk here (or with any other backpack) is the fact that you cram in to much stuff and pressure is applied to the center of your laptop screen, making it bend as you walk around. Not something you want.

Thule EnRoute Escort 2 Daypack Review
Thule EnRoute Escort 2 Daypack Review

So I looked at all the pro and cons and went for something ‘in the middle’: Sufficiently geeky-and-tactical, not too big and not too small. I ended up going for the Thule Enroute 2 Blur. Like all products it is sufficiently rugged and durable to use on a daily bases. It has plenty of compartments to keep your stuff organised (I hate it when crap rattles around in my backpack) and going for the ‘Blur’ version meant it was roomy enough for my 15 inch laptop with some room to spare. The backpack has some nice adjustable straps that don’t cut into your shoulders. When it comes to size it hits the sweet spot between where I still have enough room for my gear, but am unable to pack up everything AND the kitchen sink before I leave the house. At about 99 euro’s online it was not  the cheapest backpack around, but it was the only one that ticked all the boxes I mentioned above. Geeky, Roomy, Safe and slick.  Its the perfect laptopbag .. until I go crave another one.

Links: Thule Enroute 2 Blur.

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KW1004 Microsoft Surface Pro 3

This week’s show is an in-depth look at the Surface Pro 3 from Microsoft. We tackle the hardware, the software and the applications that make this device a contender for a daily driver. We also have another great track from Daniel Messer. Let’s get into it!

Links

Music

Credits

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Zen week : Work on your ‘chicken neck’ posture with this simple video.

” Sit up straight” , “Don’t hunch like that” , “Pull your neck back” . You might have all gotten these remarks at some time in the past. The fact is : the people who told us are probably right. We hunch over our screens , our tablets our smartphones. We tilt our necks forward and “bog down” while we are raving away on the digital plain. One of the ways this affects our posture is by growing a “chicken neck” where our head it tilted forward relevant to our shoulders. Its bad for you, it gives you headaches, affects your health and by the time you are 60 you will look like a one of these scowering trolls from the lord of the rings movie.
The good news is : You can fix it : With just a couple of exercises explained in the video below you can work on your posture, improve your health and look REGAL while you are doing it.

 

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Zen week : Guard your sleep cycle with f.lux

Its “Zen” week on Knightwise.com where we are going to give you some tips on turning you hyper connected lifestyle a little more towards the “pool of tranquility” that is a state of Zen.
Lets start out with a cool little app called F.LUX.

The screens on our devices (laptops , tablets, phones) are designed to mimic the blue hue of daylight as much as possible so we can enjoy a clear an crisp image and be “productive”. However, our brains and our sleep cycle are triggered by the presence or absence of daylight. As the sun sets it gets darker in the evening, our brain tells our body to get ready for bed and once we lie down we hopefully doze off. But RIGHT before you go to bed you quickly check your Facebook feed on the  super-daylight-bright display of your laptop. Your eyes notice the “Daylight color” and your brain thinks .. ” F*ck ! It’s noon ! ” and completely resets your bio clock. Result : You have a hard time getting to sleep ! And this is BAD for you !

F.lux_App_Review

So enter F.lux.  F.lux will adjust the color temperature of your screen according to the time of day.  In the morning your screen will have a much “warmer” color to match the rising sun. As the day progresses F.lux will adjust the brightness and color tone to “daytime” only to “wind it down” back to a warm tone in the evening. This puts less strain on your eyes and makes your laptop much more sleep-cycle friendly.

You can disable flux from the menu-bar icon for an hour or until the next day to prevent it messing up your colors when you are doing video editing or photoshop.

F.lux is free and is available for : 

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“Whats in your bag week” Day 5 : Cody Cooper.

CodyBW_1

What’s In My Bag? By Cody Cooper

I’ve always been a person to carry bag full of goodies. Looking back on my days as a boy scout isn’t a positive nostalgic experience for me as I was always the little fat kid that didn’t belong. The outcast among the athletes, put there by my parents in hopes that I would become more social and find new interests, which just didn’t happen.

BUT, the motto from that organization always stuck with me:

“Always prepared”

When I think of childhood heroes I, of course, have two people that come to mind: MacGyver and Pee-Wee Herman.

MacGuyver because, well, MacGyver, and Pee-Wee Herman because of his bike from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. If only MacGyver owned that bike! What he could have accomplished? I guess we will never know. Needless to say I was always drawn to creative problem solving and utility items. They seemed to go hand in hand.

The earliest time in my life I remember carrying a bag with a lot of stuff in it was in junior high. I came from a working class family and when it came to treats I was never given big candy bars or cans of soda, I had to settle for the bulk candy section at the grocery store. My mother would buy a couple pounds of this candy and keep it at the house, but one day I remember taking one with me to school, about half a pound of wrapped peppermint candy.

My fellow students would see me unwrapping the candy around school, popping one in my mouth and the look on my face as it slowly melted away over several minutes. I then starting making friends as I would comply with requests for a piece here and there. Then one day I had someone offer me one dollar for ten pieces and a little sound went off in my head:

“Cha-ching!”

After the success of this little enterprise I of course had to expand my catalog of products to include bubble gum, chocolates, pixie sticks, hot cinnamons, root beer barrels and the like. I was even taking special orders for other items such as beef jerky, Corn Nuts (Ranch and BBQ only), Funyuns, Doritos, etc.

After a while I actually needed to buy a bigger bag to accommodate the merchandise and my school books, so going to the store to buy a new bag to suit my day to day needs was always fun.

Which brings my to my first item on this list of things that I are in my bag: the bag itself.

IMG_20141028_215041_1

Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger

http://goo.gl/5nBwdY

Maxpedition is a great company that makes bags for all sorts of outdoor, EDC and military needs. Out of all the backpacks that I have owned in my day (quite a few) this is my favorite and the first that made me feel content in my choice knowing that I will stick with this thing until it dies, and if and when it does I will stick with the brand.

Check YouTube for all the neat hacks that other people have done with this pack.

NOTE – This is a slingpack, which I traditionally don’t like, but it has a “support strap” that comes from the back and under your ribs that attaches to the main strap which adds a lot of stability to the pack rather than flopping around as you move. Also, you have two different options (regular or S-Type) which will accommodate either left or right-handed people.

DEVICES

Acer Chromebook C710

http://goo.gl/ozhwQt

This little guy has been through a lot during our time together. Several Linux installs (every which way I could get it on there, I did it), many late nights being adorned with stickers and she even survived a viscous attack from a then 11 month old (my son tore off the bottom panel which is now held on by tape). Always faithful, always fast.

LG Google Nexus 5 32gb (Black)

http://goo.gl/dT0aoi

I love me some Nexus devices. Once you buy one off contract and don’t EVER have to wait for your manufacturer or carrier to approve Android updates, you simply will never go back.

Trust me.

Asus Google Nexus 7 (2012)

http://goo.gl/d72CN1

Great little tablet. I play the majority of my Android games on this device and she has served me well. I also consume many videos and ebooks with the help of this little gem.

HTC One M7

http://goo.gl/QLKgSl

But Cody, you already have a phone on this list! And a tablet! AND A CHROMEBOOK! Why the hell do you have carry a second phone?

For a pretty neat purpose, but you will have to follow me on social media (Cody Cooper on Google+ or @codycooper on Twitter) to find out the specifics). Who knows, I might even share the details in a future blog for knightwise.com.

Patriot 32gb Supersonic Rage Series USB 3.0 Flash Drive x 3

http://goo.gl/gWDh04

One loaded with Kali Linux, one loaded with Ubuntu 14.04 and one loaded with media. I hate USB drives with caps (I always lose them) so this retractable model was very appealing. The fact that they are blazing fast helps.

Phone/Tablet Accessories

Meenova Dash Micro for Android

http://goo.gl/4cdjcT

We’ve heard it all before:

Billy

“I can’t buy this phone! It only has 32gb of internal storage! Which will be about 27 or less when I boot it for the first time after taking into account the OS and bloatware from my carrier that I can’t remove! THERE’S GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY!”

Smartphone Salesperson

“Who needs more than 32gb of data anyway? I only use, like, 4gb”

Billy

“Get away from me. Right. Now.”

Cody Cooper

“Well Billy, there is a better way! And what if I told you that there was a tiny device that would act as as a microSD card reader and that its compatible with most modern devices?”

Billy

“That sounds great, but seriously man, where did you come from?”

Cody Cooper

“Don’t worry about that Billy, just follow the link above to rememdy your mobile storage needs.”

Smartphone Salesperson

“So what is it going to take for you guys to switch your service to our company?”

Cody Cooper

“Unlimited Data or cash, lots of cash.”

END SCENE

MicroSD Card Holder from Sdcardholder.com

http://goo.gl/fZFQth

For storing all those SD/microSD/SIM cards on the go in a nice, safe and compact manner.

SanDisk 64GB Ultra Class 10 Micro SDXC x 2

http://goo.gl/ULao4a

Because I don’t have a give you a reason! Speed! Storage!

Samsung Galaxy Bluetooh Wireless Keyboard

http://goo.gl/cIuID6

I acquired this from a friend who didn’t like the fact that it came free with his awful tablet. His loss, my gain.

NOTE – get rechargeable batteries for this.

Cable Matters MHL 2.0 to HDMI Adapter

http://goo.gl/6UNREJ

+

Cable Matters Smlimport/MyDP to HDMI Adapter

http://goo.gl/6UNREJ

+

HDMI Cables x 2

For the above adapters

+

Second Screen

http://goo.gl/0G0TaK

For those times when you want to take over a large display and use your phone on a bigger screen. The hardware and software to do so. I carry both MHL and Slimport adapters so I can also show my friends with compatible phones how easy it is. It helps you make with the awesome. Who needs to carry a Chromecast when I just jack right into the display directly!

BONUS – works great with projectors!

Anker 2nd Gen Astro 3 12000maH Portable Battery

http://goo.gl/XQd9QD

This is a great portable charger that has PowerIQ technology, which is fancy talk for “it charges things as fast as they need to be, but no faster and no slower. With three USB ports, I have made many friends with this little device.

New Trent iCarrier 12000maH Portable Batter

http://goo.gl/WkwKRP

Now Cody, don’t you already have a portable battery on this list?

Yes, I do.

BUT, you have never have enough juice.

NEVER.

(Truth be told I lost this one for a time then bought the Anker above as a replacement, and wouldn’t you know it, I found it the day the replacement arrived? Don’t tell my wife!)

Anker 40W 5-Port Desktop USB Charger

http://goo.gl/ZjWX2D

We’ve all been there, several items to charge but only one free port in the wall socket! Don’t fret, you can charge five devices at the same time with this sucker. Also has PowerIQ technology.

Media

DVD-R x 8 (Ubuntu 14.04 x 4, Blank x4)

I carry these on me to help friends with their machines and I usually leave the disc with them along with a list of instructions for Live CD operation.

The blanks? Because you never know.

Tools

Gerber Shard Keychain Tool

http://goo.gl/AfG14Y

I have this on a keyring and attached to the little coiled cord in one section of my pack. Part crowbar, part screwdriver, part bottle opener and then some, this tool packs in the usefulness into a small form factor.

Stanley Screwdriver Pen Tool

http://goo.gl/Xbslsc

Four screwdrivers inside a pen? Yes please! Two phillips and two flathead screwdrivers in each “bit” makes this a handy little gadget.

Consumables

Contigo Stainless Steel Water Bottle

http://goo.gl/CPk0V9

Because hydration is important… assuming I ONLY have water in there. You’ll never know… trust me.

Beef Jerky

Because delicious and because good source of mobile protein/sodium to prevent me from eating chips. I hate chips, but sometimes I crave salt. WIN!

Ibuprofen Liqui-Gels (200mg)

For life’s little headaches.

NOTE – Must be liqui-gels. Not tablets, not caplets… LIQUI-GELS!

Entertainment

Sennheiser PMX 6XX Adidas Sports In-Ear Neckband Headphones

http://goo.gl/HJzJBo

For listening to music/podcasts when other people are around.

Beats Pill Portable Speaker (3.5mm cable included)

http://goo.gl/buE9uF

For listening to music/podcasts when other people aren’t around.

MISC

Uni-Ball Jetstream Retractable Ball Point Pen (Bold)

http://goo.gl/dL4QVL

The only pens I will ever use. Think your pen is nice? Well isn’t that cute?

5×8 Legal Pad x 2 + Mini Clipboard

For mind-dumping. I have always taken better notes on paper and this type of notepad with the perforated pages has always suited my writing style. I’m lost without these.

Assorted Zip Ties x MANY

I am the zip tie king. There will be no askew cables near any of my machines. I have found all sorts of cool uses for these over the years and I have become quite the zip tie snob.

Startech Self-Adhesive Cable Tie Mounts

http://goo.gl/O1ZxCR

To assist with the implementation of the above item.

Small Wire Cutters

http://goo.gl/lruJQ9

Ditto

6ft Ethernet Cable x 3

Because reasons.

Gorilla Tape

http://goo.gl/nd8EHc

When duct tape won’t cut it. AND, it secures the bottom panel of an aging Chromebook VERY well ;-).

Now some of you are probably wondering, “does he really carry all this stuff with him every day?”

The answer, is yes. For some, it’s overkill, for others it’s not nearly enough, but for me each of these items I have decided to put into this bag to fill a need that I once had. To prevent that moment of, “I sure do wish I had ______ right now” from happening again. Every mistake is a learning opportunity if you look at it just the right way. Carry with you what will suit your NEEDS, not your wants, and you will do fine.

And, most importantly, if you take the time to arrange such a collection of items into a bad, whatever you do, don’t leave it at home and then subsequently get stuck in a snow storm in your work town left with nothing but the technology of your family. What does that look like? Search my name on knightwise.com for a previous blog of mine.

Don’t forget the popcorn and tissues, it’s entertaining and sad.

Cody Cooper is a podcaster with the Podnutz network, co-hosting Linux for the Rest of Us with Stephen McLaughlin, the DoortoDoorGeek. Cody is a husband and father of two who enjoys all things tech. You can contact Cody at cody@podunutz.com or follow him on social media (Cody Cooper on Google+ or @codycooper on Twitter). Please drop him a line, he really does like talking to new people despite what you’ve heard.

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kw805 : Whats in my bag ?

We return to the podcasting routine with a show that is packed with Gadgets and clever life hacks. Its time to turn our geek bag upside down and tell you not only what is inside of it, but also HOW we use it. Tune in and learn the secret of how to become the optimal, creative, productive and entertained digital packrat without shlepping around a portable datacenter on your bag. Hone your vulcan hearing as we tell you “Whats in my Bag” (and how do we use it).

Shownotes.

  • Intro
  • My routine
  • Whats in my bag
  • Less is more.

BONUS : The behind the scene “hangout” of this shows recording.

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Cool Kickstarter Kicks (By Matthew Deboysere.

Biweekly I go through Kickstarter and try to find some interesting projects that you just must back. I have backed 22 projects since February 2011. My strategy is simple: I just cruise through the pages until I find something I like. Sometimes I search for keywords. Earlier this week for example I tried “laptop” and some awesome stuff popped up.

Dart-Laptop-Adapter

Take for example the Dart. It’s a universal laptop charger, the size of a lip stick. It costs you 90 USD and you’ll get a charger by 2015. It’s a great idea, but this Kickstarter project resembles the main issue I have with Kickstarter: it’s most of the times just an idea. The charger delivers 65W and puts out 18 to 21V. So it won’t charge certain tablets or stronger laptops. The word “universal” is also something that needs some in-depth research, as you need licensing for the Macbook plugs for example (and even Macbooks have two different types of plugs right now). Buying the standard version will cost you 90 USD, but 199 USD for a European Macbook charger? I don’t think my charger is that big anyway…

It’s a great example of an awesome idea that’s not ready yet to be sold, but it’s worth investing in these type of projects. It’s because of the funding they receive of their backers, that they can actually go further and finalize their projects. Kickstarter isn’t always about asking financial aid to finish something, but to actually help create something.

467793392_640

The story of the Airbar is something completely different. Those guys have tested and finished their prototypes and are ready to launch. I have to agree: when you are looking for a cooling device for your overheated notebook, they always tend to be oversized, heavy and they don’t seem to cool at all. Jordan Meyers created the Airbar, which he hopes to sell through Kickstarter. For 75 USD, you’ll receive a slick bar which lifts the back of your laptop by an inch for some comfortable typing, while sucking in air. Meyers choose some smaller but more expensive fans than the lower end fans that most cooling pads include. And to be honest, it even looks great too. I’m afraid it won’t meet its goal, but it’s worth a shot. Because really, how cool is a cooling gadget? No hipster is going to get this.

Last but not least is something more general about crowdfunding and why I like Kickstarter more than Indiegogo or other funding platforms. The campaign advisors of Kickstarter are very strict. If you don’t meet their requirements, you won’t get in. It’s that simple. Indiegogo allows everyone to enter and get started. They call themselves the World’s Funding Engine. I call them the crap sellers. Not to say that Kickstarter has the best projects, but I do want to say that Indiegogo has the worst. While searching for “laptop”, I found nine projects of the first twelve called “I need a new laptop, help me buy it.”

rufus-cuff_02

What I did find on Indiegogo that I wanted to mention, is the Rufus Cuff. It’s not a laptop project, but it’s a oversized smartwatch. It costs you 269, but it looks really awesome! I don’t think it will become more Star Trek than this, except if in the future we will get beamed up by Scotty. The Rufus Cuff allows you to text, call, Skype and take pictures on your wrist. It will even notify you when you left your phone behind. You can surf the web, do fitness exercises with the GPS, gyrometer and other built in analysis tools. It runs on a full Android version so you can install all apps on it. You only can’t call directly with it, as it needs a Bluetooth connection with your phone. It’s water resistant so you can text and call while in the rain or in the shower. Be quick though, as the campaign ends in less than a week.

Matthew Deboysere is a video game journalist for several Belgian media. Is the co-founder of G.Mag, a free digital gaming magazine, but left for a new adventure. Previously wrote for GUNK and 9lives. Loves video games with a great story that reduces him to tears. And cat videos.

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