Product Review: Sony Walkman W series. A cord free mp3/headphone combo

klout perk sony walkman mp3

Sony Walkman W Series MP3 Headphone

The Sony Walkman W series is an mp3 player that essentially looks like two blue tooth headsets connected by a cord behind your head. If you’ve even worn headphone that wrap around the back of your head for biking, running, etc. then imagine that is all you are wearing… I mean, imagine that the headphones don’t have a cord, you aren’t carrying an mp3 player, or a phone. The headphones ARE the mp3 player (“the files are IN the computer”).

the music is in the headphones…

If you have read MAKERS by Cory Doctorow (Amazon or Free download from Craphound), then you are familiar with the in-ear mp3 players that he describes in a not too distant future world.  The Sony Walkman W series is the closest thing I’ve seen to these, and to be perfectly honest I am a little surprised that Walkman was the first one to market on these.

Cory Doctorow signing a copy of Makers for me during his “Homeland” tour

That Sony made it happen, I guess isn’t that surprising; but the idea, and the ability, have both been available for at least a couple years. It was just a matter of pioneering the development and production. Ok, maybe first to market is an exaggeration, but at their price point ($69) and the production level they are producing it doesn’t seem horribly comparable to the other in-ear mp3 players out there.

One feature that I think is smart, both in functionality and target audience, is making them water resistant and the upcoming waterproof model. My wife has the lifeproof case for her iPhone, specifically because she wanted to go swimming with it… She hasn’t invested in waterproof headphones yet, but it has saved her at the MGM lazy river in Vegas, and when she listens to audio books while playing Candy Crush in the tub. For people who swim and want to listen to music while they do it, there are a variety of products out there, but it seems like the biggest problem is where to put an mp3 player/phone in a swim suit? Having an all in one unit seems like it would be a necessity for swimmers, but it is also convenient for…. everyone.

The most common feature that I’ve heard people mention online during the review process is that there are no cords.

Whether you are running, biking, swimming, or fighting your way through the cubicle jungle, being cord free is so convenient. It’s liberating really. Music is what fuels me through the day whether I’m working, working out, or whatever. When I’m at my desk I have over-ear headphones plugged into my speakers, and even with an extension I have to take my headphones off before reaching for the far drawers (yes I work in an industry that still uses paper documents). When I worked at GE and I spent most of my days back and forth between the lab and meetings, I would run my headphones through my shirt so that when I took them out of my ears they would hang there (rather than constantly wadding them up and shoving them hastily in my pocket). I was never a huge fan of that because I think that headphones hanging out of my collar looked unprofessional (unless I was wearing a lab coat), but there is more to a good mp3 player than just being cord free.

Uploading is fairly simple, just connect the device and drag-and-drop; or you can install the .exe that is on the headset. The device charges (like most) through the same connection, a common micro usb. I haven’t tried it, but you could probably charge it with an android phone charger. A full charge gives you 8 hours of play time. 3 minutes of charging gives you 60 minutes of play-time. If you run for longer than an hour at a time (active wear seems to be their primary target audience) then you will just have to be patient. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if you’re willing to spend over an hour putting one foot in front of the other with no particular destination, you’d also be willing to let your headphones charge for another minute or two.

I guess when you win marathons and Olympic races you need an 8 hour battery life

I haven’t tested the 3 minute charge claim yet, but I did test the full charge yesterday, and mine clocked out at 9.5 hours of play time. Granted that was the first charge and perhaps I don’t listen to my music as loudly as you do. I did use pause a lot, so total time on yesterday was closer to 11-12 hours, but it seems as though if you pause them for more than a few seconds they go into a sleep mode.

The play, pause, volume, skip, shuffle, etc. features are all simple and easy to use. There are six buttons, and an on/off switch. Overall the device is simple, without being so minimalist as to require cheat-code like button combinations.

The sound is surprisingly good (considering the price). The best comparison I personally have are the Heavy Medal ($80) or Titan ($50) by Skull Candy. I’ve tried several other brands, but can’t remember the model names, and I have found that per price point Skull Candy is as good or better than everything else I’ve tried. This is of course excluding headphones over $100, and only talking about sound quality. So these headphones are as good as the Titans IMO. They don’t have the range, but the general quality would be indistinguishable to most people. Considering that the entire Sony headset is only $10 more than the Skull Candy headphone this is pretty impressive. They obviously have to have lower quality sound components in order to come in at the same price. I think that the sound quality for this device largely comes from the lack of cord. Anyone who has used a DJ cord knows that the longer the cord the more the sound degrades. This is usually negligible with short distances, but by connecting the headphones directly to the device they eliminate any loss caused by the headphone jack and the cord. This means that down the road a higher quality speaker could seriously increase the sound quality.

All of the above is my honest opinion and simple facts. I’m not trying to build up the product, because there is nothing in it for me. I got a free headphone/mp3 player that I could afford to purchase (but probably wouldn’t have), and I’m grateful to Sony for the opportunity to review them, but my integrity costs more than that.  Most of the improvements are technological that could be said of any tech device: smaller, longer batter, more storage, etc. etc. but for the price, I think Sony hit a great balance between cost and function. I didn’t find much ‘wrong’ with them, besides the fact that if you don’t know what they are, it kind of looks like I’m wearing two Bluetooth headsets. I don’t own a single Bluetooth headset, and depending on your opinion of them, seeing a guy wearing TWO would either make him x2 busier/cooler, or x2 more of a tool.  I wasn’t the only one to test these (5,000 people claimed the perk), but of all of the tweets I read (most people used the Sony supplied hastag #FitnessWalkman) I only came across one naysayer.

Besides personally finding them uncomfortable, Dr. Poinsett thought they were distracting, and implored us to think of the children. While her point is completely valid; distractedness causes accidents and that teen death isn’t a joking matter. I personally don’t think that tech kills people, stupidity does. If someone gets into a car wreck because they were texting and driving, the phone didn’t cause the accident; It is stupid to text and drive. Whether or not it is stupid to run while you listen to music…. I guess that depends on the person.

To sum up. I love them, I will wear them until they wear out or another gen comes out that is substantially better. At which point I will most likely buy them and dismantle the pair I was given to see if I can somehow “improve” upon them, but as of right now I can’t think of any improvements that I could make.

too good to tinker with (right now)

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2013 Goals

So I have spent the last few weeks working on my goals for 2013. They aren’t perfect, but I’ve come to realize (or re-realize) that goals are moving targets. They should grow and evolve as you get closer to reaching them. So rather than postpone this post until the end of the year I figured I would post them now, and then follow up at the end of 2013.

Posting these here isn’t about bragging (especially since I know many friends who will set and achieve higher goals this year). It is an attempt to make myself more accountable for these goals.

Graduate

I am 6 months into an 11 month Executive MBA program at the University of New Orleans.

University of New Orleans Privateer logo

I can’t think of a much better mascot for an MBA program than a Privateer

Graduation is December of this year. So my number one goal, and my largest time commitment outside of work, is to graduate. During my undergraduate career I honestly didn’t care that much about my GPA. I cared about learning (both inside and outside the class), paying for school (I worked at least 2 jobs and graduated with less than $5k in loans), my research, and my social life.  But this time around I care about my grades, what I’m learning, and the connections I’m making. I have a number in my head of what GPA I want to achieve. Lets just say more As than Bs and no Cs.

200 pages a week

My brother Tac Anderson had a goal for 2012 to read 52 books, 1 book per week.

I like the idea of setting a reading goal, because reading good content is a great stretch goal for any individual. If you read/learned something new every day of your life not only would you know a lot by the end, but you would stay forever young by ingraining the openness and collaborative nature of learning in your character. But with my MBA, work, etc. I felt like a goal of 52 books was ambiguous because of the drastic difference in length of the books I read. I also fear that I would finish or select books based on the goal. So after much thought the idea dawned on me to set my goal by number pages. That way whether I read a 7 page scientific journal article, a 1-2 page blog (actually read, not just skim), text for my MBA course, or science fiction, the total number of pages I digest in a week from any source would add to the goal. To help make this goal more real, track it better, and hopefully get more out of it, starting next week, I hope to have a weekly blog post of the 200+ pages I’ve read. It will hopefully be a brief (1-2 sentences per source) digest of the pages I read during the week.

I hope the weekly digest of the 200+ pages/week I read, will be useful to everyone as I hope to summarize dozens of blogs, a handful of science articles, and large chunks of fiction and non-fiction in a sentence or two each.

Run a 5k 

History:

You may or may not know that in September of 2008 I as hit by a car while ridding my bike.   In the accident my the bike frame was thrown into my left knee dislocating it, and worst of all doing bone damage to my the femur at the joint. Since then I have had two knee surgeries. The first to replace my torn ACL, micro-fracturing of the bone in an effort to induce new cartilage growth to cover the damaged bone, and repair the meniscus and MCL. The second surgery a year later was to repair a bucket tear in my lateral meniscus . Because of the location and size, removing it would have left me with almost no meniscus.

When I was hit I was training for a triathlon and hoping to work up to an Ironman before I turned 30 (I turned 30 this last year). I ran cross country in high school, swam my first 2 mile competition when I was 14, and have always been and avid cyclist (usually mountain biking). So it has been hard to not run. Both of my doctors have told me that I will eventually need a knee replacement. It is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’. And that the more running I do the sooner I will need it. My first surgeon said “you should save running for the sports you do”, when I responded that “running is my sport” he recommended that I “find another sport”. He suggested cycling, but as you can imagine a month after getting hit by a car I wasn’t too keen on getting to heavy into that sport. Currently I cycle more (not as much as before the accident) but I am still weary of any and all roads, especially now that I live in the south where the apparently don’t believe in bike lanes. I currently can’t run faster than a jog and for more than a few dozen strides at a time. If I run pushing the stroller to stabilize and support I can currently jog almost a mile. But that is progress that I’ve made within the last year.

Goal:

My goal is to at least run a 5k by the end of the year. There are several training methods I have in mind to help me reach this goal, it largely depends on the progress of my knee as I go through strengthening, pre-running, and other rehab exercises. One of my biggest problems with training is not pushing myself too hard. I know there are athletic people out there who are shacking their heads and possibly yelling at there monitors that you have to push yourself, let me clarify. I have found out that I either have a high threshold for pain, or I have a neurological block. I’m don’t want to give examples for fear of sounding like a on-upper, so let me just say that I have a history of pushing to the point where I do more bad than good, I’ve been told in those instances that what I was doing should have been painful, but for me they weren’t particularly painful.

This goal includes several sub-goals. I have more specifics in writing right now (including a training calendar etc.) but as it is a living goal I will list just the higher level stuff.

  • Achieve and maintain weight of 170 pounds or less than 12% body fat. I hope to further reduce that, but for this years goal I think this is sufficient.
  • Exercise 5-10 hours per week. That is both an upper and lower goal. I don’t want to work out more than 10 hours in a week for fear of getting burnt out and/or interfering with my other goals. When you are training for long distance running it isn’t that hard to put more than 10 hours in in a week. If I start getting to that length of training I will re-evaluate the goal, but I honestly feel that if I am spending 10+ hours/week running that; 1) my knee is obviously feeling better, but that is still probably more running than is good for it, and 2) I need to rethink how I am training.

As time goes on I hope to post the things I am doing as part of my training and knee rehab. Not sure if I should start a separate blog just for my knee, but seeing as I don’t even blog here often enough I don’t think I’ll keep up with two blogs any better 😉

give up single player games

As much as I love Angry Birds, Sugar Crush, and Lego Lord of the Rings, playing a game by yourself is an addictive waste of time. There is so much more I would love to do when I manage to get a spare minute to myself. Between my MBA, work, a startup (shhh it wont launch for a few months still), a 2 year old, and a loving wife, I have to dedicate a lot fo time to the things I love; leaving fleeting few minutes to myself. So why would I spend them doing something that doesn’t matter? Of all the things I will wish I had done more of on my death bed, Angry Birds will not be one of them.

– List of things I’d rather do with my spare time:

  • Read books.
  • Make things. (the 201 & counting Instructables I’ve bookmarked in hopes of doing later)
  • Watch Battlestar Galactica. That’s right, I’ve never seen it. I’m almost ashamed to admit it openly, hopefully they won’t deny me tickets to comic-con, or revoke my engineering degree. The good news is that Haley and I started watching it, we finished episode 2 last night.
  • Write
  • Do any of the numerous things I’ve been putting off… or maybe I’ll just continue to postpone them in favor of something else on this list.
  • Watch all the movies I want to see but I know my wife doesn’t want to. Including Will Ferrel’s last two movies Casa de mi Padre and The Campaign 

There are a few more goals, but these are the big ones.

Same Passion, Different Generations

My father in law came over last night w/ an Ardruino Uno and asked if I had ever heard of

Arduino uno

Ardruino, and if I would like to help him out with a project. I had to use a lot of self control to keep from jumping over the couch and hugging him right then and there. Before I had a chance to explain that I love Ardruino, and that at times the only reason I hadn’t quit my job and taken up hacking/inventing using Ardruino platforms is because I know my beautiful wife would be very sad (I actually don’t think she would leave me, she loves the mad scientist in me; but she also loves me not spending money we don’t because I quit my job on more stuff that takes up 99% of the garage). Before I could tell him about laundry list of arduino projects just waiting for an excuse good enough to justify doing. Before I could tell him about the Raspberry Pi, or the Beagle Board. Before I could gush about all of my excitement, he said “ya know, ardruino is going to change everything”. My response; “it already has”.

world maker faire poster

This might seem like a random rant but it sums up a social/generational situation that I have run into at least explicitly at least a dozen times this month, and indirectly almost every day. The “Maker movement” and baby boomers. Boomers honestly are the best people to have involved in a Makerspace, hackerspace, project, startup, whatever; because they have so much experience, and “making” is what most of them grew up doing. Only when they were younger it didn’t have a title per se, it was just tinkering or getting the job done. You don’t see enough boomers in the make/hack/startup community because of a variety of reasons; but the problem I face constantly is trying to communicate how big of a deal things, like 100kGarages and Make, are despite the fact that they feel so familiar and common place to a generation that has spent their evenings in garages making stuff.

festival for little makers

IMO the Maker Movement is about moving (some) production from factories in China back to your back yard/garage. It is a work ethic as old as time, an inventive nature innate in so many people, and technology younger than the Millennial  coupled with skills and trades older than the Boomers even.

Making stuff is timeless, but faces change with time.

Learning what we didn’t know.

So on my lunch break today I was reading “Materials Handbook” Fifth Edition by George S. Brady. Not because I would learn something ‘new’ from a 60+ year old book. But because it is interesting to see what we have learned since then. I find it inspiring to see not only how much we have learned in a man’s lifetime (not mine, yet) but also how much scientists of the past could determine with so few instruments. In addition to that I find the examples of science we have disproved or improved gives insight into what science we currently believe that yet has room for improvement.

As somewhat of a side note, while reading this horribly outdated book vintage masterpiece I was reminded of a professor who would give no credit to any work that used Wikipedia as a resource.  He regularly told us that we had to go to the library for the information because not everything is on the internet.  And while in my given field of Material Science it’s true (I could name hundreds of subjects that aren’t even a foot note in Wikipedia), that doesn’t mean that user supplied facts are any less true than a book published 20 years ago. And yes most science books currently in use were first composed at least 20 years ago, and although each edition contains updates, the whole of the work stays very much the same in most cases.  I would bet that books (whether electronic or print) will always be the best way to present mass amounts of information (200-600+pages), but they are definitely no longer the only source of information. I think that open source information can be just as right or wrong as published information.

What I think the real lesson is that regardless of the source question the facts and more importantly the conclusions.  But don’t just ask “Is this correct”.  Ask “Why is this correct or incorrect? And how can I prove or disprove their conclusion”  Don’t question authority/science/politics/etc. for the sake of not being a lemming.  Questions it in order to find the TRUTH.

Don’t be a Hater, be a Creator.

forget twitter, fMRI FTW!

My last post (I know it’s been a long time) was about breaking research on brain image reproduction. After reading recent publications on the subject I am filled with a giddy excitement, and paranoid fear at the same time. While my scientific inner child, who wants nothing but to build world peace by the means of very large shiny tools,  dances with joy at the idea of being able to tap into all of the thoughts that his hands and mouth are too clumsy to articulate.  My paranoid sci-fi apocalyptic reading inner adult cringes at the thought of someone being able to monitor our most inner thoughts, are safest of safe places could be monitored! I suddenly feel naked in my cubicle knowing that my boss could not only monitor the key strokes of this blog, but also read my thoughts!

whoa whoa, slow down. data overload.

What I am talking about is fMRI. the possibility of being able to construct data collected from the brain in a way that you can actually see what’s going on in there.  Neuroscientists at UCLA and Rutgers University have been working on exactly that.  Turning a cat scan machine into a mental x-ray. How successful they currently are or are not may determine how sound this technology may prove to be in our lifetime. But any success is an indication that it will be one day possible.

Many of you have read the “tweet with your mind” story. I thought it would be cool tell I saw the head dress you would have to wear.  The interesting part to me was that the tech was so accessible that they put it together in a matter of weeks.

How long will it be till I don’t have to type this blog? When I make a mental note, it is actually a pdf note or list that I can go back through later. When the minds of babies can be recorded so we can actually know “what are they thinking?”. When we can download the memories of our loved ones, or not so loved ones and keep them for history. The possibilities are endless.  If you think twitter is big, wait until we have linked data w/o a computer interface. Information could be closer than your fingertips.

Brain Image Reproduction

Starting a few years ago I began to wonder if it would be possible to record what you saw like a video.  Or keep track of all of the great and fleating thoughts that you had throughout the day, without having to write them all down.  What if you could take an image that you created in your imagination and make it come to life without the need to have great fine motor skills.  That would be great for minds like mine which are creative but forgetful and lack some of the skills required to express or recreate your thoughts and ideas.

Apparently research being conducted in japan at ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories is working on solving this problem.  As of right now they can only roughly recreate black and white images viewed by a person.  But maybe the ability to read neurotransmisions and rectreate there significance digitally is not an acheivement that should be prefaced with the preposition “Only”.

More info at: Pink Tentacle

Face to face

My freshman year of college (2001), I thought it was weird that people would IM people when they where just down the hall. I quickly found myself doing it realizing that I could talk to everyone on the hall AND pretend to do my homework, and surf the web all at the same time.

One night late at IHOP (2005) I was sitting at a table with a friend, his date and her sister, you can see where this is going. I actually thought the sister was cute, so instead of pretending to go to the bathroom and dragging him along like a couple of middle school girls, I texted him to ask him about her, and if she may be interested, I also asked her sister something of the sort. They both pick up there phones and then I see her pick up her phone, realizing that one of them texted her. within 30 seconds everyone is on there phones texting and I feel like we are in 7th grade passing notes. I couldn’t stand it that long and turn to her and start conversation to end the weird circle of texting.

then when I first met my wife’s family (2006), they are all a bunch of NERDS! I was baffled to find them all one saturday morning in the living room together. I thought oh, how cool, a family that spends time together casually. Then I realized that there where 5 people using 6 computers, and that no one was verbally talking to each other. I sat down and picked up my laptop to check my e-mail, thinking that everyone was busy working on something important. Then my wife IMed me. I wasn’t 6 feet away from her. apparently they were all doing something. but in addition via e-mails and IM’s they where plotting a surprise for her mother while she was in the room. Almost everyone was in on it. The weird part of this communication was that you knew what you said, and what was said to you, but because we weren’t in a chat we had no idea what was being said to mom.

So these are a couple of random stories of my experience of using electronic comunication despite the ability to talk to people face to face. The reason I bring all of this up is because I was in a lecture on the NASA campus where someone explained the trends of human society and claimed that by the time my children (they aren’t born yet) are in college that it will not be in person.

He claimed that people will replace almost all of there face to face duties with electronic equivalents. He went on to discuss how that there are certain jobs that would seem to need a human touch. Obviously doctors are not being replaced, but a piece of equipment can often times do what there skilled hands cannot, and it may not be too long before they are no longer holding the scalpel.

an tangible example he gave was hospice/nursing homes. You may think that the elderly would prefer to talk to someone. In japan a robot was developed to give them there daily medicine, bring them drinks, etc. After a brief period the patients came to prefer the robot to the person. They resented a person for telling them what to do in there current position, but they thought of the robot as more of a helpful pet.

What do you think? will face to face interaction become obsolete. Think about this as you are reading a blog and posting a comment as opposed to sitting down in a meeting discussing it. How many times would you rather conduct business via teleconference, e-mail, text, etc. rather than sitting in a meeting discussing it in person.