Tuesday, August 12, 2008

We are Borg.

Today I've added a bit of new tech to my run: RunKeeper, an iPhone app. I'd say it shows promise, and I'll probably wind up loving it, but right now I'm still working out a few kinks and so I recommend it but with reservation.

[EDITED TO ADD: I wrote to the author of RunKeeper with a description of the problem I was experiencing. It's a known bug that has already been squashed in an update that will be available shortly at the app-store. I now recommend RunKeeper with no reservations whatsoever - it's a great app, and well worth far more than the $9.99 being charged].

The interface is spot-on. It's exactly how I would have designed it myself. It gives a very Nike+ minute-by-minute bar graph of your run as you go. It acquired a GPS lock very quickly. Unlike Nike+, there are no audio prompts to cue you in to how far into your run you are. Your phone has to remain on for the duration, so battery life is going to be an issue (though the developer says they're working on possible solutions to make it better). For what it's worth, I ran for a half hour, starting with a full battery, and at the end of my run I was STILL showing a full battery. I was listening to music as I ran, and I would have expected a noticeable amount of battery drain. It could be that there was a glitch in the battery display.

At the end of the run, I was given the option of saving or discarding the data. I saved it, and RunKeeper is now keeping a history log of the runs (again, just like Nike+).

The big problem I'm having is that RunKeeper was supposed to automatically upload the data to their website, to display it on a map, but 10 hours later it still hasn't done so and I haven't figured out how to force it. I tried a second test and that got uploaded to the website quickly. (But still not the first one).

[EDITED TO ADD: As stated above, this is resolved in the upcoming update. Occasionally, if you quit out and then resume, the whole run's data will be viewable on your iPhone but only the portion prior to your closing out the app will upload. This morning, it happened that I quit out almost immediately, in order to start up my music].

And, interestingly, the map doesn't look super-accurate. It showed my general path, but where the road curved it mapped it out as if I was running dog-legs, as though the GPS is being polled for data points too infrequently or something along those lines. If that's the case, I question the overall accuracy of the distance it is reporting. I have an e-mail in to the developer to see what input he can give me about these issues I'm having. We'll see what he says.

[EDITED TO ADD: Per the developer, the better the GPS signal, the smoother the map tracking will look. This makes sense. I'd have thought I had a pretty good signal, given that I was out in the open, on a clear morning, but maybe it wasn't that great. I wish there was some way the iPhone could show you how many satellites you've acquired, like a dedicated GPS does...]

Running with the iPhone is actually much better than I anticipated it would be. I'm used to having my phone with me when I run, and the iPhone is a bit larger and heavier than my old phone, but not by much. I'm pretty happy with the Marware Sportsuit Convertible Armband.

As for today's run, I did W2D1. I was going to continue on with W1D2, but iTunes deleted that podcast from my iPhone and I didn't realize until I was already outside. Fortunately, I already had week 2 uploaded and so I just did that instead. And it was good.

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