Our readers are taking this ‘Best Cover’ contest to the streets!

If you haven’t already done so, please click this link, then click like to help us win the ASME Readers’ Choice Award for “Brainiest cover”: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151895647926436&set=a.10151895647276436.1073741851.59153151435&type=3&theater

One lucky liker (chosen at random) will receive a personalized, signed copy of the mag & a signed copy of Mark S. King’s latest book!

Preview Release - v1.0

Announcing the test launch of www.brainie.st.

In honor of Thanksgiving Day, we have completed the test launch of Brainiest’s first product, Kudos. Kudos allows you to give thanks to those who make your work life happier, through their intelligence, integrity, thoroughness, hard work, cooperation, and positive attitude.

This site is dedicated to all those excellent people out there! Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble, gobble!

Release 1.0 features:

  • The ability to create native accounts
  • LinkedIn based accounts
  • Ability to add LinkedIn to a Brainiest account
  • Ability to give kudos
  • Basic user profile and contact information page
  • Email notifications settings page
  • Basic Help page
  • Feedback widget
  • Ability to view profiles and give kudos directly from a profile

In the next couple of weeks we will be gathering feedback from a handful of customers and stakeholders, and doing some burn-in testing before we turn things over to our larger audience.

You will never have a cup of coffee the same way again!

A young woman went to her mother, told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as though every time one problem was solved, a new one arose. 

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word. 

In about twenty minutes, she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. 

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”

"Carrots, eggs and coffee," she replied. 

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. 

The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity, boiling water. Each reacted differently. 

The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. But after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. 

"Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?"

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt, become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a break-up, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside, am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart? 

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavour. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. 

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Spoby fans, come on in for a hug. No, really, momma is here for you. Ahhhh… So now that I’ve taken you to a place of sweet, sweet peace, I’ll break the news gently that Spencer is getting what sure sounds like a new love interest. I may be wrong! Hope I am. Could be purely platonic, but then again…Have you seen PLL? Here are the facts: The Normal Heart’s Will Bradley has been cast as a new character that Spencer will be spending some time with in Rosewood this season. He’s a painter named Johnny Raymond who is cute, edgy and charismatic. I’m told he will first appear in episode 15 (set to air in 2015), and will be sticking around for a little bit (at least three episodes, we’re hearing), mostly interacting with our brainiest Liar. Toby, time to up your game, my friend!
—  enews who needs to shut the hell up (x)

We completed release 1.2 between 11am and 1pm PST on January 24th. We would normally complete releases at night or on the weekends, but decided that since it was a major upgrade, we wanted all hands on deck in case any troubleshooting was required.

brainiest said:

Hey, great blog, just wanted to say thanks for putting together something nice!

Thank you for such a reassuring comment! It’s always great to hear that people like it and feel the blog to be motivating :) xxx

Review: Basis Carbon Steel Edition

Introduction and design

Let’s face it, fitness trackers are still awfully limited in their ability to keep track of what’s going on with your body. We’re just only starting to see a few devices with extra biosensors such as the wrist-mounted heart rate monitor on the Samsung Gear Live and sleep tracking functionality of the Jawbone Up24.

Now, Basis promises its smartwatch is the world most advanced health tracker. The activity band is outfitted with a three-axis accelerometer, optical blood flow tracker, perspiration monitor and yet another sensor to check skin temperature.

All of these extra sensors and added data tracking makes the Basis Smartwatch one of the brainiest wearables on the market. The device can even tell whether you’re wearing it, whereas the Fitbit would just call you lazy. Now the question is can Basis really deliver on all this in-depth activity tracking and be accurate, or are these simply empty promises?

Design

At a glance, the Basis looks more like a watch than other activity trackers, like the Nike FuelBand SE or Jawbone Up24. The device resembles a retro digital watch from the 1980s, down to it black-and-white display. This monochromatic screen adds a bit of nostalgic personality to the smartwatch, but it’s a teeny-tiny 0.62 x 1 inch slit. It pales in comparison to the gorgeous screens seen on new Android Wear devices such as the Samsung Gear Live or LG G Watch. Still, the display is bigger compared to the Fitbit Force's 0.75 x 0.375 inch screen or Jawbone Up24's total lack of a visual interface.

The Basis Carbon Steel fitness tracker in this review is newer, classier and thinner than the original B1 model, though it still measures a noticeable 0.68 inches in depth. A few other new bells and whistles include stainless steel steel clasp and leather band. The extra bits of style make the watch look a little bit more modern compared to older, all plastic variant. The only trade off of the Carbon Steel variant is users won’t be able to easily swap out plastic wristbands as with the regular version.

Turn the watch over and you’ll see the back of the Basis is covered with six metal contacts. In the center there is also another of sensor which at first glance appears to be a microchip. But in reality this cluster in the middle of the watch is actually a optical sensor sided by a pair of miniature green LEDs. When users wear the watch these LEDs pulse light through the wearer’s skin down to the capillaries to track how fast their blood is flowing.

Despite having all these metal contacts prod your wrist, it’s completely comfortable to wear the Basis all day thanks to the soft, pliable wristband. The Basis is considerably weightier than your average fitness band at 44 grams. The Jawbone Up24 by comparison taps in at a scant 20 grams while the Fitbit Force sits in the middle at 30 grams.

Interface

Like the Nike FuelBand SE, newcomers to Basis will have to set up an account before beginning to use the wearable. This includes connecting the device to a PC or Mac, and downloading the latest firmware. After entering a few details including your weight and height, the watch will restart and you’re away. Syncing thereafter can be done by plugging in the smartwatch to a computer again or setting it up to automatically push sync data to a smartphone over Bluetooth.

While Basis smartwatch tracks plenty data points, users will only be able to see a few bits of information on the wearable itself. The wristwatches’ dimmed, but always-on screen, shows you the time, indicators for whether Bluetooth is turned on and remaining battery life. Below the clock there’s also a small runner icon speeding towards your goals for the day.

Tapping on the two capacitive touch pins on the right of the wrist watch’s screen will scroll through your heart rate, steps taken and calories burned. Users can also check how long they’ve been walking, running or biking for that day plus the number of calories they’ve burned whilst moving about.

Otherwise, there’s not much else to the Basis. The other two front facing buttons turn on the screen’s backlight, letting you checking the time in the dark, and another to bring up the date and day. Sadly the Basis lacks a stopwatch, alarm, timer or any other basic functions you’d expect from a watch.

App, performance, battery life and verdictApp

The Basis smartphone app revolves around the concept of “Habits” such as taking an evening lap or a reminder to torch at least 2,500 calories a day. Unlike goals, these Habits try to get users to adopt healthier routines and expand beyond getting you to move around more. Habits can also add extra challenges to get up regularly at the same day. Every completed Habit in turn brings users closer to their next level that will then allow them to add another Habit.

The leveling aspect adds an extra element of gamification and progression not seen with other activity trackers. Ultimately though it’s really up to the user to keep themselves motivated as Basis does not bug wearers with idle alert reminders. Instead the watch will only commend users when they’ve completed their Habits while users can pop the app to see how they’ve progressed so far.

As for getting a deeper look at what you’ve done in a day, Insights outlines your activities in a item by item list. Every spurt of activity from a short walk to the corner store to a full on run shows up here. Tapping on one of your activities will show a total steps counter plus a graphical breakdown across time. Sliding over to your sleep data users can also look at a full breakdown of how they’ve slept down to the numbers of time’s they tossed and turned during the night to minutes spent in REM slumber land.

But what is all this perspiration and heart rate data Basis has promised? It strictly lives on the website. Not even the smartphone app displays these interesting metrics. For whatever reason, Basis has chosen to lock away all of its serious biosensors to the users’ web profiles. Online users will find their biometric data splayed out onto a chart filled with bar graphs and lines denoting their steps, calories burned, and other interesting data points like perspiration.

Activity tracking

The Basis is intelligent enough to automatically start tracking whenever users are moving. It can also discern how hard you’re hoofing it between running, walking and biking. Unlike the Fitbit Force, the Basis team has tunned its wearable not to count any fake steps.

My only gripe with the Basis smartwatch is fitness tracking is limited to just three types of activities. Jumping on an exercise bike or many other types of workouts are simply not recognized. The Nike FuelBand SE is much better at tracking users exerting themselves with a ton of extra activities from yoga to pingpong.

Surprisingly, the heart monitor is accurate as well. The Basis recorded my resting and active heart rate within five beats of reading my pulse. Users who want a perfectly accurate heart rate numbers should still look to a chest bound monitor, which will almost always be more accurate than any wrist bound sensor.

Additionally, Basis itself admits its wearable cannot get a clear reading when users are in the middle of vigorous activities. That all said, the Basis smartwatch is more than serviceable and a step up from the rather inaccurate heart rate monitor on the Samsung Gear Live or overly sensitive sensor on the Samsung Gear Fit.

Sleep Tracking

Once again the Basis was spot on with knowing when I was sleeping. Admittedly I never know when I truly fall asleep but the Basis was right on time noting that I was fully awake when my alarm clock chirped in the morning.

While other wearables like the Fitbit Force or Jawbone Up24 have offered sleep tracking before, users won’t have to press a button to kick-start their devices into sleep mode. Basis’ method of analyzing sleep also seems more useful. Rather than noting just how long you’ve been sleeping, the smart band will keep tabs of you sleep quality.

The Basis offers users data on how long they went into deep or REM sleep, which ties into rest that refreshing your body and mind, respectively. These values are added up into a sleep number that ties in directly to how well you should feel in the morning.

The only problem is the Basis provides no advice on how to get more rejuvenating rest or how to improve your sleep score. Another thing the Basis lacks is an alarm to wake up wearers silently, a feature I expect on most wearables these days.

Battery life

Unfortunately, battery life is one of the Basis smartwatch’s weakest departments. On a full charge and a continuous one-hour sync schedule, the sensor-rich activity band died after four days and 19 hours. That’s significantly shorter than the seven-day battery life of the Jawbone Up24, as well as the 10 days of battery life on the Fitbit Force.

The good news is the users can easily recharge the wristwatch while still wearing it. The charging cradle fits over the device, and better yet, the cable is over three-feet long - much better than the dinky wires that have come with other wearables.

The device charges back to full in just a few hours so users will easily top off the device by plugging it in while they take a shower. Afterall the Basis smartwatch is waterproof but susceptible to sudsy soap.

Compatibility

The Basis smartwatch app is available for iOS devices as far back as the iPhone 4, as long as it’s running iOS 7 or the iOS 8 beta. A variety of Android devices are also on the compatibility docket including the Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy S2, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Samsung Note 2, Samsung Note, HTC One, Nexus 5, Nexus 4 and Moto X.

This list does not include a variety of newer devices, including the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy S5. However, Basis has made its app available to all Android phones running 4.1.2 Jelly Bean or higher, noting some users may experience bugs or technical issues.

For this review, I had no problems syncing the fitness tracker to an HTC One M8 or using the app, despite it not being on the compatible device list.

Price

The Basis Carbon Steel has come down in price over time, and now can be had for $149 (about £89, AU$159). With the new price drop, the Basis smartwatch is competitive with the identically-priced Jawbone Up24. Ringing up for a little less is the now $99 (about £89, AU$106) Nike FuelBand SE that’s also considerably less capable than the Jawbone or Basis.

We liked

The Basis smartwatch offers more and more-accurate data than other fitness trackers on the market. On top of this, there’s no need to press a button before your evening jog or when you go to bed. The wrist watch simply starts tracking intelligently.

This sort of simplicity is an important step towards making wearables simply another part of our lives that just work, rather than adding another step in our routines. Between the much more accurate heart rate monitor and useful sleep data, the Basis is one of the best wearables you can buy today.

We disliked

While the Basis offers a lot of metrics for data nerds, it’s not information that’s instantly usable. For example, the heart rate monitor is fairly accurate, but it just shows you a number without any context of whether it’s healthy or in a normal range. The same can be said about perspiration levels or your skin temperature. Similarly, the sleep data is an enlightening look at how well you are sleeping, but it offers no tips on how to improve your sleep score.

The Basis is by far the physically biggest activity tracker with the shortest battery life, but these concessions have to be made because of the bigger screen and larger sensor suite. Ultimately the real limitations of the Basis smartwatch that will annoy users the most are its limited set of activity types and the need to jump on a web browser to look at all their biodata.

Final verdict

There’s no shortage of fitness trackers to choose from among brands like Nike, Jawbone, Garmin, and now even Timex is getting into the game. The Basis smartwatch is definitely another device you should have on your radar. Between offering users plenty of data and hassle free activity tracking, the Basis smartwatch is a massively intuitive wearable that anyone can slap on their wrist.

While the smartwatch lacks a lot of additional functionality from timers to motivating reminders, the Basis team has created a great base for users on a health kick to track what’s up with their bodies. It’s far from perfect, and honestly, I’m more excited about what the Intel-acquired company might come out with next, but the Basis Carbon Steel is a worthy contender for those looking to buy their first activity tracker.








Release Announcement - v1.0 (Dec 3, 2012)

We are pleased to announce the public availability of Brainiest. This first launch features:

  • The ability to create native accounts
  • LinkedIn based accounts
  • Ability to add LinkedIn to a Brainiest account
  • Ability to give Kudos
  • Basic user profile and contact information page
  • Email notifications settings page
  • Basic Help page
  • Feedback widget
  • Ability to view profiles and give Kudos directly from a profile
Updated: Back to School supplies: tech we recommend

Look around the web and you’ll notice that most Back to School tech guides deserve an F. They’re either full of useless gadgets or focus on overly expensive ideas.

Remembering this is for students, we’re pulling for an A by limiting our picks to the brainiest modern-day learning tools and affordable Back to School deals.

We put our thinking caps on for this Back to School gadget guide. It’ll make reading, doing homework and paying attention in class a bit easier during the 2014-2015 school year.

If your tech supplies list calls for the best laptops, tablets and smart gadgets to get you through the next nine months of academics, consider this your official cheat sheet.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Price: Starting at $730 on Amazon.com

You may not know much about history, but you’ll live in the wonderful world of versatility if you own the multi-purpose Surface Pro 3.

Yes, the third time’s a charm for Microsoft’s laptop-tablet hybrid thanks to a thinner, yet more premium design and powerful specs, topped off with 2160 x 1440 resolution.

Compare the Surface Pro 3 display specs to the Retina-lacking 11-inch MacBook Air (1366 x 768) and 13-inch Macbook Air (1440 x 900).

Microsoft also improved the Type Cover, kickstand and Surface Pen, features you won’t get with the Apple’s laptops or the iPad Air.

Cheat Sheet: There have been three Surface Pro tablets since February 2013, so buy cheap, keep it in good condition and trade it in to upgrade every two years for the best value.

13-inch MacBook Air (2014)

Price: Starts at $949 and comes with $100 gift card at the Apple Store

Apple may launch a redesigned 12-inch MacBook Air in the next couple of months, but if you’re looking for a laptop with the most straightforward operating system, this is the one.

The 13-inch MacBook Air defines the “notebook” subcategory with a lightweight design that contrasts well with its premium look and feel. It really does replace your looseleaf.

The base specs for 2014 are OS X Yosemite-friendly with a 1.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor that can be turbo boosted up to 2.7GHz. Of course, these specs can always be upgraded for a price.

Cheat Sheet: Max out the memory from 4GB of RAM to 8GB of RAM. It’s just $100 more.

There’s also a “higher education” promo at the Apple Store until September 9. The base model is $949 (not $999) and comes with a $100 Apple Store Gift Card.

LiveScribe Echo Smartpen

Price: $117 on Amazon for the 2GB Echo model

You’re smart, but your pen is stupid. It hasn’t changed much since the fountain to ballpoint pen transition in the 19th century, which makes life a Bic.

LiveScribe smartpens will point you in the right direction when writing down and reviewing notes, thanks to the integration of an audio recorder. As you jot down handwritten notes on special paper with microdots (that you can hardly see), the pen remembers what was being said.

Go back, tap any area of the notes, and hear what was being said at the moment you wrote something down. This contrasts with normal audio recordings in which you’re hunting through a 50-minute timeline for a particular section of a lecture.

Cheat Sheet: Stick with the cheaper LiveScribe Echo Smartpen. The newer LiveScribe Sky Wi-Fi Smartpen and LiveScribe 3 models offer wireless note syncing via Evernote, but it’s less than reliable.

Microsoft Windows 8.1 / Office 365 University

Price: $69.99 / $79.99 at Microsoft

Microsoft’s software is a little less relevant on campus every new school year compared to a decade ago, as you can get away with lots of tasks using Google Docs or OpenOffice.

However, there’s no getting through a semester without one teacher requiring Office-based formats, and really Office 365 is one of the most reliable word processing program out there.

The good news is the Windows 8.1 improves upon many of the Windows 8 flaws, like bringing back the sorely-missing Start button, and Office 365 is now compatible with iPad.

that students and teachers don’t need to spend a whole lot on the operating system or Microsoft’s suite of programs, and they’re more compatible with Macs than ever. Windows 8 Pro is only $69.99, and a four-year subscription to Office 365 is just $79.99.

Cheat Sheet: There’s no getting around not using Windows or Office at least once, but at least there’s a way to get around paying full price.

Students and teachers pay $69.99 for Windows 8.1 and $79.99 for Office 365’s four-year subscription, which is almost enough time to cover your secret five-year college plan.

Google Drive

Price: $24 for 100GB from Google

Word processing is more advanced in Word, but when it comes to storing files, Google Drive outdoes Microsoft’s newer SkyDrive service as one of the best cloud storage options.

Drive comes with 15GB of free storage, which compares to Dropbox’s 16GB. In Google’s case, though, you don’t have to pester all of your friends to sign up to earn the space. You may have two thumbs, but you don’t want to become “that guy” on campus.

In addition to automatically syncing your Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations, Google allows for other individual files as large as 10GB each - five times as large as that of OneDrive.

So while OneDrive has document collaboration similar to Google’s sharing options, the only reason to buy into Microsoft’s plan is if you have a Windows Phone 8.1 device.

Moto 360 smartwatch

Price: Likely $250 at Best Buy soon

Okay, the Moto 360 isn’t out just yet, but the Motorola smartwatch is destined to launch on September 4 with an official US release date soon after.

Its circular watch face makes it the best-looking computerized watch yet and the battery life is rumored to be twice as long as the Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch.

How does it qualify as a great Back to School gadget? Your teacher is wise to you rudely checking your cell phone during class. Instead, see glanceable notifications like texts with the flick of your wrist.

TechRadar will be attending Motorola’s September 4 event in Chicago, so stay tuned for our Moto 360 review and an updated Android Wear review.

Cheat Sheet: If you can’t wait or if you own an iPhone and can’t wait for the iWatch, consider the Pebble Steel smartwatch. It’s doesn’t have a touchscreen, but it works with iOS and has more apps.

LogMeIn Pro Subscrption

Price: $59.95 a year at LogMeIn

Just because mom and dad are stranding you at school doesn’t mean you should strand them when it comes to their all-too-frequent technology questions.

After all, you’ll likely to be pestered with tech support phone calls - and if you don’t answer, a growing list of voicemails. You can answer their questions, but they can’t visualize and execute those answers.

That’s why I can’t emphasize enough a cloud-based remote connectivity service like LogMeIn Pro. Just get in there yourself and magically fix their problems and clear their viruses.

There’s been no better tool for students moving away from home, but still acting as a tech support lifeline for mom and dad. This comes from experience.

Cheat Sheet: Set this up on your parent’s computer before leaving for school so that you don’t have to walk them through it over the phone. That’s exactly what you’re trying to avoid.


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