I look forward to autumn in New England more than any other time of the year. After the long, humid summer months and hurricane remnants have washed past, we welcome the cooler, crisper days of October. The turning of the leaves brings the surest sign of fall, so today my wife and I ventured out for a walk around the local reservoir for a first look. The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and in the mid-50's. Of course, this was a perfect opportunity to take my iPod 4G and Bad Elf GPS for a test drive with the RunKeeper app.
We started off walking through the woods to get to the trail that runs around the MDC Reservoir #6, so I had some time to fiddle with the settings as we made our way there. At first, the app wasn't getting the location data, but that turned out to be the result of my failure to tell Location Services to feed data to the RunKeeper app. I diagnosed this by noticing that the GPS green LED was off when in RunKeeper, while it was on for Google Maps. I easily corrected this by going into Settings > General > Location Services, scrolling down to RunKeeper and sliding the button to ON. After a couple of minutes on the trail, I paused to take a look at the settings to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. Everything pretty much appeared as expected. I was collecting location data, as shown by a path, and the start and pause locations were being displayed. RunKeeper was offering to display my position and path on a Google Map, but without internet connectivity all I got was the gray boxed background. No surprises here, as this met my expectations perfectly. RunKeeper caches the position information for the path and can pull up the underlying map images later when connectivity is available.
Typically, when I am tinkering with various electronics, it draws a mixture of sarcasm and mild hostility from my wife. I never understood this, since she also has two engineering degrees and knows full well that she married a geek! However, on this walk that behavior dissipated rather quickly, since the combination of the iPod, Bad Elf GPS, and RunKeeper app were providing her with information that was useful to her. At key landmarks around the reservoir trail, I was able to tell her the (1) distance we had walked, (2) total time we had been walking, (3) average minutes per mile pace, and (4) estimated calories burned. Everything we undertake results in unintended consequences! I only wanted to see how RunKeeper worked with the GPS, but now my wife has begun devising a plan for me to burn more calories, because I've shown her technologies that will help us track that to the finest details. If I can find the time to get away from work, I will be perfectly happy to oblige – at least until the ice and wind of winter arrive.
The image above shows the two RunKeeper screens related to this particular activity. The full walk around the reservoir was 3.8 miles and took just over one hour. The surprise was the display of the Google Map information at the end of the walk. Apparently, I had actually downloaded and cached the maps at this resolution when I was fiddling around with Google Maps while connected to an open residential WiFi connection before officially starting the walk. I didn't realize this until I tried zooming out on this final screen to get the whole path to display within the area available. I suppose if I had zoomed out at the start of the walk, I would not have seen just the gray boxes shown above.
The other interesting tidbit is that I left the house with a full (95%) battery on the iPod 4G. At the end of the walk, the battery showed that it was at 60%. It was no surprise that using a GPS continuously put a strain on the battery, but using one third of the battery capacity during what totaled almost one and a half hours of total use seemed reasonable. I have shared the RunKeeper Activity History for this little adventure for anyone interested to explore the results and the products.
And so I leave you with this little bit of Stanley Jordan playing Autumn Leaves. If this doesn't either make your jaw drop or put a smile on your face, well...to each his own.