Archive for June, 2010

30
Jun
10

Change Begins

As the Republic of the Philippines welcomes its 15th President, the doors of changes are wide open.  We may have been divided with our choices during the last elections but we all seek the same aspirations.  The time for the country to unite has come and let us rally behind our new President to support his campaigns.  It doesn’t mean just sitting on the sidelines, but participating on how we can help our country.

The inaugural speech of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III lasted for about 20 minutes (transcript with English translation via ABS-CBN News), mostly in Tagalog with the rest in English, was delivered in front of a crowd of about half a million in front of Quirino Grandstand by tradition.  It was of course broadcasted live on most local television stations and thankfully it was declared a special non-working holiday so many Filipinos were able to watch this historic event.

This was one of the few times that I intently listened as a political figure speaks, and this was one of the few times that I actually believed.  He may not have earned my vote during the elections but he did earn my respect and support with his speech.  I believe in his sincerity with his promises and I hope with God’s guidance he’d be able to keep it.  I also hope that we as citizens be vigilant to keep his governance stay on the “right path.”  Democracy works when everyone works together toward a common goal.  The election was just the start, real work begins now, and all of us are needed.  God bless the Philippines, the new administration, and the Filipino people.

28
Jun
10

Technology Review: GPS on A-GPS—Alternatives to Garmin?

Garmin Forerunners are arguably the most practical GPS (Global Positioning System) solutions for runners albeit comes at a premium price.  That premium fortunately gives room for alternative solutions but aside from competing brands, an option that is getting more prevalent are devices with embedded A-GPS (Assisted GPS).

A-GPS is a system which can improve startup performance of a GPS satellite-based positioning system by having GPS computations handled by third parties like cellular network towers.  The result is less processing power required on the device, less power consumption, and faster location acquisition—at least on paper.

A-GPS is now widely available in a variety of consumer products from digital cameras to laptops but more commonly on mobile phones.  A-GPS is a sensible alternative to Garmins because of its availability and relatively lower cost, but are they really good enough?

The competitors of this test

The Test

For this test we’ll need the following:

  • A device with A-GPS
  • A software to track the A-GPS readouts
  • The great outdoors

For this test I’ll be using Nokia 5800 ExpressMusic, currently situated in the middle tier of the price range.  All settings are set to defaults except that network support (Wi-Fi, HSDPA, 3G, Edge, or GSM) is disabled effectively disabling the “A” (assistance) in the A-GPS and focusing on its GPS capabilities.

I opted to disable network assistance for practical reasons: the cost of bandwidth (typically P10 per 30 minutes of usage which is the minimum) and availability of network (Wi-Fi and 3G isn’t always available all the time everywhere).

Utilizing the device’s A-GPS is Sports Tracker 3.01 for Symbian Series 60 by Sports Tracking Technologies, available for free download via Nokia Ovi.  Alternative tracking software is also available for various devices and platforms but I chose this software as it is specifically designed for Nokia Series 60 devices.

I’ve had my Nokia 5800 for quite a while now but wasn’t really able to successfully track a run because of A-GPS’s major drawback—time to first fix (TTFF), or is the time it takes for your location to be pinpointed.  When we run we usually are eager to start our run as soon as possible so we’d rather start running than stand by for the device to have a “fix.”  Fortunately though, during New Balance Trail Adventure Run, I had enough patience to wait for that fix while waiting for the gunstart.  Of course I still had my Garmin Forerunner 405 to validate the results my Nokia 5800 would track.

Nokia 5800s aren’t the handiest devices around (111 × 51.7 × 15.5 mm) so I had to place it in one of the pockets of my hydration belt for convenience.  The drawback was that I had to start it earlier before gunstart because of accessibility issues and when the race was over I actually forgot about it and was able to end the track after a while resulting in a slightly longer distance.  Running with a device that really isn’t designed for such activities are manageable but can be a bit cumbersome and may take some time to get used to.

The Results

At the end of the day I was finally able to compare the GPS readings between my GF405 and Nokia 5800.  The result: practically the same! I was really surprised that both readings are almost exact copies each other.  At this point we can easily say that the GPS in A-GPS devices do complement more expensive dedicated GPS devices.

Comparing GPS readouts

Here are my assessments:

Good:

  • A-GPS devices works practically the same as dedicated GPS devices
  • A-GPS devices are relatively cheaper than dedicated GPS devices
  • “Real-time” plot of your route depending on your software

Bad:

  • TTFF is very, very long without assistance (significantly more than 10 minutes)
  • The accuracy of A-GPS devices (at least as far as my Nokia 5800 is concerned) are very low compared to dedicated GPS devices (normally at 30 meters compared to a typical 5 meters for GF405)
  • Activating assistance (even through Wi-Fi) doesn’t guarantee a faster “fix”
  • Activating assistance is costly unless you have unlimited data plans
  • A-GPS devices aren’t always portable
  • A-GPS devices’ tracking capabilities are software dependent (normally third party software)
  • Uploading your GPS tracks online is trivial

Conclusion

Tracking-wise A-GPS devices work the same way as dedicated GPS devices although at a much lower accuracy but the difference is practically negligible as far as tracking your route, distance, and pace is concerned.  Depending on your software you may even see your actual route in “real-time,” a feature that isn’t always available in dedicated GPS devices (like GF405).  Typically A-GPS devices are much cheaper than dedicated GPS devices (my Nokia 5800 is much cheaper than my GF405) but despite all of these I still don’t see it as a serious alternative.  Its biggest drawback, the very long TTFF, is enough to turn most users off especially if they have experienced dedicated GPS devices like Garmins.  I remember being furious when my GF405 didn’t lock within five minutes but even in an ideal situation I never saw my Nokia 5800 lock within 10 minutes, even in the presence of Wi-Fi!  (I think 3G is the preferred medium of assistance for A-GPS.)  In fact the first time I used A-GPS on my 5800 it took 30 minutes before it was able to have a GPS lock.

To summarize, if you have A-GPS feature with your portable devices and have enough time to wait for it to “fix” it is a viable alternative to dedicated GPS devices like Garmins, but if you can afford it nothing beats a “dedicated” device.  At the current state of technology it isn’t good enough yet to replace dedicated devices but is good enough to complement it.  With all the “overheads” I had to consider for it to work I’d say I learned to love more the convenience my GF405 gave me.  In this case you really get your money’s worth.  With the rate of improvements in technology who knows maybe one of these days an A-GPS device will come out matching the “dedication” of Garmins, but until then Garmins still rule!

Suggested read:

25
Jun
10

Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2010 Registration is now Closed

Registration for this year’s Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) is now closed.

Here’s the official statement:

Attention all fervent running enthusiasts!  Due to the overwhelming response, we regret to inform you that all race categories except Kids Dash are now closed.  Thank you for your ardent support in Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS 2010) and we look forward to seeing you again next year!

But if you’re really desperate to join you may try this option:

Unsuccessful registrants no longer have to hang their head in despair!

Our Run for good charity programme will be opening the last 150 race slots for a silent bidding to raise funds for Club Rainbow (Singapore).  Bidding will commence on 5 July at 0000hrs and ends on 18 July at 2359hrs.  The minimum amount to kick start the bid will be SGD$300.  The top 150 successful bidders will need to fulfill the successful bidding amount in order to entitle themselves to an exclusive spot in Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2010.  Click here for more information

I guess there won’t be an SCMS for me this year!  Good luck runners! 😀

You may also read about my Singapore adventures from last year’s SCSM.

25
Jun
10

runningpinoy on Print: One Sport Magazine

Yes, you read it right, runningpinoy is on print!  Well, sort of.  One Sport Magazine, a sports and fitness events guide, has given yours truly a chance to be a contributing writer for its June 2010 issue.  One Sport Magazine is a FREE magazine that covers everything sports (of course including running) and even includes an events calendar should you want to widen your horizons. 🙂

You can get your FREE copy from the following:

Shops

  • 5-0 Skate Shop
  • All Terra
  • Bike King
  • Bike Town Cyclery
  • Delifrance
  • Habagat
  • J&S Surf
  • Mesuca
  • Mizuno
  • New Balance
  • Nike Stadium
  • Oakley
  • Planet Sports
  • R.O.X.
  • Res Toe Run
  • Runnr
  • Sabak
  • Sanuk
  • Speedo
  • Starbucks
  • Stoked Inc.
  • The North Face
  • Transition1 (T1)
  • Wabi-Sabi Noodle House and Vegetarian Grocery

Sports, Fitness & Wellness Center

  • Bikram Yoga Manila
  • Bliss Yoga
  • Camp Sandugo Wall Climbing Gym
  • Club 650
  • Club Punta Fuego
  • CamSur Watersports Complex (CWC)
  • Fitness First
  • Gotcha, Inc.
  • Greenhills Badminton Center
  • Iyengar Yoga Center Manila
  • Lago de Oro
  • Manila Polo Club
  • Power Up
  • Pulse Yoga
  • Studio Makati
  • Terra Wellness Spa
  • Yoga Manila

This month’s cover story is about the 4th Boracay International Dragonboat Festival.

This is my write-up, go grab your FREE copy now!

23
Jun
10

Comeback Race at the Trails: New Balance Trail Adventure Run

After a very long hiatus I’m finally glad to be back at the races, and fittingly it was at the trails which were always a favorite of mine.  For the first time I was able to run the trails of Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, Laguna and I could probably say we have another “playground” to explore, albeit a little distant from the Metro.

Last weekend the New Balance Trail Adventure Run was held in the trails of Nuvali with the 15K starting at Evoliving while the rest of us started at Solenad (I signed up for the 10K, the other event was the 5K Duo).  It was one of those few races outside Metro Manila with a free round trip shuttle service to and from the venue.

The Starting line (even if it says “Finish”)

Days before the event I received an invite from New Balance courtesy of Planet Sports to join this trail run.  As much as I really wanted to race I was reluctant to join at first because of my long absence from running.  When I finally figured I can still run the distance I was tempted to join the Rock and Run event a day prior to the trail run because my body was no longer used to waking up early during Sundays.  Add to that that it was really early if I were to catch the shuttle service.  Obviously the charm of the trail prevailed, but not until the last day I had to RSVP (how typical Pinoy, confirming on the last day!).

NB Trail Adventure Run 10K Route

Excellent GPS reception

Because of the shuttle service I was able to arrive in Nuvali relatively early.  I didn’t even realize that I was sharing the bus with some familiar faces I’ve not seen in a while (and I was sad when I got my seat because I didn’t see outright anyone I know!).  I was trying to catch some shuteyes during the short trip but wasn’t able to get any (due to some technical difficulties we had on the bus).

Queuing at the baggage counter

There I was in Nuvali, feeling like a stranger, like those early days of running when I didn’t know anyone from the sea of people.  Fortunately it didn’t take long for me to see running friends so I was back in my comfort zone.  After some time the 15K runners were called to their starting line a few kilometers away, and a few minutes later it was our turn.

Entering the trails

What's the hold up?!

Jinoe (of takbo.ph) was initially with me and the Logans (Craig and Michelle) during the early part of the race.  As usual it’s quite futile to set any records on trails so I’m not in any hurry, and since I’m still not quite 100% yet enjoying the race was my goal.  Having some good company to share the trail makes it more fun so it was quite pleasant that I wasn’t alone exploring the trails.

Ooohhh... a “tunnel” 🙂

Who said you can't take a panning shot with a point-and-shoot?

That's Craig of Team Logan (see how tall these grasses are!)

The trails of Nuvali was mixed natural and man-made and for a lot of areas wide enough for three runners.  It also features running riverside (or in the river itself if you prefer) with some really interesting features.  It’s a very enjoyable area which is why it’s no surprise that a lot of running and biking events were held here.  I sure was glad that I picked this race for the weekend.

Going down...

Care for a dip?

Running under a bridge

More water

Natural water station 🙂

All legs end in Solenad which is quite an ideal place to do so as it is not only picturesque, there are also shops there for the hungry runner and located nearby a place where runners can take their showers.  After finishing runners were treated to a loot bag and a bottle of a sports drink from the sponsors.  Unfortunately though not all runners were able to receive their finisher’s shirt (including myself) as they quickly ran out of sizes except for the large ones, but New Balance promised to deliver so our contact numbers and shirt sizes were taken as to when we may claim our token.

Photo-op while waiting (thanks Craig for taking this one!)

Trails...

...more trails...

Homestretch!

The New Balance Trail Adventure Run was a very well organized race, particularly for a trail run, as the route was strategically marked so there was little chance of getting lost; there were lots of marshals en route to assist runners; water stations were sufficient; trail route and features were excellent; and the distance was pretty accurate!  Once again New Balance didn’t disappoint in delivering a very good race.

Final bridge crossing

Almost there...

Approaching the finish line

10K comeback race complete!

I would like to thank Planet Sports and New Balance for inviting me to join this event.  I really enjoyed the experience a lot and I hope there’d be more races to come!

Race results courtesy New Balance Philippines:

21
Jun
10

Nokia Sports Tracker is Closing!

Just as when I’m getting the hang of using the A-GPS of my Nokia 5800, the tracker site is closing!  Here’s the excerpt from http://sportstracker.nokia.com/:

After two and a half years of operation, the Nokia Sports Tracker beta service will close as of June 30, 2010.  Thanks to all of you exercise enthusiasts who used the service and contributed valuable feedback to its improvement.

We want you to stay active.  You can keep tracking workouts through a new, non-Nokia service provided by Sports Tracking Technologies available for free in the Ovi Store.  The new service is open for registrations at sports-tracker.com, and you’ll even be able import your workout history from Nokia Sports Tracker until August 31, 2010.

There you go, you still have some time to transfer your Nokia Sports Tracker data to the new Sports Tracker website which is now accepting pre-registration and will be launching soon.  As an alternative you may simply export your data from your phone as a GPX file and import it to third-party sites like Garmin Connect which I use to store all my Garmin data (Garmin not required to signup), albeit would be exported as one lump of data losing all lap details.

20
Jun
10

Nuvali But You!

This runner just had a great comeback race at the trails of Nuvali.

This runner had just been reunited with running friends.

This runner had to wake up extra early to catch his bus.

And this runner had a lot of mud in his recently washed trail running shoes!

But this runner was more than glad he did!

Special thanks to New Balance Philippines and Planet Sports for making this happen!

For the mean time this runner has got to catch some sleep

Watch out for the photos and stories soon… zzzz




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The MIRACLE isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the COURAGE to START
– John “The Penguin Runner” Bingham
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