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Running & C25K

In October 2010, I was feeling quite unfit and unhealthy, so was looking for something to motivate me for exercise. I have been through a number of different phases for fitness – namely doing some home video workouts – Body Combat (which I love), ChaLean Xtreme (which I love) and even a little bit of P90X and Insanity (which I love to hate). They are all great, but you do get a bit bored of them after a while. When you have memorised every little joke or inflection in the trainers voice on each video, you know it might be time to move on. I reckon doing each of those for a month each would be great, to keep things a bit fresh. And during winter I probably will revert back to this style of exercise.

But I digress.

I have never enjoyed running long distances. As a youngster I was an OK sprinter but would absolutely hate the torture of running cross country. But being a little older now I thought I would give it another go – armed with some technology for extra motivation ofcourse!

Running Programs

In browsing through some of the offerings for running apps on the iPhone App Store I came across the C25K program – which stands for “Couch to 5k”. C25K is a fantastic program that’s been designed to get just about anyone from the couch to running 5 kilometers or 30 minutes in just 9 weeks. The training program is freely available on the c25K website (metric version here). The program eases the participant into a running longer and longer distances, starting with frequent short bursts of running with recovery walking sessions in between each short run. It slowly builds up your fitness and stamina until your body is ready to attack the longer distances.

iPhone Apps

So I had the running program which would keep me motivated and allow me to achieve goals each week. The next component to assist in my motivation was finding an iPhone app which would complement the running program.

The core features you would want in a running app are:

  • Audio cues for interval alerts (e.g. “Run now for 1 minute”, “Walk now for 2 minutes”)
  • Audio cues for progress alerts (e.g. “Current pace is XX:XX” & “Current distance is XX.XXkm” etc)
  • Map your running path via GPS
  • Split and interval times
  • Calories burned
  • Listen to your own music

Searching the App Store for “C25k” you get a fair few results. The first app I took a look at was “C25k (Couch 2 5K)” by BlueFin Software. It looked and seemed to function well, but I was after something a bit more future-proof which I could use well beyond the C25K 9 week program.

So for general running apps there’s a few big players – all of which are great and would satisfy my requirements. The main ones being “RunKeeper Pro“, “Runmeter” and “Kintetic“. These range from $5-$12 – although RunKeeper Pro is currently free on an extended promotion.

I went with RunKeeper Pro which was pricey sum of $12 at the time – but well worth the money. RunKeeper syncs my workouts to the runkeeper.com website, the GPS works really well & battery life does not suck too badly. It doesn’t have the C25K program built in when you purchase it, but it only takes 5 minutes to setup the program as a set of custom activities. The main advantage being that I can use this beyond the C25K program and for a large variety of other exercise types besides running.

Accessories

The other running related accessories I had to buy were:

  • iPhone Armband
  • Decent running shoes

For the iPhone armband, I ended up getting a Belkin armband from eBay. There’s heaps of armbands out there to choose from – the main things to make sure you get are ones with good moisture control (after all, you don’t want your iPhone to lose its warranty because of sweat), adjustable strap and ease of getting the iPhone in and out quickly.

I spent the first couple of weeks running on grass at the local park and with my standard running shoes. I quickly found I was getting a lot of arch pain as I have quite high arches and tend to roll my foot in. It got to the point where I felt I would need to stop the program. So I went down to Athletes Foot and got a decent pair of running shoes (Brooks Addiction 9) with some extra arch support inserts. The salesperson warned me the pain might get worse before it gets better due to the significant change in arch support and my body needing to get used to it. But the effect for me was immediate – the only pain I felt the first time I ran in the new shoes was the blisters. Fantastic shoes.

I also have found I much prefer running on concrete/footpaths as I find grass to be too uneven. I think the unevenness in the ground was contributing to my arch pain as my feet must have needed to make minor stability adjustments with each step.

Future Plans

So how did I go with the program? Well, I got to the final week of the C25K program and really did fall in love with running during the 9 weeks. I looked forward to getting home from work and going out for a run, it became a routine and one which I really enjoyed. The only thing I didn’t like was running on the really hot days – I really struggled in the heat. But when there’s a nice breeze and the sun is out without being too hot or humid, it was an enjoyable experience.

Unfortunately in the last week of the program, life for very busy with bringing a new puppy home and I didn’t stick to the program in the final week. So I didn’t quite manage to do 30 minutes of continuous running @ a 6 min/km pace. But I did get very very close.

After finishing C25K i did have plans to continue on to the other running plans such as Gateway to 8K (GW28K) and Bridge to 10K (B210K) or One Hour Runner (OHR). Unfortunately, since I didn’t quite commit to the final week of the C25K program so I am not yet ready to take on the next challenge and am actually starting to feel a little unfit and untoned again. So I need to further consolidate on running for 30 minutes without a break, and more importantly increase my pace from ~6:30 mins/km to 6 mins/km. But knowing there are new programs that I can work on in the future is a nice a feeling.

I would wholeheartedly recommend the C25K program to anyone wanting to increase their fitness and lose a bit of weight. The program, paired with some great technology such as the iPhone is a winning combination and certainly converted me from someone who hated running, into someone who (mostly) loves it!

Flippin’ Websites & Makin’ (A Tiny Bit Of) Money

I have pretty limited experience in selling websites, but I thought some people might be interested in what has happened so far.

iconPot

My first experience with selling a website was iconPot which I sold in March 2010. I made this website in literally 4 hours one weekend in early 2009. It was a ridiculously simple single page HTML website. Seriously. I didn’t even bother with a back-end! With the usual marketing ploys, it got covered on some blogs, delicious, stumbleupon and others. After a while, the traffic levelled off and we were doing about 5,000 pageviews a day (definitely not huge by any standard). It also averaged about $60-$100 per month in advertising through BuySellAds.

I then received an email asking how much I wanted to sell iconPot for from a guy in the USA. I emailed back and said $8,000 initially. Totally trying my luck as I hadn’t really considered selling it and also was being a bit cautious having been contacted out of the blue by someone when it involves money. After exchanging traffic analytics of the website, the guy surprisingly came back with a $5,000 counter offer – and I agreed to sell. How could I not!? That figure was something like 4-5 years worth of projected revenue – totally unheard of in most website sales where the selling price is usually 12-24 months revenue at a maximum.

We settled on payment being done via Escrow.com which is (from what I could see) the safest way to transfer money for website sales. It basically involves the buyer paying Escrow, who then wait to confirm the domain name has been transferred before passing the funds on to me – taking a small cut themselves of course.

The transation went smoothly and I bought my DSLR camera and accessories with the money, and banked the rest 🙂 And of course, the iconPot website was quickly totally ruined by the buyer, removing all useful content and replacing it with ads. *clap clap*. I have to be honest in saying that it is sad to see something you made be totally destroyed and lose all credibility and usefulness. But when selling a website you have to try to forget about that and remember the stuff you used the money for!

FWDitON

The other website which I always thought could be sold is FWDitON.com. This website was started in 2006 and the idea for the website literally came to me while driving my car one day – a social repository for all of those FWD: FWD: funny email you get in your inbox. Back then, nothing of a similar nature existed. This site is totally different to iconPot in that I really would have lost count of the number of hours of development I have spent on the site – hundred and hundreds for sure. It has been through 3 major redevelopments in those ~5 years, consistently adding more and more features and improvements.

The site’s heyday was definitely during 2008 & 2009, when it was covered on major blogs like TechCrunch and even had a couple of mentions on broadcast TV in the USA. At this time, the site was doing amazing (in my eyes) traffic (400,000 pageviews per month) and decent revenue ($300+ per month).

This was all happening during one of the web 2.0 bubbles and I was contacted by a number of Venture Capitalists (VC’s) and investors wanting to invest in the site. I never could quite get my head around their interest and take the site in such a serious business manner. So like an idiot, I always sold myself short in my phone calls with them, saying things like “oh, we are not a company, its just a site I work on in my spare time…” and my favourite, “I don’t really have a set plan of what to do to grow the site. I guess I could quit my job to work on the site fulltime and spend money on marketing?” – all of which is probaby not the thing to say to people who want to give you money! Business plans and faux confidence would have been good right about this time.

Lesson learnt. Who knows what the site could have become.. a profitable business like collegehumor would have been on the cards for sure. Or perhaps I should have just sold it at this peak. Either way, I should have been smarter. I can look back on my ignorance and laugh now.

Anyway, so slowly but surely I lost interest in the site, traffic and revenue died off and I have barely touched the site since late 2008. So I recently thought  that I may as well try to sell the site. I turned to the Flippa website which is quite well known for “flipping” (a.k.a. buying/selling) websites. I spent a bit of time collating all the required information for potential buyers and created a new listing on Flippa for FWDitON.com.

At the end of the auction, the price had only got to $2000US. Which is approximately 2 years of revenue. Even though this price is probably about right for the site’s current revenue and traffic, I just couldn’t let it go for that – seeing as how popular and profitable it had once been in the glory days. I do believe that with the right owner who has more motivation than me, the site could climb up the rankings again. I am fully aware that I am probably in the wrong here in not being able to accept the site for what it is right now. My experience with selling iconPot also hasn’t helped my impression for what I *think* FWDitON should sell for.

My experiences with these two sites demonstrates that the selling price of a website doesn’t always correlate to the number of hours development effort and preceived worth. I simply cannot fathom how anyone could think a silly site like iconPot was worth more than a complex and more popular site like website FWDitON.com. The value is in the eye of the beholder I guess! My experience with selling iconPot may also show that, well, sometimes you just get lucky!

HTPC & Media Centre Experiences

My household has gone through a few iterations when it comes to media players & HTPC setups. The main requirements were something to provide a nice front-end to our collection of movies, TV shows and music which has grown a fair bit over the past 8 years.

Linux & MythTV

Way back in 2005, we started with a bunch of old computer parts, put into a nice Silverstone HTPC case, and then setup to run Linux with MythTV. This setup never really took off as MythTV (at the time) didn’t have TV episode support – in terms of presenting information from TheTVDB.com. We also had continual problems with the stability of the MythTV software and the linux driver support for our TV Tuner cards was flakey at best. MythTV also didn’t play too well with the remote we bought for the HTPC and I seem to remember the linux flavour we used at the time (Arch Linux) had some serious issues with hibernation/suspend power management, which became a bit of a show stopper for us.

Windows, MediaPortal & XBMC

Next we switched to Windows for some better driver support (at the time) and more software options. We ran MediaPortal for a while… which was OK but had some quirks which annoyed us. I can’t quite remember exactly what the issues were unfortunately.

So at that stage we dropped the TV Tuner cards as they seemed unnecessary for us as we do not record any TV (never have & probably never will). And we were happy to just put up with having the HTPC on one source of our TV (i.e. VGA), and free-to-air TV on another source on our remote control.

Without needing TV Tuner capability we could then look at the XBMC project (XBox Media Center) and this is what we used quite happily for a couple of years. The software was stable, playback was fine and the scraping of IMDB & TheTVDB was generally fairly reliable.

Dilemma

The only problem was that all of our movies, TV shows and music were stored locally on a 4x500GB hard drives inside the packed to the brim Silverstone case. As a result of being so packed, we never really felt comfortable leaving the computer on all the time due to potential overheating issues and power usage. Oh and ofcourse, since our collection was starting to get quite sizable, we were outgrowing the 2TB of space we had available. And most importantly, since the data was “valuable” to us, if one of those drives failed we would have cried a fair bit as we did not have a redundancy/backup process in place.

Solution! Mac Mini + Drobo + Plex

So the solution that suited us was to purchase a Mac Mini & Drobo (which I will cover in another post). I definitely can’t say this would be the best solution for everyone.. as it is quite an expensive way to go. The Drobo in particular is an expensive gadget, but the built in data redundancy and ease of use was just too irresistible.

And the best software for the Mac Mini has definitely been Plex – which is free and has its roots as a fork of the XBMC project but it now a standalone product with a huge following of its own. It is an incredibly easy product to use, very intuitive and has a great community of plugin developers and theme developers.

= AWESOME!

I have been using Plex for over a year now and there have been some huge changes in that time. The most notable change to my own experiences has been the addition of an iOS app for iPhone and iPad which transcodes videos on the fly for flawless (and simultaneous) viewing over wifi and even 3G. It really has added a whole new dimension to our media centre setup. I can start watching something on the main TV and then finish watching it in bed while Rob watches a silly Arnie or Stallone classic on the main TV. Heaven!

The standard Plex theme is attractive and the way it displays the TV Show and Movie artwork leads to a rich media experience. Playing the TV Show theme music in the background when browsing episodes of a particular show is a beautiful finishing touch.

One thing I look forward to utilising more is the ability to connect to a remote Plex library. I have experimented with this with a friends Plex setup, it basically allows me to browse and play their Plex share from within my own Plex installation (and vice versa). The only issue is our ADSL2+ upload speeds are not the best, so streaming video over peer-to-peer Internet has not proven fast enough to stop the stream stuttering. Of course, once we get some fibre goodness that will all be a thing of the past – bring on the NBN!

My parents were also so impressed with the Mac Mini & Plex combination that they bought a Mac Mini and had me set them up in a similar fashion. The fact that I have had no support calls from them speaks volumes for the reliability of the mac and the user friendly interface of Plex.

Our journey with HTPC setups has come a long way. In the end, our solution is expensive but suits our needs in terms of data redundancy, attractive front-end software and reliable/powerful hardware. I would thoroughly recommend Plex as a front-end for a media centre experience.