Nokia Lumia 900 review

I pre-ordered the Nokia Lumia 900 through AT&T earlier this week and received it this morning.  I’ve already been a Windows Phone user for awhile.  I picked up the Samsung Focus when it first came out but was disappointed by Windows Phone at the time.  So, I went back to the iPhone until the Samsung Focus S and Windows Phone 7.5 came out.  Once I started using Windows Phone with the Focus S I was hooked.  Yes, there are some apps I miss from iOS, but overall I love the Windows Phone OS.  I’m still a bit flabbergasted by the lack of VPN support on a Windows platform.  I’m in IT and need to connect into work from time to time.  I’ve worked around it but am still a bit irritated by it.

So, here is my review of the Lumia 900.  I’ll be updating this through the weekend as I use it more.

The body of this is amazing.  The build quality is fantastic and the weight is nice in the hand.  I’ve seen some reviewers who have said it is not comfortable but I love it.   The screen is awesome, it is readable in bright direct sunlight.  The colors pop with bright whites and dark blacks.

The buttons will take a bit of getting used to since I’m used to a bit different placement from the Samsung Focus S.

Software it’s everything I’m used to with Windows Phone.  I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of visual voice-mail. Navigating through Windows Phone is fluid and smooth.  Bluetooth and WiFi work as expected with no issues connecting to my Bluetooth stereo in my car.

Call quality is good but I find myself not getting the speaker at my ear just right so far.  I think it’s just because it’s a little higher than where it is on the Samsung Focus S. The built in speaker is fine but the speaker on the Samsung Focus S is better with a clearer sound quality. Not that either one is particularly fantastic, though I’ve never heard a smartphone where I was impressed by the speaker.

The camera is good but not as good as I was expecting.  I would say that the iPhone is better.  The responsiveness on the Lumia 900 is faster than the Samsung Focus S and the pictures tend to be better, especially in low light. I haven’t tried the Nokia Apps yet.  There is supposed to be a Nokia Music app but I haven’t found it yet.

I haven’t had the Lumia 900 long enough to comment on battery life just yet.

The reviews for the Lumia are a mixed bag, most are unimpressed with the specs but all tend to agree that the design is a breathe of fresh air in a market filled phones that all look alike.

Round up of reviews:
CNET.com
The Verge

Engadget
Digital Trends

Update 4/9/2012:  So, Saturday morning a friend asked me if I received text messages he sent me and I hadn’t.  So I rebooted the phone and messed with it for awhile.  I was not receiving text messages and had no 3G/4G data.  WiFi data worked just fine.  The text messaging issue ended up being a problem with my account.  They accidentally removed text messaging for some reason.  AT&T got that fixed but I still experienced the no data issue.  After a couple of hard resets it would work but then after a reboot it would quit again.  I went into one of the stores and they hadn’t received their stock of the phones so I couldn’t swap it out yet.  This morning I went back to the store and they swapped the phone out for a new one and all seems good now.

There are some reports of others experiencing this issue because of a manufacturing defect of some sort.  Hopefully the problem isn’t widespread or it’ll turn into a bunch of bad PR for a really good phone.

JVC KD-X50BT Review


Vehicles that are paid for and continue to work are nice. My 1997 Chevrolet truck has 225,000 miles on it.  The air doesn’t work, the driver side door wasn’t working from the inside and the tires on the front were as close to bald as you can get without being illegal.  I had been thinking of getting rid of it and getting something newer. The thought of another car payment is not a pleasant idea. So, I figured I’d give my truck dome attention and curb my desire to replace it.

$200 for tires is not fun, but they look and feel much better.  I rigged a handle in the door so I don’t have to roll down the window to get out.  To help with no air conditioner I tinted the windows, which turned out much better than I expected.  Then I replaced the old stereo, which wasn’t picking up radio anymore and sported a cassette player.  I had been using using a static laden cassette adapter to listen to music through.

I went with a JVC KD-X50BT it has Bluetooth, USB ports and an aux input.  It also has FM radio that works which is a plus, I guess.   The Bluetooth works well for streaming and or hands free calling through my Samsung Focus S Windows Phone.  It comes with a microphone with a long wire that can be mounted close to the driver for talking.  The aux input works as expected as does the USB port using a thumb drive. There are 2 USB ports but one will be taken up by the Bluetooth adapter. It also supports iPhone and iPod control through the USB port but i didn’t try it.

You can change the color of the buttons and display to about 25 different colors, which is cool.

Installation was super easy.  I picked up a Scosche radio install kit for about $10 on Amazon and a Scosche wiring adapter from Walmart for $8.  In about 2 hours I had the old radio out, the wire adapters connected together, the Scosche kit in, the radio slid in and some tunes pumping out.

One word of warning, it does not have a CD player so you can get rid of those burned CDs. I was just fine since I don’t use them anymore.  I think it’s probably been 2 or 3 years since my last purchased CD in favor of the Zune marketplace or Amazon.com downloads.

Overall I am very pleased with the stereo unit and just hope my truck keeps running now that I invested a bit of money in it.

Jawbone Jambox review

 


I was at an AT&T store a couple of months back and was impressed by the sound from a Jawbone Jambox speaker unit.  The price was a bit steep to me at $199 so I passed.   During the Christmas holidays Amazon.com had the black version (it comes in multiple colors) on sale for $149 for a couple of days.  I had some credit and a gift card so I picked one up.  I’m glad I did because I really like the Jambox.  For such a small unit it has great sound.  The device is solidly built.  I regularly use it to play Pandora using Bluetooth from my phone (Windows Phone), Android tablet, iPad and laptop with no problems.  It paired with each of these devices without a hitch.  The Jambox also has a 3.5″ input jack if you don’t want to use Bluetooth, which obviously uses up more battery.

The battery life is listed as 10 hours (more specs here) and I haven’t ever actually listened to it long enough to know if that’s accurate.  I have used it continuously for at least 7 hours with no issues.  I don’t ever really have long enough stretches of time lasting 10 hours.

The sound is not enough to loudly fill a large room but is really ideal for sitting fairly close to you.  That’s not to say that you couldn’t hear it across a good size room, it just wouldn’t be super loud.
The Jambox can be connected to your PC to update the firmware which they seem to be frequently working on.  You can also download different sound schemes into the Jambox.  When you turn it on it says it’s on and ready for use, or when in Bluetooth pairing mode it tells you so with a configurable voice.  I currently have a girl who sounds like she’s a member of a Mission Impossible team.
There is a mode called LiveAudio which give a lot of depth to the sound but it’s not as loud as with it off. It gives a surprisingly full surround sound to it.

The speakers that are typically on your smartphone, laptop, tablet or other small device are generally very weak and this device is a great enhancement to those situations.
If you pair the Jambox with your phone you are able to make phone calls in a conference speaker type fashion but I honestly haven’t had a need to use it that way.  One downside I’ve noticed so far is I started watching a movie on my laptop and was using Bluetooth but the sound was out of sync with the movie.  I plugged in using the 3.5″ jack and this wasn’t an issue.  I’m not sure if that was my laptop causing the issue or the Jambox itself.  I haven’t tried it again yet, nor have I tried listening to a movie from another device through Bluetooth yet to see if I get that issue again.

Overall I really like the Jambox especially at the $149 price with free shipping that I picked it up for. Currently it’s going for about $180 on Amazon.

Western Digital WD TV Live review

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I’ve been curious about the Western Digital media players for some time.  Since I’ve had a Roku and a Roku 2 media player for a year or so I haven’t felt the need to investigate them further.  At the time I went with the Roku boxes the reviews of the WD players weren’t the greatest and they frankly didn’t look to great either. The reason I took another look at these was because I needed an inexpensive box to hook up to a couple of large TVs and be able to put some marketing videos onto and have them loop. The Roku supports playing videos from a USB thumb drive but I couldn’t get them to loop continuously. Also the Roku only supports a few video types (.mkv and .mp4). Local network streaming is non-existent on the Roku unless you use something like Play-On, which I didn’t want to mess with. After some research it looked like the WD player would do what I wanted through playlists and it’s support of more media types. It also had network streaming through standard Windows shares or through a media server like TVersity. The price of this model is the same as the upper model of the Roku boxes at $99. I ended up getting one from Amazon for $89 with free shipping.
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The reviews on the current WD Live TV were mixed and ranged from disappointing to merely OK. Some said the interface was dated and slow. Not one to be deterred from most reviews I ordered one. Right away I noticed the claims of a dated interface to be inaccurate. I was impressed with the interface actually and found it laid out nicely and appealing. I started messing with getting videos to play through playlists and quickly determined it wasn’t going to be user friendly enough to work that way. I messed with it for a bit and then went back to work on other things. A co-worker decided to play with it and found our solution. In the settings menu there’s a choice for looping none, one or all videos. Once that was set to all you can just open up the files menu, browse to the USB thumb drive where we had 4 or 5 videos, hit play and off it went. We left work that evening and let the videos play. When we came in the following morning they were still playing and the box hadn’t overheated or exploded, which was a plus.

Playing videos from a network share worked very easily. I haven’t had a chance to play from a media server like TVersity since we don’t have one setup at work. I’ll give it a try at home later. The music and photos section worked similarly from a network share and also have options for opening from a network share or media server.

The WD Live TV also has a services section where you can run things like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, YouTube, Vudu and many more. The Roku is a bit better in this aspect because there are more services/channels availble on that platform and the Roku lets you pick and choose which channels show up on the unit. The WD has what it has and currently doesn’t have a way of getting more or removing those you don’t want. The YouTube services worked well but didn’t give you a way of viewing YouTube channels you are subscribed to. You can view favorites or playlists but that requires you to pick individual videos. You can search for a YouTube user and see their videos but they aren’t necessarily in order. Hopefully this is an area that will get some attention in a future update. The only service that I noticed was missing was services from Amazon such as their rentals or access to Amazon Prime streaming.

As far as the hardware is concerned the box itself is nice and small and solid. Not as small as the Roku 2 but easily something I would put next to my TV. The remote is a bit dated looking and cheapish feeling. There is an Android and iOS app that you can use on your respective device to control the media player and both seemed to work pretty well. The USB port supports plugging in a keyboard which is handy when doing searches. I’m going to try a wireless keyboard later and see if that works. The unit has built in wireless b, g and n support though I mainly used it with ethernet. There is another model of the Live TV called the WD Live TV Hub which is currently $90 more on Amazon and has a built in 1 TB hard drive and a media server as well as component video ports.

Overall the WD Live TV is a solid choice for a media player for your TV. It’s support for many different file formats and network streaming give it a hand up on the Roku in my book even if it doesn’t support as many other services as the Roku. Time will tell if WD continues to get updates and added features. Since Western Digital’s primary business is hard drives it’s easy to see that they could decide it’s not worth the effort especially since every TV sold in the coming year will likely have some sort of internet based services built in it might not be a lucrative enough business for them to continue.

Update: 1/12/2012 I didn’t have very good luck streaming .mp4 and .m4v videos through network shares. They experienced severe pauses and stuttering. I did not have any issues with several .avi files I tried also through network shares. Netflix and Hulu worked flawlessly as expected as did the YouTube service.

Transformer Prime tablet review

I’ve been an iPad user from the beginning. I had used an iPhone for awhile before the iPad came out and quickly realized that iOS would be great on a tablet. I pre-ordered the iPad and have been using one ever since. It’s the form factor that I’ve wanted for years. I had tried multiple Windows based tablets but they never performed very well. They had either bad battery life or bad hardware design coupled with the fact that full blown Windows (current versions and back) is not a viable tablet OS. Windows 8 looks to change that trend but that’s still to be seen.

I’ve tried Android a few times. I wanted to like it but never did. Especially not on a phone. The tablets up to this point were disappointments when compared to the iPad. The first Asus Transformer was a great piece of hardware but I still did not feel Android was well suited for a tablet. Don’t get me wrong, it worked as a tablet. I could read books, listen to music and surf the web. The experience paled in comparison to the iPad though.

I got my hands on the new Asus Transformer Prime and after a rocky start I am beginning to see a competitor to the iPad experience. My problems started right from the start. When you turn on the tablet for the first time you get the welcome and initial setup screens. On the third or so screen I began experiencing crashes of DMClient (still not sure what it is). I did a few factory resets with no luck in getting it to run stable. I also was having Wifi issues. Some sites wouldn’t let me login, some apps wouldn’t work at all and overall just weirdness.

I tried to get it to update but that caused more crashes. After downloading the latest firmware (prior to 4.0’s release) and several reboots it was updated but still crashed and had spotty Wifi. That same night Asus released 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) 2 or 3 days early. I couldn’t get it to update and went to bed frustrated and decided to return it the next day. The next morning I figured I’d give it one more try. I found some instructions that had me go to the applications app, delete data from the DMClient service, force it to stop and then rebooted. On reboot I was able to check for an update and got it installed. Right from the first boot of 4.0 I could tell it was doing better and the device has run perfect ever since.
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Hardware:
The hardware of the Transformer Prime is nice. Just like it’s previous version it’s well made and solid. Every time I pick it up I’m reminded of how cool it is. The dimensions of this version are better in my opinion. I found the original Transformer to be awkward to hold. I also purchased the keyboard dock and have to say that it is awesome. I’ve used a keyboard a few times with the iPad and it was never really of much use to me. This keyboard dock is very well integrated with the tablet and it adds to the tablet in many ways (typing, battery life, touch pad, SD card slot and USB port). I can’t speak to the cameras (front and rear) because I haven’t used them nor will I most likely. I never used it on the iPad (not just because they weren’t very good). I can see using them for something like Skype but I just don’t currently have the need. This tablet is almost identical in thickness between it and the iPad 2, but it seems to weigh less. I tend to be sensitive to heat. I can’t take laptops where the wrist rest area gets hot on one side or the other. I’m happy to say the Transformer Prime hasn’t had any heat issues. I haven’t had time to watch a movie on it or play an intense game on it for a period of time to see if it warms up any.

Android 4.0:
Apples’s iPad and iOS has been the king of the tablet market for two years now. I’ve tried to like Android for awhile but never felt it met the experience of the iPad. I still prefer Windows Phone on my smartphone but Android 4.0 has reached a level that I can feel confident in using on a regular basis. The updates to 4.0 are mostly small things but they add up to a much more pleasurable user experience. The first thing I noticed was the font used through out the system it’s a fantastic standardization that Microsoft learned to do with it’s Metro UI. The other updates are welcome polishes as well such as the updated settings area. I’m still confused by the quality of the built in web browser though. Web browsing is one of the key uses for a tablet and the stock browser is not very good. Luckily there are many other browsers to choose from in the marketplace and I particularly like the Dolphin browser. The gesture functionality of Dolphin is really cool. One aspect to Android still puzzles me and that’s the multi-tasking. I’m still not sure what exactly is left running in the background and what isn’t. It seems like there is a performance hit after using Android for several hours and I feel the need to go use a task killer application to make sure other apps are shut down. I need to spend some more time in understanding and controlling the background services and apps. The lack of polish and maturity of the apps for Android was another reason I avoided it. They always seemed like they didn’t get nearly as much attention as their iOS counterparts. Apps like Dropbox, Facebook, WordPress, Kindle, Amazon and others are at a much higher quality and offer the same or better experience than on iOS.
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Keyboard dock:
I’ve used a keyboard dock with the iPad and it seemed like all it did was give me a physical keyboard. It was and afterthought. This keyboard dock adds much to the functionality of the device. It give extra battery life, a USB port (so far all I’ve connected is a mouse, both wired and wireless), an SD Card slot and a touchpad. The mouse/touchpad was a surprising touch that works much better than I expected. When you use the touchpad or a mouse you get an actual mouse cursor which makes certain functions much easier. When the tablet is docked into the keyboard and it’s shut it looks and feels like a very thin high quality netbook but functions much better than any netbook I’ve ever used. The other thing the keyboard dock has done is made me realize that I need touchscreen capabilities on my Windows laptop..now. I never thought I’d want to reach up and touch the screen on my laptop but I do it a lot on this and love the added input capability. I’m sure it will be commonplace in a few years after Windows 8 comes out and I can’t wait.

Conclusion:
Like I said I had a bit of a rocky start to the Transformer Prime. It was a frustrating experience and I can see several people returning the device before getting to a stable point of usability. I’ve been an avid iPad user since the first one launched. This version of Android brings me to a place where I am comfortable suggesting it as a viable tablet OS. The Kindle Fire is a great Android device meant for a different crowd then the Transformer Prime. The hardware has been good on the Android tablets for awhile. The first Transformer was a solid device. The Samsung Galaxy tabs are nice machines as well. The combination of the the Tegra 3 processor and Android 4.0 make this a very nice experience. In the past I’ve made an attempt to honestly use the other tablets and became frustrated very fast. The Transformer Prime is a fantastic tablet especially when you combine the keyboard dock. Although the price of the two together might turn away many people. Besides, I’m seriously attracted to the device because of the name. Even if they are getting sued for using it. The only other negative thing I’d mention is even between the time that I placed the order to when I received the Transformer Prime, Asus announced the next generation of Transformer Prime. So, of course, I already have a tablet that will be obsolete in a short period. The next generation is said to have a full 1080p resolution screen, a better Wifi antenna and a few other features. That’s the nature of technology these days though.

Updates:
1/12/2012 – I picked up the Transformer Prime today and felt something drop from my hand. Turns out it was my microSD card that I had in the slot on the side of the Transformer. The card sticks out just enough that it’s fairly easy to accidentally make it pop out of the slot. Luckily I felt it hit my had before it dropped to the floor. Since it’s a 64gb microSD card I’d have been quite disappointed to lose it.

1/20/2012 – I’ve used the Transformer Prime for the past week and a half and have to say I’m loving it. Like I said in the post, I’ve been a die hard iPad user since they came out and I haven’t missed the iPad the whole time. I’ve read books (or more accurately one long book), surfed much of the internets, watched movies, written blog posts and more. The HDMI out works really well. It requires a micro HDMI to standard HDMI cable which I found cheap on Amazon.com. I’ve since found out there is HDMI (like on your TV), micro HDMI and mini HDMI. Loading up books, videos and music using the microSD card is awesome. That’s definitely one feature that the iPad cannot do. My gripes so far? The USB charging is annoying. You have to use the USB wall charger that came with the tablet and not just any USB wall charger. I’ve plugged in the USB cable to multiple (I have many of the things from various devices) USB wall chargers and none work to charge the device. That’s just silly. The GPS is flakey. This is acknowledged by Asus and is one of the primary reasons (from what I’ve read) that they are releasing a new version of the Transformer Prime in June or July. The aluminum body is causing it to not work very well (again from what I’ve read, I’m no GPS expert). Currently my device says I’m in Branson, MO which is a town about 45 minutes from where I’m sitting right now. Asus released a new firmware update yesterday that was supposed to help the GPS but it seems no different to me so far. I just turn off the GPS and location services, I’m not going to use it in my car for navigating. I have a dedicated GPS device for that anyways as well as my phone. Overall I’m liking the device a lot.

  • Aperture: ƒ/2.65
  • Camera: SGH-i937
  • Taken: 10 January, 2012
  • Focal length: 4.03mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/15s

Waterproof headphones for swimming

Last year I turned 41 and decided to get some exercise.  Those who know me know I’m not particularly active.  I’m an IT guy who’s hardest physical labor at work is to lift a server into a rack, and that doesn’t happen very often.

The year before that I realized that my weight was climbing with my age and put a stop to it by cutting out regular soda, watching calories and not eating boxes of Mike & Ike’s along with 2 liters of Mountain Dew.  So, I got my weight 20 pounds lower and have kept it there for a year and a half.  While I’m at an ideal weight I wasn’t in ideal shape.  I tried the P90x thing and made it through 6 weeks of that before I gave up, I hated it.  I tried working out in front of the Xbox with the Kinect and a workout game.  Hated it.  I tried a basic routine of pushups and situps, squats and such.  I hated it.  I figured if I don’t find an activity that I at least moderately enjoy then I wouldn’t keep doing it.  Running?  Sounds hideous.  Working out with machines at the gym, I have no idea what I’m doing and it doesn’t look fun.  Swimming?  Hmmm, that sounds kinda cool.  So, I began swimming about 6 months ago and I love it.  The other day while swimming I was kinda bored and thought, “it would be cool to listen to music while swimming.”

I jumped on the internet and did a bit of searching.  Most leads took me to H20 Audio’s website.  They have a waterproof case with headphones for the iPod shuffle.  There are a couple of places who have taken the iPod shuffle and made it waterproof on it’s own but they are more expensive than I wanted.

I bought the iPod shuffle and waterproof case from Amazon.  It didn’t come with the goggles.  I haven’t used it swimming just yet, but will be later today and will update with my experience.  It’s more comfortable than I was expecting and it’s smaller than the pictures make it seem as well.  I’m really hoping it works well and isn’t too uncomfortable.  I’d like to swim longer but get bored after awhile.  With this I’ll be able to listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks.

Update:  Ok, I got a chance this afternoon to use the headphones and waterproof case.  Wow!  It worked perfectly and it made my swim time much more enjoyable.  I played some great BT (it’s dance/techno and really good).  The case worked perfectly and I barely knew it was strapped to the back of my head.  The headphones were great too, way better sound than I expected.  I’m going to try a podcast the next time I swim.  The next test will be how well they hold up to 3 or 4 swim sessions a week.  I did forget to mention earlier that the waterproof case is really well made, it’s not cheap feeling at all.  I’m really happy so far with this purchase and I think it’s going to go a long way to helping me continue my swimming and finally keeping off the couch so much!  :)

  • Aperture: ƒ/11
  • Camera: E-20,E-20N,E-20P
  • Taken: 8 February, 2004
  • Focal length: 9mm
  • ISO: 80
  • Shutter speed: 1/1.6s
  • Title: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jawbone Up mini-review

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Im always intrigued with the various ways technology can be used in our lives. Especially when it reaches beyond my normal tech zones of computers and reading and video games. I purchased the Jawbone Jambox, a small Bluetooth speaker and was highly impressed by the quality. That prompted me to check out Jawbone’s website to see what else they were doing. I knew they did the Bluetooth headsets and didn’t need one of those. But then I saw the Jawbone Up and became curious.

After reading some initial reviews I wasn’t encouraged because it got a lot of negative feedback. Still the concept and images made me decide to ignore the bad and get one anyways.

I don’t workout at the gym but I do swim, so the idea of using it to track that exercise as well as the standard pedometer also lead me to take the plunge. On top of that I’ve been attempting to understand sleep and sleep patterns and how to get the best nights sleep.

So, how well does it do any of this? The sleep tracking works well and has been very interesting to see. It measures your movements while you sleep to determine how much deep and shallow sleep you get. It has a built in alarm to wake you at the optimal point in sleep, gently vibrating on the wrist instead of a blaring alarm clock. I still wake up groggy most of the time, but have noticed a few nights where it woke me at just the right time and I was ready to go.

The pedometer works well and has you set a goal so you can see how you do each day. It’s hard to get as much movement as you really should but that’s not anything to do with the device.There is a food tracking function but I haven’t used that much. It looks like it just allows you to take a picture of your meals. Not sure if it does more than that.

I haven’t experienced the issues of syncing, battery life and charging that others have reported. These issues have caused Jawbone to quit selling the Up temporarily until they can address them. They even went a step further by offering no questions asked refunds allowing the users to keep the device on top of the refund. Not many companies willing to stand behind their products like that.

As far as the workout mode goes I haven’t used it much to track workouts. The reason is my only workouts are swimming laps and I haven’t been brave enough to wear it while swimming. The band is listed as water-resistant to 3 meters. That should be enough to cover normal lap swimming but I didn’t want to take the chance. There are some who have said they use it while swimming and don’t have problems and just as many who have said they used it and then started having problems.

The band is comfortable to wear and I barely notice it’s there most of the time. The battery life seems to be around 6 days or so. It could probably go longer but I haven’t tried wearing it until it ran out.

I wish it had a PC or Android client. Currently its only on iOS for the syncing of data. I have an iPad so I use it on there even though the app is not made for iPad, it’s made for iPhone/iPod so it doesn’t look too good on the iPad. I also haven’t used it in conjunction to the iPhone to utilize the GPS tracking function.

Overall I’m happy with the device and may get up the guts to swim with it. Hopefully it’ll help me keep more active. Just the act of monitoring activity tends to make you want to be more active.