Xiaomi released a very interesting product with the Mi Band 2 - a 20$ fitness band. And while it does not feature the best sport tracking functionality, it can be - with a bit of tinkering - a basic smartwatch.
To get you started, you need the Mi Fit app and a Mi account. Create one outside of the app, because registering within it does not work for some reason. The basic functionality that comes within the Mi Fit app is already quite featured, and has nice functions like notifications, reminders and auto-unlocking your phone, if your Mi Band is near it. Note that most of this only works with an Android device, and this post will focus exclusively on Android. Now, everything should be already working. You can take some minutes exploring the app, and then continue with the tinker stuff.
For this, you will need another app called Notify & Fitness for Mi Band. The app is free, but there are features that need a Pro license. However, I think that the around $2 are well invested, as this app has a ton to offer. Install it and connect it with your band.
The notifications of the Mi Fit app are very basic and limited and only show an icon. Now, we're going to extend this functionality. Open the side menu of the app and select "Test display". If your band vibrates and shows an icon, then you're super lucky and you may head to the next paragraph. For everyone else, don't worry. Download v2.2.9 of the Mi Fit app from APKMirror, set your phone's language to English US, install it and you should get a prompt to install an update on your Mi Band. Install it, try "Test display" again, and everything should be working fine.
Now we can go into the Notify & Fitness app and go to the Apps section. From here, you can add apps from which you want to receive notificatons and custom tune them individually. For example, you can select from a bunch of icons (these are burned into the firmware of the Mi Band 2 and can't be changed without a custom firmware), filter notifications and even show the text of the notification! If the last thing does not work for you, go into Settings, Advanced and turn on "Force notification text".
To avoid getting the same notification multiple times, make sure you disable notifications from the Mi Fit app.
The Notify & Fitness app can also receive button presses of your band. Triggers are press once, twice, three times or lift it and lift it twice (which would look a kinda weird). These taps can then do actions, like play/pause music, finding your phone, raise/lower volume and so on. But you can even create more advanced actions using Tasker. Tasker is a brilliant automation app. It costs $3 but there is a free, 30-day trial. And it can nearly do everything - Google Now integration, send SMS, device control, HTTP requests and so much more that you can't tell in one blog post. It is like a drag-and-drop programming interface with tons of plugins that add so many cool features.
To integrate it with your Mi Band, open up the Notify & Fitness app, go to "Button" and select Tasker action for lets say double tap. Then you go into Tasker, Profiles and tap the plus icon. Select event, System, Intent Received and enter
com.mc.miband.buttonPressed2 (for all events like lift, check out this list). You will be prompted to create a new task (or select an existing one). Give it a name and lets create a Hello World script. For that, we'll just put a notification on the Band. Tap the plus button, select Plugin, Notify & Fitness, Notification and create your Hello World notification. When you're finished, tap your button twice and tada - you just opened yourself a whole world of automation.
What can you do with this? - Everything! I've created a script that tells me my next school subject when I'm in school, gives me information about which subjects drop out, tell me what the menu for lunch is and so on. Another very handy one I made is toggling notifications on the Mi Band, so when I don't want to be interrupted by the vibration, I can disable it by tapping the button three times.
Besides from this, Tasker can do various other stuff and can also be used to create basic apps or Google Now/Assistant commands. There's just so much you can do with Tasker, and if you haven't tried it. check it out now.
Is the Mi Band 2 now a smartwatch? Kinda - it's a watch, but it has to made smart by you. So I think that the Mi Band 2 is more like a tinker kit for me, rather than a perfect, consumer solution that wants to have everything, perfectly out of the box. But if you love to play around with things tech, then you're going to love this. And for about $20, you can't really do anything wrong.
The time of crappy budget computers is over. How to pick the best bang for the buck components? You'll soon know.
Let's start with the heart. I chose the AMD Athlon X4 860K*, a quad-core from AMD, because of the price. It has decent performance while keeping the price low. Only thing that sucks is the integrated cooler which can get really loud while heavy usage, so you probably want to get a better one very soon.
Up- and Downgrades:
Obviously, a better CPU makes your computer faster, so if you have a bigger budget, you can invest a little bit more. If you have a smaller budget, I'd recommend saving a little bit longer, because below this pricetag you pretty much only get something bad.
I've went with the AMD RX 470* from PowerColor (RedDragon model) for this. It's bigger brother, the RX 480*, you might know as the 1080p king. As for the RX 470, the performance is also pretty good. Also (in silent mode) the fans don't spin while normal operation and also stay really quiet under load.
Up- and Downgrades:
If you want to spend a little bit more, I'd recommend either to take a RX 480* from AMD or a GTX 1060* from Nvidia. For a bit less, you could also take a RX 460* or a GTX 1050 Ti*, but I'd go for the GTX 1050 Ti, because of the better graphics. But if you choose one of these, make sure you don't get a 2GB model.
For memory, just go to your store of choice and get the cheapest one with the capacity and type you need. Don't worry too much about clock speeds and things like that. Just get the correct DIMM and DDR type and you're good to go. A solid choice are often Kingston's Value and Crucial's RAM. I went with eight gigs of Kingston Value RAM. One thing you may pay attention to is how many RAM slots your motherboard has. If it has only two, then better only get one memory stick, so you can upgrade later on.
Up- and Downgrades:
I really would not downgrade below 8GB of RAM. If there's no other way, then okay, but you probably want to upgrade it in the future. Upgrading to 16GB is fine if you play games or do stuff that can use this capacity, but everything above 16GB is probably overkill and only for specific usecases like video editing.
I took the very cheap 420 watt power supply from LC Power for 20€, but while it does it's job pretty good (also very silent), it was a total mess to install. The wires were so short that I was not able to plug the CPU power cable in without having crappy cable management. In my case, it wasn't a that huge problem, as I'm using a Mini-ITX case, where everything is very tight together anyway. So do a better job and get a proper PSU.
While motherboards don't affect functionality and speed of your computer (at least mostly), they affect features. So grab a motherboard with all the ports you need. Pay attention to get the correct socket and size for your case. I chose the Biostar Hi-Fi A70U3P*, as it was the cheapest one I've found that has everything I need.
This was something really difficult. I really wasn't sure if I should go with a better GPU but a HDD or a slightly slower GPU but a SSD. The general question is: do you want a better gaming experience or a snappier everyday computer? I went with the second option and opted for a Crucial MX300 525GB* SSD, and it was totally worth it. Windows 7 boots up just as fast as it's newer brothers, programs opens as you click on them and copying and unzipping files is blazingly fast.
Up- and downgrades:
If you are a gamer, then you probably want to spend more on the GPU. You can get a 1TB HDD* for about 45€, which is a very low price compared to an SSD. If you need more storage, you could get a bigger SSD, or also opt for a hard drive as a second storage device.
This sounds very easy, but it actually is pretty tough. There are some things to consider, like ports and size. I wanted a very small case, that isn't too noticeable. So I chose a case from a German manufacturer called the Jonsbo C3* which sadly is only available in Amazon Germany. It is made only out of aluminium and has microphone, headphones and two USB 3.0 ports on the front.
There are tons of tutorials out there on how to build your computer, so I'm not going to write you a step-by-step article. If you don't want to assemble your computer on your own, there are many shops that can do it for you.
If you build your computer in a mini ITX case just like I did, you should know that it is very tight and cable management can be very frustrating. But if you assembled it, you're very happy with your small but powerful computer.
When you install Windows, you better want to do it via USB, even if you have an optical drive. It is so much faster, it took only 10 minutes for me. But don't use USB 3.0, because apparently the Windows Installer does not support this... Weird.
All I can say is that the performance is pretty decent. I was able to play Minecraft on 60FPS - just kidding. Overwatch runs pretty smooth on high settings and 1080p. Emulation gaming with Dolphin for Wii is also solid. I also tried editing 1080p-footage with Premiere which was no problem at all, as well as doing Photoshop work.
As a conclusion, I'm very happy with the result. The only upgrade I'm going to make is a new cooler, because the stock AMD ones suck so bad.
I hope I could help you with choosing your parts for your new epic computer rig. If you have questions, feel free to ask them in the comment section.
*These links are Amazon Affiliate Links. If you shop over these links, I get a small commission, without you having to pay more. It is fully anonymous, and I'd really appreciate it if you'd use these links. Thanks!
With Prime, Amazon has made a very weird product. It's very cheap but seems to offer a lot: free premium shipping, Prime Video and Music and a lot of other benefits. But can this service be better than Netflix, Spotify, Google Play and Co. alltogether?
Starting with the probably best done thing about Amazon Prime - the premium shipping. The idea is great in theory, but in praxis it's very limited. You have to order before a specific time, it only works with products shipped by Amazon and it's not always there on the next day. I mean, don't get me wrong. This sucks. But at least they make a little bit of sense - something that Amazon Prime does not do often.
Oh boy... now it starts. Spotify revolutioned the music industry just like Apple did with iTunes way back in the years, and other brands like to jump on the streaming train as well. There's Deezer, Google Play Music, Apple Music and - sadly - Amazon Prime Music. Now I've tried a lot of music streaming services. I had Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Google Play Music and now Amazon Prime Music (currently, my favorites are Spotify and Google Play Music). So, as I just wanted to test my new driver of music , I only neededa few searches to make me go jump.
I searched for ten songs - all very popular, and only four - yes four! - songs were found, while all the other streaming services have got all. But not only that. The website sucks and the apps as well. But I'll talk about apps a bit more when it comes to Prime Video.
I get it now. You had to jump on the hype train. But is it really so hard to make a at least acceptable streaming service? Starting things off with the apps. Oh boy, the apps. I have a Nexus Player (Android TV) and a Chromecast; and of course a phone and computer. On my computer, it works quite fine, no complains there, except for the very ugly UI and horrible search. On my other devices on the other hand, it's terrible. You can already put the Chromecast in the trash bin, because there's no support at all - better get a Fire TV stick. For my Nexus Player, I had a bit of hope, because of many promising XDA posts and even a custom, material designed leanback launcher just for Prime Video. Awesome - I thought. Even after hours of installations, sideloading and searching the XDA forums, it didn't worked. And yes, you have to sideload all apps because Amazon did not publish any of the Prime apps to the Play Store.
And if this isn't enough, there aren't many popular movies or even blockbusters on Prime Video, and many aren't even included in your Prime subscription. Awesome! But series are even worse. For example on Netflix, you've got pretty much everything you want - accounts, recommendations, autoplay, a nice UI and so on. But on Prime Video, this stuff does not exist. Also, you have to hope that your favorite shows are there - while there are the most popular ones like Breaking Bad or The Big Bang Theory, other ones like Sherlock are completely missing. But don't think you can watch all seasons of your favorite show just like you're used to. Nope, the latest seasons are mostly not included. That also explains the low price...
You see, Netflix also has these little things that make it a pleasure to use. It's easily available on all platforms, it has individual plans and profiles so you can share your account with others. Amazon has none of that.
If you want just a little bit of everything, then use it! But if you want everything, in good quality, easy to use and with many nice features, then better get the real boys. It's that sad, yes.
That's just my opinion. Luckily, you can try pretty much every service free for at least 30 days. So just go test Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, Google Play Music, Deezer, Apple Music, Napster and all the other crap.
There's just one thing that bothers me about Android and where I think Apple and Microsoft have clear advantages: system updates.
Android has many advantages over iOS and Windows Phone. One of them is that there are so many devices running Android, and you can choose the perfect one for you. But this brings also one huge disadvantage: updates.
Every manufacture who uses Android is responsible for their device's updates. No big deal if you have only a few of them and use (almost) the stock version of Google (like Motorola does), but other companies like Samsung or LG have so many phones which run a customized version of Android, which makes updating them very time-consuming.
This is very bad in many cases, the worst one is that it takes so long until updates come out to the users.
Before Android Nougat 7.0 came out, there were numerous rumors that the update principe will change to something that is way faster and easier for manufactures, but as I guessed, there was so new update eco system. Still the same old slow crap.
After putting a bit of thought in a system, I came to a very simple solution:
Drivers don't change often, even on higher versions, so this would be quite easy for manufactures. System apps can be updated via the Google Play Store, so this would be easy as well. Just the custom skin that many companies like Samsung with their TouchWiz (or Grace UX) apply has to be re-created and updated after the Android core update.
So, this system would have clearly many advantages over the old one. It can get rolled out faster and is way easier to make for the manufactures.
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