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by Glenn Franxman, Django Developer / Stunt Programmer.

FitBit Found!

posted: 2012-09-03 12:51:44 perma-link, RSS comments feed

As part of a corporate fitness program I received a fitbit. It loved it so much that I bought a second one for my wife. Then, one day, it happened. I lost my fitbit.

The fitbit clip has a cool oled display, accelerometers to track your steps and an altimeter to track the number of staircases you climb. The website has reports and a facility for logging meals, weight and other activities.The fitbit is a powerful device, but it does have a particularly troublesome gap in its featureset.

In order to keep its size down and battery life up, it uses unidirectional communication. At least I assume it does based up its sync patterns.

While working in my garage this weekend, the fitbit caught on a cable that is part of my garage door opener and was flung across the garage through time and space to parts unknown. At least that is how I think it happened. I remember brushing up against it and hearing a noise like something falling, but when I turned an looked, I saw nothing.

Some time later, I noticed my precious fitbit was gone! I looked everywhere. But because I recently moved, my garage if full of half emptied boxes all with their tops open. I searched and searched but it did not turn up. Finally, I looked online and saw that it had not synced in a couple of hours because my garage is out of range, so I grabbed the laptop and base station and went down stairs. It sync'd! And it showed one tiny blip of activity surrounded by idle time!

That was my first clue. Though I had not found the device, it had in some way jostled it. It logged that jostling, and once it sync'd with their website, I could see it.

Digging deeper, I fired up Charles -- an OSX http proxy. Once I could look at the data being sent and retrieved from the fitbit website, I learned that the fitbit logs its data in 5 minute chunks. It tries to send these chucks to the web once every minute, until it does so successfully, at which point it goes back to just logging data for a 15 minute window.

Armed with that information, I undertook a binary search of my basement by vigorously shaking half of the boxes and shelves and such, then waiting for the next sync. It worked. It logged some steps. Having cut the search down to half of the basement, I did it again, and again it registered the movement. I had it down to the south-west quadrant. This time I logged the time of each item I shook, shaking only one thing per 5 minute window. It took a several more iterations, but ultimately it pointed to the fitbit being on the lawnmover.

Knowing this I turned it over but nothing came loose or fell out. The data said it had to be there, so I broke out a flashlight and finally found the thing. It had gone down inside the chasis through the slot around the lever that controls how much grass goes into the clippings bag.

If I had waited too long, the battery on the device would have died and I would never have found it in there.

So anyway, all of this is a long way to say that it would be nice if there was a way to tell the fitbit to chirp. I mean, it's only a completely silent, black clip that's meant to be innocuous while being worthless unless you have it with you at all times and costs $100 bucks.

I got lucky -- it landed somewhere where I could jostle it without knowing its location.



Ezgi commented, on June 27, 2013 at 6:48 a.m.:

My question was how do you sync your phone phtoos to iPhoto? I don't have the iPhoto version that you have I guess. I looked into it and I think I figured it out. I believe you have to have the new Lion software in order for the pics to stream to iPhoto. I have snow leopard still. Am I going in the right direction in upgrading my computer software to Lion or is? there a free way?

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