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Best gadgets to help you get fit in the new year

Need to get fit in the new year? Here are the gadgets that can help!



Do you spend too long in front of your desk, and not enough time moving? I know I do, and 2020, with all the COVID, lockdowns, and closed gyms and such, hasn’t helped.

At some point during the pandemic, I decided to take control back, and put my health and fitness at the top of the list once again.

Here’s how you can do the same!

Apple Watch My very own fitness instructor on my wrist

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch continues to be lynchpin of my fitness goals. It keeps me motivated, logs my exercise and activity, and keeps an eye on aspects of my health that might otherwise go neglected.

I’ve tried dozens of other smartwatches, and while many were good, none came close to the breadth of offerings that the Apple Watch brought to the table (or, more accurately, my wrist!).

For iPhone owners, there’s nothing better.

$399 at Apple

Onnit Hydrocore Bag Far more forgiving than swinging around steel!

Onnit Hydrocore Bag

I sure love swinging kettlebells, maces, and clubs around, but they’re very unforgiving. Knock yourself in the head or your leg with a lump of steel and you’re going to know about it. A bag — a tough one — filled with water is a lot more forgiving, but no less challenging.

Also, if you’re exercising indoors, it’s a heck of a lot less damaging if you drop it on the floor.

I also love the fact that I can empty the Hydrocore, pack it down, and take it with me when traveling.

Looking for workout ideas? Check out Mark Wildman’s YouTube channel.

$109 at Onnit

Crossrope Get Lean Jump Rope Remember the jump rope?

Crossrope Get Lean Jump Rope

Seems old-school, but Crossrope has brought the jump rope into the 21st century with precision engineering, and, of course, a cool app.

This kit comes with a set of precision handles (they are indeed lovely), two different weighted ropes 0.5lb and 0.25lb), and a carry pouch.

There’s also a comprehensive app offering loads of exercises, workouts, and challenges.

Super kit!

$99 at Crossrope

TRX Home2 System Suspension Trainer This bit of kit will last you a lifetime

TRX Home2 System Suspension Trainer

The TRX is not cheap, but I’ve had a couple of sets, and after years of use, abuse, and neglect, they’re still going strong. And TRX has made the leap into the 21st century by developing a very comprehensive app that offers workouts and challenges, as well as logging your workouts.

What I love about the TRX system is the versatility: I can use it at home, in a hotel room, or even outdoors. That way, there are no excuses not to train!

$184 at TRX Training

Peleton Bike Go places, while being indoors!

Peleton Bike

All the benefits of owning a bike and going to a riding club, but in a workout device that you can fit into an apartment.

The peloton isn’t for me, but I’ve spoken to a number of owners who absolutely love their bike, and feel that even after months of ownership that it continues to deliver masses of value and fun.

Not sure if it’s for you? Take advantage of the 30-day home trial.

$1,895 at Peleton

Sennheiser CX Sport Bluetooth Sports Headphones Far cheaper than AirPods Pro for guy use!

Sennheiser CX Sport Bluetooth Sports Headphone

As much as I like my AirPods Pro, they’re just not suited to hard exercise because they pop out of my ears a lot (and since I exercise a lot outdoors, it can sometimes take some time to find them again!). This is why I’ve made the switch to the Sennheiser CX Sport.

They’re light, comfortable, sound good, have a decent microphone, and are good at resisting sweat and other moisture.

I also love the color — it makes them easy to spot!

$109 at Amazon

Need more gift ideas?

Check out our ZDNet Recommends directory or Holiday Gifts hub for some more inspiration.

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The Apple Watch continues to be lynchpin of my fitness goals. It keeps me motivated, logs my exercise and activity, and keeps an eye on aspects of my health that might otherwise go neglected.




Comcast gave me good, precise news. The truth was precisely the opposite

Many companies believe that technology is perfect for customer service communication. Often, though, it just isn’t.




Please be infinitely accurate, Comcast.

These things happen.

Yes, all too often they happen at very awkward times.

But we’ve allowed ourselves to be at the mercy of technology these days, so who are we to complain.

There I was on a recent Friday afternoon, writing several things and watching something on TV. This was my form of dedicated multitasking.

Suddenly, my tasks ground to a halt: All of my Comcast systems went down.

No TV, no internet, no life. (Schopenhauer was the first to say that.)

At least my iPhone was working, so I went to the Xfinity website to see what had happened and when it might unhappen.

The engineers were working on the outage, I was told. Would I like to sign up for texted updates? Of course I would.

Precision Is A Wonderful Thing.

So I sat, waited, and watched.

The first texted offering was that the outage would be fixed by 5:54 p.m. I sat, waited, and remembered I had an Xfinity app on my phone. I tried opening that too, just in case there was more immediate news.

I tried reading a book, but I had those things to do. They were quite urgent, so I became somewhat itchy.

5:53 p.m. came along. It had been more than three hours. But, when you’re told such a precise time, you believe that the texting entity is very sure that the outage is fixable by that time.

At 5:54 p.m. came the bad news. It would be precisely 9:54 p.m. Oh dear. This evening wasn’t going well.

My wife and I cooked. We sat at the dining table, facing each other. We talked. You see, there’s something marvelous about a Comcast outage. It eliminates the temptation of a TV dinner. Instead, you chat about how annoying it is that there’s a Comcast outage.

But I needed to get those things done that night. Because I did. We had plans for the weekend and we wanted to stick to them.

After Midnight. You Can’t Let It All Hang Out.

Next came a new update. The outage wouldn’t be fixed at all that day. Instead, it was now going to be 12:10 a.m. the next day. Precisely.

Please forgive me if, by this stage, I was getting a touch annoyed with this useless precision. Why be so exact when all you’re doing is exacting my nerve ends?

I can appreciate that some things are harder to fix than others. Yet if you’re giving customers such precise information, shouldn’t they expect to trust that information?

And when they discover that the information is precisely useless, won’t you be driving them precisely bonkers?

As the evening began to concede that night was approaching, I kept refreshing my Xfinity app. I feared the next update would say “in three days time, at precisely 3:43 p.m.” I feared I may not even get a text to confirm it, as the texting machines hadn’t been in touch.

Somewhere near 10 p.m., the app refreshed and there was suddenly no mention of an outage.

I tried turning on the TV. It worked. The internet chugged back up. I could do the things I had to do, through yawns of joy.

Curiously, though, I hadn’t received a text to say that everything was working again. Which, lest you forget, was the reason I signed up for the texted updates in the first place.

Of course I could forgive Comcast. It’s compulsory. The company has become somewhat more customer-oriented over the last couple of years. I know it’s been trying.

Oh, but then came Saturday. I could watch Premier League football (saacker) from the very earliest hours. I could watch golf. I could ignore college football.

Good News. Really Good, Imprecise Late News.

Later we went out, sticking to our plans. It was a lovely afternoon. We were in Safeway buying soup and chicken.

Suddenly, a text. Yes, from the Xfinity out there, also known as Comcast.

It began: “Good news.”

I was going to get a rebate for the complete lack of services that lasted seven hours?

Hope is the mansion with non-existent foundations.

Instead, Comcast texted me: “The outage has been resolved at approximately 3:28 p.m. PDT.”

Please imagine the depths of my pained chuckle. Comcast wanted me to know that it had just fixed the outage that it had fixed the previous evening.

So who had I been receiving Comcast services from the previous night and that morning? From the Xfinity Space Station?

And please note the utter deliciousness of the word approximately. Having been so definitive about the time of fixing, now I was only offered an approximation.

The text didn’t stop there, though.

It added: “Thanks for your patience. Your services should be back up and running. Let me know if you’re still experiencing service issues.”

Should be back up and running? But you told me precisely that the outage was resolved.

Naturally, this all caused me to worry.

As with my abject text-based experience with FedEx a couple of weeks before, I fear that companies have no control over the texts they send to customers.

If you’re going to do it, please be accurate. If you’re going to use such technology, make sure it’s not dribbling finger-in-the-air precision that can only frustrate your customers more.

It’s fine to apologize. It’s less fine to offer the wrong information.

If you can’t make the system work, don’t have the system.

Oh, what am I saying? Technology is customer service these days.



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Even computer experts think ending human oversight of AI is a very bad idea

The UK government is thinking of scrapping the right to ask for a human to review decisions made entirely by AI systems, but some experts are warning that it is not the right way to go.




The right to a human review will become impractical and disproportionate in many cases as AI applications grow in the next few years, said a consultation from the UK government.

Image: iStock / Getty Images Plus

While the world’s largest economies are working on new laws to keep AI under control to avoid the technology creating unintended harms, the UK seems to be pushing for a rather different approach. The government has recently proposed to get rid of some of the rules that exist already to put breaks on the use of algorithms – and experts are now warning that this is a dangerous way to go.

In a consultation that was launched earlier this year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) invited experts to submit their thoughts on some new proposals designed to reform the UK’s data protection regime.

Among those featured was a bid to remove a legal provision that currently enables citizens to challenge a decision that was made about them by an automated decision-making technology, and to request a human review of the decision.

SEE: Report finds startling disinterest in ethical, responsible use of AI among business leaders

The consultation determined that this rule will become impractical and disproportionate in many cases as AI applications grow in the next few years, and planning for the need to always maintain the capability to provide human review becomes unworkable.

But experts from the BCS, the UK’s chartered institute for IT, have warned against the proposed move to scrap the law.

“This rule is basically about attempting to create some kind of transparency and protection for the individuals in the decision making by fully automated processes that could have significant harms on someone,” Sam De Silva, partner at law firm, CMS and the chair of BCS’s law specialist group, tells ZDNet. “There needs to be some protection rather than rely on a complete black box.”

Behind the UK’s attempt to change the country’s data protection regulation lies a desire to break free from its previous obligation to commit to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The “right to a human review”, in effect, constitutes the 22nd article of the EU’s GDPR, and as such has been duly incorporated into the UK’s own domestic GDPR, which until recently had to comply with the laws in place in the bloc.

Since the country left the EU, however, the government has been keen to highlight its newly found independence – and in particular, the UK’s ability to make its own rules when it comes to data protection.

“Outside of the EU, the UK can reshape its approach to regulation and seize opportunities with its new regulatory freedoms, helping to drive growth, innovation and competition across the country,” starts DCMS’s consultation on data protection.

Article 22 of the GDPR was deemed unsuitable for such future-proof regulation. The consultation recognizes that the safeguards provided under the law might be necessary in a select number of high-risk use cases – but the report concludes that as automated decision making is expected to grow across industries in the coming years, it is now necessary to assess whether the safeguard is needed.

A few months before the consultation was launched, a separate government taskforce came up with a similar recommendation, arguing that the requirements of article 22 are burdensome and costly, because they mean that organizations have to come up with an alternative manual process even when they are automating routine operations.

The taskforce recommended that article 22 be removed entirely from UK law, and DCMS confirmed in the consultation that the government is now considering this proposal.

According to De Silva, the motivation behind the move is economic. “The government’s argument is that they think article 22 could be stifling innovation,” says De Silva. “That appears to be their rationale for suggesting its removal.”

The consultation effectively puts forward the need to create data legislation that benefits businesses. DCMS pitched a “pro-growth” and “innovation-friendly” set of laws that will unlock more research and innovation, while easing the cost of compliance for businesses, and said that it expects new regulations to generate significant monetary benefits.

For De Silva, however, the risk of de-regulating the technology is too great. From recruitment to finance, automated decisions have the potential to impact citizens’ lives in very deep ways, and getting rid of protective laws too soon could come with dangerous consequences.

SEE: Programming languages: Python just took a big jump forward

That is not to say that the provisions laid out in the GDPR are enough. Some of the grievances that are described in DCMS’s consultation against article 22 are legitimate, says De Silva: for example, the law lacks certainty, stating that citizens have a right to request human review when the decision is solely based on automated processing, without specifying at which point it can be considered that a human was involved.

“I agree that it’s not entirely clear, and it’s not a really well drafted provision as it is,” says De Silva. “My view is that we do need to look at it further, but I don’t think scrapping it is the solution. Removing it is probably the least preferable option.”

If anything, says De Silva, the existing rules should be changed to go even further. Article 22 is only one clause within a wide-ranging regulation that focuses on personal data – when the topic could probably do with its own piece of legislation.

This lack of scope can also explain why the provision lacks clarity, and highlights the need for laws that are more substantial.

“Article 22 is in the GDPR, so it is only about dealing with personal data,” says De Silva. “If we want to make it wider than that, then we need to be looking at whether we regulate AI in general. That’s a bigger question.”

A question likely to be on UK regulators’ minds, too. The next few months will reveal what answers they might have found, if any.

The consultation determined that this rule will become impractical and disproportionate in many cases as AI applications grow in the next few years, and planning for the need to always maintain the capability to provide human review becomes unworkable.



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National Australia Bank keeping staff connected with Google Pixel rollout

More than 2,000 Google Pixel devices were issued to NAB’s customer contact teams to enable them to support customers remotely.



15664-android-nab-blog-v2-max-1000x1000.png Image: Google

When National Australia Bank (NAB) recently revised its device strategy to look at new ways it could support the mobility of its employees and reduce the time and cost of support legacy devices across multiple platforms, the big bank partnered with Google to issue more than 2,000 Pixel devices to its customer contact teams.

Each device, managed with Android enterprise, was rolled out by Vodafone using “zero-touch” enrolment to set up the devices and configure each one with the necessary applications.

“With zero-touch enrolment, each Pixel setup was 20 minutes faster than our previous device enrolments, saving our IT team and colleagues over 500 hours during the initiative. With our communication and collaboration apps available right out of the box, our teams could get to work right away to help customers,” NAB Mobility manager Simon Thoday said.

Another consideration of the rollout was how customer data was going to remain secure, with Thoday pointing out that using Android Enterprise provided the solution to that question.

“Pixel security updates from Google provide a reliable cadence of ongoing protection as threats evolve, and the work profile hits the right balance between security and privacy for our teams,” Thoday said.

“Our contact centre teams use Pixel devices that are fully managed, which allows us to provide the necessary security controls, and wipe and re-enroll them when transferred to a new employee,” he said.

“Branch managers use Pixels with the work profile, separating work and personal applications. This gives employees the ability to use the device in a personal capacity while our IT team manages and ensures data security over the work profile.”

Additionally, with managed Google Play, NAB can assign the apps that are necessary on its managed devices.

“Providing our teams the flexibility to assign apps to the right teams is a major time saver and ensures everyone has the resources they need,” Thoday said.

“Branch managers can look up customer service records or answer a ping more quickly from their Pixel, instead of returning back to their desk and logging back on to their desktop computer. Android Enterprise has been a catalyst in a more mobile and responsive environment for our various teams.”

Earlier this month, the red and black bank completed its transition to TPG to deliver fixed and mobile network services across the bank.

The transition follows a deal struck between the two companies in September for the newly merged telecommunications giant to deliver fixed network services across NAB’s corporate offices, business banking centres, and branches, as well as providing mobile connectivity to the majority of the NAB workforce.

Vodafone delivered the solution to more than 80% of NAB’s mobile fleet across corporate offices and branches in metro and major regional areas. The company said Vodafone, alongside Google, would also be providing those who opt for a company phone with the Pixel 4a.

Related Coverage

Another consideration of the rollout was how customer data was going to remain secure, with Thoday pointing out that using Android Enterprise provided the solution to that question.



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