Nike+ SportWatch – DO NOT BUY

tl;dr: The software this watch (and the Fuel Band) requires to work correctly has been discontinued by Nike. The watches are no longer worth anything. Don’t buy one. – link to Nike announcement. If you’re looking for an alternative try the Garmin Forerunner, or even a Huawei Watch.

In 2013 I bought a Nike+ SportWatch. It’s nothing amazing, but at the time it was a well-priced GPS watch which let me track my running and cycling (kind of). It’s major drawback at the time was that the only way to get data off the watch was to sync it with the Nike+ servers by plugging it in to USB and using their proprietary software. This wasn’t a major issue. But now it is.

I’ve since upgraded to a WearOS watch with built in GPS, so I can just run the Strava app. As such I gave my watch to my wife. Recently she plugged it in to upload the data. Trying to sync results in a “Couldn’t connect to NikePlus” message. Clicking help results in a “Forbidden” page access message.

What you see when you click Help in the Nike+ app

Eventually after searching a bit I find out that Nike have decided to discontinue support of the watch. Nike+ Link. For most products this would be okay, you’d still be able to download a GPX file to your PC and upload it to your service of choice. But Nike+ software never offered this feature. And in shutting down their servers they have completely abandoned their customers.

Message on Nike+ support page

To an extent I can understand this. They stopped manufacturing devices in 2015, and can’t be expected to support them forever. What I can’t excuse is that they failed to offer an alternative, when a very simple one exists. The original software effectively downloaded the data to a PC, compiled it into a GPX file and uploaded it to the Nike+ servers (source). They just never made that GPX file available to the user. But this is the perfect opportunity to do this. As opposed to dropping support completely.

What is further concerning is that people continue to sell the product on E-bay without providing warnings about the product’s obvious problem. Likewise on Amazon.

In 2014, Leendert van Duijn and Hristo Dimitrov published a paper titled “Information retrieval from a TomTom Nike+ smart watch“. In this paper they documented some of their efforts to intercept the communication and figure out the comm protocol the watch uses. They made some inroads, but didn’t fully decrypt the data.

Using their guidelines I’ve managed to download what I believe is data from a run, but have no way to decrypt it. I hope someone else is able to figure it out and make this perfectly acceptable watch useful again.

2008 Hyundai Tucson 2.0 GLS

I’ve been spoilt in the last few years with the vehicles I’ve been able to drive on a daily basis. And I fear it has spoiled me (1, 2, 3, 4). When we moved to the US, I didn’t have work lined up and had to wait several months for a work permit. During that time we were living off a grad-student salary and savings. Very quickly we realised the need (or extremely strong desire) for a vehicle to get aroudn and out of LA. Although living in close proximity to public transport, it lacked in many areas. So we were shopping on a budget. Definitely pre-owned, but we wanted something we could at least take into the wilderness. 4WD wasn’t off the cards, but not a necessity.

As such our vehicle search landed us with a lowish mileage (72,000 miles) 2008 Hyundai Tucson. It was well-priced, likely as a result of its manual transmission and “small” 2.0 petrol engine. Besides a couple scratches on the bumpers, it was devoid of major dents or indication of having been in an accident. And so it became ours. It had two open recalls, which the Hyundai dealership quickly sorted for us free of charge and has otherwise been problem free.

Since getting it we’ve replaced the tires and brake pads, as well as the front rotors. An oil change and other minor maintenance have been all its required. Almost 10,000 miles in, and it’s still going strong. It doesn’t use oil, has been surprisingly capable off-road, and the platinum paint job hides the dirt well.

But as I mentioned I’ve been spoilt, and this car is underwhelming to drive. My 1996 Audi competes with this Hyundai on features. But it’s a car. It gets us from A to B, and doesn’t complain. The 2.0l engine is surprisingly sprightly, but lacks torque when climbing long hills at highway speeds; of which the Americans are fond. Was it a bad decision? definitely not. As we’ve gotten to know California better, my only regret is not having looked for a 4WD version. The ground clearance has let us do a good amount of exploring, and while the boot (trunk) isn’t large, it’s ample for two people, and camping for four has been achieved. Even in a bit of snow.

If you’re looking for an amazing car. This isn’t it. It has power steering, it has electric windows, and it has a radio (with front loader). It has AC, that battles on the hottest of LA days, but is otherwise capable. It has airbags and we’ve added a towbar. It is a car; it is ours; and we like it.

There isn’t really anythign else to say about it. It has done all that we’ve asked of it, but bar the fact that it is our Tucson, it is nothing special.

Would I suggest you buy one? Sure. If it meets your needs, and you can get one for a good price. Hyundais of this generation have a good reputation for reliability. And I expect this car to convey us many more 10s of thousands of kilometres before we eventually give it up.

Although we could afford a new car, why? We either cycle or take public transport to work. The car sits at home during the week, besides the odd grocery run. Otherwise it sits in waiting; waiting for our next adventure. It is a car, and it is ours.

SA Driver’s Licence FAQ

With several different posts detailing some of the intracacies of the South African Driver’s Licence system, a number of questions get repeated. This post aims to address some of the most common questions.

Frequently Asked Questions:

I have an A, B, EB, C, EC, C1, EC1, Code 8, Code 10, code 14 licence, can I drive a motorbike, truck, articulated vehicle, quantum etc.

South Africa no longer has Code 8, 10 or 14 licences. In 1998 they were changed to the A, B, C, E format. You can see a comparison of before and after equivalents here. You can see what all the modern licence codes allow you to drive here.

I was arrested, charged, plead guilty to, arrested 2, 3, 5 years ago, can I get a PrDP?

You are unlikely to be approved for a PrDP if you were convicted, or plead guilty to any criminal offence in the last 5 years. That includes signing an admission of guilt. Usually this does not include ‘minor’ traffic offences such as parking or speeding tickets, assuming you were not convicted for reckless or negligent driving. If you were just arrested, or charged, but never actually convicted, you should be able to get a PrDP.

I am driving a bakkie, quantum, van, ford f150, truck do I need a PrDP?

It depends. If it’s a commercial vehicle, yes. If it has seats for more than 11 people, yes. If you are transporting people as part of your work, yes. Still not sure, read this article.

I have a code B, EB, C1, EC etc licence, and I want to get a code A, EC1 licence, etc do I have to redo my learners?

Yes. Regardless of what licence you hold, if you want to get a new licence of any code, you need to do a new learner’s licence for that code.

I am 18, 20, 25 years old, can I get a PrDP?

The minimum age for a PrDP licence is 18 for a G licence, 21 for a P licence, and 25 for a D licence.


The source for all answers is based on the National Road Traffic Act and it’s subsequent regulations and ammendments.

Lego! For adults?

When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to get to play with a fair amount of Lego. An older brother meant I started out with a decent sized selection and was able to grow that as I too grew up. I would occasionally get new sets, but mostly made do building all kinds of things with the variety of Lego I had. I was usually encouraged to put money I received for birthday’s and things into my savings account, but remember winning some money in an art competition (go figure), and my Mom allowing me to buy a new Lego set. A special treat. I’m quite sure I used the whole amount R300ish to purchase the Res-Q Hovercraft 6473 set.lego6473That’s probably the last set I can recall receiving. It would have been 1998 some time. And while I enjoyed building the set; once it was completed and played with, it got torn apart for scraps, to be used in other developments. I can’t recall any set I received since then. My parents stocked me up on miscellaneous blocks for the various fortifications I built, and I continued to build occasional Lego items through high school. But little thereafter.

20 years later, I have money I can spend. The money was a gift, so with minimal effort I can convince my wife that it’s okay for me use it to buy Lego. But what to buy? The selection is truly huge, with wonderful NASA creations, various vehicles, the whole Technic selection. How does one decide? Eventually I settled on set 42043, a Lego Technic set of a Mercedes-Benz Arocs 3245. Partly as an homage to my previous employer, partly because it was close to 3000 pieces and reasonably priced, and partly because I have a fascination with trucks and large vehicles in general.

lego42043Little could I contain my excitement when Amazon delivered my first new Lego set, me in my late 20s. I knew this was a fairly large build, but was still amazed by the weight of the box, coming in at over 4kg. The build took a fair amount of time, but I was able to complete it in a few days in my free time. It was a hard battle between wanting it to be finished and wanting the build to take as long as possible.

Instructions are mostly clear, and I only made a few minor mistakes along the way. The instruction book has over 460 pages. But it was fun. It’s not especially difficult, you just follow instructions, but it was a nice way to shut off after a long day at work. Building is a methodical balance between reading the instructions, searching for the part on my limited work surface, and then fighting some of the parts to fit.

Looking at the Lego 42043 set itself, I was quite impressed with some of the technical implementations. I had previously built a much smaller technic set, whose most advanced feature was a piston block and a rack and pinion gear train for steering. This truck has independent suspension, two differentials and two-axis steering. Additionally there’s a battery powered DC motor that supplies power to a number of devices. Under the drawbed is an array of gears and gear selectors, similar to those in function on a manual gearbox.

These allow you to separately actuate:

  • the lifting and dropping of the drawbed
  • the extensions and retraction of the stability arms
  • rotate the boom arm
  • power the pump for the pneumatics.

The pneumatic pump then (although obnoxiously loud) supplies pressure to four pneumatic actuators on the boom arm that allow you to:

  • lower and raise the boom arm (two separate sections)
  • extend and retract a section of the boom
  • open and close the scoop.

Along with this are a number of other smaller features. What impressed me the most was the attention to detail and how all these features come together.

My least favourite part of the whole build, was putting the tires on the wheels. There are 12 wheels, and 12 tires, and you have to push the tires over and get the seals to line up. Not hard, just not as fun as the rest of the build.

My only disappointment of the set, is the pneumatic system. It’s really cool, and was fun to play with. It’s impressive what they’ve achieved, but the boom arm is heavy, and the pneumatic pump is small, so trying to lift the system is slow. In reverse, when gravity is helping, the system will drop instantaneously (yeah compressible fluids). I know why this is, and once you get the hang of it, you can kind of control how fast the boom lowers by limiting how much you adjust the lever.

Having built this set, I’m sure I’ll get another set at some stage, I think I value part count the most, as I want a longer build time, so I’m interested to see what my next set will be. It’s fun, and relaxing to build. I haven’t yet found a place to display my truck, but online there are instructions provided for alternative builds for the same parts. So I see myself tearing this apart and building something new. Also, they provide extra pieces in the set, like spares. Which is concerning when you’re used to building something and left over pieces implying you did something wrong.

Through all this, I’ve not yet answered my title question. And yet I think the answer is obvious. Yes. Lego, for adults. Much like a jigsaw puzzle, I think people of all ages can derive joy from the process of building, and with the huge selection that is on offer, the result can be a model of something you have an interest in. In some ways it reminds me of the ‘adult’ colouring in books that were notably popular a few years ago, albeit more expensive. I think the building can be as therapeutic as colouring in, not requiring much thought, but with a visible result at the end of the day.