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Bolt HD

Bolt HD cam gives high def on or off the road, - while Lifesize manages your food intake

By Jim Bray
April 4, 2013

You can keep fit by exercising, you can diet by eating less, and you can do both with style thanks to a couple of interesting new products that, while wildly different in form and substance, both offer interesting ways to accomplish your task.

Well, obviously it depends how you use them. No weight reduction plan short of having someone hold a gun to your head at the supper table is guaranteed, and just because you have a nifty little HD camera doesn't mean you're lord of the bicycle path.

But they're both pretty nifty ideas anyway.

Let's shoot our Bolt first, figuratively – we don't want to get caught up in a high or low caliber firearms debate!

The Bolt HD comes from Swann Security, which bills itself as "the global leader in security monitoring solutions." It's a cute little camera/DVR unit designed for outdoor enthusiasts – which makes me wonder why I'm reviewing it! – and comes with various mounting options that let you use it under different conditions.

The $199 unit is definitely tiny – it's a tad longer than my thumb and twice as thick – yet it boasts full 1080p operation as well as the capability to take 12 megapixel still pictures (which undoubtedly makes it perfect for moonshiners as well). It's also waterproof, so take it on your white water rafting trip – just don't drop it in the drink!

The Bolt HD also has the most entertaining owner's manual I've ever seen! Right from the introduction ("You've gone and done it now. Really taken the cake…"), these folks had me smiling and laughing through the pages, which outline the unit's features, benefits and capabilities, as well as instructions for how to use it. My favorite comment was where they describe the little LED that lets you know what the thing is doing: "The SportsCam can't talk, so it flashes a little light to let you know what it's up to, like Captain Pike from that old episode of Star Trek."

Now, just because the makers have you laughing all the way through the manual doesn't guarantee the product's any good, but in this case it works pretty much as advertised. You have to supply your own microSD card for recording your video or images, but that isn't surprising in the least, nor is it a big deal.

The unit is self contained, other than its various mounts and the little remote control it comes with, and they've even included a waterproof cap you can put over the end to keep the slots and switches dry when you're out and about.

The thing even has a little targeting laser in it to help you get the shot you want, instead of some random image in the same general direction. Its little red dot is good for not only freaking out folks you hit with it, but for judging the center of the camera's view – or, as the manual also states, you can use it as a neat tool to entertain cats. This, I can tell you without hesitation, also works as advertised.

Mounts include one designed for surfboards and one meant for a bike's handlebars. You could also mount it to your bicycle helmet this way, assuming your head is an inch thick and quite long.

I don't bike or surf, but since you also get two adhesive fabric strips included in the box you can stick the thing to "any flat, non-porous surface" – so I stuck 'em to my head and tried that. And didn't I look cool! Okay, I didn't really do that.

The device will record in either 1080p or 720p, which can come in handy if storage space on your microSD card is limited: by recording in 720p, you can store about twice as much footage as you can in 1080p. Video quality at both resolutions is very good, though obviously it's better at the highest settings (you can choose from low, medium or high quality for each resolution).

Likewise, you can switch between three, four, five, eight and 12 megapixels for stills.

The Bolt HD also has a stereo microphone (what, no 5.1? Geez…) so you can get pretty lifelike recordings of the grunts and things I imagine athletic people emit during their periods of exertion. Its mini HDMI connection lets you hook it right into your HDMI-equipped home video equipment (once you spring for an adapter cable, which is easy to find in just about any electronics store) and inflict your self-punishment on your family, friends and neighbors – once, anyway.

You'll also want to hook it into your system, or computer, right off the bat, to take advantage of its on screen menus (since it has no screen of its own). The menus let you tweak stuff like recording quality, time stamp, record mode, etc.

The Bolt HD is powered by a USB-recharging lithium-ion battery and so far, unlike a Chevy Volt or Fisker Karma, it hasn't caught fire. You can also use the USB port to connect the unit to your computer to copy your files across for posterity.

Swann says the Bolt HD is shockproof as well as being waterproof down to 32 feet.

As someone who lives as sedentary a life as humanly possible, Swann's Bolt HD is definitely not aimed at me, but I tried it anyway and it does appear to work as advertised. That means, for $199 plus the cost of a microSD card and an HDMI adapter, you can make a pretty decent document of your world record extreme sports attempt.

Having your cake and eating it…

Lifesize kit
Ah, now the Lifesize system is aimed more at someone like me! It's a "portion control system," that attempts to prove that the secret to weight loss isn't what you eat, but how much you eat.

Well, duh! Doesn't that just make so much sense? But isn't that what dieting can be about, too?

Well, maybe. I've tried many diets in the past, most of which were quite unofficial – as opposed to Atkins or whatever – and I hated every one of them, except for Weight Watchers, which I used to lose about 20 pounds some 25 years ago. Unfortunately, I found those pounds again afterward, along with another 15 or so, which had me threatening to look like Jabba the Hutt – and I didn't want an expensive legal battle between my limited means and the deep pockets of Lucasfilm Limited – now Disney.

I've tried cutting back, but never really tracked it that closely – with the results you might expect: portly city. I've tried to eat in a more healthy way than I like, and to eat more of the stuff I know is good but which I hate – like salads  and all that roughage garbage. But it's hard to motivate yourself to eat stuff you know you won't like, and the results there have been predictable as well.

Lifesize chartAnd that's the point behind the Lifesize system.

Last year, I started a couple of regimens, one of which I'm sticking with to this day: the FitDesk. It's an exercise bicycle with a big, flat area on it you can use as a desk. I use it generally three to four days a week, for up to an hour at a time, and it helps (though it's far too close to exercise for my liking). But I haven't lost the weight I want to using it alone, so when the Lifesize folk told me about their system I was all ears (well, ears and paunch…).

What you get with this $80 system is basically a big hunk of plastic you can put on your kitchen counter, or wall, and which holds a bunch of measuring devices you use to control not what you eat, but how much you eat. So you can eat whatever you like; you just have to do it more intelligently.

The system is broken down into categories such as Carbs, Meats, Dairy, Baked Goods, Saucy Dishes, Toppings and Goodies, and there's another measure for liquids. To prevent  you (or, in this case, me) from actually having to think, there's a wall chart that outlines what food qualifies for each category, and how much of each food counts as a "Lifesize Portion."

For example, if your supper is going to include pasta as a side dish, then one Carb container full is a Lifesize Portion. If the pasta's an entrée, two containers qualifies as a Lifesize Portion. You're supposed to eat three meals a day consisting of a daily total of six Lifesize Portions. You can mix and match a bit; for example, maybe breakfast will only take up one Portion and so you can have three Portions at lunch or supper – and you can have a snack or dessert (or both, if you exercise that day, dammit) on top of your six Portions.

It sounds complicated but it isn't really, and the system comes with some fairly entertaining videos in which the Lifesize folks outline the system and all the foods in detail. And what they say does seem to make sense, not that I'm a nutritionist.

Does it work? I have no idea. I just started using the system about a week ago and already am bristling at the discipline it requires. But discipline is what it's all about, so if I'm going to do this I'd better get used to it – and I'd better get used to it because I still have nearly 20 pounds to get rid of.

But you know, just having the Lifesize system in my kitchen helps. It sits there without saying a word, but it's perched where I have to look at it, and once I catch on to its silent nagging I know what I have to do. I must admit, I don't always measure my food with the device (because it makes for more dishes/scoops to wash, and I'm very lazy), but I find myself at least measuring "unofficially," trying to keep to its guidelines. And that usually means smaller portions than what I'm used to.

So far, I've lost two pounds, which isn't bad for a week but which is also bupkis in the grand scheme of things. If I can keep this up, I'll be svelte by summer.

I'll hold my breath.

I'll also report back to you periodically on my progress, so you can see if/how this combination of FitDesk exertion and Lifesize discipline works. I have a feeling I'll be cheating quite a bit (hey, at least I admit it!), but as long as I don't go too crazy – a ship that may have sailed already – it should still bring about some interesting results.

We'll have to "weight" and see.

Copyright 2013 Jim Bray

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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