Garmin or Fitbit

Tests done and concluded

Should I go for Garmin or Fitbit? As mentioned earlier, I wanted to give the Garmin Vivosport GPS a second chance.
During several days I used both Garmin (left hand) and Fitbit (right hand), comparing each morning the data.
Garmin has indeed improved its software and the sleep tracking is totally updated.
My final choice is … the Fitbit Alta HR. The Garmin is back in the box; if the Fitbit dies, I might still use it.
The choice is very personal, for some the Garmin could still be the first choice.
See here the details.

Three series of tests

See the different screenshots of the Garmin and Fitbit for 3 dates: 29 July, 30 July, 31 July.

29 July

30 July

31 July

You can check the date and band type in the name of the picture, with the pointer on top of the thumbnail to see the filename.

Sleep tracking

The Fitbit is very sensitive and often counts as “awake” when I am actually sleeping. But I can check the details and I usually add like at least half of the “awake” to the sleep total. The advantage of the Fitbit: great detail and pretty accurate for sleep start and sleep end. The Garmin does record “awake” and is overall much less sensitive. Start and stop are however not always right: if I wake up and stay in bed to check my mobile, for Garmin that is still “bedtime”, not for Fitbit.
I also like more the overview of the days for the sleep tracking.
As sleep tracking is for me the focus, Fitbit wins.

See as example for reading on 29 July:

Fitbit: start 00:24 – stop 08:03; asleep 6H40 and awake 59 min, so that is some 7H20 sleep for me
Garmin: asleep 7H57 (no start stop in the pics)

And for reading on 31 July:

Fitbit: start 23:03 – stop 06:54; asleep 7Hr9 awake 42 min so total sleep for me like 7H30
Garmin: start 23:14 – stop 07:22 (wrong!) asleep 8H6 – awake 2 min

Stairs climbed

I am interested in this reading but as said earlier, Garmin totally under-reports, so useless. I do a lot of stairs…


See readings 30 July:

Fitbit 7,016 steps
Garmin 4,232 steps.

Why the big difference, no idea. I do trust more the Fitbit readings.
Fitbit gives a clear overview on many days for the steps; Garmin does not, you need to check day by day.
Fitbit wins here for me.

Resting heart rate and heart rate

Fitbit gives a much more clear overview for the past days of the resting heart rate and it allows you easily to check heart rate for every day, in detail.
Garmin does not give a good overview, one needs to check day by day. The only advantage (not important for me): it show record for cycling. Fitbit is not really reliable for cycling (my rides are also pretty short).


For some users the many sophisticated features of Garmin, such as to track cycling (using the GPS) and other activities might appeal. As I usually do short bike rides, switching on and off the GPS is too much trouble.
For me the focus remains with sleep and resting heart rate.
Thus Fitbit it is…

From Garmin to Fitbit again

Looking for the “best”

How I went from Garmin to Fitbit again…
As I was totally disappointed by Fitbit, I thought this time I would do some research and chose the best and most suitable health band for me; little did I know it would end up with Fitbit again!

After a lot of googling, the choice fell on the Garmin Vivosport GPS. So I thought I was clever.
The Garmin was  RMB 1299 and I registered the band on 20 June 2018.
It took quite some efforts to understand and use the many features, I could even register my bike ride, check the time and distance etc. Well, all a bit too complicated for me, as my rides are rather modest.

Website horrors

The same horrors with the Garmin websites, as with Fitbit. As I am normally either on a Chinese, Korean or Japanese IP address, all came only in those languages with no way to change the language and country. Also as a result, totally erratic registration and password issues. Actually when I tried now to use the Garmin again, password did work on a Belgian server but not in China. What a mess. I was forced to re-register the band (yeah with another email address because this they apparently knew about the other one used). All from scratch. A real ordeal.

Sleep tracker not working

The Garmin Vivosport is a great tool to track your fitness, exercises, biking, … Even a bit too complex and complicated for my taste, but surely impressive.

But my major focus is on sleep tracking as well as resting heart rate, heart rate, among other. As I found out soon, sleep tracking was a major problem with Garmin, it fails to correctly monitor your sleep. It seems that the software was not working properly, as I found out in the many discussion forums complaining about it. And a solution was apparently not to be expected anytime soon.
For me, the Vivosport was a total disappointment and I stopped using it.
Right now as mentioned, I took the Garmin again out of the box to see if the problem remains.

Back to Fitbit

In life never say never. With the total disappointment of Garmin, new search.
So I settled for the Fitbit Alta HR, cost in promotion RMB 988.
The band is really simple but meets exactly my main requirements: Sleep monitoring, resting heart rate, and less relevant for me step counting (because I bike every day and that does not register). The only feature I miss is counting stairs (I do quite a lot…).


I did then the tests with both Vivosport and the Alta, each on a different arm. Results were pretty obvious, as you can see in the pics dated 2 August 2018 and 5 October 2018. The Vivosport is totally wrong and for no apparent reason.
Overall the Alta is rather correct for sleep monitoring, while the Alta often marks some sleep as “awake”. But this I can check easily: registered “sleep” 7 hours and “awake 1 hour: so I know real sleep was close to 8 hours if I know I did not get up in the middle of the night. It also does register an afternoon nap if it is at least close to one hour.

More testing

After some frustrating trial and error, a new registration, the Vivosport is working again. Still some issues remain. Now comparing, one on each hand, the first readings:


Still further improving settings on the Garmin, not easy. Work in progress.
It seems Garmin did improve the software.

Stairs climbed

As for stairs climbed, the band is totally underreporting, yesterday I climbed close to 30 floors but it barely registered. That seems to be an issue with most bands. Doing a search it seems many people complain about this.

Says Garmin:
Your device uses an internal barometer to measure elevation changes as you climb floors. A floor climbed is equal to 3 m. Locate the small barometer holes on the back of the device, near the charging contacts, and clean the area around the charging contacts. The barometer performance may be affected if the barometer holes are obstructed. You can rinse the device with water to clean the area. After cleaning, allow the device to dry completely.
In my case I found one small hole only and on the other side of the charging contacts. Maybe because my model is older?

I will test for a few days and report back!

Fitbit Charge HR

A symbol of bad quality

On 19 June 2016 I got a Fitbit Charge HR after using a modest health band version of Xiaomi. Price was RMB 758.
It was the start of never-ending breakdowns.
The top of the band was peeling off. Then later the band broke underneath near the reader unit. I used it daily but I was careful. Quality was plain horrible, it is a fitness band and should resist normal use.
I soon discovered everybody had the same issues and the discussion groups showed endless complains, all about the same.


I did try to repair to put back the band (top side) and the broken band (underneath near the reader). Super glue worked but it would never last.
See the pics, look at the bubble on the armband and the broken connection underneath.


I did finally succeed to contact the company and they sent a replacement: not just the band but a complete new unit. It seems for some models you could change the band with a hexagonal wrench but in my case that did not seem to work. I also don’t have that VERY small wrench…
Looking at the flood of complaints, it was clearly a manufacturing and design flaw that was never addressed properly, totally ignored by the company.

A new unit

After my complaint I did receive a new unit, in February 2017. When the electronics died (another poor quality issue) in the first unit, I then used the new one on 18 February 2018.
Sadly the new unit also did not last long. The electronics died. See the Fitbits ready for the garbage bin.
That was the end of Fitbit for me and I said I would never buy a Fitbit again. The horrible handling by the management of that defect was really a shame for the company. They would simply ship the same rubbish as a replacement…

With the flood of complaints, Fitbit closed the help forums related to “Charge HR Band Delamination Problems” and related:

SantiFitbit (Moderator) posted a new reply in Problems with Fitbit Charge and Charge HR bands on 11 June 2018.
Hello everyone! Thanks for your participation on this thread regarding the Fitbit Charge HR bands.  It seems that the conversation on this thread has jumped to multiple topics so I will be closing it to keep this board on topic.

But for me, the story with Fitbit did not end there…
More to follow!

Fitbit website, one of those retarded sites

The FitBit websites are a pain, in Beijing I can only see Chinese, if I am on Japanese server, all Japanese and no clear way to switch to English. So I had to switch my VPN to a USA server.

I guess Americans must think people never travel. You are supposed only to visit their websites when you are in your “home country”, whatever that means. So if you are visiting another country, you have no more access to the website.

Talking about shortsightedness in the 21st century. Worse, as it is the case for many of those websites, there is no clear link to switch the language and the country. Sadly to say, Google is one of the retarded in that aspect. They all blindly look at your IP address from where you go on the Internet, and trying to change the “country” is mostly unsuccessful. Good we have VPN to fool them.

Can China improve the air?

OK, it is really really bad

As posted earlier, the horrible pollution days have greeted us in the Christmas – New Year period. Many Chinese, and of course many foreigners, have doubts China will and can do something about it. Can China improve the air?


(Source SCMP)

Here some more pictures showing the pollution as seen from my house in Beijing, some taken above the Beijing CBD (as from the China Zun building under construction), and more.

Officials admit defeat, as for now

At least officials admit the skies are less blue than planned and progress has been little.
Read this telling article:
“Cool change on smog policy as Chinese officials warn of long fight ahead. Gone is the determined and optimistic tone of the past, with officials admitting that few gains have been made in clearing the air.” Dated 9 January 2017.

The recent poor air quality reflects the failure of previous commitments to tackle pollution.

In 2014, as Beijing launched a 760 billion yuan fund to clean up the city’s air, it vowed to s
lve the smog problem by 2017.
The official tone has changed. On Saturday, acting Beijing mayor Cai Qi said he shared the public’s frustration over air pollution.
A decision was taken in November to reset the ambitious 2017 goal. Instead of cutting levels of PM2.5 by more than a third from 2013 to an average of 56 micrograms per cubic meter by 2017, the aim is to do so by 2020.

But maybe for once I try to be an optimist.
See some of the indications.

Public transport and car regulations

As mentioned in my previous post, rail and city public transport is still a high priority.
As for Beijing, another major ring road is to be built, making a huge circle around Beijing so the trucks don’t need anymore to pass Beijing on their way to other regional destinations.
Slowly the quality of the gasoline is being improved but issues still remain with the bad quality of diesel.
As long as highway tolls remain too high, we will see continuing overloading of the trucks, a danger but also a source of pollution.
Beijing will soon cordon off the city for much of local traffic. The “Uber” type of services will also see restrictions: only Beijing hukou drivers and Beijing plates – now most of those services use Hebei drivers and cars.

China advances into renewable energy

A must to combat pollution

While progress to combat air pollution is very modest, China advances into renewable energy by spending huge sums.


See this announcement (a similar article was in China Daily):
“China Aims to Spend at Least US$360 Billion on Renewable Energy by 2020”

By MICHAEL FORSYTHE, 5 January 2017

(To better see the video, click full screen – need VPN in China)

China intends to spend more than US$360 billion through 2020 on renewable power sources like solar and wind. It laid out a plan to dominate one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, just at a time when the United States is set to take the opposite tack as Donald J. Trump, a climate-change doubter, prepares to assume the presidency.

The agency said in a statement that China would create more than 13 million jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2020, curb the growth of greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming and reduce the amount of soot that in recent days has blanketed Beijing and other Chinese cities in a noxious cloud of smog.

But even disregarding the threat of climate change, China’s announcement was a bold claim on leadership in the renewable energy industry, where Chinese companies, buoyed by a huge domestic market, are already among the world’s dominant players. Thanks in part to Chinese manufacturing, costs in the wind and solar industries are plummeting, making them increasingly competitive with power generation from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

Problems remain

While China advances into renewable energy, not all is well:

– A high amount of wind and solar plants are not yet connected to the grid; China State Grid has promised to improve connectivity.
– The quality of some wind and solar farms is dubious but they are making progress
– Recently many new coal-fired plants were started up, but now at least the government is slowing it down.

How a real Beijinger reacts to pollution

Humor (?) is never far away

Yeah, we are all so aware the air is bad. Here how a real Beijinger reacts to pollution, with an “adapted mask”.

One needs a smoke, whatever happens. Found on WeChat and this went viral…
Sorry guys but I do not have the ordering details for the mask.
Not sure if they have the appropriate models for cigars and pipes.

Finding the polluters in China

Where does it come from?

TanSat will allow China finding the polluters in China, a major problem as many in the industry disobey the environmental laws. See earlier post.
China is to clamp down further on the industrial polluters, especially the smaller companies, as announced on 7 January.
“Small factories face anti-smog scrutiny” China Daily 7 January 2017

In 2015, industrial use of coal accounted for about 46% of the total coal consumption, but these furnaces did not have stringent environmental standards that matched those of the thermal power industry.
Right now the biggest challenge for the government is enforcement. They even started to use drones to inspect the polluters from a safe distance. Going there they get beaten up – or killed.
It has become a war…
See more about the interesting drones story here:
29 May 2015 – Caixin Online
China Uses Drones to Monitor Pollution Problem from Above
Central and local officials flying remote control drones to identify sources of pollution and gather information about air quality.

I quote a part:

The Ministry of Environmental Protection has also had drones fly over steel mills, refineries and power plants to gather information about possible emission violations. On May 18, 2015, the ministry published information on its website regarding penalties imposed on several major industrial companies in Hebei Province, in the north, that drones caught committing emissions violations. China has spent billions of yuan in recent decades to develop a national pollution monitoring system, but its effects have been limited because polluters always seem to be able to find ways to hide.

Burning the fields

A Dutch friend took these pictures on the Highway S10 between Shenyang (Liaoning) and Tonghua (Jilin).

See all the burning fields. It is illegal but farmers still do it unpunished, a major contribution to air pollution in the region.

The new pollution police

Officials in Beijing are taking steps toward tackling the city’s long-standing smog problem with the creation of an environmental police force, according to state media. Spearheaded by Beijing’s acting mayor Mayor Cai Qi, the political crackdown on burning fossil fuels comes amid a flurry of concern over the country’s choking air pollution.
See here:

The launch of the Tansat satellite

Tansat Satellite

The launch of the Tansat satellite was the main subject of my interview with RTL, to come out this week.


Image: TanSat Collaboration

TanSat (Chinese Carbon Dioxide Observation Satellite Mission) was launched in December 2016 by China to monitor carbon dioxide levels, making it the third country to track the potent contributor to global warming from space, along with USA and Japan.
The technology will trace the sources of greenhouse gases and help evaluate whether countries are fulfilling their commitments to reduce pollutants under environmental pacts.

China is a signatory to the Paris climate change agreement, the first universal action plan for curbing global warming.
The US and China are together responsible for some 40% of the world’s emissions, so their participation in the agreement is crucial for its success. So, if incoming President Trump fails to respect commitments, China will take the lead.

China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, due to its heavy reliance on coal to provide electricity to its population of 1.37 billion. It has been fast moving away from coal—driven in large part by the major recent air pollution.
On a three-year mission, TanSat will thoroughly examine global CO2 levels every 16 days, accurate to at least 4 ppm (parts per million).

Beijing super smog and traffic changes


I am not sure who first came up with that word to describe Beijing super smog. Here one of the many articles:
Photos of China’s ‘Airpocalypse’ — where industrial smog makes the country a living hell for half a billion people, by Louise Liu, Business Insider, 22 December 2016

Indeed, Beijing has in the past weeks seen some real horrible pollution. “The thick, toxic air has caused flights to be canceled, classes to be suspended, and alerts to be issued by the government encouraging people to insulate themselves from air. Under a charcoal-tinted sky and toxic fumes, half a billion people can’t live or step outside without wearing masks.”

And it came up all of a sudden

On 2 January I jumped on my bike to meet a friend for lunch. I checked the AQI, it looked good so I did not take a mask. That was a mistake.

As shown in these images and video it came as in a horror movie.

The time-lapse video shows Beijing swamped by a tide of smog. The video, just 12 seconds long, shows smog descending on the 3rd Ring Road over a 20 minutes period, towards the CCTV Tower and other buildings. The video circulated all over the world. It was by taken by Chas Pope, a British worker, that very day.

What about the masks?

To face the Beijing super smog, in-house I use my air filtering machines, outside my choice of 3M masks.


See how black the disposables become after some days. Time for a new one.
I now basically only use 3M, the ‘chemical war type” for heavy duty and the disposable one (pretty cheap like 10 RMB) for “normal” use. Both work well on the bicycle (one has to breathe!).
There are other masks of course, see here one “guide” (I stick to mine!):


Beijing: very strict rules on the way

Beijing announced stricter emission standards for cars to improve air quality. Starting on 15 December 2016 gasoline cars with National I and II emission standards are banned from the road when the city has an orange or red air-quality alert. Furthermore, those cars will be banned from the road from Monday to Friday starting on 15 February 2017. The number of cars with National I and II emission standards make up 8% of the cars registered in Beijing, but the emissions from those cars account for more than 30% of all emissions.
Also, soon cars older than ten years will be banned from the “center” (inside 5th ring road).
As far as the insiders tell me: cars from outside the 5th ring road might be simply all face serious restrictions (new number plates coming?!).

Plastics in the oceans and in China

Plastics: the huge plague finally receiving more attention

“Plastic Ocean: it’s a must-watch for Attenborough”, the article by Stuart Heaver, 27 Nov 2016 on plastics in the oceans:
The article also shows the official trailer.

Described by the revered presenter as “one of the most important films of our time”, the programme investigates the damage caused when indestructible things become disposable.
Earlier this month, 300 guests sat in stunned silence as A Plastic Ocean, a new feature-length exploration of the impact of plastic in our seas, made its Asian premiere at the Asia Society, in Admiralty. The film, which goes on general release on January 19, documents the unfolding of an international environmental catastrophe. It took five years to investigate the global impact of eight million tonnes of plastic being dumped into our oceans annually.

Plastic Island

More again here about plastics in the oceans: “How our throwaway culture is turning paradise into a graveyard”
By Nick Paton Walsh, Ingrid Formanek, Jackson Loo and Mark Phillips

Midway Atoll, North Pacific Ocean (CNN) — The distance from humanity yawns out in front of you when you stand on the pale sands of this tiny Pacific island.
Midway Atoll is just about the furthest piece of land from civilization and its constant engine whir, data and jostle.
Standing on the island’s remote shoreline brings a calm and humility — until you look down at your feet.
On the beach lies a motorcycle helmet, a mannequin’s head, an umbrella handle, and a flip-flop. They didn’t fall from a plane or off a ship, and there aren’t any civilians living here who could have left them behind.
They were washed in with the tide, most likely from China or the US, thousands of miles away — part of an enormous plastic garbage patch, spinning in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which you probably contribute to. And these are just the bits of it we can see.

Plastic China

There is also a striking documentary done inside China, see (need VPN in China):

Plastic China Sundance Trailer (2016, China)
Jiuliang Wang Documentary (English Subtitles)
Published on Dec 21, 2016

Yi Jie’s uneducated parents left mountain village home town, looking for work. They sort & recycle plastic waste, and live among mountains of it too. Then there is the boss, Kun, and his family, who do dream of a better future… a universal story of social inequality.
Director – Jiuliang Wang
Winner – IDFA 2016

See more about the movie here:
‘Plastic China’: Film Review, 30 December 2016, by Neil Young
A touching microcosm of capitalist realities obliterating communist dreams.
Jiuliang Wang’s documentary won a prize when bowing at IDFA and will make its North American debut at Sundance.

Hopefully it will call the attention of more people, especially of the authorities who only pay lip service.
The topic also figures in my book Toxic Capitalism.