Hey IT Nerd: How Did The Hard Drive In Your MacBook Pro Work For You?

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 22, 2014 by itnerd

Here’s another question that came out of my recent trip to the UK:

IT Nerd. You’ve made a very big deal of having to have your hard drive replaced multiple times. So, how did the hard drive that you bought work for you? I am assuming that it was fine as you didn’t go on a rant about it failing. But I figured that I ask. 

Thanks for the question. First, let me address the rant part. If you’ve gone through what I’ve gone through recently with recent run of bad luck with hard drives in my MacBook Pro, you’d rant too. It’s very frustrating if you rely on your computer like I do. Having said that, the Western Digital Black hard drive that I put in had no issues. Now I will admit that I did back up every night I was in the UK as I was expecting something bad to happen seeing as I was lugging my MacBook Pro through airports, subjecting it to security checkpoints, and using it in a variety of locations. But nothing bad happened. That seems to point towards Apple having a serious quality issue with the hard drives that they use. I will continue to monitor it and report back in less than 90 days about where things sit on this front.

Hey IT Nerd: Will An Unlocked Phone Save Me Money?

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 22, 2014 by itnerd

It seems my travel to the UK has sparked some questions. Take this one for example:

Hello. I have a simple question for you IT Nerd. You talk about having an unlocked iPhone 5S. Does that really save you money? 

Thanks for the question. The short answer is yes, it does save me money. But don’t take my word for it. The fine folks at iphoneincanada.ca looked at this issue using the iPhone 6 and showed that while you spend a lot of money up front, you save in the long term. I can confirm that this is the case. Besides that, I have a intense dislike for being tied to a carrier for two years simply to get the phone that I want cheaper. In addition to that, having an unlocked phone gives me maximum flexibility when I travel to save additional dollars as I will be paying local rates rather than the rates I would be forced to pay via my carrier of the moment. So for those reasons, when my customers ask me if they should go for an unlocked phone, I always say yes.

My Trip To The UK: Part 6 – Home At Last

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 22, 2014 by itnerd

Currently I’m typing the final part of this travelog from my den after having successfully travelled to the UK this week on business. Let me fill you in on what happened after I arrived at London Heathrow Airport. I was waiting to see what gate my flight was at and it was located on a board like this:

IMG_0611Now flights at London Heathrow tend to be posted roughly 1 hour before departure and they typically start boarding 15 minutes after being posted. That’s one reason why you should be at the airport three hours before your flight. You’ll also note the Time Planner in the center of the screen. London Heathrow is a massive airport and it can sometimes take up to 20 minutes to get to your gate on foot. So, besides making sure to wear comfortable shoes, you should plan accordingly. In my case, I was at gate B39 which was a 15 minute walk from my location.

Once I got there, I was in for a bit of a surprise. Though you can’t see it very well in this picture, Air Canada was going to fly me back on their newest and coolest plane. The Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner:


The reason why this plane is a big deal for Air Canada is that it will enable Air Canada to fly to more routes, carry more people than a 767 (250 versus 190 for the 767), and save a ton on their fuel bill. Plus they will be able to do all that while providing a level of service that has not been seen in an airplane before.

Now the plane was late to board (but for the record, it left on time) so I leveraged that time to charge my iPhone 5s with my Belkin Travel Power Pack 9000 and I left it attached to my iPhone 5s for the duration of the flight. Now people have asked me how I keep my gadgets charged when I travel. The answer is that I only take my iPhone 5S with me and I plug it into my MacBook Pro via USB overnight to charge it. Doing it that way means that I only have to bring a USB to Lightning cable with me and I don’t have worry about bringing an AC charger.

Now once I boarded the 787-8 Dreamliner, I noticed a number of things about the plane that caught my eye:


They have a new version of their in flight entertainment system. You’ll note the headphone jack at the bottom left (which by the way my Sennheiser MM 301 headset worked perfectly in unlike every other Air Canada aircraft I’ve been in), and the USB port to provide power to your phones and tablets.


The user interface is very tablet like where swipe and click gestures are the order of the day. It’s also very quick. Previous Air Canada infotainment systems were incredibly laggy. This one for the most part wasn’t. It also had features like the ability to customize a playlist of songs that they had on tap as well as movies or TV shows.




Speaking of power, you get these power outlets at your feet which while hard to get to, it puts the power adapter out of the way.


The lighting was very soft and pleasing. Seeing as I was going to be on this plane for up to 7 hours, I appreciated that. The lighting is LED based and designed to help your body adjust as you cross time zones. I should also note that there’s a lot of headroom in the aisles as the ceiling is huge.


Another thing I appreciated was the window. Instead of having a window shade, it has a circle below the window that allows you to darken or lighten the window as the window is electrochroamatic.

One thing that I did note was the fact that there was humidity in the air. Typically, passenger jets don’t have any humidity which means that my skin typically feels horrible after a long flight and my contacts often dry out requiring me to use eyedrops to make them bearable. This isn’t the case in the 787-8. Another thing that I noted is that even though the cruising altitude was 40,000 feet, the cabin pressure did not feel like it was set that high. That’s because Boeing has figured out how to set the cabin pressure 2000 feet below whatever altitude you’re at. Finally, this jet is quiet. I was right over the wing which means I should have had to put up with a ton of engine noise. But it was way more quiet than I am used to in a jet. The net result of all of this was that I actually felt somewhat human when I landed which isn’t typical when I fly overseas. If it wasn’t for the kid behind me kicking my chair, or the kid beside me who would not stop crying in the last two hours of the flight, it would have been perfect. But if you take those out of the equation, Air Canada has a game changer with the 787-8 Dreamliner. The next time I take a flight, I’ll see if I can get myself onto one because it more than makes up for the fact that Air Canada was late getting me to the UK. I do have one suggestion for Air Canada. On board WiFi. I’ve flown other airlines on overseas flights and they have WiFi access which helps me to get work done before I land. I am sure that I along with many other frequent travelers would appreciate having WiFi on their 787-8 Dreamliners.

So, how did I pass the time on the flight? I typically don’t sleep well on flights. So the most that I do close my eyes and have music playing from my iPhone 5s. I have dozens of playlists that last anywhere from 60 to 80 minutes to choose from. So I am never at a loss for music.

So, after a not so quick trip through Canada Customs (they had multiple long haul flights land at the same time) and a not so quick trip through baggage claim, I hit the TTC Airport Express bus to get me home. It’s honestly the best way to get to and from the airport as long as you can get yourself to Kipling Subway Station. I live near it so that’s a no brainer for me.

So, that’s my trip to the UK. I’ve hope you’ve picked up some handy tips and tricks along the way. If you have any questions, drop me a note and I’ll be happy to answer them for you. I got a lot of great response to this six part series, so look for me to do it again as I’ll be traveling to the Asia Pacific region next year.




My Trip To The UK: Part 5 – Heading Home

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 21, 2014 by itnerd

Today is a travel day for me. After having breakfast at the hotel and checking out (Which only took seconds by the way. Kudos to Premier Inn in Solihull Town Center. for having the fastest checkout from a hotel that I have ever seen. But please have better WiFi for your guests), I headed to  Birmingham International rail station to catch Virgin Rail back to Euston Rail Station. Now my first stop was the arrivals and departure boards to see what platform my train was arriving on:


The departure board is the red board on the left. I looked there and saw what platform my train was arriving on. When I headed downstairs, I needed to know which way to go to get to the Standard Class coaches. Fortunately, they made it easy for you:

FullSizeRender 2

Tip: Unless you’re taking a long rail journey, as in three hours or more, there’s no point paying for anything other than Standard Class. Plus, on Virgin Rail, you still get reserved seating if you pay enough. As for the train itself, here’s what Virgin Rail’s trains look like:

FullSizeRender 3

They’re electric trains and are largely quiet. Almost nothing in terms of noise makes it way into the coaches. Just over an hour later, I had arrived at Euston Rail Station. An hour after that via the Underground and I had arrived at London Heathrow Airport. Now the Underground line that goes to Heathrow is the Piccadilly Line. You can get to any of Heathrow’s five terminals using this line. One tip I do have is to note which terminal you are going to. One branch of this line goes to terminal 4 only. Another branch goes to terminals 1,2,3 and 5, and a third branch doesn’t go to Heathrow at all. Thus you need to pay attention to which terminal your flight is leaving from. If you forgot to check, this line does run outside which enables you to get cell service. So you can go to Heathrow’s website via your smartphone  and check the status o your flight assuming you have your flight number.

Once I arrived at Heathrow, I went to terminal 2 as that’s where my Air Canada flight is taking off from. I checked my bag and went though security. From previous experience, going through security at Heathrow is very civilized unlike most North American airports. I did have my laptop bag taking for secondary inspection, but I was in and out of security quickly and stress free. Since my flight had not been assigned a gate yet, I grabbed a coffee and opened up my MacBook Pro type up this article. I could not find any free WiFi access, or at least no free WiFi access that I could trust. These days, you can’t be too careful. Thus I then used the Instant Hotspot feature which is part of the larger Continuity feature set that is built into OS X Yosemite and iOS 8.1 to get online. I had all sorts of data left on my T-Mobile SIM from EE so that was a no brainer. One thing that I should note is that unless you are in a restaurant at Heathrow, there’s no tables where you can work with a laptop from. This is different than Person which has some places where you can comfortably set up shop while you wait for your flight.

So, by 5PM tonight hopefully, I should be home. If you want to have some fun, you can track the status of my flight here. After I get home, I’ll post the final part of this travelog which will tell you what I do on long flights and sum up my trip. Stay tuned!

My Trip To The UK: Part 4 – Navigating The West Midlands

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 20, 2014 by itnerd

While I’ve been here, I’ve been shuttled about from place to place for the most part. But there have been times where I have wanted to explore on my own. Thus I’ve been relying on Google Maps. For starters, Google Maps has helped me to find places to eat and the like take this place:


I found this pub thanks to Google Maps simply by opening the app. And I before I walked over to it, I was able to get more info about it:



I felt confident walking in and I did have a good time. They had good food and good beer at a great price. I’ve also found Google Maps to be handy one the sole occasion that I drove. With their integration of Waze made sure that I got from point to point in the most efficient manner possible by helping me to avoid traffic wherever it might be.

Speaking of meals, my client took me to this Indian restaurant in Birmingham:


The food was great and the portions were huge. How huge? Here’s an example:


That’s huge!

I’ve finished up my assignment and I’m back at my hotel getting ready to return to Toronto. The last part of my travelogue will be to discuss my journey home. Stay tuned.

WhatsApp Gets End To End Encryption

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 20, 2014 by itnerd

If you use WhatsApp, you have a new feature. They’ve partnered with Open Whisper Systems to bring encrypted end-to-end chats by default:

The most recent WhatsApp Android client release includes support for the TextSecure encryption protocol, and billions of encrypted messages are being exchanged daily. The WhatsApp Android client does not yet support encrypted messaging for group chat or media messages, but we’ll be rolling out support for those next, in addition to support for more client platforms. We’ll also be surfacing options for key verification in clients as the protocol integrations are completed.

WhatsApp runs on an incredible number of mobile platforms, so full deployment will be an incremental process as we add TextSecure protocol support into each WhatsApp client platform. We have a ways to go until all mobile platforms are fully supported, but we are moving quickly towards a world where all WhatsApp users will get end-to-end encryption by default.

Now this is good. But Apple’s iMessage has done this from day one. Thus WhatsApp is playing catch up in a way. But data is still backed up to the company’s servers, so that differs from WhatsApp in that regard. Still, it’s hard to complain about getting more security by default.

Bell & Telus Complain To The CRTC About Rogers GameCenter Live…. Rogers Responds

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on November 20, 2014 by itnerd

You might recall that I wrote about Rogers and their GameCenter Live App and all the content that’s available to them. You’d think that every Canadian in hockey mad Canada would like it. But Telus and Bell are less than thrilled about it and complained to the CRTC. First up, here’s what Bell had to say via CTV:

Bell TV says that the GamePlus mobile app should be made available for free to all NHL GameCentre Live subscribers, not just those who are customers of Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B).

“Consumers who are not Rogers customers will be harmed as a result of being blocked from accessing this content,” Bell TV argues in a filing to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

And backing them up is Telus. Here’s what they said via The Globe And Mail:

“This exclusive is not a story of innovation, but rather one of foreclosure of competition,” Telus wrote in a filing with the CRTC dated Nov. 14.

“If this exclusivity continues to be permitted, consumers will very quickly be forced to pay more for access to content as a result of being forced into multiple subscriptions for mobile and Internet services.”

Clearly they’re not happy. Rogers must not have been thrilled about this because they took to Redboard to respond:

Bell and Telus don’t like that we’re giving you a really cool interactive online experience called GamePlus™ to supplement your hockey watching. And now they’re saying it violates CRTC rules, claiming it was produced primarily for TV and that we shouldn’t be able to offer it just to you. The complaint makes no sense, especially when this is exactly what the CRTC rules allow – unique features that take advantage of the power of the internet and the latest technologies.


What’s really telling here is that given the chance, our competitors would do exactly the same thing: Bell bid for the same exclusive NHL rights and lost, and Telus has proposed changes to the rules that would let them  offer exclusive features to their customers, but not us.

We’ll continue to follow the rules set by the CRTC and won’t stop giving hockey fans more.

Ouch. This is really messy. This is really going to be fun to watch if they’re going at each other like this.




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