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Review: 2014 Mazda CX-9 GT AWD – Part 3

Posted in Products with tags on October 22, 2014 by itnerd

The interior of the Mazda CX-9 GT AWD combines a luxury feel with the need to carry multiple people.

IMG_0524The driver and passenger seats are power adjustable and heated. They are also bolstered, but the seats are on the wide side for me. For a female perspective, I brought in my wife and she loved the seats.

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The controls for the windows, mirrors and doors are on the drivers side door. Not the chrome and wood accents which really adds an upscale feel to the CX-9.

IMG_0516To the right of the steering wheel are controls to turn off the safety systems as well as to open the hatch and control the dash lighting.

IMG_0517Two things about the footwell stand out for me. One: There’s a dead pedal. Two, there’s a mechanical parking brake. Bonus points to Mazda for having both.

IMG_0548The steering wheel is leather wrapped and has redundant controls for the infotainment system. I found it to be slightly too thin. For a female perspective, I brought in my wife who found the thickness to be fine.

IMG_0518The gauges are clear and easy to read. Though you cannot see it here, it will also show what gear the six speed transmission is in. Nice touch!

IMG_0519The first time I started the CX-9, I couldn’t find the start button. Instead, I used this knob to start the crossover. I thought that it was dumb to not have a start button, until I figured out what Mazda was up to….

IMG_0544…. If you remove the cap, you can use the redundant key in the keyfob to start the CX-9. The use case is that if the batteries in the keyfob go dead. You’re not stuck someplace unable to drive. Clever!

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The center console is interesting. At the top is a display (in red which is a bit of a trademark for Mazda) that show left and right front passenger temperature, clock, and fuel economy. In the middle is the infotainment system and below that are the HVAC controls which are dual zone.

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Below that is a classy looking shift lever and a pair of cupholders…

IMG_0540….That you can see hold my Venti Starbucks coffee without an issue. You’ll also notice on the right that there’s a door to cover the cupholders.

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Behind the cupholders is a decent sized storage area with a 12V, USB, and 1/8″ jack.

IMG_0523The glovebox is on the small side though.

IMG_0525The second row seats split s60/40 and can slide forward to give those in the third row more room, or slide back to give themselves more room. Pulling the handle at the side of the seats….

IMG_0528Allows quick access to the third row. It’s big enough that you could have adults sit back there in a pinch and not complain as long as the second row passengers co-operate by moving their seats forward. Another note: The rear doors open wide for easy entry and exit.

IMG_0527The second row has this flip down tray with a pair of cupholders and some storage that you can use if you don’t need to seat three people.

IMG_0526Second row passengers get their own HVAC controls.

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Third row passengers get cupholders on each side of the CX-9.

IMG_0545Audio for all passengers is provided by Bose.

IMG_0530Cargo capacity is a big selling point of the CX-9. With all the seats up, you get a decent amount of space…..

IMG_0531…. But put the third row down, you get even more space…..

IMG_0553…. And for some context, here’s what our weekly grocery haul looks like. As you can see, there’s tons of space left over.

IMG_0535There’s also underfloor storage that will prove very handy for most.

IMG_0532Plus there are cargo hooks spread around the cargo area…..

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…..Along with a 12V outlet that is handy to have.

IMG_0537The rear hatch is motorized and has a button to close it as well as a handle in the location it should be in to keep your hands clean.

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There is a moonroof for the front passengers as well.

The surfaces that you touch are a mix of hard and soft materials. Plus the fit and finish is excellent. Everything that the driver could possibly need falls easily to hand as well. In short, everything interior wise is well thought through.

In part four of this review, I will cover the technology in the car. Stay tuned!

Review: 2014 Mazda CX-9 GT AWD – Part 2

Posted in Products with tags on October 21, 2014 by itnerd

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This is the 3.7L V6 that motivates the CX-9. You read that correctly. It’s a V6 and its the only one in Mazda’s line up. It puts out 273 horsepower and 270 pound feet of torque. All that power goes to an all-wheel-drive system that shunts power between 100:0 and 50:50 to deliver optimum drive power to each wheel. A six speed transmission helps the engine get the power to the wheels. This combo performs very well. It’s quick to get up to speed and has lots of power to get around slower moving cars on the highway. If power is what you’re looking for, the CX-9 has plenty of it.

For a big 7 passenger crossover it feels like it’s anything but that. It feels sure footed and handles well. It feels on the firm side with some compliance over bumps and the like. While it isn’t a MX-5, turn in is sharp and direct. Though I will note that the weight of the steering wheel is lighter than other Mazda’s that I have driven. Though, I do not think that most will complain. The only thing that makes it way into the cabin in terms of sound is very low amounts of wind noise at highway speeds. Tire noise seemed very well muted. You’ll hear it if you go looking for it, and quite honestly you will be more likely to hear the “thump” of expansion joints on the road rather than hearing tire noise. The exhaust note is a somewhat muted growl under acceleration. That’s a very nice touch. Visibility is also excellent from the drivers seat as there was nothing that impaired my vision in any direction. I wasn’t expecting that and that meant that I could back up without having to use the backup camera if I so choose. I should also mention that side mirrors are big and really makes it easy for me to see what’s around me.

The only thing that could come close to being a negative is the fuel economy. I am currently getting 13.7L per 100/KM. While I do admit to driving in mostly stop and go rush hour traffic which is a great way to hammer fuel economy, I was hoping to do better. I am thinking that this will improve as the week goes on. I should note that it does use regular gas which means it is wallet friendly.

Tomorrow, I will look at the interior in detail. It’s got a lot going for it if you carry a lot of people or stuff on a regular basis. Stay tuned!

China Behind Man In The Middle Attack On iCloud

Posted in Products with tags on October 20, 2014 by itnerd

If it wasn’t clear that you should enable two factor authentication on your iCloud account, here’s a very good reason. The Chinese have been accused of being behind a man in the middle attack where they would intercept user names and passwords. Here is a link to the details including the fact that this coincides with the launch of the iPhone in China. The purpose of this attack is unknown. But it cannot be good. Thus you should take precautions.

Review: Apple OS X Yosemite – Part 2

Posted in Products with tags on October 20, 2014 by itnerd

Now that I’ve got OS X Yosemite installed, I can speak to the key improvements and features that most users will notice right away. One thing to keep in mind is that as far as I can tell, there is no performance penalty that I can discern which is a good thing. Now, to the key improvements and new features:

  • Continuity is my favorite feature in Yosemite. I can start an e-mail on my iPhone and continue it on my Mac. Or I can answer a phone call that is coming into my iPhone on my Mac if my iPhone isn’t at hand. I can even start surfing the web on my iPhone and continue surfing on my Mac. This makes the Mac and iOS devices one coherent unit as opposed to two separate devices, which I think users will appreciate. Yosemite now has a iOS 8 look and feel to it which will help that coherent feeling.
  • A new feature is Dark Mode which turns some aspects of the OS a much darker shade of grey, to make it more comfortable to use your Mac in dim lighting. Seeing as I use my MacBook Pro on planes and trains often, this is a handy feature.
  • For the first time, you’ll actually have a reason to use Notification Center. This iteration has a Today panel that is just like iOS 8’s Notification Centre. It displays your Calendar appointments, the weather, world clock, and other elements you choose. And it supports third party widgets too.
  • Spotlight has been vastly improved. Besides helping you to find whatever is on your hard drive, you can type in the name of a movie and you’ll get a thumbnail image and a plot summary with credits courtesy of Wikipedia. If you type in the name of a restaurant or hotel, Spotlight will display a  map along with details of the establishment and reviews from Yelp. Handy!
  • The new Safari seems minimal at first, but there’s a lot of change that makes Safari a lot like what you would find on iOS 8. Ditto for iTunes. Users of iDevices will feel right at home. Users who have never seen an iDevice may be in for a bit of an adjustment.
  • Mail doesn’t look any different. But it is. The first way it’s different is Mail Drop which allows you to send attachments up to 5GB in size to anyone via iCloud. The second way it’s different is that Mail now supports third party extensions so that you can add additional functionality.
  • Calendar looks and feels like its counterpart in iOS 8.
  • You can FINALLY use AirDrop to transfer items from say your iDevice to your Mac. If they could get this functionality to work with PCs, it would be amazing. But I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to happen.

And the best part of this is that this is a FREE upgrade. Thus there’s no reason not to upgrade if your hardware supports Yosemite. I think that it will be quickly adopted by Mac users because of the features it brings to the table.

Review: 2014 Mazda CX-9 GT AWD – Part 1

Posted in Products with tags on October 20, 2014 by itnerd

This review of the Mazda CX-9 started out differently than all of the my prior vehicle reviews. It started with an e-mail from a reader:

Hello IT Nerd. I found you via Google while looking for car reviews. I love the detail that you go into with your reviews which is why I am sending you an e-mail. I’m the mother of two young boys and I want to replace my aging minivan with something that makes me feel more sexy. As you can tell, it’s not just guys who don’t want to drive minivans. I’m really interested in the Mazda CX-9 and seeing that you have reviewed other Mazda cars in the past, could you review this one? I would be so grateful if you could!

Thank you!

After receiving that e-mail I reached out to Mazda Canada to see if they had one. It turned out that they did and earned my eternal gratitude by quickly providing me with this CX-9:

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Here’s a look from the front:

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The Kodo design language still fits on a vehicle of this size:

IMG_0509From the side it looks well proportioned.

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On this trim level, you get nice looking 20″ wheels.

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The back looks good as well and those dual tailpipes appeal to me.

This is a seven passenger crossover that is clearly targeted to those who don’t want to drive a minivan, but still need to carry lots of people or stuff. Plus they want to look good while doing either.

I’ll be posting a multi-part review that will cover the following sections:

  • Engine, transmission, handling, fuel economy, and driving comfort
  • Interior
  • Technology in the vehicle
  • Wrap up

Tune in tomorrow to where I will discuss a engine that I have not seen in any Mazda product that I’ve reviewed, a V6.

 

Review: Apple OS X Yosemite – Part 1

Posted in Products with tags on October 17, 2014 by itnerd

Apple yesterday released OS X Yosemite to the world as a free upgrade. The question is this: Is it worth upgrading to? I’ll answer that in part 2 of this review. In this part of this review, I will cover the install of OS X Yosemite. It’s actually quite easy. First you have to make a backup in case bad things happen to you. If you don’t, good luck to you.

Then you have to make sure that your Mac is on this list. If it’s not, stop here.

  • iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)

And you can upgrade directly from the following versions of OS X:

  • OS X Snow Leopard (v10.6.8)
  • OS X Lion (v10.7)
  • OS X Mountain Lion (v10.8)
  • OS X Mavericks (v10.9)

Now you simply go to the App Store, click download, enter the password for your Apple ID, and wait for 5.5 GB to download. Once it’s downloaded it will start the installer and after you agree to the license agreement and choose the drive that you want to install Yosemite on. Your Mac will do a couple of things and reboot. Then you get to watch a progress bar go across the screen and this is the first warning for you. The installer told me that I had 20 minutes remaining, but the actual install was closer to 40 minutes. At the end of that install it will reboot and you’ll see another progress bar go across the screen for six more minutes or so. When that’s done, you’ll have to agree to more stuff, sign in with your iCloud password (and if you have two factor authentication enabled, you’ll need to enter a validation code from the iDevice of your choice) and also set up iDrive if you so choose.

Done. Declare victory and have a beer. Almost. I then was prompted to update my copy of iWork and also update iTunes along with iLife. So I did so and thus far, almost everything seems to work fine. One exception that I found was WiFi. I couldn’t connect to the 5Ghz band of my router. I had to reboot it to solve the problem. The other exception was that iMovie HD which I have been hanging on to has finally stopped working. Yosemite refuses to run it. This doesn’t surprise me as I did say a while ago that I fully expected that an OS update from Apple would break iMove HD. Yesterday I was proven right on that front. I haven’t done any performance testing, but I will over the next day or so. I am still getting used to the iOS 8 like look of Yosemite. But I like it.

Part two will arrive on Saturday and I’ll cover the key features and what I think of them.

Review: ViewSonic VSD241 24″ Touch-Sensitive Monitor With Android

Posted in Products with tags on October 16, 2014 by itnerd

When I got my hands on the ViewSonic VSD241 touch-sensitive monitor with Android, I had difficulty finding a use case for it. It’s a  a dual-function display.

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This is the VSD241. This isn’t a bad shot. I deliberately wanted to illustrate the how glossy this monitor is. That may create issues for some depending on the lighting conditions. But the monitor is generally easy to read once you set it up in an environment that works for you.

It’s primarily a touch-capable 23.6in all-in-one desktop computer running the Android operating system, complete with audio, networking, storage and HD webcam, independent of any other device. That to me suggested that this was a really big Android tablet as you can use any Android app on it. The thing is that there are a ton of all-in-one PCs out there that consumers could go out and buy. Though it does have some features that will set it apart from anything else running Android.

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For starters, it has Ethernet and a HDMI port on the back. That way you can also use it as a monitor which is good as the display does 1080P. More on that in a second.

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It also has full sized USB ports, a mini USB port, and a micro USB port. Plus it comes with an SD card slot and a headphone jack. The latter is not in a very handy location for frequent use.

On the front between the two speakers (which have pretty good sound by the way) are five touch-sensitive control buttons, for switching video modes and navigating the on-screen display. The central button is the power switch. On the top middle section of the display is a webcam that does 2 megapixels which in my testing was decent for video conferencing over Skype.

The VSD241 comes with Android Jelly Bean 4.2.1 out of the box. and performance is decent via nVidia’s Tegra 3 platform. This is what you get out of the box:

  • A quad-core ARM processor running at 1.7 GHz
  • 1 GB of memory and 8 GB of built-in flash storage expandable via the SD card slot.
  • Bluetooth, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, and RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet

One thing that I found during my testing is that some apps simply don’t work on such a large display. Facebook for example thinks it’s running on a mobile device, and blows up pictures so they don’t look as good as they could. Another oddity was with a Windows PC connected. The inage initially couldn’t reach the very edge of the screen, but an Overscan setting in the menu fixed this. But this then made the screen too large when I switched back to Android mode until it was reset again. Having said that, the image quality was pretty decent. One thing I did like was the on-screen keyboard. On such a large display makes typing easier than on handheld mobile devices. That’s handy since no mouse or keyboard is included. Having said that, spring for a Bluetooth or wired keyboard if you plan on writing essays on the VSD241. ViewSonic appears to have hooked up with Google to provide full access to the Google Play store. Here you can easily download popular applications, with books, games and movie stores included as well. Bundled software includes nVidia’s Tegra Zone and ES File Explorer. Many of the apps have a short tutorial that show when you first load them, explaining pinching, long presses and double tapping.

So, what’s my verdict on the ViewSonic VS241? I think it could work as a simple computer for users who may lack computer literacy, or if you’re someone who needs to provide simple computer and Internet access in an all-in-one package. It’s priced at $569 which places it in the range of all-in-one PCs that cost the same or less. That may make it a tough sell. But I think a school or a library might be the ideal target audience of the VS241. If that’s you, check out the ViewSonic VS241.

 

 

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