Archive for the Products Category

A Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

Posted in Products with tags on October 24, 2014 by itnerd

My day got a tiny bit brighter today as Carbon Computing gave me a call to say that after testing they’ve determined that the hard drive has failed on my ailing MacBook Pro and they’re going to get me a new one. I should have my MacBook Pro back by mid next week. I told that to my wife over iMessage and here’s what she asked me:

Don’t you find it odd that they determined that the drive failed after you went public with this on your blog? 

My response is that I’m going to Carbon Computing a pass on that front. Though my wife is correct in terms of how the optics look from the outside. Thus there seems to be a light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel.

More updates as they come.

Review: 2014 Mazda CX-9 GT AWD – Part 5

Posted in Products with tags on October 24, 2014 by itnerd

So I’ve come to the end of the review of the Mazda CX-9. First let me wrap up a few loose ends. At the end of my week with it I registered 13.4 L/100KM in mixed city and highway driving, a lot of which was in rush hour traffic. I am not sure if the driving conditions contributed to this final result. But seeing that it’s a big seven passenger crossover, I’m not surprised with the result.

So what is the Mazda CX-9 GT AWD going to cost you. As equipped it was $48,090 including freight and PDE. But the CX-9 starts at $33,995 so you can find one that fits your budget. If I were to cross shop it against similar vehicles, I’d pick the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Nissan Pathfinder. You may also want to look at the Infiniti QX-60 and the Acura MDX as well if you are looking for something that would compare against the GT trim level that I drove this week. You’d want to pay attention to how each of those vehicles handles as I suspect that the CX-9 will win on that front with all with the exception of perhaps the Acura MDX which will be close because of the SH-AWD system that includes torque vectoring to improve the handling. A lot of these other vehicles miss out on some of the features that the CX-9 comes with, or you have to check option boxes to get them which will really add up. Thus I believe that the CX-9 will win on that front as well.

So to the woman who wrote in asking me to review the CX-9, my advice would be to take a good hard look at it. It looks good, it handles well, its got the technology you need and I think it’s a great value. I also think its perfect for people who want to look sexy while hauling around a lot of stuff. That’s a win-win in my mind.

Review: 2014 Mazda CX-9 GT AWD – Part 4

Posted in Products with tags on October 23, 2014 by itnerd

The Mazda CX-9 is filled with all sorts of technology that I have to cover.

Let’s start with actually driving the car. The GT trim level gives you a proximity key with a knob that you turn to start the vehicle. Thus all you have to do is press a button on the driver’s door handle. Press it and the car will unlock. Get in, twist the knob and drive away. When you’ve reached your destination, twist the knob to turn off the car. Then get out of the car and press the button to lock the car. You never need to pull out the key fob to do any of this. But the key fob does have the ability to lock and unlock the doors, open and close the rear hatch, plus it has the ever useful panic button. As an added bonus, it has a backup key inside the key fob should you need it.

Now onto the safety features. This Mazda CX-5 comes with a lot of safety features:

  • Blind Spot Monitoring with Cross Traffic Alerts: This system keeps an eye out for cars in your blind spots so that you don’t hit them when changing lanes. It works well as the area of detection was large enough to keep me safe, but not so large that it created false positives. Cross traffic alerts were very handy when I went grocery shopping as it kept an eye out for traffic as I backed out of my parking space.
  • Backup sensors to keep you from hitting anything while reversing.
  • You get anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, roll control, and electronic brake force distribution
  • Finally, you get dual front air bags, dual front side air bags and dual side air curtains

Now let’s move on to the infotainment system. The Mazda CX-59has a 5.8″ touchscreen that allows you to control the radio (AM/FM and Sirrus), Bluetooth, USB, and Pandora. The latter requires you to have the Pandora app on your smartphone to make this feature work. Though at the moment, Pandora is only available in U.S., Australia and New Zealand. If that changes, the Mazda CX-9 is ready to go. Now this was similar to the Mazda6 that I drove recently with one exception. There was no HMI (Human-Machine Interface) Commander Switch behind the shift lever to make it easy to interact with the touchscreen. Thus you have to use the touchscreen to do everything. I could have used HMI Commander Switch as the touchscreen is sometimes “interesting” to use when someone like me has big fingers as I ended up sometimes pressing more than one thing at the same time. It also attracted fingerprints the more I used it. What makes up for that is a very good voice command system. Tip: there are several tutorials that will help you not only use the system, but pair your phone via Bluetooth. Spend some time listening to them to get the most out of the system.

I plugged my iPhone 5s into the USB port and all my tunes and playlists were accessible. Though I did have to wait about 5 minutes for the contents of my iPhone 5s to be accessible. But in any case, everything worked perfectly. No matter what song I tossed at it, be it MP3 or AAC, it worked. One oddity that I found was that on a few occasions when I plugged my iPhone 5s into the USB port and it finished scanning, it would sometimes not display my playlists. Unplugging and plugging back in would solve the problem (though I will have to wait 5 minutes for the contents of my iPhone 5s to be read again which was annoying). I was able to reproduce this with my wife’s iPhone 5 so this is clearly a bug that Mazda needs to address. Since we’re talking about music, this Mazda has a Bose sound system. I have to admit that regardless where I was in the Mazda, the sound was excellent as the highs and lows were perfect and the audio was well balanced. Phone calls were clear on both ends of the conversation as well. For those of you who still use CDs, there’s a CD drive as well which is located just above the touchscreen.

When it comes to navigation, the system is powered by Tom Tom. Some things I really liked about this system:

  • It always asked me if I wanted to use toll roads and high occupancy lanes when coming up with routes. That’s a very nice feature as you don’t have to fish into the options to turn off or on the ability to avoid toll roads. It also offered to avoid roads that were closed.
  • Traffic was always accounted for and it would re-route me if it could find a faster route.
  • The audio directions are clear and the screen offers guidance as to what lane you should be in.
  • Maps can be updated via a SD Card

Now the touchscreen also doubles as the screen for the backup camera. It was easy to manoeuvre into a space as its field of vision was very good. Though I will note that the actual camera is exposed to the elements. Thus I have to wonder what the video quality would be like if the Mazda gets really dirty.

The Mazda CX-9 has a lot of technology packed into it and it has great audio and a good infotainment system too boot. It’s going to appeal to many who look at it.

The final part of this review will tie up some loose ends and I’ll give you my final verdict. Watch for it on Friday.

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.

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