Review: Almond +

Posted in Commentary on November 27, 2015 by itnerd

Today I am reviewing a router that does a lot more than serve up WiFi and allow your Xbox One access to the Internet so that you can pwn n00bs. The router in question is the Almond + and you can tell it’s different just by looking at it.

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This doesn’t look like your typical router. Instead of blinking LEDs and large antennas, the Almond +’s home screen displays icons in a 4 x 2 grid on a touchscreen that you can use to configure and manage the router. There’s even a stylus to help you choose items on the touchscreen. One thing that I should note is that you can turn the screen off manually or automatically after a set idle period.


On the back, there’s 2 USB 3.0 ports (for attaching storage devices), four Gigabit Ethernet ports, and a port for your router. It can be mounted on the wall (the hardware that you need to do so comes with the Almond +), or you can use a pedestal that it comes with to put it on a shelf or a table, and it will blend into your surroundings easily. Thus it won’t look out of place in your living room.

The company promises a 3 minute setup via the touchscreen. It took me five minutes. But I’ll give them a free pass on that as it was dead easy. If you are the type that wants to set up every aspect of the router, you can set up the Almond+ manually by typing the router’s home address ( into a web browser and going through the options. As a bonus, it can operate as a FTP, Samba or DLNA server. Plus it has VPN capabilities.

The router supports pretty much every WiFi standard all the way up to 802.11ac on both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. In testing, it isn’t the fastest router around when it comes to WiFi. It lags behind the Linksys WRT1900AC and the ASUS RT-AC3200 which are at the top of the food chain when it comes to WiFi speed. But it was good enough to stream Netflix without buffering. One other note: The range of this router is way less than either of the routers that I’ve mentioned. It’s particularly noticeable on the 2.4 GHz band where I noted that devices on that band had problems seeing the router if they were outside the routers range. Other routers like the ones I mentioned above had no issues in the same conditions. The Almond + has internal antennas which I am pretty sure limits its range. But on the plus side, it can used as a range extender with an existing router.

In addition to Wi-Fi, the Almond+ has been tested with a large number sensors for everything from door and window locks, garage door openers, light switches and thermostats. Thus you can use it as a hub to automate your home. Now I had to run out and buy a a Belkin WeMo LED light bulb to test this. I was able to dim and brighten the light both from the Almond + itself and from their iOS and Android apps which is very cool. Plus you can use their programming interface to create scripts to automate stuff like this. Anyone can use figure this out instantly.

Downsides? Besides the fact that there are range issues with the WiFi, there’s no IFTTT (If This Then That) compatibility as well as geolocation. Both of those would really kick up how useful the Almond + is as you could leverage IFTTT recipes that are already out there, plus you could trigger actions based on the location of your smartphone.

The Almond + goes for $199. It’s not the fastest router around, but the fact that you use it as hub for home automation and it’s dead easy to set up, plus it looks cool makes it worth looking at for those who want more from their router.

Please Use Social Media To Stop Sex Trafficking In Canada

Posted in Commentary on November 27, 2015 by itnerd

Sex trafficking is something that I normally don’t write about. But if you stick with me, you’ll see how this fits in with this blog, and how you can use technology to help to stop it. And this discussion is timely seeing as December 6th is the National Day of Violence Against Women.

First, some stats to frame this discussion:

  • Most people associate trafficking with travel across national borders – but in Canada 93% of trafficking victims come from within Canada’s borders.
  • On average a trafficker makes $280,000 for each girl they force into prostitution.
  • Canada currently has no standard system for trafficking incidents:  a national, coordinated research is needed for data collection.
  • 13 is the average age when girls are first trafficked.

While the public focus on sexual assault and rape culture has dramatically increased over the past year, the sex trafficking of Canadian girls within Canada remains noticeably absent from the agenda and discourse.

With that in mind, I’d like you to watch a video called #ShesNotForSale which highlights that a 2014 RCMP report found that 93 per cent of Canada’s sex trafficking victims are Canadian girls who have either been groomed online or lured into false “boyfriend” relationships at the local mall or recreational centre. It isn’t a long video at 44 seconds. But it is the best 44 seconds that you’ll spend all day: 

After you watch this video, I’d like you to use social media to spread the word. Here’s some suggestions:

You can also share this post as well as go to to learn more. With your help, we can put an end to this. Please help to put an end to sex trafficking in Canada.


Review: Arlo HD Security Camera

Posted in Products with tags on November 26, 2015 by itnerd

The last of the three cameras that I am reviewing today is the most intriguing of the bunch. The Arlo HD Security Camera bills itself as the only 100% wire free HD camera with day/night capability that can be used indoors or outdoors. The test unit that I got was made up of four cameras and a base station. So… How does this work? The camera’s are battery powered using four CR123 lithium batteries. Those cameras are connected wirelessly to the base station which connect via Ethernet to your home router. This all should give you the flexibility to place cameras wherever you need them to be. Sounds good in theory. But how well does it work? Well, except for one thing, pretty well actually.

First, the setup was painless:

  • Download the app which is available for iOS, Android, and the Kindle Fire
  • Plug in the base station via Ethernet to your router
  • Pop the batteries into the cameras
  • Press the sync buttons on the base station and on the cameras and wait for the cameras to sync and pop up in the app.
  • Place the cameras wherever you want. Magnetic mounts are included and you can get a desktop mount separately.
  • Declare victory and have a beer.

In terms of video quality, here’s what you get:


It is a good quality wide angle lens that gives you a good view. It also looks pretty good at night as well.

Next up is battery life. When I was testing the Arlo cameras indoors, the cameras still had a full charge. Interestingly, though, when I took the fully-charged cameras outside in below-freezing weather, the battery status indicators dropped swiftly. When I returned inside, the status bars go back to their previously fully-charged setting.

The app is easy to use. You can set up rules to manage motion detection and alerts. You get 7 days of video storage in the Arlo Cloud. But you can pay for longer periods of storage for more cameras.

What’s the only thing that I had a problem with? There’s no audio. From personal experience, I find having one way audio, or better yet two way audio to be a huge help when talking to people such as condo maintenance people. It will also help to scare off an intruder. If they can figure out how to get one into the Arlo, this would make it the perfect setup.

The four pack of cameras that included the base station goes for $549 CDN at your local Best Buy. But they also have other bundles that will get you the exact number of cameras that you require. Plus you can pick up single packs of cameras as well. If you need to have the most flexible camera setup to protect people and property, take a look at the Arlo HD security camera.


Review: Canary

Posted in Products with tags on November 26, 2015 by itnerd

The second of three cameras that I am reviewing today is the Canary. Here’s what this camera brings to the table:

  • A HD quality night-vision camera. More on that in a second.
  • Temperature sensor
  • Two way audio
  • Humidity sensor
  • Air quality sensor
  • A 90 dB panic siren
  • A cool privacy mode. Flip it over and Canary will go to sleep, ceasing all video and audio recording.

Setup was easy. Mostly. I powered on the Canary and entered my Wi-Fi info into the app. It stole that info off my iPhone which was using a 5 GHz network which the Canary didn’t see, thus the setup failed. So I had to switch my phone over to a 2.4 GHz network and it worked. I then plugged Canary into my iPhone using a yellow cable that plugs into the headphone jack. Canary will then “listen” for the Wi-Fi info that I entered into the app. After a few minutes and a firmware update later, I was live.

Let’s start with the camera part. Here’s what you get to see:IMG_1915.PNG

It’s a very wide angle lens that allow one to see everything clearly. You won’t have any complaints here. When it comes to the sensors, here are my thoughts. Via the app, you can tap on the home screen’s temperature and humidity readings to access “Homehealth” graphs of the conditions in your home. During my tests, it offered accurate readings of the temperature and humidity. When it comes to air quality, the air quality graph doesn’t distinguish between different toxins. It instead lumps everything together on a graph that charts between “normal” and “very abnormal.” How do I know this? I got one the few smokers that I know to blow smoke towards the Canary to get this result. Having said that, I do believe that this can prove useful for someone who wants to make sure their house is free of carbon monoxide or isn’t on fire.

Another feature of the Canary is that it will get smarter the more you use it. The learning mechanism here is a tagging feature. Pull up a clip from your timeline, and you can tag it to tell the system what triggered it. The idea is that eventually, Canary will start to recognize what’s happening in a specific clip, and whether or not it’s relevant to your security concerns. In theory, that means fewer false alarms the more you use it. Speaking of alarms, you can receive them via push notifications on your smartphone and then you can activate the alarm or watch video live. It also uses the location of the phone to arm and disarm itself. Out of the box, you can store videos for 12 hours for free in the Canary Cloud. If you want to store clips for longer periods of time, Canary has a number of paid plans that may suit your needs.

Canary goes for $249 CDN at your local Best Buy. It’s a very interesting camera that does a whole lot. My feeling is that it will find a market with those who want one device to fully secure their home in every way possible.

Review: Piper NV

Posted in Products with tags on November 26, 2015 by itnerd

Seeing as I was the victim of a break in a few years ago, I have a keen interest in security cameras for the home. Thus I will be reviewing three cameras today, starting with the Piper NV security camera. Piper NV has a ton features going for it, including the following:

  • It has a camera that has a wide viewing angle. More on that in a moment
  • A siren
  • A microphone
  • A speaker
  • A Z-Wave hub that allows it to communicate to Z-Wave devices like smart plugs, sensors, locks, thermostats and more
  • Motion, sound, temperature, humidity and light sensors
  • Battery backup via 3 AA batteries

The Piper Android and iOS apps allow you to arm and disarm the system, set custom alerts, watch live footage on a single or four-panel screen, view the free saved clips triggered by your own settings preferences, check out graphs showing all of the changes the sensors detect over time. I used the iOS version and it was quick to figure out and easy to use.

Setup is easy. It took me about 7 minutes to get it done. All I had to do is plug in the Piper NV, connecting it to Wi-Fi network and then entering the details for the local Wi-Fi network. Plus waiting for the camera do some firmware updates. One note, during the setup process, you will be asked for a phone number which you can receive alerts over. Thus you should pick your mobile number. From there, I set custom rules for Home, Away and Vacation mode. In Home, Away and Vacation mode, motion, sound and indoor temperature changes can trigger a response from the Piper NV. Within each mode and for each specific trigger, you can opt in and out of recording a video clip (it typically records an event for about 35 seconds), getting alerted via push message, phone call, email and/or text, notifying your trusted circle (you can add family and friends using your phone’s contact directory) and sounding the siren.

In terms of the quality of the picture, here’s an example of what the camera is capable of:


It’s a 3.4 MP HD camera capable of pan, tilt, and zoom with a very wide viewing angle. You will have no problem seeing anything you will need to see. You also get night vision as well. That worked well during my testing. Finally, it comes with all the gear you need to mount it

So what will cost you? The Piper NV goes for $299 CDN at your local Best Buy. They also sell a variety of Z-Wave switches and sensors. That way you can build a security system that fits your needs. If you want a camera that does more than take pictures, the Piper NV is very much worth a look.


Ring Video doorbell and Weiser Kevo Smart Lock Now Work Together

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 24, 2015 by itnerd

Wiser Kevo smart lock, the industry’s first smart lock powered by UniKey technology, and the Ring Video Doorbell now work together, enabling homeowners to secure and control their entire entryway.


Homeowners can now see and speak with whoever is at the door via the Ring app, then quickly lock or unlock their Kevo smart lock, all from their smartphones. This integration is the latest in a series of integrations Ring is announcing as part if its new Ring Plus program, which enables customers to connect several of their smart home devices to Ring.

When guests push the Ring Video Doorbell or the doorbell’s motion sensors detect movement, homeowners use the Ring mobile app (iOS, Android and Windows 10) to verify and interact with guests. Then, the homeowner can lock or unlock their Kevo smart lock from their mobile device through the Ring app. Homeowners who have upgraded to Kevo Plus can remotely lock or unlock their Kevo smart lock after verifying the guest from anywhere in the world,provided there is an Internet connection.

The Benefits of Ring and Kevo:

  • Control and secure the entirety of the home’s entryway from a mobile device
  • Two leading and proven smart home products now work together
  • Simple, do-it-yourself integration – easy to install; no larger security or smart home system required
  • Adds additional value to both products – no new hardware needed

Users with Ring and Kevo can access the integration through the Ring iOS app version 2.7 available for free download in the App Store. The integration will be available to Android and Windows 10 users in the coming weeks.

Weiser Kevo smart lock is available at select retailers for MSRP $249.99 with the Kevo Plus upgrade available on for a $89.99 one-time fee. Kevo will be available for purchase on in mid-November. For additional information about Kevo, please visit

The Ring Video Doorbell is available at Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and for MSRP $229.99. For hi-res images and more information about Ring, visit To learn more about Ring’s new Ring Plus program, go to

Dell Pulls A Lenovo And Makes Their Computers Vulnerable To Attack [UPDATED]

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 24, 2015 by itnerd

Clearly Dell was not paying attention the stupidity that Lenovo has been caught doing over and over again. I say that because Dell has fessed up to putting on a piece of software on their laptops that leaves them open to attack. What’s worse is that the software in question has been there since August 2015. Here’s what security researcher Brian Krebs had to say on this:

At issue is a root certificate installed on newer Dell computers that also includes the private cryptographic key for that certificate. Clever attackers can use this key from Dell to sign phony browser security certificates for any HTTPS-protected site.

Translation: A malicious hacker could exploit this flaw on open, public networks (think WiFi hotspots, coffee shops, airports) to impersonate any Web site to a Dell user, and to quietly intercept, read and modify all of a vulnerable Dell system’s Web traffic.

Lovely. That really makes on run out to buy a Dell laptop. To their credit, they are going to fix this. But one has to wonder why anyone at Dell thought that including the private and public keys of a certificate installed on laptops that they sell was ever a good idea.

UPDATE: The news has just broke that two more self signed certificates have been found on Dell laptops. It isn’t as bad as Dells self signed certificate, but it shows that Dell’s QA is clearly asleep at the switch.


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