Review: Linksys MAX-STREAM AC5400 Router

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 29, 2016 by itnerd

If you want the fastest router around, and price is no object, I have the router for you. Meet the Linksys MAX-STREAM AC5400 Router:

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This is a tri-band router with a combined Wi-Fi bandwidth of up to 5.3 Gbps per second. Specifically, it has two 5GHz bands, each with a 2.16 Gbps. Its 2.4GHz band tops out at 1 Gbps. The router supports Multi-User Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO), which is a technology designed to efficiently handle Wi-Fi bandwidth in homes with lots of clients. Each client can connect to the router at its highest speed without adversely affecting the speeds of others. All of this is run by a dual core 1.4 GHz dual core processor to keep things speedy. It has 8 antennas. Presumably to allow all this cool stuff to happen. The side effect is that this router takes up a lot of real estate. Thus you might have issues finding a place to put this router. It’s also very heavy as it weighs in at a hefty 3 pounds and has a lot of ventilation which is needed as it does get hot. That’s a sign that the router well built. It also has one other feature:

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It has EIGHT gigabit Ethernet ports. Most routers typically have four or as little as three in the case of Apple Airport routers. Eight ports allows you to plug in all your devices over Ethernet without needing a switch. That’s great news for people like me who have a lot of devices that run over Ethernet or someone like a hard core gamer who finds that they are best able to pwn the competition by having their computers plugged in via Ethernet. You also get a USB 3 and USB 2 port for printers and storage devices.

One thing that has changed is that Linksys was smart enough to change the power plug away from a space hogging brick to a simple plug that doesn’t occupy a lot of space. What hasn’t changed is the ease of setup via Linksys Smart WiFi. Using that I had it setup and fully up to date from a firmware perspective in minutes. Linksys Smart WiFi also allows you to fully configure aspects such as parental controls, media priority, and block HTTPS sites which is a unique feature. Another unique feature that I found was that you can block sites like Facebook and Twitter. You can do all of this over a webpage, or over apps for the iOS and Android platforms. Keep in mind that the router will be connected to the Linksys servers at all times.

The real question is, how fast is this router? It is insanely fast based on my testing. I got a sustained WiFi speed of nearly 700Mbps in my testing which makes this the fastest router I have ever tested by a massive margin. I also did a speed test using speedof.me which measures how fast your Internet is and found that it recorded a 1 Mbps increase in my download speed versus my previous router over WiFi. I was dubious of the result so I switched routers back and forth several times and confirmed the result was due to the AC5400 router. That was an unexpected bonus as far as I was concerned. Clearly this router is the one that you want to get if you want to get the fastest performance possible.

Downsides? Price is the only one. It’s $499 Canadian which is not a low price. But this is not your average router. It is one of the fastest, and most feature filled routers available. If you need the fastest router around for games, video streaming, or you need a router with a lot of Ethernet ports, the Max-Stream AC5400 from Linksys is the router to get. Trust me on this one, you will not be disappointed with it.

Infographic: Blueprint For Success

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 29, 2016 by itnerd

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Source: SOTI

BlackBerry DTEK50 & Moto G Play Arrive At Telus

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 27, 2016 by itnerd

Two new smartphones have launched at Telus. The BlackBerry DTEK50 and the Moto G Play.

The BlackBerry DTEK50 is the Canadian manufacturer’s latest Android smartphone and it’s now available online at telus.com! Blackberry has integrated its staple security right into the device’s OS, offering a secure option with a great price. Here are a few features we think make the DTEK50 a great option for Telus customers:

Stand-out security – DTEK50 was designed to address the security and privacy needs of today’s uncompromising Android owners, integrating both hardware and software protection.

Powerful productivity – The BlackBerry HUB is the unified inbox users know and love. An irreplaceable tool for consolidating all of your messages in one place – whether it’s email, calendar, social or phone calls.

Dazzling camera – Features like Phase Detection Auto Focus and a dual-tone LED flash are designed to help the camera focus instantly and accurately for a blur-free, realistic looking photos, even in low light.

Telus customers can get the BlackBerry DTEK50 starting at $60 on a 2-year term or $450 outright.

Next up is the Moto G Play. With its awesome design, battery-life and price point we think this smartphone is a no-brainer for the back-to-school season.

With so much packed into Moto’s latest budget-friendly smartphone, we think TELUS customers have a lot to be excited about.

Performance and affordability – Score a 5” HD display, quad-core processor, and 4G LTE speed, all without breaking the bank

All day battery life (2800 mAh) – Watch videos, play games and talk all you need with a single charge

Smart shooter – Get true-to-life imaging with an 8MP autofocus rear camera and 5MP front camera

Telus customers can get the Moto G Play starting at $0 on a 2-year term or $240 outright.

Parrot Disco – The First Fixed-Wing Drone For Immersive Flights

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 27, 2016 by itnerd

Parrot makes the dream of piloting your own plane a reality with the launch of Parrot Disco – the first easy-to-fly fixed-wing drone that provides a fully immersive flight experience.

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The ultra-lightweight Parrot Disco is powerful, displays impressive airborne performances; it can reach top speeds of 80 km/h and offers 45 minutes of flight time. Unique by its design and performance capabilities, Parrot Disco offers everyone the possibility of an immersive flight without having any technical knowledge, and the possibility to record high quality aerial shots using the fixed-wing drone’s 32 GB memory. It can also be flown with complete precision thanks to a new and compact remote control – Parrot Skycontroller 2.

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Features:

  • Lightweight, compact, powerful; unique aerodynamic shape
  • Impressive performance and assisted piloting; automatic take-off and landing, assisted piloting
  • Parrot cockpitglasses: the immersive experience with a smartphone
  • Parrot Skycontroller 2; a new and XS-format Wi-Fi MIMO remote control, which offers a 2 kms theoretical reach
  • FreeFlight Pro: the application dedicated to Parrot Superdrones

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All of this will be available in September and the Parrot Disco, Skycontroller2, and the Parrot Cockpitglasses will go for $1699. Here’s a video of the Parrot Disco in action:

ViewSonic Partners with Global Professional eSports Organization Splice

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 27, 2016 by itnerd

ViewSonic has announced its partnership with Splyce, an international professional eSports organization. With this partnership, ViewSonic becomes a headline sponsor for Splyce’s four teams, and will offer the teams exclusive use of its gaming monitors, the ViewSonic XG2401 and VX57 Series, to assist with training. Splyce’s teams include: CSGO which is based in California, League of Legends from Berlin, UK-based Call of Duty, and a North American Overwatch team.

The XG Series of gaming monitors are packed with all the professional level features needed for a competitive edge. The XG2401 and XG2701 gaming monitors, which are now available, feature ultra-fast 144Hz refresh rate, Variable Refresh Rate Technology, ultra-fast response times, super low input lag, and comes in a range of resolutions, from Full HD to 4K UHD. For more information about ViewSonic Gaming monitors, go to Gaming.Viewsonic.com and follow @ViewSonicGaming on Twitter.

Service Campaigns, Surprises, & Other Oddities Of Life

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 26, 2016 by itnerd

I’ve just had the 2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD in for the 24,000 KM service even though it has just over 20,000 KMs. Why so early? My wife and I are going to go on a bit of a road trip soon. Thus we figured that it would be better to get the service done early so that there would be no issues on the road trip.

Now the service that we were scheduled for was for the following:

  • Oil Change
  • Front Brake Service

I also had the windshield wiper inserts replaced as those should be replaced yearly. But two more items were added to the list. One was a recall to address a hood latch issue. The key details on this recall are on this link at Transport Canada, but in short, if you don’t close the hood properly, it may pop up without warning. The fix is to replace the secondary hood latch catch with a revised component that does the job better. There’s also a software update to change the logic of how the car detects that the hood is open or not. The full details on what they do are here [Warning: PDF]. To me, that sounds like someone needs to be taught how to close the hood on a car. But that may just be the cynic in me looking at things in a glass half empty manner. Seeing as this is a recall, it’s likely should be viewed by me more seriously. 

The second thing was a service campaign. That’s automotive industry speak for things that a car company should fix, but don’t qualify as a recall. This one was for a software upgrade for the dual clutch transmission that the Tucson uses. Now there have been a lot of complaints about it such as a massive thread on the Hyundai Forums. But I have not had any issues with it personally. However my wife had a hard time adjusting to it until I took her out to an empty parking lot and taught her about the unique aspects of a dual clutch transmission. Before I did that, she would complain that the Tucson lacked power off the line. Let me touch on that for a moment by talking about what a dual clutch transmission is. That way I can frame the rest of the discussion.

A dual clutch transmission is basically a pair of manual transmissions in the same body. One handles the odd numbered gears (in this case, 1-3-5-7) and the other handles the even gears (in this case 2-4-6). Technically it’s not an automatic transmission. But the whole thing is run by software which does the shifting for you, so it is considered to be “automatically shifting manual” transmission. Having said that you can shift it yourself in most cases and it doesn’t require a clutch pedal to do so. The upshot to such a setup is that the shifts should be lightning quick which means that you can often get better performance from the car, better fuel economy or both depending on the application because it doesn’t rely on a torque converter like traditional automatic transmissions do. The downside is that drivers can find that the shifting is not as smooth as they expected. Additionally, there can be some slowness in the selection of the next gear, especially when trying to accelerate at lower speeds. Those are the “unique aspects” of the transmission that I spoke of earlier. When it comes to what people have reported about the Hyundai transmission, they have reported the following: 

  • Hesitation off the line.
  • Vibration when slowly rolling off the line.
  • The transmission would overheat forcing you to pull over and stop until it cools down. Typically this exhibits itself in stop and go traffic.
  • In some circumstances, the shifts would be less than smooth.
  • In some circumstances, the vehicle will not move at all off the line.

I have only been able to replicate a vibration at extremely slow speeds (like 2 KM/H). But I’ve also been able to replicate with other cars with dual clutch transmissions. But for the record, if you’ve driven a manual you’d see this as well. Neither my wife or I have seen the other issues.

Now issues with dual clutch transmissions is not a unique problem to Hyundai. Ford had this problem with the Focus. In fact I trashed the Focus when I reviewed it a few years ago for that reason. VW also have had to deal with this issue to the point that there are even Facebook groups like this one that speak to this. So it’s no shock that Hyundai is dealing with issues too. And they are dealing with it via the software update that I spoke of. It will change the behavior of the transmission so that it mitigates some of the more “unique” aspects that it can exhibit. Keep in mind that there’s only so much that the software can do. So owners of these cars will have to adapt to their behavior as it’s never, ever going to act like a traditional automatic transmission. My early impressions of this update are that there’s less vibration and it’s more responsive. Having said that, it wasn’t a bad transmission before and I found its performance to be just fine. But I’ve only driven it on the highway and on city streets with no traffic. Let me try it in rush hour traffic where the “unique aspects” of this transmission can appear, as well as on our road trip and we’ll see what difference the update makes. When I do, I will post an update. 

I’ll also address the elephant in the room. Why is it that I have had no issues, but my wife has had issues until I took her to a parking lot to help her adjust to the transmission, but we both drive the same car? I attribute this to two things: 

  • I have driven cars with this type of transmission before and I am used to how they operate. As well as how “unique” they can be.
  • I have also driven a manual and since this type of transmission operates in a similar manner and I am used to how they operate.

Both allow me to adapt easily to this transmission. My wife has never done either of the above so she had issues. Once I gave he the inside scoop on how a dual clutch transmission works, she has had no issues either.

One unexpected surprise that I came across this week is the fact that Sirius XM Traffic which never worked for me and attempts to get this remedied were unsuccessful at the time. It started working as evidenced by this picture:  

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The green, yellow and red lines are traffic flows on the highways in and around Toronto. If you look to the right of the Maximum 80 KM/h sign, you will see a construction icon. Plus when I entered a destination, it took traffic into account. It actually worked very well. If this was working when we first got the Tucson, we might have signed on for it and paid for this functionality. Now it’s likely that this is active because Sirius XM is having a free preview until September 6th, and Sirius XM has finally sorted their issues in terms of providing this service. But if this disappears, we won’t miss it as we have Apple CarPlay which displays traffic for free and accurately on both highways and city streets. I say that because it seems that Sirius XM only displays traffic on major highways. That’s a bit of a #fail.

My next update will be after my wife and I go on a road trip. We will have stuff to carry including my bike as I plan on doing some riding in the area that we are going to. We’ll be documenting where we are going and how the Tucson performs. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Two more data points on the dual clutch transmission update:

  1. I drove in rush hour traffic, and the sorts of things that I know will cause the DCT to hang up and not do anything for a few seconds are not present anymore.
  2. My wife has driven the Tucson three times. She notes that it has a bit more “punch” off the line and crisper shifts.

I think I can now conclude that this update works.

 

 

 

Mondly Launches the First Voice Chatbot for Learning Languages

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 26, 2016 by itnerd

Mondly, a popular free language-learning app with over 10 million downloads worldwide, has today released a new language-learning conversational chatbot to help users practice speaking and writing while learning a new language, the first of its kind.   

The new Mondly conversational chatbot interacts with users with both a text input and a speech recognition engine that allows them to actually practice speaking and writing in an interactive environment.  

The app uses speech recognition technology from Nuance enhanced with Mondly’s own proprietary object recognition engine that identifies objects in text to create adaptive visual responses.  It already understands millions of phrases and words in each language and it is improving every day.

Here’s a video demo:

The goal of the chatbot is to provide fun and adaptive lessons that encourage users to practice the language they are learning in everyday scenarios, such as ordering in a restaurant.  The app recognizes millions of inputs and creates an adaptive visual response when it recognizes a word or phrase that the user has said or input, providing a reinforcing feedback that builds helps build confidence.

Mondly is currently teaching 33 languages, twice as many as the next biggest competitor, and offers courses to learn popular languages such as English, German, Spanish and French, but also for major Asian, Latin American and African languages, including Arabic.  A unique feature to Mondly is that you can learn any of the 33 languages in the language of your choice.  If a user natively speaks Spanish, that user can learn French with a Spanish language interface. 

The Mondly conversational chatbot will be available in ALL 33 languages and available with the free version of the app.

The Mondly App is available for free on iOSAndroid and on the web:

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