Archive for the Products Category

Microsoft Outs Brand New Edge Browser

Posted in Products with tags on April 29, 2015 by itnerd

In case you didn’t hear the news, Internet Explorer is dead. Mostly. Coming soon is Microsoft Edge to replace IE as their browser. The Edge name refers to being on the edge of consuming and creating. Microsoft is calling Edge “a browser built for doing,” with a simple, no-frills design and access to tools for enhancing the browsing experience.

Key features include:

  • Built-in note taking capabilities which let users annotate, draw, and take notes right within the browser, and then share those website notes with friends.
  • “Blazing fast core technology” which we’ll find out whatever that means in the near future.
  • A distraction-free reading mode and a tab page for getting to frequently-used apps quickly.
  • Support for Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana

The Microsoft Edge browser will be built into Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10. Expect that later this year. If you can’t wait for that, here’s a video that shows the browser in action:

OpenTable Announces App For Apple Watch

Posted in Products on April 26, 2015 by itnerd

OpenTable has released its app experience for Apple Watch in Canada.  

At a glance, the OpenTable app for Apple Watch reminds diners of their upcoming reservation, shows them how to get there and keeps them on time with an elegant countdown interface.

Diners can download OpenTable for Apple Watch from the App Store or in the Apple Watch App on iPhone.

BREAKING: Tesla Twitter Account Hacked [UPDATED x3]

Posted in Products with tags , on April 25, 2015 by itnerd

It appears that electric carmaker Tesla has had its Twitter account hacked. Here’s the proof:

This started happening about 25 minutes ago. It’s surprising that a company run by Elon Musk would get pwned like this. So you can pretty much expect that whomever runs Tesla’s social media efforts is about to get fired.

UPDATE: The hack of the Tesla Twitter account follows the Tesla website being hacked as well. Right now it looks normal. But it may not stay that way.

UPDATE #2: It appears Tesla has control of their Twitter account as the Tweets that tipped the world off to the hack have been deleted.

UPDATE 3: Here’s a look of the Tesla Twitter account when it was hacked:

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Review: HTC One M9

Posted in Products with tags , on April 25, 2015 by itnerd

HTC has a sweet looking phone in the form of the HTC One M9 which was supplied to me by Rogers. The body is made of a single block of machined aluminum. It looks great and feels great in my hands. It also feels really solid. The power button is on the right side below the volume up and down buttons. One suggestion to HTC would be to make these buttons physically different because I made the mistake of pressing the volume up button thinking that it was the power button. On the front are the front-facing BoomSound stereo speakers which put out some of the best sound from a mobile device that I’ve heard. It also has a 5″ 1080p Super LCD display that is clear and readable in most light.

Here’s what you get under the hood:

  • Android 5.0.2 w/ Sense 7.0 skin
  • 5″ 1920×1080 pixel SuperLCD panel
  • 8 Core 1.5 GHz CPU
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB internal storage (expandable via microSD)
  • 20.7MP rear camera
  • 4MP front-facing camera using UltraPixel technology
  • 4K UHD video capture

The phone is quick. But when I was testing it to see how it could handle heavy usage, it actually got warm enough that it was uncomfortable in my hand. This has been an issue in the past and HTC released a software update to try and address this issue. It seems like they have some more work to do. Having said that, common usage should not make this an issue for most users. In terms of LTE speed, I averaged 24.40 Mbps downstream and 8.86 Mbps upstream on the Rogers LTE network. Software wise, it comes with the latest and greatest version of Android Lollipop with HTC’s Sense 7.0 Skin which unlike most Android skins that I can’t wait to get rid of, was quick and unobtrusive. It also comes preloaded with a number of Rogers apps including SureTap wallet and Anyplace TV.

When it comes to the camera, you get a 20.7MP rear camera that takes outstanding stills and 4K UHD video. The camera is outstanding as far as I am concerned when I tested it at my usual test site which is Pearson Airport in Toronto. First here’s the stills. Click to see them in full resolution:

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When it comes to the video, here it is in 4K UHD. Set it to full screen and 4K if your monitor supports it to see it in full quality:

If you want a great camera on a smartphone, the HTC One M9 has to be on your list.

When it comes to the battery life, I got just over a day in normal usage. That’s pretty good and it is what you should expect from a flagship smartphone. The HTC One M9 goes for $199.99 at Rogers on a 2 year plan or $700 outright. That puts it in line with most of its competition from Samsung and Apple. You should take a look at it as it is definitely a top tier choice in the Android smartphone space.

Review: Roku 3

Posted in Products with tags on April 20, 2015 by itnerd

My wife hates paying our cable bill. It’s expensive and we don’t get a whole lot for our money even in the so called “500 channel universe”. That makes “cutting the cord” a very attractive option. If you want to “cut the cord” with your cable company and you still want to watch TV, you have to have a streaming device and lots of content to access. One of the leaders in the streaming device market is Roku and they have just refreshed their line of streaming devices. The top end of the food chain for Roku is the Roku 3. Here’s what you get in the box:

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You get the Roku 3 set top box, a power cable, a remote control, a set of headsets and instructions. However, you do not get a HDMI cable. Keep that in mind that you’ll need one of those too. You can get the Roku 3 online via Ethernet and by WiFi. I chose the latter and one thing I noted is that it saw both my 2.4 GHz WiFi network and my much faster 5 GHz network. The latter is great for making sure that content from the Internet gets streamed to the Roku 3 efficiently so I took advantage of it. Setup took all of 7 minutes with the help of my computer to create a Roku account. After a reboot to update the software, it was online.

Now that I had the Roku 3 online, I had to get content to watch. Now Roku has made some significant software updates to make finding content easier. The key one in my mind is that you can search with your voice via pressing the search button on the remote and speaking into it. I was able to use my voice to search by artist, title or actor and the ability for the Roku 3 to recognize my voice was almost perfect. When it searches it will search multiple streaming services to find the content you’re looking for. A key feature of the remote is that you can plug in the supplied headsets to listen privately to whatever show or movie you’re watching which means you can watch a movie in your bedroom without disturbing your spouse. One big plus is that the remote appears to be radio based rather than line of sight infra-red. That means that objects won’t interfere with its use. Now if you don’t like the remote, you do have another option. You can also control the Roku 3 with your smartphone or tablet using the free Roku app for iOS and Android. The app also supports text input, voice search, and streaming media from your mobile device to your HDTV over the Roku 3, not to mention that you can use it to find and add channels and apps. In my usage, it was often crash prone on my iPhone 6 and it would often say that the Roku service was not available from time to time. It sounds like an update is in order. Another key feature that Roku has introduced is the Roku Feed. It can track recently released movies and provide you with updates on when they become available on Roku through the various on-demand video services. That may prove useful to some, but I have to admit that I did not make use of this feature.

Roku has a pretty extensive channel store. But what you get depends on where you live. Because I live in Canada, I don’t get services like Hulu. But I do get services like Google Play, Crackle and Netflix. Plus if you hunt around, you can add what are called “private channels” which are channels that are not officially supported by Roku. That way you can get the content that you are looking for. Though I will say that being in Canada there was content that is available for Roku that I wish I could get, but I can’t because I live in Canada. Pity. But I was still able to set up the following channels:

  • Netflix
  • Crackle – This is a service that has a decent selection of movies and TV shows that are available for free. It does have ads though.
  • National Film Board – This is a service that allows you to watch movies from Canada’s National Film Board. There’s a lot of choice here from documentaries to short animated films.
  • Cineplex Store – Cineplex is a chain of movie theaters that also offers this online service to give you access to first run movies and TV shows for a fee.
  • Google Play
  • Docudrama – This service offers all sorts of documentary movies.
  • FilmOn.tv – This is a private channel that allows me to watch live TV from the UK among other countries. I was able to watch the FA Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Reding (which my beloved Arsenal won by the way) using this service and I can get the BBC as well. There are free and paid options available.
  • Sky News
  • Sundance Doc Club – This is a service that offers documentary movies that have been viewed at the Sundance Film Festival.
  • Funmation – This is a service that allows me to get my animated TV fix.

What’s missing, at least in Canada, is the ability to stream first run TV shows as in shows like Arrow, Orphan Black, and the like because most likely Canadian telcos like Rogers, Shaw and Bell own the streaming rights to those shows for their own steaming services. That may change due to the CRTC wanting to force Rogers Bell and Shaw to make their streaming services available to all. Also missing are Canadian broadcasters such as CTV, CBC, and Global. In contrast, there’s a fair amount of US local TV available on Roku. Plus there’s no Canadian news such as CBC News Channel. In contrast, CNN is available to American Roku users. Perhaps Roku can work to get more Canadian content on their service as I for one would love to have them available and be able to “cut the cord” with my cable company. That’s something that would make my wife really happy.

But the Roku 3 isn’t just an online streamer. If you have a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device or a hard drive that you can plug into the USB port of the Roku 3, you can use the Roku 3 to play the content that you already have. To test this, I set up the Roku to access my DLink DNS-323 NAS which supports DLNA and I was able to access movies, music and photos. The catch is that the content has to be in a supported format. Here’s what the Roku 3 supports:

  • Video — MKV (H.264), MP4 (H.264), MOV (H.264), WMV
  • Music — AAC, MP3, WMA, FLAC, WAV
  • Photo — JPG, PNG, GIF (non-animated)

If you’ve got media in one of these formats, it will work perfectly. I should mention that there are apps of all sorts available that range from what I described above to browsers (Firefox for example) to screen savers and games (though hardcore gamers will take one look at the games offered here and go back to their PlayStation or Xbox). All of this combined with all the streaming services that the Roku 3 has access to illustrates the value proposition of the Roku 3. You get the ability to see the content that you want to see regardless of where the content comes from. Be it from a streaming service or content that you have on a storage device or some other device. That’s the exact opposite of something like the Apple TV which is basically a walled garden that only play nice with other Apple products. Speaking of walled gardens, I experienced that when I tried to leverage the Roku 3’s ability to mirror the display of a computer or smartphone to the Roku 3. It worked fine except for my Mac which apparently isn’t supported. Is this a Roku issue or an Apple issue? I’m not sure but my money is on the latter. While this is a beta product, it was a real letdown to not be able to have any of my Macs be able mirror to the Roku 3 and hopefully this changes.

Gripes? Other than the lack of content in Canada that would truly allow me to cut the cord, I only have two. If you log into Roku.com using your Roku account which is tied to your Roku streaming device, the webpage does have the ability to add channels from the webpage to your Roku device. However, this functionality isn’t supported in Canada. But strangely the same functionality is supported from the Roku app. Another note, the webpage lists channels that you cannot get in Canada. Now some of these channels clearly say that they aren’t available in Canada once you click on them to get more details, but others do not and you only find out when you try to add the channel. Not that you can actually add it via Roku.com if it were available in Canada. I say that that needs to be straightened out ASAP.

The Roku 3 goes for $109 CDN and is worth a look if you’re considering “cutting the cord” if the content that you want to watch is available for you to do so. Roku does offer other options for your streaming needs, but if you want the best that Roku has to offer, the Roku 3 is it and I am pretty sure that you’ll love having it in your home.

Review: 2015 Buick Regal Turbo AWD – Part 5

Posted in Products with tags on April 17, 2015 by itnerd

So I’ve come to the end of my time with the Buick Regal Turbo. I have to say that even though I entered this review with the knowledge that Buick was trying to change the image of what their cars are, I was blown away with the degree of change. This week I had a car that in every way was great to drive, and had plenty of power and luxury as well. From a technology standpoint, the addition of a WiFi hotspot and Siri Eyes Free combined with really useful safety technology really made this a vehicle that I could see myself in. If Buick’s mission was to produce cars that would get buyers like me who would normally not think twice about Buick into showrooms, I can safely say that their mission is accomplished.

My final fuel economy was 11 L/100 KM’s in mixed city and highway driving. That wasn’t bad given that I was really utilizing the capabilities of the Regal. Driving more sensibly would have yielded better results I believe which is good given that the Regal uses premium gas.

So, what is this particular Buick Regal Turbo going to cost you? As equipped, it goes for $46,120. But it starts at $39,465 which means that it is completely in line with competitions like the BMW 3 series, Audi A4, Mercedes Benz C Class just to name a few. Given how it performs, it doesn’t just compete on price either. Perhaps the competition needs to look over their shoulder.

Take it from me, this isn’t your dad’s Buick. One drive and you’ll see why.

Review: 2015 Buick Regal Turbo AWD – Part 4

Posted in Products with tags on April 16, 2015 by itnerd

The technology in the Buick Regal Turbo is very interesting and some of it is unique. Let me start with driving the Regal. You get a proximity key with push button start. Thus all you have to do is press a button on the door handle. Press it and the car will unlock. One thing to note is all the door handles have buttons. That way nobody has to wait for the driver to unlock the car. That’s a nice touch. When you get in the Regal, the seat slides forward to the last position that it was set to. Hit the start/stop button and drive away. When you’ve reached your destination, press the start/stop button to turn off the car. Then get out of the car. The seat will slide back to give you room once you open the door. Though I will note that the person behind you will have almost no legroom once that happens. Thus you should wait until they are out of the car before opening the door. You then close the door and walk away. You’ll hear a honk to tell you that the car has locked itself. At no time do 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 as well as pop the trunk, plus it has the ever useful panic button. As an added bonus, it has a backup key should you need it.

Now over to the safety systems:

  • The Regal has Forward Collision Alert technology which helps to prevent frontal crashes by sensing when you are approaching a vehicle in front of you too quickly and alerts you with both an audible and visual warning.
  • You also get Adaptive Cruise Control which senses vehicles in front of you and continually and seamlessly adjusts speed to maintain your preferred following distance. I must admit that I loved this when I was on long highway drives.
  • Besides having a backup camera (which is exposed to the elements by the way) you get Rear Cross Traffic Alert technology which uses radar to detect vehicles or even people in some cases approaching the Regal when you’re backing up and alerts you when one comes within 20 metres of either side of the Regal. I really like how Buick has implemented this as it alerts you with a red exclamation mark on the side that the object is approaching from. Plus it has sensors that are used to help you to avoid objects while reversing, such as a parked car that is behind you.
  • You also get Side Blind Zone Alert which issues a visual warning when a vehicle coming alongside enters your blind zone. And when you’re changing lanes, Lane Change Alert uses radar to watch for and warn you of vehicles approaching quickly from behind.
  • The Regal warns you when you’re leaving your lane with audible beeps on the side of the car that is drifting out of the lane.

That brings us to the infotainment system. Called Buick IntelliLink, this system has a number of things going for it starting with the 8″ touchscreen that was clear and easy to read in any lighting situation. Other highlights include:

  • The user interface is clear and easy to pick up, plus it has redundant buttons below it for things like radio and media.
  • Paring my iPhone 6 via Bluetooth was a trivial process that didn’t require opening the manual.
  • The fact that I have an iPhone 6 was handy because I got to leverage a feature called Siri Eyes Free. This allowed me to use Siri to read and reply to text messages, start and stop music, choose playlists, or anything else I wanted to do.
  • Audio was great thanks to the 9 speaker Bose system. Audiophiles will love being in the Regal.
  • One really nice touch is that when you make a phone call, the HVAC system drops the speed of the fans so that you can hear the other person. The second that the call is over, it returns the HVAC system to normal. I love that! 

One note that I have to make is that I tried to plug in my iPhone 6 into the supplied USB ports and other than charging the phone, it did not load my music into IntelliLink. I then tried my wife’s iPhone 6 and got the same result. From there, I tried my iPhone 5s and a Samsung Galaxy S3 and got the same result. That’s when I reached out to Buick USA tech support via a chat service that they have on their website and they suggested trying different cables as well as taking a thumb drive formatted using he FAT32 filesystem with a few songs on it to test the USB ports. Neither worked. Thus I have to conclude that the ports were defective, this is expected behavior, or I am doing something wrong. I have reached out to GM Canada for feedback, and if I get something back, I will update this post.

One really unique feature is that the Regal came with OnStar 4G LTE WiFi. This feature allows you to use your car as a WiFi hotspot for up to seven devices. I only got up to four in my testing but I had zero complaints. I was able to connect easily and the speed was pretty good. I should also mention the RemoteLink app that allows you to unlock the car and get status updates about the health of the car from the smartphone. Plus you get all the usual features of OnStar including:

  • Remote diagnostics
  • Navigation
  • emergency help including automatic crash response
  • Security in the form of tracking your car if it is stolen and helping law enforcement get the bad guys who took it.

I’ve written a bit more in depth article on OnStar 4G LTE here that you might want to read if you want to know what this system is capable of and what it will cost. But if you have a family, you might want to consider getting it as it will keep the occupants of the Regal happy during long drives.

In the final part of my review of the Buick Regal Turbo, I’ll tie up some loose ends and give you my verdict. Stay tuned!

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