Archive for the Products Category

My Trip To India And Australia: Part 3 – The New Hard Drive

Posted in Products, Tips with tags , on February 25, 2015 by itnerd

One thing that travelers don’t think of is backing up their data when they travel with their laptop. Sooner or later, you’ll have a hard drive failure, or worse your laptop will get stolen. Thus you should always have a backup. In my case I was going to buy the parts to build my own external hard drive as my current one was too small. But after visiting my local computer store, I figured out that it would cost me about $30 more to build my own versus just buying a pre-built one. After looking around, I settled on the Western Digital 1TB Elements external hard drive. Here’s what you get in the box:


There’s not a whole lot here. If you plan on using this as a portable drive, you’ll need a case. It doesn’t come with one, but I have one so I am covered. You might want to invest in one, or pick a Western Digital model that comes with a case.

Now the Western Digital 1TB Elements drive has a lot going for it including:

  • It is a USB 3.0 drive that can fall back to USB 2.0
  • It comes with a trial version of WD SmartWare Pro backup software. It allows you to back up your files to your WD Elements drive or to the cloud using your DropBox account. It’s Windows only though.
  • It’s small and easy to tote around. Though I would not do so without a case. It’s also light as well which is important if you’re traveling.

Now if you have a PC, it’s plug and play. However if you have a Mac, you’ll need to reformat the drive using Disk Utility before using it. Now, experienced Mac users won’t find this a big deal. However, novice users won’t have any direction other than the instruction sheet pointing users to a Western Digital support knowledgebase article. The reference to this knowledgebase article is in tiny print so it is easy to miss. It would be a good idea for Western Digital to do more for Mac users.

In terms of performance, when it was pretty quick as long as you connect it via USB 3.0. Thus backups should be quick. Now I will copy my most recent backup to the drive so that I have a backup if I need it on my way to India. Not to mention that backing up my data will be much quicker as Carbon Copy Cloner will have something to work with. The other thing I will do is pack it separately from my laptop. That way if I lose the backup, I will still have my backup, or vice versa.

The best thing about this drive is that it has a great price. I paid $79 for the 1TB version which is an excellent price. What was not so excellent is the fact that Western Digital only offers a one year warranty when a lot of their other products have two, three or even five year warranties. Yes it’s their entry level drive. But they can and should do better on that front. Having said that, it wouldn’t stop me from recommending it as an option to back up your data while you’re on a trip.

On Friday, I will detail my trip to the airport and my departure from Toronto to Dubai which is the first leg of my trip to New Delhi India.

Review: Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

Posted in Products with tags on February 19, 2015 by itnerd

This week I have a unique smartphone. It’s the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge provided by Rogers and here’s what’s unique about it:


If you look at the right side of the Galaxy Note Edge, you’ll note that the screen is not only curved, but it has shortcut icons that allow you to access whatever you want as you can customize that space. I should also note that Samsung also has apps that you can install that take advantage of this space (for example, there’s a CNN app that displays breaking news in this space) and some apps such as Twitter can display notifications in this space. Using the Twitter example, I got notifications of retweets, replies and other Twitter activity here and I found that to be useful as it didn’t occupy space on the screen. The net result is something that I thought was a gimmick was very useful in reality. Another note, when I was using the camera, the controls for the camera were in this area. That’s good thinking on the part of Samsung. The screen is bright and easily read in any lighting condition. Here’s something else that I noticed:


The back (which is removable) is plastic, but it is textured and feels very classy and looks classy in black. While I’m at it, the rest of the phone is well constructed. There’s a metal edge around the outside of the phone and the phone feels solid. It’s easy to hold and feels good in your hands. There’s one more thing to point out:

IMG_0847There’s a S-Pen. I didn’t really use it myself when I tested the Galaxy Note Edge. But when I did, I found it to be very sensitive and responsive. If you want a stylus that behaves just like a pen. This is it.

Here’s the specs of the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge:

  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat
  • 5.6-inch 2560×1600 pixel curved Super AMOLED display
  • 2.7Ghz quad-core processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB internal storage expandable via Micro SD
  • 16MP rear camera with optical image stabilization and 4K video capture @ 30fps
  • 3.7MP front-facing camera
  • WiFi (a/b/g/ac)
  • LTE
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • S Pen

The phone felt fast and the version of Samsung’s TouchWiz skin that comes with all their phones felt very light and unobtrusive. I really, really liked that. One key feature is that this is the first phone to take advantage of the Rogers LTE Advanced network which in theory can give you speeds of 300 Mbps. One thing that I did notice is that when I tested this phone in the Metro Toronto Convention Center, I noted that I had full signal strength in an environment that extends several stories underground. A phone from a competing “big three” carrier didn’t fare nearly as well with having half the signal strength at best in the same areas that the Galaxy Note Edge was getting full signal strength. If you want great signal strength, this phone combined with Rogers LTE Advanced network clearly is a winner. The speed is also a winner. I got an average of 76.43 Mbps downstream and 19.75 Mbps upstream inside the Metro Toronto Convention Center when I ran my usual speed tests.

The camera is a winner as well. It’s a 16MP shooter and instead of testing this phone at Pearson Airport in Toronto, I tested it at the Canadian International Auto Show on Press Day. That’s the day before the show opens that allows members of the press to see press conferences and other cool stuff the general public doesn’t get to see. First let me show you a few still pictures. Click them to see them in full resolution:


20150212_133147 20150212_131734 20150212_130114

The pictures are clear and sharp. There’s no noise or any sort of distortion. This is an excellent camera. The video is just a good. For example, I recorded the Canadian reveal of the Kia GT4 Stinger concept car and here’s the video. Set it to full screen and 1080p.:

The video is sharp, but the audio is kind of muddy. That’s ironic as I was standing three feet away from a speaker at the time I shot this video. But to be fair, I was standing behind the speaker. Thus I am only picking up the audio directly from the presenter herself.

Battery life is outstanding on this phone. I started out at 7:30 AM on press day at the Canadian International Auto Show with a fully charged phone. After shooting 103 photos and shooting 9 videos and live Tweeting my journey through the show all day, I left the show at 5:30 PM and the phone had 35% battery life left. That was impressive. You’ll easily get a day plus out of this phone in normal usage.

Rogers is just bringing this phone to market as I speak as you can reserve it now on the Rogers Reservation System. It goes for $399 on a 2-year term or you can buy it outright for $899. Not cheap by any means. But to get smartphone with a great camera as well as a fast smartphone with amazing LTE performance, you have to pony up the dollars to get it. I can’t think of any area were there might be a compromise which given the price is a good thing. That makes the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge an early contender for the IT Nerd smartphone of the year as far as I am concerned as it is that good. Check it out if you want a powerful smartphone and you have deep pockets.

Review: Olixar Travel Adapter With 4 USB Ports

Posted in Products with tags , on February 18, 2015 by itnerd

One of the challenges that I have when traveling is that I don’t want to carry a ton of adapters to keep my phone, bluetooth headset, and other battery powered gadgets charged. Now what I usually do is carry the various types of cables that my gadgets use and use my MacBook Pro to charge my devices. That works, but I figured that there had to be a better way. So when MobileFun sent me the Olixar Travel Adapter With 4 USB Ports last week, I figured that I had found my solution. First, let me show you what comes in the box:


The big block at the top is the actual travel adapter with 4 USB Ports. You also get four heads to allow you to plug it into most places on Earth. Specifically the EU, US, UK and Australian plug sockets among 150 countries in total.

Here’s a closer look at the travel adapter:

IMG_0835You’ll note that it shows the output of the USB ports. That’s handy to know that whatever you plug into them won’t fry your devices. In my tests, it worked brilliantly. It seems to be able to figure out what the device or devices need to charge quickly and does so perfectly regardless of whether I was charging one device or four devices. When I examined it, I found it to be well constructed and I believe that it will last over multiple trips.

Downsides? None. Seriously, I found that there was nothing that I could complain about. Even the price is ideal. MobileFun is offering the Olixar Travel Adapter With 4 USB Ports for $45.99 USD. That’s a great price and I would say that this is a must get for anyone who travels. I would also say that if you have to charge multiple devices at home, you should get one of these as well. For those reasons, the Olixar Travel Adapter With 4 USB Ports is easy to recommend from my perspective.

In Depth: OnStar With 4G LTE WiFi

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

GM has an option that is a game changer in the automotive industry and it’s OnStar with 4G LTE WiFi. Now you’re likely saying “why do I want WiFi in my car? I’ve got 4G on my phone?” First, let me explain what you get with OnStar with 4G LTE WiFi. Using the infotainment system inside an equipped model year 2015 GM vehicle, you can easily pair your smartphone, tablet or other device to the cars WiFi hotspot. You can pair up to 7 devices to the hotspot so that they can surf the net or grab their e-mail. The process requires devices to be WPA2 compliant, which most things are these day and the process is dead easy. All devices get LTE speed which is good if you want to keep the kids happy. Plus the coverage is impressive. It covers a lot of Canada and most of the USA. That way you can keep surfing on those long road trips. Finally, the pricing is affordable. Here’s a look at what you can expect to pay:


Data/Month 200 MB 1 GB 3 GB 5 GB
OnStar Subscriber $10 $20 $40 $60
Non-Subscriber $15 $25 $40 $60


You get alerts when you are close to hitting your limit as well. One other thing to consider is the fact that there are no roaming fees. So unlike the big three carriers, you’ll actually save some cash when traveling.

All of that is on top of everything that OnStar that offers. Which includes, diagnostics, navigation, emergency help including automatic crash response, and security. Plus there’s the OnStar Remote Link App that allows you to do things like get diagnostics, remote start or unlock the car, and configure the WiFi among other things from your iOS or Android device.

OnStar With 4G LTE is an option on 2015 model year GM cars. It’s very much worth looking at if you’re in the market for a GM car in the near future as you’re not going find another family features that have an option like this.

In Depth: Lexus NX

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

One of the things that caught my eye at the Canadian International Auto Show this week was the brand new Lexus NX. It’s the latest addition to the burgeoning luxury compact crossover market that everybody wants to have a presence in. It appealed to me on a number of levels:


First of all, the styling is bold. It will not be mistaken for anything else out there. Though you don’t see it here, I saw the LED daytime running lights in action and it really adds a significant amount of style to the NX.


The bold styling continues around back. People seeing you coming or going will be impressed.


The space in the rear of the NX is huge. You get a lot of space back here, plus you get 60/40 folding rear seats. Not only that, passengers get a lot of space too along with reclining seats.


The gauge cluster is very top shelf. It’s clear and very customizable. Also note the paddle shifters on the steering wheel.


You also get an 7″ infotainment system screen that is easy to access. Plus you get real buttons to control a variety of features. That’s a big deal to me because even though I am someone who likes technology, I do not want to control every single function via the infotainment system. The analog clock in the center is a nice touch as well.


If you look at the bottom left corner, you’ll see the Lexus Remote Touch Interface in the form of a touchpad with buttons above it to control the infotainment system. People who I know who have Lexus vehicles with Remote Touch love it. And I do mean LOVE it.


Under the hood, this particular NX gets a 2.0L twin scroll turbocharged engine that puts out an impressive 235 horsepower when mated to a six speed automatic transmission. If you’re more of an eco minded person, you can also get a hybrid version that puts out a combined 194 horsepower when mated to a CVT transmission. Either way, you’ll get great fuel economy. The turbo version gets a combined 9.6 L/100km and the hybrid gets a combined 7.4 L/100kmStandard on both versions is an AWD system that can direct 50% of the power to the rear wheels when required.

I found that the craftsmanship that is typical of Lexus vehicles were present both internally and externally. What’s also worth noting is the price. The NX 200t which is the turbo version starts at just over $40K. The NX 300h which is the hybrid version starts at just over $58K. Both should bring in a new type of client into Lexus dealerships such as empty nesters looking for something smaller than a RX or people looking to move up to a luxury nameplate. I think it will also appeal to those looking for a vehicle that is not too big and not too small. The NX is in dealerships now and I am seeing it on roads already. I think it will be a winner.

In Depth: Subaru EyeSight

Posted in Products with tags on February 13, 2015 by itnerd

“Safety shouldn’t only be for those who are affluent.”

Those words from a Subaru Canada rep at the Canadian International Auto Show really resonated with me because everyone should have the ability to get safety technology in their vehicles. I’ve tested cars with safety systems in them before, but what makes Subaru Eyesight different is the fact that it’s a cutting edge safety system that is available on pretty much everything Subaru makes. Here’s how it works.


If you look around the area of the rear view mirror, you’ll see two cameras. They’re stereoscopic cameras meaning that they see depth. If you’re wondering what that looks like to the EyeSight computer, here’s what it sees:


EyeSight processes two images to look at vehicles in front, as well as obstacles, traffic lanes and other potential hazards including people. The information is sent to the EyeSight computer, which is connected to the car’s braking system and throttle. If the system senses a collision is imminent, it will apply the brake, either mitigating or avoiding an accident all together. According to the Subaru Canada rep I spoke to, it works up to 50 km/h.

In addition, you can get blind spot detection on some Subaru vehicles which will warn drivers with a light in the mirror if the spot in the lane next to them is occupied. Plus there’s lane-change assist which will flash a light if you are about to change lanes and a car is approaching quickly. Finally, there’s rear cross traffic alert which uses rear-facing radar to detect cars approaching from behind or from the side as the driver backs out of a parking space.

All of this makes you safer, and that’s a good thing. But what’s better is that you can get Subaru EyeSight and the associated safety technology in whole or in part on every car Subaru makes from the Impreza all the way through to the Legacy. That means that you don’t have to spend luxury car money to be safe. Since this technology is more affordable, more people will drive vehicles equipped with it. That makes us all safer in the long run.

Kudos to Subaru for bringing safety to the masses.

Review: AdwareMedic

Posted in Products with tags on February 10, 2015 by itnerd

For years, you never had to worry about viruses and adware if you run a Mac. Those days are over. Now you have to have protection. There’s a variety of options out there and one of them is an application called AdwareMedic. It’s an on demand scanner for Mac users to make sure that you are not infected by adware.

The program is extremely simple to use.

  1. Download it and drag the program to your Applications folder
  2. Run it and it will connect to a server to download the latest signatures used to detect adware.
  3. Click the “Scan For Adware” button.

Now one of two things will happen at this point. It will either give you the all clear, or it will find adware. If you’re in the latter camp, it will try to remove it. If AdwareMedic doesn’t remove it, it includes the ability to take a system snapshot that can help find possible sources for the problem. This both helps you get rid of the adware and helps others by improving the app. Now to be clear, this is an on demand scanner. In other words, you have to run it to find adware. It will not proactively protect you. That will be fine for most users as you should be running some other type of protection.

I tested it and found nothing amiss which is a good thing. So as far as I am concerned, this is a program that is worth having around. It’s donationware and I recommend it if you have to wonder if you’re infected with adware.


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