Category Archives: lifestyle

How does the new Microsoft Surface 3 stack up? And some thoughts on “free”

Check out my Global TV Sunday Morning News Tech Talk segment today.

Microsoft’s new Surface 3, is available now for pre-order. It’s touted as the portable work and school successor to its very well received Surface Pro 3 which has impressive sales. Although Microsoft touts similar DNA to the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3 has very little in common with its older sibling.

Check it out at the Microsoft Canada Store

Microsoft's new Surface 3 hopes to match its older sibling's success but not at budget prices
Microsoft’s new Surface 3 hopes to match its older sibling’s success but not at budget prices

Here’s what I like about it:

Perfect size for portability and long battery life. The docking station is a good idea as is an always connected 4G LTE model. The 3:2 aspect screen ratio on a 10.8 – inch screen is smart for documents and magazines. Keeping three positions for the kick stand is welcome as is the free one year trial of Microsoft Office 365 Personal. The free upgrade to the yet unreleased very excellent Windows 10, we all get in the first year.

The full-size USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort, microSD card reader and Micro USB charging port are smart too.

Now the bad news:

The Surface 3 at $639 is too pricey to start with. Third party makers can easily beat that with better features and processors, not the Intel Atom the Surface 3 comes with and more than 2 GB RAM.  That doesn’t include the optional Surface 3 Type Cover, $159.99 and full feature Surface Pen for $49.99.

Microsoft is riding on the success of its Surface Pro 3 which commands a hefty price but worth it.

I still can’t see where the tablet version of Windows comes in. It’s still an orphaned touch OS and the more it gets out of the way in the new Windows 10 OS, as it does, the better. That’s not from me. I rarely run into raving Windows tablet users, still griping about the original Windows 8 and patched up Windows 8.1 with “that other screen view with big icons that comes out of nowhere.”

Microsoft’s idea of a universal OS in Windows 10 is a smart idea, insofar as having apps that run on your desktop laptop or Windows Phone. But the tablet part cannot stand up to iPads or Android Tablets. I think one of the wisest things the late Steve Jobs said was that tablets (iPads) and laptops have totally different uses.

Microsoft’s challenge to be in every day consumer lives is making the software giant give a little “free” here and there.

Canadian students can get a free Office 365 Education for Students providing their district school board or individual school (from K-post-secondary institutions) has purchased Microsoft Office for use by its staff. Parents and students can check for details. The software will work on multiple devices for each student and includes classroom collaboration. But not shared with four other users.

But if the students move to another school that uses the popular Google for Education with free forever Office-like tools, they will lose their special Office 365.

Microsoft hopes planting early free seeds to potential future customers of the future is a good idea. As an Office 365 user myself, it’s difficult to break away for competitive free office software.

I must say, with all this free software, especially on phones, one gets spoiled and annoyed at having to pay companies like Microsoft for software. But there is a price for free software. You give up your privacy and your phone literally gets dragged from the additional goings on. Check out this eye opening recent research on what FREE phone software does to your phone.

Interestingly, unlike competitors, Microsoft’s free Office Mobile App has minimal involvement with your smart phone. It only accesses information directly needed by you when using the app.

Would you pay a couple of bucks for phone software that just leaves you alone? For years Microsoft insiders have been telling me, the time will come when the option of paying a descent price for software with no ads or secret sharing of your phone user stats might get traction again.

I’m in!

Talking with Photoshop creator Thomas Knoll


“A lot of stuff I am not terribly happy with, with what’s going on…especially the body issues it creates for a lot of women.”  Photoshop creator Thomas Knoll on digital picture manipulation

Happy 25th Photoshop! In a live Adobe hosted online media briefing this morning, the creator of Photoshop Thomas Knoll, took questions from us. He was totally candid, thankfully with minimum media training. Although supportive of Adobe’s ever expanding cloud based Creative Cloud, Knoll expressed concerns about its abuse as a tool. He also gave us a glimpse of what the graphics industry was like back in 1987 when Knoll and his photographer brother John dabbled with a little imaging program they called Display.

Photoshop creator Thomas Knoll answers media questions online today on Photoshop's 25th. My meeting him in 2000 running PS 6!
Photoshop creator Thomas Knoll answers media questions online today on Photoshop’s 25th. My meeting him in 2000 running PS 6!

It’s interesting to note that Knoll had his own camera in his teen years and was shown the ins and outs of darkrooms by his dad. He was frustrated not being able to get darker blacks or whiter whites on his prints. Later he dabbled with basic picture editing programs during his thesis work to the point where he never got his PhD. We can all thank him for that!

Knoll said that Display was designed as a pixel editor for the graphics industry to prepare images for printing in 1987. He considered other names for his program like Image Pro and Photo Lap, even PhotoShop through an acquaintance. After Adobe purchased the fledging program, according to Knoll, it changed the upper case S to a lower case, launching Photoshop in 1990 to a world hungry for better imaging editing solutions.

I interviewed Knoll 15 years ago, also an Adobe Fellow, in 2000 who was running Adobe 6 on his Mac Book. His biggest beef then was why Adobe was putting more emphasis on his all-powerful Photoshop being to handle web-size images when it was originally conceived to handle huge picture files for professionals and photo enthusiasts.

Remember, this was the early days of the Internet and Adobe envisioned being a big part of the online digital revolution. Fast forward to the Adobe Creative Cloud today which dominates the graphics and publishing industry.

Keeping low budget photographers in mind, Knoll was instrumental in Adobe’s special Creative Cloud Photography offer for Photoshop and Lightroom plus mobile phone app for anyone for only $9.99 US a month with online benefits. That’s two large fancy coffees a month!

In this morning’s Q&A session Knoll shared how he still gets a kick out of “Photoshop” used as a globally known word. But he expressed reservations on how his beloved app becomes the centre of controversy whenever digital manipulation hits the web social scene.

“Photoshop is a tool and like any other tool, it can be abused,” he said. “A lot of stuff I am not terribly happy with, with what’s going on…especially the body issues it creates for a lot of women. I would appreciate it if people would back off on that,” he added.

From my first conversation with Knoll 15 years ago to today’s media Q&A, I can’t help but think Knoll has no mean digital strain in his DNA. He is a non-destructive kind of guy and continues to work on new versions of Photoshop’s pure RAW format which reads every bit of better cameras’ pure digital picture information when the photo is taken.

You will understand Knoll better if you visit his site, and see his view of the world in a collection of extensive world photography. Pure photos, most taken in RAW format.

Visit the Photoshop 25th anniversary blog

Checkout my GlobalTV Tech Talk segments



One Tap takes the distraction out of driving


Calgary based AppColony  has come up with a cleverly simple free Android app, One Tap, which effectively stops distracted driving. Take that from me, I have been driving with it for a week. It’s a keeper.

One Tap summerizes each drive session, left, compares your distraction performance , centre and distance driven with friends
One Tap summerizes each drive session, left, compares your distraction performance , centre and distance driven with friends

Continue reading One Tap takes the distraction out of driving

Tech love for Valentine’s Day

How do you say I love you for Valentine’s Day with technology?

For a range of affordable new personal tech gift suggestions check out my  and Edmonton Global News Sunday Morning News Tech Talk segment.

If your love has no limit, here are a few items, costing more, that have a lot of tech love to give back for the next few Valentine’s years.


The Kobo Auro H2O keeps your digital books dry
The Kobo Auro H2O keeps your digital books dry
  • The Kobo WiFi Aura H20, $169.99, is an all-weather E Ink eReader with enough internal memory to carry 3,000 books. The 6.8 – inch antiglare 265 dpi screen features adjustable ComfortLight backlight technology for reading in brighter places.
  • The New Kindle eReader, $79, is winner in many ways. It’s small, light, with weeks of battery life, 20 per cent faster processing and twice the storage capability as the previous model. The new touch interface is simple and the new Word Wise feature makes it easier for readers learning English to understand new words.

Continue reading Tech love for Valentine’s Day