Category Archives: Technology

Free TELUS WiFi hotspots for everyone and short attention spans

TELUS recently launched more than 8,000 free WiFi hotspots in B.C. and Alberta. The service is free to TELUS customers and non-TELUS customers. But TELUS costumers will have advantages.

The Wi-Fi network integrates seamlessly with TELUS’ 4G wireless network, automatically shifting TELUS smartphone customers to Wi-Fi and helping them moderate their use of wireless data.

You will find TELUS WiFi at  7-Eleven, Fountain Tire and Vancity credit union.

It’s also in BC Place and TELUS World of Science in Vancouver; the Saddledome and TELUS Spark in Calgary; TELUS World of Science in Edmonton; the Richmond Olympic Oval; and throughout the Whistler village and ski resort. TELUS is currently installing Wi-Fi in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium and the Victoria International Airport.

Continue reading Free TELUS WiFi hotspots for everyone and short attention spans

Adobe 2015 Creative Cloud now has in-app stock photos purchase

Adobe announced the 2015 release of Creative Cloud, an online subscription service for professional and enthusiast  designers, artists and photographers.

First, let’s start with newbies whose last Photoshop or InDesign was purchased at a store in a box with discs a while back, Adobe Creative Cloud is now your source to subscribe to a package of some 30 apps which you download online. Adobe maintains continuous program updates, including new features starting as of today and uses Adobe CreativeSync online to keep and sync files, fonts, photos, design assets, settings, metadata, Adobe Stock assets and more across all your desktop and iOS and Android smartphones. You can even share all these assets with co-workers.

Haze removal in Adobe 2015 Photoshop and Lightroom brings pictures back to life quickly
Haze removal in Adobe 2015 Photoshop and Lightroom brings pictures back to life quickly

Continue reading Adobe 2015 Creative Cloud now has in-app stock photos purchase

The ASUS contract-free ZenFone 2 is hard to resist

Last week I attended the much anticipated New York launch of the ASUS ZenFone 2, a new flagship phone that is heating up the competition between Chinese-made contract-free smartphones with all the bells and whistles and leading edge performance.

The ASUS ZenFone 2 has it all including nicely finished plastic with fine concentric ring surface

The Zenfone 2 features a 13 MP camera with ASUS-exclusive PixelMaster camera technology, a much improved ZenUI user interface, Dual-SIM (well yes but only one will take 4G SIMS) ) Dual-Active (DSDA) capability, and a new performance level against ANY phone.

Why? Under the hood of the Hull HD 5.5 IPS + screen is a 64-bit four-core Intel Atom Z3580 (‘Moorefield’) processor with up to 4GB RAM and an Intel LTE-Advanced XMM 7260 modem. ASUS convincingly showed how the world’s first 4 GB RAM smartphone could juggle between four memory intensive games, pausing between all four and not missing a beat when switching between them.

Continue reading The ASUS contract-free ZenFone 2 is hard to resist

An affordable BlackBerry for start-ups and old fans

The BlackBerry Leap, available today for as low as $0.00 with plan or $349 CAD outright, has lots of BlackBerry DNA. Minus a real keyboard for a large 5-inch screen and  some careful nip and tucking on the hardware side has made the Leap an affordable quality mid-tier smart phone. BlackBerry likes to market it for the young professional, meaning start-up companies who want BlackBerry device enterprise security advantages at a lower hardware cost. But I think it will also attract BB fans who have skipped a few upgrades.

Don’t let the price fool you. It has design smarts and functionality.

The BlackBerry Leap sans keyboard is clasically simpe borrowing features from pricier siblings
The BlackBerry Leap sans keyboard is clasically simpe borrowing features from pricier siblings

For starters, it feels just right to hold with a non-slip back and sides so it won’t slip from your hands, lap or dashboard. You can add micro-SD memory and oversized battery will easily make it last till the next morning.

The 8 MP main camera is welcome with more shooting control features and better than average picture quality. The images are crisp with good colour contrast, but the Full HD video does lose some smoothness in fast scenes – otherwise acceptable in normal shoots. You can snap a picture while in video mode too. Nice.

I like the selfie quality keeping you and things you are close to or holding in sharp focus on the first shot, as all phones should.

The Leap has a 5-inch touchscreen with a responsive keyboard, similar to higher tier siblings, including the unique feature of flipping accurate predictive words that appear on the keyboard upward to the text box. If you master this flip thing you will be a speed demon typist.

It features the same efficient multi-direction screen finger swipe to navigate between individual email or messaging accounts, a hub that shows all your communications, to open apps and an icon view of screen apps.

The screen reacts quickly to your commands, and although one notch down on “sharpness” and DPI tech terms, sharp enough with crispness and detail.

The Leap doesn’t have NFC but that will unlikely hold it back on upcoming store purchasing schemes.

BlackBerry’s BBM, available, in iOS Android OS, is superior to competitors allowing you to not just type, but use your phone and video through a WiFi connection, bypassing the phone’s cellular data connection.

As with its current siblings, the Leap has two sources for apps, BlackBerry World and Amazon Appstore with not as many apps as a full-fledged Android or iPhone but more than you would ever need.

BlackBerry Flex shell converts to a vertical or horizontal stand
BlackBerry Flex shell converts to a vertical or horizontal stand

The Leap’s legendary security features actually kick in when it is part of an IT managed company. Consumers still have to rely on their emails and texts to go through their cellco’s servers. But BalckBerry’s Donny Halliwell points out that the BlackBerry has never been jailbroken and its Blend feature lets you keep in touch with Mac and Windows laptops.

The Leap has the potential to find itself in the hands of frugal business users and fans on a budget looking for value.

Available at Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless, Sasktel, TELUS, WIND Mobile, ShopBlackBerry, and select Tbooth wireless and WIRELESSWAVE.

BlackBerry has also introduced three new Accessory Value Bundles for the Leap that include an unlocked BlackBerry Leap with accessories for additional savings, like the clever Flex shell and a sync/charging pod. Check out the BlackBerry Leap Efficiency Bundle, BlackBerry Leap Travel Bundle and BlackBerry Leap Power Bundle are available on ShopBlackBerry.

www.blackberry.com

Check out my Global TV Sunday Morning News Tech Talk broadcast and Global News blog.

Two new phones – a tale of two cities

Two new phones are in the marketplace with a common goal but two vastly different stories.
The HTC One M9 with Android 5.0 Lollipop continues the tradition of the M8 with  top-tier design and performance improvements. It is one handsome smart phone.

The HTC One M9 offers quality and eclectic design for a top tier phone
The HTC One M9 offers quality and eclectic design for a top tier phone

A 20 megapixel camera and sapphire glass lens makes the M9 a serious contender for good quality photos from a phone. The familiar all metal curved case tapering to thin long edges is still there, making the M9 an easy phone to hold, but it does heat up more than the average phone, especially when watching YouTube vids.
To me the highlight is amazing sound with two front-facing Dolby Audio surround speakers making the M9 the best boom-box in a pocket.
HTC spared no expense with a brilliant 5.0” FHD TFT LCD 1920 x 1800 (real sharp) screen and an Octa-Core Snapdragon 810 Processor powered by a generous size 2900 mAh battery. It comes with 32GB memory but thankfully, it features a micro SD card slot which nowadays can accommodate up to a 200 GB memory upgrade. Nice.

Continue reading Two new phones – a tale of two cities

APPLE WATCH ENVY? NOT YET. SAMSUNG HAS A SECRET WEAPON

While Apple users scurry online to order the new Apple Watch, you would think Android phone users will be left behind with the current crop of Android-based smart watches.

Not so. As reported in The Korea Herald  this week, Samsung is planning to release a Gear 2 stand-alone variant with the ability to receive and make calls and receive notifications without the need of a smart phone.  Names like Samsung Gear Solo are surfacing in the rumour mill but Samsung patent filings for “Gear Solo” to the Korean IP Office kinda spills the beans.

Although slated for initial release in Korea, I have heard enough from other sources to indicate it will also reach North American shores, perhaps by summer.

Continue reading APPLE WATCH ENVY? NOT YET. SAMSUNG HAS A SECRET WEAPON

Dell elevates the Android tablet to a high end work and play device

SAN FRANCISCO-ARRIL 8, 2015
Today Dell launched the Venue 10 7000, a premium tablet with detachable full function backlit keyboard with multifunction mouse-like touch pad. Available in Canada, the US and China in early May for $599 CDN and with keyboard currently $600 (US PRICE ONLY) with keyboard, the Venue 10 will incorporate its own Dell security work features on top of Google’s Android for Work which comes with  Android 5 (Lollipop) OS. The Venue 10 (and other Lollipop Dell upgadable Android Tablets) can run both work and personal apps on the same device. But each will be separate from each other. For example, an employer would be able to wipe out an employee’s work apps from the their Venue 10, leaving personal files intact. Dell demonstrated other security features like not being able to screen capture mixed work and personal content on the same 10-inch multi-angle view 2560×1600 Venue screen.

Dell's Vikram Chadaga with the new Dell Venue 10 7000 Android Tablet with magnetically detachable baklit keyboard.
Dell’s Vikram Chadaga with the new Dell Venue 10 7000 Android Tablet with magnetically detachable baklit keyboard.

This is Dell’s shot across the bows of Microsoft’s revenue based Office collaboration with various OEM front end laptops and desktops, as well as Apple’s even pricier hardware work and school environment. Continue reading Dell elevates the Android tablet to a high end work and play device

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 www.microsoft.ca/freeoffice 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!

The best smart phone cameras are impressive but still can’t match enthusiast digital cameras

Despite today’s sophisticated smart phone cameras, I still like to take more serious camera hardware along when I travel.

Why? Because a 16 megapixel cellphone picture is not the same as a 16 megapixel quality mirrorless or DSLR with interchangeable lenses.

Why? Picture sensors on phones, with the exception of the Sony Xperia Z3, are half the size of your pinky  fingernail. Compare that to the postage size sensors of interchangeable lens cameras like the  Sony NEX, Samsung NX, Fujifilm X, Olympus Pen  and bulkier DSLR cameras.

Physically larger sensors record richer colours, more detail in shadows and less noise at higher ISO settings.

Phone cameras have no real zoom lens. They basically shoot wide angle photos with the ability to zoom in closer, but at the expense of megapixel size and quality. This means phone cameras can’t shoot from far away like zoom lenses on real cameras. Nor can they shoot extra wide angle photos.

The lens on a smart phone has one aperture, typically f2, leaving the shutter speed to control the picture’s exposure. Due to the physically small size of the picture sensor, the depth of field on smartphone pictures is quite large (making near and far subjects look just as sharp) and cannot be changed. Again, zeroing in on closer objects, or portraits with an out of focus background is impossible to do with phone cameras.

Phone cameras are best at quickly recording personal moments near you. They are small and handy, but there are images further out that are worth capturing beyond your personal sphere.

Here are examples of “tourist” photos I recently took in Barcelona after the Mobile World Congress I reported on my Global TV Sunday Morning News today.

They were shot with a 16 MP Samsung Galaxy Note Edge and the Fujifilm weather resistant 16 MP X-T1 with top tier fast aspherical extra wide angle XF 10-24 mm f4 zoom which captures 3 times as wide a view as normal lenses, the new 16-55 mm f2.8 aspherical weatherproof and the 18-135 mm f3.5-5.6 aspherical zoom, also weatherproof, for my ultra-zoom close-ups.

See the first group of still impressive quality Note Edge pictures, unbeatable selfies, great panoramas and medium wide angle views. Compare the variety of  wider and  tight telephoto views shot with the X-T1.

Click on photos to enlarge

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge with medium wide views, wider selfies and amazing panoramas
Samsung Galaxy Note Edge with medium wide views, wider selfies and amazing panoramas
Fujifim X-T1 with extreme wide and telephoto zoom lenses
Fujifilm X-T1 with extreme wide and telephoto zoom lenses