• Devices

    by Published on 02-06-2014 02:16 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
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    I donít know about you but when it comes to monthly bills, the cost of heating and cooling my house is one of the highest. You can cut your phone service, cut your cable, but for most people, you canít eliminate your electrical or heating.

    There are a few things you can do to reduce your costs. You can make your house more efficient by changing all your windows and doors, add more insulation, buy a more efficient HVAC/AC, install solar panels but the cheapest and easiest way to reduce your heating and cooling costs is to to install a programmable thermostat.

    The idea is that your heating and cooling needs arenít as great at night and during the day when everyone is at work. Instead of running the AC when no one is at home you tell the programmable thermostat to ease off.

    Thatís the idea anyways but the thing is, cheap programmable thermostats are a pain to program. To save money, they have tiny screens and a minimal number of buttons. Fancier models have larger screens and more buttons but you still need to go up to your thermostat and program it. If Iím lying in bed and want it to be warmer, itís a pain to have to walk over to my thermostat, set it and then go back to bed.

    Hereís where the Honeywell RTH9580WF comes in. The 9580 can connect to your WiFi network so that you can control it using your computerís browser or via an app on your iOS or Android phone. It also has a relatively large colour display. The large colour display makes programming it very easy and letís face it, the big screen looks awesome. Also, since the 9580 is connected to the internet, it knows what time it is and will automatically adjust for daylight savings.
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    by Published on 01-29-2014 04:28 PM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
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    If you ask any iPhone user what they hate most about their iPhone chances are theyíll mention the battery life. I donít know about you but itís a miracle if my iPhone is able to make it till the end of the day.

    Anyways, the problem with the iPhone is that its battery is almost half the size of some of itís Android competitors. While itís true the iPhoneís screen is only about 33% smaller Iím able to easily make it through the day when I use a LG G2 or Sony Xperia Z1.

    Hereís where Belkinís Grip Power Battery case (say that fast 3 times) comes in. Itís a case with a built-in 2000mAh battery to augment the iPhone 5sí 1540mAh. This should more than double the 5sí battery life and indeed, my seat of the pants feeling is that this is the case. When Iím using the Belkin case itís virtually impossible to run the 5s down in one day. In fact, many users should have no problem getting 2 days of usage.
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    by Published on 01-27-2014 07:31 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Carriers
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    Over the weekend I was asked to provide moral support to a friend's wife who was buying her first Canadian smartphone. She's originally from the States and currently has an iPhone locked to Verizon; she wants to keep that for occasional use across the border, and needs unlimited calling to the USA from here.

    Plot twist: she's very much a normob (normal mobile user) ó not so much the type you'd find here on the forums but more the everyday user immortalized by WIND in that statue you see above.

    With smartphones the most personal of personal computers, I tried my best not to steer her towards any one device, and offered my two cents only when asked. Her, her husband and I spent close to an hour in a local WIND store, and I found it fascinating to see how she eventually zeroed in on the device she ended up buying.

    It was going to be running Android, so that narrowed the field a bit, at least. ...
    by Published on 01-16-2014 11:55 AM
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    2. Devices
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    If The Toronto Star is to be believed then the Canadian darling of this year's CES is Ubislate, a Mississauga-based company that makes a $38 CAD Android tablet for education in the developing world.

    Are you cringing yet? I kinda am.

    I've used a low-powered Android tablet in the past, and the experience was decidedly unpleasant. In fact, I'll go quite a bit further and say that cheap tablets like this give Android a bad name.

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    by Published on 01-15-2014 08:38 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. From The Forums,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
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    I'd like to thanks TELUS for providing Howardforums.com the review unit of the Samsung Galaxy Gear first and foremost, so thank you TELUS.

    When the Samsung Galaxy Gear was announced I had the same reaction as i'm sure many of you did. "What, why, what's the point?" Once those thoughts settled and I had moved past them I started thinking if I had one, how would I use it? Would I take advantage of all its features and would it really impact my daily life enough to warrant its pretty steep entry price?

    I asked Howard if he had one that I could review because that's always easier then spending my $ on something I may just not like and low and behold, here we are!

    First things first, let's get this out of the way.
    Do you wear a watch currently?
    Yes? Carry on then.
    No? Nothing for you to see here, move along.

    Why do I say this so abruptly?
    Quite honestly, if you don't wear a watch now and you're interested in a smart watch the Galaxy Gear may not be for you. Firstly, there's the well known "issue" of it working with Samsung only hardware so all you HTC / Nexus / Blackberry / Nokia and all need not apply. Secondly, this isn't a small watch. I have fairly large wrists and I found even for me it was a big large. However, style is personal and some love huge watches. 50mm watch sizing shows there's a market for that. Now don't get me wrong, the Gear is not a 50mm watch, but for me it wore like one. Big, brass, bold and it got attention.

    So with all that out of the way let's get this party started.
    For this review I had the Gear paired with my Note 3 for those interested.
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    by Published on 01-13-2014 03:27 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
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    The WeMo Motion from Belkin is available separately for $59.99 or part as a combo pack with the WeMo power switch which I reviewed a while back for $79.99.

    The Motion consists of the motion sensor and the power brick which are permanently connected via a 6ft long power cable.

    Officially, it has a range of 10ft but I observed that itís actually closer to 13ft.

    The idea is that you put the sensor in one spot while the switch goes elsewhere.



    You set up rules to tell your other WeMo switches to turn on (or off) when the Motion senses movement. ...
    by Published on 01-13-2014 03:25 PM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
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    WeMo Switch and Insight I reviewed the Switch recently. While I liked them, it took me a while to find a use for them. When it comes to things I want to turn off remotely, the first thing that comes to mind are lights and I just donít have a lot of lights which plug into the wall. Aside from the lights in my garage and on my nightstand, everything else is in my ceilings and controlled with light switches. Luckily, the Belkin WeMo lineup also includes a light switch.

    The WeMo Light Switch looks just like a standard decora light switch but itís actually connected to the internet and can be controlled using your iOS or Android device just like the rest of WeMoís lineup. ...
    by Published on 01-13-2014 02:49 PM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
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    Folks,

    I just had the opportunity to try the Nokia Lumia 625 on TELUS during the holidays. It is a mid-range smartphone running on Microsoft Windows Phone 8.



    Design and Specifications

    Front and center is the Gorilla Glass 2 wrapped, 4.7Ē, 800x480 IPS LCD display. As far as quality goes, viewing angles and readability under bright light conditions are just average. Colours are little washed out and there is some colour shift. The 800x480 resolution sounds a bit low for a large 4.7Ē display. Indeed, while it is not the sharpest display available on the market it is not as bad as you would think.

    At 133.25 x 72.25 x 9.15mm and weighing 159g, its size is similar to many other smartphones. While I liked its minimalistic, clean slate design, I had some problems with its ergonomics. I found it hard to hold without accidentally triggering the soft keys and hard buttons. Hopefully, a case can fix some of these problems. ...
    by Published on 01-13-2014 07:48 AM
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    2. Devices
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    The electronics industry, it seems, has a dirty little secret. Circuit boards, cameras, mobile phones and more all rely on conflict minerals ó gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten that is mined with little regard for human rights in war-torn regions of Central Africa.

    Danish filmmaker Frank Poulsen exposed the child labour and horrific conditions of a typical Congolese mine in his 2010 documentary Blood in the Mobile ó I saw and wrote about it in 2012, but four years after the film was made the problem of conflict minerals is still not widely discussed.

    There has at least been some progress... Intel announced at this year's CES that their 2014 microprocessors will be conflict mineral-free. And in the mobile space, a company called Fairphone has shipped its first batch of ethical smartphones to early adopters. Someone on reddit posted photos of their device to r/Android; I thought them worthy of re-posting here.

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    by Published on 01-07-2014 07:58 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. News
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    As promised, here's a round-up of mobile-related product announcements at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.

    My understanding is that the bulk of major press releases happened yesterday, leaving today and tomorrow for attendees to get hands-on time, interviews, etc. A helpful itinerary published by Android Police more or less confirms this.

    In an effort to stay within the scope of these forums I won't be mentioning the webOS-powered home electronics from LG or Belkin's WeMo Smart Bulbs. Instead let's get right to the phones. And tablets. And maybe a hotspot...

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    by Published on 01-03-2014 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
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    Last November I wrote about the third smartphone ecosystem, and wondered which one it would be. Some stats I linked to claimed it was Windows Phone that was trailing Android and iOS worldwide, but there is actually another contender for third place. If you're willing to accept a small cheat, the third most popular smartphone platform might, in fact, be Android.

    According to a report from Baidu, China has some 270 million Android users. But unlike here in the west, 70% of those users don't use Google's Play Store. Because Android is an open source platform, any hardware maker is free to take and use it as they see fit.

    All this is only to say that Android is hugely popular in China. And the good news, for us, is that some of their best products are coming our way.

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    by Published on 12-20-2013 08:12 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
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    This week Walt Mossberg wrote his final tech column for The Wall Street Journal. He's been at it since 1991, and in those dark days before the tech blog explosion he held so much sway in the industry that WIRED magazine dubbed him The Kingmaker.

    In his parting WSJ missive Walt chronicles a dozen tech highlights of the last two decades. Not to be outdone, I've come up with my own list of thirteen notable mobile devices in as many years. And as an added bonus, I'm not retiring!

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    by Published on 12-16-2013 07:50 AM
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    2. Devices
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    I kind of went full fanboy when I ordered my Nexus 5 last month. My $399 order ended up being quite a bit more after I added an official bumper case, an official sleeve for my Nexus 7 tablet and this year's Nexus Wireless Charger, seen here.

    "Wireless charging", while technically correct, is a bit misleading ó inductive charging is the proper term. Wikipedia explains how it works; all I know is it's the greatest thing I never knew I needed.

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    by Published on 12-06-2013 08:10 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Apps
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    In documenting the trials and tribulations of rooting and modding my Nexus 5 I had noted that I chose OmniROM as my custom firmware of choice. Part of this is pragmaticó Omni is one of the very few ROMs available for the Nexus 5. And part of this is political, which we'll get to in a bit.

    Had I stuck with stock firmware I could already be enjoying a better camera experience via Android 4.4.1 ó instead I have to wait, so why bother with a custom ROM in the first place?

    My goal for today is to answer that question, with a closer look at OmniROM.

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    by Published on 12-05-2013 07:50 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. How-To
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    For all my bluster in a previous post about how trivial it is to make a Nexus your own, I seem to have conveniently forgotten that achieving root is sometimes not as easy as I've made it out to be.

    My seventh rooting of a Nexus device ó that's five phones and two tablets in total ó took place yesterday afternoon. The welcome screen you see above is what most users would see on first boot; for me it was a much more elusive prize. What should have taken twenty minutes was instead a two-hour ordeal, entirely due to my own impatience in getting my new toy up and running the way I wanted.

    The cool thing about getting yourself into trouble is that you learn stuff along the way. So I've documented what happened to me in order to share that knowledge with you.

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    by Published on 12-04-2013 08:02 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Apps
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    It wasn't supposed to end this way.

    I had one final task for my Nexus 4, and thought I had the means to accomplish it. I was supposed to be gloating today all about how I was finally able to stick it to the banks, my carrier, even Google, by making a successful purchase using Google Wallet.

    Instead, this.



    How did we get here? Read on for my sad tale of fail...

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    by Published on 12-02-2013 08:33 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Tips
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    Heh, "cyber"...

    I have to laugh because back in the late 1900s people actually referred to the Internet as "cyberspace". In fact, you could stick "cyber" in front of pretty much any word and instantly make it cooler, more terrifying or both ó cyber-sex, cyber-bullying, cyber-fries, etc.

    Anyway, Cyber Monday is upon us ó even in Canada, despite the fact that our Thanksgiving was back in October. It always seemed a more sensible shopping holiday than Black Friday; why risk getting trampled when you can browse deals in your pajamas from the comfort of your home, hot coffee in hand? And that's exactly what I'm doing this fine December morning.

    The following are some notable mobile-related deals that have piqued my interest. It's not in any way meant to be an exhaustive list, only a few examples to kick off a wider discussion. Feel free to add your own via a reply, whether you live in Canada or otherwise!

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    by Published on 11-29-2013 02:14 PM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Tips,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
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    While a new LG G2 would be nice, not everyone wants or has the means to sign a contract on an expensive plan. They also donít want to spend $700 on a new phone. So what can you get if youíre on a prepaid budget?

    Now, since most fancy phones are available on prepaid, Iím putting a $200 limit on the cost of the phone. $200 is still a sizable chunk of change but to be honest, if I set it lower there just arenít enough phones that I would recommend. Letís check out the contenders. ...
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