The Great Canadian Road Trip: Part 2 – Quebec City To Moncton

Posted in Commentary with tags , on August 20, 2017 by itnerd

Upon leaving Quebec city, we set off for Moncton NB. This is a drive that should have taken just over 6 hours. But we came across some trouble in the form a transport truck that went into the ditch:

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By the time we arrived at the scene of the accident, we were able to watch it being flipped back onto its wheels and being pulled out of the ditch. Or as my wife put it, it looked like something out of the TV show Heavy Rescue 401.

But fortunately for us, the scenery was great as per these shots from the Nikon COOLPIX W300 camera:

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Since we entered Quebec, we’ve been seeing signs like these:

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My wife really wants to see a moose. But I have no interest in that as places like Newfoundland warn motorists to be wary about moose since people tend to get killed in moose car collisions.

When we finally arrived in Moncton, we stayed at Chateau Moncton which was a very nice place according to my wife:
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When we arrived at Chateau Moncton the staff greeted us and just pulled up my name and reservation before I even finished digging up my printed hard copy. They were efficient and accommodated any reasonable ask that I had such as having a room with a view:

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The hotel backs onto the Petitcodiac River and has direct access to a trail that runs on the riverbank. You can also watch the tide come in from an observation deck as well. The room itself was basic but more than decent. WiFi is free and there was a decent place for us to set up shop:

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I’d have no problem recommending this place if you’re staying in Moncton. Bonus points for the fact that its close to downtown Moncton:

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You can tell that you’re in the maritimes when you see stuff like this:

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Here’s where we had dinner:

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I’ll let my wife tell you about Catch 22:

For our dinner I choose Catch 22 lobster bar as shown on You Gotta Eat here. I had ordered their lobster chowder which silky and oh so creamy filled with lots of lobster followed by lobster roll. Hubby had fish n’ chips made with light batter.  

Good choice on her part as the food was great and reasonably priced. The best part was that it was less that 800 meters from our hotel.

After a good nights sleep, we packed up, and had breakfast as described by my wife:

In the morning we were cheered by the lovely breakfast spread laid out and included as part of our hotel booking. We enjoyed our breakfast with a view overlooking the river and the offerings of their breakfast was similar and as good as the hotel where we stayed at last night. I for one am looking forward to coming back here on our return trip.

We then headed to Starbucks for some fuel for our next stop which was North Sydney Nova Scotia. That was an interesting journey as you’ll see from our post which will be online tomorrow.

 

 

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United For Iran Releases New App to Teach Young Children in Iran About Sexual Abuse

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 20, 2017 by itnerd

United For Iran, a Bay-Area NGO working to promote civil liberties and civil society in Iran is announcing the release of Michka: a new Android app that serves as an e-book designed to help adults teach their children how to identify and report sexual abuse.

Michka is the story of a gender neutral insect whose wings are a private part that should not be touched by others. When one day Mr. Koopoom, an adult insect, touches Michka’s wings, Michka becomes confused about what it should do. The story tells a tale of how children can talk to their parents about things that are confusing.

Sahar Shams, the project lead behind Michka, is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She created the app, with the approval of child psychologists, as a resource for Iranian parents to talk about the difficult topic of sexual abuse in a language that is appropriate, understandable and non-threatening for children.

Unfortunately, there is no data on the prevalence of sexual abuse of children in Iran. But, in 2016, the issue of child sexual abuse became part of the national conversation when number of complaintants came forward in Persian media outlets accusing Saeed Toosi, a prominent qari (someone who recites the Quran), of sexual misconduct, including rape of children.

 

Michka is the sixth app to come out of United for Iran’s app incubation project, the IranCubator.

Key facts about United for Iran’s IranCubator app development project – The IranCubator:

  • United for Iran launched its new app incubation program in June 2016, seeking to match civil society activists with app developers and programmers to build smartphone applications for the 40 million smartphone users currently living in Iran.
  • IranCubator provided financial and technical support to winning developers and activists with projects that advance civil society in Iran.
  • All submissions were judged by the IranCubator Advisory Board consisting of notable technology and security experts, internet freedom advocates and social entrepreneurs including Allen Gunn, Christopher Allen and Danny Kennedy.
  • Ahead of the IranCubator competition, United for Iran conducted an extensive Community Needs Assessment with Iranian activists to determine the specific tools for advancing civil liberties. Based on those findings, the IranCubator Advisory Judges prioritized apps and ideas that fight against the legal and socio-cultural discrimination against women, immigrants, people with disabilities and LGBTQ communities, as well as projects that promote education for underserved communities.

 

Freshfiber Launches World’s First “Full Colour Textural” 3D Phone Cases

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 19, 2017 by itnerd

Freshfiber announced the launch of their new Full Color Textural collection of phone cases.  The new 3D collection features ground breaking, high definition 3D color technology that creates a bold and intense aesthetic never before possible.  The introduction of this new color technology in their 3D product offering opens the door to an infinite new array of possibilities for consumers.

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The Full Color Textural collection is inspired by elements of the natural world, with all the high depth texture and full color that nature inspires. From crashing waves, to underwater life, to the fragility, fluidity and flow of mother nature, Freshfiber has meticulously curated a set of 6 new phone case designs.

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About the new Full Color Textural collection

  • Sculptural with incredible inch by inch detail.
  • Designed by hand and thoroughly tested by our digital craftsmen.
  • Customize with your own text, quote, wish, or your very own logo. Just for you or as a gift, custom-made at your doorstep within 2 weeks.
  • Every product we sell is a unique piece, as it was made just for you.
  • Manufactured with the latest and innovative technologies. Join a community of 300,000+ Freshfiber customers worldwide – the first to use their tailor-made accessories in their daily lives.
  • Shock, bump and scratch protection. The case perfectly shapes around the front of your smartphone to prevent it from lying or falling directly on its screen.
  • Ships worldwide from the Netherlands.
  • Designers: Matthijs Kok, Jannie Smits
  • Compatible with: iPhones 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 8 …..Samsung Galaxy S8 & S8+ ….Sony Experia XZ
  • Price: 32.99 Euro  |  Customized with text or logo: 42.99 Euro

Personalization
Consumers are able to customize their phone case: funny little catch phrases, names, logos…tiny details or elements that add sparkle to the day, it is now possible to have these permanently incorporated into your phone case – taking it a step beyond.

The complete collection
In addition to the new Full Color Textural cases launched in August 2017, Freshfiber has a vast range of consumer electronic and fashion accessories.  Dramatic variety, iconic designs, textural appeal – these are just some of the aspects driving demand for Freshfiber products into an ever-expanding world market, all available on the Freshfiber online store.

 

 

The Great Canadian Road Trip: Part 1- Toronto To Quebec City

Posted in Commentary with tags , on August 19, 2017 by itnerd

My wife and I decided to take a road trip across Canada to go to the Province of Newfoundland as a vacation. Specifically, we decided to stay in Corner Brook Newfoundland and spend time in Gros Morne National Park hiking and cycling. One of the reasons why we decided to do this has to do with the fact that this is Canada’s 150th birthday. Which makes it an ideal time to travel across the country. Plus with the Canadian dollar at 80 cents relative to the US dollar, the politics in the US that makes traveling there potentially difficult, it made staying in Canada to travel a no brainer. So that you can see what we see during the 13 days that we’ll be on the road, Nikon kindly supplied the COOLPIX W300 camera which we’ll be using to snap all the photos for this travelogue. I’ll also be posting a review of it when we get back. Another thing that will be different for those who are used to following my travelogues is that my wife will be helping me to document what we see. That should give you a very different perspective of this road trip.

Now since we were taking our bikes with us, we had to make one addition to our Hyundai Tucson that we bought a couple of years ago. We needed to add a roof rack:

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Let’s take a closer look at this rack:

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This is the Yakima Forklift rack mounted to the car via four Ridgline mounts that mount to the Tucson’s built in roof rails and a pair of Roundbar crossbars. As you can see, you take the front wheels off the bikes and drop them into the mounts and then secure the mounts. Then you strap down the rear wheel tightly. They’re then locked into place via some locks in the fork mounts that require a key. We went this route because my wife and I both have high end carbon fiber road bikes (in my case, I’ve documented what makes my bike high end here) and this rack system is designed for carbon fiber bikes. Plus a roof rack frees up space for all this stuff:

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Besides a suitcase each for my wife and I, we have two bags of cycling gear, spare wheels, a bag for our electrolyte replacement drinks (for use while cycling). Plus there’s this;

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Our snacks and drinks as well as our laptop bags plus hiking boots and the like fit into the back seats. Needless to say, we don’t pack light.

Now, the first leg of our trip to Newfoundland is Toronto to Quebec City. It should have taken us just over 8 hours to get there. It took us 10 because of traffic. We also did stop a couple of times for bio breaks and once for gas once we crossed the Ontario/Quebec border. While filling up, we noticed this:

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This gas station, not to mention other gas stations in the province had an electric vehicle charging station. This one was priced at $1 an hour which is more than reasonable. I applaud Quebec for really leading the way in term of building an infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Speaking of gas stops, to keep some costs down my wife and I have been utilizing the discount plans offered by Esso and Petro Canada to save on the price of gas. In the case of Esso, we have a discount card that gives you 2.5 cents a liter on gas if you complete some tasks like buying a certain amount of fuel over a month for example. In the case of Petro Canada, we have a 5 cent and 10 cent discount cards that we can refill using the Petro Points that we earn by buying fuel at that gas station. Considering that gas in Newfoundland is often 20 cents a liter more than it is in Toronto, those savings can come in handy.

Back to the traffic. A lot of the traffic we encountered was just outside Toronto. But we encountered more than our fair share of traffic in Montreal:

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We knew that the traffic was coming because of Apple Maps which is part of Apple CarPlay visually warning us ahead of time of the traffic that we would encounter and adjusting our arrival times accordingly.

Top Tip: One thing that we did is we entered appointments into the calendar apps of our iPhones and included the addresses in the appointments. That way we could easily have those pop up as destinations in Apple CarPlay easily. Plus we would get alerts for when it was time to leave so that we could arrive at or around the check in time at our next hotel stop.

After a long drive we finally arrived in Quebec City. We stayed at the Hotel Chateau Laurier overnight based on the reputation:

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For us, it was a bit of a mixed bag. First of all, the underground parking was insanely tight. Our Hyundai Tucson barely fit around the corners that take you deeper and deeper into the parking lot. But I did notice this in the parking lot:

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Every level of the parking lot (there were five levels) had a charging station. As you can see, someone was charing their Tesla (a P90D in case you were wondering) at a rate of a $1 an hour. Again, kudos to the Province of Quebec for having these charging stations.

On my way back up to the room, I noticed this:

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There was a charging station for your mobile device. Very handy. Now once I got to the room, I wasn’t impressed with the room. But I am the cynical type. I’ll let my wife tell you what she thought about the room:

I chose to splash out a bit as I have always wanted to have an excuse to book a night there as I have stayed at other Fairmount. The service was friendly enough, the guest parking super tight as seen by all the scratch marks on the parking lot walls. In fact you may want to splurge a bit and have their valet park it for you. The décor room was nice but not lavish and not spacious. The tub is to die for as I took advantage of the massage settings on the jet settings.

There were a few other things that stood out to me about this hotel:

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They had a pair of USB ports to charge your devices. Plus for the first time ever, I will not criticize a hotel for having a clock radio with a 30-pin connector for Apple devices. Here’s why:

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This is a clock radio with Bluetooth. That means any device with Bluetooth will work with it. Bonus points to the hotel for providing this. Plus it has one other trick:

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It has a USB port for charging. Excellent. Other hotels need to take note of this. The WiFi was free, but it was on a device basis. Thus if you had a computer, tablet, and a smartphone, you needed to get three codes from the front desk when you check in.

In terms of getting some food once we arrived, I’ll let my wife take over to describe the dinner experience:

For our dinner on the first night of our vacation we walked over to a restaurant / lounge called Savini. This is a sexy place that makes a statement from the moment you walk in. My husband and I actually bumped our heads upon walking in and seeing a woman hanging upside down on a hoop apparatus above the bar. The DJ had some cool tunes pumping through the place. Plus you can get a glimpse of their cool wine cellar as it’s made of glass and can be seen from a couple of angles from the restaurant. It’s accessed by the staff via a contactless access card and a side wall shows their single malt selections. Suffice to say their wine list is extensive with some beautiful Bordeaux coming in a $10K a bottle. But they do have some nice offerings that are sold by the glass. 

We both had pasta dishes and they were great. The total bill was under $70 tip included. The next day we had breakfast downstairs in the hotel in a St. Hubert that was serving up a breakfast buffet. My wife’s comments on that go something like this:

The buffet in the hotel comprised of a cheese selection, fresh fruit, waffles, cereal, mini assorted pastries, sausages/bacon and eggs. My favorite Quebecois breakfast items included baked beans. They were delicious. Where it fell a bit flat for me was the oatmeal. They provided instant oatmeal. For a bit more effort they could have whipped up a fresh batch of oatmeal served with brown sugar and I would have been a happy person.

We then went across the street to grab a pair of Starbucks coffees and loaded up to head to our next stop which was Moncton NB. Look for that update tomorrow.

 

Syngenta & AI For Good Foundation Announce winner Of Syngenta AI Challenge

Posted in Commentary with tags , on August 16, 2017 by itnerd

Syngenta and the AI for Good Foundation have named Tzvi Aviv, Ph.D., of Aviv Innovation and his partner, Vanessa Lundsgaard-Nielsen, Ph.D., of the University of Toronto, as the winners of the Syngenta AI Challenge. The contest recognizes and rewards innovative thinkers who use artificial intelligence (AI) tools to improve plant breeding by challenging them to create a model that predicts seed variety performance.

The team earned a $5,000 prize for its entry, Ensemble of Cubist Models for Soy Yield Prediction using Soil Features and Remote Sensing Variables, following finalists’ presentations at the SIGKDD Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The winning submission set forth a novel mathematical model that can be used to help plant breeders determine the performance and viability of seed varieties—and inform commercial variety advancement decisions.

AI Challenge participants were provided access to a real-world data set and tasked todesign a model to help scientists analyze extensive soybean seed data more efficiently and effectively, improving the plant breeding process and ultimately, the world’s ability to grow more crops with fewer resources. Due to the complexity inherent in agriculture, data driven models are increasingly being deployed in making seed breeding decisions.

Syngenta, an award-winning company for its innovation in plant breeding analytics, supported this competition, which was sponsored by the AI for Good Foundation and in partnership with IdeaConnection.

The premise of the competition underscores Syngenta’s commitment to make crops more efficient—an essential pillar of The Good Growth Plan, the company’s global initiative to improve the sustainability of agriculture.

For more details about the Syngenta AI Challenge, please visitwww.ideaconnection.com/Syngenta-AI-Challenge/.

SunBriteTV Outdoor Televisions Facilitate Resort-Like Experiences

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 15, 2017 by itnerd

The summer vacation season is firmly upon us, and as many take to the road or brave the airlines, some smart Americans are forgoing the hassle and expense by making their homes more resort-like for a perfect family staycation.

An outdoor television by SunBriteTV helps bring the entertainment outside, so live sports games, network TV and movie classics can be enjoyed in the beautiful weather, on your own private deck, patio, or favorite outdoor space.

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SunBriteTV’s new 4K Ultra-High Definition (UHD) Veranda Series Outdoor TVs feature superior safety, durability and performance in shaded outdoor areas over standard indoor televisions. Veranda’s screens are up to 30 percent brighter than typical indoor televisions, providing an optimal viewing experience any time of day or night. Rust-proof, powder-coated aluminum exteriors and a watertight cable entry system prevent moisture, insects, dust and salt corrosion from affecting components outside and in. Starting at just $1,499 for the 4K UHD 43-inch model, the new Veranda series is the most affordable true outdoor TVs ever.

Built for permanent outdoor installation in shaded locations, the Veranda Series offers an operating temperature range of -24° to 104°F and storage temperature range from -24° to 140°F. SunBriteTV also offers the new 4K UHD Signature Series for partial sun applications and the rugged Pro Series for full sun.

The IT Nerd’s Back to School Techie Products For 2017

Posted in Commentary on August 15, 2017 by itnerd

Got a student who’s going back to school shortly? Here’s some techie products that they will surely love.

 

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OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock: with an amazing 13 ports, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock brings exceptional connectivity to Thunderbolt 3 laptops and computers through a single Thunderbolt 3 cable, delivering unprecedented power and speed to laptops and other devices. Price: $299

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OWC USB-C Dock: full-featured connectivity companion lets you reconnect 10 ports of devices to your USB-C equipped computer, especially important with laptops with limited ports. Price: $148.75

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OWC Drive Dock: ultimate, high-performance bare drive access tool. For creative workflows, backup, or other tasks requiring constant access to multiple drives, Drive Dock delivers a compact, easy solution with the performance of Thunderbolt 2 technology. Price: $69.75

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OWC Envoy Pro mini: full-sized, fast SSD storage that fits in your pocket. This is not your average thumb drive. Elegant, light, and strong, Envoy Pro mini is full-sized desktop-class SSD performance in the ultimate go-anywhere storage companion – incredibly fast and perfectly portable for your life on the move.
Price: $119-$179

Is there anything that I’ve missed? Post a comment and share your suggestions.