Archive for May 8, 2017

SURE Universal: The First Remote Control For IoT Devices

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 8, 2017 by itnerd

Problem: The IoT is Young and Unstandardized

As our lives become increasingly connected with the smart, networked “things” of the IoT, our interactions with technology are changing. Content, data, status, and device functions are now exchanged in an almost continuous stream. Devices can be actively or passively controlled, by us or by other devices, and operated manually, or automatically. We may be watching a movie while a wearable monitors our wellness, and the home adjusts energy, and the laundry intelligently cycles itself. All these “smart” exchanges happen concurrently, usually through more than one enabling technology. Most of them are meant to be invisible, or at least unobtrusive to the user.

Because the IoT represents such a large opportunity, many competing technologies have entered this promising market. Many more will no doubt follow in the years to come. Today, at the very beginning of the USD $4-11 trillion IoT market that McKinsey predicts, there are already thousands of products, and dozens of protocols and languages to run them. Naturally, there are many incompatibilities. Separate software applications for each of these devices, and proprietary hardware, have been the primitive work-arounds in these early days of the IoT. “Incompatibilities have been the biggest roadblock to consumer adoption for smart products and services,” says Viktor Ariel, CEO and Founder of SURE Universal (formerly Tekoia). “There are many useful technologies, but they have not been able to speak and work together. Until now, this has have made the user experience into something too complex for most consumers.”


First Answer: A Universal Language for Connected Devices Emerges

In a landmark in IoT history, a method for a universal communication between smart devices has been agreed to by the Open Connectivity Forum (OCF). This consortium is led by dozens of the world’s largest and most influential global technology leaders, and represents hundreds of IoT-facing companies. The group has developed a framework that can exchange commands and data across different IoT devices. At the same time, the OCF framework can understand any enabling protocol, and is brand agnostic. This breakthrough has opened up new avenues of possibility in the user experience. The concept of a single controller that can run all of our connected IoT devices has finally became achievable.


First Solution: The Software Universal Remote Control (SURE)

The first software-based universal remote control to take advantage of the Open Connectivity framework is the SURE Universal remote. Already a popular download worldwide for home entertainment control, the SURE Universal app recently became the first mobile client application to receive the vaunted OCF certification. This positions SURE Universal as a control platform for virtually any electronic device, regardless of its application, functionality, location, or enabling technology. Users can now interact with any of them through a unified experience, through their most familiar technology of all, the smartphone.

Consumers increasingly look to their smartphones as the logical controller for their digital lives. Smartphones routinely feature some of the key enabling technologies for the IoT, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Various hardware converters exist to bridge smartphones with otherwise incompatible devices, and older, pre-IoT electronics. These work-arounds are necessary today, but will eventually become irrelevant, as legacy electronics go the way of the VCR.

In approaching the market, the first application for SURE Universal is entertainment and media control. A conventional entertainment setup typically features multiple brands and multiple remote controls. Adding further complexity, many of today’s entertainment systems also include computers, tablets and phones, along with wireless components such as Bluetooth speakers and media servers. In addition, legacy, non-connected TVs and cable boxes must be controllable as well, resulting in even more remote controls for the user to operate. A single smartphone running SURE Universal can manage all of these devices. Through an accessory infrared (IR) bridge, SURE Universal can control legacy IR devices, thus becoming a complete whole-home controller.

Because it can already speak with any IoT device today, and to any upcoming device the lives within the OCF framework, the SURE Remote application is future-proof. Through this feature, and its ability to control legacy, non-IoT electronics from a smartphone, SURE Universal can rightfully claim to be the first genuinely universal remote control for all user-accessible electronic devices.

For consumers, SURE Universal is also the easiest way to control smart appliances; a product category expected to reach USD $37.2 billion by 2020, according to Markets & Markets. As our home appliances, from kitchen to washroom to laundry room, increasingly incorporate smart, controllable features and wireless IoT connectivity, SURE is the only universal remote solution that gives consumers an intuitive way to control all of the appliances in their homes, without having to learn dozens of different applications and technologies.


What’s Next: Embrace and Extend Throughout the Home 

SURE Universal’s emergence as the first unified remote control for connected objects has placed the company at the forefront of IoT development. Moving further, SURE Universal offers a cloud platform and smart device server, which together with the SURE Universal remote, comprises a complete software solution for smart appliance vendors. For appliance manufacturers, SURE is able to provide the only off-the-shelf, OCF-compliant solution for connecting these household devices, and integrating them with unified remote control.

Working in close cooperation with leading appliance manufacturers, SURE Universal has developed a smart device server, which is a software component running on a smart component that provides connectivity, device discovery, authentication, and security based on the OCF protocol, as well as models for device functionalities such as temperature control, video monitoring, and other smart home tasks. The SURE Platform includes cloud infrastructure for data analytics and monetization, as well as future services using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

The IoT is ripe with many opportunities such as health and medical applications, home security, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, and automotive electronics.  SURE Universal’s technology will ultimately extend into these promising verticals.

SURE Universal’s introduction of the complete software solution for IoT  marks a turning point in human-machine interaction. It is not difficult to imagine the benefits of unified user control as the markets for virtual reality, digital health, and population-scale big data mature. Regardless of application, all electronics will always have human intelligence or behaviors to control them.  The “remote” will always be the interface between us and what we desire from our technologies. SURE Universal has made the interface universal. The interface is us and our smartphone, and incompatible technologies are no longer in the way. SURE Universal makes smart simple, as it should be.


Acclaimed design, coming to S8 and S8+ From Mujjo

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 8, 2017 by itnerd

Part of what makes the Mujjo leather cases so unique is the premium quality of the materials and design which is at once simple and elegant. After the massive success of Mujjo’s iPhone cases, and with Samsung’s release of the S8 and S8+, Mujjo feels now’s the time to bring their renowned cases to Galaxy.


These leather cases are designed to be clean and contemporary. A super slim profile, a sleek silhouette and unobtrusive design follow the outlines of the device, with perfectly placed openings for the volume rockers and connectors.

They deliberately avoided using a plastic ring around the camera opening and instead developed a leather chamfer that subtly curves inwards complementing the elegance of the design’s aesthetic and making it effortless to use the fingerprint sensor.

Satin-like microfiber-lined interior
The case interiors are lined with the finest Japanese microfiber, a slim super-strong fabric that is lightweight. With a sophisticated, satin-like finish this material provides luxurious padded comfort for your Galaxy S8.

Fully leather-wrapped profile
The fully leather wrapped cases seek to accentuate rather than conceal the Galaxy S8’s beautiful design. A super slim profile and clean silhouette follow the contours of the device, resulting in a well-balanced and inherently right design: unmistakably Mujjo.

Full-grain leather with character
Mujjo’s cases are crafted from premium quality full-grain leather which, enhanced by a meticulous tanning process, adds character by allowing the natural grain to show through. High quality and attention to detail have become emblematic of both Mujjo’s products and brand. Each case is manufactured with care and treated with aniline oil to enrich color tones.

Compatible with Galaxy S8 and S8+, the cases start at US$44.90, ranging up to US$49.90. Available for order and immediate dispatch on (ships worldwide) and via authorized resellers.

Cost To Unlock An iPhone If You’re The FBI: $900K USD

Posted in Commentary with tags , on May 8, 2017 by itnerd

It’s now come to light that the FBI paid $900K USD to a group of iPhone hackers (likely Cellebrite) to unlock the iPhone that belonged to the San Bernardino shooter according to Senator Diane Feinstein had inadvertently given out the number during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with FBI Director James Comey. Let me supply you with the visual evidence below. Feinstein’s oops moment comes at the 2 hour and 55 minute mark:


What’s interesting about this is that they paid $900K to get absolutely nothing as nothing of value was found on the phone. And started a legal war with Apple in the process because Apple refused to unlock the phone. Not to mention that The Associated Press, Vice Media, and USA Today have taken the FBI to court over the the fact that the law enforcement agency isn’t serving up details on this topic. Thus I have to wonder if this was all worth it in the end.

Did You Download Handbrake For Mac Recently? You May Have Been Pwned.

Posted in Commentary with tags , on May 8, 2017 by itnerd

The developers of open video transcoder app Handbrake have issued a security warning that you might want to pay attention to. Apparently, one of the sites that the developers use to mirror their downloads had the installer for Handbrake replaced so that it contained malware that gives the creator of the malware root-access privileges. Not only that, it steals whatever info is on your keychain. Thus you’ll have to change every password on that keychain. Ditto for any passwords stored by the browser of your choice.

If you downloaded Handbrake between May 2nd and May 6th, you have a 50/50 chance of being pwned by whoever did this. The security warning that I linked to has instructions on how to spot the malware and how to remove it. Thus if this applies to you, I’d take immediate action.

Science Rendezvous Is Happening All Across Canada

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 8, 2017 by itnerd

Science Rendezvous is an annual nation‐wide science festival dedicated to science outreach. Founded in 2008, it has grown to include over 300 simultaneous events in partnership with 40 of Canada’s top research institutions, 6,000 innovators and 122 community organizations across the country.


This is only a sample of participating venues. See for more details


Cybermentor – Telus Spark (Science Centre) (10am – 3pm)

Enjoy a fun engineering design activity, guest speakers, industry panel, planetarium live show and reception lunch. Last year, participants designed and built LED “thunder cloud” umbrellas. This year there is an outer space theme. 



Kwantlen Polytechnic University – Langley Campus (11am – 3pm)
KPU Langley will be transformed into a family-friendly science festival where the public will get a chance to participate in hands-on experiments, magic shows, tour high-tech patient simulator nursing labs and the state-of-the-art craft brewing lab (19+). Check out the robots, dancing fire display, face painting and walk the campus labyrinth as part of World Labyrinth Day.

Simon Fraser University – Burnaby campus (11am – 3pm)

Discover the seemingly bizarre behaviour of gases and how they fit in our natural world at the science magic shows. Celebrate International Astronomy Day with tours of Trottier Observatory, astronomy presentations and astronaut photo shoots. Come get your hands on hundreds of other exciting activites including Let’s Talk Science’s game show, Science Chase, liquid nitrogen ice cream making, molecular viewers and more.

Let’s Talk Science with the University of British Columbia – The Old Barn Community Centre (10am – 2pm)

Join UBC’s Let’s Talk Science for a hands-on day of science discovery. Make edible DNA and DNA bracelets, and finish the day off with slime.  Discover the future of touch screens, the foldable technology, and a glimpse into the future.



Aurora Research Institute at East Three Schools (11am – 3pm)

Meet with researchers and conduct hands-on experiments while discovering science in a whole new way. Learn about greenhouse composting and build your own flashlight! Check out harpoon-throwing, 3D printing, flying drones, fish dissections and meet visiting scientists at Science Rendezvous’ northernmost participating site. Complete the Science Chase passport to enter for a chance to win one of our exciting prizes.



University of Manitoba, Fort Garry Campus, Science and Engineering Bldg (11am – 4pm) The University of Manitoba is partnering with the Université de Saint-Boniface, Science First, and H2O CREATE to reveal the science all around us.  Sprint across a vat of corn starch and water to experience a non-Newtonian fluid, take home a balloon sculpture of all your favourite biomolecules and micro-organisms, scream as you test out the bed of nails, then scream some more for instant ice-cream (with just a touch of liquid nitrogen), jam out with a keyboard made of fruit, or play the piano with your feet as you run up and down a flight of stairs.

University of Winnipeg (11pm – 3pm)

Watch the Chemistry Magic Show, walk on non-Newtonian fluid and spot critters with your high powered scopes. Meet Batmen and Batwomen on campus as they try to save their species. The Prairie Climate Center will explore climate science with all.



Memorial University (11pm – 3pm)

Discover glow-in-the-dark crystals, explore microscopic pond life, make slime, and solve puzzles. There might even be an explosion or two. Participants will get a chance to do fun and safe hands-on science activities. Plus, there’ll be a marine animal touch tank. Come and see what scientists are up to at Memorial University.


Carleton University and Let’s Talk Science (7:00pm – 10pm)

Light up the Night with Chemistry In the Dark. If it glows up, or blows up you will see it here: spontaneous combustion, fireworks, melting iron, and anything else that can’t be done indoors. Before the show Let’s Talk Science volunteers will be serving up liquid nitrogen ice cream, delving into the chemistry of wine and chocolate and presenting new experiments and new hands-on activities.

Science Odyssey Funfest (10am-4pm)

Science Odyssey Funfest is a celebration and learning experience to spark youth’s interest in science and technology. Join us for family-friendly fun with hands-on science and research activities led by federal government departments, universities and external partners. The event will take place right across the street from Dows Lake, which is also where the Canadian Tulip Festival will be held.

Queen’s University at Rogers K-ROCK Centre (10am – 3pm)

The Rogers K-Rock Centre becomes a giant Science Discovery Centre with something for everyone. Participate in the Math Midway, make a kaleidoscope, be a mathemagical sculpture, explore space inside a Planetarium, see Canada’s first Green Chemistry Magic Show, and meet the “real” Batman! There will be special presentations throughout the day inside the Rogers K-Rock Centre and outside on The Tragically Hip Way. The first 1000 families will receive a booklet filled with experiments that can be done at home and passes to local museums.

University of Guelph-Humber (10am – 3pm)

The Science of YOU: Learn about your body from the inside out. Begin with a peek inside our cells, basic anatomy and the science behind our brains. Explore the science of fitness, health and how the mind and body are connected.

University of Ontario Institute of Technology & Durham College (10am – 3pm)
Come learn how to make an indicator out of cabbage in our colorful chemistry lab. Explore the rainbow with an exciting dry ice experiment. Discover the magnetic properties of cereal. Uncover visually what is really in those tasty treats you love to eat. Hands-on workshops will allow you to experience being a real scientist. Solve a CSI Oshawa mystery using forensic techniques, play biodiversity bingo, create soap sculptures, flaming gummy bears and much more.

GRAND FINALE CELEBRATION (2:30-3pm): music, cake and prizes in celebration of Science Rendezvous’ 10th anniversary, Durham College’s 50th anniversary and Canada’s 150th Birthday. 

University of Toronto Scarborough at Toronto Zoo (10am – 3pm)

To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, join us for a zoo-wide scavenger hunt: solve clues hidden throughout the different stations and learn all about Canadian species. Pick up your passport, visit our activity stations and collect a stamp at each station. Enjoy hands-on science activities presented by University of Toronto Scarborough in partnership with the Toronto Zoo and Let’s Talk Science. (Science Rendezvous activities included with regular Zoo admission).

University of Toronto Mississauga and Let’s Talk Science at the Central Library (11am – 4pm)

Join Let’s Talk Science and scientists from the University of Toronto Mississauga at the Central Library for a day of fun science experiments for all ages. Learn about and get your hands on the innovative research happening in your city.

University of Toronto St. George campus (11am – 5pm)
Science Rendezvous at the University of Toronto (St. George Campus) will feature numerous exhibits that integrate science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and human ingenuity. This event offers visitors of all ages and backgrounds a chance to interact with world-class researchers, witness awe-inspiring demonstrations, partake in hands-on experiments and, above all, have fun while discovering science in a whole new way. Come and see robots, solar cars, and 3D worlds, build bridges and arches, solve math tricks, identify Earth’s minerals, observe tabletop river bedforms, make slime, extract DNA, meet with zebrafish, leeches, and hissing cockroaches. Get in your time machine and conquer the ultimate Science Chase to be crowned the Science Rendezvous Time Travelling Hero of 2017.

Ryerson University at Yonge-Dundas Square (10am – 4pm)

Come celebrate Science Rendezvous’ 10th event in the heart of downtown Toronto. Ryerson’s Science Rendezvous event takes place in Yonge-Dundas Square, on the south-east corner of Yonge and Dundas in downtown Toronto, one of Canada’s liveliest public areas. Our event offers hands-on activities, demonstrations and stage shows in robotics, water science, energy, engineering, architectural science, and many other scientific areas. This year Ryerson’s Faculty of Science is launching the first North American Soapbox Science. An award-winning science outreach platform, created in the UK in 2011, and promotes women in science. We have activities for young children, teens and adults. Spend the day with Canadian scientists and innovators and get connected with science.

University of Waterloo and Let’s Talk Science (9am – 4pm)

Come celebrate Canadian innovation at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, and get your hands on science with fun activities for the whole family. Waterloo Public Library, Main Branch is also hosting activities from 11 — 11:45am.

Western University (2pm – 11pm)

Activities include making slime, panning for gold, programming mini-robots with color coded lines, solar observing, building Mars rovers to traverse the Martian landscape, and measuring action potentials in muscles. Take part in an action packed Science Chase and be dazzled by the Science stage show that will showcase engaging demonstrations from various science disciplines!

University of Windsor Campus and Let’s Talk Science (10am – 4pm)

The Science Carnival will once again feature many exciting demonstrations and hands-on activities, including: astronomy demos, Science Photo Booth, robots, Chemistry Magic Show, Phunky Physics Show and much more.

York University at Main Street Markham Farmers’ Market (10am – 3pm)

Science Rendezvous will be combined with the grand opening of the annual Farmers’ Market (starting at 8am). Activities include squishy circuits, constellation tattoos, vortex smoke cannon, Art of Bubblology, DNA jewelry and so much more.


24 heures de science

24 Hours of Science is Science Rendezvous’ French sister festival – a full day of activities related to science and technology for audiences of all ages starting on Friday at noon, ending at noon on Saturday. Multiple events across Quebec in French and English (



University of Saskatchewan and Let’s Talk Science (10am – 3pm)
Take a walk with the dinosaurs, explore the science of dark matter, design your own rockets and Lego robots. Tours of the Natural Science Museum and Rayner’s Dairy Barn will be available.

University of Regina (11am – 3pm)
The University of Regina is hosting the Canada-Wide Science Fair on May 15 – 20, 2017 and will be open to the public May 20, 2017 from 9am-12pm.


This year’s Science Rendezvous activities will launch the ten-day Science Odyssey series in partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

In Depth: House of VR

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 8, 2017 by itnerd

Over the weekend I attended the launch of House of VR in downtown Toronto. House of VR is Toronto’s First Virtual Reality Lounge. A futuristic arcade, gallery and event space, House of VR is located in the historic Burroughes Building at 639 Queen Street West (at Bathurst). Let me give you a quick tour.


You cannot miss seeing this location at night as it looks very unique. Even on Queen St. W. which has a lot of hip and cool places.



On the main floor are booths with green screens which literally insert the player into the game that they are playing so that viewers get a very immersive experience. The headsets in use are the HTC Vive and they have workstation class computers to power each booth.


Scattered throughout both floors of the facility are these pods that have Samsung Gear VR headsets for more “passive” VR experiences. They’re handy for relaxing after working up a sweat playing some of the other games.


Upstairs are booths without the green screens.But that doesn’t mean that they are any less fun.


I noted that some of the players were wearing a Subpac like this one so that they can “feel” the game as in you will feel a hit to the body for example. I should also note that the handheld controls do have haptic feedback to them.


I normally don’t take pictures of bathrooms, but this one was indicative of the art that House of VR scattered around the facility. Oh yeah, I should note this:


The bathrooms are gender neutral.

House of VR is now open. The website has pricing info for individuals and groups depending on what you want to do. Just make sure you leave your cash at home as they only accept debit, credit, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. After all the future as far as they are concerned, the future is paperless. Check it out if you want a different sort of night out.

Review: 2017 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD – Part 1

Posted in Products with tags on May 8, 2017 by itnerd

Mazda has had a winner in the compact SUV space with the CX-5. It’s fun to drive, agile, and great on gas with some good looks tossed in. So when Mazda rolled out the new CX-5 at the Canadian International Auto Show media day this past February, I was convinced that Mazda had another winner on its hands. Let me show you why starting with the exterior:


No matter what angle you look at it from, it is gorgeous. It reminds me of the CX-9 that I tested last year as it shares the same iteration of the Kodo design language that the CX-9 brought to the table. If you want a sharp looking compact SUV, this is the one to get.

My review of the Mazda CX-5 GT is made up of five parts:

  • Exterior
  • Engine, transmission, handling, fuel economy, and driving comfort
  • Interior
  • Technology in the vehicle
  • Wrap up

The next part of this review will cover the engine, transmission and driving comfort. I’ll give you a hint that it’s all typical Mazda, which is to say it is great. Stay tuned!