Archive for November 15, 2018

Wise Ways To be Energy Efficient At Home This Winter

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 15, 2018 by itnerd

The Farmer’s Almanac is forecasting a long and “very, very cold” winter in 2019, and for Canadian homeowners that means higher utility bills. There are several ways Canadians can prepare their homes this winter to stay warmer and use less energy, resulting in lower bills:

  • When cooking or baking, use the oven light to peek at your creations, rather than opening the door. An oven loses about 20 per cent of its heat every time you open the door.
  • Understand the energy-using culprits in your home. Install a residential energy monitoring solution like the new Wiser Energy System from Schneider Electric for real-time access to energy consumption data in your home through a smartphone app.
  • Seal air leaks around your front door and windows with weather-stripping and caulking to prevent cold drafts.
  • Open curtains and shades on sunny days so the sun can naturally warm your home. Then, close your window shades at night to help keep the warm air inside.
  • Deck the halls with LED holiday lights. Use newer LED light bulb strands to decorate your home; they use less energy, last longer and present no fire hazard.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to maintain your optimal temperature inside. You can lower your home temperature at night or when you’re out for several hours. Each degree you roll back your temperature can save up to two percent on your heating bill.

Darktrace Industrial Defends Energy+

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 15, 2018 by itnerd

Darktrace the world’s leading AI company for cyber defense, has today announced that Energy+ , a leading energy provider in Ontario, Canada, has deployed the Industrial Immune System to defend its physical and digital systems. With Darktrace’s immune system technology working across the organization’s entire digital infrastructure, Energy+ now has the unparalleled ability to defend against the full range of modern threats, no matter where they emerge.

Founded in 1906, Energy+ has a long history of providing reliable energy to citizens and businesses in Cambridge, Ontario, the Township of North Dumfries, and the County of Brant. After realizing the power of cyber AI to defend its corporate systems, Energy+ now runs Darktrace across its entire infrastructure to also safeguard critical industrial control systems.

The Industrial Immune System leverages advanced AI to learn the ‘pattern of life’ of every user, device, and controller. With this evolving understanding, Darktrace Industrial can spot advanced cyber-campaigns, misconfigurations, and latent vulnerabilities that would otherwise go unnoticed and undetected by legacy security tools.


PayPal Giving Fund launches in Canada with Facebook

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 15, 2018 by itnerd

In a move to enable greater charitable giving in Canada, PayPal Giving Fund Canadalaunched yesterday, with a mission to partner with leading companies like Facebook to develop innovative online giving programs that inspire a new wave of philanthropy.

Canadian charities registered with the CRA can now enroll via this link to reach more donors to support their cause.

Also announced yesterday is a partnership between PayPal Giving Fund Canada and Facebook where, for the first time in Canada, charities can raise money directly on Facebook using PayPal Giving Fund Canada’s platform without any charges, because Facebook is covering the payment processing cost. Details of Facebook charitable giving tools can be found here.

PayPal Giving Fund Canada, a CRA-registered charity, uses PayPal technology and financial support to help raise funds to benefit Canadian charities. Operating costs are covered by partners, meaning that charities or individual donors are not charged for any services. 100% of donations made to PayPal Giving Fund Canada are distributed to Canadian charities. In the US and UK, PayPal Giving Fund helped raise over CAD $130 million to benefit 46,000 charities in 2017.

You can find additional information on this announcement here.

Review: 2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD – Part 4

Posted in Products with tags on November 15, 2018 by itnerd

If you’re looking for technology in the Mazda CX-9, there’s a lot of it. Some of it which is really different. Let’s start with the safety technology:

  • Blind Spot Monitoring: This system keeps an eye out for cars in your blind spots so that you don’t hit them when changing lanes. It works well as the area of detection was large enough to keep me safe, but not so large that it created false positives.
  • Lane Departure Warning With Lane Keep Assist: If you cross over into another lane, this system will buzz you on either the right or the left side. The buzz really gets your attention I must say. You can also set it to vibrate the steering wheel. However, it has one extra trick, the system will proactively guide the CX-9 back onto its intended path if the system thinks you’re getting out of shape. I have to admit that the first couple of times that it intervened, it was kind of freaky as I am not used to driving a vehicle that does this. It took most of the week that I had the CX-9 to get used to it.
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert: If you back out of a parking space in a busy shopping mall and you have limited visibility to your left and right, you’ll love this system as you will be warned of any cars that cross into your path.
  • Adaptive Front Lighting System and High Beam Control: I wrote about this previously and I have to admit that on some of the back roads that I drive at night, this feature comes in handy. I was always able to see what was in front of me clearly. One thing that I really appreciated was the fact that the LED headlights were very bright.
  • Radar Based Cruise Control: I really liked this feature as you can set the speed you want and the distance that you want to have between yourself and the car in front of you, and you can pretty much let it slow down and speed up depending on the conditions. It’s very handy on long highway drives.
  • Smart City Brake Support: Let’s say that you you do not react in time to a car that panic stops in front of you. This Mazda is capable of coming to a stop on it’s own, or slowing down to make the impact less severe. You can get more details on this system here.
  • Rear Backup Camera: The camera is a fisheye camera that has an impressive degree of clarity. You can see anything and everything that is behind you when you’re backing up. One thing to note is that the camera is exposed and that became a bit of an issue when backing up as I couldn’t use it to back the CX-9 into a parking space.
  • You get anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, and electronic brake force distribution. Plus you get hill launch assist which keeps you from rolling backwards when you’re on a hill.
  • Finally, you get dual front air bags, dual front side air bags and dual side air curtains.

Two things really stand out though. Let’s start with the 360 degree camera, which is made up of four cameras. There’s the backup camera:

RL5gNBKzQkKulyjOsjqZ4gAlong with a camera in the front:


And a pair of cameras in the mirrors:


There are also sensors all around the car that work with the 360 camera system to ensure that you don’t hit anything. But it all combines to give you this view in the infotainment screen:


That allowed me to have the visibility to properly navigate the drive through without hitting anything. The sensors also play a role when parking as well which is very handy as I could ensure that I was not only in the parking spot, but I could also make sure I didn’t hit anything. I have to admit that this was my favorite piece of technology during the week that I had the Mazda CX-9.

The second piece of technology that stood out was this:


The Mazda Active Driving Display is a heads up display that places everything from speed and blind spot monitoring info, to navigation and warning for the lane monitoring, and how close you are to the car in front of you. On top of that, the car is capable of reading speed limit and stop signs so that it can display them on this heads up display in color. It works very well with the only thing that I should mention is that polarized driving sunglasses will filter the display out. Thus choose your sunglasses carefully.

The best piece of technology that is in the Mazda CX-9 is the inclusion of Mazda Connect. The combination of the 8″ touchscreen  and the HMI (Human Machine Interface) Commander Switch gives the driver a easy to learn, easy to use infotainment system. I wrote about it in detail here and this iteration seems to be a bit faster than I have found it to be in the past. But there’s more to Mazda Connect this time around as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included. And it’s the best implementation of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto I have seen. I created a couple of videos to illustrate why that is. The first is on Apple CarPlay:

The second is on Android Auto:

In the coming days I will be posting a more in depth report on Mazda’s implementation of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But take it from me, if either of these matter to you, then you need to try them out in a Mazda.

One other thing that I should mention about Mazda Connect is the enhancements to SiriusXM which include the following:

  • More room for song/artist/genre metadata.
  • Album art display.
  • Channel logos on Now Playing and Station List screens.
  • New SiriusXM features: TuneStart, TuneScan, and TuneMix.

On top of that, SiriusXM Traffic Plus is now onboard and it includes the following features:

  • Live Traffic: View traffic flow and incident information directly on the Mazda Navigation map. This feature is available in 20 different Canadian communities. It ties into the on board navigation system to allow it to better route you.
  • Weather: View Forecasts, Radar Maps, and Severe Weather Alerts.
  • Fuel Prices: Find the lowest fuel prices or the closest fuel stations and see the available fuel types.
  • Parking Information: Find parking locations, pricing, and hours of operation.
  • Sports: Follow your favorite teams sports with play-by-play details and game/event schedules.

SiriusXM Traffic Plus is free for five years. This is separate from the three month trial SiriusXM audio subscription.

A 12 speaker Bose audio system is on board as well that sounds insanely great regardless of what music I threw at it. Which was the contents of my current audio torture playlist made up of Austra, Ruelle, TV On The Radio, Chemical Brothers, Electronic, Lana Del Rey and Black Coast among others.

Finally, there’s actually driving the Mazda CX-9 Signature? You get a proximity key with push button start. Thus all you have to do is press a button on the driver’s door handle. Press it and the car will unlock. Get in, hit the start/stop button and drive away. One nice touch is that the start/stop button will light up with a green light if you press the brake pedal to start. That’s a nice touch to remind you to press the brake pedal to start the car. When you’ve reached your destination, press the start/stop button to turn off the car. Then get out of the car, close the door and walk away. You’ll hear two beeps. One after you close the door and one about 10 seconds later. When you hear both, the car is locked. You never need to pull out the key fob to do any of this. But the key fob does have the ability to lock and unlock the doors and it has the ever useful panic button. As an added bonus, it has a backup key inside the key fob should you need it.

The final part of this review will tie up some loose ends and I’ll give you my final verdict. Watch for it on Friday.



First Look: The Mercedes Benz A Class

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 15, 2018 by itnerd

Last night at a glitzy event at Rebel Nightclub in Downtown Toronto, Mercedes Benz had its Canadian unveiling of their new A Class vehicles. I say vehicles because Canada will get two variants:

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Canada will get a sedan variant….

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….And a hatchback variant. Oddly specs were not front and center at this event, but I can say that they come with a 4 cylinder engine that puts out 221 HP via a 7 speed dual clutch transmission, and the option for Mercedes famed 4Matic all wheel drive system is present.


The interior of both vehicles were well appointed. And it was highlighted by this fully digital dashboard that is absolutely massive and pretty impressive if I may say so.

These vehicles are squarely targeted at millennials and that was highlighted by the fact that both vehicles have a feature called Mercedes-Benz User Experience or MBUX for short. According to the company is an AI like system that you can interact with via the phrase “Hello Mercedes” and it will interact with you and learn your preferences and adapt to you. Or put another way, it’s Siri or Google Assistant put into a car. Now having MBUX show up in the A Class is a bit of a departure for Mercedes. Usually, anything new and cool from a tech perspective that Mercedes develops shows up on the S Class first. It then trickles down to the rest of the lineup. Thus Mercedes is taking a bit of a gamble by going the other way.

I didn’t drive the car and I only got a short look at it at this event, but I can say that my first impression is positive. I think that the A Class can go toe to toe with the likes of the Audi A3. I am less sold on MBUX seeing as Android Auto has Google Assistant, and Apple CarPlay has Siri, both of which have loyal followings. But to be fair, I haven’t tried it so I will reserve judgement on that.

The A Class should be hitting dealerships in Canada now.