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Review: 2019 Jeep Cherokee North – Part 2

Posted in Products with tags on August 20, 2019 by itnerd

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This is the 2.4L 4 cylinder “Tiger Shark” engine that powers the 2019 Jeep Cherokee North. It puts out 180 HP and 170 pound feet of torque and is mated to a 9 speed automatic transmission that shifts very smoothly. If for some reason that isn’t enough power for you, Jeep can hook you up with either a 3.2L “Pentastar” V6 that puts out 271 HP and 239 pound feet of torque, or a 2.0L turbo 4 cylinder that puts out 270 HP and 295 pound feet of torque. But the base engine off the line and on the highway seems to be plenty powerful enough for me as I had no issue passing vehicles on the highway or merging safely onto the highway. Nor did I feel that I was lacking for power in any situation.

All the power goes to all four wheels via Jeep’s “Active Drive I” 4×4 system which can be left in auto mode to do all the thinking for you in terms of what wheels need power, or you can put it into one of three other modes depending on the terrain:

  • Sand/Mud
  • Snow
  • Sport

While it did rain in the first couple of days that I had the Cherokee, I did not notice the 4×4 system being used with the exception of feeling the rear differential engage off the line on one occasion. I was not able to reproduce that so I consider that to be a one off. Based on that, one could conclude that anything that it does, it tries to do so transparently which is the way it should be.

Handling is very, very good. I consider the Mazda CX-5 to be the gold standard in the compact SUV class for handling, and the Jeep handles well enough that I would put it into the same conversation as the Mazda. Though I will admit that the Mazda is a notch or two above the Jeep. I say that because the ride is firm yet compliant with the only thing that might be objectionable is going over a speed bump at anything over 10 KM/h. I also like that I can easily feel what the Jeep is doing underneath me which inspires confidence. Steering is also pretty good as it provides the feedback that you need to feel what the Jeep is doing.

Tire noise is very well muted and while engine noise is present, it isn’t objectionable. But it is perhaps more noticeable to the drive as the engine has a stop start feature that’s present to save gas. Now this is defeatable, but only until the next time you start the car. Thus leaving it on might be the best option. Speaking of gas, I am currently getting 11.4 L/100 KM which isn’t great, but I expect that to improve over the week that I am doing this review.

Tomorrow I will be walking you through the interior of the Jeep Cherokee North. It’s an interesting interior that I will be spending a lot of time to dissect. Stay tuned!

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Review: 2019 Jeep Cherokee North – Part 1

Posted in Products with tags on August 19, 2019 by itnerd

Two weeks ago my world got turned upside down when I was rear ended at 80 Km/h on the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto. I was uninjured, but it sent my 2016 Hyundai Tucson which just finished taking us to the east coast and back into the shop for repairs. My insurance company then put my wife and I into a similar vehicle while ours was being repaired. The vehicle that we got was the 2019 Jeep Cherokee North:

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The one thing that is immediately apparent is that Fiat Chrysler has moved away from the polarizing styling of the previous model. I didn’t mind it, but sections of the Internet exploded with rage upon seeing it. But it’s still recognizable as a Cherokee. Even from a distance.

Now I haven’t reviewed a Fiat Chrysler product in a while so I decided to take the opportunity to see what the company had been up to. Now one thing to keep in mind is that usually a car company will give me a fully loaded model with all the toys to drive for a week. In this case, I got a base model which is not surprising as this came from a rental car company. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

My review of the 2019 Jeep Cherokee North 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. There’s a lot on that front to unpack, so tune in tomorrow to see what I have to say.

Review: Apple iPhone XR

Posted in Products with tags on August 17, 2019 by itnerd

My wife recently wanted to upgrade her iPhone, which was my iPhone 7 Plus which was replaced by my iPhone XS and was an upgrade from an iPhone 6 for two reasons. One is that she was having a tough time selling the iPhone 6 used. No shock there as the upcoming iOS 13 won’t support it. The second reason is that she wanted to have a more recent phone to ensure that she would continue to get software updates for as long as possible that’s under AppleCare for two years. Thus she took both these phones to our local Apple Store and traded them in for a 128GB (PRODUCT) RED iPhone XR. Also of note, she also got this Belkin screen protector and this case from OtterBox to protect the phone.

When it comes to the screen, my wife says it’s a an upgrade from her 7 Plus as you get more real estate. But you can still use it easily as my wife has small hands and an iPhone XS Max will be unusable for her. Plus the physical size isn’t much different than the 7 Plus the was using before. At this time, I’d like to address the elephant in the room. The iPhone XR has a 720p liquid retina LCD screen. But it has 326 pixels per inch which is the same as Apple’s previous LCD screens, and it looks insanely sharp. And pictures and video look very, very good. So neither my wife or I think you will have any complaints. But if you want a 1080p phone, Apple has an iPhone XS or XS Max that they’d like to sell you.

According to my wife, it’s a significant upgrade in terms of speed versus her 7 Plus. You can attribute that to the A12 Bionic processor which is very quick to say the least. but not at the expense of battery life. My wife reported that she has between 25% and 50% battery life at the end of the day depending on what she was doing. The iPhone 7 Plus by comparison would be sucking fumes and would be in need of a recharge.

Face ID is a game changer for my wife. While it does have issues with unlocking first thing in the morning (which is something that I have noted), it works well. Though my wife is always mindful of how to disable Face ID in a hurry using these instructions if the need arises as she values her privacy. Getting used to the gestures that make up for the fact that there is not a home button only took her a couple of days for the most part. She’s still getting used to pulling control center from the top right for example, but it wasn’t a hard transition.

In terms of the camera, here’s where we found some interesting results. My wife and I planned to copy the test methodology that I used for the iPhione XS, and we’re glad we did as we noticed one big difference. Namely in portrait mode. When you try to take an image of a non human object, you get this:

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Portrait mode only works with people. Which appears to be a software limitation as third party camera apps like this one can do portrait photos. Shame on you Apple.

In terms of taking photos, the 12MP camera does a great jobs in a variety of lighting conditions. Here’s some examples:

 

 

 

 

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And in terms of video, here’s a 4K 30FPS video that my wife shot at Pearson International Airport:

This video is clear, sharp, and the audio is great. There’s no complaints on this front.

Gripes? Two comes to mind:

  • There’s no Lightning to 3.5mm jack adapter in the box. So if you are like my wife and you prefer wired headphones rather than using wireless ones like the EarPods or the Beats ones that Apple wants you to buy, you’ll have to buy one from the Apple Store for $10 and live the dongle life accordingly. Not including this dongle is a complete #Fail on Apple’s part.
  • Another #Fail is the 5W power adapter that comes in the box when the iPhone is capable of charging far faster using one of Apple’s 12W chargers or Apple’s 30W USB-C charger. Apple, it’s 2019 and phones need to come with fast chargers.
  • It seems to have issues with my wife’s Belkin iPhone and Apple Watch charger. This is something that I have noted before with my iPhone XS and is likely Belkin’s issue.

The best part about this phone is the price. By iPhone standards it’s cheap. It starts at $1029 CDN for 64GB, $1099 CDN for 128GB, and $1239 CDN for 256GB. I’ve argued in the past that this is the best value in an iPhone and my wife agrees. It has a great mix of features at something approaching anything that could be deemed affordable. Though she did have to trade in two phones to get this one. While that saved her over $400 CDN, it illustrates that Apple has some work to do on their pricing. Still, it’s easy to see why this is Apple’s best selling phone. At least until the next iPhones come out.

Review: Garmin Edge 830 Cyclocomputer

Posted in Products with tags on August 16, 2019 by itnerd

Frequent readers of this blog know that my wife and I ran the Garmin Edge 520 cyclocomputers to allow us to measure our performance and to navigate courses at home and on road trips. That’s worked well for us over the last few years, but this year we felt that we needed to up our game. Thus we got the Garmin Edge 830 which has a number of things going for it. Here are the key things in my mind:

  • It is a touchscreen which makes it insanely easy to navigate and can be used with full finger gloves as the screen is pressure sensitive.
  • On-device route creation which allows you to create routes on the fly.
  • Turn-by-turn navigation
  • Customisable apps
  • Strava integration. You can sync your data with Strava for free. But on-device Strava Live segments requires a Strava Summit membership, and your smartphone needs to be connected to the device.
  • Group messaging and tracking assuming that all the people in your group have compatible devices and share their info with you.
  • The device displays notifications from incoming calls and text messages from your phone….. Though you can’t answer them from the device which is understandable.
  • There’s a bike alarm function. Activate the alarm on the device and if someone moves your bike then the Edge 830 will send a notification to your smartphone.
  • Performance monitoring insights that give information on your VO2 max, recovery status, training load, heat and altitude acclimation, and your nutrition and hydration status after rides.
  • The device displays notifications from incoming calls and text messages

The Edge 830 has both on board WiFi and Bluetooth connections so it’s possible to directly pair the device to any WiFi network. Once connected, the device will automatically link to Garmin’s servers where it can sync your device so that it can upload your ride data as well as check for firmware updates. Which is something that you should do as Garmin has improved the functionality with every firmware update (which is version 4.10 as I write this). It’s very easy to set up its basic functions using the Garmin Connect app which is available for iOS and Android. From there you can add sensors like speed sensors, cadence sensors, and power meters so that you can get the most out of your training and riding.

One key feature is the incident detection feature, which alerts a pre-defined contact that you’ve had an accident and serves up your location to them. You also get the ability to send them a message saying that all is well if the incident is minor or you set this off by accident by say dropping your bike. It requires that the device is paired via bluetooth with and connected to your phone and only iOS and Android phones need apply. One thing that I note is that it is sometimes too easy to set off this feature on really rough roads.

The turn-by-turn navigation is fantastic on the Edge 830. The on-screen map, when zoomed in, provides excellent levels of detail and accurate guidance instructions with ample warning — both audible and visual — when a turn is approaching. Though if you design your own routes, I would strongly suggest that you turn off the popularity routing feature which uses rides that are uploaded to the Garmin Connect service to determine the best route. The reason I suggest this is that it will take you off your intended route and that will drive you nuts. It also has problems distinguishing between different road and path types and it has a penchant to take you on the most traffic-dense roads or, in total contrast, the least suitable paths, trails or tracks for your defined parameters. In other words, stick to designing your own routes which is what I do.

Any other gripes? The price. This is not a cheap cyclocomputer. The Garmin 830 goes for $550 Canadian which is not cheap. But the argument that I would make is that this is a higher end cyclocomputers used by pros and serious cyclists. Having said that, if this price is too much for you, there’s the Garmin Edge 530 which is $130 Canadian less and does most of what the Edge 830 does. Though you give up the touchscreen and some of the advanced routing functions of the Edge 830. Which means that you’re more reliant on buttons which might make it harder to navigate its functionality. For my money, I’d take the Edge 830 and benefit to from the ease that the touchscreen offers.

 

 

Review: Nikon Coolpix P1000

Posted in Products with tags on August 15, 2019 by itnerd

During our recent road trip, my wife and I had with us the Nikon Coolpix P1000 which is an insanely versatile camera as we were able to take great pictures in all sorts of situations. It has a 16MP image sensor with an absurdly big and long 125x zoom lens. This makes it a big and heavy SLR sized camera with a non replaceable lens. Right off the top I will say that there are some things that I will mention that may make it not suitable for every photographer. But I think that a lot of people will find it something that they want to put in their camera bag. One plus that I will point out to more advanced photographers, it supports RAW. Just make sure you have a big enough SD card if you go that route. In my case, I went with a 128GB SD card to make sure that I was covered

So since I talked about the fact that it is big and heavy, I will also mention that it is easy to hold which is a bit of a surprise given how big this camera is. And as long as you haven’t got the lens fully extended, the balance is decent. There’s a hot shoe (for an external flash or microphone) and a pop-up flash, both centered behind the lens, on the top plate. The pop-up flash is big, and rises a couple of inches above the body when opened for use. That allows you to use the hot shoe for an external microphone which makes this an ideal rig for vloggers seeing as this camera also does 4K video.

You can select from a number of modes for your photographic needs. Auto, Progam, Aperture, Shutter, and Manual exposure modes are onboard. But the P1000 includes a Scene recognition setting, a Moon mode, a Bird mode, and a number of Instagram-style filter effects, ranging from desaturated bleach bypass to a high-contrast black-and-white. I have to admit that I left it in auto most of the time. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth—Nikon calls its Wi-Fi system SnapBridge. The P1000 can send images to your smartphone automatically or on demand via Bluetooth, and it can be remotely controlled via your phone via Wi-Fi with a live feed to your phone’s screen. Nikon also offers a wireless Bluetooth remote for remote image capture. Battery life is rated at 250 shots. But I got about 300 before needing to charge it. Strangely, I was unable to charge it with any third-party AC adapters or power packs. I tried a few, including the plug that came with my iPhone, but only the Nikon adapter worked for me. That is a bit limiting as you can’t do an emergency charge in the field. Thus you need to ensure that it is fully charged before you go out or have a spare battery pack on hand. I should also note that autofocus speed is very quick when shooting at a wide angle. But it does slow down when zoomed all the way in. Finally, there’s an LCD screen that you can position at a variety of angles to accommodate your shooting needs. Plus there’s a viewfinder that also has a LCD screen that I found to be better to use in bright sunlight.

So, what do the pictures from this camera look like? Here’s a few examples in a variety of lighting conditions:

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From a zoom perspective, here’s a couple of examples which were pretty impressive:

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And here’s a 4K video that I shot with the Coolpix P1000:

The bottom line is that this is versatile camera. There’s a ton of functionality on hand that allows you to take pictures in any condition, or allow you to express your creative side. Other than the size and weight of the camera, not to mention the inability to charge it easily, I really have nothing negative to say about the Nikon Coolpix P1000. It goes for $1400 CDN. My suggestion is that if the Nikon Coolpix P1000 appeals to you, I would visit your Nikon dealer to try one out and make sure it’s right for you.

Review: Urban Armor Gear Nato Strap for Apple Watch

Posted in Products with tags on July 2, 2019 by itnerd

Last week the folks at Urban Armor Gear sent me two of their Nato Straps for the Apple Watch:

 

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The Nato Strap comes in two colors. grey and olive. I gravitated towards the olive strap which is what I wore this past week:

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The branding is what you see in the picture above. The lugs have very little play as well and give the Apple Watch a bit of a different look.

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There’s black anodized stainless steel hardware and it’s made with high strength nylon that as a whole looks very militaristic. But overall, I will say that it will go well with causal clothing, or perhaps business casual clothing like I tend to wear (jeans with collard long sleeve shirts is what I usually roll with).

I wore the Nato Strap for a week, and I found it to be very comfortable in daily use. But I also did a couple of rides on my bike and it was equally of comfortable. And as a plus, it dries quickly when you do something athletic and get sweaty. That combination along with the fact that my Road ID for Apple Watch fits it perfectly makes it my go to for situations where I need to wear a band during the day doing my job and then going out for a ride after work or doing some other workout without changing bands.

Gripes? Only one minor one. A black color option would be welcome to those who want a bit more of a neutral option. But other than that, this is an absolutely brilliant Apple Watch band. Expect to pay $67 CDN for one.

Review: Zoho

Posted in Products with tags on July 1, 2019 by itnerd

When you think of CRM software that is based on a “software as a service” (or SAAS) model, one company comes to mind. And that is Salesforce. Now that makes sense as they’ve been around forever and pretty much own this market. But another company should pop to mind if you’re looking for CRM software that is on a SAAS model. That company is Zoho. I say that because Zoho offers pretty much everything that any business could need. Be it sales and marketing automation, customer support and a help desk, product configuration and reporting and customer analytics. Not to mention accounting and invoicing among others. But the key thing is that it’s aimed at small to medium business at a price that they can afford.

One thing that’s cool with Zoho is that you get a number of choices when it comes to what you can get for your business:

  • The free edition, which includes just 10 users, comes with sales leads, marketing, and customer support automation with reporting and forecasting tools. You can sign up for that here.
  • The Standard edition includes sales forecasting, customized dashboards, a document library, marketing campaigns, and the ability to send mass email. You are however limited to 100,000 records in terms of the size of the database.
  • The Professional edition includes email integration, social CRM, Google AdWords integration, inventory management, workflow automation, and role-based security, along with an unlimited number of database records.
  • The Enterprise edition adds territory management, custom modules and functions, time-based actions, custom related lists, and multiple currencies.
  • Ultimate takes the Enterprise version and carves out a space for just your business as well as having a handful of other feature for larger businesses.

You can find comparisons of the above tiers here and pricing can be found here.

There are two other tiers that are worth mentioning:

  • Zoho CRM Plus includes all of the features in the Enterprise edition, as well as email marketing, online customer surveys, visitor tracking, and advanced social media marketing and analytics. Pricing starts at $50 a month and you can sign up here here.
  • At the top of the food chain Zoho One. It’s a single license that provides access to every app in Zoho’s portfolio. You can find out pricing here.

A big plus with the Zoho product lineup is Mobile app support that is available across all plans, free and paid. The apps are available for iOS and Android, and even the Apple Watch and from my testing work very, very well. But for me, the thing that stands out are the deep integration of all the apps with each other. Everything is very well integrated and feels like they were built at the same time by the same team. I point that out because it’s main competitor Salesforce doesn’t, or at least no longer has that feel as it feels like certain aspects have been “bolted on” after the fact. A close second in terms of things that stand out is that you have so many features to work with, especially if you pick one of the upper packages. Most business will not utilize all the features that come with Zoho if they pick one of the upper packages, and that’s a good thing because it means that a business is unlikely to grow out of it. There is one other thing that I should point out because it iskind of unique. It is Zia which is Zoho’s AI that your customers can chat with. And because it is context aware, it is highly skilled at finding the right answers from say a knowledgeable of documents for example. But it doesn’t stop there, Zia is available in Zoho’s other apps such as Zoho Writer which is their word processing software so it can offer advice on your writing for example. There are no separate fees for enabling Zia, but some Zia abilities are only available in enterprise-level plans.

The final thing that stands out to me is the most important things that business care about. And that’s price. If you browse through their pricing and compare it to Salesforce, it’s an amazing value seeing as I have heard of companies who have hundreds of people using Salesforce paying as much as $2000 a license a year. This makes Zoho very compelling in my books and well worth a loo if you need CRM software in your business regardless of what size business it is.