Category Archives: technology

Christmas Day

Hey, it’s Christmas Day this morning.

Like we normally do, we spent Christmas Eve with Lee, Brittany, and Camdyn.  We often spend Christmas Day with the Reimers but with them in Hawaii and having celebrated with them already, we woke up and opened gifts today at home. 

Here is what everyone got.


Wendy and i gave Mark a new Asus MeMo Android tablet with a bluetooth keyboard and a tablet case.  

Asus MeMo Android Tablet

He wasn’t really expecting anything like that so he was pretty blown away.  Mark had amazing parent teacher interviews and then stopped working so his first report card was brutal.  He then has worked really hard since then but deep down I think he was expecting a lump of coal.  Since he is grounded from all television and media until his marks improve, he will appreciate this reprieve.  I am hoping this helps him the new year.  If not, at least he can use it to play Angry Birds Transformers.  

Wendy gave him a VIA Rail shoulder bag with a drafting book inside.  It’s a murse!

The dogs got him the same kind of photography gloves that Wendy also got.

Maggi and Hutch gave him and Oliver PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale so you can imagine them beating each other up playing that.  

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale

Santa Claus gave Mark a tactical flashlight and an old but amazing Pentax manual 200mm f4 prime lens.

Pentax manual 200mm f4 prime lens

I also gave him a and a brand new Pentax 35mm f2.4 lens which shocked him all over again because that is how I roll.  He had been saving up for the lens for a bit and was pretty shocked that we got it for him.


As for Oliver, Wendy gave him a giant X-Wing fighter.  It is huge and he was thrilled.  Attack runs on the Death Star have already commenced. 

T65 X-Wing Fighter from Star Wars

I gave him a toy AH-64 Apache attack helicopter  

AH-64 Apache attack helicopter

Mark got him a Lego Star Wars Snow Speeder.  I just realized I now how to help him assemble this thing.  It comes with two lego characters.  Luke Skywalker and that guy that was crushed by the AT-AT.  So yeah, that’s great.  

Lego Star Wars Snowspeeder

Wendy and I also gave him a Nikon S31 waterproof digital camera.  It was an old one of mine that I didn’t use once in 2014.  Maggi and Hutch got him a Calgary Flames camera case that is styled like a mini backpack to carry his camera in.

Wendy also gave him a giant 200 piece art set.  He’ll love it.

He asked Santa Claus for some grown up binoculars and old St. Nick came through for him and got him a pair and a tactical flashlight. Santa also surprised him with a remote controlled Ford F-250 truck.

Bushmaster binoculars

You can imagine how excited he is about all of that.  You can also imagine how many times all of us have been blinded by his flashlight this morning.


I gave Wendy a Sigma 19mm f2.8 Art Lens for Christmas.

Sigma 19mm Art f2 4 DN Lens

It is her first real prime lens (her other ones are toy lenses) and she is pretty excited about it.

Oliver gave her a new knife set which she has wanted for a while.  He also gave her a J.A. Henckels’ Chef Knife that she has been wanting all winter.   So yeah, we have turned Wendy from a mild mannered person into a well armed killing machine.

J.A. Henckels' Chef Knife

Mark gave her a pair of Sennheisser HD 201 headphones.

Sennheisser 201HD Headphones

Mark also gave her a bamboo cutting board and four piece cheese knife set (I had no idea cheese knives were a thing until now).  Both of these will be used for a large charcuterie board tomorrow afternoon for lunch.

Walmart Cheese Knife Set

Mark also gave her a pair of Thinsulate photography gloves so she can get outside and use her camera more this winter.

Maggi and Hutch gave her some slippers that she later plans to chew up (it’s the circle of life). Considering Hutch and Maggi have no source of income, I am not sure how they did that.

Santa Claus gave Wendy a new LED tactical flashlight.  She wasn’t thrilled that it was bright pink or that it was called the “Maiden” but she does love that it is powerful enough to blind Oliver and Mark if shown in their eyes.  I just told her that Santa was trolling her.  Santa also got her the same pair of binoculars that he gave Oliver.

Police Security Maven Flashlight

I was spoiled for Christmas. 

Wendy gave me a Pentax Q 01 Prime Lens.  It is a fixed f1.9 lens that you should see more of in the coming months.  She also gave me a Kata MarvelX-40 camera bag for the lens and my Pentax Q  

Pentax 01 Standard Prime Lens for the Pentax Q

Mark gave me a video light kit which will be used for OurYXE. 

CowboyStudio Light Kit

Oliver game me a canvas duffle bag from L.L. Bean with a Police Security tactical flashlight, and a Bushnell monocular in it. The dog gave me an old school Stanley thermos.

Large duffle bag from L.L. Bean

Police Security Maven Flashlight

Thanks to everyone, I really appreciate the gifts.

Today we will take some cameras out for a walk and then I will be home debating with Oliver whether or not an AH-64 attack helicopter has a chance against a X-Wing fighter.

I hope your Christmas has been as enjoyable as ours wherever you are reading this from.

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve.  It was a rare day for Wendy and I as we both had if off work.  We slept in for a bit and then I woke and was surprised that I wasn’t sick.  After a nice breakfast of Eggs Benedict and then taking the dogs out for a walk, we spend the rest of the day chilling out before heading meeting some friends for lunch at Alexander’s.  After some nachos, we chilled out a bit before heading over to Lee and Brittany’s for dinner.

Since it was Camdyn’s first Christmas, it was all about her.

We gave her a baby tablet, Oliver got her a cell phone, and Mark gave her a teddy bear that is the size of Oliver.  I’m seriously rethinking that gift.  She could get crushed by that bear.  Then again, in a fight with a giant monster, it will do quite well.

Teddy Bear vs. Giant Monster

The boys gave Lee and Brittany men’s and women’s Calgary Flames mugs.  Wendy and I gave Brittany a pizza stone and a signed copy of Amy Jo Ehlman’s book Out of Saskatchewan Kitchens. 

Wendy and I gave Lee a crate of dynamite inspired fire starter from Cabela’s.  Basically they are fire starters that look like sticks of TNT and come in a wooden TNT looking crate.  Unless I got him the wrong stuff and I actually got him dynamite.  If that is the case Evergreen could have a different look the first time he starts his fire pit.  Camdyn can use the giant bear as a protective barrier.

Along with Camdyn getting a teddy bear, we found Lee’s childhood teddy bear in a box in the corner of our basement.  It is over 30 years old, has seen better days but Wendy carefully sewed up Teddy and then got him a new outfit from Build-a-Bear.  So there will not just be one but two bears in their household, even if one is a greybeard.  Lee was so shocked that I think he almost cried when we gave him Teddy.  It was pretty sweet.

Lee wanted to get me a tripod but Amazon didn’t ship it in time.  Instead he gave me an gift certificate.  They also gave me a battery backup for my cell phone and a Pentax remote control for my camera.

They gave Wendy the main game and first expansion pack to Cards Against Humanity. The best part of the gift is that neither Lee, Brittany, or Wendy had realized how taboo it was.  They also gave hime a tea cup and tea from David’s Tea, a knife sharpener, and two books by Anne Lamott.  

They gave Mark an indoor basketball hoop, a book on the history of the NFL, a Denver Broncos toque (or knit cap for you American’s out there), and a violent PS3 game.

Oliver got a remote control dog, a Marvel posters, a Lego Batman alarm clock, and a Lego book/playset.

Now we get to head to bed and see what will happen on Christmas morning.  

Hope your evening was a good one.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Ideas for the Photographer | 2014 Edition

Looking at what to get the photographer in your life for Christmas?  Here are some ideas that are sure to make every photographers Christmas season.

Well a camera is a pretty big gift but there are some spectacular options from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and Pentax in 2014.  Take a look below.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Camera with 18-135mm IS STM Lens

Canon 7D Mark II with 18 135 lens and battery grip

It was the announcement that everyone was waiting for this fall and it is now here.  The Canon 7D Mark II features:

  • 20.2 MP CMOS sensor and ISO 100-16000
  • High spped continuous shooting up to 10.0 fps
  • 65-point all cross-type AF system
  • Stunning Full HD video with Custom Movie Servo AF (speed and sensitivity)
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF enables you to shoot video like a camcorder
People I know who have one (sports and wildlife shooters) have all said that it is everything that Canon said it would be already and feel that once they master the just shipped camera, it would be even better. 

Nikon D750 FX-format Digital SLR Camera

While Canon has their hit camera with the Canon 7D Mark II, Nikon has their own hit with the Nikon D750 which is the successor to the famous D700. 

Nikon D750

Here are the Nikon D750’s highlights.

  • Full frame 24.3 megapixel CMOS image sensor and EXPEED 4 image processor
  • Full HD 60/50/30/25/24p video
  • Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Shoot up to 6.5 fps at full resolution
  • Pro Video feature set including: Simultaneously record uncompressed and compressed, Manually control ISO, shutter speed and aperture while recording – even use Power Aperture control for smooth iris transitions and Auto ISO for smooth exposure transitions.
  • Compact, lightweight and slim unibody (monocoque) body design with tilting Vari-angle LCD display

 The big news is that while its price is closer to the Nikon D610, its feature set is closer to the Nikon D810.

Pentax K-3 w/ 18-135mm lens

Pentax K-3

I have long been a long time Pentax user and for me, this camera personifies everything that is right with Pentax right now.  

  • 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor, selectable on/off of anti-aliasing filter
  • 8.3 frames per second continuous shooting
  • 27-point AF system with 25 cross sensors and 3 low-light AF sensors
  • ISO 80-51,200
  • 1080 60p/50p/30p/24p HD video (H.264)
It has remarkable build quality that features a weather sealed camera and an increasing number of weather resistant lens that allow you to shoot in any weather conditions.  If you are wondering about Pentax DSLR lens, check out my Pentax lens guide that I put together this summer.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Compact System Camera

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Compact Camera

  • 6 MP Four Thirds CMOS sensor with 3-axis sensor shift image stabilization
  • Up to 8 FPS continuous shooting
  • ISO 200-25600
  • 1080/30 fps HD video (H.264/Motion JPEG)
  • Raw and Raw + JPEG shooting

If you are considering making the switch to a mirrorless camera, then you really need to look at the Olympus OM-D lineup, especially the E-M1 and the lower priced E-M10.  Both using the Micro Four/Thirds mount and have in body stabilization.  The combination means there are countless lens from Olympus, Panasonic, and most recently Sigma that can all be used.

Sony RX-100, RX-100 II & RX-100 III

Sony RX-100 II

Sony has three current Sony RX-100 cameras, all at different price points.  All of them are 20 megapixels, compact, and great in low light.  The reason you want one is that they are a remarkable camera to have you at all time and are being used by photographers like Bryan Scott (publishes Winnipeg Love Hate) and CTV’s Tom Podolec who have captured amazing images with the RX-100’s over the last year or so.  The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have raved about the camera.  Basically if you don’t Sony’s RX-100, you didn’t want a compact camera in the first place.

Thinsulate Freehands Photography Gloves

So you get the perfect lens or camera on Christmas morning and then realize that it is -22 degrees Celsius out where you want to try it out.  Wonderful.  Now you have to wait till March.  

There is another solution and that is the Thinsulate Freehands photography gloves.  Keeps your hands warm while giving them the freedom to take the photos you want.

Ricoh Theta

The Theta from Ricoh is a compact and lightweight (3.3 oz.) camera that has a lens on both the front and back, allowing you to take full 360 Degree spherical panoramic images in with one shot and 3 minute videos. The device is synchronized with smartphones, where images can be immediately transmitted via Wi-Fi and viewed with a dedicated free app. The app also allows images to be pinched, swiped or rotated to edit size, shape and composition. Images uploaded to can be shared on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, as well as Microsoft Corporation’s Photosynth. IOS and Android free apps for viewing and capturing images.

Black Rapid Camera Strap

Black Rapid Camera Strap

There is a better way to carry your camera and it is a Black Rapid strap

 Vintage Multi-Color Neck Strap

Vintage Multi Coloured Neck Strap

A great stocking stuffer for the photographer on your list.  It features an old school colourful design which is a lot more exciting then the strap that came with your camera.

Wireless Remote

No matter how good your camera is, it’s the actual shot that matters–and sometimes that means needing to time things just right, especially if the photographer also plans to be in the shot. While most cameras have a built-in timer, using the wireless remote lets you pick your moment–its 16-foot wireless range gives you the flexibility to snap the shutter right when you need it, even if you’re not behind the camera.

Olympus 50mm Lens

Often the most affordable lens in any camera lens lineup, it is a great gift for anyone still using their kit lens.
12 Inch Digital Photo Frame
This frame features a hi-res SVGA screen with LED back lighting. Importantly the frame will also play your MPEG-4 / .AVI video, JPEG photos. When the frame activates after sensing movement it can play either your photos (from where it left off in the slideshow) or videos. It has a generous 4GB memory, housed in a very small and portable USB thumb drive so you can conveniently move photos from your computer to your frame. Combined with a simple, clear remote control, it’s a breeze to get started and with a 12 inch screen, your photos will stand out in every room.
SanDisk Ultra
Everyone needs another memory card (or two).  Just make sure you know what kind they need.
WD My Passport Ultra HD
They are backing up their photos aren’t they?  That’s what I thought.  They will need one of these asap.

I Shoot People

I Shoot People

Perfect gift for the portrait photographer on your list.

Adobe Lightroom 5

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5

Best photo editing software on the planet and you can get it for PC or Mac.  Amazing gift if they are still using Picasa or iPhoto.

CowboyStudio Photography/Video Portrait Umbrella Continuous Triple Lighting Kit

CowboyStudio Photography/Video Portrait Umbrella Continuous Triple Lighting Kit with Three Day Light CFL Bulbs, Three Stands, Two Umbrellas, and One Carrying Case For Product, Portrait, and Video Shoots

This kit provides 375 Watts of continuous lighting and it is a very good start for beginners. Entire kit sets up in minutes, and very easy to operate.  An incredible gift to someone who is thinking of setting up an in home or portable studio, a documentary project or just wants some good lights at their disposal.

CowboyStudio Table Top Photo Studio Light Tent Kit
The Optex Portable Photo Studio Kit is a bright photo tent with diffuser screens and dual concave reflectors that provide soft, daylight balanced light. A double-sided backdrop provides a background choice of blue or grey for optional contrast with light or dark objects.The portable kit includes a photo tent (16” cube), double sided backdrop (blue/grey), 2 light fixtures, bulbs and mini tripod.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS25 16.1 MP Tough Digital Camera with 8x Zoom

Panasonic TS25

Sometimes it’s best you not take your DSLR with you (like into the pool or ocean).  I personally love this camera.  Small form factor, ruggedized and it takes great photos.

Polaroid Cube
This 1080p Full HD camera is only an inch by an inch.  Designed to go everywhere that you go, it is only $99.  After reading it’s specs, you understand why it is the bestselling underwater camcorder on Amazon (beating out the GoPro and Sony rivals)

AmazonBasics Backpack for SLR/DSLR Cameras and Accessories

AmazonBasics Backpack Camera Bag

You can pay a lot for a camera bag from ThinkTank, Kata, or LowePro or you can get this bag from Amazon for $30.  Your choice.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides

You can also find all of the rest of the 2014 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!  Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for Teenagers | 2014 Edition

What do you get for the teenaged boy on your Christmas list.  The easy way out is cash and gift cards.  We aren’t going to take the easy route out.  We are doing this the hard way and come up with a list that any teenager would love.

Asus MeMo Pad 7

$150 for a cutting edge tablet?  I’m okay with that.  The Asus MeMo tablet runs a 1.33 GHz Quad-Core Intel Atom processor, Android 4.4 KitKat, more than enough RAM to run the latest applications and 16 gb of storage for videos, music, and homework.  It also has a .3 megapixel front facing camera and a 2 megapixel rear facing camera

Asus MeMo Pad 7

While you are at it, pick up a case, Bluetooth keyboard, Micro SD card and speaker.

Pentax K-50 DSLR

We gave Mark my old Pentax K-x to him for his birthday and he loves it.  The advantage of Pentax over other DSLR’s is build quality.  The K-50 has over 80 water seals in it.  This means that the teen you are shopping for can take it far more places and adventures than other DSLRs.  The other advantage is the amazing price.  At under $500 (with a 18-55mm lens) it is one of the least expensive DSLR’s out there right now.

Pentax K-50 DSLR Camera

The PENTAX K-50 is a mid-level DSLR with fast, advanced functionality, all wrapped up in bold colors. Featuring specifications of a top level DSLR, enjoy a 16 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, fast continuous shooting at six frames per second, high sensitivity shooting up to ISO 51200, 100% field of view, innovative in-body shake reduction, and an advanced auto focus module with four optional focusing screens, not to mention the PENTAX-original weather-sealing. Also enjoy full 1018p HD video capture, and eye-fi card compatibility for fast and easy image sharing.

At the end of the day, you aren’t buying your teen a DSLR for them, you are buying it for the family time you will spend together shooting it.  This summer Mark, Oliver, Wendy, and I went for countless walks, hikes, and adventures together for no other reason than to shoot from photos and see what we could see together.

If you are wondering about available lens for Pentax, check out my guide to Pentax DSLR lens that I wrote this summer.

Ricoh WG-4 Digital Camera
If you have a smaller budget, this Ricoh WG-4 is a great adventure proof camera.  It’s waterproof, crushproof, and has a built in GPS to record where you are when you take the photo.  It has a quick f2 lens, 16 megapixel CMOS sensor.  It is the perfect option to take into the backwoods, on a long road trip, or just attaching to your pack for a day out.  Like all WG series cameras, it comes with a wide series of mounts so it can attached to your bike, car, or helmet.  Not only are you getting a great camera but with the mounts you are getting many of the capabilities that a GoPro offers.

Sennheiser HD201 Headphones

There is a good choice that your teen has an iPod or phone that plays music already.  The music is great but one overlooked thing is what do you play it on.  Sennheisser headphones are a great bet.  The Sennheiser HD201 Stereo Headphones prove to be a low priced alternative to high-end studio headphones.With great clarity, the Sennheiser HD201 headphones are the ideal entry into the world of powerful stereo sound. These excellent headphones also boast great attenuation of ambient noise and outstanding comfort at an affordable price.

Sennheiser HD201 Headphones

JVC Xtreme Xplosives Headphones
If you are on a budget (and who isn’t) this Christmas, here are some fabulous looking and sounding headphones by JVC at an affordable price.  They are for are for people who demand powerful, dynamic deep bass sound from their headphones which kind of describes every teenager I know.
The OontZ Angle
One of the most popular and wished for items on  Brought to you by Cambridge Soundworks, this Angle is the latest in a line of amazing and affordable speaker systems.  The Oontz Angle comes in many color options and is 5.3 inches wide, 2.7 inches high, and 3 inches deep. It weighs 9 ounces, which makes it a lightweight unit.  For $40 it provides excellent size, portability and most importantly, it sounds good.

Turcom Graphic Drawing Tablet 8 X 6 Inches

Turcom Graphics Drawing Tablet

Tursion is making tablets affordable for use by anyone, not just artists. This high-quality Tursion drawing tablet is priced just right, so everyone can enjoy the benefits of a graphic tablet. It includes several software utilities, such as PenSigner and PenMail, which allows you to use handwritten signatures, adding a personal touch to what is usually thought of as an impersonal medium. Easy to install and to use,

We gave one to Mark last year for his birthday and he has loved it.  It works with almost any kind of Windows XP/Vista/7/8 software has allowed him expand is skills and talents as an artist.

The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make
From Sean Covey, the author of the international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, this bestselling follow-up book builds upon the legacy of the 7 Habits and shows teens how to make smart choices about the six most crucial choices they’ll face during these turbulent years.
The challenges teens face today are tougher than at any time in history: academic stress, parent communication, media bombardment, dating drama, abuse, bullying, addictions, depression, and peer pressure, just to name a few. And, like it or not, the choices teens make while navigating these challenges can make or break their futures.

Royal & Langnickel 104-Piece All Media Easel Artist Set

Royal & Langnickel 104-Piece All Media Easel Artist Set

Royal & Langnickel Sketching and Drawing Easel Set is a comprehensive 104 piece collection of artist materials ideal for the beginner, student, or artist. This set features a wide assortment of pencils, pastels, and paints fitted into a convertible, two-drawer chest that opens to reveal a third tray of product. The storage chest converts into a sturdy table-top easel. An outstanding collection of tools for your studio or an ideal gift for an artist or serious art student.

Acer Aspire E-11 11.6-Inch Laptop 

There is always going to be a debate between Windows Netbooks and Google Chromebooks.  The Acer Aspire makes a compelling argument for the Windows Netbook.  Check out these specs.

  • 11.6" HD Widescreen ComfyViewâ„¢ LED-backlit Display: (1366 x 768) resolution; 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Intel® Celeron® N2840 Dual-Core Processor 2.16GHz with Intel® Burst Technology up to 2.58GHz
  • Windows 8.1 with Bing
  • Intel® HD Graphics
  • 2048MB DDR3L SDRAM Memory
  • 32GB internal storage
  • Digital Media Card Reader – Secure Digitalâ„¢ (SD) Card
  • 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth® 4.0
  • Acer Crystal Eye HD Webcam
  • High Definition Audio Support
  • Two Built-in stereo speakers
  • 1- USB 2.0 Port
  • 1- USB 3.0 Port
  • 1- HDMIâ„¢ Port with HDCP Support
  • 3-cell Lithium-Ion Battery (2640mAh)
  • Up to 5-hours battery life
  • 2.84 lbs.

Acer Aspire E-11 Netbook

Another cool part of these Aspire E-11’s is that they don’t have fans so they are completely silent.

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

You aren’t just giving a gift when you give a telescope as a gift.  You are opening up the wonders of the universe.   All of Celestron’s PowerSeekers include a full range of eyepieces plus a 3x Barlow lens that provides an increase in viewing power hundreds of times greater than that of the unaided eye!

Tony Hawk Skateboard
Fender guitar and amp
If he wants to be a rock star, what better way to get him started than with a Squire guitar and amp by Fender?  It comes with an electric guitar, amp, bag, strap, cables, and picks.  Basically everything he will need to rock out in 2015.
With the Selphy CP910 Wireless Compact Photo Printer, celebrating your special memories has never been more convenient. Lightweight and compact in size, the Selphy CP910 is easy to take just about anywhere. But it’s more than just portable; it’s also loaded with features, like Portrait Image Optimize, which allows you to relive those cherished moments with beautiful and long-lasting borderless 4” x 6” photo prints. What’s more, it’s AirPrint enabled, making wireless printing from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch almost effortless. No drivers are needed! And Mobile Device Printing allows images on compatible Windows RT devices to be sent directly to the printer as well. Plus, with its new Access Point Mode, the Selphy CP910 allows you to directly connect your wireless camera or smart device without the need of a network.

Christma Wish Guides

You can also find all of the rest of the 2014 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!  Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

So when does cyber warfare cross the line?

The NSA thinks Russian hackers have infiltrated vast swaths of our vital infrastructure 

A destructive “Trojan Horse” malware program has penetrated the software that runs much of the nation’s critical infrastructure and is poised to cause an economic catastrophe, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

National Security sources told ABC News there is evidence that the malware was inserted by hackers believed to be sponsored by the Russian government, and is a very serious threat.

The hacked software is used to control complex industrial operations like oil and gas pipelines, power transmission grids, water distribution and filtration systems, wind turbines and even some nuclear plants. Shutting down or damaging any of these vital public utilities could severely impact hundreds of thousands of Americans.

It gets crazier

DHS sources told ABC News they think this is no random attack and they fear that the Russians have torn a page from the old, Cold War playbook, and have placed the malware in key U.S. systems as a threat, and/or as a deterrent to a U.S. cyber-attack on Russian systems – mutually assured destruction.

The hack became known to insiders last week when a DHS alert bulletin was issued by the agency’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team to its industry members. The bulletin said the “BlackEnergy” penetration recently had been detected by several companies.

DHS said “BlackEnergy” is the same malware that was used by a Russian cyber-espionage group dubbed “Sandworm” to target NATO and some energy and telecommunications companies in Europe earlier this year. “Analysis of the technical findings in the two reports shows linkages in the shared command and control infrastructure between the campaigns, suggesting both are part of a broader campaign by the same threat actor,” the DHS bulletin said.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for Your Brother-in-Law | 2014 Edition

It is Wendy again with my second Christmas gift guide of 2014. So you may have heard of Jordon’s brother Lee.  Lee is a great brother to Jordon, great brother-in-law to me, and an even better uncle to Mark and Oliver.  If you have a brother-in-law like Lee, here is some Christmas and holiday gift ideas for him.

Generation Kill

Generation Kill is a television miniseries produced for HBO, based on the 2004 book of the same name by Evan Wright about his experience as an embedded reporter with the U.S. Marine Corps’ 1st Reconnaissance Battalion during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was adapted for television by David Simon, Ed Burns and Evan Wright.  Jordon and Mark loved it when they saw it.   So will your brother-in-law.

Generation Kill on Blue Ray

Sennheiser HD 202 II Professional Headphones Sennheiser HD 202 II Professional Headphones

The Sennheiser HD202II are closed, dynamic hi-fi stereo headphones. Good insulation against ambient noise and a deep bass response make them the ideal companion for DJs – or anyone who likes to listen to modern, powerful music without disturbing others. High efficiency drivers for maximum performance.  They are some amazing headphones for a really inexpensive price.

Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Elite Edition Quadcopter

Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Elite Edition Quadricopter

Get him a remote control quadcopter controlled using an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet.  You can record 720p high-definition live video streaming & recording to smartphone or tablet while flying which a wide variety of preprogrammed cinematic effects.  Plus it is a remote controlled helicopter.  How much fun will he have with that?

Pentax Q-S1 Camera

It fires off five frames per second, records hi-def video, and shoots in Raw, a format that allows for maximum post-processing. But the QS-1s biggest selling point is also its most obvious: it’s the smallest interchangeable-lens camera in existence at around 7 ounces.  They can play pro everywhere they go.

Pentax Q-S1 Camera

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Camera with 18-135mm IS STM Lens Canon 7D Mark II with 18-135 lens and battery grip

Canon just came out with their most anticipated camera of the year with the Canon 7D Mark II.  A camera that is designed for photographing sports and wildlife.  

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II GPS Digital SLR Camera features a refined APS-C sized 20.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor with Dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors for gorgeous imagery. It shoots up to 10 frames per second at ISOs ranging from 100-16000 (expandable to H1: 25600, H2: 51200), has a 65-point all cross-type AF system and features Canon’s amazing Dual Pixel CMOS AF for brilliant Live-View AF. It has dual card slots for both CF and SD cards, USB 3.0 connectivity and even has built-in GPS for easy location tagging.

Includes Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Zoom Lens.

Are you going to shell out $2149 for your brother-in-law or brother this Christmas?  That’s for you decide but let me tell you one thing.  If you get him this camera, he’ll love it.

Big Bob Gibbson's BBQ Book

Winners of the World Championship BBQ Cook-Off for six years in a row and with hundreds of other contest ribbons as well, nobody does barbecue better than Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama. Chris Lilly, executive chef of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q and great-grandson-in-law of Big Bob himself, now passes on the family secrets in this quintessential guide to barbecue.

From dry rubs to glazes and from sauces to slathers, Lilly gives the lowdown on Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q’s award-winning seasonings and combinations. You?ll learn the unique flavors of different woods and you?ll get insider tips on creating the right heat?be it in a charcoal grill, home oven, or backyard ground pit. Then, get the scoop on pulled pork, smoked beef brisket, pit-fired poultry, and, of course, ribs.

Magellan eXplorist 310 Waterproof Hiking GPS

Magellan eXplorist 310 Waterproof Hiking GPS

The Magellan eXplortst 310 GPS receiver provides essential outdoor navigation with a high-resolution colour screen, waterproof design, paperless geocaching, and superior mapping, including preloaded World Edition and upload able map capability.  Jordon has one and loves it.  Your brother-in-law will love his as well every time that he leaves the road.  Make sure you include a Pelican 1050 waterproof case for $26.

Dartboard in Oak Finish Cabinet

Dartboard in Oak cabinet

The board, which comes housed in a solid oak cabinet, is made of a high-grade, “self-healing” sisal that looks smooth and lasts for years. Scoring is handled by the pair of chalk scoreboards–one on the inside of each door–that make it easy to tally scores for several players at once. And below each chalkboard sits a shelf that holds a single set of brass darts (included), so you needn’t worry about misplacing the darts between games. It’s the oak cabinet that really stands out, however, thanks to its durable finger-joint construction and light oak finish.

The cabinet not only hides your board from view when you’re not playing and protects your wall from errant darts when you are, but also looks great amidst both traditional and modern furnishings. The cabinet, which measures 18.5 by 20 by 2.5 inches (W x H x D) when closed.  Plus its better that he is throwing things at his walls rather than your walls.

Dynamite Fire-Starter Crate

Dynamite Fire-Starter Crate

Invented in 1866 by Alfred Nobel, dynamite’s cylindrical shape perfectly fit down the drilling holes used in mining operations. When the charges were set, the now-famous phrase “fire in the hole” was cried to warn miners of the coming blast. Though the contents of this sturdy wood crate will not move mountains, they will start your fireplace. One look at the realistic “dynamite” crate will have family and friends looking twice. Each cedar wood crate contains 20, 8″L x 1-1/4″W, fire-starter sticks. They are made of paraffin and sawdust for a long, hot burn. Each stick will burn approximately 30 minutes setting ablaze even the most stubborn wood.

Plus there is the joy that comes from yelling, “Fire in the hole” every time he lights a fire.

JetBoil Personal Cooking System


If your brother-in-law is an outdoors type, help him a little extra fun to his outdoor cooking adventures with the Jetboil Flash personal cooking system. The all-in-one Flash combines an adjustable stainless-steel burner and a 1-liter FluxRing cooking vessel in a single compact unit.

The all-in-one Flash cooking system boils 2 cups of water for cocoa, coffee, instant soup, or other meals.

To use, simply add water or liquid to the 1-liter cooking cup and fix it to the burner. Within two minutes, the Flash will provide two cups of boiling water for cocoa, coffee, instant soup, or a gourmet freeze-dried meal. It’s easy, convenient, and fun. Plus, everything you need stacks and stores inside the FluxRing cooking cup, including the burner and fuel canister.

Brunton Hydrogen Reactor
Yes, you read correctly, get your brother-in-law a hydrogen reactor from Brunton.  Swap the hydrogen fuel cells in and out of the core for hours of power off-the-grid and on-the-go. Each is Capable of 6 iPhone recharges; 5v 2amp output Great to power USB devices like smartphones, tablet computers, UV water purifiers, rechargeable lights, portable game consoles, GPS transceivers and more.
Victorinox Handyman Swiss Army Knife
If your brother-in-law is going to stop by and be helpful, he needs a knife that is up to the past.  The Handyman Swiss Army Knife is that tool.

If the brother-in-law that you are shopping for is into camping and the outdoors, check out the Christmas and Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoorsmen and Adventurers or my guide for the men in your life.

The Jordon Cooper Christmas Gift Guides

So another Christmas Gift Guide is done.  Hope you find it useful.  To read all of the other Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides, check out the list here.  If you have comments or suggestions, let me know in the comments below.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for your Wife, Girlfriend & other Important Women in Your Life | 2014 Edition

Each year I put together some holiday and Christmas gift guides for the people in your life.  Wendy wrote the first one and here is my first one; a holiday and Christmas guide for the women in your life.

Wendy is hard to shop for.  She never makes a list until it’s too late and doesn’t really crave a whole bunch of things which makes Christmas (and birthday) shopping hard.  In case your wife is awesome like Wendy but hard to shop for, here are some Christmas gift ideas to consider.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant

The alluring Original Star K Heart Shape 8mm Love Pendant, crafted in 925 Sterling Silver. This beautiful design is set with 1 Heart Shape stone prong set , 1 stone prong set colorless Round Cubic Zirconia. This product measures 8 mm wide, 18 mm long and is a great looking while affordable necklace and pendant.

iPod Nano 16gb

Why would you get her a iPod Nano when she probably has a smart phone.  Two reasons.  Smartphones tend to fill up with apps and if you have a 8gb or even a 16gb iPhone, she may not have enough room to have much music on it.  The second reason is that she may have an Android or a Blackberry meaning that managing your music with iTunes is a pain in the neck.

Apple iPod Nano

An iPod Nano gives her 16gb of storage in an extremely compact package.  It may not do everything that her phone or an iPod Touch does but it plays her music really well at an affordable price.

Big Jambox

Wendy has always loved music and has always wanted a massive stereo system.  Since we have a small home, the dream has never come true.  Lucky for Wendy there are some excellent compact speaker systems as options. Here are a few of them.

I have traditionally recommended the Bose Wave home audio system.  It provides legendary sound, is $499 but has fallen behind the times.  It bugs me that even with the new version you have to add an optional and costly Bluetooth receiver to stream music wirelessly from your iPod.  Yet if the women you are shopping for still prefers CDs to iTunes, it is probably the best audio system you can get for her.

For the iPod/Android crowd, I am suggesting you get her a Big Jambox.

Jambox Big Jambox Speakers

The Big Jambox turns any mobile device (phone, tablet, media player, computer) into a portable, hi-fi sound system that wirelessly delivers amazingly clear, full audio at any volume.

Faux Mink Throw Blanket

Help keep her warm this winter with a faux fur blanket.  Perfect for outdoor, watching TV. Stay warm this winter and feel great with this faux fur throw. Unbelievably soft and plush. Dynamic decor piece to throw over a couch or chair, it serves as a fashionable, functional accent piece. Perfect blanket to cuddle up on a chilly evening without any of the guilt and cost of using real mink fur.

Olympus E-PL7 16MP Compact System Camera with 14-42mm Lens

Olympus PEN E-EL7 camera

I bought Wendy an Olympus PEN last year and she loved it.  Over the year we added a couple of lens (I recommend the Olympus 40-150mm, the Olympus 45mm f1.8 (Wendy’s favourite lens), the Sigma 19mm, 30mm and 60mm prime lens) a new ThinkTank sling bag, and some other gear.   The result was we took a couple of thousand photos over 2014 and had a great time together.

The advantage of a mirrorless camera system like Micro 4/3 system (which is used by Olympus and Panosonic) is the size of the cameras and the lenses.  It means in practical terms that you take this camera places you would not take a DSLR.  With 16 megapixel sensors, good (but not amazing) low light sensitivity (if you want great, you need a Sony A7s), you get amazing photos that you can enlarge to almost any size.

If you want something small but with a traditional DSLR form factor, take a look at the Olympus OMD E-M10 for $750.

Canon T5i with 18-135mm lens

If she is looking for more traditional DSLR, then look at the Canon Rebel T5i with the 18-135 lens.  She will be impressed at how simple it is to create breathtaking photos with ease. The incredible image quality and performance starts with an 18.0 Megapixel sensor and Canon’s DIGIC 5 Image Processor. A continuous shooting speed of up to 5.0 fps allows for fast action capture. 9 cross-type AF focus points help ensure crisp focus throughout the frame, and the Hybrid CMOS AF system enables speedy and accurate autofocus when shooting in Live View mode. In addition, the camera is compatible with Canon STM lenses for smooth, quiet AF performance.

You get full HD video, the ability to plug in a shotgun or lavaliere microphone, and access to the enormous Canon EF-S lens family.  You can get a kit with a 18-55mm lens but for the extra $200, the extra range of the 18-135mm lensis worth it.

Teardrop Terrarium
This is a fun gift.  It is an Air Plant with clear glass hanging terrarium wide with glass bottom. Kit includes pebbles, moss, glass globe and air plant.  The kit is a great addition to any room at any price.
Speaking of gardening…

The Gardener's Garden

The ultimate garden book – both a collection of gardens from around the world and a resource for those seeking inspiration on garden design and planting. Featuring over 250 permanent gardens by leading garden designers, horticulturalists and landscape architects, from the 14th century to the present day, and covering all key types and styles of garden, this well‐illustrated compendium combines images, text, key information and captions for each of the featured gardens, appealing to both amateur and professional gardeners, as well as garden designers.

Samsung Chromebook 

Samsung Chromebook

Samsung’s Chromebook laptop has been deemed by many to be a success. Lightweight, inexpensive and practical as everything operates off your Google Drive, the Chromebook is great for any career woman on the move.

Chromebooks are great if you are comfortable with using Google Apps but if she is the type that wants to do more with a computer, check out the Acer Aspire E-11 Netbook.


It runs Windows 8.1, has 2gb of RAM, and is totally silent as it is cooled passively.  No fans means no noise.  It’s only $200, runs iTunes, some games, Microsoft Office (or Open Office).  An amazing netbook for the money.

Jean Dubost Laguiole 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set

Jean Dubost Laguiole 3-Piece Cheese Knife Set is a great holiday gift for anyone who loves hosting a great dinner party and doing so in style.

This set of cheese service knives includes a spreader for soft cheeses like Montrachet a serving knife for Gruyere and Gouda and a cleaver for hard cheeses such as Parmigiano. Sparkling stainless steel handles carry the signature logo of the Laguiole ‘Bee’. A wooden gift and storage box completes this gourmet set.

Gold Pendent
Initial jewelry is all the rage. The 14k Gold Circle Disk Letter "A" Pendant showcases a simple yellow-gold design. Resting from an 18-inch cable chain is a gentle yellow gold disk. A capital letter is engraved in the middle of the disk, to personalize the pendant. The simple design is a jewellery box must-have for accessorizing a day-to-day look. A wonderful gift for the holidays.
Fast and convenient, the AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker makes one of the best cups of coffee you’ll ever taste. This innovative uses the ideal water temperature and gentle air pressure brewing to produce coffee and espresso that has rich flavor with lower acidity and without bitterness. It makes 1 to 4 cups of coffee or espresso (enough for 1 or 2 mugs), features a micro filtered for grit free coffee, and takes just 1 minute to make coffee (actual press time takes only 20 seconds).  It’s the number one selling coffee press on Amazon for a reason.
Aeropress Coffee

Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

Wendy works full time and then has to come home to a household of two sons and me.  In other words she puts up with days that make mine seem like a meditation retreat.  Give your wife a break from the chaos with these noise cancelling headphones.  If you are on a budget, check out the Sony MDR-NC7 Noise Cancelling headphones for about $40 or JVC HANC250 Noise Cancelling Headphones for about $120.
Sennheiser HD202 Headphones
I leant Wendy my noise cancelling headphones for a flight to Winnipeg.  She never gave them back.  She will love a pair of great sounding headphones.

I’m a Mom…

I'm a Mom

She’ll love this mug.

Timex Women’s "Ironman Traditional" Sport Watch

Timex Women's Ironman Traditional Sport Watch

Wendy has sensitive skin and watches irritate her horribly.  So when I gave Wendy this Timex Ironman watch, she had some serious doubts over whether or not she could wear it.  A year later, she is still wearing it every day.  Because the watch and band are all one piece, it is an incredibly comfortable watch to wear.  Because it is from Timex, it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. 

The R H Forschner by Victorinox Chef’s Knife features an 8-inch blade that is 2-inches wide at the handle. High carbon, stainless steel blade is hand finished at Victorinox in Switzerland by skilled craftsmen. A special tempering process is used to produce an edge that can be resharpened over and over again, so the knife can keep its original sharpness throughout the entire life of the blade.

Victorinox 8-inch Chef's Knife

If you are looking for an entire knife block set, check out the Zwilling J.A. Henckels 7-pc Knife Block Set for $120 which is almost $150 off.  The set includes an 8-inch chef’s knife, a 5-inch serrated utility knife, a 4-inch paring knife, and a 2-1/2-inch peeling knife, as well as a sharpening steel and a pair of shears. All components fit within an 11-slot hardwood block, which offers four extra slots for future knife acquisitions.  She’ll love it. You’ll love it.  You’ll pass them on to your kids.
It brews the perfect cup of tea every time.  It is the most efficient, simple and clean way to steep tea. Simply add tea and water at the correct temperature, then put the tea maker on your favorite mug to drain.
Teavana Tea Steeper
WKRP in Cincinnati
Like most people with a sense of humour, Wendy is a huge WKRP in Cincinnati fan.  Join everyone’s favorite radio DJs—the rockin’ Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and the soulful Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid)—as they weave through the inner-office antics of the crazy WKRP staff; including the station’s program director Andy (Gary Sandy), indecisive manager Arthur (Gordon Jump), advertising executive Herb (Frank Bonner) and, of course, the station’s lovely receptionist, Jennifer (Loni Anderson). So sit back and enjoy the sound of uproarious laughter as you watch all episodes of this iconic series.
Of course the reason why it was so long of wait to be released was the hassle in obtaining the rights for the original music.  This set has 90% of the music in the set.  The missing music is the music industry being, well the music industry.
Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker
Forget the fast food drive-through. With the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker, you can enjoy a hot, homemade breakfast sandwich in under 5 minutes. Simply place the ingredients inside, build the base of your sandwich in the bottom layer, place the egg on the cooking plate and close the lid. Slide the cooking plate out and your sandwich assembles itself. Open the lid and your hot breakfast sandwich is ready to eat. The included recipe book provides a variety of breakfast sandwich options, from the traditional egg, ham and cheese to the unique cheddar, apple, bacon and egg croissant sandwich.
I have a Nike+ Fueband and when I use it, it works great.  It has been supplanted in both men and women’s minds by the FitBit Flex activity tracker.  It tracks steps, distance, and calories burned and shows you how you’re stacking up against your daily goals. At night, it tracks your sleep cycle, helps you learn how to sleep better, and wakes you silently in the morning. Access your stats anytime on your computer, tablet or from leading smartphones – both iPhone and Android.
In the age of tablets, Kindles often get relegated in our minds.  If you are buying for a serious reader, there really is only one option and that is a Kindle.  Wired gave it’s predecessor the Kindle Paperwhite a score of 9/10 which is the highest score they have ever given.  Then they come out this year and say the Kindle Voyage is even better.
Kindle Voyage
Here is what you want to know: Yes, the Kindle Voyage is better than the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s thinner, faster, brighter, lighter, newer, has a better screen, has more memory (4GB vs last year’s Paperwhite’s 2GB) commands more magical elf armies, owns a Ferrari, and is nicer to your grandmother.

iRobot Roomba 880 Vacuum Cleaning Robot For Pets and Allergies

iRobot Roomba vacuum

The iRobot Roomba 880 is the ultimate high performance robotic vacuum cleaner. Featuring the revolutionary new AeroForce Performance Cleaning System and AeroForce Extractors, it’s proven to remove up to 50% more dirt, dust, hair, debris and harmful allergens from all floor types and is virtually maintenance free.

Of course the best part of this gift is that it saves you and her time, time that you can spend together.

If you are looking for cooking, baking, or ideas for the foodie, check out Wendy’s Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for the Cook which she posted over at The Cooking Blog.

The Christmas Gift Guides

So there you go.  I assume I have forgotten, many, many ideas so let me know what I have forgotten the comments below.  You can check out the other Christmas and holiday gift guides while you are at it.


Airline pilots were once the heroes of the skies. Today, in the quest for safety, airplanes are meant to largely fly themselves. Which is why the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447, which killed 228 people, remains so perplexing and significant. William Langewiesche explores how a series of small errors turned a state-of-the-art cockpit into a death trap.

On the last day of May in 2009, as night enveloped the airport in Rio de Janeiro, the 216 passengers waiting to board a flight to Paris could not have suspected that they would never see daylight again, or that many would sit strapped to their seats for another two years before being found dead in the darkness, 13,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. But that is what happened. Air France Flight 447 carried a crew of nine flight attendants and three pilots—their numbers augmented because of duty-time limitations on a 5,700-mile trip that was expected to last nearly 11 hours. These were highly trained people, flying an immaculate wide-bodied Airbus A330 for one of the premier airlines of the world, an iconic company of which all of France is proud. Even today—with the flight recorders recovered from the sea floor, French technical reports in hand, and exhaustive inquests under way in French courts—it remains almost unimaginable that the airplane crashed. A small glitch took Flight 447 down, a brief loss of airspeed indications—the merest blip of an information problem during steady straight-and-level flight. It seems absurd, but the pilots were overwhelmed.

Amazing long read of what went wrong on that fatal flight.

Why the Trolls Will Always Win

Essay from Kathy Sierra

This month is the 10-year anniversary of my first online threat. I thought it was a one-off, then. Just one angry guy. And it wasn’t really THAT bad. But looking back, it was the canary in the coal mine… the first hint that if I kept on this path, it would not end well. And what was that path? We’ll get to that in a minute.

Later I learned that the first threat had nothing to do with what I actually made or said in my books, blog posts, articles, and conference presentations. The real problem — as my first harasser described — was that others were beginning to pay attention to me. He wrote as if mere exposure to my work was harming his world.

But here’s the key: it turned out he wasn’t outraged about my work. His rage was because, in his mind, my work didn’t deserve the attention. Spoiler alert: “deserve” and “attention” are at the heart.

A year later, I wrote a light-hearted article about “haters” (the quotes matter) and something I called The Koolaid Point. It wasn’t about harassment, abuse, or threats against people but about the kind of brand “trolls” you find in, say, Apple discussion forums. My wildly non-scientific theory was this: the most vocal trolling and “hate” for a brand kicks in HARD once a critical mass of brand fans/users are thought to have “drunk the Koolaid”. In other words, the hate wasn’t so much about the product/brand but that other people were falling for it.

I was delighted, a few weeks’ later, to see my little “Koolaid Point” in Wired’s Jargon Watch column.

The me of 2005 had no idea what was coming.

Less than two years later, I’d learn that my festive take on harmless brand trolling also applied to people. And it wasn’t festive. Or harmless. Especially for women.

I now believe the most dangerous time for a woman with online visibility is the point at which others are seen to be listening, “following”, “liking”, “favoriting”, retweeting. In other words, the point at which her readers have (in the troll’s mind) “drunk the Koolaid”. Apparently, that just can’t be allowed.

From the hater’s POV, you (the Koolaid server) do not “deserve” that attention. You are “stealing” an audience. From their angry, frustrated point of view, the idea that others listen to you is insanity. From their emotion-fueled view you don’t have readers you have cult followers. That just can’t be allowed.

You must be stopped. And if they cannot stop you, they can at least ruin your quality of life. A standard goal, in troll culture, I soon learned, is to cause “personal ruin”. They aren’t all trolls, though. Some of those who seek to stop and/or ruin you are misguided/misinformed but well-intended. They actually believe in a cause, and they believe you (or rather the Koolaid you’re serving) threatens that cause.

But the Koolaid-Point-driven attacks are usually started by (speculating, educated guess here, not an actual psychologist, etc) sociopaths. They’re doing it out of pure malice, “for the lulz.” And those doing it for the lulz are masters at manipulating public perception. Master trolls can build an online army out of the well-intended, by appealing to The Cause (more on that later). The very best/worst trolls can even make the non-sociopaths believe “for the lulz” is itself a noble cause.

But I actually got off easy, then. Most of the master trolls weren’t active on Twitter in 2007. Today, they, along with their friends, fans, followers, and a zoo of anonymous sock puppet accounts are. The time from troll-has-an-idea to troll-mobilizes-brutal-assault has shrunk from weeks to minutes. Twitter, for all its good, is a hate amplifier. Twitter boosts signal power with head-snapping speed and strength. Today, Twitter (and this isn’t a complaint about Twitter, it’s about what Twitter enables) is the troll’s best weapon for attacking you. And by “you”, I mean “you the server of Koolaid.” You who must be stopped.

It begins with simple threats. You know, rape, dismemberment, the usual. It’s a good place to start, those threats, because you might simply vanish once those threats include your family. Mission accomplished. But today, many women online — you women who are far braver than I am — you stick around. And now, since you stuck around through the first wave of threats, you are now a much BIGGER problem. Because the Worst Possible Thing has happened: as a result of those attacks, you are NOW serving Victim-Flavored Koolaid.

Our Family Adventure with the 2014 Ford Escape

It’s been a long summer but one of the highlights was spending some time with the 2014 Ford Escape.  I reviewed in 2013 and the SUV is essentially the same.  Instead of just driving it around Saskatoon (done that before), I decided to take it on the road.  This is after all where a crossover is supposed to come in useful isn’t it (that and as a hockey kid taxi).  So the four of us got up really early one Sunday and took a long one day drive from Saskatoon to Drumheller and back.   It’s around 1000km in a day if you are keeping track.  At the end of the trip we were going to either love or hate the 2014 Ford Escape.

2014 Ford Escape Titanium Edition

We packed relatively light.  Even though it was a brand new vehicle we tossed our emergency kit in the back, three camera bags, a cooler, and some extra jackets in case the weather forecast was horribly wrong.  That took up about 5% of the rear cargo space.

After hitting Rosetown for breakfast where we met this old-timer, we made a brief stop at Alsask to show the kids the old NORAD radar dome  

Alsask Radar Dome

Alsask Radar Dome

Ford Escape meets giant dinosaur in Drumheller

We got into Drumheller at about noon where the Ford Escape met this guy.   I know I signed something that stopped people from smoking in the Ford Escape, I couldn’t remember if I was covered by stampeding dinosaurs.  So I sent Mark and Oliver up to deal with the T-Rex.

Mark and Oliver with the T-Rex

After an epic struggle, they subdued the beat and saved the Escape.

I have driven from Saskatoon to Calgary many times and each time (generally at Hanna), I would get out and feel the pain in my back after four long hours of driving.  This time it was completely different and here is why  With the Escape, there was none of that.  The air conditioner kept the kids cool while the heated seats kept Wendy and I feeling a lot more comfortable.  If only they had a back massage feature.

After lunch we checked the GPS for directions to the Atlas Coal Mine.  It couldn’t find it.  It found every other little attraction in Drumheller but missed this one.  Obviously Ford downloads these attractions from a database but I was surprised a National Historic Site was not on it.  Ironically enough Siri with it’s much despised Apple Maps found us a way and we arrived after our failed conversation with Ford Sync.  Apple 1 – Ford Sync 0.

Arriving at Atlas Coal Mine

Once at the Atlas Coal Mine, I discovered the true value of the Ford Escape.  We explored an abandoned wooden bridge (which was home to rattlesnakes) and was almost completely rotten.

Wooden Bridge at Atlas Coal Mine

Explored the mine site

Rusty and abandoned trucks

Wendy stumbled onto a model shoot

Photo shoot at Atlas Coal Mine


We took a mine tour

Oliver chimping on his camera

Mark and Oliver at the Atlas Coal Mine

Climbed the “walk from hell” (this is important)

Atlas Coal Mine

Where I tore my right quad and put myself in incredible pain (not all Ford reviews have happy endings).  After heading back down the “walk from hell” (it’s what the miners called it), I limped back to the waiting Ford Escape while the family kept exploring (thanks guys!)

Guide at the Atlas Coal Mine

The pain was incredible, my leg was almost useless and I limped back to the vehicle in incredible pain.  I got in and actually had to lift my leg inside, turned on the Escape, turned on the a/c and turned on the heated seat.  It didn’t take away the pain but facing a five hour trip back to Saskatoon and realizing how much better it made my leg feel, it was amazing. (and made me add a tensor bandage and A535 to my emergency kit) when I got back into Drumheller.

I felt good enough to limp out and explore the Star Mine Suspension Bridge in Rosedale.  While I never recommend walking on a moving suspension bridge with a torn quad, the heat kept it from getting really bad.

Star Mine Suspension Bridge

18 hours after, one rattlesnake sighting, two provinces, one radar dome, one torn quad, 1000 kms, three McDonald’s and one A&W run later, we rolled back into Saskatoon.  Instead of whining and complaining despite being well past their bedtimes, the boys hopped out the car and Oliver said that was fun.  He then hugged the Ford Escape goodnight.  Yeah you read that right, after an 18 hour day, my six year old hugged the Escape.  

It was then I realized why you want a 2014 Ford Escape.  It is a lot of fun to drive in the city and the highway.  It’s safe and like I wrote about the 2013 Ford Escape, it saved my families life when a guy lost control on icy roads.  It looks great.  Sirius XM radio is a lot of fun.

All of that is amazing but you buy one because the Escape facilitates fun times together with others.  Whether that is an epic road trip with family or a weekend getaway with friends, it made a great trip better.  It made a long day seem shorter.  It made an improbable one day trip possible.  It is small enough to be fun to drive but large enough that you can bring people along.  It is everything a SUV should be.  Since the first time I drove the Ford Escape, I fell in love with it and said that it was my favourite vehicle to drive.  Since then it has become my families favourite vehicle as well.  It facilitates fun.

You can read all about the technical specs here but in the end, they add up to one thing; great times spent together.

Some observations

  • I have been reviewing Ford cars for three years.  Oliver is now six and since her first saw the Ford Sync GPS display, he has been fascinated.  He sits in the back seat on a painful angle the entire time so he can see the display.  That hasn’t changed.  I hope to review a Ford car in 2015 just to see how long this continues.  It’s weird.  Of course the one advantage of Ford Sync GPS screens is not navigation but the fact that you never hear, “Are we there yet?”
  • The bad thing about turn by turn instructions is that if you deviate off your course to take the scenic route (which I did), everyone panics and start back seat driving.  Wendy is chirping at me, the boys are chirping at me.  Sync is telling to “turn right, turn right, turn right”.  I’m like, I just want see some scenery!  EVERYONE CALM DOWN and Sync is still going, “turn right, turn right, turn right”.  Why does no one trust me?!
  • The Escape is fast.  Shockingly fast for a SUV.  Very comfortable to drive on a two lane highway.  When I wanted to pass, I could.
  • The Sync still crashes.  Every Ford vehicle I have reviewed has had something go wrong with the Sync.  The last time it wasn’t that bad but it asked me to go to a dealer.  Turning the Escape off and on rebooted it (it is from Microsoft after all).  Instead of asking me to go to a dealer, it should just say, restart your car.  It’s not a big thing but I can’t believe it still does this.  Then again, Microsoft.  I should be used to it by now.
  • Speaking of taking the scenic route, you will take more of them.  The handling of the Escape is great and it kind of calls out for winding roads and rolling hills.  A lot of fun.
  • Even though the body design is older, it still turns heads.  As I was limping towards the Star Mine Suspension Bridge someone turned and said, “that is a nice looking SUV”.  

If you want more information about a Ford Escape, check out Ford’s website or stop by any Ford dealer (like Jubilee Ford or Merlin Ford Lincoln in Saskatoon)

Also thanks to Wendy for taking some of the better photos from this trip.  She posted some of her favourites to her weblog.

Apple has become a fashion company

From Bloomberg

Today, Apple established itself as the world’s biggest fashion company by releasing a smartwatch that is more about beauty and variety than about technology.

I have been hard on Apple for putting off bold moves, focusing on incremental improvements to its products and allowing competitor Samsung to make a rather convincing grab for technological leadership. Today’s gala event in Cupertino, California, has done little to change that picture. Apple presented its catch-up big-screen iPhones, waxing eloquent about their high-resolution displays, fast-focus cameras and 25 percent higher processor speeds as if they could surprise anyone.

The Apple Watch isn’t a tech miracle. It requires a phone to work, creating an Occam’s-razor moment for the consumer: Do I need another device if I still have to carry my phone around with me everywhere? Samsung has overcome this by offering a smartwatch that doesn’t need a phone.

The Apple Watch’s functionality isn’t market-beating. It’s a basic fitness tracker that can count steps, measure the heart rate and prompt the wearer to be more active. The device can handle messaging the way its competitors do. The Siri voice assistant makes an expected appearance. Though Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook seemed enthusiastic about the watch’s useful features, they are too boring to discuss — particularly in comparison to the Apple Watch’s beauty as an object.

MSN Messenger to end after 15 years

Here is the BBC Obit

MSN Messenger was a hard-working internet visionary which taught a generation to touch-type and lol, writes BBC technology reporter Dave Lee.

It touched the lives of millions of teenagers who, in an age before real social networking, were just getting accustomed to what it was like to live on the internet.

MSN Messenger heralded a new era: a time when chatting up a classmate no longer meant the terrifying prospect of actually having to say something to them.

It meant no longer would young teens have to endure the torture of ringing the landline number of their newest crush – knowing there was a high probability that dad would pick up.

But after all the “ASL?”s and “u there?”s, Messenger’s loyal subjects became less dependent. “I’ll brb”, people said… but they never did.

Other sites, smarter and better looking, would see Messenger cast aside. In an age of exciting digital discovery, Messenger became the web’s wooden toy.

After a long career, it spent its final year enjoying a comfortable retirement in China. Its less well-regarded relative, Windows Messenger, still battles on on work computers the world over.

“It’s like MSN,” office workers say, “…just not as fun.”

MSN Messenger is survived by Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Snapchat, Skype, Google+ and Instagram.

What happened to Motorola

Interesting article on what happens when your corporate culture goes bad.

Meanwhile, in arguably one of the worst decisions ever made by a major corporate CEO, Zander struck a deal with his Silicon Valley friend Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple. Together their companies created a Motorola iTunes phone, the first phone connected to Apple’s music store. “We can’t think of a more natural partnership than this one with Apple,” Zander said at the time. Named the Rokr, the phone launched in the fall of 2005. Jobs, who introduced it, called it “an iPod Shuffle right on your phone.”

Zander says he believed that by working with Apple, Motorola could become cool again. But much as it had taught the Chinese to compete with it years before, Motorola was teaching one of the most creative, competitive, and consumer-savvy companies of all time how to make a phone.

Two years later, when Jobs introduced the first iPhone, Zander’s Motorola was still pushing Razrs, pumping up sales by taking new variations further and further downmarket. The result: ever-lower profit margins. One analyst calculated that the company made, on average, only about $5 per device.

Partly because of the huge layoffs of recent years, Motorola’s innovation machine was stalling. The company had long numbered among the top 10 American firms registering U.S. patents, notes analyst Joan Lappin; by 2006 it dropped to No. 34.

Zander insists that he saw the smartphone onslaught coming but that Motorola “didn’t have the DNA or the people” to understand the software involved. He also blames a less-than-speedy Motorola supplier that, he says, caused the company to miss nearly a year in the product cycle. “We should have just broken the contract” with the supplier, he says now. “The one regret I have is that I should have taken myself out of the CEO job and run the [phone] division [myself].”

Another mistake: Zander never engaged in China the way the Galvins had, leaving the details to his division heads and country managers. When China upped its networks to 3G, his managers pushed what they had—older 2G phones—at steep discounts in order to preserve market share, unbeknownst to the CEO. The collapse of the China business in 2007 left Zander dumbstruck. That year the South Korean company Samsung topped Motorola in phone sales for the first time, and it never looked back.

Mark’s Cell Phone

I gave Mark an Sony Xperia J last Christmas which he loved.  He thought it was the greatest phone ever, even if it wasn’t.  The Sony Xperia J has a memory problem that means that it doesn’t handle apps well.  I am not sure why this version of Android on this phone acts so poorly but according to the tech forums, it does.

The phone broke this summer and all of a sudden Mark’s attitude changed for the better.  So much that we had some very long talks about it.  He told me he missed being able to talk to his friends and Wendy and I via text but he didn’t really miss his phone very much.  He was kind of glad that he didn’t have it around.  He was funnier, more laid back, and said he was sleeping better.

It wasn’t the phone that was the problem, it was that he would find some time and play some games that would keep him on it for hours.  He was like a lot of youth, addicted to their phone.

So we talked about the kind of phone that we would get.  I decided on getting him a Blackberry Curve. It would let him text others and not be distracted by other stuff. Virgin Mobile’s was $150 which I found a little steep.  Telus had one for $100 so I decided to make the switch.  He isn’t under contract so I set off to Best Buy and get his phone.  While I was there, I saw they had a Nokia Lumia 520 for Windows Phone for $110.  I was torn over what phone to get but in the end it was the constant barrage of Windows Phone tweets by Darren Sproat that won me over.  I haven’t heard of anyone excited over a Blackberry since 2005.

Nokia Lumia 520

I set it up with Telus who has far inferior pre-paid plans than Virgin Mobile and gave it to Mark.  The next day the phone wasn’t working.  I called back and Telus said that they hadn’t gotten paid.  I had a receipt and a confirmation number from Mastercard and still that wasn’t enough.  It was kind of weird.  

So I took Mark’s phone to Tech Box.  I had never been in there and they unlocked the phone for $20.  It took a couple of days more than they said (the first code was slow coming and then didn’t work) but they told me that one of them would be in the office on a Sunday and to stop by.  We did, they unlocked the doors, and the phone was working.  He was thrilled.

So I set up Mark’s phone for him and I have really come to like it.  It doesn’t have all of the apps that the iPhone or Android does but I was able to get him…

  • Instagram
  • Vine
  • Twitter
  • The Score
  • BBC
  • CBC
  • CNN
  • Metro
  • TuneIn
  • A podcast app
  • Weather app
  • Photoshop

He told me today that he misses having a StarPhoenix app but other than that, he is set.  Internet Explorer isn’t that bad on the phone either.  I didn’t install any games and he is fine with that.  The phone is pretty snappy and the tiles feature of Windows 8 is designed for a phone (and not a computer screen).  It works really well.  I have told a couple of people that while I love my iPhone, I could switch to Windows Phone and be perfectly happy.   Especially when I think that I spent $110 for the phone.

There are some other cool stuff installed for apps like a transit app (that doesn’t work in Saskatoon because we don’t make our route information available like most other cities).  Bing Maps is no better or worse than Apple Maps (actually it is probably better).

So back to Mark.  He’s happy with the phone.  He likes not having a phone with the distractions of games and then frustrated over not getting other things done.  He’s like a lot of 14 year olds but with this phone, he seems to have found a mix of being connected and not being too connected.  We will see how it goes.