Tag Archives: Apple

How the mighty are falling

Declining sales on phones lead Samsung to smart appliances

The controlling Lee family is trying to reinvent Samsung as a purveyor of Internet-connected appliances to grab share of a market that may be worth $7.1-trillion (U.S.) by 2020. Samsung wants to generate revenue from Tizen applications and services just as Apple Inc. and Google do from their operating systems, and the Suwon, South Korea-based company is emphasizing TVs and consumer electronics after falling a year behind schedule on a Tizen-based phone.

“In smartphones, there’s no chance that Samsung’s Tizen can edge out the two dominant operating systems,” said Claire Kim, a Seoul-based analyst at Daishin Securities Co. “But in TVs, Samsung may have a chance.”

Samsung’s rise to No. 1 in global phone sales depended on Google’s Android. Nearly all of the 243 million smartphones Samsung shipped through Sept. 30 ran the software, which Google typically gives away in return for mobile advertising revenue and a share of app sales.

Samsung faces the strongest challenge to its phone supremacy after posting the smallest quarterly earnings in more than two years. Operating profit at the mobile-phone unit, the company’s biggest cash generator, slumped 74 per cent in the September quarter and sales fell about 33 per cent.

I own an Apple TV and I just can’t get excited about paying extra for a smart TV when I can plug one of those or a Google Chomecast (or Amazon Kindle, Roku….) for under $100 (or under $40 for the Google Chromecast) into the TV and have a smart TV.

The smart appliance market may become huge but I can’t see the smart TV one being that big of deal at all, not when I can get my apps on my tablet and stream to my television.

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.

It’s going to be a bloodbath

Dell lays off 15% of it’s workforce

Two sources have told us Dell is starting the expected huge layoff programme this week, claiming numbers will be north of 15,000.*

The company is returning to private ownership to restructure its operations in the wake of a falling PC market, a commoditisation of the server market and a perceived need to better serve enterprises with their ever-increasing mobile and cloud-focused IT requirements.

Does the brand of computer even matter anymore?  For years Dell stood for quality but now, does anyone care if you computer comes from?  It is the same components, technology, and operating system as the next guy and if the next company is cheaper, why not go with them?  If you want a premium brand, you go with Apple.

New Apple HQ to cost a cool $5 billion

From Business Week

Jobs displayed several renderings of a headquarters intended to accommodate more than 12,000 employees in a single, circular building. “It’s a little like a spaceship,” he said of the massive, four-story ring, which, at 2.8 million square feet, would be two-thirds the size of the Pentagon and set among 176 acres of trees where today there are mostly asphalt parking lots. “We have a shot,” he said, “at building the best office building in the world. I really do think that architecture students will come here to see it.”

Jobs died four months later, before the final plans could be submitted to Cupertino city planners, but he had made it clear that this corporate Shangri-La would be expensive. Apple would add 6,000 trees and hide nearly all the roads and parking spaces underground. There would be plenty of cafeterias, including one that could handle lunch for 3,000 employees. Jobs highlighted the main building’s curved exterior walls. The plans call for unprecedented 40-foot, floor-to-ceiling panes of concave glass from Germany. Before the Cupertino council, Jobs noted, “there isn’t a straight piece of glass on the whole building … and as you know if you build things, this isn’t the cheapest way to build them.”

He had that right. Since 2011, the budget for Apple’s Campus 2 has ballooned from less than $3 billion to nearly $5 billion, according to five people close to the project who were not authorized to speak on the record. If their consensus estimate is accurate, Apple’s expansion would eclipse the $3.9 billion being spent on the new World Trade Center complex in New York, and the new office space would run more than $1,500 per square foot—three times the cost of many top-of-the-line downtown corporate towers.

Before his death, Jobs had hoped to break ground in 2012 and to move in by the end of 2015. Apple will start tearing down the 26 buildings on the site in June, according to another person familiar with the plan. At the company’s annual meeting on Feb. 27, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said the move-in date has been pushed back to 2016. Apple declined to comment for this article.

One reason for the new timetable, say three people who have spoken to Apple personnel about the project, is that the company has been working with lead architect Foster + Partners to cut $1 billion from the budget before proceeding. Jobs and Apple first hired Norman Foster’s firm, renowned for the rebuilt Reichstag in Berlin and Hearst Tower in New York, in 2010. Apple has named a general contractor—a joint venture of DPR Construction, in Redwood City, Calif., and prefabrication specialists Skanska USA Building in New York—but has not finalized agreements with the scores of subcontractors needed to complete the job. Some contractors will be submitting bids by May. There’s so much dirt to be removed, excavating the site will take six months and require a continuous, 24-hour convoy of trucks, says a former Apple manager who heard a presentation from Foster’s firm.

Cost overruns are to be expected on large construction projects, and the scale of this one has evolved—from an initial plan to accommodate 6,000 employees, to offices for 12,000 or even 13,000 in one place. Meanwhile, $1 billion is still less than 1 percent of Apple’s $137 billion in cash reserves. Yet the multibillion-dollar budget for Campus 2 could add fuel to the debate about what Apple’s doing with all its money. Investors didn’t squawk much when Apple was dominating the smartphone and tablet market, but shares have fallen 38 percent since September amid rising competition from Samsung Electronics and concerns about Apple’s product pipeline. Now shareholders are calling for a big dividend, stock buyback, or, in the case of Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn, the issuance of a new class of preferred shares. Apple has hinted it might oblige in some way, but critics are sure to question whether curved glass is the best use of funds. “It would take some convincing for me to understand why $5 billion is the right number for a project like this,” says Keith Goddard, the chief executive of Tulsa-based Capital Advisors, which owns 30,537 shares of Apple. “This is rubbing salt in the wound, to spend at a level that most anyone would say is extravagant, at a time when they’re being so stingy on dividends.” If the stock continues to underperform, Goddard predicts, “this headquarters would perpetuate the negative story.”

CSR Racing

I am not much of a gamer but I have been playing CSR Racing on my Mac lately.  It’s a simple drag racing game where you have beat “crews” to move up.  To do that you need to win some races where you win cash and then you have to upgrade your car.  Most cars need four levels of upgrades to win and there is a bit of skill involves in it as well.

The fun part of the game is that you can only race as long as you have gas and you can easily run out of gas.  To get more gas, you can pay but I am too cheap to do that or you can wait an hour to two hours for your tank can fill.  The game is free and they depend on people more impatient than cheap but for me it is great as I can play it for 10 minutes, be done and then pick it up later.  It’s like gaming designed for those of us with short attention spans.

As you can see, I started the game with a Mini Cooper S, moved to a Mustang GT, then a BMW M3 Coupe, and now a Corvette ZR1 (which is underpowered compared to the other cars in the tier and getting beat a lot).  And yes I seem to like the colour red.

Screenshot 2013 02 03 17 10 41

Screenshot 2013 02 18 15 06 07

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Screenshot 2013 02 18 15 05 27

It’s a fun game to play and it’s free to try (and keep playing).  If you have a iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad, you can play it on each either one of those devices.

The End of the Big Box Store?

CBC has a story on the changing landscape that Best Buy and Future Shop is facing today

Brick-and-mortar outlets “have become less relevant,” he said, and as a result “the handwriting’s on the wall” when it comes to selling electronics in a big-box format.

Another factor is that electronics are being “downsized” as technology advances, making it less necessary to maintain huge stores, and cheaper for retailers to sell goods online and ship them to customers, Williams said.

While a big box is good for things like television, there really isn’t an advantage when it comes to other items.  The Source is every bit as compitive on a lot of items.  Even today I went to Best Buy and then actually found what I was looking for at The Source for a lower price.  That happens quite a bit.  It’s especially a big deal with The Source having locations all over the city.  I often find it really easy to wander in and find what I am looking for on a break or while I am out and about.

The other issue is especially with Apple products is that I can buy direct from Apple and if it is over $50, I get free shipping and I don’t have to pay tax.  I am looking at replacing my iPod with a new iPod Nano and it’s cheaper to buy direct from Apple than it is from anywhere in the city.  The same thing when I buy from MEC.  Expect others like Microsoft and even brands like Dr. Dre to do the same thing.  Even if they don’t, shopping from Amazon is so easy and with Amazon’s low margins, it’s almost the same thing for an established brand.

In the end the big box stores use the format to compete on price and if they can’t compete on price, they bring very little else to the table (unless they can create an in-store experience like Cabelas) As online retail continues to grow, look for smaller stores with better customer service, and easy access to make a comeback.  It isn’t just electronics.  Stores like Rona are asking the same questions about how easy is it to compete with Home Depot and Lowes on a large scale when they may have the supply chain efficiencies and infrastructure to do it.

The other part of the retail discussion is Sears laying off 700 people in Canada.  I wasn’t surprised.  Several times I have been the only customer I could see in a Sears store and when I walk through it I have to dodge rack after rack of discounted goods.  While The Bay has rallied around the voice and leadership of Bonnie Brooks, Sears seems to just be drifting with empty stores, an aging demographic, and no real leadership.  I can’t see them being around in five years time.

A Perfect Storm for Microsoft?

From Business Insider

Almost one year ago today, we laid out the nightmare scenario for Microsoft (MSFT) that could lead to its business collapsing. After laying it all out, we concluded, “Fortunately for Microsoft, none of this is going to happen.”

We were wrong.

A lot changed in the last year. Microsoft’s nightmare scenario is actually starting to take hold. We’re revisiting our slideshow from last year to see how things have played out.

Each number that follows has one piece of the nightmare scenario for Microsoft and an explanation of where Microsoft stands in comparison to that hypothetical situation.

While it’s going to take a while, Microsoft isn’t the business it used to be. (as I write this from my MacBook Pro)

Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for your Wife / Mother / Girlfriend (all of the women in your life) | 2012 Edition

I put together a list of gifts for the women in your life, from electronics to jewellery to stuff for the kitchen.  Of course it tends to be slanted towards stuff that Wendy likes but hopefully it gives you some ideas as well.  I know of one guy that just gives his wife a watch every single year.  It doesn’t matter how nice of a watch it is, after a decade of watches, you need to show some creativity.

Take a look around and if you have any better ideas, let me know in the comments.  You can see all of the other Christmas Gift and Idea Guides here.


According to Apple, the 7 inch tablet market is targeted towards female users.  I am not sure about that but Wendy does love her Kobo Vox (especially after it came with a firmware update that included Google Play) and so I thought I would start by highlighting some 7 inch tablets.

Kindle Fire HD at Amazon.comKindle Fire HD ($199) | It features:

  • 1280×800 HD display with polarizing filter and anti-glare technology for rich color and deep contrast from any viewing angle
  • Exclusive Dolby audio and dual-driver stereo speakers for immersive, virtual surround sound
  • World’s first tablet with dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi for 40% faster downloads and streaming (compared to iPad 3)
  • High performance 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor with Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics core for fast and fluid performance
  • Integrated support for Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and more, as well as Exchange calendar, contacts, and email
  • Front-facing HD camera for taking photos or making video calls using Skype, Facebook, and other apps

All of that and $100 less than the iPad Mini.

Google Nexus 7 ($199) | Same kind of features as the Kindle Fire HD.  Of course with the Amazon Kindle app you can read your Kindle books on your Nexus 7.  Nexus 7 was designed with gaming in mind. With heart pounding quad-core performance, a vibrant 1280-by-800 high-resolution display, and sensors like a gyroscope and accelerometer – do a barrel roll then tilt, touch and tap your way to the top of the leaderboards while exploring over 700,000 apps and games on Google Play.  In other words it’s faster than the Kindle Fire

iPad MiniiPad Mini ($329) | At $129 more, you get two cameras, the fastest processor, and access to the amazing Apple app store.  The bad news is that it has the lowest resolution screen of all of them.  While the technical elite are complaining about the lower screen resolution and the tablet not shipping with a Retina Display, it won’t make that big of a difference on a 7 inch screen.  Again if you are moving from a Kindle, just download the Kindle app and you will have a seamless transition

If you are just looking for an e-reader, check out the basic Amazon Kindle ($69).  At only $69, it has an e-ink screen, works well outside, and the battery lasts forever.  It doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles of a tablet but you can’t beat it for reading.  Not everyone has a desire to be online 24/7 which is why you still see Kindles all over campus and on a commute.  An even smaller option is the Kobo Mini ($99).  All I know is my friends love their Kindles.

The Washington Post puts all of the mini tablets through their paces here.  Read and pick the right one for you.


Griddle ($40) | Wendy wanted one of these a couple of years ago and I was told not to get her one by some cooks that I know.  They said she would only use it for cooking up eggs, sausage, and pancakes and that is exactly what she wanted one for.  Doh!

Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, & Ice Cream Maker ($75) | This fully automatic small appliance makes frozen yogurt, sorbet, and homemade ice cream in as little as 25 minutes. The frozen-dessert maker features a heavy-duty motor and a double-insulated freezer bowl that holds up to 2 quarts of frozen dessert at a time. Simply add ingredients, turn the machine on, and frozen drinks and desserts are ready in minutes. Its large ingredient spout allows for easily adding favourite mix-ins, and an instruction book and recipes come included.

Cuisinart Convection Toaster OvenCuisinart Convection Toaster Oven ($80) | If your loved one loves to cook and entertain, you would be surprised what a good convection toaster oven can do to make her life easier.  Cuisinart’s custom toaster oven broiler is large enough and smart enough to present a full range of menu options. Toast 4 bagel halves, bake an 11-inch pizza, or broil two big open-faced sandwiches. When the cooking is done, its easy clean with reflective non-stick coating on oven’s interior that wipes clean in seconds, which enhances heat efficiency and ensures even toasting.

 Adagio Teas Electric 32-Ounce Tea MakerAdagio Teas Tea Maker ($88) If you are looking for a tea maker that does steep the tea, check out the Adagio Teas Electric 32-Ounce Tea Maker. This maker does it all – heats water, steeps leaves, and keeps tea warm so you may enjoy it all day long. Variable timer and temperature control lets you adjust the strength of an infusion, ensuring a perfect cup of tea each time. Works well with all tea varieties.

Wolfgang Puck 6-Qt. Electric Gourmet Wok with Tempered Glass Lid and Steaming Tray ($90) | The unit’s curved cooking interior promotes proper stir-frying, while its wide top and narrow bottom allow for frying with less oil than with a straight-sided pan. Simply heat the oil; add any favourite combination of fresh vegetables, tofu, or meat; then keep things moving with a long-handled wooden spatula. The countertop appliance works well not only for stir-frying, but also for braising, sautéing, and more. Choose from a variety of temperature settings: sear, high, medium, keep warm, minimum, and everything in between. Other highlights include a generous 6-quart capacity with a 14-inch diameter and a 4-1/2-inch depth, a tempered-glass lid with a stay-cool knob, a steaming tray for seafood or veggies, a temperature probe with a quick-release lever, and heat-resistant side handles for safe, comfortable transport.

For more kitchen ideas, check out Wendy’s Christmas Gift Guide for the Cook at The Cooking Blog.


iPod NanoiPod Nano ($149) | Apple has reinvented the iPod Nano, making it larger physically and expanding it’s capacity to 16 gb.  It now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display. Play your favourite songs, browse music by genre, or listen to Genius playlists and FM radio. Or watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. A perfect workout partner, iPod nano tracks your steps, your runs, and burned calories and syncs to the Nike+ website to challenge friends. And with built-in Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to speakers, headphones, or car stereos.

If you are looking for something more advanced, check out the new iPod Touch ($299) | iPod touch features a 6-mm ultrathin design and brilliant, 4-inch Retina display. The 5-megapixel iSight camera lets you take stunning photos, even in panorama, or record 1080p video. Discover music, movies, and more from the iTunes Store, or browse apps and games from the App Store. And with iOS 6—the world’s most advanced mobile operating system—you get Siri, iMessage, Facebook integration, FaceTime, Game Center, and more. Now that sounds fun.

Beats by Dre Tour headphonesBeats by Dre Tour in ear headphones ($149) | Made to stream the soundtrack of your life with perfect, clear sound. Tour headphones were made to stream your favourite music. Seven pairs of different-sized ear tips ensure snug fitting buds. Accurate speaker design plays music back loud and full of detail.  Now if you don’t want to pay $149 for a pair of premium headphones, check out JVC’s Xtreme Xplosive headphones ($16) which are getting excellent reviews on Amazon and across the web.

Bose Wave Music System $499 | The famous Wave music system still sets the standard for quality audio and ease of use among one-piece, table top stereos. Its award-winning design adds a touch of distinction to almost any room. No wonder so many people use it as their main home entertainment system.  Numerous reviews speak of the Bose Wave’s clarity and amazing room filling sound.  If you are looking for the best all in one unit, this is the one you are looking for.

Bose Wave Music System

Sangean Model WR-11 AM/FM Table Top RadioIf you want to go old school, make sure you check out this Sangean Tabletop Radio ($85) | Elegant simplicity combined with state-of-the-art performance sets the Sangean Model WR-11 AM/FM Table Top Radio head and shoulders above the competition. In true Sangean tradition, AM/FM reception is excellent providing clear and static free listening. Rotary dials adjust the volume, selects AM/FM bands, and precisely tunes your station selection displayed in a softly lighted analog display. An LED tuning eye assures you’re achieving the best reception for your selected station. In addition, a stereo headphone jack and provision for an external AM and FM antenna is also provided. An AUX-In jack for playing your favourite MP3 music from your portable devices is available as well as a Record-Out jack for routing to your recording equipment or external devices.


Timex Women’s Ironman Watch

Timex Women’s Ironman Watch ($37) | Built to handle extreme activities, this timepiece is designed with a completely unique white resin design that’s wide at the case and narrow at the strap. The Ironman has everything you need: an easy-to-use 24-hour countdown timer countdown/stop (CS) and countdown/repeat (CR); a one-hour chronograph with lap or split option; a daily/weekday/weekend alarm with five-minute backup; a 30-lap memory recall for workout review; a 99-lap counter. The oval dial has a white digital display with day/date/month calendar, an Indiglo night light, Night-Mode features, and two time zone settings. Powered by precise quartz movement, this Timex is water resistant to 330 feet (100 M).

Canon Powershot A2300 Digital Camera Canon Powershot A2300 Digital Camera ($99) | The Canon PowerShot A2300 16MP Compact Digital Camera, is simple and stylish. This compact camera is packed with advancements that make it easy to get a great shot every time. Smart AUTO recognizes 32 predefined shooting situations then automatically picks the proper camera settings for you. Saving memories in breathtakingly realistic 720p HD is as easy as pressing the dedicated movie button. You will see extraordinary resolution and fast performance with the 16.0 Megapixel Image Sensor and DIGIC 4 Image Processor, and capture more dynamic, exciting images with the 5x Optical Zoom with 28mm Wide-Angle lens. Digital IS greatly reduces blur by recognizing the main subject and applying the best camera shake correction.  

All of this really means that you will be able to take great photos when you want.  Sure she has a camera on her phone but do you want to trust your phone to take a great photo when conditions are less than ideal?  If you have moments that matter, you will want this camera.

Cross Bailey Fountain Pen ($38)

Cross Bailey Fountain Pen

If the women you are shopping for is a writer (or wants to be), how about a great looking fountain pen?  While you are at it, check out this suede journal ($29) from Indigo or this ruled Moleskine ($13)

Cabela's Multi-toolCabela’s Multi-tool ($13) | Despite it’s low price, Cabela’s has put together a great multi-tool.  Wendy has had one for a year and carries it everywhere.  A handy and affordable compact tool with devices you need for quick fixes and repairs. Stainless steel construction with an assortment of attached tools that includes flat-nose pliers, wire-stripper, knife, Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, saw, bottle opener and scissors. Nylon sheath included


I haven’t forgotten jewellery.  If you are looking for a nice necklace, check out this key to my heart diamond cut 14 karat gold pendent ($190) .

While you are at it, check out this sherpa blanket ($52).  I gave one to Wendy this fall and she loves it.  If you are lucky and well behaved, your loved one will even share it with you.  For a different look, check out this Hudson Bay Blanket fleece blanket ($35)  It has the look of the historic Hudson Bay blanket but without the itchy wool.

There is also this great aromatherapy gift set ($40) with this black oil warmer ($6).  A tealight gently warms your favorite scented oil for a delicately fragrant glow!

Christmas Gift Ideas and Guides at JordonCooper.comIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

Calgary/Banff 2012

It’s been so busy the last week and I have been so incredibly sick that I never posted this last week.  Since a bunch of you have asked how our mini-vacation went, here is the summary… just really late.

On Thursday morning we got up early, checked out the highway conditions and headed out to Calgary for the weekend.

It was Oliver’s first long road trip and we packed pretty well.  In his backpack he had his VTech tablet and some kid’s volume controlled headphones as well as a cheap set of binoculars.  Mark had his PSP and a National Geographic History magazine.  The end result is that we stopped in Kindersley (for a 5 Hour Energy Drink for me), Hanna (for windshield washer fluid), Drumheller (to take Oliver for a walk up the giant dinosaur) and the boys were remarkably good.

Drumheller's Dinosaur

The trip took up around 6 1/2 hours which is pretty good but like I said, our stops were quick.  The stop at Drumheller took the longest and Oliver wasn’t that thilled with the idea of running up the “butt of a dinosaur” and I carried him most of the 100 steps to it’s mouth.  

In the mouth of the dinosaur

After heading back down, we were off to Calgary and checked into our hotel at around 2:30 p.m. Calgary time. 

The hotel was the Best Western Plus Calgary Centre Inn and was quite nice.  Our room was massive and the photos on their site don’t do justice to how nice the pool area is.  They have a normal pool, a hot tub but also a small pool that is only 2 feet deep for kids.  Oliver loved, “his pool” and spent all of his time in it.  They also have a free continental breakfast that was varied enough that we didn’t get sick of it.  Of course it’s central location meant that it was out of the way of everywhere we wanted to go but not so far out of the way we didn’t go.

All day on Twitter, Mayor Nenshi was warning of the snowfall which we didn’t really notice until we hit Chestermere and the highway was closed because of a rollover.  I am not sure what happened as we didn’t find the highways that slippery.  There was some black ice but nothing that bad; then again I am used to driving in it.

We were two long blocks away from the 39th Street LRT station and took it downtown where we went for a long walk.  We had plans to head up the Calgary Tower but visibility was really poor so we just took in downtown Calgary.  The snow was really coming down but all over downtown were snow removal crews sweeping sidewalks and streets even as the snow fell which is quite a bit different than Saskatoon which puts the onus on store owners who may or may not shovel out downtown.  It’s almost as Calgary’s downtown is a place of commerce.

Stephen Avenue in Calgary

Snow clearing in Calgary

That night we headed back, checked out the pool and ordered in from Mother’s Pizza, something that I have done since I was old enough to know what pizza was.

Friday morning the roads in Calgary were reported to be in bad shape but in reality were quite good.  Thanks to Saskatoon for lowering my expectations for snow removal.  Mark spent the summer and fall saving up for a new iPod Nano and despite being $4 short that I kicked in for him, we went to the Apple Store in Chinook Centre where a clerk named Jazz managed to help him pick out the one he wanted.

Wendy and Oliver in the Apple Store

While Mark and Jazz finished the deal, Wendy pulled out her Samsung Galaxy and started to text something.  She was lucky she wasn’t tossed out.  As we were leaving, Wendy had a minor fit as she saw a Lego store and insisted that we had to purchase some Lego for Oliver for Christmas.  Long story short, Wendy always wanted Lego as a kid and never had any.  She had more fun than any of us in there.

As soon as we hit Highway #1, roads were perfect until we hit the Banff National Park gates and they never got the snow the rest of us got so it was a fun trip up with lots of stories and sight seeing along the way.  We went straight to Sulphur Mountain and took the gondola to the top of it.  Excited does not describe the reaction of Oliver and Mark who loved every second of the nine minute trip to the summit.  Once at the summit I was tempted to hike to the science station but it was blowing and cold up there so we ordered a bite to eat and chilled out at the top.


Panorama from Sulphur Mountain

Once back down we did some shopping and Banff didn’t disappoint.  Every single shop had the exact same touristy junk.  As I told Wendy, I spent most of my life trying to buy something nice in Banff and failed.   Wendy found some earrings and found some Christmas gifts.  Mark managed to get some more money out of me and bought some magnetic rocks and a Gondola souvenir.  The highlight of the shopping was a large male elk meandering through main street and within inches of the car.

An Elk

I personally love Banff in the off season and hate it during the peak season.  The lack of tourists and crowds are nice, even if the weather is not.  What I loved about Banff is that there was absolutely no trace of snow along their main street.  Every flake was removed… again, it’s a place of commerce.

Finally we took the boys to Bow Falls where a combination of the cold, wind and humidity almost froze Wendy, Mark and I to death while taking some photos.  Oliver just said, “I want to wait in the car”


Panorama of Bow Falls

As we were leaving, we went to Walsh’s Candy Store where I bought Mark and Oliver two massive jawbreakers and challenged them to finish them by the time we got to Calgary.  It’s an impossible task (knowing first hand) but neither one of them talked all the way back to Calgary.  I love it when a plan comes together.

For supper that night, we went to Five Guys Hamburgers for the first time.  We need one of those in Saskatoon in the worst possible way.  We ordered burgers and fries and couldn’t even start the fries as the burgers were so filling.

Saturday morning we met our good friend Dave King at Nellie’s where we had a good talk about politics, urban planning, cycling and photography all over a fantastic breakfast.  It was cold out that day so instead of going to the Calgary Zoo, we went back downtown and checked out Mountain Equipment Co-op (twice), the Calgary Tower, Glenbow Museum, and snagged some milkshakes at Peter’s Drive-Thru.

While at Mountain Equipment Co-Op, we did some Christmas shopping and Wendy agonized over which bag to purchase (which she always does).  She finally got one of these and seems at peace with the world.  Meanwhile I got a sleeve for the MacBook, a left handed sling pack, some gloves, bike lock (as well as one for Mark) and a lantern. Mark also bought a sling pack which means that we kind of match which is awkward.  At least his is right handed.

The Calgary Tower is always amazing and we spent a lot of time up there.  The glass floor was fun as people were absolutely terrified to walk out on it while kids seemed to not even notice.  Both Wendy and I took a bunch of photos with other people’s cameras while they stood out on the glass.  We went back downstairs and across the street to the Glenbow Museum where Mark really had a good time.  Wendy enjoyed the section on the National Energy Program and on Peter Lougheed.  It was weird to see a display honouring Preston Manning and not Joe Clark or Ralph Klein.  I know Manning has significance but so does Clark and Klein.

Oliver at the top of the Calgary Tower

The Bow as seen from the Calgary Tower

Saturday night against my better wishes, we went to Swiss Chalet.  Wendy and the boys had never gone but the meal was what you expect of Swiss Chalet.  Personally I am still bitter that St. Hubert is not in Calgary.  Sadly everyone in the family like the meal which means that I am going to have to fight not to go back.

Sunday we drove back home after some more running around.  The trip was quick as I had two boys chilling out to their iPods and sucking on jawbreakers.  The only excitement was when we were back in Saskatoon city limits when we found out again that snow removal baffles our fair city.

All of the photos from the trip can be found on either Wendy’s or my photo set.

Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for your Husband / Father / Boyfriend (all of the men in your life) | 2012 Edition

It’s Wendy again and I am pretty lucky as Jordon does all of the Christmas shopping in our family and over the years he has created some incredible Christmas gift guides for his website which have generated a loyal following.  I traditionally write the Gift Guide husbands/boyfriends/fathers and here it is.  Hopefully I don’t disappoint and as always if you have good ideas, leave them in the comments below.  For the entire list of Christmas gift guides, click here.


I bought Jordon an iPad last Christmas and has has loved it.  Now he is an Apple person (iPod, iPad, iPhone, and a MacBook) but not everyone is.  The good news is that there are some amazing tablets on the market for both Android, Apple, and even Blackberry users.

When you are looking for a tablet, make sure you understand how the person is going to use it.  I bought Jordon a 16gb iPad because Jordon is going to use it for some writing (using Pages, the occasional Keynote presentation) and surf the web.  He had no intention on putting his music on his iPad because he uses his iPod for that task.  If he was going to use it as a all-in-one machine, I would have gone out and got him a 64gb version.

Also, some have bought them with the idea that they will replace their laptop or computer.  They really don’t for most of our friends (although as I was typing this, Jordon points out that he has never seen Saskatoon City Councillor Charlie Clark use anything but his iPad and his Logitech keyboard/case).

Whatever your preference,  I have listed tablets from all operating systems below.

Google Nexus 10Android | Nexus 10 ($409) and Nexus 7 ($209) from Google.  Both offer world class speed and design and in a lot of ways are designed and produced to set the standard for Android devices running on tablets in the same way Google designed the Nexus phone to do for smartphones.

Android | Kindle Fire 8.9 ($299) and Kindle Fire HD($199)  Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire to mediocre reviews last year but has stepped up their game with the Kindle Fire 8.9 inch tablet and the Kindle Fire HD which offers retina level display on an Android device.  If you surf the web a lot, the Kindle Fire has the fastest wifi of any tablet out there.


iPad MiniApple | iPad ($499)) and iPad Mini ($329) | While more expensive then the Kindle Fire HD, it has the advantage of the most spectacular collection of apps out there.  Also it offers fantastic integration between your iPhone and Mac.  Like I said  before, Jordon has an iPad 2 and loves it.

Blackberry PlaybookBlackberry Playbook ($194 for a 32gb model) | I include this here because I know there is still a passionate community of Blackberry users out there.  It’s a good value for the price but it doesn’t have a lot of apps for it.  It’s one of those things that I would get for a guy who knew what he was getting and still really wanted.  When I asked Jordon, he said there are those out that that still live and die on Blackberry Messenger and it has that… kind of.  Maybe you should just get any Blackberry lovers on your list, a new phone.


iPod Classic ($249) | iPod Nano ($149) | iPod Touch($299)

iPod ClassiciPod TouchiPod Nano

Depending on the person you are shopping for, they are going to have different demands on what they want out of a iPod or MP3 player.  Some people want all of their music at their fingertips all of the time, some want something to work out with, and some want to be connected to all of their apps while they are listening to their music.  Whatever kind of person you are shopping for, there is an iPod for them.

Sony WalkmanIf the person you are shopping for isn’t an Apple fan, look at a Sony Walkman ($110).  While the design and features look amazing, I am a little surprised it only comes in a 8 gb version, of which 1.25 gb is used by the software.  So if you are looking for a 6.75 gb MP3 player in a great design package and a good price, here it is.  It is slightly smaller than the Apple iPod Nano but has a lot of the same features.  While MP3 quality is lacking, with Sony you know you are getting something that is quality made and designed.

41mxVSz7SkLWhatever MP3 player you get, you will want to upgrade the headphones.  JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme ($17) headphones are much loved at an affordable price.  The series feature a bass port for outstanding bass reproduction, a durable rubber protector for impact protection and to help withstand heavy use, and a gold-plated 3.5mm stereo plug.  The Xplosive Xtreme also comes with a handy carrying case. 2.6mm-thick and robust 1.2m pure copper cable (Y-type) Special hard carrying case included S/M/L silicone ear-pieces included Gold-plated 3.5mm stereo straight plug iPod, iphone and iPad compatible.

If you aren’t sure the person you are shopping for would appreciate a MP3 player, why not pick up a Polaroid 8 gb MP3 player ($40)?  It may not have the features of the iPod or Walkman but it does offer a really good value and is expandable with a SDHC card.

iHome Rechargeable Mini Speakers ($45) | These are incredible speakers that provide a rich sound.  They have a carrying case which means that they get taken with us everywhere, just like our iPods.

iHome Rechargable Mini Speakers

They work great with our iPods, netbooks, and our portable DVD player.

Tivoli Model One ($149) | Old school AM/FM in a timelessly sleek design. I bought Jordon one a couple of years ago and he loves it.  We actually went and bought a second one for the cabin.  It gets great reception in the middle of nowhere and on a hot summer day when the Saskatchewan Roughriders are playing, it’s a great way to listen on the deck with all of your friends.  The Tivoli Model One has a rich, full sound thanks to sound pioneer Henry Kloss, and the radio has come to be a modern design must-have. This gift is perfect for a desk, in the kitchen- anywhere he can listen to the baseball game, CBC Radio One, or the oldies station.  Another tabletop option worth considering is the classic Sangean WR-11 radio.  Different design but same classic look.


Cross Bailey Fountain Pen ($38)

Cross Bailey Fountain Pen

Every guy needs a nice pen and this fountain pen is both affordable enough to give a nice gift but if high enough quality to last for decades.  If you aren’t sure the person on your list would appreciate a fountain pen, you won’t go wrong with a Parker IM rollerball pen($19).

Parker IM Rollerball Pen

Tabletop fountain ($49) | It depends on the office environment that your husband works in.  At The Lighthouse, Jordon’s office was both too hot and too dry.  A tabletop fountain added some humidity into the air and cooled it down a bit.  Just make sure you get him a plug in version, not one that runs on batteries.  It’s one of those things that once the batteries run out, it never gets used again.

Wrapped leather journalOf course he will need something to write down his profound thoughts in so why not give him a leather wrapped journal for Christmas?  Chapters/Indigo has an amazing one for $45.  While you are at it, check out this $15 5 inch globe.

Video and Camera

71cqBTpP-3L._AA1500_GoPro HD Hero 2 ($199) | Born from a passion to capture your love of life from your perspective, this camera is a feat of engineering. Wearable and gear mountable, waterproof to 197′ (60M) and boasting an immersive 170° wide-angle lens, the HD HERO2 has ushered in a new era of image capture. Professional quality 30 fps 1080p and 60 fps 720p video, combined with 11 megapixel still photo capture that has landed magazine covers.  It’s a great camera and a lot of fun for the entire family.    With this grab bag of mounts, you can hook it up to almost anything.

Sony Bloggie ($69) | Jordon has a Kodak Zi8 for years and has loved it.  We gave Lee a Flip camera a year ago and even Mark has one.  While you cell phone can record HD video, it doesn’t have the same kind of quality than a dedicated video camera gives you and it is a lot easier to deal with a SD card than trying to get a video off your iPhone.  If the guy you are shopping for is one that loves to take video, make sure you check this camera out.

Fuji Fine Pix XP50 ($150) | For years we have been fans of Fuji point and shoot cameras and the XP50 is no exception.   It’s waterproof to a depth of 5m and can capture both movies and still images underwater. The camera’s casing will withstand shocks or drops from a height of 1.5m, while cold environments are also no problem for this rough and ready device. The FinePix XP50 can withstand temperatures down to -10°C and dust is never a problem, with all the camera’s access points specially sealed for ultimate protection.

If the guy you are shopping for loves audio or is a podcaster, consider getting him a Blue Snowball ($60)or Yeti USB ($109) microphone.  Both provide amazing clear sound and are a significant upgrade over the internal microphone in a laptop.


31531_lBlack and Decker Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker ($48) | Jordon is a coffee connoisseur and while the ultimate way to make a cup of coffee is with a French Press or a Aeropress coffee maker ($25), he doesn’t always have time.  For times when he needs 8 cups of coffee relatively quick and wants it to stay fresh for a while, there is this thermal coffee maker from Black and Decker.  With a stylish design and durable stainless steel carafe, this 8-cup coffeemaker is perfect for home, office or practically anywhere you want hot, fresh coffee at the touch of a button. All this, plus an easy-clean control panel and dishwasher-safe removable parts for effortless clean up.  The advantage of the carafe is that you won’t be stuck with hot burnt coffee in case you don’t get it off the maker in time.  The coffee will be as hot and fresh later as it is right now.

Atari Flashback ($50)| Over 75 Atari 2600 games all in one console.  Jordon laments the exclusion of Pac-Man but you can get Missile Command, Asteroids, and Combat all on console.  Let him relive his childhood at the same time making him a subject of mockery of any child in the family.

PlayStation 3 ($269) | Yes it’s a game console but it’s also a Blu-Ray and DVD player, a Netflix player (which works way better than the Wii), and allows the family to play online.  We use it all of the time to watch Netflix, movies, and also we still play a fair amount of games.  While it’s not something that we would ever consider essential to our family life, it’s hard to imagine doing without.

Leatherman Skelatool ($42) or the Gerber Suspension Multitool ($26) | Both are amazing multi-tools and life is just better for men when they know they have a great multi-tool within reach.  If the guy you are shopping for needs something even smaller, then check out the Cabela’s multi-tool.  A great tool in a small package.

While the guys I know aren’t big on jewellery, they do appreciate a nice watch.  If the guy you are shopping for loves a nice watch, check out the Timex Expedition Rugged Field Watch ($46), the Timex Expedition Digital/Analog watch ($44.96) or the rather classic Timex Atlantis 100 ($31).

Parrot AR Drone 2.0

Finally don’t forget probably the most wanted gift of the season, the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 ($300) The Parrot AR.Drone is the first quadricopter that can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet. By tilting your device, you control the direction of your AR.Drone, and by releasing it, the AR.Drone is instantly stabilized. Thanks to the AR.Drone’s autopilot feature, anyone can be an expert as the AR.Drone allows for an easy take-off and landing.  It’s about as amazing and as much found as it sounds.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

Why I hate the cloud.

I have had a Gmail account since Gmail opened it’s second round of invites years ago.  Users had five invites and because I was only two degrees separated from someone at Blogger, I got one.  It was like gold and it was amazing.  Within days I stopped using Outlook and started to rely on Gmail for all of my email.  The launch of Google Calendar meant that I could move my life to the cloud and it worked perfectly for me for years.  When I was at the Salvation Army Community Services, we used Google Apps to power email which meant that I never did need Outlook or anything there either.  With Google Calendar integration I could have my life at a glimpse.  While I was always frustrated that Google Contacts didn’t sync up Google apps and my personal address book, it worked well enough that I didn’t complain.

About six months ago a friend emailed from a major U.S. company.  I had sent him an unimportant email about a year earlier and he never got it until that day.  He blamed his company email system and I never thought about it.  During this time I would send my column to two different email addresses at The StarPhoenix and every once in a while I would get an email close to my deadline and it would be the editor asking for my column.  It kind of freaked me out but again I would think it was The StarPhoenix’s email system and I would send it again and it would be good.  I was using Google’s email system after all.  Now my editor just emails me back as soon as he gets it.  I still get nervous when I don’t get an immediate reply but he is human and could actually be doing other things but even two weeks ago I was surprised how long it took him to reply and I wondered if the column got there or if he was busy.   It isn’t just him, during that time I would email someone once in a while at The StarPhoenix and wouldn’t get a reply.  Some email gets replied to, some doesn’t and I figured it didn’t get replied to.

Then my email got hacked and it was a horrifying experience.  During that time I lost some email but blamed it on that.  I have a new password (my old one was only six letters and one digit long) and then brought in double authentication but I was still wondering why I didn’t get replies at times.  The last couple of weeks since I have had my new phone, it has been happening more and more and I was blaming the phone.  Like many of you, I have 3G connection issues in parts of Saskatoon and was wondering if that was the problem.  Over the last couple of days, everyone has been pissed off at me for missing emails and I realized I was also getting them out of sync.  I also fired off some important email and people are telling me they never got them.  That scared me because both were really tech competent people on reliable mail servers and the email was sent by my laptop via the Gmail interface.  No email client, no phone, just me and the computer sending to two different reliable email services. I contacted Google and haven’t heard a thing back.  I was searching my email tonight looking for emails that I knew I had not deleted and there was a massive hole from 2008 in it.  I know was recently hacked but those emails were restored.  No sign of it at all today.

I remember the rants that Tech Crunch used to have when Google Voice was offline and I now understand what they were so angry about.  Google isn’t just providing a service, they are providing a service I rely on dearly.  When the internet went down on my block, I can work around that, my primary email acct not working is horrific.  My friend Nathan had a horrible experience with Twitter.  It was mindboggling how stupid it was over a glitch that was completely their fault.  They finally just stopped talking to him about their problem and he was locked out of his account.  All of this contacts and followers were gone and there isn’t much you can do about it.

What’s even more bizarre is that when you read the Google help forums, I am not alone.  Some are user error but most are just disappearing emails.  The thing is that the reason I went to Gmail in the first place was because of Google’s reliability.   What I found out is that it is company that really offers no customer service at all.  They talk all of the time about the small % of users affected.  That’s great that it is .61% until you are one of the quarter of a million users that are affected and then it is no fun at all. 

The other hard part is that who do you contact at Google?  You can’t call them or write a support ticket.  You can leave a note in the forum.  Back in the days when Blogger was small and buggy, you knew you could email Ev or Biz and get a response.  Even today with Dreamhost, I can get a support ticket answered within minutes but I can’t with Google. 

I use Koodo as my cell phone provider.  It is horrible to use to send texts.  I just was sending texts back and forth with Seabass (if you know who I am talking about, you will get it) and I had about 10 “fail to send” texts but I know that my texts are not getting through and I know that he isn’t getting them.  Yet when I text’d a guy I’ll just refer to as Man-Bag yesterday, he said he never got it which is an entire other frustration.  Is it Koodo or Sasktel or the fact he may not understand his new iPhone.  It’s frustrating and now I am mad at Google, SaskTel, Man-Bag, and Koodo.  I’ll quit while I am behind.

I’d tell you to email me with your suggestions but I won’t get it.

Another horrible strategic move by Nokia

Since launching Windows Phone 7, it’s marketshare has dropped 38% which means that by the time that Nokia introduces Windows Phone 7 devices, the OS may be about as popular as the Symbian OS it dropped in support of Windows 7.

The question is for how much longer handset makers and carriers will consider it worth supporting Windows Phone 7. Microsoft’s mobile market share has been declining at a compound rate of about 5% per month for the past six months. At that pace, its overall share may be be hovering around just 4% by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, rival Google is on track to dominate smartphones. Android devices held 40% of the market as of the end of June, according to Comscore. Apple’s share came in at 26.6%, while RIM’s share, also in decline, fell to 23.4%.

i don’t know of a single user of Windows Phone 7 now that I think about it.  No one I know even talks about it.