Tag Archives: Technology

Amazon Fire HD10

Amazon Fire HD10 features a big screen on a small budget

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Amazon Fire HD10 features a big screen on a small budget

The all-new Amazon Fire HD10

As the name suggests, it’s equipped with a 1080p, high definition, 10.1-inchwide screen display, making it ideal for all your entertainment needs. For the techies, it displays a respectable 1920 x 1200 pixels at 224 ppi (pixels-per-inch) for maximum enjoyment of the millions of eBooks, movies, TV shows, games, apps and music that you have access to. Stream or download videos from Prime Video and Netflix, or simply watch YouTube.

It also features dual stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, a built-in microphone for Skype or video calls, and enhanced Bluetooth to connect an optional keyboard or wireless speakers.

Accessiblity features

The VoiceView screen reader provides access to most of the Fire tablet features for users who are visually impaired and use text-to-speech or a connected refreshable braille display. The Screen magnifier enables users to zoom in and out as well as pan around the screen. In addition, there are accessibility settings for closed captioning, font size, high contrast text and colour.

Better than ever

While this is Amazon Canada’s biggest tablet, it’s actually the ninth generation model – albeit its name. It has an updated 2.0 GHz eight-core processor, and is 30 per cent faster than its predecessor. Battery life has been bumped up by 20 per cent to offer you 12 hours of mixed-use. With its built-in PIP (picture-in-picture) function, you now have lots more time to watch YouTube, Netflix or Prime Video, while checking your e-mail at the same time.

It has 32GB of built-in storage (or 64GB), and is easily expandable up to 512 GB (from 256GB) by purchasing an optional micro SD card. The rear camera remains at 2 megapixels, which is good enough for screen resolution. And, the front camera has been bumped up from VGA to standard hi-definition (720p). Another notable change is the use of standard USB-C for charging.

It’s what’s inside that counts

The Fire HD 10 has a robust polycarbonate shell, but it doesn’t have the sleekness, or all the bells and whistles that you might find on an iPad or higher end Android tablets. An entry-level iPad has a significantly more powerful processor, an advanced photo grade 8-megapixel camera and a 1.2-megapixel camera with Retina flash, and it takes advantage of Apple’s full iOS operating system. With millions of apps, it can, virtually, replace your computer.

The Fire HD, on the other hand, runs its own operating system, Fire OS, a customized version of Android 9.0 Pie. It’s designed for functionality as shown above and not necessarily for those who need to be on the leading edge of technology. It offers limited Google Services and a smaller app offering, but is a perfect companion for home or on the road for those who are already connected to the Amazon eco-system – those who subscribe to Amazon Prime or Prime Video.

Even better, it’s also less than half the price of an entry-level iPad.

Amazon Fire HD 10 (32GB) retails in Canada for only $199.99 ($40 more for 64GB). It includes a USB-C charging cable and power adapter. You can find them at your local Best Buy, The Source and, of course, through Amazon. It is fairly large, so to protect it and have hands-free viewing, it might be a good idea to pick up a matching tablet case, that doubles as a stand.

Greg Gazin is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life magazine.



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Smart TV

TCL-ROKU TV is small on size, big on features

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TCL-ROKU TV is small on size, big on features

It’s not uncommon to see a 60-, 70- or 80-inch TV in some homes. However, a compact model might be better suited for a small apartment, a dorm room, or for when you want to binge-watch a series while getting your steps in on the treadmill. Older, CRT boob tubes may have been regulated to the basement, as they lack the features of today’s smart television sets.

Today, we expect that all TVs are HD, and work with any cable box, satellite receiver or antenna, and that they can easily connect to any gaming console. And, of course, it must have WiFi and connect to the Internet.

Just the thing

Built for the Canadian market in 2019, the 32-inch, TCL-Roku Smart LED TV (32S327-CA) measures a mere 28.8 x 17.1 x 3.0 inches. It comes with attachable feet, or it can be mounted to a wall. Weighing in at under 10 pounds, you’ll be amazed at how slim it is. You can carry it under your arm, put it in the trunk and take it anywhere.

Despite it’s diminutive size and simple black housing, it has crisp 32-inch FullHD (1080p) LED widescreen display. It features dual band WiFi, and three HDMI ports to connect external devices. It also has a USB port for viewing your own media. There’s a headphone jack for quiet listening, or to hook up an external speaker, as well as a digital audio output to take advantage of its Dolby Digital Plus premium audio. In addition, there’s a composite video jack, with a cable, to connect older video and gaming devices, and one to hookup your cable TV or satellite box.

Easy peasy

The TCL-Roku is designed to accept an HD antenna for over-the-air TV channels, but there’s also a Roku streamer built right in, so there’s no need for an external gadget. Roku gives you access to thousands of streaming channels so that you can enjoy unlimited movies, TV shows, live sports, music, news and much more. Most are free, but some may require a paid subscription.

Using this TV is a breeze starting with the step-by-step, on-screen setup. You don’t have to wade through complicated menus. Both the TV’s functionality and Roku’s streaming services are integrated. This intuitive interface allows you to navigate with one easy-to-use remote that has one-touch access to services like Netflix and YouTube.

But that’s not all

Other nifty features include mirroring, so that you can watch media from your smartphone, your tablet or your PC on your TV. Guest mode is perfect if you run an Airbnb. You can restrict access to your streaming services, while guests can sign on to their own accounts and are signed out when they leave. Should you need to adjust the picture, simply go to settings and select dark, darker, normal, bright or brighter – that’s it.

TCL is fairly new to the North American market – barely a year on the Canadian TV scene. They produce a series of low-cost, high-definition TVs. The TCL 32-inch Roku Smart LED TV (32S327-CA) retails for $219.99 on Amazon, at Best Buy and at Walmart. A 40-inch model is also available.

Greg Gazin is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life magazine.



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Bells & Whistles - Ford's in-car SYNC 3 infotainment system

Bells & Whistles – Ford’s in-car SYNC 3 infotainment system

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Bells & Whistles – Ford’s in-car SYNC 3 infotainment system

If you combine the words information and entertainment you get ‘infotainment’ – and this is exactly what you’ll get in the 2020 Ford Explorer. The Ford Motor Company has come up with the perfect combination of a car stereo with an information and navigation system – SYNC 3.

Anticipating your needs

Smartphones and tablets are becoming more intuitive and easier to use with each new generation. Up until now, infotainment systems have often seemed like an after-thought, and operating them seemed counter-intuitive.

Not only do these systems need to be secure, functional and seamless to use, but they also need to keep you, and your family, safe while driving. “The SYNC 3 has been based on customer feedback – by the same people who are driving and interacting with their Ford vehicles every day,” says Chuck Gray, director of electrical and electronic systems engineering at Ford.

This is the first version to be fully designed in-house at Ford, and was recently unveiled at the company’s high-tech Connectivity and Innovation Centre (CIC) in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata.

More than good looks

The SYNC 3 might seem familiar to use, because it’s based on Blackberry’s QNX operating system. It’s no longer a scavenger hunt to find functions, and you’ll immediately feel connected.

It has a thoughtful, common sense layout. You can identify things clearly and navigate efficiently. You can also adjust the screen’s brightness and font size to help avoid squinting, so that you never have to take your eyes off the road for too long.

Minimized multi-tasking

The number of steps that are required to complete a task have been minimized on the SYNC 3. Many functions can also be accessed via voice control. Some controls have been moved from the console cluster to SYNC 3. Everything is easier to find, and if you’re not sure how something works, there’s an animated visual indication or a video to explain it to you – no manual required.

All your radio audio presets (AM/FM/XM) appear on the main screen, regardless of the media stream. You can switch from an AM news channel, to a rock station on the FM dial, and then to the Beatles channel on SiriusXM.

SiriusXM radio enthusiasts will appreciate the smart favourites and tune start features. The former buffers the last 30 minutes from your XM favourites as soon as you turn on the engine, and the latter ensures that the song begins on the first note when you switch to your favourites.

A first on the 2020 Ford Explorer’s platinum trim package, is the 10.1-inch, high-definition, portrait display. Other models have an eight-inch-wide screen. It’s positioned vertically on the dashboard, at a height and an angle, that makes it easy to see.

Always improving

With the customer’s consent, the SYNC 3 can capture analytics in terms of how its being used. Real-live testing and improvements are ongoing. At Ford’s Accelerated Life Test Lab, the software stability team simulates the software running in a vehicle in order to detect any pain-points.

When hitting the road, it’s comforting to know that the practical application of ‘infotainment’ is as reliable as the technology that we’ve come to expect in our homes.

Greg Gazin is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life magazine.



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Simply Tech: Square - micro payment

Be Square: You, too, can accept wireless payments

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Be Square: You, too, can accept wireless payments

You’ve heard of it, and most likely seen one. Chances are, you’ve made a payment to a company who uses Square. Step into a cafe, a market, or stroll down an art promenade and you’re likely to see their iconic logo, and someone swiping their credit card through a small white square dongle attached to a smart phone.

Personal use

Perhaps you’ve decided to downsize, or start up a business initiative that’s always been on your mind. Since fewer people use cheques or carry cash, you can offer a quick and easy mobile payment option with Square. It’s an easy way to get paid, especially if you want to rid yourself of no-longer-wanted items.

It’s been approximately five years since Square introduced their micro-payment system to Canada. Payment is enabled through a magstripe reader that’s plugged into the headphone jack of your mobile device. It has changed the way that small businesses process their transactions. It’s put budding entrepreneurs and service providers, as well as street market sellers and garage sale vendors, on a more level playing field.

Easy peasy

Being able to make a secure, credit card payment transaction (with a simple swipe) was a privelege previously reserved for major players.

With the free companion Square point-of-sale (POS) app, you can track your activity, add product photos and prices, and manage your inventory. Square’s invoice app allows you to bill your clients, and send invoices and automatic payment reminders via e-mail. This allows secure payment transactions to be facilitated when not dealing face-to-face.

Getting better and better

Square is taking advantage of the latest technologies, and has now included more features and payment options, so that customers can pay the way that they want. Not only are you not limited if your mobile device doesn’t have a headphone jack, or if their payment requires a chip and a PIN, but you’re not limited to just accepting credit cards.

For users with iOS devices, including the iPhone or iPad, Square now has a magstripe reader that plugs into the lightning port. However, Square’s new Contactless + Chip Reader has to be its finest feature. This palm-sized, battery-powered, wireless device quickly pairs with most Bluetooth enabled mobile devices.

With this new reader, customers can simply tap for purchases up to $100. For anything over that amount, they insert their chip-enabled credit card into the reader, and enter their PIN number on their mobile device to complete the transaction. Customers can also tap for payments via Interac Flash (debit), as well as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Square encrypts the card information, so the data is never stored on your mobile device in order to protect the customer.

The cost of doing business

Cost for Square payment processing is only 2.65 per cent for all credit card transactions and only 10 cents for debit transactions. Apple Pay + Google Pay fees will depend upon whether the customer has a credit card or debit card connected to the account. There are no other hidden fees or service charges. Your funds are sent directly to your bank account, and are available in one to two business days.

The Square Contactless + Chip Reader retails for $59, and includes a free magstripe reader. Both can be connected to your devices at the same time. There’s also an optional wedged-shaped reader dock for Square Reader ($39), in order to keep it charged. Available at Staples, Best Buy, Telus or Apple Stores.

Greg Gazin is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life magazine.



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Virtual construction using 3D technology

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Virtual construction using 3D technology


One of the biggest challenges I have as a landscape designer is communicating my vision of a space to my clients. Hand drawing, while absolutely an art form, is very difficult to make significant changes to. If I spend hours doing a drawing and a client doesn’t agree with some of my fundamental ideas, I may have to redo everything. I spent a lot of hours learning a design software system, which allows me to show my designs in a 2D format. This process is perfect for fast design by using existing images, making changes for clients, and then saving the entire project online. While this was a great process for me in streamlining the system, computer generated designs became a sterile or homogenized version of what was once a real art form. For a long time, I had to justify to clients why I wasn’t hand-drawing my designs as they compared my work to other established landscape designers and architects.


Eventually the technology to add colour and real life pictures to my landscape designs allowed me to better communicate my ideas for a space. Having colour in the trees, plants, and even the grass gives the customer the impact that they are hoping for in their dream spaces. Add pictures of real plants, patio furniture, and fireplaces to the design and my customers can close their eyes and see the major features of a garden that I am trying to communicate to them.

3D technology has now taken this to a whole new level! In 3D, I can start to show how the height of the individual elements start to relate to each other. The 3D model allows the designers to put in people, pergolas, privacy screens, and structures. They also enable a customer to look at the garden from different angles through the use of a computer or a tablet. I can take my clients into their yards and walk them through the design as it pertains to each location they choose to stand in. Unfortunately, most of my design meetings happen in the late winter/early spring when its terrible outside and clients prefer to stay indoors or to meet in my design office.


We finally have a solution that takes landscape design to a whole new level! Software and technology have combined to create a landscape software that works with virtual reality goggles so that no matter where you are standing, you can see your backyard in crystal clear 3D. These images are so lifelike that they even include people swimming in your un-built pool or breezes blowing through trees that haven’t been planted yet. Whether its snowing or raining outside, clients can feel like they are in their new backyard without even leaving the living room. As a visual person, this lets me give them a full understanding of what I see for their space. I can even show how things like privacy panels and strategic plantings make neighbours disappear.

Makes you wonder what is next? Possibly a virtual backyard complete with plants, patios, and even birds that you can slip into whenever you want by putting on a pair of goggles. Maybe technology means the end of the real deal… but for now you’ll have to wait until spring to get outside and putter in the yard.


By Carson Arthur, carsonarthur.com


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Deen Pantalone web

In conversation with… Deena Pantalone of National Homes

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In conversation with… Deena Pantalone of National Homes

With a mission that You are the blueprint, National Homes is laser focused on what new-home buyers want, the things they love and how they want to live. Having built more than 5,000 homes across the GTA, with increased focus on the highrise market, National doesn’t just strive to build quality new homes. Just as critical is exceptional customer care, and a market-leading embrace of technology every step of the way.

We spoke with Managing Partner and Director of Marketing & Innovation Deena Pantalone to get her insights on just how National connects with today’s discerning homebuyers, and what lies ahead in 2019.

Deena Pantalone

HOMES Magazine: As Director of Marketing & Innovation at National Homes, how has what you do changed over your time in the role?

Deena Pantalone: The largest change has been the evolution of our marketing to digital communications, and smart phones in particular. My role has expanded from Managing Partner and Director of Marketing, to Managing Partner and Director of Marketing & Innovation over the years, as I am constantly looking for innovative ideas to set National apart from everyone else, whether it be in our designs, technology or our customer service. We want to be at the forefront.

We are focused on keeping up to date with state-of-the-art technology and seeing how it can apply to National Homes. Keeping an open eye and mind approach to any new property technology and be willing to explore and implement if it will benefit the homeowners, potential buyers and us.

HM: Technology is an increasingly important part of home building these days – in everything from construction to sales and marketing to what customers expect in home tech. How prevalent is National involved in keeping up with these trends?

DP: Technology is central to everything we do at National. As homes and families get more and more integrated with the new digital revolution, National Homes is in the thick of it all – bringing ever more bright ideas that help our homebuyers stay on top of their lives. More choices. More options. More devices. At the end of the day, it’s about making our homebuyers’ lives easier, smarter and richer.

We do market research and workshops to determine what our buyers would like to have in their ideal homes and how they would feel if we implemented certain things, because it goes back to our core values – You are the blueprint.

We hold cutting-edge events such as our Blueprint Workshop at the IBM Innovation Space, which brought together 70 participants in discussions, presentations and interviews, learning about innovative products from building and design professionals and sharing their thoughts in a thinktank format. This way, our customers have a direct input into ideas that are reflected in our home designs. Because our philosophy has always been that, as a customer, you are the Blueprint.

We’ve brought virtual reality into our sales offices so buyers can walk around and explore their future homes, and we’re constantly looking for ways to be energy efficient and more sustainable.



National Homes Focus Group
Pantalone leading a customer focus group discussion

HM: And in the next five to 10 years, what will be the biggest change or opportunity in these areas?

DP: Property Technology is expanding at an exponential rate. That means your home will be smarter tomorrow than it is today. We will be seeing more of smart buildings, cities and communities, driverless vehicles which will affect the way that homes are designed.

Right now, smart home technology is just in its infancy, so in five to 10 years, everything will be connected not only in our homes, but our construction processes and development work.

HM: How important is social media at National Homes, in terms of connecting and communicating with customers – particularly Millennials, who have grown up in the digital age?

DP: Digital communications are key to everything we do today. Prior to a sale, it starts with social media on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Houzz and Facebook. We search out the latest innovations in architecture, design, technology from around the world and share them with our community. And, of course, we also speak to our followers about upcoming neighbourhoods and other news.

HM: National is building in a variety of communities in and around the GTA. Where do you see the next hot market – in terms of either geography or product type?

DP: There’s no question that affordability has become the biggest issue in the GTA housing market, and land prices are right at the heart of the matter. Everything starts with the needs of our customers, and if price is even more of an issue today, then we have a responsibility to find answers.

This is why we are bringing on new communities in Brampton, Courtice and Burlington, where lower land prices can make homes more affordable. And we are expanding our product design mix to include midrise condominiums that give people better prices.

National Homes Forest Phase 2
Forest Phase 2 Model Home

HM: What can your customers expect from a National home?

DP: Our customers can expect a home that is designed with their needs in mind. We put an enormous amount of effort into research, workshops, focus groups and questionnaires.

Our customers can expect exceptional customer service. Our Customer Care program has been designed to make the entire home purchasing experience a positive one. Some of the highlights include a New Home Workshop and seminar to prepare you for the homebuying process, the National Care Kit, a wealth of information on how to care for the finishes inside your home, innovative framing walk-throughs, detailed customer surveys and a homeowners’ portal communication hub where they will find everything they need to know about their home.

HM: Please finish the following statement. For National Homes, 2018 was a year of:

DP: Innovation. From the home designs we have been developing for our new communities, to the products and technology we are incorporating into our homes, this year we have been pushing the boundaries behind the scenes to ready ourselves for the launch of our next communities.

HM: And 2019 will be a year of:

DP: Introduction and implementation. In the new communities we introduce this year, all the research and development we have been working on behind the scenes will start to be available to our new buyers. And that makes this coming year a very exciting time for us.


  • THE FOREST, detached homes, Bradford, Final phase coming soon
  • STATION TOWN, townhomes, Markham, In registration
  • THREE RIVERS CLAIREVILLE, townhomes, Claireville, In registration
  • COURTICE, townhomes, In registration
  • BURLINGTON, townhomes and condos, In registration
  • BRAMPTON, townhomes, In registration



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