Tag Archives: The Gadget Guy

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

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

Latest News


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.

GadgetGuy.ca


SHARE  

Featured Products


SIMPLY TECH: You Have The Power

Smart apps and products that make life more efficient

Latest News


Smart apps and products that make life more efficient

by Greg Gazin

Instead of using those old-time timers (which you always forgot to set), you can now relax while you’re away, and automatically control your lights and home appliances from wherever you are. With smart bulbs, plugs and switches – you have the power.

LIFX smart LED light bulb

Smart Bulbs come in many different shapes and sizes, but the LIFX LED bulb is compatible with any fixture that uses a standard bulb. Just screw it in, and download the free LIFX mobile app to control it from your iOS, Android smartphone or tablet.

With the app, you can manage your lights and adjust the brightness. You may prefer a softer, white light in the living room, and daylight-type lighting in the kitchen. In addition, you can select from 16 million colours. So, whether you’re in a somber mood or ready to party, there’s a colour for you. To augment a festive mood, you can make the light flicker like a candle, cycle through colours or strobe like a disco ball. Plus, you can set schedules for your lighting to go on and off – all of this without changing the bulb.

The LIFX Smart LED Light Bulb (BR30) is compatible with Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Homekit (Siri), so you can control with your voice. It also integrates with Nest Smart Thermostat and Smart Cam, and doesn’t require a hub, so it can be controlled from anywhere when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. And, compared to a 60-watt bulb, LED light can reduce energy consumption by up to 80 per cent.

TP-Link smart wi-fi plug mini

This smart plug fits into any standard AC wall plug, and is small enough so that it doesn’t interfere with the second socket. It’s not just limited to controlling lights. You can plug in your coffee maker or a crock-pot, and set the timing. It can also control power-hungry devices, like a heavy-duty fan.

The free companion app, Kasa Smart, allows you to build a schedule for turning on and off, and you can set it to turn off after a particular length of time. The app’s ‘away mode’ can be set to cycle at random times – an ideal setting to deter would-be burglars. It, too, can be controlled remotely and has a voice control option.

Smart wi-fi light switch

To round off this smart home trio is the Wi-Fi light switch (HS200). While it doesn’t take up extra space (replaces your current switch), you may require a qualified technician to install it. The switch is handy for controlling a fixture with multiple bulbs. You can program it so that your kitchen light comes on at meal times while you’re away. The switch supports program scheduling, remote control, away mode and voice access. A dimmable alternative is also available.

With the TP-Link Kasa Smart-Home ecosystem, all devices can be controlled from the same app, and new functionalities are always being added. Available at Best Buy, Staples and The Source.

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

GadgetGuy.ca


SHARE  

Featured Products


SIMPLY TECH: Fitbit Feedback

SIMPLY TECH: Fitbit Feedback

Latest News


SIMPLY TECH: Fitbit Feedback

by Greg Gazin

Much more than a step tracker

Fitness trackers have come a long way since the pedometer – the original step counter. Not just for health enthusiasts, the latest Fitbit models also include practical applications to help you to enjoy your day. In addition, Fitbits are now downright stylish and affordable. And to top it all off, they’re app-enabled and can connect wirelessly to over 200 devices, like iOS, Android and Windows, as well as smartphones and tablets for even greater functionality.

The Fitbit Charge 2 really shines when partnered with your smartphone or tablet.
The Fitbit Charge 2 really shines when partnered with your smartphone or tablet.

A helping hand

The Fitbit Charge 2 has been a permanent fixture on my wrist since the beginning of the year. At first glance it looks like a sleek digital watch – which it is. But its simplicity stops there. If I push the side button or lightly tap on its OLED display, it brings up the time, the date and the number of steps that I’ve taken. Tap it again and I’ll see my heart rate, so that I can ensure that I’m not overdoing it. Tap it again, and I’ll see what distance I travelled throughout the day, how many calories I’ve burned and more. The side button also gives me access to a stopwatch, as well as a battery indicator, so that I’ll know when it’s time to recharge.

Two additional functions that might seem like redundant smartphone features, save you from having to fumble in your pocket or purse for your phone. It’s a definite plus to have an alarm alert, as well as message display capabilities on the Fitbit.

As a handy wake-up call in the morning, preset alarms can alert you to upcoming appointments and serve as a reminder to take medication. You can set up to three alarm times via the companion Fitbit app, and you’ll be notified by a gentle vibrating on your wrist.

Memory trigger

Your Fitbit can also be configured to receive notifications, and will vibrate with calendar alerts and text messages. With an inconspicuous glance, you can check to see who’s calling. This is a convenient feature when out with friends, in a meeting, or in a place where it’s inappropriate to have your phone out.

Fitbit really shines when partnered with your smartphone or tablet. From the app’s dashboard, you can set your goals and see your stats. You can also track workout routines, and it will help you to navigate new adventures, guided in real-time through your smartphone’s GPS.

Even if you’re not in training, a little motivation can provide that much-needed nudge so that you do at least 250 steps every hour, and it rewards you when you do so. Fitbit apps offer tools for managing your weight and nutrition, and measures your hydration. And if you feel the need for a little mindfulness, it will guide you through a two-minute relaxation.

Fitbit never sleeps, but it can keep tabs on you when you do, as well as the quality of sleep that you’re getting.

Stylish Options

The Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate and Fitness Wristband comes in a variety of colours and band styles, including leather and metal. It has a built-in battery and comes with a proprietary USB charger. It retails for less than $200, and is available through Best Buy, Staples, The Source, and Sport Check.

Greg Gazin (a.k.a The Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg) is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to Canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life.

GadgetGuy.ca


SHARE  

Featured Products


SIMPLY TECH: Phones ON

SIMPLY TECH: Phones ON

Latest News


SIMPLY TECH: Phones ON

by Greg Gazin

Save money when travelling

Worried about outrageous phone and data charges, many people turn off their phones when travelling, so that they don’t come home to massive cell phone bills. Rules and regulations are starting to change, and there are now more affordable choices.

Your carrier or service provider may offer special travel add-ons to your current plan. While this would be the most convenient route, it’s not the most economical. Canadian mobile phone and data rates are very expensive compared to other parts of the world. In fact, as a result of a 2016 study by Nordicity Group, CBC reported that Canadians pay much higher rates compared to other G7 countries and Australia. In one example, an entry-level wireless package in Canada was quoted at $41.08 (on average) compared to $17.15 for a comparable package in Germany.

Photo, bigstock.com
Photo, bigstock.com

If you pick up a cheap phone when you’re abroad, you won’t have your apps and contacts with you. A great solution is to purchase a local SIM card and insert it into your own phone. Previously this wasn’t an option for Canadians, as phones sold in Canada were locked with the carrier that you were under contract with. Even if you bought an unlocked phone, it would often be locked with the carrier that it was first used with. This all changed on December 1, 2017 when the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) ruled to update the Canadian Wireless Code of Conduct, giving you the right to have your phone unlocked by your service provider upon your request – at no charge. New phones that were purchased after December 1st are to be unlocked.

The carrier that your phone is locked with, must unlock your phone. If that’s Bell or Rogers, call them and they will do so. Telus can’t help you. If your device was previously lost or stolen, you may be blacklisted. Or, you may have an issue if you have an outstanding balance.

When travelling, you’ll still want to use Wi-Fi whenever you can, but in addition to cheaper calling with an unlocked phone, you’ll be able to leverage lower data rates, which is handy when using maps and apps that require connectivity. You can find local SIM cards just about everywhere, like the airport, electronic shops, gas stations and convenience stores. Often they’ll also work in nearby countries.

If you spend your winters south of the border, companies like Vancouver-based Roam Mobility offers complete Talk+Text+Data monthly plans, which may turn out to be lower than your current bill. You can pick up a SIM card in Canada before you go, including 7-Eleven stores.

Do your homework. Newer smartphones should work globally, but there are always exceptions. A local SIM card, as well as a pay-as-you-go phone, will have a different phone number, so you’ll have to alert family and friends. The advantage is that your number will be local to the country that you’re staying in.

Whether you’re travelling or not, an unlocked phone makes it easier to switch providers, and if you choose to sell it, you’ll have a larger pool of potential buyers if your phone isn’t tethered to a specific carrier.

Greg Gazin (a.k.a The Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg) is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to Canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life.

GadgetGuy.ca


SHARE  

Featured Products


Simply Tech: Is Your Home Safe?

Simply Tech: Is Your Home Safe?

Latest News


Simply Tech: Is Your Home Safe?

by Greg Gazin

Health Canada recommends that homes be tested for radon for a minimum of three months.

It lurks in your home, but it’s invisible. You can’t see or smell it, but it may just be putting your life at risk. It’s not carbon dioxide – it’s radon gas. Most of us have heard of it, but according to Health Canada, it’s the second leading cause of lung cancer – after smoking.

It doesn’t matter if you’re living in a new home or one from the turn of the century, every home has some level of radon – and it’s that level that determines the potential hazard.

Radon is produced naturally by the decomposition of uranium in the soil under your home. It travels in the form of an invisible gas that seeps into your home because of the differences in indoor and outdoor air pressure. It makes its way through openings like floor drains and sump pumps, as well as foundation and floor cracks, and tiny gaps around pipes that enter the home. As a result, it’s more likely to be more concentrated in basements and crawl spaces, rather than upper levels.

Don’t hit the panic button. Unlike carbon monoxide, or fumes from a fire, that pose immediate danger, radon is something that can be hazardous over time. A professional can test for radon levels in your home, or you can do it yourself with a detection system called Wave.

By Airthings, the Wave looks similar to a typical smoke detector. Once the Wave is installed, initial test results are available within an hour by simply waving your hand across the face of the device – thus the name. If everything is OK, a glow ring will turn green. Like a stop light, it will turn yellow for caution, and red if the reading is in the danger zone – exceeding acceptable standards, which according to Health Canada is 200 Bq/m3.

The beauty of the Wave system is that you get real results from the free companion app. Unlike other test kits, you don’t have to send the data to a lab for analysis. You simply pair the Wave with your iOS, or Android smartphone or tablet, and it will keep track of the radon levels, as well as the humidity levels and the temperature in the room. In addition to tracking current values, you can also plot an historical graph over the previous 48 hours, week, month or year. The app is also designed to track multiple Wave units, labelled as basement, dining room, etc.

You can receive notifications through the app, and receive email and audio alerts when the radon is too high, as well as sync current information when you are within Bluetooth range of the device.

Since radon levels are always fluctuating, the longer the test period, the more accurate your results. In fact, Health Canada recommends that homes be tested for radon for a minimum of three months – ideally during the heating season when windows are closed.

If radon levels consistently read high, call in a professional to help determine what remedial action should be taken to mitigate the situation.

Wave comes with a magnetic plate that can be mounted on any wall with a single screw, and is powered by two AA batteries (included). The Wave retails for $249.99, and is available at Best Buy and The Home Depot.

airthings.com

For more information on radon, and its risks, visit Health Canada’s web section at canada.ca.

Greg Gazin (a.k.a The Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg) is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to Canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life.

GadgetGuy.ca


SHARE  

Featured Products