11 Canadian tech companies to watch in 2017

Next Big Tech Corridor? Between Seattle and Vancouver, Planners Hope

Last year, I wrote an article about the 11 Canadian tech companies to watch in 2016, which highlighted tech companies of all sizes in Canada that were ready to make headlines over the following 12 months. The great part about most predictions is that people tend to forget about them by the time your prognostication should have matured. My friends at BetaKit didn’t let me off that easy, though. You can read my assessment of last year’s predictions here to see how my crystal ball stacked up.

For 2017, I wanted to avoid simply pointing out those who will drive headlines in the coming year, but rather focus on a handful of companies that I feel will make significant strides in 2017 (and hopefully well past that!). Once again, I couldn’t find a way to whittle the list down to 10, so here are the 11 Canadian tech companies to watch in 2017:


League

League is a new digital alternative to traditional health insurance that connects employers and employees to a comprehensive network of health services and benefits, giving them unparalleled choice, convenience, and value.

2016 was a busy and productive year for League, which raised an impressive $25 million USD Series A (in addition to their previous $4 million seed) and launched a partnership with RBC to expand on insurance offerings.

Mike Serbinis, CEO of League, announced his master plan at the end of 2016 to turn League into a billion-dollar company by 2018 and that he would be raising more funds for League in 2017. There’s only going to be a small handful of “insurtech” companies that succeed, but those that prevail are going to do so in remarkable fashion. I would not be surprised if Serbinis reaches his three comma goal.

Thalmic Labs

Creators of the Myo armband, Thalmic Labs had an incredibly productive 2016. They raised $158 million CAD for their series B financing to “reimagine human-computer interaction for its Myo armband.”

CEO Stephen Lake also announced that it’ll be opening a 50,000 square foot factory in Waterloo and employing over 100 people. I’m going to keep a keen eye on anything that can get civilization closer to the gestural controls utilized by Tom Cruise as he manoevered content around glass computer screens in Minority Report. (In reality, Myo can already do much cooler things.)

Zoocasa

There are certain industries where technology is just starting to scratch the surface of disruption, and real estate is one of them. Since taking over the online real estate brokerage from Rogers Communications, and raising $1.35 million, Zoocasa has hit the ground running.

While Zoocasa’s current business model is using technology to improve the home buying experience, they are not completely removing the human broker. This puts them in a great position to build traction in an industry that’s still trying to figure out what the future will mean for availability of data. One thing I am confident in: this team is a safe bet for building a successful business around Canadian real estate. Just look at what they’ve done with RateHub and Scholarhood!

Top Hat

Top Hat’s cloud educational platform leverages mobile technology to turn classrooms into interactive learning experiences. As one of Canada’s fastest growing companies, Top Hat was listed at number 18 in Deloitte’s Fast 50, growing its revenue by a gigantic 607 percent in 2016.

The company hired its first chief marketing officer at the end of 2016, recruiting Nick Stein (former VP of marketing at Vision Critical) into its leadership team.

2017 looks to be another year of strong growth for Top Hat as it expands its platform into more classrooms and universities across the country and the world.

Influitive

Influitive helps companies mobilize their advocates to produce massive increases in referral leads, reference calls, social media participation, and more.

With the swarm of capital pouring into startups beginning to die down, this change in focus from rapid growth to profitability will fuel Influitive’s success in 2017.

In 2016, they led an additional Series B funding round of $8.2 million, topping their total investments to nearly $50 million. They also acquired Ironark and TriggerFox to strengthen their team and technology offerings. Influitive hit their speed bump in the summer of 2016, laying off 13 percent of their staff to focus on sustainability.

With the swarm of capital pouring into startups beginning to die down, I think this change in focus from rapid growth to profitability will fuel their success in 2017 with a sharper focus than ever.

Eventbase

Eventbase is a world-leader in event technology and apps. From Sundance to the Olympics, Eventbase technology and staff powers many of the world’s biggest events. In 2016, they announced they were hiring 100 new employees in Vancouver. They raised an $8 million Series B at the end of 2015, led by Seattle-based venture capital firm Madrona Ventures.

Already in 2017, one of the biggest technology focused events in the world, CES, has used Eventbase to help their attendees make the most of their conference experience.

360insights

From Whitby, Ontario, 360insights is the originator of the channel success platform, the first truly integrated software-as-a-service platform to enable brands to optimize their partner marketing and consumer incentive spend.

They recently announced a $30 million funding round led by US venture capital firm Sageview to accelerate its growth operations. Its dedication to creating great culture at a growing company outside of the typical Canadian tech hubs, and its ability to harness analytics to improve the incentive and rebate industry will make 360insights worth talking about throughout 2017.

Askuity

Askuity is a retail analytics platform from Toronto. They raised a $2 million Series A round led by dunnhumby Ventures in early 2016. As the blend of offline and online retail converges, and analytics continues to play an incredibly big role in shopping, Askuity is bound to meet huge growth and opportunities in 2017.

Drop

Drop founder Derrick Fung, who is most well known for his venture Tunezy, launched a Canadian FinTech company in Toronto to focus on customer loyalty. He raised nearly $1 million to date and has already formed partnerships with companies such as Wealthsimple, Foodora, Chefs Plate, Urbery, Thirstie, Carnivore Club, and FanXchange. Given Fung’s recent success at starting, growing, and exiting a startup, I imagine Drop is going to waste no time in asserting itself in the Canadian startup landscape.

Bench

Bench Accounting helps small to medium-sized businesses with all of their accounting operations. Bench raised a $20 million series B led by Bain Capital Ventures and more than doubled its team to over 230 in Vancouver in 2016.

Bench recently announced an integration with Canadian ecommerce company Shopify to help merchants with online bookkeeping. This exemplifies the two things I like seeing most from Canadian startups: punching above their weight on an international scale, and teaming up with fellow Canadian startups.

Hopper

Montreal-based Hopper, a mobile app that analyzes and predicts airfare, has secured an $82 million Series C in 2016.

Over 18 million trips have been booked with Hopper and the company plans using its recent funding to increase its employee count from 40 to 120 in Montreal and Cambridge. As Hopper continues to grow in 2017 by helping people save money on their airfare, their investments from Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Brightspark Ventures, Accomplice, OMERS, Investment Québec, and BDC Capital will serve as a great example of the impact being made by Canadian institutions (government and pensions) in fueling Canadian tech.

The article was originally written by Kevin Sandhu. His information is below. We have shared this article because we thought it was relevant to our audience.

Kevin Sandhu

Founder and CEO of @PoweredByGrow, a Canadian FinTech company that is improving people’s financial wellbeing using technology and data. Also an occasional road cyclist, amateur cook and general misfit.

ZTE Canada launches Axon 7 Mini

Axon 7 Mini

Axon 7 MiniThis week ZTE, the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer in North America, announced that the Axon 7 Mini, will be available January 27, 2017 on Virgin Mobile. The Axon 7 Mini is the more svelte version of the flagship Axon 7 smartphone and winner of the IDG 2016 IFA Product Technical Innovation award for “Breakthrough Smartphone Audio Innovation.” The Axon 7 Mini at Virgin Mobile will retail for $49 on a gold two-year term or $399 with no term.
“At ZTE, we know consumers want the best value possible when considering their next smartphone purchase. We have proven our affordable premium strategy in North America so far and the Axon 7 Mini solidifies this,” said Denson Xu, CEO of ZTE Canada. “By listening to our consumers we’ve managed to build a beautifully designed smartphone that delivers the best audio experience of any device in Canada, all at an affordable price.”

From its ground breaking audio experience served up from its dedicated audio chipset for Hi-Fi playback and recording, dual front-facing speakers, Qualcomm Snadragon octa-core processor, to its vibrant 16 megapixel camera and an beautiful AMOLED capacitive touch screen, the Axon 7 Mini delivers incredible value that packs many of the same premium features consumers love in the Axon 7 with a price tag that won’t break the bank.

Premium Features, Mini Price

  • A 5.2 inch AMOLED display with soft key navigation allows you to beautifully render all your favourite content, yet is small enough to fit in your back pocket
  • Dual front-facing speakers, dedicated sound and playback technology, and Dolby Atmos® provide an immersive HiFi audio experience that is ground-breaking and unlike any other
  • A 16-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera capture high-quality images during the day and at night
  • All-metal body and standout design deliver premium feel, but at a lower price than competitors
  • Comes with one of the industry’s best warranty and protection plans in the Axon Passport Program, which features a 2-year warranty, unlimited out of warranty repairs, upgrade assistance, replacement assistance and more

For full list of phone specifications and features visit ztedevices.ca.

About ZTE CANADA

ZTE Canada Inc., headquartered in Toronto, Canada, is a subsidiary of ZTE Corporation, a global provider of mobile devices, telecommunication systems and enterprise solutions. Operating since March 2005, ZTE Canada is dedicated to making cost-efficient, quality communication technology accessible to all. In North America, ZTE is the fourth-largest supplier of smartphones and handset vendors and is the second largest vendor in the pre-paid market. ZTE is one of the top rated high tech enterprises in the world, developing and producing 2G, 3G and 4G handsets and mobile devices in over 150 countries. Founded in 1985, ZTE Corporation is listed on the Hong Kong and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges and is China’s largest listed telecom equipment company.

Visit ZTE Canada at http://www.ztedevices.ca/ on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ZteCanada and on Twitter https://twitter.com/zte_canada.

 

BlackBerry discusses the future of BB10

blackberry

If there is a virtual tombstone to be erected as confirmation of BlackBerry 10’s end, then the company will have to pull the plug first because it has plans to keep it alive for the long term.

It would seem curious that a proprietary operating system could somehow continue to live on when its maker no longer manufactures product that can run it. Indeed, 2016 was the first calendar year without new BB10 hardware since the OS was first introduced in January 2013. This is the paradox that has created the perception BB10 is circling the drain to its ultimate demise, and yet, BlackBerry executives are quick to say otherwise.

As of Q3 2016, BlackBerry’s global market share was at 0.1 per cent, according to Statista. That figure isn’t exclusive to the consumer market — it includes business and enterprise users — but doesn’t include the company’s Android devices, which fall under the 87.5 percent that OS accounted for in the same quarter.

Amidst all that and recent stories about the new ‘Mercury’ device and BB10’s lack of future hardware, Alex Thurber, senior vice president for global device sales at BlackBerry, spoke with MobileSyrup about the future of BB10.

Chugging along

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Thurber affirmed BlackBerry is “continuing to invest in BB10.” Most recently, the company released version 10.3.3 in December after a long wait, and it appears version 10.3.4 may be in the works, though nothing has been confirmed.

“BB10 has a strong following around the world in enterprise and government, as well as consumers in particular markets,” says Thurber. “I want to make sure that our customers and users don’t get concerned that we’re not continuing to support and invest in BB10 because we absolutely are.”

Since BlackBerry doesn’t release any numbers for anything nowadays, it’s not clear how many “millions of users” the company’s OS truly has. What is known is the lack of app support that dogged it from the start has been one of the reasons for BB10’s tailspin.

“It’s out of our hands, but we are continuing to support the OS and Hub”

A recent case in point was WhatsApp’s initial decision to cease supporting the OS by the end of 2016, only to have a change of heart in November and announce that it would extend that to June 30th, 2017. Telus’ MyAccount app stopped its support in November, while Facebook bowed out earlier in the year.

Thurber reiterated BlackBerry’s disappointment in WhatsApp’s initial decision, noting executives were pleased with the extension. Still, the app support exodus is a key element to the BB10 story the company can’t control.

“It’s out of our hands, but we are continuing to support the OS and Hub, as we have so many users who really rely on it as a true messaging device,” he says. “Part of this, of course, reaches back four or five years to strategic decisions that were made, and that’s partly why we added Android to our portfolio, and why we were excited to bring out Priv, and the DTEK devices as true BlackBerry security with full access to the Google Play Store.”

It’s all business

In going with Android-based devices, the obvious implication was that BB10 would either be repositioned as a business and enterprise platform, or be killed off in due time. Since the latter is being publicly rebuked, including in this report, does the former bear fruit?

The recent partnership with TCL is a licensing agreement where it will manufacture BlackBerry-branded devices, with a key tenet of the deal being that it only covers Android-based products. In short, BB10 has nothing do with it.

If not TCL, then who would make phones running BB10? Thurber wouldn’t comment on road maps or hypotheticals, so it’s not clear what recourse BlackBerry would have. The company is no longer manufacturing Classics, Leaps or Passports, as only remaining inventory is currently being sold through its own store, the carriers and other retail channels in different countries.

BlackBerry’s first licensing deal in Indonesia with PT Tiphone in a joint venture called “BB Merah Putih” may provide a clue. The agreement confirmed BB Merah Putih would source, market and distribute BlackBerry devices in that country, though it wasn’t immediately obvious if that meant it would also handle manufacturing or outsource it to a third-party. “Deep negotiations” for a similar agreement are reportedly proceeding in India.

Either way, if a local vendor in a certain country was willing to take the reins and produce handsets for its own market, those would appear to be the kind of licensing deals BlackBerry CEO John Chen referred to when he pulled the company out of building its own hardware.

Thurber cited countries like Indonesia, India and South Africa as markets where “BB10 continues to be a real consumer product where the brand is very strong.”

“In many other countries, the consumer has moved toward the demand for apps and app stores, and that’s part of the reason why a lot of the demand for BB10 has shifted towards traditional users of enterprises, businesses and governments,” he says. “They continue to be a strong customer subset for us today, and do lobby us about about new hardware.”

“We are the only manufacturer besides Google that has committed to providing monthly updates”

Those are developing countries where users are likely to eventually move toward Android and iOS, as has already happened in developed nations. What if BB10 were to be merged with Android somehow? Or could a dual-boot scenario work, similar to how Apple had supported Windows with its Boot Camp software for Intel-based Macs?

“It is an order of magnitude more complex than Boot Camp on a Mac. I wouldn’t say we haven’t looked at that as a potentiality, but it’s a very complex project, so I’m not in any way saying we are pursuing it,” he says. “We get lots of feedback on continuing BB10 on other devices. If we come up with one that makes sense, that meets the demands of our customers, and makes sense from a technology perspective, I’m sure we will pursue it.”

An Android era

BB10’s fading fortunes in North America opened the door to adopting Android and pushing that as the primary software platform, layered on top with BlackBerry’s own unique security icing.

The two most recent devices, the DTEK50 and DTEK60, were TCL-made and have respectively “met their sales targets,” though neither has been publicly revealed. The DTEK50 was essentially a physical clone of the Alcatel Idol 4, and aimed primarily at business and enterprise users in Canada and Western Europe. In the U.S., no carrier offered it.

The DTEK60 was more consumer-oriented, like the Priv was. The central selling point in both cases was more robust and consistent security to better protect users from Android’s vulnerabilities.

“We are the only manufacturer besides Google that has committed to providing monthly updates across our product line in line with Google SMR updates that come out every month, released first on Pixel and then on BlackBerry,” he says.

The company has been able to maintain that cadence so far, regularly rolling out security updates, as it promised it would. Thurber pointed to “significant changes” made to both the Linux kernel and Android itself before the company releases it to the public on its Android-based devices. The work is done by engineers based in Ottawa, Mississauga and Waterloo, Ontario, and is applied within the manufacturing process “where we touch each phone and inject a crypto-security key before it’s released from the factory.”

Thurber affirmed there are no immediate plans to release the DTEK app to non-BlackBerry branded devices, which appears to include TCL’s Alcatel line.

A marketing strategy?

If there has been one strain of incessant criticism towards BlackBerry, it is its marketing strategy, or lack thereof. Thurber only joined the company in April 2016, so was not on board in preceding years. He wouldn’t comment on what the company had or hadn’t done in the past, though did address what should happen moving forward.

For one, licensing agreements should “enhance” marketing programs, particularly based on location. “What’s more important is that because they are local, they will build a plan and investment strategy that is focused on that market, ensuring they have local marketing that will work and be exactly what they need,” he explains.

He terms it, “global consistency with local flavour,” which is marketing-speak for programs or campaigns that will be specifically focused or tailored to local markets. Global campaigns of the past aren’t likely to appear again anytime soon.

But here in Canada, the U.S. and more advanced markets, the sales angle is centred on security. “The great difficulty in selling security is that when security works, nothing happens,” he says.

That’s not the only difficulty. The BYOD (bring your own device) trend with businesses isn’t a flash in the pan. In 2013, market research firm Gartner projected that half of employers would require their employees to supply their own devices for work purposes by 2017. More recently, however, it also issued a study that found corporate-issued mobile device adoption in the workplace wasn’t mature yet.

On the one hand, BYOD creates an inherent need for security. On the other, room for growth in the enterprise space means there are still plenty of devices to go around.

If Android is to make bigger inroads into that space, BlackBerry would need to grab a slice of that pie based on its stated narrative. But where would that leave BB10?

“We are always looking at what the right technologies are to bring out our OS,” he says. “We have millions of BB10 users who are concerned about high-speed, very secure communication, and we remain committed to supporting them.”

Take that for what you will, but at least for the time being, no one at BlackBerry is about to chuck dirt on the OS.

This article was written by Ted Kritsonis and appears on Mobile Syrup. MobileSyrup is an independent resource on mobile technology in Canada – connecting to those who are mobile enthusiasts, professionals and shoppers. We provide daily market and industry news & reviews on smartphones, tablets, wearables, IoT and automotive.

Tablet sales to fall for third successive year as PC market stabilizes

Microsoft Surface 3

The iPad was once expected to render the PC practically extinct, with households and offices forecast to ditch their computers for portable touchscreens.

But sales of tablet computers are now set to fall sharply for their third consecutive year after
researchers said demand had peaked and that the technology had proved less popular than smartphones or home computers.

Image courtesy of Ambro FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Ambro FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Deloitte forecasts that sales of tablet computers will drop to under 165m this year, down 10pc on last year and almost a third below 2014. Meanwhile, researchers at IDC believe the PC market will stabilise this year at 251.4m, a drop of just 1.7pc. plan to buy one in the next 12 months.

Sales of tablets rose rapidly just as those of PCs started to decline after Apple’s first iPad was released seven years ago, leading some pundits to suggest the world was entering a “Post-PC” era.

But sales flatlined and then fell as users switched to smartphones with bigger screens as well as holding on to older tablets for longer than expected.

Deloitte said that while iPads have proved popular among less computer-savvy users, younger consumers had opted for laptops.

With smartphones becoming larger and more powerful, and our research showing that millennials typically prefer laptops to tablets, it seems that the tablet may be getting harder to swallow for consumers,” said Paul Lee, head of TMT research at Deloitte.

“There are three consumer devices that are leading tablets by a large margin: TVs, smartphones, and computers. It seems unlikely that the tablet will ever displace these devices.”

Apple has seen iPad sales fall to their lowest level since 2011, although it is attempting to reboot the market with a range of devices aimed at professionals. The company is rumoured to be launching new iPads in the spring.

This article originally appeared in the Telegraph on January 11, 2017. It was written by James Titcomb.

Cutting the Cord Part 3 The HD Antenna

Last week I told you I cut my Optik TV with Telus and have begun exploring some cord cutting options. I have a Sportsnet and Netflix subscriptions to help compensate for not having a TV package.

I already have an Apple TV and a Roku 3 which I blogged about last year. This should help get me movie’s and TV that I am looking for. I’ve also researched some other options too via the web and will tell you about one of them the HD Antenna.

HD Antenna

The HD antenna is something I had not heard of. While you can’t stream with it, it does let you watch live TV. You hook the device into your TV, put it somewhere near a window and see what channels you can pick up.

It’s ideal for local news and sports. Your channel selection depends a lot on where you live, as well as your line of sight to the broadcast location. I checked both London Drugs and Best Buy online and London Drugs had one option for 79.99 the Terk Antenna. Best Buy had a large number of search results for HD Antennas as well.

Tom’s Guide also has a great article online for the best Best Indoor HDTV Antennas. As Tom’s Guide mentions a non-amplified antenna picks up signals across a range of about 20 miles and is good for you if you live in the city. The Mohu ReLeaf costs about $40.

Tom’s Guide also tell us how amplified antennas pick up signals over a range of about 50 miles, but also cost more. Their top pick here was the $40 Terk Trinity. Tom’s Guide is using U.S. prices which is why I have put links into London drugs and Best Buy to give you Canadian prices.

Tech Execs To Liberals: Don’t Make Online Surveillance Even Worse

Many tech entrepreneurs were already concerned that Bill C-51 — the controversial piece of national security legislation passed by the Harper government — is turning Canada into “a horrible place” for tech companies to do business, as one put it.

Now, they are growing worried that the federal Liberals’ are apparently considering expanding online surveillance as part of their review of Bill C-51.

Public Safety Canada is considering warrantless access to Canadian Internet users’ identifying information, as well as a rule that would require Internet providers to keep track of all web surfers’ activities.

More than 60 entrepreneurs from Canadian tech and new media companies have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, expressing “serious economic and data security concerns with the direction of the federal government’s national security consultation.”

Among the signatories is Tim Bray, the founder of OpenText, Canada’s largest software company and one of the country’s overall largest businesses.

Although the Liberals voted in favour of Bill C-51 while in opposition, Trudeau has expressed some regrets on the matter, and Goodale vowed to remove the “problematic elements” of Bill C-51.

But the consultation launched this fall focuses its attention on ways to expand government powers online, and doesn’t ask the public if they would like to see any scaling back of the new powers given security agencies and police under Bill C-51.

One of the ideas being considered is an order that would force Internet providers to keep track of all their users’ Internet activities. A new law passed in the U.K. this fall does just that, requiring online data retention for a period of one year.

But the open letter from tech executives argues that Internet providers actually should delete their users’ data.

“Such practices actually strengthen data security and customer privacy,” the letter stated.

The Public Safety consultation appears to be looking at ways of reinstating “lawful access” — the principle that police should be able to access data about Internet subscribers without a warrant.

In a 2014 ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada severely restricted the ability of law enforcement to collect this information without a warrant, and police forces say that since then, Internet providers have been demanding warrants before they provide that data.

The Public Safety consultation at one point states that warrantless access to subscriber information is “like looking an address up in a phone book.”“This is an appalling and frankly incorrect analogy for a piece of data that can unlock the highly intimate details of the lives of law-abiding Canadians,” the open letter states.

UPDATE 12/13/2016: The Public Safety department is distancing itself from the “phone book” analogy, suggesting warrantless access to subscriber data, if it were to be introduced, would have safeguards in place. In an email to HuffPost Canada, the department said:

As the national security consultation discussion paper explains, accessing basic subscriber information (BSI) is NOT the same as looking up an address in the phone book. While both BSI and a phone book can be used to identify someone, BSI requires safeguards because some of it can reveal intimate details of a person’s activities when linked to other information. That principle has been affirmed by the courts. The government is committed to protecting both Canadians’ safety and their rights, including their privacy rights

The consultation also focuses heavily on the issue of encryption. Law enforcement officials say criminals use encryption to plan terrorist attacks or share child pornography.

That has led to speculation that Public Safety Canada is looking at the possibility of requiring “backdoors” into encrypted data, which would make it easier for police to crack but would make it more vulnerable to hackers.

The letter’s signatories note that “many of our businesses and workers rely on” encrypted data for the security of their operations.

However, Public Safety Canada has suggested that rules on encryption could be limited to requiring companies and individuals to decrypt files in specific investigations.

“The message to the technology industry is clear: Canada is a horrible place to build or store intellectual property.”
— Frederick Ghahramani, founder of airGames

​Many of those who signed the letter say Bill C-51 is already enough of a threat to Canada’s tech sector as it is, without further expansion.

“One year after Bill C-51 gave our national security apparatus ‘kinetic’ policing powers, we’ve seen an all-out assault on Canadians’ privacy rights,” said Frederick Ghahramani, a B.C.-based privacy rights advocate and founder of airGames.

He cited reports of Canadian police using mass-hacking techniques to break into people’s cellphones, as well as reports that Canadian intelligence has been sharing Canadians’ phone and Internet data with allies including the U.S.

“The message to the technology industry is clear: Canada is a horrible place to build or store intellectual property.”

This article was taken from an Open Media Newsletter and can be found on HuffPost Business in Canada.

Cutting the Cord Part Two Looking at streaming boxes

Roku 3Last week I did what I wanted to do and cut my Optik TV with TELUS. TELUS tried to offer a big discount to stay on with The Essentials package at 15 for 6 months versus 38.00$. I said no and eliminated 56.00 dollars from my monthly bill because I had two themes packs as well. One for Sports at 9.00 and another for Entertainment at 9.00.

I currently own an Apple TV and a Roku for streaming things such as Netflix and other content to my TV. Since I bought my HD TV before the SMART TV’s came out, I have had to use these to stream content that I want.

I’ve setup a Sportsnet Now account as I mentioned I’ll miss my live sports. It’s a 24.99 for all sports really except NFL games. The first 7 days are free. It offers me all local Canucks games which I want too. I’m planning to stream through my Apple devices including my computer and iPad. I also have Netflix as well to compensate at 9.00.

In my quest to cut my cable TV I’ve also been looking at the Android TV Box.

Amazon has a long list of streaming boxes including one called the Leelbox which is $56.99. This one does not come loaded with the Kodi needed to run a box. A quick Google search led me to the Kodi site where you can download the one you need. If you are not confident with downloading the Kodi, I suggest having the box come pre loaded as my friend did.

The Leelbox itself is a smart streaming media player with Android 5.1,  support for 4K Ultimate HD and video hardware decoding. The Leelbox also has the Google Play Store and other apps. The Roku has access to the Goolge Play Store which is why I hesitate purchase another box without investigating my Roku first. Stay tuned.

I also found the NinkBox TX8 on Amazon as well. This one is $118.99 and has Android 6.0 and a preloaded Kodi 16.1.  It has a metal shell with an external antenna as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This box has HDMI and AV out ports, Smart TV capabilities, and web browsing. It also allows for quick updating to ensure that bug fixes for Android and KODI can be downloaded.

That’s some good information that should get you started on the Android TV Box and other options for cutting the cord. I’ll still be researching other options for cutting cable TV so stay tuned.

Apple iPhone 7

Since its launch in September, the iPhone 7 has helped Apple maintain its spot as a dominant player in the tech market. You might think too with Christmas three weeks away that the phone is flying off the shelves and it is.

Apple looks even better now to some Samsung users since the Note 7 has had its battery issues and people might be contemplating a move to the iPhone.

Internet rumors told us about a lot of potential features and the release confirmed them too. It was no surprise that social media sites lit up with outrage because the headphone jack is gone. Apple is pushing us to move to Bluetooth or wireless headphones and this is a smart move.

Stock sold out early with iPhone 7 plus and Jet Black 7 being among the hardest to get. Stock is trickling in now and Apple has cleverly created this need that we must have the new iPhone 7 particularly the Plus. Head over to the Apple website and check out this comparison page on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

Having used the phone quite a bit, some things stood out for us while using the new iPhone.

Size and Colour

Apple phones don’t let you add an SD Card like Samsing phones. This meant that users of 16GB models were often running out of space. The 7 starts at 32GB, much like the Galaxy s7 and has 128 and 256 models available.
The screen on the 7 is 4.7 inches like the 6 and 6s models while the 7Plus is a 5.5 inch screen. The Space Grey color has been replaced by Black and Jet Black. The Gold, Rose Gold and Silver models are still available.

Home Button

The Home Button is very different on the new 7. It no longer clicks like previous versions. Force works when using the home button to unlock your phone. It’s a lot less prone to breaking or wearing out according to Apple. I still don’t like this feature much and prefer the clickable home button on the iPhone 6s. Apple also gives you three options to use when setting up the home button using this technology, one that I think could confuse many users.

Water Resistant

Taking a page from Samsungs book, the iPhone 7 is water resistant. Apple has never done this before and its a great move. How many of us buy a lifeproof or Otterbox case to protect our phone from water. The phone is not waterproof however and we encourage you to find out the difference before you take a plunge in the pool with it. A water resistant phone is not waterproof.

Cutting the cord Part 1

Christmas is the time to load up on gadgets and tech and I am no different but this time I’m doing something I never thought I would do. I’m cutting my cable.

I currently have TV and Internet with Telus coming it at 109 per month. While I don’t dislike Telus or its service I just don’t watch TV enough to keep it running. Other than live sports such as Canucks games, I watch Netflix and other programs that can be downloaded and watched after the fact.

I found a recent CBC article tells us about ways you can save money on TV, Phone, and Internet legitimately. It’s a great read and one that inspired me to consider giving up my TV service.

I’ve already gotten rid of my home phone because I have a cell phone plan that allows me to do so. It’s a generational thing too I think because I’ve become used to the mobile phone and actually enjoy the silence of not receiving home phone calls. Many of them laterally came from solicitors and telemarketers anyways.

A friend suggested an Android TV Box as the way to go. He eliminated his cable package, saved around 80 dollars a month and bumped up his internet speed one notch to compensate. I’ll have watch my monthly download cap which is 200GB on Internet 15 from Telus. I’m going with Internet 25 at around 80 per month with 350GB download. Telus offers unlimited internet for an extra 15 per month.

A Google search also showed me there are a lot of resources out there that can be used to help you find ways to watch TV without using cable. Tom’s Guide seems to be one of them. Great advice here. I’ll put up another post later in the week and report on my findings as well as tell you about my purchase of my Android TV Box.

Google’s Pixel Phone puts a new twist on the smartphone game

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pixelsmallThe iPhone 7 launch and the Note 7 battery issue has put the smartphone wars at an interesting point.

Samsung is sure to reel from loss of the Note7 for a while and with the Pixel phone from Google just launched, Android lovers may have found themselves a great new phone to get.

With its camera that rivals the iPhone 7 Plus, the Pixel is elegantly designed and Google’s Assistant has a an approach to answering your voice much like Siri does.

The Pixel and Pixel XL are the two models.  Assembled by HTC, the phones were designed, engineered and branded by Google. Telus has them listed at 200 on a 90 dollar a month plan and 400$ on an 80 dollar a month plan on their website. Be sure and check with your wireless carrier.

The camera is a 12.3 megapixel on the back and the front-facing camera is excellent, too. It has a wide enough lens to fit a lot of content in each frame. The camera can shoot 4K video as well.

The camera is really key here as that is often a major selling point for more users when buying or upgrading their phone. LG tried some innovative camera ideas with its G5 and modular components. For a great comparison of the 7Plus Camera and the Pixel, check out this article from CNET.

The Pixel is deeply integrated with Google’s search services as well as the Google Assistant. Assistant uses machine learning and Google’s vast search database to answer all kinds of questions. This is a very cool feature of the phone. I have never loved Siri and the thought of access to Google’s search database is a feature a lot of phones could use.

The Pixel like all premium smartphones these days has a fingerprint reader for added user security and Android Pay. It works quickly and as a bonus you can use it to slide down notifications on the screen.

The Pixel and Pixel XL are nearly identical, but the latter has a bigger, sharper display and a bumped-up battery. Other than that, they’re pretty much the same. Full marks to Google for putting the Pixel together. It will be interesting to see how it sells as we approach Black Friday and Christmas.

Mirai IoT #malware from massive DDoS attack goes open source #security

Mirai “internet of things” malware from Krebs DDoS attack goes open source

A bulletin released by US-CERT explains an issue where IoT (also known as Internet of Things) devices  have recently been used to create large scale botnet attacks.

“On September 20, 2016, Brian Krebs’ security blog (krebsonsecurity.com) was targeted by a massive DDoS attack, one of the largest on record, exceeding 620 gigabits per second (Gbps). An IoT botnet powered by Mirai malware created the DDoS attack. The Mirai malware continuously scans the Internet for vulnerable IoT devices, which are then infected and used in botnet attacks. The Mirai bot uses a short list of 62 common default usernames and passwords to scan for vulnerable devices. Because many IoT devices are unsecured or weakly secured, this short dictionary allows the bot to access hundreds of thousands of devices. The purported Mirai author claimed that over 380,000 IoT devices were enslaved by the Mirai malware in the attack on Krebs’ website.”

In order to prevent malware on IoT devices, US-CERT recommends that users, “ensure all default passwords are changed to strong passwords. Default usernames and passwords for most devices can easily be found on the Internet, making devices with default passwords extremely vulnerable.”

Now that the Mirai source code has been released on the Internet you can expect the number of attacks to increase. According to US-CERT, “such botnet attacks could severely disrupt an organization’s communications or cause significant financial harm.”  Cyber-security professionals should harden networks against the possibility of a DDoS attack.

Sonos now available in Apple physical and online stores

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sonosappleLast month Sonos announced it was expanding its collaboration with Apple by bringing Sonos into Apple’s physical and online retail stores. Two of its most popular speakers — the PLAY:1 and PLAY:5 — were available 468 Apple Stores worldwide on October 5, and Apple’s online stores outside of the US starting November 2.

“Our expanded collaboration with Apple is a great example of our ongoing work with our full ecosystem of partners to make it easier than ever to listen to music out loud at home,” said Patrick Spence, president of Sonos. “Apple Music on Sonos is a powerful experience, one we’re proud to bring directly to Apple fans at Apple Stores worldwide.”

“This is a big deal — both for our companies, and for music lovers around the world who can now experience Sonos and Apple Music like never before. We know that the best way to discover Sonos is by experiencing it first-hand, which shoppers in 180 Apple Stores will be able to do, with a hands-on Sonos and Apple Music demo featuring a guided Sonos app experience on the iPad Pro.”

It wasn’t long ago that Apple Music joined Sonos as its exclusive partner in the connected home, creating experiences that only Sonos and Apple Music could provide– Beats 1 Radio in every room in the house, Apple Music exclusives like Frank Ocean in the kitchen, and Drake’s latest drops in the bedroom. With expanded collaboration, the Sonos whole home sound system with Apple Music’s curated playlists and personalized recommendations, tuned perfectly for your home.