Rob Ford Apps for Apple & Android

I suppose that in today’s world of instant technology it would only make sense that developers would come to market with a number of apps designed to capitalize on the sad plight of Toronto partial mayor Rob Ford. So toady we check out the apps.

The first one we found is called “Stay Mayor!”.

The object is to help Rob Ford raise funds to buy the alleged crack video by running across a football field, dodging reporters with microphones outstretched and narrowly missing cameras, as Toronto’s city hall silhouettes in the background.

Users are forced to dodge crack pipes and collect buckets of deep-fried foods in order to get their hands on footballs to heave at the mobs of media personnel trying to get in the mayor’s way.

The goal: To “stay mayor.”

If you should lose the game by stepping on too many crack pipes or bumping into too many cameras, then a message appears that reads, “Bunch of maggots” – a term the mayor used to describe the media on his weekly radio show, which he later apologized for.

User comments at Google Play seem to back Ford saying things like this is just another attack on a wonderful mayor.

A second new game is called “Rob Ford Mash” Players have an opportunity to vent their anger on him by in this Toronto rendition of Whack-A-Mole, complete with custom sounds!

On oldie moldy from last year is called “Is Ford Still Mayor”. This handy app will allow you to quickly check Rob’s mayoral status, along with the date of the next mayoral election.

This app requires a network connection to check for Rob’s mayoral status. It does not collect or transfer any user information.

In all fairness, there is a forth app focusing on Rob Ford. It’s one that he spearheaded last year so that individuals could report unsightly graffiti directly to city hall, part of Ford’s Clean up Toronto campaign.  User comments for this app tend to be more personal attacks against Ford, highlighting the verbosity of Ford’s opponents in the GTA.

After looking at these games, collectively, you would have to ask yourself why anybody would want to go into Canadian politics.

Remembering Remembrance Day 2013

I have to admit that I was once again deeply moved and very impressed by this year’s Remembrance Day services. Every Fall I worry that we are not doing enough to say “thank you” to all those who stepped up to defend our freedom, and every year I’m more impressed than the last at how we, as a nation remember the countless thousands who served.

My big surprise this year came when I saw a TV commercial from ancestry.ca, who were offering free access to Canadian military records on Remembrance Day. Normally, Ancesrty.ca is a pricy service that lets you search for information on your family history, so getting a chance at a free search seemed like a nice way to see what information was available on both of my grandfathers, one who served with the Canadian army and the other with the British army.

After entering the search criteria, I quickly found myself reading the induction documents from the Canadian army. A few clicks later and I was reading the notes that were filed detailing his decorations and medals.

The search for information on my father’s father was somewhat successful, but between restrictions from Ancestry.ca and what would appear to be poor record keeping by the British Army, the documentation available was more limited.

Now that I was on a roll, my wife suggested that we look up he uncle who was killed in France in 1944. A complete bomb out at Ancestry.ca. My guess is that they don’t have access to World War II records, so there was no information available. So we expanded our search to the Book of Remembrance which lists every Canadian killed in action. Again we entered the search criteria, knowing his name and year of death, we quickly found ourselves on page 460 of the Book. I’ve visited the Book of Remembrance before, but this time I discovered that there is more information if you scroll down beyond the fancy script, listing everybody on the page with a link for more information.

This page was a little sad because there was really no information about the person. It listed his rank, the date he was killed, plot information, a map of the cemetery and a link to his marker, but nothing about the man, who he was, his family other than his parents name and city of residence, but nothing else.

As it turns out, my wife is the custodian of her family’s memorabilia, so we dug out her records, found some pictures of Uncle Lloyd, scanned them into the computer and uploaded them to the people who manage the Book of Remembrance. Our hope is that next year, when family and the curious visit the Book, they will see Uncle Lloyd in a picture with his mother, and remember that all the names listed have parents, families and friends who were devastated when they heard of his or her death. In fact, when you think about it, with disk space being so inexpensive and technology so robust, that it would be a great idea for all of us to go through our family records and make sure that everybody who died in the service of this country be remembered as a person, with pictures and anything else that puts a human face to their memorial.

My Remembrance Day this year finished on a high mark when I got to my email to send the information I had found to other family members, and found two messages. One from my second cousin with a picture of my Uncle Rod with a plane he flew and one from my son with a picture of his Grandfather taken as he prepared to go to England in 1944.

Maybe we are maturing as a country, as Canadians from sea to shining sea do seem to have carried the torch a little further this year.

XBMC: An Introduction

It looks like the final blows have been dealt, from a technology perspective, for cable television and the strangle hold that they have held over Canadians for some 60-years.

It’s certainly no secret that the internet has become a very robust repository for all sorts of media files from music, to videos to news, to well whatever your mind can imagine.

We talked on this program before about the newer technologies, like the Western Digital Media Player and Apple TV, but a another technology has also been quietly refining itself and is finally moving into wide acceptance, especially among the more technology savvy users.

It’s called XBMC or if you will X-Box Media Centre, and it’s a cross platform software package that connects users to streaming and on-demand audio, video, software and a host of other file types.

When we talk about cross platform, we are really saying that whatever you have, it pretty much works including Windows, Android and Apple TV.

The down stroke is that it’s still early in the products development, so you have to be involved in the installation. The software itself is easy, but you need to install the content separately. Fortunately, there are a ton of YouTube videos which explain pretty much every aspect of the setup, so grab your tablet or smartphone, load up a how to video and start the process.

A bigger issue is the connecting of your computer to your home theater, assuming that you really want a High Definition image and surround sound. It would seem that the easy route would be to make sure that you have HDMI built into your video card, but most older machines don’t have that feature, and who would want to spend the money on a new video card till you’ve had a chance to try this out for yourself.

What we did here was to take the standard video output from the computer and connect it to out digital TV, using the PC input. It works ok, but we are not getting the super crisp images you would expect from today’s systems. For audio I simply took the analog output from the computer and plugged it into the CD input on my home theater, set the audio to simulated surround, and we are off and running.

There are three flavors of video available. The first is streaming video, where I watch the show of movie directly from a server, I can download and store the videos and I can hook directly to the on-demand feed from the television networks to watch mainstream broadcast television. All worked really well, and being free, make watching television really robust and a whole lot less expensive than subscribing to cable or satellite TV. Our use XBMC has grown steadily since we started the testing progress, and is currently the source of choice for about half of our video watch time.

Because this is a landmark step forward in television, we’re going to dedicate the next groupings of shows to look at specific aspects of XBMC so you can get a really good idea about how to put this to work for you.

 

How to Win Driving in Rush Hour

Once again I sit on awe at how technology has stepped in and brought an outstanding solution to a problem that has plagued people for about as long as there cars and traffic congestion.

First a little background information. For a number of years I worked as an airborne traffic reporter, flying on a daily basis over the city of Toronto, looking out the window of the plane and telling people where accidents had occurred and how long they were likely to be stuck in the subsequent mess.

You might be thinking that being up in an airplane is a great way to keep an eye on the roadways, but the reality is that you can only effectively see three of four miles, and the real advantage you have in a plane is that you’re cursing at 110 knots, and can cut cross country rather than being stuck in the traffic and following the road system, so the real challenge for reporters is knowing where the traffic problems are, and then getting to that area.

When I started reporting the system that was in place was to have a ground controller keep an eye on the various traffic cameras and monitor police communications to identify problems, then radio that information to the various teams in the air. My contribution was to develop a web page that consolidated all the traffic cameras, and then relay those images and the related reports via blackberry so that airborne crews had the information much faster and they could monitor situations far from their current location. I thought that this was all pretty spiffy and really gave traffic reporting a huge step forward.

When I got my first car GPS system, the traffic reporting component was pretty much a joke. I knew from my reporter days that most incidents are cleaned up in 30 minutes or less, and that generally speaking it takes 15 minutes or more for an incident to occur, and the information to make its way through the reporting system and onto the GPS. Not much help on today’s highways.

Let’s jump ahead to today. I have Google Maps on my smartphone, and am aware that it displays traffic information. Word’s cannot describe my surprise when I learned that then traffic data is harvested from the collective information of all the people who are driving with their GPS on and My Location active rather than from the collector system that the government has installed on most major highways.

Bingo. Suddenly the traffic data is in real time and very meaningful. If you consider that at least half of the cars on every roadway are all anonymously updating the mother ship in real time, the world’s best traffic reporting system is suddenly in place, and when your combine that data with a good GPS app, your daily commute around town may not be any better, but at least you will be always taking the fastest route, regardless of traffic.

Isn’t technology great!!!