Author Archives: Peter Nowak

Car tech priority should be to keep it simple

BMW's dashboard-mounted tweeter makes for some sweet driving sounds.

BMW’s dashboard-mounted tweeter makes for some sweet driving sounds.

It has often been said that the car is the perfect piece of technology – you just stick your key into it and it works. Yet, with automobiles quickly becoming the next tech battleground – both in terms of the extra functionality manufacturers are cramming into them, and in regards to their inexorable march toward full automation – that long-held simplicity is looking like a frail thing indeed.

The fact was driven home for me the other day when I test drove a fully loaded 2014 BMW 750xi Sedan. The $136,000 car was tricked out with just about every technological addition on the market today: a rear-view camera (including night vision), electric rear and side shades, satellite radio, active blind spot detection, a steering wheel that rumbles if you change lanes without signalling, a touch-knob-controlled heads-up-display with GPS and a high-end Bang & Olufson sound system complete with dashboard-mounted tweeter. Truth be told, I felt a little lost. In fact, even the old truism about key simplicity no longer holds in this particular BMW, where the ignition is started by pushing a button on the dash. Its “keys” are just a fob used to unlock the doors.

My regular car is a 2003 Toyota Corolla, which might as well have been manufactured before the internet existed. Friends marvel and sometimes snicker at the fact that I still have to manually roll down the windows. About the most technologically advanced thing about it is the fact that it’s black, which helps snow melt off it faster when the sun is out. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in cars, video games


SaskTel cries poor over wireless competition

PalpatineOne could be forgiven for thinking a story last week about SaskTel’s wireless woes was an article from The Onion. The story, which featured chief executive Ron Styles complaining about too much wireless competition in his home province of Saskatchewan, did indeed read like something from the notorious news parody outlet:

The CEO of SaskTel says he is heading to Ottawa to argue that new federal regulations are hurting the Crown corporation’s bottom line.“We just need to make our case … that some of the things they are putting in place … are having unintended consequences,” Styles said as he outlined the position he will take when he meets with federal government officials.

The humour, of course, lies in the apparent fact that Styles hasn’t been paying attention to anything regarding his industry for… oh, the past few years. Those lower profits – and therefore lower prices – are actually exactly what the federal government has been desiring for some time, not just in Saskatchewan but in every part of Canada. It’s reminiscent of the Emperor telling Luke Skywalker near the end of Return of the Jedi that when his friends arrive at the Death Star, they’ll find the shields to be “quite operational,” except in this case our young executive Padawan must be learning that the consequences his company is experiencing are, in fact, “quite intentional.” Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on April 15, 2014 in bell, rogers, telecom, telus


Hockey, huh… what is it good for?

"Woohoo! Who needs jobs?!?"

“Woohoo! Who needs jobs?!?”

Some further thoughts on the CBC, the NHL and Rogers… So to start with, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is laying off 657 full-time employees over the next two years mainly because it is losing control over the rights to hockey games, which generally bring in about a third of its revenue. All of that advertising cheddar will now be going to Rogers, which bought the rights in November for more than $5 billion. For its part, Rogers says the huge expenditure was necessary for survival in the broadcasting business, which is collapsing thanks to viewers having so many options.

Just about every analyst or observer believes one or two things will happen as a result. Despite acquiring that ad revenue, Rogers is either going to look to recoup its big outlay by jacking up prices on its various services – which range from wireless to cable to even Blue Jays tickets – or it too will cut jobs. The company indeed axed nearly 100 positions shortly before it nailed the NHL rights. The timing certainly looks convenient in retrospect, and it may in fact have been a sign of things to come. One thing is certain – there won’t be any prices going down, nor are any jobs likely to be added because of this mega-deal.

Meanwhile, only one Canadian team – Montreal’s Habs – are in this year’s playoffs.

Exactly who in this country is winning with hockey?

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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in cbc, rogers


The journalist’s lament: does it ever get better?

Old typewriter keys. ©Robin NelsonAnother day, another layoff. That’s the life of a journalist in today’s world. And it’s depressing as hell.

The latest involves 657 full-time jobs being axed at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation over the next two years, mainly thanks to the loss of NHL rights to Rogers. With hockey accounting for about a third of the CBC’s revenue, the cuts were inevitable. Many of the layoffs will be from sports and sales, but some will be coming from news operations too. I’ve lost count of the total jobs lost in Canadian journalism over the past year or two.

Whenever students or young people ask me for advice about getting into journalism, I earnestly tell them, “Don’t.” Why anyone would want to subject themselves to this kind of non-stop barrage of doom and gloom is beyond me. At this point, being a crack dealer has more appeal (especially in Toronto).

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Posted by on April 11, 2014 in internet, journalism


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Chipotle bringing vegan burritos to Canada

sofritasVegetarian burrito fans in Canada rejoice – Chipotle is bringing Sofritas north. Starting Monday, the fast casual chain will be serving up the vegan tofu filling in burritos, tacos, salads and taco bowls alongside regular meat options in its one Vancouver and eight Toronto outlets.

The Denver-based chain has been testing Sofritas in a few U.S. markets over the past year. My vegetarian wife and I happened to be in one of them (San Francisco) last week and we just happened to pop into a Chipotle for a quick lunch. Now, I wouldn’t dream of eating a vegetarian option when meat is available, but my wife wasted no time in ordering it. Chipotle’s only other option for vegetarians has typically been burritos or tacos with a few veggies and a big dollop of guacamole, so she was quite excited for the new tofu choice.

The verdict? She liked it quite a bit. The tofu is as close as it gets to sausage – it’s modeled on chorizo. “It doesn’t taste like tofu because of the spices,” she says, and it includes chipotle chilis and poblanos.

Vegetarians already account for about seven to 10 per cent of Chipotle’s business, according to communications director Chris Arnold, who I chatted with in Toronto this week. Despite its newness, Sofritas is already accounting for about three to four per cent, he said. The tofu option is obviously proving popular.

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Posted by on April 10, 2014 in food, mcdonald's, taco bell


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