Author Archives: Peter Nowak

McDonald’s must simplify menu for society’s sake

The site of the original McDonald's restaurant in San Bernardino, California.

The site of the original McDonald’s restaurant in San Bernardino, California.

Dick and Mac McDonald must be rolling in their graves. The two brothers, sons of a New Hampshire shoe factory foreman, would probably turn apoplectic if they walked into a McDonald’s today and took one look at the menu. The 145 choices on offer are the exact opposite of the business phenomenon they built 65 years ago.

The brothers originally opened a hot dog stand in Pasadena in 1937. It was a hit, but they were looking for a bigger volume of business, so they moved to the nearby boom town of San Bernardino on busy Route 66 and opened the first McDonald’s drive-in restaurant in 1940. It quickly became popular with teenagers, who came for the burgers and stayed to hit on the attractive car-hops that served them.

Like many California drive-in restaurants, McDonald’s was raking it in. Yet the brothers thought they could do more, so in 1948 they closed the place down to refit it for speed and volume. They designed new equipment to speed up cooking, fired the car-hops to discourage the sort of lazy hanging out teens are known for, and they pared the menu down from dozens of items to just 11. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on May 23, 2013 in food, mcdonald's


Xbox One: the game console for non-gamers

microsoft-xbox-oneAs a gamer, I must admit to being a little put off by Microsoft’s big reveal of its next-generation console, the Xbox One, on Tuesday. With a focus so far on the things I don’t care a lick about - live television, sports and Kinect voice controls - and a couple of gamer-unfriendly features, I can’t help but get the feeling that Microsoft is putting gamers in the backseat.

First, there’s the biggie - the always-on issue. For months, the rumour mill swirled about how Microsoft would require a persistent internet connection for games to work in any capacity on the next Xbox. It turns out that’s not entirely true, although the company confirms that all games will have to be installed on the console. Games will then be linked to a unique account and if anyone wants to use that same disc on another machine, they’ll have to pay an as-yet undisclosed fee.

The concerns about the connection requirement were always about whether people would be able to trade in their games once they were bored with them. For their part, game makers want to kill off that used market because they don’t see a penny from it. While not as draconian and prone to technical failure as the always-on option would have been, Microsoft’s authentication-and-fee scenario effectively accomplishes the same thing if game makers set those secondary charges high enough - and why wouldn’t they? Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on May 22, 2013 in microsoft, video games


ESPN plan isn’t technically violating net neutrality

sportscenterA couple of weeks ago, I was dismayed to see the headlines about how ESPN is looking to strike a deal with U.S. cellphone companies to exempt its video services from data caps. According to the reports, the sports network wants cellphone users to watch more of its videos so it can make more advertising money, and it’s prepared to subsidize their usage to make it happen.

It was alarming news that hit the old net neutrality reflex, which was also evidently the case with many observers. Public Knowledge proclaimed such a deal to be a clear violation of net neutrality and urged the Federal Communications Commission to step in. Net neutrality has different definitions, but as the advocacy group puts it, at its core it is about:

…making sure that the company that connects you to the internet does not get to control what you do on the internet (if you ever forget that, just head on over to for a reminder). Imposing data caps on consumers and then allowing wealthy content holders to buy their way around them is a recipe for stagnation online. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on May 21, 2013 in net neutrality


Celebrate the long weekend with a bang!

It’s Victoria Day here in Canada today, which sounds like as good an excuse as any to take the day off and enjoy the good weather (which is finally here). With many Canadians likely to be shooting off fireworks this evening, this also seems like a good excuse to embed the video below, which is all about the science behind those explosions. It’s the most fun you can have with chemistry that doesn’t involve Breaking Bad! See you all tomorrow.

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Posted by on May 20, 2013 in chemicals


Judgement Day has arrived for Canadian wireless


Thursday morning netted one of those surprising-but-not-really bits of news, with the announcement by Telus that it is acquiring small wireless carrier Mobilicity for $380 million. The deal is subject to government approval, which is in no way guaranteed. I wrote a piece over on Yahoo detailing why the acquisition is bad news for everyone, from consumers to the incumbent carriers themselves - and especially the government.

With additional funding unlikely to come from either within Canada or without, and other similarly cash-strapped new entrants Wind and Public Mobile unable or unwilling to buy the bleeding entity that is Mobilicity, there really doesn’t seem to be any other alternative. The deal has been rumoured for some time and was widely expected to become official ahead of the June 11 deadline for putting down deposits on the next wireless spectrum auction, which is scheduled for November.

With the wireless industry a giant mess of the government’s own creation, Industry Minister Christian Paradis and his colleagues are now under immense pressure to do something drastic. With Canadian bills already the highest in the world and edging higher, and the first of the low-cost competitors about to fall, there really is no delaying dramatic action any longer. What form that will take will be the fun thing to watch over the next few weeks. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on May 17, 2013 in mobile, telus


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