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This Week I Learned

Turns out being a dad and employed full time leaves little room for things like long blog posts. I came across a number of particularly fascinating things this week in my travels on the information super highway.

  • Monday: Protocol relative URLs
    Turns out, you can leave out the protocol (http, https, ftp, etc) when including a URL in html and browser will figure out what to do with it. This is particularly useful when including unsecured content on a secure page. I’m sure knowing this years ago would have saved me one or two headaches.
  • Tuesday: What Jason Calacanis Learned From Zuckerberg’s Mistakes
    In his weekly LAUNCH newsletter Calacanis talks about his take on rollout hiccups and privacy mistakes Facebook has make over the years. In his educated opinion “Facebook’s success — and mistakes — are based on its developer-driven culture, not because Zuckerberg is some evil mastermind.” Essentially, Facebook developers have historically been allowed to roll out new features with little to no oversight, allowing the site to iterate quickly, keep ahead of the competition and occasionally annoy foreign governments. He makes a convincing argument.
  • Wednesday: How a quartz watch works
    I already had a rough understanding of the piezoelectric effect as used inside digital watches, the video does an excellent job of explaining the concept. As usual reddit commentary filled in the gaps, explaining in detail exactly how the electronics translate the quartz vibration into time
  • Thursday: Google Bookmarks exists
    Someone leaked that Yahoo! would be shutting down delicious and the internet lost it’s ever-loving mind! Turns out there’s some hope for delicious. Anyways, I haven’t used delicious much since the days it was still called As far as I can tell, Google Bookmarks has done a pretty good job of pulling out delicious’ most useful features, plus you get the added bonus of having your bookmarks appear at the top of Google results when your search is relevant – if you’ve ever starred something on a search results page you’ll already have some links in Google Bookmarks. I had actually been looking around for a good bookmark service, this discovery couldn’t have come at a better time.
  • Friday: Word Lense
    This iPhone(3GS+) app instantly text on-screen. As in, you point your iPhone at a Spanish sign and the words are replaced onscreen with the english translation. This is easily the most impressive augmented reality technology I’ve seen to date! We are truly living in the future.
    iTunes Link
  • Saturday: Boardgame Remix Kit
    I am a huge fan of the boardgame revival hitting nerdom over the past 10 years, as such, I’ve become quite bored of the classics like Monopoly, Clue(do), Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble. When I came across Boingboing’s post about the Boardgame Remix Kit I was absolutely blown away the creativity and simplicity. The kit is a set of tweaks, mashups and completely new games built on 4 classic board games. It’s available as a PDF for £2.99 on the official site or as an iPhone app for £2.99 ($4.99 in the Canadian store). Both are beautiful.

There you have it, my week in links. This post contains something like 13 links in addition to the main links, I really suggest you click them all.

Canadian Tech News Podcasts

Canadian Tech Roundup – Episode 5 – We’re Back

Cold front: Can Canada play a leading role in the cloud?

Interac begins offering SMS-based money transfers

Google launches ebooks with no love for Canada!


iTunes Link


Canadian Tech News Podcasts

Canadian Tech Roundup – Episode 4 – Kik, Google Bikes, Shopping Blockage


Kik booted off RIM devices
RIM pulled Kik IM app after security concerns. Is RIM pulling an Apple?

Google Bikes coming to Canada
Google launches bike maps across the country. Not quite ready for prime time.

40% of large Canadian businesses actively block online shopping
How will office drones get their shopping on?


News Bits

Human powered ornithopter, stunning video.

iTunes Link

Canadian Tech News

Canadian Tech News, September 22nd – Netflix, Pandora, Hippie Cars, Government Transparency

Netflix Finally Available!
Netflix opened the doors to it’s dot-ca today, offering unlimited streaming service at $7.99 – $1 or $2 less than early rumour suggested. I’ve personally been looking forward to this ever since our household signed up for cable TV again. After poking around a bit today, I’ve found that the selection seems quite limited and random. Hopefully this will improve once Netflix has a larger user-base to offer to rights holder. I am happy that the service does not seem to be influenced by CanCon legislation. Which is to say, there does not seem to be a higher concentration of (obviously) Canadian Content, like there was when iTunes started offering video a few years ago.

I wonder what happens when you log in to Netflix in the US with a Canadian account and vice versa.

Pandora abandons Canadian expansion plans
Tim Westergren – CEO of music streaming service Pandora – slammed Canadian performance rights agencies today, citing high royalty rates as the main reason we won’t be seeing Pandora in Canada any time soon. Starting next year Re:sound wants to increase the royalty rates it charges to websites streaming to mobile devices – up to 45% of the site’s revenue or $0.075/song. In Westergren’s words “over 20 times what radio delivered over AM/FM pays.” Unbelievable!

Calgary firm launches the hippiest car ever
As if electric cars weren’t a hard enough sell for the average consumer already, Calgary’s Motive industries have come up with a way to make them seem even more ludicrous. Hemp-based bodies. The jokes write themselves.

Canadian Governments Respect Internet Privacy
Google has released their latest government requests transparency report – a colleciton of stats about how much private data various governments asking about, or demanding removal of. I was pleasantly surprised to find Canada at the very bottom of the list, making fewer than 10 removal requests

Canadian Tech News

Canadian Tech News, September 1st – CRTC, Telco Refunds, WiFi is Bad, Google Games

This week – in a bid to stay relevant to consumers – CRTC made a couple of good decisions; the cell phone industry still sucks; wifi wackos and Google acquisitions.

Canada avoids broadband duopolies, keeps line-sharing alive
In a decision that’s most relevant to Eastern Canadians – where telecom competitions actually exists – the CRTC ruled in favour of the little guy. After 4 years of flip-flopping the CRTC ruled that large cable and DSL ISPs such as Bell and Rogers must share their lines with smaller competitors at the same bandwidth speeds offered to their own customers. Unfortunately the ruling isn’t 100% good, the CRTC said it’s still ok to filter traffic and throttle things like p2p. (CBC coverage)

MTS, Bell, Telus forced to rebate customers and service rural communities
Get a load of this convoluted government logic:

In 2002, the CRTC allowed phone companies to charge above their normally regulated price caps so that new competitors entering the market for home phones — primarily cable companies such as Rogers and Vidéotron — could undercut them.

The extra charges went into deferral accounts, which over the years amounted to $1.6 billion. Phone companies were allowed to draw on these accounts to lower the wholesale rates they charged competitors…

The rest of it was supposed to be spent on rural broadband. Turns out, 8 years later the telco’s haven’t spent a whole lot of that money “the total remaining amount has risen to $770 million…” Yesterday the CRTC ruled that $421 million of the cache has to be spent expanding rural service, $310 million goes back to urban customers in the form of $25 – $90 rebates. Don’t ask about the other $39million, they’re probably sending it on internet filters or something.

The WiFi Debate is not over
So a drama professor named Fancy and a Cold War era microwave expert named Tower walk into a bar…
The head of the drama department at Brock University “…took the unusual step of issuing a news release to warn staff about Wi-Fi dangers.” I guess he’s trying to upstage Health Canada. I really don’t know what else to say about this ridiculous FUD.

Canadians still paying the highest cell phone bills in the world
Long story short: cellcos take in the highest average revenue per user at $55; we have the 5th lowest mobile penetration at around 75%; not only is mobile service expensive, it’s not affordable when compared against GDP per capita. Take a look at the post for all the fancy graphs and real analysis.

Google buys Toronto-based  game developer
In “me too” news, Google Canada has acquired a Toronto-based cross platform game developer SocialDeck.