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Jesse Brown: Why music streaming services mean the death of radio—or perhaps its rebirth

Jesse Brown: Technology

Video never did kill the radio star. Neither did CDs or MP3s or even satellite radio, which tried to take down dusty old AM/FM radio by offering a cable TV–like galaxy of choices. iPods were a big contender: with our entire music collections in our palms, who needed a DJ to play the same tunes (and a bunch of annoying ads) over and over? Apparently, we did. Picking songs from an infinite library became a chore, and iPod fatigue set in. Digital music sales were supposed to double, then triple, as hundreds of millions of people bought music-capable smart phones and tablets. That hasn’t happened.

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Jesse Brown: Why the latest multi-purpose e-readers are great for everything but reading books

The Final ChapterThe smell of an old book. The heft of a thick novel. The sensation of turning the last page of a ripping yarn with a freshly licked index finger. It’s all a bit silly, and kind of gross.

Old books smell because they’re rotting. Heavy books require dead trees and burnt fuel, as millions of them are shipped around the globe each year. Digitization preserves books forever while all but eliminating their environmental consequences. There are good reasons to resist e-books, but erotic fixation isn’t one of them.

The advantages of paper books arise not from their weight, their texture or any other feature unique to them, but from the features they lack. You can’t check your email from a book. Books don’t suddenly serve you pop-up ads in high-resolution video. Books don’t allow you to instantly stream porn or play addictive bird-flinging games whenever a narrative gets dull. Books are made to be read, and that’s all they’re good for. They are dedicated hardware.

Until recently, e-readers like the Kindle, Nook and Kobo have also been single-purpose machines, designed for nothing but book reading. Since the iPad, that’s changed. To compete with Apple, e-readers have become fully functional general-purpose computers. You can still buy basic e-ink devices, but these will soon be phased out as the new versions take over. On the new gadgets, book reading is just one of many apps, and not a terribly popular one: Google Books is ranked number 63 on the Android charts, behind Netflix, Pokémon and a video game called Drunken Pee. Apple’s iBooks sits at number 53, behind Sudoku and a Tim Hortons app. The fact is, the new e-readers aren’t electronic readers at all. They’re tablets.

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Memoir: in the online gaming world, I was a champion; in real life, I was a mess

Memoir: The Demon Slayer

I’m an IT manager. And an occasional photographer. Sometimes an aspiring writer. I’m also a city planner, a weapons specialist and a blue-skinned shaman, slaying demons.

I am a gaming addict.

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Q&A: Julian Marchese, 15-year-old day-trading savant

He created a computer program that can earn money while he’s at school. Who says today’s kids can’t manage their finances?

Julian Marchese
How did you get into the stock market?
I wanted to set my parents up for financial freedom, so I Googled ways to make money, and I started reading up on the stock market. When I was 8, I saw my parents log in to their brokerage account, and I remembered the password and went in and bought stock for an airline company. My mom nearly had a heart attack.

Why an airline company?
It was 2004, and the airline industry was coming back post-9/11. Another time, when I was 9, I recommended that my parents buy into a uranium company. They didn’t, but in two months the company tripled in value.

You went on Dragons’ Den with a computer system you designed that can make you money while you’re in class. How does that work?
I created a few mathematical models and plugged them into a software platform so that it can trade without me being there. I back-tested the strategy for four years. I’m only 15, so I can’t trade on my own yet, but if I’d invested $50,000 in 2008 it would now be at $180,000.

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A member of the notorious new breed of young poker pros who are winning—and losing—millions

Matt Marafioti is a mouthy, high-rolling university dropout who plays 1,000 hands of online poker a night

Poker Face | Matt Marafioti

This past September’s Epic Poker League No-Limit Texas Hold ’Em Tournament had been underway for about an hour when Matt Marafioti strode into the ballroom at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Epic is a relatively new poker league, co-founded by Jeffrey Pollack, a former NASCAR exec. His mandate is to professionalize the game and promote its most elite players. The tournament had attracted almost a hundred such players, including superstars like Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel (the current top money winner) and Tom “Durrrr” Dwan. The buy-in was $20,000, but more significantly, in order to qualify, each player had to have made a minimum of $1.25 million in live tournament play. Marafioti was late because, for the second time in a week, he had lost the key to his safety deposit box, and the box had to be drilled open so he could extract his bankroll. When he did finally arrive at the ballroom, the armpits of his tight heather-grey T-shirt dark with sweat, he sat at the wrong table.

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Jonathan Black (son of Conrad) is under house arrest in Toronto

Perhaps in a gesture of solidarity to his jailbird dad, 33-year-old Jonathan Black has landed himself under house arrest for allegedly violating his bail conditions. Black was picked up early Sunday morning at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern and set free the next day for $60,000. Now he can’t leave home without his mom or stepdad and can’t consume alcohol or access computers, smart phones or the Internet. In other words, he’s been grounded. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

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Four users on the GTA’s largest South Asian dating website—Shaadi.com—share the secrets of ethnically loaded matchmaking

Shades of Brown

For members of traditional South Asian communities, marriage—in Hindi and Urdu, shaadi—is the single most important event in life. To help unmarried South Asians find a suitable partner, Anupam Mittal, a Mumbai entrepreneur, launched the dating website shaadi.com, and it became so popular in the GTA that the company chose to open a satellite office in Mississauga last year.

Like Lavalife, match.com and other dating sites, Shaadi contains pages and pages of users’ profile pictures, interests and hobbies. But Shaadi bills itself as a site for people who want to marry, not a hangout for promiscuous daters, and it requires that its members indicate skin complexion and religion and caste—decidedly old-fashioned ideas that have created something of an image problem. Many of its members deny they use it out of embarrassment. And yet that hasn’t diminished the site’s popularity; 24,000 of the GTA’s 684,000 South Asians now use Shaadi’s services, including parents who set up profiles for their eligible children—a computer­-age variation on the arranged marriage.

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Editor’s Letter, December 2011: Sarah Fulford on her 21st-century nightmare

Lately, I have become mildly obsessed with doomsday stories about cyber attacks. Perhaps illogically, I worry about the collapse of the Internet more often than I worry about other potential 21st-century catastrophes—more than terrorist attacks or superbugs or even nuclear annihilation. I blame several new books for my growing paranoia. Last February, Kevin Poulsen, an editor at Wired, published a book called Kingpin about the cyber mafia, which, it turns out, is as organized as a multinational corporation.

Poulsen’s description of illicit online stores where you can buy stolen credit card numbers illustrated convincingly how vulnerable the system is to a new wave of entrepreneurial hackers.

Then, in September, the accomplished journalist Mark Bowden came out with a book about something even more terrifying. In Worm: The First Digital World War, Bowden chronicles the spread of Conficker, the potentially ruinous malware that has infected as many as 12 million computers worldwide. The Pentagon apparently shares his concern. This worm, which appropriates the computers it infiltrates without their owners’ permission, is powerful enough to take over networks that control banking, telephones, air traffic, power grids and global communications. Luckily, Bowden thinks Conficker’s nefarious creators aren’t interested in bringing civilization to its knees; their plan is much less ambitious. Like the cyber mafia villains in Kingpin, they’d rather just drain your bank account. But the scary idea at the centre of the book is that computer criminals, if they’re bold enough, have the power to take down the entire Internet.

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Reason to Love Toronto: because our geeks are gaming gods

Sept. 20, 2011, 3:57 p.m. George Brown gaming graduate Billy Matjiunis at Ubisoft’s Wallace Street studio

Sept. 20, 2011, 3:57 p.m. George Brown gaming graduate Billy Matjiunis at Ubisoft’s Wallace Street studio (Image: Sean J. Sprague)

Video gamers are often maligned as dweebs with vitamin D deficiencies and a dearth of flesh-and-blood friends, but that probably described Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg at one point, too. We’re not saying that nephew of yours who posts his Call of Duty missions on YouTube will be the next great tech entrepreneur, but he could be, and Toronto has become the right place to be if he wants to try. Take the success story of east-end studio Capybara Games, whose app Sword and Sworcery ranked only behind Angry Birds on sales charts in March. Or Queen West’s Get Set Games, whose ultra-addictive Mega Jump has been downloaded 17 million times since last May. The triumphs of these smallish firms are part of the reason giants like Ubisoft and Zynga set up shop here, contributing to what has become a $240-million-a-year industry in Ontario. Traditionally, luring console kings into the workforce has been a challenge, which is why we’re big fans of George Brown College’s spiffy new video game incubator. Launching this month, it’s a gleaming space that puts game design students and start-ups side by side. The gadgetry is a geek’s fantasy: a soon-to-be-installed 3-D motion-tracking studio that captures and reproduces human movements with jaw-dropping accuracy, and a sea of tricked-out computers that would give Watson a run for its money. Tech wizards who might have headed to Silicon Valley after graduation can now get schooled and land a job in the same place. And if they invent the next Facebook, well, we can say we saw it coming.

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Measured against other countries, are Canadians getting hosed by their ISPs? Let’s compare

One of the biggest questions raised by this week’s usage-based billing fracas is whether Canadians are getting ripped off by their Internet service providers (ISPs). The problem is that comparing Internet service between countries raises all sorts of apples-to-oranges objections—regulations are different, infrastructure is different, markets are different. We’ve put together a chart with three factors (cost, speed, location) that should give an idea of what a dollar can get you in different countries around the world. The fairest comparison is between Canadian and American ISPs, but we’ve included several European countries to give a wider view, and a couple of Asian countries just to make ourselves cry. Oh, and Australia.

Our comparisons, after the jump.

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City of Toronto ad goes viral, hits CNN

“Cellphones? We want it! Computers from the pre-Internet age? We want it! TVs encased in mahogany? We want it!” It’s rare that a municipal ad campaign gets it right, but when it does, the world sits up and takes notice. That’s the case with Toronto’s “We Want It” Web ads, in which a burly pair of guys named Chuck and Vince implore viewers to recycle their used electronics.

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The app kings: meet the army of tech genius millionaires who are turning Toronto into the new Silicon Valley

Why bother with a boring office job when you can share code at networking parties, design games for smartphones and sell your idea for a fortune?

Peter Kieltyka and Jeff Brenner NuLayer makes Crowdreel, an app that collects and categorizes photos uploaded onto Twitter. Photos processed: 100 million.

A 20-something dressed in jeans and a T-shirt enters a stern, early-20th-century brick building near King and Yonge and gets on an elevator. He stands beside suits who spend their days plying commercial real estate and trading securities. The man-boy stops at the sixth floor and enters a cloud blue–coloured lobby, pulls a magnetic security card from the wallet in his jeans and swipes his way in. He removes his ear buds, drops his backpack at his desk and picks up a bagel in the kitchen, passing the room with the ping-pong and foosball tables and another room with the staff Xbox. Then he returns to his desk and becomes one face in a sea of young, so-nerdy-they’re-cool Michael Cera types, though many of these Michael Ceras are Asian, and a few are female. They sit at rows of computers organized by platform, like a really cliquey junior high lunchroom at the world’s smartest school: there’s the BlackBerry row. Android. IPhone. The room reverberates with chatter that sounds, to an outsider, like the kind of talk on a TV medical drama that makes no sense but communicates urgency through tone: “Fleshing out the photo imaging…test for download…integrated platform…”

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War on fun: CRTC wants stations to stop showing Jersey Shore, The Office, Project Runway Canada

The CRTC has a problem with Jersey Shore—namely that it’s being aired on MTV Canada, which is supposed to stick to  original all-talk programming. “It would appear that several of your programs are not consistent with your nature of service, such as Jersey Shore, Cribs, Downtown Girls and Teen Mom,” the commission told the network in a letter on July 27. What? Snooki talks a ton! Turns out that’s exactly what CTVglobemedia VP Kevin Goldstein is arguing. He says the show “documents the private discussions of a group of young New Jersey residents as they navigate issues affecting their lives, including, but not limited to, dating, careers and parties.” Touché. But it’s not just MTV that the CRTC was after this summer.

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Margaret Atwood accused of thinking moon landing was a hoax

When Margaret Atwood entered the Sun TV debate (in vehement opposition, of course), she opened herself up to the wrath of right-wing bloggers across the country. After a Twitter-based feud with SunMedia columnist Ezra Levant, her detractors began searching for skeletons. Good luck, we thought. It’s hard to imagine Atwood has done or said anything that she wouldn’t own up to. But the investigators did find something: a 2009 radio interview with a Sudbury high school student, who accused Peggy of believing the moon landing was a hoax.

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Cheap thrills: Netflix coming to Canada

Unsightly DVD cases—so analog (Image: Todd Morris)

Netflix, the California-based movie subscription company that all the Yanks keep yapping about, announced yesterday that it’s coming to Canada in the fall. The press release says that Canadian members will be able to stream movies and TV episodes on their televisions and computers, though it doesn’t mention the rental-by-mail service that the company is also famous for.

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