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GALLERY: The top 10 booths from the holiday One of a Kind Show

The One of a Kind Show gives Canadian artisans the chance to sell their lovingly crafted wares, and panicked holiday shoppers the chance to power-shop at hundreds of different booths in a single shopping session. If you’ve been to the Direct Energy Centre for one of the semi-annual shows, however, you’ll know the array of kiosks inside the sprawling convention hall can quickly get overwhelming. To help, we perused all the goods and narrowed it all down to our 10 favourite booths, which you can visit until the show closes on December 2.

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The Dish

Random Stuff

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Check out version two of the Toronto Life Best Restaurants app

Last Thursday, Toronto Life released its new Best Restaurants app, which brings our reviews of Toronto’s top 400+ restaurants to your iPhone or iPad for $1.99. Today, we released the first update, which adds a couple new features:

• You can now email restaurant reviews, along with the address and phone number, right from the app

• You can now view a map of just your filtered search results, wherever they may be in the city

Click here to find out how you can get the app now »

The Dish

Random Stuff

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Introducing: the Toronto Life Best Restaurants app

Introducing: The Toronto Life Best Restaurants App

The Dish is very pleased to announce the launch of Toronto Life’s Best Restaurants app for the iPhone and iPad. Easy to use and frequently updated, the app presents informed, opinionated reviews of Toronto’s top 400 restaurants, as selected by our team of critics (we’ve been using the app in-house for months, and it’s quickly become indispensable). You can search according to neighbourhood, star rating, price range and cuisine, and you can set the app to provide recommendations based on the criteria that are most important to you (a patio, for example). Using your iPhone’s GPS, this app will also tell you which Toronto Life–recommended restaurants are close by. Click here to find out how you can get it now »

The Informer

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Toronto Zoo’s orangutans to get an iPad—and the chance to fingerpaint, 21st century–style

Just monkeying around... (Image: chem7)

Apparently, Orangutan Outreach, an American conversation group spearheading the Apps for Apes program, is putting the Toronto Zoo’s primates at the front of the line for a shiny new tablet computer. The group’s founder and director has been paying close attention to the Milwaukee Zoo’s orangutans, which have been playing with their own iPad since last year. There, zookeepers hold onto the tablet while the animals use an app to fingerpaint; the theory goes that the act takes some of the monotony out of life in captivity. With iPads in enough zoos, the animals could even start hanging out via video chat (seriously, that’s part of Orangutan Outreach’s grand plan). Though we have to wonder if giving the apes other, lesser tablets would make them just as happy—or if they would feel unsatisfied, inferior and just generally uncool. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

The Informer

Business

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Reaction Roundup: can the PlayBook software upgrade keep RIM in the tablet game?

With the PlayBook’s Hail Mary software upgrade now out the door, Research In Motion can only wait and hope it’s enough to save its much-maligned tablet. Judging by RIM’s stock performance after the release—the price rose in the morning, but ended the day slightly down, only to fall further yesterday—investors don’t seem ready to call it a winner. Tech and finance pundits also wavered, praising the new email and calendar apps, but slamming the lack of a BlackBerry Messenger app (are you listening, RIM? This is why people still love their Blackberries!). A roundup of what they’re all saying, after the jump.

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The Dish

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Digital pizza conjuring? There’s an app for that


It seems the once self-flagellating Domino’s Pizza is trying its darndest to put an end to home dough slinging with Pizza Hero, a devilishly clever iPad app. It starts as an innocent game, closer to Cooking Mama than Guitar Hero: using the touch screen, players select the toppings, slide the pizza into the oven, slice it and stuff it in a box for delivery (the central dough factory is notably absent). But hey, now that you’ve made the pizza, why not press a few buttons and have the real thing delivered to your home? Thankfully the app isn’t available in Canada yet, so Toronto’s children are safe…for now. [h/t Eater]

The Dish

Restaurants

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Running a restaurant? With TouchBistro, there’s an app for that

Screenshots from the app (Image: TouchBistro)

A Toronto-based software developer is trying to make scrawled order tickets a thing of the past with TouchBistro, an iOS app that aims to streamline the process of running a busy restaurant. With an iPad in hand, waiters can keep track of what tables they’re assigned to, show diners photographs of individual dishes, wirelessly transmit their orders to the kitchen and split bills on the fly. For managers, the software can generate daily sales reports and help with inventory and reservation management. The basic app is free, but the ability to print or email bills and quickly update an online menu costs $300 a year. And the hardware isn’t exactly cheap either; restaurants should prepare to shell out $1,500 for the basic infrastructure and $520 for each iPad after that—a good deal more than a laminated menu, but a good deal less than a full-blown POS setup like Squirrel. The system seems to be catching on—the people at TouchBistro tell us there are currently 30 restaurants in the city using the system, including Burger Bar, L’Ouvrier and 416 Snack Bar, whose Adrian Ravinsky is quoted on the TouchBistro site calling the product “beyond awesome.” The Harvest Grill at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair even had a 14-iPad setup going. Whether all this will mean the end of the humble pen and paper remains to be seen.

The Goods

Shopping

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Holiday Gift Guide 2011: 90 of the best presents money can buy

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Holiday Gift Guide 2011

By Fraser Abe, Karolyne Ellacott, Kevin Naulls and Mark Teo | Photography by Carlo Mendoza

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and we’ve tackled the ever-difficult task of narrowing down a list of items that would be perfect for the men, women and children in your life. We find it is always a big to-do finding that special something for the wine snob who likes to aerate his or her wine, but we’ve got it covered, and to spare moms, dads, uncles, aunts and friends from waiting in line for this year’s Tickle Me Elmo, we’ve found some cool options for rug rats that won’t break down and send a greedy child into a tantrum.

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The Goods

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Holiday Gift Guide 2011: 21 execu-gifts for working girls and business bros

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Holiday Gift Guide 2011

By Fraser Abe, Karolyne Ellacott, Kevin Naulls and Mark Teo | Photography by Carlo Mendoza

Any aspiring Tess McGills or Gordon Gekkos would be pleased to get any gift on our list for the Bay Street broker. There aren’t any miniaturized rock gardens, stress balls or Tiffany lamps because, let’s face it, we can do better than that. We’ve found a beautiful humidor to hold post-meeting cigars, a phonograph-shaped iPhone-docking system for when that Patrick Bateman–esque Walkman finally conks out, and a whisky decanter for when, um, the market crashes (or to celebrate—it’s up to him or her).

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The Goods

Shopping

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Holiday Gift Guide 2011: 18 yuletide treasures for the best darn gals ever

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Holiday Gift Guide 2011

By Fraser Abe, Karolyne Ellacott, Kevin Naulls and Mark Teo | Photography by Carlo Mendoza

Pay no attention to what the advertisers tell you: there’s no gift “perfect for every woman in your life.” Still, we’re pretty sure discerning females will find a few things on this list to love. As the winter drags on, a Philip Lim muffler is sure to get a lot of use (and envious glares), and for women with a style all their own, we’ll show you where you can mix some custom fragrances. Finally, for that very special lady, we have a diamond necklace that won’t break the bank.

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The Goods

Shopping

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Holiday Gift Guide 2011: 10 amazing tokens of affection for our favourite nerds

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Holiday Gift Guide 2011

By Fraser Abe, Karolyne Ellacott, Kevin Naulls and Mark Teo | Photography by Carlo Mendoza

There was a time where an adult would be embarrassed to ask for a limited-edition Green Lantern statuette in its original box, but the times have changed. Geekdom is in vogue right now, and while you won’t find any comic-book heroes on this list, we’ve got plenty of must-haves for high-end enthusiasts. Tinny ear buds have made most of us forget what real music sounds like, but audiophiles will love the quality of Urbanears headphones. Apple die-hards and casual users alike will appreciate a classy leather iPad case or an iPod dock shaped like a gramophone. These gifts will surprise the writer, photographer, future train conductor or, um, that kid who lives in your basement.

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The Goods

Shopping

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Holiday Gift Guide 2011: 27 impressive mid-range presents from $100 to $499

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Holiday Gift Guide 2011

By Fraser Abe, Karolyne Ellacott, Kevin Naulls and Mark Teo | Photography by Carlo Mendoza

Sometimes it is hard to stick to a limit, because sometimes the gifts over $100 really are the perfect presents. We’ve found a touchably soft mink fur bear (don’t knock it till you’ve touched it) that will win the heart of any child or, really, human being, as well as a humidor for the lady or gentleman who subscribes to Cigar Aficionado, a pelt rug, an intoxicating men’s fragrance from Eau d’Italie and everything in between.

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The Informer

Features

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The Argument: David Hockney’s iPad paintings show that a cool device can’t rescue bad art

David Hockney’s Fresh Flowers

David Hockney’s Fresh Flowers exhibition has been touring Europe in advance of its only Canadian stop, at the ROM’s Institute for Contemporary Culture, and garnering a lot of hype along the lines of “74-year-old visionary explores cool new medium!” The show consists of hundreds of flower-themed still lifes done exclusively on iPads and iPhones. (Hockney added his own spin, saying that working with the Apple devices allows him to paint without the “mess”—which sounds as though he’s promoting a cleaning product.)

This could be seen as familiar territory for the British pop art pioneer. In the ’80s, his use of office-quality photocopies, fax machines and Polaroids put him at the forefront of art about the tension between original works and reproductions. The kind of heavy collage pieces he created by manipulating original work is now a regular sight in modern art galleries. (Today, the subject of reproduction couldn’t be more relevant to the copy-and-paste practices of young artists, though Hockney’s influence is cited far less often than you’d expect.)

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The Goods

Shopping

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The Thing: the idiot box is now bigger and badder than your average smart phone

Just because you can watch TV on your smart phone doesn’t mean you should

The Thing: Hot Box

Television studios spend fortunes shooting in high definition, creating special effects and paying good-looking actors—and it’s not so their shows can be watched on iPads. This season, passive viewers and diehards alike should consider watching TV the old-fashioned way: on TV. The wafer-thin Samsung Plasma 8000 Series isn’t game changing, but it does exactly what a TV should do in the age of the Internet. It has built-in Wi-Fi so you can stream shows without cumbersome commercials or awkward network scheduling, and it comes loaded with social media apps like Skype and Facebook, so you can discuss The Office’s new boss with friends in real time. But the best part is that you can do all of that on a blisteringly sharp 64-inch plasma screen—the kind of screen that makes even the latest iteration of The Bachelor seem worth watching. With 26 weeks of new episodes ahead, it’s time to start clearing your social calendars. Samsung Plasma 8000 Series 64-inch TV, $4,000. Bay Bloor Radio, 55 Bloor St. W., 416-967-1122.

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The Informer

Features

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My Digital Sabbath: how one writer learned to stop checking Facebook and love life offline

My Digital Sabbath

I can’t say specifically which fabulous new technology made me decide I needed a break from all fabulous new technologies. For years I had been blissfully work-playing and play-working in the miasma of plugged-in life, writing magazine columns while live-streaming baseball games and listening to music and IMing and playing online chess and checking my email every two minutes, and not worrying whether performing five or six tasks simultaneously might limit my ability to perform any of them adequately. Maybe it was the iPad, a device designed, as far as I can tell, to allow you to watch television while you’re watching television. A friend told me about trying to talk to her teenage son while he was on his iPhone. “Why are you always looking at that thing when I’m trying to talk to you?” she asked. He answered: “Where do you think I learned it from, Mom?”

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