Technology

The Informer

Tech

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10 apps you might not know about that make living in Toronto better

10 apps you might not know about that make living in Toronto better

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There are some things in life that never stop being annoying: getting rained on, or forgetting to pack your lunch again, or that truck that won’t stop parking in the bike lane near your house—that sort of thing. Luckily, there are apps that can help make the frustrations of living in this city at least a little more bearable. Here, our suggestions for some you may not have heard of.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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You can now use your smartphone to pay at (some) Toronto restaurants

(Image: PayPal/Facebook)

(Image: PayPal/Facebook)

It’s a sad but common sight at Toronto restaurants: clutches of dazed diners, bathed in the sickly glow of their smartphone screens, totally impervious to all social niceties. Now PayPal is capitalizing on the antisocial trend with PayPal Mobile, an app that makes staring down at your phone a totally legitimate component of the dining-out experience.

The app is simple enough to use: each user uploads a profile photo and then “checks in” to participating businesses whenever they want to pay with PayPal. The person’s photo automatically pops up on the business’s system, letting employees confirm the user’s identity and charge them for their order. The payee has the option of adding a tip, and gets an email confirmation from PayPal once the payment goes through.

The potential upside, at least right now, seems to be speed. Diners can use the app to settle their cheques without having to flag down busy waiters or line up at the bar to use clunky debit machines. PayPal, meanwhile, is spinning the technology as a total wallet-replacement system, implying that users can ditch their physical payment methods in favour of the smartphone-based setupwhich seems a bit premature, given that only 50 Toronto businesses are currently PayPal-compatible. (That said, judging by the on-trend factor of the listit includes Get Well and The Goods in Little Portugal, as well as Come and Get It and Fonda Lola on Queen Westwe suspect that number may rise fairly quickly.)

For now at least, people should probably hang on to their cash and plastic. Much less exciting, sure, but also less likely to run out of batteries the one day you forget your charger at home.

The Informer

Politics

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Cisco’s $100-million investment in Toronto is all Rob Ford’s doing, says Rob Ford

(Image: Ford: Christopher Drost)

(Image: Ford: Christopher Drost)

Regular guy and budding Los Angeles socialite Rob Ford appeared at city hall on Wednesday afternoon to make his weekly complaint to the media. The difference this time: his complaint wasn’t about the media, rather it was about a major technology firm’s decision to invest $100 million in Toronto over the course of the next decade.

Why would Rob Ford—the self-professed relentless advocate for business—be quibbling with Cisco Systems’ announcement that it will be locating one of its four new global innovation hubs in Toronto’s South Core? Because nobody bothered to thank him, of course.

“I’m the one that made the environment for these businesses to come here. My administration’s done it,” the mayor told reporters. “We have 150 cranes in the sky. We have the lowest tax rate, that was all my hard work.” Ford was responding to news that deputy mayor Norm Kelly, who has been the functional head of Toronto’s municipal government since Ford was stripped of most of his powers in November, had been invited to Cisco’s announcement on Wednesday in the mayor’s stead.

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The Informer

People

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The six hottest players in Toronto’s digital industry

Toronto’s burgeoning digital industry has plenty of power players. These six are some of the most influential among them.

The six hottest players in Toronto's digital industry

The six hottest players in Toronto's digital industry: Ivan Yuen and Allen LauIVAN YUEN, 36 AND ALLEN LAU, 45,
Wattpad
Some one billion stories are read every month on Yuen and Lau’s innovative social media platform. It’s like YouTube for fiction, with writers posting stories, often in serial form, and responding to reader feedback. Margaret Atwood debuted an essay on the site in September.

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The Informer

Random Stuff

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Stealing cell phones just got a lot less lucrative

(Image: Yutaka Tsutano)

The newest tool in the war against phone snatchers: a country-wide blacklist to help deny cell service to stolen devices. Anyone whose phone is swiped or lost can, as of yesterday, report its IMEI number to their carrier to have it added to the Canadian database (to find a phone’s IMEI, enter *#06# or look on the white label under the battery). Participating service providers, which include Rogers, Bell, Telus and Wind Mobile, will not allow any blacklisted device to be used on their networks. Still willing to risk Craigslist’s secondhand phone market? Check the stolen IMEI database before handing over any cash. [CBC]

The Informer

Random Stuff

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PHOTO: a midcentury fighter jet travels the streets of Toronto

(Image: Tony Smyth)

Early this morning, an 85-foot-long replica of the Avro Arrow was moved from its former home at Downsview Park to the International Centre in Mississauga. Arrowheads can see the famous (and famously abandoned) fighter aircraft up close during Saturday’s Doors Open Mississauga. [@LateNightCam]

The Informer

Business

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Talk of mass layoffs at Blackberry completely upstage the company’s massive new phone

(Images: smart phone courtesy of BlackBerry; pink slip, pink slip Rick)

We knew things were really bad at BlackBerry. Now we know they’re really, really bad. Rumours are swirling that the faltering tech giant will cull up to 40 per cent of its workforce by Christmas, which would bring its employee count below 8,000. (To compare, two years ago, the company had more than 17,000 people.) BlackBerry wouldn’t comment on the story, but sources say the cuts will come in waves, affect all departments and hit BlackBerry’s Waterloo headquarters the hardest. The extra twist of the knife: news of the layoffs broke the same day that the company unveiled the BlackBerry Z30. It has the largest screen and longest battery life of any BlackBerry to date—not that anyone noticed. [Wall Street Journal]

The Informer

Features

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Jesse Brown: Will smartphones make cash and credit cards obsolete?

With just one tap, you’ll soon be able to use your smartphone to make a purchase, redeem a coupon, earn Air Miles and receive a digital receipt. The telecom giants say it’s the next big thing. But is it the thing we need?

Jesse Brown: Tap-onomics

Last fall, a crowd of reporters gathered at the Tim Hortons at Bay and Wellesley to watch the Olympic triathlete Simon Whitfield buy a cup of coffee with his BlackBerry. He tapped his phone against a payment terminal, and commerce occurred invisibly. “Mobile payments have arrived!” declared a VP from Rogers. The company had orchestrated the event to unveil Suretap, a service that, in partnership with CIBC, allows customers to use phones to wirelessly pay for stuff.

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The Informer

Columns

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Jesse Brown: How to get a university education without paying tuition—or changing out of your PJs

The proliferation of online courses means anyone can get a world-class education for free. It’s all about upending the fusty old lecture hall model, and it’s about time

Jesse Brown: Technology

I’m studying sociology at Prince­ton in my spare time. I’m also taking game theory at Stanford, computer programming at the University of Toronto and equine nutrition at the University of Edinburgh. I attend class in my underwear, watch cartoons during lectures and cheat on tests with help from some of my hundreds of thousands of classmates. The classes I’m enrolled in are called MOOCs—Massive Open Online Courses, available for free to knowledge-hungry students of life like myself through the educational website Coursera.

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The Informer

Features

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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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The Goods

Shopping

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Holiday Gift Guide 2012: a pocket-size iPad keyboard that’s sure to make gadget junkies drool

If the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds at local Apple stores are any indication, lots of iPads will be under the Christmas tree this year. Celluon’s Magic Cube, which projects a fully functional keyboard onto any flat surface, is the perfect accompaniment. The nifty gadget connects to iPads, as well as most smartphones, and fits easily in your pocket. Plus, it has a cool factor that will make the recipient feel instantly like James Bond. $200. See 6 other gadgets »

Available at Holt Renfrew, 50 Bloor St. W., 416-922-2333

The Informer

Business

Comments

BlackBerry 10 makes some high-profile RIM doomsayers eat their words

Research in Motion’s recent hot streak continues with a pair of endorsements from unlikely sources. This morning, Reuters reported the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency—which dumped the BlackBerry for the iPhone a few months back, along with a pair of other spooked enterprise clients—will test run BlackBerry 10 devices early next year. And yesterday, Ironfire Capital’Eric Jackson, a long-time high-profile RIM pessimist, publicly reversed his position, arguing that RIM’s 80 million global subscribers could keep the company afloat. Add in a soaring share price and rave reviews for the latest leaked BlackBerry 10 photos, and RIM’s future is looking more promising that it has in a long, long time. [Reuters]

The Goods

Shopping

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Holiday Gift Guide 2012: an iPhone dock that’s meant to be noticed

Bang and Olufsen, maker of distinctive-looking audio and video products, wouldn’t sell a run-of-the-mill dock. The BeoPlay A8 has high-quality speakers, a device charger, the ability to connect wirelessly to your iPad, iPhone or iPod and the sleekest of designs, all of which will appeal to the audiophile in your life. Now you just need to figure out which of six colours they’ll like best. We recommend red (natch). $1,150. See 6 other gadget gifts »

Available at Bang and Olufsen, 175 Avenue Rd., 416-935-1919.

The Informer

Politics

2 Comments

Taxi-hailing app Uber has been charged with operating without a license

Since  launching last March, Uber, the best known of Toronto’s taxi- and limo-hailing apps, has seen its share of vocal opposition and legal sabre rattling. Now, the city has charged the San Francisco–based company behind the app with 25 licensing offences, which could force it to cease operations in Toronto. Uber probably should have expected the move: earlier this year, the city questioned whether its operations were in line with a city bylaw that states that “any person or entity which accepts calls in any manner for booking, arranging or providing limousine transportation” needs a licence. Pricing is another sticky point: Uber charges customers 20 per cent more than the metred fare to cover the driver’s gratuity, and, allegedly, its own operating costs, violating a bylaw stating taxis must charge the metered rate. The company maintains it’s a tech company that simply works with licensed carriers and is not a carrier itself. Even if that defence doesn’t fly, app-loving Torontonians should still have some options. Hailo, for instance, has a licence and charges cab drivers rather than passengers, while Rosedale Livery and Beck both have in-house apps. [Toronto Star]

The Goods

Shopping

Comments

The Find: eight functional iPhone 5 cases that are also stylish, playful and cool

Anyone who has felt the stomach-lurching anguish of dropping an iPhone and shattering the screen can appreciate the value of a well-made protective case. Happily, swift-moving retailers have already released a range of whimsical, stylish and sleek options for the iPhone 5—and, given that Apple’s latest starts at a whopping $700, we imagine demand is high. Here are our favourites, which range from cute to kickass.

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