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Ryan Robinson
Anabaptist Theologian and Tech Guy
Anabaptist Theologian and Tech Guy

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Priv by BlackBerry reviews are starting to come out as the device was released today. I've read a few but as usual Crackberry is the most thorough by far. Key points from this review and others I've read:

- Physical keyboard is definitely the usual quality BlackBerry keyboard, although it will feel squished if you're moving from the Classic or Passport.
- The keyboard also functioning as a trackpad with other gestures was a big win for every review I've read so far. I do love that feature on my Passport.
- Back camera is 18 MP
- Battery life easily lasts a work day
- Wireless charging on unlocked models and U.S. carrier models, but not on Canadian carrier models
- Some odd grumbles like a soft spot on the back cover and being a little bit out of balance when lying on a flat surface

- The Hub is close to what you get on BlackBerry 10, not quite as deeply integrated since they can't control that as easily but probably everything you really need
- Other custom BlackBerry apps include Device Search, Contacts (better than it is on BB10), Calendar, Productivity Tab (basically a replacement for the Peek gesture of BB10, using the curved screen), Password Keeper, and a DTEK, a user-end security monitor
- It also has a bunch of other beefed up security throughout the whole Android process, so it can still meet the usual demands of BlackBerry customers (corporate, government)
- Some gestures gestures and shortcuts make it easier to do things like access the Hub
- New take on widgets, allowing you to pop up a widget from an app on the home screen rather than taking up lots of space always having all the widgets open
- Otherwise it is pretty much stock Android, which is good because most of the changes manufacturers typically make are bad
- Camera has trouble with low light photos, as is BlackBerry tradition, even though it is otherwise pretty good (good colour depth, 4K video, fast shutter)
- I grumble every time I read how this solves the BlackBerry app problem. I can think of one app I can't get on my Passport which I would actually use: the companion app to NBA 2K16, not exactly a priority. Other might have more, especially games and official Google services.

If you like BlackBerry but really want multiple apps you can't get, or like Android but really want some better productivity and security (traditionally large Android weak spots), this is a great bringing together of the best of both. 

After watching AntMan last night to complete Phase 2, just for fun here's my ranking of Avengers movies so far:

1. The Avengers. Easy number 1.

2. Captain America: Winter Soldier. Easy number 2.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy. For some reason I don't particularly like Chris Pratt, but otherwise it was a good movie so I'll still put it high.

4. Avengers: Age of Ultron. When I first saw it, thought of it near the top, but then I started realizing how bloated it was, got more annoyed by the portrayal of Black Widow, and some inconsistencies from the rest of the MCU such as reversing Tony's maturation in Iron Man 3.

5. Thor: Dark World. Boring villain (like most Marvel movies), but Loki makes any movie great.

6. Ant-Man. The funniest movie, but the plot is basically Iron Man all over again.

7. Captain America: First Avenger.

8. Iron Man.

9. Thor

10. The Incredible Hulk. I don't know why so many don't like this movie.

11. Iron Man 3. Probably would have been higher if they didn't reverse it with Ultron, but since they did, this movie now just confuses me.

12. Iron Man 2. 

Pebble Time Early Thoughts

I received my Pebble Time almost a week ago. I've paired it with my BlackBerry Passport, which it is important to note is not officially supported, so some of the experience would be a bit better particularly on Android.

As a basic notification system, it's great. A nuisance is getting notified every time I change an email (delete or file), not just when it's new. I think that's the fault of the third-party app I'm using to connect so that probably isn't true with official apps.

Timeline OS paradigm is great. A lot of the apps don't take enough advantage of it yet, but I'm sure they'll get there. It's so much more natural to use a watch on a timeline than as a collection of apps.

The animations are cute, but there is a bit of cognitive dissonance since this is primarily a productivity aid for me.

The hardware design is nice enough. With all the reviews focusing on how ugly and basic it was compared to the Apple Watch, I was pleasantly surprised. It's a good size. I love the red. The plastic wristband definitely puts it in the sports watch category, but it's durable and comfortable. I like physical buttons instead of having to try to use a touchscreen. I like the always-on eInk screen that lasts for days instead of an LCD that would be bright but would die out fast.

Speaking of, so far my battery life is settling around 4 days, compared to the advertised 5-7. Probably partly the unofficial BlackBerry pairing. That's still pretty great in my books, though, especially compared to all the LCD smartwatches that last for a few hours.

My biggest issue is that any third-party apps I install - Yelp, ESPN, and Grand River Transit - don't seem to be able to get Internet data from my phone. In the case of those three apps, it makes them pretty much useless. I don't know if there's a bug somewhere or if that isn't working paired from BlackBerry. I need to do some research there.

Overall, it is good for its price ($180 USD the Kickstarter tier mine came from) and good for its purpose as a smartphone accessory. Since the bulk of my phone use has to do with written communication, it's great to see those notifications quickly and easily - including when walking or in meetings - and then I can judge whether I need to pull out the phone to reply or whether it can wait. I also don't want to overstate that it is nice to have a watch for the first time in years, and I have a nice weather watchface which is also handy. It's definitely not for everybody, but I'm happy with it.

Xbox One TV Tuner
Just ordered the new TV Tuner for Xbox One. We did already have a DVR box that allowed us to connect to our antenna to the Xbox, gaining things like OneGuide and voice control. There's a few reasons I think this should be better, though, and probably enough better to justify $60.

1. It's smaller. That's mostly just for a better look of our media centre, but there are related factors like having less cables to come loose if we move something (or the cat plays with it).

2. It uses one of the several USB ports instead of the only HDMI in port. This will free up the HDMI port for running the computer through the Xbox, at least until the Xbox has Miracast at which point we won't need to ever plug in computers again.

3. It offers a 30 minute live TV pause buffer. I don't know if that feature would have also happened with the other box or not.

4. It offers TV streaming to Xbox SmartGlass apps so one person can watch TV on another app while somebody is playing a game or using Netflix on another. Again, don't know if this would have come to the extra box or not, but I doubt it just because it probably would get them in trouble with cable providers.

5. It doesn't offer full DVR yet, but they are apparently working on it. A full DVR in my Xbox is better than a separate box with another external attached to that, especially when that other box's DVR doesn't always work.

6. It may only give us channels we actually get in our OneGuide. This is a hypothesis, but a minor pet peeve with the HomeWorx solution is that HomeWorx does the tuning and then Microsoft gives me channel listings for every channel that is theoretically possible within my area code. That's more like 25 channels when we actually get 3 - it's a small indoor antenna. I'm hoping that because the tuning is done by a device specifically designed for Xbox, it can communicate which channels to show as available. 

7. It should be more reliable. Our HomeWorx box is generally good, but there are some issues like having to be very precise pointing the remote at it, cables coming loose easily, the DVR sometimes not working at all.

Early Windows 10 Impressions

On the weekend, I put the Insider Preview of Windows 10 on my HP Stream 7 tablet. In some ways, this isn't a great review device since most of the changes are desktop-oriented, but here's my feedback so far:

There are bugs. Of course there are. It's a preview. The two things that slowed my tablet to a halt were pasting text and rearranging the tiles on the start menu. Obviously these will be fixed.

The app switcher is much better. Instead of constantly swiping in from the left one app at a time to switch, you swipe in from the left once and then you see all of your open apps. You can close apps from there or go into a different one. That also solves the fact that I have still not figured out how to close apps on a tablet in Windows 8 (I know how on desktop).

There's no more Charm menu, which seemed like a good idea at the time but realistically was never particularly useful.

The Store includes not only apps and games, but also movies and TV. I assume this is to drive more people to actually use Xbox Video, which I personally like other than the problem that faces every digital video platform: digital rights management. I'm not sure how much it actually adds to the average user's experience, though. I think I prefer them separate.

In the build I have, the Xbox app doesn't have game streaming from the console, so I couldn't try that out, but it really will be a killer feature if it works well. Otherwise the app is just a better version of SmartGlass.

Microsoft Edge or Project Spartan as it is still called in my build, is great. It's hard to really test it with a lot of tabs on a weak tablet, but it has a nice clean feel to it and writing notes on the pages using the touchscreen is a cool feature. Will I move from Chrome? I don't know yet - I'll have to try it within my usual workflow first, not just browsing on a tablet.

Notification Centre was a definite must. My one big complaint with Windows 8.1 was that I could miss notifications from a Windows app when on the desktop. That made me stop using that version of Skype to go back to the desktop version. That's not an issue anymore with Windows 10 having all notifications in one place on the desktop.

On tablet, I'm not sure the new Start Menu is actually any better. On a desktop, it might still be debatable. I know people a menu popping up over your desktop, but now it's a weird hybrid of the two styles and I'm not sold that it's better than Windows 8.1's solution. If I understand it right, on tablet less than 8 inches there won't be a desktop since it doesn't really make sense - I never use it - but there is on my Stream with this build, so I'm guessing that this will just be changed later somehow or another.

Mail and Calendar apps are mostly just cosmetic improvements. Nice changes, but I didn't notice any new features.

With Star Wars coming out on digital, the podcast Tomorrow Daily asked listeners to rank their favourites. I did it on Twitter and it got read out on the next show,  but I feel like a slightly-expanded version here.

V: Empire Strikes Back
I think the majority put this one first. The middle with Yoda does lag for me, even though Yoda is awesome, but the start and especially the end make this the best. It's also the only one without any incredibly cheesy writing to make me flinch.

VI: Return of the Jedi
Yes, the ewoks can be kind of annoying, but it was also probably the most consistently interesting from start to finish.

III: Revenge of the Sith
Some cheesy writing and acting aside when it comes to the romantic plot, but this was mostly carried by the emotional ride of watching Anakin slide into darkness - even though everyone knew that would happen. Also great fight scenes.

IV: A New Hope
I think I mostly like this one less than most people simply because Luke is so incredibly annoying.

I: The Phantom Menace
Jar Jar. Enough said about the negatives for this movie. But also Darth Maul, so it's still not the worst.

II: Attack of the Clones
Yes, I put it below Phantom. The writing for the romantic development is incredibly bad and that takes up a lot of the movie. I don't mind a forbidden love story, but this one was terribly done. The main plot didn't do much for me either.

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Well done, Drew.
Let's pushback on the charge of "playing the race card" and flip it on its head! Here's my tackling this issue head on, and helping to redefine how we need to engage in conversation on race and racism.

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Our first time at the famous Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest/Thanksgiving parade. Appropriately the Beer Store is in the background of many of these photos.
2014 Thanksgiving/Oktoberfest Parade
123 Photos - View album

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I want to #WorkWide with a @BlackBerry Passport from @Gadgism. You can enter too! Enter here: #BlackBerryPassport

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