The Interview – now available to XBox & Google play customers

Want to see the film that caused all the fuss this month? In an obvious nose thumbing gesture to the hackers and North Korea, Sony, Microsoft and Google announced last week The Interview is available to all Xbox video and Google Play customers as of Dec 24, 2014. Youtube Movie customers should also be able to watch the film.

The film is online now to purchases for @ $19 or rent for $6.99 (cheaper than hitting the cinemas) in Canada. It’s slighly less in the US. So far, only Canadian and US customers can purchase or rent the movie. Unless you have a credit card tied to either country, you won’t be able to access the film, even with a decent proxy installed.

You can read Sony and Microsoft’s press release here: Microsoft’s press release Re: The Interview

New browser for Windows 10 – Spartan

The cat is out of the bag. This week, ZDNET reported Microsoft will be unveiling a new browser for Windows 10. Although IE11 will still ship with the new OS, MS will likely be debuting Spartan, their leaner, (hopefully) faster browser as well.

Despite what many tech bloggers love to claim, IE is still widely used around the world. With approx 56%(see Market share research) of the market share, it’s still a player. I shake my head everytime I read a blogger claiming “no one uses IE” or “it’s usage is so low, it’s not worth designing for”.  IE isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, an excellent browser, but it is servicable and people stick with what they are familiar with. People have learned to live with it’s quirks.

Early leaked report say Spartan should be leaner, faster and more stable than the venerable IE. It should also be compatible with IE, which hopefully means people can import all their settings with no hassles. One of my major complaints about IE is the amount of bloat it comes with now, so a spartan browser would be refreshing. Early days yet, but hopefully the reports are true. One big note  – it’s supposed to be compatible with Windows 10 tablets which would be a relief for RT users stuck with IE.

We’ll have to wait and see if Microsoft shows off the browser in January 21 Win 10 big reveal.

If Microsoft is listening – make it compatible with Surface RT out now. We really need a viable alternative to IE on our tablets.

Early Canadian Airmail Routes

Early Canadian Airmail Routes

1935 Canada airmail with the figure of Daedalus flying

1935 Canadian airmail classic – Daedalus

I’m an inveterate collector of all things airmail – maps, stamps, tags, etiquettes, covers, pamphlets detailing airmail routes, especially Canadian airmail routes and even stocks for the companies themselves. I used to focus solely on Canadian airmail until someone gave me a set of lovely Mexican airmails from the 1930s. I looked up a map of the mail routes and was hooked all over again – I had to have more. So, my modest little collection of airmails exploded into two hefty binders and several books on international airmail routes.

While scouring through the Canadian Archives, I came across a 1940 map showing the various routes in Canada. It includes the remote northern routes that relied heavily on the bush pilots for delivery. A lot of the small northern routes used to be served by private airlines like Cherry Red and Patricia Airways, but by 1940, they had pretty much all disappeared, with the routes being folded into Canada Post.

Map of Canadian Airmail Routes as of 1940

Canadian airmail routes map issued 1940 by Canadian Post Office Department

1940 airmail route map issued by Post Office Department in1940

First official airmail flight in Canada

The first airmail flight in Canada took place June 24th, 1918 on a flight between Montreal and Toronto. Captain Brian Peck, of the Royal Airforce, flew the first route in a JN-4 Curtiss two-seater airplane. He was posted at Leaside Airfield during WW1 and the flight was part publicity stunt by the Aerial League of the British Empire to encourage enlistment and show off, what they believed was the future of transportation and part a bit of fun between friends who thought it would be great to have mail delivered by air.

The Post Office got wind of the flight and arranged for official mail to be carried to test the feasibility of more such flights. 120 letters were loaded onto the biplane.  At 10:12 am, Captain Peck, with his mechanic Corporal C.W. Mathers, took off from Montreal. After refueling stops in Kingston and Deseronto, the airplane successfully landed in Toronto, at 4:55 pm.  The flight was deemed a smashing success, with the Post Office planning future flights.

Bush Pilots take over northern routes

From such modest beginnings, grew the complex map above. The remote routes were run by bush pilots who charged a modest fee to carry the mail north. Many of them issued their own stamps – semi-officials – that were supposed to be placed on the back of the envelope.  You can find many with the stamps smacked on the front, right beside the official stamps. These routes and stamps were sanctioned by the post office and are now very collectable. Even collectors on a modest budget can find some semi-postals for a reasonable price. However, the prime covers, with clean cancels go for a premium.

The airlines that carried the mail struggled to make a living. One crash could spell the doom for a service that owned just one aircraft. By the 1930s most of the air services had folded or been absorbed by larger companies or government services. Canada Post took over most of the routes or contracted pilots running regular routes to deliver the mail (without the cool private airmail stamps).

I have some maps of the various bush pilot routes, so I’ll dredge them out of my archives and post them on a future date. In the meantime, enjoy the map above. To see the map in full glory, right click on it and download it to your computer. It’s quite large and detailed, so enjoy.

Review – Epson Expression Small in One Printers

Went printer shopping last week to replace my tired and flaky HP wireless printer. The wireless feature was wonky from the very first day so I did a little happy dance when it came to a grisly end.  Interestingly enough, over the past year, I’ve seen an uptick in customer calls about HP dropping the signal or simply refusing to connect from sleep mode than any other printer. After a year of dealing with this, I had already decided to give HP a pass. with this purchase.  I wanted a printer that was low cost to run,  quiet, and had 4 seperate ink cartridges rather than two.  I’m done with the big tubs ‘o colour ink. They are a costly rip off – run out of red and you have to throw away the entire cartridge so 4 inks was my primary need. I had always had luck with Epsons in the past with both printers and scanners. My trusty Epson scanner doesn’t work with Windows 8.1 so I had to replace it as well. I’ve needed to for quite awhile, but I limped along with the HP all in on


Good news for Flipboard fans

One of the best news/social media aggregate apps on the market is Flipboard. When I upgraded to Windows 8.1, I was delighted to be able to download the app and it is now a mainstay of my daily coffee ritual.  Unfortunately, phones with 512mb memory were not able to use the app. This week, Flipboard announced it’s newest version will allow all Windows 8 phones use Flipboard. 

If you haven’t tried it yet, you can download it to your desktop/laptop/tablet or phone. One login will sync to all your devices.

Smart Phone App

PC/Tablet App