Environment Canada’s new app WeatherCan is a must have for Canadians. Last week the app moved out of beta testing and is now available in the Apple Store and Google Play. A quick note: this is an app geared towards Canadians and not applicable outside of our borders.
I’ve been using WeatherCan for a few months now, since it was in beta. It’s run on two phones – both budget smartphones – and worked flawlessly. I’ve played around with dozens of weather apps over the years, usually tearing them out quickly because they are resource hogs or heat the phone up (on two occasions, dangerously so). I’m pleased to say this one does neither. It’s fast response time, even on a low end phone, was a surprise. Another positive, WeatherCan doesn’t drain the battery, even when allowing notifications and real time updates.
There isn’t a lot to be said about the app – it works, it doesn’t crash, and it’s pleasing to look at. The visuals are crisp and easy to understand. If you’re familiar with the Environment Canada website it’s pretty much the same. The big bold images, and lack of clutter makes WeatherCan one of the better weather apps out there.
WeatherCan packs a lot of information on each screen.
The only flaw I could find is the lack of ability to turn off weather notifications for other regions/provinces. For a few weeks, I was hammered with weather alerts for Sask. On the upside, I learned to appreciate how truly bad Sask. winters can get. Maybe it’s part of Environment Canada’s cunning plan.
Look for the WeatherCan app in Google Play and the Apple Store or go directly to Environment Canada’s page – WeatherCan. If you download the app, drop a note in the comments and let me know how it runs on your phone.
Are you still using Google+? Hopefully you received the note about it’s pending demise. Google is putting an end to their social media experiment on April 2nd. G+ has limped along for years, never really taking off with the public. Forbes magazine ran an article back in 2015 titled Five Reasons Why Google+ Died. It’s taken another 4 years for Alphabet to bury the corpse.
Google Plus, the company’s social network, is like a ghost town. Want to see your old roommate’s baby or post your vacation status? Chances are, you’ll use Facebook instead. Feb 14 2014 The Plus in Google Plus? It’s Mostly for Google by Claire Cain Miller behind a NYT paywall article.
The New York Times was right. People may have signed up for an account, but they weren’t visiting it on a regular basis, like they do Instagram or Facebook – people just didn’t take to the platform. I played around with Google+ for a bit but quickly gave up because it was just too messy to work with. I didn’t enjoy posting or looking for new material. And quite frankly it was more bother than it was worth. I saw very little return for my effort.
So what does this mean?
1 – If you have a lot of photos on your G+ page, think about moving them to a safe place because they will be deleted after April 2. Google will allow you to download & save your content prior to the close date – see this article for help Download your Google+ data.
NOTE: photos stored on Google Photos will not be affected. This is a separate entity.
2 – Using Google+ to sign in will no longer be an option after April. Any + sign-in button will become non functional. Google will be replacing the feature with a basic Google sign-in option.
3 – Comments will vanish. Sorry folks, but any comments you left while signed in with your Google+ account will simply go away. This is already happening on Blogger sites, so if you are a Blogger user and start seeing comments disappearing, this is the likely culprit.
If you missed the email notification, visit the Google page Shutting down Google+ for consumer (personal) accounts on April 2, 2019.
** Evidently some people think Gmail accounts will be closed. This only affects Google+, the social media platform. It will not touch Gmail, Google drive, Blogger, or Google Photos.
Presto (Metrolinx) has an app now!
But don’t get excited about it.
It lacks the one main feature we all wanted.
I have a long standing love/hate relationship with the Presto card system (used by a number of transit systems in Ontario). When it works, it’s excellent. When it doesn’t, oh boy. One thing that mildly irked me was the lack of an official app, so imagine my delight this morning when I discovered Metrolinx’s shiny new app.
Here’s what you can do with the app:
- load funds and transit passes (instant load available on Android devices with NFC)
- receive low balance/pass expiry reminders and email receipts for fare purchases
- pay with Apple Pay and saved payment method
- set up and manage Autoload and Auto renew
- manage multiple PRESTO cards
- check your PRESTO card balances
- view your transaction history
- buy a PRESTO card and create a PRESTO account
r/f Presto App
Spotted what’s missing? There is no tap and pay function. It’s handy for tracking your card balance, loading funds and seeing where your card has been used, but aside from that, there’s no overwhelming reason to install it. Without the a pay and go function, it’s just a portable version of the Presto website. I’ll leave it installed because it is nice to quickly see my balance without waiting in line to access the machines but otherwise, meh.
On the plus side, the Presto interface is very clean and easy to use. The developers did a great job in creating a functional, uncluttered interface. If you are responsible for multiple Presto cards, you’ll be pleased to hear you can consolidate managing all the cards within the app, without the hassle of logging in and out with different ids. With one app, you can manage all the family/business cards, checking balances and reloading with a few taps.
Need a monthly transit pass loaded? No problem, scroll through the list of available passes, tap and pay with either debit or credit card. I applaud the inclusion of a debit card option, all too often this is left off. So well done Metrolinx.
Hopefully Presto will include a pay and go feature in the near future, but in the meantime, some will find it useful, the rest of use will wait for the next upgrade.
FYI: If you decide to get it, make sure you download the official Presto app. Look for the Metrolinx name. Available for Apple and Android devices.
I have a habit of collecting random bits of paper scribbled with ideas, customer info, to-dos and websites I want to investigate. Invariably I forget them in my pocket and they are laundered, coffee stained or tossed because they didn’t make sense, you get the idea. I used Microsoft’s Sticky Notes in fits and starts last year but its lack of portability meant it had limited usefulness. When Microsoft updated their Launcher for Android recently that changed. Now I’m a power user.
Sticky Notes works the same as a little pad of paper notes without the mess. Tap the little plus sign to begin a new note, pick a colour and start typing. Duplicated a note? Hover your mouse over the note and tap the garbage pail.
When you write a note, tap the X and the it appears in the app window list. You can leave the notes free standing on the desktop, but after 4 or 5 notes, the clutter will drive you bonkers. The list view doesn’t appear by default, you have to turn it on first by right clicking the notes icon (in the start menu) and tap Notes List.
If you have an Android device, download the Microsoft Launcher to share the notes between your phone and laptop. In the Launcher window, tap Glance and scroll through all the notes. From Android, you can add new notes and edit existing ones. Synchronization is nearly instantaneous so you can have all your fiddly notes, neatly typed out, at your finger tips as soon as you close the sticky. If you’re like me, all thumbs when typing on a smart phone, use the microphone icon on Notes to record your sticky and let the voice recognition do the job. Voice recognition is surprisingly accurate, even if there is background noise, like a tv or radio. One major oversight is the lack of voice recognition integration on laptops. Nothing I tried could get Cortana to recognise Sticky Notes, which is a shame.
- web and email address act as links
- one tap to dial a phone number on your smart phone from a Sticky
- colour coded
- synchronize with Android phone
- voice recognition with Android notes
- date stamped
- fully editable on both Android and Win 10 laptop
- voice recognition doesn’t work with laptop
- not enough formatting options
- could use more colours
- can’t delete a note from Android
Sticky Notes is a free app in the Microsoft Store. There are a number of Sticky apps listed so look for the Microsoft one if you want full integration with your phone. Once installed on your desktop, go to the Google Play store, download the Launcher and set it as your phone’s default. I’m running a pretty low end phone – 8 gigs of memory and pretty slow – and haven’t experienced any issues with the MS Launcher. It works seamlessly with Android, even with a barebones phone.
Great little app for Windows 10, a mini powerhouse for organising thoughts on the fly if you are away from your computer.
Let’s get past the obvious – there are many things I do wrong in life. I’m talking about gaming in particular. I play a number of video games, partially to de-stress but mostly because I’ve learned to enjoy the agony of defeat. Every once in awhile I think “I’ll create a Twitch account and call myself the worlds’ worst gamer”. Then I get a bit of sleep and drop the idea. I’m impatient when it comes to playing games. I’ll play for awhile, watch whatever I’m doing explode into chaos and wander off to read or play around with my stamp collection. But … I think I’ve figured out how to play (some) sim games successfully.
I play mostly sim and risk style games. I’m not a big fan of shoot ’em play. They are mind numbingly boring to me. Plus I get motion sick when the screen swivels around. Nothing kills the joy of online combat like barfing into the toilet after 15 min. I get wickedly motion sick when I play any of those games. I stick mostly to simulation games where I can build and plan out civilizations or small scale cities. That doesn’t mean I’m good at it, just slightly less crappy. I do like the odd dungeon and dragons game, if the screen isn’t first person. I talked to someone who also gets motion sick while playing first person games. He said he pops a gravel or two before playing. Great, instead of vomiting onto the keyboard I can fall off my chair when I fall asleep.
I’ve been idly analysing why I go so monumentally wrong and broke it down into two categories:
- planning | strategy
- moral qualms
Planning | Strategy
The major problem I run into is failing to plan for expansion. I start building without thinking about sustainability. I get all excited about achieving new levels and forget to plan for slumps or disasters. Here’s a screenshot of a colony that soon went to Hell in a handbasket:
It looked pretty good at this stage – 19 colonists, lots of potential Wee Hee! Shortly after this screen shot, every settler was dead. Lack of food and an asteroid strike did them in. It’s hard watching everyone curl up into balls and die. I felt … well .. gutted. This is a great little game but damnit, I need to plan better.
With that lesson in mind, I went slower. Much slower. And here we are:
It took forever to get to 100 citizens! But there they are, thriving and surviving. Shortly after this screenshot, the colony suffered a direct hit but because I spread the power and food around, the colony didn’t suffer from a catastrophic die off.
I took the lessons learned to another game I’m fanatically devoted to Transport Fever. I won’t confess to how many human hours have killed playing Transport Fever, but needless to say, it’s a shameful amount. If you love logistics and long term planning, this is the game to have. I’m currently working on a large map and trying to establish a major passenger empire. It’s taken a lot of plotting and sketching tracks and bus routes to get here, but I’m actually making money .. lots and lots of money.
The addons developed by fans are inspiring. My little empire has Go trains and buses, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific rail cars and more. It’s become a bit sprawling and I’m struggling to maintain a semblance of control. To help, I’ve created spreadsheets to track cargo, passenger loads etc. Did I tell you I am a master of work avoidance? Transport Fever is the single most effective tool in my procrastination arsenal. So far I haven’t managed to create pandemonium in the game and it’s progressing nicely.
This brings me to the another reason for failure. I tend to wrap myself up in all sorts of moral qualms. I’ll be playing a game and get tied into knots about whether I have the right do something like invade a country, spy and steal or kick people off their lands. Some games stir up serious questions about the human condition which in turn lead me into long, internal discussions about history, right and wrong and how we view the world. Many games have been abandoned when I wandered off to check out a bit of history, quotes or political theory used in a game. I’m ever hopeful though and restart a game thinking I’ll stick to this little corner of the world and develop my own city states in peaceful isolation. It’s shocking how quickly a country can be conquered by it’s irritating neighbours. Or worse, suffer the ignominy of being booted from your own nation because you pissed a local faction off too much.
Yes, I know, I know it’s just a game but that doesn’t halt the moral dilemmas. I actually stopped playing Sid Meier’s Colonization because I kept thinking “but that tribe was their first” and inevitably ended up with the quick collapse of any budding empire. I did the same thing over a dungeon’s style game called Titan’s Quest. Great game, until I got to the Tiger people and started feeling terrible for randomly killing them because they were in the way. I suffered repeated die offs as a result. What games need is a way of negotiating with various groups to achieve goals instead of the “kill ’em all” method.
For the time being I’m sticking with Transport Fever and Planetfall – no moral qualms to wrestle with there. Just lots of micro management issues to warm my little OCD heart.
** I’m thinking of recording parts of the Transport Fever builds and posting them to YouTube with commentary. It’ll all depend on my poor old laptop. If it can deal with the strain, I should have the first done next month. I’ll let you know if the lags prevent the recordings.
The single most annoying “feature” on webpages is autoplay. How many times have you landed on a page, reading and suddenly some ad or music blares away. Sometimes it’s impossible to find the offending ad , no matter how many times you scroll up and down looking. It’s worse if you have multiple browser tabs open, then you have to figure out which page is screaming at you.
There is a quick and oh so satisfying way of dealing with this. Edge, Firefox and Chrome all offer a quick mute feature that doesn’t even require you to know where the ad is. Whichever page is playing the sound will show a small speaker either in front of or behind the page name. Here’s an example:
Skim along the top of the browser and locate the speaker and tap to mute the sound. A small line will show the speaker has been turned off.
This doesn’t affect any other page you have open or music you may be listening to, just that webpage. It’s handy to remember, especially if you’re like me and you constantly have multiple pages open (often on all three browsers).
There are a couple of small differences between the browsers. Microsoft Edge is the easiest to see. The speakers is well placed at the front of the page name. Firefox is placed at the end, but still easy to hit. Chrome’s icon is much smaller and a bit fussier to try and hit. I’m not fond of it, but that is just a minor irritant.
Unfortunately, this isn’t very useful for people with severe visual impairments or issues with their hands, like tremors. I have a few customers with macular degeneration, Parkinson’s and MS who can’t hit that tiny a target consistently. The only solution I can think of is using the mute keyboard shortcut but, that mutes everything, which defeats the beauty of this little feature. If anyone has an extension that could help, drop me a line. I’d love to take a look at it.