Battlefield 4 Review: The Best FPS

Chances are, if you are a gamer and love the first-person shooter genre, you have already played Battlefield 3 or 4. If you have played them already then I am surprised you could peel your eyes away from the screen long enough to read this blog post. You already know this but others don’t: Battlefield is the best FPS, hands down.

Here’s why:

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Best Free Tax Software Canada | Studio Tax Review

It’s about that time of year again — tax season. That means spending copious amounts of time collecting forms, stubs, and receipts to appease the good ol’ taxman.

To simplify things, I used to go to H&R Block. What I didn’t realize is that H&R Block provides little service over and above what you can do yourself with proper tax software. It made sense at the time — as a student their $29.99 rate is fairly reasonable. However, out of school their rate jumps to $59.99+ making it worthwhile to do it yourself.

The second thing I didn’t realize is how easy it is to do your own taxes. Even those with “more complicated” tax situations should find it quite easy with a program like Studio Tax.

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Dell XPS 18 Review | My New “Ridiculous” Computer

“I just bought a new computer”. Normally this is something someone will post to FB, grab a few likes and move on, however the computer I recently purchased is pretty unique, so I thought I would share it in a more detailed post.

I recently picked up the Dell XPS 18, an 18-inch All-in-One / tablet. You read that right. It’s essentially an 18-inch tablet. Except, well, it’s not.

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Learn Something New in 2014 — 2013 Summary Post

Happy New Year! I want to take this moment to thank my subscribers and guests to my blog over this past year!

This post is my 165th, which is hard to believe. It certainly doesn’t feel like I have written that many articles. Pumping out posts week-after-week requires dedication — thankfully I have not yet lost the passion and I am certainly not running out of material to write about, with a backlog of draft posts waiting to go.

Throughout 2013, I made several changes to this blog including rebranding it “Learn Something New” and focusing more closely on “tips for life”. My goal for 2014 is to continue this trend and find great new technology, share tips for life and of course, the occasional movie review.

If you would like to join in on the fun and receive a weekly helpful article, subscribe here.

I am happy to be celebrating over 50,000 views so far and am looking forward to many more. Getting traffic to a blog is no easy task, as any blogger will tell you. The current threats I have to deal with are changes coming down the line from Google, making it harder for small-time bloggers to obtain organic traffic. I won’t get into the specifics but more than ever it will be important to get subscribers and work to obtain exposure on other blogs.

Thanks again to everyone reading up on my latest rants, reviews and tips!
I will wrap-up this post with a list of some of my favourite posts from 2013, in no particular order:

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Avast Antivirus Review — The Best Free Antivirus

Over the last 12 years or so, I have used many different antivirus software packages in search of the perfect one. I have tried Norton, McAfee, AVG and Avast. Based on the title of this post, you already know where I’m going to end up, so if you want to skip straight to installing Avast immediately, here’s the link:

Avast, The Best Free Antivirus:
http://www.avast.com/en-ca/get/V21zfH6Z

First of all, I want to start by saying that Norton and McAfee are by far the worst. They are little more than bloatware that will absolutely ruin the performance of your PC. In fairness, I have not used them in years but they were certainly terrible pieces of software for many years. AVG on the other hand is great — it’s free and runs much more smoothly than Norton or McAfee. However, it is not quite as feature-rich or polished as Avast so after years of using AVG, I made the switch.

Avast is by far the best free antivirus software. It is snappy, easy to install and work with, completely free and has some very powerful features. Unfortunately, Avast has gotten slightly worse over time in trying to convert you to a premium user but for the most part it sits in the background and minds its own business. When you go to register or renew the software each year, just look out for the free option which is somewhat hidden but always there.

Another thing to keep in mind with Avast is that they continue to add new features each year, which should be great, however, many of the new features are unnecessary and may slow your PC down. I keep the bare minimum features on — typically just the anti-virus and anti-malware. I turn off their browser plugins as well.

One of Avast’s best features is the ability to do a pre-boot scan. You can select which harddrives you would like Avast to check, then restart your computer and Avast will run through all your data to look for viruses or malware. I have used pre-boot scans many times to salvage computers full of viruses that went undetected by regular scans with other antivirus software.

Another great thing about Avast is the interface, which is absolutely gorgeous. Navigating through features is painless and very intuitive and the overall suite has a well-polished feel. I am also a sucker for their great branding and colour scheme (and no, I was not paid to write this, just a big fan).

I highly recommend Avast as the best overall antivirus software on the market. I give it a 9/10 even though it deserves a perfect score. I do so only because they have been more pushy with their premium versions but it is still easy enough to take advantage of the free version and upgrade if you require one of their premium features.

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Best RSS Reader / News Feed: Feedly Review

There was a time, eons ago, when people got all of their news from two primary sources: newspapers and television. Although I remember that time, the world had already moved on by the time I was an adult and I do not miss it.

These days, there are interesting articles spread out across thousands of blogs and sites across the internet.

The question is: how do you consolidate your favourite news sources for daily consumption?

The answer is: Feedly!

Feedly is an RSS-reader, a type of news aggregator, that uses the RSS web feed standard. Don’t be scared by the tech-speak, Feedly is very easy to use. Simply install the addon and search for your favourite sites and blogs that support RSS (most do) and Feedly will automatically check those sites for new content and present them to you in a visually appealing way.

You can think of it as your own personal newspaper / magazine for the web and since you don’t need to visit those sites manually anymore, it can help you clean up that pile of bookmarks you have in your browser.

You don’t have to follow strictly news sources, of course. I follow a variety of content such as:

  • Blogs (Science, Technology, Business, Sports etc.)
  • Web Comics (Perfect for lunch breaks)
  • News (Science, Technology, Business etc.)

Feedly is available across devices (desktop, Android, iOS) and automatically keeps everything in sync. It’s perfect for reading up during lunch or digesting articles on your phone whenever you have some downtime. I swear by it.

I have been using Feedly for several years now and, although I have tried other RSS-readers, I have always stuck with Feedly because it is simple, convenient and it just works. Feedly allows you to search for sources directly from their search bar — for example, typing in “Wired” to automatically pull up any Wired magazine site and blog feeds  — as well as allowing you to manually add RSS feeds.

For those new to RSS, adding feeds manually, while not necessary in most cases, is very easy. Simply visit your favourite site or blog, look for an RSS icon or text, and copy and paste the feed URL that typically looks something like:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/smbc-comics/PvLb?format=xml

RSS feed button

You may have to click through a secondary FeedBurner page if the feed was setup that way and click “View feed XML”. To keep it simple, however, just search using Feedly’s search box and you should be able to immediately add all but the most obscure feeds.

If you aren’t already a devoted Feedly fan like me, give it a shout and let me know what you think!

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iOS 7 Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The internet is absolutely loaded with 2 things right now: iOS 7 traffic as people download the latest iOS update and a billion blog posts reviewing iOS 7. I feel it is my job to fuel the fire with my own iOS 7 review.

Firstly, it is worth noting that there are a variety of opinions out there about whether or not iOS 7 is good or bad. Like many, however, I see the OS as taking a number of steps forward and several steps back (as well as some unnecessary side steps). Here’s the breakdown:

iOS 7 InterfaceThe Good

iOS 7 brings about the biggest visual change that Apple has ever put forward. Apple has redesigned just about every single interface and application — I can’t think of anything that hasn’t been redesigned. For those that embrace change (I fall into that camp), the update is very welcome and seems refreshing. For everyone else, many changes will seem arbitrary and frustrating. The good news is that after a week or so, most users will have adapted.

Upgrading was as easy as usual, not including a delay because of overwhelming traffic to Apple’s servers and almost all settings and app data made it across safely to the new OS. Unfortunately, for some reason, my apps did not. A quick visit to the “purchased” section of the App Store app allowed me to re-download the apps painlessly and thankfully all of my app data made the transition.

The best addition to iOS 7 is the introduction of Control Centre for quickly changing phone settings. Of course, this functionality has existed via jailbreak for several years now, but it is great to finally see it baked into the OS as a standard feature.

Based on this, I can finally say that a jailbroken iPhone is no longer an absolute necessity. I still miss my 5-icon dock though.

The Bad
iOS 7 App SwipeThe bad news is that many changes are not just visual and may have gone a step in the wrong direction. Apple decided to rethink many system-wide gestures — some that have worked out for the better and others that add prolonged confusion. Take the new swipe gestures in the default “Mail” application, for example. Apple has decided to change the “swipe for options” functionality from a left-to-right swipe to a right-to-left swipe. This was done, presumably, because of the new OS-wide left-to-right swipe “back” function. However, it just doesn’t feel natural to swipe right to left and is a harder action to perform.

The notification center, by default, has also been made worse. The new “Today” view has been declared terrible by many. Thankfully, you can return the notification center to the way it was by changing some settings.

The Ugly

Call me shallow, but one of my biggest issues with iOS 7 is the overall colour scheme. I call it rainbow unicorn vomit. The fact that Apple got rid of skeuomorphism is fantastic, and most of the menus are dramatically improved visually. However, most of the new stock icons look like off-colour candy and make the overall OS feel more like a children’s toy than a serious new OS.

Some of the biggest problems that you can immediately fix are outlined in a recent Lifehacker article: fixing iOS 7’s biggest annoyances. Some of these frustrating items are:

  • Parallax — the unnecessary, constantly shifting of home screen apps when you move the phone. Distracting and useless.
  • Disable Control Center when in applications — for some apps that require interaction towards the bottom of the screen causing users to accidentally pull up Control Center.
  • Improving battery life by disabling background app refreshing
  • Returning notification center back to its superior old self

iOS 7 Album Artist AnnoyanceAlso, a small but particularly annoying change has been made to the Music app. Instead of selecting an artist and then being presented with a list of albums to drill-drown on, you are given a list of all songs for all albums instead. This makes it much more difficult to get to a specific album since you may have to scroll through every other album before reaching the one that you want (see the screenshot on the left).

Overall, iOS 7 is refreshing seeing as the OS has retained the same look for so long. However, Apple has overdone some of the visual changes and made a number of changes that are unnecessary. Despite some on-going annoyances, most users will quickly come to terms with the new OS and enjoy some of the best features like the Control Center.

What do you think about iOS 7?

Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

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