iPhone Users Listen Up: Keyboard Shortcuts (Autofill) are a Lifesaver!

If you have yet to discover the iPhone’s keyboard shortcuts, you are about to have your mind blown. This function, tucked away in the settings, has two awesome functions: to create shortcuts for strings of text you frequently type, and to serve as a dictionary override. The second use is a best-kept secret, so be sure to read on.

Shortcuts function can be found in Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts

Create Shortcuts for Frequently Typed Items

iPhone Shortcuts — Autofill

The primary use of iPhone shortcuts is as their name implies — shortcuts. Simply press the “+” button in the top right and enter the text that you frequently type as the “Phrase” and the shortcut for the autofill as the “Shortcut”. For example, you can enter your address as the phrase and have your email automatically filled in when you type in “myemail” if you set “myemail” as the shortcut (see image). This is particularly useful for those with long emails or for longer phrases like full postal addresses.

Other great uses of shortcuts are:

  • Addresses (“myaddress”)
  • Phone numbers (“mynumber”)
  • Stop texting me, you’re crazy! (“crazyex”)

Create Dictionary Overrides (Particularly Useful for Swear Words)

Do you find it super annoying that Apple tries to strip you of the colourful language you like to use? Worry no more! Simply add a phrase for the word that you don’t want to have autocorrected and leave the shortcut field blank. Voilà! Steve Jobs will no longer try to correct your exclamations to “Duck!”

Of course, this isn’t limited to swearing. If there are any words that you type that are frequently “corrected”, incorrectly, simply add them to your list of shortcuts.

Have you been using the iPhone’s keyboard shortcuts? If so, what are some of the shortcuts you have created?

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:

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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Teach Your Children the Most Important Language: Code

Parent’s always want the best for their children; whether it is private school, language immersion or special extracurricular activities. In Canada, for example, French immersion is very common to ensure that children grow up to be bilingual.

Being bilingual has many advantages, particularly for countries with multiple primary languages like Canada, but these advantages pale in comparison to the advantages of learning the global language of code.

Essays and literature are not translated internationally easily, unlike code. A well-written program or application can be used globally with only small modifications to the interface. More importantly, however, because of the increased prevalence of technology, those that know how to code will find success more readily in today’s world than those that do not.

Learning to code should become a priority, and education should begin at a very young age. According to J. Paul Gibson, a computer scientist at the University of Ireland, “Children aged from 5-11 have so much potential for learning about algorithms and computation that it would be a shame to wait until they are teenagers before we teach them the foundations”. Gibson found that older students (18 or 19 years old) struggled to learn the concepts of programming compared to much younger students. This applies to technology-use in general, not just programming.

Teach your children how to code and use technology!

Gibson’s insights may seem obvious to some  — that people learn things easier, and more wholly, as children — but to many it is still frowned upon to introduce children to technology at a young age. There is a delicate balance between allowing your children to learn technology, and allowing them to get lost in it, but you absolutely have to try. I would argue that it is better to have your children “get lost” in technology then for them to never “find it”.

The argument is simple:

  • Technology is becoming a very big part of everyday life, globally
  • Knowing how to interact with technology, including learning to code, is important to play a role in the new world economy as a result of this global transformation
  • Coding is much easier to learn as children
  • Therefore, teach your children how to code and use technology!

North America is already falling behind when it comes to producing strong programmers, mathematicians and scientists. Programming, like education in general, is still viewed as “nerdy”, so many students avoid the subject. The reality is that, nerdy or not, the technology sector produces some of the most lucrative careers — much better than flipping burgers for the rest of your life.

Of course, parents always have to balance their children’s interaction with technology with other activities like sports, social activities and outdoor fun, but introducing technology and coding to children early is vital to their success in the ever-changing world of technology.

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Vegetarians, Get Excited: Fake Chicken That Tastes Like Real Chicken

Though I am not a proponent of vegetarianism, I find technological advances of any kind to be very interesting. The latest advancement in food tech brings us a mixture of soy, pea and protein isolates (among other ingredients) that tastes like Chicken.

What makes the product particularly amazing, however, is not that it tastes like chicken, rather that it feels like chicken. 

Meat substitutes have long suffered from a lack of appetizing texture. Substitutes made out of tofu, for example, come nowhere close to the mouth-feel of a good ol’ fashioned piece of meat. Beyond Meat is now making the texture problem a thing of the past.

Though I cannot personally vouch for the fake meat, according to Alton Brown, a chef and host on the Food Network, the new product is pretty impressive. Alton Brown has this to say about it:

I tear it and watch the break, the way the material separates. It’s more like meat than anything I’ve ever seen that wasn’t meat. Looking closely I can see a repeating pattern, like a subtle honeycomb, that reminds me a bit of tripe. I close my eyes and smell, but since the strip hasn’t received any flavoring at this point, I detect only subtle hints of soy.

I take a bite. While the unflavored product tastes distinctly vegetal and still has a bit of what I’d call tofu-bounce, a hint of the spongy, the tear is … meaty.

Read his full experience here

The new food product comes to us from Beyond Meat, based out of Missouri, where they utilize specialized machinery to fold vegetarian ingredients in a unique way to produce the meat-like texture and given the rise in vegetarianism, particularly in California, the product will be a sure-hit (assuming they can keep the price within reason, though vegetarians are probably used to paying a premium for good meat substitutes).

A call out to meat-eaters and vegetarians: what do you think about this new fake chicken?

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What is AC Wi-Fi? How fast is 802.11ac Wi-Fi?

What is AC (802.11ac) Wi-Fi?

802.11ac is a new standard of Wi-Fi that is quickly becoming available with new devices. The previous standard, that most new devices are currently using, is 802.11n. Wireless “N” has a typical transfer rate of about 100 Mbps, while 802.11ac increases the current rate by more than 4X to 450 Mbps (practical, single antenna limit).

AC Wi-Fi also introduces several amazing new features:

  • It operates on the 5 GHz frequency instead of the 2.4 GHz frequency. Since many other devices and appliances operate on 2.4 GHz, operating in the 5 GHz band will reduce interference with these other devices. I relay music from my phone to my Bluetooth sound system (Bluetooth operates on 2.4 GHz) and I have N Wi-Fi, so I get significant interference whenever I am downloading something. 802.11ac Wi-Fi will prevent this interference.
  • Beamforming — allows the router to identify the locations of devices and intensify the wireless signals in those directions (see image below). With beamforming, AC Wi-Fi can maintain a good range — otherwise lost due to the nature of the 5 GHz frequency (it doesn’t penetrate walls as easily).
  • It will accommodate more devices connected to the same router.

AC Wi-Fi Beamforming

So how fast is 802.11ac?

450 Mbps is not the theoretical maximum transfer rate for ac, but rather a practical rate that users can actually expect outside of a laboratory. This works out to over 50 MB per second, or the rough equivalent of downloading 16 songs every second (assuming a 3MB mp3 song size).

Non-techies need not worry about specific transfer speeds, just understand that your internet downloads can finish up to 4 times faster with AC Wi-Fi. Of course, users will always be restricted by the speed of the internet actually reaching their house. My internet package, for example, only grants me speeds up to 10 Mbps, or 1.25 MB per second (yes, I know, that’s terrible but faster packages quickly get much more expensive!). That means that AC Wi-Fi is technically overkill for any downloads over the internet for me, and likely many others. However, users without blisteringly fast home internet can still benefit from AC Wi-Fi if they transfer or stream large files over their home network.

Should I worry about AC Wi-Fi right now?

No, probably not. For the most part, AC Wi-Fi may still be overkill. With a fast home internet connection and a good Wireless N router and compatible devices, you probably aren’t really in need of it. However, there are several scenarios where AC is useful today:

  • If you are like me and use Bluetooth devices around your home while simultaneously downloading heavily, AC should eliminate any interference you are currently experiencing.
  • If you are buying new devices that you plan to keep around for a long time (i.e. a desktop or laptop), it may be a good idea to pick up an AC-compatible device so you don’t get left behind, since AC will become the new standard — though this is not likely to happen for another year or two at least.

Are you looking forward to AC Wi-Fi? Do you find your current wireless setup to be sufficient? Leave your responses in the comments below. Continue on to learn more about wireless standards.

Learn More About Wireless Standards

802.11 is the name of the first Wi-Fi standard that was created back in 1997 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Since that time, each new iteration has added a letter to denote the change to the standard (speed, features etc.).  The order is as follows: 801.11, a/b, g, n and now, ac.

Below is a summary of the major advancements made with the 802.11 standard:

  • 802.11 — up to 2 Mbps, 2.4 GHz, can interfere with other appliances
  • 802.11b — up to 11 Mbps, 2.4 GHz, can interfere with other appliances
  • 802.11a — up to 54 Mbps, 5 GHz, less interference, reduced range, lower penetration
  • 802.11g — up to 54 Mbps, 2.4 GHz, can interfere with other appliances
  • 802.11n — up to 100 Mbps, 2.4 or 5 GHz, can interfere with other appliances
  • 802.11ac — up to 450 Mbps, 5 GHz, less interference, beamforming, reduced range, lower penetration

Learn more about 802.11 Wi-Fi  standards.

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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:


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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Facebook Messenger vs. BBM — Why BBM Sucks

BBM was just released for iOS and Android and a number of people are quickly jumping onto the new-old messaging platform. Before you hop on the bangwagon and add to the messaging fragmentation problem, let me explain why Facebook Messenger is better than BBM.

First off, BBM sucks is a bit harsh. BBM is actually great, it’s just unnecessary and worse than messaging from within Facebook.

1. Everyone* already uses Facebook.

This first point should be obvious but many people still miss just how amazing Facebook is. Until Facebook came along, there was no platform that could single-handedly connect you with everyone you would ever want to speak with (and even some you probably never will want to speak with, but that’s okay).

Facebook Messaging allows you to instantly connect with anyone on your Facebook, no PIN required (more on that later). You can message your closest friends, or reach out to an acquaintance for a very random and specific conversation.

* there aren’t many people left unreachable via Facebook, especially for younger generations.

2. Choice

You can use Facebook Messenger, the dedicated app, or you can message people right from within Facebook. Since many people are already on Facebook throughout the day, it just makes sense to pull up the message box and start typing away!

3. No need for PINs.

Tired of updating people’s phone numbers? Adding PINs? Dealing with phone changes? No worries! With Facebook Messenger you don’t have to worry about any of that. Simply log into to Facebook on any connected device on the planet and you can pick up where you left off in conversations, instantly!

4. Facebook Messenger can be used on a plethora of devices including the desktop.

Apparently BBM will eventually be releasing a desktop application, but as it stands Facebook Messenger has an enormous advantage since the platform remains exactly the same whether you are on desktop or mobile. This is a huge benefit to Facebook. When you’re on the go, use your phone. When you are at home, however, you have the option of typing much faster at your desktop, should you choose to do so.

5. BBM will lead to more fragmentation.

The biggest problem with BBM, the thing that truly does suck, is that it will lead to more fragmentation. Facebook was slowly starting to take over as the default communication platform for many people. Sure, people still text and use iMessage, but Facebook Messenger was always a reliable backup used for connecting you to anyone — especially good for conversations that contain close friends and acquaintances.

6. Facebook Messenger has all of the features of BBM.

Read receipts? Check. Send pictures? Check. Send emoticons? Check. Facebook Messenger has all of the desired features of BBM and none of the undesired ones (like requiring PINs, gross).

7. BBM is unnecessary.

By now, you have probably figured out a fantastic way to keep in touch with your friends. Maybe it’s WhatsApp, texting or iMessage, or even better, you’re messaging through Facebook. Either way, BBM will only complicate the communication with your friends.

Please stop this fragmentation nightmare. Don’t jump on the bangwagon!

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