The CN Tower is a giant Printer!

It turns out that the seemingly random lights flashing on the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada are actually images! Behind the elevators are some powerful lights that appear to be flashing randomly. The way they achieve this ‘randomness’ is by ‘printing’ images line by line, sort of like a huge inkjet printer.

YouTube user avi has used some fancy photography to recreate what those images look like. You might notice some thin black lines criss-crossing the image, that is the elevators blocking the lights as they go up and down. Have a look at the video below.

Images created from the CN Tower elevator lights.

Spotify Duo – Now available!

If buying a family plan for you and your partner is just too much commitment then Spotify has you covered. Starting today Spotify is offering a price point between their single user and family premium plans. Made for two, Premium Duo offers neat features like Duo Mix, offering a selection from each user’s playlist.

I think Spotify missed an opportunity to launch this on valentines day, music lasts much longer than flowers and this just may save some relationships!

Today, Spotify is expanding its pilot of its Premium Duo plan into Canada as well as in France and Japan. The expansion of Premium Duo follows a strong rollout in Denmark, Ireland, Poland and Latin America last year. 

Spotify Premium Duo was created for couples who reside at the same address – and it costs $12.99 per month and eliminates the difficulties of sharing an account or devices. In addition to each person keeping their own Premium account (and the personalized experience that comes with it), Premium Duo includes new perks such as Duo Mix – an exclusive, regularly updated playlist made just for the two subscribers – and an easy interface for managing your accounts, settings and home device setup. 

So who’s eligible and how do you sign up? Spotify Premium Duo is currently available in 23 pilot markets and is for couples who reside at the same home address. Visit spotify.com/ca/duo and follow the sign-up instructions. For users who haven’t tried Premium before, they’re eligible for the first month free of Spotify Premium Duo. Existing individual Premium subscribers can switch to Premium Duo by visiting their account page and changing their subscription. 

To find out more and sign up today, visit spotify.com/ca/duo. If you have questions, please let me know.

Birthday’s On-Demand: Netflix now helps celebrate your kids birthday

Netflix Birthdays On-Demand

Along with interactive choose your own adventure shows, special countdowns for New Year’s Eve and a growing library of original kid-friendly content, Netflix has now launched Birthday’s On-Demand.

RELATED: Netflix will help you trick your kids to go to bed early this New Year’s Eve

With Birthday’s On-Demand parents can cue up characters from 14 different Netflix shows to celebrate with. Characters include LEGO Friends, Dinotrux, Barbie, King Julien, My Little Pony, Beat Bugs, Skylanders and more.

About Birthdays On-Demand

Birthdays On-Demand is a one-click birthday hack for the 44 per cent of parents who feel the social media-fueled anxiety of pulling off the perfect birthday celebration, and the 69 per cent who wish there was an easier way. No glitter, no confetti, just family-friendly entertainment that’ll be the icing on the cake at any birthday bash.

To find the Birthdays On-Demand featurettes on Netflix search for “birthday,” “birthdays,” “Birthdays On-Demand” or “birthday songs” or visit netflix.com/birthdays.

Will you use the Netflix Birthdays On-Demand feature for your child? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Best Buy Canada’s Life & Tech Festival returning to Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square

 

Best Buy Life & Tech

Best Buy Canada announced Thursday that their Life & Tech Festival is returning to Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square for the third year.

The interactive festival showcases smart home and connected health devices, along with the latest in wearable tech, connected toys and drones, and gaming and virtual reality systems.

Best Buy says over 60 exhibitors from around the globe will be demonstrating products at the 2017 fest.

The event runs daily from September 12 to 14 between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. It’s free for the public to check out.

Are you interested in Best Buy Canada’s Life & Tech Festival? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Head back to school with the Luma Home WiFi system

Luma Home WiFi

If you’re worried about online security, have kids in the home or have a lot of connected devices, the Luma Home is a solid, secure mesh WiFi system that offers many great features.

In my review of Netgear’s Orbi WiFi system earlier this summer I mentioned that mesh WiFi routers are all the rage these days. And while the Orbi is a powerful system, it lacked some features I expected and I found that the base station and satellite were unreasonably large (especially if you live in an apartment or smaller house). This led to me looking into other mesh WiFi systems like the Luma Home.

Unboxing

Because I live in a side-split and have had issues with coverage in the past, I went for the three-pack Luma offers. This comes with a base hub and two nodes (they are all interchangeable and any of the three can be used as the base hub). I was immediately impressed with the size of the hexagon-shaped units when I opened the box as these are small and well-designed, and you can plug them in and hide them easily around your home.

Setup

I connected the main hub to my cable modem in the middle of my basement and followed the instructions on the Luma app to complete the setup of the nodes and find the best placement for them. The app asks for the type of home you have then uses Bluetooth to sync the nodes to the main hub. The app makes the setup super easy and hassle-free and I was up and running in under 20 minutes.

The connection

While not as powerful as the Orbi, I found the WiFi connection from Luma to be stable and strong throughout my entire home, even with a family of four and endless devices connected I found everything worked seamlessly.

RELATED: Orbi delivers on performance, falls on features

Luma also constantly fine tunes the connection depending on where you’ve placed the nodes and what is happening around your home. You will also be notified via the app if there are any issues. This is a great as it learns your habits and helps you get the strongest signal.

Each of the nodes has two ethernet ports that can be used to connect to other devices, such as smart home hubs or networked printers. If you find you are having issues getting a strong connection between the three units wirelessly you can wire them all together via the ethernet ports to create a larger wireless area.

The Luma nodes also have a USB port. Unfortunately, these are only able to charge devices, like an iPhone or iPad, and not connect to a network drive or printer.

App and features

Where Luma stands out from the Orbi and other mesh WiFi systems I’ve tried is with the features it offers via the app.

You can name and assign all devices connected to your network to individual people. This keeps your network more organized and means you can set ratings for each person, pause the Internet for a person and also monitor if anything weird is happening with a specific device.

RELATED: Google Home review: How my family got hooked on a personal assistant speaker

This is ideal if you have children in the home (or roommates you want to limit). I set my son’s profile to a PG rating so that any content or sites he tries to view on his iPad that is not PG-friendly will not work, including YouTube videos. If I call him for dinner and he’s not listening, I can pause his connection. I can also set a time limit for him and set a daily bedtime – a time of day where his assigned devices will not be able to access the Internet.

Luma also monitors for any malicious activity and will alert you to such. This is perfect for devices that don’t have anti-virus software available, such as TVs and light bulbs. Because of this feature I was able to identify that my Vizio TV was sending info to a tracking site and that my Pixel phone was constantly hitting a phishing URL from a tab I had opened in Chrome.

For extra security you can also sign-up for the $5 per month Luma Guardian service which gives you a stealth VPN service, antivirus protection and a 2-year extended warranty on your Luma WiFi devices. It also monitors your ISP speed to see if you’re getting what you’re paying for.

The only feature missing from Luma that annoyed me is the ability to see your bandwidth usage. This would be a great addition and hopefully they add it in the future.

Final thoughts

If you’re worried about online security, have kids in the home or have a lot of connected devices, the Luma Home is a solid, secure mesh WiFi system that offers many great features. Because of it’s compact size, it’s also perfect for people who live in an apartment or smaller home, and for students heading off to college.

The Luma Home WiFi system three-pack sells for $399 at Best Buy Canada. Single units can be purchased for $149.99. For more information on the Luma Home WiFi system, visit lumahome.com.

Are you interested in mesh WiFi systems? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Download this tip sheet to help keep your kids safe online

The Modern Parent’s Guide to Facebook and Social Networks

To promote his new book The Modern Parent’s Guide to Facebook and Social Networks, author Scott Steinberg has compiled an excellent tip sheet for parents and teachers on online safety for kids.

Technology & Kids: An Online Safety Guide offers online safety hints and tips and ways to protect your privacy online. It also covers screen time and limits and how to teach digital citizenship (“treat others online the same way you’d like to be treated”). It’s a great resource to get the conversation on online safety started.

Download the tip sheet for free at akeynotespeaker.com.

About The Modern Parent’s Guide to Facebook and Social Networks:

The ultimate guide to navigating today’s fast-moving social media landscape and keeping kids safe on the Internet, from bestselling keynote speaker and trends expert Scott Steinberg. Providing the answers that parents and teachers need to know to teach responsible social media habits, protect children’s privacy and make social networks a more positive part of household and classroom life, The Modern Parent’s Guide to Facebook and Social Networks offers crucial insights for equipping kids with all the tools that they need to succeed in a connected world.

For more info on the book and to order a copy, visit akeynotespeaker.com/parents.

Do you teach your kids or students about online safety? Will this tip sheet come in handy? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Google Home review: How my family got hooked on a personal assistant speaker

Google Home

My Google Home patiently waiting for me to ask it something.

Ever since I heard about the Amazon Echo a couple of years ago I’ve wanted a personal assistant speaker. The idea I could just walk into my home and tell it to turn on lights or adjust my thermostat was the obvious next level in my dream of having a high-tech house.

While I waited for Amazon to release the Echo (or its cousin, the Echo Dot) in Canada, Google unleashed the Google Assistant on its line of Pixel phones. The Assistant was near perfection and was the main reason I ditched my iPhone and made the move to Android (bye, Siri). It kept getting better and better, too, with new capabilities being added frequently.

So when Google announced the Google Home, their Echo competitor, back in 2016, I was intrigued at what it could offer. It appeared to be just like the Assistant on my phone but able to do more in my home and for my entire family. And unlike the Echo, which uses Bing to look things up, Home has the almighty Google Search behind it. Then Google did something Amazon didn’t (and still hasn’t) – they released the Google Home in Canada!

Now, my excitement of having a personal assistant speaker over the years was not shared by my wife. My kids, of course, were on my side, but she was not sold on having a device “listening” in on us and told me I was never going to be allowed to bring one into our home. When Google offered to lend me a Home to review I figured it would be the only way I could convince her we needed one and, spoiler alert, it worked!

Here’s what impressed my family the most about the Google Home and why we can’t live without one now.

The speaker

I was not expecting much in the sound department from the air freshener looking Google Home. I’m used to streaming music via my Sonos system, which is still the gold standard for connected speakers in my opinion. That said, the Google Home offers really good sound quality that fills my living room quite nicely.

Being able to control Spotify (my streaming music service of choice) and raise or lower the volume via my voice is also a big benefit and a huge timesaver. This was by far the biggest selling feature for my wife, and even my kids ask it to play songs they like (although my youngest is hooked on Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” thanks to Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare and that’s all I hear now).

Home control

Controlling my lights and thermostat by voice is what I wanted the Google Home for in the first place, and it has lived up to my expectations!

The Google Home works with a majority of “smart” products and was easy to connect with my Philips Hue bulbs, Nest thermostat and Lutron switches. I can say things like “Ok, Google dim my living room lights” and ta-da, my living room Hue bulbs dim! Or I can say “Ok, Google adjust the temperature to 21” and I can see my Nest light up and adjust the temperature. It also works with the Wink hub, WeMo plugs and switches, TP-Link bulbs and Samsung’s SmartThings hub (among a slew of other devices).

Sadly, Logitech does not support the Google Home in Canada yet so users of the Harmony remote won’t be able to control their TVs via voice (this is an option in the U.S. and I still don’t understand why it doesn’t work here). If you have a Chromecast though (which, I do not) you can use the Google Home to control it via voice.

It really is an assistant

Since the Google Home is connected to your Google account it truly does act as a personal assistant. “Ok, Google what’s my day like?” will tell you things that are on your calendar, let you know how long your commute to work is and tell you the weather for the day.

You can also ask for the latest headlines and it will play you clips from news providers you’ve selected (CBC, Global News, Sportsnet and CityNews are available Canadian sources). And it works for multiple users, meaning my wife and I can both access our own info depending on who is talking.

Perfect in the kitchen

Using the Google Home to add items to our shopping list, set timers when we’re cooking, convert measurements and even find recipes are features of the Home I never expected to be hooked on. It’s pretty much the perfect kitchen gadget and has become a great motivation to get me cooking more.

General knowledge

With a six and a 10-year-old in the house we get a lot of questions about a lot of different things. We try our best to answer everything we can but when they ask a question like “how many home runs did Jackie Robinson hit?” I need to look it up. These questions usually come up at the dinner table when phones and computers are not around (and not allowed). Now we can ask the Google Home questions to get the answer and that tends to lead into more questions and more learning opportunities.

My wife also found this to be a blessing when doing homework for a class she was taking. Instead of getting distracted on her phone or computer she asked it a few questions to clarify info as she was writing notes.

Games

The Google Home is loaded with fun word and sound games you can play. These range from trivia and math-based games to things like Mad Libs and Tic Tac Toe. Because there is no screen, you need to visualize and actually use your brain a bit more than if you were just playing a game on your phone or tablet. My kids and I find it’s great to play these around the breakfast table and I’ve even caught them forgoing their iPad time in favour of these games.

The Google Home can be purchased in Canada for $159 from the Google Store. It’s also available to purchase at Best Buy and Home Depot.

Have a Google Home or want one? Share your thoughts on it in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Nintendo Switch Play Together Events planned for cities across Canada this summer

Nintendo Switch Play Together Events

Bummed that the Nintendo Switch is sold out everywhere and you haven’t been able to try it? Then you’re in luck, as Nintendo is taking its latest gaming system across Canada this summer!

The Nintendo Switch Play Together Events are planned for Vancouver, Surrey, Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Lévis, QC. Adults and kids will be able get a taste of ARMS, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and 1-2-Switch games. Splatoon 2 will also be available at events after its July 21 release date.

RELATED: Disney’s taking Lightning McQueen on a Canadian road trip

Besides playing the games and getting a feel for the Nintendo Switch, there will be prizes and giveaways available. And Mario will also make an appearance in-person at some events!

Schedule of Nintendo Switch Play Together Events across Canada:

June 25
Vancouver, BC
Greek Day on Broadway

July 1
Surrey, BC
Canada Day Celebrations [Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre]

July 1 – 3
Toronto, ON
Redpath Waterfront Festival

July 7 – 9
Montreal, QC
Montreal Comiccon

July 7 – 16
Calgary, AB
Calgary Stampede

July 15 – 23
Montreal, QC
Mondial des Jeux

Aug 2 – 6
Lévis, QC
Festivent Ville de Lévis

Aug 11 – 13
Montreal, QC
La Ronde

Aug 18 – Sept 4
Toronto, ON
Canadian National Exhibition (CNE)

Aug 19 – Sept 4
Vancouver, BC
Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) *Closed August 21 and 28

For more information on the Nintendo Switch Play Together Events, visit nintendo.ca.

Are you excited to get a chance to play the Nintendo Switch? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Orbi delivers on performance, falls on features

Mesh WiFi routers are all the rage this year, and rightfully so. A mesh network delivers a stronger connection throughout your home with fewer dead zones and dropouts. And Netgear’s Orbi WiFi system is one of the most powerful systems I’ve tested.

Unboxing

I received the two-unit AC3000 Orbi WiFi system to test from Netgear. It comes with a base router and one satellite. Both feature four Ethernet ports and a USB 2.0 port. To my surprise, the units are much larger than I expected, especially when compared to other mesh WiFi systems, and finding a spot to place them proved difficult.

Setup

After finding a spot for the oversize base unit and satellite to live, I set my system up using my Google Pixel. I did the entire setup via the phone’s web browser and it was a breeze. In total it took about 15 minutes to get everything up and running.

Orbi WiFi

Trying to find a spot to hide the large Orbi satellite proved to be difficult.

The connection

Netgear says that the two-unit Orbi system covers up to 5000 sq. ft. and they don’t lie. I live in a side-split bungalow and have had issues in the past with dropouts and dead zones. With the Orbi my connection has been solid throughout my home, in my garage, and all around my yard.

The Ethernet ports on the satellite have proved beneficial for connecting IoT/Smart Home hubs, like my Philips Hue and Wink hubs. I also found that the Orbi works with wireless IoT/Smart Home products much better than other mesh systems I have tested.

Sadly, the USB ports on both the base unit and satellite are for networked storage only and not printers.

App and features

The official Orbi app is quite useless and I recommend Netgear’s genie app to manage your Orbi system. While the genie app offers some nice features for mapping out devices and monitoring traffic, it still does not give enough control when it comes to security or parental features (you can’t even turn on the guest network via the app and will need to login through the web portal for this). The system can supposedly be controlled via an Amazon Echo, which would be a bonus if it ever gets released in Canada.

Final thoughts

Overall, if you are having issues with WiFi dropouts in your home or have a lot of connected devices, the Orbi should solve your problems. If you want more parental controls, features or a better app experience, look into other mesh systems like the eero or Luma.

The two-unit Orbi WiFi system retails for $499 on Amazon.ca. For more info and full specs, visit netgear.com.

Are you looking to upgrade your home WiFi network? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Netflix setting up download zones for Ontario cottagers this summer

Netflix logo

Planning to head to the cottage for the long weekend? If you’re in Ontario you’ll be happy to know you can now stop at a Netflix Download Zone along the way to load up on content!

The “Netflix and go” download zones will be available every long weekend from Victoria Day to Labour Day. Users can stop, connect and download available shows to their tablets or phones for offline viewing in the car or at the cottage.

RELATED: What you need to know about 4K Ultra HD content on Netflix

Shows available to download include the likes of Stranger Things, Riverdale, The OA, PAW PatrolThe Office and more.

Here are the locations of the Ontario Netflix Download Zones:

Victoria Day weekend

Friday, May 19

  • Bass Pro Shop at Vaughan Mills – 1 Bass Pro Mills Dr

Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21

  • Collingwood – Farmers Market at Hurontario and Simcoe St

Canada Day weekend

Friday June 30

  • Bass Pro Shop at Vaughan Mills – 1 Bass Pro Mills Dr

Saturday, July 1 and Sunday, July 2

  • Gravenhurst – 101 Centennial Dr

Civic Holiday weekend

Friday, August 4

  • Bass Pro Shop at Vaughan Mills – 1 Bass Pro Mills Dr

Saturday, August 5 and Sunday, August 6

  • Huntsville – 37 Main St E

Labour Day weekend

Friday, September 1

  • Bass Pro Shop at Vaughan Mills – 1 Bass Pro Mills Dr

Netflix Download Zones

Will you take advantage of the Netflix Download Zones? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.