Around the House (Sept. 26, 2016)

Around the House is a weekly roundup of news items related to smart devices, tools, kitchen gadgets and anything else worth mentioning that affects how we live at home.

Roku now has a streaming device for every budget

Roku announced five new streaming devices last week, including the tiny Roku Express, which only costs $39.99, comes with an HDMI cable and can stream 1080p high-def content. For people who want to stream 4K content, the company has the Roku Premiere ($89.99), Roku Premiere+ ($109.99) and Roku Ultra ($139.99) for you (the Roku Premiere+ and Roku Ultra also have HDR support, a microSD card slot and a remote you can plug headphones into). All new Roku devices will be available in Canada this October.

Roku Express

The tiny Roku Express will be available in Canada for $39.99.

RELATED: You can now watch live TV on Roku players in Canada

Streaming service shomi closing down

The Rogers-Shaw owned video streaming service shomi issued a statement Monday announcing they will be closing down on Nov. 30. This is sad news for fans of shows like Transparent, Catastrophe and Mad Dogs, which don’t air or stream anywhere else in Canada. Rumours are swirling that Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service is coming, but nothing has been confirmed (Amazon distributes all those shows, along with many others).

RELATED: You can now watch every episode of ‘Married… with Children’ on shomi

Sonos coming to an Apple Store near you

Canadians will be able to purchase Sonos PLAY:1 and Sonos PLAY:5 wireless speakers at all Apple Store locations beginning Oct. 5 (online sales on apple.ca begin Nov. 2). As a bonus, customers who purchase a Sonos speaker from the Apple Store until Dec. 31 will get a 3-month subscription to Apple Music for free. Read my review of the Sonos PLAY:5 to see why I’m excited about this news.

Sonos Apple Store

Sonos is coming to all Apple Store locations in Canada on Oct. 5.

RELATED: 4 reasons the new Sonos PLAY:5 will blow you away

Tesla update helps prevent children and pets from horrific deaths

Tesla pushed a software update to all Model S and Model X owners last week that includes, among other things, a feature called Cabin Overheat Protection, which turns on the vehicle’s air conditioning if the internal temperature reaches 40C. While this is great at preventing “hot car deaths“, people really just need to stop leaving children and pets alone in cars.

RELATED: Tesla opening five new supercharger stations in Ontario and Quebec this summer

Never clean your toilet again

A toilet that cleans itself is now a reality thanks to American Standard. The ActiClean self-cleaning toilet has a fully integrated cleaning system that handles all the dirty work with the push of a button. Not having to clean your toilet is not cheap of course and the ActiClean toilet comes with a hefty price tag of $695US with replacement cleaning cartridges running at $14.99US. It’s currently only available at Lowe’s in the U.S. but is sure to make its way to Canada soon.

Have something to add to Around the House weekly? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

You can now stream CraveTV on the XBOX One

CraveTV

Many popular TV shows, like ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Seinfeld’, are available to stream on CraveTV.

Canadian XBOX One users just got a lot more video content as Bell’s CraveTV is now available for subscribers to stream via the gaming system.

“XBOX One delivers an amazing user experience with a user-friendly design, elevating the CraveTV experience for subscribers,” Domenic Vivolo, President of Content Sales, Marketing, and Digital Products at Bell Media said in a press release.

RELATED: CraveTV now available to all Canadians

After downloading the CraveTV app to the XBOX One, subscribers of the service will be able to instantly stream straight from the homescreen, giving them easy access to the content they want to watch.

“Our commitment to bring CraveTV to Canadians on the platform of their choosing continues with today’s launch on XBOX One,” Vivolo said.

The service, which costs $7.99 a month, features premium television content from the likes of HBO and Showtime. Popular shows, such as The Sopranos, Sex and the City, The Wire, Entourage, South Park and CSI are available to stream, along with original programming like the hilarious Letterkenny and Jason Reitman’s Casual. In total, the service offers over 300 series, 500 specials and documentaries and 20 curated collections.

RELATED: Apple TV gets The Shopping Channel in Canada

CraveTV is also available to stream online at cravetv.ca, on iOS, Android and Windows 8.1 devices, via Google’s Chromecast, the Apple TV and select Samsung Smart TVs and Blu-ray players. It’s also available through cable and satellite set-top boxes from providers like Bell, Telus, EastLink and SaskTel.

CraveTV competitor shomi, owned by Rogers and Shaw, is also available to stream on the XBOX One.

Are you excited to stream CraveTV via the XBOX One? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Father’s Day 2016 Gift Guide

Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 19 and that means it’s time to find a gift dad might actually use (or, if you’re the dad in the scenario, ask for something you want). As a father myself with a father-in-law I also need to buy for, here are some suggestions I’ve come up with this year.

Go green

I’m a huge fan of alternative energy sources and as I spend more time travelling, camping and trying to live off the grid, I have come across some great solar devices that are easy to use and don’t cost a fortune. One in particular is the Secur SP-3007.

The Secur SP-3007 is a slick, portable solar-powered USB charger. It has a 4,000mAh battery on the inside and an “ultra-high-efficiency” solar panel on the outside. It’s about the size of a small hard drive and comes equipped with both a full-size USB and micro USB cable (it also has a full-size USB and micro USB port to allow other devices, such as an iPhone, to be plugged in).

The device can charge a range of products and when fully charged itself can regenerate most smartphones up to four times (although the iPhone can only be fully charged twice). The Secur SP-3007 runs for about $70 at Best Buy Canada.

Alternative suggestion: Hooking dad up with a powerful battery-operated EGO Power+ chainsaw or leaf blower will have him ditching the obnoxious gas-powered ones he’s probably been using (and struggling with) for years.

Tools, tools, tools!

You probably don’t know the difference between a drill and an impact driver, but I’m sure your dad does (seriously, go ask him). And if he works on cars or does a lot of building, the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 1/4″ Hex Impact Driver is a beast.

The driver works flawlessly, never strips a screw or bolt and is customizable via Milwaukee’s ONE KEY system, which connects the tool to a smartphone to save your ideal settings. Since picking one of these up it has done me well with jobs like putting in lag bolts for a TV mount and taking apart an old play structure we had in the backyard.

RELATED: 5 reasons you should get a heated hoodie

There are multiple kit options available for the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 1/4″ Hex Impact Driver. For the best value, the $249 kit at Home Depot Canada (currently on sale for $229) comes with two M18 REDLITHIUM batteries, an M18 and M12 multi-voltage charger (great if you also have a Milwaukee heated hoodie or LED flashlight), a bit holder, belt clip and carrying case.

Alternative suggestion: The Proslat Wall Organization system is great for helping dad get the garage in order.

Give the gift of entertainment

As a commuter and a music lover I would be lost without SiriusXM in my car. While I admit I was hesitant to sign-up for it after my trial expired, I soon realized that the $15.99 per month subscription fee was well worth it (after a road trip together my father-in-law agreed and hasn’t gone back to regular radio). If dad is a music fan that doesn’t commute, Spotify is hands-down the best streaming music service out there. Being able to stream all the music you want, commercial-free, for $9.99 a month is truly amazing (and you can stream it through Sonos speakers).

RELATED: 5 books for the DIYer on your list

If dad is more into movies and TV shows, both shomi ($8.99 per month) and CraveTV ($7.99) are well worth signing up for. Both offer a much better catalogue than Netflix Canada, too. CraveTV has HBO content like The Wire, Entourage, The Sopranos and The Newsroom (which should keep dad busy until Christmas) and shomi has some great older movies, as well as exclusive shows like Mr. Robot, Fargo and Sons of Anarchy (and starting Father’s Day you’ll be able to stream all 11 seasons of Married… with Children).

Alternative suggestion: Take the old man out to the movies or a concert (see below).

Time

One thing that every dad probably wants and never gets (and something that doesn’t have to cost you anything) is your time! Take him out for lunch or a drink. Go camping for the night. Get tickets to a sporting event or band you both like. Head to the beach together. Or just hang out and talk with him. No matter what, he will appreciate it and love you more for it.

What are you giving (or asking for) for Father’s Day? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz. Happy Father’s Day!

CraveTV now available to all Canadians

CraveTV

Many popular TV shows, like ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Seinfeld’, are available to stream on CraveTV.

You no longer need a TV subscription to sign-up for Bell’s CraveTV streaming service, the company announced Thursday.

The service, which features exclusive content from HBO and Showtime, is now open to all Canadians for $7.99 per month.

“We’re very proud to enter into the next phase of this incredible service, offering the most premium TV content in Canada at the best price,” said Bell Media president Mary Ann Turcke in a press release.

RELATED: Netflix releases first images from ‘Fuller House’

CraveTV is available to stream online at cravetv.ca, on iOS, Android and Windows 8.1 devices, via Google’s Chromecast, the Apple TV and select Samsung Smart TVs and Blu-ray players. It’s also available through cable and satellite set-top boxes from providers like Bell, Telus, EastLink and SaskTel.

Unlike other streaming services, CraveTV focuses on television content over movies and includes episodes of popular shows such as The Sopranos, Sex and the City, The Wire, Entourage, South Park, Cheers, CSI and Seinfeld. In total, they offer over 300 series and 500 specials and documentaries, along with 20 curated collections.

“Some of the best television in recent memory is available on CraveTV, and we’re delighted all Canadians with access to the Internet will have a chance to discover and enjoy this content, when they want, on the device of their choice,” Turcke said in the release.

Bell also announced Thursday that they will be adding more HBO content, with episodes of The Jinx, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire and The Newsroom coming to the service soon, and that they will be streaming episodes of Showtime’s new series Billions, starring Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis, on the same day and date they air in the U.S.

WATCH: Trailer for Showtime’s new series Billions

Canadians can try CraveTV by signing up for a free one-month trial at cravetv.ca. After the trial it’s $7.99 per month.

The Rogers-Shaw owned streaming service shomi became available to all Canadians last August with an $8.99 monthly fee.

Share your thoughts on CraveTV in the comments below.