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26 Sep 21:25

The Sheppy Report: September 26, 2014

by sheppy

I can’t believe another week has already gone by. This is that time of the year where time starts to scream along toward the holidays at a frantic pace.

What I did this week

  • I’ve continued working heavily on the server-side sample component system
    • Implemented the startup script support, so that each sample component can start background services and the like as needed.
    • Planned and started implementation work on support for allocating ports each sample needs.
    • Designed tear-down process.
  • Created a new “download-desc” class for use on the Firefox landing page on MDN. This page offers download links for all Firefox channels, and this class is used to correct a visual glitch. The class has not as yet been placed into production on the main server though. See this bug to track landing of this class.
  • Updated the MDN administrators’ guide to include information on the new process for deploying changes to site CSS now that the old CustomCSS macro has been terminated on production.
  • Cleaned up Signing Mozilla apps for Mac OS X.
  • Created Using the Mozilla build VM, based heavily on Tim Taubert’s blog post and linked to it from appropriate landing pages.
  • Copy-edited and revised the Web Bluetooth API page.
  • Deleted a crufty page from the Window API.
  • Meetings about API documentation updates and more.

Wrap up

That’s a short-looking list but a lot of time went into many of the things on that list; between coding and research for the server-side component service and experiments with the excellent build VM (I did in fact download it and use it almost immediately to build a working Nightly), I had a lot to do!

My work continues to be fun and exciting, not to mention outright fascinating. I’m looking forward to more, next week.

26 Sep 21:41

Badger Beats: The Week In Review [59]

Hello, badgers!

We hope you’ve had a badgeriffic week - here’s what we’ve been up to:

Our community project call was non-verbal this week - if you have any updates to share with your fellow badgers, add them to the etherpad here:

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! Here’s a nifty map from Vala Afshar’s slide deck overview of the Extreme Networks badging survey:

27 Sep 01:20

Pebble: How One Waterloo Graduate Moved A Smartwatch Rock Up The Hill

by Tom Emrich

“Never give up,” was the advice Pebble CEO and founder, Eric Migicovsky, gave to aspiring entrepreneurs at the JOLT Uncensored event at the MaRS Discovery District Centre last Thursday — advice he had followed for his own company.

For most people, the first time they had heard of Pebble was likely its success on Kickstarter back in 2012. But Migicovsky’s smartwatch journey actually started four years before, in the BlackBerry-centric town of Waterloo.

Born in Vancouver, Migicovsky moved to Southern Ontario to study systems engineering at the University of Waterloo. One year before he graduated he formed his first company, Allerta, to create inPulse, a watch that provided BlackBerry notifications on a user’s wrist. Allerta was one of the first companies in the VeloCity program at UofW.


inPulse was created at a time when the wearable category didn’t exist in the way it does today. Sony Ericsson, LG and Motorola all had watches available on the market, but Migicovsky was determined to build something that he would personally want to use. “We wanted to build something that we could use and that was the driver in the beginning,” Migicovsky told the crowd.

But Migicovsky admits that they learned a lot from shipping the initial batch of inPulse watches. Out of the first twenty they shipped, half of them broke in the shipping process. And the watch’s firmware showed only text messages and not the time. The first watch they created was also not waterproof, had a 24-hour battery and a color screen. “We pretty much created the Apple Watch five years ago,” Migicovsky joked.


In 2011, Migicovsky and his team moved to the Bay area when they were accepted into Y Combinator, making them the third hardware company accepted at the time. It was there that founder Paul Graham suggested that the team open up its watch to the developer community by offering an SDK, an idea inspired by the Apple II which didn’t have a killer app but instead was left open and hackable. Migicovsky took that advice and launched what he says may have been the first SDK for a wearable.

After a hearing “No” from a series of investors in an attempt to raise money for the company, Migicovsky turned to Kickstarter as an alternative. “The Kickstarter worked pretty well,” Migicovsky modestly told the audience. The company smashed its $100,000 goal in 24 hours, eventually raising over $10 million dollars from 69,000 backers. It was the most successful Kickstarter campaign at the time.

Migicovsky attributes the campaign success to the succinct way the product was described: a smartwatch that does more than just tell time, with customizations that are both powerful and easy to use.


But the success of the crowdfunding campaign left Migicovsky and his team with a new challenge: fulfillment. The company wasn’t large and had an unrealistic timeline to deliver its product to backers. This forced the team of ten to make a choice between hiring a large group to make the product or keep things as lean as possible, then ship the product and build the team afterwards.

They decided to keep lean, which Migicovsky said was “the biggest bets of their entire company life.” And it paid off. The vast majority of Pebble backers were patient with the rollout and the company was left with money after the Kickstarter project, keeping them profitable.

Pebble now employs over 100 employees, and has shipped over 400,000 watches, making it one of the most successful smartwatches out there today. Of course, the race is on for this category, especially with Apple recently announcing its Watch, expected in early 2015. When asked about the Apple announcement, Migicovsky said the team felt “relieved.”

“Apple put out their vision [for a smartwatch] but it’s different than Pebble,” he said. Migicovsky believes that Pebble’s simplicity and reliability are two key differentiators for the smartwatch.

Time will tell what the impact Apple and Android Wear watches will have on Pebble. But Migicovsky’s determination is a strong indicator that this smartwatch is ready for the fight.

27 Sep 01:26

Using Tableau for twitter data visualization


This post will give you a couple of visualizations of a twitter data set regarding the search term ‘@CostaCoffee’.

Read More

27 Sep 02:21

Consumer Reports testing reveals iPhone 6 Bendgate ‘may be overblown,’ but Galaxy Note 3 is most durable

by Ian Hardy

“Bendgate” ripped through the internet this week. Pictures and videos conveyed a tendency for the iPhone 6 Plus to bend slightly when a moderate amount of pressure was applied to a weak point on the chassis.

Apple’s official response was that the “iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus meet or exceed all of our high quality standards to endure everyday, real life use. With normal use a bend in iPhone is extremely rare and through our first six days of sale, a total of nine customers have contacted Apple with a bent iPhone 6 Plus.”

Consumer Reports, one of the few outlets that uses quantitative measurements in its procedures, has completed its own durability and “bendability” testing of several flagship smartphones — the iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 5, HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and the LG G3. Each of these were put through a “three-point flexural test” that tested chassis strength with various levels of pressure.

In the video below, “Consumer Reports’ tests pushed the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus much further than [Apple's test of 55 pounds of force]. We started light, applying 10 pounds of force for 30 seconds, then releasing the force. Then we upped the force in 10-pound increments, noted when the phones first started to deform (that’s what our engineers call it) and stopped the test for each phone when we saw the screen come loose from the case.”

This chart shows the level of force in which each phone started to see a distinct bend in its shape. The iPhone 6 and HTC One M8 started to bend at 70 pounds, while the iPhone 6 Plus lasted longer at 90 pounds of pressure before bending. Topping the test by a massive margin was the plastic Samsung Galaxy Note 3 at 150 pounds of pressure.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 9.59.16 pm

Consumer Reports final word is Bendgate is that the issue may be overblown.

27 Sep 22:34

A Beginner's Guide to Graphing Data

A Beginner's Guide to Graphing Data:


Click to Tweet: Paul Andersen explains how graphs are used to visually display data that is collected in experimentation. He de…

Here’s a video that supports our work on graphing data. Thanks to Diana M. for the link!

27 Sep 23:43

C3 Demo (A reusable library for D3) - Pixels-Per-Inch by Device Chart

C3 Demo (A reusable library for D3) - Pixels-Per-Inch by Device Chart:


I haven’t done much with D3 but a coworker introduced me to C3 for simple data visualizations. Its best described as “bootstrap for D3” as it handles many basic chart types and takes care of a lot of the styling.

To take it for a test drive, I created a CodePen as a demo using the…

This looks promising…

28 Sep 00:15

Google has reportedly doubled the number of apps it requires OEMs to pre-install

by Jane McEntegart

Google is apparently cracking down on its OEM partners and forcing them to install more apps on Android devices before they’re shipped.

The Information got a sneak peak at some confidential Google documents detailing the search giant’s agreement with hardware partners and as far as applications are concerned, Google is tightening the reins on where and how many of its own apps it wants to see installed on Android devices before they arrive in consumers’ hands.

These documents say the number of Google apps that must be pre-installed on third-party Android devices has now jumped from nine to 20. Google is even specifying placement of some of the aforementioned apps, ensuring apps like Google Search are prominent placed.

It makes sense, given Google is in the mobile OS business to make money. Android exists to drive more users and more data to Google’s own services, so the company wants those apps to be the first thing new users see when they switch on their devices.

Still, it’s likely a pretty hard pill for OEMs to swallow, especially those that like to leverage their own third party apps as a means for differentiating themselves from the sea of other Android devices out there.

27 Sep 18:22

ocean views forever

by Emily Chang

Instagram filter used: Mayfair

View in Instagram ⇒

21 Sep 00:00

Want even more mind-blowing TED Talks? Let’s get more STEM teachers in the classroom. Starting with … you!


Baratunde Thurston, TED Blog, [Sept] 30, 2014

Sorry about the super-long title. It's typical of this post, which in turn is typical of the TED approach to education. Which is sad, and (as we see in this video) disappointingly patronizing. "Today,  Cultivated Wit launches a co-funded digital campaign to inspire math, science, tech and engineering (or STEM) undergraduates and recent grads to teach." Yes, teaching science and technology and the rest are important. But a video titled (so help me) "I blow minds" isn't going to convince graduates to teach these subjects. Offering them a competitive salary and professional standing will. But I'm still waiting for that TED video.

[Link] [Comment]
28 Aug 18:11

New report suggests there will be a second NHL team in Toronto by 2017 - Toronto Standard

New report suggests there will be a second NHL team in Toronto by 2017
Toronto Standard
You've probably heard this song before, so we'll forgive you if you treat it with a healthy dose of skepticism, but, according to Sports Illustrated, Toronto is set to get a second NHL team by 2017. The news comes from a tweet by Howard Bloom of ...

and more »
28 Sep 17:53

Scripting News: My manifesto for web writing.

28 Sep 18:09

Twitter Favorites: [skeskali] Tom & Lorenzo's breakdown of yesterday's Doctor Who episode hits the dysfunctional nail on the head.

Cecily Walker @skeskali
Tom & Lorenzo's breakdown of yesterday's Doctor Who episode hits the dysfunctional nail on the head.…
28 Sep 12:00

The Best Cheap Router

by David Murphy

If I needed a new router today and was on a tight budget, I’d get the TP-Link TL-WDR3600 for about $60. It’s the best “cheap” router we found after more than 150 hours of research across 29 different routers and after testing seven finalists hands-on. Among the competition in this price range, TP-Link’s router offers the best combination of speed, range, and must-have features for its cost.

28 Sep 16:19

Anthony Bourdain Has Become The Future Of Cable News, And He Couldn't Care Less

Anthony Bourdain Has Become The Future Of Cable News, And He Couldn't Care Less:

Rob Brunner:

Another way Bourdain stays engaged is by constantly experimenting with technology. As equipment has improved over the years, the show has become more visually accomplished. In addition to high-end cameras like $16,000 Sony F3s with cinema-quality lenses and more modest equipment such as Canon 7Ds, the team now regularly uses GoPros, often in unexpected ways. In the Shanghai episode, they rigged up what they refer to as “shot cam,” a GoPro attached to a shot glass that captures, to dizzying effect, the liquor’s-eye view during a night of revelry. They have used bags of risotto for makeshift tracking shots (“risotto cam”) and turned a Hot Wheels track into a camera dolly. Bourdain is especially excited about the possibility of shooting an upcoming show entirely on iPhones.

The “shot cam” is genius. The iPhone thing should be very much possible with the iPhone 6/6+.

Also love this:

Bourdain now has a term for such corporate meddling: being asked to “eat a shit sandwich.” It’s one of the few meals he flat-out refuses to consume. “Given a choice between eating the sandwich and not having a television career, I would happily not have a television career,” he says. “Most people eat the sandwich.” He quit, taking the show to Travel Channel.

Most people definitely eat the sandwich.

27 Sep 14:27

Computer Love

I haven’t always been Apple’s friend in this space, but this is just a note to say that my current MacBook Pro is by a wide margin my best computer ever. Also, tugboat pictures.

Why share?

I’ve made intense professional use of computers for three decades plus. I’m a connoisseur, if anyone is. If a computer makes me happy, it’s gonna make you happy. Everyone should share their expertise.

Vintage Tugboat cockpit

Why tugboats?

Because we went to the Vancouver Tugboat Festival and I’m looking for an excuse to run pix and otherwise this is going to be a dreary wall of text. Tugboats are great!


Why Mac?

I’ve often looked enviously at the Linux meatgrinders you can put together with hardware from Lenovo or whoever; more horsepower for less money, and it’s all Free Software. But the Mac has two killer features that I can’t get along without: Adobe Lightroom and the Apple store.

Lightroom is obvious —  pictures shot in ultra-high contrast direct seaside sunlight need Lightroom love before they appear here — but let me tell you about the Apple store. What happened was, the Mac frapped out with the weirdest symptom: Plugged into the Dell 4K via HDMI, it run happily. Standalone, it crashed instantly and colorfully.

Looking up at a tugboat bridge

This happened Friday morning. The next Tuesday afternoon I was taking off to do a couple of fairly substantial speeches in Denmark. So I dropped everything and hit the nearest mall’s Apple Store …kill me now, it’s iPhone 6 release day… Lines of joyless buyers-to-be snaked out the door. I bulled my way to the front and was a little bit rude and pushy to a Genius; I felt bad because the poor dude was stressed out. They didn’t have any Mac types there but he got online and found me an appointment at another mall for 12:45 the next day.

The rest was easy. The second guy listened to the symptoms, said “your video board is frapped but I have to run this test anyhow to prove it” which it did and they took the computer and said no problem about the Tuesday flight.

An hour after I got home I got a call from someone at the Apple store. “Um… your computer has this beautiful decal on it. Unfortunately, to do this repair, we’re going to have to remove it.” I was baffled as to why, but needed the computer more than the decoration, so OK. When I picked it up he said “we accidentally damaged one of the little wires while replacing the video, so we had to give you a new display.” In fact, when I got home, I noticed a few subtle little changes, and I’m betting they took my SSD and put it in a whole new computer. Whatever.

Hose tip on a tugboat

Guess what part of a tugboat this is.

What’s good?

The screen is huge (I run at full max-rez) and without visible pixels, the memory vast, the keyboard excellent, the CPU plenty fast, and everything Just Works.

Plus, compared to back when I got started on Mac, the open-source ecosystem is so much nicer. It used to be a day or two of work to get my blog-publishing machinery running on a new Mac. These days, it all comes in via brew or CPAN or vendor-supplied DMGs and takes maybe an hour, and remarkably little swearing.

What’s not to like?

The price; a maxed-out MacBook Pro is pushing $3.5K.

Also, it’s bigger and heavier than an Air. But really, not too bad; still lighter, I think, than the mainstream Macs I used to carry a few years back. And I guess the battery life isn’t Air-class either, but I’ve never found the need to run unplugged for more than two or three hours at a time.

Like all recent Apple laptops, its style is satin-bland. There hasn’t been an interesting-looking MacBook since they phased out the black model.

Finally, you’re not gonna get much use out of it in economy class.

What I worry about

Apple will eventually decide that nobody should be able to run software on Macs that doesn’t come from their App store.

27 Sep 00:04

You must be an expert by now

picture My wife and I don't always see eye to eye on what it takes to learn something. I will quite readily accept that it might take years of hard work to acquire a particular skill. She will tend to think that an activity better start paying off right away, or it isn't really worth it. We both have some kind of point. Hers being in part that learning might as well be fun and rewarding from the beginning, and there's nothing noble about suffering through a process that won't provide a result before much later.

Learning is an important subject to me. I'd love to see better learning methods become available all around. I'm convinced that many things could be learned many times faster and much more thoroughly, if somebody would manage to understand how we learn, and would construct an approach that provided the required input and feedback. Instead, we're usually required to listen to somebody talking and look at some examples of the subject matter, and we're supposed to just learn from that. We do, but usually very slowly.

Until we have this learning robot that I can plug into, which will provide me instant feedback and just the right amount of repetition and variation, and which teaches the core structure of the matter, not all the random blahblah around it, it will take time.

People who've mastered a skill or a subject will know very well what kind of very substantial effort it took to get there. You're not playing classical violin in front of an audience unless you've practiced for years, hours and hours every day. You wouldn't be a stage magician with your own show if you hadn't practiced for thousands of hours to manipulate cards or coins until you do it so well that people don't see what you actually do. You won't be a Ph.D. unless you've digested a mountain of research in your particular field and you know pretty much everything that anybody else has said about it.

People who aren't in the process of mastering anything, or who haven't already done so, would tend to be very unaware of what it takes, and might even be quite likely to ridicule the work. Which is why it often happens out of sight.

My wife and I take dancing classes and enjoy going out dancing. But it is also an arena where our differences show up. In most partner dances, it is quite well known that the leaders and the followers have a quite different journey and different learning curve. The followers mostly focus on relaxing and not trying to anticipate what the leader will do. The leader on the other hand must know what to do, must know the sequence of steps and how to lead them and when to do them. Which obviously he can't do well from day one.

I hate the uncomfortable feeling of being a klutz who doesn't know what to do in a beginner class. Particularly if it seems to be easier for other people. And I'm really not fast at getting something new at first. My approach to keeping up will often be to put in an extra effort, study up on it in my own time, take the beginner class two or three times if I can.

I had started this dance that my wife wasn't yet doing at the time, West Coast Swing. I loved it right away, and decided to do what it took to learn it, even though it is considered quite difficult. So, I put in some extra effort, went to weekend workshops in a addition to the regular classes, watched videos, etc.

And now, here's the thing, that wouldn't go on for more than a few months before my wife would start making remarks like "You must be an expert by now, with all those classes you're taking". Or, when I'm signing up for another weekend class next month: "Do you really need to be an expert?".

If I wanted to be an expert and really master something, I should be practicing it for some hours every day. Not some hours every second weekend.

Many well-meaning people will be very interested when a friend or family member starts to learn something new. "You should give us a show!", "When are you going to perform?" two weeks after somebody starts learning to dance or play the violin.

There are surely activities that might be worth watching even when done by beginners. Most are not.

Some people (Malcolm Gladwell) say that you need to practice something for 10,000 hours to master it. That number is completely arbitrary and probably unfounded, but it gives the idea. That's something like 40 hours per week for 5 years. And doing that mindlessly, repeating the same actions over and over, surely wouldn't do it either.

Many people think they're not gifted or not able to learn, because they tried something a couple of times and they didn't succeed. You know, they tried making a drawing and it wasn't good. They obviously have no clue what it would take to succeed. Probably to a certain degree it is the fault of a general anti-mastery atmosphere. Or, we could say, a need for instant gratification. We celebrate people who've mastered fantastic skills, but we usually render the required work completely invisible, leaving the illusion that the mastery somehow was easy or didn't take much time.

Some people show up for the audition in American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance after having practiced for hours per day for years, and they do great. The show makes it look like they do what they do in a few days. Obviously the illusion fools enough people that some people will show up to the same auditions never having practiced anything, thinking they have a chance, and the only chance they get is to look like complete idiots in front of millions of people.

So, if you should be an expert by now, you should obviously have started years ago and have worked on it every day. It takes a lot of practice. And not just repetition of stuff one is trying to do, or that one is repeating in the wrong way. It takes attentive exploration of all aspects of what one is trying to learn. Getting to understand deeply why one has difficulty with some particular part, and how one can overcome it. And then moving on to some other part.

Most people who're really passionate about something, or who are trying to master something, will have a great need to talk about it or think about it. And, there again, unless they're surrounded by people who're passionate about the same thing or learning the same thing, they'll probably find that others have a very limited patience for this. We're used to the TV format. Sure, we'd like to see your audition, and a couple of snapshots of you practicing, and a few soundbites of you talking about your challenges, and then we'd like to see your performance, preferably flawless. But that's of course not really what has been going on. Again, they'd have been working on it for years, every day.

I'm writing in a blog here. Blogs could be a format for talking about what one really is working on, and others might be interested if they're on the same path. But not if they aren't. If you have a somewhat general blog, like this one, and you suddenly get passionate about something specific, and you start writing about that all the time, you would probably lose most of the audience. For example, I was really into aquaponics a couple of years ago. That meant that I spent hours every day doing research, trying to solve problems, or constructing things in the garage or in my greenhouse. I have written about that in other places. I could very well have written several posts here every day, but I didn't, because it would be much too much for most people. Right now I'm passionate about dance, and I could write about that every day. I don't, or I only do it in my private notes.

If you don't already have it, it would be a good idea to seek out a forum where your passion and your learning actually is welcome, also at great length. That's maybe really obvious to some who already have it, but not to others who didn't know where to look. You'd want to communicate with people who're on a similar level of involvement with the subject, or who would like to be. People immediately around you are not likely to follow you, so you might have to go out of the way to find the others. And if what you're into is something really specialized, it is quite possible that you won't find anybody else in the world who's deeply into that. Don't let that stop you. Later on, when you've succeeded, everybody will show up to congratulate you, including those who didn't really have the patience for you working so much on it, or who even tried to talk you out of it.
27 Sep 05:42

Instapaper Liked: Seacycles: Burrard Bridge to Point Grey Road

Stunning to see how this intersection has changed! Amazing video by @kathcorey & @bagould: — Andreas…
27 Sep 00:42

Twitter Favorites: [tylorsherman] Friday activity corner, let's all guess at the Hootsuite burn rate: (60,000/12)*500*1.5 = $3.75M

Tylor Sherman @tylorsherman
Friday activity corner, let's all guess at the Hootsuite burn rate: (60,000/12)*500*1.5 = $3.75M
27 Sep 00:33

Twitter Favorites: [maura] I wrote about Thom Yorke

maura johnston @maura
I wrote about Thom Yorke…
26 Sep 19:22

Twitter Favorites: [WillPate] Translating technological terms throws up some peculiar challenges

Will Pate @WillPate
Translating technological terms throws up some peculiar challenges…
26 Sep 18:52

Twitter Favorites: [rickygervais] A spot of sightseeing in Vancouver

Ricky Gervais @rickygervais
A spot of sightseeing in Vancouver
26 Sep 16:14

Twitter Favorites: [veronicastraszh] Are you vulnerable to hackers? To find out, run this mysterious command a stranger on the Internet told you about.

veronica @veronicastraszh
Are you vulnerable to hackers? To find out, run this mysterious command a stranger on the Internet told you about.
25 Sep 23:59

Twitter Favorites: [reading] Just a reminder that @Reading isn't venture funded.

Reading @reading
Just a reminder that @reading isn't venture funded.
25 Sep 23:32

Twitter Favorites: [dliggat] The iPad increasingly feels like the microwave of our time — nice to have, but the post-PC / post-cooking visions were a tad optimistic.

Dave Liggat @dliggat
The iPad increasingly feels like the microwave of our time — nice to have, but the post-PC / post-cooking visions were a tad optimistic.
25 Sep 18:06

Twitter Favorites: [marksiegal] @sillygwailo The power law of talking about power laws.

Mark Siegal @marksiegal
@sillygwailo The power law of talking about power laws.
28 Sep 12:31

Soderbergh's black-and-white Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Soderbergh's black-and-white Raiders Of The Lost Ark:

Rob Dean:

Over on his excellent website, Extension 765, Soderbergh has uploaded a black-and-white version of the 1981 blockbuster in an effort to prompt cinephiliacs to think about how an impressive talent like Spielberg was able to convey so much of the story merely through length and composition of shots. He also removed all sound from the video, instead replacing it with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score for The Social Network, so that viewers can solely focus on the staging of the film.

So this is what “retirement" is like for Soderbergh. (The end result, which you can watch on Soderbergh’s site is beautiful and sort of mesmerizing.)

27 Sep 12:27

onlylolgifs: Unlocking every iPhone at once The world’s...


Unlocking every iPhone at once

The world’s most expensive xylophone. 

21 Sep 23:40

Tête-à-Tête: Subway surfers

by Daniel Bader

Welcome to Tête-à-Tête, a series where two of our writers converse on interesting topics in the mobile landscape — through chat. Think of it as a podcast for readers.

This week, Daniel and Douglas chat about whether bringing cellular service to the underground spells doom for the calm commute.


Daniel Bader: Douglas, you charming man, I like talking to you. I like those times when conversations sprout from nothing, a wending trail of topics leading somewhere — or nowhere.

But I also like to not talk. I like to have that option.

With the announcement that Montreal’s Metro Service, STM, have begun rolling out cellular service to one of its lines, and T-Connect, Toronto Transit Commission’s wireless infrastructure, is all set for carriers to roll out signal in the coming years, the truth is this: we’re soon going to have nowhere to hide from the hoards of cellphone-clutching close talkers.

Thinking about this, I’m excited about the potential for getting work done while traversing Canada’s various underground transit systems, but, like that of cellular service on planes, the inevitably close proximity to people making phone calls sours somewhat my enthusiasm.

What do you think: is the tradeoff worth it? And since wireless signal regulation doesn’t exist on public transit systems, is opening up cellular service to underground commuters a Pandora’s Box of frustrated, underslept people trying to catch some early morning shuteye?


Douglas Soltys: Daniel, don’t kid yourself. Firstly, the subsurface cellular expansion has nothing to do with productivity: it’s so people can check Facebook and Instagram, watch YouTube videos, and fire off a few Snapchats on their commute home. In the same way that the ability to bring a book on the subway doesn’t prevent people from choosing Dan Brown over Hemingway, cellular access won’t magically make commuters more productive, just more connected.

Which is a shame, because like you, I too value the imposed digital silence of the Bloor line. While I might have my earbuds in listening to music or a podcast, at least I’m not staring compulsively staring at a screen like every other moment of my day (seriously, if you know the strength of your particular mobile addiction, download Checky and weep). It’s a moment of respite, when I actually see my fellow commuters, and sometimes even pause to consider an existence outside my own.

But as you said, ubiquitous connectivity in inevitable, and resistance is futile. So let’s make this conversation more productive, and consider the quality of this service. So far, I’ve been remiss to use T-Connect, not only because of its limited station support, but because I hate the idea of being forced to watch one more low-grade video ad just to get to my ad-filled Facebook feed. There’s a difference between cellular service and good cellular service, and I’m wondering if you think we can expect the latter.


Daniel: The beauty of underground cellular connectivity is that it will be exactly that — cellular. It won’t require a splash page or a terms of service: it will be your existing SIM card communicating with your existing provider.

And while WiFi on the platform is step one of a three-step process (cellular on the platform being the next one), eventually we’re going to be connected everywhere. There’s something to be said for being comfortable going offline, but when I used to live north of Finch, I’d lose a lot of time not working. That said, I agree with you: few people are going to take advantage of those available megabytes to collaborate on a Google Doc — and even today, those people can take the document offline and sync it later — but I’m talking of advantage in a broader sense.

You see it today: when the subway emerges from its dark tunnel into the light of day (or early winter evening), people clamber to check messages, make calls (“Come pick me up, I’m at Rosedale!”) or update Twitter before the subway continues on its underground journey. Removing the load from those towers will not only make the experience better for everyone in the surrounding areas, but it will ensure that riders have a better time riding, which is what public transit is all about. An essential service facilitating another essential service.

But few people want to overhear someone’s phone call during a morning, and some people even prefer to be offline for those precious, quiet minutes. Do you think there’s something to be said for forced disconnection?

Douglas: It’s funny: when I read that the first time, I thought you wrote ‘forced discretion.’

I think we live in a society that rightly expects certain freedoms, but rarely pays attention to the responsibilities that coincide with those freedoms. I think we’re past the point where most people desire, let alone expect, to disconnect in major metropolitan areas. As such, any forced disconnection will be seen as either a violation or an impediment, but not really an opportunity.

Look at us, two tech reporters hoping for peace and quiet rather than constant connection. Why is that? Perhaps as more and more devices and product categories find new ways to keep us connected, we’re looking for a filter to only let in what we really need or want? I’ll accept constant connectivity whole-heartedly the day Siri/Cortana/Her is smart enough to act as my personal assistant/receptionist/digital body guard.

Daniel: That’s exactly it: discretion is key to delivering a network of connected humans. Just as we give a strange look to someone talking into an invisible microphone on the street, text-based communication has risen in popularity. Canadians send more texts than any country in the world, and we love our WhatsApp, Kik, Facebook Messenger and BBM. We are a country of polite talkers, and I would hope, given the opportunity, we’d continue to do so on the subway — or anywhere with an LTE signal.

Image Credit: Urban Toronto

19 Sep 02:58

Vintage Holland Dutch Cruiser Bike Batavus Bato Cruiser Bicycle (Cloverdale (Surrey)) $215


if it wasn't a fixer upper and it was actually rideable and functional then yes $220 otherwise less IMHO :-) !

56cm frame, Holland Dutch Cruiser Bicycle. Batavus Bato. Made in Holland by the top manufacturer in The Netherlands. Original, all green signature, with original stickers. A most 'elegant' bicycle. You will be that lady turning heads on a pleasure [...]