Shared posts

19 Oct 01:00

A poor relationship with the Rogers family may be the reason Guy Laurence stepped down as CEO

by Rose Behar

In an unexpected move on October 17th — the same day that the company announced it was the first Canadian carrier to hit over 10 million wireless subscribers — Rogers CEO Guy Laurence stepped down.

With impressive growth over his three-year tenure and a successful track record that included the launch of Roam Like Home — a service that was not only wildly popular with customers but also differentiated the company from other Canadian telecoms — the news came as a shock to many. If performance wasn’t the instigator behind Laurence leaving, then what exactly was the issue?

“Disrespectful” treatment

A recent report by BNN delves into the possibility that the reason behind Laurence’s departure was “bad blood” between the former CEO and the Rogers family, who still controls the company through voting stock and has four family members on the 14-person board.

“This is more about the relationship between Guy Laurence and his board,” telecom industry consultant Iain Grant of Seaboard Group told BNN.

The slightly aggressive manner in which Laurence pushed Rogers’ growth may have been precisely the same trait that got the CEO in trouble with the company’s founding family.

An unnamed source that spoke with BNN stated that members of the Rogers family, particularly Edward and Melinda Rogers, disliked the way in which Laurence made them take a back seat with the company’s operations. The source noted that the two were initially on board with the strategy, but that ultimately his treatment of them was “disrespectful.”

Family ties and future plans

John Stephenson, CEO of capital management firm Stephenson & Company, agreed that Laurence has a brash style, and told BNN: “You have to get along with the members of the family. That’s a very significant portion of Rogers as a company.”

In a public statement, Deputy Chairman Edward Rogers said, “We have appreciated Guy’s leadership over the last three years. He has moved the company forward re-establishing growth, introducing innovative programs like Roam Like Home, while getting the company ready for its next phase of growth. On behalf of the Rogers family and the Board, I’d like to thank Guy for his competitive spirit and many contributions.”

Laurence is being replaced by ex-Telus CEO Joseph Natale, who will join the company once the two-year non-compete clause in his contract with the aforementioned telecom expires in the coming months. In the meantime, the company is being helmed by Chairman Alan Horn.

Related: Rogers CEO Guy Laurence steps down, to be replaced by former Telus CEO Joseph Natale

19 Oct 02:31

Disney Monorail

mkalus shared this story from Vintage Ads.

18 Oct 13:15

Your guide to the five levels of editing (infographic)

by Josh Bernoff

In my experience, a big challenge for writers is the inappropriate edit. You know, the guy who corrects spelling errors in your outline, or wants to rearrange the whole thing during the proofreading stage. In fact, only 32% of business writers say that their process for collecting and combining feedback works well. I’ve written before … Continued

The post Your guide to the five levels of editing (infographic) appeared first on without bullshit.

18 Oct 05:04

Google Pixel FAQ

by Rajesh Pandey
Planning on buying the Google Pixel or Pixel XL, but wondering if the phone packs in a particular feature or have some other doubts about it? Check out our FAQ for the Google Pixel and Pixel XL that will help in clearing all your doubts surrounding the handsets. Continue reading →
16 Oct 17:13

Twitter Favorites: [ablaze] I don’t know how to meet people on Twitter anymore. That used to be the best part, but now it feels too crass to try.

Jon Mitchell @ablaze
I don’t know how to meet people on Twitter anymore. That used to be the best part, but now it feels too crass to try.
17 Oct 03:32

Twitter Favorites: [martinertl] @kaler Looks like Gov Gen FS, not Royal Family $ support. Would have some version of these expenses even under a diff system

Martin Ertl @martinertl
@kaler Looks like Gov Gen FS, not Royal Family $ support. Would have some version of these expenses even under a diff system
17 Oct 21:05

Twitter Favorites: [likaluca] 100% here for this Jeffrey Eugenides profile of the divine Zadie Smith.

Lisa Lucas @likaluca
100% here for this Jeffrey Eugenides profile of the divine Zadie Smith.…
18 Oct 12:47

Survey says 71 percent of Canadians don’t consider phone use while driving a distraction

by Ian Hardy

Canadians using their mobile device while driving is still an issue as the latest stat reveals it’s on the rise.

According to a survey by Parachute, in conjunction with National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW), says that 39 percent of Canadians aged 16 to 24 still admit to texting behind the wheel, while 71 percent don’t consider using their phones while driving to be very distracting.

Other notable stats in the survey showed that 35 percent of respondents put their phone in the cup holder, 14 percent on their lap, and 11 percent on a dedicated cellphone mount. The survey was based on 1,600 drivers from September 15th to October 12th, 2016.

“It’s concerning that many teens are still choosing to use their phones while driving when research shows that texting behind the wheel is the same as driving with your eyes closed for five seconds,” says Pamela Fuselli, Parachute interim CEO.

“We’re asking all teens to make a pledge to #GetHomeSafe and commit to safer driving practices.”

The use of a mobile device while driving is banned in Canada with some provinces recently increasing fines above $1,000. Distracted driving includes the use of hand-held devices such as smartphones, tablets, iPods, GPS and MP3 players, cellphone, laptops and DVD players.

Source Parachute
18 Oct 13:00

Google Pixel review: The high-end Android you’ve been waiting for

by Patrick O'Rourke

Google’s Pixel is exactly what the Android ecosystem needs to compete with the iPhone in the high-end smartphone space in terms of quality, performance and reliability.

The device is a finely tuned, reliable melding of hardware and software, a strategy Apple has adopted since the iPhone’s inception. More importantly, the Pixel and Pixel XL are built from the ground up by Google, in terms of both design and software, a key element Nexus devices — which are now dead — desperately needed.

When it comes to the Nexus line, a Google initiative that consists of my favourite smartphones of all time, contrary to what some might assume, manufacturers like LG and Huawei handled about 90 percent of the design process.

With the Pixel’s creation, the entire development of the phone has been handled by Google. The company even reportedly eventually has ambitions to design its own proprietary chipsets in the same vein as Apple and Samsung. The phone’s manufacturing is handled by HTC, a fact Google intentionally didn’t mention during the device’s reveal, in the same way Foxconn makes Apple’s smartphones and tablets.

This is a huge step for Google and a shift that moves the tech giant in line with Apple as an end-to-end hardware manufacturer, with devices like the Google Wi-Fi router, Google Home and the revamped 4K-capable Chromecast Ultra acting as further proof of the company’s new hardware direction.

This new strategy is not without its faults, however. As Apple’s walled-garden slowly crumbles with the company opening up various aspects of iOS, such as iMessage and Siri, Google is building its own partially closed version of Android with the Pixel. It’s unclear what result the phone’s release will have on the broader Android ecosystem, particularly given Samsung’s recent Note 7 recall fiasco.

Will the Pixel’s high-end build quality push Google’s manufacturing partners to step up their game like Microsoft’s Surface line did when it initially launched? Or will it instead ruin the open nature of Android, making an already disparate operating system even more confusing for the average consumer? These are questions that are nearly impossible to answer right now as the Android operating system enters uncharted waters with the launch of the Pixel.

With all that said, however, let’s dive into the actual device.


Pixel Specs

  • Android 7.1
  • Aluminum body
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, 2.15Ghz Quad-core processor
  • 5.0 inch, Full HD 1080 x 1920p pixels, 441 ppi with Gorilla Glass 4
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB or 128GB internal storage
  • 12.3-megapixel camera (1.55um big pixels f/2.0, 4K video recording)
  • 8-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Fingerprint sensor, Gyroscope, Proximity, Ambient Light
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 2,770 mAh battery with fast charge
  • USB-C, Nano SIM slot
  • 143.8mm x 69.5mm x 8.6mm
  • Weight: 143 grams
  • See Google’s band list
  • Colours: Silver, Black, Blue

Pixel XL Specs

  • Android 7.1
  • Aluminum body
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, 2.15Ghz Quad-core processor
  • 5.5 inch, Quad HD 1440 x 2560p pixels, 534 ppi with Gorilla Glass 4
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB or 128GB internal storage
  • 12.3-megapixel camera (1.55um big pixels f/2.0, 4K video recording)
  • 8-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Fingerprint sensor, Gyroscope, Proximity, Ambient Light
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 3,450 mAh mAh battery with fast charge
  • USB-C, Nano SIM slot
  • 154.7mm x 75.mm7 x 8.6mm
  • See Google’s band list
  • Weight: 168 grams
  • Colours: Silver, Black

Divisive looks


Visually, both the Pixel and Pixel XL are divisive devices. The phone’s uni-body metal design is minimalist, though it’s difficult to deny that the Pixel doesn’t share aesthetic similarities with current and past iterations of the iPhone. While I agree that at first glance the Pixel looks like it was manufactured from spare iPhone parts, I’d argue that the same can be said about almost any modern smartphone.

The Pixel’s slightly curved glass and sides give the phone a sleek profile. Its antenna bands are covertly placed on its top, with one also located on its base. An interesting Gorilla Glass 3 backing houses the Pixel’s fingerprint sensor, rounding out the design.

Despite having a great feeling weight to it (168g with the XL and 143g for the Pixel) and an overall air of refinement and quality, the phone will still feel chunky to some, especially when compared to recently released Android devices like the Moto Z and the dearly departed Note 7, though the later comparison isn’t exactly fair given what a disaster Samsung’s latest flagship has become.


Specifically, the Pixel and Pixel XL measures in at 8.5mm thick. To put the thickness of Google’s flagship in perspective, the iPhone 7 comes in at 7.1mm. While 1.4mm doesn’t sound like a significant amount on paper, placing the Pixel beside the iPhone 7, Note 7 or even the Moto Z, there’s a drastic difference in girth. Even when comparing this Pixel to last year’s well-received 6P, a phone that’s 7.5mm thick, the Pixel feels considerably larger.

With that said, I warmed up to the Pixels’ thickness, especially after recently spending a few weeks with the Moto Z, a phone that I felt was perhaps a little too thin for its own good. To its credit, the chunky nature of the Pixel actually makes the phone feel more solid and durable than its contemporaries.

Where the Pixel’s design falters is its large bezel, especially given its home, back and multitasking buttons are located on the screen. There is a significant amount of black space located just under the Pixel’s display. While large bezels are common on Android smartphones, the Pixel’s feels especially large. It’s as if the phone was meant to feature physical buttons, but Google opted to drop the feature at the last second.


It’s worth noting that while the buttons are located on the display, it’s difficult to accidentally press them like it was with the HTC 10, a phone that the Pixel unsurprisingly shares design language with. And finally, in a very Apple-like move, a Google ‘G’ sits on the Pixel’s rear under the fingerprint scanner, just in case you forgot who created the device.

Overall, I’m a huge fan of the Pixel and Pixel XL’s design, though I will admit I wasn’t at first. As I’ve spent more time with the the phone, however, its look has grown on me, though it’s difficult to deny that beyond its glass backing, the Pixel doesn’t have a standout, unique visual cue.

Under the hood, however, is where the Pixel does pack a more reliable and standout punch than any Android device before it.

Specs that push Pixels


Between the 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL, I’ve spent most of my time using the Pixel XL; I prefer smartphones with bigger displays and the larger form factor of the XL speaks to how I use my device on a daily basis. Specs-wise, the only difference between the two smartphones other than size, is screen resolution, with the Pixel coming in at a 1080 x 1920 pixels and the XL measuring in at 1440 x 2560 pixels.

The AMOLED display featured in both phones is bright, vibrant and one of the best-looking screens I’ve seen featured in an Android device, rivaling the Note 7’s impressive glass. Videos, games and browsing the web all look spectacular on the Pixel.

The Snapdragon 821 rounds out the Pixel’s hardware features, with 4GB of RAM and either 32GB or 128GB of storage, with a 3,450mAh battery in the XL and a 2,770mAh for the regular sized Pixel. While many of these specs are now the standard for high-end Android devices — though the Pixel is one of the first devices to feature the Snapdragon 821 — my time with Google’s phone has been a notably flawless experience. The phone is able to play high-end games, rapidly switch between apps, shoot video, snap photos and most importantly, browse the internet, all with a level of smoothness I have not experienced before with an Android device.


While some of this fluidity is likely the result of the Pixel’s Snapdragon 821 processor, it’s also because this is the first Android device where the software and the hardware has been designed in unison. Issues that often affect high-end Android phones like screen lag or typing not being able to keep up with my fast moving fingers, are problems I haven’t encountered with the Pixel, at least not yet. The Snapdragon 821 also actually runs much cooler than the Snapdragon 820 in my experience.

The Pixels’ power button and volume rockers are solid and placed on the right side of the phone. It’s fingerprint scanner, which sits on the rear like the Nexus 6P and 5X, is responsive and in my experiences, works under almost any conditions, even when my finger is slightly damp.

The Pixel isn’t IP68 waterproof like the iPhone 7 and instead “IP53 water ingress,” which means it can withstand the occasional splash, but can’t be submerged under water. For some, water resistance is an expected feature with a smartphone in this price range, so this could be an issue.


Battery life measures in at roughly a day with the XL, though in some cases I’ve managed to avoid charging the phone until the next morning. While the Pixel features a smaller power source, I’ve found battery life to be comparable across both devices. The ability to charge up to seven hours of battery life in just 15 minutes through the Pixel’s proprietary quick charge technology, is useful as well.

Additionally, and most importantly for some, the Pixel and Pixel XL still feature a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, a fact Google placed cheeky emphasis on during the device’s reveal.

Pixel perfect camera


As the name ‘Pixel’ suggests, one of the Pixel and Pixel XL’s marquee features is its new camera. On paper, it may look like the Pixel’s camera features the same specs as last year’s Nexus devices — a 12.3 megapixel camera at f/2.0 aperture and 1.55 μm sized pixels on the back and an 8-megapixel front camera — but in reality, Google’s boasting about its impressive DxOMark seems to be true.

It’s not as if the 5X and 6P featured bad camera technology, but as the months wore on, devices with better photography capabilities like the S7 and iPhone 7 hit store shelves, making the once impressive Nexus shooter seem older than it really was.

The Pixel’s camera performs excellently under low-light and natural light, though the phone’s lack of true image stabilization seems to sometimes cause issues, especially under low-light conditions. These focusing problems rarely occurred, but sometimes when trying to snap photos quickly while jostling the phone around, the resulting shot ended up blurry. Google claims that some level of image stabilization is handled through the phone’s gyroscope, but in my experience, I found it didn’t always work very well.


With so many high-end smartphone cameras snapping great photos in 2016, it’s difficult to say where the Pixel falls. Comparing shots with the iPhone 7 Plus, my favourite smartphone shooter, reveal that under almost all conditions, with the exception of low-light, the Pixel can certainly hold its own.

On the plus side, both the Pixel and Pixel XL feature EIS video stabilization, a new feature Google showed off during the phone’s unveiling that makes videos look like the were shot with the phone placed in a gimbal; yes the video stabilization really is that impressive. I’d even go so far as to say that at least at first glance, EIS stabilized video shot with the Pixel rival the video that comes out of Panasonic’s upcoming Lumix G85 micro four thirds camera, which features 5-axis body stabilization. The Pixel’s image stabilization is very impressive and the kind of feature that’s only possible when the software and hardware of a device are designed to operate in unison.

Google Assistant destroys Siri


With the voice-assistant AI wars slowly heating up, one thing is already clear: Google Assistant is significantly ahead of Apple’s Siri.

While the Pixel and Pixel XL are the first devices to feature Android 7.1, Google has also launched new offshoot features, which it says are exclusive to Pixel devices for the time being. Anyone who’s played around with Google’s Allo will be familiar with Google Assistant, a voice-activated assistant that scours the phone’s screen for search terms and responds to user questions, similar to previously launched Now on Tap.

What makes Google Assistant different, however, is its conversational nature, which makes it significantly more contextual than Google Now or Now on Tap. Assistant is always collecting data from Google’s various services, including apps like Gmail, as well as Chrome web browsing activity. While this is likely a privacy issue for some, giving up your entire life to Google’s Skynet gives access to the first virtual assistant that I’ve actually found useful.


Saying “Ok, Google” springs the assistant into action (you can also swipe up from home button to activate Google Assistant). A new window pops up in the lower section of the screen and a speech-to-text conversation tool launches. You’re then able to ask Google Assistant questions like, “Where is the nearest Starbucks?” to which the AI will respond with Google Maps-specific locations where you can purchase overpriced, fancy coffee. Where things get interesting is what you’re able to do next.

For example, if you happen to have a follow-up question related to when that Starbucks location closes, simply tap the screen again and ask when that location will set to close. You don’t to clarify that you’re still talking about the same location; Assistant is smart enough to follow a conversation.

While similar functionality is built into Google’s Allo app, having Google Assistant always-listening and available with a simple voice command or swipe, has made me actually use an AI for the first time. I’ve found it very difficult to come up with a question that Google Assistant doesn’t have some sort of answer to and I’ve never been able to say the same about Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana or Amazon’s Alexa.


Furthermore, rather than respond in a robotic voice like Siri, Google Assistant displays a text confirmation that your question has been received and that the task is currently being accomplished. Responses are also speedy, significantly more so than Google Now and all in, Google Assistant is able to answer questions faster and more accurately than Siri.

Google obviously has prowess in the search space because it’s behind the world’s most popular search engine and it seems like the company is finally harnessing that power through its mobile operating system in a way that makes sense. If Google Assistant is able to find an audience, it’s possible it could replace standard Google searches in a couple of years; yes, it really is that good.

Polished Pixel launcher


Google Assistant integration isn’t the only exclusive feature the Pixel is getting, the phone also includes a brand new Android overlay. While some have criticized the Pixel’s circular icons, I feel like they add a much-needed level of polish to Android’s sometimes confusing operating system.

The ability to swipe up to launch the dock is also a great decision on Google’s part and I’m surprised that one of its partners, particularly Samsung, didn’t implement a similar feature years ago through its own launcher.

While Android has always been a pretty operating system, the rampant skinning often done by manufacturers, particularly companies like LG, Samsung and a string of mid-range OEMs, have resulted in an operating system that never had a clear, concise identity. Sure, stock Android has always been the clearest vision of what Google wants its mobile operating system to be, but it’s always felt like the company was holding back with devices like the 6P and 5X in order to give its partners a blank slate.

With the Pixel, that hesitation to add new exclusive features and a cleaner aesthetic direction are gone. How this changes the broader Android ecosystem remains unclear, but in the context of the Pixel, this is a welcome shift.

High-end price tag for a high-end device


The Pixel and Pixel XL are high-end devices with expensive price tags, with the latter fact coming as a shock to many fans of Google’s now-dead Nexus brand. Whether or not the cost of admission and significant price increase over the 6P and 5X are worth it will come down to what you value from a smartphone. I’d contend that while both the 6P and 5X were great devices, they’re severely lacking in certain areas, particularly build quality. So while the Pixel and Pixel XL are expensive, starting at $899 CAD and $1,029 CAD respectively, this cost puts the phones in line with the devices it’s vying to compete with like the S7 and iPhone 7.

If you’re looking for a more affordable device with a mid-range price and high-end specs, there are great options out there. Smartphones like the OnePlus 3 and even the Axon 7 instantly come to mind and it’s not as if these devices are going anywhere when the Pixel launches.

With the Pixel, Google is making a clear grab for the high-end smartphone market, with its sights set directly on the iPhone and to a lesser extent, high-end Android handsets from manufacturers like Samsung and LG. The included transfer cables, which allow users to easily transfer data from an iOS devices running iOS 8 or higher, directly to the Pixel, is yet another example of Google’s overarching goal with the new direction of its hardware division.

While the Pixel and Pixel XL might not be the smartphone for everyone anymore, the high-end devices are exactly what the Android ecosystem needs right now. Make no mistake, the Pixel is the Android device you’ve been waiting for.

The Pixel is set to be available on October 20th through the Google Store as well as at Canadian carriers.


  • Sleek looking and feels high-end
  • Google Assistant is great
  • Circular skin adds a level of polish to Android
  • Reliable melding of hardware and software


  • Expensive, especially in Canada
  • Not water resistant
  • Design may be too simple for some

Second opinion


Igor Bonifacic

The Pixel is the five-inch smartphone I’ve been waiting for Google to make since I first dipped my toes into the Android ecosystem with the Galaxy Nexus back in 2011. The company has created a palm-sized smartphone that isn’t a compromise; the Pixel features impressive internals, a bold new take on Android, and, at long last, a camera that is not a liability in all but the most favourable lighting conditions.

As with all Android devices, we’ll have to wait and see how the Pixel performs down the road (lest it be forgotten, Android lag is still a very real thing), but after one week with the device — far too little time, I admit — I’m happy to report the Pixel is a joy to use. Unlike the Nexus 5X, which suffered a number of performance-related issues that no amount of software tweaking by Google seemed capable of fixing, the Pixel is snappy, and I’ve yet to see any apps crash or hang up.

Similarly, Assistant has also been a revelation. In the past, I’ve seen little utility in personal assistants like Siri and Cortana, but with its ability to correctly parse speech and infer context from previous queries, Assistant has won me over. I can see it becoming a favourite feature of many future Pixel users.

Granted, unlike the Nexus 5X, the Pixel costs $899, $450 more than the $449.00 I paid to get my 32GB Nexus 5X last year. Given its less than stellar looks, some may end up scoffing at the price, but given how few small high-end smartphones there are out there, particular in the Android ecosystem, this is the 5-inch smartphone to get.

Related: Pixel and Pixel XL unboxing

Igor Bonifacic also contributed photography to this review. 

18 Oct 13:01

Children should never be educated at home

by admin

I am of the opinion that children should not be educated at home by their parents. Education is crucial as it opens the realms of success through imparting knowledge. I believe children gain a lot when attending schools than when being educated at home.

The parents might think that homeschooling will make their children enjoy learning as it gets rid of the rigorous school program. However, the child may fail to understand the significance of having a strict program. Besides that, the beliefs and behaviors of the parents acquired through their education and socioeconomic status may negatively affect the child (Davis-Kean, 2005). For this reason, the child might face challenges adapting to the outside world as an adult.


The study by Bolle, Wessel and Mulvihill (2007) identified social withdrawal symptoms on homeschooled students. A child under homeschooling may not know how to communicate with peers. For this reason, they may not learn how to make friends. Given that this aspect is denied through homeschooling, it may prove difficult for such a child to develop social relation skills.

The parents may also argue that they are saving on finances through homeschooling. However, I believe they downplay the financial implications. For instance, if both parents are working, one will have to stay at home to homeschool the children. Moreover, there are other hidden expenses such as the need broaden the child’s experience through traveling.  For this reason, the parents may end up straining financially.

It is essential for parents to take their children to school. The move will ensure the children are exposed to the outside world. The parents will also not strain or struggle in ensuring the learning meets the required standards.

The post Children should never be educated at home appeared first on BookRiff.

18 Oct 14:00

Google Pixel and Pixel XL Review Roundup: Magical EIS, Beta Assistant

by Rajesh Pandey
The first batch of Google Pixel and Pixel XL reviews are out, and it looks like Google has a winner on its hands. Despite my initial skepticism surrounding the handsets, Google seems to have delivered a handset that is the sum of its greater goods. Continue reading →
18 Oct 13:07

Using Your Noodle

by Dan Ross

The Toronto Star today features a chin-stroking piece on a D.I.Y. device that Mr. Warren Huska of Toronto uses for his 18-km daily commute between The Beaches and North York.

Now, when he mounts his trusty two-wheeled steed, Huska is protected by a pool noodle.

Strapped to his bike’s frame with bungee cords, the floppy foam cylinder is a reminder to drivers not to get too close.

…for the past year, drivers have given Huska a wider berth.


 (Randy Risling / Toronto Star)

Most of Toronto is not kind to commuter cycling. Biking along the lakeshore is nice in decent weather and the old City of Toronto’s grid allows some relatively direct connections parallel to arterial roads. But north of St. Clair Avenue and the Don Valley, you are on your own.

The city’s new bike network plan looks pretty good on paper, but each separate project will need its own follow-up engineering, design, and approvals stages. This is where a lot of consultants will be paid a lot of money to investigate and design cycle lanes that will never get built. As a consultant myself, I encourage my Ontario colleagues to shoot for the moon.

With less network redundancy in the ‘burbs, direct connections need to be made along arterial roads. What are the odds that the City will reduce car capacity along the widest roads in York, Etobicoke, Scarborough, or North York to accommodate cyclists? Slim.

In one of those ‘why hasn’t anyone thought of this before’ moments, Mr. Huska has created his own portable cycling infrastructure; and by his account, it works.

Huska took up the noodle in mid-2015, when Ontario enacted new laws requiring drivers to leave one-metre’s distance when passing cyclists on the road.

“The edge of the noodle (helps them) gauge space instead of them trying to judge where my elbow was,” said Huska.  The change he noticed was “almost magical,” Huska said.

In a perfect world, dangling a pool noodle from the side of your bike to nudge motorists towards safer driving behaviour wouldn’t be necessary. But as anyone who’s ever had to bike along Lougheed Highway, Kingsway, even Hastings Street can tell you, our world is sometimes a damn mess. Good for Mr. Huska for taking some clever initiative when the City of Toronto won’t.

18 Oct 15:00

Ohrn Image — Industrial Chic

by Ken Ohrn

I like colourful businesses that vibrate with a sense of fun. Like Red Truck Beer Company, whose brewery and restaurant buzz and hum with colour and radiate industrial chic.

Located on the Central Valley Greenway, near E 1st Ave and Scotia St.


18 Oct 15:40

Parking at the Tsawwassen Mills Mega Mall-Motordom’s last gasp?

by Sandy James Planner


Business in Vancouver‘s Glen Korstrom  reports that Tsawwassen Mills has no intent to change the way the traffic circulates in the mega mall parking lot to alleviate the huge jams of idling cars trying to access and exit the 180 store behemoth  on Class 1 farmland. With only three exits servicing 6,000 parking spaces, things can get a little dicey. And a little heated.

The first opening weekend traffic flag people  hired by the mall as well as the Delta police and RCMP worked to make traffic flow. However that did not stop anxious car idlers from driving their SUVs’ over landscaping to escape the curvilinear feeder streets, nor did it stop shoppers from parking along Highway 17 and in an adjacent farmer’s field. Coupled with the rain, and some hot tempers  it was like watching an outdoors monster truck rally.

Approximately 284,000 shoppers jammed B.C.’s newest mall in the six days following Tsawwassen Mills’ October 5 launch and many of them complained about being stuck in parking lot gridlock that was so bad that it took up to four hours to leave the facility.

“To prevent [gridlock] from happening again, we’ve adapted some of the learnings to the traffic control people we have in place for the busier times,” the mall’s general manager Mark Fenwick told Business in Vancouver October 13.

The Bunt  and Associates Transportation Planning and Engineering plan for Ivanhoe Cambridge will not be amended. The mall manager states “What we’re doing is providing some educational material for guests to better show guests how they would exit the parking lot .It’s not as simple as having one exit on each side of the property. As people learn the site, it will flow a lot better, I’m sure.”

No mention of how to get there by  transit or how to access the site safely from nearby Tsawwassen by foot. Motordom is alive and well on this farmland floodplain location.


18 Oct 16:21

The Self-Driving Car and the Self

by pricetags

From New York Magazine.   This article is really good, with lots of surprising insights.  Here are some:


The experience of driving a car has been the mythopoeic heart of America for half a century. How will its absence be felt? We are still probably too close to it to know for sure. Will we mourn the loss of control? Will it subtly warp our sense of personal freedom — of having our destiny in our hands? Will it diminish our daily proximity to death? Will it scramble our (too often) gendered, racialized notions of who gets to drive which kinds of cars? …

What will become of the cinematic car chase? What about the hackneyed country song where driving is a metaphor for life? …

Without a need for driver’s licenses, the age of 16 will cease to be a demarcation between childhood and adulthood, a move that will simultaneously infantilize adults and liberate children (who will be able to “drive” as soon as their parents allow them to go unsupervised). Parents, meanwhile, will be liberated from hours spent playing limo driver for their kids.

Professional drivers of all stripes — taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, delivery people — will lose their jobs, and countless industries will be forced to evolve. …

When it isn’t doubling as a family environment, the self-driving car could become a rolling bedroom. It could even expand upon the car’s current role as a no-tell motel. Lipson and Kurman envision a “bed bus” model, “complete with shaded windows for privacy.” Since many riders will be all alone in their cars with nothing to do, the authors also predict that self-driving cars “could offer a comfortable new viewing environment for fans of pornography to immerse themselves in.”

Perhaps their ickiest prediction is that, to relieve themselves of the loneliness of riding in a sealed-off little pod, passengers will pay extra for the “Meet People” option the next time they rent a robo-taxi, so they “could be matched up with other passengers of the same age, or with similar patterns of web browsing and Facebook ‘likes.’ ”

By coordinating their movements, automated vehicles will be able to clump together into “platoons,” which will reduce wind drag, like the peloton in a bicycle race, allowing them to reach tremendously high speeds with relative safety. They will avoid selfish driving, which exacerbates traffic jams, and they will be able to learn from one another’s mistakes, a feature called “fleet learning.”

And because they will be able to communicate with each other in ways more complex than mere hand signals and honks, they will be able to begin radically refashioning the modern road network. Instead of stopping at intersections, self-driving cars could weave past one another; rush-hour traffic could conceivably swell to fill empty oncoming lanes, with lone cars slicing upstream against the flow of traffic, the way Brazilian army ants do. Our cars, in short, may finally achieve the state of swarm intelligence that has long eluded us but that the animal kingdom has been exploiting for millennia. …

14-driverless-cars-3-nocrop-w710-h2147483647-2xIt cannot be long before the windshield is fully colonized by glowing pixels, serving, at least part of the time, as a kind of widescreen TV. Eerier still, the glass surfaces could all be programmed to display a highly stylized version of the car’s surroundings, by applying Instagram-style filters, incorporating augmented reality games, or simply fictionalizing the landscape into something altogether more scenic. If I were asked to condense the whole of the coming decades into one mental picture, I might pick this soon-to-be familiar sight: a man in a motorcar, riding along an asphalt highway while staring blankly at a glowing screen. …

What exactly is that freedom worth? In answering that question, we as a society will schism in curious ways. For those of us who see driving as a kind of imprisonment — which, spatially speaking, it quite literally is — an extra hour to work or play (or eat, or read, or meditate, or fix our hair and do our makeup) will be cherished. But for those who see driving as a physical expression of freedom — which, spatially speaking, it also quite literally is — the end of driving will feel like confinement. …

Some on the right are already equating steering wheels to guns, making it plain that they will not give them up gladly. As political battles so often do, this rhetoric contains a gendered subtext: The nanny state wants to take away our cars, but real men won’t ever give them up. …

Because driverless cars are programmed to never break (or even bend) traffic laws, they will never go more than ten miles over the speed limit, even when you’re rushing to the hospital and your daughter’s face is turning blue. You will never take a turn a little too hard, causing that little droopy feeling in your gut. You will never do doughnuts, never peel out, never gun your engine. The shared experience of American adolescence — much of it spent in cars, acquiring a nuanced understanding of when, and how, it is okay to break certain rules — will simply vanish. In exchange, we will be given a few more minutes each day to stare at screens. …

Perhaps driverless cars can be hacked and taught to do things contrary to their makers’ intent. (If Ballard’s cyberpunk descendants have taught us anything, it’s that technology never plays out as neatly as predicted.) Perhaps teens will crawl out the window at high speed and Teen Wolf their cars’ roofs. Perhaps, as the science-fiction writer Roger Zelazny envisaged, people will take their cars on a “blindspin,” typing in random coordinates and then allowing the car to surprise them, like automotive flâneurs.

Perhaps the cars will be programmed to give pedestrians and bicyclists more space, and streets will finally become less menacing to the frail human body. Or perhaps, following a great tidal shift in our values, the sprawling suburbs will wither and cars will be relegated to a minor role, as people decide they would rather walk and ride bikes through human-scale towns and dense, effervescent, welcoming-and-yet-weird-as-fuck cities.

Who can say for certain? The future is unfathomably strange, and always has been.


18 Oct 14:47

Antti Oulasvirta on reforming CHI

by D'Arcy Norman

I’m new to the CHI community, and have been involved with only one project that submitted a paper to CHI. I was struck by the cadence – it’s a once-per-year submission deadline that sets the pattern of activity for an entire research lab. That feels weird. Maybe it’s good, though, as it pushes people to publish their work on a regular basis rather than just at the end of a thesis or dissertation project…

9) Stressful once-per-year deadline. This is not only unnecessarily stressful, but it incentivizes short-term planning. If you have to choose a research problem that can be solved in 8 months versus another that takes 2-3 years, which one would you pick if you are under pressure to advance your career by churning out CHI papers? Worse, the risk of “losing one year” may incentivize authors to bloat their claims about contributions.

Source: We must reform CHI or start an alternative – Oulasvirta on User Interface Design

18 Oct 00:00

Immersive Virtual Reality: Online Education for the Next Generation


Peter Merry, ConVerge, Oct 21, 2016

A fairly light read with a decent number of links, this short article touts the potential of virtual reality (VR) to reshape education. Of course, if past experience is any guide, instead of creating simulations of ERs and submarines, educators will use VR to simulate the typical college lecture theatre. Anyhow, some references to projects here include: Project Sansar, a VR creation platform; High Fidelity open-source VR platform; Facebook’ s social VR, and much more. See also CBC, In VR and AR, Computers Adapt to Humans.

[Link] [Comment]
18 Oct 17:33

Leaving Korea for the USA

by tychay

From my aunt’s e-mail thread.

The attached photo is of us at Kimpo airport waiting to board a flight to the USA. We all look miserable and sad because we are leaving life as we knew it back then. I remember the propeller plane, so loud. I remember waking up from a nap on the loud plane and heard my siblings talking to each other — hard for me to believe because they hadn’t spoken to each other for more than a year (and used me as a messenger when they needed to communicate).

Leaving Korea for USA
Leaving Korea for USA

Left to right: ?, Aunt Tamaye, Uncle Francis (in front of Aunt Gia), Grandma, Dr. Tae-Bong Kim, Teresa (my mom)

This photo was taken in 1954, the year after the Armistice Agreement.



The person between mom and Teresa is a chemistry professor where we took shelter for 3 months after the N. Korean troop came to Seoul.

Do you remember his name?

(My grandfather was already a professor in the United States at the outbreak of the Korean War, so he spent the entire war in the United States, separated from his family.)


Kim Tae-bong, is what I remember.  Does it sound familiar to you?


That is correct. He is Prof. Kim, Tae-Bong, who had a stack of books, which we used to sneak in to take out to read during the refugee era in Seoul.

18 Oct 14:40

Phasing Out SHA-1 on the Public Web

by J.C. Jones

An algorithm we’ve depended on for most of the life of the Internet — SHA-1 — is aging, due to both mathematical and technological advances. Digital signatures incorporating the SHA-1 algorithm may soon be forgeable by sufficiently-motivated and resourceful entities.

Via our and others’ work in the CA/Browser Forum, following our deprecation plan announced last year and per recommendations by NIST, issuance of SHA-1 certificates mostly halted for the web last January, with new certificates moving to more secure algorithms. Since May 2016, the use of SHA-1 on the web fell from 3.5% to 0.8% as measured by Firefox Telemetry.

In early 2017, Firefox will show an overridable “Untrusted Connection” error whenever a SHA-1 certificate is encountered that chains up to a root certificate included in Mozilla’s CA Certificate Program. SHA-1 certificates that chain up to a manually-imported root certificate, as specified by the user, will continue to be supported by default; this will continue allowing certain enterprise root use cases, though we strongly encourage everyone to migrate away from SHA-1 as quickly as possible.

This policy has been included as an option in Firefox 51, and we plan to gradually ramp up its usage.  Firefox 51 is currently in Developer Edition, and is currently scheduled for release in January 2017. We intend to enable this deprecation of SHA-1 SSL certificates for a subset of Beta users during the beta phase for 51 (beginning November 7) to evaluate the impact of the policy on real-world usage. As we gain confidence, we’ll increase the number of participating Beta users. Once Firefox 51 is released in January, we plan to proceed the same way, starting with a subset of users and eventually disabling support for SHA-1 certificates from publicly-trusted certificate authorities in early 2017.

Questions about SHA-1 based certificates should be directed to the forum.

18 Oct 18:02

The Best Mirrorless Camera

by Amadou Diallo
Close-up of our pick camera.

After 70 hours of research and testing over two years, we think if you’re looking to buy a mirrorless camera with pro-level performance alongside image quality that bests most DSLRs, the Fujifilm X-T2 is the camera to get.

18 Oct 19:08

Tales From the West End – Oct 18

by pricetags

Tales From the West End

This month retired UBC history professor and author Bob McDonald is our featured story teller.  Bob specialized in teaching BC History and published a book on early Vancouver history, “Making Vancouver”.  His story will focus on an early West End family, the Bell-Irvings.

You are encouraged to listen, sketch or bring your own stories and historic photographs of the West End to share with the community.


JJBean Coffee Shop, 1209 Bidwell St., (Bidwell & Davie)

Tuesday, October 18

5:45-7:30, story telling from 6:00-7:00

Admission: Free, Complimentary coffee and tea thanks to JJBean



18 Oct 19:29

Samsung plans to compensate Galaxy Note 7 parts suppliers

by Rose Behar

Samsung is working hard to make sure its Galaxy Note 7 recall debacle doesn’t burn too many bridges — not only with customers but within the industry as well.

The company released a statement to Reuters on October 18th saying that it will compensate component suppliers for unused Note 7 parts that have already been manufactured, materials bought to make parts for the ill-fated device and unfinished components.

Additionally, in consideration of the fact that the suppliers may have expected a substantial ongoing revenue stream from the parts, Samsung also stated that it would consider giving those companies orders for other models of phone.

The company did not say how much it expected to pay out, but said it would “determine the inventory levels for the partner companies and carry out compensation quickly.”

This move was likely spurred on by recent concerns voiced by the South Korean government and the central bank that the Note 7’s early discontinuation could have a significant negative impact on the domestic economy, as many affiliates in South Korea count on Samsung as a key partner.

In an unprecedented move, the Note 7 was permanently discontinued on October 11th after only approximately two months in production, due to battery issues that caused many devices to overheat and combust.

Related: Transport Canada bans Samsung Galaxy Note 7 from all Canadian flights

14 Sep 01:33

Fundamental Needs

Fundamental needs are universal constraints. My bet is:

  • If a technology addresses a fundamental need, universal adoption is guaranteed. The only questions are “how fast” and “who will build it”.
  • Any tech that addresses a fundamental need will be a driving force of societal change in the long term.

Amara’s Law: We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

My goal is to focus on the places a technological driving force intersects with a fundamental need. Scenario Planning is a good way to find these intersections.

The List

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter (Cinderblocks)
  • Family
  • Safety
  • Health (and Medicine)
  • Learning (and teaching)
  • Creating (vs “work”)
  • Communication
  • Freedom
  • Energy
  • Transportation
  • Resources and waste
  • Money/trading (shifts our incentives toward cooperation)
  • Meaning

Past Examples

The invention of agriculture about 20,000 years ago was an early fundamental technological advance. Pastoralism and sedentary agriculture lead to dramatic increases in population density.

Writing (3200 BC) provided humanity with external memory and allowed us to begin the exponential accrual of ideas that brought us to now.

Dramatic advances happened between 1860—1920 with vaccines, antibiotics, electric grids, widely deployed indoor plumbing, the flush toilet, steam and water turbines, internal combustion engines, the Haber process, synthetic fertilizer, the Ford production system, steel, aluminum, electronics.

More recently, during the late 20th and early 21st century The Green Revolution, The Pill, the Toyota production system, computing, the internet and mobile phones are actively reshaping society.

Emerging fundemental technologies that are likely to have profound impact within our lifetime: solar energy, gene editing, artificial intelligence. Automation is also likely to be a driving factor.

More fun:

Ontological Needs

Manfred Max-Neef developed a list of ontological human needs. His put is that these needs are few and satisfiable (vs economic wants, which have no upper bound).

They are: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity, freedom.

Max-Neef classifies ways of meeting needs, too. (From Wikipedia):

  • Violators: claim to be satisfying needs, yet in fact make it more difficult to satisfy a need. E.g. drinking a soda advertised to quench your thirst, but the ingredients (such as caffeine or sodium salts) cause you to urinate more, leaving you less hydrated on net.
  • Pseudo Satisfiers: claim to be satisfying a need, yet in fact have little to no effect on really meeting such a need. For example, status symbols may help identify one’s self initially, but there is always the potential to get absorbed in them and forget who you are without them.
  • Inhibiting Satisfiers: those that over-satisfy a given need, which in turn seriously inhibits the possibility of satisfaction of other needs. Mostly originating in deep-rooted customs, habits and rituals. For example, an overprotective family stifles identity, freedom, understanding, and affection.
  • Singular Satisfiers: satisfy one particular need only. These are neutral in regard to the satisfaction of other needs. They are usually institutionalized by voluntary, private sector, or government programs. For example, food/housing volunteer programs aid in satisfying subsistence for less fortunate people.
  • Synergistic Satisfiers: satisfy a given need, while simultaneously contributing to the satisfaction of other needs. These are anti-authoritarian and represent a reversal of predominant values of competition and greed. For example, breast feeding gives a child subsistence, and aids in the development in protection, affection, and identity.
18 Oct 20:01

First Nations hire one of the region’s savviest development experts to steer projects on their big holdings

by Frances Bula

You, the general public, may not have paid too much attention to this, but a lot of others on various inside tracks are taking note of the fact that David Negrin, who used to manage development for Aquilini and, before that, Concord Pacific, has been hired by the three local First Nations, who hold a billion dollars worth of land.

My story here has comments by UDI president Jon Stovell about what this will mean for First Nations development in the region — good things, he and others say, because at last they’ll have someone on board who understands who they are but also knows how to deal with the traditional business world.

Negrin has been working with First Nations groups a lot, as Aquilini partnered with some of them (Tsleil-Waututh and Tsawwassen) to do big residential developments.

Many are wondering what Aquilini will do now on that front. The company had hired the sister of Chief Wayne Sparrow, Johnna Sparrow, as an aboriginal adviser, as well as another person from the Squamish First Nation, I’m told. But will they continue their push to do development with First Nations once Negrin is gone. We’ll wait and see.

18 Oct 20:12

New TransLink CEO says he welcomes Uber as a complement to public transit, waves the optimism flag about the future

by Frances Bula

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond has been on the job a little more than six months now. Things have been going mostly well, I’d say.

The volume of anti-TransLink stories has gone down — even though the agency is out doing a public consultation about a $3-a-house tax hike and five- to 10-cent fare hike to pay for some of its part of the 10-year plan.

Desmond, as he’s the first to say, has also benefitted by a change in the winds. The federal government announced its intention to fund 50 per cent of transit projects, in its first phase of infrastructure money, sometime in Desmond’s first week. The province has come on board with an agreement on funding that first phase.

The agency has reportedly sold the Oakridge bus barn for a huge whack of money (BIV has been reporting $450 million), which gives the agency a lot more money to put into the 10-year plan. Revenues are up, as the fare gates have closed.

Our new CEO also is stepping out a little bit in taking firm stands on issues. At a speech at the Vancouver Board of Trade (where I got to do a Q and A with him), he came out firmly supportive of Uber and ride-hailing systems as transportation alternatives that could actually help more people get to transit.

(When I asked him about fears some people have that Uber will set up van routes to skim customers off public-transit routes, Desmond said the local authorities would need to ensure that Uber-type services worked within a framework. Some might be skeptical, given Uber’s willingness to bend the rules and regulations as they expand.) My story on his talk is here.

I asked him about whether the agency risks missing some important deadlines this fall or early next year, if the province doesn’t come to an agreement with the feds about what will happen with second-phase transit funding. He said no worries about that.

I think a lot of Desmond’s positive attitude and good messaging comes from just who he is. I noticed he wrote his own speech for the VBOT talk — handwritten, too. (He also doesn’t suffer fools gladly. I’ve witnessed a couple of withering responses to what he thought were silly questions.)

But I note he’s getting help these days. The PR firm Fleishman-Hillard seems to be on board, prepping him before news conferences and the like.

18 Oct 20:32

Vancouver-based game studio United Front Games has shut down

by Igor Bonifacic

Vancouver-based United Front Games, the studio behind cult Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 open-world title Sleeping Dogs, has shut down, according to multiple unconfirmed reports.

News that the studio had shut down started filtering out last night. United Front Games has not responded to comment requests from multiple publications, including Polygon and Kotaku.

Adding fuel to the fire, the studio’s most recent title, Smash + Grab, has since been pulled from Valve’s e-commerce store and is no longer available to purchase. The title hit Steam Early Access this past September. It was put on sale just this past weekend.

United Front Games was founded in 2007 by developers from a number of local studios, including Rockstar Games, Electronic Arts and Radical Entertainment. It’s most famous effort, the aforementioned Sleeping Dogs, was a critical success but did not meet the sales expectations of Square Enix.

If United Front Games has in fact closed, it will be a big hit to a Vancouver game development community that had just started to recover in recent years after a number of high-profile studio closures.

18 Oct 19:24

Workflow Update Brings Ability to Interact with Any Web API

by Federico Viticci

Integration with native iOS features and apps has always been one of Workflow's strong suits. With an update released today, however, the Workflow team is considerably expanding the scope of the app to work with any web API, giving Workflow a virtually infinite feature set that goes beyond iOS alone.

Over the past couple of years, I've increasingly switched to web services that offer iOS clients and APIs for automation and cross-service integrations.

Here at MacStories, we pay for Slack, we use Trello for our editorial calendar, and I recently moved back to Todoist and started tracking my time with Toggl. Our articles start as drafts stored in multiple GitHub repositories, I read other websites' stories with Inoreader, and I rely on Zapier as the glue that brings multiple services together. For both personal and professional usage, I realize that I have largely moved to web services with solid API offerings and native iOS clients in lieu of iOS-only apps that can't communicate with each other.

This has been a problem for my Workflow experience. Despite the developers' best efforts with web-based integrations as actions available in the app and the addition of IFTTT triggers, I always felt like I couldn't get to that higher level of web automation because Workflow couldn't handle arbitrary API calls to web services. This is changing today with a major update to the app's 'Get Contents of URL' action.

In the latest version, Workflow can now interact with any API through POST and PUT requests with custom headers, which have been rolled into the 'Get Contents of URL' action in addition to existing support for GET requests.

Workflow's new API-oriented actions.

Workflow's new API-oriented actions.

For those who are only partially familiar with the terminology, this means that Workflow can communicate with the majority of modern services that come with a web API. If you've never worked with web APIs before, it'll take you a few hours of reading and experiments with dictionaries, token authentications, form requests, and file uploads to get the gist of how it works. But, the Workflow team has managed to make what tends to be a visually unintuitive programming task – assembling dictionaries and structuring JSON – as simple and attractive as possible, abstracting many of the complexities that web developers have to deal with in desktop IDEs and command-line tools.

As usual, workflows speak louder than words. I have been able to play around with Workflow's new version for the past week, and I've put together some examples to give you an idea of what can be built with Workflow and web APIs on iOS.

More Workflows

More API-based workflows will be shared exclusively with Club MacStories members in the MacStories Weekly newsletter starting this week and throughout the next few issues.

If you’re interested in our members-only Workflow Corner section, you can sign up for Club MacStories here.


I've been tracking my work hours with Toggl for the past couple of weeks. I'm not doing this for billable purposes – I don't pay myself by the hour – but to understand where my time is going, calculate my personal ROI, and find patterns and bad habits I can optimize.

Toggl's timer view on the web.

Toggl's timer view on the web.

Unfortunately, Toggl doesn't have an iPad app and their iPhone app isn't great. I wanted an easy way to get details of the currently running timer, plus shortcuts to restart often-used timers, giving them a description, a project, and a tag.

With Workflow's new API features, I was able to achieve this in two separate workflows.

Please note: You'll need a Toggl API token to use the following workflows with your Toggl account. You can find it in your account's preferences.

Get Details of Running Timer or Stop One

The first workflow, which I primarily trigger as a widget, lets me see what the current timer is and for how long it's been running, with a button to stop it. This workflow has been a fantastic enhancement to my daily routine as it helps me jump from timer to timer and check how long I've been writing or researching a topic.

To get details of running timers, the workflow calls the Toggl API with GET requests. The basic step of an API call in Workflow is relatively straightforward: all you need is the URL endpoint in a 'URL' action that gets passed to 'Get Contents of URL'. In the second action, you can specify the method (GET, POST, or PUT) and attach headers or a request body.

The workflow starts by encoding my Toggl login credentials in Base64, as required by the Toggl API. Then, using a standard Authorization: Basic header, Workflow authenticates with my Toggl account and returns a dictionary with information about the currently running timer.

A dictionary is made of key-value pairs. Workflow has been updated with new scripting actions to create dictionaries, set the value of a dictionary, and, more importantly, get details of a dictionary passed as input. Using the 'Get Dictionary Value' action, we can get a specific value from a dictionary by entering the associated key.1

The workflow then proceeds to extract various bits of information from the dictionary returned by Toggl (if a timer is running; otherwise, the dictionary will be empty). The timer's description is saved to a variable; the duration is calculated by doing some math with the Unix Epoch time and the current date and time; the project's name is fetched with another API call using the project's ID as a parameter.

At the end, the workflow displays a message with details about a running timer and it asks to stop it. Stopping a timer is a PUT request, which also shows an alert – both in the Workflow app and the widget.

I've been using this workflow several times a day, and it's an effective example of what can be accomplished with APIs in Workflow and minimal knowledge of programming languages.

You can get the workflow here.

Start New Timer

The second Toggl workflow I created lets me start new timers with templates quickly. This removes much of the friction inherently involved with time tracking, and it's a great companion to the Toggl website (which I use on the iPad) and iPhone app.

The workflow starts by authenticating with Toggl through a GET request and fetching my account data. This is a necessary step to return live data for each Toggl user instead of hardcoding project/tag names and IDs into the workflow.

If a timer isn't already running, the workflow brings up a list of common activities I usually track with Toggl. I had to manually assemble this list as the Toggl API doesn't expose frequently used descriptions (at least not through a specific call), and I found it easier to curate the activities I track myself.

Starting new timers with the Toggl API in Workflow.

Starting new timers with the Toggl API in Workflow.

On the surface, the workflow is simple and can be run in seconds. First, it asks you "What Are You Doing?"; then, it brings up a list of projects, tags, and, finally, it starts a new timer. It's a pleasure to use, especially from the Lock screen of my iPhone: as soon as I run it, I can see changes reflected on the Toggl website on my iPad, confirming that a timer has started running.

There are some interesting decisions I made behind the scenes. For projects and tags, I had to save their names and IDs into separate variables: with a first variable, I display the names in a list; then, a multiline regular expression isolates IDs that were previously paired to their respective project names in a repeat loop. It's pretty neat, and it works well.

I'd also like to point out the final API call – the POST request to start a timer. This action contains a JSON request body made of a time_entry dictionary. The dictionary includes four items: a description (previously saved as a variable), the project ID (captured via regex), a 'Workflow' text string that indicates which app started the timer, and an array of tags.

JSON requests in Workflow.

JSON requests in Workflow.

Normally, assembling such a request body would require paying attention to a precise syntax; with Workflow, it's all done visually with the aid of variables.

You can get the workflow here.


As I mentioned on a past episode of Canvas, I switched back to Todoist as my task manager, largely because of its excellent integrations with other services.

One of the most useful, albeit least known, features of Todoist, however, is the ability to export a project as a CSV template and later re-import it as a template into an existing project. This can be particularly handy to re-import travel lists, todo lists for annual projects, or checklists you don't always want to be visible in your Todoist.

Downloading a file from an API, saving it, and uploading it sounded like a perfect job for Workflow.

Please Note: To use the Todoist API, you'll need to create an app here and copy its Test Token, which is scoped to your own account.

Export Project as Template

To export a project from Todoist, the workflow first needs to authenticate into an account and return all of its resource types as a dictionary. A 'Get Dictionary Value' action extracts the user's projects, which are then saved, presented, and filtered using the same logic of the Toggl workflows. The final result is a project ID that gets passed to the request body of a POST request.

Exporting a project as template from the Todoist API.

Exporting a project as template from the Todoist API.

After downloading the file from the Todoist API, Workflow assigns it a name and extension with a 'Set Name' action, and then passes it to iOS' Open In menu so you can save it elsewhere. Personally, I've been saving CSV templates for projects I may need in the future in my Dropbox account.

You can get the workflow here.

Import Template into Project

With a project template saved in Dropbox, a second workflow follows the same path of the first one to fetch projects and pick one to import the template into. Once the project has been picked and its ID saved into a variable, a POST request uploads the CSV file to Todoist, turning it into a series of tasks inserted into the chosen project.

A template (left) imported into a Todoist project as a series of tasks.

A template (left) imported into a Todoist project as a series of tasks.

A note on the POST request: Todoist requires a multi-part Form body that contains both text and file fields. Make sure to select 'File' when you're attaching a variable to a field that requires uploading a file to an API; passing a file variable to text-type field will result in an error.

You can get the workflow here.


Slack has replaced iMessage and email for team communication at MacStories, but sometimes the influx of notifications can be overwhelming. Slack has a Do Not Disturb mode to snooze notifications, but, unfortunately, it takes too many taps to enable it.

With Workflow and its deeper API support, I created a faster way to snooze Slack notifications with two taps from anywhere on iOS.

Please note: You'll need to generate test tokens for the Slack Web API for each of the teams you want to interact with.

Snooze Notifications

With this workflow, you'll be able to snooze Slack notifications from a widget without ever needing to open the Slack app itself.2

The workflow starts by checking whether snooze is currently active for the selected Slack team. If it is, it'll let you stop it (resuming notifications) or leave it on. You can test this by opening Slack on one device and stopping snooze with Workflow on a second device; the change will be reflected in real time on Slack.

If snooze isn't enabled, Workflow can turn it on for you with a POST request. The API requires a number of minutes to activate snooze; I included a template as a List action, which you can modify as needed.

After snooze has been enabled, Workflow will calculate the end time with some date operations3 and display a dialog. I've run this workflow from the widget several times a day when I want to mute Slack, and it's been a terrific improvement for my daily communications.

You can get the workflow here.

The Programmable Web on iOS

The impressive aspect of Workflow's deeper web API support isn't only the sheer amount of possibilities that it opens up for iOS automation, but how it packages everything in a user-friendly interface integrated with the rest of iOS and the app's features.

I worked with web APIs in Pythonista for iOS before, and it was neither pretty nor accessible. Not only does Workflow allow you to build API requests without typing their syntax manually – it also lets you chain them with variables, data types, and files constructed or fetched with other actions that take advantage of Workflow's access to iOS frameworks.

As far as web automation goes, there's never been anything like Workflow's new API features for interacting with web services on iOS. While Workflow was a versatile and powerful tool before, it was mostly limited to built-in actions and supported apps. Now, as long as there's an open web API to call, Workflow can be anything.

Today's update is another important step for Workflow, as well as web development for iOS in general. Workflow 1.5.3 is available on the App Store.

  1. And also return all keys or all values as a list. ↩︎
  2. If you're part of multiple Slack teams, you can put multiple Text tokens into a 'Choose from Menu' action and pick which one you want to manage snooze settings for. ↩︎
  3. Including a time zone optimization for Rome, Italy, that you'll have to modify for your region. ↩︎

Like MacStories? Become a Member.

Club MacStories offers exclusive access to extra MacStories content, delivered every week; it’s also a way to support us directly.

Club MacStories will help you discover the best apps for your devices and get the most out of your iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Plus, it’s made in Italy.

Join Now
18 Oct 21:56

Apple to reportedly launch new Macs on October 27th

by Rose Behar

Apple will be launching its hotly-awaited line of new Macs at an October 27th event, according to sources cited by Recode and Bloomberg.

In August 2016, prolific Apple tipster Mark Gurman of Bloomberg stated that the updated Mac line will include MacBook Airs with multi-functional USB-C technology, iMacs with an option for new graphics chips from AMD and a thinner MacBook Pro with a flatter keyboard.

Another intriguing feature of the Pro, according to Gurman and KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, is a display touch bar above the keyboard that will replace the physical function keys.

Foreshadowing the release, Apple released the newest iteration of its Mac operating system, MacOS Sierra, in September 2016.

Anticipation for new Mac products is high, considering the only Mac debut this year was the minorly tweaked 12-inch 2016 MacBook.

Related: MacOS Sierra is now available to download

18 Oct 20:41

Plantronics updates the BackBeat Pro cans

by Volker Weber


I have had only one complaint about the BackBeat Pro headset: it's comically large on your head. But it does sound really great and it works extremely well isolating you from the noise around you. And it can do that 24 hours on a single charge.

Plantronics has been updating this 2013 design and came up with something smaller and lighter. I can't judge it from the photos, but supposedly the new cans take up 35% less volume and are 15% lighter, while sounding even better. I will let you know when I have a pair.

Plantronics should really hire a design director. Both the more expensive "Special Edition" above and the normal BackBeat Pro 2 don't look very intriguing. What is special besides the colour? The case and NFC pairing. What? NFC pairing is a differentiating feature? You've got to be kidding me!

29772501594 38f44e21f8 o

18 Oct 23:07

Samsung reportedly to release just one flagship smartphone in 2017 following Note 7 fallout

by Igor Bonifacic

Following the discontinuation of the Note 7, Samsung plans to release only one flagship smartphone in 2017, a successor to the Galaxy S7, according to a report coming out of Korea.

The Korean Herald reports Samsung made the decision to streamline its portfolio in an effort to ensure the quality of its future flagship device, presumably set to be called the Galaxy S8, meets both internal and consumer expectations. The pressure to deliver a high-end device ahead of Apple may have been a contributing factor to the Note 7’s ultimate demise.

For the time being, it doesn’t appear Samsung has told its suppliers about the move.

“Samsung has not notified its suppliers of the plan to scrap the current two flagship models strategy,” said an unnamed official with one of Samsung’s partner firms in an interview with the publication.

If true, the permanent discontinuation of the Note line will come as sad news to fans of the series’ stylus functionality; while other phones have similar specs, there are almost no other smartphone devices that offer the same stylus functionality.