Monthly Archives: December 2018

Q and A: BlackBerry 10 – National

On Monday, Canadian company Research in Motion announced the launch of its new BlackBerry 10 on January 30. The launch, taking place simultaneously around the globe, will feature two new BlackBerry 10 phones, one with traditional keyboard and one touch screen model, completely redesigned with unique features not found in any other smartphone today.

Our tech guru Steve Makris, who recently tried out an early beta BlackBerry 10, weighs in on what the new phone is about.

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– Is it too late for the BlackBerry phone to catch up with the current Apple and Android phones?

RIM is banking on introducing a well thought-out smart phone to serve many needs in traditional markets as well as developing countries. It is launching during a relatively quiet tech period so it will get more attention. It will be a viable competitive alternative in a mobile world, fractured between Apple and Android phones, both of which are starting to show growing strains for an always restless consumer. RIM is focused to take advantage of that. IT managers will like the new phone, but it will be a new system for companies to adapt to.

– Should I wait for the new BlackBerry 10 smartphone?

If you are close to getting a phone upgrade or are currently shopping for a new phone, yes.

– What unique features will the phone have?

It is re-designed from the ground up, with a classic look and feel of its own, similar to today’s cutting edge smartphones from competitors. The phones will be running on a new advanced operating system QNX, used in industrial applications with characteristics similar to that of computers. It has two top features are the two modes users can switch between office and personal use. The other is much faster touchscreen typing.

– How will I be able to balance my work and personal use on a BlackBerry 10 phone?

In an enterprise environment, you will simply switch the BB10 to “work” modes for a secure working environment IT managers love. But when done work, or during your lunch or coffee break, you can switch the phone to your personal use with separate apps and files. The two modes do not see each other. You won’t even be able to see the other side’s files or information.

– Will my boss be able to know what I have been doing with the personal side of my phone?

No. To your employer, it will be like you are using a totally separate phone.

– I have always like the traditional QWERTY BlackBerry keyboard. What would make me want to switch?

RIM will offer a new traditional keyboard model and a new touchscreen model with a large brilliant sharp screen. They have gone out of their way to match the new touch screen experience to that of the old keyboard. In predictive mode, the phone’s suggested word appears over your finger as you start typing the first letters of a word. A quick flip upwards places the word in your text box. I tried it and physically it’s twice as fast to type than any other touchscreen phone.

– Will the BlackBerry 10 have good customer support?

RIM is planning a big worldwide launch wanting to keep existing, in fact bring back, users with a phone that does it all. Despite earlier reports of them building a business model, they claim the multimedia component of the new BlackBerry 10 will be cutting edge. I found the HTML 5 experience on my tryout BB10 impressive.

– What other features will the new phones have?

BlackBerry Flow, for instant access to what is new from your contacts, calendar, news alerts and more, while you are on any application by a simple screen gesture.

Follow Steve’s Tech Talk on Global Edmonton’s Sunday and Morning News here.

©2012Shaw Media

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CRTC will do review of telemarketing calls – National

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is asking consumers and telemarketers for their views on how to reduce unwanted calls and is taking a close look at the rules for automated calls.

The CRTC is also asking for comment on a proposal by the Canadian Marketing Association to relax the rules restricting automatic calls for telemarketing.

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The Canadian Marketing Association has proposed eliminating this restriction where an organization already has a business relationship with the party being called and has not made a request to be on the organization’s internal do-not-call list, the CRTC said Wednesday.

“The current rules specify that consumers must provide express consent before calls using ADADs (automatic dialing-announcing devices) can be made to them,” the CRTC said in a news release.

The change proposed by the Canadian Marketing Association would also mean that such calls would be allowed even if consumers have registered their numbers on the national do-not-call list, the CRTC noted.

The CRTC oversees the national do-not-call list, which protects consumers from unwanted sales calls.

For its part, the Canadian Marketing Association calls the current restriction on automatic dialing-announcing devices “unduly broad.” It notes that technology has changed since rules were put in place in 1994, when the devices were capable only of one-way delivery of messages.

“As an example, these features now enable consumers to press a button on their touch-tone pad to immediately connect to a live agent, have the ADAD call returned at another more convenient time, pause or repeat a message,” the association said in a letter to the CRTC dated December 2011.

The call can also be personalized by including specific customer information such as names, the association added.

The Canadian Marketing Association said these automated calls should be allowed for telemarketers who have a business relationship with the person being called because unsolicited automated calls cause “greater inconvenience or nuisance than unsolicited live voice calls.”

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre, however, argues against automated calls.

“We’ve done surveys in the past to confirm this, but we know for a fact that people find automated calls to be extremely creepy and invasive,” said John Lawford, the centre’s legal counsel.

“They dislike them intensely, intensely and there is no justification for them.”

Lawford said such calls have only been allowed for doctors, libraries and schools and “other goody good things.”

He said the United States removed restrictions for automated calls for a while, but had so many complaints that rules had to be reinstated.

The CRTC also would like the public to comment on whether telemarketing rules should require, where technologically possible, the caller to be identified on call-display.

“A requirement to display the caller’s, or client’s name could lessen consumer frustration by allowing them to better distinguish calls from telemarketers versus those from other parties,” the CRTC said.

The CRTC said while it would like its rules to be more effective, it also wants to help improve communication between organizations and consumers on these calls.

The regulator also said it will weigh the benefit of any changes against the administrative burden that may result, particularly for small businesses.

The deadline for comments is May 6.

©2013The Canadian Press

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Obama skeptical of Assad claim on chemical weapons – National

JERUSALEM – President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the United States is investigating whether chemical weapons have been deployed in Syria, but he’s “deeply skeptical” of claims by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime that rebel forces were behind such an attack.

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Both the Assad regime and Syrian rebels have accused each other of using chemical weapons in an attack on Tuesday that the government says killed 31 and wounded more than 100. But Obama suggested it’s more likely that if the weapons were used, the Syrian government was behind the attack.

“We know the Syrian government has the capacity to carry out chemical weapon attacks,” Obama said. “We know that there are those are in the Syrian government who have expressed a willingness to use chemical weapons if necessary to protect themselves. I am deeply skeptical of any claim that in fact it was the opposition that used chemical weapons. Everybody who knows the facts of the chemical weapons stockpiles inside of Syria as well as the Syrian government capabilities, I think, would question those claims.”

“Once we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer,” Obama said in a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama said he wouldn’t announce what the next steps would be while the investigation is unfolding. But he echoed his statement over the summer that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “red line” for the United States.

“When you start seeing weapons that can cause potential devastation and mass casualties and you let that genie out of the bottle, then you are looking potentially at even more horrific scenes than we’ve already seen in Syria. And the international community has to act on that additional information,” Obama said.

“We have been clear that the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people would be a serious and tragic mistake,” Obama said.

Obama said the U.S. policy not to intervene militarily thus far is based on his desire to solve the problem as a global community. “It’s a world problem … when tens of thousands of people are being slaughtered, including innocent women and children,” Obama said.

Netanyahu said the two leaders discussed Syria during their private meeting earlier. He said the two countries share a goal of preventing Syria’s weapons arsenal from falling into the hands of terrorists.

Obama said the United States shares the concern that the weapons could be transferred to a group like Hezbollah and used against Israel. “The Assad regime must understand that they will be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or their transfer to terrorists,” Obama said.

The president’s first comments on the reports came shortly after the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, told Congress of an untenable situation in Syria as the civil war grinds into its third year. The United Nations has estimated 70,000 have been killed, more than 1 million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries and 2.5 million have been displaced internally.

The Syrian people “face a new level of ruthlessness from the Assad regime, which is raining Scud missiles down on residential neighbourhoods, destroying hospitals and schools, and sending its thugs rampaging through the streets to terrorize their fellow citizens. The carnage is appalling,” Ford said.

He insisted that the ideal outcome is a “negotiated political transition” to the crisis without Assad.

Ford said the military balance is turning against the Assad regime, which has lost some critical strategic locations such as the borders with Turkey and Iraq. The ambassador also said there has been heavy fighting in Damascus “right up close to where the president lives.”

Ford said Iran is increasing its military assistance to Assad’s regime and the outside help has persuaded him that he can prevail.

“I think today he still thinks he can win militarily with help from Russia, from Iran, from Lebanese Hezbollah,” Ford said. “But I think he also must understand as his windows rattle, because the fighting is getting closer, he must be thinking about whether or not his calculations are correct.”

Ford was pressed repeatedly about what military action the United States might take but declined to speculate at the public hearing. Lawmakers uneasy with military involvement — or even the prospect of arming the opposition — reflected a war-weariness after more than a decade of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who noted the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq this week, repeatedly tried to get Ford to elaborate for Congress and the American people about what could happen next in Syria if chemical weapons were used.

Ford declined. Perry, alluding to Iraq, said, “We don’t want the current administration making the mistake of past administrations.”

In fact, no consensus has emerged in Congress about what further steps should be taken to break the stalemate in Syria. Some, such as Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, favour strikes on Syrian air defences, establishment of a no-fly zone and arming the opposition.

Others, like Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said Wednesday that providing weapons to the Syrian opposition risks having the weapons fall into the wrong hands.

“The unknown can be dangerous and the vetting of the opposition is not enough when it comes to providing lethal aid that could be used against our allies, such as Israel, or the United States in a post-Assad era,” she said.

____

Associated Press writer Donna Cassata in Washington contributed to this report.

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One year later, Jets’ NHL maturity showing

WINNIPEG – Sticking to the program is paying dividends for the Winnipeg Jets, who continue to follow Claude Noel’s game plan to make the playoffs.

The latest tangible symbol of their success was Tuesday night’s patient performance that allowed them to walk away with a 3-1 win over the Boston Bruins and again claim top spot in the Southeast Division.

Noel says the performance against the powerful Bruins is a perfect example of what he’s trying to preach.

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“Boston does it great,” he said after an optional skate Wednesday as the Jets prepare for a two-game homestand against the Washington Capitals.

“They just do the same. They start the game, they play the game, they end the game, it’s the same . . . They just don’t veer off the program.”

The style may not be exciting but the winning is, and the Jets have come a long way in a year under Noel’s tutelage.

“We’ve changed our mindset in the last year,” forward Blake Wheeler said Wednesday.

He had two goals Tuesday night, bringing his total for the season to 14.

“I think everyone to a man is buying into the fact that if we play the game the right way then we can be a winning team.”

Exactly a year ago Wednesday, the Jets were floundering below the line that separates NHL playoff contenders from the also-rans.

Last year, James Neal recorded his second NHL hat trick and Sidney Crosby had four assists in his first home game in more than three months as Pittsburgh downed the Jets 8-4.

Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec was pulled in the second period after allowing five Penguins goals on 24 shots.

Flash forward and the team is celebrating their win over the heavyweight Bruins (but not too much), a game in which Pavelec was clearly the difference maker.

“Last year we went to Pittsburgh, Detroit, those teams, we got killed,” said Pavelec Wednesday.

This year, the Jets are far more solid on the road, no matter which team they play. After 17 games, they rank sixth in the NHL at 9-6-2.

They started the season struggling on the road, but even there they’ve started to see more regular success as they wait for chances and focus on a tighter, more responsible and physical defensive game.

They’re far from perfect and admit they have lapses. The second period Tuesday night was one, after Boston’s surprise goal seemed to stun the Jets and they had trouble even getting close enough to the Bruins’ net to get off a shot.

But Pavelec’s goaltending continues to be a rock on which the team can stand and regain their feet.

“He’s been our best player this past month,” said captain Andrew Ladd. “For us, he gives us a chance to win each and every night.”

At 27 games he also continues to be one of the NHL’s hardest working goaltenders, and Noel would like to give him a rest. But with backup Al Montoya still recovering from an injury as of Wednesday, he just isn’t sure when that will happen.

The Bruins outshot the Jets 28-25 Tuesday night but only Brad Marchand managed to get past Pavelec on a defensive miscue that put the puck on his stick right at the Winnipeg goal.

“If you’re winning you feel good,” Pavelec said as he faces a possible three games in four nights. “It’s a tough schedule, it’s tough to handle it but I’m ready to go. I feel really good.”

If they do make the playoffs this year, it will be for only the second time in the history of the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise. The first and only playoff appearance was in 2006-07, when the Thrashers were swept in four straight by the New York Rangers

After the Capitals, the Jets face another division rival Sunday when Tampa Bay comes to the MTS centre.

But Wheeler said who they face isn’t important.

“I just have a lot of confidence in the fact that if we play a certain way and have a certain mindset, then we’re going to have success against our opponent,” he said.

©2013The Canadian Press

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Year before charges could be laid at Ornge:OPP – National

TORONTO – Ontario taxpayers will know within a year whether any charges will be laid in the criminal probe of the troubled Ornge air ambulance service, Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Chris Lewis said Wednesday.

Officers have travelled across Ontario and outside Canada to interview more than 50 people since they started the investigation just over a year ago, he told a legislative committee.

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They’ve contacted law enforcement agencies in the United States and Italy and pored through 22,000 pages of documents as well as 500,000 emails, Lewis said.

It’s not unusual for such complex cases to take years to complete, he said. Some end with no charges being laid.

“I can’t put an end date on it, but I am confident within a year, we’ll know whether there will be criminal charges laid,” Lewis said.

Ornge, which receives about $150 million from the province, has been under fire for more than a year over sky-high salaries, financial irregularities and allegations of kickbacks.

The head of Finmeccanica, an Italian company linked to Ornge, was arrested in February in connection with an investigation involving bribes in the US$670-million sale of 12 helicopters to the government of India.

The Progressive Conservatives say the deal is very similar to the $144-million deal helicopter-maker AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Finmeccanica, signed with Ornge for 12 helicopters.

Agusta paid an Ornge spinoff company $6.7 million after it reached the deal, which included a $4.7-million agreement for marketing services.

Ousted Ornge chief executive Chris Mazza testified that the extra fees were not part of a kickback scheme. Agusta has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

“Based on what we heard in this committee, I can tell you that I would be shocked if criminal charges weren’t laid,” said Tory Frank Klees.

Lewis said he anticipates OPP investigators will want to go to Italy.

He wouldn’t say whether police have spoken to Mazza. But Lewis acknowledged that while Ornge has co-operated fully, there have been some obstacles in the case.

“I know some people have been more co-operative than others,” he told reporters outside the committee room.

“There have been some people, as in any investigation, that are reluctant to speak to police. And sometimes that’s for nefarious reasons and sometimes it’s not.”

Ornge’s current president and CEO Dr. Andrew McCallum testified earlier that paying out nearly $2 million in bonuses has caused Ontario’s troubled air ambulance service to slip into the red.

Bonuses were almost always paid in the past — about 97 per cent of the time — to managers and executives, said McCallum. It’s a “major reason” why a federal ajudicator ruled that Ornge must make the payouts.

Ornge promised last year to cancel bonuses to all non-unionized staff. But a group of federally-regulated employees appealed the decision and won.

Ornge will give performance pay to 424 unionized and non-unionized employees this fiscal year — an average of about $4,632 each.

Ornge is now grappling with a $2.5 million deficit, McCallum said.

From now on, the rules will change, he told the committee. Any bonuses for non-unionized staff will depend on whether they achieve certain “personal and corporate goals.”

Last August, the all-party committee heard that Mazza received at least $1.4 million in compensation, including bonuses. He also received about $1.2 million in loans in a single year, according to documents tabled with the committee.

Mazza received $500,000 from Ornge Peel in July 2010, $250,000 from Ornge Global and another $450,000 from Ornge Global in July 2011, according to the documents, which also detailed his lavish expenses.

Ornge is seeking $500,000 plus interest from Mazza, alleging he defaulted on a loan that he used to buy a house in west Toronto.

In a statement of claim filed Jan. 22 in a Toronto court, Ornge alleges that Mazza sold the house without telling Ornge, and has “failed or refused” to repay the loan.

Ornge said bankruptcy trustees are pursuing repayment of other loans Mazza received. They’ve recovered about $600,000 from the sale of Mazza’s home, said Ornge spokesman James MacDonald.

A portion of those funds will come back to Ornge once the bankruptcy proceedings are complete, McCallum said.

Auditor General Jim McCarter has criticized the governing Liberals for failing to oversee Ornge, despite giving it $730 million over five years and allowing it to borrow another $300 million.

The Progressive Conservatives complained Wednesday that Ornge is not providing certain documents, such as banking records for Ornge’s now-bankrupt, for-profit spinoff companies.

But Health Minister Deb Matthews said they’re doing everything they can to comply with the committee’s request for information.

“Some 500,000 pages of documents … have been delivered to the committee,” she said in the legislature.

“We also have another 1.5 million pages of documents that are being provided on USB sticks, so Ornge is complying fully and the ministry is as well.”

©2013The Canadian Press

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