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January 22, 2015

Star Trek TNG 7
All good things must come to an end eventually. more...

Hercules tries hard to be a fantastic cinematic spectacle. more...

White Christmas 60th
It doesn't appear to sport a new set of remastered and restored clothes, but it's still a darn fine presentation. more...

Transformers: Age of Extinction
One doesn't go into a Transformers movie expecting high art; and with that in mind, this movie delivers in spades.. more...

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Porsche Macan S

Porsche Macan and Boxster GTS – two new ways to love the marque

There's a new Porsche SUV and an upgraded version of the Boxster roadster in town, and both of them are about as great a value as one could hope for from the German maker of premium vehicles.

The Macan is everything it should be: a small SUV that's all Porsche. Call it a Cayenne Junior if you like, or maybe abbreviate it to something like, well, "Cajun" which, not coincidentally, was the name Porsche floated while the world awaited the new vehicle.

The Boxster GTS, meanwhile, is more of a trim level than a whole new model of Boxster and that's okay because the garden variety Boxster is a heckuva car. more...

Chrysler 200 a nice step forward

The Chrysler 200 has taken a major step forward for 2015, from the relatively bland and uninteresting previous model. The new one is handsome, with an attractive and comfortable interior, and it's also pretty nice to drive.

Oh, it isn't perfect, of course. more...

CES 2015 points toward the future of our gadgets

The annual Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas has wrapped up again, a huge undertaking that seems to get bigger each year. Heck, since the first time I went the show has expanded with the Las Vegas convention center, from one main show floor and assorted other rooms to an entire second building with two display floors -- and of course various hotel conference centers and suites. It's quite intimidating to see all this stuff packed together!

I couldn't make this year's CES thanks to scheduling issues, but it's hard for a tech writer not to get inundated with press releases and pitches whether you're on site or not. So, with the caveat that I'm doing this from press releases, pictures and other hype, here are some of the products I wish most that I'd seen at this year's CES. .more..

Land Rover LR4 offers great views; sound; utility

The Land Rover seems to be the go to vehicles for those out in the wilds of places like Africa, and you can see the vehicles on display in many documentaries filmed in such far off locales. Serious off roaders, indeed, these vehicles have also gone upmarket in recent years, at least as far as the creature comforts are concerned.

So it is that the Land Rover LR4 enters the 2015 model year with mostly cosmetic changes, and that’s okay because, as mentioned, the Land Rover's substance has been the stuff of legend for years.

This is also a tall vehicle and if you're altitudinally challenged it can be interesting climbing aboard. Once you're in, however, you'll be treated to a modern, comfortable and reasonably easy to fathom interior. more...


Time Sagas

Toyota 4Runner a go anywhere tool

Arguably one of the first SUV's to be offered for sale, Toyota's 4Runner has gone through many generations of development since then - but one thing that hasn't changed is its "body on frame" construction.

That makes the truck-based 4Runner an exception to the basic rule these days that SUV's, or crossovers if you prefer that term, are car-based, unibody creatures - such as Toyota's own Highlander and RAV4, as well as most of the SUV/crossovers available from the other manufacturers, too.

Why does this matter? more...

Jaguar heads 2014's class of TechnoFile's most interesting vehicles

It's hard to find a bad car these days, such is the nature of technological advance in a highly competitive automotive marketplace.

That said, some cars are better than others for a particular individual, depending on that person's personality, budget, taste, etc. and sometimes a vehicle will just rub you the wrong way for whatever reason.

Just like you, I imagine, I find various cars variously interesting. Hence this year end look at the vehicles that I found most interesting, or nicest, of the ones in which I was lucky enough to get some quality seat time.

Remember, this list comes from cars I've actually reviewed, so it isn't a truly "best of" in the manner that AJAC's Canadian Car of the Year aspires to and achieves mostly. Rather, it's the vehicles I found the most interesting in calendar year 2014, whether they were 2014 or 2015 model year units. more...

TechnoFile's most interesting gadgets of 2014

What are the most interesting tech gadgets of 2014? It depends where you surf and who you ask, of course, but in the case of TechnoFile, it was a year, technologically, that had its charms.

Hence this year ender, where I take a look back and focus on the devices, gadgets or whatever that turned my crank the most this year, for whatever reason. This, like my look back at cars, isn't meant as the be-all and end-all of things technological in The Year of Our Lord 2014, just the stuff that I found most interesting of the stuff with which I was lucky enough to play. It definitely doesn't cover everything that was introduced this year, just the stuff I tried - which is still a pretty interesting list. more...

Dodge Journey and Honda CR-V: very different takes on the Crossover theme

The Dodge Journey and Honda CR-V are both good examples of the SUV/Crossover beast, though executed in very different ways. And after a week with each, I came away thinking that despite the good things about both models, I think I'd look elsewhere were I to be shopping.

Not that they're lousy vehicles, of course - it's hard to find a truly bad vehicle these days - but neither of them really spoke to me in a way that got my pulse quickening, and that's something that should happen even in this market niche. Or maybe I'm just picky.

Dodge's Journey has come a long way - but then again, so has its corporate owner, so perhaps it shouldn't be too surprising. But after spending a week in a vehicle I would have walked a mile to avoid driving only a couple of years ago I came away with a fresh respect for what is, in fact, a very nice crossover. And for about the same price ($35,790 as tested) you can get the Honda CR-V Touring, which is a smaller "cute ute" than the more mid-size Journey, but a popular choice nonetheless. more...

BlueDriver gives car owners insight into their autos' innards

Wouldn't it be great if you had access to the same type of vehicle diagnostics that your car's technician uses to find problems with your beloved wheels? Well you can - at least somewhat.

There are multiple products on the market that can help you find out why your baby is throwing a tantrum, from computer software programs that couple your laptop to your car via a big, specialized cable to the subject of this piece, the BlueDriver from Lemur Monitors of St. John's, Newfoundland. The $99 BlueDriver consists of a little black plastic thingy you attach to your car's on board data port (all cars in North America have had these since before Y2K) and interacts with an app you install on your Android or iOS smart phone or tablet.

This is a very cool device and it's very easy to use - easier to use than it is to understand some of the stuff it reads out! more...

Mazda3 Sport continues its winning ways

Last year's award-winning Mazda3 enters 2015 mostly unchanged, and that's just as well because the 2014 version was an outstanding car that needed little work. Heck, I named that car my "TechnoFile Car of the Year" last year.

This rant recounts my rematch with the Mazda, a report on how my second week-long experience with this great little hatchback/wagon worked out. Naturally, it worked out fine.

Heck, I didn't even run afoul of the law this time!

Mazda Canada sent the Mazda3 Sport GT version, the top trim level, and it starts at $26,995.

That's a very good price considering what you're getting: a great driving car that's also economical and efficient and equipped excellently. more...

Parrot drones are pricey but interesting - and frustrating - toys

When one thinks of drones these days one undoubtedly thinks about pilotless vehicles used against terrorists, or maybe futuristic freight delivery devices. But there are other drones available that are decidedly more consumer friendly - basically toys you can use to delight and amaze (and maybe annoy) your friends, neighbors and pets.

Parrot, for example, makes a few such drones, two of which they sent me to play with: the approximately $250 Jumping Sumo and the approximately $160 Rolling Spider. more...

New Hyundai Sonata smooths its creases and sharpens its image

The "fluidic" design is mostly gone, but what Hyundai has left in its new generation of Sonata is a simpler-looking yet still handsome sedan that, in the company's tradition, offers a lot for the money.

It's hard to argue with that strategy, and judging from how many Sonatas there are on the road it's probably pointless to argue it. Fortunately, the new Sonata isn't just a plain deal, it's also a very nice family sedan. So what if it might not stand out as much as the outgoing version? And it isn't as if this is a bland or ugly car; it's actually quite handsome, just not as in your face as the previous generation.

The new Sonata is available with two engine choices in Canada. There's a two liter turbo four for those who want sportiness in their drive, and a 2.4 liter four for those whose needs are more basic. Hyundai Canada's sample wore the "Limited" livery, which meant it had the 2.4 liter engine. more...

Renny links your cellphone to your home, while Tip 'n Split helps math-challenged tippers

Tired of missing calls on your smart phone? Confused when it comes to paying your restaurant or bar bill? If so, Olens Technology and Tip 'n Split are gadgets that could be right up your alley.

Olens' Renny Home is a remote connection/ringer for cell phones that lets you leave the phone on its charger (or wherever) but have it still accessible if someone phones. Tip 'n Split, meanwhile, is basically a dumbed down calculator designed with one purpose in mind: helping you and your little friends split your restaurant or bar bill into equal shares. It also comes with a little magnifying glass and light for when those bills' printouts are just too darn small - and the ambience of the venue a tad too dark - to read comfortably. more...

Lexus ES 350 a solid entry into the luxury niche

It began life as a Camry-based entry luxury sedan meant to expand the young Lexus line beyond its game changing flagship LS 400, but some 25 years later it has evolved into an extremely compelling Camry-based entry luxury sedan in its own right.  

Not that the original ES 250 was any slouch, but to compare that car with today's ES 350 would be as silly as comparing a, well, 1990 Camry with a 2015 Camry. Cars have evolved and so have the Camry and the ES. Yet while they're both terrific cars that share DNA, you wouldn't think they're connected other than through Lexus being owned by Toyota. The ES feels even more substantial, is definitely more luxurious, and is generally a more refined place to be than the Camry, which undoubtedly is the point.

Darbeevision's Darblet makes high def look even higher

Videophiles looking for the best picture possible have a new tool they can use, a device that actually tweaks your already HD picture and makes it better.

A device that tweaks your picture might sound like heresy, but I've been using two versions of Darbeevison's technology and have gotten to the point where I wouldn't want to watch my screens without it - and I'm the kind of guy who shuts off all the picture enhancement stuff that comes on TV's today the minute I set them up. more...

VW's hot hatch GTI is back - and better than ever!

Ah, the GTI. Sure, it's basically a Golf, but an outing in this Golf  is sure to achieve a hole in one in the hearts of driving enthusiasts. Not that I'm advocating having a hole in your heart!

Available in three or five door versions (which means two or four doors plus the hot hatch's hatch), the 2015 Golf GTI wears a two liter, direct injection, turbocharged four cylinder engine putting out 210 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. That might not sound like a lot in an area where turbocharged four bangers are putting out nearly 300 gee-gees, but as always horsepower is only part of the story. more...

Hercules makes for an excellent Blu-ray but a mediocre movie

There are movies that are rip-roarin' adventures, there are movies that try to be, and there are movies that offer such incredible video and audio performance that they belong in everyone's home theater. The ideal for home theater buffs, of course, is to have the first and last points covered.

Alas, Hercules, the new Brett Ratner/Dwayne Johnson "sword and sandal" epic, falls clearly into the second and third categories. It tries to be a fantastic cinematic spectacle - and in many ways succeeds - but in the end it's more an opportunity to showcase just how great your home theater can be when you give it the best source possible - as long as you don't pay too much attention to what's actually happening on screen. more...

Canadian Car of the Year TestFest discovers the best of the best

NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO - They came from Canada, the United States, Europe, Japan and South Korea, all duking it out for the titles of the 2015 Canadian Car, Truck and SUV/CUV of the Year.

Some 49 worthies showed up and strutted their best new stuff before an assembled multitude of Automobile Journalists Association of Canada members who were there to put them through their paces.

Well, that may overstate things. We put them through their paces as much as we could when there are half a hundred entries and we have to drive as many of them as we can over TestFest's few days. I managed to drive 42 cars, trucks and SUV/Crossovers, and in that time all you can really get is a reasonable first impression.

Think of it like a series of short test drives similar to what you'd get at a dealer, except that TestFest also has a more scientific part to it as well, where all the vehicles are put through a series of measured tests. That objective data is put into a blender with all of our subjective opinions, of which there's an abundance, and the results will be tabulated by KMPG so the 15 individual category winners can be announced on December 2, with the overall winners proclaimed at Toronto's "Centre of the Universe" auto show next February. more...

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