2014 Gift Guide

2014 Gift Guide

The holidays are here, and as the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Whether you’re planning on braving your local shopping mall or are hoping to make the majority of your purchases online, we’ve got something for everyone over the next eleven pages, and hopefully we can make your holiday gift grabbing a little easier as the days tick down to December 25th!

Smartphones

Apple iPhone 6/6 Plus
It’s been a long time coming, but Apple has finally bitten the bullet and given consumers the larger iPhones they’ve been begging for! The iPhone 6 takes the standard iPhone model into the same ballpark as flagship Android devices for the first time thanks to its 4.7” display, providing much more real estate than any previous model, while the 6 Plus takes things even further with it’s phablet-like 5.5” display. As is always the case with Apple you’re getting a top notch, reliable smartphone with an abundance of apps and great battery life, whichever model you opt for.

OnePlus One
When the One from OnePlus was announced earlier this year it made some serious waves in the smartphone industry, and thanks to some shrewd marketing and limited quantities, it’s still one of the most sought-after devices around right now. Offering insane specs that include 3GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, as well as a great 13MP camera and the Cyanogen 11S custom Android ROM, for a price that’s, quite literally, unbelievable ($299 for the 16GB model and $359 for the 64GB model).

Samsung Galaxy Note 4
They say bigger is better, and if that’s really the case than the 5.7” Samsung Galaxy Note 4 really should be up there with the very best devices on the market. Samsung has been owning the phablet side of Android for years now thanks to the Note range, but this year’s device is easily the pick of the bunch. Featuring an astonishing Quad HD display (2560×1440 resolution), the wonderful S Pen peripheral, 3GB of RAM and a monstrous 3220 mAh battery with Fast Charging capabilities, it’s a device you’ll really want to be making room for in your life.

Motorola Moto X 2014
Motorola is a company that’s been quietly going about its business over the past year or so, and the end result of that hard work is the awesome second generation Moto X, a smartphone that delivers astonishing quality for a lower price point than the vast majority of its competitors. The Moto X features a full HD 5.2” display, 2GB of RAM, 13MP rear facing camera, water resistance and a 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor with Adreno 330 GPU.

Tablets

iPad Air 2
You can’t talk tablets without mentioning the device that kickstarted the movement in earnest, and Apple’s latest full-size iPad, the Air 2, is far and away the company’s most accomplished effort to date – which is one heck of a plaudit. Featuring the new A8X processor, the Air 2 is capable of performance around 40% faster than it’s predecessor, which was by no means sluggish. The 8MP iSight camera once again makes light of its relatively low megapixel count with stunning results and fully HD video capabilities, and the overall aesthetics of the device (it’s a staggering 6.1mm thin) are simply stunning.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3
It might not be a tablet in the traditional sense, given that it’s essentially a fully-featured Windows 8.1 computer crammed into a tablet form factor, but the Surface Pro 3 is nevertheless a device that’s worth giving serious consideration to if you’re looking for a portable, handheld, touchscreen device. Available in a wide range of configurations from Intel Core i3 64GB up to Intel Core i7 512GB, the Surface Pro 3 is a serious piece of kit. Forget about all the previous limitations of tablets and settle back to enjoy performance on a par with bulkier laptops, ultrabooks and desktops – but bear in mind you’ll need to pick up a keyboard separately to get the most out of it.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S
Samsung is no stranger to the tablet market, but its latest flagship, the Galaxy Tab S, is easily its best offering to date. The S comes in two form factors, 8.4” and 10.5”, to cover everyone’s preference, and thanks to its awesome Super AMOLED screen users can look forward to crystal clear display no matter which size they opt for. Like the iPad Air 2, the Tab S is improbably thin at 6.6mm, but packs one heck of a punch thanks to a 1.9GHz octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage (upgradable by 128GB via microSD card) and 4900  mAh battery.

Google Nexus 9
While the latest full-size tablet offering from Google might lack the super-low price point of some of its predecessors at $429, it’s still a bargain when you consider the specs on offer – and it’s also the first tablet to come with the all-new Android 5.0 Lollipop as standard. The Nexu 9 features an 8.9” IPS LCD display that runs at a native 2048×1536 resolution, 64-big NVIDIA Tegra K1 2.3GHz processor, 192-core Kepler GPU, 2GB of RAM, 16/32GB storage and a whopping great 6700 mAh battery that’ll keep you in power for as much as 10 hours of constant internet/video playback use at a time!

Audio Visual

Toshiba 50L4353
While a new TV might be a bit extravagant for a holiday gift, we know that there are plenty of generous souls out there among our TekSavvy Insider readers, and one TV that we can’t help but recommend is the excellent Toshiba 50L4353. Not only does this gogglebox come at a very competitive price, but it’s also got an abundance of awesome features that’ll fill you with Yuletide glee! Despite being distinctly “ordinary” looking, this 50” TV offers DLNA connectivity, a decent selection

Sony HT-XT1
As TVs continue to get bigger and better, one area they continually fall down in is their built-in speakers. While the basic setup might do for smaller homes or apartments, the addition of a soundbar like the awesome Sony HT-XT1 can take your entertainment viewing into the stratosphere without breaking the bank. The HT-XT1 features 3 HDMI inputs as well as Bluetooth and NFC compatibility, making it a real powerhouse on the connectivity front, and with fantastic sound, great ease of use and setup, and a striking aesthetic, it’ll take pride of place in your home entertainment system without taking up too much space or trailing cables across the living room.

Pioneer SP-PK52FS
If a soundbar won’t quite cut the mustard in your home entertainment system, or if you’re planning on buying a gift for a real home cinema enthusiast, then the excellent Pioneer SP-PK52FS is a solution that won’t break the bank, but still delivers genuinely impressive sound quality. While each of the components in this 5.1 system are a little on the bulky side compared to more expensive offerings, if space isn’t a major concern you’ll be able to get serious results here. Setting things up might be a little time consuming (as with speaker placement in any 5.1 system), but once you find your sweet spots, you’ll be in for a real treat!

Logitech Harmony One
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier and less complicated, right? Well, if you’re anything like us, the abundance of remote controls you’ll have for your myriad devices in the living room can make life anything BUT uncomplicated, which is precisely why the Logitech Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote is the ultimate living room gift this holiday season. Although the device has been around for a while now, nothing has managed to come close to delivering the same level of versatility and ease of use, with the remote allowing you to add as many as 15 devices at a time from the huge database of more than 200,000 supported devices. Setting it up is a piece of cake, and you’ll use it the same way as any other remote control, so you can stop worrying about misplacing yet another remote down the back of the couch and instead sit back and enjoy the delights this baby has to offer!

Samsung UE65HU8500
If money is no object and a TV is riding high on your holiday gift list, then look no further than the incredibly sexy Samsung UE65HU8500. It’s definitely on the pricey side, but that’s par for the course with any emerging technology, and 4K/UHD is no difference. On top of getting an incredible four times the resolution of traditional HD crammed into this luxurious 65” display, you can also look forward to a slick curved screen, phenomenal upscaling quality for your older, non-4K media, surprisingly good audio, support for the HDMI 2.0 standard and a device that’s built with upgradability in mind.

Tablo TV
Although many of us are well underway with our cord-cutting plans, we’re still in the minority, making the excellent Tablo TV devices the ideal way to bridge that gap in functionality. By hooking the device up to your existing cable box, you can record your favourite shows for viewing later using the built-in PVR, or even stream your recordings to any compatible device no matter where you are in the world, so whether you’re looking to catch up on the latest hockey games during your holiday vacation or want to ensure you’re not out of the loop with your favourite shows, you’re covered. Tablo TV is an awesome solution for anyone still rocking a cable/satellite connection.

Roku 3
Streaming media has very become an integral part of the modern living room over the past few years, and there’s nothing on the market right now that comes close to being anywhere near as easy to use as the Roku 3 streaming media box. Not only do you have a huge library of channels to download from the built-in store, but you can also hook it into your existing Plex setup, meaning that streaming from your home computers is a piece of cake, while the countless existing Plex channels can easily be added to your living room TV. Whether you’re looking for a Netflix box, an Apple TV replacement or a way to enjoy your ever-growing library of digital media in the living room over your home network, the Roku 3 does it all with style, making it the perfect way to smarten up that dumb-TV without spending big bucks.

Gadgets

Motorola Moto 360
As gadgets go, 2014 is most definitely the year of the smartwatch. Still very much an emerging market, that hasn’t stopped pretty much everyone with an interested in smartphone from attempting their own device, but so far it’s Motorola’s Moto 360 that stands out most for us. For starters, unlike the majority of smartwatches on the market right now, the 360 features a striking round face, making it more watch-like than its competitors, but it’s also on the functionality front that it stands out, thanks to wireless QI charging (just about making up for the somewhat disappointing battery life) and the ease of use that permeates every fibre of its being. If you or a loved one is on the lookout for a smartwatch, this is easily the best option available right now.

Lemur Monitors BlueDriver
Whether you’re a car enthusiast or simply someone who’s sick of not knowing what’s going on under the hood of your vehicle, the Lemur Monitors BlueDriver has more than a few tricks up its sleeve to make your life a heck of a lot easier. Simply by plugging the hardware dongle into your vehicle and pulling up the free app (available for iOS and Android devices), you’ll be privy to a wealth of information relating to your vehicle’s performance, any issues that it might be suffering with, and potential red flags that’ll point at future issues down the line. This is one holiday gift that’ll definitely make lives a lot easier in the new year!

RCA Ultra-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna
It’s never been easier to cut the cord and move away from increasingly expensive cable packages, but sometimes you just want reliable live TV to kick back and relax with. Thankfully, there’s an abundance of perfectly legal, free HDTV signals passing through your home at all times, and the RCA Ultra-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna allows you to reroute them directly into your TV in stunning HD that’ll make your cable box look positively grainy. It’s worth noting that your mileage will vary in terms of the variety, quality and stability of the broadcasts you can pull in with the device depending on your location, but if you’re lucky enough to be in a decent area, the results are spectacular!

Skullcandy Hesh 2 Headphones
Navigating the minefield of modern headphone shopping can be tricky at the best of times given the abundance of options on the market right now, but Skullcandy’s Hesh 2 headphones are the perfect midway point between price and quality, serving up delightful audio combined with a unique, striking aesthetic that’ll definitely delight.

Best Box Sets

Batman: The Complete TV Series
You don’t have to be of a certain vintage to appreciate the campy goodness of the original live-action Batman TV show, and what better way to enjoy it than in glorious HD courtesy of this awesome limited edition box set. Containing all 120 of the originally aired episodes and more than 3 hours of bonus features, you’ll be bamming, kapowing and socking your way through the holidays with joy.

Sons of Anarchy: Seasons 1-6
When it comes to action packed drama there’s nothing on TV that can hold a candle to the breathtaking Sons of Anarchy, and this special box set brings together the first six seasons of the show for the first time. Sure, the final season isn’t included, but there IS a handy space for it in the bundle, so completionists will be able to finalize their collection as soon as it launches. In terms of extras, there’s more than enough to keep even the most hardcore of fans happy spread across the 17 discs in this collection.

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series
Breaking Bad my no longer be on our airwaves, but that’s no reason not to be able to enjoy one of the greatest feats in modern TV whenever the urge takes you. Spread across an impressive 16 discs you’ll find a whopping 2,658 minutes of content to enjoy, including every episode and an abundance of special features, vignettes and commentaries – plus you get a swanky money barrel to hold everything, a Saul Goodman matchbook/flash drive, 16-page collector’s booklet and a Los Pollos Hermanos apron to boot.

Downton Abbey Seasons 1-4
While Downton Abbey definitely isn’t to everyone’s taste, there’s no denying the mastery of the craft on show throughout, with the cream of British acting talent showcasing their abilities with aplomb across four full seasons. You’re probably not going to want to drop this into the stocking of your 14 year old nephew, but the chances are your mother would go ga-ga for the chance to rewatch all her favourites again at her leisure.

For the Kids

Movies
2014 has been a pretty solid year for kids’ movies, with The Lego Movie topping our list of favourites. A great 90 minutes’ fun for the whole family, it’s the kind of flick that everyone can enjoy – even after a dozen or more watches. In addition to that gem, there were a number of other great releases in theatres this year that are now available on Blu-ray/DVD, including How to Train Your Dragon 2, Bears and Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue.

Games
Buying games for younger players is often a difficult task. We shudder to think how many children receive titles like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto each holiday period, so please, please think before you spend and be sure to check whether a game is suitable or not! Titles that come with our recommendation include Mario Kart 8, Wii Sports Club and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on Wii U, Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney, Mario Golf: World Tour, Pokemon Art Academy and Disney Magical World on 3DS/2DS, Minecraft: PlayStation 4 Edition, LittleBigPlanet 3, NHL 14, Skylanders Trap Team and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare on PlayStation 4, and Minecraft: Xbox One Edition, Skylanders Trap Team, Fantasia: Music Evolved and Project Spark on Xbox One.

LeapFrog LeapReader Reading and Writing System
Having your child get an early grasp of basic literacy skills can help catapult them ahead of their peers and set them up for a life of educational adventures, and the LeapReader Reading and Writing System from LeapFrog is the perfect way to start them off. Not only will it regale them with wonderful tales with great voiced characters throughout, but it’ll also teach them basic writing skills, allowing them to trace over letters without making a mess using the special LeapFrog Learning Paper included within.

Sphero 2.0
Controlled via smartphone or tablet, Sphero 2.0 is a riotously enjoyable product for the whole family. Essentially it’s a small plastic ball, but that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. Inside the device are gyroscopes, motors, lights and more, and they combine to create a wonderfully entertaining toy that offers an abundance of play modes and unlockable goodies. The only thing more fun than a Sphero is two or more Spheros!

LEGO Mindstorms EV3
While most definitely on the pricier side of LEGO’s collection, the Mindstorms EV3 kit is a doozie of a gift for young minds to enjoy. With this kids can build their own robots and even program them to behave in all manner of awesome ways. The end products can even be controlled via mobile app making this a hi-tech toy that Einstein himself would’ve had buckets of fun with!

Xbox

Xbox One
While it’s true that Microsoft’s next-gen console didn’t get off to the best of starts, with a dodgy pre-release PR campaign that did more harm than good, the past six months has been nothing short of a revelation for the system: sales are up, the games just keep coming, and reduced prices make it a much more accessible option for those in search of gaming goodness. With two options available, with Kinect or without, and an ever-increasing selection of bundles, there has never been a better time to dump that 360 and jump into the future.

Xbox One Play and Charge Kit
As awesome as wireless controllers are, and as strong as the Xbox One controllers’ battery performance is, there’s still a lot to be said for the freedom provided by a handy recharging solution, and the official Xbox One Play and Charge Kit ticks all the boxes here. For $29.99 you’re getting a rechargeable battery and generously long USB cable, meaning that once your battery starts getting low, all you need to do is connect up and jump back into the game – and once you’re fully charged you can revert to the fully wireless option once again.

Xbox Live 12-Month Gold Membership
One of the biggest parts of modern gaming is the ability to take your game online and join up with millions of like minded players across the world in your favourite titles – but unless you’re fully stocked up with an Xbox Live Gold Membership you’ll be missing out. Not only does this subscription entitle you to a year’s worth of online play, but thanks to the Games with Gold service, there’s also the small matter of monthly free games to download to your account – and the games are yours to keep even if your Gold subscription expires.

Games
The games are the main attraction with any console, and the Xbox One has been delivering the goods on that front consistently since it launched in November last year. Racing fans will get plenty of mileage out of Forza 5 and Forza Horizons 2, shooter lovers need never leave the house again thanks to the abundance of content packed into Halo: The Master Chief Collection and adventure fans can lose themselves in the beautifully crafted world of Sunset Overdrive over the holidays. There are also great multi-platform titles to look out for including Destiny, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, NHL 15, Grand Theft Auto V and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Just remember to keep an eye on the ESRB age ratings if you’re buying a gift for younger players.

PlayStation

PlayStation 4
Sony clearly learned from the mistakes it made with its bungled PlayStation 3 launch in time for last November’s PS4 release, and the console has gone on to be the biggest selling next-gen system by quite some distance. A very different user experience to that found in the Xbox One thanks to its no-nonsense, lightweight interface that focuses on getting you into the gaming action with minimal fuss, the PS4 has recently added a number of new features to its operating system including the ability to stream music in your game via USB stick, record your gameplay to using external game recording hardware and play with friends using innovative

PlayStation Vita
Although Sony’s latest handheld hasn’t exactly set the world alight in terms of its commercial performance, it’s nevertheless one heck of a system. Perhaps a little held back by the fact that it launched close to two years ahead of the PlayStation 4, the Vita has really come into its own in the past year, with remote play taking centre stage – allowing players to connect to their PlayStation 4 consoles and play their favourite games via their handheld. If you’re looking for that same level of functionality, but aren’t interested in portability, then PlayStation TV, a $99.99 device that is essentially a set-top Vita without the screen, might be the best option.

PlayStation Plus 12-Month Subscription
Just as with Xbox Live, PlayStation 4 owners require an additional subscription if they’re to take their gameplay online, but the good news is that your $49.99 annual PlayStation Plus Subscription will also get you a whole host of monthly freebies spread across the entire PlayStation ecosystem. Each month Sony releases a selection of PS4, PS3 and Vita games that are downloadable, free of charge, for Plus subscribers. It’s a fantastic service tempered only by the fact that, should your Plus subscription expire, you’ll lose access to your free downloaded games until you renew.

Games
The PlayStation 4 came blazing out of the blocks last November with a series of great games that delivered on their next-gen promise, but things have admittedly dried up in recent times on the platform-exclusive front. Despite that, there’s still plenty to get excited about for newcomers to the platform, particularly the awesome LittleBigPlanet 3, a game that offers potentially limitless gameplay, as well as a brilliant creation element that lets creative types build their own levels and adventures from the ground up. Also recommended on the PS4 are Killzone: Shadow Fall, inFAMOUS: Second Son and standalone expansion First Light, The Last of Us Remastered, awesome indie shooter Resogun and MLB 14 The Show. On the Vita front there are plenty of great titles in the back catalogue including Gravity Rush, Borderlands 2, Tearaway and the Ratchet & Clank Collection.

Nintendo

Nintendo Wii U
The Wii U may not have captured the public’s imagination in the same was as its predecessor, the 100m+ selling Wii, but it’s impossible to argue with the stellar software lineup that Nintendo has been churning out in the two years since the console’s initial launch. The cheaper 8GB variant of the console hardware is no longer available, but the 32GB Deluxe Set offers much more storage space for users, which is essential in the era of digital downloads and DLC, so it’s hard to argue with Nintendo’s logic on that front. The console itself is a fantastic device, if underpowered compared to the Xbox One and PS4, and thanks to its unique GamePad controller, is capable of offering an unparalleled variety of gameplay experiences.

Nintendo 2DS/3DS
If Wii U sales have been slow for Nintendo, the 3DS continues to go from strength to strength. This handheld has been mopping the floor with its competitors since it launched back in 2011, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. An all-new variant, the 2DS is a much more kid-friendly device, discarding the sometimes troublesome flip format of the 3DS, as well as the stereoscopic 3D display, ensuring a more long-lasting and robust device. One thing that might be worth noting, however, if you’re considering a 3DS as a gift, is that there’s a new hardware variant coming in the New Year that’ll feature a second analog pad controller, as well as tweaked specs – so it might be worth holding off if you can.

Amiibo
Nintendo has always been a forward thinking company, and its new Amiibo platform takes the fine work done by the likes of Activision’s Skylanders and Disney’s Infinity franchises and tweaks it to work as part of the Nintendo ecosystem. Each Amiibo character can be used in games like Super Smash Bros., Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Mario Kart 8 to expand upon the options and functionality of the standalone titles. With the ability for each figurine to learn your playing habits and offer up much sterner competition than the regular game AI, it’s a great way for players to practice for online play – and they look awesome displayed on a shelf too!

Games
Where to start when it comes to great Nintendo games… the choices really are almost endless! This year alone on the Wii U we’ve seen awesome titles like Bayonetta 2, Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros., Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and much more, covering most bases and offering pretty much something for everyone. The 3DS has been enjoying a similar vein of rich form with great games like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy, Super Smash Bros., Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, Mario Golf: World Tour and Bravely Default establishing the platform as the go to for the discerning gamer on the go.

PC Gaming Accessories

Oculus Rift
You really can’t talk about gaming peripherals these days without giving serious mention to the Oculus Rift. In the months following manufacturer Oculus VR’s acquisition by social media giants Facebook the topic of VR has come very much to the fore in the mainstream media, and it’s definitely not without merit. It’s impossible to explain just how good the Rift is without strapping one on and giving it a go yourself. The level of immersion on offer is nothing short of incredible – it really will take your breath away – and although the consumer version of the device isn’t set for launch until the middle of next year at the earliest, eager early adopters can pick up the development kit directly from the Oculus VR website for US$349.99.

Logitech G502 Proteus Core Gaming Mouse
Choosing a mouse for a PC gaming fanatic is easier said than done. For starters, there are so many options available categorized by niche (ones tailored for first person shooters, adventure games, real time strategies, MMORPGs etc.) that it can be overwhelming at first, but the Logitech G502 Proteus Core Gaming Mouse is a jack of all trades that offers real mastery across the board. It might not have quite as many buttons as a dedicated MMO mouse, but it’s massively customizable, offers an abundance of features and is built from robust materials that’ll take a lot of punishment without degrading performance.

Corsair Vengeance K70 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Just like with a gaming mouse, a gaming keyboard needs to be robust, responsive and built like a military grade tank! There are countless fantastic gaming keyboards available these days, but our pick of the bunch right now is definitely the Vengeance K70 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard from Corsair. Perhaps best known for its high performance memory, Corsair has proven itself capable of delivering the goods on the accessory front countless times in the past, and the K70 takes every ounce of their previous experience and distills it magnificently into a customizable, striking and reliable gaming board that’ll hand even the most aggressive of gamers without so much as breaking a sweat.

SteelSeries H Wireless Gaming Headset
With online experiences serving as such a major part of modern PC gaming, it’s essential that players have a headset that they can rely on to deliver top quality audio as well as crystal clear voice communications, and that’s exactly what the uber-premium SteelSeries H Wireless Gaming Headset offers. It’s not by any means cheap, but what you’re getting is a genuinely multi-platform 7.1 headset that blows everything else out of the water. The breakout box and oodles of cables can be a little intimidating at first, but once you’ve gotten everything set up, actual use is wonderfully intuitive, and the inclusion of a spare battery that can be charged while you’re using the other one in your headset is a masterstroke from SteelSeries. Even at this lofty price, the H Wireless is a bargain.

The phishing’s fine at the Justice Department

All companies and government offices work diligently to provide and deploy the best and most up-to-date security on the market. Canada’s Justice Department operates no differently and, following some internal testing, they are taking a long look at employee email habits.

Security check goes awry
The Canadian Press reported that department officials conducted a mock phishing scam involving some 5,000 employees, last December. When the results came in, it was revealed that nearly 2,000 staffers actually clicked on a phony email link. Now, according to the article, department officials have some serious concerns about the safety of critical and sensitive information.

The news outlet said the email and phony link looked real and the rate of employees accessing the email, 37 per cent, was far greater than that of the general public which, Justice Department figures showed, only clicked on phishing emails 5 per cent of the time. No actual privacy breaches linked to phishing emails have occurred within the department, said spokesperson, Carole Saindon.

More security tests are planned
Saindon, quoted by the Canadian Press, indicated that more tests are planned for July, August and October and that they will be increased in sophistication each time. More than 156 million phishing emails are sent each day around the world, according to the government, and if clicked on, private information, passwords – even financial information – can get into the hands of thieves or other criminals. Saindon also mentioned other mailings sent during February and March showed that employees were getting smarter as the number of clicks dropped significantly from the December test.

What’s a consumer to do?
In Canada, the federal government has created a website designed to show consumers how to protect themselves against phishing and other scamming tactics. Get Cyber Safe covers a number of safety and security issues regarding the Internet. According to the site more than  1 million Canadians have entered personal, financial or otherwise important and vital data on websites they couldn’t verify.

Common sense is a good way of protecting data, says the site. Don’t click on unknown emails and never enter passwords or vital information on any unfamiliar site. Chances are good that the information will go straight into the hands of malicious individuals or organizations looking to steal assets and identities.

The Justice Department added that being vigilant, careful and knowing not to open emails from unknown senders can keep business and consumers safe from attacks from unscrupulous Internet operators.

By the way, of the Justice Department’s 5,000 employees nearly half of them are lawyers.

Makes one wonder how many lawyers it takes to click on a phishing scam.

Avoid phishing attempts

These days, hackers and cyber criminals attacking innocent citizens isn’t uncommon. There seem to constantly be new stories of individuals who were just trying to use the Internet falling victim to schemes to steal their identities without even realizing it.

Phishing has turned into a major issue across the world. A phishing attempt consists of a criminal tricking someone into revealing sensitive information about themselves online, willingly. For instance, a number of people may have received spam in their email inboxes at one time or another from a source pretending to be a legitimate company or institution. The text will then ask the recipient to provide their bank account number, birthday and a number of other data points, saying that this information is necessary to receive compensation. However, the data will end up in the hands of a criminal, who can wreak havoc on personal finances.

There are a number of things Canadians can do, however, to ensure that their Internet browsing experiences go off without a hitch.

Invest in software and stay vigilant
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, investing in the right programs can go a long way toward protecting Canadians from would-be hackers. Namely, the institution said that protecting devices with options like anti-virus software, spyware nets, other filters and firewalls can be important steps for keeping yourself safe online.

Software can only go so far, in many cases, especially when, during phishing and similar attacks, it’s the individual who willingly provides the sensitive data. Consumers also have to know how to spot such messages. The news source explained that when in doubt, Canadians should contact the institution that is supposedly behind the communication and make sure everything is legitimate before sharing information. Overall, it’s unsafe to respond to such queries without being 100 per cent sure of who’s on the other end.

Pay attention to the look of the email
The Canadian Bankers Association explained that the look of the email itself can often uncover whether or not a scam is being attempted. The source said that logos and official language should be present. Moreover, if there are spelling and grammar mistakes, chances are good that this is not a legitimate query.

Finally, the organization detailed that, especially when coming from banks, real emails will be personalized and contain identifiable information. On the other hand, a phishing attempt will often use language like “Dear valued customer.”

This is not to say that the Internet is a dangerous place. Rather, if Canadians simply remain vigilant and go about their business normally, they’ll be able to reap the benefits of all that going online has to offer.

SmartPhone Photography

TekTruths: Smartphone Photography

There is a Perfect Exposure

Some will argue that a perfect exposure exists, however the reality is that this is the case only in a select number of instances – for example shooting a product for use in a poster or advertisement, or taking a regular family portrait. As is the case with pretty much anything in the creative field, there’s no right and wrong; the only perfect exposure for the majority of shots will be the one that you think looks best. it might not be the one that someone else would have opted for, but their opinions on what makes for a great photo shouldn’t dictate yours! Experiment with your exposure settings, learn the outcome of each setting in different environments and arm yourself with the knowledge to choose the one that you think will result in the image you like most.

You Can Always Fix it Later…

This is a dangerous way of thinking when it comes to photography. As great as Photoshop, or any of the other image editing software available, can be, the old saying that you “can’t polish a turd”, as crude as it may be, rings true in photography. It’s possible to turn a good photo into a great one through digital manipulation of composition, colour balance, contrast and an assortment of swanky effects, but if the base image doesn’t have the right stuff, there’s only so much you can do.

More Megapixels = Better Shots

Despite the fact that bigger typically means better in the digital realm, there’s definitely a case of a point of diminishing returns with digital photography. Most professional photographers will be happy enough with a solid 12MP camera, but it’s all about balance. In some cases a higher megapixel rating can actually introduce additional noise on smaller sensors. While it’s all well and good to boast about your smartphone’s 20+ megapixel rating, what really matters is the quality of the sensor; if that’s good, the image quality will come naturally.

Exotic locations are Best

Define exotic? If you’re talking about holiday snaps then, sure, a beach in Bermuda will probably be preferable to a drab street shot on a rainy day in Guelph, but it’s all about context. For everyday photography, look at the mundane – there’s a huge amount to be said for context, and using the enhanced macro and zooms offered by many modern smartphones there’s an almost limitless amount of potential to be found in even the most mundane of locations.

It’s All About Light

This might be true for your smartphone camera’s default setting, but you want to be adventurous! There’s always light to be found – you don’t need it to be a clear, sunny day to take stunning shots. Play with your aperture, ISO and shutter speed settings to find out which work best in different conditions. By limiting yourself to traditionally favourable conditions you could miss out on some great opportunities.

Just Spray and Pray!

This is something that we hear quite a bit, but it’s not really the ideal way to go about your photography. There’s definite merit in taking multiple shots of the same scene, but unless you know how to manipulate your camera’s settings, your chances of success through simply shooting more images are hit and miss at best.

Just by learning the nuts and bolts of your device you’ll be astonished with how much you can do armed with a smartphone camera these days without resorting to desperate measures!

– Technology Feature written by Mark O’Beirne

The opinions expressed by this blogger are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions or views of TekSavvy Solutions Inc.

Une boutique en ligne permettra de rejoindre des clients partout et en tout temps.

Commerce électronique : un net avantage pour augmenter vos ventes

D’après la firme Forrester Research, les consommateurs canadiens ont dépensé 20 milliards de dollars en ligne en 2013. De plus, les ventes en ligne devraient atteindre 34 milliards de dollars en 2018.

Nul doute, les consommateurs utilisent le Web pour magasiner.  Déjà, ils y effectuent leurs recherches de produits et de services avant de se rendre en magasin. Il n’y a donc qu’un pas pour commander directement en ligne et ainsi épargner temps de déplacement et essence.

Les entreprises ont tout intérêt à saisir les opportunités qu’offre une boutique en ligne. Un bon logiciel de commerce électronique, adapté à vos besoins pour créer votre solution de commerce électronique peut être très simple à réaliser.

Avantages d’un logiciel de commerce électronique
Une boutique en ligne n’a pas d’heures d’ouverture. Peu importe le fuseau horaire de vos clients et l’endroit ou ils se trouvent, ils seront toujours capables de commander un de vos produits. Ainsi, vous étendez votre territoire géographique, ce qu’un commerce ayant pignon sur rue ne vous permettra pas.

Il existe plusieurs outils disponibles pour vous permettre d’opérer votre boutique en ligne. Pour les facilités de paiements, le service PayPal et les principales cartes de crédit permettent de recevoir des paiements en ligne.

Tout dépendant des fonctions que vous souhaitez utiliser pour votre boutique en ligne, des solutions peu coûteuses pour les entreprises sont possibles. Une boutique en ligne de base peut être très performante alors qu’elle gérera les commandes par courriel et les modes de paiements.

Votre fournisseur de service Internet peut vous procurer de judicieux conseils adaptés à vos besoins. Vous pouvez également visiter le site de Banque de développement Canada, au www.bdc.ca, qui renferme une foule de conseils avisés destinés aux entrepreneurs.

What Internet rules do Canadian parents enforce?

Despite what so many kids around the world likely believe, when parents enforce rules, they almost always do so for their child’s own good. For instance, kids usually aren’t allowed to gorge on all of their candy on Halloween night. While there are probably some little ones out there who aren’t particularly happy about this, moms and dads don’t want them to experience teeth issues because of the large amounts of sugar, nor do they want the kids to get stomach aches.

So when parents tell their children that there are certain things they can and cannot do when using the Internet, chances are good that it’s in the kid’s best interests to follow the rules. While going online is safe and can help students complete homework, stay in touch with family and friends and seek out forms of entertainment, there are things that could be harmful, like talking to strangers or downloading files from unknown sources.

However, recent information from MediaSmarts suggests that moms and dads in Canada are becoming increasingly lenient on what their kids can and can’t do online.

Fewer rules are being handed down
The study revealed that, in comparison to 2005, children have fewer rules on what they can and can’t do online now. That being said, the results of the report noted that there is a definite connection between being given regulations from mom and dad and exhibiting fewer risky behaviours on the Internet.

More parental guidance needed
Because of these dwindling rules concerning what websites and platforms minors can go on, professionals at MediaSmarts have suggested that moms and dads need to take a harder line on educating their kids about best practices.

“With many of these activities taking place on portable devices and fewer family rules about being online, there is a greater need for parents and teachers to educate young people about the issues around socializing and sharing online,” recommended MediaSmarts Co-Executive Director Jane Tallim.

How should parents handle the situation?
Along these lines, the Canadian Red Cross explained that parents should closely monitor the activities of younger children, while having a talk with older kids about the types of things they should and shouldn’t be doing.

Keeping the lines of communication open to kids is likely going to be a good strategy for moms and dads with computers in the houses. This way, they can ask questions about why they should abide by the rules and learn best practices. Plus, this can help them avoid any issues as time goes on and they begin to explore different parts of the Internet.

And like any other rule, there should be consequences for both good and bad behaviours, as a rewards system can definitely influence good choices.

When parents decide that their kids are ready to handle going on the Internet themselves, moms and dads should make sure they use an Internet service provider that offers high speed Internet. This way, they can complete their homework as quickly as possible and make the most of their experience online.

How much time are your kids spending on the Internet?

The Internet has no age limits – it’s just as good a tool for a middle-aged member of the workforce as it is for a little tyke who’s not yet in school. There are very few things that online-capable devices can’t do these days – they’re used for watching TV, videochatting with friends, reading books, learning a new skill and so on.

As such, Canadian parents are increasingly allowing their kids to go online at an early age, according to a recent AVG Technologies study. It’s so simple to do – mom and dad just have to find an Internet service provider (ISP) that works well for them, have the connection set up and they’re all set.

What should parents, then, know about letting their little ones go online?

Everyone’s doing it
According to the report, about 90 per cent of Canadian children between the ages of 3 and 5 are extremely well-versed in using the Internet, The Canadian Press detailed. That being said, Canada wasn’t ranked No. 1 in this category – 97 and 96 per cent of Brazilian and British children, respectively, could say the same thing.

The source also explained that about 48 per cent of Canadian parents let their kids go online between 2 and 5 hours every week, while 40 per cent noted that they like to restrict this time to under 2 hours each week. Moreover, 6 per cent of Canadian moms set their young child up with an email address.

The Canadian Press also pointed out that the report found that more than half of 3 to 5 year olds in Canada can use a mouse, play a basic computer game and turn the device on and off. From there, 40 per cent can navigate a tablet or smartphone and 19 per cent can use the Internet well.

What can parents do?
The fact is that, during this day and age, spending a lot of time online isn’t really a bad thing. Sure some moms and dads might want their little ones to head outside, meet other kids and get some exercise, but all in all, using the computer can have a ton of perks. For instance, having information from all around the world available at any time at their fingertips can transform any device into a great learning resource.

Plus, using the Internet can be an interesting an innovative way for kids to connect with friends and family from the comfort of their own home. Parents just have to make sure they monitor computer use and teach their children best practices when it comes to going online, and they’ll be sure to raise safety-conscious, informed individuals who are evolving with the digital times.

Safety is key
Going on the Internet is almost a right of passage, and is definitely an inevitability at this point. As such, arming their sons and daughters with the right information to keep them safe online is in parents’ best interests. For instance, The Canadian Red Cross recommended placing computers in public areas of the house, having an open door policy regarding being honest about Internet activities and looking into placing parental controls on Internet-enabled devices.

Internet coming to rural Canada?

No matter where you go in Canada, chances are good that almost everyone knows that the Internet has become an absolutely indispensable resource across the nation. While, sure, perhaps not everyone’s lives revolve around going online, the reality is that the majority of Canadians use the Internet every day in order to make their lives easier.

According to the 2012 Canadian Internet Use Survey, released by Industry Canada in late 2013, 83 per cent of households in the nation have access to the Internet within the home, an increase of 14 per cent when compared to 2010 figures. This number jumps in some provinces, however, with British Columbia and Alberta reporting 86 per cent connectivity and Ottawa coming in at 84 per cent.

As such, a number of individuals across Canada likely can’t imagine not having access from almost anywhere, whether they want to use a traditional desktop computer or connect using a wireless devices like a tablet. Going online has made so many processes much simpler, such as checking bank account balances, paying bills, watching TV and staying in touch with friends and family.

It might be surprising, then, that there are in fact people who don’t use the Internet because they can’t – there aren’t any satisfactory options available to them. Some rural areas of the country either don’t have proper connections or there’s an Internet service provider (ISP) monopoly in the region and costs are too high.

So what is being done to change this?

Federal budget will provide broadband funding
According to The Huffington Post Canada, the government recently stepped in to make sure everyone has access to good quality, fast Internet. The source reported that the recently approved 2014 federal budget sets aside money for providing and improving connections in rural and remote regions.

Namely, $305 million has been dedicated to this aim over the next five years, something that is set to benefit approximately 280,000 households located in underserved areas, the news provider detailed. Much of the focus will be on the farthest northern regions.

“It is essentially a rebranding of the Broadband Canada Program, a three-year, $225 million investment to bring faster Internet to underserved areas that ended in 2012,” The Huffington Post explained.

The 2012 initiative was halted when that year’s budget did not lend itself to supporting the Community Access Program. Then, an evaluation noted that “it may have outlived its usefulness as a means to bring the Internet to communities across Canada,” the official document read, as quoted by the news source.

In the meantime
While it might be a little while, those in rural villages will soon be able to enjoy the same Internet-based perks as people in the rest of the nation. As the major ISPs become available in some remote areas, indies will also be able to break into such markets.

This is beneficial because then, there won’t be a large ISP monopoly in the area, and consumers will be able to enjoy high quality service and lower prices without having to sign on for a multi-year plan when they’re just getting their bearings online.

Always be careful of Internet scams on social media

Many individuals spend their days checking for notifications on some of the most popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. Perhaps they’re waiting on a Facebook wall post from a faraway family member they haven’t spoken with in some time, or it could be that they’ve got their eye out for a potential response from a favourite celebrity on Twitter. Regardless, these mediums provide a great way to stay in touch with individuals who might not have regular contact and are a good source of breaking news.

This could be part of the reason why social media platforms are particularly popular in Canada. A late 2012 release by the Parliament of Canada revealed that 86 per cent of Canadians between 18 and 34 years old have at least one personal social network page, while 62 per cent of those between 35 and 54 and 44 per cent of Canadians who are more than 55 years of age can say the same.

However, because of the prevalence of Canadians using these websites to connect, a number of hackers and scammers have targeted the platforms. They like to flock toward the greatest likelihood of tricking unsuspecting Internet users, and that might just be on networking pages.

As such, there are a number of tips and tricks Canadians should know in order to best avoid criminals when they’re using their social media pages to stay in contact with their friends and family.

Scams are growing in frequency
According to The Canadian Press, The Competition Bureau recently issued a release explaining that a larger volume of scammers are taking to social platforms to accomplish their crimes than ever. Specifically, the source noted that a number of these individuals attempt to sell fake products to make a profit or otherwise rip users off.

Among the suggestions the news provider offered were that individuals shouldn’t open suspicious links on such pages, and that suspected victims need to report the incidents to the authorities, even if they’re embarrassed – it’s the only way law enforcement can stay on the lookout. Moreover, citing information from the bureau’s recent “Twitter party,” the news outlet explained that users should be vigilant about looking at URLs when they sign into these websites. Participant @JerieShaw stated that she received an email seemingly from Facebook asking her to log in, but the URL wasn’t correct.

Rely on a secure network
People can be as careful as they want when they’re posting information and taking other action on social platforms, but if the connection itself is compromised, those tactics could be all for naught. As such, individuals need to make sure they’re taking care when they’re in public and using unsecured Wi-Fi networks. It might be better to wait until they’re in the safety of their own home to sign on to the sites.

And when they’re in their houses, they can have the peace of mind that comes along with the knowledge that they’re using reliable Internet service providers to go online. Cautious Internet users might want to employ indie ISPs, which can not only help users remain safe, but they also provide some of the least expensive and most flexible connectivity plans.

L’Observatoire des médias sociaux en relations publique de l’Université Laval à Québec a publié un document dans lequel plusieurs pistes de solutions très intéressantes peuvent contribuer à gérer efficacement votre page Facebook, LinkedIn ou tout autre page publiée dans d’autres médias sociaux.

Médias sociaux : comment gérer les commentaires?

De plus en plus d’entreprises utilisent les médias sociaux pour rejoindre les consommateurs.  Il s’agit d’un moyen très économique, par exemple une page Facebook pour les entreprises, où il est possible de parler des produits, des nouveautés et des promotions.

Tout ceci semble bien intéressant, mais il arrive souvent que des commentaires négatifs, sarcastiques ou haineux figurent sur le fil de discussion. Comment gérer tous ces dialogues ?

L’Observatoire des médias sociaux en relations publique de l’Université Laval à Québec a publié un document dans lequel plusieurs pistes de solutions très intéressantes peuvent contribuer à gérer efficacement votre page Facebook, LinkedIn ou tout autre page publiée dans d’autres médias sociaux.

L’organisme recommande de trier les messages selon leur nature et d’effectuer des catégories comme cet exemple:
1. Propos positif sur l’entreprise ou un produit;
2. Question spécifique sur un produit ou un service;
3. Commentaire négatif ou plainte concernant la compagnie, un produit ou un service.

Puisqu’il s’agit de votre entreprise, il faut agir comme si le consommateur était devant vous, c’est-à-dire de conserver un ton neutre, poli et courtois. Ainsi, préférez l’utilisation du « nous » et répondez au message le plus rapidement possible, de façon à démontrer que votre entreprise est à l’écoute des commentaires sur le Web.

Si l’échange avec un internaute exigeait une conversation plus longue et plus personnelle, le message peut alors être redirigé en lui demandant la meilleure façon de le rejoindre. En appliquant le Netiquette et en conservant un ton courtois, vous ne risquez pas de vivre une mauvaise expérience sur les réseaux sociaux. En terminant, n’oubliez jamais le vieux dicton : les écrits restent !