Brydge 10.5 Series II iPad Keyboard

My new keyboard came for the iPad Pro 10.5″. It’s a Brydge 10.5 Series II and it turns the iPad into a small laptop.

This is something of a first impressions post. I’ll do a fuller review in a few weeks. I’m coming to the Brydge from the older Apple Smart Keyboard Cover that I bought with the iPad about two years ago. It’s started getting flaky recently, so a new keyboard was required.

The Brydge keyboard is sort of like the old Macbook Pro keyboards from a few years back with decent key travel and a bit softer feel. Obviously it’s smaller in size since it has to fit the small iPad form factor.

The Brydge 10.5″ Series II when attached kind of makes the iPad Pro look like a tiny Macbook sans touchpad.

The hinge design is nice and more secure than I expected it to be. It’s not ideal in that respect, as the Apple Keyboard Cover is much easier to rip off the iPad to play a game or watch a video. We’ll see how that works out over time and maybe the action to remove and replace will be something that starts to become more natural to me.

I actually think the trade off on detach-ability is good since it comes with some additional features like a backlit keyboard and media keys across the top. It’s more “tiny, iOS laptop” now compared to “iPad with a keyboard attached”.

I’m actually typing this on the Brydge and while it’ll take some getting used to, the keyboard is easy to type on and I’m pretty accurate with it right out of the box. Bluetooth lag seems to not exist although I do have the occasional missed keystroke, I think because maybe I am hitting the keys very close together.

To sum up, first impressions are good and I think this will make the iPad more useful again since the old keyboard was dying and made typing a bit of a frustrating exercise of late. It was also substantially cheaper than the Apple keyboard is.

Swiss Chalet vs. St-Hubert

For our last dinner in Montreal we decided to hit the St-Hubert that was very close to the hotel. This gave me an opportunity to compare Quebec’s favourite rotisserie chicken restaurant to Swiss Chalet which is the favourite across the rest of Canada.

Both Swiss Chalet and St-Hubert are primarily rotisserie chicken restaurants, with each chain offering a fairly diverse menu with ribs and roast beef as well as more standard chain options like burgers, soups and salads.

Automobiles_de_livraison_St-Hubert.jpg

St-Hubert’s first location was opened in Montreal in 1951 while Swiss Chalet began in Toronto in 1954. Since 2016, both chains are owned by Recipe Unlimited (formerly known as Cara Operations Limited). Despite the common ownership, they seem to have left the two businesses alone to continue to operate as rivals with their own unique traits.

Historically the St-Hubert vs. Swiss Chalet rivalry is very much a regional/cultural thing with St-Hubert dominating the French-speaking areas of Canada in Quebec and New Brunswick and Swiss Chalet being a fixture in the rest of the country.

Breaking it down

Here’s the pros and cons as I saw it last night. Suffice to say, it was a close competition and I suspect that those who grew up on Swiss Chalet will see it the same way I did, while those who are used to St-Hubert will disagree. Welcome to Canada.

Where it’s a tie:

  1. The chicken. It’s basically the same, although the skin at Swiss Chalet is maybe a bit crispier and has more seasoning on it making for a deliciously salty experience. It also looks a little nicer in my opinion. That said, the chicken meat is basically identical tasting although I could argue that Swiss Chalet has a slight edge here.

Where Swiss Chalet wins over St-Hubert:

  1. Chalet Sauce is far better than St-Hubert sauce. The St-Hubert sauce is more of a thin chicken gravy. There’s a real chicken gravy flavour to it and it lacks the thickness to properly coat either the fries or the chicken when dipped. Chalet Sauce has more spice and flavour overall and from a dipping perspective, it’s clearly superior.
  2. The fries at Swiss Chalet are generally better. I see the fries as a sauce delivery system, and Chalet fries deliver in this regard. They can be mushy if you get takeout or delivery, but they are a bit thicker cut than the St-Hubert fries and more potato-y overall. That said, this was a close battle and St-Hubert fries are quite good.
  3. The roll at Swiss Chalet beats the bun at St-Hubert. This isn’t even a close competition. The Swiss roll is a proper little roll that delivers a great dipping experience. The bun at St-Hubert is basically a toasted cheap hamburger bun bottom.

Where St-Hubert wins over Swiss Chalet:

  1. The coleslaw is included and excellent. You can pick between traditional (vinegar) and creamy (with mayo). Both were good and you get the coleslaw with the meal along with your choice of side. I had the opportunity to try both varieties and while I preferred the traditionaly (nicely vinegary and tasty), the creamy type was also good. If you’ve had the creamy coleslaw at Swiss Chalet, they are very similar, but St-Hubert wins here because you get the coleslaw with your meal as a bonus side.
  2. Sandwich options are better at St-Hubert. Swiss Chalet offers a tasty Chicken on a Kaiser sandwich or a hot chicken sandwich with gravy. St-Hubert ups the sandwich game with a really good club sandwich on toasted bread with generous amounts of rotisserie chicken (dark or white meat).
  3. The ambience/style of the restaurant is better at St-Hubert. Neither are a fine dining experience, but Swiss Chalet feels more like a fast-food place than St-Hubert which advertises itself as a resto-bar.
  4. The delivery cars at St-Hubert are fun. They have a fleet of yellow and red Toyota Yaris hatchbacks with red chicken combs on the roof. Swiss Chalet generally shows up in a rusted out ten-year-old winter beater with mismatched tires.

The final judgement

The chicken is pretty similar although I give the edge to Swiss Chalet for flavour. The fries are close, but again, Swiss Chalet wins by a small margin. The “free” coleslaw is a nice touch at St-Hubert, but in the end it’s just coleslaw and if you really want that, you can get some for a reasonable cost at Swiss Chalet.

The real difference maker is the sauce and while St-Hubert sauce is decent, Swiss Chalet sauce is a national treasure and for that reason Swiss Chalet wins.

Exploring Montréal – Day Two

Better weather and lots to see and do on day two in Montréal.

We started early with breakfast at Starbucks before hopping the Métro to Pie-IX station for a visit to the Jardin botanique. There is a special exhibit going on with thousands of butterflies released in one of the buildings. It was very cool to go through the various buildings, learning about the different regions of the world and also things like spices and different fruits.

The Papillons en libérte exhibit was the highlight, to be sure. There were many kinds of butterflies fluttering about and landing here there and everywhere. The best of my photos are here.

After we left there, we walked down to the Parc Olympique area and marvelled at the Big O, built for the 1976 Olympic Games. It was Lindsey’s second Olympic Stadium visit in four days. The stadium area feels a bit neglected and tired, but I guess that’s what you get with these giant nearly single-purposed buildings.

We also checked out Le Centre sportif which was home to the diving and swimming events in 1976.

After that, we hit the Métro again and went over to the Marche Jean-Talon to grab a bit to eat and check out the market there. The lunch options were a bit disappointing, but it was nice to check out the market and see what Montréalers do for their fruits and vegatables. It was like a smaller version of Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market.

Then it was over to Mont-Royal stop on the Métro again and a bit of a long walk over to the Tam Tams and then up the trails and steps to the Parc-du-Mont-Royal and the lookout. The views were great with sunny skies having pushed the drizzle and clouds away.

We walked back down the hill, stopped for some Ben and Jerry’s and then back to the hotel to rest our early legs and watch game 6 of the Leafs vs. Boston playoff series.

Exploring Montréal – Day One

It’s our first full day in Montréal today, and it’s cold and rainy. But that isn’t getting in our way at all.

We walked over to Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral which is just around the corner from the hotel. It’s no Notre-Dame Basilica, but it was still interesting to look around and see the inside of this church.

After that, we walked down to the Lachine Canal locks and discovered two things. First, there was almost no water in the canal. Second, it was windy and cold down there. We continued our journey on foot over to the Old Port of Montréal where we planned to visit the Pointe-à-Callière museum. We were a touch early so rather than wait around, we walked up to see the Notre-Dame Basilica.

Being that it’s Easter Weekend, and likely also because of what happened in Paris this week, the lineup was about an hour to get in to see. So we opted to hop on the Metro and we took that out to see La Biosphère de Montréal.

Once back, we did visit the museum! It was really, really interesting with all sorts of ruins of the old city to see. The museum is set atop some of the foundations and original parts of the city dating back hundreds of years. You can trace the history of Montréal from the 1600’s all the way to the present day.

After a bite to eat, we walked through the Old Port area and made our way back to the Metro. I was stupid and threw away my weekend transit pass, but I figured I might be able to retrieve it as I knew exactly where I had tossed it and it didn’t actually make it into the garbage can proper. It was my lucky day as the pass was lying under the can and I was able to grab it. $13.75 saved!

Our tired feet were looking for a break, so we’re back at the hotel now resting up and planning for dinner and maybe a walk along rue Sainte-Catherine or something tonight.

Long Weekend Travel

If there’s one thing we want to instill in our kids, it’s that travel is something to be excited about and not something to be feared.

There are a ton of neat places in this world and getting to visit them is one of the privileges that we have as fairly well-to-do Canadians.

Lindsey just got back from Vancouver today after spending a week there on a YMCA cultural exchange. They visited and hung out with a group of kids from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver. In a month, the same group of kids will come here, to Toronto, to see our part of the country.

Mackenzie hopped on a plane today with my mom and they flew over to New York City for the weekend. They’ll visit the landmarks like Central Park, the Highline Trail, Times Square and the Brooklyn Bridge. I didn’t visit New York until I was in my 30’s so for Mac to get to go there at age 16 is a real treat.

Montréal Skyline by Christine Wagner (CC 2.0)

We’re not immune to the travel bug either. With the kids getting to go away, Ginny and I started getting jealous. So we booked a last minute weekend in Montreal. We’ll take the train tomorrow (Friday) and stay a few days before returning on Monday.

We should probably tell Lindsey that she’s only getting one night in her own bed tonight before she’s hopping the train with us to Quebec. I think she’ll be okay with it.

On Outrage Culture

It’s really, really out of control. Social media and smartphones plus a 24 hour news cycle that needs to manufacture breaking news to hold viewer attention (to keep the ad dollars rolling in) is the cause. Opt out. Seriously.

“This is the current pitch of outrage culture, where voicing an opinion someone says she sees as a threat qualifies you for instant annihilation, no questions asked. Why ask questions, when it’s more expedient, maybe more kickass, to turn anything you might disagree with into an emergency?”

Nancy Rommelmann

Environment Canada Releases iOS and Android Weather Apps

This is great news for all Canadians looking for a reliable weather app that doesn’t come with pervasive tracking and ads like The Weather Channel and other commercial apps feature.

The new WeatherCAN app (iOS and Android) gives you exactly what you’d expect from an official Government of Canada app with hourly and seven day forecasts for locations across Canada. The radar views aren’t as good as what an app like Storm Radar from the US Weather Channel offers, but that’s more a function of the outdated weather radar infrastructure in Canada.

WeatherCAN also offers all-important push notifications for severe weather and other Environment Canada advisories and weather statements.

On the downside, it’s only Canadian weather, so if you want weather for locations around the world, then you’ll need another app for that. It’s also not as fancy graphically as something like the Weather Network app, but as mentioned above, commercial weather apps are not the best in terms of tracking and ads. They also have a bunch of cruft like “viral” videos, and other junk that clutters up the whole app.

Check it out if you want a no-frills, functional weather app that will keep you in the know.

De-Centralizing DNS

The internet is not supposed to have single points of failure or massive companies that control vast swaths of pages, or websites.

I’ve been actively de-centralizing my online presences of late and the last step was to leave Cloudflare and spread my DNS around a couple of different places. Obviously, a bunch of my sites rely on Hover’s DNS since I work there, and my domains are managed there. But not all of them use Hover. In a couple of cases, it’s easier to use a different provider.

The reason I don’t like Cloudflare is that it’s clear they are attempting to use their size (and the fact they offer a free service) to try and become a dominant DNS provider. Basically, the Facebook or Google of DNS. Not good.

They control way too much and have far too much access to data about sites people visit. Better to rely on DNS providers that are solely interested in offering DNS services vs. trying to profit from data gathering.

Tech Updates

I made a call to Bell today to make some changes to our various services they provide to us. Specifically, that’s home phone, Fibe TV and fibre internet.

My intention was to get rid of the home phone completely, but for various reasons related to the ridiculous ways companies like Bell and Rogers price things, it was cheaper to keep the home phone for a while longer.

Overall, I was able to reduce the monthly bill substantially, while maintaining basically the same TV package we had, and also upgrading from 300Mb/s fibre to full gigabit fibre.

We’re still considering getting rid of TV and phone completely and going gigabit only, but that will wait for a bit. I think streaming services aren’t quite there yet in Canada, and OTA is a bit of an investment in terms of an antenna and also a tuner/PVR plus a more powerful server for Plex.

On the phone side, we now have some sort of basic line with no features. I may just disconnect the phone entirely since literally the only people who call us are air duct cleaning companies, Bell Canada, polling companies and charities looking for money.

Getting into PHP

I used to know a fair bit of PHP and could write simple WordPress plugins or basic pages. With the recent interest in Shortcuts, I started thinking it would be easier to do some of the little things I wanted to do with PHP on the web instead of using Shortcuts on my iPhone.

My first little project was a TTC Flexity Streetcar Delivery Tracker. The TTC is getting new streetcars from Bombardier on a regular basis, and myself and other transit users and fans like to track the arrival of new cars.

The TTC API, provided by NextBus provides some clues that a streetcar has arrived and is being tested or has entered service. Using the API, I’m grabbing data about an array of vehicles and then showing them in a table. That wasn’t too difficult to do for desktop, but getting it to look good on mobile was a bit tougher.

A few tutorials later, I got the media queries figured out and I’m showing the table rows as cards on my phone.

I’m really pleased with how this turned out and I’m already thinking ahead to my next little project. While there are a bunch of good apps like the Transit App that will tell you when your bus is coming, they are a little too complicated for Mac to use.

I’m going to make here a special webpage that will show her the next two buses home from Variety Village. It’s just the information she needs in a simple presentation.