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Look, I adore Canada. I’ve been there on a few occasions, and I’ve also been to a few other countries in order to truly calibrate what I’m about to prove. As an American, I’ll confess that we have a serious attitude problem. I actually have reverse culture shock for a week whenever I return home from a place like Japan (where kindness abounds).

All that said, Canada rules. The people are as nice as you hear they are, and I’ve got the list to prove it. I just spent five days in Alberta and British Columbia, and in just 120 hours, all of these things happened.

  1. Jasper, Alberta cops are called Peace Officers. No, I’m serious. They straight-up dropped “Police” and went with “Peace.” Just look at the picture above. Cute, right?
  2. I was told “Hello!” and “Welcome!” three times by airport greeters before reaching customs. In America, I dare you to whip your phone out after you’ve arrived back in the terminal from overseas. Double-dog dare you.
  3. Certain Canadian elevators only have an ‘Open Door’ button, not a ‘Close Door’ button. Think about this. In America, we all secretly smash the ‘Close Door’ button as soon as we get on, just praying that no one else hops on and delays our ascent for even a second. In Canada, elevators are built to chill, and to gleefully welcome that latecomer along for the ride.
  4. Retail and fast food employees greet you with a smile and actually care about your satisfaction. What a concept.
  5. At a coffee shop in Alberta, a gentleman cheerfully asked the barista if “that drink over there” was his. The barista looked over as she was preparing someone else’s drink, nodded in affirmation, and then received the following line from the customer: “Not to worry, no hurry!” That phrase has literally never been uttered by an American.
  6. Waitstaff say “Thank you!” when I thank them for bringing something I asked for. It’s like Thank You Inception.
  7. On SportsCenter (sorry, SportsCentre), they highlighted the lone Canadian in the U.S. Open and congratulated him for making it two rounds before getting cut… with a 10 over. In America, we’d probably throw shade at our countryman’s unborn child for such an abominable performance.
  8. Canadians actually wait for the ‘Walk’ sign at crosswalks, even with no traffic in sight. It’s like they’re actually happy to abide by common road rules.
  9. Whilst lost in a foreign grocery, I asked an employee — one that was busy unpacking boxes and restocking shelves — where I could find prunes.  He then proceeded to tell me which aisle to search on, and then offered to walk me over and show me where prunes were. The last time I asked a grocery employee in America for advice, I a) came away with no concrete answer and b) felt eerily guilty for seemingly ruining their life.
  10. A Tim Hortons employee — crazed handling zillions of orders during the morning rush — stopped everything to go hunt in the back for a plastic fork that I requested, and then handed it to me with a smile. Go into Starbucks during the morning rush and ask for anything. Good luck.

In other news, I’ve been having these odd dreams whereby my passport has an awesome, iconic maple leaf on it…

(Thanks for being awesome, Canada!)

(And you too, America!)

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webershandwicktech:

By Darren Murph, Senior Vice President of Editorial Strategy, United States

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I’ve spent nearly eight years of my life telling stories. It’s been a healthy mixture of news, investigative reporting, and full-on feature work involving numerous interviews and immersion into new cultures. It’s my belief that nothing exists in a vacuum — even something as esoteric as a redesigned space shuttle is far more than just a tweaked hunk of metal. There’s reasoning behind the change, along with a dose of science and astrophysics. There’s logic behind the change. And if you look closely enough, there’s a story about the change just waiting to be told.

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Source: webershandwicktech
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"You know, the oddest thing about what’s happening right now is that we’ve stopped living our lives and we’re just recording them."

- George Clooney, recalling what he told President Obama during a fundraiser in which no one wanted to shake their hands, they just wanted to take their picture. (via parislemon)
Source: parislemon
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Boundary, Alaska

After 7.5 years of writing, reporting, goofing off, scouring trade shows, and generally feeling fortunate to be in a position to both inform and entertain folks at Engadget, I’m starting a new chapter this week. A wild, multifaceted, and in some ways still-to-be-determined chapter. I’m taking on the role of Senior Vice President of Editorial Strategy at Weber Shandwick. It’s a tremendous honor to be sliding into a team that’s invigorated, excited, and massively talented. In my visit to the group’s headquarters in New York City a few weeks ago, I was immediately impressed by just how hungry the group was to innovate. Its leaders want to make a positive impact in this technology space that we call home, and so do I.

I’ve always believed in the power of communication, and the incredible impact that a well told story can have. Stories are everywhere: they unfold in the course of a college football season, and they build in tension as expectations rise and companies react. Technology has evolved in the years that I’ve been covering it. While people previously accepted all manners of technology just because it improved their lives in some small way, today’s society expects much more from their watches, phones, computers, cars, and kitchen appliances — it’s no longer good enough for a gadget to work, it has to work well. Society has become numb with hearing about what technology can do; the only message that matters is why. Few companies understand how to tell the increasingly vital story of why.

I’ll be working with the MediaCo team to build workflows and strategies that resonate in the world of brand publishing and communications. The core of all that we’ll do is genuineness. If a story isn’t genuine, consumers will see through it, eroding trust and potentially destroying everything they’ve earned. I’ll get to work with designers, editors, writers, marketers, and all manners of clients. It’s a challenge that I’m very much looking forward to, and there are a few companies that I’ll be consulting with very soon.

As the title implies, I’m keeping my soul in editorial. As time allows, you’ll be able to find my product reviews and musings on the tech industry at BGR, within The Loop Magazine, on Weber Shandwick’s Tumblr, and who knows where else. I plan to keep traveling, too, and hope to find time to share knowledge on that front in the future.

You can find me on Twitter as @darrenmurph, or drop me a line at darrenmurph *at* gmail *dot* com. Here’s to what’s next!

*Photo taken in the ghost town of Boundary, Alaska, a mile east of the northernmost border crossing between the United States and Canada.

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Today was a special day. In all of my years covering consumer technology, and all of my years attending Apple’s keynotes, this is the first one that I’ve been able to devote my full and undivided attention to. Typically, I’m responsible for slinging upwards of 200 images into a liveblog viewer, frantically attempting to decipher the ideal Kelvin setting while matching the speed of my partner in crime — and when that man is Tim Stevens, that’s no easy feat.

Today I witnessed an Apple keynote with fresh eyes. I had no immediate duties, and I was able to absorb the presentation in a new way. I’m obviously interested in the product announcements on a personal level, but as a watcher of this space, I focused more on the undertones of the keynote. What struck me most during the event were items that seemed to fly by most of those who were there to expressly cover the news, and as an unashamed power user, I was heartened by a few of them.

For starters, Apple spent an inordinate amount of time in today’s presentation focused on the power user. From (perhaps overly long) demos of advanced OS X Mavericks features to atypical spiels involving the most granular of technical specifications, the “Computer” of the former “Apple Computer” was in full force today.

Increasingly, Apple has focused on the consumer. The mainstream adopter. The person who fell first for iSomething, and may or may not have ever used a Mac in any serious fashion. Given how those businesses have scaled, it makes sense from a number of standpoints — financial, mindshare, etc. Today, the iPad was given equal treatment with a new Mac Pro and a new desktop operating system. To me, that’s saying something.

The Mac Pro was in dire need of a refresh, but Apple surely knows that even a revised model is only going to sell to a sliver of its consumer base. Heck, most visual professionals would’ve been content using the old cage with updated internals, but Apple still devoted a sizable chunk of resources to rethinking the desktop. Apple’s doing more to lead society beyond the PC than any other company in its class, but today, the Mac Pro was given its time to shine.

Whoever’s making the call to allow engineers to fine-tune the company’s most powerful products, despite the fact that few will be sold, should be praised. I was beginning to worry that the complete and total consumerization of Apple was a sealed fate.

OS X Mavericks is also a refreshing update. The most recent OS X updates reeked of iOS in far too many ways. Instead of developing ways to increase efficiency, enhance customization, and bolster the multi-tasker’s ability to simply get more done, OS X was creeping into simplified territory. Mavericks introduces tabbed Finder windows. I’d wager that a woefully small slice of OS X users will bother to craft new workflows around the ability to suck multiple Finder windows into one space on their desktop, but today, Apple showed me that it does still care about those folks on some level.

I was also able to fully appreciate just how fundamentally different Apple is from its primary competition. The keynote began with a replay of an inspirational design video that debuted at WWDC — not a thing new about the clip, but CEO Tim Cook came forth to drive home this point: Apple is focused first on being a company that amazes, and last on the numbers that Wall Street watches. Mind you, I’m not saying this as a delusional fan of Apple’s work, but on a human level, who could fault a corporation as large as Apple for attempting to quantify success using “delight” as a factor? If you’re working in a numbers-obsessed field, my guess is that you’d be elated if anything of this sort played a role in judging your own progress.

All in all, it was a something of a hodgepodge show. A bit of iPhone, a healthy helping of culture, an overload of demos from Apple’s first-party software team, a shocking amount of technical talking points related to a black cylinder that I can only wish I needed, and a re-envisioned pricing strategy on the tablet front. The company managed to touch on pretty much every single part of its modern business in one keynote. (There was nary a mention of iPod, but it no longer reports iPod sales in its quarterly earnings.)

A final takeaway: Apple strikes me as the kind of place that wants its customers to trust it to build amazing things. How many “delighted” iPhone users are going to buy whatever wearable Apple decides to build without reading a single review? A lot of them. The company has managed to execute on a singular philosophy of delight in a way that’s most impressive, but in doing so, has raised its level of responsibility tremendously. Cook made clear that he cared little about letting Wall Street down — he’s not going to build a phablet in four months or a headset tomorrow just because he’d move some units. He seems far more concerned about ensuring that the next Apple product is as good (if not better) than the last.

That’s becoming a tall task, but as I personally know so well, there are indeed good problems to have. 

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Two books in one year? It happened, somehow. After wrapping up iPad Secrets earlier this year, I started work on another Secrets book — this one, for the iPhone. Following the release of the iPhone 5, I was able to finish up iPhone Secrets, and I’m happy to say that it’s on sale now at the usual places.

It’s a book that looks at tips, tricks and helpful information in managing and taking full advantage of one’s iPhone 4, 4S or 5 through iOS 6.

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I had a great time putting this one together, and I’d like to once again thank Wiley for their support (and Mary James in particular).

Hopefully America’s northernmost Barnes & Noble will get a copy of this one, too!

Places to pick it up:

(If you’re looking for it elsewhere, the ISBN is 9781118339039)

Source: amazon.com
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Trying out the new Photoset app!

Source: photoset.com
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Six years ago, my life changed. I went from working 6-3 every day to working 6-midnight. (My first post ever was published at 11:27PM after at least 5 hours of edits.)

It was a glorious day. A few people commented, the 3-4 people currently working nights at Engadget were pleased to have the help, and I had found exactly what I was looking for.

Every July 10th since, I’ve reminded myself of how fortunate I am to work at a place that gives me the kinds of opportunities that I have. I love writing about technology. I love talking to people about technology. I love seeing technology move the world forward, inch by inch, every single day. I’ve written just about 20,000 posts at this point, and it’s still just as thrilling as it ever was.

I started writing about technology before the iPhone even existed. I don’t even remember how we functioned back then. I started out with a Windows Mobile device and Netscape v1.5b. (Only partly true.) Six years later, it’s really insane to see how far the world has come, despite (still) trudging through some pretty awful times financially.

Six years is a good little while. I have Ryan Block and Peter Rojas to thank (endlessly!) for the opportunity, as well as countless Engadget editors for helping to teach me the ropes. When a work anniversary feels like a birthday, you know something’s going right. Thanks to every reader — kind and crude — that has showed up since 2006.

I owe each of you a Cook-out mikshake.

murphbloggingthnx

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"[Steve Jobs] is an extremely complicated guy, I know that for sure. Mark Zuckerberg is as well. I know this for sure: I can’t judge the character. He has to, for me, be a hero. I have to find the parts of him that are like me. I have to be able to defend this character. With someone like Steve Jobs, to put it as simply as possible, you want to write the character as if they are writing their letter to God on why they should be allowed into heaven."

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I’ve had an exceptionally heavy heart since seeing the unfortunate results from North Carolina’s vote on Amendment 1. I usually steer clear of all things politics. I loathe politics. I’ve never gone to a ballot box trusting that any of the candidates I was voting for would have my interests — and the interests of those around me — in mind. Not once. When I vote for President in November, I can absolutely assure you that neither Obama nor Romney will get my vote with any sort of zeal. They’ll both fail me in a plethora of ways. It’s just how it is.

But there’s something different about Amendment 1. For one, it’s putting a truly heinous spotlight on the state that I was born in, and choose to live in. I adore North Carolina. I have been to every state in this country, and NC is still home to me. It saddens me beyond belief to know that some 61 percent of those who trudged out to vote on May 8th would willfully walk up to another countryman — nay, statesman — and tell them to their face that they do not deserve equal rights. That children of unwed parents don’t deserve health insurance provided by their parent. That victims of domestic abuse don’t deserve the protections they currently have (had?) against their abuser. That two people who want to devote themselves to one another don’t deserve to file their taxes jointly.

And the worst part is this: too many North Carolinians are using Jesus as the reason for their stance. I shudder to think what the Jesus I know — a God that loves unconditionally — would say about proclaimed Christians demonstrating hate in His name. You may say that there’s no “hate” here. But it is hate. Looking at someone as less than another, even as you force a smile at them, feels like hate to the person on the other side. It’s just rude. It’s just mean. And in what way does this planet need any more meanness? It’s a tragedy of epic proportions just how much discrimination and hate exists already in the name of religion; why add to the fire?

What really blows my mind is how this issue is even voteable. Perhaps it speaks to my ignorance of politics. In my eyes, allowing folks to marry who they please simply broadens a state’s tax base, encourages a far more diverse economic landscape and — most importantly — gives us one less reason to discriminate. And really, discriminating against someone based on the gender of the person they love? That’s almost as stupid as discriminating against someone for the color of their skin. Or the origin of their birth. Or the God they choose to believe in. I recognize that you can’t coerce another human to not discriminate without a change in their own heart, but in no way, shape or form should discrimination be allowed by the government when it comes to taxes, protection rights and hospital visitation. In fact, keeping my fellow statesmen from discrimination is one of the few things I actually want the government to do.

I’m not asking the government to say that gay marriage is “right” or “wrong.” I’m not asking the government to affirm or deny a denomination’s “definition of marriage.”  I’m asking the government to just let married people of all genders enjoy a few rights.

I firmly believe that privately financed churches should retain the right to marry only those that they wish. It’d be an abject violation of the separation of church and state — which I’m increasingly unsure is more than ink on paper — for the government to force a church to (or not to) marry someone. But telling two men, two women or two transgendered individuals that they cannot peacefully walk to their local courthouse and grab the rights that I’m blessedly able to have as a married heterosexual is not something I can comfortably do. At its most molecular level, it’s meanspirited. And as a fat kid who was bullied mercilessly in grade school (and someone who strives to simply not be a complete and total jerk), I’m just not super keen on being mean.

As said earlier, I can’t believe this is even a voteable issue. I’m certain there were people who also couldn’t believe that we once had to vote to give women voting rights. It just seems so obvious that it’s the right thing to do, that I can’t even wrap my brain around the fact that there would be an option to do the opposite.

And to those who are tarnishing the view of Christianity in the eyes of the world, riddle me this: would Jesus stand in front of a hospital door and tell a loving man that he can’t visit his male partner on his death bed?

When it comes to voting, this isn’t a religious issue. This is a human rights issue. Let’s fight for our rights, and save the religious banter for theological seminars.

(For more on this issue, I’d strongly recommend a few pieces from men of faith that have a far greater grasp on religion than myself: Hugh Hollowell and Aaron Saufley)