Jim Bray


Jim publishes TechnoFile Magazine. Jim is an affiliate with the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and his careers have included journalist, technology retailer, video store pioneer, and syndicated columnist; he does a biweekly column on CBC Radio One's The Business Network.

Jim can be reached at: [email protected]Older articles by Jim Bray

Most Recent Articles by Jim Bray:

Ford’s biggest and (until recently) littlest SUV’s offer a lot to like

May 2, 2018 — Jim Bray

 Ford Escape
Ford continues to expand and update its line of SUV/Crossovers for 2018, with a minor refresh of the Escape but also with a brand new Expedition.

The two units bookend the Edge and Explorer, ensuring there’s a model for every person’s size preference, from small to absolutely humongous. And they’re pretty nice vehicles as well. There’s one smaller, the just-out Ecosport, but that isn’t covered here..

I spent a week with each of these units, an Escape wearing the Titanium trim level and an Expedition Limited, both of which come with about as much tech and toys as one can want. Of the two, the Escape would be my personal choice because, as a small person, it’s much more a size I’d find useful – but that doesn’t mean that larger folk (or folk who need to carry more folks and/or stuff) won’t find the Expedition worth a look.


Goodbye to an honoured and excellent brand

Apr 23, 2018 — Jim Bray

Oppo Digital
Perhaps you could call it a coda to an outstanding symphony of audio/videophile tech.

Oppo Digital, the company whose products have won it many awards over the years – and which deserved them – has announced it’s winding down its operations.

Say it isn’t so, Oppo!


Toyota Prius a surprisingly driveable hybrid

Apr 23, 2018 — Jim Bray

Toyota Prius a surprisingly driveable hybrid
Who’d have thought a Toyota Prius could be an engaging vehicle to drive?

I never did, until this current generation came along a year or so ago, and after having a second kick at the car a couple of weeks ago I came away liking the Prius even more. Heck, if it didn’t have a loud and obnoxious continuously variable transmission, and such a strange-looking exterior, I might even think about putting one in my garage.


Medialight’s new tech bias lights make TV watching easier on the eyes

Apr 1, 2018 — Jim Bray

MediaLight 6500K Bias Lighting
If you’ve ever found your eyes tiring by the end of a movie in your home theatre – and it has nothing to do with the writing, acting, or production – you may want to look into something like a bias light.

I knew about bias lights once but over the years, and through several changes in TV’s over the years, I had forgotten just how much a bias light can improve one’s enjoyment. Back then, I had (among other TV’s) a 57-inch CRT rear projector, but while watching it I noticed that the picture would tend to dazzle my eyes, and not in a good way.


Honda brings Clarity to the plug-in hybrid market

Apr 1, 2018 — Jim Bray

Honda brings Clarity to the plug-in hybrid market
It’s loud. It’s whiny. Its interfaces are incoherent. But it’ll help you save the world, and you might be able to make other people help you pay for it!

It’s Honda’s new Clarity, in this case a plug-in hybrid model. Honda calls it the newest member of their “completely redesigned lineup,” even though it sports exactly the same dashboard abomination – as in no knobs for tuning the stereo or tuning the volume up or down - that the company is finally moving away from with its new Accord and other models.

Claritys (Clarities?) start at a Canadian MSRP of $39,900 and if you want to step up to the top line version – the Touring trim level – it’ll cost you and/or your peers $43,900 (your peers, according to Honda, thanks to “up to $13,000 of government incentives”). For that price you’ll get what Honda says is “a big step forward for the company’s electrified fleet, entering the Canadian market with the best overall combined range and interior volume in its class.”


Browser and search engine team up to help you stay private on the internet

Mar 27, 2018 — Jim Bray

Vivaldi Technologies
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you.”

I don’t know, or care, who said that originally, but in this age of hacking and cyber corruption – and the deep state trying desperately to defeat the forces of light - it’s becoming increasingly clear that there appears to be folks out in cyberspace who don’t have your best interests in mind.

Indeed, you may have heard about how Facebook and Google have been revealed as corrupt data miners more interested in raking in cash and helping their fellow political travellers than in providing the benign platforms for the people they’ve purported to be.


Mustang Bullitt looks like more than just a fun movie tie in

Mar 27, 2018 — Jim Bray

Mustang Bullitt looks like more than just a fun movie tie in
It’s green and powerful, and it isn’t the Incredible Hulk. Instead, it’s the new Bullitt edition of Ford’s legendary pony car, the Mustang. And it looks like it’ll be a heckuva ride!

The tie-in comes as the iconic Steve McQueen cop film Bullitt celebrates its 50th anniversary, assuming a movie can celebrate its own birthday, so what better time than now to exploit, er, honour, a dead actor and what’s undoubtedly his most famous movie vehicle other than his LeMans Porsche and the motorcycle with which he leapt tall barriers with a single bound in The Great Escape.


Justice League 4K - doing justice to the DC comics universe?

Mar 17, 2018 — Jim Bray

Justice League 4K - doing justice to the DC comics universe?
Warner Brothers’ ongoing attempts to play catch-up with the Marvel cinematic universe continues with Justice League, their version of The Avengers, in which a group of superheroes teams up to fight a super villain bent on mayhem, conquest and destruction.

The question is, is it any good, and how does it stack up to the Marvel movies? And in the case of this sparkling new 4K version of last year’s Justice League film, the answer is a decidedly firm “meh.”


Thor Ragna-rocks in its 4K disc incarnation

Mar 17, 2018 — Jim Bray

Thor Ragna-rocks in its 4K disc incarnationMarvel’s third Thor outing is one “Val-helluva” way to get into the 4K disc market, and it’s also the best of the Thor outings to date.

And it’s a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously and even imparted quite a few laughs on its audience.

I was never a Thor comic book reader and thought Kenneth Branagh’s first Thor movie was visually lovely but nearly as forgettable as the second Thor movie (“the Dark World”). The best thing about both movies (and this one, too) is Chris Hemsworth as the title God. Whether he’s being tossed out of Asgard or driving a star ship or Formula 1 car, the Aussie is a very good actor and he inhabits the Thor character very well, indeed.


Hyundai Elantra GT Sport – a bargain hot hatch?

Mar 17, 2018 — Jim Bray

Hyundai Elantra GT Sport – a bargain hot hatch?
South Korean carmakers have come a long way in a relatively short time. And they’ve earned their current success by offering cars that are built well, competitive in price and even more competitive in features.

Hyundai, the subject of this particular rant, has developed from the old and unloved Pony and Stellar of the 1980’s, and their later and rather bizarre “relax, you’ll get there someday” jingle I took to mean that, undoubtedly unconsciously, Hyundai was admitting their cars were lacking in oomph. Yes, Hyundai used to be a joke, automotively speaking.


Home theatre not rumbling enough? Here are some ways to tweak your system

Feb 28, 2018 — Jim Bray

Home theatre not rumbling enough? Here are some ways to tweak your system
You’ve shelled out good, after tax disposable income on a home theatre setup but instead of that room-rattling bass you’ve been promised you’re only getting a thin gruel oozing its way to your ears. Did you get ripped off?

That’s always a possibility, but even an inexpensive “home theatre in a box” can deliver good, room filling sound with chest thumping low frequency effects, so before you box it up again and toss it back across the counter at the retailer from whom you purchased it, take a while to do some tweaking to ensure it’s performing to the best of its capabilities.


‘Electric-ish’ BMW X5 is a fine ride that could save you some premium fuel

Feb 28, 2018 — Jim Bray

'Electric-ish' BMW X5 is a fine ride that could save you some premium fuel
BMW’s first SUV - though they refer to it as an SAV - has been given the plug-in hybrid treatment and the result is a large utility (er, Activity, in BMW-speak) vehicle that might even save you some gas money.

The X5 xDrive40e is the first plug-in hybrid production model from BMW’s core lineup. Starting at an estimated MSRP of $74,950 CAD, before options, it’s a darn fine vehicle and equipped well even at that trim level (it’s a premium vehicle, after all). And BMW seems to be listening to some of the folks who’ve whined about its interfaces in recent years. That would include me, who has muttered maledictions about the iDrive system, the complexity of merely storing a radio station preset and the annoying folly of having to pull door handles twice to get out of the vehicle and the start/stop button twice to get the thing to actually shut down.


The 2018 Canadian Car of the Year is a Honda - and the Best Utility Vehicle is a minivan

Feb 18, 2018 — Jim Bray

Honda's all-new Accord sedan
Looks like Honda might be wise to buy a bigger display case to hold all the international awards its new Accord is receiving.

That’s because, after being named 2018 North American Car of the Year at the car show in Detroit, as well as scoring its way onto the Car & Driver 10 Best Cars list yet again (for about the 1,000th time) Honda’s all-new Accord sedan has won the 2018 Canadian Car of the Year award, presented under the auspices of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).


Replay software suite lets you replay, record, re-use audio and video from the Web

Feb 11, 2018 — Jim Bray

Applian Technology's Replay Capture Suite
What happens when you watch a particularly hot - or controversial - video on YouTube and just have to have it for yourself, forever? Or what happens when you want to listen to your favourite streaming talk show but have to be away from the computer while it’s on?

That’s the rationale behind Applian Technology’s Replay Capture Suite, a series of interacting apps that will do all that and much more. It’s a pretty impressive set of tools and it appears to work well.

The $79USD suite, individual modules of which are also available separately, includes tools for capturing video or music from any website, as well as conversion and editing tools you can use to file the serial numbers off your purloined programming. And that still isn’t all the suite can let you do!


Canadian Car of the Year gets down to the best of the best

Feb 11, 2018 — Jim Bray

Mazda CX-9
The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s Best Car award is now down to three finalists.

Well, six, technically - but that’s a pretty steep winnowing from the 182 vehicles that were eligible for this year’s Canadian Car of the Year Awards. And it means there are now only three contenders (or a contender and two pretenders?) for the titles of Canadian Car of the Year and the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.

Mazda leads the way with three vehicles that are still in the running - and as a Mazda fan I’d be happy with any of them taking their categories. Alas, the prevailing “wisdom” seems to be aimed elsewhere, at least in the “car” of the year category.


What can you get in a great sports car for under $35,000?  Quite a lot!

Feb 1, 2018 — Jim Bray

What can you get in a great sports car for under $35,000?  Quite a lot!
What would you do if you found yourself with an extra $35,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Would you give it to charity, buy stocks or other investments, or maybe just blow it on a four wheeled toy?

A good friend of mine, Blair, posed that query to me a couple of days ago and it got me thinking about what I’d do in such a situation if I didn’t have to consult with anyone about how (or if…) it should be spent.

I don’t know if Blair has an extra 35 grand burning a hole in his pocket or if he was merely "goal setting," but his challenge was: "you have $35K and want to buy a sports car for occasional use. What would you choose?" He also mentioned I didn’t have to use the full 35 grand of "play money" but I imagine that by the time all is said and done I’d have spent that amount and maybe a little more.


Panasonic combo oven worth getting steamed over

Feb 1, 2018 — Jim Bray

Panasonic combo oven worth getting steamed over,
Don’t tell my wife, but I’ve just spent a couple of weeks with a new “grill friend.” It’s a kitchen appliance that could clean up some precious shelf space because it blends the duties of disparate appliances into one unit.

Panasonic’s Combination Oven NN-DS58HB, despite its $699.99 CAD retail price, is a pretty compelling piece of equipment, though it isn’t without its issues. Heck, depending on your lifestyle and food habits, it could do a lot, if not most, of your cooking all by itself.


Bad Beatles musical looks and sounds great in 4K - while Geostorm blows

Jan 29, 2018 — Jim Bray

Bad Beatles musical looks and sounds great in 4K - while Geostorm blows
Somewhere, Ken Russell looks down (or is it up?) and smiles.

That’s because director Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe” is arguably as much a tribute to the late Mr. Russell’s visually excessive style of filmmaking than it is a tribute to the Beatles. To me, the film felt like they took Ken Russell’s interpretation of The Who’s Tommy and put it into a blender with Milos Forman’s Hair, but the result - other than looking and sounding fantastic in its 4K incarnation - was less satisfying to me than either of those other films.


Americans’ most reliable cars are mostly Japanese - and Canada’s best new car gets a step closer

Jan 29, 2018 — Jim Bray

Americans' most reliable cars are mostly Japanese - and Canada's  best new car gets a step closer
What do Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru and Volkswagen all have in common? They were named to the list of the 15 cars that American consumers keep the longest before putting them out to pasture.

The news comes courtesy of iseecars.com,  which bills itself as "an automotive data and research company that helps consumers find the best car deals by providing key insights and guidance."  I’d never heard of them before learning about this study, but after checking out their site they seem to be kind of like AutoTrader in their focus.


Blade Runner sequel was meant for 4K -  and ‘IT’ isn’t too bad if given a chance

Jan 21, 2018 — Jim Bray

Blade Runner sequel
Warner Brothers may have pulled off the impossible with Blade Runner 2049. They’ve taken a movie for which no sequel or remake was needed, and given it a sequel/remake that’s worth seeing and owning. Heck, it’s much better than I expected going into it.

It’s much the same with IT, a remake of a Stephen King story about a clown that terrorizes innocent people in a manner reminiscent of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Two D’oh! 

It’s a 4K twofer!


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