8th March 2011

Dragon Age 2 Launch Day

Bioware CorpDragon Age™ II is now available at retail stores in Canada for the PlayStation®3 , the Xbox 360®, the PC and Mac®. The game is rated ‘M’ for Mature by the ESRB. Featuring a gripping new storyline, stunning visuals and what PC Gamer magazine has proclaimed to be “the best RPG combat ever,” Dragon Age II has already been hailed as a success by critics around the world. The game has received a 94 percent from PC Gamer magazine (US and UK), a 9/10 from Official Xbox Magazine and a 9/10 from PlayStation: The Official Magazine, which also said, “Fueled by its brains, a likeable cast, and a sprawling storyline, Dragon Age II delivers.”

I got my first look at the game when the demo was made available on the Xbox Live Marketplace, and with so Dragon Age 2many features disabled, it was difficult to get a real opinion of the game, other than I found much of the text very hard to read on a 36″ CRT television. Our TV does have a flat screen, but the text doesn’t appear anywhere as clear as it does on an LCD flat screen, and this could end up being an issue for me. I just hope it’s not a game breaker for me, even though I have loads of unlockables and extra content because of pre-order and pre-launch activities. Our EB Games location was not open for the Midnight Launch, so I will wait patiently for the call that our Dragon Age 2 Signature Edition (x2 for 2 360s) order is ready to pick up.

“I am very proud of the bold, ambitious direction our team took with Dragon Age II, which I think is some of the best work yet from BioWare,” said Dr. Ray Muzyka, co-founder and Group General Manager of BioWare and Senior Vice President of Electronic Arts. “The Dragon Age team built on their success with Dragon Age: Origins and also focused on innovation for our players, delivering better combat, creating an incredible new art style and introducing a dynamic storytelling technique to really raise the bar for both the franchise and the genre.”

Dragon Age II allows gamers to experience the rise to power of Hawke, a refugee who survives the destruction of his homeland, to become the Champion of Kirkwall. Hawke’s rise to power is shrouded in myth and rumor, with these mysteries being the driving force behind a story that spans an entire decade. Players will experience how the legend unfolds by gathering the deadliest of allies, making tough moral choices, and amassing fame and fortune as they seal their place in history and change the face of the Dragon Age universe forever.

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Also available today is “The Exiled Prince,” the first downloadable content pack for Dragon Age II. “The Exiled Prince” introduces the noble archer, Sebastian Vael, with players joining him in the middle of his quest to avenge the horrific murder of his family. Sworn to the priesthood as a boy, Sebastian is forced to re-enter the viper’s nest of princely politics when his family is brutally murdered, leaving him as the sole-surviving heir. Banding together with Sebastian and his unshakable loyalty and excellent aim, players will choose to either avenge Sebastian’s murdered family to reclaim his title or direct his holy vengeance on their own enemies in Kirkwall. In addition to this action-packed storyline, players will also be able to enlist Sebastian as a follower throughout a majority of Dragon Age II. “The Exiled Prince” will be available for purchase separately for $6.99 or 560 Microsoft Points. Note: if you pre-ordered early like we did, The Exiled Prince is included in the Signature Edition.

Razer also has a whole line-up of sweet looking Dragon Age 2 gear, and buying any of it will provide you with a code for The Ring of Whispers add-on.

Razer-DragonAge2

Not all of the items are available yet, according to the Razer store. I checked on the 360 controller, which will sell in the Razer store for $59.99, and it said “Currently Unavailable” as did the

Available for pre-order in the Razer store are:

* Dragon Age™ II Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard: $139.99 USD (March 16th)
* Dragon Age™ II Razer Goliathus Speed Edition mouse mat: $24.99 USD (March 25th)
* Dragon Age™ II Razer Messenger Laptop Bag: $89.99 USD (March 21st)

Currently Unavailable:

* Dragon Age™ II Razer DeathAdder: $69.99 USD
* Dragon Age™ II Razer Onza Tournament Edition Professional Gaming Controller for Xbox 360®: $59.99 USD

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7th March 2011

Big Sandwich Games Announces Next Round Of Release Dates

Upcoming Event: Toronto Twestival on March 24th.

Great Canadian Appathon 2011Competition: Student App Coders, don’t forget that the Great Canadian Appathon, presented by XMG Studio and the National Post, is THIS weekend. Register before noon on Wednesday, March 9th for a chance to win an Xbox 360 Kinect package! This is an awesome opportunity to learn more about app coding from the professionals, as well as a chance to win some major cash and other prizes, not to mention getting your app published. Please see the web site for complete details.

Meetup: The Vancouver Indie Dev Meetup is tomorrow night at The Helm.

RatRod StudioFormer Playdom veteran Shohag Al-Mamun has joined Ratrod Studio Inc. as Chief Technology Officer. Shohag has several years of experience in video game development and held important roles for well established companies.

“With Shohag`s experience in various fields including games that launched on the social and mobile platforms, Shohag will be an important asset for Ratrod which will allow us to tap into a different type of market,” says Pat Toulouse, Ratrod Studio Inc. President.

After completing a bachelor degree in computer science and engineering, Shohag started his career at Deep Red Studio Ltd. where he was hired to develop triple-A social themed simulation games. He then worked at Playdom as lead developer where he was managing his team during the production of popular Facebook and iPhone social games such as TikiFarm, Verdonia, High School and MobAir, to name a few.

With a solid technical background, senior programming skills and plenty of experience in the gaming field, Shohag will be responsible for managing our day-to-day game development operations. His dedication, passion and knowledge of the industry will allow us to develop high quality content dedicated to the social and mobile space.

Big Sandwich GamesBig Sandwich Games has announced the release dates for upcoming versions of their critically acclaimed strategy arcade game HOARD™, which puts players in control of an ambitious dragon bent on gathering large mounds of gold while burning medieval villages, kidnapping princesses and roasting thieves.Hoard-Screenshot

HOARD™ will release on PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) system in North America on March 22, retailing for $9.99.  It will follow on PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and PSP system in Europe in early April.  Pricing is yet to be announced.  The PlayStation®3 system version is already available for purchase in North America for $14.99.  All versions feature over 35 levels and 100+ badges to earn.

The game’s innovative design and addictive combination of action and strategy earned it a “Best Quick Fix” award and a nomination for “Best Competitive Multiplayer” in IGN’s Best of 2010 Awards.  We haven’t had a look at the game yet, but Joystiq says “HOARD’s gameplay shines,” and 1UP reports “the game hides a surprising layer of complexity and strategy.”  Ars Technica quips it “will keep you scorching villages for hours on end.”

Colba.Net Telecom Inc., through its Quebec subsidiary Colba.Net Inc.,  is proceeding to launch and offer in 2011 colbaits new Internet Protocol Television (“IPTV”) service. This follows a recent decision by the CRTC th approve the application by Colba.Net for a broadcasting license to operate a Class 1 terrestrial broadcasting distribution undertaking to serve the Montreal Island. Colba.net footprint currently covers approximately 400,000 households over the Island of Montreal – and on visiting their site, I see the company offers internet with no throttling and no limits. I wish we had that option in our neighbourhood, but instead we have a choice of Telus or Shaw.

At launch, the new IPTV service will offer several high-definition channels, some international channels, some of the most popular American channels as well as unlimited Internet access to websites of movies and TV episodes from NetFlix, AppleTV and TOU.TV for example. The new service will be offered at $19.95 per month for a 12 month fully paid upfront subscription.

“Once again, we are thrilled and proud to launch a new service such as IPTV at such a competitive monthly price. Our whole business model, core corporate values and reputation are based upon offering the best possible products and services at unbeatable prices. We strongly believe that both the industry and consumers stand to greatly benefit from increasing competition in our fast growing industry sector.” Said Mr. Joseph Bassili, President and Chief Executive Officer of Colba.Net.

Kik Interactive has closed an $8 million round of Series A funding with RRE Ventures, Spark Capital, and Union kik interactiveSquare Ventures. Kik also announced that Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures) and Adam Ludwin (RRE Ventures) are joining the company’s Board of Directors.

The new funding positions the company for its next phase of development, which includes the launch of new group messaging and picture sharing features. Following its explosive launch in October 2010, Kik Messenger is being used by more than three million people due to its speed, reliability, and unique user experience.

“Kik is a fast, simple, and elegant solution to cross device mobile messaging which we think is one of the most exciting investment opportunities right now,” said Fred Wilson, partner at Union Square Ventures.  “We believe the Kik team has shown that they understand how to deliver the right set of features in the right package and we are excited about working with them to build the mobile messaging marketplace.”

Kik also released a new version of Kik Messenger today for iOS and Android devices that features real-time group chat and picture sharing. Kik’s group chat makes it extremely simple to add anyone to a conversation on the fly. Up to ten people can be included in a group.

Kik Messenger’s new picture sharing features allows users to share what they’re seeing with the click of a button.  Other picture sharing applications are essentially a file transfer, while Kik’s photo sharing capability is built around the idea of visually connecting people in real time. “It puts you right there with them, letting you see what they see as it happens,” Livingston added.

Kik will be a highly visible presence at the upcoming SXSW conference this week. Kik will be offering a free real-time concierge service for conference goers.  Users can add “SXSW” to their Kik contacts and ask any question they might have, from what time a panel is starting to how late Torchy’s Tacos will be open. A real person will respond with Kik and answer the question in real time.

voice mobilityVancouver-based developer and provider of carrier and enterprise messaging solutions Voice Mobility International, Inc. has closed the debenture financing that was previously announced on February 2nd and 15th, 2011, for proceeds of $580,000.

In connection with the closing of the financing, the Company is also pleased to announce that it has completed the acquisition of all of the assets of Tagline Communications Inc. for total consideration of $425,000 and the issuance of 1,000,000 common shares of the Company.

The debentures are secured, bear interest at 12% per annum, and have a term of four months. As consideration for the debenture financing, the Company issued 1,500,000 common shares to an arm’s length party. The Company has also settled $87,500 in outstanding debt through the issuance of 875,000 common shares at a deemed price of $0.10 per common share. The balance of the proceeds of the debenture financing are being used to settle existing indebtedness, and for working capital purposes.

“We are taking a step by step, methodical approach to executing on our stated strategy. With the strengthening of our balance sheet brought by the closing of the AVST transaction in February, 2011, we are now commencing our strategy of acquiring Cloud based unified communications (“UC”) service providers. Each acquisition will lead us further along the path to profitability and value for our shareholders,” commented Jay Hutton, CEO of VMI. “We are pleased that we were also able to take the opportunity to eliminate some of our debt in this transaction and will continue efforts to improve our financial position and grow our business through acquisition. The Tagline transaction is the first step in this acquisition strategy. We remain committed to the growth strategy that we communicated late last year.”

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7th March 2011

Telefilm Takes Canadians On A Mission To SXSW

Telefilm CanadaTelefilm Canada is pleased to announce its support of 12 Canadian companies attending the 2011 South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Film Conference and Festival and SXSW Interactive taking place in Austin, Texas from March 11th to 19th. With a total of 36,000 participants last year, SXSW conferences and festivals offer a convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies that foster creative and professional growth alike.

This year Telefilm is piloting a multiplatform mission to SXSW that aims to enhance Canadian participants’ multiplatform production skills and competencies, and support international partnership opportunities for Canadian film and television producers and distributors, and interactive digital media producers.
Telefilm Canada will provide the 12 SXSW film and interactive newcomer participants with a $1,500 grant to be put toward their event registration, travel and accommodation costs. A series of orientation sessions hosted by SXSW veteran and two-time Emmy Award®-winning principal of Stitch Media, Evan Jones, have also been organized to provide participants with an experienced SXSW guide and mentor to help them get the most out of their time in Austin.

“Helping Canadian film and interactive producers attend and leverage the South by Southwest interactive and film conferences is part of Telefilm’s renewed focus on helping Canada’s content creators expand their knowledge and skill sets so they can continue developing groundbreaking products that appeal to audiences here and abroad,” said Florence Moureaux, Telefilm’s Interim Director, National and International Business Development. “This focus helps build a competitive industry in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace.”

Geoff Morrison, Director-Producer of Toronto-based FilmCAN NPP Films, added: “SXSW is possibly the best festival and conference in the world for bringing together artists and professionals who think, create and do business across multiple platforms. We’re thrilled to attend and take advantage of SXSW’s first-rate panels and networking opportunities – especially since we are also premiering the National Parks Project – our new film, music, television and interactive project – at the SXSW Film Festival. Telefilm’s SXSW pilot project will put us on excellent footing to seek increased sales and distribution for the NPP, and production partners for our next project.”

Ziad Touma, President-Producer of Montreal-based Couzin Films, further added: “I’ve wanted to attend SXSW ever since one of our project’s website was nominated for Best Extreme Entertainment Site at SXSW 2003. With Telefilm Canada’s support this year, I look forward to experiencing the festival and presenting Alone All Together – our latest Canada Media Fund-financed, detective-style, alternate reality game. Through its open-sourced exchanges on social networking and forward-thinking panels on digital storytelling, SXSW will inspire the creativity and marketability of our projects and be an integral part of our success.”

Canadian film and interactive producers attending SXSW 2011 with financial support from Telefilm:

sxsw-canadaCanadian delegates who will be shining at SXSW 2011 include:

  • Telefilm pilot-project mentor Evan Jones of Halifax-based Stitch Media will be a speaker at SXSW Interactive. Evan pitched Stitch’s new online comedy series Moderation Town and won the 2011 nextMEDIA Digital Launch Pad event for most cutting-edge online content, web platforms and tech solutions available on the web at the annual NATPE/Content FirstMarket and Conference in Miami.
  • Vancouver’s Smoking Gun Interactive is nominated in the SXSW Interactive Awards’ Experimental category for its 2009 alternate reality game X that Keith Stuart of the UK’s Guardian said “may just show the way to the future of videogame story telling.”
  • Toronto’s FilmCan NPP Films will see some short films from its National Parks Project (NPP) featured in a live musical event where screenings are accompanied by live performances of pieces composed and recorded in the parks by many of the artists who participated in the project. The NPP is a ground-breaking collaborative film, music, television and new media project featuring contributions by more than 50 of Canada’s most acclaimed filmmakers and musicians, all celebrating the inspirational beauty of Canada’s national parks.

sxsw-CanadianFilms

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7th March 2011

Telus Recycles Press Releases With Swapped Out Locations

I might be more inclined to believe Telus was doing wonderful things for our infrastructure if this press release wasn’t almost identical to one the company sent out last week, except that one touted the work they were doing in Alberta and they’re spending an million more in BC than they did in Alberta. I’m sure that Telus isn’t the only corporation that recycles press releases for different areas, this is just the first time I’ve noticed it – maybe because of the UBB and price-gouging practices of the Telecos and the fact that I am not a Telus fan…or maybe I’m just cranky today.

TelusTELUS is investing $670 million across British Columbia this year to further expand and enhance its wireless and wireline networks. This year’s network investment builds upon the $24 billion TELUS has invested in its operations and technology in the province in the last 10 years. (versus 23 billion in Alberta)

In 2011, TELUS will continue to invest in its Optik TV and high-speed Internet services as it lays thousands of kilometres of fibre optic lines to support the growing demand in the province. The company will also deliver British Columbians access to even better and faster wireless broadband services by installing 76 new cell sites and introducing HSPA+ Dual Cell technology, one of the most advanced wireless technologies in the world.

After a decade of focused investment in leading-edge technology TELUS has:

* Extended TELUS wireless service to 99 per cent of B.C.’s (Alberta’s) population. With the introduction of a world-leading 4G wireless network offering manufacturer rated peak download speeds of up to 21 megabits per second – and soon up to 42 megabits per second* – British Columbians (and Albertans) have access to extremely fast wireless high-speed Internet anywhere within TELUS’ vast network coverage area. (does this include mountainous areas like the Fraser Canyon & the Coquihalla?)
* Made wireline broadband available to 95 per cent of B.C. (Alberta) households, including a selection of Internet plans with speeds up to 25 megabits per second. The company also expanded availability of TELUS’ Optik TV to more than 1 million households across the province. (same number in Alberta)
* By the end of last year, 314,000 customers in British Columbia, Alberta and Eastern Quebec had switched their TV service to TELUS. (last week they implied 314 000 Albertans had switched)
* Enabled healthcare institutions to improve the flow of information across the continuum of care through electronic health records accessible on both wireless and wireline networks. Recently, 2000 TELUS team members and their families began a pilot of TELUS Health Space; paving the way for millions of Canadians to take control of their own health records with the ultimate goal of shifting the focus from remediation to prevention of illness.

“Our planned $670 million investment this year in advanced communications technology continues TELUS’ track record of providing British Columbians (Albertans) with access to telecommunications and entertainment services that are the envy of the world,” said Darren Entwistle, TELUS President and CEO (last week he said that Telus had a proud history of providing service to Albertans. I guess that pride does not extend to the west coast). “This year, TELUS will continue to bring the innovations of Optik TV and faster Internet speeds to even more British Columbians (and Albertans). We will continue to bring citizens faster wireless broadband services as we introduce HSPA+ Dual Cell technology, one of the most advanced wireless technologies in the world, to more B.C. (Alberta) communities. TELUS is also committed to working with all levels of government in B.C. (and Alberta) to advance the provision of life-changing healthcare and education services over our networks.”

By the end of 2010, TELUS had installed the infrastructure necessary to bring wireline broadband Internet speeds of up to 25 megabits per second and Optik TV to more than 1 million households in the Vancouver Lower Mainland, Victoria, Campbell River, Whistler, Kelowna, Vernon and Prince George (and more than 1 million households in Alberta communities including Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, to name a few). Optik TV runs over a high-speed Internet connection, providing customers with game-changing services and features as well as more than 480 channels, including 85 in High Definition (HD). Read the rest of this entry »

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4th March 2011

First Round Of Canada Media Fund Applications Available for 2011-12

Canada Media FundThe Canada Media Fund has just announced that the 2011-12 Application Forms for the Experimental Stream as well as the following Convergent Streams are now available:

Performance Envelope Program
Aboriginal Program
Francophone Minority Program
English POV Program
Diverse Languages Program
English Production Incentive

The CMF would like you to note that the Convergent Development and Convergent Versioning forms will be available at a later date. To download the forms for either Convergent or Experimental funding, go to the “Create” section of the CMF Site.

Programs are listed in the left column. Simply click on the desired program and select “Guidelines & Application”. The application form is in the right column under “Downloads”. The CMF suggests that you consult the 2011-2012 Guidelines before filling out the application form (see “Documents” in the right column). You can also consult the “Summary of Changes in the 2011-2012 Guidelines” PDF and/or view the February 23 webcast on the same topic. Note that site registration is required to view the webcast. The CMF will send out a notice when these forms are available on eTelefilm, and the deadlines for each section have been posted online.

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4th March 2011

Great Opportunities For Digital Developers

Submit: This is the last week for Award Nomination Submissions for the BC Technology Awards. The deadline is March 11th.
Enter: The PayPal X Developer Challenge for Android. Cash and publishing up for grabs, see the Challenge Rules for complete details.
Enter: The Great Canadian Appathon, a 48-hour hackathon where students across the country will compete for some incredible cash prizes and publishing opportunities this March 11th – 13th. Register now. Great Canadian Appathon 2011The Great Canadian Appathon is primarily an online event, but there are 6 schools across the country who will be hosting in-house events with free food, representatives from the sponsoring companies and more! There will be expert developers from XMG Studio at each of these locations to help provide insight into the mobile game development process as well as free SWAG bags for the first 100 people to show up at a hub location. The six hosted locations are: triOS College, UBC, Carleton University, Nova Scotia Community College, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, University of Waterloo, open mediaConcordia University and TELUS House Toronto.
Participate: OpenMedia will be talking with the Honourable Tony Clement, the Minister of Industry, on March 8th and they would like to know if there are any questions you would them to ask regarding User Based Billing and Canada’s Digital Economy. Visit the OpenMedia site to find out how you can get involved.

TVOTVO has launched two free apps for BlackBerry® smartphones for early learners and school aged- kids. Both games support learning objectives from the Ontario school curriculum, have been teacher and classroom tested and are designed for BlackBerry® smartphone devices with OS 5.0 and higher.

Polka Dot Shorts is a sequence matching game for kids aged 2-5 that supports the early-learning and kindergarten math curriculum. The app features TVO’s beloved children’s character Polkaroo and challenges players to find a sequence of dots and rewards them for the correct answer.
flower frenzy
Flower Frenzy is an entertaining and educational game with three levels of progressive difficulty that uses pictures of flowers to help kids ages 6-11 learn to create sequences. Both Polka Dot Shorts and Flower Frenzy teach kids pre-cursors to patterning skills which help build the foundational knowledge required for mathematics in later years.

TVO is also a proud member of the BlackBerry® Alliance Program which gives TVO access to a wide array of benefits to help support, market and distribute their applications for BlackBerry smartphones. Both games were developed with the expert advice of TVO’s in-house educator, and BlackBerry Alliance Program partner Sweet Caesar.

Loud Crow InteractiveSpeaking of interactive entertainment for kids, Loud Crow Interactive has just released its latest eBook to the iTunes App Store. Sandra Boynton’s The Going To Bed Book is available now for the iPhone and iPod Touch ($1.99 USD) and the iPad ($2.99 USD).

The Going to Bed Book app has all the magic and appeal of a traditional pop-up book, offering lively interactivity and thoroughly mesmerizing discovery. Imagine! An ark that rocks. Characters that respond to touch with sound and movement. Tap water that turns on and off, and steam that fogs the screen. Can you write your name in the steam? Of course! There are teeth to brush, and a group exercise session with ten pajama-clad animals (big and small) each with its own unique exercise. Help the little piggy turn off the lights, then rock to sleep to the music box sound of twinkling stars. There’s something wonderful to discover on every page.

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The Going To Bed Book allows young readers to touch, pull, and turn animals and objects to make them move, or they can tilt the device to watch things slide and cascade. The ebook is narrated by Billy J. Kramer and features the same original text and illustrations as that found in the actual board book. Enable the “Big Guy Reads It” option with word highlighting to help improve reading skills, or use “I want to read it myself” and hear individual words pronounced with the tap of a finger.

kerberos productionsVancouver developer Kerberos Studios has unravelled more mysteries of the universe in a new video interview with Martin Cirulis, the lead designer of Sword of the Stars II: The Lords of Winter, sequel to Kerberos’ hit 4X science fiction strategy game.

Cirulis gives an introduction to the dangerous Lords of Winter and underlines how the Sword of the Stars II universe has evolved since the first game. Learn how Kerberos uses mechanics to enhance narrative and get an introduction to what the new Mars 2 engine brings to the table. Cirulis also talks about the different ways to kill your enemies and how diplomacy has evolved to take into account the needs of an established empire.

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A Bigger, better, stronger, faster Sword of the Stars II will be coming to your corner of the galaxy this autumn.

battlegoat studiosAnother Canadian-made game in the Paradox Interactive stable is Supreme Ruler: Cold War, and BattleGoat Studios has released a new developer interview for this upcoming historical grand strategy title. In this latest video, BattleGoat Studios Lead Designer David Thompson gives players a bit of insight to what they can look forward to in the latest addition to the Supreme Ruler series.

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Supreme Ruler: Cold War is the next installment in the Supreme Ruler series and gives players control over a 1950’s United States or Soviet Union as they try to lead their country to glory. Players make economic, diplomatic, domestic, and military decisions to grow and modernize their nation to ensure its place atop the rest of the world.

scotiabankScotiabank, in partnership with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), have launched the Small Business Big Impact Challenge, which shines a spotlight on small business owners who are positively impacting their communities in the areas of employment, innovative products and services, as well as leadership.

“At Scotiabank, we recognize that small businesses play a vital role in building strong communities. Much more than just a place to purchase food or to get a car serviced, they contribute in ways which make our communities better places to live, for each one of us,” said Islay McGlynn, Managing Director and Head, Scotiabank Small Business. “With the Small Business Big Impact Challenge, we want to recognize and reward small business owners who have made an impact on their community by going above and beyond to meet not only the needs of their customers and employees, but the community at large.”

“Small businesses are small in name only,” commented Aron Gampel, Deputy Chief Economist, Scotiabank. “Small businesses are the backbone of the Canadian economy, providing big support to the nation’s G7-leading performance. Small businesses are not only big generators of jobs in goods and services throughout the country, but they are also big contributors to the investments and exports that are important drivers of growth.”

To qualify for the Small Business Big Impact Challenge, entrants must demonstrate how their business has made a difference in the community where they live and work in one of the following three categories:

  • Providing Employment: Implementing employment practices that reflect and support community needs as well as employment opportunities.
  • Offering Products or Services: Creating new industries or ways of doing business, or offering unique products or services that benefit their community.
  • Demonstrating Leadership: Taking a leadership role in initiatives for their community that ultimately makes it a better place to live and work.

Beyond their indispensable role as job creators and innovators all across Canada, small businesses start as the heart and soul of their neighbourhoods and have a hugely positive impact on community prosperity and identity,” enthused CFIB president, Catherine Swift. “In conjunction with CFIB’s 40th anniversary and during 2011, the federally designated Year of the Entrepreneur, we are delighted to be partnering with Scotiabank in support of those small business owners who stand out amongst an already outstanding group of peers.”

The challenge ends on April 30, 2011. All Canadians are encouraged to visit the website as everyone can vote for their favourite small business. The top 15 entries, five in each category, will be presented and evaluated by the Expert Small Business Judging Panel, which will then select the three finalists to be awarded $10,000 each.

The Expert Small Business Judging Panel consists of:

  • Islay McGlynn, Director and Head Small Business, Scotiabank;
  • Kaz Flinn, Vice-President Corporate Social Responsibility, Scotiabank;
  • Catherine Swift, CEO, CFIB;
  • Tom Sloan, Vice President Small Business and Commercial Markets, Export Development Canada; and
  • Greig Clark, PROFIT Magazine columnist, and founder of College Pro Painters.

Government of CanadaThe Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, welcomes the passage by Parliament of Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service. The legislation will help protect children from online sexual exploitation.

“The creation and distribution of child pornography is an unspeakable crime which will not be tolerated in Canada,” said Minister Nicholson. “Our legislation will assist police in tracking down Internet sexual predators, The Honourable Robert Nicholson Minister of Justiceand rescuing children from sexual exploitation.”

In September 2008, the Federal/Provincial/Territorial ministers responsible for Justice agreed that Canada’s response to child pornography could be enhanced by federal legislation establishing mandatory reporting of online child pornography by providers of Internet services.

Bill C-22 applies to suppliers of Internet services to the public, including those who provide electronic mail services, Internet content hosting services, and social networking sites. It requires them to:

  • Report, to a designated agency, tips they receive regarding Web sites where child pornography may be available to the public; and
  • Notify police and safeguard evidence if they believe that a child pornography offence has been committed using an Internet service that they provide.

Failure to comply with the duties under the legislation will constitute an offence punishable by graduated fines. For individuals (sole proprietorships), the maximum penalty is a fine of $1,000 for a first offence; $5,000 for a second offence; and for third and subsequent offences $10,000 or six months imprisonment, or both. For corporations and other entities, the maximum fines are $10,000 for a first offence; $50,000 for a second offence; and $100,000 for third and subsequent offences.

“We all have a role to play in the protection of children from sexual predators,” said Minister Nicholson. “This legislation will improve the collaboration between internet service providers and police to better protect children from online sexual exploitation.”

The Canadian Council of Learning (CCL) has launched a new online tool that allows users to measure the state of Canadian Council on Learningtwo crucial components of financial literacy—numeracy and document literacy—in more than 52,000 neighbourhoods and communities across the country.

The two new interactive maps produced by CCL, in partnership with DataAngel Policy Research Inc., provide literacy profiles for neighbourhoods across Canada, highlighting at-risk communities where residents lack the basic literacy skills needed in today’s knowledge-based society. The maps were produced using estimates generated by DataAngel Policy Research Inc. using data from the 2003 International Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (IALSS) conducted by Statistics Canada and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the 2006 Canadian Census. These new literacy domains add to earlier maps CCL released on health literacy and prose literacy.

The results show that 55 percent of adult Canadians (aged 16 and over) had low levels of numeracy and 49 percent had low levels of document literacy. (This is based on the number of people who scored below Level 3 on the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS), a survey conducted by Statistics Canada and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.)

Numeracy and document literacy are essential parts of what many consider “basic literacy” and provide a key foundation in developing a more sophisticated set of financial literacy skills.

“Canadians are increasingly faced with a complex array of financial decisions in their everyday lives—from choosing a mortgage and retirement planning to managing consumer debt and funding post-secondary education,” says Dr. Paul Cappon, President and CEO of CCL. “Yet, many Canadians do not have the financial literacy skills needed to make informed decisions related to money and investment.”

Numeracy is the ability to use basic math skills in everyday life. It includes such skills as calculating a tip at a restaurant, balancing a bank account or determining the amount of interest on a loan from an advertisement. Document literacy is the ability to find and use information in forms, charts, graphs and other tables. Financial literacy involves the use of multiple literacies—prose, document, numeracy—often simultaneously.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines five levels of literacy with level 1 being the lowest and level 5 being the highest. Level 3 is internationally accepted as the level of literacy considered necessary for meeting the demands of everyday life and work in an information-based society.

“The first step in any process of improvement is to be able to accurately measure change over time. CCL’s innovative maps help Canadian communities, and the country as a whole, determine current literacy levels,” says Cappon. “I hope that decision-makers and individuals throughout Canada will use these maps for the purpose of continuous improvement.”

 

Canadians should remember that they are not alone when they surf the Web, and that others may be using the Internet for malicious purposes. As part of Fraud Prevention Month, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) reminds Canadians of the importance of protecting themselves from Internet and email fraud.“Fraud can take many forms. Nobody is safe from it, not even the most knowledgeable consumer,” says FCAC Commissioner Ursula Menke. One common form of fraud is called “phishing”, where a victim receives a fraudulent email that appears to come from a legitimate organization, such as a Government of Canada department or the victim’s own financial institution. The email instructs the consumer to visit a false website, download fraudulent content or provide confidential personal information.

With your personal information, such as your date of birth, passwords, Social Insurance Number, credit card or bank account information, fraudsters can use your credit card accounts or get new credit cards, and make purchases that you might be held responsible for. If your personal information falls into the wrong hands, you could even become a victim of identity theft.

How can you avoid falling victim to Internet or email fraud?

  • Never give out personal information over the Internet unless you trust the site you are on. Check that there is a padlock icon in the Web browser window and that the electronic address begins with “https://”.
  • Open a single browser window at a time when using online banking, and don’t forget to clear your computer’s memory cache when done.
  • Never allow your computer to remember your passwords; change passwords regularly and do not share them with anyone. You can be held responsible for unauthorized transactions on your bank account if you are found to have divulged information about your account, such as your password or personal identification number (PIN).
  • Make sure your computer’s antivirus protection is up to date and use the latest version of your Web browser.
  • Check to make sure that the Internet address provided in the emails you receive is related to the subject of the emails.
  • Access websites using the address bar. Never click on links provided in emails.

FCAC also publishes tip sheets to help Canadian consumers protect themselves against and prevent identity theft, credit card fraud, and fraudulent e-mails and telephone calls. In a video success story, Ken MacDonald, Crime Prevention Coordinator with the New Glasgow Police Service in Nova Scotia, offers some advice about preventing telephone fraud and identity theft. FCAC’s publications and tip sheets are available on the Agency’s website at moneytools.ca.

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4th March 2011

Government-funded 3D Gaming Initiative Enters New Dimension in Ontario

OntarioThe building blocks for the next generation of stereoscopic three-dimensional (S-3D) gaming are being put in place thanks to a major funding announcement by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture through the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s (OMDC) Entertainment and Creative Cluster Partnerships Fund along with support from Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE).

Together, OMDC, OCE, industry and academic partners will provide more than $635,000 in funding to Interactive Gaming Ontario 3D (iGO3D), a new collaborative effort that brings together the expertise of five universities, one college and a wide range of gaming industry partners whose mission is to drive the growth of the province’s digital media content industry. iGO3D’s primary partner is the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), where Dr. Andrew Hogue, assistant professor, Faculty of Business and Information Technology will serve as iGO3D project leader.

“We thank the Ontario Media Development Corporation and Ontario Centres of Excellence for their investments in this important and timely initiative,” said Dr. Michael Owen, associate provost, Research at UOIT. “The collaboration between universities, colleges and industry partners will create an advantage for Ontario’s gaming industry, enhance their competitiveness and provide learning opportunities for our students who will be the next generation of game developers and entrepreneurs.”

iGO3D’s research efforts will include investigative issues related to comfort, effectiveness, audio and how the stereoscopic viewing experience impacts gameplay from both the player’s and developer’s perspectives. Other aspects of iGO3D’s mandate include development of a game test facility, further S-3D vision and auditory research with a view to establishing game design parameters and disseminating this information to Ontario’s gaming industry through focused webinars and conferences.

In addition to UOIT, additional partnering institutions include York University, the University of Waterloo, University of Western Ontario, the Ontario College of Arts and Design University (OCADU) and George Brown College. Industry partners include The S-3D Gaming Alliance (S3DGA), Electronic Arts Canada, Bedlam Games, Big Blue Bubble, Digital Extremes, Interactive Ontario and Junction VFX.

“Modern 3D video games are designed according to research done on 3D movies and gamer opinion studies are telling us this isn’t the right way to go,” said Neil Schneider, executive director, S3DGA. “Ineffective stereoscopic 3D viewing negatively impacts hardware sales, game sales and ultimately customer satisfaction. iGO3D will provide us with the ability to change all that with repeatable research and direct industry involvement.”

While iGO3D was founded as a research platform for stereoscopic 3D games on desktop displays and 3D HDTVs, efforts are in place to add a specialized division for mobile 3D gaming markets on smart phones, mobile gaming devices and tablets. Interested game developers and technology enablers are encouraged to contact the S3DGA for available iGO3D partnership and sponsorship opportunities.

S3DGA is the official voice and standards body for stereoscopic 3D gaming, and as a non-profit organization, it provides for standards discussions, consumer promotion, education, and awareness. S3GDA’s membership is comprised of organizations and individuals with an interest in developing S-3D hardware and software solutions.

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4th March 2011

Protect Yourself From Internet and Email Fraud

As a reminder that March is Fraud Prevention Month, here is another post that is full of tips and links for you to share, because knowledge will keep you from becoming a victim, and you can never know too much when it comes to fraud prevention.

Government of CanadaCanadians should remember that they are not alone when they surf the Web, and that others may be using the Internet for malicious purposes. As part of Fraud Prevention Month, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) reminds Canadians of the importance of protecting themselves from Internet and email fraud.

“Fraud can take many forms. Nobody is safe from it, not even the most knowledgeable consumer,” says FCAC Commissioner Ursula Menke. One common form of fraud is called “phishing”, where a victim receives a fraudulent email that appears to come from a legitimate organization, such as a Government of Canada department or the victim’s own financial institution. The email instructs the consumer to visit a false website, download fraudulent content or provide confidential personal information.

FCAC also publishes tip sheets to help Canadian consumers protect themselves against and prevent identity theft, credit card fraud, and fraudulent e-mails and telephone calls. In a video success story, Ken MacDonald, Crime Prevention Coordinator with the New Glasgow Police Service in Nova Scotia, offers some advice about preventing telephone fraud and identity theft. FCAC’s publications and tip sheets are available on the Agency’s website at moneytools.ca.

With your personal information, such as your date of birth, passwords, Social Insurance Number, credit card or bank account information, fraudsters can use your credit card accounts or get new credit cards, and make purchases that you might be held responsible for. If your personal information falls into the wrong hands, you could even become a victim of identity theft.

How can you avoid falling victim to Internet or email fraud?

  • Never give out personal information over the Internet unless you trust the site you are on. Check that there is a padlock icon in the Web browser window and that the electronic address begins with “https://”.
  • Open a single browser window at a time when using online banking, and don’t forget to clear your computer’s memory cache when done.
  • Never allow your computer to remember your passwords; change passwords regularly and do not share them with anyone. You can be held responsible for unauthorized transactions on your bank account if you are found to have divulged information about your account, such as your password or personal identification number (PIN).
  • Make sure your computer’s antivirus protection is up to date and use the latest version of your Web browser.
  • Check to make sure that the Internet address provided in the emails you receive is related to the subject of the emails.
  • Access websites using the address bar. Never click on links provided in emails.

 

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3rd March 2011

Social Media and Geek Culture Inching Into Canadian Daily Life

Event: Early Registration for Canada 3.0 2011 has been extended until March 17th.
From GDC 2011: Congratulations to the Bioware Mass Effect 2 team for picking up the Best Writing award at the GDC Choice Awards and to the University of Montreal for winning at the IGF Awards with FRACT being named as the top Student Game.

Big Blue BubbleCatching up with Big Blue Bubble this morning, the studio has released Geeks Unleashed to the Mac App Store for $3.99 USD. This game is a strategic puzzle game that pits the player against some of the smartest, yet geekiest opponents on the planet. The storyline, which for some reason makes me think of Big Bang Theory, follows the player as they enter a geeks unleashedcollecting convention, attempting to accumulate collectibles from different categories such as Sci-Fi, Fashion, Comics, Plush Toys and Role Playing Games.

Another popular Big Blue Bubble game also made its debut on the Mac App Store this week. Home Sweet Home, available now for $4.99 USD, is a game that invites you to play Interior Designer. You choose the furniture, patterns, and colors to create a masterpiece that will blow your client away. You can email photos of your newly designed rooms to yourself or your friends, and you can also replay levels or your designs.  With simple controls, a fun graphical style, and an easy to use interface, Home Sweet Home allows you to nurture your creative side.

Government of CanadaCitizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney has launched a fun and educational Facebook application that tests your knowledge of Canada’s history, values, symbols and political institutions. The quiz can also be downloaded to mobile devices like iPhone, Blackberry and Android. TheMP Jason Kenney 20 questions are randomly selected from a bank of 122 questions, allowing the quiz to be played more than once.

“Download the app, take the quiz, and share it with your friends,” Kenney said. “You might be surprised to find out just how Canadian you are!”

The initiative is part of an on-line resource called “A Fun Path to Learning” that was launched in April 2010 by Citizenship and Immigration Canada for students and teachers. The educational tool draws from material in the popular new citizenship study guide Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship and aims to help students from grades five to 12 learn about Canada’s history and political institutions through games and activities. There are a number of learning resources on the Youth page, making learning about Canada’s history fun.

The “How Canadian Are You, Eh?” application is a cross platform application that can be found within Facebook, at the iTunes app store, in the Blackberry app world, and in the Android marketplace.

radian6Radian6 has announced Radian6 for Salesforce, bringing new social capabilities to the Salesforce Service Cloud experience. Monitoring the overwhelming volume of social conversations that matter to enterprises, and connecting them to existing sales, service and marketing processes is a major challenge for companies today. To address this challenge, the Radian6 integration will connect the social capabilities within both the Salesforce Service Cloud and the Radian6 platform, enabling enhanced social customer service.

The Radian6 platform monitors social media, including blogs, forums, comments, photo and video sharing sites, Twitter, public content within Facebook and more. Radian6 leads the industry with its ability to surface social metrics on everything it gathers, enabling valuable time savings through sorting and prioritization. With its pending arrival on the AppExchange, Radian6 for Salesforce will let agents work entirely within the Service Cloud, with fully automated case creation that adds social media content to Salesforce based on the customizable Radian6 workflow rules engine.

In addition to the recently added feature that allows users to interact with Salesforce Chatter directly within Radian6 Engagement Console™ additional capabilities that leverage the Service Cloud will include the ability to create new or view existing cases, leads and contacts from within the Radian6 Engagement Console™. Radian6 for Salesforce is currently scheduled to be available to early adopters in April 2011 while a full public release is currently scheduled for Q3 of calendar year 2011.

zipzoomzipzoom is a brand new patent-pending anonymous communication technology changing the way consumers and businesses find each other. The service was officially launched today in Simcoe County, choosing Barrie because it is one of the fastest growing cities in North America.

“A dynamic, friendly and booming community like Barrie is the perfect place to launch this revolutionary service,” said Reg DesRosiers, the founder of zipzoom.com. “We offer residents the ability to make quick, informed decisions about any products or services they need, while also providing new streams of customers to Barrie’s local businesses and salespeople.”

zipzoom.com recently launched a beta version of its site, which acts like a personal shopper for overwhelmed consumers. zipzoom.com-registered consumers just make an anonymous personal inquiry and zipzoom immediately, through its exclusive communication platform, sends the inquiry to all relevant contacts and businesses using a brilliantly designed product keyword search association, saving time, money and effort. Businesses and salespeople also benefit by having direct access to “ready-to-buy” customers 24/7 without increasing their advertising costs. zipzoom is free of charge to register for consumers, businesses, service providers and salespeople. zipzoom finally answers the question consumers ask themselves every day: “How can I find the best deal, person or business to work with?” On the vendor side: “How do I consistently find ‘ready-to-buy’ customers?”

In addition, zipzoom is offering weekly giveaways via their social media networks on Twitter and Facebook, where randomly chosen registered vendors will receive a no-charge lifetime membership subscription.

original joe'sStaying true to its friendly, down-to-earth and down the street philosophy, Original Joe’s has announced that, starting today, it will be providing a free pound of wings to each individual who ‘likes‘ them on Facebook.

“Each person who decides to participate by liking Original Joe’s on Facebook will be able to print off a coupon which they can redeem at any of our 37 locations for a pound of wings on us,” says Derek Doke, President of Original Joe’s. “We appreciate the support and loyalty of our existing customers and this is one way to express our gratitude to our regulars while encouraging newcomers to find out for themselves why so many people choose Joe’s as their preferred neighbourhood pub.”

Joe’s is expecting thousands of individuals to take advantage of this promotion, and are prepared to give away up to $100,000 worth of wings (estimated Canadian dollar amount based on 10,000 pounds of wings and gift cards). With more than a dozen wing flavours available ranging from dill pickle, Caribbean jerk and industrial strength, to the more traditional honey garlic or salt and pepper, Joe’s has something for everyone.

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2nd March 2011

Women In Film Festival This Weekend In Vancouver

The 6th Annual Vancouver Women in Film Festival (VWIFF), presented by Women In Film & Television Vancouver (WIFTV), will be held from Friday, March 4 to Sunday March 6 at the VIFC Vancity Theatre on Seymour Street, with the Women In Film & Television International (WIFTI) short film screening on Tuesday, March 8th at Langara College to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Note: Advance online ticket sales close at midnight tonight, March 2nd.WIFV Film Festival 2011

“It’s been yet another tough year in the industry, yet women continue to thrive in front of and behind the cameras,” says Festival Director, Roslyn Muir. Telefilm Canada’s 2010 report on the state of women in the Canadian Feature Film Industry states that while women receive more training than men and attend film school in equal numbers, they work on lower budget films and have “less access” to public funds than their male counterparts.

Muir continues: “With the help of our volunteers, staff and sponsors, we’re very excited about this
year’s Vancouver Women in Film Festival. Submissions and audience numbers continue to grow every year and to me, that proves to me that there’s a need to have women’s stories seen, heard and celebrated in the public arena.” Five features and over 40 short films will be shown, made by both first-time and veteran filmmakers, and spanning all genres.

The festival opens on Friday, March 4 with the return of the Digital Media Forum panels during the
day, followed by Danishka Esterhazy’s Black Field, and the festival’s Opening Reception. The festival will also present the Spotlight Awards, the Legacy Awards, given to the top 3 BC filmmakers at the festival, and the Women in the Director’s Chair (WIDC) Feature Film Award, a $100,000 in-kind award administered by Creative Women Workshops Association. Other festival events include Pitching sessions, an Industry Showcase, the free WIDC Panel, Receptions, Film Screenings on Saturday and Sunday, as well as a Networking Lunch Presentation on “Making your first low budget feature.”

Other films of note include Canadian shorts in the Aboriginal Short Film Showcase, curated by Metis/Cree Director Barbara Hager:

  • Wendy Ord & Glen Samuel’s short film TORA, set in the Japanese Internment Camps in World War II and starring David Suzuki in his first acting role
  • Sisters in Arms, Beth Freeman’s feature documentary on three military women sent to fight in Afghanistan
  • A Window Looking In, Tara Hungerford’s short documentary profiling 12 BC-based artists, including William Gibson and Sarah McLachlan
  • John Zaritsky’s feature documentary Leave Them Laughing, on ALS-fated singer/comedienne Carla Zilbersmith
  • Katrin Bowen’s Amazon Falls.

CTV WIDC CAM Panel: Thriving on the Curve of Change: Moderated by Carol Whiteman (CWWA / WIDC), industry insiders including Trish Williams (CTV), John Dippong (Telefilm Canada), and MaryAnne Waterhouse (Anagram Pictures) will discuss the current shifts in the marketplace and what it now takes for content creators to tell their stories and sustain healthy careers while navigating the relentless curve of change. This panel is presented by Creative Women Workshops Association through the support of the CTV-CHUM Tangible Benefits and in collaboration with the Vancouver Women In Film Festival and WIFTV.

The Digital Media Forum takes place from 9:30am – 5:30pm on Friday, March 4th and is presented by the BC Film Commission and Telefilm Canada.

9:30 am – 11:00 am – Focus on Innovation: A group of visionary digital media professionals discuss the next-gen applications of technology. From the implementation of new communication technologies to the gamification of everyday life, the discussion will touch on how digital media will affect the future. Moderated by Justine Bizzochi. Panelists: Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin, Rochelle Grayson, Rae Hull.

11:15 am – 12:30 pm: New Trends in Social Media: Social media mavens, veterans and upstarts discuss the new trends in socializing and marketing. How can Twitter grow? Have Facebook members revolted against the marketing machine? What’s next?
Moderated by Sarah Muff. Panelists: Nadia Aly, Rebecca Coleman, Nimisha Mukerji.

1:30 pm – 2:45 pm: Start-Up Upstarts: Digital pioneers partnering in new technologies. Profiling women entrepreneurs in all areas of the digital realm: communication, gaming and social media marketing. Moderated by Danika Dinsmore. Panelists: Kirsten Forbes, Angel Pui, Moyra Rodger.

3:00 pm – 4:30 pm: Nice Work if You Can Get It: How do you turn your passion for digital media into a career? Where do you start and what skills do you need? Panelists include: an experienced game producer, a writer new to the gaming world, and a front-line social media marketer.
Moderated by Dina Grskovich. Panelists: Bryna Dabby, Bonnie Jean Mah, Melissa Wood.

4:30 pm – 5:30 pm: Networking Reception: Join panelists and industry professionals to continue the conversations in an informal atmosphere. Included with the purchase of a Digital Media Forum pass.

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