Archives For Technology

a man and woman stand in a crowded room

Andreas and Nele Zechel await the start of the Die Drei ??? (The Three ???) audiobook premiere at the Hamburg Planetarium (September 2014).

Update, Jan. 9: This piece was singled out in CBC radio’s December ratings report as part of a very strong end to the year. “The Spark story, ‘In Germany, audio books are insanely popular and the voice actors are rock stars’ earned 29,000 page views.”

Update, Dec. 17: I just got word that this piece was the driver for an excellent week on the Spark website where page views more than doubled from the previous week. The mini-documentary provided nearly two-thirds of the page views to the site for the week.


“Each year, Germans buy more audiobooks than e-books, and the voice actors are as big as rock stars. This past summer, 20,000 Germans filled a Berlin stadium just to listen to the most popular audiobook series. Tomas Urbina gets inside the audiobook craze.”

This mini-documentary originally aired on CBC radio’s Spark on November 30, 2014 and again on Wednesday, December 3. See the post and listen to the piece on Spark’s website, here.

The following report aired originally on CBC radio’s weekend newscast The World This Weekend, on November 1, 2014. It is a radio version of a story I reported for The Local Germany.

Canada is one of the world’s most wired countries, but some rural areas are still waiting to get high speed internet. They may have something to learn from Germany. A group of tiny villages has managed to go digital and they’re helping others step it up. Tomas Urbina reports…

a man and three women stand holding internet equipment

CEO Ute-Gabriel Boucsein (second from left) and members of the Buergerbreitbandnetz Gmbh team.

Shunned by government and big telecom companies, a group of villagers in rural northwest Germany is set to expand the super-fast internet network they built to a second village. The Local’s Tomas Urbina went to meet the villagers as they prepare to put shovels in the ground.

On a Thursday evening in August, about half the residents of Sollwitt, a village of 123 homes nestled in the green fields near Germany’s border with Denmark, jammed into the only restaurant in town. They were there to hear how lightning fast internet service was going to launch their village into the future.

“I think in future we will need this bigger bandwidth,” said Roger Cattin, a retired computer science professor who moved to Sollwitt a year ago.

“I like it very much that the local people are doing something to get this fast internet to our village.”

Read the full article on The Local Germany, here.

three young men hold signs with taxis all around

Frederik Roeder (centre) and fellow students protest anti-Uber taxi work stoppage in Berlin in June 2014. Courtesy: Frederik Roeder.

Uber has quickly become the most contentious technology company in Germany, challenging the taxi establishment as well as regulators across the country, as attempts to ban the chauffeur app leap from the municipal to the national stage. The following is an excerpt of an opinion piece I pitched and edited for The Local Germany.


As Uber and its chauffeur app continue to operate in Germany despite a national ban, one faithful user tells The Local why he became a fan of the company and the app from day one.

There are three major reasons why I prefer Uber to a regular taxi:

1 – Price: Uber Pop offers urban rides at a great price, cheaper than legacy taxis by at least 20 percent.

2 – Convenience: Uber is convenient; it’s easy to use and to pay with credit card.

3 – Quality and Safety: You can get a really nice ride in a fancy car and the app knows where you are and who is driving you.

Read the full opinion piece on The Local Germany, here.

crowds outside a large building on a sunny day

Crowds arrive at the Berlin exhibition grounds for the IFA technology show. September 2014.

Bendable televisions, a smartphone with an edge and the smart home that takes care of you — the IFA consumer electronics show burst onto Berlin’s exhibition grounds on Friday.

Crowds poured into the brand new City Cube Berlin to ogle the latest offerings from global electronics giant Samsung. With the new building all to themselves, Samsung blanketed visitors in a blue and white glow, showing off products as diverse as vacuums, washing machines and ovens to smartphones, virtual reality helmets and giant bendable televisions.

There was hardly anything Samsung didn’t have its high-tech fingers in.

Fitting, then, that Samsung CEO BK Yoon had the honour of delivering this year’s keynote speech to a packed house.

Read the full article on The Local Germany, here.

hand holds iphone displaying Uber app

Berlin bans Uber app, taxis rejoice

Berlin has ordered the alternative taxi service Uber to halt its taxi app in the city or face steep fines.

The Berlin Senate handed down the order on Wednesday evening, demanding that the San Francisco-based Uber stop offering its services in Berlin through its popular smartphone app.

Uber, which now risks a €25,000 fine for each violation of the ban, immediately condemned the move as restricting consumers’ transport options.

Read the article on The Local Germany, here.

a screen capture of the Science Pages cyber security document

Science Pages: Cyber security

Whether it’s government systems, industry secrets or your credit card information, cyber threats have never been greater. And with more of our everyday lives facilitated by networked computers, neither have the vulnerabilities.

But with growing threats at home and internationally making the news more and more frequently, how is Canada responding to the cyber threatscape?

The March 2013 edition of Science Pages was prepared to brief Members of Parliament, Senators and public officials in Ottawa about the state of cyber security in Canada, today’s threats and those on the horizon and the importance of balancing security with personal privacy rights.

I co-wrote this edition with Simon Liem and Carlton Davis for the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE) and the Science Media Centre of Canada.

Read Science Pages – Cyber Security: http://sciencepages.ca/wp-content/uploads/cybersecurity.pdf

Oktoberfest beer tentFrom CBC radio’s The World This Weekend

Beer, bretzels, lederhosen and apps? Germany’s world-famous beer festival is a time-honoured tradition and more than 200 years old, but now specialized Oktoberfest smartphone apps are launching Munich’s folk fest into the mobile world. And the volk are on board.

Listen here: http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/podcasts/twtw_20121007_14086.mp3  (From 22:52 to 25:55)

Here’s a version of what aired on CBC Radio One on October 7, 2012: