It is Possible to Win against Rogers

logo_CCTSI recently had the opportunity of accepting an international position. As I was moving out of the country I contacted Rogers (Canadian cable TV and Internet Service Provider), to let them know I would be cancelling my wireless accounts. We had a total of 3 wireless accounts in our family. My wife and I had our accounts for years along with our phones. Out daughter had only recently upgraded her cell phone. Well needless to say I was a little shocked when Rogers told me there would be $1400 in cancellation charges. I said, I could see how there would be a charge for my daughters phone, as wireless companies amortize the cost of the hardware over the length of the service plan, so I expected to pay the $400 cancellation charge. However, for the other 2 phones, which were never even purchased from Rogers I did not understand why I was being charged $500 each.

Rogers explained that because of the data and voice plan that we had there was a $400 cancellation charge for the voice plan and an additional $100 for the data plan. I said that this was ridiculous as there was no hardware amortization involved, and it was simply at service plan. I also pointed out the extra charges we had paid on a number of months for going over on our voice minutes. They said yes, we see that, but the cancellation charges still stand.

Then I came across an interesting web site. Called the Commissioner of Complaints for Telecommunication Services. I simply went on their site and filled out the form explaining my situation and that I was willing to pay the $400 cancellation, but that the other $1000 was robbery.

…and what do you know. About 6 weeks later I get a call from “The Office of the President” at Rogers. I spoke with a woman there who explained she had received my complaint and agreed to waive the $1000 fee and only charge the $400. She said she would put a note on my account, so when it came time to cancel, simply refer the agent to the notes and all would be good. In addition I received a letter summarizing what they agreed to do.

Only in Canada eh!

The 8000 mile tech. support call with Skype and Crossloop

It has always amazed me how complicated vendors make it to set up a WiFi network at home. Case in point. I am currently in Saudi Arabia. My sister lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She recently received a new laptop and wanted to connect to her WiFi router. When I was out there in 2008 I had set up their home network for them and written down all the important passwords such as the router administrator password and the network key. That was over a year ago and things get misplaced. Thanks to Skype I was able to talk to her about some of the things to do, but without those key passwords, there was skypeonly so far I could go. So I took the last step of resetting the router and proceeded to set up her home network for her. Usually this could have been a very long process if I had to describe this over the phone to someone who is not technical. Trying to explain to a non-techy how to enter http:// by itself can be confusing for some. But I was using Crossloop which allowed me to connect to her laptop and do all the work as if I was sitting right there. Now I know that the latest version of Skype allows you to share screens, but when you are rebooting routers, you loose the connection. So I was using Skype to call her land line. With Skype subscription service, I pay $3 a month for unlimited calling to North America.

crossloop

Crossloop is a very simple program to use. You go to Crossloop.com and register an account. The registration and use of the software is free. Then you download the application and start it up. You have 2 tabs depending on which end of the call you are on. If you are the one needing support, you click on the Share tab. You will be given and 12 digit number. The person doing the support clicks on the Access tab and enters your 12 digit number that you give them, and clicks on connect. After a few seconds the person getting the support is asked if they want to connect, they click on the connect button and say yes they want to allow the person giving the support access to view their screen. From then on it was like was sitting there on the computer in Vancouver (except for the +25 degree difference in temperatures). Crossloop is very secure as it generates a new code for each connection. So there is no need to worry about the support person dialing back in and downloading data. Once the session is ended, the code is no longer valid.

So thanks to technology, a happy ending to the story. My sister is happy and everything is working fine with her new laptop and home network. I wonder what the fee would be for a tech. support call from 8000 miles away?

CES 2009 Las Vegas

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, attendance at this year’s CES 2009 was down 10%. Feedback from people visiting the show and manning the booths was that it was down more than that. In previous years you could barely walk down the aisles. This year they were wide open. The following is a quick summary of the week.

Biggest Let Down: MacWorld. In previous years, ironically, the buzz at CES was MacWorld and new product announcements. With Steve Jobs a no show and barely any new announcements, it was almost a non-event.

Biggest Surprise: Palm Pre phone. Most people had written Palm off as a phone supplier since the introduction of the iPod. When Palm announced the Pre, their stock went up 35% in one day. Some comments in the blogosphere are that this could actually be competitor to the iPhone. We will have to wait and see.

Everyone has a Netbook. If you make hardware, you probably launched a Netbook at CES. The most talked about was probably the Sony Vaio P. But there were many others. There were new introductions from the market leader, ASUS and Dell, but even Viewsonic, a monitor maker, launched a Netbook.

Most over used phrase Normal People. This phrase refers to all the non-techies out there who have a tough time getting their photos on their TV, or configuring a home network, or connecting their media to all of the above. I must have heard this definition at almost every demo. It is a great focus because we all know how hard it is to do all the above, but they have been trying to get there for a long time.

Home Theatre. In previous years it was who had the biggest flat panel. Given the economic times, it seemed appropriate that this was not the focus of HDTV launches this year. It was more about the thinnest, or the technology such as LCD screens moving to 120 and 240 kHz. Also there was more focus on connecting HDTVs to the internet. The other development in this space is Sound Bars. These are replacing the 5 speaker surround sound Home Theatre In a Box (HTIB) with one bar that can be mounted below the TV. It still gives you surround sound, but without the hassle of running cables around the room.

Connected Media. All the network vendors launched storage and media streaming devices for normal people. Cisco (Linksys), Netgear, Seagate and others all have some kind of devise for home network storage and media sharing. The device that caught my eye and follows the KISS principle was PogoPlug. You simply take a hard drive, put it in the enclosure, plug it into an outlet then plug it into your router. It configures itself and makes the hard drive available to anyone on the network. With the price of hard drivers now below $100 for 1 terabyte of storage this is a great way to increase network storage.

Economy. Lastly, everyone was talking about the economy. Forecasts were showing declines in the single digits for 2009. This doesn’t really fit with the fact that Circuit City will be liquidating 500+ stores and Best Buy had a 70% decline in earnings for the last quarter.

Is ASUS the Next Apple?

ASUS Eee PCOver the past couple of years there has been a lot of talk about UMPC or Ultra Mobile PC’s. There were lots of prototypes from companies like Intel, but everything was in the future. Then a company called ASUS, or ASUSTek, released their Eee PC in 2007. This was a very small notebook that make the bold step of having Linux as the operating system. At first no one was quite sure what to thinks about it, but over the last year, the Eee PC has taken off. Probably the biggest reason is the retail price is in the $400 range.

The other bold steps made by ASUS was that the Eee PC had no hard disk. You can get one in 4GB, 8GB and now 16GB flash memory. This means no moving parts in the notebook, which leads to more reliability. Lastly, the screen is 7 inches.

In terms of functionality you have all the basics. Wifi, internet browsing, web cam and audio. Accoding to their web site there are over 40 applications pre-installed.

Now why do I ask if ASUS is the next Apple? Over the years I have attended my share of tech. events and became aware of the number of Apple Mac Books vs. other laptops being used by the audience. Recently when I attended the Northern Voice event in Vancouver, another group of notebooks was popping up. This was the Eee PC. It was funny to watch as people pulled out their Eee PC, slowly small crowds began to form. The owners were checking their email, writing blog postings and recording video of speakers. The biggest draw, was the small footprint.

The popularity of these notebooks was further confirmed by third party accessory companies who are now coming out with products for the Eee PC. A-Data has released Eee PC branded flash memory and USB memory stick.

Due to the success of the Eee PC, there are competitors who have their notebooks being released over the next couple of months. Acer, HP and MSI as well as many other lesser known manufacturers are all fighting for their piece of the pie. ASUS is not laying down and letting these others take market share. They are releasing a 9 inch screen version, will now go up to 32 GB of RAM and…will come installed with Microsoft Windows XP.

The market for ultra portables will heat up further in June when Intel releases their Atom processor. This small footprint, high performance processor will be perfect for the ultra portables. ASUS has decided to push out their 9 inch screen in May rather than wait for the Atom processor. Others are a mixed bag. Whether or not this will be a mis-step for ASUS, only time will tell. Right now it is their market share to grow or not.

The Pen of the Future

Every year in Feb. there is an event in California called Demo. This event is where startups get to pitch their products to venture capitalists. the catch is they have exactly 6 minutes to do the presentation. There are always lots of great products but the pen from LiveScribe blew me away. Watch this video to see what I mean.

Livescribe Video

Finally, Free Instant Messenger for the Blackberry

OK, I know it has been awhile, but I moved across the country; so I was a little tied up 😉
Webmessenger

I have blogged about a couple of other instant messengers for Blackberries before, and have had various amounts of success with them. There is a new player out there. WebMessenger has been around for awhile, but they recently announced that they were offering their personal instant messenger for FREE!

I tried it out and it was a breeze to set up. One of the biggest issues with Instant Messengers has been to get MSN Messenger, or Live Messenger on a Blackberry. WebMessenger does this without a hitch. RIM has been saying for some time that they would have a version for MSN, but so far only Yahoo and Google Talk.

Before you try to get it working on your Blackberry, you need to set up an account on the WebMessenger site. You simply tell them your logins for each of the IM’s out there and then when you login on the blackberry, all your contacts will be there.

…now if I could just get Rogers to offer a cheap data plan.