Category — canada
Today I received an email from Seppo Sahrakorpi of Pilvi Computing announcing his new ‘Streaming Guide’ which links to all the disparate TV streaming offerings available to Canadians. I tested it and it works well. The interface is rather sparse, yet simple and effective. It’s a simple alphabetical list of all TV shows that can be watched online in Canada. You can sort by various genres.
Putting this together must have been an awful lot of work. What’s more, to keep it up-to-date, will require a herculean ongoing effort. Let’s hope Seppo is up to the task! Thanks for all the hard work Seppo.
NOTE: Last I tested it, Hotspot shield still allowed Canadians full access to Hulu.
This week, Netflix launched its long awaited and much coveted Netflix Canada service. Unfortunately, the content selection cupboard is mostly bare.
The limited offerings (and lack of DVD service) explains the $7.99 Cdn per month price. The minimum monthly fee that Americans pay for their Netflix service is $9.95 U.S.. For that they get a DVD-by-mail service and a substantially broader array of on-demand offerings.
Limited Launch Offerings:
Browsing through their movie and TV offerings, it appears that there are only about 100 older movies available – too many of which are third-rate movies. There are no new movie offerings.
There are only 18 TV series available at launch, with Heroes seasons 1, 2, 3 and 4 constituting four of the 18. Mad Men seasons 1, 2 and 3, but not any of the current Season 4, make up another three of the 18. Several of the available TV series I’ve never heard of (Hoarders, Paranormal State, The Boondocks, Drop Dead Diva?). Aside from Heroes and Mad Men, there are no other past or present broadcast or cable network prime-time hit TV series available at all.
Happily, the service is not chock-a-bloc full of the made-in-Canada TV content that riddle the Canadian versions of the Apple TV & Xbox 360 on-demand services. In fact, there isn’t a single made-in-Canada movie or TV show available through the service.
At this moment I can access each of:
- Hulu: I can access full episodes of shows on Hulu now. Below, for example, is Episode 2 of Season 1 of MasterChef:
- Pandora: I had happily used Pandora for a long time before they cut off access to Canadians. I’m delighted that I can access it again.
Note: The narrated video above is hard to see because its dark. It is easier to see it on full screen. See the non-narrated version of the same event (below) taken 5 minutes earlier. It is a bit easier to see.
A few days after a man was arrested in front of my building with gasoline tanks and various items that could be used as weapons (see pictures below), a largish Toronto G20 protest took place under my window.
There were about 75 to 100 sit-in style protesters on Toronto’s The Esplanade, between Scott and Lower Jarvis (about 1/2 mile from the G20 fences). The protestors blocked the road, stretching about 5 people wide, between the Keg on one side of the street and the Novotel (where low-level G20 officials are staying) on the other. Easily 100 to 150 police in full riot gear showed up in successive waves. While an initial group of police surrounded the protesters (2 lines, 2 officers deep), another phalanx of police organized at Front and Scott. They marched in formation (about 5 x 25), banging batons on shields with each step. After that group arrived, the police arrested the protestors one by one – dragging them into a dozen or so waiting paddy wagons as two helicopters hovered overhead. While all that took place a dozen or so police per street corner blocked all adjacent streets ensuring that no more protestors could arrive.
Non-Narrated Version of Video recorded 5 Minutes Earlier
According to a CBC News report that aired on “The National’” on Wednesday May 26, the teen pregnancy rate in Canada has declined 37% in the last 10 years. The report cites improved sex education and access by teens to contraceptives as the primary reasons for this large decline.
Canada now has less than half the teen pregnancy rate of the United States – 2.79% of Canadian teenaged girls 15 to 19 compared to 6.12% of teenage girls in the United States.
There is no better proof that the Bush-era policies of ‘just say no’, abstinence only programs and restricted access to birth control for teens have failed American teens.
Source: The CBC’s source was the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality.
Last March, I switched ISPs from Rogers to Bell’s fiber-to-the-building Internet Max 16 service. I made the switch at the same time I ‘cut the chord’ – dumping Rogers cable in favor of HD, over-the-air only, TV recorded on my Series 3 TiVo.
Bell offered me a one year promotional deal for their Internet Max 16 service where I would receive (in theory*) download speeds of up to 16 Mbps and 1 Mbps upload for $41.90 a month. At the time, my theoretical 10 Mbps down service from Rogers (with a 95 GB cap) was costing me $59.95 a month.
As with Rogers, all of Bell’s plans have data caps – much smaller than comparable U.S. ISPs I might add. The data cap for the service under the Internet Max 16 promotional offer is 100 GB.
Periodically during each month, I check my Bell Internet usage meter** (shown below, after the jump) to make sure I’m staying within the 100 GB cap. This becomes particularly important towards the end of the month where I am always running up against the cap.
As you can see in the picture below (circled in red after the jump), Bell’s ‘My Internet usage’ meter contains fine print which reads:
Note: Current total Internet usage activity shown may be delayed by up to 60 hours.
With a few easy steps that take only minutes to complete, iPhone users the world round can get access to some (but not all) of the iPhone Apps that are only available in the U.S.. I’m surprised it took me so long to try this. I just used it to d0wnload the Lose It! which was previously not available to me in Canada.
Setup is a breeze. It took me about two minutes. You essentially set up a VPN connection to the U.S. through the HotSpot Shield servers. This, of course, would also be useful for safe surfing at coffee shops and other wifi locations.
Once you have set up your account, configured and activated the VPN (see instructions below), navigate to the App Store on your iPhone. Search for the app you want and (if its there) download it. It’s that simple.
Survives Desktop Sync
I was concerned that if I downloaded apps this way, they would be wiped out after I synced my iPhone with iTunes to my desktop. Not so. The sync went fine and the apps remained on the iPhone.
No Need to Keep VPN Turned On
Following recent reports (see here, here and here) on the growing number of U.S. Senators and Congressional Representatives that use Twitter (about 120 right now), I decided to look into which Canadian Cabinet ministers, party leaders, Senators and Members of Parliament use Twitter. Below are my preliminary results as of May 12, 2009. I have included the number of each person’s Twitter followers in parenthesis.
This list is not exhaustive. If you know of other Cabinet Ministers, Senators or MPs using Twitter, please add them in the comments with a link to their twitter profile. Many thanks.
Stephen Harper – Prime Minister:
Jason Kenney – Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism:
Tony Clement – Minister of Industry:
[Update: This must be someone spoofing a Tony Clement profile.]
Stockwell Day Minister of International Trade:
http://twitter.com/Stockwell_Day (2 – hasn’t posted anything yet)
Steven Fletcher – Minister of State (Democratic Reform):
After years of putting it off I finally installed and learned how to use Hotspot Shield last week. It worked wonderfully. I was all set to write a blog post about it. Wouldn’t you know it, within a week Hulu has found a way to block it!
I just tested it and indeed I’m blocked. I’ll still use Hotspot Shield for the plethora of other free services not available in Canada (eg: Pandora, last.fm) for so long as it works. But, once again, it sucks to be a new media enthusiast when you live in Canada!
See: Control Freaks: Hulu Now Blocks Anonymous Proxies Too (TechCrunch)
Following my recent ‘Canada’s CTV Puts Full Primetime TV Episodes Online’ post, my commenters (see here and here) have justly schooled me in Canada’s current TV episode streaming offerings. While I was aware of the rather piddling offerings that had been available over the last few years, as of late, it seems, there is a lot more on offer than I was aware.
Case in Point – GlobalTV.com’s increasingly impressive array of full-episode primetime and daytime TV streaming offerings. Global is one of Canada’s three nation-wide broadcasters. It carries about half of all U.S. primetime network content.
The index of shows available from GlobalTV.com is here. Only clips are available for some shows like Survivor and ET Canada. But recent full episodes (plus indicated bonus materials) for the following shows are available:
Canada’s CTV Network hast recently started putting full-length episodes of prime TV shows online. CTV is one of Canada’s three major television networks. It carries about half of the major U.S. primetime shows in Canada. Global carries the other half.
The new service is available here (see the ‘Watch Online at CTV.ca’ heading to the right). Episodes can be viewed full screen, though the resolution is quite low by Hulu standards. Episodes are divided into segments/clips, presumably matching how shows are segmented between commercials when broadcast. Canadians can fast forward and rewind or jump from segment to segment. Users cannot, however, fast forward through the short commercials (about 10 to 15 seconds each) that play before some, but not all, segments. So far I haven’t seen many commercials. Below is a picture of the interface:
A FAQ is available here. Multiple seasons/episodes of some shows, like ‘The Daily Show’ are available. Only the most recent of others, like Lost and Grey’s Anatomy, are available. I’ve tested several shows and so far the system works well – though the resolution certainly needs a boost.
For most of today there has been a protest below my window (Young and Front – Toronto) driving me crazy, frazzling my nerves and inhibiting my ability to get work done.
I decided to find out what the heck this was about and typed in “Toronto Protest” into Google News. The FIRST result that came up was this CBC article, ironically containing the picture to the left.
The picture shows the protest directly below me. The arrow (which I added) points to the building I am typing this from. I feel like I’m being personally protested. These guys are insanely loud!
According to the CBC article linked above, they are protesting the Canada’s adding the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to its official list of terrorist organizations in 2006 for the group’s use of suicide bombers and child soldiers in the conflict.
[June 25, 2009 Update: I was able to download Lose It! using Hotspot Shield on the iPhone. See my post: “How to Use Hotspot Shield to Get U.S.-only iPhone Apps” for details.]
As a Canadian long suffering the woes of countless U.S. web-based and other consumer applications, products and services not being available here, I had been extraordinarily happy with the understanding that iPhone apps would not be blocked by national borders.
After hearing so many comments on how terrific the ‘Lose It!’ iPhone App was, I decided to try it out today. When I tried to access it I got this error message:
Sad, very sad!
Varietal: gewürztraminer/riesling blend– Price: $10.95 Cdn – Winery: Birchwood Estate – Vintage: 2007 – Region: Niagara Peninsula Ontario – LCBO No 572156
This wine is very good – especially for the price. It is one of ‘the’ better balanced gewürztraminer/riesling blends I’ve tasted. Each varietal complements the other. The reisling tempers the sweetness of the gewürztraminer while the gewürztraminer ‘almost’ tempers the tartness of the reisling. I say “almost” because there was just a hint of a tart, dry midpalate taste that is characteristic of less-than-stellar reislings. But its barely there. I very much enjoyed this bottle.
This wine is not sweet enough to be a classic desert wine. It should go well with pork, chicken and curry dishes, or, in front of a fire relaxing with someone special.
I recently read Brent Evans’ ZNF post on Vista Media Center’s (‘MC’) new MSNBC video on demand service. As with virtually every-other Internet-related video distribution announcement these days, I fully expected this service not to be available in Canada.
Here’s a typical message I get when I try to access this type of MC functionality from Canada:
Much to my surprise, as I was testing out the Xbox 360 media-extended piece of the latest MC upgrade (the upgrade got my MC working again for the first time in over a year), I saw the msnbc.com item (circled below) on the 360’s MC screen.
Fully expecting the usual ‘Not Available in Canada’ notice, I clicked on it anyway. To my surprise, however it worked.
Bell and Telus have announced the joint development of a long-rumoured, fast, nation-wide, HSPA wireless network to begin service as early as 2010.
In the near term, the network will support both existing CDMA mobile handsets used by current Bell and Telus customers, plus GSM–based handsets. GSM is the global standard currently used by Rogers in support of the iPhone, among other mobile devices.
Back when I was doing my Rogers iPhone research, see here, I asked numerous representatives from Rogers (both on the phone and at the Rogers store) whether I would be able to use my iPhone as an iPod Touch-like device if/when I cancelled my iPhone service. The uniform answer was no! – that the iPhone would be bricked (wouldn’t even turn on beyond a warning screen) if I removed the SIM card.
Two months after purchasing my iPhone I set out to finally transfer all of my remaining contacts from my old Nokia phone to the iPhone. This required me to remove the SIM from my iPhone and put it back into my Nokia phone (the Nokia would not turn on without the SIM). In doing so, I tested Rogers’ theory that the iPhone would be completely bricked with the SIM removed. I discovered this was untrue.
If you dislike getting unwanted telemarketing calls, starting Tuesday Sept 30, 2008, Canadians will be able to sign up for the new “National Do Not Call List”. The list Is modelled after the U.S. National Do Not Call Registry established in 2003.
[Oct 1 Update: The service is working intermittently right now.]
Once you put your number on the list, telemarketers (with exceptions listed below) cannot call you. If they do, you can report them. They face fines from $1,500 to $15,000 per infraction. The do not call list will not, however, stop calls from:
- registered charities seeking donations
- newspapers looking for subscriptions
- political parties and their candidates, and
- companies with whom you have an existing commercial relationship; for example, if you have done business with a company in the previous 18 months––such as a carpet-cleaning company––that company can call you. The biggest offenders like your bank, telephone company, cable company etc. can still call and harass you. Grr!
Unfortunately your registration lasts only three years. Mark your calendar to register again three years from now.
Canadians may also wish to register with Michael Geist’s free “iOptOut” service which allows Canadian consumers to opt-out of calls from those organizations mentioned above that are otherwise exempt from the national list (click thumbnail for larger view). iOptOut’s FAQ is here.
On Wednesday August 13, I purchased a 16 Gig 3G Rogers iPhone.
Please see my “Rogers Canadian iPhone Plans – The Fine Print” post for the details on: (i) the actual (vs. advertised) hardware pricing; (ii) Rogers’ 30 day Buyers Remorse option; (iii) the applicable $125 to $500 Early Cancellation Fees (ECF); (iv) bricking on cancellation; (v) the jailbreak option/issue; (vi) the option to transfer the iPhone to a third party (and avoid the ECF); (vii) Canadian iPhone shortages; (viii) upgrading to future models; (ix) data roaming in Canada; (x) the 365 day warranty; and (xi) moving your SIM between phones.
Below I describe: (i) how I resolved my purchase impediments; (ii) the Rogers Buyer’s Remorse Option; (iii) my first impressions (I’m loving it); and (iv) the all-in Rogers iPhone and data plan cost.
Overcoming Obstacles to Purchase
In light of my strong aversion to cell phone contracts (let alone Rogers’ infamous 3 year iPhone contract) and early cancellation fees, there were several major obstacles I had to resolve before I felt comfortable enough to ‘purchase’ the subsidized 3G iPhone.
- 16 Gig iPhone is Too Small – Upgrade Dilemma: I carry around about 25 GB of music, 50 or so podcasts at any given time, workout and a few other videos/movies on my current video iPod (most of the storage is used for music). I’ll need storage space for the App Store applications I download. Plus, I’ll need space for email, contacts, pictures and visual voicemail. To manage with a 16 Gig iPhone, I’ll have to give up carrying most of my music around. So, I will inevitably want to upgrade to a 32 GB iPhone when it comes out. Resolution: As you can read in my ‘fine print’ post, the Rogers rep assured me that future models will be released for purchase at retail (as opposed to subsidized under contracts as is the case now). So, if he is right, at that time I’d be able to purchase and use the newer (larger capacity) unit under my current contract (and sell my 16 Gig iPhone). I rarely listen to music on my iPod anyway. Instead I use it mostly to listen to and watch podcasts. For now, I’ll use my current iPod for the rare times I want music while travelling.
- Rogers Dataplan Issue: The initially announced Rogers data plans were ridiculous (see here). Resolution: I took advantage of the $30/month 6 GB limited time offer. Home WiFi data usage is not counted against 3G dataplan limits. The free Rogers/Fido WiFi hotspot usage is also not counted against 3G dataplan limits. I expect most of my data usage will be through WiFi so I’m hoping/expecting that the 6 GB limit should be enough for my needs – but I’ll only know for sure after a few months of use.
[This post is a rewritten version of an earlier July 28, 2008 post. I 'purchased' a 3G iPhone on August 13. In the mean time I spoke at length with two Rogers representatives on the telephone and spent a couple hours of quality time with "Jay" at the Rogers Store at Bay & King in Toronto. Click here for my prior summary of the Rogers 3G iPhone Rate Plan Offerings]
$199 and $299 Price ONLY on New Activations
I was unpleasantly surprised when I ‘purchased’ my 16 GB 3G iPhone, that they charged me $324.99 instead of the $299 advertised price. The Rogers rep (Jay) told me that the $199 and $299 prices are available only to new Rogers customers. I had been a month to month Rogers subscriber since November 2001. The representative explained that I was getting a special deal given that I’m a high-value customer. I was told that ‘lesser value Rogers customers’ face up-to a $50 premium over the advertised $199/$299 prices. I didn’t feel special!
30 Day Buyer’s Remorse Returns
Summary: iPhone purchasers can return an iPhone for a full refund and without having to pay the Early Cancellation Fees discussed below provided all of the following conditions are met:
- the iPhone is returned within 30 days of activation to the store where it was purchased;
- you have used less than 30 minutes of airtime (no more than 29 minutes);
- you provide your proof of purchase (receipt – contract); and
- the iPhone is undamaged and returned ‘like new’ with all pieces and original packaging.
Reference: Rogers iPhone Facts | RuinedPhone.com
[August 15, 2008 Update: Many of the questions and concerns discussed below are addressed in my newer post: Rogers Canadian iPhone Plans - The Fine Print]
[October 6, 2008 Update: As of October 3, 2008 Rogers has changed their iPhone plans again. Details are available here.]
Rogers has announced its (and its subsidiary Fido’s) long awaited Canadian 3G iPhone (details here) data plan pricing. The iPhone will become available in Canada, and around the world, on July 11.
Unlike AT&T and other international carriers, Rogers is not offering an unlimited data plan option. Rather it is bundling rather meagre data tiers to tiered voice plans at considerably higher prices than charged in Europe and the United States (see here). Here’s the details:
- Minimum 3 Year Contract (AT&T offers U.S. customers the option: (i) of a 2 year contract; or (ii) to purchase of iPhone outright with no contract- see below)
- $199 for 8GB 3G iPhone; $299 for 16GB (same as U.S. – announced by Steve Jobs but not yet officially confirmed by Rogers)
- No Unlimited Data Plan. Rogers offers the following mixed monthly voice/data plans:
- $60 – 400 MB Data - 75 outgoing SMS - 150 minutes*;
- $75 – 750 MB Data - 100 outgoing SMS - 300 minutes;
- $100 – 1 GB Data - 200 outgoing SMS - 600 minutes;
- $115 – 2 GB Data - 300 outgoing SMS - 800 minutes;
*Minutes are weekday minutes. Rates do note include $15 or $20 a month for an options such as Caller ID, more text messages and call forwarding.
[July 9, 2008 Update: Rogers announced a limited time $30, 6GB iPhone data plan that can be added on to any Rogers voice plan. This offer expires on August 31, 2008]
By way of comparison the cheapest US AT&T data plan costs $30 for unlimited data and $39.99 for voice which includes 450 minutes, no SMS messages, and unlimited U.S. long distance (for a combined $69.99 total) (See U.S. Plan details)
[See also U.K./U.S./Cdn Price Plan Comparisons]
- $6.95 monthly system access charge is charged by Rogers/Fido on top of data plans. (AT&T does not charge a monthly access plan but does charge a one time $36 activation fee for newbies, $18 for upgrades for existing iPhone customers)
- All Rogers plans include unlimited:
- evening and weekend minutes;
- access to Rogers and Fido Wi-Fi hot spots (typically coffee shops);
- incoming SMS messages.
- ‘Subsidized Only’ There is no option to purchase the phone at full price to avoid the 3 year minimum contract and cancellation fees (a practice prohibited in some European countries and under review by the U.S. FCC). U.S. users will be able to purchase their iPhone’s without a contract for $599/$699.
[June 28, 2008 Update: Rogers announced its actual rate plans on June 27. Click here for the details. I'm leaving this rumour post as it was for posterity.]
This post on the ehMac.ca forum purports to have the details on Rogers/Fido rate plans for the 3G iPhone set for release on July 11. This was picked up by the Financial Post here, giving it enough credibility for me to blog about.
[July 20, 2008 Update: According to this article in the Toronto Star, the pricing plan set out below is wrong. Here’s what the Star.com says:
Under the new model, smartphone users can choose between "flex" and "non-flex" plans with buckets of data that range in price from $60 for 1 gigabyte to $100 for 6 gigabytes. The plans are purchased in addition to a voice plan.]
[July 19, 5:28 pm Update: AppleInsider is questioning the veracity of this ‘leak’ here. They point out the purported leaked Rogers memo looks identical to an earlier AT&T memo. This could be a completely bogus cut and paste fake.]
Summary of the Salient Points
- $35 Unlimited Data Plan: Rogers (and its subsidiary Fido) will offer an unlimited data plan for $35 ($45 for enterprise customers), on top of your regular cell phone bill.
- 3 Year Contract Commitment: Rogers will require you to commit to three years of service. No word on what the early termination penalties are.
- “No ‘No Commitment’ Option: There will be no option to purchase a non-subsidized phone without a commitment.
- $199 (8GB) and $299 (16GB) Device Costs: This is the same as in the U.S.
- 30 Day Return Policy: If you don’t like the device you can return it within 30 days without breaking the long-term contract.
- Mandatory In-Store Activation: Just like in the U.S.
- No Word on SMS: Since SMS is nothing but data it should be included in an unlimited data plan. But, AT&T is charging extra for SMS messaging. Sadly, I’d expect Rogers to follow suit. This just means I won’t use SMS
This Would be Terrific
If this is true, it would be generally terrific news and a huge departure from the exorbitant data plan rates of the past. I concluded in this post that I would be willing to pay up to $50 a month for a decent data plan.
Long Term Contracts – Ugh
I do not like long-term contracts. I have always purchased my cell phones at full retail price to leave my exit options open.
There should be a law in Canada, as there is in France, mandating that carriers provide an option to purchase the device without a contract. This tried-and true carrier lock-in-by-contract technique is anti-competitive. It will keep Rogers/Fido users from switching to Bell/Telus when they start selling IPhones on their GSM overlay systems – due to be completed in a year or so.
But, if the penalty for breaking the contract is around $200 or less, I’ll take it. I’ll just consider it a cost of the phone.
Cross Border SIM Card Question
One big question I have is, can I take the SIM card out of the iPhone and use a U.S. AT&T SIM if/when I move back to the U.S. Yes, I know I’d have to pay the penalty to break my contract but I’d like to know if I purchase the 3G iPhone (especially if I pay the penalty) that I can take it with me if/when I move South. It angered me greatly when I returned from the U.S. years ago only to discover that I couldn’t use my the AT&T Motorola GSM phone that I payed full-retail price for on Rogers GSM network.
- Limited 3G Availability: AT&T’s 3G HSDPA is only available in limited U.S. geographical areas (I don’t know how widespread Rogers 3G Network is)>
- Higher Dataplan Rates: The unlimited data plan price for U.S. consumers has gone up from $25 a month to $30 a month (a price point Canadians still salivate over) .
- SMS Not Included: AT&T will charge 10 cents per 140 bytes (characters). This is ‘odd’ because SMS is only data. But carrier’s excel at squeezing every last penny out of their users. This is clearly a cash cow they intend to milk as long as they can (Android, please come to our rescue).
- Turn by Turn GPS Prohibited: Not only doesn’t the 3G iPhone not provide turn by turn GPS, but Apple’s SDK prohibits developers from writing turn by turn GPS programs. My guess is Apple intends to launch a for-pay turn by turn service in the future. One wonders whether the SDK prohibition violates anti-trust laws.
- New 3G iPhone: “Twice the speed, half the price” – Details on U.S. Apple Website here (Canadian details here)
- Launching on July 11: in Canada (on Rogers and Fido networks) and 23 other new countries
- 3G Speeds Approaching wifi Speeds: U.S. details here (Canadian details here)
- Lower Pricing (U.S. pricing – hardware price identical in Canada)
- $199 for 8MB iPhone (to put this in context the 8MB iPhone launched at $599 just last year and was $399 up to today )
- $299 for 16GB
- $30/ month for U.S. Consumers AT&T unlimited data plan (on top of voice contract).
- $45/month for U.S. Business Users.
- [June 28 Update: Disappointing Canadian tiered data plan announced – see details)
- Built in GPS: Satellite GPS supplemented by data from cell towers. U.S. details here (Canadian details here)
- Increased Battery Life:
- 300 hours (6 weeks) standby
- 24 hours audio (music/podcasts)
- 7 hours video
- 5-6 hours 3G surfing
- 5 hours 3G talk (10 hours 2G talk)
- no GPS battery details yet