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Internet Service Providers

I live in Quebec, Canada.

My parents, as far as I know, always had Videotron as their internet service provider (ISP). My sister also makes business with Videotron. Most people I know do.

One or two years ago, Bell had a really huge campaign in the province, providing a fiber network to everyone who would want it, at a price (approximately) matching Videotron’s prices. Thing is, Bell’s speed and bandwidth were better. A lot of people were switching sides, and Videotron tried to lower some prices when they threatened to switch.

Personally, I was always with Videotron (except for when I lived in Ontario and Alberta, and my ISP was Shaw), and found their service okay. The connection speed was correct, although the bandwidth was sometimes lacking if I didn’t want to pay a lot more. I had an Internet connection rated at 10Mbit/s for download, 1.5Mbit/s for upload, and 50GB of bandwidth, for 64$ per month.

Then a Bell representative knocked on my door, put his foot forward to make sure I couldn’t close it back, and offered me a connection rated at 25Mbit/s for download, 25Mbit/s for upload, and 125GB of bandwidth, for 51$ per month. That included a 28$ rebate that would never expire.

I only needed the Internet, and no TV, but the rep pushed me in accepting a 10$/month fiber TV, because then I would save 50$ on installation. As he said it, I could cancel the TV soon after. Although I didn’t really like the idea (things reps say can be very different from reality), I was scheduled to get a visit from a Bell technician between 8 and 9 am, February 26th, 2013, for the installation of Internet and TV.

 

After a week of pondering and wondering what I should do, who to cancel, I called Videotron and asked them if they wanted to lower their prices for me. I first talked to a very kind fellow, who transferred me to the Customer Satisfaction department, where I spoke to a bored, half-asleep person who sounded like he didn’t care about anything. He offered me a 5$ rebate (the utmost he could get me, even after many years of loyal faithfulness from my part), which would expire two years later.

I tentatively accepted the offer, and told myself that if Bell accepted to remove the TV from my order, I would call Videotron back to cancel my Internet service. After all, Videotron’s price was still higher than Bell’s, with less speed and less bandwidth.

Bell was okay with my decision. The person I spoke to sounded a bit weird and he felt like he didn’t know what he was doing, but I could remove the TV, with the only drawback being that I now had to pay 50$ for Internet activation.

Putting aside my unwillingness to change, I called back Videotron, and got the same sleepy person who didn’t even try to convince me one last time to stay with them. My Internet service was then cancelled. My Internet-month was to end the next Friday, the day before my scheduled appointment with Bell, so everything was fitting perfectly!

 

… until I got a phone call from a Bell supervisor. He wanted to confirm that I wished to cancel everything. I told him that no, I only wished to cancel the TV. He acknowledged this, and told me that I was still scheduled for Saturday morning for Internet and phone.

I don’t want any phone service, I said, but he replied something elusive in no clear terms that I was receiving this for free, and here’s your new phone number – oh you really don’t want it? Well don’t worry about it sir…

 

I received an email about thirty minutes later, confirming the cancellation. I got slightly suspicious, because it said nowhere that only the TV had been cancelled. I decided to make another call, just to make sure, only to be told that all my services had been cancelled. The lady at the phone gave me back my Internet service (after some struggling with her computer), and gave me a new phone number again (only then did they make it clear that Bell, offering a DSL connection, used the telephone lines, so absolutely needed to give me a phone number that would be totally invalid and useless. Why are you confusing customers by specifying an appointment for the phone line?).

The lady confirmed, more than once, that I still had my 28$ credit for life, and that my scheduled appointment was still Saturday morning.

 

I tried to go back to work, slightly pissed off already, until I got a confirmation email for the services. It mentioned only the Internet service, no TV, but I noticed that my appointment was for Saturday afternoon. I had important plans for Saturday, and even if I didn’t, the lady confirmed the schedule already, more than once.

I called back again, none too happy. The other lady I spoke to confirmed that my appointment was for Saturday afternoon, but couldn’t do anything. I then talked to someone else (a Bell technician, I think), only to confirm that I couldn’t get my previous appointment back. I hung up.

 

Meanwhile, a coworker was talking about a smaller ISP – Teksavvy. Their prices were very good, the connection seemed pretty fast, and the bandwidth was more that I ever saw Videotron or Bell offer. I tentatively imagined choosing the slowest package – 5Mbit/s for download, 1Mbit/s for upload, and 300GB bandwidth, all for 25$ per month. The only problem was that my Internet connection was to be cut two days later.

After about two hours of nervous pondering, I decided what the hell, and called Teksavvy. The young guy who answered me was very kind, and helped me through the subscription. The initial fees rose up to 200$, but with 25$ per month, it would quickly pay itself. It was with a bit of dismay that I learned that, under such short notice, I was only going to be connected two weeks later, meaning I was going to have a week and a half without Internet. Oh, what the hell…

I called Bell for the last time. The person I talked to this time was a bit reticent to cancel all my services (compared to the first time when they did this by themselves), but I finally hung up and checked the email confirmation with a feeling of relief.

 

Now, I would finally be able to catch up on my reading for the next two weeks.

Categories: Slice of Life Tags: ,

Future of mobile software

Just a thought I had today…

It’s been what, four years since writing software for the mobile platform started being lucrative? Maybe even three.

In that very short time span, everything has been written, every application made. Except for gaming, if you need to do something with your cell phone or tablet, there are scores of applications that are already offered, a couple of which are excellent, and have a strong following.

So, as a software writer, I worry. In just four tiny years, the market has been filled with every application imaginable.

What chance does a person who is not yet expert in a programming language has? What chance does the next generation has, if a new app concept is made in but a month or two?

I have some ideas about a good application that could revolutionize a certain empty field, but what chance do I have when it would take me months to be adequately familiar with the programming language?

Might as well start studying… Just in case…

Categories: Programming, Thinking Tags:

Having Pets

I don’t understand everyone’s apparent need to own a pet.

I think the essence is in the word own, in a world in which nobody is really in control over anything.

But aside from the fact that nobody owning a pet really knows why they do (only to follow others, probably), they would undoubtedly say that they love their pets, and their pets love them.

That is exactly what I’m wondering, because you have to admit that this kind of relation looks a lot like a master-slave relationship. If the slave doesn’t know any better (ie. he was born in it), he will love his master without any question.

So, you own a pet, you do what you want with it, you make sure he/she cannot have any offspring, for the illusion that something alive is giving you what you think is love in return…?

Others would say that having a pet is healthy because it relieves stress. An environment with a pet is terribly unhealthy, and the pet itself is a huge source of stress (get out of your denial phase on this point, please). Add to that the fact that the pheromones your body makes when petting an animal can be had in better quality and higher quantity when interacting with other humans…

I don’t understand.

Categories: Thinking Tags: ,

Artificial Intelligence

Reading Dr. Michio Kaku’s book Physics of the Future, I thought a bit about how we evolved and how AI could do so much better.

Imagine a central Knowledge Database (which I’ll call KDb for short), and a type of robot that is preprogrammed to make a new model every week. During the first iteration, this KDb holds the laws of physics and basic information about the world, and these robots would be programmed in such a way that anything endangering their integrity would be added to the KDb.

For example, a first-iteration model would bump into a wall, damaging some circuitry under the metal panel of its arm. During the following night, it would upload wirelessly to the KDb details of the event (location, force of the hit, material of the wall, etc). Every week, the central computer (or motherbrain, or however it would be called) would gather all events of the week, and calculate how best to prevent these events from happening again.

It could reason that the next iteration’s robots would need a stronger chassis, intra-wireless connections within its body, better cameras, better algorithms to detect collisions, or a better mobility. Then the robot factory would receive the recommendations, and start building the next iteration. The central computer would upload to the KDb that walls can be dangerous when hit with a certain amount of force. The only thing preventing the central computer from thinking about giving them explosives or weapons (in order to destroy the wall first) would be that the collision could be with a fellow robot.

Another example: a robot gets acid on its chest. This doesn’t damage it, but its chest is marred – it sends an event to the KDb. The central computer decides that the best course of action is to add that kind of acid to the list of things that a robot should avoid (maybe with a danger rating), along with how the acid looked like. Given enough knowledge about how acid and normal water each usually look like, these robots would, in a few iterations, be able to avoid acid.

And, every month or so, robots would go back to the factory to be recycled for materials, constantly leaving the better, newer versions out in the world.

 

In only two years, this kind of robot would go through a hundred iterations, and with them, the fastest evolution ever. The key point here, of course, is the KDb – a collective knowledge. Add to that an incentive to constantly build better and faster computers, and there would be no stopping them.

Categories: Thinking Tags:

It’s so dry!

This post is about my hands’ dryness right before winter. Yes, all that text below, all talking about my dry knuckles. If you’re easily bored, check out some other post on my site.

 

A bit more than a week ago, my hands started to be drier than usual. Every year, right before winter, they do that. They dry up a lot for about two weeks, then stay a bit dry for the rest of the hard Canadian winter. I usually just put a moisturizer a few times a day, and doing that keeps the dryness at bay.

But this year, I wondered if they were less dry. That seems like a good test! It was more sensitive than painful, so it really didn’t bother me that much. In fact, just the day before, I was clenching my fist, then looking at the tiny beads of blood appearing between the cracks. And by the way, only the knuckles are drying up – no idea why.

To be more precise about how my hands were, I can actually see the progression. At their worst (Wednesday, in fact), my right little finger’s knuckle was a bloody mess of cracked skin beyond recognition. The ring finger next to it was cracked and bloody, but the middle finger was almost correct. I was still surprised to notice that was left hand was 96% okay. That day, I started applying a moisturizer regularly, but only on the ring finger. The middle finger I licked – both to try a natural way to hydrate it, and to clean the wounds.

Today, four days after the worst, the little finger is healing up very nicely – faster than I anticipated. The ring finger is a beautiful moisturized marvel, and the middle finger has stopped cracking two days ago. Unfortunately for my test, it is very noticeably dry and scaly – all the proof I needed that licking a wound, although most likely helping it heal, actually dries it (the salt in the saliva, maybe). The index finger is itchy, but stopped bleeding earlier today. The thumb is a bit itchy too, but didn’t really bleed.

The land of dryness has spread to my left hand, though not like the mess it was on the right. Weirdly, the most affected place is the area between the index and middle fingers – cracked and itchy. It feels like it would bleed again if I stretch the fingers too much. There are also cracks here and there on the fingers, and I think the little finger is going to flare up tomorrow.

 

Do you have any idea what it felt like, when I first put the moisturizer on my right ring finger when it was raw? The feeling was incredible – similar to when you have an abscess or a wound, and your body is so used to feeling it hurt than you just don’t feel it anymore, but then suddenly the pain is gone, and you’re left with a weird sensation of relief. My ring finger had an orgasm.

But what if the body remembers? When you take too much Tylenol or whatever painkiller, the body gets used to it, and demands more (by making your head hurt more often). Imagine that, year after year, my knuckles dry up, more and more, because my hands are demanding some moisturizer when the winter comes? I think it would be important (at least for someone like me who thinks long-term) to suffer a bit for two weeks, but then the hands dry less the following years. Anyway, I’ll check my right ring finger – the only one that received moisturizer – next year, when they dry up again.

 

Wait… Did you actually read the whole post?

Categories: Slice of Life