Archive

Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

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: ,

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

Brand New Samsung Galaxy S3

I called the store at around lunch to know if they had received the phone. I was calling just in case, and would take my lunch hour to go pick it up, and dodge a bit of rush hour after work.

They didn’t receive it yet! The delivery guy was too late yesterday evening, and the store was already closed. The guy told me he’s expecting them at 15:00, maybe 16:00. I left work at 15:15 (because my work day was over, not because I wanted the phone that bad). They were opening the boxes when I got there, and about 15 minutes later, I left with a brand new white Samsung Galaxy S3 (wiki), not even activated yet. I stopped at Best Buy on my way out of the mall, but they didn’t have any good accessories for the phone.

I’m home now and will write as the events of the evening unfold.

 

 

The hardware

Ain’t it a beauty! It’s pretty light (about as light as the Galaxy S2 (wiki)), but I wish it would be a bit heavier. It’s lightness contributes to it feeling fragile, but it has a metal-looking border, and anyway, we all know it’s plastic (but good quality plastic).

In the box, there’s also:

  • a pair of earbuds (I probably won’t ever use them, as they have those transparent plastic caps that look weird);
  • three pairs of these transparent plastic caps, as replacements;
  • a usb to wall adapter that’s a lot bigger than the Galaxy S2’s, but the shape makes it more “handlable” (the Galaxy S2’s was more like a square);
  • a four feet long micro B to type A USB cable, which is a lot longer than the one that came with the Galaxy S2 (relief!);
  • some boring text on paper.

 

The software

The display is awesome, as clear as an iPhone 4 (wiki) or iPad 3 (wiki)’s retina display. The screen is also a lot smoother than the Galaxy S2, if that’s even possible. The colors are awesome.

Samsung designed the Galaxy S3 with nature in mind. This can be felt with all the sounds and images that come with the phone. I go through the settings one by one. I settle for “Mountain Temple” as my device ringtone. I also kept the default notification, but chose to take “Temple Bell”, to go with the Mountain Temple theme. I choose some wallpapers.

Last thing to do in the settings is to activate the phone on the network. When I was at Best Buy, a lady who works there told me that Bell / Virgin Mobile were very slow today. It is taking a long time, and it can’t connect to any of the three VIRGIN entries that it finds. I’ll try again tomorrow.

I can see that Bell and Virgin Mobile have put their noses in the OS – some of their applications are installed by default. I start by cleaning the icons on the pages, then hiding some under the Applications and Widgets.

I’ve been using it for almost two hours (intensively), and the lower part of the unit is very hot. I hope it won’t do that often… I’ve been charging it for the last 20 minutes (the battery drained 15% in 1.5 hours), so I guess I’ll leave it alone for thirty minutes or an hour.

 

The battery cooled down almost completely in thirty minutes. Since I’ve seen some posts about a few Galaxy S3s burning out, I was keeping an eye on the phone while I was cooking my hummus.

Just before going to download and buy some apps, I wanted to give S Voice a quick try. S Voice is Samsung’s reply to Apple’s Siri. That was pretty cool, but I don’t think I’ll use it often – I’d rather just navigate to the app and click on it, though searches on the Internet would be quicker (assuming S Voice understands you). I could set a timer for two minutes, and tell my phone to start it. There’s a lot I can do.

I started with mint.com, which I wanted on a mobile or tablet for a few months, but I’m a tiny bit disappointed at the options, compared to the web site.

I installed Evernote, Sleep as Android (I’ll buy the unlocked version (2$) tomorrow if it works tonight), Facebook, RBC, Sky Map, some Google apps, and some games. I planned about 10-15$ for apps when I got the phone, and so I bought Cut the Rope (1$), Where’s my Water (1$), Quell Reflect (1.10$), Osmos (3$), Apparatus (1.43$), and the classic Angry Birds, which somehow only has the free version left in Google Play (?).

 

I think that’s it for tonight. After an hours of usage, the battery isn’t that hot compared to how it was before. I guess a more normal usage doesn’t have that much of a toll… I’ll try a couple games, and check Sleep as Android tonight.

 

My Entrance into the Mobile World.

The title says it all. Tomorrow, after work, I’m going to the store, where a brand new smartphone awaits me. I was seldom one to have the latest gadget, so I’m surprising even myself with this purchase.

 

Before going into more details, let’s see what my mobile history is:

December 2006 to June 2012:

Some Nokia phone. After some very deep research in the far confines of the interwebs, I found out that I can type *#0000# on the keypad to know what version it is. It’s a Nokia 2610 (wiki).

I rarely use the phone – I bought it when I bought my first car (a Toyota Corolla 2007) because, you know, just in case. The phone has a tiny 128x128x16b screen, doesn’t have a camera, has virtually no usable function, and it can take me five minutes to text-reply “Hello!” on the user friendly keypad.

I still have it today, it works great for my needs (even after almost six years of being hanged on my belt), and I will pass it on to my parents, who don’t have any mobile phone. They can use it, you know, just in case.

I didn’t have any contract. I was with Rogers, but was buying a 100$ pay-as-you-go card once a year (about 9$ a month). Since it was more like an emergency phone, the amount in the account tended to go up. Right now, it’s at about 70$, due to refresh in January.

It has scratches and a part of the screen looks like it met a metal grinder, but I’m still very surprised about the sturdiness of the phone.

 

September 2011 to January 2012:

My boss got a new iPhone 4 (wiki) and didn’t know what to do with his old iPhone 3G (official page of the iPhone 3GS, also wiki of the 3G).

Since a few months before, I was starting to like the idea of having my own smartphone, and I had no idea whether I wanted an iOS (Apple) or an Android (Google). I accepted his offer to give it to me, and tried it, while keeping my old Nokia.

I didn’t get any contract with a carrier, and my idea was to try it for a few months until my 5 years old nephew’s birthday (in late January), when I would give it to him to use sometimes as a camera.

I liked the phone – maybe too much. Since I was connected only to wi-fi, I couldn’t use it outdoors, but I had a good idea of what it could do. I liked to have something so tiny, yet so technologically advanced in my hands. I played with Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, again sometimes too much. I found myself too often browsing reddit for an hour, in my bed with the lights turned off (just one more page!), when I should have been sleeping. Overall, I liked the user experience (like most people who like Apple do). Things were logical and intuitive most of the time. This thing was getting addictive.

My boss sent me to Britain January 2nd, and of course, I brought the phone with me. It really helped me in Edinburgh and London when I didn’t want to bring my huge Canon EOS 40D (wiki) with me.

I got back in late January, just in time for my nephew’s birthday party. By then, I had already made up my mind (just before leaving for my business trip, actually) that I would not give it to him. Right after christmas, I had read on the Internet all the stories about kids and teens actually angry and pissed at their parents for not buying them the new iPhone 4S (link will work until they release a new iPhone, also wiki). They were cursing at them for not giving them a 600$ phone that costs 50$ per month. One was mad that he/she got a white iPhone instead of a black. One was angry because he/she got a car, but not an iPhone. I was speechless in front of such materialism.

Being the person that I am, I decided that I would not give something so powerful to a kid, something that had so much potential to brainwash him into being a consumer zombie. Should he fall in the future like most do, I didn’t want to be part of it.

I also didn’t keep the phone, because my original intent was to try it until I give it to my nephew. I gave it back to my boss. (Since it was gathering dust in the office, I took it back and gave it to my parents in May 2012, for them to play and tinker with.)

But the real reason why I gave it back in late January was to see if I was addicted or not. If I was, I knew I would not buy a smartphone (at least for a very long time), and would keep my trusty Nokia.

Turns out I wasn’t.

 

June 2012:

Since early 2011, I had started to look at the possible smartphones out there. I read the tech news about the new mobiles (both phones and tablets). I saw a friend make many calls when the iPhone 4 came out to find one, I saw the Samsung Galaxy S2 (wiki) come out in 2011, watched the Apple conference to show the new iPhone 4S, then the Google Galaxy Nexus (wiki) came out in December 2011. And then the HTC One X (wiki) in February. All better than the previous.

For almost a year and a half, I kept asking myself: “Do I want Apple or Android?

The phones were getting exponentially better and better. “Should I wait a bit more?” Apple released the best phone, then it was Android, then Apple… It was a never-ending war.

Then the Samsung Galaxy S3 (wiki) was announced in early May 2012, set for a release in late May in Europe, and sometime in June here in Canada. I didn’t particularly fell in love with it – just knew that it could do what I wanted out of a phone. The rumors about the iPhone 5 (to be released in September?) were going strong, with the general consensus that it would be a revolution in the mobile world. I decided to go with Android anyway (I can’t see what could be so incredibly special about the next iPhone).

I waited a month for the Galaxy S3 release date, and went to the mall to find the best carrier. After comparing prices and services for about two or three hours, I settled on Virgin Mobile. If I pay most of the phone, I can have a 20$ per month contract including 50 minutes, 50 text messages, and flexible data (I pay for how much bandwidth I use, between 10$ for 100MB to 30$ for 3GB). 30-40$ per month didn’t seem too expensive, considering.

I went to the Virgin Mobile kiosk to put my name on the waiting list (only 4 days left). I’m the second on the list, and they will (should) receive about 6-8 units. Then they offer me a Samsung Galaxy S2 until the next Wednesday (tomorrow), and after inquiring that they are not trying anything funny, I accept it.

I’ve been testing it for three days, and am very satisfied so far. The thought has crossed my mind to keep this S2, and keep the 280$ difference, but what the heck – I’m there, and this is my first smartphone, and I didn’t buy any luxury in over two years. (The Galaxy S3 is a 680$ phone, which costs me 480$ with my contract.)

 

When I got home with the Galaxy S2, I opened it and tested it nonchalantly, almost not caring. I didn’t feel this addictive tingling you too often get when buying something expensive (what the marketers have so carefully brainwashed us to feel – the need to pay for something you don’t really need). I was surprised that I felt nothing. Was it because that specific phone was not really mine, or because I am finally free? I’ll be able to answer that tomorrow, though I have a feeling it’s 70% the former.

Also, I chose white! A month ago (even a week ago), I would have been surprised by that. The Galaxy S2 they lent me was white, and I liked it. It feels more simple, more minimalist. More like me, if you can understand that.

 

This will then be my first “real” phone. I played a bit with an iPhone 3G and a Samsung Galaxy S2, all of which have prepared me for tomorrow evening. If everything goes well, I shall try to post regularly about how I feel towards the Galaxy S3, what I like, what I hate… I’ll be a beginner, so hopefully the learning curve will be shown post by post as you follow them, if you will.