Customer Service

The Skinny On the OnePlus One Phone in Canada – How Much Does It Cost, and How Long Does it Take?

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Courtesy of oneplus.net

Courtesy of oneplus.net

I recently ordered and am looking forward to the OnePlus One phone, which has great reviews and can replace my semi-functional iPhone 5. The “hook” is that at $350 for a 64 GB model, the phone costs less than half the cost of a regular phone, and there’s no plan you need to be tied into. Sounds great, right? I’d like to think so.

The pricing in Canada, though, is a bit more than the $350 price tag would lead you to believe. In Canada I purchased the phone at $350 base price. In addition there’s the shipping. With shipping there are two options, one at $28 and one at $37. The one at $28 doesn’t provide tracking and is not Canada Post, therefore, the only real option is the $37 one. That brings it up to $387. Then there’s payment through Paypal. Paypal in my case converted $387 as $462. Fine, though we’re already at more than $100 over. Lastly, there’s the inevitable duties I will need to pay for it which is over $50. That brings the phone to over $500!

Also, there’s getting the necessary accessories such as the plastic screen protector, case, and backup charger, which amount to another $36.

Live and learn I guess. Hopefully though this phone will last me a good couple of years so I can justify the investment.

Internet Data Usage (Bell v.s. Rogers): Is That How They Calculate It On Your Bill?

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uptime-downtime

Photo courtesy of play.google.com

This is nothing new. Over the last 6-7 years big Canadian phone/data/ISP providers like Bell and Rogers have set a bandwidth cap for users paying for their internet service. They would charge a certain amount, and then have a cap. How accurate is this cap though?

A friend of mine that presently owns his own private ISP company recently informed me that it’s impossible for these ISP companies to accurately tell you how much data you’re using: it’s impossible. With Rogers, what they do is take a survey of all users around a block, then average this amount. With Bell, they take the username of your Modem and charge any bandwidth from that username, which is relatively more accurate.

How Rogers Does It

I found this out the hard way on two occasions. We originally started out with Rogers internet in 2007. Back then, Rogers didn’t have the bandwidth cap they have now. We ended up switching to a different internet provider once we saw that our overage charges ended up making our internet bill double what it should have been. We later found out that rhere’s a “black box” between what Rogers says one is using and what one actually is using. Bottom-line, Rogers takes an average of the whole block you are on and charges each person the same data. Apparently, one or more people were using too much bandwidth and we were getting hit with a way-too-high average for the block!

How Bell Does It

We later on switched to Bell’s internet service. A Bell salesman was going from apartment to apartment on our block selling plans at a very reduced rate for the first six months. We signed up, as did many others. After the six month deal ended, we saw that not only did our rates go up, but Bell upped the rates every so often. What caused us to end up switching providers was when we saw how much bandwidth we were “using” and knew ourselves that we could not have possibly have passed the bandwidth mark (which was capped at 265 GB). The fact that Bell was making such a claim that we were starting to go over made us suspicious.

We later on found out Bells’ methodology. Bell takes the username associated with the modem/router they give you and calculates data, which is a more accurate metric. The only problem there is in the modem Bell gives each customer. Bell gives a modem/wireless router combo that has a poor signal. Get this: the Wireless router portion of each modem is not very secure at all. Even if you set a secure password, there are still ways for one to hack it. And once its hacked, Bell charges your router indiscriminately. There’s no way for them to determine what was “invalid” data usage and what wasn’t. We ended up leaving Bell’s internet, but not before getting hit with an $80 overage charge on data. Never again.

Colosseum Internet

As far as I know, Colosseum Online is the only “truly unlimited” internet provider, charging nothing extra. I’ve been using them so far and am happy.

4 Must-Haves to Fully Benefit from Google Chromecasts’ Service

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Chromecast_dongleWhen Google came out with Chromecast in July 2013, many people likely did not know what to do with it. The whole idea seemed foreign: a cast a browser tab from Google Chrome and pay $40-50 for that.

After receiving it as a gift recently, I’ve since been using it and found it to be indispensable. Here are the items you need in order to get the most benefit from this device.

1. A Chromecast Device

This one is obvious. Without it there’s no point to this post.

2. TV with an HDMI port slot and USB

lg-tvIn order to view the Chromecast, you need a TV with HDMI capabilities. HDMI as a technology came out in 2002-2003, and only really started being mainstream in TVs since 2008. While that doesn’t seem so long ago, if your TV doesn’t have HDMI it’s likely at least 7-8 years old. At the low cost of HDMI flat-screen TVs, this is a must.

Even newer TV’s have a USB port. This isn’t necessary but is a huge help. Without the USB port, your Chromecast will need to be charged using an outlet, which can be a pain. The USB essentially “powers” the Chromecast while it’s doing its job.

3. Specific Devices with WiFi Capability

Courtesy: v3.co.uk

Courtesy: v3.co.uk

Once you have Chomecast set up on your TV, you need a device to “cast” it to. This can be done from a Mac/PC or a phone/tablet with iOS or Android utilizing WiFi capabilities. If you have a desktop that doesn’t have WiFi, it won’t work. Tried that. Alternatively if you’re a tech geek running Ubuntu with Chrome, it should work as Chrome apps like “Google Cast” should be installable regardless of the system.

If you have a tablet that’s not running iOS or specific Android systems, it won’t work. This is a shame as high-end devices like the Kindle Fire don’t have the capacity to have Chromecast installed where it can properly integrate with apps like Google Cast and place the option in its own version of Netflix and YouTube.

4. Netflix/YouTube

This is also a must for TV junkies. With Netflix/YouTube you can cast these videos from any tablet or phone. From a Mac/PC there are ways to cast a video straight from the Chrome Browser. For file types that are not MP4 or FLV there is an extension called “Videostream for Google Chromecast” which pretty much streams any filetype.

5. Wireless Gigabit Router with High-Speed Internet (optional)

While this is optional, if you want optimal viewing performance without hogging everyone else’s internet usage, invest in the Gigabit router over an ethernet router. Most Gigabit routers today are optimized for Netflix/YouTube streaming, though you should first check if this is specified. The WiFi difference between 54 MbPS and 300 MbPs is very significant.

The high-speed option is for the same reason. If you can find an internet provider that offers competitive flat rates without overage charges, go with that. It’s worth it as you don’t need to pay “through the roof” for a quality internet experience.

Getting a OnePlus One Phone – Addressing Site Navigation Issues

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Courtesy of oneplus.net

Courtesy of oneplus.net

I have been using an iPhone 5 for the last two years and noticed apparent issues with it since I needed to get a bloated lithium-ion battery and screen replaced, among other things. For one thing, the sensor on the top wasn’t always working when I placed the phone to my ear, causing my cheek to dial numbers to my chagrin, as well as to the chagrin of the person on the other line. It also caused my cheek to do things like mute the conversation or put it on speaker. In addition, the charger would only charge if positioned a specific way. It was very inconvenient. To make matters worse, the phone was under Apple Care warranty for the first year, so they would have charged an arm and a leg being that I was past the first year.

Since I am presently in my final year of a 3 year plan with Rogers, and Best Buy doesn’t have the deal for an iPhone under Rogers like it used to when an iPhone 5 64 GB could be had for $200 during X-mas/New Years, I found myself stuck with a defective iPhone for another year. Even if I were to trade in my iPhone 5 and pay the difference, I would still need to pay something like $160 for the remainder of my iPhone before I could get another one from Rogers (can one say #rogerssucks ?). What was there to do?

I thought of Android phones, but most of them, especially Samsung devices, have relatively poor battery life and are flimsy unless you get an extended battery with a casing that makes it feel insanely thick. There had to be a better way.

OnePlus One: A Better Solution

Enter the OnePlus. The new company from China has made a $350 USD Android phone with 64 GB storage (close to $500 CAD – bummer, but still) called the OnePlus One with oodles of features and great battery life by doing virtually no traditional advertising. Due to the overall positive reviews, I’ve wanted to get one for a while but to do so, you need an invite which can get very tricky. Once you get the invite, you have 24 hours to purchase the phone or else you need to start from the very beginning. I was recently lucky enough to get one invite after trolling the social media landscape (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, Google+, you name it). Each person gets that one invite to distribute on an odd day (I’m still waiting for mine) and it’s treated like gold.

Website Navigational Issues

Once I created an account, though, it was practically impossible to log in in order to get a phone. See the below screencast:

So what was I to do? No matter what I did I couldn’t log in, even to submit a support ticket. After pulling out a few hairs, I contacted the Facebook/OnePlus community and was advised on the stupidest thing on the planet which actually worked. To “log in” you need to first select a country. How does one do so? Visit this page (https://oneplus.net/choose-country) while logged in. Once the country gets selected, the country “session” gets logged and allows  you to proceed. I’m being serious here: without that you’re essentially a sitting duck!

Now that that hurdle has been passed, I have now ordered my phone and am eagerly awaiting a phone in the mail that has all the great features of a top-notch smartphone at a fraction of the cost, and without being tied into any cellphone agreement.

***UPDATE December 21, 2014***

It appears that the website issue for OnePlus has been fixed.

HostSo.com Web Hosting Services Review – Negative

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hostso-logo_bgRecently I was advised by a friend of mine to try switching my web hosting to HostSo. The pitch was that they operated a server that had 12 GB of RAM, and if one paid only $8.56/month for their ULTRA plan, one had unlimited space. I decided to give it a shot, which lasted a total of three days.

Here’s how it went: I went to the website and purchased the hosting plan. That setup was straightforward. One thing that gave off a red flag was the inability for them to enable Shell access on my own account for “security purposes.” That bothered me was that my website files, zipped, were too large to be unzipped on their server.

I had asked server support via Live Chat to unzip the files for me if possible. They did – to an extent. When they unzipped my website files they forgot to include all subdirectories and pointers. That left behind a huge mess of files all in the same directory for me to delete, as there was not much more I could do with them. I realized then and there that I would need to upload all website files the old-fashioned way.

After doing that (many hours later), setting up the necessary MySQL databases for my WordPress sites and pointing everything correctly, I noticed that my websites were all running slowly despite the claim that the server ran on 12 GB of RAM. My guess was there were already too many websites being hosted already on their server which was causing the sites to already run slowly. I set up WP-SuperCache (or W3-Total Cache, I forget which – they’re both good) to cache and speed up the sites. That helped a little. Then the unspeakable (in terms of customer service) happened.

The following day after my sites were launched I noticed that none of my WordPress sites, built on a Multisite configuration, were showing. I found that the “Permissions” to the required website directory were set to “000.” I reset the permissions of that and all subdirectories, then asked server support what happened. Their response? “Oh, we decided to disable that directory as it was causing too much of a load on our server.” Well duh! Websites do tend to do that. They also instructed me to optimize my databases and it won’t happen again. When I did, I replied that I had done so, but that what bothered me was that they took my sites down without my asking, and that concerned me from a business perspective. They replied that it won’t happen again before they warn me, and that I need to continue optimizing my databases. I decided then and there to leave their hosting in a flash.

When I asked to leave their hosting, they asked me why and I explained that their hosting didn’t meet my business requirements. It took a lot of back-and-forth with setting up a formal ticket, among other things, to finally get some sort of Credit Cart refund. Since they were using 2Checkout to process their payments, they returned the exact amount I paid them, but I received something like $8 less than they paid me due to 2Checkout’s insane processing fees. Whatever, at that point I decided to cut my losses.

I later learned from doing some Google searches that others had real complaints about HostSo’s Services. Among them were:

http://www.webhostingstuff.com/review/HostSocom.html

https://wordpress.org/support/topic/hostso-or-blue-host

https://forums.digitalpoint.com/threads/hostso-com-another-scam-company.1654806/

In short, never again. I had a terrible experience with them and don’t want to see others fall into the same trap.

Online Reputation Management Dead?!

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reputation management

Last week, I attended a seminar on Online Reputation Management in downtown Toronto. The main discussion in the seminar was whether online reputation management is dead or not. Important reputation management figures were cited, including Don Sorensen, President of Big Blue Robot Digital Marketing Firm. I share similar sentiments as Sorenson, who argues that “online reputation management is very much alive and inevitable in this digital age; it’s time for companies to improve their reputation management strategy or suffer the consequences…”

Before attending the seminar, it never crossed my mind that people would actually think the term ‘online reputation management’ was a thing of the past. My thoughts are completely the opposite. In fact, I felt privileged to write about it in this feature blog and express my concern.

Online Reputation Management should be a priority for every business and individual with an online presence; I can’t stress that enough. Building a positive reputation can take years to achieve and that all can be washed away by one bad or false review that was not properly managed.

 

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Confessions of an IT Professional – Thanks Panda Security

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Confessions-of-an-IT-Professional-
The world of I.T. can be a challenging yet rewarding one. However, one of the biggest frustrations that comes with the territory is with clients that are completely computer illiterate. When trying to explain something over the phone the client on the other end might take what you say in a completely different context and hound you until the issue is fixed, sometimes for hours when in reality it should take a matter of minutes.

That’s why in this field, comic relief is not suggested, but required. I found the following comics from a website called Panda Security, a global internet security company. I give them all the credit for the comics in this post.

confessions-part1

source: http://www.pandasecurity.com/mediacenter/panda-security/confessions-of-an-it-professional/?_ga=1.238726151.602335838.1403539618confessions-part2

 

source: http://www.pandasecurity.com/mediacenter/panda-security/confessions-professional-part-2/

Apple iPhone 5 Cable Not Working? Try Removing Dust from Charger Slot With Screwdriver

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iPhone 5. Photo courtesy of http://computer-help-please.blogspot.ca/

iPhone 5. Photo courtesy of http://computer-help-please.blogspot.ca/

I have an iPhone 5 by Apple, and have used iPhones for the last few years. I recently had a problem where my iPhone 5 wasn’t charging using my cables. I immediately dismissed those cables as old and faulty, and looked for knock-off versions.

Imagine to my chagrin that I still received an error that “This cable or accessory is not certified and may not work reliably with this iPhone.” Aargh!

After looking high and low for a solution that would work, a friend of mine tried something so primitive that it worked. He took a small screwdriver and cleaned the small space on the bottom where the charger cable goes into. There was a surprisingly large amount of dust inside, preventing a proper charge from happening. After 15-20 seconds of cleaning the space out of dust, my phone was able to charge with any cable once again.

How to Get to Paypal Custom Payment Pages – The Fast Way

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paypal_logo
1. Log into Paypal

2. Profile

3. Selling Preferences/Custom Payment Pages (3rd from bottom)

4. Do your thing, Yalla!

Google Data Centers – When You “Google It”

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When you log onto Google, ever wondered who/what you’re connecting to?…
Ever wondered if it’s a place, a factory, an entity
Or just some kind of ubiquitous, global, everywhere-on-the-net kind of thing?
This gives you an idea of what’s behind something we take for granted nowadays…

EVER WONDERED WHERE & HOW BIG GOOGLE IS?

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The Dalles, Oregon – Google’s data center in the Dalles, Oregon sits on the banks of the Columbia River. Here their team members enjoy rafting, wind surfing, fishing and hiking.

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Council Bluffs, Iowa – Google’s Council Bluffs data center provides over 115,000 square feet of space. They make the best out of every inch, so we can use services like Search and YouTube in the most efficient way possible.

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Douglas County, Georgia – Thousands of feet of pipe line the inside of Google’s data centers. We paint them bright colors not only because it’s fun, but also to designate which one is which. The bright pink pipe in this photo transfers water from the row of chillers (the green units on the left) to a outside cooling tower.

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Douglas County, Georgia – Blue LEDs on this row of servers tell us everything is running smoothly. We use LEDs because they are energy efficient, long lasting and bright.

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The Dalles, Oregon – In an unoccupied area, motion sensors automatically switch off the main lighting to save power. The result is the dazzling glow of the world’s data filtered through multicolored LEDs. It’s like holiday lights year round.

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Mayes County, Oklahoma – A rare look behind the server aisle. Here hundreds of fans funnel hot air from the server racks into a cooling unit to be recirculated. The green lights are the server status LEDs reflecting from the front of Google’s servers.

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Council Bluffs, Iowa – Inside Google’s campus network room, routers and switches allow their data centers to talk to each other. The fiber optic networks connecting their sites can run at speeds that are more than 200,000 times faster than a typical home Internet connection. The fiber cables run along the yellow cable trays near the ceiling.

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Mayes County, Oklahoma – Each of Google’s server racks has four switches, connected by a different colored cable. They keep these colors the same throughout their data center so they know which one to replace in case of failure.

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Berkeley County, South Carolina – This is a closer view of the backup tapes in Google’s tape library. Each tape has a unique barcode so their  robotic system can locate the right one.
In case anything should happen to Google’s data, they have it all backed up. One of the places they back up information is in their tape library. Robotic arms (visible at the end of the aisle) assist in loading and unloading tapes when they need to access them.

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Berkeley County, South Carolina – Storage tanks like these can hold up to 240,000 gallons (900,000 liters) of water at any given time. This insulated tank holds water that they’ll send to the heart of the data center for colling.

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