I’ve been using Shaw for internet and cable TV for years. And I’ve been leery of the quality of the Telus Internet Protocol TV (IPTV), especially when the last bit of the feed into my condo is over twisted pair wires originally intended for voice-only telephone. But I noted the picture quality at my son’s (detached) house was quite good with Telus. Further the Telus internet upload rate was claimed to be double that of Shaw’s for the same price.
But my main incentive to explore Telus was my desire to see all the games of the Montreal Canadiens, which would require the French sports network, RDS, which Shaw only offers in Standard Definition (SD). Telus offers the HD feed.
So to make a long story a little shorter, I switched to Telus, despite the dire warnings from Shaw that I wouldn’t get the internet speeds promised, I found that I did get the promised 1Mb/s upload, and 14.5Mb/s download consistently. And I found the following:
- Music channel audio quality (which I use a lot) is much better with Telus, although they do not show the title of the current song playing like Shaw.
- The Telus user interface is more responsive and much easier to use, for example I can filter the program guide to only the channels I am subscribed to, or further to just my favourite channels
- Telus can record 3 HD programs simultaneously as opposed to 2 for Shaw. (Telus does not promise you can get 3 HD, but the software tests the line quality and if it’s good enough, allows this. Otherwise it degrades the capability to SD signals, only promising one or two HD recordings, the balancing being SD).
- The Telus HD PVR hard drive was much quieter.
- It was cool (but useless) to have the caller ID display on my TV screen when the phone rang.
- The Telus PVR doesn’t auto-prompt to extend time on live recordings like Shaw, but does allow a max of 3 hours extra as opposed to 2.
- The Telus PVR storage is vastly larger: 200 HD hours vs. 20 on my four-year-old Shaw PVR. Not an issue for me as I don’t watch much TV.
- Telus offered a free Samsung Galaxy Tablet on a 3-year contract.
- …and finally the picture quality: Telus was much more pixelated and blurry than Shaw on movement in HD scenes (terrible for sports) and the SD quality was appallingly bad, even on static images.
So the Telus technician came back and worked hard on improving the quality, to no avail.
So it’s back to Shaw for TV, but I’ll stick with Telus internet. And hope that Shaw offers RDS HD before the hockey season starts. Bad news is that the quote I got for the package I wanted from Shaw was incorrect, it’s actually $3/month more. Good news is that Shaw is giving me a six-month discount for switching back.
EDIT: So I just had Optik TV disconnected, and I have to say that the Telus customer experience was much better than that with Shaw:
- Telus gave discounts, both on my initial order (took $5/month off on the long-term bundled rate) and even after I cancelled the TV they kept the discount for my remaining Internet service, which I had ordered at the same time and kept. They considered that I had my home phone with them for years as well, and had met my end of the bargain in trying to use all three services, so I got the full bundled pricing. They also let me keep the Samsung tablet.
- Shaw stuck to listed prices and had no wiggle room. One Shaw rep misquoted me and the next rep did not honour that pricing and so I’m paying more for the TV.
- Telus reps were friendlier, more understanding.
- The Telus tech worked his butt off to try and make it work, including giving me his mobile number, and talking to me on his day off
So I’d definitely recommend Telus over Shaw from this point of view. Dang twisted pair!
Many articles today describing the demise of MS Flight development and the Kinect kids game, Project Columbia. Here’s Engadget’s spin. Apparently impacts Vancouver staff, although the Flight team was in Redmond.
Hard to say what this announcement means for the embattled Vancouver terminal, but it looks like a possible competitive service to Harbour Air on the Vancouver-Victoria floatplane route.
I don’t have an issue with retailers making profit where they can, especially with the current economic state. But I also like to save money. If you have audio/video/computer cable needs in Canada I highly recommend CableSalesCanada. From my experience in offshore manufacturing I know that cables often cost less than $1 to make, and ever since the introduction of “monster cables,” sellers figured out that consumers will pay huge markups on cables, with no commensurate increase in quality.
A good quality HDMI 1.3b 1m cable sells for $9.50 at CableSalesCanada, plus shipping and tax. The equivalent starts at $30 at FutureShop and you can pay absolutely silly prices for HDMI monster cables claiming superior video and audio. I would challenge any viewer/listener to tell the difference. HDMI is a digital signal, and as long as the integrity of the signal is maintained, the cable will make no difference.
Not that all substitute cables are good, some of the cheaper cables Sears sells have poor connectors that easily fatigue and fail.
For $110 including tax and shipping, I bought 15m (DVI to HDMI), 3m and 2m (HDMI) cables and got a lovely pen and mousepad (ok that’s not much of an incentive, I know!). Arrived in just a few days.
Other countries I’m sure have equivalent suppliers, I can’t recommend from personal experience.
With the ACES team mostly or completely axed in the MS contraction, MS states that the FS product will continue, along with virtually every other product which has experienced losses from their teams.
At this point, like most of the flight simulation community, my thoughts are with the folks who have lost their jobs and their families. May their transition be quick and rewarding to new, exciting positions.
Meantime, it’ll be interesting to see how the product line will be continued … it’s fanbase is so large I imagine something will resurrect in time, with MS or someone else.
December 23rd, Ron’s offering 50% off on his fight simulation aircraft products. Details here.
OK, with the latest Victoria real estate report out at the Victoria Real Estate Board, I’ll make some guesses as to what will happen next with home prices here. And thanks to Tony Joe for a straightforward report this month. (Note that Tony’s reports aren’t archived, so beyond January 1, 2009, you won’t see November’s report anymore.)
Guess #1 – the very low sales/listings ratio, now at 6% (down from a peaks of 46% in March 2005, and nearly 28% in May 2007), will drop a bit in December due to seasonal lethargy, but will not go much lower, if at all, in the new year. Here’s how it has behaved over the last couple of years.
Guess #2 – Home prices will continue to fall, but the actual amount won’t be clear. Although the average sale of single family homes fell by 7% and condos fell 15%, this could be skewed by groups of sales at higher or lower value. Victoria doesn’t compare the price of equivalent properties month to month. Witness townhomes, where the average rose 15% from October to November, but apparently that was skewed by 2 high value properties amongst a small number of sales. Here’s the trend (thousands of dollars) in the six month moving average on condo prices in Victoria. Without the smoothing, the drop from March to November is close to 22%. Percentage change is relative to March.
|Change in price||0.0%||-3.2%||-4.4%||-5.6%||-9.7%||-10.6%||-13.0%||-13.6%||-16.2%|
Guess#3 – the economy itself will take a couple of years to transform, and will not stabilize for that time, although it may appear to for short periods. When it does stabilize, the “rules” may be different and/or more variable than they we thought they were now.
Update: per the comment below, Roger points out that he posts statistics on his photoshare site.
- there are no longer significant delays accessing the iTunes store.
- Apple now provides a help link with every purchase in the confirmation (“Report a Problem”). I don’t know how useful it is, but it’s got to be a step ahead of the the vacuum that was iTunes support in the past.
So I’ve been hunting in earnest for about a month, and I’ve looked at perhaps 25 properties. Mostly condos, but a few townhouses and one duplex. I found three or four places I really liked, but all had some sort of showstopper. Prices are dropping slowly on condos over the past 6-8 months, not so slowly on townhouses. What is changing dramatically is the number of properties sold. Filtering out the market-speak of the Victoria Real Estate Board and looking at the hard data, the ratio of properties sold to properties listed is falling dramatically: from 27.9% in May 2007, 21.4% in October 2007, 19.9% in April 2008, to 6.8% in October 2007. So the pressure on sellers must be intense, and I’d expect to see prices start to drop more. Sales of very expensive properties (over $1m) are even slower, only 7 selling out of 176 on the market in October, or 4%.
It’s a bit tough to judge by the stats month to month, as different types of properties are sold each month (condos for example can vary dramatically in quality and price), so I track a 6-month moving average to give better guidance. The most expensive 2-bedroom condo now available is asking $1,250,000, while the least expensive is $149,000. If a few of the 39 condos priced at over $1m sell, the numbers can be quite biased. With the smoothing of the 6-month average applied, the average condo in the City of Victoria has dropped from $339k in March to $293k in October, a drop of 13.6%. Prices in other areas of Greater Victoria have behaved differently, but I didn’t track them.
In Vancouver, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver has a much more factual summary without the mushy verbage of the VREB (they say “drop” not “soften”), and they use benchmark properties to measure true price variations. I can’t find where they provide the excellent detail that Victoria does though.
Overall I’m eager to get out of my tiny (540 sq ft, 50m2) rental apartment, but I do like the short walk to work and it’s an odd time to invest in real estate. Predictions vary of course on what will happen in Victoria. It must be tough on the agents right now though, with reputedly 1,366 of them in the area, there were only 316 sales in October.
All stats quoted here are publicly available. As a buyer, my realtor gives me access to more detail on property listings in my scope of interest, and I can see how much people are selling for vs. asking price, and what properties are selling or not. I can’t comment on those stats.
…clearly I’ve been busy… not much flightsim stuff of late. A lot has happened in the past few months: I took a position with the BC Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance as Manager, Emergency Management. It’s a challenging and fun place to work. I’ve also moved to the James Bay area of Victoria, and my commute is a walk by CYWH every day. It’s a temporary rental while I peruse the market for something more permanent. I like being adjacent to Beacon Hill Park, and the geese use the open area in front of my place for a flyway every morning and night on their way to and from the park.
So as I balance my life I hope to get more time for flightsim stuff, I’m not doing a whole lot now.
Well, at least beware the “Domain Registry of Canada”. This official sounding name is a “registered business style” of Registration Services Inc. They send what look like real invoices to domain name holders asking for payment. If one is careful and reads the text, it becomes clear that they are trying to get you to change your domain host. But looked at quickly:
they look like an official invoice
the name Domain Registry of Canada sounds like a government organization (I showed my adult son who’d never seen one, and he asked, “Why is the government sending you these?)
- they have the domain information on them (which is public) so it looks like they know about your account
- they state a reply-requested date 4 months in advance of renewal. Most domain hosts give 3 months notice. This deceives in two ways: implying a reply is urgent, and ensuring this notice is received before legitimate ones
So if you get one, unless you already have registered a domain with them, let your local consumer protection agency know. If you have registered with them in the past, re-register with another host: you’ll save a bundle, the rates are outrageous! $40 per year for a single registration! I phoned Domain Registry of Canada last year and requested they stop sending me these, but they’ve ignored my request, so this time I’ve filed a complaint with the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority of British Columbia. Ah, that feels better!
Update: the Consumer Protection folks said that since the document says, “This is not a bill,” in bold, consumers are not being deceived. They put the onus back on individuals to take responsibility to read what they get in the mail fully before sending money to anyone.
Phil outlines the growth of the studio and how challenges are being addressed. Fascinating reading for those into organizational development. Some of the topics:
Studio growth from 50-60 to 100+ people
Expansion from just Flight Simulator to add Trains2 and ESP
Product team organization and use of SCRUM
Scoping back to do fewer things at a higher quality
I’ve been having a lot of fun over the past few weeks engaging with the business community at networking events and presentations. Here’s some of the recurring events that I’ve attended or been brought to my attention on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.
Check the website or contact for more information on membership requirements, cost, dates, and locations.
|BC Human Resources Management Asn (BCHRMA)||Monthly||Victoria||www.bchrma.org||Human Resources.|
|BCAMA (American Marketing Association, BC Chapter)||Several per month||Vancouver||http://www.bcama.com/||Sales & Marketing. May have activities in Victoria as well.|
|BC Technology Industry Association (BC-TIA)||Frequent||Vancouver||http://www.bctia.org/||Business/technology.|
|Business Network International||Weekly||Victoria||http://www.bni.com/
|Business. Many chapters in Victoria, required attendance and other criteria.|
|Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce||Frequent||Victoria||http://www.victoriachamber.ca/||Business.|
|Green Drinks||Twice monthly||Victoria||http://www.greendrinks.org/||Environmental.|
|IEEE Joint Communications Chapter||Monthly||Vancouver||http://www.comsoc.org/vancouver/||Technology.|
|Mid-Island Science Technology and Innovation Council||Irregular||Nanaimo||http://www.mistic.bc.ca/||Business/technology.|
|OD Café||Every two months||Victoria||Bert.Elliott@gov.bc.ca for info, and to confirm attendance in advance||Organizational Development.|
|Sales & Marketing Executives Victoria||Monthly||Victoria||http://www.smevictoria.com/||Sales & Marketing.|
|Sidney Breakfast Club||Monthly||Sidney||Contact Bill Cooke for details and to confirm attendance in advance: email@example.com||Business/Technology.|
|University of Victoria Events||Regular||Victoria||http://events.uvic.ca/calendar.php Use filter to narrow down types of events of interest||Various.|
|Values-Based Business Network||Regularly||Victoria||http://www.vbnetwork.ca/||Socially-responsible business.|
|Vancouver Board of Trade||Frequent||Vancouver||http://www.boardoftrade.com||Business.|
|Vancouver Enterprise Forum||Monthly||Vancouver||http://www.vef.org/||Business/technology.|
|Vancouver Island Advanced Technology Centre (VIATeC)||Monthly||Victoria||http://www.viatec.ca||Business/technology.|
At a meeting of Organizational Development professionals the other day, Michael Keller kindly led us through a process called Freelisting, using the term “Sustainability” as the seed term. Learning about the process was fascinating, and the session brought up varied issues for people. I was reminded how strongly I feel that (a) sustainability is an important concept to many people, (b) the anger many people feel towards the damage we are inflicting on our planet is misdirected and (c) how the divergent forces have the potential to lead to a better life for everyone.
Periodically a large meteor strikes the Earth, the last being the Chicxulub Impact of 65 million years ago. This impact is estimated to have released two hundred thousand times as much energy as all the nuclear weapons on the earth simultaneously exploding, and air pollution on a scale thousands of times greater than what we are producing. The majority of the Earth’s species were wiped out.
And these events pale in comparison to the creation of Earth and its ultimate destruction as the Sun ages and expands.
So if you believe there is a higher power, or Creator or God, I suspect he/she does not believe we are destroying the Earth; rather it is our playground, our school, our home. We can no more destroy the earth than we can destroy a thought. The Earth does not need us as stewards; it will continue with or without us, regardless of what we do. The most we could do is alter it in ways that are trivial compared to the transformations it has seen in the past and will see in the future.
The Earth provides a microcosm in which we can learn to manage our resources and maximize our quality of life. We have the option of making life quite miserable for ourselves, or improving it dramatically. But it’s not the earth we’re saving against some demonic external force. It’s not short-sighted politicians, or greedy capitalists or intolerant environmentalists that are these demons.
If anger comes up when you think about the environment, are you aware of who you are really angry with? Who are you really saving?
What are you personally doing to improve the quality of life on this planet that does not blame others, but focuses on personal responsibility and action?
Carnegie Endownment for International Peace
Total world stockpile of nuclear weapons: 5,000 Megatons
University of Wisconsin – Stout, Department of Physics.
Energy released by meteor that killed the dinosaurs: 5×1024 J (or about the energy equivalent in 80 billion Hiroshima size (12.5 kiloton) bombs
American Geophysical Union
More on the Chicxulub Impact
John C. Lahr Consulting
Comparison of earthquake energy to nuclear explosion energy.J.C. Lahr, Revised 8/28/00
My stepdaughter sometimes comes to me with a question: should she choose this DVD to watch, or this other one? Should she eat a chocolate chip cookie or ice cream? Usually what I do is flip a coin after she chooses heads or tails. When it lands, I ask her how she feels about the result: if she likes it, then go for that; if she doesn’t like how the coin has landed, then I encourage her to do the opposite. A simple intuitive tool.
A more sophisicated decision-making tool that integrates the logic than many of us (like me) like so much, with intuition, is the Decision Matrix. It works like this:
- on a squared piece of paper (or a spreadsheet), list the options in columns across the top
- on the rows below, and off to the left, list the different parameters and factors that might affect your decision
- weight each of these factors with an aribrary relative number
- score each of the parameters for each of the options, then multiple each by the weight
- add the totals
Look at the example below, a new vehicle buying decision. Factors are colour, price, fuel efficiency, etc. etc., which I’ve weighted. Four options are considered: Honda, Chev, Smart Car, and motorbike. I’ve weighted price as 20, colour not nearly as important at 5, etc. Then for each of these considerations rated each vehicle. So far this is a purely logical tool, right? This is where the fun comes in. After the first time you fill in the numbers, note how you feel about the result. See where you are increasing weightings or adjust ratings to bias towards a certain choice. That bias may reflect what you really want. After this pass for example, I might be tempted to greatly increase the weighting for fuel efficiency. So the Chev Malibu may not be my final choice.
You can download an Excel spreadsheet to help you with this. The spreadsheet include a blank work area, the example above, and a pretty graph of the result you can show your mother. The default print will show your numbers and the graph.
I listed in my last post the sections of my business plan, but I also have a more general checklist of sections I use with clients, large and small.
· Be clear who your audience for the plan is: is it just yourself? Will it also be for employees? Investors?
· Concentrate on getting a first pass at the plan completed, it’s easy to spend too much time collecting data instead of getting it done. You can refine later.
· Be prepared to find creating a plan is much more difficult than writing some ideas down, it brings flaws and conflicts to the surface. Spend the time to uncover the source of the conflicts, and resolve or reconcile them.
· Have 2 or 3 people you trust review the plan. If possible these reviewers should have expertise in the business area(s).
· Keep the plan as simple and short as possible while answering all key questions.
· The greatest value of the plan is in the process of its creation, not the final product.
· Make sure it works: following your dreams may mean operating a couple of business areas to ensure that the bills are paid, when you might prefer to stick to one that doesn’t provide enough income. Some people start businesses while still employed to maintain cash-flow.
1. Executive Summary. (The Two-Pager) If the plan is intended for soliciting investment, a two-page Executive Summary can outline the Market opportunity, the business model, and the rewards.
2. Introduction. Explain who wrote the plan and why. Who is the target audience?
3. Objectives. List your objectives. For the sole or joint entrepreneur, this may include more than financial goals: sense of accomplishment, satisfaction from reaching goals, interaction with people. Summarize the product and market in one or two sentences. Describe your vision (what will the business be like in 3 years) and the action you will take to realize that vision. (Together those two components are the mission.). What are the values you want to instill in the venture?
4. Opportunity. Identify the opportunity or opportunities you’ve identified that will help you reach your objectives. Answer some key questions: how is this unique? What is the competitive advantage?
5. Business Area(s). Describe in a paragraph each the service or product area(s) you envision. Keep it short and clear. Summarize the business model for each: how do you make profit?
6. Assets. For the entrepreneur, assets can include education, training, experience, attributes, and personal network. There may be intellectual property (IP) or other technological know-how that is important, or physical assets: equipment, office furniture, etc.For larger ventures, this section may be replaced by an Intellectual Property/Proprietary Information section and personnel descriptions in the Key Personnel section.
7. Strategy. Summarize briefly your high-level vision of how you will realize your objectives: will it just be yourself and your team? Are there important strategic partners? Where will the majority of your time be spent? Will the venture be self-funding, or need investment? For a larger business, the Strategic Plan may be a separate document.
8. Market. Outline in more detail your target market: demographic, geographic, industry, and the market maturity. Specify what you think the market size is and will be. How has the market changed? How do you anticipate it changing?
9. Operational plan. Describe your existing and planned infrastructure requirements. Include office, communications, web, and any other physical facilities.Include a schedule for operational improvements, including capital expenditures.Describe your staffing/outsourcing plan, including subcontractors.
10. Research Plan. If technological research is a key factor in the venture, describe the research areas, how the research will be conducted and the desired outcomes.
11. Marketing & Sales Plan. How will you reach your market? Word of mouth? Viral marketing? The Web? Advertising? Direct sales through cold calls? Existing business relationships? What market research do you plan to do?
12. Key Personnel and Service Providers. Describe the qualifications of founders and key personnel. Identify key external suppliers: raw materials, legal, accounting, etc.
13. Risk Management. List risks and the mitigation plan for each should the risk occur. Include sales, financial, environmental, liability and intellectual property risks.
14. Financial Plan. Project your cash flow out over two-three years. If you have financial planning expertise or resources, you may want to have a separate Profit and Loss (P&L) statement and Balance Sheet (Assets and Liabilities). For small businesses with a short latency or no difference between the financial transaction and showing these entries on the books, the cash flow can serve as your P&L.Often it’s useful to do two projections, or even three (“Sensitivity Analysis”): Optimistic, Pessimistic and Most Likely. State the assumptions that each projection is based on. Some folks even create a fourth from these, combining these three with different weightings. A suggested weighting:
Expected = 0.3*Pessimistic + 0.6*Most Likely + 0.1*Optimistic
You may discover you need financing: in this case the Business Plan is how you will communicate the opportunity to investors. Show clearly the return on investment and realistic timeline.
15. Appendices. Here you can provide details for later reference. Appendices can include education, training, industry and product experience, international experience, client/employer list, work experience summary (=accomplishments), community service, more detailed financial information, support resources or anything else that isn’t critical to the body of the plan, but you want as handy reference.
With the substantial completion of my little corners of Glacier Bay, I’m taking a break this week from FS for some business planning for the next couple of years. I want to balance the FS development with my contract services, and that requires that I put follow my own advice and bring my business plan up to date. So over last week and this, I’ve completed a draft, sent it to my trusted advisors for review, and integrated their sage comments into my plan. Here’s the sections:
- Business Areas
- Assets (education, training, experience, attributes, network)
- Marketing (Market definition, plan)
- Implementation Plan (which includes milestones, allocation of time to each business area, etc.)
- Risk Management (list of risks and mitigation for each)
- Financial Plan
- Appendices (details on education, training, industry and product experience, international experience, client/employer list, work experience summary (=accomplishments), community service)
Much of this material is fodder for specific client proposals: I can pick out the relevant info easily from the boilerplate. Although all the plans I create or facilitiate have essentially the same sections, no two are ever the same. I think it important to tailor the plan to the opportunity.
I’ve seen lots of great videos recently on YouTube. But I’ve always been suspicious of sites that have sleazy banner ads. I noted to day that YouTube is going one step further: when using the search function, 5/6 times rather than getting what I sought, I was presented with a cheesy flashing banner, “You’re the 1,000,000th visitor! You’ve won a Free* laptop! Claim within 080 [insert countdown counter here] seconds!”
For fun I clicked the link, and indeed if you sign up for spam, plus 6 trial offers of various products, and get 2 households that you refer to also sign up for all that junk, they claim they’ll send you a laptop.
Now I’m ignorant of the law, but isn’t telling lies in advertising illegal? (Yes, I was the 1,000,000th visitor many times today!)
I’m not impressed YouTube.