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HDTV: Shaw vs. Telus

Friday, July 27th, 2012 3 comments

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!

Microsoft announces “Next generation flight experience”

Sunday, April 1st, 2012 4 comments

Only a few weeks after releasing Microsoft Flight, the company announced today that it is developing the next generation of flight software.  Here’s an excerpt from marketing VP Bög Uslãmé’s description of the new product.

“Microsoft has shown a keen understanding of the user experience when it comes to flying airplanes and stuff like that on computers.  There’s a certain magic which we have learned to capture, interrogate, channel and evaporate.  After developing progressively more intricate software for this market through many versions culminating in Microsoft Flight Simulator X, Microsoft Flight showed that we could simplify the paradigm, reduce the functional and geographic scope, convince ourselves we were broadening our appeal, minimize the UI, and still generate a significant return on investment.  All while ensuring that the user thinks they are having fun.  So now we’ll take this passionate approach one step further with the realization of a focused vision in our new product, Mi Fli. The name says it all: shorter, ambiguous and stimulating.  We anticipate that arguments over pronunciation of the name will provoke flame wars at AVSIM, raising consumer awareness with optimal marketing involvement, ie none.  And we’re honored that this will be first product of many from Microsoft using the new ‘Mi’ brand identity.

“The new user-centric feature scope and accessible two-key UI will allow us to minimize customer feedback and the need for infrastructure and support, maximizing the long-term viability of the product.  This also eliminates the potential for distracting third-party development enhancements.

“Of course we’ll make optimal use of user attention bandwidth, with a five-minute splash screen and subsequent contorted Windows Live Games sort-of-XBox-but-not-really online validation and ad-push process.  At every opportunity our valued customers will be presented with a slideshow to encourage purchase of expansion packs they already have, and others they don’t want.  If they do attempt a purchase, lucky users will randomly trigger a hidden gem: ‘Can’t retrieve information from LIVE. Please try again later.  Error code 8007271D.’  All part of our playful engagement with our valued customers, further augmented by our proactive Google … I mean, Bing-ranking of searches for that code with irrelevant and misleading KB articles on Zune.

“As always, we won’t specify availability date or features until well after the product is released, but we will publish periodic screenshots and low-res stuttery teasers without explanation that will encourage rampant and inaccurate speculation.  But, off the record, based on a reduction in the development team to one half-time employee and the one paragraph feature list, it’s likely the product will be released no later than Thursday.  Meanwhile, we’ll give customers attempting to harvest meaningful information from our website the opportunity to ingest content-free team member interviews.

“You might expect the usual discussion, ‘Is it a game?  Or is it a simulator?’ to be bypassed through our innovative approach of offering the features of neither.  But we know our true die-hard Microsoft … I mean, Mi … fans will still endlessly debate this question.

“From a personal marketing point of view, I’ve found it refreshing to work with half of a malleable gender-free ethnic-neutral location-nonspecific engineering team member who can design to specification without the need for dialog, discussion or any kind of human interaction.

“We’re excited about this cutting-edge next-generation user experience enhancement package.  I look forward to Mi Fli being open for business.  The future is bright.  Join us on our journey.”

Proponents of X-Plane immediately decried the new product, stating, “X-Plane has a much more realistic flight model.  And it almost has believable scenery.”

What (not) to do in an Earthquake

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011 Comments off

In this post I outlined sources of information to use for guidance in preparing for, and responding to, an earthquake.   It appears that some misguided information is also finding its way around the internet once again: the Triangle of Life promoted by Doug Copp.   It may apply in some third world countries, but guidance in North America still says to drop, cover and hold on.  Follow these links to learn more:

The problem here is not Doug Copp, it’s folks who do not take the time to verify the validity of information.  Google makes this easy now, and a simple search will quickly give you guidance as to whether the information is credible.  So the rule is: don’t pass on any advice on any life/safety issue unless you’ve verified it with a couple of credible websites, or it comes directly from someone who you know personally is an expert.

As an aside, I was surprised to see people standing around or running out of buildings in videos of the recent Japanese earthquake.  That’s the wrong thing to do, and in any case don’t think you’ll have that much mobility.   The earthquake was well offshore and the ground shaking in Tokyo (where much of the video was from) was much LESS than we might experience.  You may not be able to walk or even stand.  Most injuries occur (according to the American Red Cross statement above) when people try to run out of a building: stepping on broken glass, being thrown about or falling down stairs.

This article shows that Tokyo was subject to ground accelerations peaking at 0.16 g (VII on the USGS scale).    To put this in perspective severe ground shaking (X+) was recorded of up to 2.7g in Miyagi prefecture, more than 15 times higher.  A human would be thrown about like a ragdoll at such accelerations.  Unless they had dropped, covered and held on.  Tight.

A great little program for home layout …

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 2 comments

If your home space planning needs are simple, and you don’t need the complexity of the Punch line of home design software, Sweet Home 3D is a great free option, as I noted in my July 6 post.  Be sure to download the additional 3d model libraries, and even with them your choices will be limited, and very Euro-focused (check out the bizarre fireplace).  However, I still found the models quite usable as placeholders.  Includes plan view, as well as 3D walkthrough and the ability to print PDFs, if you don’t already have a PDF writerHere’s my layout.

And I have got some more furniture.  Had a very sorry experience with Sears catalog shopping (30 errors in the fulfillment process, dealing with 19 representatives, in the end they shortchanged me on the refund), eventually cancelled the order and got what I wanted from The Brick (zero failures, talked to 3 people in the order fulfillment process).

Cables anyone?

Thursday, July 9th, 2009 Comments off

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.

New speakers

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 Comments off

As I note in my audio/video system update I’ve been using the landlady’s speakers for some time.  Once I knew what my new condo would be like (small), I was ready to buy speakers.  I decided on an oddball stereo pair, not very common, but they sounded the best of everything I listened to under $2,000, except for the very low end, which is missing (Response: 55Hz – 50kHz).  I bought a pair of JVC SX-WD5‘s.  The clarity is stunning, and using the old Technic’s as rears works fine.  When I move, I’ll look for some inexpensive rears.

I don’t plan on getting a centre speaker or subwoofer or “presence” speakers.  So my 7.1 receiver will be driving 4.0.  Even for surround sound movies, it sounds great.  I’m just missing that deep rumble that probably wouldn’t go down well in a condo …

Deals on Ron’s birthday

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 Comments off

December 23rd, Ron’s offering 50% off on his fight simulation aircraft products.  Details here.

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