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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.”

The surprising math of cities and corporations

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011 Leave a comment
Categories: Business, Learning, Technical

Humanizing Data

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 Leave a comment

Transforming how we look at things, from flight monitoring to music.

OS 6 on Blackberry 9700 (Bold)

Sunday, March 27th, 2011 1 comment

This month OS 6 became available for the Bold for Rogers customers. Some thoughts:

  • Upgrade was painless, with prompt for backup and mostly seamless app migration
  • Browser is much improved, but still has fundamental flaws: many pages are “too big” to load; still no Flash support; page zoom is nifty but frequently doesn’t work (I/O keys or context menu)
  • Performance is sometimes sluggish
  • Universal search rocks.  Well, kind of: it only searches names and numbers in contacts, OS5 searched through the entire contact record.
  • Calendar daily display is a disaster, showing only a tiny fraction of the day
  • Still no support for Skype
  • User interface is cool, but more complex
  • YouTube videos are vastly better quality, but jerky
  • Memory is an issue, I’ve had warnings that memory is low and tabs need to be closed. I don’t have very many apps.

There are far more thorough reviews out there, but this is what stuck out for me. For the user satisfied with their phone, using it for simple tasks, this upgrade would just be confusing. For others it’s probably worthwhile.

UPDATE: “page too large” to load, and “low on memory” errors are frequent enough to make this a questionable upgrade.

UPDATE #2: known issue: volume and next/last song function buttons are disabled when the device is in the holster.  :(

UPDATE #3: I think it was too much to ask to squeeze OS6 on to the slower processor and microscopic memory of the 9700. Unless you need to be cool, and don’t mind random waits and out of memory errors give this a miss. Too much time is spent waiting for the spinning hand of nothingness. If you want more than OS5 offers, you’re better off with a 9800, or wait for OS7 on RIM’s next behind-the-curve BB, the 9900.

Could it happen here?

Saturday, March 26th, 2011 Leave a comment

Coastal British Columbia is in an active earthquake zone, and recent events have raised awareness of the risks.  Although in Victoria and Vancouver we are largely protected from Pacific Ocean tsunamis, a damaging tsunami from a near-shore earthquake may occur, and it’s worth restating that your best protection is to be prepared and know how to respond.  In BC, the organization ultimately responsible for your safety is your Local Authority (municipality, district or First Nation) so contact them with any questions, and lots of useful information can be found at the Provincial Emergency Program site, with particular attention to their Earthquake Preparedness and Tsunami Preparedness documents.

Cool as a cucumber

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 Leave a comment

I got my machine back a couple of days ago, now when stressed the max core temp is 52C.  That’s better.  Forty degrees better.  Also now running at 3.0 GHz instead of 2.4 GHz.  That’s better too.  What wasn’t better is that I idly checked the DX10 preview box without thinking and that screwed up textures vastly.  David Roch at AVSIM gently led me back to the light.

So back to photoscenery.  I realized that the night textures for FTX are vastly different than those in Van+ … so two different sets of night textures are needed downtown.  As you can see, FTX night textures are much darker.

Vancouver+ V3 - night - Standalone textures

Vancouver+ V3 - downtown - night - FTX versions

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