telecom, technology and the occasional floobergeist

I’ve got an abundance of bits and pieces of canadian telecom and internet experience, and I am thrilled to be in a place in time when all is changing, technology is developing, and the status quo is being disrupted. 

Floobergeist is a word that is beginning to defy definition.  The more I roll that smooth pebble around, the more it becomes to mean. Floobergeist started out as the magic dust that turns dreams into ideas.  And then it began to encompass the zing that happens when you have conversations about those ideas. And now, it’s the whole evolution from dream to conversation, with each step improving the later and the former along the way.

Everyone aspires to good conversations. They can lead you to adventures you’ve never imagined, and to people you can twig with.

Let’s have a good conversation…


Filtering by Category: technology

Usage Based Billing Complaints aka: "I want to have my cake and eat it too"

It’s been two weeks of incessant blathering about “unlimited” broadband as a basic human right. Two weeks of grassroots attemps to scare the people, scare the governement and make the little baby Jesus cry.

I don’t want unlimited broadband. I want Amazing Quality broadband. I want network innovation. I want Universal Broadband. Why aren’t people rallying around those concepts?

Two weeks ago, the CRTC made a relatively reasonable decision as to what and how wholesale service providers sell internet service to their downstream customers. “The CRTC ruled in January that internet service providers such as Bell could charge wholesale customers based on the same usage-based caps that they charge retail customers. (Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2011/02/01/internet-usage-based-billing-clement.html#ixzz1DC5IBgoh)

The CRTC, despite its slow and deterministic processes, decided that what was good for the goose was good for the gander when it comes to internet usage. Blame the CRTC for doing the right thing. The right thing is not always the popular thing.

Usage based billing means paying for what you use. Not a new concept, really. Water, heat, gas, groceries are all usage based services. Why should internet access be treated any differently? If my neighbour waters his lawn 7 days a week, and washes his car on Sunday, and I only water my lawn twice a week and forgo the weekend carwash, why should our bills be the same? The shouldn’t. Full stop. Provided that the pricing per Gb is fair and equitable (and transparent), this should be a no-brainer.

“Consumer and internet advocates have been lobbying hard against the decision, which they said was leading to higher prices and snuffing out competition among ISPs. They also argued it would prevent consumers from taking advantage of new services such as Netflix, which allows users to stream high-definition movies and TV episodes over the internet to their television for a monthly flat rate.”

Are monthly prices going to increase? Only if you’re a heavy user (+75GB/month of data transfer). According to the CRTC, your pricing still isn’t going to increase until every last grandfathered Bell residential customer who still has unlimited service is migrated off that plan and onto a usage based plan. Teksavvy (and other smaller ISPs) jumped the gun and increased their rates prematurely to further whip their customers into a UBB frenzy.

I think that the biggest scare tactic is that the general population and Canadian Politicans have NO IDEA about how much bandwidth they use. That fact has allowed various grass roots movements to take advantage of *popular opinion* and scare the bejesus out of Canadians with phrases like “higher pricers”, “stifling innovation”, and “limiting usage”.

How much can you do with 60 GB of monthly usage?

  • 400 hours of surfing
  • 4000 emails
  • 2000 pictures shared
  • 600 songs downloaded
  • 26 movies downloaded (standard definition)

ALL of this activity will net you 60 GB of bandwidth usage. 60 GB is about $50/month, depending on your service provider. That $50 monthly charge is broken up into Customer Service, network infrastructure capital, carrier payouts and marketing and advertising….

125 GB is going to cost you more ($70), but here’s what you can do:

  • download 40 HD movies
  • Watch over 300 hours of YouTube
  • download over 26000 songs.

 Supporters of *unlimited” or *flat rate* internet services are folks who have been using 150 GB of download capacity, and only getting charged $50/month for the pleasure of that. It looks like the free ride may soon be over. Even Mandarin has limits on their all-you-can-eat buffet :-D

Open Media is the biggest driver of the fear, yet their website is simply rhetoric with NO meat. Not even a tool is provided to support their arguements, so that Canadians can actually gauge how much internet they use. I’ve found a very effective litle bandwidth calculator - and it’s independant of ANY Canadian providers. Go ahead and see what your bandwidth appetite is like. Over 200,000 Canadians have signed their petitiion, and I’l bet that only 20% of them know what their bandwidth usage is, and these are the folks who are 150 GB+ users. 

Why do I want usage based billing? It’s simple, really…..

  1. I want there to be financial resources available for network technology improvements.
  2. I want to eventually get to a place where we can manage our own bandwidth on demand, and be able to control that via a dashboard. Those services can only be provided by service providers who have a network that allows for this kind of functionality.
  3. I want to have a fantastic internet experience that’s not impacted by Joe Schmoe downloading 500 Gigs of anime cartoons off of his torrent stream, (unless he’s paying for it).
  4. I want UNIVERSAL broadband, and no service provider is going to be able to do that effectively and successfully if they have to offer an unlimited service.

Usage based billing doesn’t stifle creativity, it channels creativity into projects that are going to be productive and profitable.

During a hearing with Commons industry committee of February 4th, Konrad von Finckenstein, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), defended his agency’s new UBB rules.

“I would like to reiterate the Commission’s view that usage-based billing is a legitimate principle for pricing Internet services,” he said. “We are convinced that Internet services are no different than other public utilities, and the vast majority of Internet users should not be asked to subsidize a small minority of heavy users,” he said. “For us, it is a question of fundamental fairness. Let me restate: ordinary users should not be forced to subsidize heavy users.”

In times of CRTC confusion, the Voice of Reason, Mark Goldberg can always be counted on to add clarity to the situation….

 Tony Clement, in an effort to appear less-like-a-loser and more like a cool kid jumped into the UBB conversation via Twitter, simply to stir the pot and garner more public support for the next election. I’m not entirely sure, but I’ve got a feeling that good ole’ Tony wouldn’t know a tweet if it bit him in the toot! He’s got people for that.

The next time you hear someone chirp about UBB, ask them how much internet capacity they use on a monthly basis…. and then ask them if they want to pay for my water usage next summer. I’m thinking of making a bigger garden ;-)

You're Never Fully Dressed Without Your Tigits





Out for a big night on the town. Keys? Wallet? Phone? Tigits?

Check. Check. Check. Check.

It’s a brave new world out there, and the savvy single needs more than a wing and prayer when meeting other like-minded souls. This isn’t your parents’ dating scene, where there was one phone in the house and it never rang after 10:00 pm. Now is the time of on-line dating, speed dating and even Twitter dating. You want to be able to connect later, but not at the expense of giving out your real cell phone number.

Enter Tigits.

Tigits are temporary digits for your phone - a vanity number, if you will, that protects the safety and security of your real cell or home phone number. You meet someone who *seems* nice at a bar, but one nice conversation does not guarantee sanity. Offer up your tigits so that you can connect again, for futher discovery. If the budding relationship goes sideways, you haven’t relinquished your cherished cell number.

The singles scene may be the primo application for Tigits, but I can also think of quite a few additional scenarios where having a second phone number for your cell makes sense.

  • Teachers can’t give out personal phone numbers to parents or students, but with a Tigit, they can still be reached for questions and discussion.
  • Your 10 year old entrepreneur wants to start a weed pulling business, what better number to add to the flier?
  • Want to cut down on the telemarketing, use a Tigit for all of your retail shopping requirements.

I spoke with a few savvy singles, and their initial scoff that they didn’t need a Tigit quickly dissolved into quiet agreement when I reminded them of the time when a jilted date continuously rang their cell one night. Hell hath no fury like a scorned woman or man ;-D

You have a vanity address for your email, it makes sense to have a vanity number for your cell now too.

The upside:

  • Your number is active as soon as you register on-line for the service.
  • You can screen callers and choose to answer or send them off to voice mail.
  • You can protect your number on out-bound calls as well.

The downside:

  • At some point, you may need to divulge the fact that someone has passed the *Tigits test* and give them your real cell number. This is likely a good problem to have :-D

Any way you cut it, it’s a neat service with real-life applications. Be safe, be secure and don’t forget your Tigits…


The New iPad.

I took the plunge. It’s a combo of cottage device, photography tool and income tax rebate all rolled into one.

Why I love it:

  • amazing battery power
  • you can’t go wrong with the size
  • the apps are fantastic
  • i could actually be productive with this, if so desired
  • the 3G is key


  • i do wish it had a webcam built in. This would be the perfect skype tool.
  • Multitasking - coming soon
  • better speakers —- they aren’t bad, in a pinch, but better would be better…
  • a dock extending cable… all my stereos have a iTouch dock…. i need a cable to allow me to use the iPad in these stereos, and no, I don’t want to use an Aux cable.

I envision my self-control over app purchases being eroded away over time.


TELUS and Health

The TELUS Health division just makes me giddy. I don’t get to have much interaction with this team, not yet anyways. Whenever there is an article, an announcement or a release, I dive into the details to see what’s going on with such a compelling and timely solution group.

A few years ago, I sketched out a plan that would see cancer patients receive a tablet type device with their diagnosis. In lieu of a really lame binder (which most get now), a tablet would keep track of their questions, answers, prescriptions, appointments, status, test results etc. You name it, it would be tracked, captured and available for review. The best feature of this tablet? A voice recorder. When you’re with your doctor, and asking hundreds of questions, imagine how comforting it would be to have the conversation recorded. I would expect that cancer patients have a lot on their mind. Trying to remember ever question and answer would be an impossible task. A tablet would become the most important tool a cancer patient can have.

Maybe we have the tool now.

With billions of apps, no longer do you have to rely on customized software programs that cost billions of dollars. You would have an app that does the prescription checking, and app that updates your *chart*. You name it, there’s going to be an app for it.



Too Square for foursquare?

With all the buzz on foursquare, and with Tara Hunt completing challenges all over the place, I had to try.

I see where it wants to go, and I hope it can get there quicky… but right now, it’s a little dodgey. Friend feedback and referrals are huge. It’s what’s going to drive retail in the future. Heck, it’s what going to drive EVERYTHING in the future. Foursquare is using us to build trust relationships, which will then turn into bags of gold, depending on the eventual advertising and marketing campaign that gets tacked onto Foursquare.

Perhaps I’m cynical, but you don’t build interesting applications for free. Foursquare needs development. It *needs* integration with Google. Don’t tell me to go to google maps to validate an address or a business name —- foursquare should be doing that for me! Don’t make me manually comply to a stylesheet, use the googleoutputs and do the damn formatting yourself! I know, I know —- it’s new and cool and geeky and is building a wonderful database of glorious things…. But it’s doing it on the backs of the great unwashed masses, which is fine, but make it easy!

I’m not going to give up yet, but by jeeze, i can’t wait until they make foursquare smarter. :-)

Building Personalization, One Number at a Time

Everyone wants to feel special, unique, catered to. No one wants to feel like one of the great unwashed masses…

Businesses and retailers are just starting to nibble on the idea of customer personalization. Imagine, you have your own direct line to your salon. You call, they know who you are, what you like and more than likely, what you want. The same could be said for a myriad of services. Dentists, lawyers, accountants, mechanics…. Call centre technology pushed to the premise.

How about taking it a step further —- personalized toll free numbers anyone? Damn sight better than a calling card, especially for the kids at college…. (I know, Skype them, but with Skype not yet offering DID service in Canada, that’s tricky when you have to convince your parents to get Skypified, and be on the computer at the SAME TIME.) For less technified parents, get a 1-800 number and give it to your kids. They call you. You pay. You don’t have to give out your calling card number for them to (inadvertently) call Romania. I love Romania, don’t get me wrong, but the price per minute from Canada to Romania is almost the same as tuition at a Canadian university.

I’ve got a personalized Starbucks card. It’s got me, in caricature, on the front. I’d love a more personalized credit card. Yes, I’d likely pay a few bucks for it, or it should be included with the *annual fee*. I want a personalized Debit card, that should be easy too.


What do you want personalized?


Addicted to Google Streetview...

Little did I know, last summer Google captured my street, my old street, even the street i grew up on. What’s the big deal? I live in a subdivision north of Toronto, I used to live in a subdivision in Aurora, another one in Brampton, and i grew up on a street that didn’t have street numbers, it had rural roots. You know: R.R. #3? :-)

R.R. #3Somehow, Google managed to capture all the little people…. and wasn’t just limited to large urban centres. I dig that.They had a plan. A vision.

I have visions….I browse neighbourhoods, I pair Streetview with MLS, and I look forward to the day when Google is able to easily marry Streetview with geo-location advertising with their new patent. This new app is going to be the sexiest mobile addition. Ever.

I’m going to go and check out some more streetscapes…… :-D



Switching from Bell Expressvu to Rogers Cable: What you NEED to know

A few weeks ago, The Wiz and I decided to finally break free from the chains of satellite TV and ordered cable TV.  Too many times had we been let down by fuzzy programming due to inclement weather. Too many times had the PVR pooched a recorded movie.

Last week was the BIG CHANGE OVER. The snappy Rogers fellow came, he disconnected, he reconnected and voila. Cable TV in all its glory. Ahem….

If you are a hard core Bell Expressvu user, you do NOT EVER want to switch over to Rogers Cable. Not yet, anyways. You don’t realize it, but you have become spoiled by the Bell Programming Guide. Trust me. It’s got a great HD resolution, it lets you see 3 hours of programming in the future on one screen, it lets you see 7 channels of shows at a glance. You don’t think these things are valuable, until they are gone……

The Rogers Interactive Program Guide (IPG) is from 2004. It doesn’t display well on an HD tv, it doesn’t display well with any resolution better than 760. It doesn’t let you do any searching for programs, all you can do is browse by day. You don’t realize how sucky this us until you want to search for a program and have to browse through 30,000 shows that start with the same letter as the program in need….


This isn’t a new problem. People have been complaining about this for years. Funny, in 2004, it wasn’t a show stopper. It’s amazing what 6 years of innovation (or lack thereof) can do. The IPG feels like it should be running on a 386 with Windows 3.1 in order to be viewed correctly. Funny, the image to the left sort of looks like this, if you have a standard definition TV that is smaller than 36 inches. If you have anything else, the fonts are completely distorted, the colours are off and the size is ridiculous.

There are a few other VERY significant problems:

  1. There’s no skip ahead button on the Rogers Remote. You know the button, it’s yellow on the Bell remote, and it is your best friend. It gives you the power to skip ahead 30 seconds. It’s the commercial button :-) Rogers actually makes you view everything, albeit at 3times the speed.
  2. Rogers added a marketing screen to the IPG, so now you have to hit the guide button twice to get to the guide.
  3. There are some wickedly ridiculous buttons on the Rogers Remote, a button to take you to Rogers on Demand… duh.

We lasted all of 45 minutes before we looked at each other and said at the same time “I can’t do this”.

Twenty minutes later, the Rogers boxes were all packed up, and the calls were made to Rogers to cancel (you get a 30 day guarantee), and we were lucky enough that we tried this before our Bell cancellation had been activated, so we were safe on both sides.Turning on the TV and the Bell PVR, we breathed a collective sigh of relief.

I’m sure that eventually Rogers will improve their IPG, (maybe), but right now, there are SO MANY benefits to the Bell Service, we simply couldn’t overlook them in favour of avoiding imclement weather problems……

Caveat Emptor!


Skilled Workers --- Hard to Find

As low-skilled, unfulfilling jobs move off shore, the Canadian population is going to realize that it's worth it to spend a few years in college or university to learn the required skills to get a satisfying job. Off-shoring is going to continue, and you are going to see more and more low-skilled jobs going to areas of the world where these jobs are still considered challenging and desirable.

In the Globe and Mail, skilled jobs are going to be in very high demand. Very High Demand.
Is your job going off shore?
Are you sure?

If you're working in a role that can easily be done by someone with little to no training, chances are someone else, somewhere else can do the job for much less than you. If you want to ensure a continued demand for your labour, you need to make sure your labour is worth the asking price... It's that simple. Even workers need to stay competitive, valuable and desirable. If there's a glut of labour on the market, then it's an employers dream. Supply and demand. Just make sure you are in high demand, because the days of skating by with little education are over.
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The Bigger You Get, The More People Who Want to Knock You Down

A.K.A. The Facebook Saga Continues….

Funny, how it’s never far out of the news, and just when you think that things are starting to level off and quiet down with Facebook, something snappy pops out of the ethernet to bring it right back to the top of the headlines….

This week, it’s the lawsuit against Facebook developer Mark Zuckerberg.

It’s also the decision by Telstra (Australia’s Number one telco) to ban employee Facebook usage. Wow - the negative backlash to this is interesting, considering Telstra is trying to portray an image of being an *online* enabler.

What’s it going to be next week? Facebook goes Head to Head with Google?

Facebook saves cat in tree?

Facebook reunites WWII lovers?

Facebook brings researchers the cure for cancer? 


15 Years of Email

Sitting on my deck this morning, with the first coffee of the day is a treat and a pleasure. It also gives me time to think and dream and ponder. Sometimes I’m trying to figure out a problem, sometimes I’m planning an adventure.  This morning I was thinking about how long I’ve had email for, and how bizarrely tied to technology my life is.

It’s been 15 years since my first email address (jkivell@upguelph.ca). Sure - there weren’t alot of places I could check it. I didn’t have a computer 15 years ago. But every morning I would faithfully bike down to the university library, check my email, read newsgroups and monkey around with Archie and Gopher.


I’m not sure if I’m more or less productive now with email. Wearable email, at that…. My guess is that productivity has shifted, and for brief bursts of time, my productivity is through the roof, and for other, extended periods of time, I’m about as productive as a broken shovel. Om Malik has an interesting read on mobile email and productivity… 

I remember a time, when I was working for ISPs, when I was convinced that internet access would always be free for me. Aha. And it is. But at 56K dialup speed. I couldn’t fathom fast, always on internet service as I was  giggling over the thoughts of  free internet for life.

I also remember thinking that coding web pages by hand, with raw html was the only way to go. Ahem. Now my editors let me go raw or WYSIWYG, depending on my mood. Progress? Maybe. But I’m lazy now, and have left the technical understanding of CSS and XML to the applications, instead of having to learn how they actually work.

What were *you* doing 15 years ago?