How pastimes have changed over the years

Although changes in society are part and parcel with technological progress, the 21st Century has seen a radical transformation in how we are able to enjoy our favourite past-times. You just have to look back to your childhood memories and remember what was popular at the time as a reminder of just how far the world has evolved. Playing marbles, having fun with a yoyo and watching television when there were just three terrestrial channels to choose from are now a thing of the past, and while you are more than entitled to continue to enjoy traditional pastimes that some may consider out-dated and obsolete, it is difficult to ignore the digital-age alternatives. Significant advancements in technology have created a new wave of activities and interests that keep us occupied when we have time to ourselves away from work – it is amazing how so much has changed in so little time. Continue reading

How I Got an Android Smartphone in Ontario Canada for Just $6.25 per Month

My method is not for the person who wants to be able to spend time on their cellphone, chatting it up, nor the person who wants to have blazing Internet speeds on their phone while they’re hiking through Algonquin Park. This is for those of us with very basic requirements, who need a phone out of necessity… for emergencies… and don’t want to spend a bunch of monthly cash to do it.

Let me tell you a little bit about me, and perhaps shed some light on why you may have received an answering machine or two when reaching out to me. I’m not one to spend much time on the phone. In fact, I do almost all my communication either in person or by email.

I’m not a brain surgeon, nor the President of the United States, so I’ve never felt “important enough” to need to be accessible 24/7 no matter where I am. So I’ve never gotten myself into a costly phone contract, because it simply wasn’t a necessary expense.

However, recently we had our new alarm installed at the studio thanks to Froggy.ca, and the alarm monitoring company needs to be able to get a hold of me in event of break-in or other emergency. Otherwise, they might send the Police to false alarms should they occur, resulting in a hefty fine from the local emergency service.

So I started doing research, and realized a few things about my needs.

  1. I am almost always within reach of a WiFi connection, and when I’m not, I don’t want to be. For example, I don’t need to have Internet while I’m at the beach or eating dinner at a restaurant with my darling wife.
  2. I never use the phone. I need it for emergency use only, and perhaps the rare short call, but nothing to warrant the 500 minutes a month of a standard phone contract.
  3. I want a phone out of necessity, not desire for constant contact, and therefore I do not want to have to spend the $35+ per month on a phone contract.
  4. I use an iPod Touch 4 to keep on top of my inbox. I know it’s on its last legs (they’re not built to last), plus I don’t want to have a phone and iPod in my pocket–so a smartphone makes more sense to me than a flip phone. I want to remove the iPod from the mix entirely and just have a single device for both purposes.

With some back-and-forth between the Category5 TV chat room, and discussing with a few friends, I came up with a brilliant solution, and I must say it’s working great!

I now have a smartphone–a Samsung S730m Discovery Galaxy–with no contract, and I pay just $6.25 per month for it.

Here’s how I did it:

First of all, I bought the phone. That’s right. I paid outright for a refurbished unlocked smartphone. I’ve never done this before, but the freedom is wonderful! I got to choose my phone from dozens of available options, and got a great deal (I paid $90 Canadian) since it’s a refurb, and not the most current of phones. Check out the amazing selection on Amazon! One of them is bound to work for you.

By purchasing the phone outright, I am not tied to a contract. It’s how the phone companies get you: they promise a free smartphone, or one for very cheap, but you have to sign up for $35 per month for 2 years (Wind Mobile). So I’ve avoided the contract, and the high monthly fee (but had to pay nearly $100 up front for the device–a fair trade-off).

The other advantage to buying the phone is that for less money in the long run, I actually end up with a better device. The ones being offered at the $35 / month contract level don’t hold a candle to the one I bought for just $90. You can get an unlocked phone for as little as $40 from what I saw, but again, I wanted to replace my iPod Touch at the same time.

Secondly, we know I have easy access to WiFi. What about you? I think it’s pretty rare to be out of reach of a WiFi connection where you truly need it, at least for me. I have it at work, I have it at home, and my favorite coffee shops also give me free access. I do not need Internet while sitting on a park bench watching my kids play. I’d prefer to cheer them on and show some interest in what they’re doing.

So scrub the need to have cellular Internet on my phone. I set the phone to disable using Internet on cellular networks, and I can still have high-speed Internet on my smartphone whenever I am within reach of a WiFi connection… which is practically always.

Third, I shopped around. You’ll never guess where I found my service.

Wait for it…

After weighing about 15 different providers against one another, I walked into my local Petro Canada gas bar and picked up a SIM card and pay-as-you-go minutes. Whaaaaat?

Yeah, you heard me right.

Why did I choose Petro Canada? For starters, it’s easy to activate my phone. I bought the SIM card for $10, which gave me the local phone number and activated my new phone. All I had to do was enter some numbers into a web site as per the instructions, and I was up and running.

Not to mention, you get Petro Points for your phone service. That will mean free gas, free groceries, whatever I choose to redeem them for.

So here’s how I got my phone service for $6.25 per month…

I actually purchased a single $25 pay-as-you-go card. That’s it. Having read all the fine print, Petro Canada’s $25 card expires in 4 months. That’s 4 months of phone service, with no Internet (I’m getting that via WiFi) for just $25, assuming I don’t make an abundance of calls using up the card prematurely (which I won’t do unless there’s an emergency, in which case I won’t mind reloading early). $25 every 4 months is $6.25 per month.

It doesn’t give me a lot of talk time. Roughly 50-100 minutes per month, but that’s actually more than I need.

So for those who are like me and only need cellular service in an emergency or in a bind, I wanted to post how I did it and share with you that you too can get phone service in Canada for just $6.25 per month.

Already have a cellphone? Cancel your phone plan and do what I did if you are paying more than you need to! Even $35 per month to have a “phone for emergencies” is too much now that we know it can be done for so much less.

Please comment below and let me know what you think of my solution, and certainly if you opt for the same, I’d love to know about it.

Here’s a video where Sasha Dirmeitis and I discuss how I did it:

Starting to feel old…

I guess I’m starting to feel old when I was actually part of the “good ol’ days”. How did this happen?

Watching The Sing Off and realizing most of the great bands were born in the 90’s.

Missing the days when conducting research was an experience, not a Google search.

Hearing songs on the “retro” radio show that were brand new, hot tracks when I was a teenager.

And looking at my baby girl who is fast becoming a little lady.

Better make the best of each day, because this is all going way too fast.

LogMeIn lost all my accounts.

As a technical support company, we have used LogMeIn for years to help us remotely administer client systems.  Many of those clients have 20-30 computers, or more, and we had loaded them all into our LogMeIn account for easy access by our technical support team.

We have many “free” accounts connected to it, and many “paid” accounts.  Some of our customers needed the “paid” features such as printer support, so we set them up with a paid account.

So our account, over the years, became a well-organized assortment of both paid and free LogMeIn accounts.  And we had a lot of them.

And then on March 5, 2013, LogMeIn sent the following email (excerpt):

“For nearly a decade, LogMeIn Free has provided unlimited free remote access to users on as many computers as they wish. In order to ensure that we can continue providing this free service and make meaningful improvements to it, we will be limiting the number of accessible Free computers in all remote access accounts to 10.”

We stopped reading around there.  But it goes on…

“Should you choose not to upgrade, only the first 10 Free computers in your account, according to alphabetical order, will be shown as available” … “These changes will take effect in just a few weeks, so act now to take advantage of our special rate.”

Well, we acted.  We moved all our customer systems (including the paid ones) onto our own hosted support solution and left LogMeIn a distant memory.  Didn’t have to think twice.  LogMeIn effectively pulled the plug on our business-customer relationship.

As a business owner, it’s important not to forget your customers.  They’re the ones who make your business work after-all.  In LogMeIn’s case, they made a stupid move. And unfortunately a lot of it has to do with communication.  I now know they are offering a reasonably priced “Central” service to allow the continued use, but their email didn’t mention anything about that in the first paragraph, and in big bold characters it simply stated, and I quote:  “Important message: Your account will soon be limited to 10 Free computers.”  We didn’t read any further before taking action.

So, in an effort to reduce the number of “free” accounts in use on their system, LogMeIn has also lost all our paid accounts.

It reminds me of when Neighbours (a coffee drive-thru) stopped taking debit as a form of payment.  Their focus was entirely on the wrong thing: the fees to run a debit machine.  Here’s the ripple effect: I used to get my coffee there each morning, and quite often a breakfast sandwich, but when they made that change, I didn’t waste any time (because I don’t carry cash)… I just drove across the road to Tim Hortons.  Stupid move on their part.  They’ve since re-introduced debit at their drive-thru.  Perhaps someone at the company woke up and realized they just cut out a large chunk of their business to save a few pennies per transaction.  Which costs more?

But where does that leave LogMeIn?  Their focus is obviously in the wrong place in the same way.  And we’ve gone elsewhere.

Own a business?  Think about your customer first, and then figure out how to make money while taking good care of your customer.  If you can’t be good to your customer, they’ll just go across the road and leave you wondering where all the business went.

– Robbie

The problem with poor grammar: jokes don’t work.

Aside

The problem with raising children with poor grammar can be summarized in a conversation I had with my 5 year old son tonight. In my efforts to trick him into saying “underwear” in the classic verbal trap, I said to him “What’s under there?” to which he responded, “What’s under what?”

My embarrassing adventure at the LCBO.

Ready for my embarrassing, yet utterly hilarious story from today?

So, I decided it’d be nice to pick up some “Christmas Cheer” on our way home from shopping… sit by the fire tonight once the kids are in bed, with the twinkle of Christmas lights on the new-fallen snow… a perfect evening planned.

It’s a lazy Saturday and I didn’t really “dress nice” or anything… just a track suit, and unshaven face. The snow also came on pretty suddenly (literally overnight), and I haven’t found my winter boots yet since our move in August. Keep all these details in mind. Scruffy looking dude, wearing a track suit with a junky jacket on top, and wearing running shoes in this blustery winter weather.

I’m generally an outgoing person, and I like to make people smile just by being friendly and a little bit charming.

I enter the LCBO up on Bayfield Street, and there’s a lady giving Whiskey samples up at the front. Turn on the charm, I say to her “Boy, am I glad to see you!”, a bit of a joke about her handing out samples of whiskey.

Now, that would have been fine.

BUT…

As the words came out of my mouth, my shoes (yes, running shoes, on this wintery day) slipped as I entered the store. I stumbled, and slammed into the posts that you’re supposed to gracefully spin trough on your way in.

Trying not to lose my cool, I proceeded to walk over to her table, still slipping a little.

She looked at me … and it was clear she was judging me.

OH MY GOSH, I realized; “She thinks I’m DRUNK”. GASP!

She proceeded to pour me a sample, and no word of a lie: 1.5… maybe 2mL in the bottom of the glass! She didn’t want to give me a sample! She literally thought I was entering the store drunk! LOL!

I can’t say I blame her! In walks scruffy guy. “Boy, am I ever glad to see you!”. Trip. Slam into pole. Stumble over. Drink 1.5 mL of Whiskey.

MY GOODNESS, that was about as embarrassed as I’ve ever been (when I realized what she was thinking), and I have no doubt in my mind she has since told people about this “drunk guy” who visited her tonight. My word!

Well, for the record, the whiskey was nice (all 1.5mL of it). I might have bought some if I didn’t feel it important to quickly get away from that table as fast as I could!

ALL TRUE!

Windows 8 looks like a messy wall decorated by a 6 year old.

Aside

Screenshot from the new commercial depicting the Windows 8 home screen by way of metaphor.

Yes, it looks like Microsoft hit the nail on the head with their first commercial for Windows 8.  In it, they depict the Windows 8 interface metaphorically.  It looks like a messy wall decorated by a 6 year old.

Just sayin’.