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All posts tagged "canada"

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Shaw Communications Ups Internet Transfer Caps, Lays Out Plan for Big Speed Boost

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 08:30 AM

"Today we are excited to share our new direction on Internet pricing and packaging with you, our customers. With your help, we've created a model that we hope you'll agree is fair, flexible and offers a variety of options for customers today and into the future. We'd like to thank the hundreds of customers who took time to come out to the 34 sessions and those who shared their ideas online. Many of those who participated are the technology innovators who told us they wanted an Internet experience that worked not only today, but for the needs of tomorrow. We also heard that our customers wanted transparency, more choice of internet speed and data options, increased flexibility to meet their varied needs, and above all, fairness."

There's been a lot of noise here in Canada bout UBB (Usage-Based Billing), and as one of the big ISPs here in Canada, Shaw is right in the thick of this fight. Unlike, it seems, the rest of the major ISPs (Bell, Rogers, etc.) Shaw is actively seeking out feedback from their customers and have come up with some interesting results. Read more...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

High Fibre: A Mini Documentary on High-Speed Internet Access

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 10:33 AM

"The United States is where the Internet was born. But we're falling behind in the race to the online future. Most of us go online these days using a service that's called broadband - faster than old-fashioned dial-up, and always on. But broadband service in the U.S. lags behind a dozen or more industrialized countries - and we're doing worse every year. Need to Know correspondent Rick Karr traveled to the U.K. and the Netherlands - with support from the Ford Foundation and in collaboration with the website Engadget - to find out how these two countries have jumped ahead of us online. This is a story about capitalism, competition, dynamism and innovation in what is arguably the most important industry of the 21st century. Old-fashioned American values, right? Then why are we being left so far behind?"

It's a little sad when I think about the leadership role North America had when it came to wired Internet access, and how that has been eclipsed by other countries putting more money into infrastructure. I remember having fast, always-on Internet via a cable modem in 1995...yet if I stop and look at what I have today from that cable modem, and what I'm paying for it, it doesn't seem like 16 years of progress has been put into that technology. Watch the documentary - it's worth it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Canadian Copyright Group Wants Tax on Memory Cards

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 10:00 AM

"As even non-Canadians may recall, there was a big issue in the country a few years back over a so-called "iPod tax" (something that cropped up again in the recent election) and, while it still hasn't come to pass, the Canadian Private Copying Collective is now pushing for a music tax of another sort. While there's no iPods in danger of being taxed this time, the CPCC is asking for a new levy to be placed on memory cards (presumably all types, although that hasn't been specified)."

This makes even less sense than the CD/DVD tax does; the number of MP3 players that use memory cards is relatively tiny, though they're probably targeting phones more than anything else. Thankfully I don't go through that many blank CDs or DVDs any more, but the concept of this tax is inherently unfair. I'd guess that the vast majority of memory cards purchased are used in digital cameras, so how can the CPCC justify their charge of copyright violation? This is bureaucratic corruption, pure and simple.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bandwidth Caps Force In-House Bandwidth Cops?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 06:00 PM

"I have three teenage daughters who also download music, TV shows and so on. I figured someone had just gone a little overboard, and since it was close to the end of the month, I thought it wasn't anything to be worried about. The next day, however, I went online and checked my usage (Rogers has an online tool that shows daily usage), and it said that I had used 121 GB more than my allotted amount for the month. In other words, I had used more than 100 GB in less than two days."

The basic premise of this story is that, as bandwidth caps become more common, home owners with multiple Internet users will have to become "bandwidth cops" to ensure that the shared resource (GB transferred per month) doesn't get used up too quickly. It's not a role that most people will be comfortable in; technical limits of most home users will be the primary barrier. Expecting users to be able to log data transfers on a per-computer basis is simply beyond the skills of an average user. I will point out, however, that this guy's problem ended up being the old "my kid was using a file sharing service to grab TV shows and I didn't realize it". Not educating your kids on the legal/moral ramifications of content theft is up to you, the parent. No ISP is going to do that for you!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The UBB Deception: Usage Based Billing in Canada Explained

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 09:30 PM

This is one of more easier to understand videos when it comes to the issue of Usage Based Billing - UBB - and what it really means. I'm putting this on every site in the network because if you're in Canada, you need to understand what's happening (everyone else in the world might find it interesting). Now that one of the ISPs here in Canada has admitted that the pricing of their plans is not linked to actual use, the logic behind UBB start to become even more baffling. We know the motivation is money, but as a "small c capitalist" I believe there's room for plenty of profit while still being fair to your customers. The model of usage-based billing we use in society for buying clothes and food should be applied in the same way for a data connection. Read more...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Notes from my Nikon D5100 Pre-Release Briefing

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 09:05 PM

In lieu of a full report, which is no longer interesting to me at this point, I decided to write up, point form, some of the interesting things I learned about the Nikon D5100 DLSR and ME-1 microphone - the things that aren't necessarily in the press release. Enjoy, and let me know if you have any questions - I'll do my best to answer.

  • The D5100 and ME-1 Stereo Microphone should be in-market by the end of April. The earthquake/tsunami in Japan didn't have an impact on the production of these products.
  • The D5100 is compatible with UHS SD Cards, along with the usual SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Based on some of the impressive new in-camera creative features, I asked Nikon if there were any plans to roll out similar features to other EXSPEED 2-powered cameras such as the D7000 or D3100 via firmware updates. The answer was no. I think this is unfortunate - it makes little sense to have a new and powerful camera such as the D7000 lacking features that the D5100 has. And, certainly, the D3100-using crowd would love some of the new features.
  • I asked about the in-camera HDR; it only uses two images, and typically for HDR you want three or more. Two images is the optimal number of images for non-tripod users according to Nikon. As in, three would be hard to do hand-held and too much ghosting would occur with more than two. There's no "tripod mode" for the HDR however, and worse, you can't use it with raw files. This is a simplistic, JPEG-only, two shot tool. You can, however, set it to +1/+2/+3 stops on the exposure - so your first photo is at +0 EV, and your next one is between +1 and +3. You also can't convert previously captured JPEGs. Lots of unfortunate limitations here, but let's face it, if you want high-quality HDR images, you're going to want to shoot three to nine images in raw format on a tripod and use dedicated software such as the ultra-awesome NIK HDR EFEX PRO (seriously, it rocks).


Nikon Releases the D5100 Digital SLR and ME-1 Microphone

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 09:01 PM

Nikon has just announced the D5100, their latest DSLR. It replaces the D5000, a camera I previously owned. The Canadian MSRP is $899 for the camera body and 18-105mm lens; there's no body-only option at this time.

Something worth noting: the ME-1 Microphone is compatible with any Nikon that has a 3.5mm audio input jack, so you D7000, D300S, D3S, and P7000 owners who are looking for better audio might be quite interested in that product. Canadian MSRP on this microphone is going to be $159.99.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Canada is the Most Web-Addicted Nation: No Way Eh?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 01:30 PM

"The measurement company comScore reported Canada has the highest penetration of Internet access, with around 68% of Canadians routinely surfing online, against 62% in France and Britain. Close behind is 60% of Germans going online and, south of the border, 59% of Americans. The laggards are Italians, where only 36% of the population goes online, according to comScore."

Above: Yeah, that's my kid, and yeah, this post is just an excuse to show you all how adorable he was when this photo was taken at the beginning of 2010.

We're #1! We're #1! I have to admit I'm a bit surprised by this - I didn't think Canada was any more Web-addicted than other Western nations. Maybe it's because significant portions of our population live in areas that, for half the year, get a wee bit cold [as I look outside to a foot of snow and -18 Celsius temperatures]. The fact that 51% of our population is on Facebook is quite staggering - has there ever been a singular service that has had such massive penetration into a society?

Of course, we're still sucking wind when it comes to Internet access speeds and we're paying too much for it to make matters worse. I was excited to have an Internet connection at 50mbps down and 3mbps up, even if it cost me $97/month...until a friend in New York told me he has 30mbps down and 30mbps up for about $60 per month. Gah!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Happened to Dell's Customization?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 12:00 PM

I don't know about you, but I feel like Dell's customization options have become dramatically restricted over the past year or so - it's like they're trying to get out of the custom, built-to-order computer business and into the "Buy Model A or Model B" business. I can't tell you how many times over the past year I've tried to spec out a computer or laptop and found that I'm locked into a "template" where the CPU, screen resolution, and GPU are locked down - allowing customization of the RAM and hard drive, and that's about it.

Case in point: the above computer is the Dell Inspiron All-in-One desktop computer. My wife's aunt is looking for a new computer, and an all-in-one would have several advantages for her. Dell Canada's email promo talked up the touch-screen aspect, so I assumed that the touch screen was an integral part of the product and included in all versions - it's not. When you go to the product page, there are three configurations you can chose from: Read more...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Take on Netflix Coming to Canada

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 10:30 AM

It might be difficult for our American readers to fully appreciate how frustrating it is for the rest of the world to hear about these cool video streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon VOD, etc.) and not be able to access them. Well, finally I can cross one of those off my list: Netflix has launched their video streaming service in Canada. It's streaming only; no DVD rentals are part of the deal, but as a Zip customer, I'm OK with that. I immediately signed up this morning when I saw the email come in, and within 60 seconds, I was streaming a movie. I've got to say, that's pretty damn cool - it's what I've been waiting for! Xbox 360 support isn't ready yet for Canadians; they say it's coming this fall. Read more...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Zune Marketplace Expands Elsewhere in the World - Sort Of

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune News" @ 05:44 PM

"REDMOND, Wash. - Sep. 20, 2010 - Microsoft Corp. today announced the further international expansion of Zune, its digital entertainment service. This fall, Zune will expand its music and video footprint and bring the free Zune software, Zune Marketplace online store, Zune Pass music subscription service and enhanced features on to new markets, providing a comprehensive entertainment experience on Windows-based PCs, on the go with Windows Phone 7 and in your living room through Xbox LIVE. "The integration between Zune, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox LIVE is an exciting expansion in our entertainment offerings," said Craig Eisler, corporate vice president, Interactive Entertainment Business Group at Microsoft. "Zune enables users to access the entertainment they want, wherever they want it - and now, more people than ever will be able to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that the Zune service offers." "

No surprises here, except perhaps that Microsoft has failed to expand the world-wide reach of the Zune Pass as much as I'd hoped they would. I live in Canada and was hoping - no, expecting - to be able to get a Zune Pass to go along with my upcoming Windows Phone 7 purchase. Here are the highlights:

  • The Zune Pass is coming to the U.K., France, Italy and Spain - consumers in that country will get the full subscription package for £8.99 / €9.99. However - and this is a bit of an issue for some - there are no free 10 tracks per month.
  • Music purchase is available in the U.K., France, Italy, Spain and Germany - this means MP3s from the Zune Marketplace.
  • Video purchases from the Zune Marketplace for the U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Movie rentals from the Zune Marketplace for the U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Is that a confusing mess, or what? As a Canadian, I can buy videos from the Zune Marketplace, and rent them, but I can't buy music? Or can't get a Zune Pass for the Windows Phone 7 device I'm pretty sure Rogers is going to be launching here in the next 90 days? Ridiculous. And why can someone in Ireland rent a movie, but not buy one? The Germans will be able to purchase MP3s from the Zune Marketplace, but they can't get a Zune Pass? And my head will explode if I try to figure out who can do what with Xbox Live - I've been able to rent movies from Xbox Live for months, but I can't rent them or purchase them on my PC.

This not the unified vision I was hoping to see from Microsoft. This is a slapdash, fragmented effort that fails to deliver a solid entertainment experience to everyone in the countries Microsoft is supporting. Yeah, yeah, I know that this is complicated legal stuff, but if Apple can get it done, why can't Microsoft? I'm tired of having to use a loophole to purchase music from Amazon. I'm tired of iTunes being the only source for video purchases I have available. I was hoping Microsoft was going to deliver a solid solution here, and they haven't. It's no wonder Apple is kicking ass and taking names when this is the best their competition can do.

The glimmer of good news in all this is that there's finally a new release of the Zune desktop software; I hope they've added useful features and improved performance, both of which are sorely needed.

What's your take on this? Am I being too hard on Microsoft? Should I be patting them on the back for achieving a tiny fraction of the digital entertainment unity that Apple has been able to create?

The remainder of the press release is after the break. Read more...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Photobook Canada's Big and Bold Square Photo Book: Some Strategy Required for Success

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Printing" @ 07:00 AM

Product Category: Photo book
Where to Buy: Photobook Canada
Price: $127.78 CAD as configured with the 216gsm Premium Silk/Gloss paper (prices start at $110 CAD for a 40 page book 11" x 11" book)


  • Incredible paper quality with the upgraded paper option;
  • Impressive print quality on the cover and inside pages;
  • Reasonably easy to use software.


  • Severe accuracy problems with front and back cover images;
  • Tech support is somewhat lacking;
  • Expensive, even with a discount coupon.

Summary: If you read my photo book review round up, you'll know that Photobook Canada fared quite well; with their upgraded paper option, the paper was superb, and the print and cover quality were excellent. At the time, they didn't support spine printing, and I further docked marks because the image on the back was printed right at the edge of the cover - but I was nevertheless impressed with the final product. Within a few weeks of my review going live, Photobook Canada launched version 5.0 of their photo book software, and guess what missing feature it added? Spine printing! Read more...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Telus Bridges the Xbox 360 + PVR Gap...I'm Shocked!

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 02:00 PM

"After years (and years) of waiting it's no surprise to see the Xbox 360 finally sliding into the role of IPTV set-top box, but we couldn't have seen Canada's Telus being the first in North America to offer the option. It only switched customers over to the Microsoft Mediaroom platform (also used by AT&T's U-Verse, where the feature should appear soon) powering its Optik TV package earlier this year, enabling this new multiroom setup."

A quick history lesson on Telus: they used to be AGT (Alberta Government Telephone), the monopoly for phone service here in Alberta. Over the years they've privatized, changed their name, acquired many companies, moved into mobile and Internet (DSL) access, grown to cover much of Canada, and lately gone into the TV business. I've been a Telus customer off and on in my life, and have generally disliked the company - from a customer's point of view, they've seemed to be highly dysfunctional, with customer service being an afterthought. I was incredibly happy when I was finally able to get my wife's phone off Telus, thus severing my last and only connection with them. I currently have my home phone, Internet, and cable TV service with Shaw, the cable company out here, and both mobile phones with Rogers. Read more...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Netflix Movie Streaming Coming to Canada Fall 2010

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 04:00 PM

"Netflix, Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), the leading Internet movie subscription service, today announced it will expand into Canada this fall offering unlimited movies and TV episodes streamed instantly to TVs and computers for one low monthly fee. The Canadian launch will mark the first availability of Netflix outside the United States. Canadian Netflix members will be able to instantly watch a broad array of movies and TV episodes right on their TVs via a range of consumer electronics devices capable of streaming from Netflix, as well as watching on PCs and Macs. In addition to representing its inaugural international market, Canada will also mark the first streaming-only service promoted by Netflix."

Interesting! As one of two resident Canucks on the Digital Home Thoughts team, I'm quite excited by this - unlike all of our American readers to the south, in Canada we have virtually no streaming media services of any sort. Hulu? Nope. Zune, except via Xbox 360? Nope. Amazon video on demand? Nope. iTunes is one of the only options we have in Canada for purchasing video content. We desperately need some competition here to shake things up, and Netflix coming to Canada is just about the best thing I could have hoped for in this area. Bring it on! Interested Canadians can sign up at the site for further info.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

When Having a .ca Domain is not Enough

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 12:30 PM

"Internet retailer has smashed up against Canadian pride in its efforts to open a distribution center in Canada, as booksellers grumble that it can't understand the role of Canadian culture."

In Canada, we take our media very seriously. We are so serious about it that for decades, we have implemented and enforced Canadian content regulations across various industries. If you are a radio or television station in Canada, a certain percentage of what you air must be labelled as Canadian. What gets labelled Canadian is up for debate as there are these long and winding specifications. What it all comes down to is that we have this protectionist gig going on here and the Canadian Booksellers' Association suports it. In a way, I can understand their position. I am a proud Canadian and I like to see Canadians get top billing in Canada. But on the other hand, I cannot shake the feeling that Canadian Content is an artificially inflated industry. I would like to think that what we Canadians come up with is so good that it will survive in an open market. Of course, there are a huge amount of other factors such as economies of scale and production dollars, but I like to believe that at least at this stage, Canadian products can stand on their own.

Tags: amazon, canada

Friday, March 5, 2010

High-Speed Internet Access in Canada: It's Expensive & Slow

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 08:00 AM

I'm feeling a bit miffed lately after talking with my cable company, Shaw Calgary, so excuse me while I rant about high-speed Internet access in Canada for a bit.

For several years, I've been paying about $50 CAD (about $50 USD) per month for high-speed Internet access that was eventually bumped up to 25mbps downstream speeds, and 1 mbps upstream speeds. The reliability has been excellent - I recall perhaps one period of down-time in the past year - and the 25mbps downstream speeds are sufficiently zippy for my needs. 99% of the time, the bottleneck on my downloads is the server at the other end. When I connect to a fast server, such as downloading NVIDIA graphics drivers for instance, it's not uncommon to see 2MB/s download speeds. The 1mbps upstream speed, however, was always a source of frustration for me. I shoot a lot of photos and videos, and when you're uploading 600 MB of JPEGs or an 800 MB HD video file, uploading at 1mbps is a painfully slow process, requiring hours. My ISP has been constantly ratcheting up download speeds, which is great, but the upload speeds have been between 512kbps and 1mbps (depending on the account) for years.

Pricing is also a concern; this article by Michael Geist has some shocking facts that are worth digging in to: Canada ranks 14th in the world in terms of high-speed accessing being affordable. Consumers in the UK pay an average of $30 USD equivalent, while we in Canada pay an average of $45 USD equivalent. That's a 50% hike! To put that into direct context, my ISP (Shaw) charges $33/month for their cheapest package if you don't also have other services from them. The speed of this $33 package? A sluggish 1mbps download speed and glacial 256kbps upload speeds. Oh, and a 10 GB/month bandwidth cap as an extra kick in the head. Read more...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Live in Canada? Enter the Rescue a Dell Mini Contest!

Posted by Reid Kistler in "Digital Home Events" @ 05:30 PM

"There are 21 compact, go-anywhere Mini 10v red laptops that need rescuing and if you help, you could take one home! Here's how: The contest begins December 18, 2009 at 12:00pm EST and one winner will be randomly selected almost every weekday starting December 21, 2009 after 5pm EST. Visit the Rescue a Mini tab on Dell's Facebook page Didn't win on Facebook? Don't fret! There's a bonus 22nd Mini 10v that needs rescuing on Twitter! To enter, follow Dell on Twitter and @reply Dell @DellHomeSalesCA with the hashtag (#RESCUEAMINI) and tell us why you could #RescueAMini. The @reply winner will be chosen by a panel of Dell judges. Contest closes January 21, 2010 at 5:00pm EST. Visit Rescue a Mini for a complete list of rules and regulations."

Here's one for all of our Canadian readers! Fortunately, we own a Dell Mini 10v, or else this announcement might have found itself accidentally misplaced out of jealousy. The 10v may not be the technology leader among netbooks, but we have been quite impressed with ours thus far - and "free" covers a lot of faults. If you need more incentive, and a few minutes of entertainment, you can view the video Dell created for this contest at

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Fellow Canadians, Rejoice: We Finally Have a Good Online MP3 Music Store

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 04:00 AM

Well, colour me impressed - HMV, a CD and DVD retail chain store in Canada, has launched an online music store. We had a few of them already, but most were re-branded and based on Puretracks on the back end, and up until recently that meant DRM-laden WMA files. Puretracks has been transitioning over to MP3s, but I find their store cumbersome to use. HMV Digital on the other hand, reminds me a lot of's MP3 store - fast, fluid, and simple. The music is in 320kbps MP3 format, which is excellent, and most tracks are 99 cents with a few in the $1.29 range. Albums are in the $9.99 range, and you don't even have to install a downloader if you don't want to - the albums come down in a single ZIP file. And best of all? They allow you to re-download your purchases up to five times, so if you happen to have a data wipe-out, you can get your music from them again. I'm not sure how deep their catalogue goes, but for new releases, this is where I'm going to be doing my shopping. Nicely done HMV!

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