Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Countdown to CDMArmageggon

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For those who haven't made the upgrade to a modern smartphone, hanging on to their old trusty flip phones may have to upgrade or lose the service they have by this time next year.  Subscribers on Bell, Telus, MTS, and Sasktel who are using phones made before 2009 running on CDMA networks will have to upgrade to more modern phones or lose service.  Like analog cellular networks just a few years ago these Canadian cellular carriers are going to shut down CDMA service on December, 31, 2015.  

Carriers maintain that the increasing cost of maintaining CDMA networks for a decreasing number of subscribers is not financially viable.  While the cost operating CDMA networks is increasing while the revenue that supports it is evaporating it is the radio frequency spectrum that CDMA networks are using is the real valuable commodity that carriers need to repurpose for their modern HSPA and LTE networks.  

To find out if your phone will lose service at the end of 2015 turn it off and open the battery compartment remove the battery.  On the label with the barcodes and long numbers if one of those long numbers is labelled ESN then you have a CDMA phone that will need to be replaced.  

Cellular subscribers who are keeping an old phone probably doing for a number of reasons.  Those who are just using the cellphones just for making phone calls and maybe basic texting can get a feature phone for use with modern HSPA networks.  Others holding onto old handsets are doing it to hold onto an older cellular plan that give more or charge less.  Cellular carriers are going to unwilling to upgrade hardware leaving an older plan in place.  If this case the solution is to buy an off the shelf prepaid cell phone and ask the cellular carrier to transfer service to the purchased prepaid phone.  

Some especially in rural areas are often hanging onto those old cell phones get service where newer phones do not.   Current CDMA uses the 850 MHz band which is best for rural areas because the signals travel farther than higher frequency bands.  When CDMA gets shut down the newer network technologies will take over 850 MHz band the performance of HSPA and LTE will match today's CDMA phones get today in rural areas.  

American visitors to Canada on Verizon or Sprint will need to know after December, 31, 2015 their phones that use CDMA for voice calls will no longer functional, however LTE data service will be available.  Sprint and Verizon subscribers with compatible phones that have dual CDMA/GSM voice radio hardware will have to their Verizon or Sprint to get a SIM card that will enable voice roaming on Canada's HSPA networks.  

The end of CDMA service may just seem like a cash grab for cellular carriers but it's just like other transitions in technology.  In order to advance to what is new it means letting go of what's old.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why Canadians Are Going To Have Wait For Apple Pay

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One of the features generating interest in the iPhone 6 Apple recently announced is the NFC based payment system called Apple Pay.  Customers will have the ability to store their credit card(s) on their iPhone and just tap their iPhone on the terminal at the till in any retail store or restaurant to pay for a purchase or meal.  

For us North of the 49th parallel we will have to wait for Apple Pay much like other goodies in the Apple ecosystem.  Launching Apple Pay in Canada will take an agreement between Apple and Canada's banks but will also require Canada's retailers and restaurants to install NFC enabled payment terminals who that haven't done so already.  These retailers and restaurants are still paying for the upgrade to chip and pin payment terminals about half a decade ago.  

Anybody wondering about Apple Pay coming to Canada will have to ask about Canada's Goliath in payment processing, Interac debit.  The answer depend on if the banks demand adding Interac support to Apple Pay.  Using Interac with Apple Pay in uncertain because the banks make more from credit cards than from debit card usage.  

Canadians are familiar with tap and go payment from credit and debit cards that NFC technology brings.  With the large number of NFC payment terminals already installed in retail stores and restaurants across Canada it will prove to be fertile ground for Apple Pay.  If Apple can get the banks to agree to let in Apple Pay it will be one of the best opportunities to sell the iPhone 6 in Canada better than any new generation. of iPhones ever before seen.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Amazon Fire Phone In Canada, When and With Who

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Yet another smart phone platform launched yesterday (June 18th) with a press announcement on par with Apple or Samsung.  Amazon's Jeff Bezos announced the Fire Phone.  Pre orders have already started the official launch date is July 25th.  Amazon's Fire Phone will be launching just in the United States and only available on AT&T.   

This hasn't stopped many this side of the 49th parallel looking for an alternative to the androiPhones that occupy ninety percent of the smartphone market from wondering when the Fire Phone will launch in Canada and if only one carrier will be able to offer the Fire Phone which one will it be?  

Answering these questions will come later rather than sooner unfortunately.  Amazon's digital products such as streamed music, movies and TV shows are not available in Canada due to intellectual rights issues.  It would make no sense to sell the phone if the content is not available.

If it is the intention to keep the Fire Phone on one carrier only per country like Apple did during the early life of the iPhone then it could make for interesting wagering. Rogers would be the the most likely candidate.  Canada's most popular cellular carrier was also the first with the iPhone and Android.  

Bell can't be counted out, they were the only carrier to snag the Palm Pre, we all know how that turned out but they were carrier that was willing to take a chance on a new smartphone platform.  

There is a chance although a slim one that one of Canada's newer regional cell carriers such as Mobilicity or Wind Mobile will pick up the Fire Phone to finally vault one of the struggling carriers over the one million mark, but for Amazon thy would need an agreement with a national carrier if they are to have any chance at success in the market that Apple and Google already dominate.  

Despite the growth of the smartphone industry in the past decade it has been unable to support more than two platforms.  Prior to the introduction of the iPhone Blackberry and to a lesser extent Windows Mobile were the two big dogs in the pound.  In the early going after iPhone hit the scene, Blackberry went to second place and Windows Mobile became road kill.  Then after the rise of Android, it was Blackberry that became left over kibble in the food bowl.  

Amazon will have to deliver something nothing short of spectacular just to be a viable competitor to iPhone and Android. To get to that point in Canada Amazon will have to get all their digital content products into the Canadian as soon as possible.  

Friday, May 30, 2014

Things I Have Told The "Microsoft Support" Telephone Scammers

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One scourge of modern life that has been plaguing anybody with a wireline or cellular telephone in the past couple of years has gotten calls from somebody speaking with a heavy accent working in a boiler room call centre somewhere in Asia claiming to be from Microsoft support to report that their home computer is infected with all kinds of malware.  The scammer tells the potential victim to look in the Windows event viewer and tells them that everything marked with a red X is caused by viruses.  The scammer collects a credit card number from the victim and then instructs the victim to download a "remote access removal tool" which turns out to be malware as well.  

Getting these calls and getting sick of it, I have told the scammer that I own a Mac, even though I don't the scammer didn't know that I was lying.  That was over a month ago.  Some of these scammers don't accept that as an answer and will insist that their computer is badly infected  and they need to let them into your computer and charge you for it.  

If telling them that using your using an operating system that doesn't come from
Microsoft isn't enough to get you off the scammers' call list.  There are some things you can tell them that will help get out some of the frustration from getting all these scam calls and have some fun at the scammers' expense.  

"I'm so glad you called I keep getting a message that says illegal call from ID 10 T". Most of these scammers have some technical knowledge and most likely would know that ID 10 T is a geeky way of calling somebody an idiot.  The scammer will ether get mad which you can tell them to get a real job and hang up the phone.  Alternatively they will stay on script and try to continue with the scam.  You can tell them to get a real job and hang up the phone.

One I have been waiting to try is picking up the phone and answering "FBI Cybercrime Investigation Unit, This call is being recorded for quality control".   This may not scare the hard core professionals pulling off this scam but the for the beginner might get scared off and hang up.  

It would be worthwhile to tell the scammers that your hearing isn't very good and ask them to e-mail the information they have about your computer.  If they do e-mail you that e-mail with the complete message header  can be turned over to the FBI or RCMP to assist them in their investigations of these international frauds.  

The problem with these telephone scam operations they are using inexpensive VOIP systems that costs next to nothing to make hundreds of calls from Asia to potential victims in North America.  One remedy that will hit them in the money maker is to make up an excuse to put them on hold.  Making scammers sit on hold probably won't cost them a whole lot but if making one operator in the boiler room sit on hold will slow down the ability to make calls, making it harder to find the poor souls who get sucked in and hand over their credit card numbers.

As much as it would make it a better world of these scammers were put out of business tomorrow, that unfortunately isn't going to happen.  These boiler room operations can and will spring up anywhere.  The only thing that will slow down this scam is educated computer users who simply will not fall these scams.  Yes there are creative ways that to tell them that you are one of those who will not fall for it.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How Most People Overpay For Online Downloads And Subscriptions

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Most content online have fixed prices such as eight dollars a month Netflix or sixty dollars a year for Xbox Live for subscriptions or single downloads much as iTunes $1.29 per song.  Unknown to most people who key in their credit card numbers to access online content, they will end up paying much more than they think.

Many carry a balences on the same credit cards that they buy online downloads and subscriptions.  When someone uses a credit card carrying an outstanding balence the interest starts adding up the very second that Netflix charges the credit card account to collect their monthly fee or when the buy button is clicked on to start a download from iTunes.  

Relief from paying credit card interest on your online subscriptions and downloads may be as close as your debit card.  CIBC and TD have added Visa debit onto their Interac debit cards.  CIBC customers who have the advantage debit  card and TD customers who have a newer access card with the picture of the green chair can pay for online content with those cards.  Add your CIBC or TD debit card to your online accounts as if it's a Visa using the expiry date on the front of the card and the security code from the back of the card.  RBC customers can get a separate card for online purchases called the Virtual Visa Debit that provides the ability to pay through Visa but take the money from a chequing account.  BMO and ScotiaBank customers don't currently have this option, but there are reloadable prepaid Visa cards available through convenience stores and other outlets.  One of these reloadable prepaid are purchased, and can be reloaded using vouchers purchased at the same outlets that the reloadable Visa and MasterCards are sold, one thing that sets the reloadable cards apart is the ability to pay through one's own bank.  Through the traditional teller, ATM or through online banking.  The reloadable prepaid account  is set up as a payee on your bank account just like any other credit card account.  Using one of the many alternatives to one's traditional credit accounts will save a lot more money than they realize.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What Ever Happened To TiVo In Canada

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TiVo considered by most in the home entertainment industry to be the original personal digital video recorder was revolutionary in the United States in the first few years it was in the market.  Meanwhile Canadians could only look South enviously as American TiVo users were pausing live TV, recording two shows at a time and fast forwarding through commercials much faster than the VCRs that Canadians were stuck with at the time.

In 2008 TiVo finally launched in Canada only to crash and burn within just a few months.  Many blamed TiVo's failure in Canada on obsolete hardware they were trying to sell to Canadians.  Others blamed the monthly subscription fees that were higher than the rental fees charged by the cable and satellite TV companies.  

TiVo claimed that series 3 and later hardware was never sold in Canada because the Canadian Radio-Television Commission never mandated cable companies to distribute CableCards to subscribers to allow third party hardware such as TiVo boxes to access subscription digital cable services.  

Just a couple of years ago TiVo was written off as ilrelvant as cable and satellite company personal video recorders take over the space in the entertainment centre cabinet that TiVo boxes used to dominate.  As cord cutting solutions had emerged as a credible alternative to cable and satellite services.

Some of those who have gotten fed up with cable or satellite fees have switched to a combination of over the air broadcast and Internet streaming a trend called cord cutting has emerged in the past couple of years.  The newest generation of TiVo boxes now integrate digital broadcast TV tuner to provide a personal video recorder with a client for Netflix, YouTube and other online video services in a single box.  

Canadians are most vocal with their frustration with cable and satellite TV fees, but cord cutting has yet to reach critical mass some speculate technical complexity having to use the TV's own tuner and a separate streaming video box.  The Canadian market for Digital TV recording remains largely untapped.  There is a huge potential to come back to the Great White North.  If TiVo executives have any business sense at all they could put out a service that charges one fee that includes the TiVo fees and Netflix or another streaming service.  Eliminate the the multiple devices and dealing with multiple companies.  

Canadians as dissatisfied with cable and satellite TV companies can give TiVo the potential to relaunch and be successful if they can rethink their business model and embrace cord cutting.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Do you have an emergency alternative communications plan

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Severe weather, natural and man made disasters that knock out electricity can and often knock out communications networks as well.  We have all heard the warnings to have a 72 hour supply of non perishable food and fresh water on hand as well as a battery operated radio to stay informed.  In the event of a failure of traditional telecommunications systems most could be caught unprepared.  

The natural instinctive inclination for just about everyone if wireline telephone service isn't available is to pull out the cell phone and make a call.  In an emergency situation that knocks telephone service out of commission the people flooding the cellular networks making calls to check on relatives and friends would potentially overload cell towers, even entire cellular networks could get crippled.

The first thing it to limit the number and length of cellular calls.  Use cell phone calls to check in with family members affected by emergency conditions and/or communications network outages.  Secondly use text messaging as much as possible.  Text messages may get delayed a few minutes depending on congestion on the cellular networks.  

Anybody in the role of caregiver to family members who are elderly, disabled or have long term health conditions may need to consider a communications solution that works independently from the traditional telephone and cellular networks.  FRS and GMRS two way radios that use UHF frequencies that have 20 km or more of range can be purchased for well under 100 dollars.  

One of the essential needs for survival in an emergency is access to communications, having a plan to communicate with relatives and friends when telecommunications networks fail in an emergency situation could save your life that of someone you are about.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Why Netflix Doesn't Have Prepaid Cards (But Should)

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For most online products sold and downloaded by customers and digital services delivered online give people the option to pay with their credit cards or prepaid cards available through most major retailers.

Despite the increasing popularity of prepaying for digital products and services distributed online, one of the Internet's most popular video services, Netflix is still holding on to the requirement that customers put it on plastic to get their movies and tv shows delivered on demand.  

Requiring payment by credit card comes from the founding days of Netflix back in the late 1990's when Netflix was in the mail order DVD rental business when the replacement cost of a DVD that was damaged or reported lost was simply charged on a customer's credit card.

Since Netflix only does streaming outside of the United States and within the US very few Netflix customers still rent discs by mail keeping credit card only payment system is outdated and antiquated.  

Initally it may seem that offering prepaid service would only benefit people who don't have a credit card could get access to Netflix and potentially retailers who would sell Netflix prepaid cards.  The number of existing Netflix subscribers who would switch from credit card billing to prepaid if they had the option would number in the millions.  

For Netflix itself would see a benefit in cost savings from not having to pay processing fees to the credit card companies.  To take a credit card payment the merchant pays anywhere between 1.5 to 5 percent to the credit card companies. Using 3 percent as an average processing fee Netflix pays twenty four cents per subscriber per month to Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.  If a conservative estimate of ten million current subscribers  switch to prepaid billing Netflix would save 2.4 million dollars per month.  

Another benefit to Netflix would be building a lump sum of money that they could use to secure better access to content.  If the ten million subscribers prepay 96 dollars for a year of Netflix, Netflix would soon have 960 million dollars at their disposal to buy or produce content or buy bandwidth to improve the service.

Services sold thorough prepaid may still have a lower class reputation of customers who have been unable to qualify for credit, but that is starting to change due to security breaches in merchants both online only and in the physical world, many are now apprehensive about handing over credit card information.  Providing the prepaid option will help Netflix grow their subscriber base by providing these potential new customers with an alternative to credit cards.  

Prepaid service can help Netflix achieve subscriber through the gift giving market. Giving a six months or a year of Netflix would be a perfect compliment to a Apple TV or Roku box given as a gift as a gift for a birthday or for Christmas would give recipients many of which probably would not become Netflix subscribers.  

What I've mentioned are just a few of the compelling reasons for Netflix to add prepaid as a payment method and get out of the dot-com bubble era world of credit card only. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why Nintendo Shouldn't Give Up On Hardware

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If you believe the video game press, pundits, and analysts Nintendo's poor sales of WiiU systems is leading the video game company that the world Donkey Kong, Mario and multitude of Pokemon towards an apocalypse.  Financial analysts observing the state of affairs at Nintendo are calling the big N to do what Sega did over a decade ago after the failure of the Dreamcast, pull out of manufacturing consoles an publishing game software for other systems exclusively.

While Nintendo may have detractors among hard core gamers, outside of hard core gamers the casual gamers would much worse off in a future without Nintendo making game consoles.  Who would cater to the family and casual gaming markets? Sony maybe, Microsoft unlikely.  For video games that don't require shooting everything moves (on the screen) Nintendo is the biggest name out there.

Third place may seem like an apocalyptic place for Nintendo to be but no unfamiliar territory.  During the early to mid 2000's Nintendo's game cube trailed way behind  the Playstation 2 and the original Xbox.  Nintendo made it through that generation with a stable of original first party franchises that their devoted fan base kept on buying.  

Even a decade before the GameCube Nintendo engineered to turn around the erosion of market share after the emergence of the Sega Genesis.  After expanding their own roster of first party games and reaching agreements with third party publishers Nintendo was able to overtake Sega in market share and finished the 16 bit era on top of the video game industry.  

To turn around the big N a few things can be and need to be done firstly, kill off the Wii Mini.  Nintendo has a large install base with the original Wii, when many of those units reach the end of life and those units stop functioning the owners have two options replace with a Wii mini or upgrade to a WiiU.  Building in backwards compatibility was the best thing Nintendo did building the WiiU.  Giving customers the option of a 99 dollar replacement lets current Wii users downgrade rather than upgrade which hurts Nintendo's business.

Secondly Nintendo needs new game franchises to keep current and attract new gamers to the WiiU.  Sure Nintendo has long running not to mention very popular franchises that keep many gamers loyal the big N.  Super Mario Brothers has been around just about 30 years, Kirby over 20 years and Pokemon is going to hit the big 20 soon.  Nintendo needed something new and fresh a couple of generations ago.  While Nintendo strongly maintains a reputation of being the big seller of video games for kids and families.  If Nintendo brings forward IP one thing they need to make sure to bring out something for the big kid in all of us so that Nintendo can he'd the image that has been dogging them for the past decade being the system that one grows out of before moving to a Playstation or Xbox. 

Despite what the naysayers want, Nintendo has a huge potential to make a huge comeback to dominate the home video game market with the WiiU, thy know how to do it, they just have to do it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The real solution auto dialled telemarketing calls

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During supper, or while you are taking a bath or shower, putting the baby to sleep or some other worst possible moment the phone rings, the caller ID shows some number you don't recognize or unknown number might show up if you take a chance and pick up the phone only to get a computer generated message from "cardholder services" to let you know that you qualify to "lower" your credit card interest rates, or "your captain" calls to tell you about a "free" cruise you have won.  There are just a couple of dozens of questionable pitches that are auto dialled to millions of people.

Many of the annoyed recipients of these calls usually just don't answer when an unknown phone number shows up on caller ID, some answer and just slam down the phone when they realize they are getting yet another computer dialled recorded telemarketing call.  

The problem with slamming the phone down on these callers is that the faster someone hangs up the faster the computer making these calls can make the next call to the next person to annoy. A better way to sock it to the operators of these shady operations is to leave the phone off the hook when getting one of these calls, firstly this slows down the rate of how many people they can call.  Staying on the line for 30 seconds rather than hanging up after three seconds decreases the rate of calls made by 90 percent.  Secondly staying on the line 61 seconds if their systems play their messages that long will double the cost to call you. The long distance calls that they make are billed by the minute even on cheap VOIP services.  Once the call reaches one minute and one second the telemarketing company pays for a two minute call.  Just by staying on the line it will take them longer to reach the big gullible fish to take the bait, and cost them more to cast their line in the water.

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