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And it looks like I’ll be enjoying yet another night in Chicago

August 18, 2006 Leave a comment

Well it’s midnight EDT and still no pilots.  I’ve been here before, and I know what happens next… the pilots show up and then get a call from the powers that be letting them know that they have no more legal flying time left in them.  Chaos ensues and I get very grumpy (oddly enough I’m still in a decent mood).  Luckily the hotel connected to the airport still has rooms, so I’ll be bunking it here in Chicago until my newly booked flight can get out tomorrow after lunch.
Of course my luggage is still in the belly of the plane, so I feel sorry for the poor soul who gets to sit beside me on the flight tomorrow.  Mmmm… day-old business clothes…

Categories: Front Page, Travel

Finally boarded the plane…

August 18, 2006 1 comment

… and the pilots have arrived at the airport.  Slight mixup though, our plane full of passengers ready to get home is in Chicago and the pilots are in Milwaukee.  Now this is fun!  There are rooms available at the Chicago Hilton, I’m thinking I should learn from my past mistakes and just book a room.  In case you’ve missed it in the past – never, ever travel with me or this will happen to you too.

Categories: Front Page, Travel

Has anyone ever left O’Hare ontime?

August 18, 2006 1 comment

Oh I just love connecting via O’Hare.  For this flight I “took one for the team” and flew BUF-ORD-MSP instead of a direct YYZ-MSP and saved the company $1000.  The warm and fuzzy feeling of saving money is going away right… about… now.
I should start keeping stats of my personal ontime performance flying through Chicago, officially the average last year was 75% ontime but I think my personal stats are closer to 50%.  The worst experience was when flying with a group of colleagues a couple of years ago when a Blizzard hit.  I had a Las Vegas vacation to start the next day, so I worked my a** off to get home in time to pick up the wife and make it to Vegas on-time.  I bounced across a couple of different flights and airlines eventually making it all the way to the runway before the pilots gave in to mother nature. 
Of course all of my colleagues, not caring so much about going to Vegas with their wives the next day, had already checked in to the Ohare Hilton and were sending me drunken heckles via Blackberry.
This one’s not so bad (yet).  It looks like a 1-hour delay but still, that’ll get me in to Buffalo at about 1:00am and there’s another 90 minute drive back to Toronto.  I might end up getting a hotel in Buffalo so I don’t doze off and plow into oncoming traffic on the drive home.
I remember when I was 22 travel was glamorous and exciting, oh how naive I was!

Categories: Front Page, Travel

Rogers Home Phone now in Milton

August 14, 2006 2 comments

If you’re anything like me, you hate the fact that you have to live with Bell Canada for local phone service.  Several years ago, Sprint Canada launched one of the only competitive local phone services in Ontario but it was only available in select markets.  Those who could get access to the competitive service liked it, those who could not just begrudgingly paid out the local phone service bill every month to Bell.
Then came along VoIP, which is already shaking up the market enough that local phone service is suddenly becoming competitive again which is good news for consumers.  The information that’s been for the most part kept from people who I know is that VoIP service just isn’t quite on par yet with the traditional service that you’re accustomed to.  Sure it’s cheaper, but comes at a cost that is too high for me:

  1. The quality isn’t always there, and moreso than traditional landline service VoIP calls are succeptible to interference and traffic out on the wild, wild internet.  It’s gotten much better in the last two years and I have zero quality complaints about my home office line provided by Vonage.  But beware, it’s not always great.
  2. 911 service doesn’t always work as you’d expect it to.  Now again, this has improved a ton in the last few years but until someone can prove to me that 911 will work 100% of the time and in the worst of conditions, it’s not good enough for my family.  The babysitter must be able to pick up any phone in the house, dial 911, and have an ambulance arrive within 3 minutes (the ambulance garage is just a couple blocks away).
  3. Doesn’t always work in a power outage.  There are lots of failure points between your phone and the ultimate destination, and many internet networks were not designed to provide 100% uptime like the phone networks were.  For VoIP to work well, you need to have lots of battery backup in your home, the cable company needs to have battery backup out on the major street posts and in their headends, and battery backup where they plug in to the traditional phone network.  That’s not always there.
  4. Uptime mentality amongst the technicians isn’t always there.  I personally think that my cable company is one of the best in North America, but still the cable goes out too often (one outage every three months is too much in my world).  When I call in to see what’s up, it’s usually “we’re performing maintenance in your area” or something like that.  In the old world where you were only missing out on daytime soaps that was acceptable, but now that it’s your phone service that is unacceptable.
  5. Regardless of how much VoIP companies try to improve on their own, I quite simply won’t have faith in their systems unless they fall under the same strict guidelines as the Bell Canada landline services from the CRTC which mandates very strict uptime, quick repair tunraround, and massive fines if those targets are missed.  Once again I’ll state that my cable company Cogeco is the most likely to provide a fantastic VoIP service and they have started offering one in this area that does everything I’ve asked for.  But, until they can prove to me that they’ve ditched their old ways of “cable’s out for the afternoon, deal with it” I’m not buying.

So let’s return back to where this rant started; the Bell Canada versus Sprint Canada competition that started out many years ago before anyone even knew what a voip was.  Sprint Canada continued to very slowly build out its copper network, and was last year acquired by Rogers Communications.  Just today I got a flyer in the mail announcing that Rogers Home Phone service is now available in my area.  Interesting…  I called in to verify that this was indeed the copper-based sprint canada service and not some new voip offering and they confirmed for me that yes, this is the traditional landline service I’ve been waiting for with all the CRTC regulated goodness that comes with it.  Quick price check, and it would appear that the pricing is similar for the basic service but there is a fantastic promotion going on right now that’ll get me unlimited North American long distance free for a year.  That immediately makes this service about $20 a month less – sign me up!

Categories: Front Page

Turn down your AC, I want to get home!

August 1, 2006 1 comment

I’m out in Regina, Saskatchewan today and just checked in on the weather forecast back home in Toronto.  Holy Schmokes, 48 degrees humidex!  Heat waves always sound more alarming in farhrenheit, which for the record will be a steamy 118 degrees.
I went out and bought a fancy Energy-Star air conditioner recently so I consider myself to be immune from my own advice, but all you other energy hogs out there had better go easy on the air conditioning.  I want to get home tomorrow to have anniversary dinner with the wife, and I’m reminded of almost three years ago to the day when I was in Miami and desperate to get home for my sister’s wedding.  At that time, all you people in the northeast US and southwestern Ontario were lavishly churning the AC and blew out the entire grid.  Since I wasn’t there, it couldn’t have been my fault so I’ll point my long finger from up on my ivory tower at everyone else.  J’accuse!
Now that we’ve established that it was clearly your fault that I almost missed my sister’s wedding three years ago, let’s refocus on today.  It’s stinkin hot, and I know you want to once again crank up that AC.  But resist the urge…  think to yourself “Pete doesn’t want to get stuck in Regina for a week, maybe I’ll just sweat it out”.  If everyone just thinks of me today, we should get through the day without incident.  If however you ignore my needs and blow the grid again, I’m going to be mighty angry at all of you.
Thank you for your attention to my comfort, good day.

Categories: Family, Front Page

Open Text to buy Hummingbird

July 6, 2006 2 comments

I’m out on the west coast today, so when I woke up one of my Stellent co-workers was pinging me on IM with the news that Open Text was going to acquire Hummingbird.  Open Text was on a buying spree awhile ago, but has been struggling a bit for the last year to prove to the street that it could be profitable.  Most of their buying activity slowed down while they focused efforts inward, but I have to say that Hummingbird is one of the companies that had been a rumoured target before.  They’re in the same market, but don’t tend to compete directly that much which means their market share should be complementary.  They’re also both headquartered near Toronto, so there is likely to be some good synergies and close working relationships between staff (which was IMHO a struggle wafter aquiring Munich-based IXOS).
I expect that this will be a big year for the Enterprise Content Management space, as consolidation continues, big players like Microsoft and IBM make their presence more and more felt, and companies wake up to the need.  It should be an interesting year to be in this space!

Categories: Front Page

Visit to Dog River

June 29, 2006 Leave a comment
IMG_4810I was in Regina this week meeting with one of my customers, and I had an opportunity to visit the set of one of my favorite TV shows – Corner Gas.  Most of you have probably never heard of Corner Gas, but it’s the #1 rated sitcom in Canada.  Jodie doesn’t understand how it can make me laugh out loud when we’re watching it, the main character Brett has a very odd sense of humour that I just can’t help but laugh at.  Perry was my host, and I think he got a kick out of how much I was enjoying visiting the set. 

Dog River is a fictional tiny town in Saskatchewan, but it really is the town of Rouleau.  The main gas station and restaurant are sets, but the rest of the buildings in town are actually part of the town itself.  They were filming as we drove by, but they shuffled us along when they were getting ready to shoot a scene.
At dinner back in Regina, the actor who plays Officer Davis sat down at the next table to have a beer and we chatted for a little bit.  It was a full Corner Gas visit (oh, and we got lots of business done as well).  My pictures can be found here (didn’t get a pic with Davis). 

Costco.ca delivery woes

May 8, 2006 5 comments

I received a delivery just now that seemed somewhat surreal.  A couple of weeks ago I ordered a desk set from Costco for the new home office.  It’s a good price and looks to be decent furniture so I went for it.

Today we get a call from trucking company called Robert Transport (I know the company because my neighbour actually works there).  Odd that they would be calling us, given that they tend to do long-haul freight and commercial freight.  The person on the other end of the phone wanted to know where the loading dock and forklift were because the driver was on his way with an 850lb delivery.  WTF?  Okay, well let’s play along with this one…

Obviously the answer was that no, we didn’t have a loading dock nor a forklift.  When challenged as to how they were expected to get an 850lb package off of a transport truck and into my house, Jodie politely informed them that this was not our problem and that someone at Costco obviously screwed up in a big way.  We agreed with the person on the other end of the phone that if the desk came in smaller pieces that I could probably help the driver unload them.  Good day.

The next phone call was from the driver, who had just dropped off a load at Zellers and was confused as to how he was going to get a 53′ tractor trailer into our neighbourhood.  You see, our house is on a cosy little crescent buried deep within a residential neighbourhood.  It’s the kind of place that is hot real estate because it’s on a street that is unlikely to get much traffic at all.  This serves up a challenge for our driver, who sounds understandable reluctant.  Together we work out the route with the easiest turns and he heads our way.

I ran outside and moved the cars into my neighbour’s driveway and wait patiently for the truck to arrive.  The first evidence of the truck’s approaching was the sound of limbs snapping as the truck drove down the street.  The truck is apparently a few feet taller than anything that had ever been down our street and it left a trail of twigs, branches, and newly budding leaves in its wake.  The truck stops on the street opposite my driveway, and the driver hops out shaking his head in disbelief.  We chat, we commiserate at how stupid this is, and we decide that we’re going to get along.  He’s a nice guy.

He swings the door open revealing a massive empty space the size of which I’ve never seen towed behind a vehicle; at the very far end of that empty space sits a large palette shrink-wrapped with about ten large boxes all bundled together.  We exchange glances that say “We’re so screwed” and then get to work.  We slash apart the shrinkwrap and carry the boxes to the edge of the truck.  These boxes are heavy, and the packaging delighfully announces that when carrying, two is better (but clearly two is the minimum for unloading these bad boys).  Jodie grabs the neighbour’s spare key and steals his dolly from the garage so that we have something to help us from road to garage.  Of all of this work, the biggest pain (literally) is getting the awkward boxes down from the four-foot trailer bed onto the cart.  My back is killing me.  One of the very last boxes off the truck had been damaged, not by me, but I took delivery anyways mostly because I didn’t want to have to load it all up again.

The truck pulls away from the house, with the gleeful snapping of twigs trimming the other half of the street and dropping wood onto the road and I am left here staring at this pile of boxes in my garage.  The next step is to get all of these boxes over to the new house using nothing but a minivan, any volunteers?

I sent a complaint along to costco, I’m really hoping that they pay attention and give me some sort of reasonable response.  This experience has soured me from ever shopping on their website again and if their response is anything but apologetic I’ll be tearing up my store membership as well.

Sigh…

Categories: Front Page

How to download photos for printing (full size)

May 8, 2006 Leave a comment

If you want to download pictures to print, it is best to get the biggest size possible.  With the new photo gallery based on Flickr, there are multiple sizes that you can download depending on what you need.  I’ll tell you here how to get the largest available file so that you can then print it at home or get it printed at your favourite photo processing company. 

  1. Find the photo you’re interested in, for example this one
  2. Look below the photo description to a section titled “Available Sizes”
  3. Click on the “O” button which will take you to the largest size available, the original file from the camera.
  4. Right-click on the big picture that loads on the next page and select “Save Image As…”
  5. Give it a name that makes sense to you and save it to your computer.

Here is what the available sizes buttons should look like:

Categories: Family, Front Page

Switched photo album to Flickr

May 6, 2006 5 comments

Due to a server crash several months ago, several articles have gone missing.  If you came to this link looking for information about windows media connect, please click here

You may have noticed that the photo album has been down for awhile. I decided several weeks ago that the pictures of my kids and the pictures of my nephews should not be posted to the general internet. There are too many bad people on the internet that have ruined the spirit of sharing and community that I wish could exist. I took down the photo galley until I got a chance to redo the album area to require some sort of password. To that end, I’m outsourcing the photo gallery to a very cool new company called Flickr.

Technology readers of my blog probably already know about Flickr, as it’s gotten tons of press over the last year. It is a social photo networking site, where people can share photos, let the other users tag them up and rate them, and generally to create a community around photography. This small Vancouver company got bought out by Yahoo a few months ago and their good fortune contines.

To keep things simple, you can still get access to the photos here at thenears.com and to do so you’ll need to email me and get a password to give you full access to the photos. If I know who you are, I’ll give you a password. Additionally, for those of you who are interested in getting some very cool toys fom Flickr you can sign yourself up for a Flickr account, let me know and I’ll add you to my Flickr private albums so that you can have access to:

  • All of our family pictures
  • Ability to comment on photos
  • Add your own tags
  • Get slideshows
  • Have the pictures show up as a screensaver automatically
  • Upload your own photos
  • Much more

I will be uploading the photo archive over the next few months, newest photos first. Flickr has a 2GB limit per month on uploads for pro accounts, and I have 6GBs of images amassed so it will take a few months (where “a few” = 3).

One of the cooler things about Flickr is the ability navigate through images via tags. For example, you might come across a picture that is tagged with “katlynnear”. If you click on “katlynnear” you will see all the other photos of Katlyn that we have as well. Give it a try!

Categories: Family, Front Page