Long Distance Laptop Repair

Last week my youngest daughter called to say that her laptop computer was in distress, and was not working, due to the batter being dead, and the charging unit unable to charge it. This continues the family tradition of:

By the end of the 2nd University year, all laptops will crash or become  unusable at a time when an important assignment must  be completed, which results in the purchase of a replacement computer either immediately, or shortly after that time.

I kid you not, that is exactly what has happened to all 3 of my daughters. The first two laptops were HP (I wrote about my oldest daughters problems in Student Computer Safety) and this last one is a Dell, all three have had issues with the charging unit, the system overheating and/or hard disk crashes (i.e. the dreaded BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). The problem is that portable computing is now “table stakes” for most University Students (unfortunately), so (for now) a laptop computer is a necessary (expensive) evil.

Old Laptop

A Rehabilitated formerly dead Laptop from the “Big Cajun Man Laptop Graveyard”

I ended up having to buy another Dell Laptop to send my daughter back to school with, and after some judicious “Dad’s I.T.” wizardry, I was able to extract all the important data from the laptop’s hard drive.

I am now left with a “dead” laptop however Costco is now “fixing” the broken computer (thanks to their Concierge warranty which doubles the normal 1 year warranty for most computers), but the methodology to make the “fix” happen is quite puzzling (to me). I had to call someone, who took down all the details of what transpired (and verified I had in fact bought this PC at Costco). Once it was determined that the computer needed fixing (which seemed obvious to me, but I had to convince the person at the other end of the phone that), the young lady said the PC would be serviced and I would receive a Box very soon.

The Box arrived, shipped via Purolator to the house (naturally left at the front door, without ringing the door bell). This magical Box, was padded with styrofoam, but it had tear aways so that the computer fit in it properly. The box also included a whole bunch of documentation for me to fill in, and finally it included a pre-paid packing label (for Purolator) to put on the box.

I filled in all forms, my wife made sure the computer fit in the box, and we included all the requested documentation(that we could find). We taped the Box shut, put the shipping label on it, and took it to the Purolator drop off site, and away it went. It is now whisking off to a repair place in Toronto, that will hopefully fix the computer, and then ship it back to me (presumably by Purolator).

My only question is, how can this be cost effective?!? I suppose it must be, or Costco wouldn’t do it this way (they seem to be a very smart retailing firm), but it leaves me scratching my head (and hoping to see a Purolator truck showing up at the house soon). Other retailers follow this model, so it must be that they have very cheap rates with the courier companies, and a well negotiated support contract with whoever is fixing the computers.

Assuming the machine can be fixed I now have a 3rd lap top to add to the “Big Cajun Laptop Graveyard”.  I  point out that this piece was actually written on one of those formerly derelict computers (picture above).

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Tuition Fee Study

Stats Canada did their yearly University tuition fees, 2013/2014 report last week, and as usual I read it intently, because that is the life I am living in right now.

The opening paragraph sums it all up very nicely for anyone wondering about the costs of sending their kids to University in the next little while:

Canadian full-time students in undergraduate programs paid 3.3% more on average in tuition fees for the 2013/2014 academic year this fall than they did a year earlier. This follows a 4.2% increase in 2012/2013.


Keep in mind that the last Inflation report from Stats Canada stated, that year over year inflation was at 1.3%. Simple math seems to say that tuition fees are growing approximately 200% of inflation, and that year over year is going to add up very quickly (as pointed out by Kyle Prevost on Preet’s Mostly Money, Mostly Canadian podcast (I am catching up on those in my spare time too)).

Glad to see that Stats Canada is also looking at the many extra fees that schools charge:

Services included in additional compulsory fees vary from institution to institution, and can change over time. Typically, they include fees for athletics, student health services, student associations, as well as other fees that apply to full-time Canadian students.

Students can opt out of a few of these fees (if your parents have a health and dental plan, you should opt out right away, since that fee is typically in the $300 range (combined)). I promise that some time this week I will publish a redacted set of the fees I now pay for both of my daughters at Trent University and Acadia University (need to make it publishable).

A Big Table

As with all the great info from Stats Canada there are 4 separate tables breaking down the information, and the most interesting one for me is the following:

Average undergraduate tuition fees for Canadian full-time students, by field of study

2012/2013r

2013/2014p

2012/2013 to 2013/2014

current dollars

% change

Agriculture, natural resources and conservation

5,119

5,297

2.9

Architecture and related technologies

5,340

5,586

4.6

Humanities

4,941

5,079

2.8

Business, management and public administration

6,097

6,326

3.8

Education

4,273

4,378

2.5

Engineering

6,560

6,864

4.6

Law, legal professions and studies

9,549

10,030

5.0

Medicine

12,012

12,438

3.5

Visual and performing arts, and communications technologies

5,002

5,151

0.0

Physical and life sciences and technology

5,335

5,484

2.8

Mathematics, computer and information science

6,051

6,319

4.4

Social and behavioral science

4,966

5,107

2.8

Other health, parks, recreation and fitness

5,232

5,399

3.2

Dentistry

16,678

17,324

3.9

Nursing

4,985

5,103

2.4

Pharmacy

10,463

10,942

4.6

Veterinary medicine

6,383

6,628

3.8

revised

preliminary

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The Tuition Circle

Sunday, my wife and I and my two daughters (who are still at University) sat at the kitchen table to tackle the odious task of applying for OSAP grants and paying for tuition for the coming school term.

This whole thing took about 1 and a half hours and at the end of it we had to:

This is not very cheap

This is not very cheap

  • Reference the school(s) web site(s) to find the fees that need to be paid (and evidently library fines too). At the end of it, we actually had to check on 3 different University sites (one of my daughters is taking a course that includes courses from two different schools). This was just to get Tuition, if you have a child in residence you may have to check in different parts of the web site to find all the fees.
  • Have copies of mine and my wife’s latest tax forms for the OSAP application.
  • Know how much your children have made this year as income.
  • Balances of any RESPs that you have set up for your kids
  • Have all the printers for all 3 computers you are using because you are going to be printing out forms for the OSAP application (no kidding my kids didn’t have the house printer set up).
  • A pen to sign all the forms for your kids.
  • The OSAP forms then have to be dropped off at school in some fashion or another, and if this is the first time your child is applying, they will either need a cheque or something form the bank for where the Grant/Loan will be put (or you can say have the money go directly to the school which cuts out this part of the fun and games)

At the end of this I had to pay the tuition but even that isn’t as easy as you think because one school allows me to pay with my Credit Card (hey I get PC Points from that so I am happy), however two of the other schools only allow me to pay on line with my bank, and in that case I need to know when the Tuition is due, because I am only going to pay that on the day it is due.

All in all, an interesting way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Oh and we haven’t looked at books and such either.

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Tuition and Inflation are in No Way Related

I am picking on my Alma Mater again, but I really only can comment on 3 different Universities now: U Waterloo because I am an alumni ; Trent and Acadia because I send them money to pay Tuition.

I usually check out the Daily Bulletin where the University puts out a lot of interesting tid-bits of information, and on Friday they put out their “and that’s for your horse” list of increases in Tuition for the next few years. As we all read monthly in this very blog Inflation has run between 1 and 2% for the past little while, so keep this in mind with the numbers I am about to quote:

$100 notes/Coupures de 100 $

This is close to tuition for 4 Months (OK maybe not enough)

On the advice of Dennis Huber, vice-president administration and finance, the board approved the following framework:

Undergraduate students (domestic):

  • Regulated programs (year 1) - 3 per cent
  • Regulated programs (upper year) - 3 per cent
  • Deregulated programs (year 1) - 5 per cent
  • Deregulated programs (upper year) - 4 per cent
  • Deregulated AFM, Biotech/CA. CFM, Math/CA
    • Year 1 - 3 per cent
    • Upper year - 1 per cent
  • Accountancy Diploma (all years) - 2 per cent

Graduate students (domestic): 2 per cent

  • Specifically identified Master and Diploma Programs - 3 per cent

International Students:

  • Undergraduate programs - 4.2 per cent
  • Graduate programs except research plans - 4.2 per cent
  • Graduate research plans - 3 per cent
  • Specifically identified Master and Diploma programs - 3 per cent

The above figures are overall averages. There are scores of different fee levels, depending on what program a student is taking and what year he or she is in.

How this all compares to other Universities I am not sure, however, I would be willing to entertain comments with links to what other schools are planning on charging in the coming years. Anybody from Quebec (who go to school in Quebec) you are disqualified (your tuition fees are ludicrously low).

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Lifestyles with Boomerang Children

The concept of the boomerang child can be viewed in two ways:

  • Kids that move out initially, however, due to any of 100 reasons they move back in with you.
  • While kids are at University they go away for 8 months (you get used to a certain lifestyle) and then they return and muck it all up.

In the first case, the kids move back in and you create a different lifestyle while they live with you (my suggestion would be to make sure that they give to the home, don’t just let them live with you “gratis” (unless you want them to never move out)).

Lew Zealand famous for His Boomerang Fish (not his Boomerang Kids).

The second instance is an issue we have run into the past few years. Here are a few of the interesting issues that arise when kids “come home” from being away at school:

  • They stay “at home” for the summer, however, they don’t manage to sublet their apartments at school, so you end up paying rent on an empty place. This one makes you wonder if the high price you pay for residence might not be bad, given you only pay fees while your kids are living there. My kids have been good at helping pay for this as well (or getting subletters).
  • Blossoming food costs, thanks to more mouths to feed around the house. Kids come home and wonder why there is no food around the house? Here is a hint, you are eating it all!!!
  • Vehicles suddenly disappear, or there is an assumption that cars are available all the time. You know which car you can have access to when you want? Your own damn car (so go out and buy one, or stop grousing about cars not being available).

The main issue however that my wife and I have found is the cost of utilities suddenly exploding. Our electric bill goes up a little, our water bill goes up a fair amount (when did a normal shower last 45 minutes long?), but the Internet costs are what really drive me insane.

It seems young folk believe that Internet is free, and unfortunately with my current service provider, their overage fees are astronomical. Both my kids seem to have access to other folks’ NetFlix accounts and download a great deal of stuff, and two years ago I actually had $120 of overage fees from Rogers one month. I did call Rogers and got that lowered, and also got a cheaper rate (after complaining about the overage charge), but even when my kids visit for a week, that month we almost overrun our Internet Cap.

The easiest solutions from what I can tell are:

  1. Change the locks and don’t let anyone move back into my house, but that does seem a little bit harsh
  2. Make my kids pay for the overages (which will be happening this summer, if they occur)
  3. Find a better service provider that does not gouge their customers like TekSavvy or use Bell Fibe and pay the extra $10 which is allegedly unlimited.

Anybody else have this issue?

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