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Cell Phone Cameras, not just for Duck Faces

In the early days of Cell Phones, I ridiculed when I heard that they were including a Camera in Cell phones (who would use that, and what for, I believe was my arguments about the validity of melding these two technologies), however (as usual), I have been proven wrong and these two technologies are now permanently cemented together (much to the chagrin of Kodak and Polaroid, I would wager). The Cell Phone Camera has caused an explosion of media on the web with folks sharing and posting pictures of:

  • Food: what you are eating, where you are eating it, and who you are eating with, astoundingly interesting. Evidently that is the biggest use for Cell Phone cameras.
  • Billions of photos of our children taking pictures of themselves in bathroom mirrors, in various states of disrepair (and or dress), smiling in odd ways (or even the infamous duck face). This has forced the porn industry into rethinking itself yet again.
  • Very jerky videos of odd events as they occur.

A Bad Example, but you get the idea. This is a photo of my wife’s new iPhone!

And this really only scratches the surface of what the Cell Phone Camera has touched in our lives, however, it can actually do a useful thing as well (no, not supply blurry pictures for blogs) it can help us more easily catalog the valuables in our houses.

As I mentioned in Theft and Insurance having a valid home inventory which is up to date, with photos of your valuables is a very good thing to have, and with a Camera Phone you really have no excuse any more.

Some tips that could make this even better:

  • Create an account on one of the many picture archiving sites (preferably one that allows for PRIVATE Albums of photos), where you can upload your pictures to.
  • When you are taking your pictures, if your camera has a GPS capability, use it to tag the photo as well. Never hurts when your insurance company gets the photos, to say they were taken at your house.
  • Make sure you are using your camera in Highest Definition mode and download them in that format as well.
  • Add a detailed description of what the picture is of, and possibly the value of the object
  • Make sure the picture is clear as well (you can take many pictures, you only need 1 clear one).

With this, you now have an off site backed up archive of the valuables in your house, in case of a fire, or theft, and it didn’t really cost you too much either (upload your pictures using Wi-Fi as well, saves you high data charges by your cell phone company).

Give the insurance company as much information as you can, and you are more likely to get your claim dealt with in a quick and concise manner.



Observations on Telemarketers

I had an interesting call yesterday from a telemarketer (from a local Ottawa number) asking if I could donate $100 to the “Federal Government“, I politely said no (I suggested asking for money two weeks after Christmas might not be an optimal strategy). The interesting part was the young man who spoke to me had an accent that suggested he was from Newfoundland, and I almost commented, “Well done my son! I know you didn’t vote for the Tories and none of your family did, but if you can make money off them harassing me, good on ya!“, but I decided I better not.

The interesting observation for me, was that telemarketers in general really didn’t call much between Christmas and New Years, however, since January 3rd my house is under a full court press in terms of telemarketers calling all day long. Before someone makes a remark about getting on the alleged No Call list, save it for the Church, because I have told every one of these folks, “Don’t call me“, “Stop calling me!“, and finally, “This is bordering on harassment“, yet they do not go away. I checked my phone number with the Do Not Call list and my number is registered and it now expires from the list on 11-Jan-2017, but my guess is this not going to do much good.

I get calls from Bell, Rogers, and the NAC more often than I get calls from my kids who are off at school. To file a complaint about the telemarketers this is the complaint site link to click on how to do this, but if you have also ticked on a box saying to a supplier (like Bell or Rogers), “It is OK to call me about new deals“, I think you are out of luck in terms of complaining about their barrage of calls.

Before anyone says, “Why not call and complain about the Tories calling you?“, read the following from the list of folks who are exempt from these rules:

The exemptions include telemarketing calls made by, or on behalf of:

  • Canadian registered charities;
  • Political parties, riding associations and candidates; and
  • Newspapers of general circulation for the purpose of soliciting subscriptions.

Telemarketing calls from organizations with whom you have an existing business relationship are also exempt. You are considered to have an existing business relationship with a telemarketer if you:

  • Purchased, leased, or rented a product or service in the last eighteen (18) months from the telemarketer;
  • Have a written contract with the telemarketer for a service that is still in effect or expired within the last eighteen (18) months; and/or
  • Asked a telemarketer about a product or service within the last six (6) months.

Telemarketers may also call you if you have provided express consent to be called. Express consent includes:

  • Your permission on a written form, electronic form, or an online form; or
  • Your verbal permission.

My phone is not my own, and neither is yours. Tonight I got home and had 3 more calls (two from folks asking if I had old clothing to donate), how nice.


Skype and Communications

Some of you may not have heard of Skype, but it actually is a fairly big player in the field of communications on devices (mostly PCs). It enables Video and Regular “phone calls” to other skype members (for free) or you can actually call “real” phones for a small fee.

My family has been using Skype to communicate when my kids are away at school, and it has saved all of us money on either:

  • Long distance charges on land line calls
  • Usage fees on cell phones
  • Fairly good video codecs, so as long as the Internet connection is OK, really nifty Video phone capabilities (which we enjoy seeing what our kids look like this week).

Do I think it is the greatest thing since sliced bread? It is a good use of technology, and the fact that it can be effectively a free service makes it better, but now with Microsoft buying Skype, (for $8.5 Billion all cash (that is a big packet of money, usually this kind of transaction is mostly in stock)) things may change (maybe not in the short term, but most likely in the long term).

My guess would be that Microsoft will integrate the tool into their product suite, which could be good, but they may attempt to make it a subscription service (i.e. pay monthly), which could make it not as attractive to cheap folks like me.

Students use this tool a great deal, but my guess would be if the tool becomes more “commercial” (i.e. it will cost money) they will simply find the next cheap communication tool out there, and use that.

Do you Skype? Is it saving you a lot of money? Are you worried about this purchased?


Bell Sent Me A Cheque for $67.41

Thanks Bell

As Michael James pointed out a while ago Bell Had Made a Generous Offer for me to forgo  my settlement from the CRTC’s ordered rebate for Bell Customers however, I decided to keep the rebate money in hand and last week I received a nice cheque for $67.41. Evidently I could have received up to a $90 rebate, but I am quite pleased with the $67.41 cheque, and was glad I didn’t take Bell up on their offer. Bell will evidently upgrade their network with other moneys from this investigation, so their network may improve thanks to the CRTC ruling, but that remains to be seen.

Did I fall into the Found Money Trap? Well kind of, I did take my wife out to dinner with the money, since we hadn’t been out just the two of us for a while (remember I am not a Patron Saint of Finances, I sometimes give into the avarice that is found money sometimes too). Remember, as I tell my kids, Do as I say, NOT as I do.


Whoops! Wrong Bell!

Next Steps

Currently my Bell Home Phone bill is a ludicrous $68 a month, which given I barely make any long distance calls, but do use the ludicrously expensive features of:

  • Call Waiting
  • Call Display
  • Visual Call Waiting
  • Long Distance Block of Minutes

This seems prohibitively large in comparison to what the market says I should pay.

My next step is to talk to the Bell Customer Retention folks and see if they want to keep me as a customer, or whether they would like me to go over to Rogers to get their deal (which adds up to about 1/2 to 4/7 of what I currently pay).

Does anybody else know of good deals for existing Bell Customers, or are they only for new Bell Customers?


New “Services” for Making Money on Cell Phones

Bell Mobility and It’s Cellular Services

Preface: Feel free to treat this as the rantings of an irate Bell Mobility Customer, however, also please note how easy it is to fall into the trap that I did.

I opened my Bell Mobility invoice for the month and saw $40 extra in charges on the actual bill! I was shocked to see the bill and wondered what might have possibly caused this, and it was not obvious what it was, but I finally found the culprit entry:

BLOOP BLOP* $40.00      (* not the actual name of the service)

Not knowing what that service actually was, I then called *611 on my wireless phone and navigated through the many different voice menus in the Bell system to finally reach a real human to ask, “What in the name of Herrod is BLOOP BLOP and give me my money back!”. I could tell by the tone of the person I was speaking to that as soon as the name BLOOP BLOP was mentioned the stone wall went up.

I asked if I could get this charge reversed, the answer I got was, No, we cannot do anything about it, you must call the service provider and cancel it with them. I asked how I could have signed up for this, and the tone I received implied that I must have signed up, and thus it was my own fault for doing this. The conversation disintegrated into a complete waste of time, where the Bell representative made it abundantly clear that it was not her problem, and it was not her job to help me out either (maybe my file also shows that I am imprisoned by a Bell Contract, who knows?).

I asked finally, if I could please have this service blocked from my bill in the future, and the answer I got back was, No sir, we can’t do that. This one sent me for a loop, because Bell is the billing agent here, so for them to stop the service from charging me is dead simple, but they chose not to do it. I thanked the agent for her time (in a terse or possibly rude way, I was not happy, and I do feel badly on how I dealt with the situation), and hung up.

I then called the BLOOP BLOP service number, got a hold of a service person there, who said yes I had signed up for the service, I pointed out that I most assuredly hadn’t, but she assured me that I had, and they had the logs to prove it. My guess is to sign up for this service works in a fashion like:

  1. You receive a text message on your phone about getting access to cool ring tones and wall paper for your phone and all you have to do is respond to this e-mail.
  2. If you don’t reply, the service should leave you alone, however, they most likely will resend the message again (and again, and again….).
  3. If your phone has a twitchy touch screen as mine does, I guess it can accidentally reply to the message (which has happened in the past), and maybe sign you up.
  4. I believe what happened to me was that I did answer the text message as it said the service was a free trial (OK yes, I am an idiot feel free to kick me when I’m down).
  5. Once the free trial is over, you are in it, and the only way to get out of it is to call a 1-800 number that you get from Bell, but by then you have already been stung with your first month’s service charges of $40.

I don’t even know what I got for those $40, as I have no fancy ring tones -or- wallpaper on my phone (which this service allegedly supplies to me). The $40 in charges consisted of 4 events that occurred from the service, have no idea what they were, but I don’t seem to have anything to show for them.

Am I happy with Bell right now,No, am I mad at myself,Yes. Will I be more careful in the future,most definitely, and I will look into never signing up for a contract with Bell ever again. I wonder what kind of deal Rogers might give me for my home phone?  Rogers actually told me once that I have been a good customer for 18 years and they appreciate my business, Bell Mobility I have been with for over 6 years, and I do not feel appreciated one scintilla.

Just goes to show that allegedly intelligent folks can get duped and fall for a simple “Buy now, pay later” scheme.


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