Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stop the e-bike madness

This summer Toronto was introduced to the e-bike. These are essentially electric mopeds, no gas.  Top speed is about 25 clicks on flat pavement (up hill is about .5 or less). No license is required, and apparently neither are brains or common sense.

I generally find e-bike owners are pretty stupid people. They don't know first off that these contraptions are useless or dangerous. More importantly they also don't know the rules of the road. Chances are if they were originally cyclists (or even motorists) they would know the rules, but I doubt any cyclist would actually convert to an e-bike so I can only deduce that these riders know absolutely nothing other than

This summer I've seen a couple of pedestrians almost run over by these bikes while crossing the road. I've also seen a fair share of e-bikers almost bite the dust trying to thread the needle along the Lakeshore or overtake a dump truck during rush hour traffic.  Some even take the pedals off trying to make it look like a Scooter, only to find it transforms into a two wheel shopping cart after the batteries die.

Anyways, today I saw the mother of all e-bike morons.  One obese guy motoring down Coxwell Ave. with a similarly fat woman passenger. Suspension totally bottomed out. Handle bars are saddled with "enviro" shopping bags. Cruising down the avenue thinking they are the coolest "green" cats on the block. "Hey stupid", it's illegal to carry passengers on an e-bike. Just because two fat asses can fit on doesn't mean it's right or safe.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Check your bill

Although Roger Cable seems to be more customer focused than Bell, they certainly need some improvement with their billing system.  I checked my first months bill since signing on to Rogers High-speed Internet. I was disappointed to see that I did not get the promotional 1 year price of $39.95, nor did I get a one time $30 credit, and I was also charged $9.95 for a modem in-store pickup.

At least Rogers admitted the error and reversed all the charges, but unfortunately this was not the first time this has happened. I have a sneaking suspicion that they know of these errors and count on people not to catch it.

The moral of this story is to always check your bill.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

See Ya Bell

Today I cancelled our Sympatico High Speed service. It felt good, actually. We've subscribed to this spotty DSL service for a over 7 years and although it has served it's purpose, it was neither spectacular nor all that reliable.

Bell tried to convince me to suspend our account for 6 months,  so I could find someone to take over the service. What's in it for me? Their argument is that our service is uncapped (unlimited traffic) and that plan is no longer offered. Nice try, would have worked if I believe them or even cared.

Bell continues to piss off (or maybe 'on' ) their customers like they still have the monopoly on telecommunications. My prediction is Bell will be sold off in pieces to it's competitors until the Teachers Pension led consortium makes a profit and re-floats it onto the unsuspecting public as a new company,  same old crap but less to offer. Bell ExpressView will be sold to Rogers, and it's Bell Wireless unit sold to Telus. Back in the mid-90's Bell had a campaign called the "New Bell', they are trying it again but it's too little and too late. 

No one really likes the cable or phone company but I choose the lesser of two evils and right now that happens to be Rogers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shopping for a mattress

In all my life I've never purchased a mattress before. That's pretty strange if I think about it because I've purchased a home, a number of cars, sofa, appliances etc.  but never needed to buy a mattress because there's always been one around, somewhere. 

The whole mattress buying  experience is really confusing and I believe it's meant to be that way.  First there is Pocket Coil or Inner Coil or Foam? Even Air! (Sleep Number beds).  I like the feel of foam but I'm not convinced it's a great long term choice, besides how does one justify $3000 for a large piece of Sweedish foam. Next there is Tight Top, Pillow Top or Euro Top? # if coils per mattress. How about silk, wool or Elastvisco?

There are also different luxury levels within each make and the names are intentionally confusing. For example, the Vivaldi vs. the Gershwin. The Belmont vs. Conrad vs... you get the idea. What I also uncovered is that no reseller sells the same model by name, even though the mattresses are 100% identical. This is by design to prevent consumers from taking advantage of price matches since the models will never be named identically between competitors. I'm also convinced they model their marketing after the automobile industry. Did you know the high-end Sterns and Foster is really a Serta, kind of like what Lexus is to Toyota.  
Here is some trivia, did you know ost mattress manufacturers have been around since the US civil war? This is one industry that does not assemble in China. It's all made domestically, even in Canadian plants.

The pricing model is a bit of a joke. The Bay or Sears will list a mattress for $5800 and offer 55% discount while Sleep Country will list the mattress for $3300. When was the last time you opened a flyer and didn't see a mattress sale.

After 3 weeks of Googling, reading and shopping we ended up buying a Simmons mattress from Sleep Country but a upgraded to a King size. The mix and match sale almost saved us $1000, and no we don't care that the fabric on the boxes don't match the mattress. The salesman was extremely knowledgeable and pleasant to deal with. He even refunded us $30 for a parking ticket we incurred outside the store while shopping there. Nice.

Well now I've bought a mattress what's left?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Internet Speed Update

So in my ongoing quest to better my highspeed internet I've bought a new wireless router, Linksys RangePlus  WRT110.  My old router I bought 3 years ago was acting really funny and was having big problems maintaining a connecting to the cable modem.

With the new WRT110 I have 100% radio reception and check out the download speed!  Only trick is that I had to change the Radio Band on the router from the default 20Mhz to 20/40Mhz.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Stopping on a dime and giving 9 cents change

On of my tasks during my vacation was to service the rear brakes on our Honda CR-V. The discs were rusted and there was nothing left of the pads.

I knew Honda would charge about $600+ tax on the job, and since I know how to service brakes,  I'm financially better off doing it myself. It's a messy job though.

A couple of things to note. Canadian Tire didn't stock the rear disks at any of their locations, but to order them would be about $109 each (I need 2). They also do not stock the brake pads. Firstly, $109 is outrageous of standard discs especially given they are made in China (A few years ago I bought a pair of high performance cross-drilled cadmium plated rotors for my Camaro for about $200).  Secondly, I can only assume that Crappy Tire does not service too may imports because I had the same problem getting parts for another import I had a few years back.  The CR-V is a pretty popular model. Don't even get me started on the pimply faced teenagers behind the parts counter who know dick about automotive parts. CT should continue to focus on selling Chistmas lights and Swiffer mops and leave automotive parts to those who are serious about it.

NAPA Autoparts pulled through for me, they had them for $35 each and the premium metallic pads for $53 for the set, and they were in stock. Everything fit perfectly, sometimes non OEM parts don't fit well but these were a 100% fit. NAPA is staffed by pot belly old farts but they know what they are talking about.

While inspecting the calipers I noticed one of the caliper pin boots was torn. This needed to be replaced otherwise the caliper will eventually seize up, but I had a very very hard time finding the kits at Honda. All the kit is is a bunch of rubber seals, but no one had it in stock.  Again I'm wondering how the Honda dealers can properly service brakes in a timely manner of a regular service item like seals are not readily available. They said they can order then but at a cost of $39 each (enough for 1 caliper). On the internet, US Honda dealers are selling them for $11.00. I'll be placing an order tonight (in the meantime the car should be okay with the torn boot).

I have not worked on cars for a while but this adventure jarred my memory, I used to think how much the average person gets fleeced by having the dealer service their car. My estimate puts a $600 brake job at 200% profit.

So in the end I got really dirty and accidentally bashed a finger. I saved about $400 but more importantly the car has it's full braking potential restored.

BTW I saved the labour costs because I had a little help, see photo above.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Cable Modem Update

I did a test to determine if my wireless router was causing a bottleneck on both the DSL and Cable Modem connections.  This is what I found.

When connected to via WiFi (i.e. wireless) the cable modem connection topped out at 3200 Kbps, or ~ 3 Mbps.  The DSL connection was half that.

When connected directly using an ethernet cable to the router, I was able to achieve 6856 Kbps ( ~6.6Mbps) which is dead on the advertised max by Rogers.  Sympatico, I was only able to achieve 3500 Kpbs.

So that proves that my wireless router is the bottleneck, and Sympatico DSL is still slower and not even close the to advertised rate of 7Mbps.  My wireless router is pretty old and only supports the 'b' standard so I'm sure if I upgrade to at least a 'g' spec. I will be getting max throughput.

Marissa's complaint is that if I cancel the Sympatico service she'll loose her email and address which she has been using for a long time. I'm sure we'll figure something out. I gave up on using and ISP address long time ago for that reason. 

CNE 2008

We marked the end of the summer season by visiting the 2008 Canadian National Exhibition. It's a annual tradition for us.  Some people say it's boring and not much as changed but it's still a great place to visit, and there's always something new when experienced through the eyes of children.

One thing that was genuinely unique to me was the Mardi Gras type parade. It wasn't the famous Disney parades but I liked the bead throwing. One Canadian Armed Forces reserve gave Tyler and Aidan each a football.  Aidan says "A soldier gave it to me".

The Air Show was a bit of a disappointment. Only two jets appeared, CF-18 Hornet and the F-16  Falcon (Viper). There was also one bomber and fire rescue chopper. The rest were generally  bi-planes and classic props.  I'm more of a modern jet type so I was expecting more bravado.  I remember when I used to see the Concorde, Voodoo, B1 Stealth.  An F22 Raptor would have been nice to see but I'm sure that cost is a big factor these days.

Here are some more photos: