Saturday, August 21, 2010

Check-In: Predictions About SaskTel's 3G+ Network Upgrade

Back in July, I wrote this post about SaskTel's HSPA network upgrade. Phase 1 was rolled out on August 16th.

At the end of my post, I summarized my predictions:
So, hedge your bets. SaskTel has ~30 days until August 16, 2010, when they’re going to light up the new network. Sorry SaskTel! Here are my pessimistic predictions:
  1. Some kind of launch day complication or delay that affects CDMA users.
  2. Sub-standard device lineup on launch day.
  3. No iPhone 4.
  4. No Android devices (I would be truly sad about this one).
  5. Palm Centro still available to purchase on SaskTel website.
 Let's see how accurate I was. One point per correct answer!

1. Some kind of launch day complication or delay that affects CDMA users. 

To my knowledge, the network light-up went off without a hitch, and nobody I know noticed any adverse effects on their existing phones. Good job, SaskTel!

0/1 Points.

2. Sub-standard device lineup on launch day. 

The 3G+ network launched with five devices: Nokia 6530, Nokia 7230, a Novatel Internet Stick, BlackBerry Pearl 9100, and the BlackBerry Bold 9700. A few days later, they added the Samsung Gravity Touch, but it wasn't available on launch day so it doesn't count.

The two BlackBerry devices are pretty rad, but the Nokias are a big "meh" and even the Gravity Touch isn't that impressive.

0.5/1 Points

3. No iPhone 4. 

Right on the money!

1/1 Points

4. No Android Devices

The Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant looks like it's on its way - which is good, it's a well-reviewed phone - but it wasn't available at launch.

1/1 Points

5. Palm Centro still available to purchase on SaskTel website. 

Awwww.... poor little Palm Centro. Still available.

1/1 Points

3.5/5 isn't bad! Truth be told, I wish I'd been wrong about more. Oh well. Here's hoping that this is just the start of a turnaround for device availability at SaskTel!

Music as Data

This is the first post in a series about how data helps me make decisions, maintain ongoing histories, and discover new things.

Music plays a huge role in our lives as an uplifter, a comforter, a creative outlet, and an escape. I can think of few things more perfect to collect information on and analyze.

I listen to most of my music on my computer or my iPod. Since June of 2006, I have been saving statistics on nearly every music file I've listened to with a program/website called saves the artist, song, album, date and time the song was listened to, and generates a dynamic music history for each user. has a built-in recommendations system. It compares your listening habits with those of millions of other users to generate recommendations for new artists to listen to or upcoming concerts to attend. The more music you "scrobble" to, the better your recommendations become, and the more music you discover. has an open API (application programming interface), which means that developers and programmers can create websites and programs that can access your data and give you more insight into your listening habits. One graph-generator I found (sorry, lost the link!) plots fascinating historical charts which allow you to visualize your listening habits over time. It's interesting to see your subconscious listening habits pop out - listening to certain artists exclusively during final exams, or the summer, or on weekends.

One of my favourite recent websites to compliment is called BandsInTown. You can sign up in two clicks with an existing Twitter account then import your or Pandora history. Finally, you give BandsInTown your location (ie, city or province) and it compiles a cloud of concerts in your area based on your musical preferences.

Don't want to constantly check BandsInTown or for upcoming concerts? No problem. BandsInTown allows you to import your concert recommendations to Google Calendar (and you can get the time zones right by using this little script that I wrote).

Now I listen to songs, have them scrobbled to, which is monitored by BandsInTown for concerts in my area, which automatically show up on my Google Calendar. 

This proves to be amazing every time I check my calendar and discover a new concert that I'd love to see. In my opinion, a setup like this is essential for music lovers. Given that technology exists to automate this process, if you don't do this you are wasting data.

Data waste - there's a concept I want to return to!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Saskatoon's Semi-Secret Lost and Found

This article about stolen bikes appeared in the Star Phoenix today, which reminded me about a cool story I have about the City of Saskatoon's Lost and Found department.

Read the article for details about Saskatoon's Lost and Found program. Essentially, the City has a huge warehouse where missing property is directed to - they say everything except for pets, people, and automobiles.

In 2007, I was walking home from the pub when I was jumped by three bandana-wearing kids who demanded my wallet and cell phone. I complied (I was in no state of mind to protest), but strangely, they let me keep my credit cards and ID from my wallet. Someone later suggested this could have been a gang initiation ("bring us back a wallet and a phone") and they were feeling guilty, but who knows.

Anyway, my cell phone was gone for good and I assumed the same for my wallet, which only had $20, my blood donor card, SIN card (dumb! don't do this!), health card, and a few random membership cards left after I hurriedly grabbed my credit cards and government ID.

Funny side story - the next day I took inventory of my missing cards. I called Canadian Blood Services to report a stolen card (I was being a keener - I didn't know if there was any privacy risks involved). I had to be transferred to a manager because no one had ever called to report their blood donor card as stolen.

Anyway, six months after the robbery, I got an ambiguous manilla envelope in the mail with the return address "LOST AND FOUND, ONTARIO AVE, SASKATOON" - that was it. I opened the envelope and there was my wallet, covered in dirt. No accompanying note or documentation. The $20 was missing but the cards that I'd left in it were still there, including my health card and SIN card.

I was very impressed that a random stranger would take the time to submit my dirty wallet to the City, and that the City would take the time to track down an address from my documentation to send my wallet back. I vowed, right then and there, to pay it forward and do the same if I ever got a chance.

That opportunity came sooner than I thought - when I inspected the contents of my wallet I found that my random cards had been bundled with someone else's student card, library card, health card, blood donor card, and Scotiabank card.

I tracked down the guy's email address from the student card and managed to successfully reunite another stranger with their random wallet contents. It was strange they were bundled together, because we had lost them completely different ways.

Moral of the story: Most cities have a huge lost and found warehouse that is occasionally successful at reuniting people with their missing goods! Thanks, City of Saskatoon!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Water for Thought

Our homepage at work is an intranet news page with company updates, global news, and a Quality Point. Yesterday's point really surprised me:
"Quality Point: Americans drink $11 billion worth of bottled water, i.e. more [bottled] water than milk. Furthermore, Americans drink nearly as much bottled water as beer. If the growth trend continues, Americans could be drinking more bottled water than tap water (which in most of America is perfectly good water) within a few years." [emphasis added]
Not only is bottled water more expensive than gasoline (per litre), it's also unregulated in the USA and Canada, there are no standards for its production, and it's basically just tap water anyway. Crazy.