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Spotted: TTC Referring To Subway Lines By Color!

March 2, 2011 3 comments

TTC sign outside St. George Station in Toronto

I just got into the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway station called St. George Station on my way from the Rogers RedBoard 1st Birthday Party to my friend Kelly’s Birthday Celebration. In fact, I began writing this post on my phone while the subway was underground and I had no reception.

More importantly, on the way into the station, a little bit north of the intersection of Bedford Rd. and Bloor St. on the west side of Bedford Rd. I saw the sign you see pictured above. You can see how the sign refers to the two subway lines that intersect at St. George Station – a yellow shield with a 1 inside it labeled “Yellow” underneath and a green shield with a 2 inside it labeled “Green” underneath.

I do not recall if I have mentioned this in this blog before but for a while I have been saying that the TTC should augment the names of their subway/RT lines by referring to them by color as well. The Yonge-University-Spadina (YUS) line on subway maps is yellow, the Bloor line is green, the Scarborough RT line is blue, and the Sheppard line is purple. This is coloring is consistent across all TTC subway and TTC bus/streetcar route maps I have ever seen. If they did this I feel that it would make directions easier for tourists who don’t know street names in this city and therefore a name like the Bloor Line means next to nothing and is easy to forget. I also think that when/if the TTC does this they should split the coloring of the YUS line from a solid yellow to 2 colors. This would be to reflect the fact that it is actually in the shape of a “U” and that it can be easily seen as 2 lines running parallel to each other meeting at their southern ends.

HOWEVER I have never seen anywhere where the TTC maps or any other TTC signage identify the subway lines by color. I also have definitely never seen anywhere where the TTC (or anyone else) identifies subway lines by number. Why then, would they put this sign outside St George station which doesn’t identify the lines inside it by name and instead does it by color and number?

Although the color identification is sort of odd it makes a certain amount of sense as the subway lines are all colored the same on every map. This means that although most people do not refer to them by color, the color of each line is attached in our brains to the lines. But the numbers just make absolutely no sense. This has yet to happen to me but if a tourist (or someone new to the city) was ever to walk over to me – before I saw this sign and wrote a blog post about it – and asked me where they can find a subway station on the “Number One Line” I’d probably feel bad for them and just look at them confused. I would probably assume someone had given them REALLY bad directions or was playing a prank on them and ask them for the address/venue they were trying to reach and hope I could help them that way.

Have you ever seen anywhere else in Toronto where the subway lines are OFFICIALLY referred to this way (by color or by number)?

Do you like my naming of the subway lines augmented OFFICIALLY by designated them by colors idea? Do you like my idea to split the coloring of the YUS Line into 2 separate colors meeting at the bottom? Do you agree with me that it would probably make the transit system easier to navigate for tourists and people who’ve newly moved to the city?

Let me know what you think!

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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My Free Saturday Night At PodCamp Toronto 2011 #PCTO2011

February 26, 2011 2 comments

I kan haz drink tickets?

Tonight I finally made it out to a PodCamp Toronto 2011 event in real life (IRL). I came to the PodCamp Toronto Afterparty at the Ryerson University bar The Ram In The Rye and met many of the usual suspects and a lot of new faces too!

I didn’t make it to anything IRL today because it was my grandfather’s 90th birthday on Thursday. Because of that there was a big thing in my Shul (that’s a Yiddish word for Synagogue) as well as my two out of town brothers being in town along with one of my nephews in town. That’s why I had to live stream many of the talks today from home. Tomorrow, however, I will be in attendance IRL.

There has been free drinks all night (drink tickets pictured, ya I have a lot of them, #FirstWorldProblems) and I got free parking on Queen Street East courtesy of Autos.ca which is pretty sweet.

Thanks muchly to Chris @Canadian88 for the blog post title and for telling me where the nearest free parking lot is! So much win tonight!

Gotta go use those drink tickets!!!

Hooray Free Parking Day!

UPDATE: Totally thought this published last night. Damn you WordPress For BlackBerry. It should have published at 11:50pm last night so I am changing the published date to reflect that.

Twitter For BlackBerry Version 1.1 In Beta Zone…Seems To Me A Couple Days Too Late?

February 22, 2011 4 comments

This weekend I posted about Twitter suspending access for the popular BlackBerry Twitter app UberTwitter and urging people to go download the Official Twitter app in UberTwitter’s absence. Now, with UberTwitter back with the name UberSocial I find it funny that just today, RIM decided to release to the BlackBerry Beta Zone a new version of the Official Twitter for BlackBerry app – version 1.1. I read about this on BerryReview and Engadget Mobile and have downloaded the new app but and I will see if it compares to UberSocial.

The feature set of this new version sure looks impressive – from BerryReview:

The new version brings some nice features including geotagging your tweets, cleaner interfaces, and new notifications along with other updates.

Features in v1.1 of Twitter for BlackBerry include:

  • @mention Push Notifications – Users are now alerted with push notifications to the ribbon when they have @mentions, helping users quickly reply to @mentions. (Sounds AWESOME.)
  • Direct Messages – Renamed “Messages,” direct messages are now threaded in the style of BBM conversations. Related messages are grouped together, making the direct message area less cluttered. (Great idea!)
  • #Topic Autocomplete – When users include a hashtag in their tweet, a dropdown list of key words will be presented based on previously used #topics. (Personally, this one is huge for me as it is one of the things I LOVE about UberSocial.)
  • Social Feeds Integration – Deeper integration with Social Feeds allows users to perform Twitter actions right from Social Feeds, without launching the app. (Meh)
  • Retweet Updates – Retweets now appear in the Home timeline with a tag of “retweeted by you,” quickly alerting users that a retweet has been sent. (Sounds cool)
  • New Gesture Support – BlackBerry smartphone users with a touch screen device can now refresh page content by simply dragging a finger down the device screen and releasing it. (Sounds cool)

My question about the timing of this whole thing is – isn’t it a bit late? Over the course of this weekend when UberTwitter was suspended from having access to the Twitter API I tried the Official Twitter for BlackBerry app as well as Hootsuite for BlackBerry Beta, Social Scope, and Seesmic for BlackBerry and not one of them gave me the same experience as UberTwitter/UberSocial. Granted, they each DID have their good points but not enough to make me want to stay with them once UberSocial was allowed access to the Twitter API again. I was not alone on this either – as soon as the word spread that UberSocial was back the strain on the UberSocial servers was too much and they started crashing as most people who had used UberTwitter until that weekend were quick to hop back to the new incarnation UberSocial.

Now, however, it seems that Twitter and RIM/BlackBerry are coming out, guns blazing, with a comparable app to UberSocial. This app looks like it will present some serious competition for UberSocial so why didn’t BlackBerry/Twitter wait a couple weeks/days until this new version was ready? Wouldn’t that be the more intelligent move? Get everyone to switch to your app because UberTwiter got suspended and then when they get there they realize, “Hey, this app is actually a good replacement for the one I lost” or maybe, “Hey, this app is actually a better app for my Twitter usage than UberTwitter/UberSocial ever was”, and then they decide to stick with your official app. Instead, you have a bunch of people downloading the Official Twitter for BlackBerry app and then uninstalling it as soon as UberSocial is allowed back. Then when you release your full version of this new iteration of Twitter for Blackberry in a couple of weeks from now is the average user going to want to give it a try? I don’t think so.

What do you think? Are you willing to give this new iteration of the Official Twitter for BlackBerry app a try when it comes out of the Blackberry Beta Zone (or even now)? Was it a silly move on the part of Twitter to not wait until this app was ready before banning UberTwitter? Granted, I did download this new app but that’s just because I’m a geek who loves to be an early adopter and play with new apps and gadgets. We will see if this new beta Twitter for BlackBerry lasts the night…I haven’t uninstalled UberSocial yet!

Twitter @Support Bans @UberMedia’s #UberTwitter Then Takes Off For The Long Weekend

February 19, 2011 7 comments

On Friday February 18th users of popular Twitter apps UberTwitter for BlackBerry and twidroyd saw these two messages in their apps and nothing else afterwards.

Apparently the problem that Twitter had with the products owned by UberMedia included using the name Twitter in their program UberTwitter – as you can see in the pictures below they have since renamed the program from UberTwitter to UberSocial. As well, one of the things that violated the terms of service was that people were able to access Direct Messages (even though they were supposed to be private) because UberTwitter allowed people to use services which made it possible to write a tweet longer than 140 characters long. Because these services were not private if you tweeted A Direct Message longer than 140 characters it suddenly wasn’t so private. Anyone with half a brain can figure this out but apparently Twitter needs to be everyone’s parent on Twitter.

Part of Twitter’s excuse for doing this is also that they have been in talks with UberMedia for a long time about these Terms of Service violations – since April 2010. That is, as I admitted, quite a while to be in talks with them about the issue but how is it fair to Twitter’s users to just ban one of the top used Twitter apps without any notification?

Beyond that, if you look in the screenshot above, you’ll see that UberMedia got a new version of UberTwitter available within hours of the suspension. It is over 24 hours later and what has Twitter done since the UberMedia team sent in the new version of their software and changed the name of it? Well, they apparently took off for the long weekend.

If the be all and end all for Twitter is to maintain an amazing user experience how does this course of action count as that? In the more than 24 hours since UberTwitter has been suspended I have tried using the Official Twitter for BlackBerry application, Seesmic for BlackBerry, and HootSuite for BlackBerry beta and not one of them gives me the same experience that UberTwitter did. I am now trying the beta of a program called SocialScope – an application which I have already tried before – and we will see if it performs as well as UberTwitter (now known as UberSocial). Either way, I think this action by Twitter Support is downright irresponsible. Suspending an app used by millions of your users and then seemingly disappearing for the long weekend is not exactly the most polite thing to do.

Beyond that, I have always been happy with using UberTwitter before and have never had a problem with it. What I do have a problem with – and I know a number of people with similar issues – is that Twitter @Support doesn’t seem to give a crap about dormant accounts with great names. These people are essentially cybersquatters.

I am on Twitter A LOT, my as I write this post I am following 709 people and have 1,476 Followers. I have tweeted 21,235 times since my account was opened Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 04:58. Yet, for whatever reason I still have not heard back from the Twitter Support team when I try to get the account name @Levy. Whoever owns that account registered it Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 19:47 and has  tweeted once on the day they registered the account to say they were “Chillin” has 19 followers, follows nobody and yet Twitter doesn’t see fit to close that account and give me the twitter handle I desire.

I just feel like if Twitter Support was really concerned with our user experience they would be helping users who actually use their site have a better experience and not ignore them to pull some stunt like this, trying to get people to use their ‘Official’ Twitter application.

Review: Powermat Home & Office Mat with a Universal Powercube Receiver & Dual 1850 Rechargeable Backup Battery

February 15, 2011 2 comments

Powermat Home & Office Mat with a Universal Powercube Receiver & Dual 1850 Rechargeable Backup Battery

 

Recently, through the Techvibes Advent Calendar Christmas time giveaway I was lucky enough to win and subsequently receive the Powermat Home & Office Mat which came with a Universal Powercube Receiver (with 7 different charging tips). As well I received the  Powermat Dual 1850 Rechargeable Backup Battery. The reason I chose the rechargeable battery as opposed to one of the replacement battery doors which would let me drop my phone onto the mat and have it automatically charge is because Powermat has yet to make a battery door for my BlackBerry Torch 9800. But honestly, with the way the Torch eats through battery life I thought it was a blessing to have this rechargeable extra battery which I can use to charge my Torch when I am out on the go.

First things first because I am going to rip on Powermat in a bit – I really enjoy having the entire Powermat system and love being able to just drop that battery on the mat. I wish I could do it with my phone as well – maybe someday soon.

 

Oh cool! The Powercube Universal Receiver and the extra trips container magnetically hold together! Brilliant!

One of the more brilliant aspects of the system is illustrated above. The Powercube Universal Receiver and the extra trips container magnetically hold together! I thought that was pretty brilliant and discovered it by accident. Great design work Powermat!

But now, design work that wasn’t so great. If you look at the top picture you will notice on the black cube which is the backup battery there is a small button with no marking on it. This button is what needs to be pushed when you want the battery to start powering your device. Unfortunately for those of us without iPhones/iPods Powermat didn’t see fit to mention this anywhere in the instructions EXCEPT in the iPod/iPhone charging instructions for the Backup Battery. I have attached pictures of the instruction manual below. You will notice that in their “Quick 2 Step Operation” on page 4 it makes no mention of this button at all.

Powermat Dual 1850 Instructions Pages 4-5

 

On Page 5 where it talks about charging the Dual 1850 it does mention you can push this button to indicate how much of a charge the battery has (it has four little LEDs that light up) but nothing about other uses for the button.

 

Charging instruction in the Dual 1850's manual Pages 6 & 7

If you read the instructions in the attached picture above you will see that they DO mention the button in the Retractable Apple Connector section of the instructions but I didn’t bother reading that because I own no Apple products. (Ya, I might be the only guy in the world who doesn’t but I don’t.)

Instead I read the Wired micro USB Connector section expecting full instructions on the use of this new device and I was left hanging. Beyond that, the button itself lacks the universal power symbol – or any symbol on it for that matter – to indicate its use.

Quite honestly, one of the reasons I am so annoyed about this is that on my fist night out with the device – when I was so happy to have it with me – my friend’s phone died and I offered to charge it up for her. Alas, I was unable to because I had no inkling of this button’s existence.

I think this is very handy to have around (especially now that I know how to use it) but hope in the next iteration of the PowerMat Dual 1850 they put a little more thought into the design and the writing of the instruction manual.

Do you think my annoyance is reasonable or am I a fool for not noticing that ‘button’? Is it my fault as I should have read the Apple instructions as well? Let me know in the comments!

 

Powermat & Techvibes links:

Powermat Canada Home & Office Mat with Powercube PM-MHO-100CA – here

Powermat Canada Dual 1850 Rechargeable Backup Battery PM-RPP-C3CA – here

Techvibes First Annual Advent Calendar:  “Win 1 of 10 Powermat Bundles (valued at $80-100 each) from Powermat” Post

My Friend Ben’s Experience With Fido’s Call Center & Unlocked Phones In Canada

February 7, 2011 3 comments

My friend Ben switched from his Fido branded Sony Ericsson w300 to an unlocked T-Mobile USA branded BlackBerry Curve 8320 in mid-2009. At the time he was on the Old CityFido plan and he never really had a reason to switch any part of his plan except to add on BlackBerry services – so his core data plan stayed the same.

The Fido Sony Ericsson w300

Recently, he was on the phone with Fido and he was able to get them to give him a – seemingly – unbelievable deal. Unlimited Canadian minutes, unlimited USA calling from inside Canada, unlimited text messages, BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry Email, Call ID and Voicemail all for $47/month! He said after being on the phone with Fido’s customer service and retention departments it was their way of competing with the new entrants to the Canadian mobile market. He was overjoyed at the savings being offered to him and took the deal. It wasn’t until a few days later that he began to notice something horribly wrong with his phone: call waiting no longer worked.

T-Mobile USA BlackBerry Curve 8320

Frantic, Ben called Fido trying to figure out what was wrong with his phone’s service. When Fido asked him what kind of phone he was using, Ben of course told them it was an 8320 and was unlocked and at that moment all help from Fido ended each and every time. Ben spoke with 3 different Fido customer service representatives over the course of 4 and a half hours. One named Dean (who was “a really nice guy”) and 2 others (one of whom was a complete jerk, Ben reports) and all of them told him it was his unlocked phone causing the issue and it had nothing to do with anything on Fido’s end. Each and every time they told him to try typing *#43# & Send to check the status of his Call Waiting (not active) then *43# & Send to activate Call Waiting. Each time he tried the latter he got an ‘action failed’ message. Fido’s reps tried re-sending the BlackBerry service books thinking that might be the problem and that didn’t help either. Each and every time Ben requested that Fido check the status of his account on their end they swore up and down it was because he had an unlocked gray market phone and there was nothing they could do to help him. They maintained he would simply need to switch to a Fido phone be it a BlackBerry (Fido only offers the Curve 8520) or any other Fido device or he would have to live without Call Waiting because there couldn’t possible be anything wrong on Fido’s end.

So, Ben called me and asked me if I could help him. I tried doing a lot of the same things that Fido had tried with Ben as they were obvious steps in an attempt to fix the issue. When I was unable to resolve the problem that way I told Ben it was not a problem and we would try with an old Fido branded phone I had lying around. I went home and found an old Fido branded Nokia 3100b (the phone was released in 2003 but it still keeps chugging along when needed!). If Call Waiting didn’t work once we popped Ben’s SIM card into the Nokia 3100b Fido would have to admit the problem could not possibly be on Ben’s end because this was a Fido branded phone.

A Fido Branded Nokia 3100b from 2003

We popped the SIM card into the Nokia, turned it on, and tried going through the Nokia’s menus to check the status of Call Waiting…not active. We tried to select the option to turn on Call Waiting….it failed. We then tried the two codes mentioned above which manually do what Nokia set up in their menu structure to do…that failed too. So Ben called Fido and told them that even though he now had his SIM card in a phone which was Fido branded, albeit an old one, he still wasn’t getting Call Waiting.

When Ben called this time, he luckily got through to a shining example of customer service – a lady named Sharon. Sharon helped him out as soon as she heard the issue (although it may have been because Ben was now able to report he had his SIM in a Fido branded phone). She took a look at Ben’s account and said that in the past 12 days since he had supposedly been put onto his new plan and taken off of his old one he had racked up a gargantuan bill of…

$252.47!

She said he had managed to rack up such an astronomical bill because the customer service representative at Fido who had originally changed his plan and taken him off of CityFido had neglected to add on the new plan immediately. Instead, Ben’s new awesome plan was not going to officially come into effect until the beginning of his next billing cycle – tomorrow. As such, he was paying for every minute and kilobyte and text message he used by the minute and by the kilobyte and by the message (sent and received). Of course, this discrepancy was present on account and readily available to any Customer Service Representative in Fido’s call center at the outset of all of Ben’s calls to them. However, once the call center people had heard it was a non-branded phone they figured it was easier to blame it on Ben not using a Fido branded phone rather than actually look into the problem their customer in good standing was having.

For shame. Epic Fail by Fido.

Of course, once all of this came to light Sharon was able to credit Ben for the entire previous month’s bill of service and gave him a month of free service for next month – personally I do not think that was enough for the stress and issues they caused him for such a simple issue that was quite obviously Fido’s fault from the outset but he is happy with it.

But why should people with unlocked phones (or as they’re sometimes known “gray market phones”) be victimized by our cell phone carriers like this? Why do customer service representatives just immediately turn off their brains when they hear the customer is using an unlocked phone on their network? In a 2007 CBC News story a spokesperson for Rogers (the company which owns Fido) said Canadian carriers lock phones because they “heavily subsidize the cost of the handsets“. If that is truly the reasoning behind locking handsets shouldn’t customers using unlocked phones they bought from a source other than their carrier be awarded extra respect and maybe even bill credits? After all, they aren’t costing their carrier the money the carrier would otherwise be paying to “heavily subsidize” their phone. Customers using unlocked phones on carriers that claim they “heavily subsidize the cost of the handsets” are, in fact, doing the carrier a massive favor by bringing their own phones to the table.

To say that the phone isn’t certified to run on the network is absolutely insane because there is a reason that GSM is a standard. Not to mention the fact that this particular phone, the BlackBerry Curve 8320, WAS offered by Rogers at one point (it’s an older phone and has been since discontinued) and there are probably tens of thousands of them still running on Rogers’ network (the same network Fido uses) so to say there are issues with the phone because it was sold by a different carrier in the USA is ridiculous. Further, how can any cellular carrier have roaming agreements with any other country’s carriers if their networks and phones are so different? Answer: they aren’t. Customer service representatives are either being [a] lazy in helping a customer or [b] greedy, trying to find any excuse to sell a new phone to a customer and have them resign their contracts (and don’t kid yourself, they DO make money when they sell you a phone or different plan, just like any sales person in a Rogers store or kiosk would).

The cellular landscape in Canada needs to change.

International Use Of GetGlue & Sticker Collecting

January 26, 2011 1 comment

GetGlue is a relatively new service which brings the popular concept of a check-in (like on Foursquare or Facebook Places) to TV, Movies, Books, Music, & a variety of other topics. The service self-describes itself in its FAQ as “a service that helps you find your next favorite movie, book, music album or other every day thing…. GetGlue shows you things that you’ll like based on your personal tastes, what your friends like, and what’s most popular on GetGlue.”

GetGlue also allows you to collect Stickers on their website for doing different things and tuning into different TV shows or movies or topics. A lot of people have taken to collecting these stickers religiously even if they do not actually care about the thing the sticker is attached to. There are even websites/blogs devoted to the collection of GetGlue stickers like this one GetGlue Sticker FAQ because much like the way Foursquare works with its badges GetGlue do not tell you themselves how exactly to get the stickers. They often do give hints in the description of the sticker as to how it may be obtained but more often than not they will they spell it out for you.

Screencap of my GetGlue homepage & sticker collection as of today. Yes, I check in to A LOT of stuff – but all things that I really do watch.

Many shows/networks/companies have specific stickers that they have signed deals with GetGlue to create for fans of their shows. Fringe is one of those shows and as you can see in the image below I have almost all except for one of the Fringe stickers available. What is also really cool, and what you may have noticed in the picture above (on the left hand side of it, in the yellow box) is that once you reach 20 stickers GetGlue will actually SEND YOU (by snail mail) the physical versions of those stickers which you have earned as long as it has been 30 days since your previous order, you are eligible to request them.

They send about 20 stickers at a time, the amount that a lil’ old stamp can carry. They also will only send what’s currently in stock. Once you order you should have your stickers in 4 – 6 weeks. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to where you can have your stickers mailed to.

Now here’s the problem: “Some stickers can only be earned by checking-in on a specific day during a specific time – these stickers are limited and exclusive and will not be available outside of this window.” Though GetGlue is available internationally they do not reflect it in their stickers. If a show is premiering in the USA you have to check in to it if you want the special sticker for the premiere even if it won’t premiere in your country for a days or even months. I understand that the stickers are sponsored by networks or companies within the USA and that is why they are tied to US release dates but how is that really fair? Is GetGlue encouraging everyone outside of the USA to cheat & just check-in to shows/movies even when they arent actually watching them so they can get the sticker to add to their collection? Are these ‘cheat’ check-ins wrong? I don’t think they are because what are we supposed to do. Are we not entitled to these stickers if we are watching the shows in our home countries on TV when they are released? Is GetGlue encouraging us to download media (illegally) in our home countries in order to not be lying about our check-ins?

Realistically the company that made the show and commissioned the stickers are making money from their international customers by selling the broadcast rights to the shows internationally. As well, the shows showing up on more people’s GetGlue feeds and Twitter feeds and Facebook feeds only serves to benefit them in terms of advertising the existence and popularity of the show. Why then, can GetGlue not tie the stickers to the IP of the device/computer accessing the GetGlue servers to decide whether or not to award the sticker to them? I suspect many GetGlue users who are fans of Spartacus in Canada were quite disappointed when they checked-in to the show on Sunday evening (the premiere of the show in Canada) only to find that the premiere of the show had been on Friday in the USA on Starz and as such they were ineligible to gain this limited time badge because they didn’t check-in during the premiere (even though the ones who watched it, legally, on TV did check-in during the premiere).

It sort of sucks and as such I do not feel it is cheating to check-in to a show in advance (even if it’s days & weeks in advance) if you plan on watching it when it actually airs in your country. What do you think?

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