Archive for the Finds Category

Smart Meters were never meant to save ‘everyone’ money

Posted in Finds, Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , on March 8, 2011 by Mitch Leuraner

The opposition parties started complaining yesterday after it was discovered that studies are showing that Smart Meters have caused most households to spend more on electricity, rather than less.  NDP leader Andrea Horwath ranted:

”Here we have a system that’s costing us $1 billion and people aren’t getting the benefit in cost savings and they’re not getting the benefit in conservation. It’s a complete failure.”

And apparently Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak “literally laughed out loud” at the idea that Smart Meters were saving people money.  He’s even promised that, if elected, his party would end the program. 

But here’s the thing… Smart Meters were never intended to save everyone money.  In fact, they literally cannot save everybody money.

Don’t believe me? Lets consider:

Smart meters allow the system to keep a record of when electricity is being used, in addition to how much. So you can see that you used x amount of electricity between 7am and 12pm, for example.  Because of that, the utility company can reliably set up a tiered system that charges you more for electricity during peak times, and less during off-peak times.  And your bill can be broken down to show exactly what you used, and when.  It’s an incentive-based program; the incentive being the high price associated with peak periods.

The idea is that when you see how much it costs to use electricity during peak times, you will make the effort to change your own habits, so that you use less when it is more expensive and more when it is less expensive.

The key here is that it is up to the consumers to make sure that they change their own habits. If you don’t change your usage to take advantage of the system, then not only will you not save money, you will likely spend even more money.

So all the people who saw a rise in costs associated with the Smart Meter program simply did not use it to their own advantage – they didn’t change their habits.  They might believe that they have all sorts of good reasons for not changing their habits, but the bottom line is that the choice was theirs to make – and they chose convenience over cost.

But this isn’t unexpected.  The government knew well ahead of time that this would be the case.  In fact, the Smart Meter system relies on the presumption that most people will not change their habits.

Think about it: the system assigns costs based on so-called peak and off-peak periods.  Lets say for simplicity that early in the morning and late at night are the off-peak period, and the middle of the day is the peak period.  The program was designed to give an incentive for people to use more during the early morning or late at night.

But if everyone actually switched their habits, then the morning and night would become the new peak period.  It doesn’t cost the utility more to create electricity during the day, it simply charges you more during times when there is the highest demand.  So if everyone started demanding more during what was originally labeled an off-peak period, it wouldn’t be an off-peak period anymore, would it?

The system presumes that there will always be more people willing to accept the cost as a matter of convenience, and rewards people who make an effort to change their habits.

It is disappointing that our politicians are not able to, or not willing to, understand this.

The end of TV as a vehicle for entertainment

Posted in Finds, Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2011 by Mitch Leuraner

You may recall last week’s post about the CRTC’s decision to deny Shaw the right to air National Geographic Wild in Canada. The CRTC argued that there are already two other Canadian wild-life channels available which might lose viewership to the American National Geographic channel.

Okay, that’s lame, but whatever – that’s how the CRTC rolls.

Fast-foward to this week and we see that The Canadian Press is announcing that Swiss Chalet will be launching a 24-hour roasted chicken channel on Monday.  The channel will be nothing more than 2 rows of chickens roasting on an open flame – much like those fireplace recordings that play at Christmas – and it will run for 13 weeks.

Really.

Now lets consider this for a second…  a third wild-life channel is disallowed because it lacks enough Canadian content.  But a channel with nothing but roasting chickens is completely fine? 

I guess the chickens are were all Canadians?

But hypocracy aside, what really scares me is that a new channel is being created for the purpose of airing nothing more than a single commercial.  Really, that’s all this is.  Swiss Chalet is literally buying 13 weeks of 24 hour airtime on a dedicated channel, just to air a single, chicken-based commercial. With no actual entertainment value at all.

Math doesn’t lie

Posted in Finds with tags , , , , , on February 20, 2011 by Mitch Leuraner

CRTC openly limits competition – that’s what it is for

Posted in Finds, Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2011 by Mitch Leuraner

There has been a lot of talk lately about the CRTC and it’s decisions – most notably ones concerning the operation of Wind Mobile in Canada and the allowance of Usage-based Bill by Internet Service Providers.

Most of the discussion has focused on the idea that more competition in Canadian industries is better than less competition.  And of course, every high school economic text-book says exactly that. More competition means that companies will have to provide as much value to the consumer as possible, otherwise consumers will just look somewhere else.

Fine. But here is the problem.  The CRTC was not created to foster competition. Really.

Want proof?  Okay!  On Tuesday (16 Feb) the CRTC denied a request by Shaw Communications to add National Geographic Wild to its list of offerings for satellite services in Canada. Unfortunately, that particular channel is considered foreign content. According to Public Notice 2000-173, the CRTC will not allow any non-Canadian content to be distributed if it will compete with pre-existing Canadian content.

That’s right – the CRTC openly denies competition if it appears to come from outside the country.

So what does that mean for Canadians?  It means that we have to watch Animal Planet or Oasis HD, because they are not associated with National Geographic.  Nevermind the fact that National Geographic has become the defacto standard for reporting on wildlife and the greater world around us – reporting that focuses 90% of its effort on content from outside North America.

In the beginning, the reasoning for creating a body to protect Canadian content seemed like a good idea.  People were afraid that we would become too engrossed in American newspaper, magazine, television and radio industries.  Unfortunately, a major consequence was overlooked: stifling competition from the strongest competitor means that our own industry can relax.  And that is not good for Canadians.

So what is the answer?  We definitely don’t want our own industries to fail.  Afterall, they keep a lot of us working.  But clearly denying Canadians from viewing American content is becoming more and more difficult.  I personally gave up television proper many years ago and have since found all of my content online, where it is CRTC free.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t get Canadian content – not at all – it just means that I only get the Canadian content that is up to the standards that I expect.

And this is where the world is going.  I think that – regardless of content rule – the television industry is going to have some hard times ahead as online content becomes easier to find. We need to stop concerning ourselves with where content comes from, and focus on attracting consumers to cable and satellite providers generally.  They’ve already lost me and most of my friends. If the trend continues, we’ll soon have an awful lot of people looking to switch industries.

It’s legal to do WHAT in Illinois?

Posted in Finds with tags , , , , on February 11, 2011 by Mitch Leuraner

I had cause to search Google for “Illinois” this morning and was a little surprised by the blurb that Google put under the link to Illinois’ Wikipedia page. (Click the image for a bigger version.)

None of that appears to still be on the page itself, though. <sigh> But we’ll always have the Google Cache (until it’s updated).

Motorola burns Apple, makes me smile

Posted in Finds, Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2011 by Mitch Leuraner

If you were watching the Super Bowl from somewhere other than Canada, you probably already saw Motorola’s ad for the new Xoom tablet. But if you haven’t already, you need to watch it:

This has got to be the smartest shot at Apple ever to air on television, and it is just so perfect. Everything, from the reference to Orwell’s 1984, to the hot girl removing her iconic white earbuds, is just absolutely spot on.

Of course, the irony is that most people probably just wont get it.

Freudian slip? Or does Mobilicity have a sense of humour?

Posted in Finds with tags , , , , , , , on February 7, 2011 by Mitch Leuraner

Just in time for Valentine’s Day (gag!) Mobilicity has announced a new Couple’s Plan.  Why is this interesting? It’s not, except for the price:

$69

If you don’t get it, go ask your mom.

Someone at Mobilicity is either going to get a raise for this… or get fired.

You can still use Streets View in 3D!!

Posted in Finds with tags , , , on February 6, 2011 by Mitch Leuraner

Way back in April 2010 I wrote about an option in Google Streets View that let you switch to an old school Complementary color anaglyph 3D image.  Sadly, that option disappeared not long after I discovered it.

Or so we thought!

Today I noticed an option in the Streets View right-click menu that I haven’t seen before – a 3D Mode option! Take a look (click the image to make it bigger):

To make the magic happen, just go into Streets View and right-click any part of the image. And what happens when you select it 3D Mode On?  This:

Of course, you will still needs some of those crazy coloured glasses to actually take advantage of it, but if you’re like me you have a whole bunch kicking around anyway.

Just one click could save a life!

Posted in Finds, Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , on February 5, 2011 by Mitch Leuraner

The Ottawa Hospital Foundation needs your help – and it won’t cost you a cent!

The Foundation has joined a new crowd sourcing initiative called FundChange.  The idea is that charities can sign up for micro-financing, that over time will accumulate. The initiative is being sponsored by Telus, who has agreed to match any donations that are made – but only for the initiative that gets the most votes.

The Foundation is promoting its Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth (P.A.R.T.Y.) Program. From the site:

The P.A.R.T.Y. Program aims to reduce the number of teen injuries, and it works ­– a study by the Hospital showed that six weeks after completing the P.A.R.T.Y. Program, participants had significantly improved knowledge of risk factors for injury.

So what can you do?

First you can click THIS LINK, which will take you the the Foundation’s area on the FundChange site. Once you are there, click the VOTE button. It won’t cost you any money, and you don’t have to sign up for anything. Just click the button. And come back tomorrow and vote again!

If you are feeling particularly giving, you can also click the FUND button.  That one will cost you however much you are willing to donate.  But in the end, your vote could be worth a lot more if the Foundation wins.

Want to see more about the program:

CRTC slapped down again

Posted in Finds, Movies, Music, Thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2011 by Mitch Leuraner

Usage-based billing in the internet industry is bad.  But the fact that an organization created to protect consumers actually tried to require such billing is nothing short of a travesty.  Thankfully, just about every politician in this country – regardless of ideology – seems to be able to see the problem with the CRTC‘s recent ruling.

And late last night Canadian consumers were finally vindicated. In an ironic show of support for the internet, Industry Minister Tony Clement Tweeted about his stance on the issue:

Borrowed from the Vancouver Sun online. Thanks!

Even better, the Vancouver Sun online has quoted a senior government insider who said:

“The CRTC should be under no illusion. The prime minister and the minister of industry will reverse this decision unless the CRTC does it itself.”

Booyah! That’s how representative democracy is supposed to work!

Now if only we can get some changes made in the CRTC itself.  Two major decisions being over-ruled in as many years definitely indicates that the current decision-makers are out of touch with reality Canadians.