MICR from Canmore

Tune in this week to Off the Beaten Track on CBC Prince Edward Island (Friday, Dec. 15 at 4:30 p.m.) to learn more than you ever thought possible about the world of MICR and cheque clearing. (You can listen live via RealAudio, or find an archive link here late Friday).

Soon I will stop…

Okay, so Island Tel Advanced Solutions [sic] doesn’t send paper bills for High Speed Internet — my only option is to receive my bill by email. But they don’t accept electronic bill payment from my credit union. This leaves them as the only bill that I can’t pay online (and this includes everything from electric and oil to my little insurance broker down the street). Oh, and they don’t even print their mailing address on the invoice — where am I supposed to send the cheque?

Island Tel: Stop the Insanity!

I try to say good things about Island Tel, really I do. But they’re at it again. Every time I reboot my system, Island Tel’s DHCP server gives me an IP address. This is fine and normal. Today, they opened up a new class of IP addresses, so that while I used to always get a 142.176.* address, now I get a 142.177.* address. That’s fine and normal too. Alas they didn’t update their SMTP server at the same time, so smtp1.islandtelecom.com thinks that when I try and send email from my new IP address I’m some evil outsider, and rejects my email. So I haven’t been able to send email today. Who’s running the show over there, and how could something so crazy, yet so simple, occur?

 Stop the Insanity!

Shipping a Dog by Courier

A friend and neighbour of mine — let’s call her Gertrude — wonders whether you can send a small dog across the country by courier.

FedEx specifically prohibits Live insects, animals, birds, reptiles and plants, including cut flowers… so they’re out.

As far as I can tell, UPS has no such restrictions (although their Irregularly Shaped Items page doesn’t not specifically address the special requirements needed package a dog.)

Similarly, the confusing DHL website would appear to have no information on dog-related shipments; they can, however, tell you the literacy rate in Croatia, which often comes up when shipping dogs.

At Purolator you can ship tires and pails at no extra charge, but alas not live animals, birds and insects (besides which, I imagine that like “glass and ceramics,” a dog would not be “compatible with Purolator’s high speed sorting and handling process.”

Just when I was despairing that I would not be able to assist dear Gertrude, I found the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association International, which sent me to PetFlight, “a very personalized service where we like to think our client is the pet, and the family is the loving people who pay for the service.”

So there you go.

(If you ever find yourself needing to ship animals, the IATA has a very helpful page of information.)

Futureshop

Charlottetown has been blessed/cursed with a Futureshop for a couple of months now. I’ve had almost universally poor experiences there and warn others to shop elsewhere when possible.
My first purchase was a Canon PowerShot S100 camera. I bought it there because I knew they would take it back if I wasn’t satisfied. To complete the purchase, however, I endured what must have been 15 minutes of “extended warranty” up-sell patter with the hard-sell salespeople. This ended with the following exchange: “You know that repairs can cost up to $200 on a camera like that,” they said. “Well, how much is the extended warranty?” I asked. “$199,” they reponses. I decided to take my chances.
Next episode, several months later: we decided to buy a TV. We’d already decided on a Sony WEGA and were just shopping on price. Price at Futureshop: $849. Price at Hirtles, the small, local, friendly shop around the corner: $849. We bought it at Hirtles. So much for “big city prices.”
Final straw: I called today to price a memory upgrade (see story below). After negotiating the voicemail tree, I ended up talking to someone in Computers. I gave him my specs and he put down the phone on the counter. Much confusion was heard in the background. About a minute later he came back. “That would be $49/month,” he said. “What?” I replied. “$49/month,” he reiterated. I hung up.

Memory is Cheap and Helpful

Computer memory is cheaper these days than it has been in a while (it seems that about $1/megabyte is the going rate). I added an additional 128MB to the existing 128MB on my IBM PC300/GL and it’s like having a brand new computer for $129. If you’re finding your computer sluggish, esp. if it’s because the disk is thrashing around like a washing machine a lot, you can’t go wrong by adding more memory. If you’re running Windows 95 or 98, and have more than one application open at a time as a matter of course, you really need 128MB+ to have a smooth experience.

Why Domino’s is Good

It was with some reluctance that I came to be a Domino’s Pizza customer. Their conservative politics are suspect (see their take on this). They are a huge company. They make their employees wear dorky uniforms. And so on. But, alas, they make good pizza. Their Thin Crust is the only pizza in Charlottetown worth eating. And, alas, their customer service is fantastic. They answer the phone on the first ring. They have a “30 minutes or free” guarantee, but they’re always here in 15 minutes. Their technology tells them what I ordered last time, and they offer to send it again. They know where I live by taking my phone number. It takes about 15 seconds to order a pizza from Domino’s. And they sent us a calendar for Christmas.

Television Notes

Ally McBeal, with the injection of Robert Downey Jr., has gone from unwatchabe to completely compelling this season; the entire cast is made better by Downey’s presence. Gideon’s Crossing suffers from the fact that star Andre Braugher is so much better an actor than the rest of the cast that scenes without him are rendered mundane. CBC Election coverage: why don’t they just replace Mansbridge with Diana Swain? Compass, the CBC News for PEI (now called “the Compass portion of CBC News Canada Now”): I’d be happy if they brought back the old theme song and lost the choppy bridge graphics; it’s better at half an hour than it ever was hour-long (a credit to the remaining staff). Eastlink Digital Cable: I went to the Test Drive Weekend… they’re offering a dorky, slow, ugly interactive program guide, a half-dozen extra channels (Court TV, BBC World), and no improvement in picture quality. This was worth waiting for?

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