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Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Quick Review of the BlackBerry Z10 with BB10 Operating System

A Quick Review of the BlackBerry Z10 with BB10 Operating System

We have waited over a year for this smartphone and the wait has been worth it for BlackBerry fans. It has a faster web browser, bigger screen than the iPhone, an 8MP camera, and some new apps that will simplify your life. The Z10 Touchscreen edition does not have a keyboard but that version is expected to be released in a few months. The Canadian cellular carriers will start offering this device starting February 5, 2012. Looks like it be the usual $150 on a 3 year deal.

What’s to like?

BlackBerry Hub: This app allows all your voice mails, texts, emails, Twitters, Faceboo to appear in the Hub. If you are working on a document and a message comes in the Hub, you can slide your finger up and respond or let the Hub fade away. You do not have to close the document app to go to the message app. This can be interesting as on my iPhone I need to close the app and then go to the email app to respond to an email.

BlackBerry Messenger: BBM is the joy of the BlackBerry and now in addition to the text and multimedia messaging adds video conversation to the app. They have also added a collaboration feature that allows you to display the document you are working on to the person on the other end. If you have changes to make to a sales presentation then the other collaborator can see the same document you are working on. The sales person can no longer hide from the sales manager when he BBMs the Sales Funnel spreadsheet asking for his monthly commit numbers. 

Virtual Keyboard: Like every other smartphone, the Z10 has the virtual keyboard and the new software tries to guess what you are typing in and auto-complete. I would not use this but others may like it. The bigger screen means bigger virtual keys to type on. 

Improved Camera: The 8MP camera seems to be the norm but a built in photo editing software app can be handy. Also there is a rapid photo function that takes a series of shots and you can pick the one you prefer in the timeline to keep. This could be great to take portraits and choose the one where Grandma has her eyes open.

Multi-Tasking: RIM calls this Cascades. You can swipe apps from the screen while leaving them open in the background. It is so easy to switch back and forth between two apps.
Balance: This is a great BYOD app where one can toggle between their personal mode and secure work related apps.

What Needs Improvement:

BlackBerry World App Store: The disappointment is the lack of brand name apps. Many are expecting to find Skype, Angry Birds, Zite and Goodreader in the store in order to enhance their smartphone. There are a lot of apps and many are useful and are really more business oriented but the coders will come around when they see the Z10 gaining or maintaining market share. The Apple and Google App claim more apps but there are a lot of junk and what’s important is if the apps that are useful to your needs are available. I find the apps from the store for my PlayBook to be OK. I have an ereader, document, spreadsheet, and PowerPoint, recipe and pdf reader. For business use that’s enough. Play Angry Birds on your iPod Touch please.

The Z10 is not a game changer, it’s nothing mind blowing, it’s a solid and fast smartphone that will make a proper upgrade for the users coming up to the end of their cuurent 3 year plans. Business users will enjoy the new phone and enhanced functionality and IT management will be happy with the security of corporate information.

I doubt too many teenagers are going to line up for the Z10 as many didn’t line up for the iPhone 5 and looking around these days the Galaxy seems to be more popular. I continue to see the Z10 as the safe and secure business smartphone that is still relevant and fully expect bigger demand when the Z10 Keyboard version comes out. I miss the physical keyboard immensely on my iPhone and am constantly annoyed on how the virtual keyboard doesn’t work too well when the temperature drops.

We just went through this at lunch when a colleague was trying to answer his Galaxy…swipe….swipe….swipe….swipe….rubs the display on his shirt….swipe …..swipe….

He couldn’t answer the important call…..virtual keyboards can be annoying.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

United Airlines is a Horrible Airline to fly with

After submitting my complaint on-line with no response in the past 96 hours I am posting this online.

Your airline created a travel nightmare for my family and I like I have never experienced in 40 years of flight travel.

I booked travel for a family trip in June 2012. Booking reference was XXXXXX and also purchased two tickets for my sons friends on ND49MC. It was a YYZ to ORD then a ORD to LAX, returning the LAX to ORD then ORD to YYZ

Later, You changed my travel plans to now have a flight change with a YYZ to IAD to LAX which increased my trip time by almost 2 hours.

When I arrived at the airport the eticket numbers were not in your system and I had to make frantic calls to the Aeroplan call center to provide your agents with the correct etickets since your new computer system couldn’t locate my travel schedule. I had no seats assigned as well. Thankfully, the agent got us on the YYZ to IAD flight ok but could not assign seats for 2 passengers due to the flight being overbooked. I had lounge access at the YYZ for all parties. I called your call center and they said that only the gate agent could do this. I had a 45 min layover and with arguing with your gate agent did not get seats assigned to my children until late in the boarding process (even though I had premiere access). You cannot imagine how stressful this was for my family.

When we arrived one of our luggage's did not make the flight. I had to return  8 hours later to retrieve it. Your baggage staff was on dinner and I had to get a gate agent to get a supervisor to let me get my bag. My son was extremely stressed out with his bag gone missing and was not able to use the swimming pool until he got his luggage.

Can you not offer an entertainment system that is behind the seat like every other major airline?

I sorted out with the gate agent at LAX to ensure my return tickets were allocated correctly with seats assigned.

I was also treated to such rudeness from the United Club agent as to only allow myself and one guest to enter. A supervisor eventually let us in so my kids could at least recharge their telephones and relax a bit. I found this very disappointing as the lounge offers crackers and cheese, cookies and soda pop. That’s not worth $50 entrance. The acceptance of Star Alliance Gold seems quite poor in fact and was very surprised about this.

I found the whole UA experience to be a very stressful and really disappointing travel experience. Of course, everyone says to go social media with the story but I prefer to complain  through your process first. The flight attendants were awesome and very friendly and the yyz and lax gate agents were very helpful but the IAD one was really not service friendly at all.

I flew over 75 flight segments last year on different airlines and never went through the stress I had to endure on this trip which also made it worse as it stressed my family out. They did not find the UA experience a happy one at all.

I checked with a friend and he too booked an Aeroplan flight with United Airlines to LAX and was shunted through Washington IAD and also had eticket issues.Seems a common problem for United.

The United Airlines computer upgrade has a lot of glitches that need to be fixed.

Canadians are super lucky to have Air Canada, Porter and WestJet as airlines that have all ranked tops in customer satisfaction, have new planes, and believe in customer service.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rolling with Think Tank - Airport International V2 Review - A mulit-purpose Rolling Carry On

Think Tank Airport International V2 – Roller Bag Review

First off this will be a bit different than just another camera bag review because this camera roller bag is really a rolling suitcase that is kitted out for photography purposes. This is a multi-purpose rolling bag and that is how i use it.

I have more camera bags, briefcases and suitcases than I care to mention.  I have different bags for different needs but my focus was always on quality. I have Victorinox luggage and bags and also several Tumi products, and even Pelican stuff as well. The past few years I have been buying Think Tank products. I got excited by their clever features and was won over by its quality and common sense practicality. I have stuff from each product category (next will have to be the Urban Disguise 60). I realized that I needed a rolling camera bag to save my back but also to carry all the stuff you may need for a photo shoot. This was very evident when I was asked to shoot some photos with 500px for the Nutcracker being done by the National Ballet of Canada. 

Meets INTERNATIONAL and USA domestic airline carry-on size requirements.

I used to use a Pelican Rolling Case (22”) and then place a Lowe Pro Extreme camera bag and gear into the case.  However the stuff can shift around as I do not have the divider kit for it. Also it’s too big as a carry on. I do use it for carrying my studio strobes and lighting equipment. I can easily strap on several stands to it as well. Great for that but not for camera gear. The other thing I found is that when I travel with it and use it as a suitcase, the security staff always opens it up, or have it weighed, or tell me it has to go to oversize because most Pelicans have electronic equipment in it. I originally looked at the 1510 model but it just didn’t suit me and besides I do not want to draw attention to it. I needed a better way to carry more stuff and to do it safely so thus the research for a suitcase looking camera bag started. Sure enough Think Tank makes several and I chose the International due to its carry on friendly dimensions.

The roller bag comes with a idea card showing where to store your Nikon gear. Flip the cardboard over and its a Canon version.
What makes it exciting to me is that Think Tank really offers several features that make this an ideal bag for multiple purposes. You could use this rolling camera bag as a travel suitcase as well. The Airport series of products are not inexpensive but they offer high end quality, practical features with feedback from working professionals, and they are an investment. It also works extremely well with the other Think Tank products. The primary reason I chose the TT AIv2 was for its features and because I want my camera equipment safe and sound in the overhead bin of the airplane or when traveling to a shoot. The roller looks like a suitcase and not something carrying over $10k of photo gear. The roller bag also has more room than the traditional camera bag meaning you can bring more stuff to the shoot as well as lash on a tripod and save your back. 

Here is the bag with the regular divider kit. Note the rain cover pouch and tripod straps

The features that I wanted in a roller bag were as follows:

  • High Quality and built to last
  • Big Beefy Zippers (only YKK will do for me)
  • Replaceable wheels
  • Durable DWR finish
  • Security Cables (this has one in the back and one in the front) with TSA friendly locks
  • Security Plate with serial number and registration (just like Victorinox)
  • Tripod Holder
  • Zippered Pockets
  • Flexibility (Low Divider kit optional) able to move dividers at will
  • Rain Proof Cover
  • Room for 2 bodies, 4 lenses, 300mm, a few flashes and more stuff

This bag is 43” linear length making it ideal as a carry on for air travel with any airline but it will not fit in the overhead bin of many regional jets or underneath the seat. However, the Think Tank Urban Disguise 60 will fit underneath and just barely in the overhead bin of a Regional Jet. (The airline will gate check it for you meaning it goes into the plane’s luggage section underneath the plane. Photo gear is not recommended to be in the luggage. You should remove the camera and lenses into a carry on bag for the plane. The Regional Jets are small planes and have very limited luggage space. Other airplanes are able to accommodate a carry on bag of 45" linear length.). I have tested the TT AIv2 and it does fit in an Air Canada Luggage test frame. OK it is sized liked a regular rolling suitcase.

The bag ships with a divider kit but I chose to get the optional Low Divider kit which is shorter in height allowing room for the Cable Management 50 or an Airport Intelligence laptop bag to fit inside the case. This is my preferred set up for transporting my photography gear. I can’t think of any other company making anything similar. Again the great minds at Think Tank are always thinking ahead. 


Low Divider with the Cable Management 50

If I am doing a trade show then I can pull the dividers out (and keep the top two) and just pack a body, lens and flash, my LCD projector and some packing cubes with clothes. My laptop slides into the front. Now you are starting to see how useful the case is. It can be multi-purpose.

If I am out doing radio work, I can shift the dividers around and pack radio equipment just as easily. I can even mount a portable antenna in the place of the tripod. It can be multi-purpose and even use it as a traditional suitcase.

Trade Show set up - clothes, Projector and camera, lens , flash. Note the laptop bag


As a bonus the inner lid has 4 plastic pockets with zipper pull protectors that are perfect to hold a circular polarizer, white balance cards, small foldable reflectors, cables, pocket wizard’s, etc.

Of course, the outer pocket has organization compartments and I can fit my Travel Wallet and Passport Holder in there.

I can slide my Think Tank Airport Intelligence laptop bag into the front sleeve as well.

The security cables allow you to lock the case to a pole or a table. This is perfect for the trade show environment or a hotel room. I can also lock my laptop bag as well as there is a security cable at the front. Again, people just see a suitcase full of clothes. Who wants to steal that? I can keep the Eagle Creek security cables I use at home now and use the built in ones. The security cables are designed for casual use and not intended for long term unprotected safety. The rain cover is handy as well when trying to get from the hotel or shoot site to the parking lot in pounding rain.

I found the telescoping handle to be kind of flimsy. I checked some of my other rolling luggage’s and found they were not as flimsy. It turns out the TT AIv2 has a 4 section handle and it stows into about a 10 inch section in the case. This is ingenious I think because the bottom half of the case has extra room as it doesn’t have to house the telescoping handle. Regular luggage would have the handle telescope  the full length of the case, good for clothes not as good for camera gear as there would be two ridges for the handle.  I can live with a flimsier feeling handle if it gives me a better designed interior.

The package also comes with a ton of dividers, the rain cover in its own pouch and several straps and a cup for the tripod or mono pod holder.

Weekend Travel version. Lots of room for clothes. Don't need my 28-70 mm beast a 18-105 VR is just fine

The Airport International V2.0 Rolling Camera bag comes highly recommended with a 9.5/10 rating. It does lose marks for its weight as it is a hefty ten pounds but that includes a strong built frame, real rollerblade wheels and the dividers themselves. Looking at the Lowe Pro version of it you will quickly see that it has no real organizer pockets inside, the telescoping handle is on the outside of the frame, and no clever Think Tank features.  One product improvement would be to add a standard ¼” threaded mount in the telescoping handle so for an impromptu light stand. The Lowe Pro has this idea. The Kata series has its lovely bright yellow interior but I didn’t like how the tripod had to be held against the front of the bag. The Think Tank having it on the side means I can lay the bag down and still open the lid. With Kata and Lowe Pro I need to lift the lid with the tripod attached. Seems too clumsy for me. Also the competition just didn’t seem to have that quality and clever features going for it. Remember, Think Tank is designed for and by working professionals not for Sunday photographers out at the zoo taking photos of Elephants.

In summary it’s somewhat expensive but price is what you pay and value is what you get. Its multi-purpose investment for my needs and it has some really great features not found elsewhere. You may want to order the Low Divider kit and a Cable Management 50 organizer bag as these two items work well for me. Guess what? Think Tank also makes a Think Tank Photo Travel Pouch for holding your clothes and shirts with YKK zippers and bullet proof construction. Guess what I am buying next payday?

CIBC Bank offers Wi-Fi to clients

I rant about how offering free Wi-Fi is good for business, good for customer loyalty and good for our personal productivity

CIBC or Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is on a mission to increase their customer satisfaction. They are ranking below the other Canadian banks.

One way to improve their service is to thank you for your patience while in a long line up for a teller. Sorry, that's nice but if you have the time to notice that the line is long with disgruntled faces then you have the time to open up another teller position. Sorry but based on the quick feedback yesterday that approach doesn't work.

What works is that I can use my tablet or smartphone to access the internet while in queue. Now I can be productive and the time goes by faster. Some visionary at CIBC HQ must be reading my blog.

Also if I need to do something on my work laptop in between meetings while out of the office,  I can now go to my local CIBC branch and grab a comfy chair in their newly refurbished lobby, get some cash from the ATM and get some files sent to a customer.

Thank You CIBC and Thank You Bell Canada for rising to the challenge to offer this service

I now challenge Loblaws to do the same so I can have access to the internet while grocery shopping.

Using Award Wallet to Track Your Miles and Points

Award Wallet is the best way to track miles and points balances!

As a busy traveller it’s a pain to keep track of mileage rewards, hotel points and other rewards programs. In the past you may have needed to use a spreadsheet to maintain this entire but in the PCless era this task is no longer a chore. There is now a great app call Award Wallet.

It not only keeps track of airlines, hotel programs, and car rental agencies, but also includes the most important information of when those points expire. 

I just need to choose my rewards programs and provide the log in details and the app will do the rest. It also sends out summary emails to let you know of any recent activity. You also can see this information using your web browser.

Another cool feature is the One Card. Award Wallet will print your membership account numbers and the telephone numbers of all your programs. No need to carry 18 rewards cards in your wallet when just One Card will do. It also includes the information on the mag stripe on the back so you can use the airport terminal kiosk for check in.

The other interesting feature I just found out about is that it can also link your Groupon and some bank accounts. I couldn’t get mine to work so I have to assume it’s a USA only thing for now.
They also have a promotions tab on the web based log in and that will keep you abreast of any promotions being offered by the service. 

Award Wallet simplifies my rewards administration task immensely.

If you want to try it out, Award Wallet has given me some upgrade codes for first time users.
Check out the link