Tech Blog: The Only ‘Approved’ Use Of An iPhone 4

….And by ‘approved‘, I mean ‘Stormcastle Approved‘.


Bonus points for recycling!


Dear Bell Canada: We Hate You

All of us across Canada have been taking part in a mass experiment for the past 17 days or so.

This experiment was called The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Why is that an experiment and what does it have to do with Bell Canada?

Dear reader, I will tell you ‘cuz that’s just what kind of blogger I am – always looking out for those who don’t know.

For those of you out there who live in countries that are not named Canada, a little background is needed here.

The official Canadian network of the 2010 Olympic Games was CTV – one of only 3 national Canadian networks – and was the only Canadian source of Olympics broadcast over it’s hydra-esque collection of stations: CTV, TSN (The Sports Network), MuchMusic (the Canadian alternative to MTV), and MTV Canada (the Canadianized MTV).

CTV was formerly owned wholly by Bell Canada (now about 20%), and now you’re up to speed.

(UPDATE: Bell Canada has repurchased the entirety of CTV as of September 10th, 2010)

On the whole, the CTV broadcast of the Olympics was completely and totally shit – I’m not gonna mince words here.

The fact that the Canadian-origin Olympic broadcasts were shit is endemic of Bell Canada’s general attitude towards the Canadian public and none of us should have been really surprised at the epic failure of the endeavor.

The technologies employed for the Olympics broadcasts were seriously lacking when compared to the station most Canadians turned to when comparable programming was on offer: NBC.

Why is that?

The answer – to put it simply – is competition.

In the United States of America, NBC had the sole rights for broadcasting the Olympic games to the entire country – but they had to deal with new shows or counter programming from their two rivals, namely ABC and CBS.

NBC was in a position where they had to use absolute top notch video, audio, and graphical technology to make the Olympics palatable to the average American to ensure good Nielsen ratings performance against shows like CSI and LOST.

I give a tip of my metaphorical hat to Mr. Zucker, the president of NBC, for making these strong decisions and reaping the benefits.

However, the corporate masters at CTV didn’t really see the need to go all out on the technical standards because they had the Canadian viewers by the balls – so to speak.


Two things.

Patriotism and lack of choices.

If a Canadian wanted to watch the games, they (at least in the heads of CTV masters) would have no other option than to watch the CTV family coverage.

And what Canadian DIDN’T want to watch the Olympics hosted in Vancouver, British Columbia – which happens to be in CANADA?

What Canadian citizen didn’t want to watch our Canadian Olympians win more gold medals than any other country in the history of the Games?

There was simply no choice for a lot of Canadians out there across our great land (2nd largest country in the world, by the way) who only got two or three channels on their televisions due to lack of cable or satellite service.

You see, CTV’s corporate masters give it lots of money to spend on licensing of the lion’s share of top rated American shows – meaning that even if you wanted to watch American Idol or other supershows instead of the Olympics, and you didn’t have cable, you were stuck watching the Olympics because your feeble rabbit ear & coat hanger setup can’t pull in an American network.

These are the facts of the previously mentioned experiment.

I’m not really aware of the total ratings breakdown of the CTV broadcasts, but from what I gather, it was a resounding success for the big wigs at Bell Canada’s broadcast division.

Which only serves to reinforce the way that Bell Canada operates throughout our vast country.

You see, Bell Canada used to be a complete and total monopoly of the Canadian telephone system – that is up until the past fifteen years or so where the CRTC (the Canadian telecommunications authority) opened up the phone market to other companies.

Bell had to deal with outside companies all of a sudden competing with them for the Canadian telecom dollar.

American companies came in and tried to run services for a while – specifically Sprint and AT&T (both of which eventually folded their Canuck operations into the Canadian telecom company Rogers).

With the fear of losing massive monopoly sized profits, Bell Canada decided to buy CTV and it’s associated networks to shore up it’s bottom line through the often mystical art of television tradecraft.

For the average Canadian, nothing really changed on television – save for the inclusion of Bell’s corporate logo at the bottom of CTV’s original local programming credits.

And in the years since the CTV takeover, nothing has really changed either – aside from some graphical makeup applied to the CTV brand.


Bell Canada loathes Canadians – or, at the very least, holds Canadians in total and utter contempt.

For all the water that has passed under the bridge since the monopoly breakup, Bell Canada still operates as a monopoly.

An alarmingly large amount of Canada’s telecom assets are still owned and operated by Bell Canada – including (and the most troubling of all) the entire Canadian internet backbone system.

Bell Canada owns the Canadian internet – despite not having a monopoly on how people subscribe to internet services.

Independent internet service providers have to buy their backbone access through Bell’s infrastructure wholesale.

A Canadian citizen might get their internet through a local company, but that internet is ultimately controlled by Bell.

To borrow something from the Matrix movies, Bell Canada guards all the doors and they hold all the keys – at least as far as the internet is concerned.

That local ISP may not have restrictive content filters that would slow down internet applications like BitTorrent or other P2P programs – but your data traffic cultivated by those apps will still suffer speed delays because Bell Canada does filter.

So in the end, no matter who you’re signed up with, Bell Canada still controls what you do on the internet.

Also, your internet is going to suck when compared to other developed nations.

According to a recent study by eggheads at Harvard University, Canada is 18th on a list of internet service quality.

Why eighteenth?

Because Bell still operates as if it’s a monopoly – and it is the one true  internet God in the realm of Canada’s cyberspaces.

In countries like Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Sweden, or the United States (among many other countries ahead of Canada on the afore-mentioned list), internet services improve over time due to market forces in a wide open internet marketplace.

Let’s use the United States as a working example, shall we?

In the U.S. there is a plethora of companies offering internet access via their own, wholly owned data networks that are in direct competition which each other for American customer dollars.

In hopes of attracting new customers, American networks are constantly upgrading themselves to offer bigger and better products.

Case in point, Verizon has wired large portions of America with a fiber optic transmission network so they can offer blazing data speeds when compared to their competition (AT&T, Sprint, etc.) who are still relying on century-old metal wire network technology.

Competition is the heart of progress in all systems on the planet – both technological and biological.

For something to become better, it has to have incentive to do so – and as it is, Bell Canada has ZERO incentive to improve itself.

I’m sure that somewhere in Bell Canada’s executive building(s), there’s a large brass plaque that reads in bold letters WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?

Until the CRTC grows some balls and forces Bell to divest itself of the Canadian internet backbone, Bell Canada will not invest one measly dime in network upgrades than it has to – and believe me, it doesn’t spend one penny that it isn’t forced to.


Except for internet service via cellphone.

The cellphone service sector is wide open in Canada with many competitors vying for 34 million Canadian’s hard earned cash.

Rogers, Telus, Koodo, Virgin, Wind Mobile – all nipping at Bell’s subscriber base, which forced the company to innovate and try to offer a technological edge to it’s customers that wouldn’t be available to other services.

If there weren’t other cellphone service providers in the Canadian market, Canadians would not have access to 3G or the oncoming 4G.

Bell users now have the opportunity to use the vaunted iPhone (gag me with a spoon) because Bell was forced to upgrade it’s network to compete with Rogers who was already offering iPhones.

That’s the process of competitive evolution in action.

The dinosaurs went through this hundreds of millions of years ago in our planet’s distant past, but the dinosaur that is Bell Canada simply refuses to evolve because there isn’t another corporate beastie big enough to take a bite out of it’s gnarled hide.

For this, we Canadians are in the technological third-world – which really, really sucks.

As much as we love to brag to our quarrelsome American neighbors about how we have superior, free healthcare and how we mopped the floor with them in the 2010 Olympic gold medal count, we must continuously hide our shame in regards to how friggin’ slow our internet speeds are.

I sit here in envy of whichever American cities get selected for Google’s internet service experiments that promises speeds of 1GB per second: yes, one gigabyte per second compared to my 300 kilobytes per second as I write this blog.

No, 300kbps isn’t a national average in Canada.

The average data speed in high-speed enabled communities throughout Canada is 10 megabytes per second via DSL service, 12Mbps via cable internet service – and I’ve enjoyed connection speeds of up to 5Mbps via DSL in the past, but those were anomalous and based on living in the right areas where Bell spent some extra money on their wiring .

Yes… I could subscribe to my cable company’s (Cogeco) internet service and get that 12Mbps, but there’s a gigantic catch to that blissful speed: a solid 60 gigabyte data cap – which is fairly standard amongst North American cable companies.

60GB isn’t enough by far for my demanding usage as I regularly move 200GB or so a month via gaming, uploading to social media sites like YouTube and Flickr, and downloading music/TV shows/movies.

So I’m stuck on this crappy Bell-supplied architecture.

And we, as Canadians, were stuck with the crappy, Bell-managed CTV Olympics coverage when we couldn’t turn to NBC for the same event – which was sporadic at best since NBC’s coverage was very focused on American Olympians and would skip events where the U.S. wasn’t competing, and completely blanked the Canadian cultural portion of the Closing Ceremonies.


Seriously, Bell Canada… what the hell?

The next time I stop to use a pay-phone, I hope you choke to death on the two quarters.





Oh… and that experiment and it’s purpose?

To figure out how much shit we as Canadians are willing to put up with.

And by the looks of it, Bell Canada will continue to use the Canadian market as it’s own personal outhouse.

Apple Sucks. I’m Sorry If You’re Offended.

Ask any Apple product user out there in the wilds of the internet or – gasp! – in the real world what made them buy their Mac/iPod/iPhone, and you’ll almost invariably get the same answer: they’re innovative.

I suppose this could be held out to be true if you were a technological neophyte who knew little about the technology that’s inside their purchase.

The problem with that is this: there is a very large number of people in this world who actually know what the parts and software that comprises an Apple product does – thusly knowing the inherent limitations of the device.

This creates a problem for Steve Jobs, and it’s the number one reason why he moves heaven and earth in attempts to make Apple products look cool – to make them fashionable status symbols.

If it’s white & shiny, or black & shiny, people are more likely to gloss over (hahahah… so punny!) the nagging problems that they encounter over the lifetime of the product – which isn’t going to be more than 2 years in reality due to Apple releasing a newer version of the flashy technojewelery that they paid a ridiculously large sum of money for.

What’s that? The product was worth all the extra cash?

Again: technojewelry.

You buy these things to look fashionable, and not based on technological superiority.

Want to know something interesting? The average uncut diamond is worth about $10 when you factor in rarity and the processing of rock to extract it.


Now, yes, that’s in its uncut state and cutting is where the art is – and where most jewelers will justify the 2000% markup.

Does this sound familiar?

Have you ever done comparative shopping between a Mac and a PC?

Technologically, the systems aren’t any different – yet the prices are excessively separate.

Side by side, the two machines might be different in appearances, but they’re essentially the same under the hood.

All the parts involved are mostly made in the same factories by the same manufacturers to roughly the same standards – though the Mac parts might be lower powered when compared to the same PC part.

The internal guts of these two computers might be arranged slightly different – but let’s be honest: a lot of PC makers arrange their parts in different configurations while trying to get a leg up, yet they all run Windows.

However, when we go to look at the price tags on each machine, you have to do a double/triple/quadruple/quintuple look!

The PC will be priced at $799.

The Mac will be priced at $2,799 (or more: see here)

I’m sorry.

Say what?

You want me to pay $2,000 dollars extra for what is essentially the same machine?

Are you out of your freakin’ mind?

What’s that, Mr. Jobs? You want to make the same kind of money that HP, Dell, and Acer do in their PC divisions?

But you only have 5% of the world’s personal computer market! That’s madness!

Oh… wait… I see what you’re doing!

Jack up the price on every computer so that it LOOKS like you’re selling 3.5 units every time a single computer is purchased!


Your accountants must love you!

When Apple is making 3.5 times the money per computer, it really looks like they command 17.5% of the computer market when you boil it down to dollars and cents (cents, not sense)…

…when the truth is nowhere near that.

I have to give Mr. Jobs credit, though.

It takes huge, gigantic brass balls to make a money play like that.

The fact that he gets $5 for every $100 spent on personal computing is really an accomplishment – but it’s nowhere enough for a publicly traded company that has shareholders looking for money to put in their pockets.

What was Mr. Jobs to do? How could he make more money for the people who had invested their hard-earned dollars in Apple stock?

Why… take the technojewelry concept to the next level!

Jewelry isn’t very practical if you can’t wear it on your body, is it?

Thus came the Apple iPod.

Contrary to what Apple would want you to believe, the iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player on the market, despite it’s current cultural ubiquitousness.

All Mr. Jobs did was pair together function (which was being done already by other companies) with form – which was something relatively revolutionary at the time.

People could walk around enjoying their music while feeling good about how swell the iPod looked and accessorized their lifestyle.

Apple even cared enough about their customers to make a web store to sell music directly to iPod users – because, honestly, buying a CD in a physical/real world music store was just too hard with all the track ripping and what not.

They’re even generous enough to only keep 35 cents of every 99 cents (the rest goes to the music industry), only leaving them $475,000 a day in profits!

But… that wasn’t enough money.

Shareholders screamed MOAR!

They money hungry stock owners saw that the MP3 player market was saturated with products that did everything the iPod did and more!

The Microsoft Zune plays HD video and the current generation iPod doesn’t.

Sansa players have voice recorders.

So on and so on.

Apple needed to up their game to find new revenue streams.

Steve Jobs said add a phone to the iPod and give it a touchscreen.

And behold, it was good.

Let’s add downloadable applications, he said.

And the Apple devotees rejoiced – spending $2.4 billion dollars a year on apps.

And things were good for a month or so – before competitors released phones that did everything an iPhone did plus a lot more.

Hell… the only thing the iPhone really brought to the cellphone market was the touchscreen – and that was very easily duplicated.

The iPhone was seriously lacking in certain areas as well, missing functions that other cell owners took for granted.

But… it was black & shiny! OMFG! More technojewelry!

Shareholders screamed MOAR!

They money hungry stock owners saw that the smartphone market was saturated with products that did everything the iPhone did and more!

So here we are now in the era of the iPad – and I won’t make a stale joke about feminine hygiene products.

In it’s most basic sense, the iPad is just a jumbo iPhone/iPod Touch – which as usual isn’t upgradeable, and the early adopters will curse it’s lack of Flash and/or Silverlight, among it’s dozen or so shortcomings.

It doesn’t bring anything new to the market, and I’m sure the stock owners are a bit puzzled since it will be VERY easy for a competitor to top the iPad with very little to no research & development costs.

Sure, there’s the App Store and another potential for $2.4 billion dollars in revenue a year – and maybe that’s enough for stock owners.

However, they really have to be glancing over in Google’s direction with a little bit of nervousness – and not just because of the price difference in stocks (at the time of my writing this blog, Apple was at $200 USD a share vs. Google’s $543), but because Google seems to be hell-bent on taking on both Microsoft AND Apple.

Have you ever seen a Google phone? One that either runs on Google software or is marketed directly to the masses by Google themselves?

Prime example is the Nexus One cellphone.

It does everything the iPhone does and more – and usually for less!

Wow. Do you have any idea how tedious it’s getting to write statements like that? Do you?


In the end, as hopefully you can see by now, is that Apple doesn’t offer the world anything that’s better than the competitors.

So why oh why do the Apple fanboy/fangirls of the world continue to scream at the tops of the lungs that ‘Apple is the best EVAR!’?

What is it that inspires such blind and almost unequivocal (see Linux fanboys) devotion?

Have I mentioned the white/black & shiny?

The technojewelry?

Oh… I have?

That’s the sum of it.

If that’s so, why is Justin Long still on TV poking fun of John Hodgman’s PC after what seems like 20 years?

Apple still feels insecure, that’s why.

And it’s a justified insecurity because someone in the Apple hierarchy has a level head on their shoulders and sees the truth of the matter i.e. that ultimately, Apple products are inferior.

Why that person hasn’t been fired personally by Steve Jobs is an incredulous miracle, but I think it has a lot to do with those stock holders.

Apple Computer nearly died a long slow death not very long ago, and shareholders would really rather that not happen again – thus the reality checker at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.

As far as Apple’s computer line is considered, the fans will shout words like the afore-mentioned innovation, as well as words and concepts  like ‘easy to use’, and ‘virus free’.

Easy to use?

I suppose they are when you take into consideration that using OS X and its various iterations is sort of like taking the Windows experience, making it prettier (though Windows 7 is pretty gorgeous) and then dumbing it down so a kindergarten student can use it.

What’s that, Infuriated Mac Fanboy?

Windows Vista/7 ripped off OS X?

Truth of the matter is that Microsoft had been working on a visual update for Windows long before OS X hit the market, and there is reams of data to back that up readily available from the U.S. Justice Department if you know where to ask (data related to investigations into Microsoft’s anti-competitiveness).

However, I’ll let David Pogue deal with the Vista vs. OS X battle over here.

Finally, let’s address the ‘virus free’ banner that Mac fanboys/fangirls like to wrap themselves up in before facing the world.

Yes, there are very few viruses out on the interwebs that are specifically coded for Macintosh computers.

Is it because Apple computers are inherently bulletproof when it comes to malware written in someone’s basement by their no-good, Cheetos-eating, Red Bull-drinking miscreant of an offspring?


Is it because it’s easier to write anti-virus code for a Mac?


Is it because Steve Jobs flies around the internet and eats all the potential Mac virus bombs before they can be delivered!


Oh wait… no… that’s not it at all.

The reason Mac users go their entire Apple product using lives without encountering a nasty virus that wants to corrupt their data or hijack their internet connections is this: 5%.

Five measly percentage points.

Why would virus writers – who depend on vast numbers of computers to distribute their ill-meaning wares to other vast numbers of computers – bother writing a virus that would only effect 5% of the computer ecosystem?

There’s no money or no glory in 5% of the world.

If you were walking down an alley and you saw a dollar with 5 pennies on top of it, which would you pick up? The dollar or the pennies?

I dunno about you, but I’m sure as hell taking the dollar – and that’s exactly the way virus writers see the internet…

…and that’s the exact reason why Macs are virus free.

They’re not popular enough.

If you’re a Mac user and reading this blog, take great comfort in your binary isolation.

But beware, Mac User: if Microsoft, Google, and Linux all suddenly disappear like you wish every night before falling asleep, guess who’s gonna be the most disease-ridden girl at the Internet Prom?

It sure as hell ain’t gonna be Sun Mircrosystems.