Improved Canada.com Newsletter Shuts Out Mac Users

[eds. note: according to an email I got from CanWest, this problem will be resolved with tomorrow’s – Feb 1st – edition]

This is one of those situations where function is definatley more important than form.

I get a daily enewsletter from the Vancouver Sun, and have for a while now.

There are usually a couple of stories I’m interested in, so I’ll follow the links in the newsletter and get the story on their web site, which is of course part of the Canada.com portal.

Yesterday the Sun rolled out a new design for their enewsletter – and for anyone using Mail on a Mac – there’s a bit of a problem. The links don’t work. Clicking on any of the story links just reloads the page, and you never get to the story.

Now, its true, enewsletters are a bit of a nightmare, since how they look and function is totally dependent upon the mail program at the other end. The same is true for web sites, but with mail, there are even more issues than with multiple flavours of web browsers.

Its seems odd though, given this is coming from a newspaper company. Print media in general are Mac shops – or at least heavily weighted with Macs.

Its interesting this slipped by the developer, because the entire function of an email newsletter is to get you to follow the links. No links ? What’s the point ?

Oh well, guess I’ll strike one more ‘traditional media’ company as a source for information – at least for now.

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I have to give Sun editor-in-chief Patricia Graham big points. I emailed her, along with the web folk at Canada.com this morning, explaining the issue. She was the first to reply, within an hour, saying it’ll be looked at.

Hockey Night in Camsack ?

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First they brought us the Vancouver/Whistler Olympics, now they want to bring us a 24/7 TV channel about amateur sport.The Canadian Olympic Committee is asking the CRTC to hold a licensing hearing for an English and French digital TV service dedicated to amateur sports of all kinds. From the COC press release:

The Canadian Olympic Committee has long recognized the need for dramatically increased television coverage of Canadian amateur sport on a consistent and regular basis,” said COC Chief Executive Officer Chris Rudge. “These networks would finally bring our athletes into the spotlight and also motivate young people everywhere in Canada to get up out of their seats and engage in sport and a healthy lifestyle.”

The applications were formally submitted by the COC and its partners to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in early December. The proposed national digital television networks would each focus solely on Canadian amateur sport 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing Canadians to watch amateur athletes compete in regional, national and international events in both Olympic and non-Olympic sports. read the COC press release

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The COC admits that ad revenue alone will not sustain the services, so they want the CRTC, should it even license the services, to make them mandatory carriage. What that means is that the channels would be included in digital TV packages (cable and satellite) which would then give the COC assured subscriber revenue. Channels that are not mandatory ‘must carry’ services rely on subscribers who opt-in and pay extra for the channels. In Canada, the vast majority of those channels are struggling. As a ‘must carry’ the proposed channels ensure a revenue stream – and the COC and it’s partners have already suggested that their cut should be 60 cents per household per month.

The COC’s requirement for the channels to be ‘must carry’ will put them in conflict with more traditional broadcasters and other media companies who would love to get their channels out of the twilight zone and into digital prime time. It’ll be interesting to see how the private sector argues against supporting amateur sport in Canada – but I’m sure they’ll find a way.

The contents of the application will not be made public until the CRTC decides to have a public hearing. Once they do that, they will publicize the application (Gazette) and look for public response. That’s when we’ll see the full application. The COC hopes that will happen this spring, but the timing is entirely dependent upon the CRTC.

The CRTC usually holds a hearing within 55 days of Gazetting, and once they publicize the hearing, other companies interested in making an application for a digital channel will also be able to apply. So, it’s unusual for an applicant to publicize their application prior to Gazetting, usually for fear of giving away too much too soon to potential competitors. Given the nature of this application, it’s doubtful there will be too many others in the same playing field. The COC isn’t just handing out press releases, it has launched a web site for the new channels.

What I want to know is – who will be the Don Cherry of the amateur sport network ?

Big Canadian Telecoms Just Don't Get It

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An open letter to Shaw, Rogers and Telus

Dear Large Telecoms.

I’m very happy that you’re competing with each other for services like land lines, cell phones and television services. This is good for consumers like me.

However, a word of advice.

If you really want to convince me that your services are so much better and cheaper than your competitors, why are you unable to either fax, email or snail mail me a proposal outlining the package of services you are offering and the costs.

You’ve all called me in the last week. Telus, you’ve called me 3 times in 2 weeks.

You are very excited on the phone about the fabulous offers you can provide to lower my monthly bill. You all tell me how marvelous your services are and how responsive your customer service people are.

When you’ve called (uninvited I should point out) I’ve told you all that I’m more than willing to switch from my current providers, particularly if I can get a better deal and one-stop shopping.

Yet, none of you has the ability to send me a simple piece of information outlining what you are offering. I just need something plain and simple – you know – a list? You don’t need to even get it designed or tarted up in any way. Just a simple list of your services and the costs so I can compare one to other.

This is what I do with almost all the services I purchase for my small business. Every vendor I work with is happy to send me a quote for services by fax or email. I don’t think it’s too much to ask – you called me remember?

When I’ve asked you for this, you’ve told me you don’t have that capability. No really, this is what you’ve told me – you apparently don’t have the capability of sending me a fax, email or surface mail letter.

May I remind you that you are a large telecom, providing complex network services on a national scale? And you can’t send an email? Its funny you know, but even the smallest business these days has email or fax. It seems to be very popular. All the kids are doing it.

Oh wait, this is what you actually DO.

I must admit, this inability does make me question how good your follow up services really are.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to switch to another provider. I’m what you call a ripe sales lead.

Here’s why.

The service I get now is pretty crappy. I don’t like talking to a voice recognition computer when I’d like to speak to a customer service rep. And the last time I had trouble with my landline, it took you 10 days to send someone out to fix it. What is this, 1932 ?

So, I’m not exactly thrilled with the services I have now. Should I repeat? I’d be happy to switch.

But.

You may be excited about your new services, but you’re behaving the same old way you always have.

And that just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Robert

In Your Brain and Other Link Adventures for a Monday

(cross posted at www.atlargemedia.com)

Vancouver’s own blogging conference Northern Voice takes place next month.

There’s a lot to like about this conference aside from the moose logo. Like the price.

40 Canadian dollars for one day, or $60 for both. It’ll cost you almost that much to take a cab from downtown to confernce site on the UBC campus.

I’ll be kicking around so come up and say hi.

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If you work in an office with a staff lunchroom, you really need to read “Time for a Staffroom Makeover” by Capers Whole Foods nutritionist Victoria Pawlowski.

The foods and beverages stuffed in the refrigerator and falling off side counters often aren’t really foods – they are collections of ingredients with lots of additives, trans fats, simple carbs and sweeteners. They are processed, refined foods loaded with anti-nutrients – chemicals that actually make it harder for your body to absorb nutrient and cause cellular inflammation which is linked to premature aging and disease.

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She’s got a lot of good tips on how you can improve things for yourself, and your coworkers.

Meanwhile, the KitKat France has produced an awesome animation about getting the ultimate break from office melt-downs.

It’s a great form of advertising – the animation is high quality and funny. I particularly like the guy who flips pencils between his fingers – I’m pretty sure I worked with him in Calgary.

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Maybe he was just having a bad day, but former Vancouver technology sector business guy, Will Pate, is tearing a strip off the Canadian technology sector in his first article for Startup North

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When you meet technology people from Canada, we’re not in a race. We’re watching the race from the sideline. We act like technology entrepreneurship is closer to farming than shark hunting, as if risky business isn’t necessary to make the next Google or Microsoft. We putter around as if slow and steady actually wins races to innovate and grow technology businesses.

Ouch. Last I checked, Will was still working…in the technology sector in Canada.

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If you’re a problem solver (say, working in the technology sector in Canada) or an innovative thinker of any sort, have you ever wondered what’s really going on in your brain when you’re, say, problem solving?

Scientific American has a story on research underway that may that shed some light on what’s going on when…the light goes on.

If there’s excessive attention, it somehow creates mental fixation….Your brain is not in a receptive condition….Researchers found that subjects who were aware that they had found a new way to tackle the problem (and so, had consciously restructured their thinking) were less likely to feel as if they’d had eureka moment compared to more clueless candidates.

And to that, I say AHA.

Fin for now.

Free Music Might Just Save the Music Industry

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For years artists and industry observers have been suggesting that the only way the music industry as we know it will survive is to completely reinvent itself.

To date, reinvention hasn’t seemed particularly high on the list for major record labels. Mostly they’ve blamed their problems on their customers – chasing down peer-to-peer music sharers and sending teams of lawyers after music fans.

A report from this year’s MIDEM conference indicates there may be some changes coming. MIDEM is the industry’s largest and most influential trade show – and while it doesn’t get the kind of media attention it used to get in the pre-Consumer Electronics Show era – it’s the place where the most powerful people in the music industry gather to cook deals over cigars and cocktails.

As The Guardian reports, this year’s show is buzzing with the idea of saving the music industry by giving music away…

Now a host of new services, with the backing of major labels, are promising to revolutionise how music is distributed by offering millions of tracks, from much-hyped wannabes to established acts such as U2, for nothing.

Competing for attention at the Midem trade show, the services promise a global jukebox, paying for the free music by attracting advertising. Meanwhile, some acts are queueing up to swap their deals with labels for agreements with big advertisers which would further blur the line between bands and brands.

The move into a free service is a sea change for an industry which spent years fighting through the courts with companies offering free internet downloading and sharing of songs. full story here

This idea isn’t exactly new – almost all of us are using free services on the internet that are funded by advertising in one form or another. But go back a few decades and you’ll fine one of the most successful examples of this model – one that endures today.

It’s called radio.

Not only do record companies let radio stations use their music for free, they have entire teams dedicated to ‘serving’ those radio stations with the latest releases, arranging interviews with their artists, and often offering every type of legal incentive they can think of.

I personally know quite a few people who have massive music collections in their homes, provided gratis to them by the record industry, all in hopes of those same people playing their songs on the radio. These same people have been wined and dined for years, given free tickets to concerts, and flooded with music industry merchandise. I also know many people, recipients of these freebies, who augmented their incomes by selling the stuff to used record stores and other collectors, and aside from a few harsh words, the labels never kicked up a fuss. And why would they ?

By giving radio stations music for free, the music industry gains huge benefits. Their music ges ‘distributed’ over the air, people hear it, want it, and buy CD’s, concert tickets and go to live shows because of it.

What’s worked in one industry for the last 50 years will certainly work in this new industry, assuming the record companies adjust their business model to match what’s possible in this technology era. They’ve been actively fighting it for over ten years – and we all know what that’s accomplished. Now it’s time to get with the program – be brave and creative in doing their jobs – so they can reap the benefits for the next 50 years.

And if they need any help, just give me a call.

North Vancouver Trashes History – part 2

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Yesterday I had a bit of a rant about the City of North Vancouver’s shortsighted move to remove the heritage designation from a number of shipyard building near Lonsdale Quay.

Now that I’ve slept on it, I’m even more pissed.

In fact, here’s another compelling argument for hanging on to the last our of shipbuilding history:

The Burrard Shipyard site which anchors the Waterfront has already been recognized at the local and national level as a heritage landmark. With the restoration of the Burrard Dry Dock Pier and St. Roch Dock, the City’s Waterfront is being rediscovered by residents and attracts both local and international visitors.

The Waterfront Project aims to connect the local community by creating a sense of place and pride that also celebrates the City’s past, present and future. One consideration for the area includes a Historic Centre, which may become a National Maritime Museum that chronicles the history of North Vancouver and pays tribute to the West Coast’s maritime origins….

The City is committed to preserving and revitalizing its waterfront heritage and rich maritime history.

Who said that ?

The City of North Vancouver on their web site and in numerous other publications.

I’d encourage you to let the City of North Vancouver know how you feel.

You can reach them at Tel: 604-985-7761 Fax: 604-985-9417 Email: info@cnv.org

North Vancouver Civic Leaders Trash History

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People who visit us from other countries eventually make two observations:

“Everything here is so new” they say.

Then they say, “What happened to your old buildings?”

The truth of it is, we tear them down.

We obliterate them, and in the process erase forever important historical references.

Generally the key motivation is money. Perhaps occasionally ignorance. But primarily money. Ok, maybe it’s ignorance and money. Two fairly powerful and destructive motivators.

The latest shameful example is the council for the City of North Vancouver.

Years ago the council designating the last remaining shipyard buildings on the North Shore as historical sites so a small piece of our ship building history would be preserved.

This week, council undesignating them as historical sites and in so doing, sealed their fate.

Demolition.

Why?

Money. They want federal money for a Maritime Centre and their budget came up short when it included preserving these marvelous icons of our ship building past.

Everyone wants the Maritime money from the feds, so what to do?

Oh, here’s an idea. Over budget? Ok, just tear down the stuff that’s in the way. That way you don’t have to pay to preserve them.

Our kids and their kids will shake their heads in disbelief 40 years from now.

Unfortunately, I live in the district of North Vancouver so I can’t even do my bit to vote these folks out of office.

All I can do is say Shame On You.

I took the photos in this article a few years ago

There are more including some newer ones in this set at Flickr.

also: See this story at Now Public

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Anthony Horowitz Book Signing in Vancouver

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The boys and I attended a book signing organized by Kids Books last night in Vancouver. Writer Anthony Horowitz was there to talk to a packed school auditorium.

Ostensibly the occasion was the release of the latest in the Alex Rider series, Snakehead. But this guy’s is brilliant. Instead of a boring presentation and reading, he told the crowd a bit about himself, and then took questions from the crowd for the next 40 minutes.

Anthony talks very fast, and he is very funny. His humour is often self-deprecating, but he clearly loves his job writing and he clearly loves kids.

Here’s what we learned, in no particular order:

  • He had a horrible time in school, an English boy’s only boarding school.
  • The school headmaster had 3 canes in his office for beating kids.
  • The headmaster’s furniture was also made out of cane, so in the event he couldn’t get to his 3 canes he could beat you with a chair.
  • Anthony not only hated school, did terribly at school. He says he was always ranked last in his class, even managing to come in 25th in a class of 24.
  • The only place he felt at home in school was in the library.
  • He become a ‘after lights out’ story teller in his dorm room – telling joke and elaborate stories.
  • He’s a prolific writer for TV shows in Britain; his wife produces one of the shows he writes on.
  • He thinks household objects are far more frightening than anything invented in horror novels; Anthony finds bath tubs to be very very scary.
  • He created Alex Rider after watching James Bond films and seeing a 58-year-old Sean Connery portray 007 and thinking that there should be a young super spy.
  • Anthony remembers vividly Ursula Andress wearing a white bikini and coming out of the water in that James Bond movie. Alex Rider’s last name is derived from Ursula’s character name in the movie, Honey Ryder.
  • Not to dwell too much on Ursula Andress, but Anthony says if Alex had a mother she would be Ursula Andress. Anthony is a bit obsessed with her.
  • Anthony knew from the age of 8 that we wanted to be a writer.  He says it’s a good thing that worked out because he’s not good at anything else.
  • Claims to have a secret door to his home office where he does his writing.
  • The only person allowed in his writing room is his dog Unlucky. The dog’s name was originally Lucky until Anthony accidentally backed over him in with the car and almost killed him.
  • Doesn’t think there will be another Alex Rider movie since the last one got no support from the North American distributor. He’s name a character in one of his books after the distributor in question – he suffers an untimely death by fire.
  • Believes that kids can make a better movie in their head reading a book than any movie made for any amount of money.
  • Thinks kids would do a much better job running the world than adults.
  • A lot of his characters are based on people’s he’s met in real life.
  • Has been to all the locations he’s used in his books with 2 exceptions: outer space and Air Force One, though he did talk to someone at the White House who refused his request to get aboard the plane.
  • Is going skiing in Whistler next month.

It was a great time – thanks to the Kids Books folks for doing it.

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Anthony’s web site
Penguin Books web site for Anthony Horowitz (a bit out of date)
The Alex Rider web site

The Lions in the Snow and the Sun

Even if you’re not from around here – and by that I mean Vancouver – you’ve probably heard of Lion’s Gate.

It’s a bridge that connects Vancouver with the North Shore. Lion’s Gate is also the name of a film production and distribution company that originated in Vancouver.

The Lions, to whom the ‘gate’ belongs, are two amazing huge bumps sticking out of our local mountains. Apparently, if seen from just the right angle,  they look just like a sleeping lion, though to me, they always looks like, well, two amazing huge bumps sticking out of our local mountains.

Here they are in full sun and fresh snow…

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And here’s the context…

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A Tom Bihn Bag Perfect for Mac Air

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Wow, my pals over at Tom Bihn bags just below the border from us are on the case big time (sorry, pun).

Simply put, Tom Bihn makes the best bags in the world. If you’ve never seen one or had one, you’re missing out on one of life’s major pleasures.

Today, via email, the Bihn gang let us Bihnees know that he’s already set for Steve Job’s new laptop line:

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or are otherwise pleasantly disconnected from the mass-media, you’ve probably heard about the new Apple laptop, the MacBook Air. Macaholics as we are here at TOM BIHN, we’ve already introduced a new size of our Brain Cell laptop case designed specifically for the MacBook Air.

So all you MacAirHeads – go get ’em. You won’t be sorry.

Tell him Bigsnit sent you. It won’t get you a discount or anything, but it’ll make Tom laugh. A few more details:

The TOM BIHN Brain Cell laptop case has gained a reputation for offering some of the best protection anyone can get for their laptop. Now the Brain Cell is available in a size specifically designed to carry the MacBook Air: Size 6X.

The Brain Cell is designed to clip securely inside a wide variety of TOM BIHN messenger bags, briefcases, and backpacks — bags including the Empire Builder, Super Ego, ID, Ego, and Zephyr.

A full list of the TOM BIHN bags that will accept the Size 6X Brain Cell and thus the MacBook Air can be found here: www.tombihn.com/page/001/CTGY/MACBOOKAIR

Old School Look at Cypress

It was foggy so I thought I’d try some vintage looks.

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This tree is right at the top of the Lion’s Express chair. We watched with amusement today as a ski instructor spoke to his class of about 8 kids, all gathered round near this tree. 7 of the kids were paying rapt attention, but the 8th was facing the other way, wacking at the snow covered branches with his ski pole.

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CBC International Sales Deal Gets Scrutiny

Back in December I blogged on an item that seemed to slip by almost unnoticed.

Today, the Globe and Mail took notice:

The CBC’s low-profile pre-Christmas sale of its taxpayer-funded international sales catalogue to a foreign buyer is drawing the ire of some of the biggest guns in Canadian television, who question why homegrown distributors weren’t invited to bid.

Even some members of the CBC board of directors privately complain they weren’t properly informed of the sale of a significant chunk of the public corporation’s international sales arm last month to Britain-based ContentFilm for an undisclosed sum.

Things get even more interesting further into the story.  The UK owners of ContentFilm have since sold the company to a Canadian based firm, a firm that recently employed a high level exec at CBC.

Looks like the CBC’s new president will have a few things to stick handle.

Cypress in the Fog

We had an insane run at Cypress Mountain this morning.

I’ve boarded in foggy conditions before, but nothing like what we encountered this morning on the first run. MB and I were excited to be making first tracks again, but it became immediately obvious after we stepped off the Lions Express chair that it would be slow going.

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It was totally nuts. I couldn’t see more than 2 metres in front of me, and subsequently was going dead slow. What I could see was pretty much just white on white. Goggles didn’t help, and other boarders (very few of them) loomed into sight at the last minute.

I quickly discovered that when you can’t see, your sense of balance gets totally messed up (d’oh).

I found myself sliding sideways across the hill when I thought I was going down. I wiped out a number of times on simple turns even though we were on a green run (after bailing off a blue). What if found was that I had no sense of how far I was leaning into the turn, and no proper sense of when to pull out.

Very very disconcerting, and a bit frightening. I can certainly see how people get lost and disoriented in white-outs or heavy snowfalls.

At least it’s not raining.

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Looking back towards Guest Services as we walked back to the car