Northwestel Charges Heavy Internet Users a 7600% Premium

A piece of 2-by-4 lumber in Whitehorse costs about $2.57. In Toronto it costs a bit less: about $2.49.

A litre of regular gas in Whitehorse costs about $1.13. It’s a bit cheaper in Ontario. Some places, like Costco, discount it down steeply to about 98¢.

How about a cantaloupe? You can buy a couple for $5 at Sobey’s in Toronto this week. Surprisingly, though, they’re cheaper at Superstore in Whitehorse: just $1.50 each.

We generally expect things in northern centres to cost a little more, usually in the range of 5% to 10%. Cantaloupes are apparently an exception.

So it’s surprising when Northwestel prices that standard, popular, and common internet commodity, the GB, excessively at a 7600% premium. Continue reading

Was Northwestel Hacked? No.

Northwestel was not hacked.

Instead, there’s an error in the way Northwestel’s systems are reporting how much data some cable modem customers used, resulting in over-billing.

But it’s a pretty big error. One customer, whose data I examined, was over-billed by almost $700.

Based on my research and analysis, the error seems to have been introduced into the system in late July and would have affected July and August bills.

Northwestel is currently working to correct the error and identify affected accounts. Those accounts will be automatically be credited back the over-billing.

Where did the idea of hacking come from? Miscommunication.

One person I spoke to was lead to believe by a Northwestel customer service agent that his modem had been hacked and that it was a widespread issue. This was probably before even the customer service staff were fully informed of what the issue was.

When I called a little while ago, they were saying very little other than to acknowledge the issue and flag your account.

I’d also summarize it as a lack of communication, something I’ve criticized Northwestel for many times in the past. A lot of this matter could have been cleared up with something as simple as a blog post on their website, accompanied by a tweet and a Facebook post, immediately after they’d learned about the issue. Instead, the company chose to keep customers in the dark, upset with these huge over-billings.

It’s unclear when accounts will receive credits, or what the implications will be in the interim for customers who don’t pay what are likely over-billing charges. I can’t imagine that $700 will get paid, for example.

In the meantime, here’s my advice: monitor your account.

First, check if you’ve received any overage billing (it’s called “Extra Usage” on your bill). If you have, and you don’t normally, call Northwestel and ask about it.

You can always check your usage online at Northwestel’s website (Check Your Internet Usage) using the MAC address that’s on the back of your modem. Right now, the data’s still wonky since the error is still in place, but it’s useful for future reference.

While you’re checking your internet usage online, you can also subscribe to Northwestel’s alert service. It’ll send you an email when you reach the 80% and 100% thresholds for data use on your account.

Apologies if I frightened anyone with the “hacking” spectre earlier today. But truth be told, cable modem hacking is relatively simple to do (it’s very well documented at many sources online) and, when done right, nearly undetectable, and the symptoms of the situation fit perfectly. So the idea that one or more cable nodes in Whitehorse had been expropriated by a third party was not at all far-fetched. It’s a very real risk.

Yukon Distracted Driving Survey: Can You Say, “Skew”?

From CBC (Yukon distracted-driving ban could be expanded):

A survey released last week by Highways Minister Archie Lang indicated strong public support for a distracted-driving ban and its enforcement.

Lang said of 1,600 Yukoners surveyed, about 87 per cent wanted a ban on people using hand-held cellphones while driving, while 94 per cent wanted a ban on all electronic hand-held devices. About 97 per cent said they want the RCMP to hand out tickets to drivers who violate the ban, according to the survey.

Yeah, those numbers are solid.

I called Google TV’s “Fling” (and Apple’s “AirPlay”) back in January

Okay, from the new Google TV website:

Find a great website on your phone and want to show it to everyone? Now you can. “Fling” what you’re watching, listening to, or doing on your phone by sending it to your TV with the press of a button.

And from a post I wrote in January (iSlate: The Son of Apple TV), about the then-rumoured iPad:

…you’ll be able to watch a movie on the iSlate.

But with a simple swipe, you’ll be able to “toss” the video stream to another display, like your TV screen.

It’s really not unlike Apple’s new AirPlay technology, actually, but Apple’s seems more expansive in its vision. AirPlay is more of an independent protocol and will support a broader range of devices like stereo receivers and even cheap consumer-grade speakers.

I just felt like I had to toot my horn today when I caught Google use of the word “fling” to describe the services; it was way close to my “toss.”

iPad Screen-Top Keyboard Idea

So I was laying in bed with my iPad the other night trying to jot down some notes from the day and I was frustrated by the experience. With the iPad cradled on my belly, it was really difficult to cram my hands down under the keyboard to type comfortably.

And to be perfectly honest, I have some difficulty typing on the keyboard even when sitting up with the iPad on my lap. It’s not as easy as Apple makes it look in the commercials.

Then it occurred to me that the positioning of the keyboard below the text you’re writing is a throwback to the days of the notebook computer. It doesn’t have to be down there. The keyboard on an iPad can be displayed anywhere on the screen. So I figured, why not adjust its position to better accommodate different typing positions (like laying in bed)?

So I mocked this puppy up (based on a screen grab from the excellent SimpleNote):

I figured that your arms will naturally spread apart to make the “page” you’re typing on visible while providing more natural accessibility to the keyboard itself.

To provide a glimpse of my idea in action, here’s a shot of me “typing” on my mockup.

Pretending to type on the inverted iPad keyboard.Playing make-believe on the mock-up makes me feel like it’s a solid idea, so I’m posting it to the public domain in hopes that a developer currently producing a note-taking or word processing app (SimpleNote? Evernote? Hog Bay? Heck, Apple?) on the iPad will borrow it and make it real. If you are one of those people, I’ve got a slew of other ideas on how to implement, if you want those, too. Just drop me a line.

If you do borrow the idea and implement it, please let me know – I’ll be first in line to buy the app!

UPDATE:

One thing I forgot to mention when I originally posted this. My hands, situated above the “page” I was typing on, acted as a sort of visor that reduced glare and reflection on the portion of the screen that my eye were focused on (that is, the “page”). Just another little bonus to having the keyboard up there.

Update 2:

So it occurs to me that another benefit of a top-screen keyboard (I like that term better, too) is privacy. Your hands and arms would naturally provide a screen.

A Farmer Revisits His Old Hometown

By guest columnist Foghorn Lee Jones

Howdy there, stranger!

I’ve been away from these parts for a while, and I’ve just come back for a howdedoo.

I can see not much has changed in the Village of Cable TV since I’ve been gone.

You still watch your shows on someone else’s schedule.

Those annoying commercials still pollute your mind.

And that on-screen channel guide is still as ugly as a cowboy’s teeth after 20 years of chew. Truly, it’s got a face only a spreadsheet-masochist could love.

I just do not know how you put up with all that hooey.

Gosh darn, it’s like living in a shack out back of your parents’ farmhouse, getting bossed around with all these ridiculous rules, and curfews, and sanctimonious sermons. Continue reading