Revisiting my Backup Strategy

I just got back from picking up the results of an expensive data recovery job from a client’s failed hard drive. It reminded me that I hadn’t updated my own backup strategy in a while. I recently changed it after learning a few valuable lessons and being very lucky after a device failure.

Below is a comment I left on a photography podcast that I listened to recently. It describes the work flow I am currently using. While it deals with my image back ups, I do cover off other files.

After a few months of using this workflow, I can’t say enough about the Bestsync Software mentioned. It is available at I have also added another tool recently. I am using Sugar Sync to do some offline folder backups as well. This seems to work very well and I can choose what ever folders that I want to backup. You can download and get 5 Free Gigabytes of online storage. In addition using this link you will get an additional 500 MB of free space as well as giving me an additional 500 MB!

I am still using Dropbox as well and they have also just boosted the free amount of online storage you can get. Again sign up and install using this link and we both get bonus space free.

Use both links above and you will get 8GB of free online storage!

Posted on

I feel your pain. As a small business IT Consultant I deal with the Data Recovery companies and failed hard drives every couple of months. As a photographer I have also been burned either by not being ready or the “I’ll do it later” syndrome.
A couple of things to note. RAID is not the only answer. Yes they are redundant but they can fail too. I have experienced failures with Drobo’s and other RAID devices as well.
I have developed my own back up system that works pretty well keeping in mind that if the system is not automated, it will not get done.
In our home I have all of the PC’s connected to a first Gen Windows Home Sever so my kids and wife’s system all get automatically backed up nightly to that box (not an answer for catastrophe though).
For myself I use the following.
When I bring images in I use Lightroom to import and copy all of my images to a folder on my E-Sata connected Drobo S (5 x 1TB hard drives). My Lightroom catalog files also reside in one folder on the Drobo including the Lightroom backup files. All files are Canon CR2 Raw.
Nightly I have a program running on my system called Bestsync 2012 that synchronizes the Lightroom catalogs and the image files from the Drobo folders to a Mediasonic Raid 1 enclosure connected via USB 3 with 2 x 2TB Drives. I also have Best Sync set up to synchronize the Mediasonic backups to one of 2 USB External USB drives when the are plugged in to the system as well as on a nightly schedule. Every couple of weeks I swap these drives and take them to my parents house where I connect to them to a Pogoplug so I can access them across the net in case there is any need.
The stuff I show off and want to share with family and friends I put up in galleries at Smugmug (power user account). I have unlimited Storage there and they take large high quality jpg files plus I like their galleries.
I chose Best Sync because it wasn’t that expensive, Pro License was 38.00 USD and it offered VSS (Volume Shadow Service) so that open files are synced in case I am still working on them or left Lightroom open accidentally. You can set up tasks to do almost anything you need and have multiple different tasks and different destinations going at different schedules. For example I sync Music files to my home server as well as Outlook PST files and Quicken files. In addition BestSync offers compression, encryption and a backup vault for files that get deleted on the source folder. These are backed up from the target folder before being deleted there in case the deletion was accidental.
I also use Windows Live Mesh to sync some business documents to the cloud and some smaller stuff I use Dropbox and
Best Sync was the way I decided to go in October after coming down one morning to find my Drobo reporting as a RAW drive (talk about heart failure). I used Zero Assumption Recovery to get all the data off that drive (it took about 60 hours) reformatted the Drobo and it has been solid since and even correctly reported (and protected data) from 2 failed hard drives in a 2 week span (all from the same batch at Seagate). Although I am not completely sold on the Drobo any more and may look for another Raid 5 solution.
Another free program you can use is Microsoft’s Sync toy. It can be scheduled to run as a scheduled task as well but doesn’t support VSS. But it can mirror or sync from one drive to another.
One additional thing I was going to start doing at the cost of some additional storage space was to save Lightroom adjustments as XMP sidecar files. Doing this would allow them to be reimported into a fresh copy of Lightroom with all of the adjustments made available.
For travel I store images on a laptop hard drive, then to 2 external hard drives and then to a hyperdrive UDMA color drive. I also try to avoid deleting images off of CF cards until I return home and transfer all of my images from my laptop into my backup system via a Lightroom Catalog export from the laptop.
There are some great new appliances coming out in the next little while as well built on Windows Storage Server Essentials that will allow for NAS and client backup. I saw one from Western Digital back in October that looked very promising.
While my backup system may sound confusing it is all accomplished by the Best Sync Software. I have found it very flexible and I can tailor it for all of my own uses.
Stephen Kennedy
Calgary, Ab, Canada

Apple Announces iPhone 4, Coming to Canada in July!

Today at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Steve Jobs took to the stage to deliver the keynote address. To no one’s surprise the new iPhone 4 was announced!

Jobs claimed that there were over 100 new features of the phone but he went over just 8. The new phone is a thinner phone than the iPhone 3GS and  has a much larger battery. It also features a front facing camera that can be used in a new Wi-Fi, iPhone to iPhone only video chat application called FaceTime. They have added an led flash to the camera and the ability to record 720p, 30FPS HD video. In addition a new application will be available for purchase called iMovie for iPhone, allows you to edit and produce video directly from the phone including adding titles and transitions. iMovie will sell for 4.99. The camera resolution has been bumped to 5MP and has a new backside illumination sensor that is supposed to allow for less noise in low light photos.

The screen resolution has been much improved using a technology called retina display that provides 326 pixels per inch. The screen resolution is 960 x 640. Reports from people who have seen the displays are saying it is incredible and has to be seen to be understood.

They have added a gyroscope to the phone and linked it in with the radios so motion control gaming should be better.

The stainless steel frame around the phone has been turned into the antenna and the phone

Several of the announcements made also included some of the previously announced iPhone 4 software which has now been renamed iOS 4.

iBooks is being updated and ported to the iPhone and will now allow to read PDF documents in that app directly on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch and will support wireless purchasing and syncing between devices (unfortunately no word on when books will be available in Canada).

The phone is being released in the US and select other countries on June 24th and the new iPhone OS that offers multitasking is being made available free on June 21st. iOS 4 offers the ability to create folders on the home screens, offers multitasking on newer devices and more. For a change iPod touch owners will also get the upgrade free instead of having to purchase it. No exact date was given for the phone release in Canada other than July 2010. It was not confirmed whether Canadians will have to wait for iOS 4 until July either or whether we will be able to download it on the 21st as well.

Apple has also announced their own cases for the phone called Bumpers and available in a variety of colours.

To learn more about the phone follow this link to the Apple Site or for the tech specs click here.

With this announcement today I may finally breakdown and get myself an iPhone! I started to consider it when iOS 4 was originally announced as it had some of the features that I was waiting for in the iPhone, such as the ability to connect a Bluetooth keyboard and multitasking. One thing I am concerned with though is whether or not Rogers will offer a good data plan with the phone. While I do qualify for an upgrade from Rogers, I also have a year left in my 6GB data plan contract that is at a very good price (30.00). For the last week I have stopped using my Blackberry Bold 9000 and have switched to a Google Nexus One Android based phone. I am awaiting the announced 2.2 FroYo upgrade for this phone as it offers many desirable features and this phone already does do many of the things that an iPhone doesn’t yet (multitasking). I am still getting used to the new device and will have more to write about it later.

One thing to note as well is that the new iPhone uses the new Micro SIM card that is also currently in the iPad 3G. It will be interesting to see if Rogers will let me get a new Micro SIM card for an iPhone and keep my old sim card active so that I can use the iPhone, Nexus One or my Blackberry (not of course not at the same time).

Watch this space for more information as I will soon be writing about my thoughts with the Nexus One as well.

Didn’t Follow My Own Rules!

Well yesterday I didn’t follow my own backup rules and got burned! On my main desktop I had a 500 GB Seagate drive connected via an eSata dock to the system. I was trying to copy files to this drive (an XP CD and SP3) to make a bootable XPSP3 CD for a client when I started to get drive errors!

Eventually I couldn’t access the drive at all. I tried several things to get access to the drive including several data recovery software packages and had no luck. While most of the data on this drive was backed up folders or data that I had backed up in another location, there was one folder containing pictures that I had shot of both my son’s and daughters soccer teams in various games and tournaments this season. In total there was about 3500 photos there. Unfortunately I didn’t back up this folder anywhere (against my own rules)!

Regular readers will know that I am an Adobe Lightroom user and luckily I didn’t store the catalogue for these photos in the same folder (they are on my main drive and yes these are backed up regularly to my various NAS devices).

I opened the Lightroom and could see that I had the previews for the images in the database, and so I searched the web to see if these could be extracted to jpg files. I ran across this post which in turn led me to this software I downloaded the software, installed it and was able to save all of the preview images as jpg files. Earlier today I found that my favorite Lightroom plugin author also has a similar plug in on his site that is available here

While these are lower resolution files than what I originally had at least for posting to the web and allowing the parents to print 4 x 6 images they will be fine. Another thing I noticed is that not all of the preview files were full sized. Most of the images that I had marked for export were in a larger size however there are a few images that were a little smaller.

Thanks to these two tools, I was able to get back some of the images that I wanted to share with others.

All in all I learned my lesson yet again. I will remember this problem and have already set up MS Sync Toy to run as a scheduled task on my system and backup all photo related folders to my Drobo on the DroboShare or my HP WHS.

Once again I hope that this is a lesson learned for anyone about how easily it is to lose data if you don’t back up properly!

Canon 30D, Lens, Grip For Sale

I am posting this on my Blog before I post it to some classified sites to give my Blog readers a chance at this. I have the following item for sale.

Canon 30D DSLR camera with just under 10,000 shutter actuations. Purchased in August 2007.
Canon Battery grip and AA adaptor for the camera
2 Canon Batteries
18 – 55MM Canon EF-S Kit Lens
Strap, Original Box, Cables, Charger,Manuals, Software
Hoodman Sun Shade for LCD Screen

Asking 750.00 CAN for the whole kit. Camera is in excellent condition. This camera has been my secondary/backup body for the last year. I have replaced my primary body and no longer need this backup any longer. Will ship but buyer pays shipping.

If you are interested please call 403-830-9094.

I anticipate it will be posted to Craigslist and Used Calgary sometime during the week of March 16th.

My Tech of Travel, An Update!

I actually wrote a majority of this post back in November 2008 on my ASUS 1000H Netbook while waiting for the kids while they were in some lessons. It never got posted at the time and has been sitting on my little machine since then. However I did take all of the gadgets mentioned below on a family cruise with us in early December 2008.

It is almost that time of year when we take our  family on our annual hot weather vacation. Because I  run a business I have to stay in touch with clients in case of emergencies. We are also a family of digital photographers so we have a need to be able to offload digital pictures daily from the variety of cameras that everyone will be carrying. I speak from personal experience that there is no worse feeling that losing a digital camera with a number of pictures on it!

I wrote a similar article last year but some of the tech has been update and there is at least one new addition to the gear that I carry, so without further ado here we go.

Perhaps one of the biggest updates is the laptop I will be carrying…for this particular trip where I will have very expensive but limited and slow Internet service (satellite Internet on a cruise ship). Instead of carrying my Acer TravelMate 6100 12.1″ laptop or my 15.4″ MacBook Pro, I will be carrying my Asus EEE PC 1000H Netbook! in fact I am actually writing this post on this little gem of a machine while I am out of  my home office!

The machine is small (10.1 ” screen), weighs just a fraction less than 2 lbs, has an 80 GB hard drive, 1GB of Ram, wireless card, Bluetooth, SD Card reader, 3 USB ports, a keyboard that is 95% of a full laptop keyboard and a battery that I can consistently use for 4 hours running windows XP Home. There is no optical drive on this machine so if the kids want to watch movies they have to be ripped to the hard drive first. In addition it’s small size allows for someone even as large as me to open this on device in an aircraft while the person in front of me reclines their seat! Other features include a webcam, stereo microphones, Dolby sound room speakers and a track pad.

While the machine is not overly fast and powerful, it features a 1.6 Intel Atom processor, it is more than enough to check email, surf the web, write blog posts, download photos to and more. Would I try major photo editing jobs on it? No but it does a good job of  conversions from RAW to JPG or to re- size and publish images to my photo sharing sites . Another issue is the fact that the native resolution of the monitor is 1024 x 600 which is fine for most web pages but some photo applications don’t like it. There is an virtual 1024 X 768 mode that works well but involves auto scrolling of the screen up and down.

I can also use the machine to charge and manage my Zune and my iPod Touch.  The fact that it has a large hard drive allows for the offload of digital images from our cameras. In addition I have loaded my Garmin software manager for saving track routes, the Zune software and iTunes and some basic photo software.

I will also have to carry a card reader as my Canon 40D uses CF cards and there is no slot for this on the machine and I will most likely carry an USB travel mouse. For my own security I will carry an external Seagate Notebook USB hard drive and copy any downloaded photos on to that device as well and which get’s stored separate from the laptop.

I have started carrying this little machine with me to client sites and have taken it on one trip  so far where I ended up having to RDP into a clients server. This little machine handled it with no issues.

The next item that goes in my bag is my Sony PRS-505 E-book reader. I stumbled across the fact  that these were available in Canada back in August and after seeing one and researching it further (comparing it to the Amazon Kindle not available in Canada), knew that I had to get one. So far I have been very  happy with my reader and have both purchased, gotten free books and even borrowed E-books from the library on the device. I don’t want to give too much away about this as I will soon be writing and posting more detailed review here. But the device works for an extremely long time on one charge (7000 page turns), can be managed with the Sony Library Software and Adobe Digital Editions loaded on my EEE PC, and I currently have about 70 books just on the internal memory of my device with room for I would say about 90 more books. unlike other displays because it is not back lit and active (power only used to refresh the page), it is very easy to read for long periods of time. Please keep an eye on my site for future reviews of this great little device.

My Blackberry Bold will accompany me on the trip and will be used for some client emergencies and emails in the US and it’s territories. We are visiting Sint Maarten and the Bahamas and it is likely that I will turn off the data for those stops as Rogers does not have a deal for reduced data prices. On the ship I could use the Wifi on the phone to download email to it or wherever I may find an open Wifi Hotspot and keep my data roaming down to a minimum. again I will be further reviewing the phone on this blog but I use it for lots of things from twittering, GPS, web surfing, Email,business tracking, photos, videos and listening to music. For me it has truly become an all in one device.

For cameras, I will be using my Canon 40D in addition to 3 lenses and a flash as well as a Canon G10 as a second, carry every where camera. The G10 has recently replaced my old G9 which has moved on to SWIMBO and does have some processor and sensor improvements over the G9. If the underwater chassis are available prior to me leaving I will grab one for taking this camera snorkeling. If they are not I will more than likely grab and underwater chassis for the G9 as I have heard these are excellent for underwater photography. (Underwater housing for the G10 arrived 3 days before we left. It was taken and worked very well).

For video I will be carrying my steadfast Canon HV20 camcorder which shoots a nice Hi Def image . The Canon records all of it’s content to video tape and I have to say is a very impressive camera. For carrying around in my pocket and everyday use I have just picked up a Kodak Zi6 flash camera and an 8 GB SD card. My decision to get the Zi6 was so because I wanted a small pocket sized video camera that I could carry in my pocket around the ship and in port. Flip Video has just released their Mino HD camera that by all accounts may be slightly better than the Kodak but the fact that it is not available in Canada plus a few other little factors had me choosing the Zi6 over the Mino HD.

The Kodak camera shoots 720p (30 or 60 FPS) video footage directly to a SD card. It only features 2X Digital zoom and no image stabilization so you have to use a fairly steady hand. Video quality is very good when outdoors or in well lit spaces and so so (a fair bit of noise) in low light. Having said that, it is a hi def camera that sells for less than 180.00 CAN!. I will again review it further as well as post some video and comparisons to the HV 20. There are a few things going for this little camera that the Mino doesn’t have… it uses 2 AA batteries and comes with a set of rechargeable AAs and a charger, the Mino HD has an internal battery and has to be charged off a PC> The Kodak records to SD cards so if you run out of space you can swap cards. The Mino HD has 4 GB or about an hour of HD video before videos have to be deleted or taken off. I recently picked up an 8 GB class 6 SD card for less than 30.00 CAN for the device. This will be my first trip with so I am excited to see the footage even though I have been fairly impressed with my test footage to date.

I also will be carrying a Garmin Etrek Vista USB GPS unit. I have found these really great as I turn it on at the beginning of the day and pop it into my camera bag. It tracks all of my movement and times for the day and then I can download the tracks and Geotag my pictures with them. It is great to see exactly where certain pictures were taken. We can also do some Geocaching with the device. I will also be carrying my Garmin Nuvi 350 with the 2009 map update for driving in Florida pre and post cruise as well as on St Thomas, USVI.

I carry my Zune 80 player with my music and podcasts and since the release of the version 3 firmware, both my Audible Books and audio books that I have downloaded for my local library. I also have my iPod Touch 8 GB with the 2.2 firmware that I can use as a pocket wireless device and in addition I have loaded some great applications on to for photography!

I have renewed my Hotspot VPN account for another year ( This is a great little software service that allows me while connected through a public hotspot to connect via a VPN to the Internet and encrypt all of my traffic back to the net. A nice little safety net to secure my data while surfing in public places.

I sometimes carry a Linksys Travel router especially if I know that we will have multiple devices that connect via wireless. This little device can convert a hotel wired connection to an in room secure wireless network or can take a wireless service for one PC (not encrypted) and share it among multiple devices. The device is fairly small as the  AC adaptor is actually built into the router so no extra cards to worry about. The router probably won’t come with me on this trip however.

The last little thing and maybe the most boring items are a couple of Belkin Travel Surge protectors. On a ship or in most hotels there are limited electrical outlets available for charging electronics. We carry a couple of the Belkin surge protectors because they give us 3 additional outlets each as well as 2 powered USB ports for charging iPods, Blackberries or any device that can use USB charging. They can be spun 360 degrees to allow you to fit them into almost any space.

So this was just a short list of things that I typically carry when we go on a family vacation. I use camera backpacks that allow me to carry the bodies and lenses as well as accessories and the laptop in the same bag so the stuff doesn’t take that much room on the plane. A few things stay in the pockets of my Scott-E-Vest Hoodie which gives even more space.

Yes it is a geeky list, but we will come home with loads of photographs not worrying about having to free space and I will be able to remain in touch in case any of my clients run into an emergency with their servers or networks.

Didn’t get the Rogers Promo Data Plan… Too Late!

If you didn’t get your iPhone or Blackberry Bold on the Rogers promotional data rate (6gb for 30.00/mth) you are too late! The orginal deal was available until August 31, 2008 and then Rogers extended it till September 30th. I was browsing their site yesterday (October 1)and they have in fact killed that plan.

While the data plans are not as bad as the originally announced ones they are still a far cry from the promotional plan they were offering.

Only time will tell if the promo plan will come back. If people stop buying the iPhone due to the increased prices Rogers may have to bring the plan back. I fear the problem is that since most people that were against the original plans bought the iPhone with the promotional plan, there won’t be an outcry.

Rogers only this summer changed their Blackberry plans to actually make them more affordable. They were offering a 30.00 for 300MB plan but that has now been upped to 1 GB of Data. Note this is only for BIS service. In addition the same plan is available for their High Speed connect cards however the 60.00 Plan only get’s you 3GB which is not very much.

I was able to get a Blackberry Bold on the 30.00 Promo Plan and have been able to successfully use it as a tethered modem for my laptops and it has worked well. I had tried to buy a USB modem from them earlier with the Promo plan but as an earlier post of mine says, Rogers pulled a bait and switch on me. They told me after my order was filled (there was a number of backorders) that the promo plan was not available for laptop cards. I immediately sent mine back unused and cancelled.

While their new plans are a step in the right direction, they are still not enough. Unfortunately the other mobility providers (Telus and Bell) seem to have plans that are even worse!


Dealing with Rogers, Argggg I Have no Hair Left!

I wish I could say that dealing with Rogers Wireless was a fairly painless process but I would be as bad as them in lying through my teeth. I just spent over an hour on the phone with them trying to give them money by upgrading my current Blackberry to a new Blackberry Bold!

Unfortunately in Canada if you want a GSM phone because there is no competition you have to deal with Rogers or Fido (who are the same company). Telus and Bell Mobility are CDMA carriers only so if you want an iPhone or the newest Blackberrys you have to deal with Rogers.

Last week I posted how Rogers lied when it came to selling their new HSDPA wireless modems and had a sudden change of heart when it came to the Data Plans they were offering on them. I almost got screwed by them but luckily by chance I was able to cancel the modem order and send it back.

Today trying to get the new Bold I just about went crazy, and I am exhausted from my ordeal. My plan was to get an upgrade price for the Bold, then go to a local store and pick it up. The Rogers web site indicated that the phone Bold was 599.00 on a month to month contract and you could get it for 399.00 with a three year contract. Their website had been notoriously slow all day today. When I called yesterday to try and get pricing they said because the phone hadn’t been released yet they had no pricing for me.

Today started and I called Rogers, after holding for about 5 minutes I spoke to a rep and was told they couldn’t help me because I had a corporate code on my account, (I have a corporate employee plan through my full time employer) so I had to speak to a corporate rep. After being transferred and waiting on hold for another ten minutes, I spoke to a corporate rep. She looked everything up (while I was put on hold again), then came back and said that my corporate code showed no discounts and that as a result the upgrade would cost 995.00! I indicated that this was ridiculous and was told that I had to call our corporate telecom people and have a different corporate code put on my account.

I checked our internal web site for Employee purchases and there was a code that I was to call in to Rogers and have added. I called the indicated number and sat on hold for another 10 minutes explained the whole situation again then was told that I needed customer service and they would transfer me. Another 5 minutes on hold and I got through to a customer service rep. After explaining everything again for a fourth time, I was told that it,( the Bold) was not available yet. I corrected him saying that the web site and the email I got earlier this week said it was available today. I was finally quoted an upgrade price of 650.00, (after he checked the web site on his side) but he could knock off 25.00 and I could have the phone for 625.00. I said why the difference since the web site said I could get a month to month for 599.00 and I was informed that that was only for new subscribers.

I indicated that I would be better off cancelling my plan then signing up again and he said no, I would have to be off the network for 6 months before I qualified for that price! I explained that I was a longtime customer (I started with Cantel, their predecessor in 1995) and that the last upgrade that I did was Dec 1, 2006, when I switched to my Blackberry Pearl. I changed to the Blackberry Curve just over a year ago, but I bought my phone on EBay and not through them. I also indicated that I understood that the upgrade pricing was based on my monthly spend and the length I had been in my contract. Currently I pay just over 140.00 per month or my Blackberry voice and data plans, (I am gouged more because I was using BES) which is more than the average subscriber. I indicated that I had been with them since 1995 and that this showed no loyalty to me as a customer and that I started to inquire about cancelling both my phone and my wife’s phone (whose contract has expired). All of a sudden, I was given the option to speak to a rep in Customer Relations (another name for their Customer Retention Department) to see if they could find some other discounts I was eligible for. I had dealt with this group in the past and was fairly happy with what happened, so I said why not. The rep was making a note on my file, probably indicating that I was becoming irate and I was transferred. After another hold of 5 minutes the phone rang and I was speaking to another rep.

I went through my story again and indicated that I was trying to give them money and lock myself in for another term and that in all my conversations today so far I didn’t feel like they cared if I had my business. The rep looked at my account and the length of time I had been with them (since 2000 as Rogers), she also indicated that I was a Tier 5 upgrade candidate (which as I learned later should give me the highest discount on an upgrade), then quickly came back and said that she could offer me the phone at the new customer price of 399.00 and would that be acceptable? I said yes and that I wanted my Voice Plan and other features (wireless hot spot access etc) left as close as possible to what it currently was and that I wanted the new 30.00 6GB HSDPA Data Plan. I also confirmed that this plan would not allow me to use my BES server any longer. I decided that I could live without BES yesterday and it would be a sacrifice I had to make in order to have the ability to tether the Blackberry as a high speed modem. I can always change to a BES plan later if required. This was confirmed (and she tried to tell me that I wouldn’t need BES with the 6GB limit of bandwidth anyway, although I indicated that there was other reasons for using BES). I was told that my data plan would change at midnight. I again confirmed that this is when my BES server would no longer work and I asked when the new Bold would arrive. She guessed either Monday or Tuesday. I also mentioned my modem issues to the rep and she acknowledged that she knew that Canada’s Data Plans are third world when it comes to data offerings.

As I started writing this blog post (just after 11:30 AM), I got three activation emails for the accounts I have set up on the Blackberry Internet Service (BIS), again Rogers did not tell me accurate facts. A quick attempt to send an email via my BES account failed and it is no longer accessible from my Curve and that my new Data Plan is already in effect. In addition I can no longer surf the web without wiping and resetting the Curve. Hopefully my new Bold will show up tomorrow.

Shortly after my experience I found another person that had a similar experience to mine and posted his experience here;

If you do have to deal with Rogers and you’re not getting the satisfaction you feel you deserve, threaten to cancel your account and deal with the Customer Retention team. Be sure not to abuse the group and treat whoever you deal with with respect. My understanding is that if you do push it they will flag your account and may not be so willing to help you.

After my dealings today I am tired and worn out. My wife who heard the whole process couldn’t believe that I had to jump through as many hoops as I had to just to get a fair price on an upgrade! I really hope that in the next three years I am in my contract, that we get a least another GSM wireless provider in Canada or that somehow the industry becomes more fair to it’s consumers. Cell companies in Canada just don’t seem to get it! If their plans were more fair and affordable, more people would purchase them and they would make more money from more users. Instead they all choose to try and gouge the few users that use the data services and make it price prohibitive for standard users. I had hoped that the iPhone release in Canada would have changed that, but even Apple was disgusted with Rogers approach and pulled the iPhones from their Canadian Apple Stores and web site. Rogers bowed somewhat with the 30.00 promotional plan, but that at the time of this writing is a temporary offering.

Updated August 21st to correct punctuation and streamline the wording.

Rogers Lied – HSDPA Modems and Data Plans

Back in July, shortly after the iPhone launch I was checking out Rogers’ web site. I looked at their HSDPA data plans and modems. While there I noticed that the promotional 30.00/mth for 6GB plan was shown as listed for the HSDPA cards and Modems. I called the Rogers number on the site and confirmed this with the rep in not one but two phone calls. I went ahead and ordered the modem. While I don’t do a lot of travelling around I thought it was a reasonable price for a service and comparable to what was available in the US for a Data Plan. I ordered the modem and was told I would have it the next day. Well the modem never showed up.

I tried calling the rep I was dealing with and found out he was on vacation so I tracked my order and learned that these USB modems were out of stock. Last week I called the rep again (August 6th) and was told that the modems were back ordered and that they were due any day. On the 7th of August I received a call that the modem was in and that it would be here on the 8th.

Sure enough on the morning of the 8th, my UPS driver showed up with the package. I was just heading out of town so I left the modem behind till I got back.

Today I was checking something on the billing on my wife’s Blackberry. Seems there was a fairly large overage plan on her phone and I wanted to find out about it. Turns out they had only applied the 15.00 1.5 MB plan to her phone and not the 15.00 unlimited email only plan to her phone. As a result there was a 22 or so dollar overage charge. I have since rectified this problem. While I was on the phone with the rep I was checking out their Blackberry plans and noticed that there was a change to their website. They had a couple of asterisks beside the 30.00 6GB plan saying that it was not available on the PC Connect cards.

I had the rep check the account for my new Modem and sure enough it had a 50.00/500MB data plan on it. Useless!!!!! I immediately called my rep and had him check it and yes the 30.00 plan was not there. I have now cancelled the order (I never used the modem at all) and will be sending it back. If I really needed this type of service I could always use the Rogers Portable Internet Service although it is not truly mobile.

Once again the Canadian third world data plans are in effect! My guess is that a lot of people had the same idea that I had and that Rogers realized their over site on not flagging the site saying it was not available on the High Speed cards.  The existing data plans for high speed cards in Canada are ridiculous and they are not at all worth the cost of owning one.

I am being told that the 30.00 plan should be available with the Blackberry Bold on it’s release. So if this is true then I could always tether my Blackberry, however knowing Rogers that plan will not work with a BES server and it will be useless for me. If that is the case I may have to breakdown and buy an iPhone to get the exchange support in the data plan. I guess I could learn to live with the terrible iPhone keyboard.

While on the subject I also got some clarification into the Rogers 15.00 unlimited email plan. The unlimited plan only includes email. If you do any web surfing or use other applications (Google Calendar Sync for example) they charge you .05 per KB. There is a plan that is 30.00 monthly that covers 300 MB of email and data, although my guess is that this would not work with BES either.

Unfortunately there is really no difference between any of the Canadian Wireless companies at this time and they will continue to pull money out of your pocket.

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No Zune Marketplace option in Canadian Zune Software. Link to Fix included!

With the Canadian release of the Zune today, I installed the Zune softwre on one of my PC’s that didn’t have it. The software looks the same as the other versions I have except that there is no option for the Zune Marketplace. While this is not a big deal as you can’t buy music outside the US and without a US credit card, you can’t download free podcasts either.

I signed in with both my US based Zune account and my Canadian Xbox live account and still could not see the Marketplace option.

I Googled it and it looks like there is a fix that is pretty easy. Just follow the instructions on this site.

Enable Zune Marketplace in Canada

It is a very simple fix and I can confirm that it works. I can subscribe to podcasts via the Marketplace even signed in with my Canadian XBox Live account.

Otherwise the software seems to work fine.

Zunes available in Canada Tomorrow, June 13th 2008.

I was in my local Wal-Mart the other day and I noticed that they have their MP3 case set up with some demo Zunes. The Zune goes on sale in Canada tomorrow June 13th. Unfortunately the Zune marketplace (store) will not yet be available but that is soon. I will be testing a Canadian installation of the Zune software tomorrow. As of right now I have my accounts set up as US accounts.

I currently have 2 Zunes, both an 80 GB and an 8 GB. I have written a review of the 80GB on this blog here. Version 2.5 of the Zune software and the firmware have fixed a few of the little irritants I had (especially separating Video and Audio podcasts) but have also added one more irritant and that when playing a podcast if you have play one podcast episode and also have earlier unlistened to (or unwatched ones) it will automatically play those.

All in all, I still really like my Zunes and will keep them. There has been a confirmation that the devices will soon add Audible audio book support which will make an excellent device even better!

If you are looking to an alternative to an iPod, I highly recommend the Zunes.