Bell Customer Service woes

One relatively happy customer service experience exposes the lack of any true customer service at Bell.

If you’re connected to me on Facebook, you may know that we recently experienced some frustration with Bell customer service related to the installation of Fibe TV in our house. To sum up, we were Bell Satellite subscribers and we received a highly deceptive phone call from a Bell telemarketing representative informing us that our service was being upgraded and scheduling an appointment. What we were never told was that:

  • We had the choice to refuse;
  • There is a $100 “migration fee;” and
  • Channel packages are not portable and have to be re-selected post-installation.

Continue reading “Bell Customer Service woes”

An accessibility tip for iOS 6 users

In researching affordable OCR apps for iOS, I came across this cheap alternative using full-featured software like GoQ’s WordQ, or Kurzweil to read printed documents aloud. ABBYY’s TextGrabber for iOS ($3.99 – iTunes App Store link) does a decent job at digitizing printed text. Once the text is digitized, the “Speak Selection” accessibility feature built-in to iOS 6 can be used to read the scanned text aloud. It’s not perfect, and works best on high contrast printed text, but it works quite well and is very affordable as long as you already have an iOS device.

Here’s a short tutorial I posted on YouTube:

Recovering a lost Aperture 3 library

The battery on my 2008 15″ MacBook Pro is dying an ugly death. Last night the battery level dropped precipitously as I imported pictures from an SD card into Aperture 3. When the battery level reached about 75%, the MacBook shut off in mid-import.

I plugged the computer in and rebooted, expecting to complete the import. Not so. Aperture 3 quit unexpectedly every time I tried to launch it. I ran (or tried to run) the built-in diagnotic trio of Repair Permissions, Repair Database and Rebuild Database  by holding down the Cmd-Option combo while starting Aperture. Aperture happily repaired permissions, but quit while trying to repair or rebuild the DB.

I was able to start Aperture with a fresh library, so I determined that it wasn’t the Aperture prefs or executable that were causing the problem.

But how could I get my 64 GB of photos back in some coherent form? Any attempt to import the contents of the corrupt Aperture Library into a new empty library resulted in “The Crash.”

I right-clicked on the Aperture Library and used “Show Package Contents” to navigate to the folder containing all of the masters (original JPEGS and RAW files). I decided to import the contents of the Masters folder into a new Library.

This procedure worked, but my Projects and Albums were all still toast, as were my Faces and Places data.

Faced with the prospect of having to restructure my photo library from scratch, I cast about on the Internet and found this little gem, which I want to share:
Aperture 3 rebuild library – SQLITE MISUSE
The procedure outlined in this post basically involves deleting the SQLite database files that make up the Aperture Library and then forcing the Library to rebuild from scratch. I can only surmise that I couldn’t do this before, because Aperture was choking on the original, corrupted database files while trying to rebuild.

A word to the wise: Always backup your computer.

Sakai Install: Preparing the System

We chose Linux as the platform for Sakai. The main reason was cost — no licenses for the server OS and the availability of low cost server hardware. We opted for CentOS 5 as the flavour of Linux. It is basically Red Hat Enterprise and has proven to be robust in the past.

CentOS is easy to install. I began with a virtual machine running in VMWare Fusion on my iMac. This allowed me to walk through the install process as a dry run, test out tools and steps, and to roll back if anything broke.

I opted for a 64-bit build of CentOS, so that we could take advantage of large amounts of memory later on if needed.

After installing CentOS using the GUI, the next step was to prepare the system for installing Sakai from source.

To install Sakai 2.5.x from source, we need several things (with caveats):

  • Java JDK/JRE 5.0 Update 18 (Java 6 will NOT work)
  • Apache Tomcat 5.5.26 or greater (Tomcat 6 is NOT compatible with Sakai)
  • Maven 2.0.6 or better (for building Sakai source code)
  • MySQL 4.1 or 5.0.x

Out of the box, CentOS has both Java 1.4 and Java 6 installed. Java JDK/JRE 5.0 needs to be downloaded from Sun and installed (Note that Sun Microsystems is withdrawing Java 5.0 as of September 2009, so if you want it, download and archive a copy now).

Installing a new version of Java involved unpacking the distribution in a local directory (e.g. /opt or /usr/local) and the using the “alternatives –install” command to make the system aware of the version and to select it as the default Java version. Use “java -version” to confirm that the correct java version  is selected.

Next: Installing Tomcat 5.5

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Twitter Away Your Life With Social Networking

From Wired:

“The internet is to human interaction as Pringles are to potatoes. Companionship and closeness are processed into an unrecognizable slurry, then reconstituted as an unnatural recreation of their original incarnation.”

read more | digg story

Videomaru: A great Flash video tool

A student of mine recommended a great Flash video tool called video.Maru. It’s a component which allows a developer to create customized video players without any knowledge of ActionScript.
All you have to do is create MovieClips on the stage with the correct names. I am experimenting with it now and will post some more impressions here as I go along.

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“VersionJacking”

I use versiontracker.com to keep track of new updates for the software
that I use. Some software programs seem to be updated on an almost
daily basis. I can help but wonder if this is a case of
“versionjacking”; issuing incremental updates so as to always be in
the list of updated software.

My impressions of Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard)

I tend to be an early adopter of new technology (when I can afford to be!). When the ship date for the version 10.5 of Mac OS X a.k.a. “Leopard” was announced earlier this month, I placed my order right away.I received the DVD on Friday, October 26th, the day of the official release and proceeded to install it on my MacBook Pro as well as my older G5 tower.

My first impressions are emphatically positive. As far as overall system upgrades go, this is more an upgrade of “tweaks” and enhancements then a paradigm shift for the operating system. Not only are many welcome new features both major and minor added, there are are also a plethora of “fixes” that add to the overall consistency of the OS. The upgrade performs well on both the Intel-based MacBook Pro as well as the older PPC G5 (a dual 2.3 GHz processor). Finder performance seems zippier than previous iterations of the Mac OS.

Here’s a short list of what I like (in no particular order):

  • Consistent views in every app, modeled after the iTune look and feel. The graphite color scheme has infected every part of the OS, and though it may be an acquired taste for some, it is consistent and easy to get a handy on what to look for in every program.
  • iChat adds some eye candy in the form of funky effects and backgrounds, but the real power comes in the form of iChat Theatre, which allows users to share screens, media files and images in the chat window. Also new in Leopard is the ability to be logged into multiple .Mac/AIM accounts simultaneously. The look of the chat window can also be customized to fit various screen sizes.
  • Spotlight now has real boolean search capabilities, and many of the performance issues of Tiger’s version of Spotlight seem to have been resolved.
  • Mail is much more of a full-featured program, incorporating task lists and notes into the mix.
  • Time Machine: backups without thinking!
  • Safari’s web clips feature allows you to save a page or a portion of a page as a Dashboard widget (great for RSS content).
  • Networking in Leopard is much simpler. Most connections can be made aith a minimum of fuss and managing networked printers has been a snap so far.
  • System preferences make a lot more sense, and many of the options have been simplified (and the geeky stuff hidden behind an “Advanced…” button.

Of course, there are always some rough edges or annoyances to any OS, especially a new one. Here’s my list of beefs:

  • The new dock makes for attractive eye candy, but it is sometimes hard to tell which apps are running with a quick glance.
  • It would be great to be able to change the size of the font in a Finder Window’s sidebar.
  • The downloads icon in the Dock assumes the icon of the last thing you downloaded, so it’s always in flux and it screams to your colleagues that you use Bittorrent!
  • It’s great that we can have so many connections open in iChat, but why do they all have to be in their own window? I much prefer Adium’s integration of all my Buddy lists into a single window.

I am sure that I will find more stuff to love and to dislike as I get deeper into using this OS on a regular basis, but so far, the impression is good.

NECC – June 26, 2007 in Review

The final full day at NECC was a full one. The day began with a bus tour of the Atlanta area. Did you know that Elton John lives for part of the year in Atlanta? We toured through the downtown area of Atlanta and drove through one of the more upscale neighbourhoods, admiring stately homes.

The bus stopped at the Atlanta Cyclorama, which is a huge panoramic painting depicting one of the key battles of the American Civil War. Afterwards, the tour continued on to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth house, as well as the church where he was a minister. Both of this sites are now historical monuments.

The afternoon was devoted to presenting LEARN’s Virtual School project at an afternoon poster session entitled “Learning Environments.” We spoke to interesting people from all over the place. There was a woman from Perth, Australia who expressed some interest in what we were doing. We spent quite a bit of time speaking with a colleague from New Brunswick about their Virtual High School project. It will be interesting to follow up with them and compare notes as we move forward.

The evening was spent attending a reception at CNN Center hosted by Apple Canada. After some lively conversation with Canadian colleagues and Apple representatives, we enjoyed a fascinating tour of the CNN facilities.