8th March 2011

Our Playdate with Shaw

Shaw CableLast evening Scott and I went to the Shaw Client Consultation meeting that was held in Langley (BC, for those who don’t know which province we live in). Sandwiches and refreshments were provided, which was appreciated by those of us whose “to do list” prevented the consumption of a proper dinner.

As I admitted last evening, I am a Shaw fangirl, and I don’t have a problem admitting that. I’ve had the Telus experience, and Shaw is heads above them for service. That said, when Shaw quietly removed 25gb from my internet plan, without telling me while still charging me the same money, the Corporation lost pretty well all of the trust I had for it, and Shaw is going to have to work very hard to get that trust level back.

Do I believe that Shaw understands it has made a huge mistake? Yes, I felt that Chris Kucharski, Vice President, Operations, who led the meeting, was sincere when he stated such. Do I believe that Shaw wants to work with its customers to find a viable solution? Yes, I feel they do. Do I believe that everyone will be happy with the solutions? No, because you can’t please all of the people all of the time. As Scott said last night on the prospect of follow-up customer sessions – yes, we are interested in participating, but Shaw should do more of these sessions – don’t wait until there is a big problem – commit to holding more of these sessions to avoid the big problems.

The first test for those at the meeting last night will come with their promised follow-up today of the congestion problem we are having. Yes, we are a super-user household, we have the Extreme internet package with three IP addresses, and we pay extra for that third IP. While I feel that $10.00 for that third IP is just a tad high when we get three extra IP addresses for our webserver down at SoftLayer for only $5.00, we need that third IP so we have to pay the piper for it. Periodic speed tests of our bandwidth, done at different times of day on varying days of the week are incredibly inconsistent, and rarely do we approach the advertised 15Mbps download speed, even at the off-peak hours between 4 – 6am. Yes, there are people awake in our house at those hours.

There was some good dialogue at last night’s meeting, with some viable ideas on what to do about the data transfer and bandwidth speed issues. Except for the people who suggested throttling. That is a terrible idea, and is akin to locking a gamer in a dungeon with the golden key inches out of reach. We, like many others in the room last night, are willing to pay for speed IF there are either no caps, or caps that are better applicable to our plan – we have speed (when we’re not congested), and we want to use it. We do a lot of gaming in this house, and along with activities related to running this web site, we need a lot of transfer room. Three PCs, two laptops, two Xbox 360s, a Nintendo DS, a Wii, an iPhone and an iPod Touch need room roam. One day we’ll be able to afford a PS3, then what? More transfer usage.

The current cap of 100gb simply is not enough. As I explained last night, two game packages downloaded and 1/3 of our monthly transfer allowance was gone. Gaming-related downloads in the billing cycle just ended resulted in just over 55gb of data, over half of our plan – and that’s just files, not game play. Who knows how much transfer we used up with YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or web-series watching, never mind emails and regular surfing around that big research facility known as the internet.

Already this morning we’ve burned up 4gb just downloading the Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood expansion Da Vinci’s Disappearance for two 360s. Later today I will be picking up 2 copies of Dragon Age 2 for those same 360s, and then we will get to download all of the extra content we’ve qualified for, along with any game build updates. Burn burn burn…

People have asked me why we don’t switch to Telus. Well, let me tell you why. I refuse to sign a contract for telecommunications services of any kind. It’s bad enough I had to sign one for the cell phone service at work. Shaw’s customer service centres are located in Canada. Shaw does not out-source to countries halfway around the globe. They hire people who live in Canada. They support Canadian communities and Canadian enterprise with offerings such as the Shaw Rocket Fund – and yes, Telus supports projects like this too, in fact they are supporting this weekend’s Great Canadian Appathon – but they out-source and trying to get any customer support or technical service is very difficult, so Telus loses many points in the standings. Mr. Kucharksi asked if I thought Shaw was doing a good enough job letting Canadians know just how Canadian Shaw is, and frankly, no, you’re not.

As I said last night, I’d like to see Shaw involved in local creative industry events like the Canadian Games Conference, the Canadian Video Game Awards and SIGGRAPH 2011, all being held in Vancouver – in fact this is the first time SIGGRAPH is being held outside the USA, and is a great opportunity for Shaw to do some good PR work. I know there are other creative industry events in your other markets that would offer similar opportunities for Shaw. Some of you last night were surprised to learn that Canada stands in third spot on the global scale as a digital media producer. Do not implement these horribly low caps and stifle that creativity. Canada is well on its way to taking top spot, let us innovate, create and educate without having to worry about monthly caps or throttling.

We also learned last night about a new Shaw program, which was unveiled as I was writing this editorial. Called The Personalizer, I believe this new idea is meant to give Shaw users more of what they want, and as I said on Twitter earlier, it’s a step in the right direction, but I still have to buy a ton of channel bundles to get the few channels I want, along with many more I do not want. Also, if all Shaw users have to use this, including existing customers, it’s going to confuse the hell out of my parents, who are among the least tech-savvy people I know, and yes, they are Shaw Cable customers. We’re trying to get them to switch to digital phone and get internet at home, but that’s still a little ways off. My Mom doesn’t feel she needs home internet because she can look stuff up when she’s at the office, even though she’s retired and not supposed to be there.

I took a look at this new Personalizer, and on the surface it’s great, we might even save money. Then you look at the channel bundles. We are going to lose the Book and Bio channels, because they are bundled with all of the music channels we don’t watch, and I’m not paying $10.00 for a bundle to get two channels. Thankfully we can get rid of all the sports channels we don’t watch. CBC and TSN are good enough for us. Wait a minute…is regular plain old TSN included in the basics? It’s hard to tell from this:

Personal TV includes over 40 of the most popular channels including 12 HD channels: CTV HD, ABC HD, CBC HD, Global HD, CBS HD, PBS HD, NBC HD, Fox HD, HGTV HD, CityTV HD, History, The Frame, MuchMusic, OMNI, Shaw TV, The Weather Network, YTV, The Shopping Channel, The Food Network, Game TV, Galaxie Music Channels, and more!

What’s the “and more” is it TSN? A&E? Don’t give me “and more” I want to know what the “and more” is, thanks. A careful look at the two sports bundles does not show regular, plain old non-HD TSN. We don’t have an HD TV, so we don’t particularly care about HD channels. Where is APTN? Read the rest of this entry »

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8th March 2011

Dragon Age 2 Launch Day

Bioware CorpDragon Age™ II is now available at retail stores in Canada for the PlayStation®3 , the Xbox 360®, the PC and Mac®. The game is rated ‘M’ for Mature by the ESRB. Featuring a gripping new storyline, stunning visuals and what PC Gamer magazine has proclaimed to be “the best RPG combat ever,” Dragon Age II has already been hailed as a success by critics around the world. The game has received a 94 percent from PC Gamer magazine (US and UK), a 9/10 from Official Xbox Magazine and a 9/10 from PlayStation: The Official Magazine, which also said, “Fueled by its brains, a likeable cast, and a sprawling storyline, Dragon Age II delivers.”

I got my first look at the game when the demo was made available on the Xbox Live Marketplace, and with so Dragon Age 2many features disabled, it was difficult to get a real opinion of the game, other than I found much of the text very hard to read on a 36″ CRT television. Our TV does have a flat screen, but the text doesn’t appear anywhere as clear as it does on an LCD flat screen, and this could end up being an issue for me. I just hope it’s not a game breaker for me, even though I have loads of unlockables and extra content because of pre-order and pre-launch activities. Our EB Games location was not open for the Midnight Launch, so I will wait patiently for the call that our Dragon Age 2 Signature Edition (x2 for 2 360s) order is ready to pick up.

“I am very proud of the bold, ambitious direction our team took with Dragon Age II, which I think is some of the best work yet from BioWare,” said Dr. Ray Muzyka, co-founder and Group General Manager of BioWare and Senior Vice President of Electronic Arts. “The Dragon Age team built on their success with Dragon Age: Origins and also focused on innovation for our players, delivering better combat, creating an incredible new art style and introducing a dynamic storytelling technique to really raise the bar for both the franchise and the genre.”

Dragon Age II allows gamers to experience the rise to power of Hawke, a refugee who survives the destruction of his homeland, to become the Champion of Kirkwall. Hawke’s rise to power is shrouded in myth and rumor, with these mysteries being the driving force behind a story that spans an entire decade. Players will experience how the legend unfolds by gathering the deadliest of allies, making tough moral choices, and amassing fame and fortune as they seal their place in history and change the face of the Dragon Age universe forever.

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Also available today is “The Exiled Prince,” the first downloadable content pack for Dragon Age II. “The Exiled Prince” introduces the noble archer, Sebastian Vael, with players joining him in the middle of his quest to avenge the horrific murder of his family. Sworn to the priesthood as a boy, Sebastian is forced to re-enter the viper’s nest of princely politics when his family is brutally murdered, leaving him as the sole-surviving heir. Banding together with Sebastian and his unshakable loyalty and excellent aim, players will choose to either avenge Sebastian’s murdered family to reclaim his title or direct his holy vengeance on their own enemies in Kirkwall. In addition to this action-packed storyline, players will also be able to enlist Sebastian as a follower throughout a majority of Dragon Age II. “The Exiled Prince” will be available for purchase separately for $6.99 or 560 Microsoft Points. Note: if you pre-ordered early like we did, The Exiled Prince is included in the Signature Edition.

Razer also has a whole line-up of sweet looking Dragon Age 2 gear, and buying any of it will provide you with a code for The Ring of Whispers add-on.


Not all of the items are available yet, according to the Razer store. I checked on the 360 controller, which will sell in the Razer store for $59.99, and it said “Currently Unavailable” as did the

Available for pre-order in the Razer store are:

* Dragon Age™ II Razer BlackWidow Ultimate keyboard: $139.99 USD (March 16th)
* Dragon Age™ II Razer Goliathus Speed Edition mouse mat: $24.99 USD (March 25th)
* Dragon Age™ II Razer Messenger Laptop Bag: $89.99 USD (March 21st)

Currently Unavailable:

* Dragon Age™ II Razer DeathAdder: $69.99 USD
* Dragon Age™ II Razer Onza Tournament Edition Professional Gaming Controller for Xbox 360®: $59.99 USD

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