Computer Stories


Since we all now seem to use computers, I thought it might be a good idea to recount some of our experiences with a view to helping others avoid mistakes, or to take advantage of something positive.


WIH: 19 Dec 12

Telus recently brought their fibreoptic network to the Comox Valley. By switching my TV service from Shaw to a Telus "bundle" that already contained my telephone land line and Internet service, I was able to reduce my monthly cost and obtain much better Internet and television service. For the Internet, I chose "High Speed", the slowest of the three options. It promised a download speed between 1.5 and 6.0 Mbps and included 150 Gb of upload/download content per month. Since I am not a "gamer" and do not download movies I never come close to 150 Gb. And in practice I experience download speeds between 2.0 and 2.5 Mbps.

The installation is not pretty but it is mounted on the wall of the garage directly behind the Telus outdoor box. The optical fibre enters at the lowest connection on the left box where the optical signal is converted to electronic. The upper black box is the modem/router for the Internet.

The Telus "technical" people who answer the phone are a waste of time but I have found their technicians to be competent and even good salesmen for the company. The technician who made the above installation claimed that a single filament from the fibre bundle can serve 32 customers for telephone, TV and Internet, and that an optical signal can be transmitted 20 km without significant loss of speed.

The basic (Essentials) TV package contains 42 channels for our area, many of them in HD. To that we added the "Entertainment Extra" package that contains 10 channels, including TCM, amc, Silver Screen and BBC Canada. We did not opt for a PVR since we already have a DVD recorder, but both of our HD TV's are preceded by a digital box supplied by Telus.

There is one small glitch in the remotes that requires an odd extra push of a button that's needed to change channels from a Galaxie music channel. There seems to be no explanation for it.


WIH: 03 July 12

I received a phone call tonight, name and number "unavailable". There was the usual answering delay that identifies the source as a serial caller with autodialing. An Indian voice informed me that my computer sends regular reports to Microsoft and that Microsoft technicians had detected an infection in my computer. If I would go to my computer now, he would tell me how to solve the problem.

Anyone who gets sucked into this one will probably give the caller access to his computer where all kinds of nasty things can happen, including identity theft.

WIH: 10 Sep 11

Judging by what I read on the Internet, a lot of people have been disappointed with their new computers that came with Windows 7 as the operating system. Many of their XP programs will not run on W7 and Outlook Express had disappeared. Fortunately, MS has quietly responded to the outcry and has produced an excellent solution.

1) Upgrade W7 Home premium to W7 Professional. I bought the upgrade from Staples for $150. The product key failed to work and I spent 2 hours with a talkative chap from Mumbai to get it to load but it ran. What follows will not run on W7 Home Premium.

2) With the upgrade in place you can download two free programs from the MS site that will produce a "Virtual XP" environment that will allow you to load and run XP software. Even better, Outlook Express was unexpectedly there, so I'm happily able to use the new desktop with its big screen for email and MS Frontpage. (Frontpage is the software I use for this web page.)

WIH: 14 July 09:

This is not quite a computer story but another "Dell" story that's worth the telling.

After our session with a professional photographer in Haines, described in the account of our last cruise in the "Vacations" thread, Eleanor decided she wanted a small but versatile camera. After much reading on the web and in Consumer Reports we agreed on a Canon Power-Shot G10. The best price to be found was on the Dell Canada web site. At 1000 hours Monday I submitted the order on On Tuesday morning I checked the order status on the web and found it had been loaded on the Courier's truck in Nanaimo for delivery at 0718 hours. Sure enough, it arrived it arrived at 1110 hours. 25 hours from web order to delivery; how's that for service!

WIH: 01Mar09:

Last Fall I purchased a Dell Mini. This is a small computer with a 9" screen that displays a full page (no need to scroll). It has no hard disc and no optical drive. The "C" drive is a form of internal SD card with 8Gb capacity. It has an SD slot and 3 USB2 ports. It came with XP Home but not much else that was useful. I purchased an external optical drive on eBay ($55) so that I could load other programs. The biggest advantage of the Mini is size; it slips easily into a padded pocket in my camera bag. The biggest disadvantage is he size of the keys. If you have logger's fingers you will produce a lot of typos.

About halfway through our month-long stay in Hawaii, I left the Mini running on the lanai table while I went to pour a drink. When I returned, I was facing one of those much feared blue-screen error messages that told me the computer was toast. It could not be booted.

When we returned home, I contacted Dell, received an immediate answer, and they agreed to send me 3 discs that would restore the original status of the computer. They arrived NEXT DAY but failed to work. Another conversation with Dell, where I again received an immediate answer, concluded that the computer would need to return to the Dell contractor in Ontario. ( I think the problem was I had ~7.6Gb on the 8Gb memory card and there was no room for the processor to work.) They sent me a padded box on Friday, it arrived Monday, I returned it Tuesday and the repaired computer arrived Friday. All Air Courier charges were paid by Dell. Also, I found they had replaced the 8Gb memory device with 15Gb at no charge. When you think about all of the negative stories you hear about technical support from suppliers, I found my experience with Dell a real eye-opener. The one minor problem was cutting through the accent of the Mumbai-based technician. In future, I will not "crowd" the "C" memory device but will store some programs and all files on large SD cards, with backup.

On the subject of Mini's in general, there are now a lot more choices available, and some appear to have fewer shortcomings than the Dell. As you might expect, prices are all fairly close. The biggest difference comes when you choose the operating system, XP or Linux.

WIH: 01Mar09

I realize that few if any of our class have domains or create web pages. However, there have been some noticeable changes in some of the class web pages that I am now trying to detect and correct. The reason is that I have moved my domain from Blacksun in Saskatoon to Hostpapa in Toronto. I was with Blacksun for almost 8 years and had no real problems, but Blacksun specializes in web business applications, whereas Hostpapa specializes in the smaller, less demanding user, and is cheaper. They also provide free Domain registration.

The switch was much more complicated than I anticipated. It involved CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority) that controls the more than 1 million domains that end with ".ca", so that there are no duplications. It also approves the "pointing" of a Domain's DNS to a particular server. Although it's possible to mount modest web pages on most ISP's such as Shaw and Telus, there are severe limitations on size and bandwidth, whereas many web hosts allow unlimited size and bandwidth.

Another advantage of registering a domain (you never "own" it) is that your email address doesn't change when you change your ISP.