My father, the multimedia blogger

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My father, who is a professor in Tampa, Florida, has started his own blog - a blog that is hosted on a site called tumblr.com. The interesting thing about this site is that it is a multimedia blog - it includes the ability to center your content around all sorts of media like audio, video and others. This is definitely the future of blogging.

You can see more of this at http://theivorytowerbeat.tumblr.com/.

First Impressions: Blackberry 8330 CDMA

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Device: Blackberry 8330 "Curve"
Previous Device: Blackberry 8703
Provider: Bell
Base Price: $549.00

I've had this smart phone now for a day and so far I'm pleased with the new features and annoyed with some others.

Welcome to this new device are features like a camera, a gps device and the inclusion of media players as well as memory expandability. Some features not so welcome are the new keyboard layout, removal of the spinning wheel and addition of the track ball. Along the way, some unexpected surprises.

First off with the good. One of the first things I made use of when getting the phone, was the camera. It was easy to use and the ability to add pictures to my address book entries is definitely welcome. The gps was also a great addition, using it was quite simple and the gps had no trouble tracking down my location and finding it on the map. I have not used the navigation feature yet. The screen also seems clearer and brighter, a very welcome change indeed.

One change I was not looking forward to was the removal of the wheel on the right side of the phone in favor of the track ball. Like the inclusion of the green and red phone buttons in blackberries before this - this change has caused me "hand confusion". I got to reach for the wheel, have to abort that process and head back for the center ball. Once using it, the ball seems to work well enough. It like the rest of this smart phone, though, seems more flimsy in construction. The keys are smaller and seem to move differently. The back of the case caves when I occasionally squeeze while supporting my thumbs.. The center ball also seems a bit flimsy. The arrangement of the alt and caps keys also seems different, causing all sorts of mistakes on my part.

There have been some interesting surprises too. This smart phone comes with a built-in spell check. That was a huge addition. This phone also includes the ability to save pictures from inside the web browser. Even an itouch/iphone can't do that. I was also a little perplexed by the inclusion of a mouse cursor on the web browser - I'm not sure if that makes sense? Including pictures in address entries and subsequently caller ids was also a cool feature. I have not tried voice dialing yet. One huge disappointment, however, was the lack of an included belt clip. What was included was this thoroughly useless pocket holster (that presses buttons by accident when you put the phone in). The pocket pouch seems like a ploy to force customers to buy overpriced ($39.99 at the time of writing) belt clips.

The data migration and activation was smooth however. No real issues there. I continue to work on getting used to this new keyboard!!

A serious problem, passive business shadiness needs to be exposed!

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There's a phenomenon that, if unchecked, is likely to cause serious damage to our system as we know it. This is so serious I've even heard of "economic collapse" as a possible future. What is causing this? I imagine there is probably an argument to be made that the average North American is irresponsible - but, I will say that in today's business climate - the best way to sure-fire profits is passive business shadiness.

Let me explain first by using Bell Canada as an example. I personally use a blackberry data/voice service and have been on one of Bell's standard plans that cost me in the range of $200-$300 a month. After about 8 months, I finally got around to taking the time to look at some of the plans and in a last-ditch effort called Bell and they were able to find a plan that cost me half the price. You read that right, for a full 8 months or more I was paying twice as much as I needed too based on standard Bell data/voice packages. Bell did not call me to explain the situation, nor did they automatically drop my plan down to the cheapest one for me. Given that I didn't request it, Bell was happy to charge me more. Am I irresponsible or is it reasonable to expect a service provider to crunch some numbers and cap what they charge? This passive method of gouging is becoming all too common-place.

Its possibly less evident, but clearly there, with businesses that enjoy little or no competitive pressures. Many of these businesses are known for charging their customers a lot of cash and turning major profits from that. One example is the much-vilified gas companies. They supposedly compete with each other to sell a product we required them to make. In reality, in the absence of proof, it is clear that having gas cost exactly the same in every gas station in Ontario (give for take a cent) screams of, at the very least price-fixing or collusion. The trick here though, is they say - the customer comes to us. These companies passively gouge us. Why? I expect its mainly because they can.

Credit Cards are another example. With our society being so consumer-centric, the average credit card holder is constantly enticed to buy. The credit card companies help feed their passive gouging by offering introductory rates (that cancel on a first payment), unintelligible contracts, and exorbitant amounts of interest on cards. At present credit card companies only require you pay 2% of the principal to carry a balance - if you worked it out - you'd probably die before you paid back that $5000.00 Master card balance if you paid the minimum amount. This is how many get into a credit cycle and often become over-burdened with credit. Apparently one study says that the average Canadian carries a debt load bigger that their annual income! This scenario is ripe for collapse.

These things are happening all over - banks and private companies are getting into the ATM transaction charge game. The charge of 1.50 or more per withdrawal from these ATM's can lead to you paying more in service charges than the amount of money you actually take out of the machine. This practice is perfectly setup to take advantage of the lower-income population all under the guise of offering convenience. As is often the case the real picture is that banks have been removing their ATMs from convenient locations, giving way to private ATMs causing the average person the prospect of traveling a long distance to take out money or pay a service fee. Even retailers are getting into the game - charging service fees to process Interac cash back transactions. They will say, the customer came to us.

My question with these practices is, what is a reasonable amount of profit? When banks are allowed to tack on 1.50 per transaction for non-internal processes ON-TOP of their already high account fees - this translates for them to billion-dollar profits. Are they working in the interest of the consumer, or themselves? Even more serious, is this eroding. The health of our economic system? Who will regulate these companies of they work together an gouge the customer? What exists in our day and age to counteract the effects of consumerist types of holidays like Christmas, Easter and Valentines Day? How is the average person educated about these problems?
 
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