Ian Hoar – Passion for Technology – Geeking Out - Technology, Web, Toys, Games, Design, Entertainment, Gadgets, & Geeking Out

Rogers to offer 6 gig plan for $30 dollars until August 31st

iPhoneSo maybe all the protesting over at Ruined iPhone and other places on the web have paid off. The whole iPhone outrage even hit mainstream news media. Basically Rogers and Fido (which are the same company) will allow you to take a phone plan and add a $30 6 GB plan to it. This is a temporary “deal” you can buy into with a 3 year contract before Aug 31st. It is a much better deal, but a lot of people are asking why it’s only temporary?

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Rogers totally underwhelms with iPhone plans

iPhoneToday Rogers announced no unlimited data plan and a ridiculous 3 year lock in for Apple’s highly anticipated iPhone. Rogers announces iPhone 3G plans, unlimited data isn’t one of them on Engadget has all the details. The official Rogers iPhone voice data packages are online too.

This is pretty disappointing, you have this really cool phone, but if you actually use it much you will pay through the teeth. No YouTube for you! I hope some day Rogers has some real competition, and I hope everyone remembers their monopoly and horrible prices. The rumours appear to be wrong, nothing is going to change up here in the north.

Now the question is do I give in and get one anyway? I’m not sure yet, but I’m leaning towards no.

Extended Warranties and the hard sell

HP Artists Edition DV2890CAI think I’m usually a pretty nice guy, but the other night I got snappy with a sales person. I’ve been doing laptop research for the past few weeks and I finally picked the HP Artists Edition Laptop which was on sale at Future Shop. I know, everything is always on sale there and if it’s not, you’re probably paying too much for it. That said, I was picking it up for someone else and we had pretty much settled on which one we wanted.

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Choosing the wrong web browser

BrowsersThe first browser wars ended years ago and now it seems they are back for a second round. I don’t think they will ever match the Netscape vs. Internet Explorer days, and today there are many more platforms to consider. Before reading this post further, I should mention that I am a web designer / developer and I have an axe to grind with Microsoft, especially when it comes to their browser. I will actually be completely blunt and say that this browser is downright horrible and the only reason it has any market share at all is because it is included with practically every mainstream computer sold on the planet. The very fact that Firefox has gained so much ground over the past three years against such incredible odds is testament not only to how great Firefox is, but also to how horrible Internet Explorer is.

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Leaving Windows Vista behind — the return to Windows XP

After over a year of non-stop problems with vista I have returned to Windows XP on my home computer and plan to do so at work within the next week. I know we all complain about Microsoft, but in the case of Windows Vista it’s exceeding well earned.

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GTA 4 unknown contact bug fix

A friend of mine ran into a serious problem where they could no longer progress in the missions of Grand Theft Auto 4. When they went to the yellow way point arrows nothing happened and the mission would not trigger. It seems to happen after “The Puerto Rican Connection” mission when you receive a call from an unknown person. I did a few searches on the web and found several other people having the same problem. Many had to start the game over, but the good news is there is a fix.

In order to trigger the missions again you need to call one of your contacts. It’s probably best to call Roman and book something with him. This should trigger the stories progress. I’ve also read that a manual save can work too, but I know for sure a call too Roman will work. I have not actually experienced the bug myself, but this work for my friend. The bug also seems to effect both PS3 and 360 versions of the game. GTA 4 is still a fantastic game, and hopefully not too many people experience this bug and if they do I hope this helps and hopefully Rockstar will have a fix for it soon.

Outlook 2007 borders and 1px padding on table cells!

Anyone creating email newsletters on a daily basis will tell you how hard it is to get them to render properly in all email clients, but getting them to work in Outlook 2007 can be maddening as any quick Google search will show.

Today I came across a bug that left me fuming. I could not figure out why every single cell in my table heavy layout had a 1px padding around it and in some cases I was even missing my table borders. For those of you working in the sane world of web design, tables are a thing of the past, but in the world of email, tables are back with a vengeance.

As I became more and more disillusioned I started trying anything and stumbled across the fix. I knew I had to share this, so if you are experiencing any of the above, here is the fix and it’s a simple one.

Here’s an example of what a two cell table with an image and text would look like before the fix. Notice the 1px white border/padding around the table.

And here is how it’s supposed to look after the fix. No white border / padding.

And the fix?

table td {
    border-collapse: collapse;

I don’t think I’ve ever even used this css before, but once I started grasping at straws I began to fiddle around with the CSS border attributes and tried it. I’ve never seen any browser or mail client except Outlook 2007 do this to table cells.

Here’s the full HTML from the example, and thank you Microsoft, for delivering the worst email rendering experience yet, we all thought Hotmail was bad, but you really stepped up to the plate!

  <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
  <title>Outlook 2007 Test</title>
  <style media="all" type="text/css">
  table td {
    border-collapse: collapse;
  <table width="200" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" style="border:solid 1px #48463b;">
  <td width="80"><img src="http://yourserver/graphic.gif" width="80" height="40" alt="graphic"></td>
  <td width="120" style="background-color:#c1beb1; color:#ffffff; font-family:Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; text-align:center; font-size:11px;">Another column<br>
  plain text.</td>

You may also want to check out my other entries on this topic.

Email html design and deployment quick tips

I create a lot of emails campaigns on a regular basis. Creating emails that work in all the mail clients can be a daunting task, if not sometimes impossible. Unlike web pages, you have many more combinations of email clients and browsers that may view your email. Add the fact that many email clients are blocking images, stripping CSS, or just outright ignoring all the great web standards we have worked towards for years, and you have a real mess.

There are some simple rules you can follow which should make life a lot easier. Testing of course is still required and many strange anomalies will pop up. Web based clients change without warning, so constant testing before every email deployment is a must. Below is a quick list of things to watch out for.

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Xbox free arcade title announced

Wow, only two days after my post “Xbox Live, what are we paying for? Could the tides change?” and the free arcade game I spoke of has been announced. Turns out it is a half decent title called Undertow, and it will be available next week. Here’s the official announcement.

While I don’t want to seem ungrateful, I think this is a pretty lame deal. This offer is obviously calculated to have the least impact on Microsoft. I am still amazed that people are defending Microsoft and saying that the people who complain are ungrateful. Since when does a customer have to be grateful for goods and services they have purchased? Since when do customers have to be grateful that their service works? If my new car breaks down for a week and the company that makes it takes a week to fix it and gives me a free tank of gas and a free tank of gas to everyone who has ever test driven the car, why would I be grateful? I still had a week without a car, and why are these other people getting free gas?

Which brings me to the second point, why are Silver members getting the same treatment? They pay nothing for the service that went down, and they don’t even play games online. Their gaming experience is still pretty much 100%. Gold players that usually go online can’t even play! Okay, maybe they should have some kind of compensation since some might have bought live games with extremely strict DRM rules and had a new Xbox 360, which would require them to be online to play the games they paid for. Don’t even get me started on the DRM.

Some people don’t even like Arcade games, most of them in my mind are boring compared to the full blown store games. Now why was this choice made? What people out there that are praising Microsoft probably don’t realize is that this was not done out of the good of Microsoft’s heart. Don’t be naive, Microsoft is a corporation and the last one they are looking out for is you. They want to look good with the least capital loss. The Xbox 360 is already a financial failure so far. I actually do understand this though, as an investor myself I expect a company to balance that fine line between the public relations and the bottom line.

My hunch is that this game was picked for a number of reasons, namely cost. Forums are littered with people saying they already bought this game. Microsoft has said these users can call support and they will sort things out. So basically my time is not important, I have all the time in the world to sit on a support line. How many will know this or even bother? I’m sure this was calculated, since this is a pretty big title and a lot of people probably already own it. The best offer would have been a refund for the horrid month of live service, or free gamer points. This would have upset a lot less people, but it would have cost them a hell of a lot more. With this title, arrangements were probably already made. It never would have sold to everyone using live, whereas points would have been equivalent to every gamer getting a free game.

Anyway, I think the thing that bothers me the most about this whole thing is the Microsoft fanboys. No doubt this game is better than a punch in the face, and even better than nothing, but stop acting like Microsoft cares so much about you. The corporation cares about their bottom line and salvaging their image, that’s it, and that’s all I would expect from any corporation.

I personally think Microsoft is walking a dangerous line with the constant outages, crazy DRM schemes, and constantly breaking hardware. As I post this, a friend of mine is getting ready to pack his 360 in a coffin and send it back to Microsoft due to the infamous red ring of death. As I have mentioned in the past, with a growing number of upcoming block buster titles, I think the PS3 is starting to look more and more like a serious contender, and I’m also no fan of Sony. The red ring of death is becoming a symbol of what the 360 is. It’s too bad, because there are a lot of fantastic games for this system.

When is free not free? Dishonest and misleading advertising!

Free is not free pretty much always. Case in point: I usually stop by Blockbuster video every now and then to look at games, not because I would actually ever buy their over-priced new and used games, but because I’m a geek, and I pretty much stop at any store that sells games or gadgets just to get a quick fix of what’s new.

I saw the “free game when you trade in 4” all over the place like you usually do at Blockbuster. Then it said something like ask an associate for details. So I walk up and say how does the trade in work and can I use Wii games too; the guy says yes, you can trade them in. I don’t usually trade in my games, and I probably should do it sooner and more often since I’m usually left with a huge pile of worthless games I’ve finished. I’m a bit of a pack rat though. Anyway, I figured hey, why not.

So I scrounge up 4 games that I am pretty sure I’ll never play again and walk into the store and trade them in. The lady gives me a “trading agreement” to fill out and sign, and I do so. She then starts doing something on the computer and makes a call. Once I’m done filling out the agreement she tells me that none of my 360 games are accepted for this deal, they are not worth the minimum which was 14 dollars or something like that. I’m thinking wow, 14, add that up and it’s 56 dollars. Now if I were to bring in newer games the chances of me finding 4 that are worth 14 it’s highly unlikely, some might be 20 or more. Pretty much makes the deal useless since I could get more if I Just sold them separately.

Anyway, I’m not naive, I know that companies are out to make money, and I’m fine with that, I even wondered how Blockbuster could have such a great deal like this. Turns out they can’t, and that’s where I get annoyed. I’m so sick of misleading advertising. Huge posters saying 50% off all jeans and then in seven point font, new arrivals not included. Look people, it’s either a free game when I trade or it’s not, and the “ALL JEANS” means all jeans. If it’s not, stop trying to fool your customers, it only angers them. Let’s just ignore the fact that trading 4 games kind of negates the term free! Last time I checked free didn’t mean you had to give something in return, but I digress.

I know the small print, the misleading “ask a representative” or the all mighty tiny asterisk is suppose to clue us all in that something is amiss and make all well, but this just annoys me more, and when I get annoyed enough I usually complain about it to a lot of people and then avoid the company for awhile. I like honest companies, if a deal is too good to be true, it probably is, and the company isn’t worth wasting your time on. This is one of the reasons I’ve started shopping at smaller independent stores lately, in general I find them more human, but the jeans example was actually a small store, so there are always exceptions.

A similar issue with Indigo books made me switch to independent book retailers. I had one of those 25 dollar irewards cards that allow you to save 10%. Then Indigo had this super sale and I went to use my card and they said I couldn’t. Why? I paid for it. So basically if I shop the big sales I can’t use my card and they pocket 25 dollars. It even says on the card that it includes sales, but if you read the fine print terms & conditions it says “except during selected promotional periods”. No thanks, stop trying to rip us off, and don’t even get me started on expiring gift cards.