Purchase Decision – Winter Tires – Part 1

As I write this, winter will soon be upon us up here in the Northern Hemisphere, and this is the time that the thoughts of many drivers turn to winter tires. Winter tire technology has changed a lot over the past several years. Gone are the days when your only choices were loud luggy winters with poor handling characteristics which used the same hard rubber compounds found in “all season” tires. Today’s winter tires come in a variety of tread patterns with new rubber compounds that stay soft an pliable in the cold weather to grip the snow and ice better.

I put the “all season” in quotes above because those tires are not really built for ALL seasons. I call them “All Season But Winter” tires. If you live in a place where the roads get occasionally covered in snow and ice, running all seasons in winter is a big gamble. All seasons are constructed of harder rubber compounds with tread patterns which maximize dry and/or wet road performance as well as tread life. If you are running that type of tire on snow or ice, you are essentially asking for traction from a set of bumpy skis. If you are still not convinced that all seasons aren’t a good choice for winter driving, have a look at the series of Winter Tire Test videos produced by the Automobile Protection Agency out of Toronto.

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Posted by on November 15, 2010 in Automotive


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Service Review – Taxi or Limo Services – Toronto Limousine Services and Ambassador Limo

Recently my family took trip to Toronto and Niagara Falls. Because the trip included extended family, we contracted a stretch limousine for the trip to Niagara Falls with a return trip to Toronto included a few days later. The cost was actually a bit less than taking two taxis each way so we decided to go the limo route.

The company we dealt with was Toronto Limousine Services (416-854-7900). At the time, their website indicated that their limousine services were subcontracted to Ambassador Limo (905-781-1500).

For the trip to Niagara Falls, the limo was 15 to 20 minutes late with the pick-up, which was disappointing but not a big deal. The drive to Niagara Falls went fairly well. Unfortunately, the pick-up in Niagara Falls at 11:00 AM a few days later for the return to Toronto went VERY badly. Here is what happened:

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Posted by on September 26, 2010 in Service Reviews


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Product Review – Mobile Phone – Samsung Impact / Highlight (SGH-T746 / SGH-T749)

A few months ago I posted about my decision making process around the purchase of two new cell phones (Post 1, Post 2). I decided to go with cell phones rather than a smart phones to save on my monthly cell phone bills. I figure by going with that approach I am saving at least 30 dollars a month per phone – that’s over 2 grand in savings over three years, not including the savings on the original phone purchases.

The savings are nice, but admittedly a regular cell phone can’t offer the same level of convenience and utility that a smartphone offers. My goal was to find a cell phone with a pretty rich feature set that made it somewhat smartphone-like. I decided to go with the Samsung Impact (model number SGH-T746) through Bell Mobility – it is now also offered through Bell’s value carrier Virgin Mobile. From what I can discern from the specs and pictures of both models, the Impact is essentially the same phone as the Samsung Highlight (model number SGH-T749) offered by T-Mobile in the United States. With some reservations around differences in network performance etc., I believe this review would also be useful for people who are considering the Highlight.

We have had the Impacts for a few months now so I thought it was time to offer up a review of the device based on my experience with it.

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Posted by on August 15, 2010 in Consumer Electronics


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Westjet Announces Value Awards

I just got back from a trip to “The Big Smoke” (that’s Toronto for all you non-Canadians out there), so I thought a travel related post or two might be in order.

I flew Westjet on this trip, which I must say was a welcome change. It was a markedly better customer service experience than I remember receiving from “Canada’s national airline”. At any rate, perhaps I’ll post about that at a later date. This post is about something else.

On my way home, I looked through Westjet’s in-flight magazine UP!. In there was an article announcing their “Value Awards 2010 – The best-value travel experiences in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.” Since this blog is about value, it seemed like perfect thing to share with you.

For the past three years Westjet has been asking their customers to share their opinions of the travel related locations that they feel offer the best value. People vote at for the best values in a number of categories.

This year’s list of winners will include some places that won’t surprise you much, and many that you may never have heard of at all. You will notice the heavy Western leaning to the winners and runners-up in several categories. I can’t help but feel that the results are skewed by the fact that Westjet has a much larger customer base in Western Canada than it does in the East.

Despite that reservation, I did find the list interesting and I hope you will as well. Remember to keep in mind that these are the locations that received the most votes for best value, rather than the best at any price.
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Posted by on July 7, 2010 in Travel


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Which automobile manufacturers are taking you for a ride?

Now that the Canadian dollar is hovering around par with the US greenback again, we will likely be hearing plenty of complaints about the fact that things still cost more here in Canada than they do in the US, even though our dollar is worth the same or even more.

It seems to me that nothing illustrates that complaint better than comparing the cost of  the same automobile on both sides of the border. Canadian consumers have been suffering for a number of years from new car prices that seem to ignore the comparative value of our dollar. As a result, used car dealerships and individual consumers have been importing vehicles from the US in record numbers over the past few years as the Canadian dollar has continued to strengthen.
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Posted by on April 18, 2010 in Automotive


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Service Review – Domain Registrar – Hover

When I first registered more than ten years ago, I wanted to use a Canadian domain registrar that was trustworthy and reasonably priced. As usual, I was not looking for just the lowest price, but the best value. Even that long ago there were plenty of domain registrars to choose from, but I didn’t want to go with some fly-by-night organization that would fold on me after a couple of years. I did my research and I found Domain Direct, a domain registrar owned by Tucows, a Canadian internet pioneer.

What I liked about Domain Direct at the time was that they were Canadian, they were affiliated with a well-known company, they offered a solid suite of domain registration and related services which were all reasonably priced. Well, after buying two other domain registration companies and combining and rebranding them all at, I am happy to say all the reasons I chose them in the first place still apply.
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Posted by on March 31, 2010 in Service Reviews


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Purchase Decision – Media Player

So if you are like me you probably have a lot of media stored on various devices throughout your house. That media probably includes pictures, ripped music, home videos, recorded TV shows, backed-up DVD’s etc.  To use that media, you are probably watching/listening/looking at it on the device it is stored on or making copies on other media (USB drives, DVD-R’s, etc.) so you can watch/listen/look at it on other devices. It’s all a bit cumbersome, but it probably works if you put the time in to make it work.

I have a Windows Vista slimline-type desktop and a Windows XP laptop that access my media and other files over a wireless network. My files are stored on a Network-Attached Storage device (NAS) that is essentially an external desktop hard-drive/enclosure with a network jack (RJ-45) in the back of it.  It’s great that my media is stored in one place and I can get to it from either machine, but I have a nice home theater setup that I would like to leverage to access play that media.

Up until now, I have been using my laptop to serve up media to the home theather system. It is a bit of a cumbersome exercise to hook up the laptop when I need it and access the content I want. It’s workable, but I want something that does not require setup every time, and I am not prepared to devote the laptop to servicing this requirement only. I have decided that I need some sort of media player that I will hook into my home theater system and leave there most of the time. An additional feature I would like to have is the ability to take this player to other places fairly easily.

What type of media player?

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Posted by on March 21, 2010 in Consumer Electronics


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