Vonage Database Compromised

To avoid spam and to improve password security, I maintain different email addresses when signing up for different services. Long time ago when I signed up for Vonage I started receiving spam on their address. Not making much of that event, I simply created a new address again specifically just for them, but somehow I started to get spam once more on that specific address.
This problem might occur with personal email addresses that my friends have, their computers somehow get infected with viruses or compromised and they get hold of my personal email. But when a specific alias used specifically for a given service receives spam, it means that the company's database has been compromised and my address was obtained from that organization.
The issue is these companies also retain customer info besides email addresses that might also be compromised.
This is truly the result is mediocre software practices, where passwords and important customer information are stored in plain text. Organizations that retain customer information must become liable for any breach of information if they don't provide sufficient security to the customer data. If you are not able to maintain the database with sufficient security measures then don't keep the customer data, you are simply not worthy of retaining that data.

Mike Preston goes to jail!

Mike Preston head down

UPDATE: Someone is trying to defend Mike's son Chris Preston. They think it is OK to cover up for fraudsters, so despite Chris's covering up for his fraudster dad they think just because he wasn't taking the money himself it still makes him a good kid!! how sad!

WOW! Justice is finally served. After years from having scammed innocent people from their hard earned money, Mike Preston, the crook finally goes to jail. I was contacted by one of the victims and she shared her story and photos.
"He (Mike Preston) got max sentence suggested by the Crown: 6 months PLUS full restitution order. When he gets out, he has 30 days to pay into amounts or goes back to jail. He came dressed in his "costume" - the hapless working man - dirty golf shirt and jeans. He jumped up and tried to beg the judge; "But I need to work..." She told him to sit down and agreed with the crown that the term should be served consecutively (no weekends, not broken up by visits home...YES!!). He started bawling, wiping his eyes. The court was full of burly officers. They cuffed him and took him to jail!!! Right away!! He was asking about his car, asking if he could phone his family - they told him; "You get one call in jail"!! It was a total movie moment. I took pix of him cuffed, and asked him if he remembered telling me all those years ago that there was nothing I could do??? He just shook his head like he was being wronged. The cops escorted him through a crowded waiting room, while we followed and took pix. He would have been utterly humiliated. People were craning to get a good look at this "criminal". Such an important day emotionally. Now on to our architect :P Crown and Consumer Protection would like you to commence an action as well"

Tears now Mike? you have given grief and tears to dozens of innocent families, and you get away with 6 months! that's not even close enough, just be glad that you are only required to return the stolen money and not cover all the damages you caused to those victims. Here are some more photos of the crook.
Love those handcuffs!

And finally this:
with cuffs

TekSavvy Reliability

Few months ago I was thinking about switching my ISP from Rogers to TekSavvy, the premise seemed unresistable, ditch Rogers who loves to charge its customers an arm and leg and keep offering a service that is years behind while charging for overages over a quota that is simply not enough for today's average internet user. On the other hand TekSavvy, a young company who is giving excellent value for the money.

While on the surface that seemed great, the actual experience is far from. The essence of the issue is reliability! I had to go through the whole switch over process only to realize that the TekSavvy reliability is an overlooked metric. Not because they have poor customer service, or because they have subpar network, their problem is actually caused by Rogers themselves!

It is a know fact that TekSavvy actually doesn't own the network, they are simply a reseller for cable and DSL, but what I didn't know was the actual logistics involved between the reseller and the company providing the service, and in my case... it was Rogers.

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Mike Preston

Few years ago I was ripped off by an HVAC guy named Mike Preston who promised to install a geothermal furnace and ran away with our down payment. His original company was called Max Air Geothermal which went bankrupt, later on I learned that this was not the first, and sadly it wasn't the last since he later created Fairway Mechanical through which was also ripping off people according to few commenter who visited the blog (Thanks guys for sharing your stories), in fact one user said that he is ripping banks off now, nice! So I decided to check whatever happened to his company and sure enough the website was down saying that it "has been suspended due to non-payment" well that sounds like Mike Preston alright.... I hope they can get their money!

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Fuck Rogers

UPDATE Unfortunately, I have switched back to Rogers because the alternative was to deal with TekSavvy Reliability issues, which are not acceptable.

I remember the days when Bell Canada used to be the bad guys, gouging customers, errors in billings that keep piling on, and ever increasing service fees. Rogers was the new kid on the block, they had better service (faster internet) and more reliable cable TV.
Fast forward a decade or two and it seems that Rogers now has become the new Bell. With fees that keep increasing year after year (to serve us better) with a service that is pretty much the same. This is no longer the same Rogers that was created by Ted, the guy who had a Toronto street named after him.

10 years ago, there was no bandwidth limit on how much internet you can use on the Rogers network, then they introduced the limits. Many people were not affected by these limits because it really was meant for those who are addicted to downloading. But those limits have remained pretty much the same all these years, whereas technology hasn't. With Apple TV, Google TV and Netflix on the rise, bandwidth requirement increased significantly, we used 20-30G per month a year ago, but we now require that much in one day.

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CIBC Mortgage, The worst mortgage advisors in Canada

A while back a wrote about my experiences with the worst bank in Canada, but really that wasn't the only problem I had with CIBC at the time. The whole problem with my credit card was happening while I was still having issues at the same time with my CIBC mortgage. But surely there are incompetent employees in all fields and organizations, and the actions of one shouldn't cause us to label an entire bank to be the worst. However in this case, all my interactions with CIBC mortgage employees showed the lack of knowledge by those CIBC mortgage advisers.

The story started years back when I was shopping around for a mortgage. At the time, I found out that CIBC was giving very low rates compared to the rest. I went and met up with a CIBC adviser "Ali" at a Toronto branch who was fairly nice and helpful. I don't like taking long time making decisions, so we wrapped up the decision and signed up for a new mortgage with CIBC. The process to get the paper work done took long, really long. We had to go back few times to sign new contracts, because they kept making mistakes in the filing documents!

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Fairway Mechanical

A while back, I wrote a story about Mike Preston, the crook that took our money to install a geothermal system but ran away afterwards. Well, few days ago I was contacted by a gentleman named Ryan from Green Monsters. It turns out that Mike is back only this time with yet another business named "Fairway Mechanical" and he is scamming people again, just like he did with his older businesses. A quick search I found Fairway Mechanical on the BBB website and guess what? it has an F (that is on a scale of A+ to F), good job Mike! you never disappoint me.

Anyway, here is what Ryan had to say:
"Mike Preston is working in the Hamilton area selling and installing furnaces and hot water tanks. His current company is called Fairway Mechanical. His web site lists the address for the company as "Ancaster, Ontario", with no street address. On yellowpages.ca, Fairway is listed as located at 592 High Vaule Rd, Ancaster (which does not exist - he probably just made up an address because yellowpages.ca wouldn't list him without a street address).

My company Green Monsters did 3 energy audits for Fairway Mechanical's customers. Preston did not pay us for those audits as promised (each time, he promised to be on site with payment, but was never on site), and now the homeowners will not receive any of the ecoEnergy grants Preston promised because their energy audits were not paid for or processed. The advisor who did the audits noticed a red flag when doing one of the audits - the quote that Preston had given the customer listed hand written grant amounts that seemed unusually high.

Preston is still out there, please be aware!"

Chrome vs Firefox?

Hmmmm, this is a strange one.
Long time ago, Chrome started attacking IE displaying a download link on Google.com with "A faster way to browse the web", ok, that might be true if you use IE, especially pre-IE9
But I just noticed now that this now shows even if you use FF.... hmmmm that might not be true, since FF beats chrome, especially with the latest javascript JIT optimizations.

More from CIBC

Well, I am not sure how long this story will go, but it appears that the incompetence has no limits sometimes!
Of course after having the recent terribly bad experience with the worst bank in Canada I started moving away my services from CIBC. That of course doesn't mean cancelling everything as it will probably be a slow moving process till everything has moved.
The problem is that an item that I have previously bought with my City credit card broke down, and since it has been out of warranty for few months I decided to use the credit card extended warranty, which is now a CIBC credit card oh no!
Typically, this is an easy process, but I wasn't expecting it to be this time around. So I pick up the phone and make the call.
There is a number listed online that handles the insurance at CIBC  for my card so I call that number. Of course with a headache of press option 1, press option 2... etc. I reach someone there, I explained
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Browsing experience with Android tablets

One of the biggest problems with Android tablets is the poor browsing experience you encounter sometimes. It appears as if websites want to render themselves as a smartphone.
As a developer I view the same problem from the other side; I cannot tell when an Android device is a smartphone or a tablet, they all report "Android" in the user agent. And in cases when I want to display different UI based on the device size, I end up having to add exceptions for each hardware maker, oh and there are plenty of them!.
The problem seems to come from one of Android's greatest features (screen size agnostic) that's become Achilles' heel. Yes, this design works when you are building a native app, but it doesn't work when building a web app since the server has no clue what device this is. There are basically two workarounds to overcome this:
1. window.devicePixelRatio: Well we can use javascript to get the device pixel ratio, but doing things in JavaScript is too late in some cases, we need to detect the device ahead of time (at first render), JavaScript runs after the page has been downloaded. Of course we can work around this problem by creating landing pages that will redirect or postback with the pixel ratio, this is counter intuitive especially that we are talking about mobile devices (slow connections and limited data plans) and want to reduce network chattiness.

2. -webkit-device-pixel-ratio in css media selector: We can build different css files based on medium or low or high densities, include all of them in the page then select the appropriate one based on the pixel density. This works well for Android, but we will have issues when we want to target iPads, PlayBooks or Kindle, how many selectors do we want to add in the page? The server can render different selectors depending on the device used.

These two alternatives are not easy to build, and add extra complexity especially for the basic websites that the average web designer cannot handle easily. iOS makes it very simple for the poor old web developer, there are two screen sizes iPad and iPhone and if you build separate UI for each it will render reasonably well. Basically a web developer can simply target the iPhone and let the iPad render the desktop version, which seems to work well most of the time.

Finally, there is also the blurring line between tablets and smartphones, is Galaxy Note a tablet or a phone?