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New job, new toy!

My summer this year has been cut a little short, not by weather or anything outside of my control but out of choice. I’ve been given th opportunity to partner with SFU to mentor teachers in a post degree graduate diploma. These teachers are interested in integrating technlogy into their teaching practice.

I did a similar program before my daughter was born. The biggest difference between the program I took and this one is the academic rigour. When I did this program, there were teachers who didn’t know how to turn on a computer or how to do email. These teachers who are participating in this program are working with Web 2.0 tools right away! I’m excite to help mentor these teachers and learn along side with them.

I spent one week the second last week of August, and will be spending one day a week this fall from September to December mentoring some of them.

A little extra income in addition to my teaching salary affords me to buy (or at least potentially buy) some new toys. :D

dock I’ve been wanting to buy an Asus Transformer tablet ever since I heard of it. It is a 10-inch Android tablet, with an accessory keyboard/battery combo. The keyboard dock is a $149 accessory, and the tablet itself comes in either a 16gb or 32gb configuration. The retail price is $399 and $499 respectively.

NCIX recently had a sale on the tabet and dock combo for $490 for the 32gb version! I jumped in on this deal right away. Then the next morning, I found that Memory Express was selling the same combo for $10 less!

I was able to get the price match so basically for the 32gb Transformer, I got a $20 discount off of the retail price PLUS a free dock!

So far, I’m really liking it. I like it better than the iPad. The widescreen format of the screen makes web sites nice and easy to look at. It is a very fast machine too. Nice and smooth. Of course, perfect integration with Google Products doesn’t hurt either.

I do wish that Google Plus’ Hangouts was working with the front-facing camera that is built into the tablet. Then again, they haven’t made a hangout app yet.

The keyboard makes writing a large set of text easy. The bundle that I purchased from NCIX is actually an NCIX bundle, not an ASUS bundle. The ASUS Transformer bundle in Canada comes with a bilingual keyboard – basically it has French accents. I have a retail Transformer tabet and retail keyboard dock, which is a plain-jane US keyboard layout. I prefer the US keyboard layout because it doesn’t sacrifice the keys like the shift key size for extra keys with accents.

Anyway, I’m excited to explore this tablet. My kids already are “experts” in it. ;)

HELLO WORLD! We’re back online!

I’m back baby! It’s taken a long time, but since my last post and this one, lots of things have transpired – at least in my “online” life.


Here’s what I mean.  I’ve been using as my shared web hosting provider  for the past five years.  Shared web hosting means that rather than my site being run on a dedicated server, the server (or servers) that people access my site through is shared between a whole bunch of different sites.  I’ve been a customer of their “middle tier” Advantage plan.

That’s fine with me.  I don’t expect a lot of “load” on my web site as it only serves my personal blog and photo gallery, along with the Moodle site I use to host my course content which I teach.

When I first signed up with Netfirms, I think (it has been five years since I’ve started with them) they had a 1GB monthly data transfer quota and a 200GB disk space quota.  I was paying around $8/month or so for their web hosting service for the first year, and then it went up to $12 or so.  Their service was “ok”.  It provided what I needed.  Sometimes their database would throw up “database errors” stating that they were overloaded.  This typically occurred during the start of the semester when 30-or-so students were all creating a Moodle account for my classes all at the same time.  Sometimes this occurred at the end of the class when students were madly rushing to submit their work onto the course website.  Other times an error message would be emailed to me saying that my site was using up to much CPU time and that my site would be temporarily “off line” for a few moments to allow the load to balance.  I was willing to suffer through these issues.

Netfirms recently got bought out, and have been “transitioning” to this new web control panel interface.  Along with this is their new “unlimited” service where the monthly bandwidth and disk space quota have now been removed and are now “unlimited” – or so they say.

Shows the various features of the three tiers of plans from Netfirms

Here’s a screen capture from today (August 15th) showing the different tiers.  Perhaps what Netfirms means by “unlimited” and what I understand unlimited means differs, but it clearly states here that both Diskspace and Monthly Bandwidth are “unlimited”.

Now back to my story.  So they’ve been transitioning to this control panel interface for the past year or so.  Because I am an “old” customer I was on the original control panel.  For whatever reason, Netfirms decided to remove the link off of their main page to the old control panel.  Also, my account because it had yet to be migrated did not have access to the “new” control panel.  It took until July of this year for my account to finally migrate over to the new control panel and that is when this whole brew-ha-ha started.

My billing cycle is in August – August 21st to be exact.    Because my credit card had recently changed, this info needed to be updated.  The only way I could update it was to access it through the control panel.  Because I did not have access to the “new” control panel I was in jeopardy of loosing my account!  I had called Netfirms Support to find out what was going on with my account.  Long story short, with a few bumps in the road, my account was finally migrated over to the new control panel and my password was reset.  This was in the beginning of July – plenty of time for me to update my CC info in time for my billing cycle.  Then a few days after my account was migrated over, I received this email:


Dear Darren,

We regret to inform you that your “yungfamily” account is
currently in violation of the following section of our Terms of
Service and Acceptable Use Policy:

“Hosting space … is limited to Web files, e-mail and content
of the hosted Web sites, not for storage of media and other data.
Hosting space may not be used as offsite storage for electronic
files or for third party electronic mail or FTP hosts.”

You need to remove the files in violation within three business
days. If the files are not removed within this time period, we will be
forced to suspend your account and delete the files.

If you are using your Web hosting account as a repository for
storing music, movies, videos or pictures of any kind, your
account is in violation of our Terms of Service. Please
understand that we’re not making any statement as to the
legality of the files; this type of file storage is simply not
what our hosting accounts are intended for.

For more information, please review the “Bandwidth and Disk
Usage” section of our Terms of Service:

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. We
certainly do not want to lose you as a customer, but we must
consider the needs of all customers on our shared hosting
platform. Our Terms of Service are in place to ensure the
optimum performance of all accounts on our platform.

Please contact us if you have any questions:

The Netfirms Team


What’s up with that?  So much for “unlimited” service.

Basically what it came down to, is that the reality of their “unlimited” service is that there is a quota of 25 gigabytes.  Go over this quota, your account gets flagged so expect to see an email like this.  I gave some poor customer service rep an earful of my thoughts and opinion of this blatant lie that Netfirms advertised.  I would have been fine if Netfirms stated up front that there is a file quota limit of 25gb.  At least this number would have been up-front-and-centre, but to advertise “unlimited” and shut down a 5-year customer like that?  I did find another person who was in a similar situation as I was.  He was a customer of 10 years and had a large photo gallery.  His account too was also shut down and locked out.

I eventually “deleted” about 10-gigs worth of stuff to get my site back up and running somewhat.  So the time between my last post and this one, I’ve been a lot more quiet than I had originally planned to be.  I’ve been spending a lot of “time” downloading over 35 gigs of stuff from Netfirms, saving it locally and uploading back to my new hosting provider –

They too advertise an “unlimited” service.  I did ask one of their service reps if it was truly unlimited or not.  We’ll see if I get an email back from them.  So far, most of my data has been uploaded to my new account as I slowly bring everything up online.  My old blog is up and running.  This new one, of course is now up and running too.  I don’t forsee any issues getting my old photo gallery up and running either.

Well, that’s enough typing for now.  Almost 1200 words in this post as counted by the WP editor software.

Moving from Twitter to Google+

Now that I’ve been on Google+ for about a week, I’ve been spending more time here than on Twitter.

One of the reasons is the fact that invites are easily available. When G+ first came out, only a very few select people such as Google employees, first sign-ups, and tech journalists were the ones who got in. I was fortunate enough to be able to get in on day 2 or 3 via twitter. The number of invites available was controlled by Google – they opened and closed the invite link almost on a daily basis as they tried to balance their servers and back end, with code fixes, feature updates and the number of users in the system.

Earlier this week, I noticed that the invite button would appear at around 5 or 6pm PDT for a few hours, then it would magically disappear. Now the invite button seems to be on and available. I believe that the official opening date is the end of July, hence the more liberal availability of the G+ invites.

That being said, more and more people are getting in on G+. People who I follow on Twitter are finding their way onto G+ too. I’m also finding other connections and educators on G+ via the comments feature.

One thing about twitter is the ability to have near instant yet asynchronous conversation with people all over the world. One difficulty is that sometimes it is difficult to follow the thread or threads of discussion on a topic. One way to help this issue is with the use of hash tags and Twitter clients which allow real-time searching and aggregation of tweets. It is easy to miss a big chunk of the conversation if you don’t use these tools or if you are only following certain users.

With G+, you can have a similar type of near instant asynchronous discussion, but with people who you are connected with via the circle mechanism. If someone whom you follow in G+ post something, you can make a comment, and others who follow that user can see the comments which are made. I like this feature as I can see posts by others whose path I may not cross in Twitter, and by checking out their profile I can add them to my circles.

Streams showing posts and comments

Streams showing posts and comments

Also, I like the control and granularity with the circle concept. You can choose to share stuff publicly, or just with the people in a particular circle. There are also facilities to prevent the re-sharing of posts, however there’s nothing stopping someone from copy-pasting some juicy bit of news/rumor.

Another biggie for me spending more time with G+, is there is no 140 character post limit. I understand that this limit is one of the “charms” of Twitter, along with its roots in SMS.

Related to this (at least for the web version), is the first URL you post, a preview of the text along with an image is displayed as a part of the post. With this quick preview, I can better make a decision whether or not to follow the URL.

Lastly Google has a G+ app for Android devices, which allows G+ to follow me in my pocket. One big discrepancy between the web version of G+ and the app is that Huddles, the group “instant messaging” is not in the web version (which most people are using) and Hangouts, the group video chat is missing from the app.

Hangouts actually does work! I’ve tried it out with a couple of people. I could see it being used in a classroom environment with students. It does have a 10 person limit though.

So there are some of the reasons why I’ve been shifting my time away from Twitter to Google Plus. If you want an invite, shoot me an email.


So now that I’ve got this new blog up and running, I’ve been getting lots of SPAM.  Very generic comments like, “yeah, I agree with the comments here.  You should look at my blog [insert URL here]” and “Great point of view.  I really agree with it.  Could you expand on this a bit more?”

YUK.  I hate SPAM

Finally got my butt in gear to turn on some SPAM filtering.  I hope it works, cause this post is the bait!