Samsung ATIV SmartPC: Be very careful when buying in Canada

Among the Windows 8 devices I have been very anxious to see are Samsung’s ATIV SmartPC line. There are two main versions, the 500T, powered by an Atom processor, and the 700T powered by a Core I5 processor (note there is also a Windows RT version of the ATIV).

In particular, I was really looking forward to seeing the 500T. With the Atom processor, it runs a full version of Windows 8, rather than running Windows RT. The Atom processor would also seem to give better battery life, and keeps the price more in line with what people want to pay for this type of device. And the kicker (for me, anyway) is the inclusion of the S-PEN and an active digitizer to support note-taking, a big bonus in my books.

Based reviews like this, I was pretty excited.

Well, now comes the problem…I live in Canada.

As in the US, there are two different SKUs for the 500T in Canada (XE500T1C-A01CA  and XE500T1C-A02CA). The first does not include the keyboard dock, the second does.


The versions being sold in the US (for slightly cheaper) both include the S-PEN/active digitizer. Not so for the versions in Canada. Samsung Canada has confirmed to me via Twitter that the Canadian versions do not have the pen, and reviews I have seen indicate that they will not even work with other Active Digitizer pens.

Others may not place quite as much important on the pen as I do, but this makes the device a non-starter for me.

I have received no justification from Samsung as to why Canadians should pay more for reduced capability. I would love to see their reasoning.


The Value of an Education, New Brunswick Style

UPDATE: To make this farce even better, it appears that for this year’s calculation rules have re-classified my two adult sons as dependents (including one who has not lived at home for 3 years). Neat how the government can on the one hand call them dependents for student loans, but not dependents on my taxes. Welcome to the era of DoubleThink!

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about The Value of an Education talking about the debate that is going on as to whether post secondary education is worth the cost, especially given the debt load student loans put on new graduates.

Well, as I learned last week (I should have known it earlier, but was not paying attention when it happened), our new provincial government here in New Brunswick, led by Premier David Alward, has taken the decision out of our hands. It seems my children no longer have the choice as to whether or not student loans are a good investment in their future, since the province has already decided they are not.

I could explain the new rules that have me so annoyed, but I will link to someone else who explains them well.

I will likely be able to adapt to this change, for my youngest anyway. Unfortunately, there will be many who cannot.

Mr. Alward, this is not the way to build an educated workforce in this province.

So the iPad comes to Canada – whither 3G?

So I see that they have announced iPad availability in Canada for May 28, with pre-orders starting May 10.

I am of two minds about the iPad. On the one hand, I think it is really a consumer-oriented toy, missing a great deal of functionality (for example the ability to take notes with a stylus, etc.). On the other hand, as a glorified eBook reader, with “just enough” other functionality to make it worthwhile, it is a pretty neat gadget, and I do like my gadgets!

The biggest question for me, though, is 3G access. Will Apple cut deals in Canada to provide reasonably priced 3G access for the iPad (like the $29.95 “all you can eat” plan in the US)? Given the greed of Canada’s carriers, I highly doubt it. I currently have a multitouch convertable tablet (that does everything the iPad does, and more, by the way) with a built in 3G card – and the rates here in Canada are absurd for that.

Mobility is key with a device such as the iPad. And without reasonable 3G rates, its 3G (and hence its mobile) capability is pretty much useless.

US vs Canadian Healthcare – a follow up

A few weeks back I posted on my personal experience with US versus Canadian Healthcare

This week, I received the paperwork from my insurance company to sort out the expenses for my adventure in LA. Just to refresh your memory, while in LA I became very sick, and ended up going to an ER at a nearby hospital. While at the ER, I spent 8+ hours in the waiting room, and about 2 actually being treated. A doctor saw and evaluated me. I was monitored for heart rate, BP, etc., had some blood work, and was given an IV for fluids and some meds. I was then given a prescription and discharged.

The cost for this treatment? Just shy of $3500.

No wonder the healthcare system in the US is as screwed up as it is! 

Another thought on health care…

Well, I am sitting here writing a blog post because I am not at the hospital with my son for his jaw surgery that was scheduled for today. It was cancelled because the surgeon was called in for an emergency case which obviously took precedence.

My first thought (and I tweeted this) was “this is the downside of Canadian health care”. After a little reflection, however, I think that this is exactly what makes Canadian health care superior to American health care in the large. It shows that in the Canadian system, decisions are made based on who is in the most need, and the person in the most need gets the appropriate resources. Compare this to the US situation where the person with the most money or the best insurance will get the treatment, and the person with no money or insurance may never get anything beyond rudimentary care (if that).

This is inconvenient to me, and to my son, but it is not life threatening.

Once again, I will take the Canadian system, thanks.

US vs Canadian Healthcare – a story of personal experience

As anyone not in a coma knows, there is a great deal of debate in the US right now about Health Care Reform. During this debate, there are many references to the Canadian Health Care system, typically by Americans who have absolutely no idea what the hell they are talking about – including a former governor of Alaska. It is referred to as “socialized medicine”, and Americans argue that it reduces efficiency, costs the government great sums of money (note that the US government already spends more per capita on health care than the Canadian government does), reduces innovation, has longer wait times, and even leads to people dying while awaiting treatment.

I recently became ill while in Los Angeles for a conference. While being sick is never a fun experience, being diabetic and being sick while travelling in a foreign country by yourself is especially stressful.

However, this gave me an opportunity to experience the US health care system first hand, albeit a little superficially. Also, since my employer provides me with out-of-country health insurance, my experience is from the perspective of someone with health insurance, not someone without. In addition, my opinion of the US health care system is based on a single experience, not a broad sample.

Lets start with my arrival at the ER. I arrived at about 9 PM on a Tuesday evening.The first step was to fill out a little form with basic information – name, address, nature of my complaint. This form is passed through a little hole in the plexiglass partition, and my information is entered into their computer system. I then waited about an hour to see the triage nurse and be prioritized. Between myself, my wife and my kids, I have been at emergency rooms in New Brunswick, Ontario, and Alberta, and do not recall ever waiting more than a small number of minutes to be triaged. It should be noted that the triage process seemed to be mostly a “first in, first out” kind of process – I did not notice anyone being triaged faster based upon the nature of their complaint.

After being triaged, I guess I was ranked fairly low in terms of priority (hey, I was only vomiting up large amounts of blood), because I then sat from about 10 PM Tuesday evening until 4:30 AM Wednesday waiting to see a doctor. Many people came in, were treated, and left before I was seen, but I understand that once you are triaged, priority are based on who is at the most risk. I also understand that I was only seeing the “walk in” side of the ER – there was another whole flow of patients coming in through the ambulance entrance with a fair number of trauma patients. Still, 7 and a half hours of waiting to see a doctor is longer than anything I have seen in the Canadian health care system. And remember, I was at a private hospital in LA, not a public clinic. I would thus expect that this was on the good side with respect to performance.

Once I actually got to see the doctor, I was treated fairly quickly. Note that the goal was not to treat the root cause in my ailment, the primary intent was to stabilize my condition so that I could return to Canada for full treatment. At this, they were very efficient, and I was out in about 3 hours. It was also made much more smoothly because my out-of-country health coverage worked very well with the hospital’s admissions/accounting people with regards to payment. God only knows how the experience would have played out had I not had insurance.

In short, my visit to the ER in Los Angeles involved wait times which were significantly longer (for both triage and treatment) than anything I have ever experienced at a hospital in Canada.

To finish off the story, I will describe my follow-up treatment after returning to Canada. On the Wednesday following my return to Canada, I called my family doctor, and got an appointment to see her that afternoon. After that appointment, she referred me to a GI specialist, who I saw the next afternoon. He decided I needed an endoscopy, which happened the next day. Seems pretty efficient to me!

Perhaps Americans (especially American citizens) should educate themselves on the reality of the Canadian Health Care System rather than blindly believing the rhetoric of their politicians who are bought and paid for by the insurance companies and HMOs, or simply know nothing about the Canadian system which they are criticizing.

Kindle 2 not coming to Canada? Who Cares?


Kindle 2 not coming to Canada | Quill & Quire

So, Kindle 2 is coming to 100 countries worldwide, and Canada is not one of them. Certainly not surprising. From the quote in the above post, it would seem that most of the issues preventing Kindle form coming to Canada involve digital publishing rights and negotiations with wireless carriers (isn’t that what held up the iPhone from coming to Canada for a long time?).

For me, it is really a non-issue. I cannot imagine spending that much money (it will probably be $500 in Canada, even with the favourable exchange rate) on yet another single-purpose tool.

I read eBooks on my slate Tablet PC. Google Reader and other tools in full screen mode provide a great reading experience. I can also use tools like PDF Annotator to mark up, red line and highlight  to my heart’s content. I can take pieces of text and print them to OneNote to consolidate research on a subject. Then on top of that, I have an actual PC so I can do all of the PC things I want to do.

Why on earth would I want to downgrade to a Kindle?


Also reading this article on CNN. I notice the statement:

Apple is working on a tablet computer that is expected to launch in the coming months and which includes all the functionality of an e-reader.

Either the author did not do any homework, or is purposely biased (as most of the tech media is) towards the uber-coolness that is Apple (note extreme sarcasm here). Microsoft has had Tablet PCs for 7 years which also includes all of the functionality of an e-reader (I know, since I have been using it for that purpose for most of those 7 years).

It must be nice to be like Apple and Google, and have the so-called press do much of your marketing for you.