Tag Archives: Canada

Roaming an iPhone on Data Only

Since 3 relaunched their free roaming Feel at Home scheme we’ve been a little spoilt when traveling – we went on a trip to the USA and used our iPhones pretty much as we would do in the UK. It was therefore a bit of a shock when at short notice we had to do a trip to Canada, and we took a look at the roaming costs over the border… Calls across the board are £1.40 a minute, and data, for which I have unlimited in the UK is £6 per MB – definitely not a Feel at Home destination…

In the past we’ve got hold of a local SIM for Canada. HolidayPhone do a Canadian SIM card but they’re not cheap, and they wouldn’t be delivered in time for our trip. Canadian company Similicious have better prices, but on a short notice trip they also wouldn’t be able to get the SIM card to us in time, as international shipping would be about fourteen days.

The other option was to get an international SIM, but looking through the options they’re all primarily focused on voice calls and texts, you can get an international SIM with data, but that adds to the cost even more.  However looking at what we use day by day, the vast majority of the use we now make of our phone is data, not calls. Our phones are essentially handheld computers that just happen to make calls. Quite often we’re communicating through chat apps like Google Hangouts or Facebook Messenger. On the ground in Canada apps like Citymapper and Uber would be essential for getting around. If we wanted to make voice calls we had FaceTime and FaceTime Audio to talk to other iPhone users, and apps like Skype can also be used to call conventional phone numbers for fairly minimal costs. So it seemed like we could get by with a data only SIM – so would those be any cheaper.

Having a search around I came across the Love2Surf card on next day delivery with Amazon. It comes pre-loaded with 100Mb of data, and has a website that allows you to add more, so we thought we’d give it a go.

In the UK the card runs on the EE network, so we swapped out the normal 3 SIM before leaving for the airport, and were able to give it a test run whilst still in the UK. On arrival in Canada it hooked up to the Rogers network and it quite happily made a FaceTime call from the baggage claim hall.

The main issue we had on the trip was a hiccup when we added data to the card part way through, which was a technical issue at the Love2Surf end, that left us with the card unable to connect to any network for a few hours, but it came back and we were able to carry on. There were a couple of occasions when we forgot we couldn’t make voice calls, but you’re not going to end up with a big bill from doing so as the card is only authorised to roam data. All in all it seemed like the little bit of convenience was worth it for the cost saving.

Comparing the prices for Canada if you’ve got enough notice it won’t beat the cost of a local SIM from Similicious but if you’re visiting multiple countries touring around the Love2Surf card is certainly cheaper than buying a local SIM for each country.

A universal plug socket… at last?

Three pins. Two pins. Slanting pins. Straight. Circular.

In a world where there is no global standard for plug design, taking electrical items abroad can be fraught with difficulties. But now a solution may be at hand – and already in use in China.

via BBC News – A universal plug socket… at last?.

So it seems one of the problems we left the Chinese in 1999 was Hong Kong having the British three pin plugs, and rather than change the colony they seem to be rolling out a new multi-standard plug. What the article doesn’t mention of course is that it’s not just different physical plugs, in North America the voltage is different also, now if they have a plug socket that deals with that problem, that would be really interesting.

Beth and Richard Get Married (The Movie)

Last Thursday we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary, well at least as much as you can with two small children and summer colds going around the family!

Anyway, one of the things that the tenth wedding anniversary actually got me to organise was getting a copy of our wedding video into a more usable form. The video was shot by a friend of ours who shot on NTSC DV, and then produced a copy for us that we could watch back in the UK. They also kindly gave us the master tape. Needless to say technology has moved on in ten years, so what I wanted to do was get the wedding video into a form where I could keep it properly backed up on the computer, plus with a copy online. Whilst most DVD players and Bluray players will quite happily cope with NTSC recordings, finding a DV camera that could had proved rather more difficult, but thankfully I found a specialist company over in Twyford called DigitalCopyCat who we could drop the tape off with in person who would produce a QuickTime file of the wedding that I could easily handle on the Mac from our NTSC Master tape.

We now have that file converted into an Apple TV ready form so we can watch it back on the main TV, and also uploaded to my Vimeo account so you too can enjoy the wedding video – indeed most of our UK friends and relatives will never have seen this I’m sure!

Watching it back certainly brings back a few memories. There are of course quite a few people who are sadly no longer with us, for example neither Pastor K’Henry or Rev’d Sheila our Rector from Finchampstead who came over for the wedding are with us any more. There are also several relatives such as Beth’s grandmother, and Aunt Kathy who have passed away since.

On a lighter note you do get to see me pacing up and down wondering where the grooms parents and Best Man have got to (they managed to take a wrong turn on the way to the church and were driving around the army base at Ralston),  plus me in a suit that I might just about fit into again now, but for the best part of ten years haven’t been able to. There are also quite a few of the family looking younger and less stressed before they had their children!

Anyway, the video is over an hour long as it’s got the whole service, plus speeches and cake cutting and so on at the reception, so enjoy a little bit of a flashback to ten years ago.

Also if you’ve got any films or slides, videos or so forth that you want converted to something digital I can heartily recommend DigitalCopyCat – great service, especially with all the bouncing back and forth to get the format I wanted for the Mac, and at a good price too.

Ghost Town

On the way to visit Beth’s parents, the last township we pass through is Atlee, Alberta. As you can see from the wikipedia entry, it officially has a population of 28, but I’m guessing that is a bit optimistic. This is a video we shot a couple of years ago – we drive through Atlee about a forty seconds in, and then cross the track bed of the old railroad before continuing on towards the ranch.

Canadian Gravel from Richard Peat on Vimeo.


As you can see, there really isn’t much there. There is even less now.

A few weeks back, Beth’s parents headed off for some winter sun in Hawaii, and when they returned, the one remaining building, the old schoolhouse was gone, burnt to the ground, apparently by the local authority because the building was considered dangerous.

As anyone who looks at my Flickr photostream will know, I have taken lots of pictures of the building over the years – despite being pretty exposed and windy up on the prairie, and getting increasingly dilapidated, it has withstood the worst that Alberta could throw at it. The dilapidation, combined with the prominent location (you could quite literally see the building from miles away down the road) and the fantastic skies out there made for some fantastic pictures.

Perhaps because Atlee is a bit out of the way, it has survived where many other of the one room schoolhouses have now gone. Whilst I’ve seen a lot of signs marking the locations of the old schoolhouses on our travels around the province, this is perhaps the only one I’ve seen that was still standing in situ – indeed when you looked inside it was very much as if the teacher and children had just moved out – the blackboard was still on the wall, and the frame for the swings in the grounds still stood, along with the outhouse. True, it’s location probably isn’t suitable for any kind of tourist spot, but as a piece of Alberta history, it was probably one of the last relics of how the people of the prairie used to live.

In it’s heyday, Atlee was one of a number of townships, regularly spaced along the railroad line – next along is Buffalo, then Cavendish (note the alphabetic naming too). The local farmers would bring their produce to the railroad line where it would be shipped, and the township had a school for the local children. As the roads and transport has improved, the need for frequent townships grew less. So Beth went to school at the one room schoolhouse in Buffalo – that building too has long since gone, moved to provide extra classroom space elsewhere. Grain and produce can now be shipped by truck, so the railroad line has gone. People can drive to the post office, so Beth’s parents go to Jenner for to collect the mail, and their postal address is Jenner. The only place the Atlee name is still used is by the oil companies, and for a communications mast that stands nearby, and now the last building is gone.

Certainly it is going to be strange next time we head out that way, not having the old schoolhouse marking the way. Atlee really is now just a dot on the map…

Why You Should Get Travel Insurance

As you may have heard, our recent trip to Canada with Lucy didn’t quite go according to plan. As babies are prone to do, Lucy has been picking up all sorts of coughs and colds, annoying, but not usually too much of a problem. Unfortunately for us she picked up a really nasty one in Canada, a respiratory syncytial virus or RSV which clogged up her chest with mucus leaving her struggling to breath without coughing.

Not surprisingly that left us taking a trip to the local hospital twice during the trip, the second time being the day before we were due to head home when the doctors said that she was unfit to fly and decided to keep Lucy and Beth in hospital, Lucy on Oxygen and Ventolin. Ultimately they had to stay an extra ten days until the infection cleared up, and the doctor was happy to clear them to fly.

The way the travel insurance policy works is that the policyholder pays direct expenses, including any outpatient or emergency room costs, and the the hospital and insurance company settle directly for any inpatient treatment. We’d already paid and claimed for the emergency room visit – $560 CDN as the Alberta health service charges a flat daily rate for visits to the emergency room – plus assorted other sundry expenses for follow up visits to the doctor and for medication, but since the hospital and insurance company were settling up directly, we hadn’t seen the final cost. However this morning an invoice turned up from the hospital, which they’d incorrectly sent to the patient address rather than the insurance company – $6797 CDN in total for the hospital stay bringing the grand total for the whole illness to $7623 CDN, just over £4300. For friends and family in Alberta it’s been a bit of an eye opener too, as they just hand over their Alberta Health card and never see the bills.

All of which dwarfs the size of even a single trip travel insurance policy – and remember we were lucky in that the insurance company weren’t having to pay for extra accommodation, or for special flights back. True you might never need it, but we’re sure glad we had a good travel insurance policy…

Rip-Off Britain? Not With The iPhone 3G

One of the favourite descriptions of the UK, especially amongst it’s inhabitants, is Rip-Off Britain, indeed there is even an entire website devoted to the subject. Whilst there are loads of things that cost more in this country, hence why we quite often go shopping when we visit Canada, it is not everything that is cheaper abroad.

Thanks to the massive competition in our domestic mobile phone market, the deal we are being offered on the 3G iPhone seems to be one of the best around, indeed it seems positively generous compared to the deals in in Canada where there is no competition at all in the market, and New Zealand where there are only two players.

In the UK, on the higher cost plans we’re getting the phone for free, down in New Zealand users of every plan have to cough up for the phone. Both the operators in Canada and New Zealand are applying hard limits to data – over here we have unlimited data usage.

Not surprisingly it doesn’t take much to find potential purchasers in the two countries who are less than happy. About the only complaint I’ve heard over here is that users are tied to O2

Canada Trip Pictures and Video Clips

Both Beth and myself have now got all of our pictures uploaded to Flickr, and in my case some of the videos. You can find my set of pictures here and the pictures Beth took are here.

There are more videos to come, but amongst the interesting stuff so far are a bit of a modern day cattle round-up – Beth getting the quad bike is here, then clips of the actual round up are here and here.

Following on from the round up, is some video of the auction at which the cattle that were rounded up were actually sold. Quite how anybody follows what the auctioneer is actually saying I don’t know, as it all sounds like gibberish to me – aside from the point when one of the bidders queries something, and then the final price (which is not the price for the complete lot – cattle is sold by weight).

Here are slideshows for both mine and Beth’s pictures:


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.