Canadian No-Fee, No-Minimum Bank Account Comparison

March 10th, 2012 No comments

If you like to do most of your banking online, there's no reason to pay fees for everyday banking, maintain minimum balances, or be limited to a certain number of transactions per month.  Here's a comparison of three selected Canadian financial institutions offering bank accounts with no monthly fee and no fee for typical banking transactions, and requiring no minimum balance:

ING DirectBMO IGA/SobeysPC Financial
ChequesFirst book of 50 free, then $0.25 each.First book of 25 free, then $0.20 each.Free
Canadian ATMs>2300>2500>3400
Savings AccountYesNoNo
Chequing account pays interestYesNoYes
BranchesFive cafés across Canada, no teller-assisted transactions.Teller-assisted deposits at over 900 branches free; other transactions $1.00 each.>200 Pavilions across Canada, no teller-assisted transactions.
Free email money transferYesNoNo
Link your other bank accounts and transfer funds back and forthYesNoYes
OverdraftsFree, up to $250 for 30 days.$2.50 per month plus interest or minimum $5 per transaction for a transfer from another account.$4.97 per month in which it is used, plus interest.
J.D. Power ratingFive starsThree starsFour stars


  • BMO IGA/Sobeys does offer a savings account.  However, a fee is charged for withdrawls and the minimum balance is $5000.  Since this is the No-Fee, No-Minimum Bank Account Comparison, it is not considered in the above table.
  • PC Financial offers a savings account; a minimum balance of $1000 is required to earn interest.
  • In the event of a discrepancy between this comparison and the official terms of service of the financial institution in question, the later shall prevail.  (Please notify us if this is the case!)

10 Things We Didn't Know About ING Direct

March 10th, 2012 No comments

Mango's ING Direct account is another one of these things that makes him go, "Shoot!  Why didn't I do this years ago?"

  • Through their association with THE EXCHANGE ATM Network, ING Direct effectively has well over 2000 Canadian ATMs.
  • Owe someone money?  Giving a gift?  You can transfer money to any Canadian bank account, as long as you or the recipient know the transit, institution, and account numbers.  It works in a similar way to Interac e-Transfer, but it's free.  (They also offer Interac e-Transfer; receiving is free, sending costs $1.00.)
  • There is no transaction fee on ING Direct's Investment Savings Account.  You'll earn a higher interest rate than the big banks, AND you can use your savings account for as many bill payments, pre-authorized debits, and direct payroll deposits as you like.  (Similarly, there is no fee and no minimum balance required for their chequing account.)


Canadians: Get a Free Copy of your Credit Report

March 10th, 2012 No comments

We never knew until recently that a Canadian could request a copy of his or her credit report, for free, by mail.  This seems like it would be a good thing to do every year or so.

In order to do this, you should contact both of Canada's credit-reporting agencies.  You can contact them by phone, mail, or fax.

If you need access to your credit report right away, you can order it, along with your credit score, online for a small fee. You may also pay a monthly fee and be notified periodically of any changes.  Your credit score will not be disclosed to you, for free.  However, typical use of having this information is simply to verify that what is on your credit report should indeed be on your credit report.  For this use, the free report will be perfectly adequate.

The report we received in the mail had our information obfuscated.  Though it provided us with the information we needed, it provided little information that could have contributed to identity theft, should the mail have been misdelivered.

For more information, see this document about requesting your free credit report from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Payment Processing in Canada: Beanstream vs.

February 13th, 2012 4 comments
Beanstream is compatible with many Canadian merchant accounts or will provide you with a blended-rate merchant account with no contract and no works only with Global Payments in Canada (high but negotiable setup fees / 3 year contract / $500 early termination fee / difficult to reach your account manager) and cannot provide you with a Canadian merchant account.  (Edit: Now compatible with Global Payments, Chase Paymentech, Elavon, and First Data.)
Beanstream provides Pre-Authorized Debit and Direct Depost for Canadian and US bank's product supports debit from US bank accounts only.
Basic fraud detection tools are free.Basic tools free, Advanced Fraud Detection Suite available at a cost. (Edit: Now free.)
Phone and email support available.Phone, email, and live chat support available.
Cutoff time is midnight Eastern.Cutoff time is configurable.
Beanstream's user interface is extremely fast.The speed of's user interface is satisfactory.
API very clearly documented and easy to use.API complex, but functional.
First level sales rep didn't understand complicated questions, but escalated to someone who did.Sales rep underquoted our fees, then refused to provide us with the quoted rate.  Later discovered resellers that offered better rates.

Both Beanstream and support payment profiles (new to Beanstream), batch processing, recurring billing, and virtual terminal; they have good reporting, and a powerful API.  Their fees are similar.  Our sales rep underquoted our fees, in writing, by $20/month, but refused to actually provide us with the quoted fees after we'd signed a 3-year contract with Global Payments.  Near the end of our contract, we discovered we could have obtained better rates from an reseller than by dealing with directly.  Our experience caused us to investigate Beanstream as soon as they released their payment profiles feature.

Beanstream and both offer a product that will satisfy any eCommerce merchant's needs, but we prefer Beanstream for its better support of Canadian merchant accounts, its PAD/Direct Deposit product, its clear pricing, and its superior customer service.

Truck Rentals in Canada: Budget vs. U-Haul

February 11th, 2012 5 comments

Budget has a new fleet of trucks.U-Haul's trucks may be new or ancient.
For one-way rentals, only a 16-foot truck is available, in limited parts of Canada.Almost all types of trucks are available for one-way rentals anywhere in North America.
Depots are in major cities.Depots are just about anywhere.
Trucks have a low deck.Trucks have a very low deck; very easy to load; lower clearance required.
$944.23 tax included for a one-way rental from Vancouver to Red Deer$1059.52 for the same move with a truck 57 cubic feet smaller and same insurance
You rent an empty truck.A dolly and furniture pads takes up valuable space in the truck; you can't remove them unless you want to pay for them.
Our truck was provided to us with a full tank of diesel.Our truck was provided to us with less than a quarter tank of gas.
Cube truck"Mom's Attic" over the cab
Diesel or Gasoline fuelGasoline fuel

The verdict: If each end of your move is in or near a city with a Budget depot, and a 16-foot truck will suit your needs if you're doing a one-way rental, we recommend Budget for their newer trucks and competitive prices.

If you're picking up and dropping off your truck at the same location in a major city, you may also wish to investigate Penske and Ryder.  (Note that these two companies have different insurance terms than Budget and U-Haul.)

If your move isn't near a large city, you're doing a one-way move outside of Budget's area, or you're doing a one-way move and a 16-foot truck isn't appropriate, U-Haul will often be your only option.

Computer case fan testing

February 10th, 2012 No comments

Mango's case has terrible ventilation at the front and as you will see, an intake fan doesn't really do much.  We tried every configuration to find out what the best possible cooling would be under these circumstances.  Mango doesn't own a hard drive, so perhaps the temperatures are a little cooler than they otherwise would be.

These measurements were taken at stock speeds with stock CPU cooling.  The case fans are Zalman ZM-F1 Plus 80MM, which come with a noiseless adapter that lowers the speed of the fan by about 1000 RPM.  We eventually settled on a single rear fan with noiseless adapter.


Password prompt for PHP CLI

January 28th, 2012 No comments

Do you use PHP from the command line and need a password prompt?  This is how you do.

$scriptpw = new Com('ScriptPW.Password');
$password = $scriptpw->getPassword();
The Windows version requires the file scriptpw.dll.  This comes with some versions of Windows, such as XP, but not others, such as 2000, Vista, or 7.  If you don't have the file, simply copy scriptpw.dll from the system32 folder of another machine to the system32 folder of your machine.  Then, from a Command Prompt window (running as Administrator for Vista and 7) enter the command regsvr32 scriptpw.dll

system('stty -echo');
$password = trim(fgets(STDIN));
system('stty echo');
echo "\n";

Video Editing Software for Windows: Sony vs. Adobe

January 14th, 2012 No comments

These opinions were formed based on recent use of Sony Vegas Pro 10 and Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 on a computer running Windows 7 with a quad core Intel Core i7-2600K CPU @ 3.4 Ghz and 8GB of RAM.

Spoiler alert: Sony Vegas Pro wins!


Dymo Label Printer on a Tomato Print Server

July 8th, 2011 1 comment

In case anyone's wondering, and since we couldn't find any references to this anywhere, a Dymo LabelWriter 400 will work perfectly well with a Tomato Print Server.  We used an ASUS WL-520gU router with the Teddy-Bear build of Tomato firmware.  Setting up the printer on the router was just a matter of plugging it in, and installing the printer within Windows simply required a TCP/IP printer port to be created, using the IP address of the router, and the settings for Generic Network Card.

We noticed stability issues when printing large volumes of labels (50+) via a router with a small amount of RAM.  But for small batches this technique should work perfectly well.

Fax-to-Email for Canada

June 27th, 2011 No comments

Let us start out by saying that finding a fax-to-email solution that met our requirements was a chore.  Most people we asked for advice told us, "Faxing is archaic.  Forget that and use email instead!".  We agree, but as long as people insist on sending us important things by fax, we will need a way to receive them.

Allow us to introduce you to a telecom company called AcroVoice.  AcroVoice is based in Victoria BC and provides business and residential VoIP service, and also wholesales Canadian VoIP 9-1-1 and American E911, 411 Directory Assistance, Caller ID Name / CNAM Lookup, and of course, it also provides fax-to-email.  Keep reading to find the criteria with which we evaluated their fax-to-email service, and how AcroVoice performed.


Easily disable ClearType in Windows 7

June 19th, 2011 Comments off

Because we're sure some of you who adore ClearType will ask, yes, we tried it for well over a month and just couldn't get used to staring at what looked like (to us) blurry text all day.  Fortunately, we found this:

Disable ClearType in Windows 7

It is interesting to note that we had to use the "Auto Adjust" feature on our monitors after doing this.

Which codec should I use for HD YouTube Videos?

December 18th, 2010 2 comments

We wanted to upload some of our video projects to YouTube.  But which format would produce the highest quality, after YouTube's processing?  We decided to test four of the most popular formats: MPEG-2, AVC, Windows Media, (16Mbit/sec each) and uncompressed (over 800 gigabytes per hour!).  Which do you like best?


Mango, do you believe in the supernatural?

December 8th, 2010 2 comments

I was working my company's booth at a trade show last weekend.  I know - mistake.  But it did provide some excellent entertainment.  I had the most interesting customer strut up to me and ask if I believed in the supernatural.


Business Equipment Leasing Tips

May 16th, 2010 1 comment

Mango runs the IT department at his day job, which involves evaluating business equipment for purchase or lease.  Here are a few tips that we would really like everyone to know.  Or if you don't care about leasing but like making fun of sales people, you can just skip to the bottom.


Free Skype-to-SIP Software!

April 25th, 2010 No comments

We don't like Skype.  Actually, that's not true.  We like the concept of Skype, that is, making free calls to people via the Internet.  We just don't like having to use a computer to do it.  We got all excited when we read about Skype for Asterisk, thinking it would be an easy way to receive calls from our Skype-using friends, on a regular phone.

But then we kept reading and said, "Sixty-six dollars per channel!?  Forget that!"

Fortunately, there is a cheaper - and in fact, free - way of accomplishing the same thing.


No, Really, I Don't Need a Bag!

March 5th, 2010 2 comments

I hear that some places around the world have banned plastic bags. Vancouver is not included in this, however some stores such as Whole Foods have voluntarily quit giving them out. Others charge for bags to encourage customers to bring their own. And when you think about how many plastic bags probably end up in the trash, I think it's a great idea! So I, being relatively environmentally conscious, bring a reusable bag for my shopping as much as possible.

Of course, me being Mango, and thus more than relatively eccentric, I take things a bit farther than that.


Making the Simply Accounting Session Date default to today

March 4th, 2010 No comments

In Simply Accounting, the Session Date is used for default dates of transactions.  When one creates, for example, an invoice, the date is automatically assumed to be whatever the Session Date is.  We've found no way to change the default of the Session Date from within Simply, but this can be accomplished by this handy script.


Change Back/Forward buttons to Previous/Next

February 22nd, 2010 1 comment

Over the past few weeks we've been testing the Microsoft ComfortCurve Keyboard 2000 and we love it!  Its keys are nice and responsive, it's comfortable to use, and its buttons are in very intuitive places.  The best part is it's practically a steal - we've seen it for as low as $15.  It has only one minor flaw which is that there are very few multimedia buttons.  There are play/pause, volume up/down, and mute.  But there are no buttons for stop, previous, or next.

There were however browser Back/Forward buttons.  And we never use the mute button.  For some reason, SharpKeys, which we've used in the past wouldn't do the job.  The keyboard came with software called IntelliType but it used a great deal of RAM and, oddly, slowed down our cursor a great deal.  No matter.  This is an excellent excuse to point out again just how much we like AutoHotkey.
#SingleInstance force

Disable Targus PowerPoint Remote Buttons

February 16th, 2010 No comments

A company called Targus makes remote controls designed for use with PowerPoint presentations.  They allow you to control your presentation from some distance away from the actual computer running the show.

While this sounds like a great idea in theory, in practice these remotes are BEYOND frustrating.  The reason is that there are too many buttons, and pressing the wrong button at the wrong time will make the presentation quit working.  And no matter how carefully we instruct the presenter to recover from such incidents, ("If everything stops working press this button labeled Magic Fix-It Button!") ostensibly they will forget.  Every.  Single.  Time.

These buttons, they must be disabled.


Which Email Providers are the Most Popular?

February 9th, 2010 No comments

At Mango's day job, he operates a mailing list for his customers.  Approximately 2,000 customers have subscribed to it.  He wanted to set up test email accounts with various webmail providers to be sure his emails arrived as intended.  But which webmail providers should he choose?  The most popular email providers were easily found with this MySQL query:
SUBSTRING(`email`, LOCATE('@', `email`)) AS `domain`,
COUNT(*) AS `count`
FROM `table`
GROUP BY `domain`
For our list, the results were:

Major regional ISPs - 39%
Hotmail - 14%
Yahoo - 9%
Gmail - 8%
AOL - 1%

The remaining 29% consisted of small ISPs and insignificant webmail providers, each less than 1% of the total.

Shaw Digital Phone Review

February 6th, 2010 3 comments

We like Shaw Digital Phone a lot. Shaw Digital Phone is an implementation of VoIP that is run over Shaw's private network, separate from the Internet.  Shaw's reps actively deny that their service is VoIP - we suspect they want to differentiate themselves from providers of broadband VoIP.  This is perhaps with good reason. Because Shaw Digital Phone doesn't run over the Internet, typical VoIP issues caused by latency, bandwidth sharing, and internet outages are entirely eliminated.


How to Install Asterisk on an Asus WL-520GU Router

January 19th, 2010 2 comments

Update: This article is almost a year old and some of the information is now outdated.  While it is certainly possible to run Asterisk on a WL-520GU router, there is now a better router that has been released since we bought ours.  It has a whopping eight times the memory and flash, and a CPU twice the speed of that in the WL-520GU - this is the best consumer-grade router with open-source firmware we've ever seen.  If you intend to run Asterisk on a router, we recommend the new Asus RT-N16.

We have also discovered that USB flash drives (at least the ones we have tried) are not up to the task of long-term use.  So, you may wish to instead use a CIFS share, or connect a USB hard drive instead of a USB flash drive.  Additionally, Asterisk may be installed on many other devices such as the Seagate Dockstar or many NAS devices such as the Western Digital MyBook Live.  If you have a favourite, please comment and let us know what it is and why.

The original article is below, in case it is still helpful for anyone.

Yes, you read right.  For this project, we're going to tell you how we built a fully functioning Asterisk PBX out of a $25 router.  We designed this project because we wanted an Asterisk server for use as a home PBX that could be built relatively easily, used as little power as possible, and cost as little as possible.  The best part is, a lot of the heavy lifting such as compiling Asterisk has already been done for us.  All we need to do is install it.

The first version of this article was published on the VoIP Tech Chat forum in August 2009.  The article that you are reading right now is the latest version.  The forum no longer allows us to edit the original post so we have moved it here.

A common question people ask is, "Why do you need a PBX for your home?"  The answer is we wanted telephone features that we haven't been able to find for a price we're willing to pay.  Now, we can have nearly any feature we want.  Some of these include termination failover, custom incoming Caller ID, and call recording.  The best part is that when we're done, the device will still function as a router.  You won't even need to wedge another AC adapter into your power strip.


Easily Check HTTP Headers with this tool

December 28th, 2009 No comments

We were trying to solve an annoying bug in our mod_rewrite code today and couldn't quite figure out why our server was acting the way it was.  Fortunately we discovered a nifty tool (Thanks pkhach!) that allows you to view the HTTP request and response headers for any URL you like.  You can even choose between HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/1.0, with and without the Host header.

View HTTP Headers

A reader also suggests this Firefox extension.  Thanks, Eric!

The best part is that both of these are much easier than messing about with Telnet.exe!

VoIP Security - Could Someone be Listening In?

December 27th, 2009 No comments

The question of VoIP security often comes up on various VoIP forums, and it's a good one.  Could someone be listening to your conversation?  While it's theoretically possible, here are a few security tips that will help keep your network secure.  The first thing we'd like to point out is that VoIP can actually be much easier to secure than traditional telephone service!


Our Favourite Christmas Music (This Year)

December 25th, 2009 No comments

Christmas music is one of our weaknesses and every year we seem to find one or two songs that we just can't stop listening to.  Most of these have actually been around for a while but we hadn't heard them until recently.  Here they are, in no particular order:

S Club 8 - Sleigh Ride (YouTube)

Amy Grant - I Need a Silent Night (YouTube)

Josh Groban - Thankful (YouTube)

Wilson Philips - Hey Santa (YouTube)

Dana - It's Gonna Be A Cold Cold Christmas (YouTube)

Chris Rea - Driving Home for Christmas (YouTube)

Big Daddy Weave - Go Tell It On The Mountain (YouTube)

David Foster - The Christmas Season (YouTube)