Pat Drummond :: life & technology

November 27, 2017

Banking Frustrations

Trying to authorize regular payments to a bank account has me scratching my head. You'd think bank staff would know the products they sell - and you'd be wrong.

I was told by my financial institution that I needed to supply a "void" cheque so they could deposit funds to my savings account (at an unnamed bank).  The bank printed a check for the account - I explained I needed it to authorize regular payments from another financial institution.  You'd think the bank teller would know what is needed to authorizing payments from another financial institution - and you'd be wrong.

The next day I wrote "VOID" on the cheque and emailed a scanned image to the financial institution.

But now they say they can't accept a "counter" cheque.  Due to financial regulations, they require either void cheques  imprinted with my personal information OR a Pre-Authorized Payment Form that includes a bank teller's stamp. You'd think the bank teller would know I needed this form to be used by a financial institution - and you'd be wrong.

So back to the bank to get the proper form.  I scanned and emailed it to the financial institution. Again it was not good enough to use - no bank stamp!  I had not explicitly asked for it, but you'd think bank staff would know the form needs to be stamped - and you'd be wrong!

I still don't have the form required for automatic deposits to my account, but I'm getting there.

During all this, I was also trying to get information about the "high-interest savings account". On the first visit to the bank, I asked the teller's supervisor how often interest was calculated and deposited, and was told calculated monthly and deposited annually. You'd think the bank supervisor would know the right answer. But it sounded odd, so I checked the bank website. It said interest was calculated daily and deposited monthly. On my next visit to the bank, I told this to another teller and asked: "Which is correct - the supervisor or the website?"  After spending 10 minutes in the supervisor's office, she gave me a printout from the website.  I told her I'd already seen that and could she "please answer my question". She asked me to repeat the question!  Her answer: "The website is always right".  Right.  But still, you'd think at least one of four bank staff would know the products they sell - and you'd be wrong.

And more....
I had a similar experience trying to change my (Canadian) government payment to make automatic deposits to a different account. I thought it was a simple change in my online account - except they close accounts not used in 2 years! So I went through the lengthy process of applying again and got an error message with no explanation. I phoned the number given but only found out the error means my access code is obsolete, and was given a second number to call for further help. That got me nowhere, but was given a third number to call someone who could give me an "access number" to get my online account back.  By this time, the office was closed. The next day, I got someone on the phone who not only gave me a new access number but also changed the  bank account right on the phone. I'm saving that phone number.

September 27, 2017

Google Keep is all I need for quick notes and photos

I use a Windows PC and an Android phone. Obviously, the first thing I did was set up my calendar and email.  After that, Keep was an obvious choice for a note-taking tool because it's timple to use and synchronized to my Google account and available on any device using the Keep app or   (To all you Evernote fans, I really just need a simple tool like Keep.) 

First, you choose how you want to create the note: type, type a list, draw, dictate, or take a photo.

1. Note
Tap or swipe your text, then tap the back arrow (or back key) to save the note. To differentiate notes, I like to colour them using the palette icon: important notes are yellow, lists green, phone numbers blue, unimportant notes gray. This helps if you have lots of notes! It's also easy to add a label - create your own labels of course.  I use: health, map, shop, todo, travel. Tap the hamburger icon ☰ and select todo to see all the notes (including archives) about things you forgot to do!  I actually type most "notes" on my PC but try the Swiftkey or Kii keyboard app on your phone to swipe rather than tap - gesture typing is faster once you get used to it.

2. List
Need a grocery list?  Easy. Type it at home on your PC and check off items on your phone as you buy them.

3. Draw
Want to 'write' your note instead of typing? Easy. Or draw a diagram - or erase parts of it.

4. Camera
Need to take a quick photo of something in a store? Easy. I take most photo notes on my phone with a price or comment. I might give it a tag "shop" or archive it if it's just for reference, rather than cluttering up my list of notes.

5. Voice
Last, but not least, you can dictate your note.  Very easy!  Well, it's easy on Android anyway, since you've probably already customized your voice dictation.

That's it. Make your life simpler with great tools.

May 31, 2017

Amazon has it figured out

I've been buying online for many years and I wish I had written a how-to book on e-commerce mistakes to avoid. That ship has sailed.  Amazon is a case study in how to do it right. Proof?  I find myself comparing sources and often find myself buying from (I live in Canada, which requires extra care online).  Here's a few reasons why Amazon gets my business so often. 

First, they have grown so much, they have a separate website for Canada, which means you don't have to convert prices. (Neer buy from stores that do not even mention which $ they use.)

2.  Amazon almost always has the item I am looking for - even items that have been disappeared from brick & mortar stores.  Best of all, they have lots of choice - even used items (I once bought a used book for $.01.) They list the item with the lowest price and shipping, with links to other items, which saves a lot of time. 

3.  They have the shipping problem figured out. One of my first online purchases was 4 stainless steel wine glasses. I contacted the only Canadian business that sold them using their web form, but they didn't even answer!  I  ordered from a U.S. website. By the time the box arrived at the door with unexpected customs fees, the delivery cost more than the glasses!  Fortunately things have improved since then. Amazon will indicate right at the top if they cannot ship to your address (if you are logged in). The shipping cost is often shown under the price, and sometimes the city it is shipped from.  Too many e-stores still make you create an account and proceed to payment before you can find out the shipping cost - what a waste of time. Last time I bothered to do that, the shipping for a very small item was $42 - Amazon charged $5 for the same thing.

4.  Customer reviews are invaluable - if you can filter out the obvious paid comments.  Just read the 1-star comments first. To go along with reviews, check the list of items customers "also viewed" or bought for useful accessories. Adding them now, rather than later, can pop your total over "free shipping" minimums - which are lower than most other e-stores. And many items offer free shipping. Small items usually arrive by postal mail.

👉I have one beef with - it's often impossible to know if the item will be shipped from Canada or another country. If the business does not want you to know where it is located, too bad. Although, if shipping is going to take 4 weeks, you can pretty well guess it's coming from China. Since there is no duty added to the cost, I assume it's a regulation loophole.

[I do not work for Amazon and am not being paid to write this. -Pat]

January 06, 2017

Removing links from Comments in Blogger

I finally got fed up with getting comments to my blog posts that contained links to websites.  I don't notice them when the "moderation" notice arrives in my mail but there they are once the comment is published.  These people manage to create a link in their comment on a normal word like "Thanks", Links in comments are never useful in my opinion.

The comment is made just to increase their website's ranking in Google Search. Blogger (and most other blog services) add rel="nofollow" to all links in comments, so search services won't index the link anyway. 

Blogger gives only the option of deleting a comment, not editing it. I found this page explaining how to remove links from blogger comments: I do not promise these techniques will work in the future.

1. If you are comfortable editing the template, just add this code to the style tag: .comment-content a {display:none;} 
2. If you use an old template that formats comments using an id named comments, use this code instead: #comments dl dd p a {display: none;}

3. To remove the link but display the text, add this code to the template right below the body tag:
<!--Remove Comment Links -->
</script> - please add a setting to prevent links in comments!

April 3, 2017: 
Today I had a request to remove a "link" to their business in a comment.  Apparently the solutions above no longer worked.  It took some searching but when I went to "edit" the post, on the right side I noticed was "Options". Under "Reader comments" I selected "Don't allow, hide existing". This removed the entire comment. I didn't touch "Backlinks" as I didn't want to break my own links in the post.

January 04, 2017

GPS Navigation Offline & Free

Most Android devices have Google Maps built in. I was amazed to discover you can download and store maps for a city or even larger region, and use them for turn-by-turn voice navigation when you are offline. (You should store your maps on an external SD card, as the files can quickly eat up your storage.)

Offline navigation is useful if you have poor reception on your mobile - or don't have a data plan at all!  Before you head out on the road, toggle to “Wi-fi only” to prevent connecting to online maps and use the maps stored on your phone instead. Your phone will function as it normally does.

* The first time I tested Google Maps offline, it wouldn't let me enter an address that was a house number on a highway number. Maybe there's some secret trick to make it work. So I just found the highway on the map, tapped about where I thought the address was, and proceeded with turn-by-turn voice navigation. Close enough - and what do you want for free?! About 8 years ago, an offline GPS navigation app cost me $80.

Google Maps Blog: