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A Lannister Always Pays His Debts. Will You?

A Lannister Always Pays His Debts. Will You?

By Kevin Ngai

Game of Thrones has officially surpassed The Sopranos to become the most watched show in HBO’s history. It’s also the world’s most pirated show ever -- it’s the catnip for illicit downloaders!

If you're one of the millions to have downloaded an episode of Game of Thrones this season, you may have been served with a cease and desist email in regarding to your internet activities from your internet service provider (ISP) recently.

For those of you who haven’t received a notice, this is my public service announcement to inform you that Canada passed a new anti-piracy legislation which took effect on January 2. For more information you can read about the Copyright Modernization Act here.

In summary, this new legislation, now requires ISPs to send notifications to you whenever content owners such as HBO contacts them about the possible unauthorized use of their material such as the illegal download of Game of Thrones traced to your IP address!

I’m sure we’ve all heard the occasional story of Canadians receiving such notices for the past decade, so what exactly has changed on January 2? From my understanding, ISPs are now obligated to send you a notice so they’re not liable for your actions. This is now formally part of the law which wasn’t the case prior to this year. The notification will provide details of the title of the copyrighted material, the IP address that was used, and the time the alleged infringement occurred.

I do not know whether or not they’re meaningless. I feel these notices currently serve the purpose of an education system to raise awareness and discourage online infringement, as opposed to suing people. Keep in mind, the ISPs are required to retain the information for six months, up to one year after they send the notice. Giving the rights to content owners to decide whether they want to pursue legal process.

You may as well start thinking about where you stand on piracy, because the day may come for a wider spread crackdown on downloading activities in Canada.

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Purchasing an Inflatable Pool for the Summer? Check Your City's By-laws First!

By Elaine Jair

Summer's just around the corner and for those of you who are looking into purchasing an inflatable pool or hot tub for your backyard, here's a little heads up.

Many of you are probably already aware that installing a pool in your backyard requires a couple of permits from your city. However, what you may not be aware of (and what I definitely wasn't aware of) is that inflatable pools and hot tubs are also governed by the same by-law.

While you won't require any building permits, you do need to ensure your swimming pool is properly enclosed. For example, in Mississauga, a swimming pool is defined as any body of water that can hold water exceeding 24" in depth at any point. If your pool does exceed this depth, you'll need to apply for a Swimming Pool Enclosure Inspection Approval form, which goes hand in hand with a $280 + HST Pool Enclosure Inspection fee. This fee is not refundable, which means that affordable little inflatable pool you spotted has just gone up in price by $300. Not to mention, your approval form will only last you one year from the day you received it, and you'll need to pay the inspection fee again next year. There are some variations depending on where you live - for example, in Toronto, the limit is 23.5" and in North Vancouver, the limit is a surface area of 150 square feet and a depth of 18 inches - so you should definitely check your city's by-laws for the most accurate information pertaining to you.

Filling a pool without the approval form is considered illegal and could result in the seizure of your pool, draining of your pool, a penalty and/or you may have to shoulder the expenses that the city occurs during this process. You may be tempted to take a chance, but officers acting under this by-law are well within their rights to check your property at any time to ensure you are complying.

With inflatable swimming pools becoming more and more accessible, it's important to keep in mind that not all retailers will remind you to check your city's by-laws; it's ultimately up to the consumer to ensure they are abiding by their city's by-laws.

Future Shop is Open For Business?

By Kate Musgrove

Yesterday my boyfriend and I were playing Yahtzee on our phones with the Android app. Between games, he got a pretty interesting ad at the bottom of his screen.

Let me zoom in on that for you.

It's an ad that says Future Shop is open for business.

Obviously, I assumed it was an old ad from before Future Shop closed all stores in Canada. But it wasn't. I clicked through and landed on a store locator page that confirmed yes, Future Shop is open for business... while it converts to Best Buy. A few seconds on Google revealed that they're also sending out emails to that effect (via Nicholas Boshart on Twitter).

For me, the question is: what's up with these ads? I mean, Future Shop isn't open for business! But when Future Shop announced they were closing, I was surprised at the number of people who hadn't realized that they and Best Buy were owned by the same company. So maybe this is part of an effort to let people know that they can still shop at Future Shop (except that now it's a Best Buy).

Walmart Launching Unlimited Free Shipping in The US -- is Canada Next?

By Kate Musgrove

Here's some interesting news from south of the border -- Walmart is launching unlimited free shipping for $50 a year in the US! The service is said to be like Amazon Prime (although it's half the price, as a year of Amazon Prime runs $99 in the US) and purchases will arrive in three days or less.

Right now, the program is invitation-only, and about 1 million products will be eligible for free shipping. (Walmart.com currently carries about 7 million items total.) The real question on our minds, of course, is it coming to Canada next? We haven't been able to come across any indicators that it is.

I have to admit that I haven't done any shopping at Walmart.ca since they ended free shipping on all orders on April 2. And while I can certainly see the appeal of something like this shipping promotion, I also kind of feel like you're paying money to Walmart (or Amazon) so you can.... buy more stuff at Walmart (or Amazon). And for me, that doesn't feel like a particularly valuable proposition.

How Do You Browse RFD?

By Kate Musgrove

Recently I was looking at the stats for RedFlagDeals.com over the last year. While I was digging around, I discovered that out of our total traffic:

  • 0.12% are using the PS Vita Browser to read RFD
  • 0.11% are using the Nintendo Wii to read RFD
(this is exactly what it looks like, right?)

Now I just need someone to browse RedFlagDeals.com from their internet fridge and my life will be complete.

What's the weirdest device you've browsed the internet on?

IKEA to Open Two Tiny "Pick-Up Point" Stores in Canada

By Kate Musgrove

IKEA has great furniture at great prices -- but there are only 12 locations across Canada, and if you're not near one, shipping costs can be astronomical. IKEA is looking to ameliorate that problem by opening two tiny "pick-up point" stores in Canada later this year! The stores will be opening in London, Ontario and Quebec City, Quebec, both cities that are a fair distance from the closest true IKEA location. You'll be able to find them at:

  • 3198 Wonderland Rd S, London, ON
  • 3111 Avenue Watt, Quebec City, QC

Each location will be about one-tenth of the size of a regular IKEA location and will carry 99 of their best-selling items, plus serve as a pick-up depot for internet orders. (A standard IKEA is 323,000 square feet and carries a fair portion of IKEA's 12,000-item product range.) Currently, there are IKEA Pick-Up Point stores in Spain, Greece and Thailand.

We can't wait to check them out!

My Take on the Awesomeness of the Selfie Stick!

By Kevin Ngai

Love ’em or hate ’em, the selfie stick revolution is here and there is no getting around it. We have reached a digital age where we apparently need to document all that we do -- just look at all the selfies posted on Facebook or Instagram!

I’d always considered the selfie stick as a novel product. It is something no one truly needs but if you feel you must have one, they can be somewhat useful. I suppose our arms just aren’t long enough to get a great shot all the time.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the selfie stick is a handheld monopod with a clamp on the end to hold a smartphone. It’s used to extend the reach of your smartphone to better take self-portraits aka selfies. Still looking for more information? A quick online search will reveal the first patent was filed in the 80’s and a selfie stick was featured in a 1995 Japanese catalog of useless inventions. It would seem I’m not the only one had considered it an afterthought! That was until I took a short trip recently to Las Vegas.

It was my first visit to Las Vegas and I went to see the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. It was at this landmark that the selfie stick gradually took on a new meaning for me. Almost everyone there was queuing up with their smartphones and selfie sticks, while I had my rather large looking Sony full frame camera in hand. After snapping a few frames I headed to my next destination, the Fountains of Bellagio. It was the same story except this time I had to squeeze my way through much larger crowds of people taking seflies. From there and the rest of trip, I was stupefied at the number of people who owned selfie sticks and use their smartphones to take photographs exclusively. This was an eye-opener for me.

Is this the nail in the coffin on sales of point-and-shoot cameras? There’s no doubt in my mind that smartphones have become more frequently used than cameras to snap a pic. It was on my flight back to Toronto while thinking about what does this mean for the future of auto-photography that I began to understand the awesomeness of the selfie stick!

Just how popular are selfies sticks you may ask? Well, Time magazine named the selfie stick as one of the best inventions of the year for 2014. They also felt it was necessary to investigate the geography of selfie-taking and created a ranking of the Selfiest Cities in the World list. Perhaps, the best measure of the selfies stick invasion is this running list of places that have banned selfie sticks. The Palace of Versailles in Paris, the Colosseum in Rome, the Smithsonian museum group, and now the Wimbledon tennis championship have all banned selfie sticks.

Selfie naysayers will argue that selfie sticks are an indicator of how our digital age society has achieved a newfound level of narcissism.

I believe selfie sticks are more than for just vanity shots of oneself. They are a terrific means to help introduce photography to a large number of people who may not have been exposed to it. I won’t spiel you with facts and figures, but lets just say a whole lot of Canadians own smartphones and if even a quarter of them enjoys taking selfies than those are some huge potential market numbers. I know some camera shops such as Henry’s have started to embraced the rise of the smartphone because they’d be foolish not to. The selfie stick might just be a way for Canadian retailers to cash in.

Will there always be a market for the selfie stick? Or is it a fad? I guess only time will tell ...

The Smaller, The Better?

The Smaller, The Better?

By Elaine Jair

If you're a fan of Starbucks, you've probably already heard about the Mini Frappuccino (hereafter dubbed, mini frap), which is the younger, shorter brother to Starbucks' existing beverage sizes. Standing at 10 oz, this drink size is just 2 oz smaller than Starbucks' tall-sized beverage and will cost around 20 to 30 cents less. Starbucks has stated that the Mini Frappuccino was introduced in response to a number of customer demands for a smaller drink size. The Mini Frappuccino was tested in select regions in the United States and the company found that it performed well enough for it to be introduced nationwide and in Canada.

Starbucks isn't the first to introduce smaller portions - after all, McDonalds has a snack sized McFlurry and Booster Juice has snack-sized beverages, just to name a few examples. On the one hand, this is a pretty great marketing tactic. Most health-conscious consumers should be aware of how many calories are in the aforementioned goodies, and by introducing a smaller size and advertising its lower calorie content, companies are able to market towards these customers. Even individuals who rarely frequent these fast food places may feel more inclined to go buy something, as they can now indulge without completely using up their daily calorie quota. Plus, the smaller sizes are a little less expensive, which means customers are likely more willing to purchase these items. Of course, customers also benefit from the lower calorie drinks and they get save some money as well, which is a nice win-win situation for both.

Normally, I applaud companies for introducing a smaller alternative, but in Starbucks' case, I had to wonder, "Why?".

For starters, the mini frap is only 2 oz smaller than a tall, which is roughly 60 mL. In comparison, a snack-sized McFlurry has a serving size of 181 g and the regular sized McFlurry has a serving size of 286 g; a snack-sized Booster Juice is only 355 mL, which is half the size of the regular sized Booster Juice (710 mL). Furthermore, you're only saving 20 to 30 cents, so the mini frap will still carry a price tag close to $4. In my opinion, the difference between a tall and a mini frap are almost negligible to the point where the mini frap might start cannibalizing the sales of a tall. After all, why pay more for just a little more frap? On the flip side, why pay a little less for a little less frap? You could argue that Starbucks isn't attempting to create a snack-sized beverage, but then why would they name it "mini" as opposed to "short"? With a name like "mini", I was actually expecting sampler-sized frappuccinos - which, on second thought, would not be a bad idea at all! Honestly, at this point, I'm just wondering if Starbucks is testing the market to completely replace the tall size with this new "mini" size. Is this a huge conspiracy? or am I just going crazy?

Either way, the mini frap is now available at your local Starbucks through July 6. Try one and let me know what you think.

$1 Soft Drinks and Iced Coffee from McDonald's -- Tell Us What You Think!

$1 Soft Drinks and Iced Coffee from McDonald's -- Tell Us What You Think!

By Kate Musgrove

In my opinion, one of the best cheap deals of the year is the annual Summer Drink Days from McDonald's. All fountain drinks, no matter the size, are just $1 (plus small and medium iced coffees are $1). What makes the deal great is that it runs all summer -- from the beginning of May through Labour Day -- and it's pop ... for $1! I don't actually drink pop very often -- maybe once a week or less -- but I love that if I want it, I can a great big cup of it for one buck. Not everyone feels that way -- in previous years I've heard complaints that a fountain drink is basically 10 cents of carbonated water and syrup so at $1, it's a total rip-off. And others feel like given the average calorie count of a fountain beverage (or sugary iced coffee), you're better off skipping them.

On the issue of price: yes, it's ten cents worth of sugar and water, but there is no restaurant or store in North America that's actually going to sell you a ten-cent drink. The regular cost of a large drink at McDonald's (or any fast food outlet) is typically $2.50 or more. And while you can often pick up 12- or 18-packs of soft drinks in cans at prices that net out to about 30 cents a can, for many people, a canned drink isn't as satisfying as a fountain drink with lots of ice. Nor as convenient -- if you're out and about, you're not going to get a 30 cent ice-cold can of soda unless you are hauling a cooler full of pop and ice with you. As for the health-conscious nay-sayers -- they're totally right. Water is a far better beverage than pop, hands down. But pop is a nice occasional treat -- especially at $1!

What do you think?

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Are You Trolling Us, Anthropologie

By Kate Musgrove

I've always enjoyed shopping at Anthropologie for fun, unusual housewares and gifts. Some of the items they carry are gorgeous, some are unusual are some are, honestly, just not for me. Then there are the items that make me wonder if Anthropologie is just straight-up trolling us. For example:

It's a desk made out of wood and plexiglass which is fine, but it looks incredibly poorly constructed and um, costs $3480 USD? Which is insanity?

I have to admit if I saw this piece of furniture in your house I would say "oh my God, what happened to your desk? Does it have WARTS?" (I assume you would frostily inform me that it is a console, not a desk.) Also it costs $2498 USD which is more than you would pay for the same piece of furniture not covered in bumps?

This rug isn't terrible, except it's $1998 USD and the whale looks like it is dead. Okay, I think I just described something terrible.

It's $1898 USD and will never look like anything but an ambitious and unfinished arts and crafts project. Like, seriously, where is the rest of the rug?

It's all fun and games until a sweaty person sits down on your white $1000 Muppet-fur chair. Plus, call me a pendant, but why does the matching $400 ottoman have super modern spindle legs while the chair has ornate Edwardian legs that basically look like hooves? I really need more consistency in my incredibly overpriced, absurdly furry furniture.

Seriously, every item in this store is $300 and covered in lumps.