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CanadianForex review: great foreign exchange rates and support

I’ve been using XE Trade for a few years for personal currency exchange and international funds transfers for my small business. I started to try CanadianForex a few months ago and have been very pleased with its rates and support.

The basic premise is relatively straightforward and the same as XE Trade: you submit currency exchange deals through their online interface, send them the money in the source currency, and they deliver the money in the destination currency to your account or a foreign account within a few days. Therefore, you can use it for currency exchanges between your own accounts, or to send money internationally (as long as it’s between different currencies). Especially for sending money internationally on a regular basis, using an online service is often much more convenient than a traditional bank.

Here’s my review of CanadianForex, specifically compared against XE Trade.

Setup

Creating an account at CanadianForex is very straightforward, although just like XE Trade, you have to provide (for a business account, at least) some sensitive information to them, including:

  • A signed bank statement
  • A client agreement form signed by 2 directors
  • A copy of your driver’s licence

Exchange rates

I’ve found CanadianForex’s exchange rates to be better than XE Trade, at least for transferring between Canadian dollars and: US dollars, Euros, and Australian dollars. CanadianForex’s standard fee is $15 for transactions under $10,000 (and no fees for transactions above $10,000); while XE Trade usually charges no fees at all, CanadianForex is still better (as of January 2015) by a significant amount for trades that are more than a few hundred dollars.

Some example comparisons between CanadianForex and XE Trade after deducting the CanadianForex fee:

  • Sending approximately $5,500 CAD to Australia (AUD): the recipient got 40 AUD more with CanadianForex
  • Sending approximately $8,000 CAD to Germany (EUR): the recipient got 48 EUR more with CanadianForex
  • Sending approximately $7,000 CAD to the United States (USD): the recipient got 50 USD more with CanadianForex

In the case of sending money to Brazil, CanadianForex still charges the same $15 fee, whereas XE Trade charges an additional $22 wire fee. This resulted in similar savings as above with CanadianForex.

I’ve also found CanadianForex’s exchange rates to be slightly better than RBC’s foreign exchange rates, at least for transferring US dollars to Canadian dollars within my business account. However, the difference was only a few dollars for some of sample amounts I tested.

Process

The trades happen completely online, although you have to speak to a CanadianForex representative over the phone to complete your initial account setup, and you also receive a verification phone call from them after your first trade.

To book a trade, you must first set up recipients, including their bank account information. Then, you get a quote for the exchange you’d like to make, and click a “Finalise” button. If you’ve set up direct debit, the money will be removed from your account by the next business day. Otherwise, you send CanadianForex the money using your bank’s bill payment system. Once CanadianForex receives the money, they will send an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) or wire payment, depending on the destination country, to the recipient.

Customer service

You can contact CanadianForex by phone or e-mail. This is the same as with XE Trade. However, CanadianForex really emphasizes personal contact by assigning you a specific account manager (for a business account at least) and making you speak to them so that they can walk you through their services over the phone. With XE Trade you can set up your account and trade for years without ever needing talking to a person, let alone be assigned a specific contact.

I once had an issue when XE Trade mysteriously removed one of my recipient records without notifying me, and refused to tell me why when I phoned them. After I pushed for some explanation over the phone, they promised to follow up and never did. The recipient was eventually re-instated, although I was never notified about this. Of course, there is a chance that this could happen with CanadianForex, but I expect that they would be more communicative and cooperative with me in such a case. And to be fair, the situation with XE Trade might have been an edge case.

Other notes

Sony VAIO Y Series RAM: use 2Rx8 instead of 1Rx8

I recently upgraded a Sony VAIO Y Series laptop’s RAM from 4GB (2 sticks of 2GB) to 8GB (2 sticks of 4GB). (For those who have the VPCY216FD model, 8GB is the maximum supported amount of RAM.)

There are a few main things to look out for when upgrading RAM:

  • Size: laptop RAM is typically 200-pin and labelled “SODIMM” whereas desktop RAM is typically 240-pin
  • Speed part 1: DDR2 vs DDR3 for example
  • Speed part 2: PC3-8500 for example

All 3 of the above are usually clearly stated in retail listings and classifieds such as Craigslist or eBay. The first 2 elements are usually obvious and the third is usually OK if you get a speed equal or higher than what your computer supports.

There is another factor called memory rank that has to do with the physical density of the RAM. In my case, the possible ranks were 2Rx8 (roughly allowing 8 memory “nodes” on each side of the RAM stick) and 1Rx8 (again with 8 memory “nodes” but only on one side of the RAM stick).

2Rx8 DDR3 SODIMM RAM

For most newer laptops, the difference in memory rank does not matter. For the particular Sony VAIO Y Series model I had, the memory that I bought for the upgrade did not work — the laptop would not start booting Windows and would automatically reboot after a few seconds.

The online listing for the RAM I purchased never mentioned the memory rank; as it turns out, the RAM I had received was 1Rx8 and I found no available documentation stating that the laptop would not support 1Rx8. (In fact, the pictured clearly showed 2Rx8 on the sticker, but I received something different.) After much Googling, I found a forum post where someone else mentioned that their Sony laptop only worked with the 2Rx8 memory rank. I returned the 1Rx8 RAM and made sure to buy 2Rx8 RAM. Sure enough, the 2Rx8 RAM worked!

CTRL+Shift keyboard language change in Windows 7

For quite a while I couldn’t figure out why my keyboard would suddenly switch to French mode. The question mark would turn into a capital, accented É; the “#” symbol would turn into a forward slash; and more. I had to close the program I was in and re-open it to restore the standard US keyboard layout. As it turns out, pressing CTRL+Shift on the keyboard is a common shortcut for changing the keyboard language on Windows 7. If you find yourself with your keyboard language layout suddenly changed, just press CTRL+Shift until the correct layout returns.

You can check your keyboard language settings by clicking “Region and Language” in the control panel…

Control panel region and language settings

… then click on the “Keyboards and Languages” tab and click the “Change keyboards…” button:

Keyboards and languages

You can then see the configured keyboard layouts and the “hot key” for changing languages:

Advanced Key Settings

I was accidentally triggering the layout change by using the CTRL+Shift+V shortcut to paste text and remove the formatting (bold, italics, headers, and so on) in the source text.

Copy and paste but remove formatting

CTRL+V is the standard shortcut to paste text, but most programs will try to preserve the formatting, which you don’t always want; and when you want to preserve the formatting, sometimes the destination program messes it up! In programs that support it, CTRL+Shift+V strips the formatting so that you don’t first have to paste into another program such as Notepad and then copy and paste into the destination program. Just be careful about accidentally changing your keyboard language if you press CTRL+Shift instead of CTRL+Shift+V!

Landmark Cinemas New Westminster review

The city of New Westminster hadn’t seen a first-run movie theatre since 1985 when Columbia Cinemas closed its doors. As part of the Plaza 88 complex (now called Shops at New West) built around the New Westminster SkyTrain station, Landmark Cinemas opened in May 2012.

Landmark Cinemas outside

The theatre is clean, well-kept, and has comfortable seating. (Although, as of the time this was written, the theatre is only 2.5 years old.) You can buy tickets online, at the concession, or at a row of machines at the entrance. You get to choose specific seats at no extra cost. This is nice as you don’t have to go extra early and hang around to claim your seat.

Landmark Cinemas concession

Landmark Cinemas in New Westminster has 10 screens. It is a quieter, convenient alternative to SilverCity Metropolis at Metrotown (in Burnaby).

Regular general admission is $11.25, and matinees are $9. 3D movies are more expensive. On Saturdays and Sundays, there are morning movie showtimes for only $6.25, which is a cheap way to enjoy a little weekend luxury!

Landmark Cinemas morning movies

Varnish 4 libvmod_header compiled module for CentOS 6.5

Varnish Cache is a high performance reverse proxy with an easy-to-use configuration language. However, there are lots of things that you cannot do by default in a Varnish configuration file. For example, you cannot reliably read response cookies because Varnish only reads the first “Set-Cookie” header.

Therefore, you sometimes need to use Varnish extensions, called “modules” or “VMODs” to provide additional functionality. One of the most popular modules is the “header” module, which enables you to reliably read response cookies, among other things. You have to compile Varnish modules and place them in the “vmods” folder, which is typically /usr/libs64/varnish/vmods. Before Varnish 4, you had to compile them against the source code of Varnish itself. Starting from Varnish 4, you can compile them against the running Varnish installation. In other words, you should be able to just download the module code, then run the commands ./configure, make, and make install from the downloaded module code directory. You just have to install the “varnish-lib-devel” package using “yum” on CentOS / Red Hat (or “libvarnishapi-dev” using “apt-get” on Debian / Ubuntu).

Compiling code is a rather foreign concept for many developers and it would be nice to have the compiled Varnish module files for the major operating system versions available for download. That would make the installation process much easier! Here is the Varnish “header” module compiled against Varnish 4.0.2 on 64-bit CentOS 6.5.