Sunday, 14 August 2011

questrade vs interactive brokers review

I consider myself a moderately experienced when it comes to online trading. I've tried many of the Canadian brokerage firms. This is a review of the 2 I use most: Questrade and Interactive Brokers.


If you are unaware, questrade is an online broker in Canada. They provide access to stocks, mutual funds options, forex even bullion.

Ease of use
The platform takes a little getting used to, but I think that's true for all online brokerage. Access to symbol lookup is not as obvious as you might expect, leaving you to fend for yourself some of the time. Canadian stocks need a suffix: .to for tsx, vn for venture.
The "View market data" button is where you have to go to see the available research and to lookup symbols. This feature is not as robust as I've seen with other brokers but it's not the worst either.

Depending on your style of trading, questrade may be the cheapest broker available. Questrade trounces the competition when it comes to large volume purchases. This becomes important if you buy stocks under one dollar. The going rate is $4.95 per trade, or $0.01 per share or max $9.95. Frequently additional fees apply, but the overall cost is generally less with questrade than anywhere else. No minimum activity and good access to free data. Registered accounts can trade in USD but you get dinged with fees pretty severely.

Account types
Registered accounts available.

Rates are competitive (currently prime + 1.5%).

Here the fees are a little higher. Start at $9.95 + $1.00 per contract. They provide some nice information on available options in the "View market data" section. There are a few things missing here though, for instance to place more complicated orders (spreads) you must call the trading center. No additional fee is charged for this service, but I hate calling.

Mutual funds, Forex, Bullion
I havn't used any of these services. All I know is that you cannot use their forex for currency exchange (everything goes through USD). They do offer a currency exchange service which will get you a better deal than the bank.

Customer service
I've read a lot of bad stories online, but I have to say that I use their customer service frequently and have found them to be available and generally well-informed. The best feature is the chat option. Within a few minutes you'll be chatting with someone who can answer your question. I also appreciate that the application can be completed electronically for the most part (you can scan and email/upload your documents instead of mailing everything).

Interactive Brokers

IB is a worldwide broker with a Canadian contingent. They provide access to stocks, options and futures and much more. This broker is able to cater to the most advanced users.

Ease of use
This platform is somewhat more difficult to navigate. There are multiple web based trading options as well as mutliple desktop applications. Searching for symbols is a little more natural than on questrade.

Depending on your style of trading, IB may be the cheapest broker available. That said, free data is at a minimum. I end up using questrade for my quotes, even when I trade on IB (I'm too cheap to pay the $10/month) There is a minimum commission of $10/month. The commission structure seems better than questrade. $0.005/share for US stocks, $0.01/share for Canadian stock, min $1.00, max $0.5% of total value which means that the fees are generally less than questrade, but more for penny stocks with large volume.

Account types
I don't think registered accounts are available in Canada.

Rates are competitive (currently prime + 1.5%).

For most traders the fee is $1.00/ per US contract, 1.50 per CDN contract. This is the best rate I've seen. The desktop platforms allow you to place complex option trades (like spreads).

Mutual funds, Forex, Bullion
I havn't used any of these services. They allow you to link CDN and USD accounts so you can use forex for currency exchange.

Customer service
These guys have a chat available too. Some comments are online about how these guys try to steal your money, including some criminal accusations. I suspect these comments are misrepresentations. I've not had any problems.


I have a hard time choosing between the two. At the end of the day, what I care about is price. Questrade is cheapest for penny stocks and registered accounts, IB is cheapest for options. So, for now I'm sticking with both services.

jango user review

To call this a "review" is a little generous...

I just started using jango internet radio. I can safely say this is the best internet radio I've used. Pretty amazing given that it's totally free. I haven't even heard any ads yet.

The audio quality is excellent and music selection seems quite good. The stations are built based on your taste.  I rarely turn on my itunes these days. Jango is generally the first thing I do when I sit down at the computer. Highly, highly recommended.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

bootcamp from usb

This is something that I tried to achieve for a long time. Unfortunately I never managed to do it, but I feel like I was close. I wonder if the properties of the specific usb drive have anything to do with it.

At any rate the point of this post is here. This tool is able to create a bootable usb.

imac won't boot

You may at some point come across a hanging apple with spokes that never turns into OSX. This happened to me. This occurred after a recent Boot Camp install. It was specifically after I installed IE 8 update to the windows partition (not sure if this was a cause or coincidence).

After researching this problem a little bit, it seems that there is a widely held opinion that this problem cannot be fixed. For me the solution was:
1. At the startup chime press and hold command-v. This enables verbose mode and will allow you to see where your mac is hanging. Feel free to google whatever comes up.
2. Restart in single user mode (hold command-s). This enables single user mode.
3. At the prompt type
         /sbin/fsck -fy
4. Repeat the above command until it tells you the volume is ok.
5. Cross fingers and restart.

More here

imac won't obey commands at startup

I recently installed Windows to a partition on an imac. I have to say, it's fairly painless if you just follow the directions provided by the Boot Camp Assistant on OSX. That said, I tend to complicate things by not following the directions explicitly.

One of the problems I eventually experienced was that the computer wouldn't obey keystrokes during the boot process. Things like:

option key -- show bootable volumes
c -- boot from cd
command + option + p + r -- reset pram
more here!

The circumstances that lead to this condition are: I ended up missing the time for the keystroke (must be held when apple sound is made) and instead of waiting for OSX to load and restart I pressed the power button. If you do this, there is a chance these keystrokes will stop working. The solution is simple: just turn off the computer and unplug for a while (seconds to minutes). That seemed to fix the problem for me.


In addition to being my first post, I'm also posting my first program.

My wife sometimes works from home on a computer. She thought it would be helpful to log the time that she spends working. If only there were some sort of timer....

Introducing tim (0.1). Yes, it's free.
Tim is a timer that allows you to log time spent doing whatever. Tim maintains a log which is cumulative between sessions. Windows users, try for yourselves.