This post will interest only a very few people, but for those it helps it will be most welcome. By default T-Mobile heavily compress images downloaded over their mobile broadband service, but this can be disabled.
Last year I traded in three old mobile phones that had been sitting in a drawer “as spares”. Television advertisements kept telling me that I could help save the planet by recycling my old phones, and earn a fortune in the process, so I visited the website of one of the most frequent advertisers and, carrying out the simple instructions, I swapped my phones for a grand total of £15.00, not quite the fortune the adverts had implied, but at least the drawer is less cluttered. Continue reading Mobile Phone Recycling
[Facebook’s messaging service no longer offers the same capabilities that it did when the following was written…]
Earlier today, at a press conference in San Fransisco, Mark Zuckerberg and his team announced the latest big feature on offer from Facebook, a new messaging service that integrates with email. Facebook users will be able exchange messages with people who are not on Facebook with an @facebook.com email address which comes directly to their Facebook inbox, but this is not intended to simply be a new email platform.
I pride myself on choosing exciting topics to write about and this time I feel I have really hit the nail on the head… a few techy notes I thought might help others having just set up a newish Acer Aspire 3680.
Basically, this article is unlikely to be of interest to many regular visitors to my blog, but it might help people who are running into similar issues that try searching the web for the answers.
- “A program needs your permission to continue”
- “Windows Live Messenger has stopped working”
- Don’t install your friend’s copy of Microsoft Office
- Bluetooth and Memory upgrades
I have an administrator account in Windows and I start a program, apparently that does count as consent for that program to run, I have to confirm it has my permission. When setting up a computer and launching numerous processes this is very frustrating. There are two ways around it.
a) When launching a program, right click on it and select “Run as administrator”
b) Disable User Account Control. Go to Control Panel, Click on “User Accounts and Family Safety”, click on “User Accounts”, click on “Turn User Account Control on or off”, remove the tick from the check box where it says “Use User Account Control (UAC) to help protect your computer”, click on “OK”. For the change to take effect you need to restart the computer, you will be offered the choice to do it ‘now’ or later. To re-enable User Account Control go through the same procedure and return the tick to the check box at the end.
Thoughts… User Account Control is annoying in two scenarios, firstly when you are setting up or maintaining a machine and making lots of changes in the process, and secondly where you have a program that does not install itself well under Windows Vista which needs permission to run every time it is launched. It would be ideal if we could exclude certain applications from User Account Control but, as far as I am aware, we can’t. As annoying as this security feature is, it offers a high level of protection against harmful software installing itself without your knowledge as a result of a maliciously coded web site or an email virus being opened. For this reason I would recommend leaving User Account Control switched on for general computer use, and possibly disabling it for maintenance and upgrade work.
There is a known problem for users of Acer computers running Windows Live Messenger. The Acer eDataSecurity software causes Live Messenger to close. An immediate fix is to run Messenger by right clicking on the icon and selecting “Run as administrator”, but this is not very user friendly and does not work if you want Windows Live Messenger to be able to start when Windows starts.
The solution is a patch to Acers eDataSecurity software, it can be found on their web site here: http://global.acer.com/support/winvista/t-faq.htm. The European link is not clear on what you should do, the Pan American one is clearer. Basically you need to download the latest version of eDataSecurity for Vista and install it. (links correct at time of writing).
Don’t Install your fiends copy of Microsoft Office
Why not? Because license restrictions have become quite tight and when you come to activate the software it may fail, and if it doesn’t fail it may fail next time your friend needs to re-install the software. If you are the friend that everybody borrows from, be very cautious about sharing, it may cause both you and your friend problems with using and upgrading the software.
You may be thinking you can use a dodgy hack from the Internet to get around activation, and they are easy to find, but you will be using an old version of the Office software that probably has security risks which need updating, and you wil not be able to update your hacked version.
There are a few alternatives to Microsoft Office, standing high among them is the free OpenOffice.org suite of programs. Unfortunately this does not offer a replacement for Outlook, for that there is Thunderbird, with the optional Lightning calendar/task manager add-on. Or Windows Live Mail and the Windows Calendar (installed with Vista). That said, Outlook is probably the least-rivalled element of the Microsoft Office suite and the pricing of the different Office versions reflects this.
So let’s say you cannot carry on living without having access to Microsoft Office, at least in the short term, perhaps all your email is in Outlook format and you need to use Outlook before you can export your mail into another program. If this is the case hen you can download a free trial copy of Microsoft Office and use it for about 60 days, before which time you will either have to migrate to alternative software or find the funds to buy a longer term license. You can grab a trial copy of the suite from here.
I was pleased to see that my Aspire had a Bluetooth switch on the front, but disappointed to find that there was no hardware behind the switch. The connector for the Blutooth is just under the central memory cover. A custom made Bluetooth module can be found on ebay for about £20 (I won’t translate that into other currencies the way the financial markets are right now) or, if you are feeling adventurous, you could modify a simple USB or other Bluetooth module to work with the help of the information in this forum discussion.
Memory upgrades could not be easier than with the Aspire 3680 and similar models as both memory bays are accessible from the bottom of the computer. To get to the memory you simply undo the two small screws holding the large central memory bay in place, the cover has some plastic fingers which make it a little tricky to remove, gently move it around as you try to lift it up.
I do not recommend you do these by yourself if you are not familiar with hardware upgrades, bribe a friendly computer geek to help in return for some human interaction.
That’s it for my tech notes…. any questions feel free to ask…. next time I’ll return to something much more exciting, like global financial melt-down or comas. I know how to keep my readers smiling! 🙂
Google’s new web browser, Chrome, was launched yesterday. When I ran it I was expecting a brushed metal look similar to Apple’s Safari browser but there is no visual chrome effect. It is still a beta release, meaning it is not expected to be reliable yet, so I won’t go into the problems i found with it, for the most part it functioned very well. The best new feature is the recently visited sites page that welcomes you when you open the browser window or tab, you get a selection of preview images of the sites you use the most. Another new feature that I have not yet experienced in action is the concept that when a page crashes it will only crash the tab and not the browser, meaning that other tabs are left open. In Firefox the other tabs are opened as they were prior to the crash when you re-start the browser , so Chrome takes this a step further. Chrome’s address bar is merged with the Google search box to offer a selection of suggestion web addresses, previously visited sites and search terms as you type. This sounds appealing but after a few uses I haven’t warmed to it yet, when I search in Firefox I get a lot more suggestions for search terms which is handy when you are not sure exactly what something is called, by combining the address bar with the search bar the suggestions become less plentiful or relevant. Finally, Google claim that this browser is faster with today’s application rich Internet… I haven’t really been able to detect the difference in casual browsing but I can confirm it is certainly not slower than its competitors. Currently I still prefer Firefox, but with Chrome in development and Internet Explorer 8 being released soon, with an easier to use interface, the web certainly seems to be getting faster, easier and more powerful to use.
I have decided to make a few changes to my blogs.
Firstly, I have moved across from using the Blogger software to using WordPress, that is why everything suddenly looks different. I will probably be modifying the look quite a lot over the coming months, and some elements of the navigation too, I apologise if the blog should go off-line or become difficult to read while I am making such modifications.
I have also decided to merge my three main blogs into one, so my Baha’i related blog and my Branches blog are now part of the main warble blog. WordPress offers categories for each post and (at the time of writing) these can be found near the top right corner of the page, from here you can choose to only see posts relating to the Baha’i Faith or to Ladan. Because my Branches blog contained my more trivial postings and, naturally, some of these will be related to the Baha’i Faith or Ladan, it is probable that you will find posts in these categories which would not have otherwise made the Baha’i related blog, or the main warble blog.
Please let me know of any problems you encounter with the new site. Almost all of the old posts have been imported. The old posts are also available from these links: Warble (main), Bahai related and Branches.
Once you have learnt where the on switch is on a computer everybody asks you for advise on how to do things such as how to make a website that will bring in millions of pounds a day, how to use Microsoft Excel on Windows to print a Document that was written in an Arabic version of Quark Express on the Apple Mac, and how to take remote control of US Satellite Defense Systems. Another among such common questions is the matter of which UK broadband service provider to go with for personal use. I chose one fairly recently so I do have five suggestions here…
Firstly, I don’t believe in less than 4GB usage per month as being worth while, so prices I mention are for packages offering more than that.
1. PlusNET. £14.99/month + BT Line Rental
This service has a 4GB limit during peak hours (4pm-midnight) and no limits outside those hours. You are don’t even have to commit to a year but you have to pay a deferred activation fee when you leave which could be as much as £47. I’m with PlusNET, so if you join them by following this link you will save me a few pennies a month (only pennies).
2. Sky Broadband £20.00/month (£5.00 if you already subscribe to Sky) + BT Line rental
This is a great deal, you get almost unlimited use, you get Sky TV and you pay less than many other companies charge for broadband without the TV service. The actual package is £5.00/month for Sky subscribers and Sky subscription starts at £15.00 for which you can get all the best entertainment and documentary channels. (£20.00 activation fee)
3. NTL/Telewest. £17.99/month
If you don’t have a BT telephone line then cable is the way to go, it’s slower but its unlimited and cheaper than paying for a BT line and broadband on top of that. Cable only covers some of the country, availability is limited. Unfortunately “cable is not available in [my] area”, though it is on the other side of my street!
4. Talk Talk. £19.99/month
It’s almost unlimited and the price includes your BT line rental, you also get great deals on your phone calls. The catch… it’s an 18 month contract and you will be using Talk Talk instead of BT for all your phone related matters.
5. BT Broadband. £22.99/month + BT Line Rental
One of the things about broadband is that when something goes wrong you want it fixed, and the people who are best at getting things fixed when they go wrong, generally speaking, are BT. They are the more expensive option but they are reliable and they are in control of everything you are using, if you use BT and have a problem then it will never be a third party’s fault.
It’s been a while since I wrote about VoIP and while things haven’t changed very much there are a few things worth noting. Quality is always improving and for the most part you will not detect much difference between VoIP and land-line calls, though the delay is just slightly greater and you may need to repeat things once or twice in a call.
In my last article I stated that the cost of PC to Land-line calls using VoIP was still not as competitive as some cheap telecoms services which use only landlines, such as Call 18866 who allow unlimited duration landline calls within the UK for just a 2p connection charge, or international calls for as little as 2p per minute. Now VoIP is catching up a little, a service which is currently still in beta testing (not fully launched yet) offers free voice to land-line calls to many countries. VoIP Buster will allow anybody to make a 1 minute call through their network using their PC to any of several countries free of charge, or if you buy credit (from as little as 1 Euro) which can be used to call anywhere in the world for very low rates, then your calls to the free countries are of unlimited duration. Of course, PC to PC calls are still free between any two users in the world, but I had problems answering an incoming call using their software. Take note though, their rate card does not always match the special offers listed on their home page, and the rate card lists the tarrifs that they actually charge.
Call 18866 are also available via VoIP software now. Any compatiable phone software can be configured to dial through their network. Again you have to register to benefit from it but their call charges start from as little as a 2p connection fee for an unlimited duration UK call. Call18866 is more generally used, however, from a land-line phone rather than a PC, users therefore register to the service with their main UK Land-line phone number. When outgoing calls are made using the VoIP service that main land-line number is used as the Caller ID, so anybody receiving a call from you with Caller Display enabled, such as mobile phone users, or anybody using 1471 (on BT phones) to check where you called from, will get the impression you are calling from home. This is regardless of where you use the service from, so you could be connecting to the Internet at a friends house or from a hotel abroad and still appear to be calling from home.
The devious of mind may envisage heading off to Paris for a few days and calling in sick from the hotel using their own home phone number as the Caller ID, but this number portability carries a lot of potential for businesses with mobile workers. The portability actually works both ways, for a small fee, or with some services for no fee, you can get a telephone number assigned to your VoIP account which enables anybody to call your computer from a normal land-line, these numbers can be 0870 or 0845 numbers or even numbers that indicate you are in a major city, perhaps even in the centre of a city on the other side of the world if that is the image you wish to portray. That number can be presented on your outgoing calls, made using VoIP, from any location and whenever you hook up to to the Internet you can receive calls on that number and check the voicemail on it.
In the past if a worker was to revieve business calls when working from home a company had set up call forwarding between geographical locations at an extra cost to themselves, now that numbers can be assigned to Internet users who can simply log-in to use them, and the Internet takes care of Geography, it is easy to set people up to use the same phone number from home as they do in the office, and even when they are travelling and away from both.
Spread of WiFi
WiFi is the service that allows you to connect to the Internet without plugging in any cables. This is becoming increasingly popular in homes, businesses, pubs and cafes, meaning that in order to use the Internet, and therefore VoIP, you do not need to be near an appropiate socket and run a cable between that socket and your computer, instead you can just switch on from where you are seated and make and receive your calls. As WiFi coverage increases a computer can also be used as a very large mobile phone which can make and receive calls from every location that it is able to connect to the Internet. Of course, most (though not all) public WiFi hotspots require some kind of payment for access, so this does increase the cost of using VoIP in this manner.
More Hardware Options
Keeping your computer on and wearing a headset may be the perfect way of working for many companies, but for the average individual these are not ideal ways of using a phone. If you’re looking for something to hold to your head there are a now wider selection of USB phones that plug into your computer and either imitate a standard desk phone or mobile phone in their design and sometimes in their features. There are also an increasing number of phones which connect directly to a router, and some which connect to wireless routers using WiFi, which can be used to make and receive VoIP calls without leaving a PC switched on. These WiFi phones will also work in free to access “open” public WiFi hotspots but will not function in ones where a device has to register via a web interface before it can be used. Furthermore there is software that will turn a PDA, such as a pocket PC, into a SIP or Skype phone and, as many of these are WiFi compatiable these days and will also be able to register with commercial WiFi operators, these gadgets can already be used as portable phones both in and away from the home and office. WiFi VoIP phones start from about £100 at the time of writing, if you already have a wireless standard phone then a slightly cheaper alternative is to get a VoIP analogue telephone adaptor which will allow you to use any existing telephone to directly dial through your Internet router using VoIP, there are also cheaper versions that connect your home phone via USB to a PC for the same purpose.
Below are a couple of links to the kind of equipment I am referring to here, if you’re interested in buying then ebay is also a great place to look, but be warned, prices are often higher than from the distributors below (once you add postage) and there are a lot of phones around which look like they have LCD displays but just have a piece of plastic on the front that does nothing… this is not a problem, but the picture may lead you think your phone will have more features than it really does.
Communication technologies have been merging for a long time, I often check email from my mobile phone (using wapmx.com) and occasionally make phone calls from my computer. I expect that very soon there will be a wide selection of portable devices which are both mobile phones and wireless computers, for which software will be available that can detect wireless networks and calculate the most economic routing for a call, checking whether your recipient is currently available via their own VoIP device or will need to be called via land-line and choosing between VoIP and the mobile service provider to make the call. Increasingly people will be able to talk to others around the world for next to nothing not only from home or the office but also from the train station, the cinema lobby or the cafe.
When I last wrote about VoIP I was impressed to discover how good it had become, with this update I am impressed to discover how well it is developing. If you do not currently have a Skype account I suggest you get one, just to reserve a name of your liking on the system. I would not predict that Skype will be the main VoIP system in the future, but at this stage it is probably the easiest to use and configure and is well integrated into a lot of VoIP hardware, so reserving a name and seeing which of your friends you can find with Skype accounts may be prudent. I would also recommend looking at VoIP Buster if you want to cut your call costs and some of the providers I mentioned in my last article of you a interested in number protability with VoIP.
There are some areas I have touched on here where a hands-on guide may be of more use to you, if you think you need more leave a comment.
My previous article on VoIP can be found here.
The pendulum swings toward SIP
From their site: “Using pulver.Communicator/XP, subscribers to the FWD Communications Network can enjoy Instant Messaging with their SIP contacts, as well as with their buddies on the four most popular IM networks as well (AOL, Yahoo!, ICQ, and MSN). And not only that, but pulver. Communicator supports multi-party chat across the different IM networks”
I couldn’t get this to work very well but it is only in beta. This new SIP client has some good new IM functionality which may help promote VoIP among the current IM community. Messaging functionality was a distinct feature of Skype but now they are only really ahead on free voice conferencing. See here for more on VoIP.
Free calls using Voice over Internet Protocol
I have recently been looking at voice over IP and thought I would share some information on the facilities that allow you to talk free of charge to other computer users over a broadband connection.
There are two popular technologies available at the moment, SIP and Skype. What they have in common is that they both offer reasonable quality phone calls between any two computers with an Internet connection, for free, so long as the computers have either a sound card with a microphone and headphones (or preferably a headset) or a phone is somehow attached (VoIP phone adapters and phones that plug into a USB port or the sound card can be purchased). Both technologies offer much higher quality than was previously available using software such as Microsoft NetMeeting, MSN Messenger, ICQ etc for voice communication. They also offer pre-pay services to call normal telephones around the world at “reduced cost” using the same technology – however I am not convinced that the price or quality of this service is quite as impressive as some of the cheap telephone to telephone services available such as OneTel or 18866 (from the UK). With any VoIP service you are able to use your number anywhere in the world that you can set up the software or connect your computer to the Internet.
Skype’s main advantages are that it allows for instant messaging, online status checking and most impressively voice conferencing for up to 4 additional contacts free of charge, you can also add non-computer participants to a conference so long as you use their pre-pay service to pay for the call. If you are familiar with messaging software such as MSN Messenger or ICQ then this software is very similar but for the addition of voice communication. The only real drawback of Skype is that it cannot be used to communicate with the growing number of SIP VoIP networks.
There are many networks that use SIP, among the most popular in the UK are FreeWorldDialup and Gossiptel. With these services not only can you call out to other VoIP users on their computers free of charge and other normal telephones for some small fee, but you can also have a standard 0870 telephone number that can be used to call you on your PC (some alternative SIP services can offer you a US number instead). Gossiptel, which is a fairly new player in the market, also has the very big advantage of offering free customisable voicemail, so if you are away from your computer, your computer is off, or you simply fail to answer a call, it will go through to a voice mailbox, voicemail is sent by email and can also be checked using the VoIP system or by calling the service through an 0870 (BT national rate) number . I am not aware of any free voice conference facilities using SIP. You can call between SIP networks (such as FreeWorldDialup and Gossiptel) quite easily.
So far I have only tested the services calling my wife and myself at home and by using features provided by the service providers. My views on PC to PC VoIP are widely supported by others who have reviewed the technology but I do not know if my hesitance over computer to land line calls is so widely shared.
In a nutshell then, if you want to call between friends or colleagues free of charge by making the most of an Internet connection then VoIP is coming of age, quality is greatly improved and delay, between computers at least, is down to a minimum. Skype has the advantage of offering Instant Messaging features and conference calls free of charge, Gossiptel has the advantage of offering voicemail free of charge. Skype and SIP technologies can exist alongside each other on the same computer.
I have a number on both services. Email me if you want to know the details.
USB phones can be found on ebay by searching for the keywords voip usb and phone.