Dialling US toll free numbers from Overseas

Many people don’t realise that you can dial US Toll free numbers (800) from overseas. The calls aren’t toll free, but with calling cards at about 1 cent per minute it’s cheaper than most local calls.

In Australia, dial your calling card access code, enter your pin, then dial the international access code + US country code (1) + area code (800) + number

e.g. calling card access number + pin + 0011 + 1 + 800 + rest of number.

The same works throughout most of Asia and Europe (I’d guess Africa too where IDD is available). Unfortunately that doesn’t work for other countries which use 1-800 for toll free (like Australia). You can’t dial an Australian 1800 number from New Zealand. The good news is most of those countries know that and publish International Direct Dialling numbers.

Of course I could get my act together and finally install Skype. Then I’d have US dialling access via VOIP using their SkypeOut service at € 0.017 per minute. I really should get a good headset for my laptop.

Backup your blog

Frequently Asked Questions over at WordPress.com has a brilliant piece on backups for bloggers.

Several years ago I had to reconstruct WealthEsteem.org after catastrophic hardware failure. Luckily Google had begun indexing it so I didn’t lose any posts. But rebuilding the comments proved too hard.

Switched On: photo by Clinton cardozo Doha, Qatar http://creativelock.blogspot.com/ sxc.hu 488716
Switched On: photo by Clinton cardozo Doha, Qatar http://creativelock.blogspot.com/ sxc.hu 488716

Matt and his team offer the brilliant advice of subscribing to the RSS feeds of your own site as a way of maintaining backups. Subscribe both the posts and the comments feed via either a web- or desktop-based aggregator. I already subscribe to my blogs to keep an eye on how it looks to my syndicated readers, now I have another reason.

Thanks for this brilliant but overlooked tip.

MSN Clones

My daughter has reached an age where all her friends are on MSN. While the school is concerned about it, I think that (occasionally monitored) online chat is actually a useful skill. Most of the chat is what you’d expect of tweens, misunderstandings and hurt feelings can happen very easily. That’s just like email.

I refuse to run MSN Messenger though. I just think it’s sufficiently insecure and closed source to be avoided. Most kids don’t know how MSN works, so they just do what their chat partner tells them to do. I’d rather my kids not install things just so they can get a neat smiley.

I also want to use protocols other than MSN. Jabber is used by a couple of my clients. I also want to experiment with VOIP. So I’ve selected GAIM as the multi-protocol instant messenger client around here. My kids can chat with friends and also with me when I’m travelling. GAIM supports AIM, Yahoo Messenger, Jabber, Google Talk, ICQ, Gadu-Gadu, and even IRC protocols in one client. That means I don’t need to run multiple clients just to chat for business or pleasure.

A friend of ours has a laptop that is so locked down by their Fortune 500 IT department that MSN won’t start. Which means she can’t chat to her daughter when she’s travelling. I’ve installed aMSN as an alternative. It’s a near perfect clone of MSN messenger, so the whole family knows how to use it immediately.

Update: My daughter was so impressed by aMSN she’s asked to install it on her desktop. We’ll see how it compares to the multi-protocol GAIM. Given all her friends are on MSN I’m worried that I may be forced to stick to MSN protocol when chatting to her.

Dan Finnerty & the Dan Band

I saw a performance by The Dan Band on MTV last night. I was laughing so hard I had to stop working on the Ziggy’s Online Games website, go upstairs and grab my wife and show her.

This is one of the hottest live shows in Hollywood right now, and I can see why. The Dan Band is a all male threesome that sings diva anthems. Grrl power! It’s funny and inspired lunacy. I want to see this show live. The performance songs include “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward, “Nasty” by Janet Jackson, “Slave 4 U” by Britney Spears and “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips.

The show was produced by Dreamworks for Bravo. There’s a CD available on amazon.