Save on hotel internet charges with Vodaphone internet stick in the UK

October 26, 2009

A few time a year I travel to London, England for business.  Each time I have just paid the daily internet usage fee at the hotel (usually Le Meridien at Piccadilly Circus) but the costs have gone up recently.  At 20 GBP per day my one week visit was going to cost me 140 GBP so I decided there had to be a better way.

I went over to carphone warehouse and checked out all their internet stick options.  While they all seemed like good and less expensive options there was a huge factor that led me to pick the Vodaphone internet stick.  THEY’RE ACCOUNTS NEVER EXPIRE!  All the others there would not only have their pay-as-you-go data expire over time but the account itself would expire after as much as 90 days of inactivity.

So for 34.99 GBP I got a Vodaphone stick pre-loaded with 1Gb of data.  Vodaphone is the most expensive of the bunch at 15 GBP per 1Gb but since I wont have to re-activate my account and the unused data will always be available on a return trip I figure the extra cost is worth it.

As I had been advised the speeds were not lightning fast.  It would be no good for watching youtube videos or uploading and downloading large files but for my day to day emails and source code editing it was perfect.  It also worked everywhere, in my hotel room, in coffee shops, and even in the Heathrow express on my way back to the airport.

At the end of my week I had still not completely used up my complimentary 1Gb of data and I am happy to know it will be there waiting for me when I return to the UK next.

For my next cost saving trick I would like to find out if I can activate this same stick to work in other countries by purchasing a Vodaphone account in Switzerland, and India.  The connection software makes it look like this is, or will one day, be possible.  If anyone has experience with this please let me know in the comments.


My cellphone is a tracking device thanks to Google Latitude

February 10, 2009

In the hype surrounding the release of Google Latitude there has been a lot of questions raised about the potential invasion of privacy this software creates.  Google’s standard response has focused on the fact that users opt-in to the service and can easily disable it or even manually change their location to whatever they want.

While this is true, this response fails to address the potential use of this service as a tracking device.  A Latitude enabled phone stashed in the trunk of someone’s car would allow a user to track that cars movements with their own Google account.  In the age of annonymous pay-as-you-go phones and applications that allow a user to revert a phone to factory defaults via an sms message it would be possible to track someone with a throw-away phone and completely cover your tracks.

It appears high-tech tracking devices are no longer just for private detectives and spooks.

On a personal note, I thought of this when I logged into my iGoogle account at the office this morning to find the map showed me still in my home.  I thought the service had gone down until I realized I left my phone at home this morning.  At least I know it will be a lot harder to lose my phone in the future.  :)


French accents on Mac OS X Leopard

January 30, 2009

After making the switch to a Mac I found myself at a loss when it came time to add accents to French documents.  After a little web searching I found that this, like most other things, is much easier on a Mac than it was on Windows.  However, I also noticed that my google searches kept giving me results for an accent grave (è) only so I am going to cover all the commonly used French accents here.

Adding accents on a Mac is very simple, just hold down the option (alt)  key plus the key for the accent you want to create, then type the letter you would like to appear under the accent.  Hold shift for capital letters.

Here is the list of the keys to hold down with option (alt) to create each accent (do not type the +):

Grave (è) – option + ~
Aigu (é) – option + e
Cédille (ç) – option + c
Circonflexe (ê) – option + i
Tréma (ö) – option + u

Hopefully I didn’t miss any important ones here.  Happy accenting!


Migrating Thunderbird from Ubuntu to Mac OS X

September 5, 2008

This is a pretty simple task but I did not find any documentation on it in all my googling so I’m going to lay out the steps here.

First install Thunderbird on your Mac and setup a single email account.  This will give a profile to overwrite.  Don’t worry about tweaking this setup at all as we are going to remove it later anyway.

1.) Backup your Ubuntu Thunderbird profile

From your home directory change the view to allow hidden folders to be visible
Open the .mozzila-thunderbird folder
There should be a folder in there called something like tufiud1h.default (the first part of the name will be different for you).  This is your Thunderbird profile.  Copy this folder to a thumbdrive or network location of your choice

2.) Import your Thunderbird profile on the Mac OS X machine

Go to Home/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles
Paste the profile folder you copied earlier into this directory.  Copy the folder name, you will need it for the next step.
Go up one level to the Thunderbird directory and open the file “profile.ini” with a text editor.
Change the path line to link to your new profile folder.  Mine looks like:
Path=Profiles/tufiud1h.default
Fire up Thunderbird and see all your old accounts and emails are back!

3.) Reinstall your addons

A lot of my addons were not working correctly but I did not want to remove them for fear of losing data.  Luckily all I had to do was go and download and install the Mac versions and all my settings were retained.  I reinstalled Lightning, Zindu, and the Google connector with no loss of settings or data.

I know this is a fairly short overview but at least now if someone google’s this they will know it is possible and surprisingly easy.


Using gmail to POP gmail

May 20, 2008

This may seem crazy but for some reason in the list of email clients google provides support for does not include gmail!

Specifically I am trying to consolidate my emails from my google apps domains into a single gmail account separating each account with a gmail label.

I’m not going to go through telling you how to set up a a google apps account for a custom domain but you can learn all about it at http://www.google.com/a.  In my case I have setup this domain (www.jamesward.ca) as a google app domain and would like to grab all the mail from it with my central gmail account ie mycentralgmail@gmail.com should receive mail for test@jamesward.ca.

Here are the basic steps required to accomplish this:

  1. Setup google app domain for POP
  2. Unlock google app domain
  3. Setup gmail account to receive

Setup google app domain for POP

From your domain start page (mine is http://partnerpage.google.com/jamesward.ca) login to the email account you want to forward.  Once you are signed in click on the inbox of the email widget in the top left (there are lots of other ways to get into your gmail account if you don’t like that way).  Once you are into your gmail account click on settings in the top right then click on Forwarding and POP/IMAP.  Check Enable POP for all mail and save your changes.

Unlock your google app domain

This was the hardest part for me to figure out but after slogging through some of the google discussion thread I figured out that you need to unlock your domain with a google provided captcha to allow email to be POPed from it.  To unlock your domain go to https://www.google.com/a/[yourdomain.tld]/UnlockCaptcha replacing [yourdomain.tld] with your google app domain.  So mine was at https://www.google.com/a/jamesward.ca/UnlockCaptcha.  Enter the username you want to unlock and fill in the Captcha.  You should now be ready to setup your other gmail account to receive email from this one.

Setup gmail account to receive

Now login to your central gmail account (or another google app account) and click on settings then on Accounts. Next to Get mail from other accounts click add another account.  Here are the settings I used to setup test@jamesward.ca:
username: test@jamesward.ca
password:whateveryourpasswordis
POP Server: pop.googlemail.com Port: 995
Always use SSL
Label incoming messages

NOTE: your pop server is set to pop.googlemail.com

That pop server change messed me up for a while.  Here is a screenshot of my account setup:

I’m also probably going to setup a filter to make sure the google app gmail does not flag any spam since I want all my spam held in a single location for easy review.

Ed NOTE: Google does not provide a way to disable their spam-filter and even forwarding all mail from an account does not bypass it.  This is a big issue for a setup like this.  You can view the gmail spam filter discussion for more information.

My end goal here is to use evolution in ubuntu to synchronise everything in my gmail account via IMAP but that is a post for another day.


Decrease your Vonage bill

May 12, 2008

I’ve had a dormant Vonage (VOIP) account for a couple of months and finally got around to canceling it today. The account was costing me $15.99 per month so I was in no rush to cancel and just took a while getting around to it.

If you are actually using a Vonage account and are signed up at the $15.99 level I would highly recommend calling and requesting to cancel. The woman on the phone told me she had to give me several “offers” before she could cancel the account on her system.

This included an offer to lower my monthly bill to $12.99 and an offer for 2 months of free usage, in that order.

As with most of the phone companies it appears that calling and pretending to want to leave every once in a while could be a smart move.


eZPublish and Komodo

May 6, 2008

For those of you interested in extending or improving the eZ Publish CMS (www.ez.no) you may be tempted to step through the code with an IDE. To accomplish this task in windows I have been testing my luck with ActiveState’s Komodo IDE.

Starting with a standard windows install of eZ Publish (I am still using the 3.x branch with php 4.x) here are the steps I followed to get things working.

Install Komodo and setup a project
After running the Komodo installation click on File->New->New Project and browse to your ezpublish installation. In my case I took the default so it is at c:\ezpublish\ezpublish. Name your files something like ezpublish.kpf. Komodo with recurse through all the eZPublish directories and add all the files to your project

Setup the interpreter
Go to Edit-Preferences and expand Languages and click on PHP. You can go ahead and run the wizard. If you used the defaults during your eZ Publish installation then when prompted to setup this installation you want to point to C:\eZpublish\php\php.exe. The next page should be correct with C:\WINDOWS\php.ini to be copied to the debug version at C:\eZpublish\php\debug. The extension directory should be set to c:\eZpublish\php\extensions.

Setup xDebug
To get xDebug running for all your scripts you need the php.ini file created by the previous step to be the default php.ini. Go to C:\WINDOWS and locate your php.ini file and rename something like php.ini.bak. Now copy your Komodo generated php.ini file from C:\eZpublish\php\debug\php.ini and paste it into C:\WINDOWS.

Edit your xDebug setup
Open up the new C:\WINDOWS\php.ini file with your favorite text editor and make sure it looks something like this:

; xdebug config added by Komodo
zend_extension_ts=c:\eZpublish\php\extensions\php_xdebug.dll
xdebug.remote_enable=1
xdebug.remote_handler=dbgp
xdebug.remote_host=1ocalhost
xdebug.remote_mode=req
xdebug.remote_port=9000
cgi.force_redirect = 0
xdebug.idekey=kk

The key lines here are the remote_host and the idekey.

When this is done restart apache by going to my computer, control panel, administrative tools, services

Setup the listener
Back in Komodo go to Edit->Preferences expand Debugger and click Connections. Check the radio button next to “a specific port” and make sure it is set to 9000 (or whatever number you set in the php.ini earlier). Click ok and go to the Debug menu and make sure that Listen for Debugging Connections has a check mark next to it, otherwise click it.

Run eZPublish with xDebug
Now open your favorite browser and add the xdebug code to the end of any urls you want to debug. The simplest test being:

http://localhost/?XDEBUG_SESSION_START=kk

Note the kk at the end matches the idekey value you put in the php.ini.

Komodo should prompt you to start stepping through code.

eZ Publish can get a little grumpy about that xdebug code at the end of your urls but you can usuall keep it happy by adding a slash prior to the xdebug code. For example I am testing my pdf generation code right now and dropping the following url into my browser to step through it:

http://127.0.0.1/site/content/pdf/441?XDEBUG_SESSION_START=kk

While IDEs can be cumbersome animals there is simply no substitute for the ability to step through and inspect complicated code.


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