I have found an even better Dutch phone number, one with the same area code as my parents.The number is: 0227 - 71 20 00 (+31 227 - 71 20 00 from outside the Netherlands).This one I have through Budgetphone, and they charge $6,00 per year for a phone number, that can have any area code.My Grandstream phone is on its way — I bought it last Sunday but I requested shipping per Fedex Ground. I forgot that the shop is in California, some my new phone is currently in a truck crossing the entire United States. Its estimated arrival is next Monday.
The last week I have been reading up on VoIP, and I found that it is possible to have a Dutch phone number and subscription that I can use from here.
I applied for a Dutch TN through XS4ALL, where I have a subscription for my website. My phone number is +31 878 721 747 (or 0878 - 72 17 47 in the Netherlands), and for most Dutch people the rates is 2 or 4 cents per minute, depending on the time of day (“interregionaal tarief”). There are also some other providers that offer DID numbers in Amsterdam and Utrecht but they charge about 9 euro per number per month, whereas this XS4ALL number is free.Currently, I receive these types of phone calls on my laptop through a so-called Softphone application, but I have ordered a real SIP phone that will be delivered sometime next week. The great advantage will be that I will no longer have to have a computer running to place or receive phone-calls.
Sasha gave a me a very nice present for Christmas: noise-cancelling headphones!This is truly a very special headset — it filters out monotonous low noises by generating an “opposite” sound waves for those noises. Even when you’re not listening to music it sounds like someone lowered the sounds of the world around you to a really, really low volume — awesome.
I tried them for the first time on our long bus trip from New York to Washington and they worked great.
We have a new camera!Two weeks ago we went again to Best Buy. I called in advance and they put aside one of the camera’s that had just come in that day.
We choose a Canon Powershot A520. The HP PhotoSmart that I’ve had for a long time served me well, and I feel sorry that I can’t use it anymore, but the new camera is very nice.
One of the features I like is the the display that shows the focus point chosen, as well as the the shutter speed and aperture chosen by the auto exposure system. The camera also has a beamer to determine the distance between the object and the camera when it’s dark… a lot of useful tools but the camera is easy in use.
The memory cards of the HP fit in the new camera also so we can re-use those. We were not so lucky with the inital A520 we got Friday — when I took the first picture in the metro station, the shutter didn’t fully open automatically. We returned in immediately and luckily enough they had more camera’s in stock.
At work somebody pointed me to Skype. I had seen it before, and experimented a bit with it in the past but never really used it.However, being in Puerto Rico and all, it is very easy to make calls to the Netherlands. Good phone cards are hard to find here, and it’s difficult to coordinate for someone to call me (sorry paps & mams!).I just installed in on my laptop and spoke for a little while with a colleague in Virginia. That worked pretty nice, so I’ll keep it installed and experiment a bit more with it over the next days.So, for the technically inclined: my Skype name is guusbosman.
A nice tool that I recently tried out is Google Maps.If you type in an American address in the Google search bar, you’re given the option to see a map of that address. Of course I tried it immediately with our own address.The main thing I like about it is that you can zoom in & out, and so get a good idea of the entire area. In the map of our address, you can see the Iwo Jima monument that I saw last week. In the lower-left corner is Quincy park, that’s where our library is (about 25 minutes walking).In the shadow of the address sign is the location of my work (at the crossing of Wilson Boulevard with the Fort Myer drive). The bridge of the river is the Key bridge, that leads to Georgetown and downtown D.C.If you move the focus a bit, or zoom out, you can see Washington D.C. Another thing I tried was following the river, the Potomac from its beginning to the Atlantic ocean.
Joost sent me a very useful tip: an explanation how to increase your Hotmail inbox size for free.Traditionally the inbox of a Hotmail account is 2 MB but last year, when Google announced GMail, Hotmail planned an upgrade to larger mailbox sizes. For some reason, this increase is only available to people in the U.S. However, using Joost’s tip, which basically comes down to temporary changing your address to a U.S. based one, you can get the large Inbox even when you live in Holland.Right after I executed the trick, I got a 25 MB size account, and an hour that was increased again to 250 MB. Not as large as GMail, but much better than the original 2 MB. Thanks Joost!
Comcast, our cable internet provider, has announced that it will increase the speed of its internet broadband connections. Currently we have 3Mb/s downstream, and 256 Kb/s upstream, and this will increase to 4Mb/s down and 384Kb/s up. The article didn’t mention when exactly they’ll switch, but it said “this quarter”. Nice they’re upgrading the speeds here too.
At my work many people use AOL Messenger (or “AIM”) to communicate with colleagues in other offices.
This weekend someone told me that she couldn’t sent me any messages anymore, and when I came in the office I experienced the same: my account seems to have been blocked by AOL. I have really no idea what could have caused it, and it’s rather annoying. I’d rather not create a new account and have to add my name to everybody’s buddy list again so I’m trying to contact AOL but that’s not been very succesful so far.
For now: my MSN Messenger account is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joris pointed me out to a really cool new tool by Google: the Google Desktop. It’s a search-engine that you works for your own computer, so locally.It works really well, and it integrates beautifully with Microsoft Outlook and many other tools. Installing is a breeze: download it here (Windows only). It’s really nice to be able to find everything so quickly: it’s much quicker than Windows’ own search tool and the integration with google.com is great.