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January 6, 2006

Skype Wi-Fi Phone

NETGEAR-Skype-phone.jpgThis new Skype wi-fi phone from Netgear could just redefine what we carry around in our pockets. As long as there's wi-fi coverage you can make calls over Skype with it, no computer needed, avoiding international call charges. Over the last year I've completely stopped using my mobile for international calls and become a die-hard Skype convert. How long will it be before mobile handset manufacturers begin making Skype dual purpose phones?

Update 10 Jan... Ok, apparently if you've got a mobile that runs Windows Pocket PC you can already run Skype on your phone, and if it's got wi-fi too, you can make Skype calls for free. But is it worth suffering Windows for?

January 8, 2006

The Crow

birds.jpgOn New Year's day, Carita came back from taking the dog for a walk with a bundle wrapped up in her scarf - an injured crow. Cold, hungry, and unable to fly, our bathroom was quickly given over to it, and by the following day she'd transformed the bathroom into a Finnish woodland habitat, complete with part of our Christmas tree serving as a perch for the bird.

This of course made going to the toilet something of a strange experience, especially for me, whom the crow hadn't yet developed such a close bond with. Some people meditate, others do yoga, but I attain that same hypnotic state on the toilet, which isn't quite as easy when there's a pair of glistening, black eyes and a big sharp beak staring at you. With Hitchcock films running through my mind and unsure whether it would make a fatal error and mistake part of my anatomy for food, my toilet visits were cut short. Ira, meanwhile, would hang around outside the bathroom door, waiting for an opportunity to get in and have the crow as a snack.

After a few days, however, Carita decided that the bird was well enough to move to our balcony, which it has now been given free reign of, and I can once again reach my state of nirvana in the bathroom. Still unable to fly, it does however seem quite happy just to sit on it's perch and wait for it's meals to be delivered.

January 12, 2006

Flight of the Crow

When we first found the crow we suspected it had a broken wing, but noticing some discoloured white feathers in it's wings we called around some vets and bird sanctuaries, describing it to them. Eventually, we spoke to someone who sounded as if they knew what they were talking about. In recent years they've found birds in the cities, unable to fly, with discoloured wing feathers and think it's something to do with a poor diet. Although they've tried feeding them up, however, they've never recovered well enough to be able to fly again. A quick google search, however, shows that discoloured feathers have long known to be a sign of poor nutrition in birds. It's illegal to keep a wild bird yourself in Finland, and new laws requiring them to have a five square metre cage to themselves meant that none of the sanctuaries wanted it.

So we kept our illegal visitor ourselves, Carita, continued feeding the crow well, and it seemed to be improving. We were still somewhat surprised, however, when the other morning whilst she was out on the balcony, it jumped up onto the wall, looked at her, then flew off. I was just relieved, as Carita's recent coughing fits had been making me think it had bird flu.

January 14, 2006

New Frontpage Design

I've finally got around to updating the frontpage of this site. Although it's still very much a work in progress it's now a live update of the site with an exerpt of my last blog entry, the latest flickr picture uploaded, the latest / most viewed gallery photo, a random gallery photo, and a map of my current location and any nearby geographical blog entries.

January 15, 2006

Powerbook Ram Slot Failure

My Mac starting running really slowly about a month ago, and after lots of wondering, I finally noticed that half of my ram had disappeared. My first assumption, of course, was that Carita had taken it, so I shipped her off to Poland for some US style torture and interrogation.

When this failed to turn anything up I dropped into the Apple maintenance centre in Helsinki to borrow a really small screwdriver and scrounge a loan of a new ram chip for five minutes to see if one of my ram chips had fried. Whilst I was busy opening up the machine the woman there suggested that it could be the ram slot itself, which seemed an unlikely thing to say, as I'd then need to replace the entire motherboard. Assuming she just had mental problems I ignored her comment, but obviously she'd seen this problem before. Swapping around the ram in the upper slot made no difference, however, and the lower slot was a bit difficult to access in the time I had, as I was taking up most of the counter in the Apple Centre.

Later I was doing a search for the dreaded white spot screen syndrome which my mac also seems to be getting (my serial number's not covered by the recall), and bizarrely, or because of Google's all-seeing intelligence, a page about lower ram slot failure also turned up. It seems that so many Powerbooks have been affected that there's a petition against Apple to do something about it. Apparently, even after the motherboard has been replaced there's a high incidence of it recurring, especially when doing a software update, so I'll probably just buy a big stick of ram and put that in the working slot. Now if only my warranty hadn't expired last year...

The new Intel Macs do look very tempting - but it'll probably take a year or two for them to iron out initial problems. Hopefully they come with an asbestos tray to save your legs from being fried by the 4-5 times speed increase, but what's with the name? Macbook Pro?? Sounds more like a burger.

In other Mac news... the Apple Newton lives! Newton, my first and IMHO the greatest pda has been resurrected to run on Linux.

January 16, 2006

Tampere Airport

Carita and I are waiting in Tampere airport's godforsaken terminal 2 for our Ryanair flight to London - but we're very happy to be travelling again and escaping from the cold and darkness of Finland in winter. We're spending tomorrow in London then flying out to Bangkok on Wednesday morning for a month of badly needed daylight!

January 20, 2006

City of Angels

After a night in Gatwick airport we enjoyed a very pleasant flight over to Abu Dhabi where we changed planes. Abu Dhabi airport feels classically Arabian, with a domed central atrium covered in bright red and blue mosaic tiles, and sheikhs drinking strong coffee in a small, smoky cafe. In the short time we were there, Carita was taken by the warmth and friendliness of the Arab people we came in contact with - something I've always been struck by, and contrary to how the western media usually like to portray the Arab world.

Our flight touched down at Bangkok airport early yesterday morning before sunrise. Although we hadn't slept properly for three nights we were both very excited to arrive, hurried through the airport, and caught the shuttle bus through the rush hour traffic to Banglamphu.

It was so early that the backpacker mecca of Koh San Road was deserted as we made our way up it with our backpacks and sat down to have breakfast at My House Guesthouse. Dazed from the long flights and a serious lack of sleep - we'd been travelling since Monday and it was now Thursday morning - we sat eating our banana pancakes outside in the tropical heat as it gradually sank in that we were in Thailand. Flying somewhere is just travelling too fast for my brain to comprehend; it was difficult to grasp how we could move from Britain to Asia, from winter to summer, from cereal to banana pancakes, so quickly, and things felt surreal, like a vivid dream in the middle of the night.

Due to a small incident with a bug or two on a previous visit to Bangkok, Carita had made it clear that she didn't want to stay at my usual, cheap, friendly guesthouse this time, so after breakfast I set off to find some superior budget accomodation. Although we know the area pretty well, things develop so quickly in Thailand that new guesthouses had been built where old wooden houses had stood on our last visit . Soon, we had a newly renovated room in the terrifically named Happy House, with a balcony and more luxury than we needed, and we lay down for a siesta for a couple of hours.

The noise was so loud it felt like it was inside my head. Builders were working above our room, drilling into the concrete ceiling and it felt like being at the dentist, waking us violently. Unable to sleep we headed into Siam, Bangkok's centre for some food and retail relief, and returned to the hotel in the evening. There, we sat on the balcony drinking beer, watching a ladyboy in long boots dancing in one building, and a hooker hard at work with a foreign client in a hotel room. It was good to be back in Thailand.

January 24, 2006

Changover

According to backpacker lore Chang beer has amphetamine in it, and though this probably isn't true, strange things do tend to happen after drinking it.

The other night I ended up having a few Changs with some Thai guys on the street, then returned to the guesthouse, and fell fast asleep. Some hours later Carita woke to find me hunting for something in the dark room. I apparently told her I was looking for the air conditioning remote, then walked out of the room with her hair balm in my hand.

As far as I know I don't have any history of sleepwalking but the first thing I remember is standing in the corridor in my underwear, clutching some hair balm and having locked myself out of the room.

January 26, 2006

On the Train to Hat Yai

We're on a hot train with all the windows open to let the cool air blow through, having just left Bangkok, and heading down to Hat Yai in the very south of Thailand. When we arrive there in 19 hours we're planning to head out towards the islands of Koh Tarutao National Marine Park and relax after a busy week in Bangkok.