Convergence

They say that technology is converging and that our gadgets will soon do much more. I’m not sure who they are, but it seems to be true – mobile phones can take photos and play games, computers double up as VCRs, and even fridges are online.

My apartment here in the Czech Republic is a fine example of Czech architecture, and is lovely and spacious. It’s got most of the modern conveniences I could want, except for a telephone line. I have a mobile phone, but it’s very expensive to call my family back in England, and just as expensive for them to call me.

I hate shameless plugs, and this is sounding awfully like one, but for the past few months I’ve been using Skype. This is a nifty bit of software that allows you to talk for free to people on the internet. This is handy enough, but they also offer a service, at a cost, called SkypeOut. This gives you the ability to call normal telephones from your computer, and thus solving my landline problem. The bonus is the calls are much cheaper than you could get via a traditional phone.

Recently they’ve introduced a service called SkypeIn. This is where it gets clever. You pay your 10 euros and select a telephone number in a country of your choice. This becomes your number for three months and whenever anyone with a normal telephone dials it, they get put through to your computer (provided you are online and running Skype). The best part is that the people dialing you only pay a call to the country in which the number belongs. In my case, I have bought a UK number and so my family only pays a local UK call, even though it gets routed through to the Czech Republic. I don’t pay anything for the call either. Amazing!

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The real reason for blogs

I came across a series of photos at Notes From A Desi Geek that show the amusing-yet-interesting cultural oddities in India. One thought led to another and I arrived at the conclusion that the blog is the perfect vehicle to show all my international oddities discovered on my own travels. I think I am developing a hobby in this respect, as this follows on from a previous post about the best onions in China. Still, photos for amusement sake are fine by me (and I so wish I had a photo of the Chinese shampoo ‘Ugly Girl’).

Anyway, the first picture is of the control panel on my Chinese microwave. It is innocuous enough until you look closely and discover that an ordinary microwave can possess the power to cause universal discord.

Chaos Button

Sadly the actual meaning is ‘defrost’, but way to go on that translation! A nice touch is the coupling with ‘white fungus’ – you can either cause havoc, or zap mushrooms (white ones anyway).

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Proliferation of plugins

Yet more WordPress activity. This time I’ve organised my collection of hacks and made a seperate plugin page, available from the navigation menu. Now I can contemplate the calm and zen-like organisation of the rest of my life.

The plugins are:

  • Jump-To – Direct navigation from multi-page posts
  • PageView – Embed an webpage inside a post
  • HeadSpace – Manipulate meta-data

Dissection of a WordPress theme: Part 1

Life as a WordPress blogger has become remarkably easy. If you can hold a mouse and follow instructions then you’re most of the way towards carving out your own niche on the internet. A fresh installation gives you a powerful and attractive system with minimal effort, and with a little luck you can be blogging in under half an hour.

Despite the availability of hundreds of themes, and the general goodness of the default Kubrick theme, sometimes you just want to give your blog that personal touch, and the only way to do this is by going under the hood and having a look around.

A month in to running a WordPress-based website and I find myself doing the very same thing. None of the themes were exactly what I was looking for, and after investigating the internals of WordPress I realised it was a lot more involved than it initially appeared. I could certainly imagine a beginner being overwhelmed by the mass of acronyms and incongruent technologies.

With this in mind I decided to write a guide that would help not only myself, but might also help others who have been put off trying to experiment with WordPress. I make no claims of being a style guru and will rely on common sense and basic design principles.

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The Old Order

While I appreciate the cultural significance1 of a band such as New Order, I was never much of a fan. Their music often sounded like it was made on a cheap Casio keyboard, or was the recorded drone from a tinnitus patient. There was never any incentive to investigate further, and this was reinforced by many years of suffering World In Motion – some say the high-point of English footballing music, but as I do not care for football then it just compounded my distaste for the whole subject.

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Apple iPod Shuffle

So what can be said about Apple’s latest product that hasn’t already been said in a thousand other reviews, and hasn’t been dissected in essays and dissertations across the world? Love them or hate them, Apple have managed to create a modern religion by fusing technology with style, and setting a price point high enough that it forces people to part with their money. People will, it seems, pay almost anything for something when it looks good, and when their friends have one.

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