Category Archives: Technology

Is The Heyday Of The International Calling Card Over?

Low Cost International Calling CardsWith both sales and traffic to my international calling card sites falling over the last year, I have been asking myself whether there has been a change in the way that people communicate when overseas, with the advent of smartphones that have built in WiFi and that allow internet connection without costing the user anything.

Traditionally making international calls was something that most people did only in emergencies, or ones a year at Christmas to say “Hello” to the family overseas for 5 minutes.

With the advent of the international calling card, people were no longer at the mercy of their phone companies, and could place calls by dialing a local number, entering a pin, and then dialling the overseas number, for a fraction of the cost that their phone company charged.

Some calling card companies included hidden fees, and tricked customers into thinking that they had a good deal, but this guide to the best international calling cards identifies several providers that are not only cheap and reliable, but who have no hidden costs either.

Indeed, for the last 3 years before I moved from the USA back to the UK, I did a lot of research to find the best calling card to suit my needs, and it’s amazing how varied the prices are, yet if you follow the recommendations in the guide, you can save a lot of money on calls.

Prior to moving to the UK I would be on the phone for several hours a day, and yet with the right calling card, I didn’t have to worry about the cost.  It used to cost me less than $1 an hour to call the UK from anywhere in the USA, not exactly a vast sum!

But now the market is changing again, with many people owning smartphones that have built in WiFi which can connect to internat hotspots anywhere in the world.  This allows virtually free emailing and with programs like Skype, audio and video calls to anyone with an internet connection for free.

So obviously if you travel overseas it pays to have a smartphone to help cut your calling costs, but where an internet connection is not available, especially a free one, or where your only option is to use a regular phone, purchasing an international calling card in advance is a wise decision.


Should Google Buy Yahoo?

Should Google Buy Yahoo?

This is a question that has been a subject of much speculation recently, especially with Yahoo performing poorly in recent times.

In my opinion, I have to say in no uncertain terms: NO, NO and THRICE NO!

Once upon a time, Yahoo could be said to have the best search engine there was – until along came Google and not only created a better one, it did everything so well that people now “Google for things” – the word “Google” is most definitely in the modern dictionary.

Now if it was just about search engines, absorbing Yahoo into Google might not be a bad thing at all, but there is a lot more to Yahoo than just the search engine, and here is where a lot of the problems lie.

As far as search engine popularity, Google has dropped from 85% in 2009, to 83% in 2010 and 79% in 2011.  Yahoo has gone from 7% in 2009, to 6% in 2010 and risen slightly to 9% in 2011.  The main rival to both of these, Microsoft’s Bing has gone from just 3% in 2009, to 7% in 2010 and currently stands at 9% in 2011.

While this looks as if Google is losing market share and Yahoo is gaining, there are some factors behind this that ought to be considered.  Firstly, Bing is a relatively new search engine, and it’s rise in popularity has almost certainly had an effect on Google.  Secondly, the algorithm change that Google underwent early in 2011 (known as “Panda”) hit many sites hard, especially Yahoo, and some users of Yahoo in particular have moved away from using Google more as a boycott than because they prefer the functionality in Yahoo.  The extent to which this move remains firm will probably be seen by 2012, and I personally expect to see a slow move back to Google.

But aside from the search engines, Google is well known and respected for Google Maps, Google Earth, Blogger, YouTube, Google Mail and the latest offering Google Plus.

None of these products are known to have major problems across the whole Internet community.  Practically anything that Google releases works, and works all the time as well, without crashes or errors.  The name Google is synonymous with quality products.

This is sadly far from the truth when it comes to Yahoo, and it’s publishing arm, the Yahoo Contributor Network seems to exhibit more errors than most systems do during a Beta testing phase.

Since purchasing the Internet publishing company Associated Content in May 2010, the problems that writers who contribute to Yahoo publishing sites have just gone from bad to worse.

While Associated Content had it’s share of programming bugs, they were usually dealt with fairly quickly and the system was fairly reliable. 

Within months of Yahoo taking over, they replaced certain parts of the system with code that was so broken, junior programmers would be red-faced by it.

The fact that Yahoo articles do not rank well in Google since the algorithm change is just another slap in the face for Yahoo, but truth be known the slip in traffic began months before that and soon after yahoo took over the company.

Recent problems that most people in IT would consider extremely embarrassing in a live environment include (a) the wrong day of the week being displayed for statistics, and (b) links in RSS Feeds being incorrectly formatted.

The wrong day of the week only took weeks for Yahoo to fix, whereas the RSS Feed issue has been ongoing for a good 10 months and currently has no due date for it to be fixed.

With RSS Feeds being a major way in which articles are propagated across the Internet, and a source of backlinks and traffic for articles, the fact that Yahoo seems incapable to fix something which ought to help boost it’s traffic, rankings and earnings, is a little worrying.

In summary therefore, should Google, a company that is known to create software that is reliable, buy Yahoo, a company that is becoming increasingly known for it’s incapacity to achieve this?  My answer – most definitely NO!

Google would be far better creating it’s own systems that would compete with Yahoo, than to take over those which are so full of bugs as to be a corporate embarrassment.

In case you were wondering, YES I am a big fan of Google.  I have used many of their products and found few problems.  In many ways (such as built in conversions and translations in their browser) Google are one step ahead of the user, adding features that are really useful and easy to use.

I have been writing for Yahoo Contributor Network and previously for Associated Content since January 2010, and seen traffic to my articles rise dramatically until Yahoo implemented it’s first major changes, and then the slide began.

You can find my articles HERE – I doubt you will find many of them easily in Google.  You are more likely to find where I have added them to Digg or blogged about them than to find the original articles.  And as for the RSS feeds – some readers do correctly fix the links, but others don’t.

Apple: too fruitful?

Apologies for a horrible pun but i’ve been pondering Apple’s latest financial pronouncement. They counted up the cash in their piggybank and found they have the small sum of $76.2 billion floating around! This is more than enough for a good night out and a cab home, this is riches bordering on insanity.

To put it into some perspective, $76.2 billion is more than the GDP of 126 countries. Ecuador, Bulgaria, Sri Lanka and Costa Rica all do less well than Apple. Greece’s latest huge EU bailout is not far off the same amount.

What could Apple do with the money? Huge dividends for shareholders? Endow chairs at MIT and Cambridge? New internal research labs? Hire a few accountants to look into not accumulating so much money? Bring down the price of their products? Not much chance here – if people will pay hundreds of dollars for a mobile phone with facilities they don’t want, and then pay more for apps to try to justify the hundreds of dollars purchase price …

One suggestion that won’t be featuring too strongly in the business media is that they could do something about the awful conditions endured by workers in Chinese manufacturing facilities. Cut the working day to just twelve hours perhaps, or add a second fifteen minute break. Increase their wage to something that a kid with a paper round wouldn’t spit at. Return some jobs to the USA?

I vote for giving millions in dividends to billionaire shareholders. You know they need it more than others…

Sansa Fuze Hold Button Changes

Sansa Fuze+ Hold Buttom Firmware UpdateI just bought a Sansa Fuze last week, and I really like it, however today I went to charge it, downloaded and applied a Firmware update, and now the Hold Button won’t work.

I suspect a lot of other people will find the same thing, so I thought I would document the change here for anyone who finds it.

Previously, you had to press the Play/Pause button for 5 seconds to lock the keypad on the Sansa Fuze, then slide upwards on the pad to get it to unlock.

Well after the latest firmware updates, that no longer works, and from what I can see it’s not only me who found that a bit annoying and fiddly to use.

Now, to lock the keypad, you have to press the Power button briefly.

Then to unlock it, you press the Power button briefly again.

Hope this helps a few people figure out what’s going on.

To Power the Sansa Fuze+ off, you still have to hold the Power button for 5 seconds.

Fake Job Offers By Email

A sly little twist on the fake job offer scam This used to be a promise for a job after payment of an “agency fee”. Now there’s a new technique.

Find someone looking for a job – plenty of ways to get details, often illegal but who ever gets prosecuted? Send them a nice personalised email promising a job in their home town, so they think it’s kosher. Get them to do an online IQ test or something of the sort and give you their mobile number. Then send them several reverse charge texts (£1.50 each) about their test results.

The poor mug will usually accept the texts as he needs the score to complete the application form. If he’s unemployed and desperate he’s even more likely to accept the costs even if he’s less likely to be able to afford them.

That’s the scam being operated by Their domain records are hidden, the office address on their website has never heard of them. Hopefully you never will again.

It’s easy to get confused when you’re hitting lots of sites; keep records of the ones you’ve applied to. Preferably only use sites that are recommended to you by trusted sources. Don’t assume an ad is kosher just because it’s in a newspaper. Read terms and conditions before signing up. Don’t go with anyone who says they may pass your details on. And don’t accept reverse charges on a mobile, or call a number you don’t recognise.

For more information on how to avoid the crooks, see Avoiding Fraud And Scammers On The Internet