Friday, October 23, 2009

Skype and the Hungarian Sheepdog called Kuvasz

What does a Kuvasz has to do with Skype? Not much I am afraid.
Although Skype Tallinn is known for loving and keeping pets, I have not seen a Kuvasz yet in the office.
Unfortunately because I love this breed.

Long time ago, back in 1985 I bought my first Kuvasz at the age of 18 weeks. Badly neglected and very ill.
But it had a strong will, good care and medication and it survived.
From a poorly, scruffy dog, it changed into a beautiful healthy, active intelligent dog. She was called Älg (Swedish for Elk).

She definitely was a handful, a mind of her own. But I knew that after reading about the Kuvasz and talking to other people.

I fell in love with the breed after visiting an elderly couple that owned a large male dog called Yoszka.
He was at easy with himself, intelligent, raising an eyebrow when his owner (who really wanted to be the boss………) commanded something.

The decision which dog to look for, was made and Älg arrived.

With enough space in and around the house and Älg being a very friendly dog for other dogs, I bought our second when Älg was two years old. Kuvasz no. 2 came from Sweden from the kennel “Trevnadens” in Mariefred near Stockholm. She was cald Kajsa Kavat (after a book of Astrid Lindgren)

Both dogs got along very well. They were big, beautiful, loyal, furry and loved people.

Unfortunately Kajsa died at the age of 6 due to a brain tumor. It was hard to say goodbye to such a lovely animal.

Älg felt lonely and I looked for a new friend. Again from Sweden came Invandra (Swedish for immigrant).
I collected her when Älg was still at home. How happy she was when she found Invandra in the car!

Both dogs travelled up and down Sweden with me.

Älg died at the age of 12,5 years which is old for such a large breed.

Invandra was 2,5 years old at the time and moved with me from Sweden back to Holland to live in Friesland.

She was very special. Very much at easy where ever she went, hardly barked, very cuddly (especial for kids).
If you can call a dog polite, she was it.

She was my biggest friend and when she died at the age of 12 I cried many, many tears.
I promised myself to get another Kuvasz when living in a bigger house with much more free time on my hands.

But I met Tjep and he already was waiting to get his dog, a Basset Fauve de Bretagne puppy who we called Dée.
One month after we got Dée we also adopted her brother Frits who did not socialize with a breeder who had 10 more dogs.

Although we live in a much bigger house with a much bigger garden, there is no room anymore for a Kuvasz.
We are both very happy with Dée and Frits and are (not yet) temped to buy a Kuvasz.

But you can imagine how tempting it is when dear friends, Han and Marjory Koogje of the Kennel “Egymásra Találtunk”, one of the best breeders I know, call you to tell you that they have 5 beautiful pups looking for a home. (Unfortunately the economical crisis is also hitting them).

Tjep and I tried to convince each other that two very active dogs in the house are sufficient.
And we do not only have d
ogs but also twop cats, a crow, a sparrow and 8 chickes.
We also own a sailing boat but far from big. Easy to hoist two smaller dogs on board but not a bigly like the Kuvasz……

Although we took the decision not to go for a big dog long ago and although we are telling each other how sensible people we are not wanting a third dog, there is with me that homesick feeling for those big white fuury, gentle, much at ease, stubborn friends who were for 23 years part of my life.

I met Han and Marjory Koogje in 1986 being a member of the Dutch Kuvasz Club. A year after I became a Board Member, ever since we are friends.

I got to know them not only as wonderful people but also as responsible breeders. They are stars in socializing pups. Therefore I regret that they can’t find a good home for their last litter. I promised to help them and hope to find new owners through my blog.

Please be aware that the Kuvasz is not a dog for inconsequent people. Reading about the character of the dog is a must. But if you and the Kuvasz are a match, you are a match for life and you will not regret it for a second!

Very important to me is that the Kuvasz is a very old and pure breed. Not manipulated, how good is that uh?

Please visit the site of Ham and Marjory and say hello from me when you get in touch with them.

Links: Breed Description Character Egymásra Találtunk e-mail Egymásra Találtunk

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The days before the wedding

Today is my last day online until September 28.
Everyone who ever got married, knows how much there is to do.
In our case it is not just the preparations for the big day bit there is still so much to do before we can house the 100 friends and relatives who persist to witness our happiness.

Last week our backyard was transformed from a huge heap of clay and building rubbish into a descent green flowery garden with nice corners to enjoy the marvellous view of Friesian fields, dikes and cattle.

The back wall got cemented so all old and diverse bricks are now watertight.
A huge transformation!

Tjep is now painting the outside of the doors and I am painting the floor of our guesthouse.
We will furniture the guesthouse tomorrow for the guests that want to stay overnight.
Yesterday evening we went to Ikea for curtains and bathroom accessories.
All furniture is present, after all we moved to housekeeping’s into 1!!

We also need some more flowers, plants to decorate pots. Not a clue when we find the time to do so but we will manage.
Right now it looks like we will get much rest but we will make that up the 3 weeks after.
We both did not have proper holidays for many years. Last year a few days to the UK and I the year before that, a week to the UK as well.
Nothing booked yet, we will see. First we want to have some peace!

To all my loyal readers: it is good to be back blogging and I definitely will keep doing that from October on.

In the meantime, take great care!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Long time no see!

It has been a long, very long time ago since I wrote on this blog. Although all good intentions, I never managed to sit down for a written update. My life (I should now say our life) has been very eventful since my last post in July 2008.
So, time to update you all!!

I start with the sad news. Both our Mum’s passed away in the past year.
First my Mother in November at the age of 80. She broke her hip during a nasty fall and due to her heart problems and the way her hip was broken, replacing it or an operation was not possible. My Mother was ready to go to her Father in Heaven and died one week after the fall. We miss her terribly but we are also happy that she does not suffer anymore.
Life got more and more difficult for her. She was a wonderful, special Mum and will not only be missed by us but also by many other people who she always welcomed in her house and heart.

Tjep’s Mother died in March. She too broke her hip. During the night and died that same day during the evening. She was 93, a very blessed age. We do miss her, she too was special and was so happy that Tjep found true love.
We often talk about our Mother’s and although we know they both rest in peace, we would have enjoyed sharing large bits of our lives with them.

Tjep and I moved to a “new’ house in the very North of Friesland.
Although the recession, Tjep sold his house quickly which was a big relief. I rented a little house and leaving it after 9 years of a good and busy life was done in a weeks without too much emotions. Moving on to a new life with Tjep was definitely something to look forward too!Leaving the village was a different emotion: so many people became good friends. Still, it is only 30 minutes driving from our new home and good friends always stay.

Anyone who ever moved house knows how much things one can collect in 9 years. For Tjep it was even 43 years. Sorting it all out with the help of friends and family, took far more time than the actual move! Our new house is far bigger than my old and about the same size as Tjep’s old one. Remember we had to combine to interiors, memorabilia and much more in house.
But we managed and our house looks like if we have always lived here: everything fits perfectly together.
It was not an easy thing to find a suitable house. After all our budget was not endless.
We have seen many houses but either they were too small in size, too large in money, too run down or too modern. But one day, driving around in the beautiful county of Friesland, we noticed a little farmhouse for sale. I remembered that I had seen it before on sale 5 years ago for a ridiculous high price. We phoned the number on the note in the window and were surprised that the price went down so much. But then of course, there has never been any maintenance too the house in all those years.
After viewing it a few times and falling in love with it immediately although the dated look, we made the decision to buy it after we had the house valued and told there was a lot of work to do before we could move in.
The interior was very seventies and we have walls removed that were not original in the house. It was either impossible or extremely costly to bring it back to its original 1920 state but we managed to get as close as possible including the Oxblood red ceiling in the living room.
After 10 months of renovating house and garden (and still not finished but getting close thanks to the effortless patience and help of people around us), moving in half way the renovation (so much dust, no kitchen, no bathroom!!!) we now live in a lovely little farmhouse with endless fields as our view.
We feel fortunate, happy, settled and at home in the county of our ancestors (as well as Tjep’s as mine).

Our love for each other is growing and growing and we have set a date to get married as an affirmation of this love: September 4 – 2009. Still one week to go.............

From September the 3rd till the 28th, I will be off line. No chats, e-mails and away from my still wonderful job at Skype.
By the end of September I will return to this blog and promise to post frequently again.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pigeons, England and no Skype

Tjep and I have been to the UK. Only for 6 days (incl. the Ferry), too short but so lovely.We returned on the 27th of June but I could not find the time to write about it sooner.

Let me first update you about Pigeon who was too young to eat properly. I fed her until the day we left and then took her to the bird sanctuary “De Fûgelhelling” in Ureterp – Friesland. I had never been there before and was highly impressed by their skills and equipment to help out birds of all sorts.
We saw baby Owls, a Stork, baby Blackbirds, a Kingfisher, etc. etc. All the people who are helping out in “De Fûgelhelling” are volunteers. They do a great job and I know financial gifts are very welcome.

There were also many pigeons and our Pigeon soon found a little friend. We left her in good hands.

As always my and now Tjep’s destination, was lovely Yorkshire and we travelled by Ferry from Europoort (NL) to Hull. The weather was lovely and we had a nice and relaxing stay on board with good food, a good bottle of Chablis and great conversations.
When we arrived in Yorkshire the weather was dull but who cares. First we visited my foster Mum and her partner for lots of hugs.
During the afternoon we cleaned the cottage of my foster Brother. The cottage is having a redo and like David said, it was a building site. They tried successfully to squeeze a bath tub in a small bathroom which required "some" work to the old, thick walls. We could use the bath, the toilet but nothing was tiled yet. I have to see it is quite an experience to bathe between bare walls made from the rock where the cottage is built in / on. The room on the first floor was redecorated and I promised David to clean it properly. A good thing to do on a rainy day!

Our first visit on Sunday was to Fountains Abbey. I did not take any pictures because I already took so many over the past years. It was a windy day which developed into a stormy one. It was so ‘bad’ that they closed Fountains Abbey due to falling branches and trees and walking back to our car instead of accepting a ride back by the National Trust, was on our own risk. After the visit, we took an alternative route back home, exploring the surroundings of Kirby Malzard, Grewelthorpe, Ripon, all situated in Nidderdale.

On Monday avoiding this way the tourist traffic, we travelled around the Yorkshire Dales. Glorious weather: sunshine, beautiful clouds, kind people, quiet roads.
I had told Tjep about how special it is to see the shadows of the clouds moving over the hills with bright pastures in between where the sun is shining. That day it could not have been more perfect and of course I took many pictures. The day ended at one of my most favourite spots “Jervaulx Abbey
Ever since I visited it for the very first time back in 1978, I left a little part of my heart there and return as often as possible..
In the meantime Jervaulx got a new owner who is now looking after it well. They also changed an old glasshouse into a lovely tea room where they serve excellent food and drinks.

I had a surprise waiting for Tjep….. the Coat of Arms of Jervaulx is exactly the same of that of Tjep’s family, the Mulier’s. Of course it triggered our fantasy and we now will get in touch with the owner of Jervaulx to learn even more about the history. The Mulier’s origin from France and received their Coat of Arms around 1200, just at the time the Abbey was founded.

Back in Holland we learned that there is another family called “Keppel” who has a similar Coat of Arms (different shell’s) and one of the Keppel’s moved to England around 1850. Now it is getting even more interesting!

On Wednesday we stayed close to home and visited Ripley Castle which is definitely worth a visit.
Besides all the culture things we also did some ordinary shopping in Knaresborough and ate our Fish and Chips overlooking the river.

Thursday was a day of reorganizing the luggage, a last brush through the cottage, visiting Mum and Ian for a farewell hug and back to the Ferry. This time the weather was very, very bad. So much rain!! Driving was a hazardous adventure and we were happy to arrive at the Ferry without any trouble.
Wind kept the ferry wobbling and it was not a surprise that I felt slightly seasick when up and running the next morning. I seem never to have overcome that….

Lovely memories of our first holiday together, translated into again another web album!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Skype Me?

Animals don’t talk. Well, they do but not in our language. And animals in the wild do not use computers, let alone Skype. But I am almost certain if they could, some of them would love the SkypeMe mode….. especially when they need help.

It is well known within my family and circle of friends that I love animals. I have a few and all of them (my dog was an exceptions but she died in February at the age of 12, very old for a Kuvasz) are refugees.
I found my two cats in 1999 (brother and sister) at the age of 4 weeks, dwelling in the village and very poorly. I never regretted adopting them; they are social, sweet and funny.

My crow Caro comes from the Permanent Water sport Exhibition where I worked, back in 2005. He was suffering from pneumonia, long worm and an ordinary cough. It took a while before he recovered and now he is part of the family, bossing the cats.

Fluffy, the sparrow is 7 and comes from my Mum’s garden where she must have fell pout of the nest. No bird looked after here so I adopted here as well. She was a tiny, fluffy baby bird which travelled everywhere I went because she needed to be fed every 15 minutes. Fluffy never wanted to leave me either, whatever I tried.

Almost 4 years ago, someone gave me a chicken. I still had two hens and one cockerel at the time but they died in the meantime, the cockerel last year. Ever since, the chicken lives on her own and her behaviour changed from wild to domestic. She runs free in my backyard but has chosen not to sleep in her pen but on top of the cupboard in the shed / semi kitchen. I blogged about this before.

When I am in Tallinn, a girl in the village is looking after my animals with great responsibility with the chicken back in her pen. But as soon as I am home gain, chicken returns to her favourite cupboard.

Over the years I also raised various pigeon babies. One even returned a year later when a bird of pray badly wounded her. As soon as she was recovered, she left.

This week, on Monday to be precise, Tjep and I noticed a woodpigeon sitting at the lawn in the village. The partner of the pigeon tried to force her to fly but it was obvious that she was hit by a car.We took her home so cats could not kill her.I felt ever so sorry for the partner but know that they will reunite as soon as she will be released.I tried this the next morning when the pigeon was far more lively then the day before.Wisely, I thought, I released her in my backyard. If still not able to fly it would be far easier to catch her then out on the open streets.I opened my hands and after a quick look left and right, pigeon jumped and…….. fell like a brick. Just as I wanted to pick her up, chicken jumped furious on top of pigeon and started a fight.Pigeon tried to escape but the wrong way. She fell in the water filled ditch behind my garden and worked her way to the other side. No way I could get her from there as the wall was too high. Wading through the ditch wasn’t an option either as the layer of mud in there is very deep.

I went to my neighbour who also has chicken, for his chicken net. Remember my blog post about the frog??? Unfortunately by ringing neighbours door, I woke him up but he was so kind to give me the net.
Tjep, a professional sailor, fastened the net to a long pole with a strong rope and standing at the edge of the ditch, Tjep holding on to my trousers so I could not fall, I tried to catch the pigeon. Without success.Pigeon waded forward so I had to change my position. Catching started all over again. But after 5 minutes we finally had pigeon, wet but safe and sound ashore.

She is now recovering in a large bench in my office. Because she inhaled some dirty water, I gave her Baytril in case of.
Still it must be a dramatic adventure for her: without her partner, hopefully only a huge concussion, in a bench in someone’s office with two laid back cats as regular visitors (cats are used to the odd bird around), food and water in cups and a scary human being giving her her medication. It was definitely not her day yesterday.

But today she seems so much better. Right now she is tidying her feathers; she just ate (for the very first time) and drank some water. She also tried if she could escape but gave up very quickly, still not feeling fit enough.
But she will get there, I am sure. Back to her partner who will be waiting for her. When I happily release her, I will tell her “Skype Me when I am on line, love to hear how you are doing”

Monday, June 02, 2008

Back home and stuttering internet connections

After a safe flight of a little more then two hours I arrived on Dutch Soil. My loved ones at home were complaining about rain where the weather in Tallinn was beautiful. I promised them to take some sunshine home and believe it or not, the sun arrived at the same time as my plain. But gosh, what a difference…… Tallinn was sunny and bright where Holland was sunny and humid. Will I ever get used to the humidity? I doubt.
Tjep and I took a weekend off. We had inner in a lovely restaurant (where I almost fell asleep, somehow you got to pay for long working days) and a visit to his sister an brother in law. Both events were very nice, so was the food.

Me not being logged on to my laptop during the weekend is an exception but to be honest I did not miss it too much.This week I am working from home in Hilversum and Tjep had a Linksys router installed so I could work either from his office or from the living room which I find more comfortable. Just because the height of the table is more suitable for my own hight them the office desk.

Unfortunately the router did not do what it promised and the signal was too weak. I moved to the office where I sat on 3 pillows (!!) to get a comfortable seat. I am not a dwarf but the desk was definitely designed for someone taller.

Although I set the Windows XP wireless configuration to stop, I repeatedly got disconnected from the Internet.
On off….. on off…. I am not a hothead but this drove me mad. How can one work, talk, chat etc with am internet connections that behaves like a bag of popcorn?

Poor Tjep, he arranged so much to let me work from home. He called his wiz kid who delivered a repeater so I could work from home and after that we were going to look if we could solve the popcorn effect.
Whilst the wiz kid was installing the repeater, I had a relaxing drink and bite.

For some reason it took a lot of effort to get everything working order and to my great delight I am connected to the internet without any disruption for over an hour. Late but ready for work, ready to Skype. Skoll!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tallinn pictured

It is my last night in Tallinn. Well, the last night for this month. The weather is gorgeous and after 12 hours in the office, I could not resist a walk through old town. A little exercise is doing this old lady good…

I decided to climb the wall. There are quite a few stairs to the top and from there you have a beautiful view over old town and the Baltic sea. The blue sky added a lot of colour the bright painted buildings.

Just a cardigan was enough to keep “warm”. There was no wind, just sunshine. It was very quiet in the streets where all the Embassies are but busy at Town Square where a music band was producing a massive noise. Though it was fun to be there and listen.

I took all photo’s with my recently purchased second hand (and therefore very affordable) Nokia phone. It has a 2 MB camera and I am not disappointed by the quality. Well, take a look yourself. You need Adobe Flash Player to be able to view it. Download here Double click the image below to go to my Picasa Albums.

Maybe I see you in Tallinn one day, it is worth a visit!

Skype Forum Bug Fixes

Every new version, no matter if it is the Skype client or the Community causes questions and wishes.Of course we are more then happy to reply to all questions and grant as many as possible wishes.
That means where technically possible.

Each web based Forum like Skype’s community is tied to rules. Within these rules we work, change and improve.
We gathered all information from all users and are happy to tell you that the first hotfix went live today.

Below the full change log which can also be found in the Community:

* bugfix: "This page requires javascript to be turned on" notification is on top of the image
* bugfix: Spacing between My Area and related is wrong.
* bugfix: div that should be scrollable is on top other stuff(opera)
* bugfix: Skype community doesn't have any text-decoration.
* bugfix: removed h1 category header.
* feature: Welcome is a link.
* feature: Navigation links changed.
* change: Quotes, code block.
* bugfix: layout - Quote Block.
* bugfix: layout - Edited by.
* bugfix: layout - Personal portal.
* bugfix: layout - Display name is incorrect link.
* feature: possibility to add content dynamicly under My Area.
* feature: Old forum options added under My Area.
* feature: Old topic options added under My Area.
* bugfix: layout - Board guidelines.
* bugfix: layout - View Forums.
* bugfix: layout - View Topics.
* bugfix: layout - Edit Personal Portal Information.
* bugfix: layout - Edit Signature.
* bugfix: layout - Edit Avatar Settings.
* bugfix: layout - Change Personal Photo.
* bugfix: layout - Manage Your Attachments.
* bugfix: layout - Manage Ignored Users.
* bugfix: layout - Email Settings.
* bugfix: layout - Board Settings.
* bugfix: layout - Reading a PM.
* bugfix: layout - Empty PM Folders.
* bugfix: layout - Edit storage.
* bugfix: layout - PM Block list.
* bugfix: layout - Archive messages.
* bugfix: layout - Message tracker.
* bugfix: layout - Saved (Unsent) PMs.
* bugfix: disabled threaded mode.

Feel free to give us your feedback via the Community!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Travelling, sunshine, Skype and precious volunteers

The people who know me well are aware that I am not a beach bum and / or sun worshipper.
Of course I love sunshine, it is full of vitamins, brings people in good moods and adds a lot to the outdoor life.
But you will not see me in Spain nor in Australia during the Summer. Been there done that.
Spain is beautiful but too hot and too crowdie. I already live amongst 16.000.000 people in Holland and I am happy to escape for a while from so many neighbours!

Australia is absolutely beautiful. I travelled thousands of miles by car and train, visited a farm in the middle of literally nowhere, met great people, ate lovely food, even liked being hit by a Kangaroo but did not like the hot temperatures.
No, I prefer the Northern Countries like Northern England, Scotland, Scandinavia. I lived in Sweden for a short while and am looking forward to explore Estonia one day.

Up till now I did not go any further then Tallinn where I stay one week each month working from Skype’s office. But from what I see from Estonia looking down from the plane, I would love to spend time in the countryside.Tjep and I are planning a long weekend somewhere this year (don’t know when because we have a full list of what we would like to visit this year….)

Travelling to Tallinn is a real challenge. I prefer to leave Amsterdam airport on the Sunday evening because a) there are no or hardly any traffic jams on the Dutch road, b) I can be in the office early on Monday morning and c) even with an extra night in the Hotel it is cheaper.
Very seldom flights leave on time, either to or from Tallinn.I fly with KLM (excellent service!) City hopper though for very diverse reasons, there are always delays.
2 Months back we could no leave Tallinn due to leaking brakes and needed to spend an extra night in a Hotel.
We were told so when sitting in the bus to the platform where the plane was waiting.

1 Month ago, again sitting in the bus, we were again told there was a technical problem. “Oh no, not me again” was my first reaction. But fortunately they had a spare plane and one hour later we were in the air.
Yesterday though went as smoothly as possible; we left on schedule, arrived 2 hours later and half an hour later I was in my Hotel.

The weather in Tallinn is lovely; bleu sky, sunshine and happy Skypers around me.It is great to work with so many talented people who are also of diverse nationalities. Skype does not only connect people all over the world but people from all over the world are connected at the office by working together.

I am also proud to witness Tallinn transferring into a buzzing city. Flats and apartments are restored, new companies and buildings providing people with work and technology.In many ways Tallinn is far ahead of technology comparing to many other modern parts of the world. I already wrote about this in 2006 and 2007.
I feel extremely proud to work for one of those innovating companies! My work as Head of Communities and Forum Operations is a challenge on its own. Working with great people for great people is special and I am learning every minute of the day.

People always fascinated me. Skype users are a lovely mix of people all over the world, with colourful backgrounds, all individuals with their own experience, hobbies, interests, knowledge and so much more. Happy people who see life as a challenge, conquering problems turning them into positive energy.
Sad people who are affected by the sad things that happened to them in life. Using their bad experiences to attack others to feel good, to hide their own misery.
Quiet people with soft gentle characters, easily forgotten because they are hardly heard. People who shout to be heard or to hide their boring life or insecure feelings. But all are human beings and even the worst human being must have a soft spot somewhere for something or someone. All these people represent the valuable Skype users. Skype does connect people, it helps shy people to escape from an isolated life, lonely people to find friends or lost family members, to do business, to chat to friends scattered all over the world or even next door. It gives loved ones the opportunity to talk and see each other when they are separated for what ever reason.
Skype inspires people to blog and here as well you sense what drives people in life as described above. I am subscribed to many personal blogs and to Google which updates me as soon as Skype is popping up somewhere on the Internet.

Skype’s Community is also a colourful collection of all these people and they come for various reasons to the Community. Though the main reason is Support. There are various forms of Support. Like I mentioned in my previous post, the Community is not an OFFICIAL way of Support. With official I mean that the Customer Support department would monitor the Community for issues. This would be a very insufficient way to provide official support. Monitoring (read looking for issues) would be time consuming. Precious time that now is used to reply to tickets. One to one conversations wouldn’t be possible because people post / discuss in topics (threads), messages would get lost. Private information would be exposed which is the worst nightmare of every user. Support would not be able to ask for payment details etc. Sure, you could use the PM function but again, this would be extremely time consuming. I do not talk about the regular 1600 – 1800 new forum subscribers per week but about 5000 – 6000 support request forms (questions like "what is the large green button with the telephone icon for" till "my payment did not go through") per week via the ticket official ticket system.
The Community, and I repeat again is for, with and about users. It has been like this since the very beginning in 2004.

Maybe it is helpful to introduce to you the various levels of volunteering helpers.
Apart from the two Admin’s Raul and I and those who use a Staff badge in the Community (all staff badges are bleu) all other people are Volunteers. The Moderators are users like you and me who find a great pleasure to help out when and where ever they can. They spend and this is their own free will, many hours per week to monitor the Community. To guide the users in the right direction, to delete SPAM, to edit posts where the user does not keep to the guidelines, to move posts to the correct sub forums, they use Skype Multi Chat to discuss issues on the Forum and to help and advise each other. They are a wonderful and cheerful group of people who are part of my responsibility and who I see (and this I say with great pride) as colleagues. Beside the Moderator job they also provide help to users. Help in trying to solve common and technical issues by giving information or asking questions to find the source of the problems.
Where help from Skype Support is needed, they advise the user to submit a ticket and when this is not solving the problem (no replies to tickets for whatever reason – the user did not follow the correct ticket procedure, the user didn’t enclose the correct username / e-mail address or the ticket got lost, not an excuse though!!!) Moderators have access to Skype Staff to report, discuss and solve these issues. They signed an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) and are well trusted people.

Other Volunteers are the SuperUsers. Since the very beginning of the Community (Forum), users are helping users. These users are daily users (private or business) and Skype Beta testers (also Volunteers) who find a simple joy in sharing their knowledge with others. Users, who spend much time in the Community by helping out, receive a SuperUser badge for life by the Admin’s to express that their positive input is acknowledged and much appreciated. SuperUser are also involved in Skype chats with Moderators and Admin’s to discuss matters, express their feelings about what ever Community related subject and for help.
Sometimes SuperUsers are asked to be become a Moderator and sometimes Moderators become Staff members.

“Volunteer” in not just a word in the Skype Community. Someone being a Volunteer by joining our community to find joy in helping out (99,99 % of the Volunteers logged on for the very first time with a question) is seen as someone being very special. Sharing your knowledge on a volunteer base, spending time on the Community, maintaining the guidelines, helping out where possible, maintaining a positive outlook on other users, not attacking people but truly contributing positively, is a most valuable, precious characterfull thing to do. The SuperUser and Moderator badges are highlighting this but can’t express the true feelings we have for the effort of these Volunteers.

Highlighting their efforts in a blog post and spelling it with a capital V will help but still can’t express what they really do.
Thus a HUGE HURRAY for those great, great people!! Guys and Gals, you are Super people!!! May the whole world know of you!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Skype, Skyper, Skypest

March 17 or May 19, such a difference, 2 months in between! From Winter to Spring and from bleak to green.
Don’t think I disappeared from the net, no chance!! I am still around and have to admit I miss blogging tremendously.

Daily I receive my Skype related Google updates. I file the most important ones which I want to blog about but delete them again when they are 2 days old.
We do not want old news where dozens of other blogs talked about as well, do we?

Has my life been boring over the past two months? No, not at all!!! Together with my colleagues at Skype I have been working hard on a new Forum LayOut.
And as with every new layout, people love it or hate it. And we, who designed the new Forum (now called Community), which is now in harmony with Skype’s Website, learn from both sides.

One thing amazed me. The forum users in their 50’s have most difficulties with the new way it is designed (I know, I am also a 50+!!) and the saying “you can not learn an old dog new tricks” came to mind. But all these “old dogs” are wonderful people with a huge Forum experience and therefore very valuable in their feedback.
We listen, read, test and improve according the feedback where technically possible.
Of course it is not only a “design” thing produced by the mind of a few Forum enthusiasts.
An enormous amount of web design skills from Skype’s web team are needed to come to a result.
If you visit the new Community, you will see that we simplified the amount of sub forums.
One complain about the old Forum was the many, many sub forums which made it difficult for people to choose the right forum. This caused a lot of extra work to the (volunteer) Moderators who kept moving posts.

Strangely enough we received the very same complain where we now have far less sub forums: “Users do not know where to post, it is not clear anymore” But statistics show that we move only a fraction of what we did before.
We do see fewer posts then before, less new topics, but the amount of topic views increased tremendously, sometimes even doubled. We love to believe that people found their answer before posting.

Our next goal is to change the Forum into a real Community where users feel at home.Of course it will be a place for, with and about users if they have questions and problems but we would love to see less problems posted (after all the Forum/Community is not an official Support Channel, Skype has an excellent ticket system for this, this does not mean we will not help out when a ticket did not bring a solution!) and more posts with ideas, suggestions, discussions etc. A giant meeting place for Skype lovers: seniors and juniors, advanced users and beginners. We are looking forward to incredible Skype Stories to share. Users who met via Skype, marriages thanks to Skype, finding lost family members. Skype does connect people!! Talk and share!

Next week I am back in Tallinn for my monthly week at Skype. I love working at the office. Great colleagues, wonderful atmosphere, special job.
And I am not the only one from Holland who is visiting Skype. Our Queen Beatrix visited Skype last week and received a Skype telephone. Queen Beatrix who explained she does not use a computer and never sent an e-mail, said: “Maybe I need to skip e-mailing and learn how to Skype first”

Now the hectic time around the Community launch is over and dealing with the aftermath is coming into place, I work on all the work which was put aside and believe me, this is a lot! But hey, I do not complain, I love my job sooooooo much!!!

Talking about love…….

After being single for 9 years, I found the love of my life. Yes, your blogger is in love with a wonderful Dutchman and of course this is a two way love! No, I am not going to tell you more and I know you will allow me time to get used to the wonderful feeling of not being on my own anymore.

No, we did not meet via Skype, not even via the Internet and yes, he is using Skype (he doesn’t have a choice uh?).

Life is Wonderful and it is a miracle that there never seems so come and end to Wonderful, every time something else Wonderful is added to the existing Wonderful. Isn’t that Wonderful?Yes, yes, I know, too often “Wonderful” in these sentences….

To be continued!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Skype Multi Chats
Also called Skype Group Chats

You have not seen me here for a VERY long time although I promised not to stay away for weeks again. So now I feel almost ashamed but I have a good excuse: a busy job which I truly love.

My job is with, around and about Skype and its Forum where users can discuss Skype or help each other with Skype relate issues. The Forum is not only a huge source of feedback for the users but also for Skype itself.
One of the great features of Skype is the Multi Chat.
A virtual “ongoing” meeting about what ever subject.
Let’s say you are a member of a club of collectors and you love to talk about your collection, just start a chat on Skype, add more participants, give the chat a name and bookmark it. You will find all this on top of the chat window.
Likewise for business users or family members, conferences etc.

As soon as someone adds information to the chat, no matter where you are on this globe, it will pop-up with all participants and everyone can read and reply whenever they are logged on. No information gets lost and when you log on from a different computer with no chat history, the history of the MC (GC) will loads in seconds to minutes (depending the amount of previous information). And not only that. You can also start with one click of a button, a conference call (up to 10 participants) or send with one click of a button, files to everyone.

The Multi Chat is much loved by the Skype people. They are of course heavy users and communicate a lot!
We can not be called “average users” and Multi Chats are part of our Skype life.

Forum Moderator Támas Henning got curious about the use of Multi Chats with other users and started an interesting Poll on the Forum. You need to be logged on (if you never visited the Forum before, please use your Skype ID and password to log on) to participate in the Poll.

If you read it, you will also see why I haven’t been here for a while……

Please vote!

Guide to Multi / Group Chats

Friday, December 28, 2007

Skype on HTC Touch 3450

A quick and early update about Skype on HTC Touch 3450.

I never worked before with Windows Mobile so I felt like a kid in a candy shop reading the manual, synchronizing and installing Skype.

The HTC does not support 3G but WiFi. It connected to my WiFi without problems and within minutes I was using Skype.

The speed it downloaded my extensively contact list and the rather huge amount of multi chats with, really surprised me.
I tested another application a while ago and it took ages to download but with GPRS10, it was done after 7 minutes. I have the same account running on my laptop and chats got updated on the HTC only a split second after they arrived on the laptop.

The sound is excellent receiving and making calls.

I am really impressed and are looking forward to explore it more thoroughly over the weekend.

Like wise for the Fuji FinePix S9500Zoom (digital camera). Does anyone have a more challenging weekend ahead?
Nah, I doubt....

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Skype for Windows Mobile, TMC, SD and CF cards, and Digital Camera’s

I took the plunge! One of my mobile subscriptions is going to end in January. It will be sad to say goodbye to a subscription that only costs € 2,50 per month (incl. VAT) including 500 free calling minutes per month to mobile phones of the same provider and / or landlines within Holland.
I still have the same subscription running for another mobile though I never managed to talk 500 minutes per month lat alone 1000!

I will start a totally new subscription and this time for a PDA, the HTC Touch 3450. I could not resist the offer of Telfort NL and signed up for 180 free calling minutes per month, the phone for € 49 and unlimited mailing, surfing, chatting for € 25 per month.

I am going to enter a whole new world too, that of the Skype for Closed Windows Mobile Beta Tester. Not that I am going to tell you my experiences as one though!! But, as you can see, nobody is too old to learn.

I read many reviews about the HTC. I also had the choice for a Nokia 95 (although a more expensive subscription) but many Testers I know use the Nokia. I wanted something different.
Wise or not, I don’t know. The future will tell!

I will probably use one of my “lighter” Skype accounts (e.g. my business account as the phone will be used for business) for working with all the Multi Chats I daily participate in and over 500 contacts, any PDA would have difficulties loading. But you never know. The GPRS10 might do well. I can keep you informed about that.

Yes, the Nokia95 also has Navigator on board but for this I use my wonderful Navman F20. I bough it when I got lost in a nearby village with 1000 inhabitants.

Don’t laugh……….!! It is horrible to have no sense of directions at all. (Yes yes.. I know!! Women can’t read Maps. Actually, I am too practical for reading maps…) And it gets worse when it is a village (although just 1000 people) with 2 main roads with two churches with both a school opposite…..

I can assure you that ever since, the F20 saved me a lot of money ánd time. And we all know, for a business owner, time is money!

My F20 was one of the very first (great offer) with only the BeNeLux installed. Thanks to the excellent written directions to my brother and his family in Germany, I finally go there without a map, I know it by heart. But I do go elsewhere too and finally took the decision to buy a Western Europe SD card and, due to the increasing traffic jams in Holland, the TMC T1 module.
Being used to use my money carefully, I browsed the Internet for price differences and was surprised. Even though I bought genuine Navman products, I saved altogether € 75!! It helps to spend an hour browsing the Net.

This on the business side.


Privately I am keen on products on Marktplaats, a bit similar to eBay. I learned over the years that you can buy beautiful kept 2nd hand products for a very low price. I am patient, I only buy what I need and like, not what I only fancy. One of the things I was looking for was an antique brass mirror. I found one not far from where I live and put my offer on.
Marktplaats offers the option to browse the other ads of the same person and there I found a Digital Camera, the Fuji FinePix S602Zoom. Not that I am looking for a camera with less or even the same Mega Pixels as my wonderful little Pentax Optio 50L which travelled with me to many places (and besides that the price of € 150 for a camera from 2002 was way too high in my opinion) but I got interested in reading more about the Fuji FinePix digitals.

I read reviews of different types, looked for photo’s on Picasa Web and ended up with a great interest in the Fuji FinePix S9500Zoom. I browsed Marktplaats and found them all (but one) way above my budget.
The very one that was close to my budget was put up for sale by a very nice couple who accepted my offer.
And tomorrow (Thursday) I am going to collect my “new” Digital Camera.

My wish was saving for a Digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex, I still own and use an “old fashioned” one) but after reading several articles, I full hearted changed to the Digital Fixed Lens. An extra option of the FL is that you can also use it for Video. The S9500 does not need switching lenses which keeps the dust out of the camera.
I ordered a 4GB CF card because I am known to take loads and loads of pictures and choose the ones that go up in my Public Web Albums, from there.

I love photography and I am one of the many people at Skype who have photography as their hobby. Many of my colleagues are extremely well skilled.

For me it started many, many years ago but only since the late 80’s it became a hobby. Being at the other end of the camera (I dislike being on photo’s a lot) is definitely giving me joy! I still have some old camera’s I occasionally use and as mentioned before, the non Digital SLR.
For a long time frequently developing and printing photo's was not within my budget and you can imagine my joy when I received my first Digital Camera and later the Pentax for my birthday.

Although the Pentax takes wonderful pictures, I felt limited during my last holiday in Yorkshire, especially regarding super macro shots, zoom and telelens. But it was not until the Fuji came to my attention that I really decided to buy another one. And no, my Pentax is not for sale! It fits so well in the inner pocket of my “multi pocket photography / holiday coat”. And it has always been loyal: I find it difficult to abandon or replace loyal and useful products….

Thursday and Friday are two exiting days: the arrival of new “toys” for business and private use.

I will keep you updated!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How special: forward Good..

Yesterday afternoon, up to my ears and beyond with work, the doorbell rang.

At my doorstep were three 7 years old girls from the one and only primary school in our village. This school happens to be opposite where I live.

“Hello” they said in choir, “we do a project at school and visit people to do little jobs. Do you have a job for us?” I asked them if they needed to be paid for it. This was the case last year and all the money went to charity.

“No, it is just to do Good to people” That sounds nice! Do I need to write a letter how well you did the job? “No, we do Good without receiving anything in return”

I was impressed. I know my village as being nice and disinterested helpful but I never take this for granted. I also know another world out there. Teaching kids “to do Good” this way is in my humble opinion, wonderful!

I indeed had a little job for them.
Whilst pruning the Ivy last week Saturday, my mother got ill and was rushed to Hospital. I left the stairs and all the cut Ivy as it was. When home again late at night, I only took the stairs inside an never found the time to remove the old Ivy.

I gave them a bag, broom and gloves and off they went.
15 minutes later they rang my doorbell again. “We are ready!!” They did a great job, my garden looked neat again. I invited them in for a piece of early Christmas cake. The loved my curious cats and the dog and after 10 minutes and lots of praises my side, they left.

Half an hour later they were back. “We forgot to tell you something! We forgot to mention that it is a forwarding thingy. We do Good to you and you do Good to someone else. We know you are too old to do a garden job elsewhere (…..thank you sweetheart….. :-)) so maybe you tell someone else you love her of him. Or hug someone or send a card”
I said this was a wonderful idea and I would give my mother the biggest hug in the world when I was going to visit her in hospital that evening. She on her turn could hug someone else.
The girls were more then happy with these arrangements and with a “Bye for now” and a wave, the left.

But half an hour later two of the girls rang my doorbell again. “We are so sorry that were are back but we made you a Christmas card at school.” 4 happy eyes watched me reading a bright purple card with a green Christmas tree at the front, a smiley inside and the words “We wish you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Regards Lisette and Janette” plus a bright shiny sun.

I wrapped my arms around them and gave them a big hug, tears in my eyes.
I never could have guessed waking up yesterday morning that happiness was to be found right at my doorstep!

Of course I forwarded “Good” and a little bit more: also Love, to my lovely Mum.
And herewith also to everyone I know and not know. Actually to the whole world.

Be good and forward Good to others!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Holiday without Skype

The past months have been extremely busy.
Several business trips to Tallinn and one to Prague. Of course all nice and fruitful but together with my 'normal' work at the office at home, I did 60 – 80 hours a week. And yes, I got tired.

I haven’t been on holiday for 6 years. Apart from 4 days per year to lovely Yorkshire. But that is not a proper holiday.
My last holiday, two weeks to Sweden, was in 2001. I was extremely tired at the time and developed a high fever when in Sweden. Home again they checked my blood and it showed I had a badly neglected Glandular Fever.

So, it was time for another holiday and now without a Glandular Fever!!
There were two countries I liked to go to: Sweden (Värmland) and England (Yorkshire). Both beautiful in Autumn, my most favourite season.
A holiday to Sweden is expensive when you go by car and believe me, you need a car.
Thus it was Yorkshire where I was going to stay in the Cottage of my foster brother who is a true Yorkshireman, living in Dortmund for over 42 years.

His cottage is in a small village in Nidderdale. From there it is easy to explore the Dales. Either walking or by car.When I am in Yorkshire, I have usually very good weather and this holiday was no exception. Only one day with rain and many days with a beautiful blue sky.

I have been visiting many places- Europe largest Abbey Ruin “Fountains Abbey”, my favourite Ruin “Jervaulx Abbey”, the abandoned farmhouse in Wharfedale
For the first time since 1978, Ripley Castle was open for tours and of course I went to see it. All other times I was there, the Castle was closed due to renovation, weddings, parties etc.

But I will tell you all much more about the Abbey’s and the Castle at a different time.

First enjoy The Yorkshire Dales as I see them. You can either click the link to my albums or view the slide shows below (or double click the slides).

Right now I am still in Yorkshire and will be fully back at the office and computer on Monday the 29th
Until then, please ignore me, I am enjoying a wonderful holiday!!

Link to Album in Colour

Link to Album in Black and White