Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Will President Bush soon be on your contact list?

The President of the United States George W. Bush visited Estonia.
Jaanus Kase at Skype blogged about the arrival yesterday, including pictures of the traffic camera’s.

President Bush did not stay long but long enough to
receive two gifts from his Estonian host prime minister Andrus Ansip: a glass sculpture and a Skype wireless phone that can be used to make calls over the Internet.

The Philips VOIP841 cordless Skype phone
handset that Bush received allows users to make Skype calls without touching a computer. Estonian programmers developed the code for the phone.

When President Bush finds out (if not already) how safe Skype calls and chats are, maybe he will get in touch with you for a social chat to promote and discuss his plans and ideas for the world.

How about receiving an authorization request “Hi, please add me to your contactlist. Love to meet ordinary people. George W. Bush, President of the United States”

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Weekend jobs

This weekend I have been working on my new bedroom.

Friday night I sandpapered all the beams, cleaned them to let them dry overnight. Then I painted the doorpost which was custom made and hand fitted by a friend in the village. A thin coat of white ground-colour made most of the plain wood disappear.

Saturday morning I was up early and after the usual little household jobs and feeding the little zoo, I painted the doorpost for the second time and it almost looked finished.

Next I coloured another tin of ground-colour slightly yellow and painted the beams: a total of 16 metres of beams on each side. They have never been looked after at all and after 25 years you could hear them suck up the paint.

Then I sandpapered the door, used quite a lot of filler for the holes (this door had a terrible life before at arrived at my house. I got it for free so you don’t hear me complaining).

I noticed I needed some more tools from the DIY shop and off I went for my shopping’s so all paint and filler could further dry. I dislike the usual shopping so much but I can spend hours in the DIY shop.

Back home the beams were dry enough to use the filler for all those numerous little nail holes in those 32 metres. It puzzled me why there were so many.
I like a rustic beam and don’t mind natural holes and bumps but a pair of nicely round holes repeated each 30 cm. is not my idea of rustic.

In the meantime it was time to go and see my mother who didn’t have the best day of her life. Her Heart beat was slow which caused some breathing problems. She said she was alright but her blood pressure and skin colour told a different story. I cooked us a nice dinner and Mum felt much better afterwards.
I am afraid I wasn’t her most entertaining guest because I fell asleep after dinner.

Round 8 PM I “dragged” myself home, spent a quite night in on my comfortable settee, covered in two lazy cats and went to bed early.

Sunday up early again and after my visit to Mum and spent the rest of my day painting. First the doorpost with a coat of the white final paint. Still one coat to go and that is off my To Do List.
During the afternoon my cousins arrived with 10 litres of wall paint, a little gift from them with which I am more then happy!
But my cousin soon discovered that his wife brought the wrong bucket. This was paint as well but slightly structured which once belonged to their son. Not what I had in mind but she had a point that putting this on an old wall, would give a nice view.

After they left I worked hard on the last beams so I could paint one wall before I was going to cook dinner for Mum and me. But when I opened the bucket, it wasn’t paint. It was a white powder for making filler.
So no wall tonight, shame but there are other nights to come although I am behind schedule already.

Instead I sandpapered the door again and gave it the first coat of ground-colour.

And now I have an early night off. Or is there something else I can do before bedtime?
Or will I be wise and relax?

First food, good healthy food, I am very, very hungry.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Tracer Systems integrated Skype

Only a few minutes ago, Jan van der Zwaag, Managing Director at Tracer Systems Heerenveen (Holland), finished the integration of Skype.

Tracer Systems has developed a single, fully integrated flexible cross platform CRM (Customer Relationship Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), and HRM (Human Resource Management) solution to assist customers in keeping their competitive advantage. The possibilities are endless.

Jan van der Zwaag used a plugin developed by the Swedish company “
With Tracer you can now call your contacts in Skype for free.

For external calls, the user of your database needs a SkypeOut account.
You can answer a call from Tracer and automatically search for the caller in your database.
To receive external calls, the user needs a SkypeIn account.

Features in this plugin

• Call a contact
• Answer a call
• Send voicemails
• List available voicemails
• List missed, received or made calls
• Chat inside of Tracer using Skype
• Start a conference call

Jan used me as a test-bunny and it worked just perfect. The chats and calls are saved in Tracer under the client and business relation tabs. Even recording voicemails is possible.

Great job and another proof that Skype is a useful business tool!!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A cold, verkoudheid , förkylning, Erkältung and avatars

Avatars in Skype are popular. They show the user in real, a persiflage or are an addition to the mood message.

With bad weather you see avatars with rain, snow, storm.
During a period of too much rain in Holland, I saw avatars with boots in over flown streets.
Users who are out to their favourite sports event, put up avatars wit their favourite player.
Some of my favourite avatars are those of
Antoine: he has them of all sorts of Ants (his nickname)
Birthday bunnies show party-avatars.

Skype designed special avatars called
I love to browse Google Images for matching pictures and there are loads.
I was also looking for a “Sneezy” avatar because I have a bad cold.

I should not mention my cold in public because it will spoil my cold free reputation.
I managed to maintain this reputation for 10 years and I was so proud of that.
I hardly wear coats, love cold weather, don’t mind rain and considered myself immune for viruses and bacteria’s

But, it happened. Here I am; sneezing and sniffing. Tears are running down my cheeks and tissues are at hand in all sorts and sizes. I still can speak, still have a voice but only with a low tone. With higher tones you hear a mouse-like squeak. I sound more like a man (amazingly none of my callers asked if Ike was around….)

I don’t have a flu (wouldn’t have the time for one either), just an ordinary, healthy cold.
Of course there are many pictures of sneezing and coughing people but non even looked like me.

Yesterday evening I asked in a Beta chat if someone could design a sneezing Emoticon for me.
This seemed to be an impossible task because Emo’s don’t have a nose and therefore probably never have a cold.
But, they can get the flu so my wonderful Skype SuperUser and Moderator colleague
Carola Clavo designed my own private Emo with a thermometer in it’s mouth (and Carola is an excellent designer!!).
Private means private so I am not going to share my Emo with you …. ;-)

But as a lovely bonus, she also designed an avatar! She used the standard Skype avater and coloured its forehead slightly red (the fever) and put a thermometer in its mouth.
It is a great avater and it will stay in my Skype profile for as long as I have this cold.

No, I am not ill, not in bed. Just working like I always do. Thus is my avatar visible to everybody in my contact list.
And for those without authorization? No, I am not going to change my blog rule “No pictures”….. sorry….
Skype Service Restricted in China

It are not just the UAE and Israel (see elsewhere on my blog), also China has put a hold on Skype’s services in some area’s.

Skype quickly became popular in China with over 23 million users currently online. However its Chinese partner has stated that the service is now restricted in some areas.

Skype's popularity quickly grew despite formally entering the Chinese market only two years ago when a joint venture with Chinese internet service provider TOM.com was created.

The enterprise must comply with China's tight censorship policies and right now is unable to provide its "call to landline" service, because of China's monopoly on Telecom service providers.

Mr. Tu, a TOM manager, believes that use of Skype will continue to increase in China and become an important revenue generator. "In the past year, our development has been very smooth; the increase has been fast, especially in the past several seasons. Honestly, the increase in use is beyond our expectations."

TOM spokesperson Mr. Wei denied that the reduced functionality of the service would result in a loss of customers. "We are not worried, the current customer profile is quite good, and having many Skype users around the world also helps to attract domestic users."

Currently, Skype claims to have 100 million customers globally, with the number of customers in China showing the largest increase. Wei said that in China, 100,000 people register for Skype service through TOM every day. It is estimated that in the near future, China could be the major user of Skype services.

TOM.com is a listed company in the U.S. and Hong Kong. The company's recent financial report shows that, although its Skype-related business had a large increase, all its other internet business ventures have decreased over the past several months.

Source: “
The Epoch Times
The original article in Chinese

Monday, November 20, 2006

Mobile, another useful ‘machine’….

Laptops, sound devices and mobiles, the Heart of Varras Consultancy.
And I am always on the look for something innovating and useful like the global launch of X-Series from
3. The X-Series is a service that enables broadband Internet use from mobile devices. Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. will install Skype software on Nokia and Sony Ericsson telephones.

The X Series launch has an Israeli aspect. The Skype solution that will enable Hutchison to offer customers Skype calls is from
iSkoot Inc., a company founded and run by Israelis, which has a 35-man R&D center in Beit Shemesh. iSkoot’s software enables people to use Skype via their handsets from any location. Skype selected iSkoot’s solution, and Hutchison is the first mobile operator offering the new service to its users.

3 is a Hutchison division, and together with Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd. (NYSE:HTX; HKSE:2332), has licenses to provide communications services to 175 million people. In the past three years, 3 has developed a new mobile broadband network for 3G services.

Published by Globes: “
Israeli solution allows Hutchison to launch cellular Skype
Batwoman… or a monkey?

No, no, I don’t have the intention to fly around rescuing people in distress, dressed like the female equivalent of Batman.

I was more thinking about the Bat as an animal. I am very fond of these little creatures. We have quite a few of them in my village. They live in the old vicarage and come out during the evening.

My view from my little backyard is fields and of course Friesian cows. There is a ditch in between the field and my garden and this combination attracts mosquitos. And they attract Bats. And they attract me.
I like to view them on their hunt for food. They come quite close to catch the insects and seem not be bother by my presence.

During the Summer in Sweden, being in the Lake with my ears just above the surface, I can hear the sound they make to locate the insects.

Right now it is too cold for the Bats although you can still see them occasionally on a warmer evening.
But over the weekend, I have been acting like a Bat. No… I don’t eat insects (and they don’t eat me). Let me explain.

I have spent most of the weekend insulating the last part of my top floor and this is a slope roof all the way to the floorboards.
I am gluing the insulation tiles and need to hold them in place for a few minutes before I can move on to the next one. The best way to do this is pushing them against the roof lying on your back, using hands and feet.
A 'serious' business and with nothing on my mind for a few minutes, I suddenly pictured myself and thought I must look like a Bat hanging upside down. Waiting for the twilight to go out hunting, my wings nicely folded around my body, my toenails holding on to the roof.

Or did I look more like a Monkey? Or just a hardworking woman…. or maybe someone in the middle of the evolution process?

Anyway, the transformation of my top floor into a bedroom is progressing nicely and steadily. The first beams will be painted tonight and the side boards for the storage area need to be ready at the end of the week.

Anyone reading this feeling bored, ready for a building job? Volunteers welcome…

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Adapters for landlines and Skype

Most of my blog visitors know that apart from being a distributor for
TipTel Holland, I am also more or less addicted to their products. The software for Holland is especially developed for our telephone systems and their Support is fantastic.

When the
TipTel Cyberbox250 arrived on the market (February 2006), they sent me one for free and I am more then happy with it. It is very functional and switches seamless between my landline and Skype calls.
I can also call my Skype contacts from any landline or mobile phone by calling my home number, dialling a code number which connects me to Skype and then dialling the speed dial of my contact.
Of course Skype needs to be running on my computer.
The Tiptel Cyberbox costs € 50 ex VAT and P&P. For a complete overview of all TipTel's VoIp products, click

TipTel was one of the very first with this box but not the only one anymore. This morning I received an e-mail with a link to similar products: the Intenet Adapter SIPTalk, the TeleVoIP stick and the PointVoce (only US and Canada). I like to highlight the PointVoce.

PontiVoce is the new TeleVoce software-only product that is the start of a platform that creates new utility for Skype users. This first version sets up a mini-app that uses a Skype API to allow remote callers--who you select, to make calls through your PC. This is of particular interest with the current free calling promotion, but it will become much more.

Right now this is very useful to extend call options beyond a simple call forward. From anywhere in the world I can use your Skype to call you or family members at work, home or cell. This sets a new relationship with PontiVoce buddies who have special rights to contact you. You can appear to be away and not available to others on Skype, but those with PontiVoce can still reach you at any phone.

For more info visit “

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Skype User Satisfaction Survey

A while ago there was this post on the Forum:

A group of students and myself from the University of South Florida are conducting a simple survey on Skype user satisfaction.
It consists of a short automated Skype call, followed by a brief questionnaire. The entire process should take less than three minutes.
If you would like to help us with our research please visit: http://skype.cse.usf.edu/
We appreciate your participation, and feel free to suggest the survey to any friends or family that use Skype.
Rodrigo Gutierrez

Indeed a simple survey but done in a very clever way! You need to have Skype downloaded on your computer and when you click the link, you get connected to a voice that asks you to leave a short message. After 20 seconds, a chat message pops with the instructions for the short survey.

I am impressed; they made use of Skype in an intelligent way. Please visit the link and join the survey. It is worthwhile.

Monday, November 13, 2006

How Human is Polystyrene?

Like a human being, Polystyrene has a character of it’s own. Not something to mess about with.

It is present in bulk form, so are people.

It even has backbones but each of the '
chiral' backbone carbons lies at the center of a 'tetrahedron' - Mmmm, sounds more like a Dinosaur though.

It is tough - like some humans. “Pure polystyrene is brittle, but hard”

Expanded polystyrene is very easily shaped and cut - Ah, wished this with some stubborn people I know…

It plays a critical role in pharmaceutical research - So do people.

In the United States, environmental protection regulations prohibit the use of solvents on polystyrene - Doesn’t have the US environmental protection regulation for human polluters too? The fees are high!

Do we have more in common with Polystyrene then we thought we would have??

Here some
real facts about Polystyrene, it changed my view on those “white plaques” that are insolating my little house…

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Skype, Marktplaats, paint, polystyrene, dust

Throw it all in a bowl and you have the perfect mix for my daily doses of “entertainment”.

It is Autumn. The typical smell, the turning of the leaves, the rain, it is all providing me with an enormous boost of energy. This happens every year and I am used to it.
I am a child of the North, a forest “animal” and like all those animals; I am extremely active getting ready for the winter.

Of course I don’t hide in my cave to do my winter sleep (although I am going to feel like it soon). Still I am working on my cave: my new bedroom.
I bought my fist Polystyrene to insolate. I am doing the lower part of the slope roof first to organize the belongings that will be stored there. Out of the way means space.

I have put 2 packages up and vacuumed in between the packages; cutting Polystyrene is a dusty job: it flies and sticks everywhere!

I also painted the first beam: “Summer Yellow” the label says. My cousin visited me today and says she knows a cheap address for quality paint. I ordered 10 litres of white for the walls and roof.

The fun is that I have a very tight budget. A challenge I love.
I have put up quite a few ad’s on
Marktplaats to subsidise the decorating and I am not doing too bad.
At the same time I browsed Marktplaats for items I want to use for the interior. And it looks like that I found the lamps I want, the Grand Foulard for the bed and some deco items all fitting in with what I have in mind, like pieces of a puzzle called “bedroom”

I have to admit that it is a huge job for one person but I know already how the end result will look like and I am slowly but steady, working towards it.
I only wished I could live a double life: 18 hours of work and Skype and 24 hours for decorating.

Work of course is still no. 1. It is possible to answer (Skype)calls in a dusty outfit but it is not recommendable to hit the keyboard with sticky paint fingers!!

Tomorrow I am having a meeting with my client in Heerenveen but Ike wouldn’t be Ike if she hadn’t found the elegant white / brass lamps for her new room on her way to the meeting and the “Grand Foulards” on her way back.

Back home, there is a lot of work on the Forum waiting for me. Usually I am also active during the weekend but yesterday and today I have been dedicated to the top floor.

Skype…. Much happened the past week like the introduction of 3.0 Public Beta.
I did not mention it because the Press published about it world wide. What other news could I add?
Though it was fun. One of my contacts, knowing I am a Beta Tester, tried to get info from me by asking intelligent tricky question.
But a signed NDA sealed my lips and causes red warning lights flashing all over whenever someone starts asking about new features.
Though hours after 3.0 Beta was launched, my contact sent me an IM: “Ike, I think I can now predict when the new Beta version will be launched!!”
I felt almost sorry to tell him that happened hours before. Maybe I should have sent him the
link as soon as it was on line…… sorry, I forgot.

Skype also reached the 8.000.000 users on line simultaneously. Two days later then predicted by
Jean Mercier who is always very accurate. He has a nose for it.

I love 3.0, Skype made a huge step forwards and much to the benefit of
Varras Consultancy!

Monday, November 06, 2006

“Mmmmmmmmm…… what am I going to do today…….”

I can’t remember when I said that for the last time. IF I ever said that…

I need a bigger office and don’t have enough space in my living room to extend it.
Renting another place is simply not an option. Well, not yet. Maybe when my neighbour will move to another place, but she is so nice. I don't want her to move.

Not enough garden to extend the living room but I do have a top floor which is currently in use for unwanted items or those without an immediate need for use.

Although I am not a horder, over the past years I gathered more items then I wished to. It is time for a clean out. I know, most people feel this need during Spring. Not me, I am an Autumn cleaner. I definitely feel a need to nestle when the days get shorter. I would thrive in the Scandinavian countries with their long dark winters.
Time to get my top floor in order, to insolate it (a very old fashioned little house), to paint the beams in a sunny yellow, the slope roof in white and the wooden floor in mahogany.

I am going to divide the top floor in two parts and the back part is going to be my new bedroom. It will even be bigger then my current bedroom which is on the ground floor.

I have promised myself to finish it before Christmas. In January I am going to change my “old” bedroom into an office. 3 Times more space then I have now and I can shut the door behind me when I take time off work!

Moving the office is less work then “building” a bedroom so somewhere half way January I am updating my blogs from a real office :-)

At the end of January my living room will be redecorated and back to normal. It is nice to start from “scratch” but it is even nicer to have a separate office!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

eBay is trying to catch up with Marktplaats

Yesterday Don Albert, vice president and general manager, Skype North America announced that
Skype can now be added to listings in the following categories: Motorcycles, Special Vehicles, Cell Phones & Portable Electronics, Camera & Photo, Baby, Travel and additional areas of Collectibles. Using Skype buttons on eBay listings allows eBay buyers to instantly connect with the seller to send messages.

ay introduced this feature some months ago and it was World News.
This surprised me. In Holland we have our own site
MarktplaatsDe advertentie Site van Nederland”. And not only for Holland. We can visit ad’s in 20 countries world wide.

Marktplaats became part of eBay for over a year ago. But even when Marktplaats was still owned by a private company, it offered their clients a Skype Button to allow buyers to get in touch with the sellers.

Like millions of other Dutch people, I visit and use Marktplaats and the option of the Skype button frequently. And for a long, long time already.

So eBay was not the first one although they would like us to believe so, but Marktplaats who had the skill to integrate the button into their website.

Holland, such a small country uh? Still…..

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Dutch VoIP Phone directory “Samen Gratis Bellen”

Are we unique in the world with a VoIP telephone book especially for one country?

Wouter van den Berg, Economy student at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, is much aware of the fact that you can only spend your money once.
When all his friends moved to other locations in Holland, he was more then happy to sign up for free internet calls and reduced his costs to almost zero.

Phoning via the Internet is not unknown, neither is phoning via your computer though it is cost effective and a good replacement for your landline (note that it is still not possible to call emergency numbers! Keep your mobile at hand when you want to unsubscribe from your landline).

Wouter thought that it was the right moment to start the first Dutch VoIP telephone directory “
Samen Gratis Bellen
He developed a “grown up” telephone directory with an easy to navigate and good looking lay-out.
Although I was not one of the very first to sign up, I was definitely one of the earlier ones.

In the meantime many other private and business users found their way to Wouter’s on-line directory.

If you know similar directories in other countries, feel free to list them here in your comment.
Otherwise: may more countries follow Wouter’s great initiative!
Phishing and Vishing

Spammers and Spitters, Phishing and Vishing. The Internet is developing it’s own dictionary.
And Phishing and Vishing has nothing to do with Fishing.
Well, nothing……….. ok, sort off.

With Phishing swindlers are fishing for e.g. creditcard information by e-mail. Not because they love you but because they love to use your money for their own benefit.

Great example are the fake e-mails from PayPal. I tried it out with ridiculous names like username “PietjePuk”, password “Flabberdewatsky” and Creditcard number 0123456789 . Of course I was able to log on to a fake PayPal webpage and received a reply that my account was updated and active again.
Know that these fake e-mails can be reported to PayPal via
spoof@paypal.com. Those for eBay at spoof@ebay.com.

Vishing is the name given to the use of Voice-Over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone calls to obtain credit card information from unsuspecting consumers.
Using VoIP technology, criminals are now relying on the trust people place in telephone messages to extract the information needed to steal money or buy goods.
One key element to Vishing attacks is the ability of VoIP technology systems to recognize telephone keystrokes.

A Vishing attack might happen like this:
- The person receiving a call is told by a recorded voice that their credit card information has been compromised and to call the identified number immediately.
- When the person calls that number another recorded message would identify the service as the account verification service and request the caller enter their 16-digit account number.
The person has now become a victim of the scam.

We do not only need to get used to a whole new language, but also to a whole new type of Swindlers.
The only way to be safe is never and I repeat NEVER, give out your credit card information.
If the company you bought your products is asking for your credit card or bank information, they often only need the first and last 4 digits, not the whole number.

Read more about
UAE and Skype, still no joy

It is not the fist time I blogged about the UAE banning Skype. You can find my previous posts here:
12 3.

It keeps everybody busy: the press, the bloggers and last but not least and most important of all: the users.

How disappointed it must be that after it had been reported by one national English language newspaper that: “The UAE is to lift a ban on internet telephony from December.”
7DAYS spoke to a source at the TRA who told them: “These reports are not accurate. The lifting of the VoIP ban has not been decided in any way at all. When such an announcement is ready to be made, then the TRA will let everyone know”

Read the whole article
Don’t tell me it is the end of the week again….

I don’t know about you, but running your own business is often a 24/7 job. And especially when it is busy with numerous little jobs, I easily forget which day I live.
I don’t mean the date. No, I am much aware of that: billing time!
I mean the days of the week. On Tuesday I was almost certain it was Friday. And now with a few minutes to go before it is indeed Friday, I just can’t believe the week went that fast.

It will also be a week ago that my Mother arrived home from the hospital by ambulance.
We got her settled with a special bed, extra help from a nurse (also during the night but this wasn’t of much help as Mum woke up as soon as the nurse arrived and couldn’t sleep for hours after the nurse left! So we cancelled that). I now know how to listen to Mum’s lungs and are allowed to give her extra medication when she starts filling up with fluid again.
Morphine is also on the “menue” for breathing problems. Hopefully we don’t need it but it is a comfortable thought it is there. This way I hope to keep Mum out of hospital for a while.

I spent much time with my Mother during the weekend, promising myself to catch up with the work on Monday and so I did. Unfortunately I had to take Mum’s little dog to the Vet. Diagnosed with a paralyzed bowl, the only human way to handle this, was to put her to sleep. Not necessary to mention Mum and I had a little cry.

This past week was one of little jobs: answering forwarded landline calls, Skype calls, phoning clients of my client, my Moderator work on the Forum, minor Beta testing, more volunteering translations, billing (best part of my administration ;-) ) , the design of new forms to list the little job overviews, replying to the odd questions on Skype,
networking, reading Skype related articles for my blog (it is all about new hardware for Skype these days) and the occasional private chat.

Yesterday late night I had a conversation with my client
Opvion who is currently in New Zealand, planning to come back to Holland early next year instead of next week. Apart from talking about business, we also had a good laugh and I logged off at 1.30 AM with a big smile.

I don’t think I have to mention that I had difficulties waking up this morning….

As a brake from the office work, the building cooperation I rent my little house from arrived with a new heater for my bathroom. This reminded me of which day it was and I was surprised.
Do all days look like one another then? No, no boring days in my life it is just that the 24 hours seem to fly. Any suggestion how to make 48 hours of 24?

Today ended with a Skype call of my London client
Matter Solutions who is going to move to Australia tomorrow. Varras Consultancy stays put and is going to answer all Uk calls.

And, last but not least, this blog post.

Friday, for many the last day of the week. For others day 5 of 7. I am looking forward to a brake on Saturday afternoon and hopefully a longer brake on Sunday, weather permitted. Although I don’t mind rain (after all Autumn is my favourite season), today it was an icy rain, like little frozen needles.
I ordered sunshine for Sunday and a lot of wind. Dog and I are planning a walk along the
Waddenzee near our favourite village “Moddergat” Feel like joining us?