Phone for travel

In case you don't know, Holly and I are heading off travelling around Europe in April. We're planning to be on the road up to eight months, so I've been doing some research into communications on the road.

Mobile phone companies are making ridiculous amounts of money from what they charge for roaming. Text messages cost 30p and data can weigh in at £16 a megabyte!

After rather a lot of hunting around, I've found there are other options. In fact, some of these options are worth considering for UK residents anyway as they're cheaper than most pay as you go tarrifs. Prices are in Euro unless otherwise specified.

I'm going to get two SIM cards, one for Holly and one for me.

My one is the GT-9 which costs €39 and gives you a UK mobile number. It does 26 cent/min calls to landlines (worldwide) and 9 cent SMS. It also allows data, so we can check our email and browse web. Downside is you pay for incoming calls (38 cent/min) while you're outside the UK and it has limited coverage so a couple of our destinations aren't covered: Belarus, Ukraine.

This would be worth exploring even if you live in the UK and don't travel all that much. 9 cent SMS, 26 cent/min calls to landlines or 39 cent/minute to mobiles is certainly cheaperthan Orange's 10p, 20p and 40p, what's more those rates are for calls and texts to anywhere in the world!

For Holly's phone, we'll get United Mobile for £29 which gives you a Liechenstein number. This has free incoming calls in all the places we'll be visiting (except Gibraltar, Ukraine and Liechenstein), coverage everywhere though in the abovementioned and some other places you need to pay for incoming, 49 cent SMS, 39 cent/min calls to Australia and UK or 59 cent/min calls to Australia and UK mobiles.

This way we've got coverage in all the places we're gonna be, can make calls at quite reasonable rates and can receive calls free (the caller needs to call Liechenstein, but the rate for people in Australia is the same as calling a UK mobile). Most importantly, SMS will be cheaper than it is in the UK and I imagine that's what we'll be using most.

Whatever happened to the self-cooling can?

As a kid growing up in rural Australia, I used to religiously watch a programme called Towards 2000 (inexplicably renamed Beyond 2000 in 1981) which showed cool technology we could look forward to seeing. For the Brits, I imagine Tomorrow's World was the same idea and probably where they nicked the idea.

Anyway, I distinctly remember a really cool thing being demonstrated: a drink can that cooled the drink within when you popped the top. Now this was back in the early to mid eighties and now, twenty years on, I still haven't seen the technology.

From memory the can had a small CO2 cylinder which was released when you opened the can. The expanding gas would cool down the drink, so cold that there would be a thin film of ice on top. Brilliant!

Holly and I are going to be spending a lot of time over the next half year camping, and there's nothing nicer after pitching your tent than a cold beer. But we won't be carrying an esky, so where are these self-cooling cans we were promised?

A quick Google around finds New Scientist talking about such a device, though it looks like a fairly different technology. Maybe the CO2 thing was too expensive or there were safety issues. So it looks like this sucker exists, and has done for some time. So, beer manufacturers, how about it? I'd pay a premium for only having to carry the beer, not ice and insulation!

Slow cooked chicken

Yesterday we had Scott and Katie around for late lunch. I cooked up some chicken I had in the freezer. This was an old bird I'd bought for coq au vin, organic but old so it had used those muscles. Chucked in pancetta, onions, garlic, thyme and chicken stock, then simmered for about three hours. Served with roast veggies. Delicious!

I'm looking forward to leftovers!

It's a boom, not a bubble!

Bubble Goo IPO cartoon seriesfrom Suck

Wired are doing their cheerleading again. This time, we're assured, it's a boom and not a bubble. Of course, last time Wired told us we were in for 25 years of prosperity, freedom and a better environment for the whole world.

Still, the last bubble was a lot of fun, even if it means my CV is littered with companies that no longer exist. Must be time to dust off my plans for Bubble Goo and make bank.

Guardian starts spamming

The last two days, I've received emails through two addresses registered over the years with The Guardian. These were addresses used to register for competitions, forums etc. I never gave permission to be spammed with "GuardianUnlimited Today". That's rather sad as they used to be The Good Guys.

Fortunately, the addresses they were spamming are (or were, as you'll see) Sneakemail addresses. Sneakemail allows you to createdisposable email addresses for just these kinds of things. When they start spamming you, you know the source and how conned you into supplying the email address. What's more, once it starts getting spammed you can delete it. Lovely!

Whale in the Thames

Whale rescue near Battersea Bridge

Went down to the Thames this morning to see the whale. There were thousands of people down there lining bridges and climbing trees. Doesn't look so hopeful now for the whale, unfortunately.

Now would be a good time to point out that endangered whales are being killed by the Japanese for sale as meat. Greenpeace and the much more aggressive Sea Shepherds are campaigning against this barbarism. They could use your support.

I'm not opposed to whaling as a traditional practise. If you've traditionally hunted whales, I think you should be free to hunt whales in the traditional manner. By "traditional manner" I'm talking tiny tiny boats and hand-held harpoons. Trying to disguise slaughter as "research", however, and using incredbly efficient modern methods, is just not on.


I was about to recommend Konica Minolta for anyone buying a digitial camera, but now I guess I won't bother. Reason for the recommendation was their repair division. The lens got stuck so I posted it off and got it back, no charge, in two weeks. It's what we should expect for warranty repairs, but not often what we get.