skype logo OK, I’ll admit it, I’m a little obsessed with Skype. I mean why wouldn’t anyone be a little obsessed with a piece of software that give you almost free long distance. Skype has another great service called Skype To Go. This lets me give free long distance to my friends and family to call me anywhere in the world, without a computer.

Skype has local Skype To Go numbers in a large number of countries. For example, I am in the Middle East, and my parents are in Canada. I set up a Skype To Go number in Canada on the Skype website. Skype To Go is part of my $3 a month unlimited US & Canada calling package. I register my parents home number online and give them the local phone number for them to call. They call that local number from their home phone, and select me from the call list with their keypad. Then Skype calls me on my cell phone, wherever I am. The cost of the call is added to my Skype account and in most countries is about 2-3 cents a minute. No cost to my parents, and no computer involved during the call.

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When traveling internationally it is always difficult to make long distance calls. Do you add one zero or two zeros? Should I add a 1 or not? Even when traveling in your own country some numbers are long distance when called from your home location, but if you travel to the owner of that number, it becomes a local call. How can you keep all this straight and make calling all these number far more easier?

It is simple. Just add a + symbol to the front of the phone number and then the country code. In North America the country code is 1. Most people think that 1 is what you are dialing for long distance, but in reality it is the country code. So for all North American numbers you would add +1 then the phone number with area code. You will no longer have to worry about whether the number is local or long distance as the carrier will figure it out for you. If you have international phone numbers for the UK, then you would add +44 then the phone number.

Wherever you travel you no longer have to figure out what to dial. You just select the person and choose dial. The carrier will figure out whether the call is local or long distance and dial the call accordingly.

Note: Cross posted from executiveGEEK.

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We interrupt these postings with some really geeky stuff…

********UPDATED Below*********

I have several blogs hosted by 1and1.com. I have been adding some plugins and kept coming across 500 Internal Server Error. I went back and forth, activating plugins, deactivating plugins and deleting them off of the FTP server. I was also coming across the WordPress blank screen on my admin dashboard. It was getting very frustrating. Then I came across something about one of the plugins generating the 500 Internal Server Error when the hosting company was not using PHP5. So I did some research into 1and1.com with WordPress and found a solution.

Find your .HTACCESS file on your server. It is a hidden file so make sure your FTP client (I use filezilla) can view hidden files. Open up the file in your text editor and add the following line after the line # END WORDPRESS.

AddType x-mapp-php5 .php

That’s it. Since I added this line I have not had an error 500 and all of my screens in WordPress have not been blank. Note: I did have one time when a plugin rewrote the .HTACCESS file. So keep a copy of the file handy. If you come across the error 500, just copy your backup of this file onto your FTP server.

*******UPDATE****** Since writing this post 1and1.com had made it easier to make this change. Simply login to your customer account. Look for the Web Space area and click on Global PHP Version.  Select PHP5 from the pull down menu and click Save. That’s it. For those of you who are not on 1and1.com the original posting above should work as well.

…we now return to our regularly scheduled postings.

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Bahrain_Grand_Mosque

As a Western ex-pat working in the Middle East you quickly learn that if you want everyone to show up for a meeting, don’t schedule the meeting during prayer time.

Muslims pray 5 times a day. 3-4 of these prayer times will be during work hours. What complicates things is that the prayer times are not at the same time each day. The times are based on the lunar calendar. The first prayer in the middle of the summer is at 3:30am and that same prayer in the middle of winter is at 5:30am. You should know that most of the Middle East does not change their clocks for daylight savings.

So, how do you know when it will be time to pray. I have utilities that I use to make sure that I don’t schedule meetings during prayer times.

As I use Microsoft Outlook, there is a plug-in, that will schedule the times of prayer times on your calendar. If you don’t want to have all of these in your calendar there are a number of prayer time downloads for mobile phones that will do the same thing. I use Salaat Time for Blackberry. I also use a system bar utility that gives a notification bubble just prior to the prayer time. This application is also handy at it will show that prayer times every day for the full year; it is also called Salaat Time .

You can use one or more of these utilities to help you schedule a meeting in the future.

Note: Cross posted from executiveGEEK.

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I have been in the Middle East for just over a year and it has been eye opening. Apart from the cultural adjustments, one of the things that has become a peeve is how Western companies do not recognize some of the differences that will impact their devices or their software outside of Western countries.

It is no secret that I am a big fan of RIM’s (Research In Motion) Blackberry. However, there are some things that should be considered when selling this product in the rest of the world. For example, the work week is different in the Middle East. Muslim religion dominates in the region and therefore Friday is the day of worship. Depending on the country, your other day off is either Thursday or Saturday. In some countries, they also work a half day on the Thursday. None of these can be accommodated by the Blackberry.

Although I can set Saturday as the first day of the week, there is no way for me to tell the Blackberry that Thursday and Friday are the weekends (or Friday and Saturday). This presents some minor annoyances such as viewing the month and the Blackberry shades the Saturday and Sunday. To some aggravating issues when it comes to having the alarm only active on weekdays.

It would be a simple change, as a screen that simply asks you to fill in some check boxes for weekend or weekdays.

Blackberry sales in the Middle East are growing rapidly. I have read that this is one of RIM’s fastest growing regions. There is both a status and fashion aspect to the Blackberry in the Middle East. Hopefully this will push RIM towards accommodating the the nuances of the region.

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Computers keep getting smaller. But one thing that will have to change if computers continue to get smaller, is what kind of interface will be used to interact with them. Keyboards can’t get much smaller and still be usable. Talking to a computer may be the future, but that is still a ways off to be practical. That reminds me of comical Star Trek movie segment where they go back in time and Scotty tries to talk to a present day computer.

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But the most fascinating work that I have seen to date is being done by a young gentleman by the name of Pranav Mistry from MIT. He recently did a demonstration of his work at a conference. It is far too amazing to describe. It it best to watch the videos.

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Ruby continues her work in the Philippines. She has arranged all of this on her own, after recruiting some friends and co-workers. To see 100% of your donations go to work…

Paypal: brillantesruby at gmaildotcom

Just to let everyone know that we have another relief operation tomorrow, Saturday, October 17th. This is from our Aussie friends….yes from Australia! We have 3 donors- 80% is from an Australian company solicited by my niece as well as herd- she’s here joining us, 10% is from another niece as well and one from my SMC high school best friend. My company has also donated more goods. I have about 25 of my office mates from our SYNNEX program supporting me on this project tomorrow – mostly the same people as our huge drop off last week – thanks guys! We are only going to one place in Pasig – Pinagbuhatan….. this is the one place where water was chest high last week.
We have about 500 relief goods already repacked – rice, juices, sardines, noodles
(100 of these packages are from one program in our office – MITAC crew.) They also donated medicines- YES! meds….. and big boxes of used clothing.
From our offices in Davao and Cagayan de Oro – we have 10 huge (I mean really huge!) boxes of clothing.
For our truck, we have one of my SMC High School friends donate half of our truck expenses.
Apparently water is down – now knee high…. .. not bad ….. this means our truck may be able to go in straight without assistance from Air Force but the condition of the water may be much worst – water is 3 weeks old! ugh!….. We have the assistance of the local police again.
Next update will only have pictures.
I am expecting shipment of clothing from Korea and Canada. Thank you Amber and Shirley… again!
This will be our next operation. When the goods arrive,we will be out again. Hopefully there’s more money :-)  to accompany these goods.
Stay tuned.
Excited for another bad hair day tomorrow :-)

oh, one more thing, my daughter Sammy’s friend Francois is joining us making a pit stop in Manila from his travels in Asia. So tomorrow will be quite a crew – we have Australian, French Canadian, Canadian and the ever most resillient Filipinos.
Thank you once again to everybody. Our success were all from your support. Love you all.
To all my crew, (please pass on this e-mail) you’re all a “Ruby”……. Â priceless!
Operation Redstone….. here we go!

Om, Peace!Ruby Brillantes

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My friend Ruby Brillantes, (a fellow ex-pat and Canadian) with the help of some friends, has made a huge difference for 100’s of families who were victims of the flood in the Philippines. She has taken $1300 and provided food and necessities to many families. Below is her update. Many times people are reluctant to contribute to charities because you hear about the high percentage of dollars that go towards administration and bureaucracy. Now you have a cause where 100% of the dollars go directly to the victims.

To contribute via Paypal: brillantesruby at gmaildotcom

Update
”””””””””””’
Sunday, October 4th

With 22,000 Pesos on hand, Janet and I went to Makro (like Costco, for the masses – we didn’t go to S&R – apparently their for the “haves”). We picked up groceries and went straight to “River of Joy” Fellowship Centre in Manila. When we got there, there was one elder in the centre and a fellow named Jun sitting outside on a bench. He said that’s where he lives and he sleeps in his Jeepney at night.

We recruited Jun and put him to work with us. We re-packed 110 Care Packages. Each package contains 2 cans of sardines, 2 dried noodles, 1 juice drink, 1 bottled water, 1 “everything” soap, 2 small chips, 1 toilet paper and 1 sanitary napkin amounting to approx PhP 7,500 and we gave the elder PhP 4200 pesos to buy 100 kilos of rice to be distributed together with our goods. In total we spent PhP 11,700 pesos for the children of Manila North Cemetery – hopefully to reach out to 200 families.

I also allotted 500 pesos for gas = $10 for our drive all week

After Manila, Janet and I went to Hi Top Supermarket – same as Makro and we bought the same thing again. We spent about PhP 5,500 pesos. We could not buy everything at once as Janet’s car is 20 years old. We are afraid that it might not cooperate with us if we overload. (Good old Toyota Corolla – they’re great cars!). It is the only vehicle we have to do our escapade for the day/week.

We drove to Project 6 next, as one of my friends from high school owns a rice store. We had 3 sacks of rice delivered to my apartment that evening. = PhP 5,000 = a little over $100. So for yesterday, we spent approx PhP 22,700

Today is Monday, October 5th. I have no work until around 8:30 pm tonight.

Janet showed up at my condo unit bright and early. We started to re-pack the groceries we bought yesterday. A friend from our office joined us and used his lunch and breaks to help us pack. We re-packed about 100 care packages. Each package contains 2 cans of sardines, 2 dried noodles, 1 juice drink, 1 “everything” soap, 1 chocolate chip cookie bag, 1 toilet paper and 1 sanitary napkin. We also bagged 100 kilos of rice – (1 kilo per bag = 100 bags of rice for 100 families).

I also withdrew another 22,000 Pesos.

I ordered 6 more 50 kilo bags = 300 bags (1 kilo/bag) of rice to give away = PhP 10,000 pesos. I am reserving one 50 kilo bag for our cook out. The re-packaging will be done all week.

In total, we will have 400 one kilo bags of rice and 100 care packages = 500 families.

On Saturday, October 10th, our crew (me and my office mates) will be braving the City of Pasig – one of the most devastated area. We will hit 3 townships inside the city. (I will need to buy a pair of boots…..but if the water is waste high, I guess I don’t have to!) We will do a cook-out – make Arroz Caldo. I am using the one 50 kilo bag of rice for that. (For my friends in Canada, this is like Congee in Chinese Food). This is the easiest to make and hand out, as well as the cheapest. I would say spend about PhP 5,000 plus purchase bottled water to go with each bowl of Arroz Caldo. We will also buy all ingredients on Friday night plus buy a trail load of bananas. This place is still under water – we have to figure out logistics through each township leaders. I was informed that for those areas were water had subsided, the people are practically shovelling the left over mud. Most, however, are still under water – with garbage afloat. Some merchants are charging for boat rides of up to PhP 200 persos per ride. Just to give you a perspective, some people earn that for a day. (I am so glad I have my IPOD docking station – my daughter sent it to me and I can use it then… a little soothing or upbeat music …hhmmmm would be nice I think :-))

The cookout plus our 500 bags of “goodies” …sounds good!

When all this is done, I will have approx PhP 5,000 pesos (if the bananas doesn’t cost much with the bottled water) and $129 in the bank. This money, plus whatever is coming in, I plan to work with my friend Angelo who’s sister Aiko Melendez works as one of Quezon City’s councillor. She was the first to reach out to the depressed areas and has the guards, vans and people to deliver the next set of goods. It was with them that I experienced my first journey and if they didn’t have the logistics in place, I would have been trampled along with her family. Also going out with them gives me the greatest experience of reaching out. They’re not afraid.

If there’s more money coming in after this, I will keep going and add on to this.

I think that’s money well spent.

For now, on behalf of all of us here and the flood victims, we thank each of you for all your thoughts especially to those who sent us money. I was able to raise $1385.14.

I will give you one last update (and hopefully pictures) after this weekend.

I believe we made a difference.

Thanks again.

Ruby

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