Archive for December, 2008

T-Mobile and calls to and from Europe

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

I have been using T-Mobile for some time, in part because of its early ability to use GSM networks in Europe and elsewhere.  For whatever reason, T-Mobile is charging me roaming charges of $1.59 to $1.87 per minute when I receive calls in Europe, and that plus another dollar per minute if I call from Europe.

My roaming for the WIFI hotspot service was billed at $.69 a minute in Switzerland — at a location that promised the roaming rate would be $.18 per minute.

If I called Europe from the U.S., which I do a lot, I was being charged $.69 per minute.  I had been told earlier I had a lower rate for Europe.  Either T-Mobile never applied the lower rate, or I was switched to the high rate without notice.

As a consequences of three calls to T-Mobile today, in theory, they are going to apply the lower international calling rates I was promised earlier ($.08 to landlines and $.25 to mobile phones), and find out why my voice roaming charges are 60 to 87 percent higher than promised.

I canceled the T-Mobile hot spot service.   It is cheaper to use the Boingo International service, which is $39 per month, without any additional roaming charges.

Date 	Destination 	Time 	Number 	Call Type 	Minutes 	Airtime 	Toll 	Total
Austria (T-Mobile)
11/25/08 	International 	8:57 AM 	436645170810 		1 	0.92 	- 	0.92
11/25/08 	International 	9:14 AM 	805-637-7249 	(G) 	1 	1.87 	- 	1.87
11/25/08 	Incoming 	9:15 AM 	NBR Unavail 		1 	0.92 	0.99 	1.91
11/25/08 	International 	4:12 PM 	805-637-7249 	(G) 	1 	1.87 	- 	1.87
11/25/08 	International 	4:29 PM 	805-637-7249 	(G) 	1 	1.87 	- 	1.87
11/25/08 	International 	5:12 PM 	436645170810 		2 	1.86 	- 	1.86
11/25/08 	Incoming 	5:24 PM 	41227916727 		2 	1.86 	1.98 	3.84
11/25/08 	International 	10:29 PM 	571-331-6879 		1 	1.87 	- 	1.87
11/25/08 	International 	10:35 PM 	805-637-7249 	(G) 	1 	1.87 	- 	1.87
11/25/08 	Incoming 	10:56 PM 	571-331-6879 		10 	9.32 	9.90 	19.22
Sub Total 	21 	24.23 	12.87 	37.10
Switzerland (Swisscom)
11/03/08 	International 	8:13 PM 	571-331-6879 		1 	1.59 	- 	1.59
11/03/08 	International 	8:14 PM 	202-332-2670 		33 	53.03 	- 	53.03
11/04/08 	International 	5:19 PM 	703-522-4380 		13 	20.88 	- 	20.88
11/04/08 	International 	5:31 PM 	805-637-7249 	(G) 	1 	1.59 	- 	1.59
11/04/08 	International 	8:56 PM 	805-637-7249 	(G) 	2 	3.20 	- 	3.20
Sub Total 	50 	80.29 	- 	80.29
SUBTOTAL 	71 	104.52 	12.87 	117.39

For T-Mobile HotSpot Customer Care, Please Call 1-877-822-7768
Date 	Description 	Total
11/03/08 	Swisscom Mobile Hotspot - Switzerland/PER MIN/69 min 	12.42
	SUBTOTAL 	12.42

Creating a bootable USB drive to test Linux distributions on your PC

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Fenimore thinks this is a cool thing to do, run Linux from a flash drive, from anyone’s computer. These are my notes on how to do this.

Most computers can boot from a usb drive, but the commands vary. For several machines, f12 during the boot brings up a boot device menu. For other computers, this may be f9 or another key, usually identified by the computer during the early boot screens. In some older computers, you may have to change the bios settings to allow booting from a usb device.

How do you create the bootable flash drive? This is not difficult if you download the free utility Unetbootin. Unetbootin runs on both Windows and Linux.

I haven’t used the Windows version yet. For the Linux version, you can install from an .rpm or .deb file, or download an executable file. (For the latter option, you have to change permissions to permit the file to be run as an executable).

To install Ubuntu on a USB drive, you download the ISO image of the version you want to install, and run Unetbootin. (Unetbootin can even do the download for you). The menus are very straightforward, and it works with flash drives or usb connected hard drives. This makes it easy to download and test different Linux distributions, without having to change a single bit on the main hard drive of computer you use to run the program.

I have not had much luck making an Apple computer boot from a usb device.

A flash drive of 1 gigabyte or larger will work fine. It boots, runs and shuts down surprisingly fast from a flash drive. I have been impressed at how well a flash drive version of Ubuntu 8.10 can boot from many different computers, and find and use properly the video card, sound system, wireless connections, and use the computer’s drives and even bluetooth devices. A default Ubuntu install comes with a lot of software to begin with, including open office, Firefox and many other programs. You can upgrade and install new software, and keep your settings, and store whatever documents you like, depending upon the size of the flash drive.

One important use of a bootable flash drive is data recovery. You can boot up a computer from the flash drive, and also read the normal hard drive data. I have used this to copy data files from a disk that has too many errors (or viruses) to boot directly from its own internal hard drive.

Another use for a bootable flash drive is to bypass some of network security features that normally would make it hard to use a computer or access the Internet. There are times this will come in handy.

There are issues concerning the “persistence” of the data stored on the flash drive. In the default Unetbootin install of a Ubuntu “Live” drive, stored files are wiped out when you power down. You can fix this by tweaking some of the Grub options. However, an easier method is to create a drive using the Ubuntu 8.10 utility, usb-creator, which you can find on the Ubuntu System/Administration menu. This utility is present in the Ubuntu 8.10 live distribution, so you can use Unetbootin to create a bootable flash drive with Ubunut 8.10, and then use the bootable flash drive to create one that allows you to store data. One would think that Unetbootin should include this feature at some point.

Ubuntu 8.10 install on Dell XPS 1530

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

In August 2008, I bought a Dell XPS m1530.

I recently had a hard disk failure.  I am still not sure if the cause is physical or a shutdown/freeze related event.  I decided to do a fresh install with Ubuntu 8.10.  It went well at first, except for the touchpad, which went nuts, a problem I did not experience when installing 8.10 on a Dell Inspiron 1420n.

I was advised to add this to the grub boot line:   i8042.nomux=1

To edit the boot script, I used this command:

sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.1st

It worked fine, but it seems surprising that someone would have to know this to make the featured Dell Linux laptop work right after the 1st Ubuntu upgrade.

Backups and data migration

Here are some tips on moving data from one computer to another.   First, if you can, save your email from evolution using the backup settings option off the file menu.

Second, in Firebox, back up and migrate your bookmarks by using the export/import options in Firefox’s Bookmarks/ Organisation Bookmarks menu.

I use grsync to back up and restore the rest of the data files, using the option of preserving the file dates. You can also do this from a unix copy command using the -p option. (You will find it useful to keep the original file dates.)

Software you will want to install

Go to and follow the directions on repositories.

I would add all of the recommended repositories and multimedia codecs.  I recommend using both free and non-free components.

After this is done, here are some programs I like:

adobe acrobat reader: arcroreader
archive utility: 7z
archive utility: rar
archive utility: unrar
art: art manager
art: gimp data extras
art: open clip art
backup: grsync
editor: bluefish
editor: Gooby
internet: gftp
internet: skype
multimedia: vlc
statistics program: r-base
text to speech: acroread-plugin-speech
text to speech: espeak
text to speech: festival
ubuntu restricted extras
utility: gpass Password manager
utility: gprename
utility: kchmreader

If you want to collaborate with anyone who doesn’t use Linux, you will need to  add the Microsoft True Type core fonts:

sudo apt-get install msttcorefonts

Sound and Video

Next, I’ll try to get the video cam and the microphone working.

So far, this seems to be a challenge.

Markets for Financial Crime, in Huffpo

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Yesterday, both shocked and motivated by the reporting of the Maddoff fraud, I wrote a Huffington Post blog about Markets for Finanical Crime.