Own your e-mail address!

The title of this posting is not an offer - it is a very clear instruction. For ten years I have been using an e-mail address in the .za top-level domain (TLD) which is now (after numerous takeovers) owned by South Africa's largest ISP, MWeb. It has all been a mistake. MWeb has apparently not been properly maintaining the DNS records for the domain name which I am using and as a result many servers are now marking e-mail from me as spam. I am also paying about $20 per month in ISP fees just to keep this specific e-mail address. Two months of e-mails to MWeb have resulted in minimal action in this regard. It has however been clear to me for some time now that a reasonable person should want complete control over their e-mail address(es). The following requirements have suggested themselves.
  • Ownership of the domain name. This implies full control over DNS settings related to the domain name. It also implies the ability to create an unlimited number of e-mail addresses for various purposes, under the same domain name. Estimated cost: $12/year.
  • A domain name in a predictable, competitive and well-managed administrative environment. This requirement excludes Camoroon (.cm), Tuvalu (.tv) and - alas! - SA (.za). Basically only international (.com, .org, .net, .info) and US (.us) TLD spaces are under serious consideration.
  • An appropriate domain name. Anything that sounded cool as a student might be very inappropriate for a 50 year old professor. Bugsbunny.com is out and anything with one's surname (all my reasonable ones have been taken) is in. However, it could be that one does not necessarily want to reveal one's surname through an e-mail address and even though my domain name with surname and initials (similar to jfkennedy.com) is available I am hesitant to take it for this reason. The following item is also of concern with the initials+surname model.
  • The domain name should be easy to recall and easy to convey verbally, including over the telephone. A domain name consisting of numbers only could be very good by this criterion - numbers are very hard to confuse in most languages. The main problem is finding an appropriate number that can be easily recalled - first of all, by me. 1917.com would be good from this point of view but - given that one is presumably trying to establish a life-time address - perhaps too narrowly ideological. It is also no longer available.
If the .name TLD were better known it would be a good choice, of course, but unfortunately it is still a bit obscure. To summarise: I am trying to establish an e-mail address (or, rather, a long term domain name for a number of e-mail addresses e.g. darling@1652.com, professor@1652.com) subject to the requirements above. Any comments would be much appreciated.


Ubuntu Linux 7.04 on Dell D820 laptop

On Friday I got quite a boring looking but nice Dell Latitude D820 laptop (Intel Core Duo processor and 2GB of RAM) with WinXP pre-installed. The most important task was getting a working Linux installation on the machine and a first attempt, with Ubuntu 6.10 ("Edgy Eft") from DVD, nicely repartitioned the hard drive and installed in under 20 minutes but somehow failed to do much with the built-in wireless device. It occurred to me to try the pre-release version of Ubuntu 7.04 ("Feisty Fawn"). I was a bit surprised not to see Gnome Partition Editor in the menu of the live disk - it seems that Feisty prefers to suggest some repartitioning during the installation wizard. So, I deleted the previous Linux partitions using fdisk first and proceeded with the installation which went very well. After that, using the wired ethernet connection, I followed the advice of the appropriate Ubuntu forum and issued the commands
sudo apt-get install bcm43xx-fwcutter
sudo apt-get install network-manager-gnome

at which point (perhaps after a modprobe but rebooting should also do) my WiFi just started working. There are two important things to note: (1) Ubuntu apparently likes it better when you boot with the hardware switch (on the left-hand side of the lapgtop) for WiFi in the on position; (2) running the DHCP client on two devices is apparently not what Feisty wants, so deactivate the wired connection when you want to use the wireless one. At this point I started updating the system and here hit a serious but short-lived hitch: after upgrading the kernel to 2.6.20-14 my system would no longer boot into Feisty. Of course, I just booted to the old kernel and in fact the problem was solved the next day by the release and installation of kernel version 2.6.20-15 which I am using to write this post. With Automatix2 I installed some naughty things like GoogleEarth and xDVDshrink effortlessly and right away!


Free calls to Malawi and to Zambia

It seems that LowRateVoip is offering 200 minutes per week of free calls to Malawi (landlines only) and Zambia (landlines and cellphones) for users of their MS-Windows client. Using the same client, calls to SA cellphones are also advertised at under R1/minute which is very reasonable. Any current users of LowRateVoip, please comment on this post!


Naspers as tweede reserwebank van Sjina

Tegnologiewaarnemers hou al geruime tyd die aandeelhouding van Naspers in Tencent QQ dop. QQ is die mees gewilde kitsboodskap-stelsel in Asië (Engels: instant messaging). Die Wall Street Journal berig verlede week dat QQ se virtuele geldeenheid, die Q-munt waarmee oorspronklik net dienste in virtuele objekte in die QQ-wêreld gekoop kon word, nou in die regte wêreld gebruik word. Q-munte kan teen 'n wisselkoers van een-vir-een met Sjinese yuan gekoop word by QQ of op die vrye mark teen 'n wisselkoers wat tussen 0,5 en 1,0 yuan per Q-munt wissel. Sedert die Sjinese owerhede hul kommer uitgespreek het oor die gebruik van Q-munte in die regte wêreld en die moontlike ontstaan van 'n parallelle geldstelsel in Sjina, het die wisselkoers van die Q-munt gestyg. Regerings moet besef dat aangesien bestaande amptelike geld sigself nie besonder goed leen tot anonieme kontanttipe-transaksies op die Internet nie, 'n mens skaars verbaas kan wees indien alternatiewe betaalmiddels ontwikkel word. Dit is nie soveel anders as die gebruik van sigarette as betaalmiddel (eintlik: ruilmiddel) in die plek van kontant in die na-oorlogse Duitsland nie.


Mbeki lambasts Telkom

In a long interview in the FT the president has a few things to say about Telkom.
Take this undersea cable. They are charging I don’t know so many hundreds of percent more per unit of time than is being charged elsewhere in the world. So we say to Telkom, we can’t be saying, here is a sector of the economy which can attract a lot of people – and indeed many companies around in some instances led by South African companies that have developed big operations outside South Africa, Old Mutual that is listed on the London Stock Exchange – they say we want to do these call centres here… they know this is their country, they know the country the people the language but the cost is … So we say, Telkom you have got to do something about that. And now they are saying now we understand.

And he believes them?
And we also have taken a decision to build a new and much bigger fiber optic cable along the West coast much much bigger much greater capacity than the one that exists now which would radically reduce this cost. …. So there are a number of interventions we are making in this area, including putting the pressure on Telkom to say this it is a level of profiteering that is not right.

Yes, the charges are absolutely phenomenal.

That's right! For once I find myself and the president singing from the same sheet.