More innovation from 3 with 3 Skype Phone

Three have launched some impressively innovative features in the last year or so and they’ve continued this trend with the arrival of their new Skype Phone today. Looking back we’ve had…

3 X Series

First there was X-series that allowed free unlimited internet access on your mobile to services such as ebay, skype, Google, sling box, messenger etc…

3 Mobile Broadband

That was followed by Mobile Broadband, allowing laptops and computers to connect via a USB modem to the Internet over a 3G wireless connection. Their 2.8mbps download speed and £10 per month price point meant that this service was competitive with traditional fixed line broadband services such as ASDL and cable modems.

3 Like Home

Three’s new roaming product is arguably the cheapest on the market, at least if you are phoning home from a country where Three operate. Calls and texts back to the UK from Austria, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Hong Kong and Ireland are deducted from your inclusive minutes just like a normal call.

and now… 3 Skype Phone

The Skype Phone gives free mobile Skype calls to anyone using the handset including their pre-pay customers (as long as they top up £10 per month). According to their FAQ, this works with their 3 Like Home service, allowing free skype calls abroad when roaming on the Three network.

The Skype Phone is free on all pay monthly contracts (from £12 per month), and £49 on pay as you go. It has a 2 megapixel camera, and comes with a 256MB microSD memory card.

3 Skype Phone

It was a good day for Three’s owner, Hutchison Whampoa (0013.HK) with their shares up 8.43%.

Microsoft pays a premium to get some Facebook

OK so this is old news now, but it just dawned on me how much Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) paid for a bit of the Facebook pie. First, let’s put things into perspective:

Investor Site Unique visitors
(GigaOM Sep 2007)
Traffic Growth
On previous month
News Corp MySpace 68,449,000 +0.1% $580 million
Google YouTube 47,486,000 +5.8% $1.65 billion
Microsoft Facebook 30,601,000 -9.3% $15 billion
($240 million for 1.6%)

These figures are from Comscore, and I believe they cover US traffic only, yet they illustrate the sort of value that Microsoft got when compared to other similar acquisitions by News Corp and Google.

Facebook is definitely growing faster in some places such as the UK where it is now nearly the size of MySpace, however I think a lot of that growth could be from the novelty factor; when you first sign up you’re addicted for a few weeks whilst you add all your old school friends, but then the novelty wears off. Personally, I used Facebook a lot more initially and now that has tapered off such that I now check it once per week or less.

It’s clear to me that Microsoft has paid well over the odds to stop Google getting yet another gain in ad inventory as it did by buying into AOL, YouTube and DoubleClick and by striking an advertising deal with MySpace. What’s not clear is how well Microsoft will be able to sell Facebook’s audience to their adCenter advertisers.

Mark Zuckerberg

Whatever happens, Mark Zuckerberg is happy!

Leopard + WordPress = Ultimate Blogging Tool

In the last 24 hours blogging has become a whole lot easier for me. The reason for this is that I upgraded both my laptop and my blog yesterday evening. The MacBook was taken from OS X Tiger to Leopard and my blog was switched from Blogger to WordPress . The combined Leopard/Wordpress blogging platform makes writing a blog (and embedding images such as screenshots) a breeze. In this post I will show you the steps required to take some screen grabs and then upload them to WordPress.

Take a screenshot

The two main screenshot commands you will most likely use are Command-Shift-3 which takes a grab of the entire screen, or Command-Shift-4 which allows you to select an area of the screen to capture. Both commands will save the the resulting image on your desktop.

Screenshot of Blog Homepage

Resize an image

Once you have made some screenshots you may want to resize them. Double click on the image and it will open up in the Preview utility. Click on the view menu as shown below.

Screenshot of Preview View Menu

On the view menu select adjust size, this will open an options window.

Screenshot of Preview Resize Options

For this post I have resized all my images to have a common width of 400 pixels. Leave the scale proportionally and resample image options checked, then click OK.

Save as JPEG

By default, the screen shot function will save your images as PNGs. Sometimes they are quite large files, so I like to save them as JPEGs instead and adjust the quality down a few notches to result in a smaller file size. Just click File > Save As to bring up the saving options.

Screenshot of Preview Save Options

Uploading to WordPress

Finally, now that the images have been prepared we can upload them to WordPress. On the Write Post page, you will see an upload as shown below.

Screenshot of WordPress Image Uploader

Simply click browse to select the image you want to upload from your desktop, then give it a title and/or description and press the upload button. Once the image has uploaded you will be given a few options on whether you want to display the full image or a thumbnail, and whether you want the image to have a link. Since I had resized my images to 400 pixels, I wanted to display the full image so I selected full size with no link. Then you just press send to editor and the appropriate image code is sent into the main editing text area.

And that’s it!

Switching from blogger to wordpress

I took the plunge tonight and converted my blog from Blogger to WordPress. I have been wanting to do this for a while; the main reason being that I find Blogger’s post editor incredibly frustrating. It refuses to automatically convert new line characters to BRs no matter which mode I use, which means I always have to go through and add them manually after each paragraph.

Anyway, the migration process was made very easy by the fact that WordPress provide some comprehensive import tools that go out and retrieve all your old blog posts and re-assemble them within wordpress.

Wordpress Blogger Import Tool

The only slight hiccup was that I had to briefly convert my Blogger account from an ftp based account to a blogspot hosted account in order for WordPress to do the import. This is a simple option in the Publishing settings on Blogger.

OS X 10.5 Leopard – First Impressions

In this post I will talk a little about my first impressions of Leopard after upgrading my MacBook from Tiger this evening.

As a converted Mac fan (NASDAQ: AAPL), I pre-ordered Leopard the very same day that Apple spammed e-mailed me about it. That was a week or so ago, and sure enough it arrived in the post this morning, like clockwork, on the day of Leopards official release. So far so good….

The install process was amazingly simple. Once in OS X, I stuck in the CD, clicked an install button and then after confirming my admin password, it restarted the computer and began installing. Initially it said it would take 4 hours, but the time remaining quickly came down and in the end it only took about 40 minutes. However, I was surprised that they didn’t use this time to take you on a tour of some of the new features.

Once you’ve rebooted after the install, the improvements to the OS could be described as a collection of subtle improvements dotted with a few new core features (such as Stacks, Time Machine, Spaces and Quick Look).

Some of the small changes I have noticed so far are…

New wireless networks drop down

The new drop down for selecting a wireless network now shows you whether the networks are secure or not with a padlock icon:

OS X 10.5 Leopard Wireless Networks Dropdown

Preview image resize / resample options

Now when you open an image in preview, you have the option to resize it. I’m pretty sure this is a new feature as I have always wanted to be able to do this!

OS X 10.5 Leopard Preview Image Resize Options

Bluetooth Dropdown Menu

You’ll notice now in the bluetooth dropdown menu that you can see your paired devices and immediately click through to browse or send a file to them.

OS X 10.5 Leopard Bluetooth Menu Options

Fixing the arrow and delete keys in Vim on OS X

One thing that has frustrated me for the past year and half that I have been a Mac user, is the fact that the arrow keys behave strangely in vim’s insert mode. Instead of moving you around the document, they insert an A,B,C or D character followed by a newline. Further more, the delete key doesn’t work. Anyway, I had finally had enough tonight, and so I searched the web for a solution.

The fix turned out to be incredibly easy….

cp /usr/share/vim/vim62/vimrc_example.vim ~/.vimrc

Querying postfix’s queue size

We use Zabbix to monitor our servers, but recently the monitoring agent has been causing some problems of it’s own.

About once a week we send a fairly large mailshot out to our users. Zabbix monitors the sizeof the postfix mail queue on each of our mail servers, and then stores this in its database so it can draw graphs and send us an alert if the mail queue gets too big. But here’s the problem: the action of counting the mail queue itself is quite intensive, and it seems to be locking up the server when it runs.

After some investigation I found (in /etc/zabbix/zabbix_agentd.conf) that we were using the following command to measure the mailq:

[root@mx1 ~]# time mailq | grep -c '^[0-9A-Z]'
real 0m6.590s
user 0m2.144s
sys 0m0.289s

As you can see it took 6.59 seconds to run on a queue size of about 35,000. You could also run the postqueue command and look at the end of the output:

[root@mx1 ~]# time postqueue -p | tail -5
-- 158346 Kbytes in 34621 Requests.
real 0m5.668s
user 0m0.075s
sys 0m0.225s

But, again this takes over 5 seconds for 35,000 mails. So a much quicker way would be to use:

[root@mx1 ~]# time find /var/spool/postfix/deferred/ /var/spool/postfix/active/ /var/spool/postfix/maildrop/ | wc -l
real 0m0.033s
user 0m0.030s
sys 0m0.022s

Using find is over 100 times faster than the other two methods. Each of those command reports a slightly different size of the mailq, but they are pretty close. If anyone knows of an even quicker way to measure the queue size then please let me know!