To lie or keep in hiding, as for some evil reason.  To move or go in a mean, stealthy manner.

Thursday December 30, 1999

WebSkulker Newsletter
One small skulk for a man, one giant leap for mankind

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SIM-locked phones are bad for skulking

In yesterday's issue we told the story about how WebSkulker bought a GSM cell phone in Hong Kong that works on the international frequency bands -- pretty much every country but the United States.  One additional piece of information if you want to buy such a phone:  make sure that it is not SIM-locked. The SIM, or Subscriber Identity Module, is the smart chip that is plugged into a GSM phone to establish its phone number and other characteristics.  You get your SIM from a cellular carrier when you establish service.  Some GSM phones are locked in to the SIM's of a particular carrier so that if you plug in a SIM from a different carrier, the phone will refuse to work.  This is a way to make the phones cheaper and more affordable because a cellular carrier might be willing to sell you a phone priced below their cost if they know that you will be using their service for a period of time and can't go to a competitor. They make up for the loss on the phone with the profit they know they will make every month.

SIM-locked phones can be unlocked by the carrier if you can talk them into it.  WebSkulker has heard that sometimes they will do this for a fee, and sometimes they will unlock the phone if you have had their service for a year and are moving to another area that this carrier doesn't serve.  There are hacker web sites that have software for unlocking the phone yourself that you jr. skulkers should be able to find through standard search engines.  But of course your goal should be to purchase a GSM phone that isn't SIM-locked in the first place.  In Asia these are readily available and cheap, but in Europe an unlocked phone might cost $225 and up.

How do you know whether a particular phone is locked or not?  If you trust the dealer and they speak your language well enough that you are sure you are understanding each other, then you ask; the dealers know all about this.  Also a locked phone will generally have a sticker on the carton saying that this phone is for use only with a particular carrier.  If you don't trust the dealer, the only way to tell for sure is to have them plug in SIM's from more than one carrier and show you that the phone works with each one.  But the dealer might not have different types of SIM's floating around so this experiment might be difficult to do.

It is important to have an unlocked phone because you will be purchasing a pre-paid SIM for each country you travel to, which will give you a different phone number in each country.  The pre-paid SIM comes with a certain number of minutes of usage and perhaps special features like voice mail and caller ID.  As you enter a new country, you find cellular dealers and inquire about pre-paid SIM's; they will know what you are talking about as long as they understand your language.  There may be different carriers available at different prices and different features, and some dealers might give you a discount price, so shop around a little.  In the Asian countries, WebSkulker was paying around $30 U.S. per country for these.  Buy the cheapest SIM you can get with the lowest number of minutes of usage because you will learn in future articles that most calls you make will not be charged to the SIM.  It's a long story so keep reading.

When you leave a country, save the SIM because you can use it on your next trip, provided that you go back within six months -- most pre-paid SIM's seem to turn off after six months of inactivity.  Have the dealer activate the SIM for you because this is done differently in each country, and make sure that they tell you your phone number!  Write it down and save it with the SIM.  Here's a trick from WebSkulker:  when you save a phone number to the dialing directory of a GSM phone, it gets saved in the memory of the SIM card.  Make an entry called "My number" and put in your current phone number.  As you switch from one SIM to another, the "My number" entry will be the one for that SIM.

More tomorrow about how to use your cell phone to make cheap calls to the U.S., and in future issues how people in the U.S. can reach you cheaply and easily.

Skulking phone numbers around the world

"This is the Internet's original and most complete index of online phone books, with links to Yellow Pages, White Pages, Business Directories, Email Addresses and Fax Listings from over 150 countries all around the world."

Last minute skulking around Y2K

Don't you think it's time already that you did something to make sure your computer is Y2K compliant?  There is a rumor floating around that all you have to do is change one setting in the Windows Control Panel and that will take care of everything.  This is nonsense, and is debunked in the link above.

The WebSkulker issue for 12/2/99 had some pointers to resources about Y2K.  Read it now!  Do it now!  You have at most two days left!

Skulkers patent the darndest things

IBM runs a web site that gives free access to search U.S. patents and retrieve the complete images of patents.  If you ever see a product with one or more patent numbers on it, you can look them up here, or search on anything that interests you to see what is patented in that area.  This was a very big deal at one time as it was the only free resource of its kind available to the general public.  The second link above is to a similar system that is now run directly by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

One neat thing about the IBM site is their Gallery of Obscure Patents showing a selection of wacky and unusual patents through the years:

Jr. Skulker Lena Diethelm points out a very funny patent that should be in the gallery.  WebSkulker and his cat have violated this patent many times; don't tell the inventors!  This is a summary:

This is the complete patent.  Look at the drawing on page 2:

This made WebSkulker laugh

Submitted by Jr. Skulker Ms. 1133

The Wedding Night 

Mildred and Chester knew each other from childhood, but were in their nineties when they got married. They had to wait for Mildred's mother to pass away first. 

Back in those days there was no hanky panky before marriage so Chester and Mildred were both still virgins. Needless to say Chester was pretty excited on their wedding night, having waited so patiently all these years. 

However, Mildred was very apprehensive, as she had developed a heart condition and would have to tell Chester that they could not do it. Chester is now sitting on the bed wanting Mildred to hurry up. 

He detects a little reluctance on her part. Thinking that she is shy, he sends her off to the bathroom to get undressed. When she reappears in her silk satin nightie, he gets her to sit next to him on the bed. Not knowing how to get things started he pulls the first strap on her nightie. She blushes just as red as her silk satin nightie. She is really concerned about telling Chester about her heart condition. 

In the meantime Chester is looking at the first breast he has seen since his own mothers. It is hanging there down to her belly button, gravity having taken its course over some ninety years. He realizes her anxiety but figures she is going have to be helped a little more. 

Now he pulls the second strap and sees the second breast unroll downward before him. Poor Mildred is now beside herself. She is going to have to tell Chester about her heart. 

With a quivering voice and mustering up all her courage, she says, "Chester, I have acute angina". Chester says, "I sure hope so, because you've got ugly tits!"


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