To lie or keep in hiding, as for some evil reason. To move or go in a mean, stealthy manner.
Friday December 31, 1999
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This is part three in a series about how to have cheap cell phone service when you are traveling in other countries. In Wednesday's and Thursday's issues we discussed buying an international GSM phone and activating it in different countries by purchasing pre-paid SIM cards. In most countries, incoming calls to cell phones are free to the cell phone owner, because the calling party pays the surcharge. Usually cell phone numbers in other countries have something recognizable about their number; either they have a special area code, or start with a special prefix. People therefore know when they are calling a cell phone and know they will pay an extra charge. This is not universal because WebSkulker knows that in Hong Kong and Singapore, for example, incoming calls are charged against the pre-paid SIM. But in Malaysia and most other countries, incoming calls do not get charged to your SIM, therefore you can receive an unlimited number of calls with the cheapest SIM you can buy.
There is a loophole in this system where the caller pays: if someone from the U.S. calls a cell phone in Malaysia, for example, they are not charged any surcharge because there is no mechanism for transferring this charge to the U.S. caller. So you with the cell phone in Malaysia can receive any number of calls from the U.S., with the only charge to anyone being the normal long distance rate for the person in the U.S. calling Malaysia.
You can make outgoing calls from your cell phone in Malaysia to the U.S. without any charge to your SIM by using an international call-back service as described below. (Again, Malaysia is just an example and this will work from most countries in the world.) You call the call-back trigger number in the U.S. from your cell phone and let it ring once. It will not answer so there is no charge to your SIM. Hang up the cell phone, wait a few seconds, and it will start ringing as the call-back service calls you back. Answer it and touchtone your instructions to the call-back machine about what calls you want to make. As far as your cell phone is concerned, this is all an incoming call, so there is no charge to your SIM. The only charge will be from the call-back service.
WebSkulker uses the first company above as his international dial-back service, and a friend of his uses the second company. Either company will provide you with a trigger number in the U.S. that can be programmed to call you back wherever you are. You initiate a call-back by dialing your trigger number and letting it ring once, then hanging up. A few seconds later, the system will call you back and invite you to punch in a phone number anywhere in the world. The system will then dial that number and connect you. When done, you can press # twice to make another call. This type of system is useful for a lot more than the cell phone method described above. Suppose you are staying in a hotel overseas, or even in the U.S., that has high surcharges for making calls. The trigger numbers can be programmed to call you and play a recording giving your name or room number. From your hotel room, you dial the trigger number at no charge because you don't let it answer, then it will call your hotel, ask the operator for your room, then your room phone rings, you answer it, and make calls at the low rates of the call-back service.
KallBack is a far more flexible system because as you move from one country or hotel to another, you can call your trigger number, let it ring six rings until it answers, then touchtone in your password and the phone number (and optionally room number) that you now want to be called back at. CallNow has no way to do this by phone; you must send an email to their customer support address telling them the new information. This might not be so bad if you are traveling with a notebook computer and are able to send and receive email easily from wherever you are. Also CallNow will give you up to three trigger numbers at no charge, so if you know in advance what phone numbers you will be at in three countries, you could pre-program the three trigger numbers and use the appropriate one based on where you are on your trip.
CallNow is cheaper if you believe the prices on their web site. The prices per minute between the two systems aren't all that different, but CallNow has no monthly charges whereas if you read the fine print, KallBack charges $10 per month plus $2 per month per trigger number (it might be handy to have more than one). WebSkulker checked his past bills and he has been charged only $2 per month, not $12.
this is because WebSkulker signed up for KallBack via a link on the http://www.phone-bill-busters.com
These sites contain pointers to live web cams around the world, and the idea is to look in on the midnight New Year's celebrations in different cities as the time zones progress around the world. Jr. Skulker Tracy Airhead suggested the first two sites, Chris Gray suggested the third, and WebSkulker knew the fourth.
Jr. Skulker Mike Durkin suggested this site, which has pointers to a lot of funny picture files to view. Some are from the real world, others cartoons and imagined products.
Twas the night before Y2K,
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