Cross-border telephony

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I’m tired of paying silly cellphone roaming charges when I travel south of the border.

I’m curious about the possibility of getting a US SIM card for my iPhone, and switching my “main” contact number to my GrandCentral number, which will then call various numbers (two cell numbers, landline, possibly softphone).

I used a European pre-paid SIM card last time I was there, and that worked fine, but I’m asking about the GrandCentral bit in particular, as well as any good plans/prepaid cards for the US that work for my episodic usage needs.

Any advice?

Soaring

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This picture was sent to the Mozilla webmaster from a friend of Mozilla in Bariloche, Argentina. Julian says (w/ minor english tweaks):

“I’m from Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina, and yesterday I took this picture while I was climbing a mountain in the heart of the andes. It reminded me of your logo and I want you to have it. I hope you like it!
The bird is a ‘Condor Andino’”

How cool is that?

MailCo: More horsepower!

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I’m very excited to share the following news: Dan Mosedale (dmose to his IRC friends) has agreed to help me launch MailCo. For those of you who don’t know Dan, you should know that he’s been involved in Mozilla since the early days, and has contributed significantly both to Thunderbird and to the Calendar project. I can’t think of a better person to help lead me this project. Not only does he have the coding and architectural chops to help lead the code from a strictly technical point of view, but Dan also has a great rapport with the community, understands what it takes to mentor new contributors and guide them through the various stages of involvement, and shares my ambition for what Thunderbird can become.
The current plan is that he’ll be working with me and the rest of the MailCo staff (being recruited as I write) for the next four months at least, bringing his expertise and knowledge to bear on everything from roadmap and product planning, hiring, community leadership, and whatever else I can throw his way.

As he’s currently working on important Firefox 3 features, we’ll find a transition plan which works well both for Thunderbird and Firefox. I’m expecting a gradual transition, as I know that I want Firefox 3 to succeed as much as the Firefox team wants Thunderbird to succeed.

Now Dan, about the demorkification project

Privacy: the new global warming?

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Privacy is an interesting meme. Like the weather, it’s something that everyone likes to talk about but few actually do anything about it. Maybe, like the weather, that’s slowly changing.

A few things have hit my radar recently:

  • In today’s NYT, an article about Ask.com promoting a privacy “switch” in the war for search engine queries.
  • When Facebook announced its advertising program, the headline of the most influential French newspaper Le Monde went something like “Facebook sells customer data” (I’d link to it, but the archives are behind a pay wall, and I can’t find the specific story I’m remembering).
  • Lauren Weinstein talks about how http is losing value over https as ISPs start to modify the content of responses, violating the spec I’m sure.

I’ve been thinking more than usual about privacy since taking on the Mozilla job, in part because even though Mozilla is clearly very “pro-web”, it’s also “pro-privacy”. While webmail provides amazing flexibility to users, it’s not without issues. The privacy issues, in particular, are likely to be ignored by most users until it’s too late. Note that I don’t expect users to care, and I think it’s unreasonable to do so. I do expect organizations, companies, governments, and the odd activists to care. The question, then, becomes whether we can change global behaviors faster than we were able to in the environmental arena.

There are interesting analogies. The largest users of email (large ISPs) are also those with the most to gain from things like contextual advertising, and would have the largest costs if things like encrypted emails became standard.

Some government agencies are leaders in the space of consumer data protection (I hear about scandinavian countries in particular, but I suspect it’s broader than that), while others are fighting against cryptography because terrorists might use it. Like green technologies, coming up with a communications infrastructure which is vibrant, extensible, and secure, is a huge technical challenge.

I can imagine online privacy equivalents of carpooling lanes, smokestacks, big lobbies, and Kyoto. Maybe Thunderbird should be the hybrid car?

BA 84

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There is no feeling quite like getting ready to board a transatlantic flight booked solid with both the very young and the very old, the very worried and the very infirm, a few hundred humans with varied cultural baggage and sometimes clashing ways of coping with stress. An odd sampling of humanity thrown together at the whim of life’s accidents and schedules, and who will, by the time we all go our separate ways, know a bit more about each other, for better or worse.

Surprise!

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Came home last night to find quite the surprise. A new 10-week old kitten. The older cats are coping fine so far, and the kids are in heaven.

I wanted going to call him Mork, the kids Dots, we settled on Legs. “Legs Ascher”, it’s got a certain Las Vegas in the 50s ring to it.

Timezone helper?

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Dear Lazyweb,

I’m recruiting globally, and that means that I spend a fair bit of time trying to coordinate phone call times involving several timezones. Is there a good website or OS X dashboard widget or … that people have found handy for that? The sites I’ve tried so far have been reasonable at asking the question “when is time X in timezone Y”, but then leave delta computations to me, and those end up error-prone.

Recent email tweaks

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Not too surprisingly, my email traffic has grown since I took this job, in volume, diversity, and importance. I’ve had to do a few adjustments to my email handling, and I figured I’d share.

First, to deal with the volume changes, I unsubscribed from a lot of mailing lists that I was subscribed to for less than ideal reasons. I’ll miss some community news, but that’s the lesser of N evils.

Second, after struggling with leaving stuff on gmail, I’ve given up on gmail as my primary email storge. Instead, it serves as an additional spam filter, a front-end for when I’m on the road without a laptop, and a good search engine. A lot of my email goes through gmail, but it gets forwarded to an IMAP account, which is my primary mail server. (Side question: does anyone know if gmail cheerfully does loop-detection, so that it’s safe to forward bidirectionally between a non-gmail server and gmail, in hopes of redundancy with two entry points?)

It’s easy to forget how much better IMAP is than POP. Folders that are stable across clients. IDLE push (although Merlin Mann would object). And with Lemonade, it’ll get even better. In particular, the iPhone’s mail app works wonders with IMAP, meaning that I can do some email processing (and I do mean processing, such as deleting, triaging, etc.) on my phone in interstitial times, and not have to re-process emails. I wonder if MailCo shouldn’t do a public advocacy campaign for IMAP over POP…

Finally, after watching Merlin Mann talk about Inbox Zero again, I looked around for Thunderbird extensions to help with my email workflow and settled on Nostalgy. It takes some personalization and isn’t quite ready for the mass market as is, but for old email hands, it’s just what the doctor ordered. What I use most so far: custom shortcuts to file emails into Archive, RespondTo, DoAction, and Personal with single keystrokes, and the very handy

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key to do automatic subject/sender filtering toggles. I suspect there are a few more features that I’ll really love.

One of the beauties of the Mozilla extension infrastructure is that extensions like Nostalgy can be born, and grow up as extensions, and then the best ideas can be rolled into the main product. I don’t know that I can point to any specific feature of Nostalgy that I think qualifies right now (after all, I’ve only played with it for a few minutes), but some of its features like the

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key toggle helps me think more broadly about how the product could evolve.

Sorry about the accidental comment closure

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I’ve upgraded my wordpress installation and marsedit, and in the process of exploring the new features closed comments on at least one post I didn’t intend to close. In general, I’m trying to require less moderation for discussion, but them spammers make it hard to trust the world.