Expanding our personal network

Sounds creepy, doesn’t it? Like I’m going to corner you at a party and explain how

Beautyvision is more than just a franchise opportunity… It’s a way of looking at the world with the total absence of fear.

It’s not like that.

We got pretty tired of picking hotels and rental apartments based in part on their advertised internet connectivity. Which pretty much always is more hassle than it’s worth. Therefore, when I heard about O2‘s “dayflat pack” rate of €3,50/day or €25/month on a prepaid surfstick, I thought it was a great idea. We have a pretty reliable internet connection at home, and don’t need a mobile internet contract because we’re not usually out on the road. But when we are traveling (in Germany) €3,50 for the odd day’s worth of mobile broadband with no further strings attached is a great deal. No more getting the unluckily situated hotel room, the rental apartment running out of surfsticks, paying through the nose to SwissCom at the hotel or T-Mobile at the airport.

“Whew!” I thought to myself. “This sounds great!”

Reading a little closer into the system requirements, I saw that linux — of course — isn’t supported. Googling a bit, I found you can’t even fake it via Wine.

A little more googling revealed stuff about usb_modeswitcher and umtsmon — programs which enable your linux box (or netbook in this case) to manipuate your phone’s (or surfsticks’s) SIM card while it’s plugged into your USB port or PCMCIA slot. I noticed all the posts on this topic were about two years old, and apparently largely irrelevant now that Ubuntu supports all those things more or less out-of-the box.

But I’m on Kubuntu, which always seems to lag behind Ubuntu in terms of networking, and was still struggling until I coughed up for the Huawei E5 mobile WLAN router.

Wearing the TrekStor badge, this is my Huawei E5 model
This cute little device will let me and my four favorite WiFi capable devices surf on the cellular signal from that O2 pre-paid card: Sarah’s phone, our little netbook, my iPod touch, plus two other WLAN-capable devices (perhaps those of travel buddies), all simultaneously. Best part: somehow it knew all the settings like APN and dial-up number (huh? dial-up?) or, it read all that stuff off the SIM card…not sure which. Kubuntu and umtsmon needed me to tell them those things (and I was clueless as to what to put in there).

There is at least one caveat here: the easiest way to tell O2 you want to cash in some of your prepaid credit in the form of a dayflat pass is to use the software that came installed on the surfstick’s tiny little drive. That requires Windows (which I only use at work, and not at home) or a Macintosh (OK, got one of those). But my Mac is not a mobile device. How then, can I activate a dayflat pack while underway armed with only the SIM card (and surfstick) and no Windows/Mac OS with me?

The secret is that you CAN purchase a daily or monthly pack without the O2 “Mobile Partner” software. You just put that O2 prepaid SIM card into any GSM phone, boot it, and then dial *104#. I’m not sure what this is called in English, but the text that appeared on my phone said something like “service command” (I think was “Dienstbefehl“). From there you can enter numbers on your phone’s keypad to purchase a dayflat or monthly pack out of your pre-paid account’s available credit. Then pop that SIM card back into your surfstick or portable WiFi router and you’re good.

amazon.de has kitchen stuff on clearance!

Check out the clearance sale on amazon.de! We just snagged this hot little number after waiting about 6 years, 5 months, and 2 weeks for the price differential to finally drop between U.S. and German prices down to more reasonable levels.

Removing timestamps (but not datestamps) from WordPress comments

At the Whiny Expat Blogger MeetUp this weekend, my second favorite nameless roommate (they all tied for second and you know who #1 was) remarked that I could expect more frequent comments on my blog if only the timestamp wouldn’t indicate that said roomie was actually shirking more professional duties.

“No problem,” I thought. “That’s probably just a simple config setting or at most a template tweak. Who needs to see a timestamp on a comment other than the blog owner anyways? Surely a datestamp is granular enough.”

It was harder than I thought, but far from impossible. There’s no global parameter in WordPress to define comment timestamp style specifically — you can define timestamp styles for your blog in general, but not for comments specifically. And when I looked under the hood at my template’s single.php and comments.php template files, nothing leapt out at me. Googling for terms like “wordpress comment timestamp” yielded nothing promising, either — the hits returned all seemed to be hints about the general date/time format or template edits for the display of the post’s timestamp. Looking up wp_list_comments() however, I struck gold.

The secret is using the wp_list_comments() function with arguments telling it to use a callback function in order to display the comments in a non-standard way. You have to write that callback function and save it into your template’s functions.php as well for this to work. The example on the codex is a great way to get started.

I’ve got it working here on the Senanque theme; give it a try — leave a comment and you’ll see the date on your comment, but not the time. Note: I also did a template tweak on the post’s timestamp. I suppose the especially nosey boss might infer slackery from the timestamp on the post even if the comment is un-timestamped if he can guess the timezone I’m using (duh…what country is this?) and see that his employee has commented here during what must have been the workday.

Time to meet the Blaaaaaah-gerrrrrrrs

It’s meetup season here in Germany. The annual Whiny Expat Bloggers Meet-Up is converging upon Hamburg this weekend. If you’re in the area and want to join in the yearly English Language Airing of the Grievances, go to the planning bulletin board and sign up. The details are all there. Don’t worry, photographic evidence is, by mutual agreement, strictly unpostable.

To all hosts and attendees, see you soon!

To all wanna-be attendees, you will be missed!

Bis nächste Woche!

“Do you think we’re ready for that kind of commitment?”

New York State Senator Savino’s case for same-sex marriage rights might be old news by now for some of you — apparently she voted in December 2009, and this clip was posted online at www.ted.com in August 2010, but it was new to me today.

I like this take on it; anyone screaming about the sanctity of marriage needs to whip out their sanctimeter at the local administrative offices and make sure all marriage license applicants measure up. Or just butt out.