In September 2011 I wrote about the data only mobile phone plan I had been on since January 2011. This came about by simply changing 3 recurring monthly expenses I had which resulted in a yearly saving of $1364.

28 months later, I’m still on a data only plan and in fact have reduced it from $10 a month to $5 a month plan which has resulted in $1200 of savings.

For $5 a month, I receive 500MB of data of which I only use about 400MB. I have a traditional mobile number that can’t make outgoing calls or SMS though can receive incoming calls and SMS. All outbound communication on my phone is done over the Internet.

Skype, WhatsApp, Acrobits Softphone, iMessage, Viber and email are applications that get used the most. Real time notifications from systems I manage is done with Prowl.

Some important points about the setup I have

  1. My monthly bill is $5 a month plus every 6 months, I pay $30 to keep my mobile number which also gives me $30 of credit.
  2. I have a Skype In number which costs $16 AUD every quarter which is used for work purposes. I also purchase $16 worth of Skype credit which typically lasts 6 months to make outbound overseas calls.
  3. Attending meetings and appointments means that I can’t be late and also I have to know exactly where I’m going as I typically don’t have the luxury of calling others attending the meeting letting them know I’m running late or to ask for directions.
  4. I always ask if someone has an account on a service like WhatsApp, Viber, Skype if I need to communicate with them on my phone. At the very least I will grab their email address.
  5. At the office, I have purchased a Linksys SPA3102 which I can plug into the PSTN. I’ve setup Asterisk, Blink and Acrobits Softphone to route outbound landline and mobile calls through the SPA3102. The phone line which I need for the ADSL line in the office comes with $15 worth of monthly calls which is what the SPA3102 uses for outbound calls. I also VPN into the office with my phone and am able to use this line with Acrobits Softphone too.

I don’t see myself ever returning to a monthly phone plan which includes outgoing calls and SMS unless my work circumstances change dramatically. I have also previously written on why these types of plans are broken.

Amazon Web Services AWS

itnews.com.au is reporting that Amazon are preparing to go live with an AWS data center in Sydney.

Amazon Web Services will begin serving customers from its first Australian data centre on Tuesday, ending more than a year of speculation.

The cloud computing giant has data centres in the US, Brazil, Ireland, Singapore and Tokyo and edge nodes in seven other European countries, China and Sydney.

Several sources told iTnews that it was moving hardware into Australian facilities late last year.

On November the 6th, a posting appeared on the Linux Australia Jobs mailing list, for a Cloud Support Engineer for Amazon based in Sydney.

ninefold was the premier choice for many organisations who had requirements to keep their servers and data within Australia for legal or latency reasons, though with this inevitable move into Australia for AWS, the competition in the Cloud space for Australian businesses is now seriously hotting up.

Update 13/11/2012

Werner Vogels, Amazon’s CTO, has blogged on the launch of the new AWS region in Sydney.

DigiNotar, a year on

November 11, 2012

In July 2011 DigiNotar, a Dutch Certificate Authority, was a victim of a major compromise of their infrastructure and certificate signing servers. 2 months after the attack, DigiNotar declared bankruptcy.

A year on, Fox-IT, an independent security company which asked by DigiNotar to investigate the intrusion, has released a fascinating 101 page report providing a deep insight into the breach.

In November, 2011, my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) and I came back from 5 weeks of traveling in Europe. We decided that we’d experiment with staying in apartments which we would find on AirBnB. On previous trips, we chose to stay in hotels so I was slightly apprehensive that a bad experience in staying in someone’s apartment would sour our trip. Boy, was I wrong.

A tram in Budapest near Chain Bridge

The ‘AirBnB experience’ forced both of us to immerse ourselves in the culture within each city we lived in. No longer were we waiting in hotel elevators with other tourists. No longer were we greeted by hotel employees who forgot our name once we checked out. No longer were we ‘staying’ in 1 bedroom hotel rooms where a wet room, a widescreen TV with a splattering of American news TV channels and a turnover service which was considered ’boutique & luxury’.

We found ourselves trekking up flights of stairs with groceries we bought from local grocery stores, eager to cook in our very own kitchens. We’d then eat the food we cooked on our own private balconies watching the world go by. We’d regularly bump into ‘neighbours’ and foolishly attempt to start a conversation in their native tongue. Hola! Guten Tag! Dobrý den!

Plumber who helped us in Barcelona

In Barcelona, our water system broke and I took pleasure in fixing it. We stumbled around beautiful Barcelona in awe of its glory and eventually found a plumber who didn’t speak a word of english but was patient enough for me to explain the part of the water system that broke and was gracious enough to provide that part to me for ‘gratis’. Another experience I’ll never forget.

I’ve thought about the experience and will always go the AirBnB route everytime I travel. Below are several reasons why I value the AirBnB experience so much.

Your Own Washing Machine.

Ever stay in a hotel and wanted to wash your jeans and shirt?

“Sure Sir, we can get that done for you for 10 Euros for your shirt and another 10 Euros for your jeans.”

With staying in an apartment fully decked out with a washing machine and sometimes a balcony, washing our clothes was always a pleasant experience. The cost to us was only a few Euros for washing detergent which sometimes came with the price of our apartment.

Your Own Cooking Facilities.

Traveling for long periods can make you appreciate a home cooked meal. Try staying 3 weeks in Italy and not being sick of pasta, pizza and cheese.

At each apartment we had a stove with at least 2 hot plates, a sink, enough cutlery and plates for four people and sometimes a dish washing machine.

Every morning I would cook a hot breakfast, usually bacon, eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes.

A fridge also helped store fruit and drinks. Not all hotel suites provide you with a fridge, and the suites that I have stayed in had small fridges that wouldn’t fit much in them.

Cheaper than a hotel.

Prague cost us $98 a night, Vienna was $75 a night and Budapest cost us $68 a night. Compare this to the average hotel price for a standard double room which is reported by the Trivago Hotel Price Index chart and you’ll discover that the average price of a hotel in Prague is $114 a night. Vienna is $144 a night and Budapest comes in at $86 a night.

You have your own tour guide.

Our hosts would provide us with enough information in the form of books, guides and maps on places to visit, restaurants to eat at and sites to see. They were also available over the phone if we found ourselves in any trouble or had any questions.

Live like a Local.

We felt like locals, living in apartment buildings with locals. At the very least, we would greet every person with a smile and a greeting in their language.

For the entire holiday, we lived and ate like a local. This is how I will travel from now on.