So what to do if you want to provide dial-up service as a company and know your customers get charged for a local call? You offer the service for free! Then "buy" or rent the phone number from Telefonica so you can get a percentage of every phone call your customers make when they connect. This is a decent option if you are traveling and I've heard from a few people who have successfully signed up and taken advantage of this while on the road. A few things to look at when considering this option:
Below are some providers for free dial-up (except what you pay Telefonica) and some of what they offer. In most cases I've pointed you to the section with information on the service. Always read the fine print!
Gonuts4free.com - national, free dial up with one national phone number
for Spain that is the equivalent of a local call. An hour
costs around 1,44€, which you pay to Telefonica on
your phone bill. Also offer free service in the UK, plus
paid options for higher speed connections
Whether you're here for a short time or an extended stay knowing the tools you can use online to manage your life makes things a lot easier. Below are some recommended links with a few descriptions.
Using your ISP abroad or securing one before travelingThis is an option which may work for some, although I would recommend using a cyber cafe over trying to connect through your existing ISP. Working out the logistics, signing up to be eligible to use your ISP's plan and a whole host of other issues make this a less than preferred method in my book. If you have AOL check out their international access plan for more information. Earthlink offers a WiFi plan through Boingo which may get you connected in some places, but not anywhere in Spain. Roam International may be an option in that they offer local dial-up numbers around the world, but I didn't want to take the time to download their software to view the access points. They also appear to offer broadband as well. Otherwise consider one of the free dial up providers above, but if you're staying in a hotel be absolutely sure to check on the cost of a local call. Some charge up to 1,50€ per call, then add a per minute fee!
Skype and other VoIP services.As a regular user of Skype with a good USB headset, I can vouch for the service. I have been very pleased with the quality of computer to computer calls, as well as the SkypeOut service, which allows you to call telephone numbers for just a few cents a minute. This has cut our phone bill by about 20 Euros a month! There are some practical considerations for using Skype and SkypeOut, like if you connect in a cyber cafe your conversations may not be that private. But using this with a home internet connection or outdoors while connected to an open/free wireless connection is better. Of course MSN and Google Talk are now in the game, and soon the other major players such as AOL, etc. will join. But I have had good experiences with Skype, and like giving my business to the first one who brought quality service to the masses.
Chat, Conferencing and Remote AccessMost everyone is familiar with instant messaging, so I won't go into this too much. It's worth mentioning two things: 1) AOL offers a web based version of it's instant messenger so you won't need to download the program; 2) Check out Trillian if you use multiple services. Trillian allows you use their chat client and get online simultaneously with all other instant messaging services, including ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, IRC and AOL. That way any of your friends can contact you regardless of what service they use. Video conferencing is never as easy as it seems. You can use a webcam on Yahoo and Windows Messenger, although the windows application is often picky about what type of camera you are using. Netmeeting is an alternative in Windows although it is hidden in XP (to start it in XP select Start > Run > and then type in "conf" and hit enter). Both Netmeeting and Windows Messenger allow you to share applications and a whiteboard, but it requires some tweaking on both side to get the application sharing working correctly. Remote access to your home or work computer is simple if you're bringing a laptop or have access to a computer where you can install a program. PCanywhere is simple although you may need to do some firewall tweaking. For many work connections this may include installing a VPN client, (Virtual Private Network) to allow you to securely and safely access your work computer using this program. You can transfer files as well as do anything on your computer as if you were there. GoToMyPC is another software/service like PCanywhere but they charge a monthly fee. You've likely seen their banner ads which are on almost any page on the internet. If you have XP professional installed on your work or home computer you can also enable Remote Desktop and connect from anywhere. Again, some firewall tweaking or talking with your network administrator may be necessary.
Web PagesI use my page not only to tell people about Sevilla but also keep in touch with family. Reading my semi-daily entries keeps me from writing a lot of emails or sending pictures. There are a ton of free hosting alternatives out there, including Yahoo (through Geocities), Tripod and a list of others. And you don't need to know html to make a page - many come with some basic templates to upload photos or write messages. You can also be hip and start a blog, like everyone is doing now.
Online BankingMost banks now offer online banking, most for free and if your bank charges you they should be ashamed. For a short trip it may be enough to look at your balances and transfer from one account to another while you travel. If it's a longer stay and you need to pay bills make sure your bank offers a bill pay system so you can take care of it online. Most larger banks, such as Bank of America, offer bill pay. One thing to beware of when entering your information in a cyber cafe are programs which track keystrokes. Not a big threat, but a few employees of cyber cafes in Europe have been arrested for installing these key trackers. They got banking information and either managed to withdraw or transfer funds around, causing a problem for people on the road. Aside from your bank most credit cards offer online access where you can pay your bill or view transactions. If you plan to stay more than a month it can be helpful to keep your payments up to date. You can also send emails to customer service if you have questions or report lost/stolen cards, although it is best to do the latter by telephone.
LinksHere are some links to sites which may be helpful during your stay in Granada or anywhere else. You can see more links on my Links page.
Currency Converter - convert any currency into another, even the now defunct peseta.
Time Zone Converter - find out what time it is now anywhere in the world.
Online Conversion - convert any measurement to another. The largest list online.
Locate an ATM - find any Visa/Plus ATM throughout the world.
Pay attentionThe rest of the items below mostly have to do with the computer use. However, it is easy to become so involved with what's on the screen that you don't pay attention to your bag or other belongings which you have set down next to you. Always try to guard your belongings and keep them in a place where they are difficult for others to reach while you are using your computer.
Login informationBe sure to always log out of any web page by using a log out feature rather than simply closing the browser. Closing the window while leaving other windows open may allow someone to log back into your account because your session has not expired. Always uncheck any boxes which offer to remember your log-in and/or password.
Don't leave your computer unattendedIf you have to leave your seat but are not ending your time on a public computer you should log out of any web pages and close all programs.
Who is watching youSome internet cafes offer more private, cubicle style desks for surfing. Others are more open for anyone to view. In either case it's still possible someone can see your screen and/or keyboard to obtain personal information such as log-ins and passwords, even a credit card number.
Delete your history, cache and cookiesMany internet cafes automatically delete your history and cache when you end your turn. However, just as many don't. To delete these files in Internet Explorer
2. On the General tab (the default), look under the header Temporary Internet files and click Delete Cookies.
3. Under the same Temporary Internet files header click on Delete Files.
3. Under History, click Clear History.
Avoid entering important or sensitive informationSometimes you have to check your bank balance or make other important transactions online on a public computer. Still, if you are able to avoid online banking and or credit card transactions on a public computer you will protect yourself even more. While clearing your history, logging out and some of the other steps above will help protect you, there have been some (rare) cases of software such as keystroke capturing programs being installed in internet cafes. These essentially record every keystroke you make and save them to a file. The installer can then retrace any of your steps and obtain your credit card number, log-in information, etc.
Conside going truly mobile with a USB driveWhile a bit slower in terms of performance, the last year or so there are plenty of free, open source suites which are bundled to used on a USB drive. This means most of your personal, bookmarks/favorites, etc. are kept off the cyber cafes computer and stored on your USB thumb drive. Plus you can carry around documents and other things which may be helpful when traveling.