Having a blue (and Orange) Monday

It does me no good at all to dwell on the difference between the South African Internet experience and that of people in other countries.

In the normal course of events I shut my mind and try to get on with things but every so often, maybe only once or twice a day, I am reminded of the disparities. I was already full of the Monday blues last week, when I happened across the website belonging to UK-based telecommunications provider Orange.

It seems that they have a special this month in terms of which UK locals can save 50% of the monthly fee for the first three months, when signing up for broadband Internet connections. We’re talking unlimited downloads at speeds of up to 8 megabits per second which, even at the regular monthly price of R292 (£19.99), still seems to me like one hell of a bargain.

Included in the contract is a Livebox wireless modem which connects to the Internet via ADSL, and which can be shared by up to six computers with wireless network capabilities. You can also plug a telephone into Livebox and, even if your computer is switched off, you can phone any landline number in the UK and 100 countries around the world for free.

And that’s not all, because you can plug a variety of games consoles into the modem and play your choice of games against other gamers around the world. In the future, users will be able to receive television broadcasts on Livebox, or plug a video camera into it, and monitor the goings on at home from anywhere on the Internet.

Telkom’s starter broadband package is now R199 per month and gives new meaning to the word minimal, offering as it does a theoretical speed of 384kbps, if you’re lucky, and 1Gb of downloads. The Orange offering, at barely R100 a month more, was enough to turn me green at the gills with envy.

On a more cheerful note, I was looking at a computer program on the BBC the other night when they reminded me about a great little free program which I’ve been meaning to mention for a while. CutePDF, from www.cutepdf.com, can be used for converting just about any document into Adobe’s Portable Document Format, so that it can be viewed on any computer by people who don’t have the program you used.

It is very useful to be able convert a Word document before you e-mail it, for example, because the recipient won’t be able to edit it and it will generally be much smaller and easier to e-mail.
There are plenty of programs that you can use to make PDF documents but CutePDF is the only genuinely free one I’ve found because it gives you full functionality and doesn’t try to pester you into paying for an upgrade.

You have to get the CutePDF and Ghostscript from the site and install both on your computer. before you can set to work making PDFs. CutePDF appears on your computer in the list of printers and you can convert a document created in any program by printing your document and choosing it as the printer.

There is an upgraded professional version but the free one will be sufficient for most people.

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