Jul 13 2012

Astana Internet Choices

Category: Internet Connections,KazakhstanChrisM @ 5:31 am

Recently a few people have asked me for advice about living in Astana, either because they are new to the area, or have not yet actually arrived. Some of the older posts (the key ones are linked to on the Kazakhstan 101 page) are still useful, but where prices have risen, or locally available technology has moved on, new advice is sometimes needed. So, without further ado, here are your choices if you want to access the internet in Astana. As ever, I’m happy to receive suggestions/corrections, so do please feel free to leave a comment below.

Megaline – The main ADSL internet company here in Astana. You will sometimes find that VISPs (virtual internet service providers) exist, where they take Megaline’s connection, and feed it out to a few blocks of flats, but I have not yet come across a true competing ISP. Compared to five years ago, the speed, price and reliability has improved greatly.

ID TV – I had originally thought this was a combined internet and TV package that was from a different company than Megaline. However, it turns out that ID TV is from Kazakhtelecom (the main telephone company here in Astana, who also provide Megaline’s ADSL services). The channel selection seems to be slightly wider than that offered by AlmaTV (assuming their website is up to date, as AlmaTV lost quite a few channels I liked recently), however there are some inconveniences, related to the delivery method. IPTV is used, so instead of a special wire (cable TV), normal aerial (standard TV, no DVB-T in Astana yet), or satellite dish (Hotbird, NTV Plus (though we are well out of the range of Astra and therefore UK Sky channels are impossible to receive conventionally here)), ID TV (the company, IPTV is the transmission method) uses your phone line. This means that you will probably see a slight dip in your internet download speeds and that changing channels apparently takes 10 seconds each time! It looks as though you choose from Megaline’s broadband packages if you don’t already have an internet connection set up, then select which TV channel package you want.

Internet TV Packages

There are other choices here in Astana, for example there was a WiMax system being trialled a few years ago, and I know of at least one business that uses this for internet access and voice over IP (telephone calls), as they have no land line. I will try and find out more about this, though it will not be for a couple of months at least.
If your internet access needs are more mobile, then a USB 3G Dongle could be what you need. You plug the device (with a SIM card in it) into your laptop, and use the mobile phone network to access the world wide web. As with Britain though (see this BBC article), coverage in Astana is not 100%, and even when 3G network coverage is displayed as available, the speeds can sometimes be closer to Edge, if not 2G!

Similar to this, but without the requirement for new hardware, is tethering your mobile phone to your laptop (basically using a USB lead, WiFi or bluetooth), and using your existing mobile phone account to access the internet on your computer. However, you do need to make sure your current choice of account does not charge a lot per Mb used, and it is probably worth checking whether your mobile phone company (KCell, Active, Beeline etc.) offers any bundles, where you pay for a fixed amount, that expires after a month.

Finally, should you find yourself without a mobile phone, dongle, or ADSL-enabled phone line, you could always go old school and use a dial up modem. The speed will make you weep, the phoneline will be engaged should anyone try and call you, but if all else fails those screeching tones, that indicate a handshake is taking place, can be a godsend.

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Jul 06 2010

Happy Day Of Astana

Category: In The Media,Kazakhstan,PicturesChrisM @ 1:48 pm

I have previously been calling it Astana Day, but local official online sources seem to refer to it as the Day of Astana. Anyway, it is also our beloved President’s birthday today. He is seventy, which is still very young, and in his honour the Khan Shatyr was officially opened today apparently. Nursultan Nazarbayev (who is legally not insultable by anyone living in this glorious nation) was rumoured to have been pondering resigning today, but I have yet to hear about any speech confirming this. Since the Leader of the Nation law was passed, some people thought he would take this momentous occasion to pass on the baton to another great, perfect and non-corrupt leader.
Anyway, check out the BBC article here for some more details on Khan Shatyr, though I have a few queries regarding the “facts” in that story…
Astana celebrates 13 years of being capital perhaps, but the city was around, in different (smaller) forms for a little bit longer than that 🙂 The phrasing just makes it sound as though nothing existed here for decades, and suddenly over night it came into existence.
Khan Shatyr is the city’s tallest structure? Could be right, but 150 metres doesn’t seem all that tall compared to some structures here. This could just be my mistake though.
“from 30C in the summer to -30C in the winter.” – An argument I’ve had over at Wikipedia before. Summer is regularly above 30C, occasionally hitting 40. Winter definitely sees an occasional dip below -30.

Here is an earlier photo of the Khan Shatyr tent like structure, whilst it was still being slowly constructed, to ensure it was ready for the birthday of this nation’s wonderful leader.

Khan Shatyr

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May 28 2010

Inter-Species Fans

Category: In The MediaChrisM @ 7:13 pm

Barking Mad Singers would have been another choice for this post’s title. Lou Reed (depending on your age and influences, “Walk On The Wild Side” or “Perfect Day” would probably be the best answers should you be asking “who?”) and his wife plan to give a concert in Sydney. Nothing too unusual, until you know that the performance is written for dogs to listen to! As we are nowhere near April the 1st, and this is a BBC News article, I’m going to assume that it isn’t a joke. As the tunes (?) will be tailored for canine ears, a lot won’t be audible to human ears, but if AlexC could borrow her next door neighbour’s dog, I’d be interested to hear about any reaction (good or bad) that it gives.

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May 26 2010

Recorded Strokes And Missing Blocks

Category: Aware Or Conspiracy Nut...,In The MediaChrisM @ 11:51 pm

Sounding more like a plot device in Mission Impossible XIV than a well researched BBC article, spying on people’s keyboard strokes via the mains cable that powers the computer is more fuel for the tin foil hat brigade. The article doesn’t mention whether PS/2 keyboards are the types of device that can leak information back through to AC wiring (not at all sure why, but I can imagine there being less potential digital interference when USB was used), nor does the piece refer to whether PSUs with certain features would be likely to curtail this activity. For that matter, would surge suppressors (with their sine wave cleaning abilities) further protect paranoid users?

Another article with potentially information missing, is a piece on credit card info thieves using cloned cards at unattended checkouts in supermarkets to empty American customers’ accounts. I can’t understand why a simply block on non Chip’n’PIN cards using these sort of self service checkouts wouldn’t be put in place. This way staff would get a chance to physically check the card at normal check outs, meaning more hassle for the data thieves at the very least.

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May 24 2010

Stoned Wallabies And Decoy Spiders

Category: In The MediaChrisM @ 11:43 pm

Continuing the clearance of old news stories and images that have been stuck in draft posts for a while, here we have a couple of articles from the BBC. The first is about stoned (although to me that only infers weed, not the other substances mentioned) wallabies creating crop circles see here. Whether they would ever approach the geometric designs that some (in)famous hoaxers in Britain did is highly arguable, and I would have loved to have seen some aerial shots of the damage done/art dislpayed by the wallabies. Also worth a quick scan are the mostly tongue in cheek comments at the end of the article.
With the second article we have a species of spider that builds life-sized decoys to distract predators from eating the real McCoy. I also seem to remember an old article in New Scientist on how spiders under the influence of different substances spun a wide variety of altered web patterns, but I can’t seem to find the bookmark or draft post for that.

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Oct 13 2009

Yes Sir/Mate?

Category: In The MediaChrisM @ 5:54 pm

Just finished reading a pretty interesting article from the BBC on a headmaster from India. Check out the picture below…

Babar Ali

That isn’t one of his pupils, that IS the headmaster! Babar Ali decided that the amount of children in his neighbourhood who simply can’t afford to attend lessons (even if there is space in a free school, many of them have to work to earn money for their family) wasn’t acceptable, nor a good situation for the prospects of his village. So, each evening after attending school as a pupil, he goes home and relays what he has learned to those kids who are able to take a few hours off work. It is truly humbling to think of someone that age having the emotional capacity to consider others less lucky than himself, and managing to continue his own studies whilst teaching others. Hats off to young man.
(Cynical posting about nothing too important will resume shortly).

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Jul 29 2009

Are We Nearly There Yet?

Category: PersonalChrisM @ 1:27 pm

OK, so another five posts with Anna’s photos are already written, and spread out (already scheduled for publishing) until this Friday. That leaves about another two weeks, at the current rate, until the blog is finally up to date with her pictures. Once that has been achieved, and the posts are off the front page, I intend to go back and alter the dates each post appears on, so that the actual day of the photo matches the day the post appears to have been published. Then I can go ahead and set up the auto inserting of Anna’s Photo’s posts to her site, and not worry about having to change the date and time stamps two sets of posts across two sites.
There are already a few videos uploaded to YouTube that I’ll need to post, which just leaves transferring via firewire the footage taken on DV camcorders, rather than the movies shot on Ira’s photo camera, of Anna in Britain and here in Kazakhstan. Once transferred, I’ll need to run an inverse telecine filter (which reminds me, it looks as though BBC World News needs that on my PCI satellite card(!?)), and probably compress using a codec, to keep within YouTube’s file size limit. Most likely that will wait until the pictures are complete at least.

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Jun 20 2009

Tasered Twice!

Category: In The MediaChrisM @ 1:16 am

Feel free to source a better quality clip from YouTube, I’ve lost the bookmark for it, sorry. Anyway, police in Nottinghamshire were caught on a mobile phone camera using a taser gun twice on, as well as punching, a person they were attempting to arrest after requests for help from night club security. See the BBC article for the video (I’m fairly certain YouTube had a higher quality version?) and some background information on this.

I love Assistant Chief Constable (Nottinghamshire Police) Peter Davies comments on this…

“We understand that some members of the public may be concerned about this.

“The public’s trust and confidence is very important for us, which is why we have referred this matter for an objective investigation to the IPCC.”

Or perhaps “Oh crap. I wish the public didn’t all have mobile phones with cameras these days” would be more honest?

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Jun 19 2009

Slow And Steady Wins The Race

Category: Kazakh Driving,VideosChrisM @ 11:59 pm

We used a taxi driver today who had been helpful, courteous and driven well in the past. Although the car he drives is something like an old banger of a Volkswagon Polo with an automatic gearbox, he knows the car well, seems to anticipate other drivers’ actions well.
Contrast that to a taxi driver who I drove with recently, who had a Subaru Impreza. The choice of car was an obvious indicator as to his driving style, and whilst I have to admit that I actually enjoyed the experience of zipping between lanes and fitting into gaps between cars that I wouldn’t have tried in a much smaller car, I wouldn’t want to have had Ira or Anna with me. Perhaps the fact I was a little drunk at the time helped me to relax 🙂
So why contact certain taxi drivers direct, rather than just ring a company, or flag down a passing motorist? Most of the time, we now need a car that we know has working, and accessible seat belts in the back, to attach Anna’s car seat to. Add on top of that that some drivers dislike the extra time it takes to safely place Anna in a car, and you can see why when we find a driver who takes their time, doesn’t make a car journey feel like a white knuckle roller coaster ride, we take their mobile phone number.

While we are on the topic of cars, I have only just got around to watching some of Robert Llewellyn’s CarPool episodes. Here is one featuring Dave Gorman. Robert Llewellyn is probably still most famous for playing Kryten in the UK comedy series Red Dwarf, and try searching on this blog or checking out his Wiki, to discover who Dave Gorman is.

urrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh, yuck. Apologies to anyone who loaded this site in the last three minutes. I had originally embedded a video in this space, but when I went to check how it looked on my site, I discovered it automatically started playing. As I can’t see a ‘autoplay=1’ type argument in the code, I’ll just link to it instead, sorry. http://blip.tv/play/gdw_gYrZQJCkXA

Finally, wanted to give a quick heads up to research publicised in a BBC article on rear facing car seats for children. Apparently they should be used up until the age of four, which is certainly not common practice back in Britain. It would just be amazing to see any type of car seat/restraint used with most children over here in Kazakhstan :/

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May 08 2009

Complaining To A Pan Handler

Category: In The MediaChrisM @ 5:34 pm

Here in Wales, some people with healthcare jobs will be having a brand new uniform sometime this year! New colour schemes have been devised to make it easier for patients and their visitors to identify who is in charge, who to ask specific questions regarding your malaise, who takes BP and pulse observations, and who passes the those funny bottles to wee into. OK, the BBC did word it a little more correctly over here, but I think that is what it boils down to 🙂

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