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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Apr 09 2012

Photoshop Scratch Disk Issues

Category: PersonalChrisM @ 10:46 am

I’m going through a few years’ worth of posts right now, adding tags (I REALLY need to get back into the habit of doing that when writing a post). Anyway, I came across this draft of a post, and wanted to post it now before I forget again.
It was written when we were back in Britain, when a friend’s computer was observed to be a lot slower than expected, given it’s spec. We decided to utilize the multiple hard drives he had installed, by using different drives (other than C:\, the boot & OS drive) for Windows’ Page File as well as Photoshop’s scratch disk. However, there were permissions problems with one drive that meant it could not be used by PS. Unfortunately, this problem prevented Photoshop from loading at all, and using System Restore seemed like a bit of overkill to just try and reverse one small config change.
Anyway, in case it ever helps someone, you need to navigate to C:\Users\Name Of User’s Account\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS5\Adobe Photoshop CS5 Settings , open up the properties of Adobe Photoshop CS5 Prefs.psp and use System Restore to revert to the latest version prior to your config change. The scratch disk will now be set back to the original drive, and you can re-configure it to a drive without permissions issues.
We could also have put the drive back in the PC it had previously been in and reset some permissions, but the laptop wasn’t in the same house at the time.

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Jan 31 2012

Nick’s Wedding

Category: Anna's Photos,Personal,PicturesChrisM @ 7:20 pm

I didn’t include these in the August post from last month, as there are a lot. We came back to Britain in time to be at Nick (my brother) and Roz’s wedding. It was down in Cornwall, where they live, so a very beautifully pregnant Irina, Anna, myself, Mum & John went for a holiday in a cottage near Falmouth, giving us plenty of time to see them and unwind in the Summer sun. I think it was our first week long holiday since Dubai back in 2003 (money that would otherwise be saved for vacations tends to pay for plane tickets between Britain and Kazakhstan), so it was very refreshing to break the routine. Anyway, enough typing for now, here are the pictures. I’ll try to caption July & August’s photo galleries soon.

Too many photos to label them all, feel free to ask questions about any that interest you.

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Jan 27 2012

Tickets, Laws, Jobs & Plans

Category: PersonalChrisM @ 1:28 pm

So, the plane tickets have been purchased. We will be leaving Britain in four weeks, and moving back to Astana. Our friend and her daughter have been looking after our flat (and more importantly, our cats!) whilst we are in Britain, so I’m assuming we will be living at Ira’s parents’ place for a while. Beyond the obvious logistics of the journey itself, we also need to think about all the little changes that will be required with Tim now adding to our Kazakh life! From car seats that will fit in the back of our car (no more passengers in the back for a while!), to budgeting our savings until Irina goes back to work again, planning for the future just got that little bit more complex 🙂 Well worth it though, obviously.
Other updates involve a law that I believe has just (?) passed over there that means my reporting of events that may occur in the country pretty much have to not deviate from any official press releases if you want to ensure that a) You’re not liable for prosecution (need to check if fines/prison or a combo are the punishments), and b) Any future visa applications are processed smoothly. Also, if any more work opportunities arose that involved the civil service/media department of the President, I’m thinking they’re not likely to employ someone with black marks against their name. Although I doubt I will be scouring the local job listings the minute I get back, I need to ensure I’m able to earn some money over there. That said, I haven’t done any voiceover work for them since before Anna was born. Anyway, if I was in the country on my own, knew the right people in uniform to get out of the country quickly should a problem arise, and I was basically braver, there could be a lot more information and links on this site.

Ikea Job Interview

For now, once we have settled into our own place and got some sort of routine in place, I’ll check if Interhouse still need me back to give English lessons, check the local scene for any crumbs of IT work that Itreco hasn’t already hoovered up ( 🙂 ) and if Dan finds his workforce temporarily saturated with workload, carry on freelancing/consulting there. Which reminds me, I need to make sure his better half received our birthday greetings.
We still need to sort a new pushchair, visa, baby supplies that are difficult/expensive to source in Kazakhstan and data housekeeping (backups for Anna & Tim’s photos, all our files on our drives, all Mum & John’s on theirs etc.) Must remember to avoid TGI Friday in Kiev airport this time around, unless most of the staff lost their jobs and were replaced by efficient/friendly people. A man can dream…

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Oct 04 2011

Three Bed Detached House For Sale – Gloucester

Category: Friends,PersonalChrisM @ 9:47 pm

I need to catch up with a few posts that I’ve been trying to get around to writing for a while. The first is about a house a friend back in Britain is selling. If you are looking for a three bedroom detached house in Gloucester, then you might want to carry on reading.

3 Bed Detached House For Sale, Gloucester

The kitchen was refitted recently, you can park a car directly in front of the house on a small drive, with two sheds in the back garden. As you may have guessed, I’m not an estate agent, so to get a better idea, you should probably head directly to their site – click to discover more about the three bedroom detached house for sale in Gloucester.

Back Garden Of Three Bedroom Detach House For Sale In Gloucester, Glos

Other things I should probably already have mentioned : Gas central heating, uPVC double glazing, and the shops really are very local.

View Larger Map

(I’m not receiving any sort of recompense for this post btw, but if you buy the house after seeing this blog post, please let her know I sent you, I’m hoping a bottle of vodka would await my return to the UK 😉 )

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Dec 01 2010


Category: VideosChrisM @ 3:21 am

Whilst the actual end result isn’t necessarily what I like (or possibly just not as good as others may be able to produce with it), it is the method that most interests me. I definitely respect the skill involved in creating such a system, though you have to wonder whether the guys are a little high when they are practising in someone’s living room. I wonder whether micro-fading in and out the audio clips or some sort of smoothing would lead to a different sort of end result?
The bits involving beat boxing remind me that I’ve not checked if Schlomo has participated in any new projects for a long time. His podcast feed hasn’t featured any new items in a long time. I’ll check if he is performing at any venues whilst we are in Britain.

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Nov 20 2010


Category: Windows MobileChrisM @ 3:17 am

I think I will make this the last of the posts for tonight, as I still need to double check my lesson plan for tomorrow’s English Club, but for now, I wanted to tell you about MyPlayer.
It is a program that enables you to watch and download TV programs via the internet (without having to use flash-enabled browsers, which can be difficult on mobiles). There are a lot of programs that claim this same feature, however most of them seem to only have niche channels (bidTV, Jesus Loves You etc.), where as MyPlayer covers the mainstream channels.
One important caveat is that to watch the big UK TV channels (BBC, ITV etc.) you need to be in Britain at the time. Having just re-checked the author’s thread over at XDA-Devlopers, it looks as though the BBC have made him remove all BBC content, as he isn’t an authorised syndication channel. I will double check when I next have a UK based IP address, but I believe that the older versions of this program will still work; version 2.0 upwards will not have BBC channels, anything below should be OK for now. Although I am currently outside the UK, I still find it useful for radio documentaries and comedies.

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Nov 12 2010

Long Hair And T-Shirts

Category: Anna's Photos,FriendsChrisM @ 9:46 pm

Back on the 16th of April (a few days before my birthday) we all popped over to the Agnew’s residence, as we don’t get a lot of opportunities to catch up with each others’ news. I forgot to ask if it was OK to publish photos of our friends, so you will have to make do with just a photo of Anna and me. She is proudly wearing her “I love Wales” t-shirt, and by the looks of it, about to make a grab for something she isn’t supposed to. You may remember that last Christmas we spent Christmas Day at the Agnews, and had a great time; this year however, we will be spending Christmas and New Year back in Britain, and giving our friends a bit of piece and quiet 🙂 Looking back at these pictures, I’m still surprised at just how much Anna’s hair has grown in such a short amount of time!

Chris And Anna Merriman At The Agnews

Chris And Anna Merriman At The Agnews

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Nov 05 2010

No Subs Yet

Category: Anna's Videos,Dasha&Kittens,In The Media,VideosChrisM @ 11:44 pm

However, here is the video I mentioned earlier in the week. I’ll see if we can get some sort of translation done by the weekend, but the basic idea is a discussion on whether black cats are lucky or unlucky. I’d personally be more inclined to say they are just cats. If you push me on the point, I’d agree some are black. However as the journalist was a friend, and she needed a foreigner to give her a nice quote on some interesting good luck omens we apparently have back in Britain, I was happy to oblige 🙂
You’ll see Karra and Muska in there, as well as Anna enjoying playing with the cats’ toy.

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Oct 21 2010


Category: Kazakhstan,PicturesChrisM @ 12:55 am

It looks as though I’ll have managed to publish these two pictures before the snow returns again to Astana. The photos were shot in April of this year, just after we had returned from Britain. Even if there aren’t huge snow storms, the amount of snow on the ground means that just a small amount of wind is enough to start drifts in new areas on the road, and you will sometimes find small mounds of snow into mid-May, especially in areas that don’t get much sunlight through the day. You can wandering around in a t-shirt (OK, so local people will still have coats and hats on…), and suddenly find yourself walking through dirty snow!
The second picture shows the guard dog’s kennel, which strangely enough is only used during the warmer months. The rest of the time, she has an area sheltered from the extreme temperatures (which is also useful in the middle of the sweltering summer). I’ve just had a quick flick through the wintery pictures from the last 12 months, and can’t find any snow angel/butterfly ones. Something to remedy in a few weeks/months time when the snow returns to the city. (We’ve had a few random flakes, but it isn’t cold enough to settle on the ground at all).

From The Steps Into The House

From The Steps Into The House

Aynak's Summer House

Aynak's Summer House

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