Monthly Archives: January 2011

Help for the Do-It-Yourselfer

If you’re an expat living in an apartment in Paris, chances are that a) something needs fixing, and b) you don’t have the tools to take care of it. If you have some do-it-yourself know how, though, there’s an alternative to the expense and hassle of finding someone else to do the work for you. Heather Stimmler-Hall, author of the always helpful resource, Secrets of Paris,  has the details on how to rent tools from the city of Paris at one of its bricothèques or from Zilok.fr.  Check out what she has to say:  http://www.secretsofparis.com/heathers-secret-blog/borrow-or-rent-tools-electronics-stuff.html .

Staying in Touch with Skype

Today’s post comes from guest contributor Lindsey Passaic, an American living in Paris with her husband. When she’s not going from boulangerie to boulangerie searching for the city’s best pain au chocolat,  Lindsey can be found chronicling her adventures living and working abroad on her blog American Girls Are.

by Lindsey Passaic

Brrrrring, brrrrring…

No, that’s not the sound of your landline or mobile ringing. That’s the sound of Skype connecting you to your friends and family near and far. Skype is a computer application that allows you to make calls to all those you want to stay in touch with while traveling or living abroad.  More useful than any travel trinket from Brookstone or SkyMall, Skype is a must have item for any traveler. You can say sayonara to complicated calling cards and expensive long-distance conversations. Skype not only connects you to the voices you wish to hear, but the faces you’d love to see–all for free!

Skype makes communicating easier than ever and with the application’s hassle free set-up and user-friendly design, there’s no excuse for not signing up. Follow these simple steps and before long you’ll be chatting away!

Before getting started, confirm that you have  the following requirements:

  • PC running Windows® XP, Vista or 7, both 32- and 64-bit operating systems OR Mac computer with G4, G5, or Intel processor, 800 MHz or faster (with Macs OS X v.10.3.9 (Panther) or newer);
  • High speed Internet connection;
  • Speakers and microphone—built-in or separate (Note: If you are not sure whether your computer has a microphone, visit Computer Hope.  The general rule is that most desktops do not have a microphone and most newer model laptops do. If you need to purchase a microphone, WebAudioAdvisor offers advice about choosing the right model for your needs.)
  • Web camera—built-in or separate — if you want to use Skype for video calls.

Setting Up Skype

1. Visit the Skype Web site at http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/home

2. Scroll over the button labeled “Get Skype” and click on “Windows” or “Mac” depending on which type of operating system your computer uses.

3. Click the button labeled “Download Now” and follow the instructions. 

4. Once Skype is downloaded on your computer, open the application and create a user account. You must create a Skype name, password, and submit an e-mail to complete the process. Remember to check that you agree with the terms of usage.

5. After your account is created, Skype will automatically sign you in for the first time.

Making Free Skype Calls

Skype calls are free only to other Skype users. To make calls to landlines and mobile phones, you must purchase Skype credit.  See below for details.

1. To video chat with another Skype user, you must search for their Skype name at the top of your Skype box. Type in the name you are looking for and click “Search for Skype Name.” A new window will pop up with your search results. If you find the contact you are looking for you, highlight his or her name and click “Add contact.” If you do not find who you are looking for, you can continue searching using the person’s full name or e-mail.

2. When you click “Add contact” a new window will appear displaying a message that will be sent to your new contact. Click “OK.” By clicking “OK” the message will be sent and your contact can then choose whether to allow you to see them when they’re online.

3. After clicking “OK” another pop-up window will come up saying that your contact has been added. Click “OK.” Once the contact accepts your request on their end, their Skype name will appear in your Skype box.

4. Your Skype box will list all of the contacts you add. A user is available to chat if there is a green check mark next to their name. If a green check is not next to their name, that user may be away, not available, busy, or offline. You can change your status by clicking the “Account” tab in the Skype toolbar and selecting “Change status.”  Scheduling time to talk is the best way to ensure that you are signed into Skype at the same time as friends and family.

5. To begin a session with one of your contacts, click the green phone button underneath their Skype name. By clicking the green phone button you initiate a call and a new call box will appear. The contact will hear ringing on their end and “pick up the phone.” A call is in progress when the top of the call box reads, “call with (contact name)” and displays the time you’ve been talking. You can continue your audio conversation this way for free as long as you like!

6. If you are equipped with a built in camera or Web cam, you can allow the contact to see your face by clicking the “Video” button. Within a few seconds your face will appear in the call box and that is what the contact sees on their end. To stop the video click the red “Video” button a second time. You can mute the call by clicking the microphone button, hold the call by clicking the pause button, and end the call my clicking the red hang up button. By clicking the starred “More” button you can view the user’s profile, begin a chat, send a file, or send contacts.

Example of Skype box as it appears on a Mac

Making Skype Calls to Landline or Mobile Numbers

1. If you want to call a landline or mobile number, you must purchase Skype credit (starting at 2.2 centimes a minute). To add Skype credit, click the “Help” button on the Skype toolbar and then click “Buy Skype credit.” The amount of Skype credit you use depends on where you are calling and how long your calls are. The Skype Web site offers additional pricing options, including a monthly subscription plan and a premium plan. Skype allows you to design a monthly subscription package that is just right for you. You can pick the country or countries you wish to call and the amount of minutes you need. For example, unlimited minutes to the United States from France costs 5.74 euros per month. The premium plan, at 6.89 euros per month, gives you group video calling—an excellent option for getting all of your friends and family on the same call.

You can purchase Skype credit or a Skype plan using PayPal, VISA, Mastercard, Moneybookers, JCB, or PayByCash.

2. After you have purchased Skype credit or purchased a subscription plan, click the dial pad button at the bottom of your Skype box and enter the number you wish to call.

Sending Free Messages via Skype

To send an instant message to another user or start a chat conversation, click the blue text button underneath their Skype name. A pop-up box will appear and you can type your message at the bottom of the box. If you wish to send a text message (SMS) to a mobile number, you must pay using Skype credit or through a purchased subscription.

Additional Resources

http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/support/user-guides/

http://www.edtechteacher.org/skypetutorial.html

http://www.northcanton.sparcc.org/~technology/Tutorials/skype.html

Personal Security: An Update

As big cities go, Paris is relatively safe.  That being said, it is a big city and you need to be aware of yourself and your belongings whenever you are out and about.   We’ve written about this before here and frankly, while it’s easy to become complacent, it’s important to keep your guard up.  

A couple of recent news items  make this imperative clear.   The International Herald Tribune reported this week  that aggravated robberies are up 40 percent in Paris’ public transportation system with iPhones and other smart phones being a particular target.   The article notes:  Often, phones are grabbed quickly out of a victim’s hands as the subway car doors are closing; robbers tend to work in small groups, so that a stolen phone can be quickly passed to someone else to prevent an easy chase by an outraged victim. 

Bottom line:  keep your phone in your zipped bag or your front pocket, unless you absolutely need to use it.

Another troubling development is the presence of bands of teenage girls (ages 12 to 16) who have been conscripted by a central European crime boss to pick pockets in the Paris Metro to the tune of 200 euros each per day.  The French police are hard at work trying to bust up this ring, both for the safety of the public and for the benefit of the teens themselves.   (You can read more about it here.) But in the mean time, be aware of groups of girls in hoodies and jeans, traveling in small groups, and often making a lot of noise and commotion to distract you, their mark.  These girls may look like your daughter or your sister, but don’t be fooled, they are professionals.  Be on the lookout especially in areas with high tourist traffic such as along line 1.  Keep your bag zipped and close to your body; if you are a man, carry your wallet in your front, rather than back, pocket.  Better yet, stay away from the doors as their modus operandi is to snatch and grab wallets, handing them off to a friend on the platform just as the doors close.

Tips for Getting Your New Year Off to a Good Start

Bonne année à tous!  Here are a couple of short items that will help you get off to a good start in 2011.

Les Soldes d’Hiver:  Yes, the annual winter sales start in Paris on January 12th at 8 a.m. and run until Tuesday the 15th of February.  Now is the time to make your plan of attack or risk losing out on the best deals or your favorite pair of shoes.   To get started, take a look at what Amy Thomas, a Posted in Paris contributor,  had to say in her article  on the Girls Guide to Paris site last spring.  (Spring, winter — what’s the difference?!)   And don’t forget: pretty much everything is on sale during les soldes, not just clothes.  It’s also a great time to buy housewares such as Gien porcelain, Jacquard Français linens, or any other French souvenirs you might have been eyeing.

Recycle Your Christmas Tree:  The city of Paris has set up 95 recycling points around the city through January 23.  (If you leave your tree on the curb by your building, it’s going to go into a landfill.)  To find a recycling point near you, go to this page on the city’s Web site and then download the .pdf file.   Your tree should be naked — no ornaments, no bags, and no flocking.

Catch Up on the Movies You Missed This Year:  From January 12th through the 18th, the UGC cinema chain and Le Figaro are teaming up to provide showings of 26 films considered among the best of 2010.  (Some of these released later in France than in the U.S. so don’t be surprised to see some of the 2010 Oscar winners among them.)  Best yet:  tickets are only 3 euros.   You can find more information here:  http://www.ugc.fr/typepage.do?alias=lesincontournables .  If your French isn’t quite up to snuff, check to be sure that any English language films are showing in VO (version originale).

2010 in Review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 46,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 114 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 131 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 33mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was September 20th with 682 views. The most popular post that day was What (Not) to Wear in Paris.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were justanotheramericaninparis.blogspot.com, theparisblog.com, linksandupdatesfromfavoriteblogs.blogspot.com, facebook.com, and Google Reader.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for cuts of beef, posted in paris, boeuf, french check, and molasses paris.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

What (Not) to Wear in Paris September 2010
7 comments

2

Making Sense of the Supermarket Part V: Cuts of Meat May 2010
2 comments

3

Supermarkets Open on Sundays May 2010
5 comments

4

About February 2010

5

Writing a French Check April 2010
2 comments

Thanks to all our contributors and readers in 2010.  Back in a few days with new posts.