The EU has mandated that, effective from today, European mobile carriers will have to offer a single rate for all of the EU, setting a maximum on the blisteringly high roaming charges. It's a cop-out, though: Orange and T-Mobile and Vodaphone and others have this legal fiction that Orange France and Orange UK are different companies and that an Orange UK customer should pay a premium to connect to Orange France's network. But in reality, Orange is perfectly capable of acting like a single company when it is in their interest. The Commission has set rates at about 10X what I pay for domestic use in the UK (still 60% less than I presently pay to roam) and says it will consider forcing lower rates in future.
"The roaming rip-off is now coming to an end," said EU telecommunications commissioner Viviane Reding in a statement. "Expect the new roaming rules to make it much cheaper to surf the web on your mobile while abroad in the EU."
After years of experiencing high prices for making phone calls abroad - or receiving them - the new tariffs are radically lower: sending a text message, for example, will drop from an average of 28 Euro cents to just 11 cents. The move should end the well-worn fear of opening a huge phone bill when returning from holiday or business abroad.
The new tariffs include the following maximum costs:
- making a call while abroad will cost 37p per minute
- receiving calls will cost a maximum of 17p per minute
- sending a text message from another country inside the EU will cost 10p
- Data transfers will also fall dramatically, with a megabyte of data costing 85p
Wataru Itou created an immense and breathtaking paper castle, currently exhibited at Uminohotaru in Tokyo. It took Itou, an art student, four years to complete. The pictures are a must-see, do click through.
Victor sez, "Our documentary on virtual worlds, Second Skin, which premiered at SXSW last year, will finally be coming out in theaters and DVD in August. I produced it with my friend Peter Brauer and it was directed by my brother Juan Carlos. The three of us spent two years racing around the world following gamers who had fallen in love, become addicted, formed enormous guilds, or made their living playing MMOs like World of Warcraft, Everquest and Second Life. From gold farmers to disabled gamers, we tried to get a sense of how integral virtual worlds are to the fabric of life these days. We'd love you to check it out- the first five minutes are available on Current TV- here. The movie's coming to NYC, LA, Austin and Boston in mid-August, and DVD everywhere on August 25th."
I saw Second Skin at the Toronto Film Festival and was blown away -- by turns touching and funny, and always fascinating, this is a loving but clear-eyed look at the relationship of gamers to their games.
Over on Boing Boing Gadgets, our Steven's found this delightful old Byte cover, celebrating the release of the Smalltalk programming language; it's part of BBG's tribute to Xerox PARC, the legendary R&D center that invented everything and commercialized practically nothing.
This special issue of Byte Magazine was dedicated entirely to Smalltalk. The image is based on the actual balloon launch at PARC that celebrated the release of Smalltalk.
The iPlayer is a hardware video-decoder for your Nintendo DS. It plugs into your cartridge slot, and uses its on-board processor to send video in a variety of formats (avi, mov, RealPlayer, wmv, DivX, Flash, 3GP, asf, mpeg) to the screen and speakers. You load the video through a MicroSD card. Haven't tried it, got no idea if it's any good, but the premise is delightful.
(Ed. Note: We recently gave the Boing Boing Video website a makeover that includes a new, guest-curated microblog: the "BBVBOX." Here, folks whose taste in web video we admire tweet the latest clips they find. I'll be posting periodic roundups here on the motherBoing.)
Robin Sloan: Rewatching Shah Rukh Khan vids in anticipation of seeing him w/ @avantgame and @superkiy. Ohhh, this one is good: Link
Some of the results are in for the Alpha-test Meatcard Challenge, and they are terrific. The rules were to photographically recreate one of several famous Frank Frazetta paintings (without using Photoshop or the like). The winners get business cards made from laser etched beef jerky.
A girl discovers an overheated bear in the forest. She helps him by shaving his fur in hard-to-reach places. Says Japan Probe: "This commercial is apparently an advertisement showing how Nisshinbo cares about global warming and the environment."
The Evil Mad Scientists are rightfully fascinated with Sichuan peppercorns.
Sichuan peppercorns, oh yeah! Raven of Made with Molecules after eating them wrote, "There's a war in my mouth." They create a riot of numbing and tingling sensations, particularly if you can get relatively fresh ones (i.e. not stale from sitting around in a Whole Foods bulk bin). Raven links to an abstract about the particular anesthetic-sensitive potassium channels inhibited by hydroxy-alpha-sanshool, one of the components of sichuan peppercorns that make them so exciting.