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Most people who live in Whistler are not actually from Whistler, and many of those who were lucky enough to grow up here have since moved away in search of jobs, education and saner surroundings.

Most people who live in Whistler are not actually from Whistler, and many of those who were lucky enough to grow up here have since moved away in search of jobs, education and saner surroundings.

Chances are your phone bill includes at least one long distance call, and probably a whole lot more than that. There are things you can do to ease the bite of long distance charges. Long distance plans, money saving services like Yak and phone cards can save you a small fortune, but you may be overlooking the biggest money saver of all – your computer.

Thanks to the explosion of broadband Internet services around the world and the advent of the Internet phone you can now call almost anywhere in the world for nothing – or for a nominal subscription fee.

A few years ago you could only use your computer’s web connection to call other computers. Then you could use your computer to call out to regular phones, but not to receive outside calls without a subscription. These days some services have even eliminated the need for computers altogether by routing your cell and landline calls through the Web to offer huge savings.

You probably won’t want to replace your landline or cell phone with any kind of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) device or service any time soon – most services don’t guarantee 911, and there are dead zones where it doesn’t seem to work properly. Some users have complained that the service is unreliable, that calls sometimes get cut off, that there can be lags sending and receiving, and that the sound quality is inconsistent.

If you’re using your computer and a service like Skype ( ), the quality of the experience is determined by the quality of your high-speed connection.

Subscription services offered by Vonage ( ) and Verizon ( ) are more consistent but have a monthly flat fee attached.

Skype, on the other hand, is free to use although there is a small cost in the beginning for the plug-in connector, and the premium service will cost you a little extra.

Other leading services to watch for are VarPhonex ( ), CDMA ( and Wimax ( ), although new VoIP services are cropping up almost daily and may offer better services or prices. Check and for the latest list of VoIP-related downloads.

If all this is getting too complicated, you might want to look to your instant messaging software – most IM programs like iChat and AOL Instant Messenger already offer basic two-way voice and video messaging.

Both Canadian and U.S. governments are attempting to force VoIP services to offer 911 services, which will probably result in fees for all users in the near future. Keep that in mind if you decide to go for one of the free VoIP services, because it probably won’t be free for long.

For more information on setting up different types of VoIP services, visit

DVD Jon hacks way back into the limelight

Why Jon Lech Johansen isn’t making a 10 figure salary working for a software giant by now is the greatest mystery going these days.

In the past five years, starting at the age of 15, Johansen has successfully cracked the DVD CSS encryption code, and a code in iTunes that prevents you from burning the same paid for song to a CD more than five times.

He recently made headlines once again with the announcement that he has already cracked the Google Video code that was to be the backbone of a paid subscription service for the popular search engine.

Google is asking users not to download Johansen’s patch because they claim it might not work with Google and could result in security issues.

The 12-minute rule

In 1947 the directors of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists created a Doomsday Clock as a symbolic representation of the current risk of nuclear destruction. In the past 58 years the clock has swung from a paranoid "two minutes to midnight" during the Cuban Missile Crisis (later glorified in an Iron Maiden song), to as much as 12 minutes in peacetime. The clock currently sits at seven minutes in recognition of the nuclear posturing of India and Pakistan, instability in former Soviet countries, and fears about programs in North Korea and Iran. The U.S. has also backed off of disarmament plans, and is looking to build a next generation of "bunker buster nukes," while Russia is looking at ways to modernize its arsenal to avoid missile defence shields.

But while that Doomsday Clock is largely symbolic, a British security company has released a literal doomsday clock for computers. According to Sophos, there were 7,994 new computer viruses detected in the first half of 2005, which represents a 59 per cent increase over the same period last year.

In their estimation about 50 per cent of Windows-based computers that are not properly protected by antivirus software and firewalls will become infected by one or more virus in a span of just 12 minutes once connected to the Web.

Sophos’s figures are backed by IBM, which in early June released its own bad news security assessment. They discovered that about 30 per cent of e-mails contained some form of virus, while the number of "phishing" identity theft attacks and other forms of viruses also increased.

What to do? Your first priority is to get some form of antivirus software and/or firewall software, and learn how to use it and update it.

Never click on files or links in e-mail attachments without scanning them first, and only then if you’re fairly certain they’re legitimate.

Lastly, update your software and operating system often. New vulnerabilities are found almost every week in some of your most popular programs, and while patches are released soon after to plug the gaps, you have to download those patches for them to work.