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“Drop me a line, online…”

Not too long ago, the long-distance telephone call was the most direct means available in Dhaka of communicating with people far away. Expensive and rarely hassle-free, most people only made long-distance calls to close relatives or business associates, and then too only on important occasions.
When home internet access appeared in Dhaka in the latter half of the 1990's, people discovered the qualities of email not as direct as a telephone conversation, but much cheaper, and certainly faster than postal mail (soon to be called "snail mail"). It was so convenient that moms no longer had to wait a month before complaining that their lazy sons never wrote home - they could complain on a weekly or even (to an unfortunate few) a daily basis. Soon, online chatting programs such as ICQ and IRC appeared on the scene, and hordes of teens in the city began burning the midnight oil (and likely their parents' Taka) chatting the night away. Gone were the days of long-distance communication only between close acquaintances, now it was easy and cheap to talk to people you'd never met, and never would meet. And seeing that it offered practically all the speed and easy interaction of a telephone-call, at a fraction of the cost, even some tech-savvy parents and business people got into the act.
Things started really changing with the arrival of higher internet access speeds. First with online voice-chatting services offered by various free programs, both for PC-to-PC communication and for PC-to-telephone communication, and later with the short debacle involving local companies offering telephone-to-telephone long distance calls via voice-over-internet-protocol (in apparent violation of regulations), people became familiar with the sound of words being cut off abruptly, being delayed, turning into squawks and static, and all the other distortions that are practically unique to internet voice-transmission. Kids could now talk to strangers in Holland with the additional difficulties of conflicting accents, and moms could economically talk to their overseas children as LOUDLY or as sweetly as they wanted to.
The latest tool on the scene is video-conferencing, which has become feasible with the widespread and relatively inexpensive availability of broadband internet access in Dhaka. All you need is a fast internet connection and a "web-cam" (an inexpensive video camera for the computer which allows you to send live video of yourself to who ever you're talking to) and one of many free computer programs that allow video-conferencing. If the recipient has no web-cam, he or she can still see you, without returning the favor. And some of the already popular free instant messaging programs such as Yahoo! Pager and MSN Messenger now offer video and voice capabilities, although more sophisticated features such as multi-user conferences and recording are typically only available in specialized commercial software. Now mom can deliver immediate feedback on your terrible new haircut, with the blue and pink bits rendered in blocky yet striking color. And business people can hold online meetings, seeing each other's faces without having to leave their own offices (this computer geek fails to see how seeing people's faces helps routine business communications, but apparently the business community has never felt the online conference to be complete without video). Even television news reporters are getting into the act, delivering some live reports on CNN and BBC over videophone.
Perhaps the most interesting application of video conferencing is how it is revolutionizing the long-distance marriage ritual. No more torturous telephone marriage negotiations and ceremonies. Nowadays, the lucky bride and groom can actually see and hear each other in real-time, as the ceremonies take place on different continents! For that matter, they may even have met online and talked to each other before the wedding!

By Salman Ali

You Can Do it

Stay pest free

We loathe them yet they are a part of our everyday lives. Can you think of a day when you haven't encountered a cockroach or a trail of ants in your kitchen? You probably can't.
Do you know that roaches live in all possible places of your house and eat everything starting from your skin to your shoe soles?
These insects love to sit in wood, and any crevice in wooden furniture only makes them happier. They subsist in telephones, refrigerator motors, electrical outlets and switches, stoves, ovens, dishwashers, toilet bowls, clocks, radios and TVs. So, check these places when you spray or sprinkle insecticides. It's always better to use pesticides especially made for roaches. However, keeping your house immaculate is the best way to avoid these pests.
Did you know that ants hate mint? In order to avoid ants in your garden, plant peppermint, spearmint or wormwood. You can adopt a similar trick in you windowsills too. Any kind of bitter herb is likely to prevent ants. When you notice a trail of ants in your house, use boric acid crystals, this is a superb means of deterring ants.
Dengue seems to have already established its throne in Dhaka City. To avoid these deadly mosquitoes walk around your house to see if there is any water deposited in any spot. Puddles or deposited water and debris will facilitate the multiplication of mosquitoes in your neighbourhood. Change the water in your flowerpots regularly, especially if you have plants that thrive in water such as money plant or water lily.
Are you scared of spiders? Do you know that the best way to clean spider webs is with a long handled broom? Don't spray chemicals on cobwebs hoping that the spiders will come out and drop dead. Instead, clean the webs with brooms regularly. Doing this often will prevent the spiders from making webs in those areas. Spiders are there because there are food sources available for them; therefore keeping an area pest-free will make the area spider-free as well.
If you have a large house, with ample space at the back and in front, remember that rats will find a home in one nook or another. To detect the presence of rats, look for traces of their droppings, and gnawed objects. To find their burrows look in earth banks, along walls and under rubbish and concrete slabs, in and around your building.
You can't possibly maintain a pest-free house, but efforts can always be made to stop their multiplication in your house. Clean your house once every month with pesticide to kill all such pests. Another way of preventing pests is keeping your home hygienic.

By Wara Karim


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