Archive for April, 2008

Yahoo vs. Skype vs. SIP

April 29, 2008

It’s not news (anymore) that Yahoo’s outsoucing their Yahoo Voice service to JaJah. What’s news (to me) is that their dial-out service costs $0.01/minute for calls to the US and just under $30 for a dial-in number on an annual subscription ($2.49/month). Sounds like a good deal, right?
Skype’s pay-as-you-go rate for calls to US numbers is $0.021/minute and $30/year for a dial-in number on an annual subscription.
Yahoo’s USA per-minute rate is less than HALF what Skype charges on a per-minute basis. No-brainer, right? Wrong! Skype offers a monthly rate for unlimited calls to US numbers: $2.95. Yahoo doesn’t offer an unlimited plan … at least not that I could find.
I’m still paying less than that for my VoicePulse Connect service. If Skype opened their service to SIP without the need for translators and bridges like HipSip and Voxeo (see an explanation of how to make this work here), I’d jump.

Wireless VoIP phones

April 28, 2008

No, not 802.11 — apparently those aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. No, I’m talking about DECT wireless VoIP phones.
Currently I’ve got a run-of-the-mill POTS phone plugged in to my Linksys SPA3102. That particular device can accept a PSTN line so I’ve got my landline plugged into it, too, allowing me to take and make VoIP calls and PSTN calls over my analog handset. This setup, while cheap, loses a lot of the advanced functionality afforded by VoIP.
Enter wireless VoIP handsets. Thanks to a few friends over at Twitter (@GarrettSmith and @VoIPSupply), I’ve found a couple that look promising. The snom m3 is my favorite but I’m hoping that Siemens will bring their C470 IP over to the United States soon. I’m looking for more information about the Polycom IP200W but, so far, nothing concrete has materialized.

Kindle’s back in stock

April 28, 2008

Amazon’s Kindle is back in stock and has been for a week or so. A nice personal-type of unboxing is available here (complete with wife and baby) at Josh Bancroft’s Tiny Screenfuls.
I have a hard time laying out $400 for a grey-scale device but I think that’s just a rationalization on my part. For $400 you get portable reading of LOTS of titles that are stored in the device or (pretty much) immediately downloadable from Amazon. Books and publications are relatively cheap so, all in all, if you’re a reader, it’s probably worth it.

Keyboarders, repeat after me: Win-B, Win-TAB

April 14, 2008

I work fast and don’t want to be slowed down by moving from keyboard to mouse and back when I don’t have to. Sure, there are situations where a mouse is the only way but, for me, those are really few and far between. If you’re similarly inclined AND a Windows user, these tips are for you.
Windows + B will move focus to the system tray. Once there you can move between tray icons with the arrow keys. When you’ve highlighted the one you want, press the context menu key or Shift-F10 to open its context menu then use the arrow keys to navigate that menu. If you just want to execute the default action for that icon, hit Enter instead of the context menu key.
Windows + TAB will bring focus to the taskbar then you navigate from one app to another with the arrow keys. While there, Control + TAB will navigate among the system tray, Desktop, quick-launch bar and the task bar. At each focus point, the arrow keys will move you among the various items in that area. Again, the context menu key/Shift-F10 will open the context menu for each of those items. Enter, instead of the context menu key, will execute the default action, which usually opens the application.

After a few days with the MOTOROKR T505

April 11, 2008

I have to say I love it … for $80. I wouldn’t love it for $120 but I’d still like it a lot.
OK, details. My Motorola MOTOROKR T505 arrived this past Wednesday. $80, about, at this Newegg page.
I guess I should start with a short description. It’s a Bluetooth speakphone with a built-in speaker. But the cool thing is it’s got an FM transmitter, too, so it can send audio to the radio in your car. Why is that cool, you ask? Because it also does A2DP which means you can stream audio (read: music) to it and it’ll forward that to your radio. And that’s the main reason I was after something like it. I looked at other items like it, too. The Parrot PMK5800 is nice and powered (you plug it into your cigaratte lighter or whatever they call the power outlet in your car nowadays). There’s got to be a problem with that, though, because that puts the microphone waaayyyyy below eye-level and, in my case, below the air conditioning outlets which would probably mean voice pickup wouldn’t be as good. I also think that modern cars have their FM antenna in the window or the roof and that means reception’s more difficult, too. The Venturi Mini has more features, including the ability to broadcast callerid to the radio using RDS, but, again, it plugs into a power outlet which puts it below my air conditioning vents.
So, I went with the Motorola unit. Call quality is excellent! I’ve got a Jabra BT8010 headset which also does A2DP and friends have told me that the Motorola speakerphone is clearer and rejects spurious sounds much better. Of course when I have calls piped through the stereo, I have no trouble hearing them, either.
The real question is how’s the music? The volume’s a little low and it’s a little heavy on the bass for me but the separation is good and the fidelity is great. And I like the sound better than my BT8010. YMMV — your ears may be better than mine, your car may be quieter or, well, who knows. But I like it. And I’m keeping it.
If you want more technical detail, download the Quick Start Guide from here. I’ve tried all the features except factory reset and they all work as advertised. But email or tweet me if you want more details.

Twitter’s had it!

April 11, 2008

An update to my own weblog entry from a few days ago. Comcast has an official presence on Twitter now. @ComcastCares is there and he’s listening. More than that, he’s helping!
So, now that the suits know we’re here, where do we go next?

Buddy has left the premises

April 11, 2008

Zoombak sells 2 devices in the US, both based on GPS and both incredibly simple: they keep track of things. Right now they’re a tad expensive so you probably won’t be tracking your keys with them but that day is coming! For the time being, you can attach one to your dog’s collar to keep track of his location and the other you can put in your car for, well, the same reasons. Yes, there’s a monthly charge but if you want it, you’ll pay.
Why am I telling you about this? Well, for one, it’s an interesting application of the technology but mainly it’s because I think we’re on the cusp of something big. We haven’t seen a game-changer yet but one is coming, trust me. I don’t know if it’s technology (e.g. a new chip) or a new application of an existing technology but between Bluetooth-enabled devices, GPS and cellular technology, all the ingredients are there for a phenomenal location-aware service. We’ve already got LimeJuice (see this TechCrunch artcle) and they’re not the first entry to that market.
So, heads-up!

Convert an PDF to a DOC? An MP3 to an AAC?

April 9, 2008

Zamzar is an onine service that converts files from one format to another. PDF to DOC or HTML, MP3 to WMA or AAC, BMP to JPG or TIFF, VOB to MOV or MPG, RAR to CAB or ZIP. Free version comes in two forms: registered user or not. Not registered users upload files and get a link back in email (that you provide when you upload the file) to download the converted file. Registered users can maintain multiple files on the site. Then there’s the paid accounts. But try out the free, unregistered service first.

Device naming with the 2.6.20 kernel

April 7, 2008

Well, really, it’s the result of updates to LibATA. Man, I really haven’t been keeping up my Linux knowledge. Anyway, I happened across this post about it and it’s worth reading if you have any confusion about how disks are named. A hint: all SCSI and ATA (PATA and SATA) are now /dev/sd* and ATAPI devices like CD and DVD drives are /dev/sr*

Comcast issues? Tweet about it!

April 7, 2008

Who woulda guessed that there’s Comcast guy monitoring twitter? Sure enough, @wscottw3 is there. How’d I find out about it? Well, it turns out that @techcrunch was having problems with his connection. He tweeted about it and @chrispirillo replied that he should ping the guy. Go on, take a look at the tweets (here, here and here, for instance) as well as this Techcrunch blog post, I’ll wait …
And, to top it off, @wscottw‘s got some good posts in his weblog like this one which talks about getting started on Twitter including a short list of who to start following.
One more thing: if you are having problems with Comcast, either tweet @wscottw3 or use this form to send an email to Rick Germano, SVP of Customer Operations at Comcast. And, yes, I got that link from several of @wscottw‘s tweets.
And, in case you’re too shy to ask, I’m tsum over on twitter.