Archive for March, 2010

After a week with VoIP.ms

March 24, 2010

I’m pleased! I had a few missteps which is understandable for starting up with a new services. Most recently I had a problem with it accepting DTMF tones (used in “press 1 for sales, press 2 for support” as well as for routing conference calls) but that was remedied when I actually READ the account settings and set my VoIP router to use the same DTMF technique as I’d selected in my VoIP.ms control panel. I’ve done probably 20 conference calls since the changeover as well as a few outbound calls and all is well. Just so you know.

Goodbye VoicePulse, hello … uhhh …

March 17, 2010

I’ve been on VoicePulse’s Connect plan for a couple of years and have consistently paid less than $25/year for service. It’s a pay-as-you-go plan that had rates of about .7 cents per minute back when I started. Of course, rates have risen but I’ve still had very low cost service and have been quite happy with their quality. I chose a roll-your-own route for Voice over IP as opposed to Skype or MagicJack or AT&T or Comcast because I wanted to integrate my landline (yes, I still have one) and my VoIP line into one telephone device. I did that with a Sipura SPA-3102 which provides both a landline INPUT (an FXO port, i.e. from the phone company) and a VoIP input and meld them into one phone line OUTPUT (an FXS port, i.e. plug your telephone into it). Woth this setup, I can make or receive both VoIP calls AND landline calls from the same handset.

OK, so back to the story. Last week I received notice from VoicePulse that they were instituting a $3 monthly regulatory compliance fee and a $9.50 minimum monthly fee, raising my costs to just under $13/month. Now, that’s not bad, all things considered but that’s not what I’m after. So, I’m looking for another provider. The first company I tried was Localphone. They provide good quality calls at a good rate (0.9 cents per minutes as of right now). But they don’t provide the ability to set your caller ID — something that’s important to me because I use Google Voice with Gizmo for my main inbound number and want my outbound number to be consistent with that.

The next two providers that are on tap are voip.ms and CallWithUs.com and both provide customized Caller ID. By and large, outbound calls to the USA with CallWithUs is 0.99 cents per minute with no minimum and calls billed per minute through one server. Voip.ms calls are more expensive at about 0.105 cents per minute for their “value” connections (“premium” costs 0.125 cents per minute) but their calls are billed in 6 second increments and they have several servers located around the US.

I’ve just signed up with VoIP.ms and am trying them out now. They’ve got a live chat facility which helped me get up and running very quickly (you need to fund your account even if you’re only going to make toll-free calls). I’ll report back later.

Windows 7 does speech recognition out of the box

March 4, 2010

I’m sure I heard this at one point in the past but Windows 7 (and Vista) support speech recognition without any add-ons. Go to Control Panel and start it from “Start Speech Recognition”. You may need to wake it up by saying “Start Listening” (capitalization optional). I haven’t tried it (at the moment I’m on a Linux machine) but I intend to as soon as I get the chance and if I find anything startling or worth mentioning I’ll post it.

Thanks to Win7News for the reminder, specifically “Talking to My Computer: Speech Recognition in Windows 7“. A list of commands is available from Microsoft here.

What’s in YOUR media PC (or “kicking Dell in the teeth”)

March 3, 2010

At CeBIT yesterday, nVidia announced new ION chips (the news is all over so I won’t bother with links to the stories). The great thing is Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Zotac are all on board. In fact, Zotac has a new box (Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11) that’s outfitted with the new chipset. Many people have opted for the more expensive Dell Zino which, while consuming more power (50W vs 25W is what I hear), also can handle 1080p Blu-ray fairly easily. But that power comes at a price. In pricing systems myself, I found the Acer Aspire Revo R3610-U9022 for less than $350, the Zotac MAG MAGHD-ND01-U for about $300 (without operating system) and a well-outfitted Dell Zino for about $500, depending on CPU, memory and video options. Granted, the Dell includes a DVD drive and, like I said, more powerful CPUs and video options but I question how much of that you’ll really need, especially if you use the PC for music and video only (and no gaming).

Granted, these are in user’s hands yet and I haven’t seen any reviews but it’s something to consider. It’ll be interesting when these things start rolling out.