Archives For VoIP

Just Say No to Mile-High VoIP.

Dave Zatz —  August 25, 2008

Flight Day continues…

Finally, we’re starting to see some reasonable alternatives to the prematurely killed Boeing Connexion in-flight Internet offering. AirCell is the company behind JetBlue’s testing, Virgin America’s promised network, and the now active American Airlines “GoGo” WiFi service. And early reports are positive. Mostly.

Not only did the FCC rule there’s no place on flights for cell phone chatter, (thankfully) AirCell has concluded the same – and is restricting VoIP traffic. At least they thought they were. Unfortunately, Andy Abramson has found a work-around by using Flash-based VoIP client Phweet. There’s not many I know more connected, always-on, Internet-craving than I. Yet, I’d rather remain net-free on flights than be subjected to folks yammering on headsets all flight along. Is it just me?

Hands On with Ooma

Dave Zatz —  August 12, 2008

Upon joining Dash, I gave up the seemingly unlimited supply of phones and service provided by Sling. Plus, I had dumped Vonage in Feburary after two and a half years – the call quality/connectivity had simply deteriorated to the point of being unusable. So, of course, I’ve burned through all my iPhone minutes (and rollover minutes) these last few months. I have tried being economical by using SkypeOut with a headset tethered to my laptop, but it’s been a bit uncomfortable. Especially since I tend to pace while on the phone.


Fortunately, a few of my former Sling peeps have relocated to Ooma and provided me with a device to play with. Setup was a breeze – the most difficult and time consuming aspect was deciding what area code (DC, 202) and number I wanted. (They’ll also port numbers.) The Ooma “Hub” (above, right) can sit between a router and modem or just hang off the router, which how I’ve configured it. Though I may reconsider the network topography since Ooma does provide QoS, port forwarding, etc. I’m also a sucker for sexy things and appreciate the understated Ooma design, which is much more visually appealing than my former clunky Vonage Linksys router.

Ooma retails for $250, which includes unlimited US calling. Forever. While it’s a bit more pricey than the MagicJack, no need to worry about leaving a computer on and Internet chatter strongly suggests Ooma call quality is superior. In my limited testing, I’ve been very pleased. Basic features like CallerID and Voice Mail are included, while an optional Premier tier of service ($99/yr) offers additional features such as extra lines/numbers and conference calling.

As much as I attempt to minimize cable clutter, I rely on wired headsets over Bluetooth for VoIP. A wired model provides equal if not better audio fidelity, without worrying about connectivity issues and a charged battery. My current work-provided headset got pretty banged up in my backpack recently and the mic’s become flaky. So, I just ordered this Logitech USB headset from for $23 shipped (and after $10 rebate). I obviously can’t vouch for quality yet, but it looks comfortable and has a glowing red light.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I was stationed next to the Fring gang at CTIA. And I found the iPhone hidden in the BizDev guy’s pocket a little suspicious given they didn’t support the platform. Well, as of today they do! Fring is a mobile multi-IM client, and one of the few multi-IM clients to include Skype voice chat. So, the first thing I did after installing this on my jailbroken iPhone was give Kevin Tofel a call via SkypeOut (using WiFi). Kevin reports he heard me OK with a little echo of his own voice and, for the first half of the call, I heard him OK as well. For the second half of the call, his voice was garbled unfortunately. But hey, this is a beta client and it looks very promising. We also tried AIM<->.Mac text IM, which worked fine. The new message audio alert is a little too high pitched and glaring though.

(Thanks, Todd!)

CTIA Goodies

Dave Zatz —  April 8, 2008

In my old age, I’ve become much more selective in the conference schwag I choose to fly home with…

At the Sprint press event featuring Samsung, I performed a Rock Band guitar duet with NPD analyst Ross Rubin and all attendees left with a stereo Bluetooth headset (MSRP $80). I’m not sure how MagicJack makes money selling their VoIP device at only $40 a pop with unlimited US calling, but I was willing to take a review unit as I’m still searching for the right voice solution. Once I’m done checking these out, we’ll give them away here on the site.

On the software side, a Yahoo booth minion updated my Nokia N95 to Yahoo! Go 3. And the Fring folks convinced me I need their multi-IM client for mobiles, which includes voice chat. (Both are free.)

Lastly, while I can’t say the in-booth oxygen or alcohol bars do much for me, I appreciated Real’s blue M&Ms around lunch time. Cisco was also there in my time of need when I grabbed a Linksys pen in passing.


Ah, the Ojo Video Phone. Engadget posted the rumor that the phone and service have now gone kaput. And I can confirm it. After two plus years, the Ojo in my living room has finally reached the end of its run.

Because I work for Motorola, I became the proud owner of two Ojos back in late 2005. This was right before Motorola gave up on the product and turned it back over to WorldGate, its original manufacturer. I was the coveted demographic for the video phone, a new parent and daughter of new grandparents, all with broadband connections. And despite a few hiccups here and there, we would have made a fantastic case study. Until last week, we used the Ojos regularly. My two-year-old has literally grown up seeing her grandparents on the phone every few days. Now it looks like we’ll have to default to webcams, a sorry substitute.

So why didn’t the Ojo survive? There are many, many reasons.

  1. No interoperability. You could only talk to an Ojo from another Ojo.
  2. An original retail price of $1,600 for a pair of Ojos, plus a monthly fee. (Price came way down later on)
  3. Timing. As widespread as broadband is, there are still quite a few grandparents without it or without the tech savvy to do more with a broadband connection than check email. Maybe in five more years.
  4. Routers. It was virtually impossible to make the Ojo compatible with every router on the market, which means a lot of customers could not get their Ojos to work at all without another new piece of hardware.
  5. Wired connection. The Ojo only worked with an Ethernet line, and while being tethered wasn’t a big deal (you could still move the Ojo around for different perspectives), finding a place to put the Ojo within Ethernet reach was. We ran an Ethernet cord up from our basement, through a vent to our living room.

Some time soon I believe video will become an expected, add-on feature for all of our phones. And then we’ll probably hook them into our TVs for big-screen display. And then we’ll be able to interact with the video, marking up our screens like any WebEx presentation. And more, and more, and more. It’s all coming.

Just not for the Ojo.


I had assumed the lawsuits would ultimately kill Vonage… And while they still might, as part of our moving prep, I made the decision to proactively kill service. My 2.5 years with them has been somewhat rocky, including poor customer service and call quality issues. Complaints from folks on the other end of the line is what finally led me to this decision.

In Vonage’s defense, I’ve really appreciated the voicemail->email feature and their pricing was extremely competitive. However, our multiple cell phones and SkypeOut should be sufficient going forward. If not, for the first time in years, we’ll consider going back to a reliable Verizon landline. Continue Reading…

The Pudding Experience

Mari Silbey —  September 25, 2007

The press has had a field day with Pudding Media’s new VoIP offering. In a nutshell, the company lets you make VoIP calls for free if you let them listen in and provide targeted ads. Since many folks have already written about the horrific Big Brother implications, I thought I’d take a different approach to the news. Here are the “contextual” ads I imagine when I think of the Pudding experience…

Mari on the phone: “My daughter was really cranky yesterday afternoon. She had a massive temper tantrum and threw herself down on the hard floor…” Note: my daughter is a perfect angel and would never actually do this. ;)

Imagined Pudding ads:

Child harness! Easy. Safe. Keeps you in control.



Softest rugs you’ll ever find! 3% off now through Sunday.



Are you having trouble coping? Ask your doctor if Prozac is right for you.


Continue Reading…