Tuesday, February 22, 2005

On-Going Teleo testing

In the never ending quest to keep from giving Sprint one extra dime over my plan minutes. After paying over $120 over my plan for two months, I had it with Sprint. After looking at a number of options, I settled on Teleo (see story below). In one week, I have racked up 209 minutes of free inbound minutes versus 29 minutes of usage on my cell phone. The only problems during the past week were a phone call experienced a stuttering problem on circuit that was running some major downloads. One morning the service was out for a while but was restored quickly and before business hours. The latter problem was described by their support group as server maintenance that was required during the beta program.

Overall the service, quality, and reliability have been first rate. If you are looking to dramatically reduce your cell phone minutes or land line charges and have good internet access a good amount of the time, Teleo may just be the service for you. If you make a lot of phone calls and need more of an unlimited plan, check out the prices at BroadVoice.

Please keep newbs off the net

I swear, one of the things that tick me off the most is that on the web, even a well intentioned gesture can bring about dire results. My dad just got his first computer, for a birthday surprise he went to a website and send me some eCard. This means that not only did he give them his email address, but he also gave some website MY email address. Every time I have got one of these dumbass cards, I then have to jump through hoops to get off some damn spam email list.

So for all of you that think sending eCards is a great idea, think again, you are just adding to the crap mail that both you and your intended receipient are getting. Great present!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Teleo - internet calling for everyone

I have been saying it for some time now that 2005 will be the year that VOIP becomes killer app. Sure pure "phone" services like Lingo and Vonage and PC-to-PC/PC-to-Phone services like Skype (w/SkypeOut) have been around for a while now, but none have really grabbed the attention that hard core users really need. That is until now.

Teleo is a new service, so new in fact that it is only in version 0.9, that combines PC-to-PC, PC-to-Phone, AND Phone-to-PC in a simple to use and very affordable package.

In its simplest form, Teleo is a voice messaging system very much like Skype. Making calls from PC to PC is simple and painless. Tested behind a number of firewalls and routers, it has performed perfectly each time.

As a PC-to-Phone system, Teleo charges only 2 cents per minute to dial any standard phone number. Where Teleo stands out from the crowd is in the Phone to PC mode. When signing up, I was able to get a telephone number in a local area code (actually one very central to myself and all of my clients). Place a call to my virtual land line and my laptop rings. Using the onboard microphone and speakers (HP Compaq nc6000 laptop) the sound is exceptionally clear on both sides of the conversation. The only downside is loud noises overwhelm the onboard mic. Using a good quality headset sounds as good or better than most telephones. You will to have some decent bandwidth however. Using a 768k line, a download from Microsoft's site was taking the majority of available bandwidth making the Teleo conversation cough, sputter, and skip. The moment the download finished, voice quality instantly improved.

As a consultant, I am on the road all day visiting on average of 2-3 client sites a day. The cell phone bill is getting larger every month so I set out to see how I could reduce that bill. The "dial tone" services required me to carry around extra equipment (VOIP adapter and a phone) while Skype didn't provide me with inbound calls. Teleo provides everything I need. After a little practice and researching the billing impact, I found the best solution is to give out my cell phone number (Sprint PCS). When I have internet access, I forward my cell phone to my Teleo number. Each call forwarded from Sprint is a flat 10 cents charge. This is better than the opposite as Teleo dings you the 2 cents per minute charge for forwarded calls. So as long as my average phone call is greater than 5 minutes, than this works out. If I see that my average call is less than five minutes, then its best to give out the Teleo number and forward that to my cell phone when no access is available.

The Teleo install allows you to install just the soft phone application or optionally install an IE and Outlook plugin. The IE plugin allows quick dialing of phone numbers listed on web sites while the Outlook pluging allows quick dialing of phone numbers in emails. What would be much better would be a TAPI driver to allow for dialing from Outlook contacts.

While inbound calls use basic Caller ID to display the phone number, there is no extended Caller ID information nor a phone book to save numbers to. While the technology is great, the lack of an address book is a major setback.

Overall, for this beta the product itself is pretty solid. While it is missing some key features that a more refined program would have, its a great start.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Endless Wireless Highway

In a totally unscientific experiment today I decided to see how many wireless networks I could see, attach to, and get internet access from during a 29 mile drive from a client's office back to my office. The trip utilized a handful of mile of surface streets through Long Beach, Ca and Irvine, Ca and over 20 miles of freeway driving using the 405, 22, and 5 freeways though a number of towns.

During the entire trip, there was only a lack of signal for less than 1 total minute of drivetime. There was also a total of 2 minutes in which the only networks available we secured. During the remaining ~45 minutes of driving, I averaged 3 unsecured wireless networks at any time with a minimum of 2 bars (Windows Available Wireless Networks screen). I completely lost count of how many were named either Default, SMC, or Netgear as it was well over 90% of the networks. On at least 8 occasions, 10 different networks were detected at the same time.

With access like this, if one could seemlessly move from one wireless point to another, my laptop would have faired better than my cell phone.

No special equipment was used. A new Compaq nc6000 laptop with internal 802.11g wireless card was sitting on the top of my laptop case in the passenger seat.

AVG Updates Update

Just two days after my letter to Grisoft, I started getting reports of updates coming in faster than ever. It turns out that Grisoft had already been in the works to switch the updates of AVG Free from a single update server to Akamai's caching network. This has DRAMATICALLY improved the reliability and performance of their update mechanisim and once again, we are happy to recommend AVG Free to all consumers.