Ooma Review

After using Ooma for several months, I can say that I’m very pleased with it. I have the older version. The Ooma Telo looks promising, but it sounds like there are some problems that haven’t been quite resolved yet and some of the functionality doesn’t work like you would expect.

With the older Ooma unit and one Scout I’m able to have two phone lines. With two DECT 6.0 base stations and three DECT 6.0 headsets, we’ve been able to get a nice amount of functionality at a very low cost.

The Ooma service works well and I’ve had very few issues with the sound quality even though I’m on a 3.0/512 connection. Since the Ooma sites between the cable modem and the rest of my network, it can prioritize the traffic to keep a good quality sound.

Google Voice

Awhile back Google bought Grand Central.  I have been using the service and it has been working well.  Google is now marketing the service as Google Voice (http://www.google.com/voice).  It is still isn’t open for the public, but if you are a Grand Central user, you may be able to upgrade by logging in to your Grand Central account and choosing the Google account you want to associate it with.

Google Voice Screen Shot

Google Voice Screen Shot

Some of the new features:

  • Transcribed voicemail – it appears to be done by a computer so it isn’t as accurate as services like Skydeck, but it should still be useful.
  • SMS Messages – you can send and receive SMS messages from your Grand Central number.  This is a big advantage if you use Skype because you can set Skype to use your Grand Central number as you outgoing caller ID.  When someone calls you can answer on Skype or on your cell phone or whatever other phone you have it setup to ring.
  • Free US Calls – you can type in a number you want to call and Google will call your number and then connect you with the number you want to talk to.  Pretty good deal if you have unlimited incoming calls on your cell phone.  International calls are charged a fee and it looks like they give you $1.00 to start out with.
  • Routing based on contact group - It looks like you can set your group of friends to ring your phone, your wife’s to ring her phone and family to ring both.
  • Call me widget – You can add some code to you website that people can click, type in their number and then start up a phone call with you.
  • Mobile access - There is a website optimized for use from a cell phone at www.google.com/voice/m.
  • Custom greetings – You can give different callers different greetings.  So you can do things like tell family you are away on vacation, but just ask other callers to leave a message.

If we could combine Skydeck, Google Voice and Skype, it would be the killer communication package.

To Save or Not to Save: Should you buy a used laptop?

In a world where technology goes out of date in the space of a few months, buying the latest and greatest may not always be the best idea. There seems to be a collective attitude at times that says we must always buy the best, fastest, shiniest product on the market. That is just fine in some cases, but the real question should be, “Do I really need this advanced technology, or is it just a convenience?”.

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While new technological developments in the computer world can be very fascinating, it is interesting to take a look at the other options available to consumers. In the article, “Why You Should Buy a Refurbished Laptop“, the author talks about the many benefits of purchasing one of these refurbished machines.

First of all, many of the computers that are returned are simply sent back because of cosmetic defects. If you do not particularly care about a scratch on the cover of the computer but simply want a functional machine, Dell and Apple both offer refurbished machines for a lesser cost than their newest computers. These machines have perfectly intact screens and other hardware, which makes them just as usable as the next laptop. Most companies have some kind of a service to provide refurbished computers to their clients. With some of them, the computers may not even have been used.  Usually the company has different types of refurbishments that they handle, some of which may be machines that have been repaired and tested, as well as those that have only cosmetic damage.

The main advantage of buying a refurbished laptop over turning to an outside seller is that there still may be a warranty available for the machine if it is purchased from the company. Sometimes eBay or Craig’s List sellers will have a computer for sale that still has its factory warranty, but this is not always the case. Also, when buying a computer from a third party seller, the buyer has no way of knowing if that seller is honest. Though many of them are, there is always a risk in the purchase.

For those that need a laptop that is still up to date without being brand new, buying a refurbished computer could be a very wise choice.

Sprint Airave

The Sprint Airave is a device that allows you to route your Sprint calls through your broadband connection instead of going through the regular cellular network.  It basically acts as a little cell phone tower in your home and connects to Sprint over the internet.  This is useful if you have a house somewhere with poor cell phone coverage and it is also useful if you have a land line or voip line that you use a lot at home, but would prefer to use the same device for all your calls.

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The Sprint AirRave has rather complicated pricing.  You have to pay $99 for the device itself, plus $5 per month.  Then to get unlimited calling, your account will require paying $10 per month for each phone you want to add unlimited calling to.  If you have multiple lines on the same plan, it costs $20 for all of your lines to be covered.

Part of the reason for this complexity is the fact that you can use other’s Airave stations.  So even if you don’t have a station yourself, you can add the $10 per month option to your phone and then use their Airave to make unlimited calls for free.  If you don’t want people using your Airave you can restrict it to only work with certain phones.

The Airave has been in testing for about a year and will be available in stores August 18th.

Sony Mylo

I recently had a chance to play with a Sony Mylo. Actually I hadn’t even heard of it before, but I was pretty impressed. It is a small handheld device about the size of a mobile phone that can be used for email, instant messaging, and Skype VoIP. It also lets you play music and video.

Mylo from Front

The bottom half of the Mylo slides down to give you access to a small but adequate keyboard. It is bigger than the keyboard on a Blackberry or Treo, b

ut it uses embedded keys which don’t feel quite as natural as the Blackberry.

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Sony PRS-500 Portable Reader System

There have been quite a few ebook readers on the market, but none of them have really taken off. The Sony PRS-500 is the first one I’ve seen that really looks like it has potential.

PRS-500

The biggest difference between this eBook reader and others that have been on the market is the “electronic paper”. Sony has created a device that doesn’t use power to display text on the screen. It only uses power when it changes the text. The screen “remembers” what was written on it. Continue reading

Using a Blackberry Internationally

I’ve been using my Blackberry in Mexico for a few months now and I’ve learned a few things about getting mobile email outside the United States.  I wanted to write a bit about things I’ve learned in hopes that others will find it useful.

If you are looking at an international email plan, you will probably want to go with a Blackberry instead of some of the other types of smartphones.  Other smartphones will allow you to work internationally, but I haven’t seen a plan that gives you unlimited usage.  Instead they charge you by the KB which works out to about $15 to $20 per MB downloaded.  If you are busy with email, it doesn’t take long to get 20 or even 50 MB of data transfered.  At $20 per MB you’ll pay over $1000 for 50 MB.  That is a pretty steep charge for a month of usage.

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Voice over IP in Mexico

I am writing this article from the center of Mexico.  As I write, my wife is talking on the phone with a friend in Nebraska.  This week, I’ve received several calls reminding me to vote and the Kansas State Unemployment office called me to tell me that one of my businesses was overpaying on unemployment tax.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without the internet. Where I’m at in Durango Mexico I was able to get a low speed cable modem connection for about $31USD per month.  The connection is only 512k, but it works great for all of our communication.  We use Vonage for our phone.  They provided us with a small device that plugs into our router and our standard cordless phone plugs into the phone jack on it.  Our number is the same as what we had in the US, so many people who call us don’t even know we are in Mexico.

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Six ways to Play an iPod in Your Car

iPods are very popular devices, but many people have problems getting them to play in their vehicles. This article looks at the six different ways you can play an iPod in your car.

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Merge iTunes Libraries

If you use iTunes on multiple computers, you’ve probably run into the problem of having several copies of the same song in different places and no good way to get one consolidated library of all your songs. The method described here doesn’t merge the iTunes xml file, but it will merge all of your song files to make sure you have one copy of each song. Once you have this consolidated directory, you’ll have to re-import all of your music into iTunes.
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