Buffalo Skype-tafied Keyboard
This is nice, a keyboard with an integrated Skype telephone.
Funny, it is described as “something straight out of a NASA launch room”.
For me it looks like a switchboard I operated a long time ago.
But I like this keyboard from Buffalo very much! The price is also very attractive.
For sale next month for only 59 USD (appr. 55 Euro’s).
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Buffalo Skype-tafied Keyboard
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
The Skype servers went down today
Fortunately it did not take long and Skype Heartbeat provided us with up to date information.
Many funny ideas about how it could happen, in the multi chats: “Someone fell over a cable, eh?”, “Or spilled some water over a keyboard...”and “Wlan router went down”
The cable reminded me of my time with Massey Ferguson Holland, somewhere in the 70’s. Long time ago.
We worked with a switchboard with 20 outgoing and incoming lines and did 1000 telephone calls per day.
The company was then situated on the Industrial Park of Zutphen – Gelderland – Holland.
It was a rather old park and at the time it got renovated to be ready for the new part.
It was on a warm summer’s day. The reception area was inside the big Tractor exhibition hall.
And apart from welcome visitors, there was a big, lazy, noisy fly. Though not that lazy that you could easily catch or kill it.
It was that sort of fly that preferred to sit on or between your fingers. Quite irritating when managing the switchboard.
When it finally sat down on one of the buttons of the board, I carefully raised my agenda and hit the fly successfully. Not that I like killing flies, but this one was wasn’t loved.
I cleaned the button, all looked well. Until…. people started to run around, angry at us because we forwarded calls to the wrong departments and people.
I didn’t understand, one mistake ok, but we were definitely not sending all calls to the wrong people!! And I definitely didn’t forward any calls it all over the past 5 minutes!!
Then I realized I might have “killed” the switchboard as well.
Indeed, forwarding was one big mess. With 350 people working there and all departments widely spread over the whole area, Massey Ferguson became to look like an Ant-hill. You saw them rushing from one office to another, to the workshops, up the stairs, down the stairs with notes, glaring at me if I could better hide. If it wasn’t so humorous, I think I would have done so.
Telephones with only internal lines, all of a sudden received external calls. And vice versa.
And the switchboard? Well, it received an occasional call by coincidence. Leaving us with enough time on our hands to watch the MF Ant-hill in action….
A few weeks later, without any warning and any flies, the whole telephone system went down.
We found out that a bulldozer cut the main cable in half somewhere close to our building.
But guess what happened before we found out…..
Indeed, people queued up in front of the reception desk: “Gosh Ike, would you please be so kind not to make killing flies your habit????”
Posted by Helen Varras at 5:16 pm
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Why do we expect to do “difficult” first?
I just left 24 hours of pure frustration behind me.
It started yesterday afternoon when I uploaded some changes in a website of one of my clients. File Transfer was not possible. The web builder got stucked between gathering files and uploading to the server. 100% CPU…. My first “Grrr….”
I updated my web builder SiteSpinner, hoping that this would solve the problem. No. My second “Grrr..”
Was it the program or was it my laptop, because it is getting old.
Uploading to my blog wasn’t possible either. I rebooted the laptop and to my joy the blogging was done in seconds. Back to SiteSpinner. Again no joy.. My third and very loud “GGGRRRRRR……” (and many to follow).
I went through various options, visited the Users Forum, found a similar post from 2004 which ended after Support asked the poster for more info. No reply.
Back on my own.
A system restore came to mind and it looked like a wise thing to do.
I went to the system restore screen and clicked “restore”. A very annoying window popped up telling me this wasn’t possible because “framedyn.dll” was not available. Not available????? Since when??? Yesterday all was fine!!
I downloaded and installed the dll file and tried SiteSpinner first. Wow Whoopee, it worked!
In the meantime it was close to 1 AM and I was a bit sleepy. Glad the site was fully up, I walked my dog and went for a good night sleep.
This morning I needed to add a link on the home page of the website.
And NO!!! Not again…… same problem as yesterday night. Why oh why had I shut down my laptop.
Strangely enough, blogging was possible. OK, it had to be the program.
I ran RegistrySmart and found many problems. But even after restoring, I could not upload.
I ran the Virus and Adware scanners as I suspected a nasty Trojan Horse. Nothing of it all (fortunately).
OK, still the restore which with the fixed DLL would be a piece of cake.
Yeah…… you think so….. All went well until after the reboot. A screen popped up and told me there was no restore done. Nothing had changed on my laptop. I was advised to look for an earlier restore point.
I tried several and got the same message over and over again. I became a bit desperate by now but was happy the website was up and the link could be added after I managed to solve my problems.
Then my client phoned: “Hi Ike, I try my website but I see a completely white screen. Could you give it a try from your PC?” So I did. Can you imagine how I felt when I too saw nothing else then a white screen? Immediately I checked the site via preview and everything was still in good order but not visible on the web. Of course the next question of my client was “It is still there is it? Don’t tell me it is all gone!” No, no, it is still there but I need to get it on the web. (Glad there wasn’t a webcam running, my cheeks were a bit blushy).
I asked my wonderful supportive Beta colleagues for help. They came with various suggestions; I tried them all but nothing helped. I sat behind my desk in despair. What next???
I posted my problem on the forum of Virtual Mechanics and went back to the site builder.
I went again through the options and wondered if the upload file at the server was correctly entered. I clicked the “browse” button and the web builder froze. I now knew it was the program, not my laptop, or??
Where I first browsed the forum for “100% CPU”, I now browsed it for “freeze” and found a thread from 2003. Though somewhere in this thread was a tiny little sentence “On the FTP Publisher, under the FTP tab the instructions state: If you are having problems connecting, try turning 'Use Passive Mode' On or Off.”
Wouldn’t hurt though, I thought, to tick the Use Passive Mode box.
It worked, it really, really worked!! I was the happiest kid in town, phoned my client who yelled in my ear "It’s up, it’s up, yaheeeee!!!”
Phew, one problem less. Leaves me with the huge system restore error.
Poor laptop, I think she heard me ordering the new one. I hasted to tell “oldie” she would stay with me for some more years. Neatly at home and not packed in a travellers bag anymore.
I can be mistaken, but I thought I heard a “sigh” and I saw a quick smile with her. Or did I go to bed too late???
Posted by Helen Varras at 8:50 pm
I am always on the look for extensions of my laptop for travelling.
My laptop bag contains “PC GEAR” ( mini mouse, numeric keyboard and USB hub), Polycom Communicator, Asus WiFi adapter and several bleutooth devices.
But today I found a very handy mouse uhmmm…….. phone, on the Internet and I don’t think it will take long before it is part of my travel equipment: the Skype Mouse!
You might think it is not very clever to make a mouse a phone but if you use it with a laptop, there is always your mouse pad when you are on the “phone”.
If you buy this funny "travel pet" before I do, please leave your comment
Posted by Helen Varras at 1:39 am
Sunday, September 24, 2006
San Jose State University may ban Skype: continuing story
I blogged about the San Jose State University before
It keeps bloggers and readers busy. Many articles have been written since. Russel Shaw’s headline mentioned “clueless, paranoid and Luddite”
The good news (for how long) is that the ban has been put on hold in the face of fierce objections from students and staff members.
Administrators said they would meet with eBay, the owner of Skype on Tuesday in order to give the San Jose-based company an opportunity to address the university's concerns about network security. Security........ viruses?? Those little nasty viruses "associated" with Skype?
Don Baker, interim associate vice president of university computing and telecommunications, said: “If they could point me to some other colleges whose network security has been breached by Skype, then I would be willing to consider their point.
But until you can, I will call them what they sound to me: a clueless “what if “ Luddite.
Posted by Helen Varras at 5:39 pm
Friday, September 22, 2006
Special people: John Hammink
In the ‘gallery’ of special people, I already introduced Micheaux, Azri and Gré to you.
Today I introduce John Hammink who I met in person in Tallinn.
Many months ago I had a question for one of the London Skype people who forwarded me to John Hammink who then worked for ánd with the Skype Certification Program.
John replied in basic Dutch and this in combination with his surname, made me ask if he originally came from Holland.
No, but his grandparents did. They moved from Twente – Holland to the US.
This was our first conversation and many more followed. John turned out to be a multi talented person with many, many interests which made me not only look forward to the next conversation but especially to our meeting in Tallinn.
We sat down with a cup of coffee and a soft drink and chatted away.
I had so many questions for John which he happily answered.
John is born in 1970. His father, a musician, is “Dutch” (although born in the US) and his mother is of Irish extraction which explains John’s musical talents!
At the age of 18, he moved to Ohio to the Eastern Michigan University where he studied Linguistics, with a minor in Written Communication. He also followed some classes at the University of Michigan.
In 1996 he left the US for Finland where he lived for 6 years.
In a University town he worked for Jyväskylä Polytechnic teaching Requirement Engineering.
In the meantime, while working as a senior quality engineer for various Helsinki-area companies, he founded his own business “Hea Sõna OÜ" which means “Good Word”, worked as a part time translator and in 2003 he moved to Estonia to work for IF Eesti Insurance, and Hansapank, among others, with Professional Service and Product Development.
From there John moved to Skype to set up the Certification Program.
He started on his own with one desk but this changed gradually to a department with 4 people.
He left Skype as an employee a few weeks ago but still works part time for them from his own business.
I mentioned before that John is multi talented.
He is a gifted Novel and Poem writer and an even more gifted musician. Apart from playing various instruments such as 6 and 12 string guitars, he also plays Fretless Electric Bass, Acoustic Contrabasse, Dulcimer and Erhu. And not only that, he is also a writer, composer, songwriter and singer. He loves improvising.
Being a well traveled person, he often visited and will visit places where people are playing music. Listening and blending in is giving him much joy.
A wonderful period he still remembers and treasures is a visit to the Irish Pubs where he had the opportunity to play music together with the local artists.
His Irish blood bubbled and he felt at home.
Before I met John, I listened to the music on his website, read some of his novels and when finally meeting him in person, I could easily listen to his stories for hours.
We have things in common: looking forward, exploring, not being afraid to start something completely new in your life, and harmony.
This is I think, a never ending story and for John as well, it will only stop when he is too old to put one foot for the other.
But I know already, when John can’t go to meet people, people will come to meet him.
A great inspiration to John has been Kinga, a Polish lady who lived her life to the fullest and passed away at the peak of fulfilling her dreams, in the happiest time of her life. He was so fortunate to meet her in person.
A great inspiration to me was my meeting with John and I hope to stay in touch with him for many, many years.
Thank you so much John for the special hours we spent together talking about life in all its facets.
Posted by Helen Varras at 4:11 pm
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Online face-to-face advice moves closer
Five years ago, the Society of Financial Advisers asked delegates at its annual conference what they would like to be able to do with technology in five years time.
One of the key responses at that time was ‘face-to-face advice online’ and now advisers say the prospect is one step closer, where the client is happy to talk finance over the internet, and intermediaries feel they would now be willing to conduct free video conferencing with clients online.
Campbell Edgar, director at Bloomsbury Financial Planning, notes with the aid of voice over internet protocol (VoiP) services such as Skype, it is already possible to conduct face-to-face advice with clients through web video conferencing, albeit the service might not suit all clients.
“Doing advice online needs to have a very clear business model, to ensure it is both technology and business effective,” says Edgar.
“We could do it today with Skype and a webcam and we do advice today with telephone-based clients. There is little difference, but we feel it’s a bit impersonal and we probably wouldn’t consider it unless the business was conducted in another guise,” he adds.
In contrast, however, firms like Informed Choice are beginning to embrace the prospect of online ‘face to face’ advice, and adopting new technology to support the service.
Martin Bamford, director at the IFA firm, is already known for his wider use of technology to reach the consumer, having created the UK’s first financial adviser firm podcasts.
He believes while the ability to conduct online video conferencing through services such as Skype is pretty much a given, services aimed at financial advisers still need a little more work to provider the all-round service online clients might be looking for.
Source: Julie Henderson - IFAonline
Posted by Helen Varras at 10:30 am
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The mobile phone
What a wonderful tool. Like most of my (computer) hardware, mine are of a Swedish brand: Sony Ericsson.
I use the Z600 as it can do almost everything. I even have two of them in use.
I can read my e-mails, browse the net, use it instead of or as an extension of my Skype and landline calls and my subscription is so very cheap.
I love my mobile(s). I still remember somewhere in 1995, my very first one: a big black box of 4 kilo’s (didn’t fit in the pocket of a shirt..!!) but it was a miracle. Being in the middle of nowhere in Sweden, I could phone all over the world (don’t ask for the rates please…) and people could call me. And if I wanted to be left alone, I switched it off.
Then a newer model arrived, much smaller but still bigger then the modern ones we use today. In Holland we call those oldies “fridge” because of the size. Then all of a sudden the phones became so small that when someone was holding it to his/her ear, you thought that person had a headache or an ear problem. But no, there was a mobile phone in the palm of their hand.
But you can do so much more with a mobile! With faster chips, bigger and brighter screens and Internet data capability, mobile phones have evolved beyond mere phone calls. The services will probably add a few Euro’s to your monthly bill, and, for most, you'll need an Internet data plan. But just knowing it's possible is, well, good to know.
Read about the possibilities, nicely listed by TAMARA CHUANG of The Orange County Register.
Posted by Helen Varras at 4:03 pm
Monday, September 18, 2006
Campus may ban Skype
Is Skype safe? A question we often hear (and see on the Forum). Yes. Skype is encrypted end-to-end because it uses the public Internet to transport your voice calls and text messages and sometimes these calls are routed through other peers. Skype encryption ensures that no other party can eavesdrop on your call or read your instant messages.
What about virusses? There is no risk when using Skype only for calls and instant messages. With Skype's File Transfer ability, one should take precautions when accepting files from other parties, just as with any email program or other file transfer programs or files.
Unfortuntely the San Jose State University doubts this. It is even thinking and talking about banning Skype.
The people who are against the program may have concerns about worms and viruses obtained through Skype eventhough Skype is a tool that some teachers use in the classroom. If Skype is no longer permitted on the SJSU campus, it will be a disadvantage to educators as well (as to students).
Although the decision isn't made yet, it does look like a possibility (source).
I would like to advise the San Jose State University to study Skype before even to consider banning it....
Posted by Helen Varras at 2:06 pm
Sunday, September 17, 2006
A visit to Tallinn
I am back from Tallinn, a city with a very special history. Over many, many centuries, Estonia has been occupied by different countries such as Germany, Russia, Sweden, expressed in all the buildings: medieval walls and towers, a Russian Cathedral, wooden houses….
The old Center is beautiful and impressive. But Tallinn is catching up with modern times. The city is a mix of many cultures and centuries though they are building modern offices and shops everywhere. There is noise, sand and dust at almost every corner. Tallinn is not only Skype-City, there is space for much more companies!
I loved being there amongst other Skype addicts. I only met great people and the kindness of the Estonians really touched me.
I talked to special people and about one I will blog soon. Unfortunately my luggage was left behind in Tallinn. KLM told me and others, that there wasn’t enough fuel to transport the entire baggage. The article about my special person is in my suitcase…
The food is special, tasty. I loved trying different dishes. Also their Liköör is nice!! I didn’t drink too much, I needed a clear head for the conferences!
The Reval Hotel Central was comfortable, a huge room with a huge bath, almost the size of my own entire bathroom at home.
We were well looked after and I gathered a lot of knowledge.
It was strange to be back in Holland again. Where the weather in Tallinn was warm but bright, in Holland it is hazy and humid.
And typical Dutch: waiting on the airport and train stations again. But whilst waiting for the train in Amsterdam-Sloterdijk, I nearly got married!
I was sitting on a bench next to a beautiful Asian lady when a Turkish family arrived. Their youngest son was a child with the Down Syndrome and he was adorable. He asked if he could sit in between and yes, of course.
He talked about their trip home, that he would probably fall asleep when at home because he was tired. He asked what I was doing there, where I came from (ooohhh….. Schiphol airport, planes!!!) then asked the Asian lady what she was doing (working on her Pocket PC) and then he started to point from her to his father and vice versa.
His father asked him what was wrong and he replied: “You can marry her!!”
We all laughed. He went on: “Marrying is very easy you know. Just hook your arm in hers and you are married”
Then he took my arm, hooked his in and smiled at me: “This is how people get married”
So, we are married now? I asked him. “Noooooo……. you also need to kiss!! But….. (big giggle) that is not what I am going to do now!!”
Then their train arrived and we said goodbye to him, thankful for his happy attitude whilst waiting on a boring station.
But he suddenly turned around, blew me a kiss and said: “Bye sweetheart…”
Posted by Helen Varras at 6:17 pm
Monday, September 11, 2006
Vox for Skype
I mentioned VoxLib in an earlier blog post. A solution I was looking forward to.
I signed up for the free copy and was more than happy to receive an e-mail today with the download link.
It was busy on the site. It took me an hour before I could download. Who cares? It is for free and it is useful.
Useful?? After the download, installation and the restart of Skype, it took me at least 10 calls before I got connected to Vox.
Yes, yes, I went to the FAQ section after viewing all the demo’s, read everything that could be read, tried everything to could be tried but only after quitting and restarting both Skype and Vox again, I got connected to the Vox voice who guided me through the options.
Option 3 (see who is on line) did not work via my mobile.
Option 1 and 2 did not work the first time. I had to go through the whole process again.
But then……. When I tried again, it got disconnected because Skype said I was busy.
Busy??? I was set to on line, no other calls, no chats…. It did not even ring once! And I also received a Vox warning pop-up about my SkypeOut credits being below 0,5 USD. Strange, I had more then enough Euro's to spend.
I quitted Skype and after a restart all was ok again. Still option 3 did not work from my mobile.
OK, my landline. I called my SkypeIn, pressed my PIN when I heard the Vox voicemail telling me I wasn’t on line and to my great joy, I ended up with the option menue.
I pressed 3 to see who was on line. And 3, and 3…. and 3….
Finally a voice of an American lady who sounded like a robot under water, summed up the names of my on-line contacts.
I know, you can’t expect a robot to pronounce my international contacts right. Though the names she mentioned made me laugh. Apart from the robotic sound, the pronounciation of the Estonian, Dutch and German (actually all non-English) names was comical and I had to listen well to find out who she was talking about.
Maybe the Vox server is overloaded; I am not immediately going to yell it isn’t working or useful. I will try again in a day or two when in Estonia (maybe the names will be pronounced correctly then… ;-))
But right now, I am not really impressed.
But please let this not stop you from blowing the VoxLib trumpet….. Love to see your comments.
PS I would like my own voicemail message instead of the standard Vox one... it is so... eeehhh... American!
Posted by Helen Varras at 10:52 pm
Web Hosting Provider Brinkster Offers Customer Support Through Skype
It is so good to see that companies are appreciating the use of Skype. And not only that, they are using it to the benefit of their customers!
Web hosting provider Brinkster is offering worldwide customer support through Skype, the company announced recently. The initiative enables Brinkster’s customers to call the company’s customer support center free of charge. "Using Skype is the easiest way for our customers in over 170 countries worldwide to get a live person on the phone. It’s free, it’s amazingly easy, and customers love how reachable our support team is," explained Mr. Jared Stauffer, President and CEO of Brinkster.
Posted by Helen Varras at 2:10 pm
Sunday, September 10, 2006
My name and the Internet
Ike (pronounced Eeka). A name chosen by my parents because they liked it.
I should have been named after my father’s mother (who was annoyed when I wasn’t) but my parents did not like the name Frederika.
My mother’s mother did not like her own name Klazina and asked all her children to promise her not to name a child after her. My grandmother died in 1966 and it was only since then that a grandchild was called Klazina.
Back to the name Ike.
My name is well known as a boy’s name: Ike Eisenhower (never say “I like Ike” to me!!!), Ike Turner (sorry, I can’t sing…).
I found out it is an old Germanic name which in Holland is mainly still in use in Friesland. The Germanic meaning is: ‘Strong as a boar’. A compliment? I leave that to the ones who know me…
But Ike also comes from the Hebrew name Isaac and means laugh, laughter. Ah, this is more me!
The name was given to me when the Internet didn’t exist. When no one had ever heard of e-mailing, websites, web-logs let alone Skype, in 1955!
But to my surprise Ike has everything to do with the Internet.
IKE stands for Internet Key Exchange.
You already knew that Ike is
- the founder and owner of Varras Consultancy
- Skype Super User
- Skype Community Moderator
- blogger of Skype Lifestyle
- living in Friesland
- isn’t Frisian
But did you also know that Ike
- is defined in RFC 2409
- uses a Diffie-Hellman key exchange
- incorporates parts of the proposed Oakley protocol
- has a lot of configuration options
- ‘s specifications are open to a not insignificant degree of interpretation
- “Version 2” has been proposed to address a number of concerns, including Denial of Service protection from spoofed packets?
Ah….. what’s in a name…..
Posted by Helen Varras at 10:14 pm
Friday, September 08, 2006
Dialing 911 with Skype
No, this isn't possible. It is clearly stated: WARNING: Skype software does not support calls to any emergency number nor emergency service (e.g. 211, 911, 999 etc). To perform calls of this type please make sure to use a landline telephone or a cellular/mobile phone.
But Intrado Inc. announced the successful completion of a New York City trial to automatically locate a mobile VoIP 9-1-1 caller. During the trial, Intrado reliably and consistently delivered VoIP location information to the appropriate public safety answering point (PSAP) to demonstrate that VoIP end user devices such as soft phones can provide useful location information directly into a specific locality's existing E9-1-1 network. (source)
Is dialing 911 with Skype getting closer now?
Posted by Helen Varras at 11:26 pm
Special people: Gré
In the ‘gallery’ of special people, I already introduced Micheaux and Azri to you.
Today I proudly introduce Gré, a very special Dutch lady who I met on Skype’s Forum.
One of the regular posters in the SkypeMe and Discussion Forums was Andrew.
A real English gentleman with a good sense of humour.
One of Andrew’s contacts was/is Gré and it was Andrew who introduced me to her.
Gré and I have a weird sense of humour in common (you already might have noticed that homour is important in my life).
We chatted about silly things and laughed a lot.
I remember one evening that during one of those silly chats, Gré didn’t reply as quickly as she used to do.
But then I received a message: “Hi, I am Gré’s husband. Gré sits on the floor, wiping the tears of her cheeks. She has a fit of laughter and can’t reply for a while…”
It is amazing that even though the Internet is in between (interpretations of moods and words can be difficult) Gré and I always sense our moods.
But it is not always fun, we do have serious talks too.
Gré went through difficult periods. The divorce from her first husband, the death of her mother due to a terrible accident a year ago and her mother in law due to Cancer only recently, her successful struggle with overweight (she is a beautiful slim lady now!) and less sad but very annoying, all the rain that flooded the street and house she lives in.
To me Gré is special because she is a fighter. She is fighting her way to a better life and she is very successful in this.
She married a wonderful man who does not only love her to bits but who also respects Gré’s strong character.
She is a caring mother who is raising her kids with love and humour.
For the elderly people in a nursing home, she is an extremely human nurse and carer.
The way she talks about her “patients” is realistic, touching and full of love.
Not a computer expert at all, she arrived on Skype’s Support Forum in 2005, listened and talked to people and is now a Moderator at the Dutch Support Forum for Skype related issues.
She is doing courses to learn more about IT because she is curious, eager to learn.
Her once basic English is improving rapidly.
Besides this, she is also improving her professional nursing skills by studying.
I don’t know how she is managing but she does.
And she never lost her special and sharp sense of humour. Gré remains who she is deep down her Heart but is growing mentally in the same time.
Both fond of the UK, Gré and I promised each other to go to England one day. A short trip but England will know we have been there!
I look forward to this trip and will update you readers, when it happens.
Gré… “proost”!! To your health, family, study, future and well… to the person you are!!
Meet Gré here
Posted by Helen Varras at 10:29 am
American Soldiers and Skype
28 members of the 20th Combat Aviation Brigade of the Missouri National Guard are leaving for a mission in Iraq soon.
Amongst them is Javier Acosta. He and his wife Shelly have seven children, and a 5-month-old granddaughter.
"I'm proud of him," Mrs. Acosta of her husband. She has "trepidations of what they're facing. ... But I know they'll do a good job, and they'll come home."
Her husband is concerned his granddaughter won't know him when he returns, Mrs. Acosta said.
The family will use Skype to communicate with 1st Sgt. Acosta.
Posted by Helen Varras at 8:46 am
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Bye Bye Freetalk…
Freetalk is going to disappear.
From 19th September 2006, this internet phone service will no longer be supplied by the existing freetalk network, but by Vonage.
“The VoIP market in the UK has been slower to take off than we envisaged,” DSG International chief executive John Clare was quoted as saying in a published report. “We still believe VoIP is coming, but it is going to come more slowly.”
Dixons launched Freetalk in September 2005, however, the service has reportedly been plagued by QoS issues, prompting some customers to defect and leading to slow growth. Brisk competition and the resulting low profit margins also reportedly factored into the company’s decision.
Interestingly, the decision comes just as the company launched a new door-to-door technical support service called “TechGuys.” Similar to “Geek Squad” in the US, the TechGuys service computers and other consumer electronics.DSG International is one of the largest online electronics retailers in the world and owns several retail store chains including Dixons, Currys and PC World.
Posted by Helen Varras at 3:29 pm
Free unlimited calls to all landlines within France
"This is one of those cool posts where it’s so fulfilling to click “publish” :) Do you still remember the North American free calls announcement? Free SkypeOut calls within North America and Canada until the end of 2006. Still ongoing.
Many thought “why only America”? Well fear not Europe, because Skype is with you. As of right now and until the end of 2006, all SkypeOut calls to landlines within France are free. Unlimited. Zero price. No catches."
Jaanus reports on Share Skype
Posted by Helen Varras at 10:32 am
‘Bedrijfsblindheid’, Tracer and Unyte
‘Bedrijfsblindheid’ or ‘Business Blindness’. Don’t we suffer all once in a while?
An action on your computer that became so common that you could do it blind folded. Then all of a sudden you do something wrong and you don’t understand why and how. You completely miss where you went wrong, you can’t recall because you handled automatically.
You can spend hours on trying to find out why you all of a sudden, can’t log on to a program for which you use the same password for years.
And this happened to me. I work with Tracer Systems to file my clients and everything what has to do with them: correspondence, billing, products, hours etc. I learned to work with it years ago at the office of one of my clients when I was still on their pay-roll.
Tracer Systems has developed a single, fully integrated flexible cross platform CRM (Customer Relationship Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), and HRM (Human Resource Management) solution to assist customers in keeping their competitive advantage. The possibilities are endless. To me Tracer is the best program ever and custom made to your preferences. Support is excellent.
Tracer is on my external disk with a shortcut to my desktop. This works nicely for me. And I use the same cryptical password as with my client. No mistakes possible.
For what ever odd reason, the shortcut disappeared from my desktop and I created a new one. But when I logged on again, my password got refused. I tried all sorts of combinations but no access was granted to me.
Back to the old password that came with Tracer during the installation. But again a negative result.
I contacted Tracer’s support via Skype and invited them via Unyte to work on my computer. The wonderful thing about Unyte is that you can give the other party control over one program instead of your whole desktop. But what ever support tried, no access.
I was asked to send a .xml file, peace of cake with Skype’s File Transport.
They gave me a new password and I could log on again. Phew, what a relief.
Tracer opened all files and…………… goodness, NO!!! All my data were gone: all my clients, all the invoices, all the products. Tracer was empty and remained empty.
I was almost in tears. Busy as a little bee, I couldn’t afford spending hours and hours on updating my data.
My Skype IM ‘shouted: HELP. Tracer’s Skype IM replied with: “Did you accidentally open a copy of Tracer??” I felt as stupid as one of my formal clients from the time I was co-owner of a Sunscreen and Awning Company who shouted: “I am not going to pay for a remote controlled Awning that doesn’t even make a noise when I switch it on!!” I asked my client: “Did you accidentally disconnect the electricity plug?”
Mind you, I did not even know I had a copy of Tracer! One is never too old to learn.
Tracer needed some minor changes and again I was asked to send a file. “It is a biggy this time, could be 20 MB!’ support said. Doh, Skype happily handled a 92 MB log a few days before. In no time the file was transferred, altered and sent back.
“That Unyte is great, amazing what you can do with Skype!” support said. “I am still learning about new features”.
I could only agree….
Posted by Helen Varras at 9:26 am
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
A new Skype toy for Mac
Sound devices are nice, especially when they are developed for using them with Skype.
They are also important for Varras Consultancy. We can’t answer the phone calls of our clients with cracky, noisy, half-working devices.
I am always on the look for new devices. Or call them Skype toys. Running Windows, there is a wide range of phones available. For those running Mac, there isn’t much choice.
But yesterday I stumbled upon the Dialog Phone and liked it immediately.
Dialog is a wire free phone that offers perfect Skype and iChat AV integration, letting you chat for as long as you want to anyone in the world.
Dialog is compact and discreet, fitting in with your office or home environment.
There are no wires to clutter up your desk space and you can use your phone within a 20 feet perimeter of your computer.
After all a phone should be used as a phone. Simply plug the wire free adapter into a USB port of your computer and start talking!
The $80 device requires Mac OS X 10.4 and a USB 2.0 port (and a G4/G5- or Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.4).
Posted by Helen Varras at 9:45 am
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
PalTalk and an unfaithful husband
This morning I read the article ‘PalTalk Launches PalTalk People’ by Dave Evans.
He writes: The question becomes why isn't PalTalk as popular as Skype or Userplane?
I'll tell you why. Product positioning, marketing and management. PalTalk always looked clumsy, like Windows 3.1 and the video windows were tiny. It was never marketed well enough in the MSM (main stream media). Management of PalTalk and their competitors like ICUII and ISPQ didn't think big enough, hence glacial user growth. Most of the users never wore clothing. This doesn't add up to a high-growth enterprise.
Like Dave I used PalTalk a few years ago and indeed, there weren’t many users on line. But at the time I only needed one. I wasn’t using PalTalk for myself but for a very dear friend.
Let me explain why. I seem to have a talent: finding people (e.g. an old friend of my father. They lost touch in 1952 and I found him back in 1992 which took me 10 minutes!).
One evening my friend in the UK told me the story of his unfaithful Brother In Law (lets call him Bil). Although no proof, friends sister just ‘knew’ Bil was unfaithful. She found out that her husband’s long business trips to the US were known to his office as ‘holidays’. Bil lied an awful lot at home but underestimated the sixth sense and the intelligence of his wife.
It put a lot of grieve on her and her children and of course my UK friend tried to help his sister uncovering the truth which she desperately wanted to know. They digged in to his computer and found a PalTal account but nothing more.
Listening to this story I offered to log on to PalTalk as a good looking young American lady to try to get in touch with Bil. I succeeded but only once and not for long. Definitely not long enough to find out more.
But I also found his PalTalk name on several dating sites and on Yahoo.
Via Yahoo (I am not going to reveal how) I found his US girlfriend. Where she was living, her age and I even spoke to her, telling I dialled the wrong number. So she did exists. But I found more girlfriends!! Bil was not only cheating on his wife but also his girlfriends!
I reported my findings to my friend who went to see his sister.
I don’t have to explain that she was hurt but also relieved. Bil left the house soon after and right now both are happily divorced and both are doing better then during the last few years of their marriage.
Would I have been as successful by using Skype? I doubt very much! At the other hand, don’t underestimate my detective skills… ;-)
Posted by Helen Varras at 10:28 am
Monday, September 04, 2006
Skype hands free
It is well known how much I love my Bluetooth Headsets. I use three, not the most up to date ones but they are of a very good quality.
The Sony Ericsson HBH - 600 during driving, the HBH - 608 for one of my Skype accounts and the Logitech Mobile Freedom is my loyal and faithful back-up.
Running different Skype accounts on one computer, I also use different sound devices.
Next to Bluetooth, I also use the Tiptel Cyberbox 250 which allows me to use my landline and Skype with my DECT phone. Being an official dealer of Titpel Netherlands is not the reason why the 250 is my favourite ‘toy’, it is a great and useful product which also allows me to call my Skype contacts from any other landline or mobile.
Another useful product is the Polycom Communicator which offers not only hands free calling with Skype but also conferencing due to its two microphones. I have been Beta testing this useful product and was impressed by its functionality and sound.
It is useful, looks nice and because it is small, it is easy to take it anywhere your laptop goes.
And if you need private conversations, just plug in your earphone.
The Skype certified Communicator is available in a sophisticated bleu colour.
Agreed, 129 US Dollars isn’t cheap but it is worth it.
Posted by Helen Varras at 1:41 pm
Skype illeagal in Marocco?
We know that the UAE blocks Skype. Will Marroco follow?
According to an article from the Maroc IT Blog, Skype will be curtailed as it is deemed an illegal activity.
AmiVois vs. Skype in Morocco
It is anticipated that Amitelo’s AmiVois VoIP Softphone (a Skype like application) will soon be incorporated into Maroc Telecom’s Menara portal. With this VoIP development on the local market, I suspect that access to Skype will be curtailed as it is deemed an illegal activity. If Skype is blocked and AmiVois is successfuly launched and quickly adopted, it will drive more traffic to the Menara portal (Menara is already one on the top destinations). This in turn will make the Menara portal the premier destination in Morocco and boost its advertising revenues. Sounds like Maroc Telecom has more tricks up its sleeves, stay tuned…
Posted by Helen Varras at 12:48 am
Sunday, September 03, 2006
We often come across unusual Forum posts. But tonight I replied to one I have never seen before: someone sold his/her grandmother……
User: Hello. I am a bit of an idiot and am wondering if someone less idiotic may be able to help as my question is evidently not frequently asked. How the hell do I change my skypeout bank details? I want the money to come out of a different account now that I have sold my Grandmother and become a little better off than before. The 'accounts' page doesn't seem to lead anywhere useful...
Me: QUOTE now that I have sold my Grandmother UNQUOTE
User: She had to go. The new owners are very happy and take her to bingo on Mondays. My dad visits every so often and takes biscuits. It's great - I have a new car.
Me: You confuse me.... you sold your grandmother. The people who bought her are now the new owners of your grandmother... (sad face) And for the money they paid for her, you bought a new car???
User: This is correct. It is a pick-up truck, like the one on baywatch but red. Grandma would have loved it.
Now it is your turn my dear blog reader…
Posted by Helen Varras at 9:36 pm
Skype beyond our earthly existence
We already know that Skype is not only a great Internet Telephony Program but it is also great for chatting and brainstorming.
Jean Mercier and I occasionally use Skype for playing with words. Both being multilingual, this is great fun. We can mix words to silly sentences and add whole new dimensions to expressions, emoticons and the use of Skype.
We both love Skype and are more or less addicted to it. It was Jean who caused my Skype Blog fever. He sent me the link of his blog 24 hours after he started it. I liked it so much and a few hours later I sent him the link of my blog. Ever since, we post almost daily, no competitors: we have different subjects and a different lay-out.
We talked about using Skype for ever, even when we do not wander around on Mother Earth anymore as human beings.
Already there is so much possible with Skype and third parties plug in’s like leaving your computer at home, going anywhere with an Internet connection, using remote control and log on to your computer.
When I finished my Cancer Treatments in 2004, I ‘signed up’ for living another 50 years so without any doubt, I will witness even more revolutionary inventions.
With Video we can see eachother no matter where we are. And not only that, we can talk too!
With Unyte we can share each other’s desktop, viewing documents or even better, work on it together.
Will we be able to extend the remote control options? If so, the conversation of 29-08-2007 with Jean about 7.000.000 users on-line, would make a lot of sense……..
Jean: I promise you we will reach the 7.000.000 today and I keep my promise, even if I drop dead in 2 minutes!
Me : you wouldn’t be able to blog anymore. Give me your password and your story and I blog it and honour you posthumous.
Jean: Tstststssssssss……. I use the Alpha version of Skype to chat and call with the hereafter. It also works the other way round; I can log on to my desktop via Unyte and blog it myself.
Posted by Helen Varras at 1:01 pm
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Special people: Azri
A week ago I introduced Micheaux to you. Today I would like you to meet another special person in my contact list.
Almost a year ago, to be precisely November 2005, Azri reported a problem on Skype’s Support Forum. A problem that couldn’t be solved straight away. It took a long time until he could use his account again. I dealt mostly with Azri and he became more ore less my Forum Protégée. I added him to my personal account to make sure he wasn’t forgotten.
And why did I do that? Because Azri was and still is one of the most polite, kind and friendly people I know, with a great and appealing sense of humour. He never got angry and was very patient. He impressed me.
Azri was born 21 years ago Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia as the youngest son of a family of 8: father (retired), mother (“mom is still keeping the cooking pots hot. Haha”), brother (MD) and 4 sisters, all happily married. Azri’s girlfriend Aleeya lives in New Zealand.
He moved to London at the age of 8. “Since I was little, I have been travelling all over the world. This summer I’ve been to Indonesia, Thailand, all around Malaysia, and soon Paris & Amsterdam (mid September). I am heading back to London on the 9th of September where I am studying accounting and finance but law was a subject I had last semester.”
Apart from studying, Azri also has a few hobbies such as Golf, the occasional shopping spree and buying cars. His brother in law owns a Honda 3S (Sales, Service, Sparepart) dealership in Kuala Lumpur and this year Azri has been appointed the Director of Operations. Reason for him to go back to Malaysia more often in the future.
Not a lazy man our Azri!
I asked him when he started to use Skype. “I was quite active in the Cyber Games scene back in 2001 and we used Ventrillo, MSN, Team-speak for voice communication during games.
A friend of mine, Ralf, introduced Skype to a group of us. His father was first to find out about it.
We use it for a while but it wasn’t the best method. I had Skype installed but rarely used it for about a year or so but started using it again in Sept 2004.
Since then, I have introduced Skype to the following:
My online friends, my girlfriend in October 2005, my sister and brother in law in Malaysia in December 2004, my sister and brother in law in London in January 2005, my mom who is completely new to computers, in March 2006 and my friend in Singapore early 2005”
Do you only use Skype to keep in touch with your family and friends?
“No, also for my study (group projects and asking for help from others) and my work.
I also use it to keep track of my staff: video conferencing with my sales manager and supervisors in Kuala Lumpur almost every day.”
Azri definitely makes good use of Skype, a loyal customer. What are his thoughts about Skype?
“From what is see, people do try and download Skype, but then they fail to use it as a general tool for communication.
SkypeOut was the influencing factor which made me stick to Skype. I have used Callserve, and various others Internet calling apps to make cheaper international calls but they all used to have a $50 limit per day.
Skype’s ongoing improvements and new added features are so important to make sure the program will cater for all.”
Azri, thank you ever so much for your precious time. I wish you good luck with your study and your job(s) and hope to be the witness of your successful life. A hug for you and your family, especially your parents; they raised a wonderful “kid”!
Posted by Helen Varras at 1:20 pm
Friday, September 01, 2006
How to Install Skype
For some (and definitely the Wiz kids) no problem at all, for others it can be; visit our Support Forum and read the basic questions.
Skype offers starters-help by going to Skype -> Help -> Getting Started and advanced help through the knowledge base, but not everything seems to be clear to everyone. Understandable as it is getting more and more advanced.
But there is help. Harry Max and Taylor Ray wrote the book ‘Skype, The Definitive Guide’
About the authors:
Harry Max is a consultant and professional development coach who works with visionary technologists. As an early Web pioneer, Harry designed the first secure online shopping cart (Virtual Vineyards/Wine.com) and founded Public Mind, an online customer feedback system used by Google, Handspring, Foveon, the DMA, Kontiki, QuickArrow, and Skype. Harry is an active member the Board of Advisors of the Information Architecture Institute and speaks frequently on such topics as "Innovation is Improv." He is currently working on solutions for identity theft prevention.
Taylor Ray is an avid Skype user and former Deloitte & Touche consultant who now spends her time helping smart people become better understood. She has undergraduate degrees in linguistics and neuroscience and a graduate degree in adult education. Taylor splits her time between Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, where she is developing a career in comedic film and television.
For more info about the Guide and how to order, go here
Posted by Helen Varras at 3:22 pm
A children’s phone? Or is there still a child inside us..
I am always interested in new Skype phones. I am using different devices, some extremely useful, others a bit less.
Today I found a new phone on the web……… for children or is there still a child inside us?
Verballs - novelty talking Skype telephones
Unless you've got one of the new cordless models, chances are you're say staring at a PC when you make a VoIP call. Which is where the Verballs can help.
The five Verballs available are novelty Skype phones that "bring your callers’ voice to life" as you chat. Each Verball contains a speaker and a hands-free microphone so that you can chat over the internet (but there's also a headphone socket if you want to keep things private). When a call comes in, your Verball’s horns will light up, wave his arms frantically and play your choice of ringtone.
And for when you're not chatting, the Verballs double up as speakers for a PC. Available now from Evesham, they're priced at £29.99 each.
Find out more
Posted by Helen Varras at 12:54 pm
A new ‘Browzar’
Where others love Firefox and/or Opera, I love Internet Expolerer 7.
As soon as the Beta version was launched, I downloaded it and survived all the bugs.
Yes, there is still room for improvements but that is how it should be: No Improvements, No Future.
Of course I use Firefox as well but IE7 is my main browser.
Today I read an article about a new browser called ‘Browzar’.
Browzar automatically deletes Internet caches, histories, cookies, and auto-complete forms. Auto-complete is the feature that anticipates the search term or Web address a user might enter by relying on information previously entered into the browser.
Browzar is the brainchild of Ajaz Ahmed, the man behind Freeserve, the first U.K. Internet service provider to offer free Internet access to customers in the late 1990s. He sold Freeserve - which quickly became the U.K.'s largest ISP - to France Telecom's Wanadoo operation in 2001 for $3 billion.
I downloaded the ‘black version’. It looks nice, is very simple to use and understand and definitely ideal for those who are not very familiar with Internet and all it’s dangerous cookies.
It is basic, ok. But didn’t Skype start as a basic program???
Read more here
Posted by Helen Varras at 9:46 am