Archive for the ‘phone’ Category

Skype – It’s not the Problem, it’s how They Handled It

August 18, 2007

Skype appears to be starting to become available. I have been able to access it consistently for several hours. But it is hard to find out how many people are still without Skype and if you cannot get Skype yet, please send me a comment so we can keep track of what the real picture is.

Skype has not been forthcoming at all with what the problem is and there is much speculation that it was caused either by the planned maintenance that took place right before Skype went down, or by a hacker attack or both, through an opening while performing the system maintenance. Here is a good article by PCWorld on why people feel it could have been an attack and it says:

“eBay attributes the outage to a problem in a Skype networking algorithm, but code has been posted to a Russian security discussion forum that could supposedly be used to knock the service offline in a DOS (denial of service) attack.

The code, which was published anonymously, appears to be capable of forcing Skype’s servers to freeze up, said the discussion forum site’s editor, Valery Marchuk, in a posting to the Full Disclosure security discussion list. “Reportedly, it must have caused Skype massive disconnections,” he wrote.”

Even though Skype/ebay denies either of these and is blaming it on a “software problem” (could they be any more vague?), they are both not unreasonable scenarios. Skype is only going to quell any rumors if it gives a good and specific reason as to what happened. They can, and obviously would, say whatever they felt was the safest and less likely to frighten customers away. And that is not unusual, that is what any company would do.

Look at 365 Main when the big outage hit San Francisco a couple weeks ago. Rather than saying they didn’t have proper power backup systems (UPS), a company representative said “Someone came in sh*tfaced drunk, got angry, went berserk, and f**ked up a lot of stuff. There’s an outage on 40 or so racks at minimum.” ValleyWag had a good article on this with lots of interesting links.

While Skype is not updating us on the situation, you can go to the original post on the Skype blog about Skype login problems and read the comments to see what is going on with people in different areas. And here is the latest update at midnight GMT August 18 on the heartbeat.skype.com official Skype site. Basically, it says “We are pleased to announce that the situation continues to improve. The sign-on problems have been resolved. Skype presence and chat may still take a few more hours to be fully operational.” I wonder if all the sign-on problems are now resolved. There are about 4 million users online at this moment. That is less than usual, but some may not have tried to get back on so it is hard to tell.

Skype has been really reliable and this is a rare occuraence, but I think that Skype did a very poor job of keeping people updated. Many people didn’t even know there was a general Skype problem and spent a lot of time trying to figure out why their Skype was not working.

Skype has everyone’s email address that uses Skype and they could have easily sent out emails to everyone stating the situation and giving regular updates (and specifics on what they are finding wrong and what they are doing to correct it).

People say “Skype is free so who are you to complain?”. Well, many, many people actually pay for Skype, believe it or not, and use it for their businesses, their help desks, their contacts and their phone system. I am a paying customer of Skype. At the very least, they owe it to the people who pay for their service to provide a better communication than just a couple posts on their heartbeat website saying nothing more than Skype is having problems and they are working on it.

According to GigaOm’s post on Skype Groans and SIPhone Gains: “The company saw a 400% increase in traffic this morning, with 4 times increase in sales, calls and downloads of its Gizmo Project software. “It is interesting to see that voice callers are transitory,” Michael Robertson, founder, SIPphone wrote in an email.”

Yes, voice callers ARE transitory. And people who change to Gizmo Project, or use Jajah or any of the other ways to make calls, very well may not go back. And while you can say that these may not be the paying customers, people who use Skype for free today, are the paying customers of tomorrow. I used it for free until I decided it was good and I wanted to expand what I could do. And I recommend it to other people who do business in other countries.

I am going to wait and see how this plays out before I recommend Skype again. I have always said that you can tell more about a company by the way they handle problems, than by how well they do when there are no problems. Every company has occasional problems, its how they are handled when they happen that makes the difference.

~Susan Mellott

No Skype yet (Infoworld article to the contrary)

August 17, 2007

Well I got up this morning and despite my hopes that Skype would be up, especially since it was partly up last night, no such luck. I did see it briefly flicker on this morning (for about 15 seconds), but essentially it is completely unavailable for me.

Interestingly enough, in my Skype Yahoo News feed, there is a big headline from Infoword that says Outage of Skype’s VoIP Service appears to be Over. Uh, I don’t think so. Upon reading the article, it goes on to say: “At 3:53 a.m. GMT, Skype seemed to be operating normally, with users in Asia able to log in, view their contact lists, place calls, and send messages.” OK, I gues they should have said the outage seems to be over in Asia, because it sure isn’t over in the U.S.

Skype has been posting short updates on its Skype Heartbeat blog. The latest was at 11am GMT. They are really not giving a lot of information at all in their posts. They certainly are not giving any indications what the problem is, although they are quick to say what the problems aren’t, as in this from the latest post: “Finally, we’d like to dispel a couple of theories that we are still hearing. Neither Wednesday’s planned maintenance of our web-based payment services nor any form of attack was related to the current sign-on issues in any way”

I’m sorry, but when you make a big deal about Skype being down for planned maintenance the night of the 15th and on the 16th everything is broke, I’d tend to look a what was done during the maintenance because as any programmer or computer person knows, if something goes wrong, you try to figure out what was changed and that is a good place to start. Skype did mention on one of its updates that there was a deficiency in an algorithm (whatever that means).

The VoIP Guides blog says “The Real issue was because of a deficiency in an algorithm within Skype networking software. This controls the interaction between the user’s own Skype client and the rest of the Skype network. We at VOIP Guide feel, the issue was related to authentication algorithm used on their P2P network which uses a very speculative “supernodes” technology. If anyone of you have read our very interesting article on “skype supernodes and vulnerability“, you would probably know how insecure skype could be.”

They go on to explain more about this. Unfortunately, their link to the article on skype supernodes and vulnerability does not work. I did find this article of their about the issues with supernodes.

They have a pretty decent site with a lot of information (if you can get past all the advertisements). They also mentioned Jajah software as an alternative to Skype and I have heard of Jajah as well as Gizmo Project. From the sound of it, Jajah may be easier and quicker to use, especially for a quick, short term solution.

If this keeps up (Skype stays down) then I will have to check these out and I will post my results then.

And it seems that Infoworld retracted its previous statement and has released an article saying that Skype problems may continue throughout the day.

~Susan Mellott

Skype is Back! Well, up and down…

August 17, 2007

Skype is up again! Well, it is fluctuating on and off but it appears to be getting there. Skype Heartbeat issued this statement at 2:15am GMT saying essentially that they are working on the problem and feel they are making progress (could they say any less and still issue a statement?).

I’m going to bed and hopefully it will be good to go tomorrow morning. And I do have to say that I think Skype is in general a very reliable piece of software. I can’t remember it going down before. But the problem is that so many people rely so heavily on Skype now that Skype going down is like losing your entire phone service.

I got an email from someone who said that their business phones were run completely through Skype and they are having to try to contact people (and be contacted by people) completely through email until this gets resolved. But I’m betting it will be fixed when I get up (fingers crossed).

And if people doubt that Skype is a major player and extremely important to people, just because of my posts on Skype being down, My first Skype post was #27 on the Top Posts on WordPress.com today and my All Things Web 2.0 blog was #5 in the WordPress.com list of fastest growing blogs. Ah, the fame! It will be back to reality tomorrow though 🙂 So Thank You Skype for that, anyway 🙂

Susan Mellott

Skype is down – Are there Alternatives? Yes!

August 16, 2007

Well, there has been an overwhelming interest in my last post about Skype being down. So I thought I would do a little research for people into what alternatives there were. Gizmo seems to be the big competitor and is highly regarded. Here is a great article by ZDNet on Skype vs. Gizmo and the comments are equally interesting. Here is a list of some popular voip providers with a little bit about each one. And here is a much more in-depth comparison of Skype to Gizmo called Crowning the King of Free Talk-Skype vs Gizmo. And here is a list from C/Net Download.com of bunch of net phones, sorted by user rating (although it is confusing because the rating and number of users don’t seem to match when you go to detail of each – maybe best to sort by editor rating?).

And of course, let’s not forget the wikipedia entries for Gizmo Project and Skype and a very comprehensive entry on Comparison of Voip Software (I’d only check out the ones with links, there are a million of them on here).

That is a lot of information, but for even more, you can search on “free internet skype gizmo reviews” and get a ton of information about Skype, Gizmo Project and other VOIP software.

If you are here because Skype is down, I’d check out Gizmo Project. It sounds easy and good and of course, free. And if you are just trying to figure out what to use, these reviews and information should help. At one time I would have said Skype, hands down. I still really like Skype, but I can’t say I feel it is the only game in town anymore.

Here is a link to the original post from Skype. And again, you can go here for updates from Skype on the situation. This is their latest communication:

“Hello everyone,

Apologies for the delay, but we can now update you on the Skype sign-on issue. As we continue to work hard at resolving the problem, we wanted to dispel some of the concerns that you may have. The Skype system has not crashed or been victim of a cyber attack. We love our customers too much to let that happen. This problem occurred because of a deficiency in an algorithm within Skype networking software. This controls the interaction between the user’s own Skype client and the rest of the Skype network.

Rest assured that everyone at Skype is working around the clock — from Tallinn to Luxembourg to San Jose — to resume normal service as quickly as possible.

(Updated at 10pm GMT)”

~Susan Mellott