Archive for the ‘phones’ Category

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

Skype Down! Many users unable to log in or make calls

August 16, 2007

We had a big thunderstorm/tornado warning last night and lost power several times so I disconnected my computer. When I reconnected it this morning (and reset a couple of power strips), everything was fine except Skype would not connect. I wondered what was going on, but was just happy to be all up and running except for that so I just let it go and kept waiting for it to connect.

Then I started reading all my “My Yahoo” feeds and I have one for Skype and saw that there were big problems with Skype. Here is an Associated Press article about it from Germany.

Infoword said in its article that “The problem appears to be affecting users particularly in Europe, according to blog postings. Users in the U.S. don’t seem to be having problems.”. I’m afraid they are mistaken, because I can tell you this U.S. user is having a problem!

According to the Skype blog post called Problems with Skype Login, dated August 16 (today):

“UPDATED 14:02 GMT: Some of you may be having problems logging into Skype. Our engineering team has determined that it’s a software issue. We expect this to be resolved within 12 to 24 hours. Meanwhile, you can simply leave your Skype client running and as soon as the issue is resolved, you will be logged in. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Additionally, downloads of Skype have been temporarily disabled. We will make downloads available again as quickly as possible.”

And if you read the Skype blog post from yesterday Aug 15, they had planned to do maintenance and some services would be unable yesterday and then they added an update: “The planned maintenance was completed at 15.08.2007 7:10 GMT and now all systems work normally again.” Oops! maybe not… 🙂

Skype is courting businesses right at the moment and has a lot of marketing going on and this is not going to help one bit. Reliability of phone service is paramount to business and there are several other internet phone systems competing for their business.

And many, many of the individuals who use it really count on it too. It has millions of users and if you read the comments from them, this affects many of them, as of course you would expect. And it is even easier for an individual to download and use another option for now because they can’t use Skype and then very possibly, stay with the new provider instead.

I know that a lot of people use and like Gizmo which is another “free phone for your computer”. I had thought of looking into Gizmo but was happy with Skype. If the outage goes on with Skype, I will probably install Gizmo just to have an internet phone. And if I like it better, Skype may have lost a customer (paying customer, too). It will be interesting to see what effect this has on Skype.

~Susan Mellott

Phone 2.0 – Skype!

July 27, 2007

Have you tried Skype yet? If not, why not?! Probably because you couldn’t think of a good reason to use Skype over your regular phone or cell phone, especially since you can make free long-distance calls with your cell phone, which at one time would have been a good reason to use something like Skype.

I had the same thoughts when my mom and uncle started using Skype and were trying to get us to set it up. I waited quite a while before setting it up, just because it seemed like a hassle and I couldn’t think of a good reason for it.

Well, I have changed my mind! I installed Skype for us and surprise! It was a piece of cake to install (really! even for people who are not comfortable with computers) and we found so many uses for it that I am surprised that we did without it before. Here are some of the things we use it for:

1. For absolutely free, we can talk to my husband’s brother who is going to school in Italy. And since it is much easier for him to be online than to be near a phone, we can talk to him frequently where otherwise we would not easily be able to get a hold of him. Skype makes it very easy to know when someone is available and online, the symbol for that person turns green.

2. Again free, we can all talk to him in a family conference call where anyone who is online can be conferenced into a call. So we can all catch up on everyone at the same time and we can also make plans or discuss things in a group instead of playing “he said, she said”.

3. My sister just moved to Florida for 13 weeks (and will be traveling around the U.S. since she is a traveling surgical tech). She has set up Skype and a web cam at home and on her laptop. So she and her husband can talk to each other and see each other at the same time. When you are away from loved ones, seeing them is very good. Free!

4. And my sister just became a grandmother for the first time. So she can use Skype and the webcam to see her granddaughter and to see her get bigger and all the new things a baby does. It just isn’t the same at all to look at pictures. And of course, she talks to Grace and Grace gets to see and interact with her too (or at least hear her voice, she is still a a very new baby). Need I say it – free!

5. My husband’s father and mother live in New Zealand. So of course it is expensive to call them. And one doesn’t even have a computer and the other is not very computer-literate so she doesn’t have Skype installed (and may never). But for $29.95 a year, we can call any regular or cell phone in the US and Canada. And for 2.1 cents a minute (plus a small connection fee), we can call any regular phone in New Zealand. This is much, much cheaper than calling international long distance on our land line.

Having this, we could get rid of our international calling plan and for that matter, we could get rid of our long distance on our regular phone altogether since we can use our cell phone or skype to call national long-distance and Skype for international. Take a look at your phone bill sometime, especially if you call international long distance, and see how much you spend each month for that service. It’s not just the per-minute fee, but all the taxes they add on each month, and you only have to make 1 long-distance call to incur a ton of extra charges.

The different countries have different rates but for the vast majority of them, they are considerably cheaper. And of course, if the other party has Skype, it is absolutely FREE!

6. A friend of ours has a business that takes him out of the US regularly since he has offices both here and in England. I think that what he has done is to set up two SkypeIn phone numbers, one for the US and one for England. That way people in either location can call a long-distance number in their own country (so it is free from their cell phone). And he can be anywhere and get the call. He can be sitting on the shore in England and take a call to his US number. To get a SkypeIn number (a number that anyone can call from a regular phone, it looks like a regular phone number), it is $60 a year and includes free voice mail.

Also, even if you live in the US, if most of your business is done in a different country, you can get a SkypeIn number for that country and people can call you on a phone number that is local to them. I have another friend who does a lot of business in Japan and if he is not using this, he really should. I’ll have to ask him because it would be really useful for him.

7. Until we had a lightening strike that took it out (!), we had set up a small device that plugged into our phone and into our computer. We have a phone setup that has 1 base phone and then 3 phones you can plug in anywhere, they don’t need a phone line. We plugged the base unit into the device and then we could make and take Skype calls from any of our regular phones. We got it from and it worked great. It had lots of great features including call recording, voice mail, routing calls to and making calls from other phones (like our cell phone) and all sorts of neat things. They probably have newer models out now. We bought ours from von-phone.com. This is what we got:

AU-600 Skype Gateway with Remote Calling and Call Recording 1 $38.9

There are also many add-ons to Skype. Here is a list of Skype add-ons to record calls and take messages:

http://www.masternewmedia.org/online_collaboration/skype-recording/how-to-record-Skype-calls-tools-guide-20070624.htm

Note: PrettyMay and KishKish Sam are free

8. We have not used this yet since we haven’t had an international vacation lately (and I am NOT happy about that). But since we do normally do a lot of international traveling, we will be able to call people easily very easily, which is not usually the case. And as I understand, we will be able to call any US phone for free, regardless of where we are, because we have a Skype Unlimited US account. And of course, we can call other countries for the regular Skype Out International Rates.

Sean has also taken an old cell phone that doesn’t work anymore (was replaced with a different one) that has a wireless card and set Skype up on it. What that lets us do is to connect through the phone using a wireless connection rather than needing a computer. Since wireless connections are becoming ubiquitous really, throughout the world, it’s a good way to call people without having to haul a computer around.

I remember when I was “backpacking” through Thailand for a month in 2001 and even then, I could always find a computer with an internet connection, although finding a phone to call from was difficult and a hassle to use. Even in the tiny village of Pai (which took about 8 hours to get to from Chang Mai, riding on a big pickup truck with benches in the back), I could find a couple internet cafes. But there was only 1 public phone in the whole village, in the post office on the farthest end of town. To use it, I wait in this long line, then I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork (and didn’t really understand it all so they made me correct it several times) and then I had to dial a bunch of numbers that I couldn’t get to work and then there was a time limit of 10 minutes. And I knew I would be going at least a week before I could call him again. …But I digress… 🙂

Anyway, as you can see, these are uses that we have found for Skype so far. And I know there are many other great uses. But this made it worthwhile to us.

Do you think it might be worthwhile to you?

~Susan Mellott