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

Las Vegas, baby!

August 14, 2007

I haven’t been posting as much because I’m trying to get my new WordPress installation configured and plug-ins added, etc. But I’ve been working my butt off! Since my birthday is coming up, I was trying to come up with something to do.

Then Vi told Sean about a deal that Allegiant Air is having where if you book one fly/hotel package, the 2nd person flies free. I never quite trust that sort of promotion because I have checked it before and it has come out about the same, or cheaper if I look for hotel deals myself. But this actually ended up being a good deal!

If we each got regular airfare ($158+tax pp) then the hotel ends up being like $29 a night total. I think it was approximately $450 total for the 2 of us to fly from Fort Wayne to Las Vegas and stay 3 nights at the Imperial Palace. I picked the Imperial Palace because it is cheap and very centrally located. This is where we usually stay since it’s right in the middle of everything and you can’t beat the price! I know there are snobs who say the Imperial Palace is tacky and old and they would never stay there, but we’ve stayed there many times and been very happy with it. Its cost/benefit ratio is the best, IMO.

And we were very lucky that the kennel could take our dogs since it would be so near Labor Day. The dog’s room costs almost as much as ours.

And while looking for what shows we might want to go see, I found a promotion through Ticketmaster where you can get seats to the Cirque de Soleil shows for half price! They are the less desirable seats, but in the specially designed Cirque de Soleil theaters it is hard to find a really bad seat. When we went to see Mystere’ we got the nosebleed seats in the middle because they are actually some of the best seats because so much happens in the air that you can see it all without having to twist your neck trying to see straight up. I found that tip on the internet before we went and it was a very good one. The seats are about $50 less than the “good” ones and they are arguably, as good or better. Again, high cost/benefit ratio.

Some people might call me obsessive about deals but since I’m obsessive about everything, it comes in handy here. I’m all about good value for your money!

~Susan Mellott

Web 2.0 – Odiogo on WordPress (self-hosted)

August 13, 2007

Late last week, I had found out about Odiogo which changes your blog text to speech (see my post on 8/11/2007) and had tried adding it to my blogs. At the time, I had a Google Blogger blog and a WordPress blog hosted on WordPress.com.

It worked just fine adding it to my Google Blogger blog, but it turns out there is no way to add it to a WordPress.com hosted blog. This was a big black mark against WordPress.com blogs in my opinion.

Since then, we have set up our own domain and I created a subdomain of my own (clear.bluedei.com) and set up my own WordPress blog on there and supposedly, it was possible to use Odiogo on a self-hosted WordPress blog so I created my feed and submitted my request to Odiogo and waited impatiently for my confirmation email to arrive from them.

It came this afternoon, so I then tried setting up Odiogo on my new blog. It was amazingly easy! I just downloaded the plugin from the link in the confirmation email, ftp’ed it to my wp-content/plugins subdirectory on my subdomain and set it up on my blog. Now I have an odiogo feed button on my sidebar so people can subscribe to my audio feed and each time I create a post, the odiogo ‘listen now’ button is automatically added to my post.

Here are the actual instructions that were very clear and easy to follow.

1. Download the plugin

2. Upload directory odiogo_listen_button to your /wp-content/plugins/ directory via FTP

3. Login to your WordPress admin account and activate the Odiogo Listen Button plugin through the Plugins menu

4. Click Menu Options > Odiogo Listen Button

5. Enter your Odiogo Feed ID and click Save
Your Odiogo Feed ID is xxxxx.

6. Click menu Presentation > Widgets (or Sidebar Widgets depending on your WP version)

7. Drag and drop Odiogo Subscribe Button from Available Widgets to Sidebar

8. Click Save Changes

Here is a link to the Odiogo FAQ page. I noticed that people have been trying to find out why their feeds were being cut off before they were done. You can find the answer on this FAQ page by looking under “How do I activate RSS full text option on…” and they have one for Typepad, WordPress and Blogger.

It is really a neat and useful tool and I’m very glad I can add it to my new blog.

~Susan Mellott

Picking a Web Hosting Company for our Site and Blogs

August 13, 2007

We had decided that we wanted to go with a web hosting company so we could set up our own site. I did some research and here is what we decided.

We went with Inmotion Hosting. I did some research and they looked like they had very good uptime and support and the features we wanted, at a reasonable price. We pay $9.95 a month and got a free domain (with the 12-month package). If you get the 24 month package, it is $8.95 a month. I picked it especially because it is supposed to have very good customer service and it had a decent package (Power Business class – the middle business class plan) for a decent price.

Another company I considered was Host Gator. It was also supposed to be good. It was about the same price for similar features. And LunarPages got excellent reviews but had less plans. Actually, I might have gone with Blue Host instead, had I found it earlier. When I went to WordPress.org to set up WordPress on my site, they recommended it and it looks good and is cheaper. What I particularly liked about it was that they had an active developers forum where members helped each other.

CPanel is really a nice tool to manage your site and Fantastico is an easy way to install things (like WordPress). Subdomains are where you can add something to the front of your domain name, like I created clear.bluedei.com for my blog and Sean is thinking about deep.bluedei.com for his. You could also set up say support.bluedei.com or store.bluedei.com. Ours allows 50 mySQL databases. Some have less and some have unlimited. It appears that when something is installed through fantastico, it takes a database so it is good to have plenty (or at least more than you think you need).

Also, the web hosting companies have different servers that they can put you on and if you plan to do development or leading edge stuff, be sure to ask for one with the latest versions installed (like php or mySQL) since not all of them do.

You can do a search on: web hosting reviews, to get sites with ratings, reviews and overviews of the different web hosting companies. And here is a link to a blog post on MySitesAdvisor called Review of 3 Reliable Web Hosts that looks at 3 web hosts that they like. Blue Host was also on their list. They also have a post on 5 Keys to Choosing a Better Web Host that has a lot of good information in general on what to look for in a Web Hosting service.

We are in the process of setting up our own site at bluedei.com. We haven’t done the front web page yet, but I have set up a subdomain clear.bluedei.com and installed WordPress there and copied my posts over and am working on getting it set up. You can take a look if you want, but it is still a work in progress as I figure out themes and plug-ins and whatnot. I will do another post about the difference between WordPress hosted by them at wordpress.com and WordPress that you host on your own domain.

But this is the first step to having our own site.

~Susan Mellott

Web 2.0 – Convert your post texts to speech with Odiogo!

August 11, 2007

I was looking at a Blog called Just Giblets and I noticed a widget at the top of each of their posts that said “listen now”. So I clicked on it and it read the entire post by converting the text to speech! I tried other posts and it did the same for every post. And as I was going down their posts, I found one called “Do you notice anything different?” that explained more about Odiogo.

So I went to the Odiogo website and started looking at how I could add it my own posts. As it turned out, I ran into yet another limitation of WordPress (hosted on wordpress.com). It does not allow you to use this feature since it restricts some of the things Odiogo needs to use.

So I re-signed up with Odiogo for my Google Blogger blog instead. After I got the confirmation email (it takes about a day), I followed the instructions, which required me to do nothing more than click a couple of links and buttons and voila! Each of my blogger posts had a “listen now” button. I didn’t even have to add it to each post, it is automatically added for me. On the some the earliest posts, when you click the listen now button, it says “Sorry, this article is not available yet.”, but most all of them are available now. Here is how it looked when I clicked on the listen now button. It is in the process of reading the post.
odiogo posts

As you can see, there are other formats you can also listen and download the post as. Odiogo also creates an audio feed stream that you can access from the blog using this button:

odigo feed

This takes you to this page where you can sign up for the audio feed of the posts using various feed readers, or can just listen to them from the page.

We are in the process of converting over to our own hosted site and I will transfer my WordPress blog there, which should allow me to add this to that blog (although not as easily as you can add it to a Blogger blog).

They also market it as a way to create podcasts easily by just writing your text and then converting it to audio. That is interesting but I’m not sure how much easier it is than just reading and recording it and that way you also have a human voice rather than a digital voice. But I didn’t really look into that much from their site and I’m sure they have a lot of other good uses for it. You can go here to learn more about their mainstream media, or here to learn more about adding it to blogs.

It is free to add to your blog and for some people, may generate revenue. I’m not sure what they are referring to by “ad income”, I have not really noticed any ads except for saying it is from odiogo. But in any case, it is free. This is what the site says “Not only is Odiogo free, it may be able to generate advertising revenues. Once your listenership reaches a significant level, you may qualify for a share of ad income! More technical details about the solution can be found here and in our FAQ. So what are you waiting for? Give your blog voice, and legs, now! “

I have friends and family with low vision and this seems like a wonderful addition to a blog to make it more accessible. And I believe that this is something that needs to be considered as Web 2.0 apps are being developed. Part of the concept of Web 2.0 is inclusiveness and being accessible and this shows how easily you can enhance your blogs to make them easier to access for everyone.

I hope this sparks your interest and helps people think about creating and looking for Web 2.0 applications that help make it accessible by everyone.

~Susan Mellott

Harry Potter in the Hood…

August 9, 2007

What can I say? Enjoy!

Thanks to just giblets for posting about this gem.

~Susan Mellott

Learning 2.0 – Library Genius 2.0 T-shirts!

August 9, 2007

Check out these Library Genius 2.0 T-shirts for the Allen County Public Library Learning 2.0 program, found on this post from the ACPL’s Innovation Through Technology Blog. Kay Gregg designed these shirts and all the icons associated with each Learning 2.0 course completed! They will be used to kick-off the ACPL Digital Collaborative’s Learning 2.0 presentation. Here is Kay modeling one of the new t-shirts:

Look at this post from ACPL’s IT blog on Library 2.0 Bling for a closeup of each icon. and here is a picture of the Learning Video 2.0 button.

For more information on the ACPL’s Learning 2.0, check out these posts from the ACPL Innovation Through Technology blog. And for what ACPL’s Digital Collaborative is creating for Learning 2.0, check out the ACPL DC Wiki’s21 Things“. Click on the links to see what each person has created. This wiki is a working wiki for the Digital Collaborative and is constantly being updated.

I want to be a Library Genius 2.0!

~Susan Mellott

Harry Potter 2.0: Sims Snape Teaches Dance

August 8, 2007

I was looking for episodes on the internet of some TV shows for my sister and was having a hard time finding “So You Think You Can Dance” (which apparently Fox does not put on their website). But I looked for anything on YouTube and found Snape teaches Slytherins to dance. It is excellent and was created using the game Sims 2.

And fourth-rose has also written a story that goes with the video, in which Professor Snape, in order to make sure Slytherin doesn’t make fools of themselves at the upcoming Yule Ball, teaches them to dance. It is absolutely hilarious and well worth the read.

Looking around, I found that people were writing additional Harry Potter stories using Sims to illustrate them. Here is a page of Sims outtakes from a chapter of one of those stories by CloudlessNights. You can find her work by checking out her tags and links, like Harry Potter starring The Sims: Book 1 – The Philosophers Stone and Book 2 – Chamber of Secrets.

She also has a great series called the Timeturner Incident written by the Sims. As she says in episode 1: “Please bear in mind that visiting sims can’t be controlled, so whatever they did, they did it all on their own accord. I was only watching in shock, awe and amusement, and taking a lot of pictures ;-)”

And check out the Harry Potter Sim Videos on YouTube. The assortment of creative ideas is outstanding. And there is an outstanding series of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with voice actors and everything. Here is chapter 1 (he has disabled embedding the video). These were created starting in October of 2005. It is interesting to compare to the movie.

And of course, if you just search on Sims, you end up with a ton of fun videos. Who would have thought people could be so creative with this new medium?

Enjoy.

~Susan Mellott

Politics 2.0 – Who is Web 2.0?

August 7, 2007

Thank you to Anonymous for writing me about this very interesting post: Dimensions of a Potentially Postponed GOP CNN/YouTube Debate .

This post was written by Alex Hammer so I looked up Alex Hammer’s bio and found: “Alex Hammer was a 2006 Independent candidate for Governor of Maine. He is the owner of Media 2.0, including Politics 2.0 (www.hammer2006.blogspot.com). Politics 2.0 focuses on “What’s now and what’s next” in Presidential politics and politics generally. Alex is a columnist for The Magic City Morning Star (www.magic-city-news.com) and a regular guest columnist for The Moderate Voice (www.themoderatevoice.com). Previously, for a decade, Alex was owner of HSC Media, a five-division NYC area based online media company.”

His blog on Politics 2.0 has the most amazing blogroll list of politician’s online sites like their myspace, twitter, facebook, etc. You might want to go check out who all is doing what Web 2.0 applications.

Here is just a sampling of links from his list:

Joe Biden Blog
Joe Biden MySpace Site
Joe Biden Senate Website
Joe Biden Twitter
Joe Biden Website
Joe Biden Wikipedia
Joe Biden YouTube Videos
John Edwards MySpace Site
John Edwards Twitter
John Edwards Website
John Edwards Wikipedia Bio
John Edwards YouTube Videos
John McCain MySpace Site

~Susan Mellott