Phones: It’s A VoIP New World
May 06, 2005
I’ve spent the past several years of my life putting together and administering two phone systems for MidWeek/Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and was even nicknamed “the phone queen.” So you could say that I’m pretty knowledgeable at telephony. I’ve always wanted to implement Internet telephony at work, but now it’s coming to consumers’ homes. The future of phones may possibly be VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) as the prices come down.
You may be wondering exactly what VoIP is. In simple terms, it’s a way for you to make telephone calls over your data networks. It’s based on packetswitching technology, which is used for data networks, such as the Internet, your office network or even your home network. This technology allows you to use a single network to support both your phone system and your computers.
You always hear those commercials that say something like, “experience the new V-o- I-P technology.” The truth is that it’s not that new. In fact, this technology has been around for nearly 10 years. It’s just that since high-speed Internet is becoming the norm, VoIP is becoming more and more popular in the home and in the office. Since all calls go over your data network, long distance calls are free, even to international numbers in some cases.
There are several companies that offer VoIP. The best, but probably the most expensive, is Oceanic Time Warner Cable. In addition to your cable and Road Runner bill, $39.95 a month gets you their digital phone service. The best feature is that you can keep your same phone number. Other features include most of the standards you would get with your regular phone such as caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding and 911 service. This plan includes all long distance to the Mainland and Canada. If you need to make international calls, there’s a per-minute charge depending on the country you’re dialing to, and voicemail is $3.95 a month. For more information or to subscribe, log onto www.timewarnercable.com or call 625-8100.
Vonage The Broadband Phone Company (www.vonage.com) is fairly reasonable at $24.99 a month for unlimited calls to anywhere in the United States or Canada. The drawback is that you cannot have a Hawaii area code. If you make a large amount of outgoing long-distance calls to the Mainland, and are OK with a non-Hawaii area code, this could be a good plan for you. It has most of the standard phone features, including 911 service. A lesser rate plan offered is $14.99 a month for a 500-minute limit.
The best deal, if you don’t mind having a strange area code or no 911 service, is with Broadvoice (www.broadvoice.com). It charges $19.95 for unlimited calls international (21 countries). If that’s not enough for you, it’s $24.95 for 35 countries. Just about all the standard features are also offered with Broadvoice.
Keep in mind that subscribing to a VoIP phone service would be the most economical if you already have high-speed Internet in your home, and if you make a lot of long distance phone calls. Also the voice quality may not be what you’re used to with a regular analog landline phone.
High Tech Microwave. I was recently faced with shopping for a new microwave oven and stumbled across something very interesting. It’s a microwave that will automatically figure out your cooking time after a quick scan of a barcode.
The Beyond Smart Microwave Oven, made by Westinghouse, is for a gadget geek who doesn’t mind spending a little more for an extra feature. Not only does it look like a nice modern-day stainless steel microwave, but it also comes pre-loaded with 4,000 barcodes and remembers your favorites as you use them. When new updates are available, it automatically updates its memory with new information from the Beyond Information Network database. The perfect times with the barcode scanning only works with pre-packaged food. Although I don’t eat a lot of pre-packaged food, it would sure prevent me from burning popcorn again (as I once did and made the whole office smell like burnt popcorn for two weeks!).
burnt popcorn for two weeks!). Otherwise, you use the Beyond just as a normal microwave. In order for the automatic updates to work, you need the iCEBOX entertainment center, which sells for $2,299.00 (flipscreen) or $1,499.00 (countertop), and a Beyond SANI (Smart Appliance Network Interface) card for $59.99. The Beyond Smart Microwave itself costs $237.99.
Beyond also offers a coffee maker and bread machine, both updatable with the SANI and iCEBOX. These, and the microwave are available at www.beyondconnectedhome.com.
These would be neat things to play with in your kitchen if you have the extra money for it. You’ll never overcook or undercook your pre-packaged foods again. And while it may be cool to have your kitchen devices networked, if your Internet connection goes down, you may have to order out for pizza instead.
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