VoIP Guide and Tips

Your VoIP Guide for Home and Business

Gizmo Project SoftPhone Review

At first glance, Gizmo Project seems like Skype. However, there are differences, some mentioned here before. One is an invisble feature, namely that Gizmo is SIP-based and therefore open sourced. So not only can you call other Gizmo members (PC, PSTN) but also members of other SIP-based networks. In fact, you can now at least IM Google Talk users, with actual softVoIP calling to come.

With the recent announcement, you can also call to PSTN phones in 60 countries for free - a potential market of 2 billion phones - provided the person you're calling is a registered member of Gizmo. If they're not, Gizmo CallOut (similar to SkypeOut) offers low per-minute rates. The free calling to 60 countries is a permanent feature, not a promo. (There is a noticeable absence of China and India on this list.)

Gizmo Call In gives you a free US-, UK-, France- or Spain-based phone number for US$3/m, payable in 3- or 12-month increments. Interesting that Canada is not part of that, especially considering Skype's 2006 promo for free calls between the US and Canada. (I.e., there's a VoIP market in Canada.) Over all, you can have a phone number from over 50 cities. (How cool would it be to have, say, an L.A. phone number yet live on the East Coast. East meets West.)

Essentially it means that if you live in one of the cities represented, you can travel and still receive calls as if you're local. Less cost for your friends. It's also ideal for people who've moved - or relocated temporarily - and want friends and family to be able to contact them without long distance charges.

One other call option is an US-based Area775 number, although in the same breath it's described as being both free and costing a small monthly fee. (Don't know how that's possible.) When other people dial your Area775 number, it can call both your computer or regular phone. Calls can be screened, transferred, or shuttled to voicemail. The latter has the option of generating SMS messages. (Having your regular phone called costs $2/call.)

For those of you that get calls from strangers - like I occasionally do - Gizmo Project has a Google map that shows you their call location. This is ideal for for flagging potential Vishers who tell you that they're from somewhere else.

If you have need of conference calling, Gizmo Project has FreeConferenceCallTM, which allows calls between landlines, cell phones, and Gizmo softVoIP users. Gizmo users initiate the call with a free conferencing number. Other phones have to dial a (non-toll-free) number, then the conference room #. Of course, if other callers are using Gizmo, there's no long distance cost.

There's also support for Asterisk PBX, an open source PBX designed for enterprise VoIP, and a host of other features. Or if you want to make outbound calls from a PSTN phone, you can buy Gizmo-compatible SIP adapters.

Finally, if you're a developer and want to build VoIP applications, they have an API (Application Programmer Interface) and SDK (Software Development Kit) for both Windows and Mac OS X, with a Linux SDK coming soon. The SDKs are unfortunately only in C++, but a lot of Java and other object-oriented programmers do not have too much trouble with C++.

At the most basic level, the API and SDK allow you to create your own branded SIP-based softVoIP phone, so businesses could have a soft client with their logo.

Gizmo Project is available for Windows 2000 + XP, Mac OS X, Linux, and the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet. They're a member of the IM Federation, an organization promoting IM network intercompatibility.

How To Improve VoIP Call Audio Quality

The consumer market for VoIP grew by over 250 percent in 2005. This refers to people who actually subscribed to a VoIP service, which amounts to over 3 million people. That number is expected to nearly triple in 2006, and be nearly ten times in 2009. Call audio quality is going to be an issue sooner or later, if it has not become one already.

Besides hardware-based VoIP, many more people are using soft clients such as Skype, including some PDA users, without any subscription plan. Some may even be using the voice capabilities of IM (Instant Messaging) clients such as Google Talk or MSN Messenger. For Skype alone, there are an estimated 100 million users worldwide.

Up till now, people may be putting up with poor call quality, simple because for soft client users, VoIP calls are very cheap or even free. My own experience suggests poor audio quality is fairly common. If you're a VoIP soft client user, here are a few things to consider, to improve your audio quality:

(1) Don't use a $1 microphone if you intend to record VoIP calls, particularly for podcasts. You mic doesn't have to be expensive either. You're not recording vocal tracks for a music CD. For standard calls that will not be rebroadcast, you can probably use a sub-$30 mic or headphone + mic headset combo. (My $1 mic works just fine, if my laptop RAM is free.)

(2) Make sure the RAM on your computer isn't maxed out. For my daily work, my RAM is constantly topped out and it affects my audio (and especially my video when I use a WoIP soft client such as Sightspeed). If you notice poor audio quality, you could try closing some other programs on your computer. Sometimes it's the program itself. I noticed that the free Babble.net client is unfortunately a memory hog.

(3) Expect poor audio quality if you have a slow Internet connection. If you're using a Wi-Fi setup, it might be a matter of positioning. Try moving around.

If any of the above problems arise, you'll probably get audio artefacts including warbling, echo, or buzz. Electrical interference can cause your microphone to generate hum as well.

As for the audio quality of calls over VoIP hardware or networks, that's something manufacturers and providers have to work on. PSTN phones use dedicated networks, thus providing high quality calls. Early VoIP adopters are putting up with issues of poor audio quality and reliability. However, as VoIP usage spreads, newer customers are less likely to put up with poor service. Someone also has to come up with a reliable e911 emergency calling solution.

Why Internet Phone Should Be Your Next Home Phone

VoIP has become extremely popular with the general public. TV and online adverts, news and paper headlines have aired this new technology heavily recently, furthering its overall success. If somehow you’ve managed to miss all this hype surrounding this recent computer related communications revolution the abreviation VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol or Voice over IP. This technology enables the user to talk with a phone/microphone over the world wide web connection.

Normal phone bills can be minimised by using VoIP since it boasts extremely low rates, considerably lower than conventional telephone, whether the calls being made are local or to the other side of the world. Large corporations are taking advantage of this fact massively by installing the necessary software and equipment, loosing the old requirement for traditional conference calls, many faxes etc, whilst incorporating such media tools as streaming video applications. The recent explosion in VoIP use has hidden the fact that this technology has been around for many years waiting to become economically viable.

In terms of families now wanting to give this exciting new improvement on phone communication a go, mostly this concept is a full gone conclusion people are going stir crazy about it. Do they believe all the hype about how it will hugely improve their everyday lives? Is this technology really as impressive, reliable and affordable as is often touted by the sales pitchers? Any unanswered questions alongside possibilities you may not have realised yet are provided here in this article aimed at furthering your understanding of this new VoIP technology. Once you’ve read everything here you may be more inclined to get out there and purchase then test run this communications system.

Initially an internet connection to your residence must be present! This connection must be a high speed one, any of the following varieties i.e. satellite, cable or DSL, not 56K dial up. VoIP can only function properly and transform into your new calling station by following this important advice. Quality loss is just far too significant when attempting to use slower connections such as 56K dial ups. These now fairly antiquated connections simply don’t have the speed or capacity required to transfer calls digitally. If DSL happens to be your choice of broadband service, and you’re hoping to replace your existing phone service with VoIP, a company known as SpeakEasy has just recently created a VoIP product that does’nt require any already installed phone line.

The second most important requirement is a ‘gateway’, needing to be connected between your ethernet modem and computer. Your phone line needs to be plugged into this VoIP gateway to then enable calling to be high quality, unhindered by any potential computer problems that may occur. Many computers have a variety of momentary unpredictable problems, e.g. slow memory or crashes which could significantly reduce quality calling time.

Adapters are available so that VoIP can fit any phone, old/ existing or new. Typically the promoters of VoIP provide sell adapters to reduce the time you may spend shopping around for one. Albeit a great money saving plan, not buying a new phone will probably mean you miss out on the next big VoIP move, video usage in combination with VoIP on phones, a trend that looks set to blow up everywhere. A company known as Packet8 VoIP sells a great video phone in addition to their usual services.

Phone services that have VoIP included typically contain the whole range of great offers and gadgets the current phone services provide. Details cover such aspects as three way calling, voice messaging, your own VoIP telephone number and call waiting.

Key aspects associated with this brazen new feature-full phone technology that you should be aware of are that local 911 emergency coverage exists. This feature may come as an additional extra charge on top of the basic package, hitting your wallet on a monthly basis. Don’t commit to a calling contract until you have ironed out all the costs associated with what ever deal you choose.

Lastly, remember that electricity is the fuel your VoIP system uses and the occasional power cut will unfortunately put a stop to its functioning, momentarily. This is the one small aspect that traditional phone calls don’t have to contend with, due in part to them containing their own small power supplies.


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