Thursday, May 12, 2005

In Praise of Skype

If you haven't tried Skype yet you should. Truly. Download the free client and if you don't know someone who is already using the service have a friend register, then share a couple calls with one another. You'll be hooked. If, like so many others on the net, you happen to be friendless, or nearly so, Skype has you covered -- just search for a user who shares, say, your name, first and last, and give that person a call (assuming they speak the same language you do). Or you can break the ice by using Skype's chat utility (instant messaging). Even easier, simply enable the "Skypme" feature, which lets other Skype users know you're open for chat or conversation, and you'll probably receive a chat invitation within a few minutes.

I liked the free client and service so much I took the plunge earlier this week (if spending €20.00 can be considered a plunge) and registered for SkypeIn and SkypeOut, two relatively new services offered by the company. SkypeIn gives you a "regular phone number" in your choice of area code, where supported, and includes voicemail service, so people who do not use Skype can call you at your computer, while SkypeOut allows you to call any telephone number in the world, just as you would from a regular landline. In the span of about five minutes, start to finish after paying with paypal, I had both accounts active and ready for use, including my newly-leased SkypeIn phone number, 6502760463, which I was able to choose from a list of available numbers (a speedy javascript app let me pattern match to my vanity's content, but 276 was the only prefix offered in the 650 area code).

(As an aside, I recently moved from neighboring Bay Area community to another and had the pleasure of talking to three SBC customer service representatives about the pros and cons of starting new service vs. transferring existing service to the new home, listening to the monotonic recitation of different rate plans, none of which seemed to fit my needs, suffering the mandatory fee and tax advisements, paying the extra $10 for the custom number, etc., all of which left me wanting to scream, "For the love of humanity, I just want to take a call from an older relative now and then!")

But Telco gloom aside, I've using Skype both at home and at work for several days and I am very impressed with the quality and features of all the services. The only two drawbacks I've noticed thus far are a) my SkypIn phone number is not associated with my SkypeOut calls, so my ANI shows up in outbound calls as "0000123456" and b) the DTMF behavior of the Dial keypad seems inconsistent with voice applications -- I'm still unsure if I'm clicking the digits too quickly or too slowly but recognition by many voice apps is sometimes uneven.

Microsoft, Yahoo and others are jumping on the P2P VoIP phone bandwagon but Skype was first to market with a solid offering, so give them a try -- your Telco will thank you.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Why Blog?

Damned good question: Why join the sycophantic ranks in a medium rife with idiots and windbags when I can just as easily enjoy the pleasure of my own stupidity in the privacy of, say, a hardbound journal? The larger, rhetorical question may be: Why does the ego require that one expose one's intellectual shortcomings to the world? The answer, we all know, has to do with cheese.

Turns out an ever-thickening, variegated wheel of cheese is the nexus upon which Civilization revolves, and though we are treated to the occasional morsel of Havarti or Asiago courtesy of a Michelangelo, da Vinci, Swift, Milton, Austen, Keats, Peake, et al., the mass is mere effluent, the Limburger that you and I spew forth in the bleating hope that someone will be moved by what we write, speak, paint, sculpt or imagine.

The late great Pope John Paul II recognized this when he revealed to visiting cardinals weeks before his passing that, "Had God Himself not called me to the Church, and to Papacy, I would very much have liked to try my hand as a cheesemonger or, failing that, as a producer of adult films, but that is not why I called you here...."

And so it is that great and small alike go about the daily business of thickening the cheese, and herein you will find my little slice of Limburger....