February 2008

andLinux gives you a Real Linux on your Windows desktop

Hop over to andLinux.org and you can download an Ubuntu Linux distro that will install itself and run out of your Windows system tray. This isn’t Cygwin or a Linux emulation, but a real Linux that runs like an ordinary application on your Windows box.

Head to this Lifehacker post for an annotated installation guide with screenshots.

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T-Mobile Hotspot@Home Talk Forever

The Mobile Gadeteer has made this post about the aforementioned service. For $12/month it’s a GREAT deal and should put some pressure on the home VoIP providers like Vonage to lower their prices. In fact, when T-Mobile roles out their 3G service, I may be tempted to ditch my AT&T service and return to the T-Mobile fold — I’ve never been impressed by AT&T’s service whereas I’ve always had good experiences with T-Mobile.

$12/month is really a pretty good rate although I’ve only spent a little over $4.00 for two months of service with VoicePulse Connect. That was for 380 minutes of outbound calling (a little over 6 hours of talking). If you consider that I’m spending about $2.00/month for my setup then I’d be paying an additional $10.00/month for the simplicity of installation and maintenance. That seems like a reasonable trade to me. Fortunately, I don’t have to make a decision yet … it’s not available here in Silly-con Valley yet.

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Some VoIP sites I need to remember to get back to …

I’ve been banging around some VoIP sites again and have come across some services/providers that I haven’t really had time to investigate in any detail. Rather than keep the sites to myself pending a more thorough investigation, I thought I’d at least post them with the little bit of information I have. If I can get back to them, I will post more detailed entries but, if I don’t, at least you all will have the benefit of what I’ve found.


Inbound number in an area code that you don’t pick. Upload your contacts, call it from one of 3 numbers you designate and you can call the contact through them. Your contact doesn’t see your RingBranch number. If someone calls your RingBranch number, it’s forwarded to one number you select. 1000 minutes/month. Free right now.

RNK’s Phone Number Bank:

$9.95/month after a 60-day free trial. Transfer your phone number to them and they’ll forward calls to that (or those) numbers to a single phone number.

T-Mobile’s Talk Forever Home Phone:

Wireless router is $50 and the service is $10/month with a $39.99/monthly plan (2 year contract).


I know they’ll disagree but the easiest way to descibe it is to call it, essentially, GrandCentral in a paid form. $9.99/month after a free 30-day trial. Has a website optimized for the iPhone as well as TalkPlus applications for Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Palm and others.

Masque Number:
Sort of line Vumber. $9.95/month for the first number and then an incremental cost for each additional number. Each number comes with its own voicemail.


Free, expiring phone number. Currently “scaling our infrastructure” so not accepting new subscribers.

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Another new home VoIP provider: Phone.com

Phone.com launched back in December. For a $29.95 start-up fee and $16.88/month (annual plan) you get unlimited inbound and outbound domestic calls, your own DID, an ATA and all the standard features you’ve come to expect (voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, etc — see their features page). You can pay monthly and you can opt for a plan that only offers 200 minutes — see their pricing and plans page.

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Vumber: Fewer features than GrandCentral for $4.99/month

VoIPPlanet published this article last month but I missed it somehow. Anyway, they discuss Vumber which, as near as I can tell, is GrandCentral with fewer features for $4.99/month.

Both GC and Vumber let you customize the handling of individual numbers — including always sending a call from a particular number straight to voicemail or even playing a “Not in service” message. GrandCentral lets you ring multiple phones and, to a certain extent, even customize which inbound calls ring which numbers; Vumber only rings one number. When a call comes in, you can request that GC show you DID (so you know it’s coming from GC) or the caller’s ID; Vumber always shows the original caller’s ID. When you answer your phone, GC lets you select to take the call, send the call to voicemail, send the call to voicemail and listen in or send the call to SPAM; Vumber lets you take the call or send it to voicemail. They share other features and differ on yet others but I’ll stop there. Email me if you want more details.

Why would you choose Vumber over GrandCentral? GC is owned by Google so it’s probably fairly safe to believe it’ll be around for a while. Call quality is good to excellent and outbound calls through GC are free so the only reason I can think of for going with Vumber is that you’d want to go with a commercial provider. Think about it.

FYI, I’ve been with GrandCentral for almost a year, now, and, while I have a few complaints, I’m incredibly well satisfied with their service. Yes, I’d pay $5/month for it.

Update, Feb. 19, 2008: Got an email from the folks at Vumber with the explanation that their service is really about privacy and the speed of setup — from your control panel you can change, add and delete vumbers; with GC, you’ve got one number and you’re stuck with it. Vumber says number set up is “immediate”. Of course, I didn’t give the whole story on Vumber.com. For that, you should really go to their site and check them out.

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Accessing work calendar and email when away

I’ve been using AirSet and Soonr to get to my email and calendar from my mobile device while away from work. Why don’t I use a Blackberry? Been there, done that and have long since switched to a Windows Mobile platform. Since it my personal device, I’m not really interested in mixing my personal data with my professional.

So, now I hear that both AirSet and Soonr are is gonna start charging and Soonr is going into a private beta so what do I do? For calendaring, I tried Google Calendar. With OggSync I can synchronize my work calendar with it and, while it will send me a daily agenda, it won’t reliably send me reminders of upcoming meetings. OK, that’s out. What else?

Yahoo Calendar seems to fill the bill. They’ve got an autosync client that will watch for changes to my schedule and upload changes, it reliably reminds me of upcoming meetings but it doesn’t look like it will send me a daily agenda on its own. To solve this last little big, I think I can probably cobble something together, maybe with Yahoo Pipes.

And email? I think one of my previously posted browsers will give me OWA. So, if I can get OWA, won’t that address my calendaring needs as well? In truth, I really need an offline copy or daily synopsis of my calendar so I can plan even when I’m offline whereas email is more immediate and that’s is why I believe I need something like OWA. eMoze may give me email without my having to launch a browser but I don’t yet know how it integrates with Pocket Outlook. I’ve sent them questions and, once I get answers, I’ll be able to tell you more about that particular solution.

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