Thursday, January 25, 2007

VoIP - The Internet Telephone Era

I have been looking at VoIP (Voice over IP) for more than a year now. First came the open-sourcing of the Asterisk VoIP server (which uses the SIP protocol) then a boom started that has now taken over the world. Mobile handsets that use Wifi to connect to a SIP server, PDAs connecting to SIP servers, Mobile phones with WiFi (or Edge technology in the USA) and of course softphones on regular Windows/Mac/Linux PCs.

What does all this mean to the layman?? Cheaper international phone calls over an internet connection. A lot of us have good broadband internet connections at home and/or at the office. Using SIP devices/software, people can call you or you can call them at a very small price or in some cases for free. SIP gives you a local telephone number in the USA or UK which your clients/family can use to call you up. To them it will seem as if you are sitting in that country but you could be anywhere in the world, but of course near a broadband internet connection.

Its good for business, making the client feel that you are available locally.

What does all this require?? You need to get a SIP account on a server running in the country where you want to have a local number. Your SIP device/software will connect to that server over the internet. When your client/family dials the local number, they are actually dialing to the server in their local country. The server connects the call to your SIP device/software.

You will get charged for both incoming and outgoing calls in this scenerio to your country of choice but the rates are much much lower than the regular telephone rates. The same technology is being used by some mobile companies here in Pakistan at the moment.

A good Windows based program that can be used as a softphone is XTen. It is available as a free download on a lot of freeware websites although not on the company's website anymore. Just search for XTen SIP phone

This is a link on the CNet website with info about different VoIP servcies being offered.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

The Future Of Mobility Is Now

Heard about Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPC) yet? I first heard about them at the start of 2006 but I thought that they were just a concept and at most companies have just made prototypes, no real production. So last week while shopping around Dubai I find the Sony VAIO UX.


It blew my mind. It was like a dream. 4.5" screen, fingerprint recognition, eye motion detection, 550 grams and the best part of all it was running a complete Windows XP Professional; no cut down versions of operating systems anymore, run any software you want priced at 7000 UAE Dirhams. I have been using Palm OS since 1999 and have recently moved to Symbian OS on a Nokia Mobile. All this time whenever I wanted to something on my mobile device I would have to search the internet looking for a software which was available for Windows easily and most of the time for free.

So I come back from Dubai and I find out there are a whole bunch of UMPCs in production today. Two sites with the best info I found were:

Why do I say that this is the future of mobility? If you use your Laptop / Notebook to only check email, use an Office Package, browse the net or use software with little RAM/CPU requirements (ie. no 3D animation/modeling or 3D Gaming), a UMPC can do all thet for the same price as any high-end laptop, with less weight and a much much higher COOL factor. So what if the screen size is smaller. You can get a UMPC with a complete 1024*600 screen size with a zoom in and zoom out feature. The Sony VAIO UX also comes with a docking bay that has a regular video output that can connect to a monitor or projector. The ASUS R2H comes with built in GPS.

The top Windows XP based UMPCs as I see it are as follows:

ASUS R2H Samsung Q1 SSD
ASUS R2H                   Samsung Q1-SSD

But of course the best of the breed I think is still the Sony VAIO UX I got to play with in Dubai. But then it was a 4.5" screen whereas the above two are 7" screens. hmm....

Also found the following good comparison of a couple of UMPCs:

UMPC Chart