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Date: Friday, 31 Dec 2010 01:20
So last week as we exchanged holiday greetings, the most popular free calling service, Skype, became overloaded and inaccessible for nearly 24 hours. Although it was only a minor inconvenience for most of us, for others it is the primary way of making free international calls between family members. Others still rely on Skype for business communications, teleconferencing, and other critical uses.

To their credit, Skype's PR team was up front and honest about the downtime, making frequent status updates on their blog and via Twitter. They apologized and offered $1 credit to all users. They even detailed what went wrong and what they plan to do so it doesn't happen again.

How does this affect public perception of VoIP as we enter 2011? VoIP skeptics will undoubtedly point to this as an excuse to keep their distance from services like Vonage and Google Voice. However, even for the die-hard VoIP believers, it serves as an important lesson to always have backup forms of communication, including a second or third VoIP client, as well as land-lines and mobile phones.
Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Vonage, Google Voice, VoIP Service, Skyp..."
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Date: Tuesday, 18 Aug 2009 08:46
Good news from GigaOM: mobile phone companies Verizon, Clearwire and Telefonica O2 (and hopefully others to follow soon) are beginning to roll out VoIP services over their networks. This is a clear break from their previous stance of overcharging for long distance phone calls, and seeing VoIP as a threat to their profits. This is not to say that they will allow Skype, Vonage or other 3rd party VoIP providers, but more likely that they would each implement their own branded in-house VoIP networks.
Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Mobile VoIP, Vonage, Verizon, VoIP Servi..."
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Date: Friday, 12 Jun 2009 07:57
SIPdroid for AndroidFrustrated with a lack of real voice over IP services on your Android phone? Until now, the only VoIP apps for Android have used your standard calling minutes. That goes for Voxofon, Truphone, Skype, and iSkoot. (any others?) Now, when you download SIPdroid from the Android Market, you can finally make calls using your phone's WiFi connection. (And if you download the full version from the SIPdroid website, you can even make calls over 3G!)

To use SIPdroid, you must have an account with any SIP provider, like Gizmo5 for example.

Because SIPdroid was released by i-p-tel GmbH, and is currently in public beta testing, it works best when used in conjunction with i-p-tel's free service PBXes. Apparently, this is the route you must take if you use any of the popular Betamax services such as VoipBuster, VoipCheap, InternetCalls, VoipStunt, SIPdiscount and others.

The SIPdroid Wiki currently lacks instructions for newbies, but jashsu from the xda-developers forum has a detailed SIPdroid primer and Christophe from the SmartPhoneFrance Wiki has posted step-by-step instructions on making it work using PBXes.

Call quality was a bit quieter than standard calls, with a slight delay, but this will vary depending on your SIP provider. Overall it's very usable. A DID number is handy for receiving incoming calls.

Geek trick: call your own phone number from SIPdroid. Answer the incoming call and be amused as you listen to your voice echoing over and over!
Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Mobile VoIP, Gizmo5, SIPdroid, Truphone,..."
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Date: Wednesday, 17 Dec 2008 01:16
Today, I received a lengthy advertorial in my inbox about a VoIP service called Freebuzzer, offered by Voipax GmbH.  I'll save you the fluff and quote just the relevant bit:
All you need to make free calls on your PC is your computer and your internet connection. Then start enjoying free international phone calls immediately by going to www.freebuzzer.com and entering both phone numbers. Freebuzzer will then call both parties and connect them totally free of charge.

Freebuzzer offers free phone calls to more than 40 countries in the world. The amount of calls is limited, but it's still a good way to make a quick call to your friends and family all over the world.
They aren't clear about the limitations, so try at your own risk.  This will also use up incoming minutes, so it's not totally free if you get charged for those.  Anyway, if you do check it out, be sure to leave a comment and let everyone know how satisfied you were with their service!

UPDATE:  Seems calls are limited to 2 minutes each.  Does anyone know if that's accurate?  If so, that pretty much kills any appeal this service may have had.
Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "freebuzzer, VoIP Service"
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Date: Friday, 12 Dec 2008 00:29

Voxofon claims to be the first to offer VoIP on Google's new mobile operating system, Android. The app seems to integrate into the dialer, displaying an extra screen after you've chosen your contact:

- Call via Local Number
- Callback My Mobile
- Callback Other Phone
- Direct Call

The callback services are handy to avoid using your cellular minutes, but don't most G1 owners have unlimited talktime already?

Anyway, it's super cheap, from 1.3 cents per minute for international calls and you're not tethered to a PC. If you use Voxofon, be sure to leave a comment and let us know how their service ranks.

Here's a quick demo of Voxofon's Android VoIP app:

Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "VoIP Service, Android, Voxofon, G1"
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Date: Thursday, 13 Nov 2008 05:33
SvSIPThis January, I began a list of VoIP services for the Nintendo DS, which we know contains a WiFi connection and a microphone headset.

At that time, none of the solutions included support for the popular open SIP protocol. Now, a French developer has released an early version of SvSIP, which lets you make phone calls using your homebrew-enabled DS and a SIP provider. He seems to be actively updating it, and we should see some new versions available soon on his website.

To complete the list, another French developer has been working on DSiP, a rival alpha VoIP client for the DS. The author seems to no longer have time to work on it, but promises to release a working version.

UPDATE 9/19/07: Watch the how-to video if you'd like to see SvSIP in action, courtesy of pjsip.org, the stack upon which SvSIP was ported from:

Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "SIP, Hack, NDS, VoIP, SvSIP, VoIP Servic..."
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Date: Thursday, 13 Nov 2008 05:33
The last time I reviewed the VoIP multi-messenger upstart, Raketu, I gave my honest opinion that it wasn't quite ready for primetime, but that it held a lot of potential. Well look out now -- Raketu has relaunched their website with a whole new look!

Cartoonist John Kricfalusi of Ren & Stimpy fame has provided Raketu with the sexy flash animations that now drive its brand. The new website features George Liquor, Sody Pop, Bobby Bigloaf, and of course, Raketeena:
SIP multi-messenger, Raketu
Raketu seems to have addressed all my previous complaints about the website interface. The new menu system really improves accessibility and makes its much easier to reach what you're looking for.

The program interface has undergone a few slight modifications too - now v1.021 - but still retains its tiny 3.4 MB installer package! A few bugs have been fixed since its initial release, although I still can't seem to send free SMS messages. That's probably just user error on my part though. Another thing I was having fun with is the built-in Caller ID spoofing (Tools > Options > rakIn/rakOut).

This is now my main program for making SIP calls and free international calls. Now that Skype's free trial is over, (I never really liked the way it hogged system resources anyway) Raketu has taken its place on my PC.

It's still free to dial out to 42 countries after a one-time purchase of $9.95 in credits. (I've used up all my credits except for a few cents, but I'm still making free calls. :-) Unlike some other services, the receiving party does not need to be registered with Raketu. There's a 1 hour limit per call, but then you can call right back. Of course, you wouldn't want to abuse their free service, would you?

They're also promoting their multi-messenger which still lets you chat with your Yahoo, MSN, AIM, ICQ, Skype and Raketu contacts.

Guess what? Raketu is expanding like crazy! They've added online presence and they're currently working on VoIP-in, voicemail, ipTV and Video on Demand! If you're looking for a career, now would seem to be the time to get onboard the Raketu rocketship.

If you'd like to try it out, I'd appreciate if you use my affiliate link to sign up with Raketu. Thanks, and be sure to leave a comment and let me know how your experience turns out!
Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "SIP, ipTV, VoIP Provider, VoIP, VoIP Ser..."
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Date: Friday, 23 Nov 2007 21:56
Since the Nintendo DS has a built-in microphone and a wireless Internet connection, what's to stop it from being used as a WiFi phone, or the DSphone, if you will?

Nintendo DSI've scoured the 'net and found some projects currently underway that claim to do just that, albeit with limitations.

VoiceChatClient is a homebrew application that lets you freely call anyone who also has VoiceChatClient installed on their DS. This hack even adds extra value by transmitting what you write on the touch screen to the other person! VCC requires hacked firmware or some type of passthrough device. (source)

DSpeak has been developed by Nintendo themselves, but aside from a demo at E3 in 2005, nothing more has been heard about this program. DSpeak will reportedly allow in-game and out-of-game chat. And when you speak, an on-screen Mario or Wario avatar lip syncs along! (source)

HelloDS was released some time ago as a proof-of-concept hack, along with a promise of a future version of this homebrew software. Unfortunately, the update has not been forthcoming. The initial version is still available and requires the firmware hack or passthrough. (source)

Metroid Prime: Hunters is currently the most easily accessible option for chatting with your DS buddies. All it requires is the Metroid Prime: Hunters game and a WiFi connection. You might want the NDS VoIP headset too. For this VoIP solution, you just meet the person you want to speak with in the same pre-game lobby and talk. It also works post-game, but not during. (source)

Conclusion: Though this handheld gaming device is certainly capable of competing with other mobile WiFi phones, the current state of Nintendo DS VoIP affairs isn't very exciting. None of the above solutions include support for SIP or for dialing out. However, the demand seems to be out there, so the DS might get to see a true VoIP app yet.

UPDATE 9/14/07: SvSIP, a VoIP client using the open SIP protocol, is released for the DS.

Have you made calls on the Nintendo DS? I'd love to get your feedback in the comments section. Don't forget to subscribe to the feed to receive updates on this subject.
Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Nintendo DS, Hack, HelloDS, Wireless, DS..."
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Date: Thursday, 23 Aug 2007 00:58
Upstart VoIP service nonoh thinks it can save you more money than its predecessor, jajah. Both are phone-to-phone services, which means you just initiate the call on their website, and the service calls both parties and connects them to each other at lower rates than the regular phone companies. This comes in handy mostly for international calls, especially for those countries in which there is a telecom monopoly with outrageous long distance fees.

Bhagaban
points out that the service was developed by Betamax, and that there are some amazing deals to certain countries.

For example, you can make free calls to China, Taiwan, and Thailand. Even South Korea and Turkey made the list of free destinations.

Vinay adds:

Nonoh bluntly says we offer better rates than Jajah and well they seriously do. Who on earth gives free calls to countries like Brazil, Japan and Malaysia? I have some countries which can't even dream to be in the free VOIP country list. NoNoh has simply cracked the market with this FREE VOIP calling service
Over at Computerwoche (German) they remind us that nonoh only allows 5 hours of talk time per week, and your credit expires after 120 days.

This 120 day credit expiration limit seems to be a trademark of Betamax, so that you will continue to pay $10 every four months in order to keep making free calls.

Full rates table at http://www.nonoh.net/en/rates.html

Have you tried it? What did you think?
Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "VoIP Provider, jajah, nonoh, VoIP, VoIP ..."
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Date: Wednesday, 09 May 2007 23:48
This Mother's Day, Skype will let you make that special phone call for free, even if she lives in China. That's right, but it's only if you make that free call from the U.S. or Canada. In fact, there's an entire list of restrictions:

4. Offer available to residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, 18 years of age and older.
5. To qualify for this offer, you must have downloaded the Skype software and you must have a valid and active Skype user name and account. You will not be eligible for this offer if your Skype account is not in good standing.
10. Skype reserves the right to suspend, shorten or extend, change or cancel part of all of the offer including these terms at any time at its own discretion at any time without notifying you of such changes.

... and so on. So as long as you're an adult resident of North America with an active Skype account and you don't mind that Skype can change its terms at any time, then you can use the VoIP service to call your mother, or anybody else for that matter, absolutely free this Sunday May 13th.

Happy Mother's Day!
Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Free Calls, VoIP, VoIP Service, Skype"
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Date: Sunday, 04 Mar 2007 11:44
First came the news that Skype's senior executives were fleeing the company as fast as they could. What did they anticipate? Now thanks to Phil Wolff and Om Malik, we have some details on the latest drama, a new round of Skype firings:
About 40 of the 516 people working at Skype worldwide are affected, 26 of those shifting roles or locations and 14 who are leaving or who have yet to find another job at Skype or another eBay company.
What's the rationale behind this decision? It must be part of eBay's strategy to make Skype profitable. The "out with the old, in with the new" purge continues with Skype doubling its staff as the pre-eBay executives go.

Categories: Skype, VoIP Service, VoIP
Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 04 Mar 2007 11:38
VoIP has moved beyond reality into the realm of the virtual world we know as Second Life. Skype Journal announces:
Centric today announced Second Talk, an easy-to-use voice communication system for Second Life. Second Talk "headsets" automatically scan for other Second Talk users nearby, and offer instant voice chat for groups of up to 10 users through Skype, a popular Voice over IP communication platform.
...

While this isn't the first attempt at voice communication within SecondLife, it is probably the first that works with Skype. I know quite a few people who use Skype and SecondLife at the same time (myself included now and then), but not quite like this.
This sounds like it may just catch on among Second Lifers. You can pick up your portable virtual headsets here.

Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 04 Mar 2007 11:38
Reader Kevin Deitrick wrote me to share his recent experience with Voip.com and how it contrasts to his previous VoIP service provider, Vonage:
I have used vonage for just over a yr and with 100% satisfaction I set up a virtual number and it was working in 48hrs the customer service was great I had a problem with the router well with one side of the phone hook up and there tech support walked me through troubleshooting it and switched it over in under 20 mins. I regret having to leave the company when I moved into an area that they did not cover. Unlimited usage real was unlimited my family lives in Michigan and my children call back there a lot I use aprox 3500 mins a month and with no complaints from vonage.

I switched to voip.com in june of this year and have had nothing but problems with there billing service and support. They billed me my normal monthly bill for 2 months then the next 2 months they billed me 50-40 plus my monthly bill and my bill is different every month. It took them over a month to setup my virtual numbers then because of my usage they threaten to switch my unlimited monthly usage to a small business and of course a month later they did. There prices are great but there only suggestions this is what I have been billed since June. There customer support is ok there respond times can be days sometimes sooner but not on average. I have lost many phone conversations while using there service even though my internet connection was still working good. When I inquired about the extra 90.00 a month charge they told me it was for the cost of setup and the router but now that I am going to cancel they still are requiring that I return the router or they will charge me for it again. I hope that you can warn you viewers of this policy of there’s before they make the mistake of following your advise as I did and tried this company and expecting the same service I got from vonage.
Kevin also included a list of his first seven monthly bills with Voip.com that ranged anywhere from $21.45 to $55.03 and he says he received no explanation as to why there was such a difference each month. In addition, there were four extra charges of $40, $50, $40 and $50 that all happened within the span of one month, which he contests as explained in his review.

I welcome any official response from a Voip.com representative, either by e-mail or through the comments section, that clarifies this dispute and/or gives the other side of the story. A smart VoIP provider knows that in order to thrive in this business, it has to please its customers, knowing that word of mouth works both ways. I'm sure this case can be settled in an amicable fashion for both parties and I hope that I will have a more pleasant follow-up to post soon.

Disclaimer: The opinion expressed in the above quote is a 3rd party review and not necessarily the view of The VoIP Service Blog, which is an affiliate of Voip.com.

Have you had an experience with a VoIP service that you'd like to share? Leave a comment or e-mail me at voip_telephony [at] yahoo [dot] com and I'll publish your review or directly link to the review on your website.

Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 04 Mar 2007 08:37
Although Skype is ending its promotion of free SkypeOut calls to landlines in the US and Canada on December 31, 2006, they are offering a new promotion for 50% off the cost of unlimited calls between the US and Canada for one year. The typical price is $30 per year, but if you subscribe before January 31, 2007, you can get on the unlimited calls plan for only $14.95/yr and you'll get the following coupons:

  • $30 off Polycom Communicator speakerphone
  • $30 rebate on Netgear WiFi Phone for Skype
  • $10 off Motorola Wireless Internet Calling Kit
  • $10 off Motorola Talk and Tunes HT820 Bundle
It's interesting, albeit expected, that this promotion follows its free calling promo. Let's see if Skype is able to turn its users into paid subscribers and eventually make a profit for parent company, eBay.

Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 04 Mar 2007 08:23
TalkPlus isn't a VoIP service per se, but it does let you do some pretty cool things. Phil Wolff and Jeff Black show how in mere seconds, you can assign a virtual phone number to one of your Skype contacts and call them from your mobile phone. Yeah, it's not the most practical thing VoIP lets you do right now, but it's a neat party trick... well, at a LAN party anyway.

Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 04 Mar 2007 08:14
After a short hiatus, I'm just catching up on the news around the VoIP blogosphere. Here are some articles I found particularly interesting:

1. Skype 3.0 beta goes "Live"
The new version will have click-to-call, where any text phone number in your website browser will allow you to click it to make a SkypeOut call, and plug-in support which lists popular third party plug-ins as a new tab within Skype. The new Live tab also lists Skypecasts. All these new additions were previously available only on the Skype website, but are now integrated into the program interface itself.

2. Fierce 15 - Top VoIP Companies of 2006
Top VoIP services as compiled by FierceVoIP, in alphabetical order:
3. Linux "Hacker-Phone" in the works
The idea is to distribute a barebones device capable of making calls and text messages, but with expandable memory and an open API to encourage the development of a myriad of applications. Then, new users will be able to customize their phones any way they wish. Hackers who create new applications could be eligible for discounts. Oh, and did I mention the stylish design?

4. Linksys CIT310 Yahoo Messenger Phone reviewed

Linksys has followed up their CIT200 Skype phone with a new phone for Yahoo Messenger users. Great if you're tied to only one VoIP service, but what if you need more than one? I guess you could just wait for that Linux phone instead.

Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 04 Mar 2007 07:17
Skype and 3 Group have announced the launch of X-Series, a collaborative effort to provide mobile broadband at flat rates, a key requirement for mobile VoIP and other services.

3 Group will reveal new pricing plans for data usage on their mobile networks. It seems that X-Series will only work with the Nokia N73 and Sony Ericsson W950i, and if you buy the phone directly from 3 Group you'll get Skype, Slingbox, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Orb and web browsing software preinstalled.

3 Group's 3G network is available across Europe, plus Australia and Hong Kong. The idea of reasonably priced unlimited mobile broadband is certain to be well received, and hopefully North American carriers will follow suit by improving their data networks and promoting VoIP services and other applications.

Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 04 Mar 2007 07:07
Although many new phones now support WiFi, Ipevo has sacrificed wireless capability for improved audio quality on their Free-1 IP Phone for Skype. Buzz Me Baby has the full review:
Virtual phone lines may be the order of the day but a few developers are beginning to feel the pinch of competition. Guess that’s the reason Skype has tied up with a few manufacturers to float Skype compatible handsets in the market. Ipevo Free-1 USB phone is one such attempt.
The fancy-looking VoIP phone plugs into your Windows or Macintosh computer with its 8-foot USB cable and integrates into your Skype software for making Skype-Out and Skype-to-Skype calls.

The speaker and microphone have been optimized to work in full-duplex, reducing the crosstalk that occurs when both parties are speaking at the same time so you are less affected by echo and static. At $30, it's not a bad deal if you're an avid Skype user, but it would be even better if it worked with multiple VoIP services.

Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 04 Mar 2007 07:04
I’ve been using Raketu for a few weeks prior to this review. This newcomer to the VoIP arena made its debut on September 12, 2006, and it shows definite promise. Their goal is to do no less than to overtake Skype as the leader in Internet voice communications, with the following strategy:

1. Offer more features than anyone else.
Never have I seen this many features wrapped up into an IM client:
  • SIP compatible
  • Voicemail
  • Conference calling
  • Subscribe to news, stocks, weather, podcasts and other RSS feeds
  • Integrated media player with karaoke mode
  • Picture viewer
  • Integrated travel planner, using Yahoo's Farechase for cheap flight results
  • Send free SMS text messages to mobile phones
  • Download game plug-ins to play with others online
2. Offer free calls to landlines in 42 countries until the end of 2006. I've been told that Raketu may add more countries to this list as we approach December, and they are also considering an extension of the promotion into 2007. However, I have found that in order to make free calls, you must have at least $0.01 of credit on your Raketu account. You can sign up for the free trial, which will put $0.01 into your account for 1 hour, but it will revert back to $0.00 after 1 hour whether or not you have been using the service for the entire time.

3. Offer interoperability with other IM clients. The Multi-Messenger lets you exchange text messages with your contacts from any of the following accounts into a single interface:
  • AOL Instant Messenger
  • ICQ
  • MSN Messenger
  • Google Talk
  • Yahoo Messenger
  • Skype (*Skype is not integrated into Raketu the way the other clients are. In order to communicate with Skype contacts from Raketu, a Skype client must be installed and running on your PC.)
4. Offer a less controversial VoIP service by not creating Supernodes. With this approach, Raketu avoids a security issue that plagues Skype while still claiming to have high completion rates and excellent voice quality.

Raketu is banking on these four offers to propel them to internet telephony fame. They also want to launch RakIn and RadioShow services in the near future. Everything (except the battleships game plug-in) comes in an installer package of only 3.4 MB. So far, everything looks good. We'll have to wait and find out if Raketu will be successful in becoming a Skype-killer.

Interface
If Raketu wants to attract more users, they'll have to make some major changes to the usability and appearance of both the website and the application. I navigated through all the pages in the website and all the windows in the application, but the process just wasn't intuitive. However, once you know where everything is, you'll find that nothing is more than one or two clicks away. And in an e-mail exchange, their tech support team mentioned that the website will be re-developed with user friendliness in mind. With that aside, the Help menu offers informative guides and movie tutorials that every beginner should be sure to check out.


Voice quality
Now we arrive at the make-or-break issue. Does it sound alright? Can I understand the person I'm talking to? And you'll be glad to know that the clarity is fine. Though it's not like a local call on a standard phone, the quality is on par with Skype and cell phones, with little to no noticeable echo or static.

Raketu advertises that it only needs a connection speed of 36 kbps to make calls, as long as the user isn't downloading any files at the same time. For those of you on WiFi connections, they also claim that Raketu works even when your signal strength is as low as 15%. I haven't tested Raketu on dial-up, but when I was making calls at a WiFi hotspot (with a good signal), I found that the voice "stuttered" a little bit. This would happen for a few minutes then clear up. Of course this depends on your WiFi connection, but for best results stick with wired broadband.

Bug Report
Nowhere on Raketu's website or in the program does it mention that this program is in BETA testing. The current version is 1.0 but they still have a built-in mechanism for reporting bugs. Rather than using that form, I'm going to just list my finds here. I'm sure the Raketu team will be fixing them in an upcoming release.
  • Stocks often say [Quote not available]
  • Weather feeds work only on occasion
  • Newsreader doesn't format combined Blogger/Feedburner feeds well, though this problem may be caused by either Blogger or Feedburner because most feeds are fine
  • The media player has unhelpful error messages when required codecs are missing
  • The multi-messenger occasionally crashes upon closing
To wrap-up, Raketu is a product you'll want to look out for in the future. Once they've dealt with their usability issues and fixed some bugs, their rich feature set may give them the advantage over Skype and other competitors. The functionality is all there, now it just needs to be optimized for the masses.

Pros: Good voice quality, free calling promotion, no supernodes, compatibility with SIP and IM clients, free SMS, many features, guides, tips, and tricks

Cons: User friendliness, appearance, must buy credits to make free calls, lingering bugs

Overall: 4 stars (out of 5)

Have you had an experience with Raketu that you'd like to share? Leave a comment or e-mail me at voip_telephony [at] yahoo [dot] com and I'll publish your review or directly link to the review on your website.

Author: "Zack"
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Date: Friday, 02 Mar 2007 16:12

Gotalk deserves minimal praise for this piece of news. It's nice that they're trying to think of innovative products, but $50 for a 128MB flash drive doesn't exactly get me excited, even if it does launch a softphone application when you stick it in a PC. I don't think it'll be on my Christmas list this year.

Categories: Gotalk, VoIP Service, VoIP
Author: "Zack (noreply@blogger.com)"
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