Entries Tagged as 'Communications'


For many POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) is a distant memory… and given the pricing I’d say the local TelCo providers have priced it out of existence.

In a society where almost everyone has a cell phone (and unlimited cell service is fairly reasonably priced), the likelihood that any “home” telephone service will make a comeback is fairly low.

That said, Google Voice (a totally free service from Google) is something I’ve used for years to provide me with an auxiliary communications channel.  Why would I want to give me cellular number to all the annoying people who get a phone number; I pay for my phone service, so I should be able to decide who can reach me when — and Google provides many of the features you simply must have for telecommunications in Google Voice.

You can easily access Google Voice directly from your Android handset, but sometimes you might want to be able to just pick a phone on the end table to answer or make a call; or you might have that occasional FAX you need to send (while I find it hard to believe that companies don’t allow you to upload scanned documents via a web page portal, or send them via email — many are still in the stone-age of technology and simply think FAX machines will be here until the end of time, or that some law makes a FAX somehow necessary, or that they’re more secure).

To that end, OBiTalk has a number of telecommunications devices (technically VoIP Telephone Adapters [TAs]) available for a fairly reasonably price, and they support Google Voice.

The OBi200, the lowest model currently sold, is a great and economical device to provide you with a “home” phone.  The OBi200, a Google Voice number, and a home cordless (multi-station) phone is everything you need to have a service that fulfills you needs for free (if you require E911 service, you would have to subscribe to that service separately, but perhaps your cell phone is a better E911 device).

The Obi200 supports a single handset, but will support up to four phone lines (and any combination of them can be Google Voice — or other VoIP services… but again, Google Voice is free).

I’ve been using one of these devices for quite sometime, and I recently just added a second one (you can do station to station dialing with it as well), so it’s fairly easy to see that I’m quite happy with the device.

One word of advice, if you’re interested in a OBiTalk device, watch sales at online (also remember some brick-and-mortar stores will match online prices at some sites).

Just remember, with Google Voice, you do need to use each line (I recommend using them monthly at a minimum), but you will get an email notification from Google if you’re at risk of losing your Google Voice number from inactivity.


OBiTalk OBi200

Google Voice

Originally posted 2017-05-30 08:00:23.

Verizon Wireless Features

# Features

#MIN (#646) – Check current month’s unbilled airtime usage.

#BAL (#225) – Check your current account balance.

#DATA (#3282) – Check your current monthly usage of TXT, PIX and FLIX Messaging

#PMT (#768) – Make a payment


* Features

*228 – Over-the-air Program / PRL (roaming) update

*611 – Customer service

*70 – Cancel Call Waiting (during call) – *71-123-345-6789

*71 – No Answer/Busy Forward – *71-123-345-6789

*72 – Always Forward – *72-123-345-6789

*73 – Cancel Forward


I’ll try to update this list as I find more.

Originally posted 2011-08-11 11:00:34.

Just Host

As I posted a couple weeks ago I’d gone ahead and moved some of my domains over to JustHost.com.

Mainly I was looking for an affordable hosting package that supports server side includes in addition to what I already had at 1and1.com for around same price.  I also wanted unlimited bandwidth (but frankly I could have gotten that at 1and1.com with a cross-grade for just a small amount more per month with no hassle).

The way I started looking for a new host was to find some the “10 best” “50 best” or what ever they happened to be articles on the internet for hosting companies.  I read through them, looked at their current offerings, features, and prices.  The ones I felt were interesting I looked for reviews on the internet and read them.

Reviews from people you don’t know are not necessarily valuable.  Read the review, see what they’re saying, see how they’re saying, and see if their needs and abilities closely ally with yours.  And look for a pattern in reviews — if many people say the same thing, it’s far more likely to be true and not simply an isolated incident.

Once I narrowed down the field to a handful I reviewed any demos they offered of their control panel, features, etc.  If they didn’t have any demo I placed them on the bottom of the list.

Then I tried their online “chat” feature to talk to a pre-sales person.  If they didn’t offer an online chat I placed them on the bottom of the list (the very bottom — online chat is more important in the long run than a demo).

For the chat, I asked a few questions that there were in fact answers to on their site (just to see how quickly the person on the other end could provide me with a response, and if their response agreed).  Then I ask any questions that I had that were not addressed by the site.  Finally I ask one question that would require the person to actually think and apply the information on their site to the context of the question.

After that I decided on going with JustHost.com — they seemed like they provided the best package, best support, and most reasonable price.  When I went to order the package they offered me a better price when I was going to navigate away from the order page to check on a couple things.

I’ve moved all my domains over to JustHost.com; I’ve put an affiliate advertisement for JustHost.com on my web page and my BLOG (if you’re going to order service from them, I encourage you to click on the advertisement on here so as to help defray the costs for maintaining my BLOG — and hopefully growing it; it won’t cost you anything).

Things I don’t like…

  • They have the concept of a “primary” domain; which makes all domains but that reside under the primary in the directory structure.
  • They do not allow direct access to DNS on shared packages.
  • Shell access is extra (quite a bit extra) per year.  It would have been a “nice to have”, but I didn’t need it, and didn’t pay for it.
  • PHP5 doesn’t work by default in subdomains.
  • Databases are on the same machine as web servers.  I know this is very common, but I prefer databases to be on database servers and web servers to be separate.  This item is on the end of the list for a reason.


  • They will allow you to use a “fake” domain (I did a subdomain of their domain) as your primary, which makes all domains equal, but if you want to access the root you have to use the host name where your hosting account files are located rather than your domain name (you could have them enter a CNAME for you if you like, but if you forget the host name just do a trace route to one of your domain’s web addresses and you’ll see it).
  • While you don’t have direct access to DNS, they will enter DNS records for you — CNAME I know (they did that for me); and I expect they’ll do TXT, A, etc.
  • To enable PHP5 in a subdomain you just need to add a couple lines to your .htaccess file (the service representative didn’t know them right off the top of his head; but after confirming it should work, I had no problem).

Things I do like…

  • The price is very reasonable for a unlimited shared hosting package.
  • Customer support is great; the people who’ve chatted with me or replied to my tickets have been extremely courteous and have resolved the issue.
  • Server side include support.  It really is nice to be able to have dynamic content that is provided by the server rather than have to have intricate AJAX requests (and faster).
  • Performance.  Thus far I can’t complain about the performance.
  • IMAP, POP, SMTP email both clear text and SSL versions.  SMTP is offered on alternate ports as well for individuals who’s ISP block access to port 25.

I often say..

Rarely do you get what you pay for.

With JustHost.com you may in fact get what you pay for (and maybe more).

Originally posted 2010-02-07 01:00:29.

Does your mail provider really want to eliminate SPAM?

I’ve been actively working to stop SPAM (that’s also known as UCE – Unsolicited Commercial Email) for a very long time, and it’s great to see how many of the “free” email providers talk about preventing SPAM and provide users with filters to prevent SPAM from reaching their inbox.

But, the bottom line is, that unless you actively report SPAMmers nothing will ever really change.

Some providers (very few) actually will generate automated SPAM reports for you [that’s great, more email providers should make it that easy]; however, most will do nothing more than use an email that you mark as SPAM to refine their filters [which might prevent you from seeing the SPAM, but it doesn’t stop the SPAMmer].

The really interesting thing is that many of the “free” email providers actually inhibit you from reporting SPAM by preventing you from accessing the “raw message” (you need all the headers and the body of the email to file an abuse report with most carriers).  What’s really funny is that some of the providers who are most vocal have actually changed their web-mail interfaces to prevent you from accessing the raw message [essentially insuring that you cannot take action against a SPAMmer].

Now if you can access you email via POP3 or IMAP4 or load it into an email client using a proprietary connector (well, at least the only ones I could test) you can access the raw message and file a report; but remember, many of the free email providers don’t give you that type of access to your email unless you pay them.

What a great message… it’s OK to SPAM free email subscribers because they can’t do anything about it!

I’m not going to provide an extensive list of those providers that do and do not actually enable you to report SPAM; I’ll just mention that Yahoo! (one of the largest free email providers, but waning) doesn’t allow free subscribers to access raw message (or if they do, I certainly couldn’t figure out how); and of course Google (GMail) and Microsoft (MSN/HotMail/Live/Bing) do allow access.

One other thing to keep in mind… there’s no such thing as free email — you’re paying for it some how some way.

Originally posted 2009-08-17 01:00:04.

High Speed Internet Gateways

Several of my friends have ask for help on a very similar problem — they disconnect a computer directly from a cable modem or DSL router, plug in a residential gateway (wireless or wired router) and can’t get reconnected to the internet.

It’s actually a very common problem; and there are several things that can contribute to it.

The first thing you should do is make sure you that have the newest firmware available for your device — particularly older routers have issues with DHCP (that’s how most of the devices get the connection information from the service provider).

Also, you’ll want to check your computer to make sure what type of connection you were using to get to the internet (some older DSL modems particularly required that you setup your computer to do PPPoE — most newer DSL modems will handle all of that transparently, but even they may not be setup that way).

But after you check all that you’re still likely to find that you simply cannot make a connection to the internet.

The problem is that the internet service provider setup the profile of your modem so that it will only allow a single device to connect to the internet at a time (the MAC address to DHCP table has a limit of one).  Each Ethernet device in the “universe” is supposed to have a unique MAC address; and the specification allows for what’s called locally administered MAC addresses as well, but no two devices should ever have the same permanent MAC address (and technically no device should be allowed to copy the permanent MAC address of another).

There are two ways to get around this.  One is to use the MAC address cloning feature of your router (that’s long term a HORRIBLE idea — it violates the rule that no two devices should have [or use] the same permanent MAC address; and the only advantage to it is that it might provide instant gratification).  The second, and better, way is to simply allow your modem time to reset — and you can hasten that by unplugging the power from it and letting it sit for about ten minutes.

There is potentially another way to hasten the re-binding of a new MAC address to the modem.  Some modems have a hardware reset button — but you’ll have to check the manual to see how to use it.  Most modems also have a web interface and resetting the device is one of the options.

Most cable modems have the ip address of, most ADSL modems have the address of, and VDSL modems have the address of — but let me underscore I said most, not all (you’re going to have to read the manual if these don’t work — and to make it worse, some inexpensive modems have no web interface at all).

Once you bring up a web browser and point it to (or what ever the address for your modem is) you’ll probably be able to just view much of the information with any authentication (and you need not have an internet connection for this to work).  However, to reset the modem (or possible run diagnostics) you probably will need to log in.  Many ADSL and VDSL modems will simply want you to enter the information printed on the modem (that’s to prevent a hacker from doing it, since it require physical access to the equipment), but again, you really will have to review the manual to be sure.

The option you’re looking for will be called something like “reset: or “restart”… and there should be a warning that the internet connection will be interrupted, and that it will take several minutes (worst case) for the connection to be re-established.

If all this sounds like too much work; there is a third way, and that just involves patience.  The MAC address from the old device connected directly to your modem will age out over time — you just have to wait for it to happen (and it could be a hour or more).  If it’s late at night, just hit the sack, and when you wakeup the next day everything should be working with your new residential gateway.

Also, many service providers offer a wireless residential gateway (with built in modem) in place of just the modem — for most residential users just selecting that instead of the modem makes sense… for “power users” you might want a router that has more features or better performance; but the service providers residential gateway, out of the box, will allow you to connect as many devices as you’d like (including another gateway if you like — just make sure the ip network addresses they use are different).

  • DOCSIS is used by most cable companies, and technically it’s not a cable modem, but a DOCSIS “cable” modem.
  • SDSL isn’t used much in the US any longer, so it’s unlikely you’re going to find one of these modems.
  • ADSL is used by most of the Telcos, including AT&T and Verizon.
  • VDSL (ADSL2+) is used by AT&T in their U-Verse service and Verizon in their FiOS service.

Originally posted 2010-10-14 02:00:49.

Google Voice(mail)

I’ve already made a few posts that tell you how you can use Google Voice to make and receive unlimited free calls (provided your carrier allows you to specify at least one telephone number that’s air-time free), but here’s a way you can use an unlimited data plan to reduce your air-time fees for retrieving voice mail and totally eliminate any carrier charges for “visual voice mail”.

Verizon charges nothing for “Basic Voice Mail” per month; but they will charge you air time each and every time you call your own voice mail (evening and weekends are air time free on some plans, but you cannot put your own number in the air-time free call list [current called “Friends & Family”, it used to be called “My Circle” before the AllTel acquisition).

Verizon charges $1.99 for “Premium Voice Mail” .  You can read up on the features they’ll rape you for.

Verizon charges $2.99 for “Visual Voice Mail”.  Again you can read up on the features they’ll rape you for.

Or… you can just setup your Google Voice account to be your voice mail — and then you’ll essentially get all the feature Verizon would love to charge you extra for; plus be able to call your voice mail for free (assuming you have put your Google Voice number in your “Friend & Famly” list) or just read the SMS and/or email message that contains the voice mail transcription or play the voice mail over your unlimited data connection.

There are actually instructions on Google Voice for setting up Google Voice mail as your primary voice mail on your carrier (they will tell you for most any carrier), so this doesn’t only work for Verizon, this will work for pretty much any carrier…

Why throw money away?

While I might have reservations about letting Google have access to more and more of my information, I sort of lump them in the category that the people you don’t want to have access to your information had it before you did…

Anyway, Google Voice mail (and Google Voice) will work with any cellular phone (and actually you can use this strategy with landlines as well).

Originally posted 2010-10-17 02:00:07.

Galaxy Nexus

I got a new handset today… a Google (Samsung) Galaxy Nexus.

My Motorola Droid (A855 — the original one) was getting a little dated and running way too slow for me.

I was originally thinking about the Motorola Droid 4, and held out until that was released to make up my mind (I really liked the idea of a physical keyboard); but when I found that Motorola pulled GSM support (added in the Droid 2 Global, and kept in the Droid 3) as well as used a crappy display (compared to the Droid Razr — which the Droid 4 is basically a Droid Razr with a keyboard) I decide it just wouldn’t satisfy me.

I considered switching from Verizon to a pre-paid GSM plan and getting the Galaxy Nexus GSM model, but one of my Google friends had gotten the Verizon CDMA model from Google and offered to give it to me (I guess I can consider it a birthday present — and again, THANK YOU very much), so I decide to go ahead and try it.

I’d already confirmed with Verizon that my plan (unlimited data) wouldn’t require any changes to support an LTE handset (woot)… so when the phone arrived today I called up and activated the handset and SIM.

The handset has a stunning display… there’s just no way to describe it without seeing it, the 3.65″ Super AMOLED curved display is wonderful.  And of course with a 1.2 GHz dual core processor and Ice Cream Sandwitch (ICS – Android 4.0) it’s about as “new” a handset as you can get.

Technically (by the map) Verizon doesn’t have LTE at my home, but outside I do get a weak LTE signal (and let me tell you, a weak LTE/4G signal is way faster than a good CMDA/3G signal)… it’s not really an issue that I don’t get LTE at home, just slightly West of here there’s stable LTE coverage, and hopefully Verizon will continue their 4G build out in this area.

Next task will be to root the phone so that I have unfettered access the power of Android 4.0.

Google Galaxy Nexus

Originally posted 2012-04-13 02:00:35.

A new host…

I’ve mentioned before that I was considering moving my web sites to another hosting company, not that there’s anything really wrong with my previous hosting company, but more so because I wanted some features that were just too expensive for me to justify.

My new hosting company — JustHost.com — offers fairly attractive prices, has a fairly good reputation, and has the features I most wanted on an unlimited hosting package.

It’s still too soon for me to give them a recommendation; but I have placed an advertising link on the side panel of my site and blog to them (and yes I will get a referral fee if you use it).

A couple things…

I’m not hosting any domains with them; their registration price isn’t bad, but private registration is extra (and I really don’t like my personal and confidential information published on the web to be harvested by those who will not benefit me).

The cPanel interface they use is fairly common at hosting companies (I guess vDeck is the other big competitor) — but it’s totally different from what I’m used to.

Keep in mind, you should evaluate a web hosting company against your personal needs and requirements.  Remember, most hosting companies packages like this are not suitable for companies that have a great deal of web traffic and would suffer should their web site not be able to deliver information to customers.

Originally posted 2010-01-31 01:00:06.

IMAP Utilities

I generally prefer to interface to my mail via IMAP, and I store my mail archives in a local IMAP repository (which allows me the ability to search the repository quickly using Windows Search).

With the old email server I was using it was fairly straight forward to make a backup of the IMAP store and preserve the IMAP folder paths; the new mail server I’m using stores messages far more efficiently and uses a database to record the IMAP folder association of every folder and message.  Yes I could backup the files and the database, but that seemed fairly rigid and a solution that would likely not be portable in the future.

And before I sat out on writing my own tools, I prefer to look at what’s out there — either to use it as a solution, or learn from it.

I happened to stumble upon IMAPSize by Broobles, and while it’s not exactly what I was looking for it has a number of useful features.

It’s billed as the “Swiss Army Knife” of IMAP utilities by many reviewers.

Rather than go through all the features it has, I’m just going to talk about some of the things that most everyone will probably find useful.

The first thing it does is show you how much mail is in each mailbox, so if you’ve got quotas you can figure you where you need to prune.

  • I has some search capabilities (particularly useful if you don’t have your own IMAP server, since IMAP search, even when properly implemented in server and client, isn’t all that powerful).
  • It allows you to do regular IMAP management (much the same as your client will do).
  • It allows you to copy messages from one account to another (there’s lots of scripts that will do that as well).
  • It will do incremental backups of folders or entire accounts.
  • It will search through and flag SPAM.

The program is a fairly straight forward GUI application for Windows, and probably my biggest complaint is that it doesn’t allow command line options to use it in a script.  Personally I would prefer to do my backup on a schedule, unattended.

I will probably write my own tool to do backup; I’ve already written an IMAP object library — so I really only need to decide how to store the configuration information (probably in an XML file); but this is none the less an extremely useful program, and if you use IMAP you should take a look at it.  And it’s FREE to try, and FREE to use, but you might want to donate something to it’s author, particularly if you’re going to ask for an enhancement.

Originally posted 2009-02-18 01:00:07.

Windows 7 – Device Stage

Microsoft® Windows 7 has a really cool feature called Device Stage.

It presents all your hardware devices together in one place and allows you to organize information.  You know like synchronize information between your computer and the devices.

If you look on Microsoft’s web site you’ll see a great article detailing how you can fully synchronize your smart phone without knowing any details of hardware or software — just plug in the cable and tell it what program to use on the PC to synchronize with (and unlike in previous versions you don’t need Outlook).

Well, call me tickeled pink…

I plugged in my Microsoft Mobile 6.5 Smart Phone… and I just can’t tell you how disappointed I was.  Mobile Device Center (the abomination from Vista that replaced ActiveSync) downloaded, installed, and opened and told me I didn’t have any source of contacts or calendar information…

So Windows 7, the new flag ship of Microsoft’s desktop strategy ships without a connector for Windows Mobile 6.5, the new flag ship of Microsoft’s phone strategy… how sad.

I’d say Microsoft has convinced me I should buy an iPhone and use a Mac — Apple products actually work together.

Well, call me disappointed…

The slogan for Windows 7 should be something like

Maybe Windows 8, 9, 10, or 11…

Originally posted 2009-11-08 01:00:16.