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I comment on Ted's Top Ten VoIP Gifts Roundup

 That's Santa's Sleigh Phone, as shown on the totally cool site Claus.com.
Written by Russell Shaw, Contributor

That's Santa's Sleigh Phone, as shown on the totally cool site Claus.com

Although Santa's probably not on VoIP just yet, that's a good way to transition us to fellow VoIP blogger Ted Wallingford's Top Ten VoIP Gifts  Roundup.

Thought I would run his list, with my Comments.

Ted's list is indented, my comments are outdented.

10. PhoneGnome and Internet Phone Wizard. The most recent addition to my ongoing examination of VoIP-related gift ideas is the “Net-to-phone adapter” breed of products, which includes PhoneGnome and Internet Phone Wizard products. These hardware products allow you to connect an analog phone to the Internet, so you can use it to route your calls instead of a regular phone line. PhoneGnome provides its own service, letting you call traditional land-line and cell phones for around 2 cents a minute domestically (calls to other PhoneGnome users are free), while the Internet Phone Wizard allows you to use your analog phone with Skype. (Under $100 USD each.)

Indispensible. I go to Fry's Electronics now... 

9. Sony Playstation 2 Boom Headset.
So you’ve got your Eyetoy camera, your Dance Dance Revolution pads, and your standard dual shock controllers connected to your trusty Playstation 2.  At this point, all you need is yet another cord connected to trip on. Well, two cords actually. One for the USB headset I’m recommending and another for the Ethernet connection you’ll need in order to use it for VoIPing.  Then, you’ll also need some games that support voice communications or commands.  Sony recommends SOCOM: Navy Seals (an older game) for starters (About $40 USD).

When it comes to electronic gaming, Shockwave is about as far as I go. Old enough to remember the pinball era. Plus, if I did Playstation 2, PSP, or even xBox, I wouldn't get any work done. 

8. Two Great Books About Voice over IP.
OK, so I’m a little partial to these, but hey. They’re pretty good books.
The first book is my most recent. So new, in fact, it just came out. VoIP Hacks has 100 fun projects designed to get you hacking VoIP technology fast. By the time you finish this quick read, you’ll be a regular Mark Spencer (you might even learn who he is).  Find out how to build a PBX using a PC. Learn how to bridge Skype with your corporate phone system. Discover how to secretly record peoples’ VoIP phone calls. Sounds like fun?  (About $30)
The second book, which was published in June, is Switching to VoIP. This book is a more foundational book. Much longer and more detailed, Switching covers fundamental telephony protocols like SIP and IAX, and introduces readers to the enterprise implications of the technology. A must-have for any network engineer or I.T. director considering a head-first dive into Voice over IP.  (About $40)

I already have Switching to VoIP. Recommend it highly. Ted knows his stuff, but won't write above your head. VoIP Hacks- put me down for one.

7. Motorola Bluetooth Headset.
For the telephony-afflicted in your family, nothing says “I love you” like Bluetooth. Check out the Motorola PC850 / H400 wireless Bluetooth headset combo, courtesy of our buddies over at Radio Shack (a former employer of mine, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away).  The headset is Mac and Windows compatible and comes in at around a hundred bucks. The bundle comes with the Bluetooth adapter and the actual headset, which is also compatible with a number of Bluetooth enabled cell phones. Hit the link for the details. (About $100)

I know I am having a Luddite moment, but my Logitech headset works just fine.

6. D-Link’s Intelligent Packet Priority Engine. 
Now this is smart. It’s a device from D-Link that prioritizes VoIP traffic between your cable or DSL modem and your broadband router. The goal is to make your VoIP calls sound better by providing enhanced quality of service. The trick is in the way the device queues outbound Internet traffic on your broadband connection. Very cool. Especially if you’re using DSL, which seems chronically allergic to VoIP services. I highly recommend this if VoIP is used heavily in your home.  Note: I haven’t been able to verify if this pretty puppy does anything for Skype, but it definitely will enhance Vonage and Packet8 calls. (Around $60).

Seems like it might be a PITA to set up, but a joy to have in place. One of those tech versions of the old "does the end justify the means" debates. 

5. Phone Valet 3 and Phlink. 
Listen up Mac users. Sometimes there are just great Mac software products that you can’t find anywhere else (i.e. Windows).  Phone Valet (and its excellent competitor, Phlink) are two such applications. They bring the digital lifestyle so prominently hyped by Apple into the realm of telephony, transforming your Mac into an answering machine, call handler, caller ID display, phone-integrated contact manager with auto-dialer, and more. Both packages include a USB adapter that allows you to connect a phone line to your Mac. You can even add additional adapters if you have more than one line. Great stuff.  (Around $200 USD)

I don't use a Mac. Nothing against it, have worked with some Macs, but it is just that long ago, I learned on Windows and despite the bugs, I have too much other stuff to master to switch gears now.
4. Firebox Skype Phone.

Straight from Firebox, our good buddies in the UK, comes the USB-based Firebox VoIP Cyberphone. You use it to simulate traditional phone calling on Skype. This little number has a dial-pad, a headset input connector in case you’d prefer to use something other than the handset provided, as well as a volume control and one thing that I wish was on every corded phone: the number pad is on the BASE, not the HANDSET, making it easier to use for IVR interaction. This works on Windows, Mac, or Linux, though the non-Windows support lacks keypad dialing. A nice Christmas or Hanukkah gift for the Skype addict on your gift list. (About $40 USD).

Add this to my shopping list. Best of the 10 so far.

3. Uniden “Whole House” Wireless Phone System. 
JCPenney.com is getting in on the VoIP-for-Christmas act with the Uniden whole-house wireless phone system, designed with Packet8 VoIP phone service in mind. The base station includes an IP-based set and support for up to 10 5.8 gHz wireless phone (no more “honey, where’s the phone?” if you have ten of them!).  The entry level system includes the base and a single wireless set. If you mail in the rebates they’re offering, you’ll score it for under a hundred bucks.

Must be 20 years ago today, Uniden taught the world to stray from their desks with Extend-A-Phone. I always thought the Uniden name was dorky and a bit condescending ("you need an..."), but maybe I am just not seeing the need for a wireless phone system. Of course, after my forthcoming book earns millions in royalties, or an intercessionary arranges for the Powerballs to land on numbers that exactly match my ticket, we'll buy a "whole house" big enough to justify a wireless phone system.  

2. PC-Less Video-conferencing System. D-Link’s DVC-1000 video conferencing solution turns your television into an IP-based video endpoint, so you can do video calls from the comfort of your living room (or conference room). With this device, you can call other DVC-1000 users or users of certain PC-based calling software, like Microsoft NetMeeting.  The DVC-1000 can integrate with Asterisk or any other H.323-supporting system, even Cisco CallManager. Unfortunately, the solution doesn’t support SIP (yet) so your PC-using buddies are essentially stuck using NetMeeting if they want to call you. Nevertheless, a very cool gift.  (Around $450 per pair.)

I can see video conferencing on a tv, but I just don't do much vidcon. But I do know companies and clients that are thinking about it. But put it this way- I don't have the time or patience to hook it up.

1. Skype Minutes.  At first, I was a skeptic about SkypeOut, the paid service that lets you phone people from your PC using the Skype software. I thought, “Bah, why would I ever use my PC to call somebody when I can just grab my cell?”  But, the more I work with click-to-call enabled applications, my trusty Mac OS X Address Book, and Skype, sure enough, I find myself using SkypeOut more and more.  It’s a convenience thing, I guess. Try it for yourself and see what you think. This could be just the gift to keep you in touch with that special someone.

I already use Skype, and have plenty of minutes at my disposal. I do think, though, that Skype minutes gift certificates would be a peachy idea. Wouldn't be surprised...
What VoIP or other techy toy do you want Santa (or UPS) to bring you?  Post a Comment and let us know!


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