request for WiFi-based VoIP phone

E 10768479I am currently looking/searching for a simple cordless VoIP phone that may be used at home and ONLY connects to the local Wi-Fi/WLAN (802.11). Are there any such models on the market? A few, it seems, but still too expensive or with too many extra options.

What I want is to set up different Sipgate.de telephone numbers / VoIP profiles to such a device because the Fritz!Box 7141 DSL modem/router down in the basement only provides output to two analoge phones. And while you can set this advanced and very popular Fritz!Box system to accept more than just one internet VoIP number, one can only connect two physical phones via cable to the box (at least something, right?). These two lines are already blocked by the landlord’s phone + his AIO printer/fax machine. And his internal phone system is also analog and dates back to 1993. I could of course also try to hack the Fritz!Box (which is in fact a full computer and based on a “Linux”-system) and add an AsteriX PBX that takes care of the routing process, but I actually don’t want to change the existing system. And adding another Fritz!Box would provide at least two more “lines” to which I could connect normal wireless phones and define these VoIP profiles right on the Fritz!Box (both boxes connected via WDS). This doesn’t make much sense though, as I’d already bought a simple WLAN AP the other day which acts as a repeater to cover the area under the roof of the house (where I live).

The alternative would be to use a mobile phone like my Nokia N95 which already comes with WLAN/Wi-Fi connectivity and allows for different VoIP profiles to be set up. However, I think that most of these Wi-Fi enabled mobile (GSM) phones only have a very weak antenna and rx/tx ratio, resulting in frequent signal losses unless of course you’re standing next to the access point. Plus, the N95 is a mobile and is with me all the time – while a much simpler Wi-Fi-only cordless phone like the above pictured Siemens SL75 WLAN could remain at home and provide telephony to the home office.

What I really like about VoIP is that you can take your number with you – and as long as customers in Germany often still pay much more to call a mobile line than a fixed line, it’s way smarter to also offer a fixed line number (like the one I was provided by sipgate.de for free some years ago) to your customers.

Again, any advice/comment on this issue is highly appreciated. Thx!

Auf Deutsch: ich suche ein reines Schnurlostelefon, das sich über WLAN mit einem Access Point verbindet und verschiedene VoIP Profile akzeptiert. Irgendwie hat es seit 2006 keine wirkliche Entwicklung auf dem Markt gegeben, aber vielleicht irre ich mich da auch. Eine reine USB-Lösung setzt leider immer einen aktiven Rechner voraus – und da kann man dann genausogut via Headset telefonieren und sich zB den (ebenfalls vorhandenen!) USB Hörer von Sipgate sparen.
Über WLAN deswegen, weil die beiden FON 1&2 Leitungen an der Fritz!Box schon belegt sind und eine Erweiterung der Anlage damit nur noch über Funk & VoIP möglich erscheint.

Die Kombination aus WLAN Telefon und 2. access point (der das Signal der Fritz!Box ausm Keller bis unters Dach verstärkt) funktioniert schon mal – nur eben nicht so super, da die Antenne / Funkverbindung im Nokia N95 bauartbedingt schwächer ist als es ein reines WLAN Telefon wie das oben abgebildete Siemens bieten könnte.

the one stop resource

Ppl use Wikipedia to access encyclopedic knowledge on a certain topic.
Ppl use Google for a broader search on a topic.
Ppl use Del.icio.us to receive selected search results that have been pre-selected by human users.
Ppl use Amazon for buying books online.
Ppl use eBay to find a used spare part or other interesting items available for purchase.

The other day I saved this link to my delicious account which provides many interesting DIY manuals on various topics. You know how many websites there are that provide DIY manuals or user guides? Many! – BUT! you’ll never find them because they aren’t as SEXY as Wikipedia or Google or Delicious or Amazon. “Sexy”, as in “known + popular + easy to use”.

WHAT WE NEED to have is a 1stop-resource-online with manuals on each and every topic, all of them attributed with a CreativeCommons licence for transparency reasons and a tagged system.

THE BEST WAY to achieve this would be to ask ALL providers of DIY manuals online to enter their publications one by one into a social bookmarking system online (or a dedicated website on this topic) and tag them with appropriate keywords for further reference.

It would make things so much easier.

Besides, having them in a social bookmarking website, we wouldn’t need to create one huge server with bandwidth capacity, but instead everything could remain where it is right now… also, i am just talking about DO IT YOURSELF manuals here, not the usual corporate *soft* blabla like “discussion papers”, “***** framework”, “what ought to be done”-papers and other “please consider the environment before printing this paper”-documents that are just justifying the PhD of some authors but don’t change anything to the better for those who are willing to change the situation they are in and could actually make use of the aggregated knowledge as found in DIY manuals.

Me thinks: most organizations just don’t do this because a) they don’t know about social bookmarking websites, b) there’s no policy on this, c) they are consequently not paid for this extra work and d)? there’s a certain aim to stick to their publications = products = proof of their work = income generator for the years to come.

test your faulty usb stick

Some of you may remember my blog post from March 2007 about fake USB sticks: A friend of mine had gone to China on a business trip and bought two 8 GB sticks for EUR 11,- each, only to realize at home that he had actually acquired two 16 MB sticks. The problem is that you can only verify the real capacity of such sticks by writing data on them and then reading it back to the computer. Obviously, this best works with an empty stick.

Back then I even mentioned some progs that may verify if a USB flash memory stick is faulty or not. Germany’s c’t (Computer & Technik) magazine has now come up an alternative programme that works just fine and does a great job:

h2testwscreenshot(screenshot of H2testw – and yes, that’s my desktop wallpaper :-)

It is available in German and English, free of charge, small (zipped ~ 220 kb) and “writes data in chunks of 1 megabyte”. H2testw.exe doesn’t also require an installation, so you may want to add it to you selection of useful tools on a usb flash memory stick (i do that + i have a folder designed for such purposes which contains also other goodies such as a free virus scanner + recent update packages that kill popular threats). It took this useful tool about 15 minutes to write and 3 minutes to read back data on my (freshly formatted) 2 GB stick.

I am mentioning it here because I know a lot of ppl are aware of faulty sticks but don’t know how to check them with the right software (there are some nasty “freeware” tools out there that do more harm than good). Also, since this nice little prog also fits on the smallest stick (hey, the above mentioned 16 MB sticks are still available, i heard :-), you may want to take it to the dealer and test it right there before purchase.

AOB: What happened to the Raila virus, btw?

mobile blogging, part 1

“What’s the best mobile device for blogging on the way?”

I just twittered/tweeted (?) this as a question and decided to turn it into a blog post, so please feel free to comment.

Yes, mobile blogging, blogging content to an online blog as most posts/ideas come up when I am on the way to work/home/downtown. Blog content does not pop up in my head when I am at home, sitting in my dark little roof chamber, but instead when I am travelling or walking through the city and then suddendly there are these “Oh my, I neeeeeed to blog this” moments. Does that sound familiar to you?

What’s mobile?
I am already using a 15,4″ laptop as my primary computer, where I am compiling most posts using Blogdesk (for Win), pulling images from my mobile phone and getting online through a local Wi-Fi connection. Whenever I am travelling with my laptop (which doesn’t happen that often), I use a GPRS or even UMTS data connection to surf the internet via my mobile phone which is connected to my computer via Bluetooth. This is how I went online in Kenya, and this is also how I go online whenever there’s no local Wi-Fi available.

However, I often have this urge to blog directly from a more mobile device, a gadget I am always carrying around with me. What’s this? The mobile phone, of course!

So, where’s the difficulty?
Mobile devices often only offer pure text posts without any hyperlinks as editing alone is quite a pain. Entering text is usually done using a small T9 keypad, and some phones also offer dedicated QWERTY keyboards.

So I am using a Nokia N95 which enables me to take decent images (the picture quality isn’t as good as on a normal digital camera because of the CMOS sensor and its reduced size, but it’s more than sufficient for blog posts), it enables me to take decent videos @ 640×480 VGA with 30 fps but with the limitation of a mono microphone and no optical zoom and connects to the internet via HSCSD, CSD, GPRS, EGPRS, HSDPA and WiFi. The N95 even comes with an advanced video editor so that I can edit a video right on the phone! While this obviously takes some time and isn’t that easy, at least it’s possible.

The difficulty is to upload multimedia content onto the internet! This is exactly where most phones still lack a simple solution. Nokia eventually realized this and introduced the Ovi platform earlier this year, but it’s still in closed Alpha mode, so I guess we’ll have to work on a better solution. And not everyone is using Nokia phones. What about Apple iPhone users? And what about those that are documenting their life on blogs through SonyEricsson phones?

Mobile phone manufacturers apparently want their users to upload content to their own walled gardens. This blog here doesn’t run on blogger.com, ovi.com, wordpress.com, vox.com and other sites. Do they seriously want me to upload MY content to any obscure community platform? Hey, facebook is already enough in terms of walled gardens – I want to control my own content on my own website. I have a domain, webspace and am running a blog which is powered by WordPress. I want the content from my phone to directly load into the given space here.

And this is why I’ve split this post in two different parts: the a) software and b) hardware issues.

The hardware side is rather simple: considering that most phones offer sms services, blog entries may – in their shortest form at a length of 160 characters – be directly sent to a blog via sms. I can do that. I can upload an sms to my blog. Simple. And then there’s also e-mail: my blog comes with a (secret & currently inactive) e-mail address so that I could also send an e-mail to my blog which would then be posted online.

The short message, multimedia message and e-mail services are the common denominator on most phones, meaning: even Mama Wambui on the vegetable market in a rural town in Central Kenya may post blog content from her simple Motorola C139 phone via sms. But how does she read it?

See? Blogging simple and short text to an online platform isn’t that difficult. The difficulty lies in editing it and enriching it with hyperlinks, multimedia content and responding to comments.

When I started thinking about this subject, I initially thought that mobile blogging depends on the right device. Well, maybe it helps to have a computer so that surfing the net isn’t limited to a mobile device which just doesn’t offer the same comfort you’d have on a “normal” computer. But I quickly realized that instead of always blaming my not-so-perfect multimedia phone for the lack of this and that function or usability, I should instead look out for the right software, plugins, services that enable me to post from a mobile device in a way that offers more comfort than a short text which is limited to 160 characters. Mobile blogging is a software issue!

Meaning: the only difference I see between good and bad mobile phones in terms of their blogging capabilities is that some recent smartphones come with browsers that also work with Javascript and other advanced technologies which are sometimes needed online. I don’t need YouTube on my phone, but would like to comment on a K2 theme in WordPress where the comment function is based on this AJAX thing.
For pure reading of online content – and that’s what most of the current phones are capable of – I was already happy while using my old Nokia 6230i. In fact, I succesfully blogged an update on December 30th last year from a lobby in a hotel in Mombasa, using the OperaMini browser on the 6230i. It just worked.

I think that mobile blogging is a nice feature on a phone, but until it becomes as easy to post content as it already enables me to read online content from a mobile device, the only real killer application I can currently think of in the mobile sector is mobile banking/payment. Who knows – maybe in just a few years time devices will be advanced enough so that it all melts into one single application and service. This is why Google came up with the GPhone – coz it’s a software issue, not so much a hardware thing.

In part 2 I will try to compile a list of modern mobile phones that offer some comfort, and in part 3 I will try to highlight how to actually upload multimedia content from my phone to my blog (which I still have to figure out, hence this blog post :-).

Stay tuned!