Dirty Hack

I don’t normally cross post on Rooster’s Rail and The Global Geek Podcast Blog, but I think this story is worthy for both audiences. But I will change it a bit here to suit. There is one part that you will find amusing.

So there we were Knightwise and myself recording episode #025 of The Global Geek Podcast. We record the show over Skype as he is in Belgium and I am in Australia. Everything was going very well and we were into the seventh Tech News Story and… nothing. The whole house was plunged into darkness, we lost power here at home.

I am thinking that I don’t know how long I have lost the power for, I had better find a way to contact Knightwise and let him know what was going on. Think Rooster think! Ah got it, ring his mobile… Damn it, his mobile number is on the computer which at this point in time is unserviceable due to lack of juice.

So I ring my brother on my mobile phone, the home phone runs on power so that was out as well. James dude, do me a favour and ring Knightwise on Skype and let him know that I have lost power. Lucky I remembered Knightwise’s Skype id as James had to add him to his contact list. Enter the dirty hack:

Dirty Phone Hack

That does not look pretty and believe me the sound was worse. So the hand you see is my brother’s (AKA: Air Bridge). The phone you see is his cordless home phone, it is on “speaker”. The Skype call that you might be able to see on the screen is a call from James’ computer to Knightwise. Contact with Knightwise established by one very dirty hack. Communicating was not too bad we could talk to each other but occasionally the Air Bridge had to decode what was said. Plus, I did not have to pay for a mobile phone call to Belgium (Woot!).

To top it all off we lost the recording.


Could Skype Crush the Telco’s?

SkypeAs you would probably realise I have been away for a few days. I was blown away by the news that Skype has applied for a patient that indicates that it might in the future offer free calls to any phone worldwide for free!

The patient has not received much publicity to this point, mainly because the call from objectors has not been made. That happens on the 1st of August. Prepare for war, that date is looming. The Patient’s title is “The Whole World Can Talk for Free”. Yes that’s been their slogan for a long time. But I refer to Russell Shaw’s reply:

Yes, of course I know Skype has been using this phrase in their marketing for a year now, and it appears on their home page. But why go to the point of registering it.. now? Is this basically a butt-cover to forestall similar phraseology from competitors who Skype fears may underprice them, or are there larger forces at work?

This is huge. We may be in the first stages of a major restructuring of the global communications market. That is to say nothing about the impact that this will or may have in Australia. In Australia we are ripped off supremely for phone calls and access. In addition to that we pay twice when we phone a landline using Skype; we pay for the broadband access, we pay for the call. Admittedly I would have payed for the broadband anyway but in my opinion this is a double dip.

One thing that may or may not be happening in other countries is that the major Telco in Australia (Telstra) charges everyone an access fee to a landline. Not so strange you say. What about the fact that if I choose not have a phone line and just use VoIP for my calls via my broadband connection; I still need to have a landline in order to get the broadband! So Telstra charge me for access to the line that I have to have then I have to pay for my Internet connection on top of that then I have to pay for my Skype calls to landlines and mobiles on top of that! See my point. So how might this rumour affect me should this prediction come true?

I could see the major Telstra off-setting the loss of revenue with an increased charge for access. Not only that they will charge like a wounded bull for the ignorant few that are left with no knowledge of Skype. So based on that I am not sure how this one will resolve. I am crossing my fingers…

For those of you that might doubt the power of the Skype marketing engine. Just remember that Skype have been offering free outbound calls in America for the last couple of months, what is there stopping them from extending this globally. With the right business model of course. In addition I think an inclined to agree with Shaw in that to take advantage of this you will probably have to make some form of financial commitment to some service that Skype offers. Still that given I think that it will beat the Telco’s hands down as far as value for money. We will no longer be held to ransom by these companies that insist on ripping us off blind!

In summary though I see trouble on the horizon for Telecommunication Companies that will need to drastically revise their business model in order to stay in the game. If they are not scared now they should be, this was always coming and it is on our doorstep now. I will be very interested to see what happens on the 1st of August. I am thinking that there will be a long list of objectors.

Of course this is all speculation but time will tell.

Skype “Dropping” Instant Messages and Calls

Don’t know if anyone else has been experiencing this lately but we had an instance last night where Skype was “dropping” instant messages and not letting calls through.

So last night before we recorded The Global Geek Podcast Seb and I agreed to meet in half an hour. So I instant messaged him after that time and said I was ready when he was. So then I sit there waiting for a response. After a while I start to think, where the hell is he? Then about twenty minutes later I get this call from him on Skype which I attempt to answer and when I do it says “dropped” in the call window. Then another call and this one goes through.

Turns out that Sebastian had been messaging me for the last fifteen to twenty minutes. I did not get a single message. He gave up and tried to call me and succeeded on the second attempt. We chatted and he had been constantly messaging me during that time. He did get my “ready when you are” message. That is to say nothing of the “dropped” call; which seems to be happening more and more.

To this present time I am yet to get the messages that Sebastian sent me. They are lost in the “Skype Cloud” (whatever that is). I could not tell you what is going on here and I do not know if it is happening to anyone else. Could it be the result of the Chinese hackers? Or could it just be the fact that they are trying to accomplish too much at the detriment of the main feature set? I would be interested to know if this is just me or if we are looking at an epidemic here? Let me know.

Skype Heartbeat

Skype Heartbeat screenshotWe were going to include this news in the podcast but due to the huge show that we had it was omitted or forgotten. At the end of last month Skype introduced Heartbeat. Up to the minute information on the current state of health of the Skype network. Great idea in my opinion.

Many people are now relying on Skype for daily communications. In my own humble on-line existence I use it everyday. I use it to keep in touch with family and friends. Without Skype there would be no Global Geek Podcast, as we use Skype to do it. This new addition to Skype means that we can now see what the network is doing, any problems and where they are. It covers both the premium services that Skype offers like Voicemail, and SkypeOut as well as things like Signing in, web servers and central contact list to name a few.

While this service does nothing as far as fixing the problems that you may see it does communicate to the users of Skype if things are working properly or not. This goes a lot further than most phone companies! Part of maintaining a competitive business is being transparent to your user base and communicating with your customers. Skype does this well with a nice interface and up-to-date information.

For an individual using Skype there are many variables that influence how well it works. Skype usually works well and does not have major problems. But if you are having problems with Skype this is a great place to just check and make sure that the network is running smoothly, it rules out one variable and might solve you problem in that it might not be you. Good move Skype.

Another nice feature of the page is that you can subscribe to an RSS feed for the latest information, outages or problems and get notified when they fixed.

In time it is going to be difficult for the Telcos to keep up not only with dirt cheap pricing but also service, we are on the verge of revolution as more and more people start to wise-up to this great technology. It only gets better!

Odeo Cripples Functionality

Odeo LogoOdeo seem to be updating and improving their services every other day of late. However, it is not every day that you see such a great service actually remove a feature and make it harder for users to utilise their service. They have indeed done so and perhaps in doing so shooting themselves in the foot.

One of the great features that is available to Odeo users is to have an "inbox". If you were to place a button on your website, be it blog or some other site you have enabled your readers to leave you audio comments by clicking the link. They get taken to a page that has a recording interface, which is simple and easy to use and the result is great audio. You as the user of Odeo get that recorded audio in your inbox once it is sent to you. You are notified of this by an email.

Another great feature is that you can subscribe to an RSS feed of your own inbox! So this is a great way to receive feedback on anything. Including podcasts. Seb and I saw it as a great way to get feedback for Global Geek Podcast, so we set up an account. The advantage of getting audio as feedback is that you could go to your inbox once you were notified and click the new Odeo comment that was left for you. You can listen to it. But the biggest feature was that you could click a "download as MP3" button and download the audio comment and insert it into a podcast! The result was excellent and we loved it.

The ability to download the MP3 has been removed from the play window! So what the hell is Odeo thinking in removing this key functionality. It means that it is impossible to download the audio from the page to your local machine. Rather it makes it a pain in the butt to do it.

I found that there is a work-around but it is messy: Open Audacity, set the source to "stereo mix" get ready to hit record… Open the Odeo message that you want to record. Flip back to Audacity and hit record, nip over to the Odeo page and click play. Go back and hit stop on the recording when it has finished. As I said messy. In addition the audio that you end up with is less than ideal and requires a bit of editing.

I am utterly dismayed as to why Odeo have removed this from their site. The only thing that I can think of is that they want users to listen to audio, only from them and not from another source. Perhaps they were not aware that the service was being utilized in this way and they have done it ignorantly, I just don't know. Sebastian has suggested that perhaps they are beginning to think about implementing a pay service and this has something to do with it. But since when has any site reduced their services as opposed to offering more. We are not the only podcast doing this. I can honestly say that if this situation remains as it is; the blogging and podcasting community could deliver some negative press, big time.

Global Geek Podcast has mentioned Odeo on every show that we have done. Not only that there is a link on the Global Geek Podcast website to Odeo, there is a link to Odeo on Rooster's Rail, Seb's Random Thoughts and we have plugged them for their service and functionality since utilizing their service. It is not like we have not given back to Odeo. This I feel is the thanks that we get.

Global Geek Podcast have sent off an email to Odeo in regards to this issue and we await a response, I will let you know what we get back from them when and if we do.

Update: Please check out the Follow-up Story