Archives For VoIP

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It’s been some time since Logitech has produced dedicated Mac video conferencing solutions. While several recent cameras actually work on Mac OS X, it happens via universal driver and they don’t leverage any of the Logitech value add… which I discovered the hard way when trying to repurpose the Google TV Revue camera. However, based on this unannounced Logitech Wireless Webcam For Mac ($180) spotted at B&H Photo, Logitech’s ready to take on the Mountain Lion. Of course, as most Macs incorporate a decent Facetime camera, Logitech’s offering should up the ante — so one would assume both higher quality video and video. Not to mention what looks like a rechargeable battery and wireless capabilities along with some sort of status indicator. Hm! As Engadget’s Richard Lawler said, “’tis the season” for interesting product leaks…

(Thanks Khaled!)

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If the FCC and this promo video are any indication, Logitech is poised to unveil a new television-based video conferencing solution. However, unlike their previous entrants into this field, the TV Cam HD doesn’t rely on Logitech’s video conferencing software (like Google TV) or a tricked out television and offers a stand-alone Skype solution — something akin to TelyHD. Once networked via its Ethernet port or wireless via 802.11g/n, all that’s required is a television with a free HDMI port to video chat with friends of family sporting any sort of Skype-equipped device such as an iPhone or tablet.

Timing is unclear, but Best Buy has the Logitech TV Cam HD pegged at $200 and expected within 30 days. More pressing, is there a sufficiently sized market for this sort of product? Previous attempts haven’t fared so well… but our pal Michael Graves has pined for Skype on TiVo for years and perhaps we consumers are ready for a living room sized solution given the success of Apple’s Facetime.

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Thanks to the FCC, we learn VoIP service provider Ooma is still trucking and intends to release a wireless accessory for their long-running Telo basestation ($200). Unlike, say Vonage or your cableco’s telephone service, Ooma sells you their network gadget for a one time fee and then provides unlimited US calling using your phone handsets or theirs – and without a computer in the mix (compared to the original magicJack). Additional features, including International calling, can be added for additional cost (of course). And, back when I worked from home, I found Ooma highly reliable and indispensable.

The new Ooma Linx looks to extend both the range of the Ooma Telo while potentially increasing the number and type of devices connected. It’s basically a DECT wall wart, that communicates with one’s existing Telo basestation, and hosts an additional phone, phone base station, or fax machine. Like most FCC filings, there’s no indication of pricing or timing. But I’m happy to see Ooma still in the game.

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CallerID on your DVR? Childs play. Verizon has launched an app on FiOS TV set-top boxes to manage your digital voice account. The rollout started earlier this month, but now that all subscribers have been successfully upgraded to IMG 1.9 (including us here in the DC region), the FiOS Digital Voice functionality is universally available. And, as you can see from the pics, I took it for a quick test drive.

While the IMG interface is still too sluggish, compared to say the upcoming DirecTV UI, it may be more convenient for folks to access their FiOS Digital Voice calls logs and voice mail. Yes, you can actually listen to your voicemail from the TV. Which gave me the opportunity to do a little house cleaning via that delete option. Verizon also pulls off some Google Voice trickery by allowing you to return missed calls — once selected, your home phone will ring and then it’ll dial up the other number.

Will I use these features? Probably not… as we don’t much utilize this line, only keeping Digital Voice services around as a cell backup and to save a few bucks via the triple play bundle. But it’s a rather clever technical proof of concept. And I suspect some will appreciate it.

Today’s question of the day comes to us from George C…

My brother-in-law just moved from the West Coast back to Texas.  In doing so, of course he dropped his triple play Internet/TV/Cable.  He also sold/gave away his old CRT televisions.  They watched Netflix via an old computer (they didn’t know about Roku type of devices).  He and his family (wife, two younger kids) just bought a new house and he is very open to new configurations.  He is technically capable of installing software, routers, etc…. But would not delve into (for example) Myth TV, pyTivo, etc…

He’ll probably need two TVs, one for the living room and one for the master bedroom.  OTA is a possibility, as there is a clear shot to the towers.  The wife really wants a land-line “in case of emergency”.  He thinks that they can stay with cell phones (I suggested Ooma).  The house alarm system come with an independent wireless system.  He doesn’t mind paying a fair price for a device, but really, really wants to avoid recurring monthly fees. Continue Reading…

While HDTV Skype video chat isn’t entirely new, Logitech’s joining the fray – bringing their webcam expertise to Skype-enabled 2011 Panasonic Viera televisions. What looks to be the same fantabulous HD USB camera/mic array offered to (the very few) Logitech Revue Google TV customers will ship later this month as the Logitech TV Cam for Skype at $150. While not inexpensive, for what’s essentially an accessory, I found my Logitech video chat experiences on Google TV surprisingly compelling. More so than Apple’s Facetime, even. Yet, it was also a very limited experience in being tied solely to Logitech’s network/community. Whereas the Skype ecosystem is massive. And as we contemplate our next living room TV, Panasonic just inched slightly ahead of Samsung in the hunt.

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We haven’t had a true home phone since 2005, when we sold our last place in favor of a gypsy lifestyle. But, now that we’ve settled down once again, we’ve bundled voice services with our Verizon FiOS plan. I’d probably have settled for putting the first gen Ooma back into service or abstaining entirely. Especially as the wife subscribes to an unlimited AT&T wireless calling plan. Yet, the way Verizon constructs bundles, their triple play (voice, data, tv) is the best value – effectively giving us unlimited national calling and various phone features for about just $10/month. So, why not?

The original idea was the new home phone line would exist for our convenience (i.e. outgoing calls) and we’ve only given the number to relatives for emergency use. But I seem to have forgotten how insidious the telemarketers can be. Sadly, the worst offender has been the Indiana University (which is where I picked up my master’s degree). Due to where our phones are located and the times when they typically call (dinner), I’ve been unable to pick up in time and tell them to knock it off. I began contemplating dropping Verizon voice as it’s become a (minor) nuisance and we’ve made only a handful of outbound calls in the last couple months.

So yesterday I went online to see if Verizon offered some sort of Ooma-esque blacklist for FiOS Digital Voice. And, given the existence of this post and screenshot above, you already know that they do. Once the feature has been enabled, nuking specific incoming numbers is as easy as bringing up a context menu and clicking Call Block via the VZN web portal. Although, we’re limited to prohibiting only ten total numbers (along with all anonymous callers). I’m not exactly sure how future calls from these numbers are handled – are the perpetrators sent to voicemail, get a busy signal, or, better yet, receive some sort of message indicating that they’re unwelcome ’round these parts? Continue Reading…