Thursday, November 6, 2008

Riding the technology bandwagon

I'm not an Early Adopter.

I do suffer - badly on occasion - from gadget lust, but being a man posessed of self-control, I master my urges and wait to buy until the second or third product release with its attendant rise in quality, ease of installation and use.

Also, I'm a bit of a tightarse, so I like the way good stuff gets cheaper if you wait a year or so.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying, "I just got on the VOIP bandwagon, and it's pretty cool".

We've been using Skype for a while, and doing it for free is all well and good if both parties are by their computers at the right time and everything is plugged in and switched on and working. But it's rarely that simple. Horrible Logitech webcam white noise problems have plagued my parents in law. At home here, we use a quasi-Victorian combination of some big headphones and one of our SingStar mics, which we have to scramble to find if anyone tries to call us.  

So we looked at SkypeOut. But without significantly investing in new hardware, we would still have had to use our computer to make and receive calls, you can't get a dutch VOIP phone number (they're "working on it"), and you can't use those nifty mobile/Skype phones you can get in the UK on that 3 network. Well, you could try I guess, but chances are it wouldn't work.

So we researched all the options and the available suppliers that would let us use our existing DECT phones as VOIP phones, with the minimum of fuss and cost for new equipment and installation. There are various ways of doing things, but we ended up going with our existing ISP, XS4ALL. Why? Because they gave us a free VOIPable wireless modem into which we can plug our DECT phones. €5 VOIP line rental, and Bob's yerruncle, plus the extremely cheap call fees: €0.01 per minute to call England. Or Singapore... or pretty much anywhere.

Other ISPs all looked cheaper, but their lower rental charges hid much higher call charges, and the subscription fee goes up by almost double after 12 months. So we would end up paying much the same at first, but much more later. 

The real clincher is the quality of service you can get from the other suppliers. None of them were willing to reveal on the phone or on their site what their downtime or interruption statistics were, and a lot of them are very new on the internet/VOIP scene: conclusion - don't trust em. Also, from previous experience, we know that the sales departments in these places are always much easier to reach than the support guys. Not encouraging.

So far, everything's going nicely. There were one or two teething troubles, and my parents in England still can't call my number for no apparent reason... but otherwise, we're pretty pleased with ourselves.

I don't really know why I wrote this post.

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