With this in mind I had to find a VoIP provider in New Zealand, and wouldn't need to look for long - we have a Xnet VFX forum here on Geekzone, and seeing that they actually have an active participation running betas, answering people's questions, I thought it would be a good fit.
This also came along because of new Number Portability rules in New Zealand, allowing users to change their providers whilst keeping the phone numbers.
So my next step was to sign up for Xnet VFX, and select a VoIP device. I wanted a VoIP gateway that would allow me to plug a conventional phone, to reduce costs. Xnet helped with my decision by pointing out that a Linksys SPA2102 (pictured) would be ideal - and even support two lines! What this means is that after having ported my number from TelstraClear to Xnet VFX I could simply unplug the phone from the wall and plug into the SPA2102.
This little device is also a full router with built-in VoIP capabilities, meaning once it's plugged into your broadband modem it can provide Internet access to more than one PC in addition to the two VoIP numbers. Since I already have a router, I just plugged the SPA2102 to my existing hadrware, and it was ready to use.
For some background information, I was already one of the few people in New Zealand that didn't have a Telecom New Zealand line rental at home, since we here use the TelstraClear cable modem service. I was able to cancel my phone line service, while keeping the cable TV and cable broadband.
We scheduled the porting to happen on a Wednesday at 3pm, and on that time I got a phone call from Xnet support asking me to switch the phone from the wall to the SPA2102. A test call was placed in a few minutes, meaning I was able to place calls over my broadband connection from that moment, but still had to wait another half hour for all the changes to happen on TelstraClear so that incoming calls would be routed through that channel as well.
As suggested by sbiddle, I then logged into mynetfone.com.au and subscribed to their Megasaver plan, which gives me an Australian phone number, plus 100 free calls per month, all for AU$9/month - handy since we have relatives living there.
So now I have this SPA2102 with two handsets (we could opt to have a cordless handset with two lines but wanted to have independence to use both at the same time).
Also I bought a second UPS for home. You must remember that in case of power cut, a standard phone line will still work because the power is not supplied by the energy company, but by the telco, down the phone line. When using a VoIP device there's no power on your broadband line, so I wanted to be able to place calls even if the lights went out.
Voice quality is really good, and can't really differentiate from a standard landline call. Other services are free, including a cool voice mail portal that allows me to upload my own greeting messages from WAV files on my PC, and to configure all services - even receiving emails when a call is missed and reaches the voice mail.
Of course there's a long way to go in New Zealand for VoIP to become a mainstream product. I doubt you would get a meaningful answer from many people on the street if you asked "Do you know what VoIP is?".
Important to point out that from September 2007 New Zealanders will be able to get naked DSL, so there won't be the need to pay Telecom New Zealand for a landline, making this an even more viable option to many others. Also worth pointing out is that almost 50% of the Internet population in New Zealand now have broadband service, making this an even more interesting solution.
Full disclosure required: I was given the SPA2102 by Xnet VFX, after I decided to sign up with them.
Join with IBM experts, business partners and strategists to discover how technology can be used to transform your business, in an inspirational one-day event.
With a combination of live, interactive demonstrations, real customer stories and relevant educational sessions IBM Forum 07 has something for every business - regardless of size, budget or industry.
Just to give you an idea, this is a list of sessions I attended last year at the IBM Forum 06.
If you don't know, Fake Steve Jobs is a blogger that writes an anonymous blog as if he was indeed Apple's CEO Steve Jobs. He fires at everyone and everything. Really good reading.
And Business 2.0 has listed him as one of the most influential people in current business technology.
The iPhone is not an innovation per se - a lot of other smart devices already do what it does (c'mon, claiming "vibrating alerts" as innovative is stretching a bit).
But the iPhone is a completely new concept in terms of mobility. Using the Safari browser as the platform to distribute and run applications, is one of the best moves I've seen.
Whoever ever tried Pocket Internet Explorer knows that Safari can be only better. But Opera for Mobile is not a bad competitor. They just don't have the traction in the market to pull this off.
Now, selling 500,000 units of any new product on its first weekend is some serious business. But what is even more interesting is that 50% of buyers were switching from other mobile operator to AT&T, the company with the exclusive deal with Apple for the launch. And this is for a two year contract.
Both Vodafone and Telecom New Zealand should look into this as something to work on for the next six months. I am not sure if Telecom New Zealand would have a chance though, even with their plans to launch a WCDMA network here, seeing that rumours are flying that Vodafone Group PLC is working with Apple to launch the iPhone in Europe - which I believe would of course include the Vodafone New Zealand operation sometime later.
If you don't know, this lolcat thing is so big, there's even a LOLCODE programming language:
CAN HAS STDIO?
VISIBLE "HAI WORLD!"
Or this more complex loop:
CAN HAS STDIO?
I HAS A VAR
IM IN YR LOOP
IZ VAR BIGGER THAN 10? KTHXBYE
IM OUTTA YR LOOP
Or this one implementing a complex IF condition:
CAN HAS STDIO?
I HAS A VAR
IZ VAR BIGGER THAN 10?
BTW this is true
VISIBLE "BIG NUMBER!"
BTW this is false
VISIBLE "LITTLE NUMBER!"
The service is just another one in a sea of "personal homepages", such as Microsoft Windows Live, iGoogle, Netvibes and others.
They even offer a widget called "Virtual Puppy", a Flash-based animation of a dog walking around the widget and pouncing at balls and bones you throw at it...
Their press release comes with all the buzzwords for this decade, including "user generated content", "Web 2.0", "Second Life" and more:
BigPond Group Managing Director Justin Milne said: "I-Pond is BigPond's latest innovation as we spearhead the charge towards Web 2.0, the user-generated internet experience of the future."
I-Pond is the latest Web 2.0 initiative to be launched by BigPond, following launches of BigPond's islands in Second Life, interactive BigBlogs and Australia's leading online games community BigPond GameArena.
Mr Milne continued: "As internet users become increasingly sophisticated they're demanding new ways of organising and engaging with information online. Our Web 2.0 products tap into this desire for personalised internet experiences and explore the new ways of communicating that Web 2.0 enables.
"Today we're launching I-Pond, the ideal way to personalise and prioritise the huge amount of information available online."
I-Pond is a new, personalised way of organising information. It enables customers to keep an eye on the weather, have the latest headlines from their favourite news sites updating in real time via RSS feeds, see their diary and have one-click links to web videos or the latest sports results only a glance away.
The look is good, the widgets are fun. But do we need another personalised homepage service? I guess BigPond is trying to introduce the concept to people who would visit their ISP's page, but not tech savvy enough to find this kind of services on the big Internet.
I wonder if any of the New Zealand ISPs are working on this? Xtra, IHUG, Slingshot, Paradise? They all have very boring pages. Both Paradise and Slingshot have pages coming out of the 90s. Xtra diverts to its Yahoo!Xtra partnership, which seems to have been engineered and designed in 1997.
Anything else brewing here in New Zealand?
More information on this IP6 New Zealand PoP page.
I was told that for this month SixXS we will be giving new users from New Zealand bonus credits so that they can directly request a tunnel + subnet from this PoP.
I am thinking it can be quite useful when going to my weekly meeting, or simply away for a weekend, where I don't expect to have to work 100% of the time, but would like to keep in contact via e-mail or even catch up with my RSS feeds.
So I got the TabletKiosk EO v7110 off Darryl, who is now going around with a Samsung Q1. I have Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate installed on this UMPC (instructions to install Windows Vista on UMPC here), plus Avast, Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007, Skype, FeedDemon, Hamachi and BeInSync to keep my UMPC always synchronised to my laptop. I have just downloaded and installed Ilium Software's InScribe, a free software keyboard for UMPC and Tablet PCs.
I also tried the Vodafone vodem (HSDPA) and it's working well so I have cellular data connectivity if I can't connect to a Wi-Fi network. I am using the vodem because it's a USB device - this UMPC does not have Express Card or PC Card interfaces so I can't use the better performing Vodafone Merlin XU870 (HSDPA) or the much faster Telecom AirCard 595 (CDMA EVDO).
So far so good, the user interface is similar to the Tablet PC, which I am used to, so no big learning curve.
I recommend installing a remote control software such as GoToMyPC (or the free LogMein) so that you can use your bigger laptop or desktop sometimes - I am configuring this device, updating stuff, copying files and instead of using the much smaller screen I just have to connect to it and remote control the device:
Just for kicks, below is the Windows Vista Performance Index:
For comparison, this is the Windows Vista Performance Index for my current laptop:
Let's see how it goes.
UPDATE: It works well, and it is synchronising to my laptop with no problems. I only wish that TabletKiosk would make the drivers compatible with Vista. The touchscreen doesn't work until you login, and don't try downloading any drivers from Windows Update, because this will most likely make you have to return to a previous Restore Point, as it happened to me. It also has problems coming back from Sleep, which is a bummer because this is one of the main functions for a UMPC, right?
Better than nothing anyway. This will be available for customer of European subsidiaries while roaming in some of the Vodafone networks around the world, including Vodafone Australia and Vodafone New Zealand.
With 'Vodafone Connect Abroad' customers will be able to use their laptops when overseas to surf the internet, check emails and access their company intranet, whether they are sitting in a hotel room, in a cafe or on the beach. The new tariff ensures the comfort of straightforward pricing combined with a familiar and reliable service. In countries where there is an HSDPA network, Vodafone Connect Abroad customers using a Vodafone Mobile Connect USB modem or a Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G broadband data card will be able to connect just as they do in their home country and benefit from download speeds of up to 3.6Mbps.
Any Vodafone customer who uses a wireless data product, uses their mobile handset as a modem or has a laptop with an embedded SIM card, can sign-up for Vodafone Connect Abroad free of charge. Customers will pay nothing until they choose to connect abroad for a 24hr session. They can access the internet, emails or business network as many times as they choose for e12 (excl. VAT) in the same 24 hr period on any Vodafone or partner network included in the offer.
The move to introduce Vodafone Connect Abroad, which was first announced in March 2007, builds on the success of the company's innovative voice roaming tariff, Vodafone Passport, which since June 2005 has brought lower, reassuring prices to over 12 million European customers' mobile phone bills when travelling
Meanwhile, we at Vodafone New Zealand still pay NZ$10 from the word GO! while roaming to other Vodafone networks. Granted 50 MB is not "unlimited", but it would be a great start of a service.
When is Vodafone New Zealand going to "unleash" Vodafone Passport services and tariffs here? Perhaps now that their billing system has been migrated (not without pain to users) we could expect to see some improvement in the offerings to Vodafone customers?