VOIP and it's Providers

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is an Internet phone service that bypasses your normal local telephone company. Internet VoIP service rings and has a dial tone just like any other telephone, but calls are routed over your Internet connection. VoIP's growing popularity is lowering the cost of phone communication for many homes, and for some, it’s eliminating plain old telephone service (POTS) entirely. Unlike traditional analog telephone signals, which travel through a PSTN (public switched telephone network), VoIP digitizes the speaker's voice and sends it through either cable or DSL broadband Internet connections. An adapter connects your regular telephone to your Internet connection or you can always use a stand alone IP phone or USB IP phone (you need a computer for USB IP phone to work)

Call quality of VoIP is a big determining factor based on consumer surveys. Internet lines that are getting crowded with more downloads can have glitches like echoes and dropped calls, especially during peak hours. This is especially a problem with new VoIP players like Vonage, Packet8 and SunRocket, since they use public networks for their services. An August 2006 VoIP study by Keynote Systems noted that call quality did improve a bit last year, though it singled out cable providers as having the best audio responsiveness and best reliability. The reason: cable companies carry IP signals over their private networks, so they can control the traffic.

Types of VoIP

Thus, there are two main categories of VoIP: Hardware-based VoIP and software-based VoIP. Hardware services require a converter box (called an ATA) that connects your phone to your broadband modem or router, and your computer does not have to be turned on to make and receive calls. Software VoIP works through your computer with a microphone, so your computer has to be on to receive calls.

The most flexible application of VoIP requires only one additional piece of hardware, an ATA (analog telephone adapter). An ATA is an analog-to-digital converter which connects your traditional phone to your Internet connection. Most service providers include the ATA in their VoIP packages. In nearly every case (but not all), the adapter you use will be locked or password protected to correspond only with the service provider.

A second hardware-based option is an IP phone, which is similar in appearance to a standard telephone but includes a built-in ATA adapter. The IP phone connects directly to the router with a standard RJ-45 Ethernet connector. These phones are available in three different standards: MGCP (Media Gateway Control Protocol), H.323, and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). SIP is the most popular types, and it is quickly becoming the standard. ConsumerSearch plans to cover SIP phones in a separate report. On the plus side, no computer or software is needed to use an SIP phone; the only requirement is a broadband Internet connection.
My Top 3 VOIP providers

1. Onesuite SuiteAdvantage - Though a new player in VoIP field, Onesuite has a long background with telecommunication service. Onesuite has been in the long distance service business for almost a decade and enjoying success in prepaid phone card market. I've been using their phone cards for 3 years now and so far I've been very satisfied with its services and rates.

Onesuite dived into VoIP scene early last year but its limited to their beta testers and some customers, I've been privilege to try their VoIP service and report bugs or what not whenever I encounter one. Last week they officially launched SuiteAdvantage and will start charging $2.95 monthly for the service. Let me enumerate some of their features I particularly like:
A. Pay as you go - meaning I am not tied up in Onesuite VoIP and I can quit anytime not thinking about any unused minutes or anything like that unlike other VoIP providers.
B. Online (real time) records access - I can check my balance, call records, transactions anytime and in real time.
C. Lower rates to some countries - regular Onesuite phone card service rates are one of the lowest in industry but if I choose to use their VoIP feature then I can get lower rates in some countries.
D. Voice mail feature - can be activated anytime, voice mail can be access online or by phone
E. Compatible with USB IP phone - So you can use a USB IP phone that it looks like your regular phone. Soon (an email from Onesuite support) SuiteAdvantage will be compatible with IP phone that doesn't require a computer

2. Yahoo! Voice - this is my favorite pc to pc calls. Yahoo! trademark is so popular that almost everyone who knows how to browse know what is Yahoo! Even before Skype, Yahoo is in the business of PC to PC calling and one of the pioneers in the industry. I'll take Yahoo! voice over Skype any day of the week. What I like most from Yahoo! voice is:
A. Easy installation/set up - even if you are not tech savy you will find the installion very easy.
B. Very good quality - PC to PC calls are very good. I even tried to use it with 56k dial ups on both end and we can still have a decent conversation.
C. Very popular - most people has a Yahoo! account one way or the other.

3. SunRocket - is my favorite until Onesuite SuiteAdvantage came into play. One of the cheapest unlimited (US, Canada, Puerto Rico) calling at $16.95 monthly. Free international minutes to some countries. If you do make frequent international calls, you should consider SunRockets international plans. Some points I like:

A. Can cancel and get refund for unused minutes/credits
B. Good voice quality
C. Easy to sign up

Cleveland, Ehlo and James

SAN ANTONIO – Looking back, Craig Ehlo wishes the Cleveland Cavaliers could've deployed those long arms of Larry Nance to defend the inbounds pass. Maybe that would've made the angle tougher for Michael Jordan to catch the ball. In the heartbreaking history of the Cavaliers, the most unforgettable moment has been re-run a thousand times on television, but a million in this old guard's mind.

Here it was, the decisive Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference first-round playoff series between Chicago and Cleveland, and Ehlo was doomed. Jordan caught the ball, dribbled to his left across the circle and hung and hung and hung, until he flicked his wrist and crushed the Cavaliers' season.

"I was running at him and he stopped on a dime and got his elevation," Ehlo said the other day from his home in Spokane, Wash. "He hesitated on his shot and it was like in "Top Gun." He put on his brakes and I flew right past him."

And as Jordan celebrated a trip to the conference semifinals to meet Detroit, his fists pumping into the Richfield Coliseum air, the memory of Ehlo collapsing to the court has been the forever snapshot of Cleveland basketball. Everyone forgets that Ehlo had made a tough, driving layup with three seconds left, that he could've owned the Cavs' greatest playoff moment. His shot dropped through the net, he turned to the scoreboard clock and knew he had left too much damn time for Jordan.

"After I made that layup, the building was so deafening, you couldn't hear yourself think," Ehlo said. "And then, Michael makes the shot, and you could hear a pin drop. My reaction was our fans' reaction. For a long time, people in Cleveland thought that there was a curse on us. We could just never get over the hump."

There was no curse, just the cold, cutting truth of Jordan's genius. The Cavaliers would lose five of seven years to Jordan in the playoffs with the core of Ehlo, Ron Harper, Mark Price, Larry Nance and Brad Daugherty forever falling short. Cleveland never did have its own No. 23, just a lineage of good, never great, players through the years.

Everything changes now with LeBron James, whose breathless barrage of 48 points in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals unhitched the hook from Ehlo as the embedded image of Cavaliers playoff history. Cleveland has James, the next generation Jordan, and his arrival in the NBA finals for Game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday will keep pushing the memories of heartache into the past.

"I was jumping out of my shoes and shorts watching (LeBron) in that Pistons series," Ehlo said. "I still feel a part of that organization, part of the brotherhood. You know, we were a blue-collar team, a nucleus that worked really hard. But Michael just kept beating us. He kept doing what he does."

So yes, it has been fitting that Ehlo has been talking on the phone lately with Bernie Kosar, who relentlessly had John Elway do to him and the Browns what Jordan did to Ehlo and the Cavaliers. Kosar was on the wrong side of "The Drive" the way Ehlo was on the wrong side of that jumper. Together, they're poster boys for the second-city nature of Cleveland sports history.

For now, James vindicates so much for this franchise and its city. The heartbreaker always came to town and crushed Cleveland's dreams. Now, he plays the role of one. The Cavs did make it to the Eastern Conference championship in 1992, but Michael and the Jordanaires wouldn't let them into the NBA finals.

Ehlo is friends with Cavs general manager Danny Ferry, whom has promised him tickets when the finals reach Cleveland for the first time in history. When Ehlo was doing television for the Sonics a couple of years ago, he introduced himself to James and told him that he used to wear the Cavs uniform in the good, old days.

"I remember you," James told Ehlo. "I grew up in Akron."

At 22 years old, James could've remembered the back end of the Bulls' destruction to his hometown team. Truth be told, Ehlo would've merely been that angst-ridden defender foiled by Jordan in the franchise-defining clip broadcast through a James childhood of watching Jordan's greatest hits.

Still, James was old enough to see the Gatorade commercial, where they needed Ehlo's permission to change the course of history. The spot showed Jordan missing the shot and dropping his head and a computer-generated Ehlo flinging his arms skyward in victory.

And maybe, that's how it would've looked had the ball bounced the Cavs way in '89. Nevertheless, Ehlo still says, "I had so much fun playing those last six seconds." Years later, he would go see Jordan's IMAX movie with his kids and would be fascinated to watch the way that the detail of Jordan and him could be studied on that immense movie screen. It made Ehlo remember the words of Phil Jackson, whom always called that one of his most cherished Jordan moments.

"He said it wasn't so much that he made the shot, but the reaction of the two players," Ehlo said. "One devastated, one jubilant."

Ah, it isn't such a horrible memory. Maybe he was on the wrong side of history, but he was there. Now, No. 23 wears a Cleveland uniform and, all these years later, the kid from Akron bailed out Craig Ehlo. His agony of defeat is no longer the lasting legacy of the Cavaliers.

Samsung LN-T3253H HDTV

The good: The Samsung LN-T3253H HDTV produces relatively deep blacks with fine shadow detail; accurate color; slick styling; scads of picture controls; superb connectivity with one PC and three HDMI inputs.

The bad: Expensive compared to bargain models, but definitely cheaper than Sony and Panasonic; grayscale tends toward blue in darker areas.

The bottom line: Great style, oodles of features, and a solid picture combine to make the Samsung LN-T3253H one of the best LCD TVs available at its size.

We were bitten by the LCD HDTV bug last month and we decided to get the Samsung LN-T3253H HDTV after weighing in its price, features, design over other LCD brands.

For an LCD, the Samsung LN-T3253H delivered fairly even uniformity across the screen. In terms of standard-definition performance, the Samsung turned in a decent performance when displaying most of the images and test patterns from the HQV DVD. It smoothed out the jagged edges of moving diagonal lines very well, including the difficult stripes in a waving American flag.

We also hooked up the Samsung's VGA input and tested it as a computer monitor. At 1,360x768 resolution, the image looked crisp with text down to a 10-point font, and according to DisplayMate the Samsung resolved every line of that resolution. The set is also equipped with a Home Theater PC mode that dimmed the image a bit and helped improve the picture to our eyes. Of course you can get the best results by adjusting the TV's standard picture controls, but the HTPC mode does provide a quick option.

The Samsung LCD is the best bang for the back and we are completely satisfied with our choice.


I have been fed up with my long-distance provider for months now. I did a lot of research to look for a reliable company. Believe me I spent many days looking at all the companies. One day I came across a review on OneSuite. I was intrigued but wasn’t convinced until I went to their website, Onesuite.com. I decided to bite the bullet and tried it since there was no startup fee, etc. I have been pleased for three weeks. No problems and I can call my friends in Asia and in Europe for little cost. Serious cheap rates. I had one problem regarding connection but hung up and tried again and the problem was gone. Putting more money on my card is convenient, easy and fast. I can do everything over the Internet.

I also bought calling cards in the past and there is always about 12 numbers that are meaningless and that, in a pinch, if you don’t have your card, you can’t call. With OneSuite, I just saved the 800 number into my cell phone and registered my mobile number as a ZipDial so I don't need to type in my PIN when making calls. I’ve used it in the states to call Germany, and vice versa when traveling.

I believe my search for a cheap long distance phone provider is over. The only thing that would make me switch now is if someone gives me a free card with plenty of minutes.

Scott Speed’s Bahrain Diary

Scott Speed has driven quite a few laps around the Sakhir circuit, home of the Bahrain Grand Prix. He raced on the track when he was in the GP2 series in 2005. He competed in the 2006 Bahrain race in his Toro Rosso. He tested the new Toro Rosso Formula One car at the track before this season started and he put in two full days of practice and qualifying for the 2007 Bahrain Grand Prix. But Speed’s race this year lasted less than a lap when he was eliminated in an accident.

On the opening day of practice on Friday, Speed completed 56 laps and clocked the 20th fastest time

“The car definitely feels more competitive than it did when I drove it here in the preseason test,” said Speed, “but that’s only to be expected. More importantly, the car feels more competitive than it did last week in Malaysia. That’s great news, as we did not really expect that. Now we will have to see if that stays true for the rest of the weekend. We have made a lot of changes to the car setup since last weekend. We are chipping away and learning more and more about the car, so this has been a useful day.”

In practice on Saturday, Speed turned 12 laps. He ended up 19th in qualifying in the afternoon.

“This afternoon was the first time today I ran the ‘option’ tyre,” he said, referring to the softer of the two Bridgestone compounds the drivers could use in Bahrain, “and it felt quite a bit different. In general, it felt as though the car was more unstable under braking. The car balance was much better than yesterday because the gap to Tonio (Liuzzi) has closed and I am running a similar pace to him, while yesterday he was quite a bit quicker than me. So we have managed to get the balance right, but for whatever reason I was not happy with the rear of the car. This was not what I had expected.”

Speed’s team mate, Tonio Liuzzi, qualified one slot ahead of him. All in all, Speed and his engineers were a bit mystified as to just why the Toro Rosso wasn’t handling properly.

“We are struggling this weekend,” Speed said. “We thought we’d be a lot better, and we are not.”

As for the race on Sunday, Speed said: “We will probably go for an aggressive strategy, and I will hope to pass some cars on the first lap.”

Unfortunately for Speed, he only made it as far as Turn Four on the first lap as he got caught in an accident involving several cars, including Adrian Sutil’s Spyker and Jenson Button’s Honda.

“Suddenly the cars in front stopped," Sutil said, “and I couldn’t avoid them and lost the front wing.”

Sutil, who ran into Speed, was able to get back to the pits for repairs, but Speed’s car stalled and he was done for the day. Button thought he had hit Speed’s car and immediately apologised to Speed. But Sutil’s car was the only one to hit Speed.

“I got a good start,” Button said, “and made up at least three places. Then at Turn Two, Taku (Sato) ran wide, tried to squeeze me, and I had nowhere to go so I had to go on the dirt on the inside. Then in Turn Three, I had Coulthard and someone else fighting around me. Coulthard went wide, then cut back sharp, and again I had nowhere to go. We touched, and that spun me round. Then the anti-stall didn’t cut in. I stalled, and that was the end of my race.”

None of the drivers involved in the accident was hurt. Unfortunately for Toro Rosso, Liuzzi didn’t make it to the finish, either.

“A disappointing Sunday afternoon with neither of our cars finishing,” team principal Franz Tost said. “First came Scott’s crash, and then Tonio had to retire with hydraulic problems. At least now we have a few weeks ahead of us before the next race, so we can use that time to sort out our problems and be better prepared for the race in Barcelona.”

The next Grand Prix will be held on May 13 in Spain.

Ferrari's are back!

Felipe Massa won his first grand prix this season (3 career wins over all) by driving a solid race yesterday afternoon in Bahrain. His team mate Kimi Raikkonen settle for third as he was bottled up with Fernando Alonso at the start of the race. Kimi lost his 3rd place position at the first corner (same thing happen at Sepang) to Fernando and that sealed his fate for the day.

The Driver's Championship are in a 3-way tie at 22 points all between Kimi, Fernando and Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari (39 points) inched their way to Constructor Championship by lessening the gap to 5 points vs the Mclaren (44 points)

Next stop is Spain. The Spanish Grand prix is the home grand prix of Alonso which he won last year while he was still driving a Renault. Massa on the other hand holds the fastest lap last year on his 2006 Ferrari and for thelast 9 races, the winning driver comes from either a Mclaren or a Ferrari.

Spanish GP should be a head to head between Ferrari and Mclaren and its a toss between Massa, Raikkonen, Alonso and Lewis which anyone of them is capable of winning it.