Archive for November, 2006

BlackFriday Sale on AmperorDirect

November 21, 2006

AmperorDirect is going to doing research on the affects of Black Friday sale. Everyone here is going to work hard and see how it turns out. The boss is waiting to see some meaningful analysis at the end of the sale. If you want to participate in the research, please Click here to see the details. (Please remember to enter the page from the above link so that the system knows you are coming from the blog.)

In addition, please see our cute alien icon for this sale.

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How to use the Call Button on your Bluetooth Headset to Answer Skype Calls – Part I

November 21, 2006

Three Solutions:

There are three software solutions I can find on the market that can enable Bluetooth headset users to answer Skype calls by pressing the action (call) button on the headset. They are Bluesoleil, Vitaero, and Speakables. The Bluesoleil Skype plugin software was mentioned in my Bluetake BT007SX / BT009SX review. The Vitaero will be covered in this article. And, I’ll work on the Speakables and publish my review later, including the comparison report of the three software solutions.

Vitaero Evaluation Report:

Equipments (my equipment):

  • PC (HP Compaq nx6310)
  • USB Bluetooth adapter (no brand name class 1 USB BT adapter)
  • Widcomm (or Toshiba) Bluetooth driver (version 4.0.1.70)
  • Bluetooth Headset (Plantronics Voyager 510)
  • Skype (version 2.5.0.151)

 

Pre-install Checkout:

  • What is the Bluetooth driver used on your computer?

Vitaero only works with the Widcomm and Toshiba Bluetooth driver. On the official website, it states that “Vitaero will not work with the Microsoft Bluetooth drivers because they don’t support audio connections to headsets.” There are two ways to check. If you are using the Microsoft Bluetooth driver, please contact the Bluetooth USB adapter vendor to obtain the Widcomm driver.

1. What’s the color of the Bluetooth icon on the toolbar?

: This is a Microsoft Bluetooth driver

: This is a Widdcom Bluetooth driver

2. Go to: Control Panel > Sounds, Speech and Audio Devices > Sounds and Audio Devices. Click on the hardware tab and find the “Bluetooth Audio” in the Devices window (you might need to scroll up and down to find the device). Left click on the “Bluetooth Audio” to make it highlighted. You can see which manufacturer’s device driver is linked to the “Bluetooth Audio”.

  • Does your Bluetooth headset compatible with the Vitareo?

Check out the compatibility list at here. Most Bluetooth headsets from major brands such as Plantronics, Motorola, Logitech, and Sonny Ericsson are supported by Vitareo. (The one I’m using is Plantronics Voyager 510.)

My Installation Sequence:

1. I had the Skype, Bluetooth USB adapter, and Widcomm Bluetooth driver already installed on my computer. In order to reduce the chance of having conflict, I unpaired and turned off the power of my Plantronics Voyager 510 completely, before installing Vitaero.

2. I went to the Vitaero homepage to download the software. (Press the button at the right hand side.)

3. I ran the installer program downloaded above, and went through the installation wizard. The Vitaero was then set up on my computer.

4. The following configuration window pop up at the first time I executed the Vitaero from the “Start Menu”.

5. I set all the audio devices as “Windows default device”.

6. I press the “Connect” button at the Headset section on the Vitaero configuration window, followed the steps in the pairing wizard, turned on my Plantronics Voyager 510 Bluetooth headset to put it into the pairing mode, and made the connection.

7. 5 seconds after I finished the pairing wizard, the Vitaero icon on the toolbar turned yellow, like this: . I could start to use the Vitaero.

Main Functions / Features:

  • Pick up (or hang-up) Skype incoming calls through the call (action) button on the Bluetooth headset.
  • Dial the contact listed in the Contacts > Quick Dial section in the configuration window, by pressing the call (action) button. No need to initiate the call through computer.
  • Auto-dial the contact listed in the Contacts > Auto Dial section, when the person is available.
  • Set the user status shown online when the Bluetooth headset is presented, not presented, or in used. See the “Status” section in the configuration window.
  • If the “Enable audio channel management” box in the “Heasdset” section is checked, Vitaero can automatically put the headset in stand-by mode, when it is not in used.

Important Notes:

  • In the last step of pairing the headset, Vitaero might ask for the permission to turn the “my audio gateway” in the Widcomm Bluetooth panel from auto to manual startup mode, to avoid any possible interference. I did allow the change and have not seen any unwanted side effects.
  • Be patient after the pairing process. The Vitaero icon on the toolbar won’t change color immediately. Wait at least 10 seconds before starting to repeat the connecting process.
  • If you have difficulties in making the Bluetooth headset pairing with the BT USB adapter through the Vitaero configuration window, you can try to un-pair the BT headset, power off the headset, and delete the headset profile in the Widcomm Bluetooth panel completely. The connection is easier to be made from a fresh start.
  • If you want to use the Bluetooth headset to listen to the music playing on the computer, don’t check the “Enable audio channel management” box in the “Heasdset” section. Leave the connection always on. The action of playing music won’t make the Vitaero to wake up the headset that is in the standby mode

Conclusions:

In my test, Vitaero does what it supposed to do: Pick up (or hang-up) Skype incoming calls through the call (action) button on the Bluetooth headset, well. I like the “Quick Dial” function. With the destination pre-selected, I can not only answer the Skype call, but also make a call without getting back to my computer. I had encountered some difficulties making the headset connected to the software. However, part of it was because I had no patience to wait through the processing time. (See item Notes 2.) Besides, the fresh start in notes 3 can help to improve the situation a lot.

Overall, Vitaero is a good product. If you are seeking for a solution to free you up from the computer when doing Skype and don’t want to pay for the Skype WiFi phone, go get a Plantronics Voyager 510 and Vitaero. It won’t disappoint you.

 

 

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How to Use the SMC Skype WiFi Phone with a Hotel Broadband Internet Access

November 8, 2006

Purpose

We know that the SMC Skype WiFi Phone, WSKP100, does not provide a built-in web browser for users to get past the authentication process that most hotels require in order to access their broadband internet service. We wanted to find a small-size router which can be plugged into the Ethernet port on the hotel wall, to handle the authentication process, and to broadcast a wireless signal that travelers can still use the SMC Skype WiFi phone with when they are away from home.

Therefore, we found:

Pocket Size D-Link DWL-G730AP Wireless G Router

We found that the D-Link DWL-G730AP wireless G router works well for our test purpose. Let us first examine whether the D-Link DWL-G739AP is suitable to take on the road. In the picture you can see that the D-Link DWL-G730AP is truly a pocket-sized router (it is similar in size as my business card). In the retail box, D-Link provides a carrying bag in which users can put the router, the network and USB cables, and the AC adapter – all in one handy, paperback book-sized package. D-Link provides a USB power cable so that users can power the router through the computer itself in case there is not a handy power outlet in the hotel room. With the small-size design, the organinal carrying bad included, and the alternative power method provided, we think the D-Link DWL-G730AP wireless G router is a good product to take on the road.

Using the D-Link DWL-G730AP with the SMC Skype WiFi Phone

1. Pre-configure the DWL-G730AP in Router Mode (using the wizard is a great start in getting this taken care of) to obtain an IP address automatically from the DHCP server, and set the LAN portion to assign IP addresses in a range that is not part of the normal 192.168.0.x range. Choose something a little different so you don’t interfere with other mini-networks nearby, such as 192.168.yy.x (where yy is a number between 2-244). This is still in the realm of a private/home network, but is not the same as everyone’s standard network. You WILL need to set up encryption and a WEP key of some sort, but you can get away with all “0”s for the key to make it simple. And set up the network ID to something you’ll remember and can identify on the laptop & phone easily. That’s it. Once you’ve followed the easy instructions that Dlink provides, you’re ready for your trip.

2. After connecting the DWL-G730AP to the Ethernet port on the wall, the hotel router should provide the DWL-G730AP an IP address for their network (call it address A).

3. Then turn on the laptop. Make the laptop connect to the network that the DWL-G730AP is broadcasting wirelessly. The laptop will receive an IP address for that wireless network (192.168.yy.x – call it address B). Then run the web browser.

4. When the hotel router sees the web browser opened for the first time for address A, it will send out a challenge request to the browser. The user can now go through the authentication process on the laptop (or response – check with the hotel staff for details on how to respond to the network challenge).

5. After the authentication process is done, the hotel router will grant access to the device on address A to the public Internet network. The hotel network usually only looks for one response to the IP address it gives out during the length of time that address A is valid. The user can now turn off the laptop if they want to. Because the DWL-G730AP is still on and connected to the hotel router, it will keep the hotel IP address and the associated permissions.

6. Now, the user can turn on the SMC phone, connect it to the DWL-G730AP network (don’t forget your encryption code), and from there, the world.

Test Results

Todd Belding, our in-house tech support, tested this proces at the Omni Hotel (at 13210 Katy Freeway, Houston TX 77079) yesterday (11/7/2006) while at a Microsoft Ready 2 Rock Roadshow featuring the benefits of the upcoming Windows Vista and Intel Dual-Core processors. He has put the D-Link DWL-G730AP in both opened and WEP modes where they work fine. He used the SMC Skype WiFi phone to make a Skype call after going through the above procedures. With pre-configuring the router before attending the conference, he was able to plug into the network and power in seconds and be out of the way of traffic, then leisurely use his computer to connect at a safe distance and activate the connection. The process took only took 3 minutes from the time he connected to the network until the call was made (but his laptop was on already so there is some cheating there).

An important tip he wants you to keep in mind: remember to setup the connection between the D-Link DWL-G730AP and the SMC Skype WiFi phone before going on the trip, and make sure the SMC Skype WiFi phone remembers the SSID and the encryption key setting connecting it to the D-Link DWL-G730AP network. It will make the whole setup much easier and faster. Since the setup gets an IP address from the host network automatically, you can try this at home and make sure you can make a Skype call through the new network, then you can look like a pro when you connect it on the road and not have to worry about technical details when you’re rushed.

Link to the SMC Skype WiFi Phone WSKP100 Review


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Kensington Vo300 USB Internet Speakerphone – Product Review

November 6, 2006

A Retro-Looking (and Feeling) Speakerphone

When I first saw the Kensington Vo300 USB Internet speakerphone, it reminded me of the front door intercom security system I used to play with when I was a child. I’m from a crowded city – Taipei – on a small island called Taiwan. Because of the limited land space there, most people live in either apartment buildings or high-rise condos. As a city boy, one of the hot summer afternoon routines my friends and I did was to hit on those door phones at the apartment and high-rise buildings, pretend we are mail delivery people, and see if we can act good enough to have the owners open the front gate for us. It wasn’t a good habit, but it was definitely fun.

The Kensington Vo300 USB Internet speakerphone not only has a similar size (5” x 4”) and look, it also has the same “slow reaction” when operating the buttons on an old door phone system. I guess because of the concern for cost control, the buttons on an old door phone security system were never that sensitive. After you hit a button, you had to wait through a short-period dead-time before you could hit the next button. On the Kensington Vo300 USB Internet speakerphone, you can expect to experience the same thing. When using up and down navigation buttons to search through Skype contacts, or using volume up and down buttons to adjust the speaker volume, you need to be patient. Fast and repeat button pushing is not recommended while operating the Kensington Vo300 USB Internet speakerphone. It will just reduce the life of the buttons and not make they system go any faster – just like for an elevator.

I’m not Bad Mouthing

At this point, you might think Howard Chang is another arrogant blogger who is trying to bad-mouth Kensington Vo300 USB Internet speakerphone, but bear with me a moment more before you come to that conclusion. Bad-mouthing a product is never my purpose for writing a product review. I just want to list the information a consumer needs to know before making a buying decision. Besides, retro-looking doesn’t equal to bad-looking, and it sometimes means “cool” to some people. Furthermore, if you can be trained to operate the buttons properly, you can enjoy the abundant features and functions the Kensington Vo300 USN Internet speakerphone offers.

Abundant Features

Among all the good features the Kensington Vo300 USB Internet speakerphone offers, I like the fact that a user can perform almost all of the tasks involved in making a Skype voice call on the Kensington Vo300 dial pad. After setting up the Skype contact information on the computer, a user can find the contact on the Vo300 LCD screen by using the up / down navigation buttons, initiate a Skype call by hitting the green call button, listen to the voice messages by hitting the message button, and adjust the speaker volume and mute the microphone by pressing the related buttons. If you don’t like the wait in navigating through the contact list on the screen, you can use the number / alphabet pads to jump to the targeted contact faster. There are also other button-hitting procedures to check in the missing / receiving call logs and to start a multi-user conference call. This all-on-the-dial-pad feature provides a tremendous convenience to users.

Comparison on Kensington Vo300 and Polycom Communicator

Before wrapping up this review, I want to do a pricing / feature comparison on Kensington Vo300 USB Internet speakerphone and the Polycom communicator. They are both designed specifically for Skype as an external speaker / microphone combo unit for a small conference room.

 

 

Kensington Vo300

Polycom communicator

Price

$70+

$120+

Microphone

Echo-canceling
Microphone.

Cannot adjust
volume. Need users to speak louder.

Echo-canceling
Microphone.

Super sensitive.
Can pick up very low volume sound.

Speakerphone

Very good quality.

Very good quality.

Functions

Abundant functions,
such as display Skype contact list, listen to voice
message, and headsets port.

Basic functions,
such as call / hang-up and speaker mute buttons.

Installation

Easy. The computer
that is connected to Vo300 needs to perform the software in start-up.

Easy. No special
software needs to be in RTS.

USB Cable length

Long enough.
(around 6 ft)

Short. (only 3 ft)

Conclusion

Kensington Vo300 USB Internet Speakerphone can be a good phone to users if they want abundant features and easy operation on their conference phone, and have limited budget . If users want to eliminate the need for participants in the conference room to bend forward to the phone to speak, Polycom Comminicator is the better choice.

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