Archive for August, 2007

Skype is Playing Nice

August 21, 2007

Skype LogoThis is what I got from Skype. They are extending the subscription period of Skype Pro, Skype Unlimited, SkypeIn and Skype Voicemail for 7 days, for free, to compensate the crazy blackout happening last week.

—–Original Message—–

Hello amperordirect.business

You may or may not know but last week Skype wasn’t available for a couple of days. There were a number of reasons for this and I am delighted to say that the problem is now well and truly sorted and everything is back to normal. For those of you who tried to use Skype during that time but couldn’t, we’re very sorry. For those of you who didn’t try to use Skype – well thankfully you were not affected but we want to reassure everyone that Skype is now working happily and the problem is fixed.

We know we have many faithful users out there who give us feedback (good and bad) on what we’re doing as a company. The Skype community makes us what we are. Without you, our users, we simply wouldn’t exist. We’ve helped people stay in touch with their friends and family over the past four years without any massive hitch and we want it to stay that way.

When the unexpected happens, it’s important to remember the people who stuck behind us and whose loyalty humbled us. I want to thank everyone for their support, patience and being part of the Skype community. And for those of you who missed out on using Skype last week – I want to especially thank you as well.

As a goodwill gesture to all you faithful Skype Pro, Skype Unlimited, SkypeIn or Skype Voicemail customers, we’re adding an additional seven days to your current subscription, free of charge. And even if you didn’t miss out on using Skype last week – you can still have a week free on Skype, on the house!

So please enjoy it, call your loved ones, friends, family and colleagues and thanks again.

Talk soon,
The people at Skype

—–Original Message—–

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Skype Outage

August 17, 2007

Finally, my Skype account is back to normal. It is unfortunately that the Skype Outage happens when I am on the road for a business trip. Now I realize how easy and convenient to use Skype and how much I depend on it.

I’ve made this “I survive Skype Outage 2007” icon. You are welcome to download and use it. Hope I won’t need to do another icon anymore.

 

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IPEVO FREE.1 vs. Knockoffs

August 13, 2007

IPEVO FREE.1 Introduction:

 

IPEVO FREE.1 is a stylish Skype USB phone. It has won IF product design award and redhot design award in 2006. It has built-in 16KHz audio sampling rate capability which complies to Skype’s high voice handling standard. Thus, IPEVO FREE.1 can generate supreme voice quality for Skype conversation. (By the way, I was wrong in the IPEVO TRIO review. I can tell the audio performance difference between the IPEVO TRIO, an 8KHz sampling rate device, and the IPEVO FREE.1, a 16KHz device.)

 

IPEVO FREE.1 has been available on the US market for quite some time now. I won’t go through another detailed evaluation because there are already several good reviews available on the Internet (For example, see the review done by Bill Campbell at Skype Journal). I’ll focus on comparing the difference between IPEVO FREE.1 and the knockoffs which have been flooded on eBay and helping users to pick the authentic IPEVO FREE.1 from the fakes.

 

Differences in the Look:

 

IPEVO FREE1 with knockoffs

Along with the IPEVO FREE.1, I put two knockoffs I found on eBay in the picture. For convenience sake, I’ll call the left one as “white knockoff”, and the right one as “black knockoff”.

 

IPEVO FREE1 black knockoffIt is easy to tell the difference between IPEVO FREE.1 and the black knockoff. The most obvious thing is that the three gray customizable function buttons seen on IPEVO FREE.1 have been taken away. An “USB phone” text label has been placed at the location. You can also see that the plastic package of the black knockoff is kind of weak. The plastic has already been pushed and damaged when it arrived in the USPS priority mail bubble envolope.

 

The white knockoff looks almost identical to IPEVO FREE.1. The good thing is that there are still several small things to look for.IPEVO FREE1 white knockoffs

  • IPEVO’s logo is not shown on the white knockoff.
  • IPEVO FREE.1 has the number keys designed as transparent and the white knockoff has them in grey.
  • The power-on led on IPEVO FREE.1 is shaped in square, but it is shaped in circuit on white knockoff.
  • The up-down navigation button is colored in green on IPEVO FREE.1, but is colored in white on white knockoff.

 

With the information above, you should be able to pick the authentic IPEVO FREE.1 from the fakes.

 

Performance Comparison:

 

  • Audio Quality

The ability to do 16KHz audio sampling rate has enabled IPEVO FREE.1 to provide a crystal clear Skype conversation. The audio quality of black and white knockoff is not anywhere closed to what IPEVO FREE.1 can offer. Using both knockoffs, I can hear background “white noise” whenever one of conversation participant (either the caller or the called part) is speaking.

 

  • ButtonsIPEVO FREE1 package includes

The buttons work flawlessly on the IPEVO FREE.1, with the included software. There are three customizable buttons which allow users to pick from the following functions: Start Chat, Redial, Hold, Ringer Style Setting, Change Status, Play a Voice Mail and Send a Voice Mail. I find it very convenient to have the flexibility. IPEVO FREE1 also provides a “+” button for users to conduct SkypeOut calls.

 

For the black knockoff, all the basic keypads, such as number keys and call/hang-off buttons, are designed on the phone and work with the driver installed. However, the number 2 button has already decided to go bad from the moment I pull it out from the box. It looks to me like either there are some quality control issues at the manufacturer or the button is damaged in the transportation because of the weak package. Besides, the default key pressed confirmation tone is designed with extremely high pitch sound. It makes my ears hurt when I first use it.

 

IPEVO FREE1 with knockoffs frontFor the white knockoff, the keypad layout and number are identical to IPEVO FREE.1. However, even with the driver installed, none of the button works. I need to do everything through my computer keyboard and use the white knock off just as an external speaker and microphone.

 

  • Accessories

IPEVO FREE.1 comes with a cradle. You can stand up the USB phone for better organization and better look. Neither of the two knockoffs come with a cradle. Besides, IPEVO FREE.1’s installation CD is in regular size. Two knockoffs’ are in mini CD size, which cannot be used in Apple Mac computers.

 

  • CertificationsIPEVO FREE1 with knockoffs back

IPEVO FREE.1 is a Skype certified device. From the label at the back of the phone, we also learn that it is CE and FCC certified. The white and the black knockoff are not Skype certified. Although both knockoffs include CE and FCC marks on the label, none of them specify the product name or the model name. There is no way for me to confirm if the marks are real or not.

 

  • Mac compatibility?

IPEVO FREE.1 is Mac compatible. On the retail box, it shows IPEVO FREE.1 can work in Mac OSX system. The two knockoffs are not Mac compatible.

 

  • Support

Users can go download the latest driver update at the IPEVO website. It is very important because we all know how frequently Skype rolls out new revision. The link included in the white knockoff’s application actually points to Skype.com. I cannot find any manufacturer or software update link in black knockoff’s program.

 

Conclusions:

 

IPEVO FREE.1 takes the lead at every aspect I tested. The only better “specification” of the knockoffs is the price. The IPEVO FREE.1 priced in $30ish while the knockoffs are in the $20ish (including the shipping charge). However, considering the functions and the quality degraded in the knockoffs, the tradeoff is not worth it.

 

If you need a more cost effective solution, there is the AU-100 (costs under $20) and P1K (costs in mid $20) to think about. They both provide better voice quality with more functions than the imitation brands. The most important thing is that these two phones are on the market for a long time now and are proven as great solutions by numerous users. You can find support / updates on these two phones easily on the manufacturer website or other retailers on Internet.

More Reviews on IPEVO products

 

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IPEVO TRIO Product Review

August 8, 2007

IPEVO TRIO Introduction:

As promoted by IPEVO, TRIO is truly designed with versatility in mind. TRIO has an acceptable speaker phone quality and it can be a cost effective Skype conference phone solution.

With a single button to easily switch between handset and hands-free mode, a person can pick up the IPEVO TRIO and use it as a Skype USB phone without difficulties. Since the TRIO has a smallish footprint, travelers can put the IPEVO device into the carrying pouch (included in the retail package) and bring it on the road.

IPEVO TRIO standingPackage Includes:

  • IPEVO TRIO handset
  • USB extension cable
  • Carrying pouch
  • Installation CD
  • Quick installation Guide

The Look:

I was impressed by the look of IPEVO TRIO. The outline design is elegant. The color fits into any office environment without any problem. The paint on the case is strong enough to pass my fingernail scratch test. The fact that IPEVO TRIO can either be laid down on the table to provide easy access in a multi-speakers situation or be stood up in front of a single user to accomplish best voice quality shows that IPEVO has thought through all the real-world scenarios.

IPEVO TRIO hadset handsfree switch Voice Quality:

IPEVO TRIO has two modes to conduct Skype calls: handset mode and hands-free mode. There is an easily reachable button at the side of the phone to toggle between modes. In handset mode, the voice quality is very good. Although I was surprised to see the voice sampling rate in the IPEVO TRIO specification is only 8KHz and does not fully comply to Skype’s highest 16KHz standard; the result is still ok. I am not sure if it is a typo or not because I can not tell the sound quality difference between using IPEVO TRIO and a USB phone which claims to have 16KHz sampling rate.

IPEVO TRIO gap at the bottom to put the cable inIn hands-free mode (speaker), IPEVO TRIO performs better than other desktop Skype phones, such as Netgear SPH200D and GE 28310EE1, in the same mode. It is a true conference phone solution.

However, the microphone sensitivity of the IPEVO TRIO is not up to par to the Polycom Communicator, a direct competitor. This means a person needs to speak closer to the microphone in order to attain better performance. Considering the price different between Polycom Communicator (MSRP: $129) and IPEVO TRIO (MSRP: $79), the trade-off is acceptable, and expected.

IPEVO TRIO function keysFunctions:

The most-talked-about feature of IPEVO TRIO is its recording function. It is done with software, FreeRec which is included in the package and installed along with the driver.

During a call, a user can click on the red circle recording button on the phone to save the conversation. The microphone volume level on TRIO can be set to auto-adjust by FreeRec. There is no setup in the software for recording time limit (I guess the HDD capacity is the true limit). But, FreeRec allows users to reduce the voice sampling rate which can significantly lower the saved file size.

IPEVO TRIO’s recording has a time delay between pushing the red button and the actual starting of the recording session. The computer needs several seconds to load FreeRec software into the system. Therefore, it is recommended to manually run the FreeRec software from the TRIO icon at the Windows tool bar before the call – if you expect the need to record the conversation

Most other IPEVO TRIO’s functions, such as volume up and down, call, hang-up and microphone muting, can be activated through buttons on the phone. Those buttons are marked clearly with symbols and are simple / obvious to use. There is also a green “S” button on the phone which allows users to toggle between different Skype tabs, such as “Contacts”, “Call Phones” and “History”, on the computer screen.

Skype IconWish List:

The IPEVO TRIO has nearly all the features I would look for in a conference phone. However, there is one thing I would like to see on the next generation IPEVO TRIO: a button on the phone to select different Skype contacts on the computer screen. If this button is available, I don’t need to go back to my computer keyboard and mouse to pick the right Skype contact to call. It will be very convenient if we can do all the necessary steps to conduct Skype calls through the phone.

Conclusion:

IPEVO TRIO can perform several different Skype tasks in one unit, while still providing respectable voice quality. If you are a SOHO or are running a small business with a mid-level budget, the IPEVO TRIO is the right Skype conference call solution for you.

By the way, it’s a pleasant experience to test IPEVO TRIO. When I see the USB extension cable and the carrying pouch in the package, and the English manual written in real English, I know the IPEVO design team has really taken the end users’ need into consideration. As a product qualifying engineer who has checked out tons of products from the Far East, I feel very good in finally seeing an Asian vendor providing a quality product. Good job, IPEVO.

PS. My co-worker said that I look like a detective recording messages on a tape recorder in an old Hollywood movie when I’m using TRIO’s recording function. Do I?

More Reviews on IPEVO products

 

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Good Skype Introduction Article

August 2, 2007

Through the tag surfer function at wordpress, I found this excellent introduction article about Skype. Read it if you are still sitting on the fence and cannot decide if you want to give Skype a try. It brought back the exciting feeling I had when I first converted to Skype. “I can call A, B, and C for free!” “I can do this and this with this new gadget!” It’s like having a whole new world to conquer…..

Good Job, Smmellott.

 

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News about IPEVO

August 1, 2007

Saw a news at DigiTimes this morning saying that PCHome Taiwan has spin out its hardware accessory department, IPEVO.

Here are some interesting notes from the news:

  • IPEVO will eventually get into the industry outside Skype. (For example: products to do Internet video or mp3 audio.)
  • IPEVO plans to roll out its own Skype Wifi phone and webcam solution in the second half of this year.
  • ID SoftCapital Group is considering to investing IPEVO. (ID SoftCapital Group was established by Acer Founder, Stan Shih, together with venture capital veterans and former Acer senior management, offering expertise in asset and fund management, and consulting services.)

AmperorDirect is in the process of sourcing and qualifing IPEVO’s skype phones. We will publish our product reviews at here soon.

 

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