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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GE Skype DECT Phone 28310EE1 Product Review – Part I

July 25, 2007

 

Introduction

The GE Skype Dect phone 28310EE1 is the latest release in GE’s Skype phone product line. It has Skype – a peer to peer communication program — embedded to provide users a true PC-Less Skype experience. It also employs DECT technology to insure no interference with other home cordless technology such as WiFi network and 2.4GHz digital phone.

According to market sources, this phone uses the same design blueprint as RTX’s Skype Dect Phone 3088. Therefore, for the RTX Dualphone fans in US, your wait to upgrade to the PC-Less Skype phone solution could be over.

GE Skype DECT phone 28310EE1 boxThe GE Skype Dect phone 28310EE1 Package Includes:

  • Base unit
  • Handset
  • Handset cradle (with an universal AC adapter connected to the cradle)
  • 2 Nimh Battery
  • Cables (1 network, 1 PSTN)
  • 1 universal AC adapter for the Base unit
  • Belt clip
  • Instruction
  • Warranty card

Installation

“Straightforward” is the best word to describe the installation process of the GE Skype Dect Phone 28310EE1. Just follow the manual:GE Skype DECT phone 28310EE1 cables

  • Make connections (network cable, telephone cable, and AC adapters for both the base unit and the handset cradle)
  • Insert batteries to the handset and leave the handset on the cradle to charge the batteries for 16 consecutive hours
  • Now you are ready to sign in your Skype ID and start using the GE Skype Dect phone 28310EE1.

The Skype account sign-in process on the GE Skype Dect phone 28310EE1 is also a breeze. It looks to me like Skype has provided its PC-Less phone solution hardware developers a unified procedure. We have seen the similar steps / display in Netgear SPH200D and the Skype WiFi phones from SMC and Netgear. If you are a frequent Skype user, you should feel at home with the sign-in process.

Skype LogoOn the other hand, you don’t need to worry if you are the first time Skype user. The on-screen instruction for signing up a new Skype account is intuitional. As long as you know the method to switch between capital case / lower case / number input, which is very similar to it is in cell phone and regular digital phone, you will be fine.

The only thing I don’t like in the GE Skype Dect phone 28310EE1 setup is the long 16 Hours first time charging requirement for the handset battery. However, overall, it is not that bad since it is a one-time-only process. Besides, because the batteries used in the handset are two AAA Nimh batteries, a full 16 Hours charge is recommended to achieve the maximum long term battery life.

Call Quality

GE Skype DECT phone 28310EE1Here is where the GE Skype Dect phone 28310EE1 really shines. The call quality is excellent. I have tried the GE Skype Dect phone 28310EE1 at three different locations: my office (T1 line), my home (AT&T ADSL service) and my co-worker’s house (Comcast cable service). It’s easy to hear callers with no problem and the voice quality is reported as being normal to excellent by those whom I queried. There are small number of times when the voice gets choppy and distorted when I talked to people oversea. However, I suspect it is due to the temporary clogging Internet connection issue, not because of the GE Skype Dect phone 28310EE1.

One of the major improvements from RTX’s previous version Dualphone to this GE Skype Dect phone 28310EE1 is the offering of the hands-free speaker phone. During the conversation, the speaker phone can be activated by hitting the left selection button on the handset. Although the speaker phone quality is decent, I am not so impressed on the results comparing to the call conduct by the handset.

Handset Design

GE Skype DECT phone 28310EE1 handset designThe GE Skype Dect phone 28310EE1 handset looks like a regular 2.4GHz digital home phone. It has a color LCD screen to display both the Skype and PSTN call information. While conducting different tasks, users will regularly encounter functions that require one of two options. These functions will be shown on screen clearly and can be executed by the left and right on-screen selection buttons on the handset.

As a default, the handset will get into standby mode after being idle for 1 minute — which is a great way to save battery power. Pressing any key or lifting the cradle will ‘awaken’ the sleeping LCD screen. However, pressing any key to awaken the handsets presents a minor issue. When the handset is not on the cradle and is in standby mode there is no null function key designed on keypad. Any key a user hit to wake up the handset will perform a function. The user thus needs to hit several number of key (the number depends on which function is activated) to get back to the home screen.

Another thing I notice on the handset is that the keypads are designed with more resistance. Combining with the half sec built-in delay in the keypad confirmation sound (beeping sound after the keypads are hit), I get the feeling that GE engineers really want the users to key-in the phone numbers slowly with caution. It is not something good or bad. But, it’s something an inpatient user like me needs to get used to.

There are more… Click here to see the Part-II of the Review

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SMC + FON = Skype WiFi Heaven (or as close as it can be, right now)

March 8, 2007

Marco here with AmperorDirect…. Howard has kindly let me hi-jack his blog for a post about the SMC Skype WiFi phone and FON network. He asked me to let you guys know that this wasn’t him posting… something about not wanting to try to live up to my ungodly good humor or devilish good looks…

This is my first blog post so, if a link or two does not work, please blame Howard for being busy getting ready to show off the Voltz Kit (google it) to the music world! If you are in the music industry, you will be glad you took couple seconds to find out about the Voltz kits.

Alright, enough plugs… Lets get started. The biggest complaint about Skype WiFi phones is the inability to login using any type of browser authentication… don’t get me started about why this is… lets just say it is not a technological hurdle…

Well, SMC has not added an internal browser to their phone — better stated, they have not yet been allowed to… but they have teamed up with the FON network for hotspot access. This is not new news, you say? Ahh huh! But it is semi-new news with a twist… (is it diggable, I ask?)

FON is currently offering free WiFi routers for anyone living ‘close’ to a cafe. Throw in the fact that the SMC has a firmware update that allows free FON access (and bug fixes), and you have a newsworthy event!

Here is what you need:

1) SMC WiFi Phone (I will follow the rules and not link this to our retail website… but two words ‘FREE SKIN!’)

2) SMC WiFi FIRMWARE UPDATE (V .17)

3) Register with FON and sign up for the free WiFi Router

That is it… the SMC WiFi Phone now has breath outside the home! Nice going SMC and FON and thanks Howard for the blog space.

Technorati Tags: Skype, FON, SMC, WiFi

I’m back + Animator_Vs_Animation_2

February 15, 2007

I’ve been super busy with the construction of our new site: http://www.amperormusic.com, and our new product line: Voltz Guitar Effect Pedal Board Power Supply. Finally, most of the tasks on the list have been completed. Now, I can get back to work on the VOIP side. I know I owe you guys some test results on the new Skype embedded phones, and some replys on the comments. I’ll try to catch up as fast as I can.

Here is a super cool flash clip I found on Internet. It’s like the matrix + Kong Fu. Remember to hit the “Play” tab on the center of the screen after it is loaded. Have FUN!!!

http://www.atomfilms.com/film/animator_vs_animation_2.jsp

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RTX Skype PC-Less Dualphone 3088 – Review Part I

December 20, 2006

(Scroll down to the bottom to see the Youtube video review clip)

RTX Dualphone 3088

Last week, we received our next generation embedded PC-less Skype dualphone sample. It is from one of the established Skype phone providers, RTX. The ‘generic’ non-OEM model name is Dualphone 3088. As advertised, Dualphone 3088 can make both landline and Skype calls, in one unit, without any interaction with your PC. I’m going to give it a try this week, and will probably publish the rest of my review before Christmas. So, be sure to bookmark this page and comeback to check on us later.

In Dualphone 3088 retailer box

Let’s first go over the items come with-in the retailer package.

Base Station: The base station of Dualphone 3088 is a flat squared box. It is actually a strip-down PC and has the capability to handle the Skype related tasks, such as creating new Skype accounts, conducting Skype calls, and displaying Skype contacts. At the back of the base station, you can see the interface ports. There is a RJ11 port for the telephone line, and a RJ45 port for the Ethernet cable. The Dualphone 3088 system connects to the rest of the world through these ports.

Recharging Cradle: A Dualphone 3088 handset recharging cradle is provided. With the cradle separated from the base station, it is easy to put the handset at where you use it most (such as living room), and keep the base station at the place you have a corded Internet connection available (such as your study room).

Handset: Comparing with its predecessor, Dualphone 3088 handset is upgraded with a crystal clear, wide viewing angle, colored LCD display. The design of the human interface buttons, such as the navigation and the number pads, is very similar to a standard cordless phone. There should be no problem for average users to learn to use the handset. Besides, the handset used DECT technology to communicate with the base station. It can reduce the chance for the phone to interface with your WiFi network.

Accessories: The Dualphone 3088 includes a great number of quality accessories. There is a network cable, a telephone cable, a belt-clip for the handset, and a power AC adapter for the base station. (Just one quick note to RTX: why not use the same wallwart for the base station and the recharging unit? It might simplify the production process.)

User Manual: Don’t get overwhelmed by the 401 pages Dualphone 3088 manual. It covers 12 languages in one book. Therefore, you only need to go over around 30 pages in your own language. Although I know it’s a good habit to read the instruction before powering up the device, Dualphone 3088 is so easy to use that you might even not need to read that 30+ pages.

Rechargeable batteries: As Stephen Pinches states in his SkypeGear blog, using standardized AAA batteries is a good idea. This means easy and cheap replacement if you need to change the battery.

Super Easy Installation Process

The other test results, such as the sound quality and the comparison between a Skype WiFi phone and Dualphone 3088, will be published soon. Before I wrap up today’s review, I want to show you the amazingly easy installation process of Dualphone 3088. For the first time usage, after hooking up both telephone and Ethernet connections, you need to enter your personal settings, including language, country and area code selections, and create or sign in for a Skype account. The base station will grab your contacts setting and you are ready to rock on! See the pre-recorded video clip for the demonstration.

Not in US Yet

AmperorDirect is in the process of bringing this fantastic Skype gadget to the US market. According to our source in RTX, they are not going to ship this phone to the US market with their own brand name. A big name consumer electronics company will OEM the phone from RTX and release to the US market. We will update our progress here and also on our website frequently. Keep in touch.

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The Official SMC Skype WiFi Phone Cradle – Sample Test Report

December 11, 2006

The Official SMC Skype WiFi Phone Cradle

Right after Jon and I finished the DIY SMC Skype WiFi phone cradle, the official cradle sample from SMC showed up at our front door. The cradle we received is the one without the access point built-in. Therefore, I’ll focus on the ID design and the mechanism for the cradle to charge the phone. The ability to connect the SMC Skype WiFi phone to the Internet through the access point built-in cradle will be covered when we receive the other sample.

The Look

The look of the Skype WiFi phone cradle is very elegant. The white color on the front of the cradle perfectly matches the color of the phone. The SMC earned the 2006 International Forum Design (IF) award for product design in Consumer Electronics / Telecommunications category. IF states, “…the product sticks out as a refreshingly clear, simple-looking, Zen-oriented device – in stark contrast to the mass of “over-styled” cell phones currently on the market.”

Lets just say that I would not hesitate to keep it on my desk – and I plan to!

Elevated Panel

Additionally, it is very thoughtful for the Accton engineers to elevate the bottom panel. With the elevated design feature, the SMC Skype WiFi phone sits as high as my laptop screen. Now, I can just roll my eyeball horizontally to check out where the Skype call is coming from. Good work, Accton!

Charge the phone

The Skype WiFi phone cradle sample we received does not have an AC power adapter built-in. At the back of the cradle, there is a mini USB connector where you can plug in your AC adapter, or your USB charging cable. On the phone panel, there are two metal clips. When you put your Skype WiFi phone on the cradle, the two metal clips will contact the two metal charging connectors at the bottom of the phone and start to do the recharge task. There are also two docking pins on the panel. When the Skype WiFi phone is on the cradle, the docking pins can be stick into the docking holes at the bottom of the phone. It will provide extra stability

Mini USB port at the back of the cradle:

.

Ports and connectors on the cradle & the phone:

 

Conclusion

The Skype WiFi phone cradle is a good investment if you already have a Skype WiFi phone. It looks nice, and can serve the purposes of recharging the phone and organizing the desktop very well. I don’t have the chance to test the cradle with Netgear, Belkin, and Edgecore branded Skype WiFi phones. But, they all use the same blue prints as the SMC phone. The chance to have other branded phones work with this cradle is high. We are going to publish the test result of connecting the SMC Skype WiFi phone to the Internet through the access point built-in cradle later, when we receive the other cradle sample. Bookmark this page and come back to check on us later.

Click Here to see the Skype WiFi phone review

Click Here to see the DIY Skype WiFi phone cradle

 

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DIY SMC Skype WiFi Phone Cradle

December 8, 2006

One of the items on our SMC Skype WiFi phone wish list is the desktop cradle.

In the original retail box, SMC is considerate enough to include an AC adapter that I can use at home and a USB charging cable to get the juice from the laptop when I am on the road. Finding something to recharge the SMC Skype WiFi phone is never an issue. However, my desk at home and work has been taken over by those wonderful (or darn?) Skype accessories waiting for test and review. I really need some help to organize it. Besides, having the phone I actually use in daily-basis “stand up” on my desk is always a plus. With the phone in the cradle, I can easily figure out where the call is coming from.

While waiting for the recently announced cradle from SMC, Jon, our in-house senior technician, helps me to design and build up a Do It Yourself (DIY) cradle. Please see the picture. It serves the purpose very well. Jon has even constructed a JIG for all the bending work. Now, he can make one DIY SMC WiFi phone cradle from scratch in 15 minutes. The DIY cradle is very artsy!

I’m going to list all the materials and the steps needed for this DIY SMC Skype WiFi phone cradle in the second half of this post. You can do one for yourself. It should be able to work for all four different brand Skype WiFi phone: Netgear, Belkin, SMC, and Edgecore. If you need one, please send a request to me. At this point, there are four different colors for you to choose from: metal, black, yellow, and blue.

By the way, we are taking our DYI cradle directly to Skype for Skype Certification. Hope the certification process is quick and easy! 😉

Commercial Plug Time

Besides the boring technician job, Jon plays guitar in a Rock & Roll band: Dustin Hayze. You can occasionally see them playing in Houston’s live music restaurant. They now have two EPs published. Please check out their MySpace page: http://myspace.com/dustinhayze. Jon is the one with the bunny outfit.

 

 

Tools, Materials, and Construction Steps

Tools list:

3” Clamp-on Vise Wilton form Home Depot, $21.00

8” Slip-Joint Pliers Craftsman from Sears, $8.00

8” Wire Cutters from Sears, $9.99

Misc: Card Board, Cloth Towel, Sharpie Marker, Measuring Tape, and Hammer

JIG pictures:

 

Materials list:

9 ga. Galvanized Wire 50’ coil from ACE hardware, $5.99

1 qt. Denatured alcohol from ACE hardware, $5.99

Black Plasti-Dip Spray coating from DX engineering, $6.99

 

Construction procedures (See the detailed dimension in the blue prints at the end of this post):

1. Cut a 24” 9 ga. Galvanized wire

2. Mark the 11” position on the 24” wire. Use the mark as the center point to bend the wire by the (3/4”, 3/4”, 1”) triangular JIG. (Bend #1) You will have a long side and a short side.

 

3. On the Clamp-on Vise, use hammer to build the 90 degree bend. (Bend #2)

 

4. Use the back-supporting triangular JIG (1.5”, 1.5”, 1”) to bend the long side. (Bend #3)

 

5. Mark the bending position on the long side in step 2, using the bottom JIG. Bend the wire on the Clamp-on Vise. (Bend #5)

 

6. Repeat step 5 for Bend #6, #7, and #8.

 

7. Mark the bending position on the short side in step 2, using the top JIG. Bend the wire on the Clamp-on Vise. (Bend #4)

 

8. Repeat step 7 for Bend #9, #10, #11, and #12.

 

9. Use the Denatured alcohol to wash off the oil on the cradle.

 

10. Put the Plasti-Dip Spray coating on the cradle.

 

11. Let it dry. After that, you will have your DIY Skype WiFi phone cradle ready to use!

With a littile modification, you can make the cradle for other phones (Cell phones, Keyspan cordless phone VP-24A, other USB phones without cradles…).

Keyspan USB cordless phone VP-24A with the DIY cradle

Click Here to see the SMC Skype WiFi phone review

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How far a Man will go to Promote the Skype Gadget – Verball Review

December 8, 2006

OK. Amperor, I know this review is long. But, please bear with me and watch it to the last part. I have done enough to embarass myself. So, where is my raise?

BTW, the software, Robo Skyper, I mentioned in the clip, can be found at:

http://webtown.typepad.com/webtown/2006/10/robo_voice_for_.html

Jan has a pretty detailed explaination about how to install this software on your computer.

 

Here is the review clip:

 

 

Hello everybody

This is Howard Chang from AmperorDirect.com. Today, I want to provide my review on this cool Skype gadget, the Verball. If you follow the news in the Skype community, you must have heared the good words about this cute little gadget, at Skype Journal or Yahoo Tech. After the log wait, is now finally available here in US for the 2006 holiday season.

Basic Functions

Before getting into the application of the Verball, let me first show you the basic functions of it. The Verball is an external speaker and microphone combo unit. It uses USB interface to communicate with PC. There is also a 3.5mm audio jack on the back of the Verball. Just in case you don’t want to broadcast your private conversation into the air, you can plug your headsets into the audio jack, enjoy your privacy, and still have fun with the Verball.

ID Design

After going through the basic functions of the verball, let’s look at its ID design. In my opinion, the thing makes the Verball stand out from the already over-crowed PC speaker market is its cute outfit. There are five different cute Verballs you can choose from. This one is called Mr. V. This is the baby. You can go to verballs.com to see the other three, which are the slick Boss, Britney, and Striker. There are stories behind each Verball. So, don’t forget to check them out while you are at Verballs.com.

 

 

Three different movements

Other than the cute, unique outfits, there are three build-in actions in Verballs: hand-waving, ear-flashing, and mouth-flopping. The first two motions can be activated if there is an incoming call, which I’m going to show you later. You can see the mouth flops if the volume of the voice (or music) coming out from the Verball exceeds a certain level.

Skype Incoming Calls

Now that you have a pretty good understanding about what a Verball is and what it can do, I want to put it in actual use so that you can have some feeling if it is the gift you want to put under the Christmas tree. First, let me Skype my laptop through the SMC PC-less WiFi phone. You can hear that, as an external speaker, the Verball plays fairly good sound. You should also be able see the hands waving and the ears flashing. It’s cute, isn’t it?

Internet Chat Companion

Second, let me show you why a Verball can be a very good companion when doing Internet chat. Most people’s average Internet chat experience is typing and waiting for a response from the screen. If the imagination hat is not on, it can be a very mono visual experience. However, I have a Skype third-party application, called Robo Skyper. It can translate any received Skype chat message into voice, and announce it through the speaker, which, in my case, is the Verball. Let me show you how it works. So now, I can have a cute little guy interact with me, and talk to me. It is kind of weird because the Verball will always use its ridiculous big, but innocent eyes staring at me. and using its innocent big eyes to stair at me during the chat. But, it is fun.

For Your Loved Ones

Seriously, if your loves ones (significant other, spouse, or kids) are not in the same area and you rely on the Internet chat to keep in touch with them, I strongly recommend you to get a Verball for them. The baby verball can be the best choice because its fury outfit can provide an extra warm feeling.

Sing a Song to Your Loved Ones

Speaking about the far-away loved ones, here is another thing you can do to them with the Verball. You can sing a song to them when they are down. It can be a comforting song, a ove song, or even a lullaby. Before I give you an example on how adorable a singing Verball can be, I want to show you an important trick. Because Verball uses the sound volume to determine if it needs to flop the mouth, you need to fine-tune the speaker volume level to get a right mouth movement. If the speaker volume is set too high, you can expect to see the mouth stays in the open position during the whole sentence. On the other hand, if it is too low, the mouth won’t move. Furthermore, using Skype 3.0 version can make the fine-tuning job easier. Skype 3.0 allows users to change the volume level during the chat, on the Skype screen.

In conclusion, the Verball is a great holiday gift, if you have loved ones being far away from you.

Have Fun

OK, my review will be ended by having my Verball singing Aero Smith’s “I don’t wanna miss a thing”. It’s a pre-recorded clip. Remember, the voice is from an anonymous singer. It is not from me…

Click Here to See More Video Review

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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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What are the differences? – Between Beta and Final-released Version of SMC Skype WiFi Phones

September 22, 2006

I came across this message on a famous Taiwan cell phone discussion forum, saying some SMC Skype WiFi phone Beta-testing units were put on and sold at the Yahoo-Taiwan auction site. In order to help readers like you to make sure your SMC WiFi phone is the final release, AmperorDirect managed to get a hold of a Beta-testing unit. You can see our comparison results in below:

1. The major difference is the capability for the phone to update its software when it is connected to a WiFi network. The final released SMC Skype WiFi phone can update the software to the latest available version (Go Menu > Settings > Advanced > Software Updates). As to today, 2006/09/22, your final released SMC WiFi phone should have the V1.0.0.10 software (dated at 2006/09/13). If you find your phone cannot do software update, chances are you have the Beta-testing unit. This can be a potential issue.

(Left: Final released version. Right: Beta version.)

2. When you receive your final-released SMC Wifi phone, you should be able to see the Skype certified label at the back of the phone. The phone received the Skype certification on 2006/9/14. The Beta-testing units which were produced before that date, should not have the label on it.

(Left: Final released version. Right: Beta version.)

3. The final released SMC WiFi phones we received come as a truly multi-language version (The two available languages are English and Chinese). The beta version we got is an English only phone.

(English & Traditional Chinese Language supported on the final released verion)

4. The final released SMC WiFi phones we have come with a 3.7V 1200mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery. The Beta version we received comes with a 3.7V 1100mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery. Although, this might not be a good way to tell if the phone is a Beta version or not. The battery capacity difference (8%) is small. Both batteries might all be on the BOM.

(Left: Final released version. Right: Beta version.)

If you get your SMC WiFi phone from AmperorDirect, you don’t need to worry about getting the Beta version. Our phones come directly from SMC. If you buy your phone on eBay, please ask the vendor to check if they are selling a Beta version.

BTW, see the Safety certs label inside the battery compartment.

Click to see the SMC Skype WiFi Phone Review

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