Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Jangl is the new Rebtel

"Jangl marries email to the phone" says Alec Saunders about Jangl's recent press release ("Jangl Upgrades a Billion Phones Instantly, Adds Ability to Call Anyone Online, Worldwide, Anytime") and sees it developing into a new presence application. GigaOM thinks of it more as the future White Pages for VoIP.

I see it more as a competition to Rebtel or to Gizmo Call's free local numbers:
Jangl “Call Anyone.” With “Call Anyone” simply enter someone’s email address at Jangl’s homepage to get connected. You’ll be given a phone number – local to you – to call them. During the first call, you’ll leave a voicemail, which Jangl then delivers via email. Once they receive that message, the recipient receives instructions to get a number – local to them – to call you back. This service still keeps your personal number safe, enables text messaging via SMS2 and the easy exchange of voicemails, too. Plus, Jangl works on any phone – even if your phone doesn’t normally allow you to call international numbers.
Doesn't this sound like Rebtel to you?

If you use this service right you don't have to make any international phone calls again. You can give free local numbers to all of your friends, whithout paying Rebtel's basic fee or bothering with Gizmo Call's numbers that are every time different and can disappear if you don't use them regularily.

I will directly check if I can get a Peruvian inbound number from Jangl so that my friends from Lima can call me for local prices. That's my favourite test for new inbound VoIP services.

What makes me courious is why GigaOM deleted my last comment on the new Jangle features. A technical error? Or did they get pressured by Jangle's CEO Michael Cerda, who also commented? Didn't they like what I had to say?

So I will just repeat it:

In times of VoIP every phone call can be free or a local call. No need for exaggerated per minute costs. The SIP standard has opened a Pandora's box for the telecommunications industry. People are tweaking given services, like Jangl, for their own purposes and establishing their own free networks. Voice is just another internet service like email and tends to be free. As I said: "Free calls are still the VoIP killer app to me".


As I see now Jangle does not offer German nor Peruvian numbers. So I cannot use it. Which limited phone number provider do they use? A clear disadvantage, compared to Rebtel or Gizmo Call.

Jajah gets money from T-Online Venture Fund

I just got an email telling me that Jajah gets money from the German T-Online Venture Fund. Another round of financing, not even three weeks after the $20 million Series C investment round by Intel?

Not quite.

"The investment of the T-Online Venture Fund is part of a together with Intel Capital leaded investment round over 20 million US dollar", says the press release. So Intel is putting its risk on many shoulders. The Germans are now quietly paying a part of the bill while the Americans got the big press three weeks ago.

That reminds me of the story how many Hollywood blockbusters are paid by German tax money. Productions like Lord of the Rings or Mission Impossible II could not have been filmed without German tax saving models for Hollywood media funds. They invest billions while the German movie industry is starving.

Forum for Gizmo Call's "Free Local Numbers" online again

In my former post "What happened to Gizmo Call's "Free Local Numbers"?" I complained that Gizmo Call's free local numbers did not work anymore. At least it seemed so since I cannot receive any calls anymore and the respective user forum on Gizmo's website had dissappeared.

Then I got this email from Clay Elliot, Director Business Development at Gizmo Call's mother company SIPphone, Inc.:
I saw your blog post about Free Local Numbers (FLN). I believe the forum you were trying to find was just temporarily down. This week we moved from beta into full release to the world so there was a bit of shifting. http://forum.gizmoproject.com/viewforum.php?f=15/ is up now.

OK, that's great. So at least the forum is online again. You can see it here. Even better is that the free local numbers are now out of beta and part of Gizmo Call's normal service.

But still I cannot receive any calls on my free local inbound number. I guess there is some trouble with my account. Or does anybody have similar problems?

As I told you in "How Gizmo Project's free local numbers save me 230 dollars annually" I use this service heavily to receive calls from my friends in Peru. It was really nice to have my own local number in Lima. They could call me by VoIP without even noticing that this service had to deal with the internet. Let's see what my trouble ticket to the Gizmo support brings.

At least there still is Tpad with its Break-In numbers and Tpad extensions as quite similar, but not as nice, alternative.

Friday, May 25, 2007

What happened to Gizmo Call's "Free Local Numbers"?

Where is Gizmo Calls's new feature "Free Local Numbers – BETA"?

(Remember: How Gizmo Project's free local numbers save me 230 dollars annually.)

The forum for this feature should be here. But this link leads into Nirvana, saying "The forum you selected does not exist". Gizmo erased every mention of this feature from its forum and all links in my former blog posts are dead. Here you can see how the forum looked like.

Also it seems to me that the free local numbers don't work anymore. I cannot receive calls from my Peruvian friends. Luckily they can use Tpad as an alternative.

What has happened?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sipgate is blocking Voxalot but not Fring. That's not fair!

Sipgate is one of the best quality VoIP providers I know for Germany, Austria and the UK. They give free inbound numbers and, with rare exceptions, they always work. Last friday they were down for a half hour, but this was no big problem.

Until people started to realize that Sipgate behaves strangely since then. As I tested Sipgate is blocking all the free "always connected" web based PBXes I know:Voxalot, PBXes.com and simplyConnect. That's really annoying since those websites do a great job. You can deposit there all your login data for the many SIP accounts you got from different companies. Then you need only one account, for example Voxalot's, to receive phone calls to all your different VoIP numbers on one device. Also you can define dial plans for least cost routing. Then Voxalot uses for instance provider A for phone calls to country number 1 and provider B for country number 2, always taking advantage of the cheapest connection.

Thats nice for VoIP devices which can hold only one SIP account, such as certain mobile phones or the Fring software, which recently got very important for mobile VoIP users in Great Britain. With Fring you can avoid the problem that for Orange UK and Vodaphone UK are blocking VoIP on the brand new Nokia N95 mobile phone. As an external Symbian program Frings makes SIP calls possible on these crippled N95, but holds only one SIP account. Which should be Voxalot or something similar if you have different providers. I already use more than 20 VoIP providers.

It seems that Sipgate doesn't like the described least cost routing, since their prices aren't cheap compared with other providers. Poor Sipgate! Mean Germans use them only to receive calls on Sipgate's free incoming numbers, but for outgoing calls they use free VoIP services from companies like Betamax. Nothing is cheaper than free, and even Sipgate's flatrate for Europe cannot compete with it. Maybe Sipgate did not like it that the their Voice Mail answered all calls to my dozens of different VoIP accounts that I have installed at Voxalot. Even if you called my FWD or Gizmo account the Sipgate Voice Mail kicked in. This was a nice feature since I had to deal with only one Voice Mail box for all my VoIP and fixed line calls.

It seems that Sipgate wants to work like a normal PSTN telco and tries to be as much separated from the SIP world as possible. Only if people use Sipgate for their outgoing phone calls and do not free ride their services they can sponsor the free incoming numbers. I, for instance, use Sipgate's number and Voice Mail yet for years but never paid them any money, since all my outgoing calls go for nearly free over the Betamax company Voipstunt. People from England do the same, as you can read in Voxalot's forum.

I suppose that Sipgate prefers to be their clients only VoIP provider and therefore it blocks more and more interoperability options. This started already months ago when they began to block phone calls from other VoIP providers to their SIP adresses. SIP to SIP is normally free. But now the only option is to call the phone number of a Sipgate user, which is only free within the Sipgate network or for calls from their spare peering partners.

The hottest discussion about the PBX blocking I found in Voxalot's forum. Sipgate clients are disgruntled that they cannot use the service with Voxalot anymore and give tips about alternative providers. One user even threatened the Sipgate support to cancel his account and got surprised that they did not try to hold him back, but explained in a polite way how to do it.
Originally Posted by sipgate
You can delete your account under "Settings" -> "Contract".
Best regards,
Frederik van Koningshoven

Sipgate's official explication is the following:
login details must not be given to 3rd parties. the provider mentioned above (note: voxalot is ment) attracted attention due to nonserious business practices. for our customers safety we try to remedy potential abuse through this corporation.

Other Voxalot clients got a clearer answer from the Sipgate support:
Originally Posted by sipgate
we block Voxalot and similar services, because our customer has to give them the login details.
This is a security problem.
Best regards,
Frederik van Koningshoven

Later it got more personally against Voxalot:
Originally Posted by sipgate
Unfortunately, we don't consider them as trustworthy.
This decision will not be changed in near future.
Best regards,
Frederik van Koningshoven

Poor Voxalot! What did they do? How should the company behave in this situation?

Voxalot's support worker Martin says that he "would be interested to know if this is an across the board "security rule" or if simply Voxalot was "singled out".....". An interesting question, because Fring seems to work very well with Sipgate, although Fring also requires the user to give his Sipgate login details to a 3rd party.

Why isn't Sipgate blocking Fring as well?

In fact this is a general problem: With every time more services moving into the web people have to provide every time more secret login data to 3rd parties. It reminds me of a former post that I wrote in april in Voxalot's forum, "Theoretically Voxalot could steal all our VoIP minutes".

But it's not only Voxalot. It's also PBXes.com, simplyConnect, Fring, Barablu, Nimbuzz, Talkster, Mobivox, Iskoot, Skip2PBX,... Dozens of companies are in the same situation. There has to be a more intelligent solution than just blocking Voxalot. What's missing is a secure way to share login data.

Maybe OpenID is the answer?

CORRECTION: Sipgate now at least seems to work OK with PBXes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Now I can invite everyone to Joost

Now that Joost is going out of beta I got the following email. I can invite everyone to Joost. So, as always, leave a nice comment and your email address under this post! I will send you a Joost invitation as soon as I can.

Now you can invite all your friends to Joost

von: Joost Support Details ausblenden 11:30 (3½ Stunden)
an: Markus Göbel <.....@.....>
datum: 09.05.2007 11:30
betreff: Now you can invite all your friends to Joost
gesendet: von bounces.joost.com

Hello Markus,

We hope you're enjoying your Joost experience.

We'd like to share some good news and celebrate the launch of the new Joost beta - Now For Friends. This means you can now invite as many friends as you want to try out Joost.

To access your invites, log onto Joost, go to My Joost and fill in your friends' details in the Invite Friends widget box.
If you're running out of friends, you can make new ones by letting people know you've got invites. To help with this, we've made a few goodies especially for you, which you can find at http://www.joost.com/share/goodies.html.

Last but not least, we invite you to enjoy the variety of new shows we're introducing each week. This week we bring you a host of new channels from Universal Music, great science fiction like Earth Final Conflict, and Creature Comforts from Aardman Animations. We've also got swimsuit models and snowboarders, anime and animals, and much more. But that's just the beginning. Each week we'll launch new channels - making sure you can watch what you want, when you want. So stay tuned...
If you've got any questions, feel free to check out our forum http://www.joost.com/forums, and don't forget to send us feedback on what you like and things we could improve.

Enjoy, and see you on Joost!

The Joost Team

-- You are receiving this email because you are a Joost beta tester (The Venice Project). If you no longer want to be a beta tester, please send an email to support@joost.com with the subject line: "Please Remove"

We take your privacy very seriously. To read our privacy policy and see how we we use the information you give us,visit our website at http://www.joost.com/privacy.html

Gizmo Call's free local numbers now every time different

I told you before how Gizmo Call's new feature, free local numbers, would save me lots of money. A great feature, but just for me. It seems that other users can't use it anymore in the way I did. I was still able to authorize about 50 different numbers of Peruvian friends and they all got the same Peruvian phone number assigned by Gizmo Call.

They all can now call the same number to reach me. It works like if I had a real Peruvian VoIP phone number - a service that would normally cost 230 dollars per year.

Sadly it seems that Gizmo Call changed their procedure and this small "hack" can't be repeated anymore. The last time I wanted to authorize more Peruvian phone numbers I realized that now every contact gets an other number assigned. Very clever of the Gizmo people.

And probably the right move, since such an inbound number would have normally costs 230 dollars per year.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

How Gizmo Project's free local numbers save me 230 dollars annually

Although the Gizmo Project's free local numbers are still in beta they have made me very happy yet. I have used this new feature heavily for phone calls to Peru and now I have my own incoming Peruvian number, which normally costs 230 dollars per year at Gizmo Project.

How did I do this?

I've called all my Peruvian friends on all their home, mobile and work numbers from Gizmocall's beta website. It must have been about 50 phone calls. Every time I called a small window popped up that told me that the person could call me back on a certain number. And it was always the same!

Other users didn't have that much luck, as for instance the user jfinlayson tells:
You may have to dial quickly. Those two batches of calls I made were only an hour or so apart, and were assigned different numbers.
So I was very fortunate to be probably the only one who tried this service for calls between Germany and Peru. The batch of phone calls was even easier to make when my free minutes where eaten up. I just had to dial the numbers, Gizmo told me that I was out of money and the yet the number was assigned. When my friends are now going to call this number my normal phone will ring, because it is connected trough an ATA to my account at the Gizmo Project. No need to keep Gizmo Call's website open. Since I have authorized all their phone numbers with my calls it will feel like having a real phone number.

With only one restriction.

Maybe it was stupid of me to ask the following in Gizmo Project's forum:

Posted: 01 May 2007 19:39 Post subject: Re: Now it works great!
markus_goebel wrote:
Next question: Will my free local number ever change?

Or will it always stay the same for the Peruvian friends to whom it is assigned now?
The free local number your were assigned for your friend to use to call you will not change as long as your friend uses it to call you at least once every 60 days.

There will be rare cases where the number assigned has service problems and we would have to remove it from use. If that happens, you can place another free call to your friend to get a new Free Local Number they can use to call you.
Jeff Finlay
Gizmo Project Support

Oh please! Does it really have to be like this? I notice that they have altered their answer. Until some hours ago it still said that the number would be mine for ever. I guess that it was me that caused them the idea to restrict it on 60 days. Probably not every Peruvian friend will call me in the next two months.

But the others will have a cheap local number to talk to me.


Yes, they are serious about their 60 days restriction, as the forum admin states:

I sent you a private message to let you know I had posted new information in my reply. The rules didn't change and they are the same for everyone who uses the service. I just wasn't aware of the requirement before.

Now you have an excuse to have more frequent phone conversations with your friends in Peru. Smile
Jeff Finlay
Gizmo Project Support

Funny? I don't know. Soon every Peruvian friend who doesn't call me can't use this number anymore. Everything will end up in great mess where everyone has another number to call me. When they ask each other for my number everyone will have an other.

So I will probably go on using Tpad's system with worldwide inbound numbers and an extension for me. That's much easier to explain to not so tech savvy people and I can always stay with the same numbers.