Friday, August 21, 2009

Laziness, Google-Apple-AT&T respond to the FCC, and heartburn in space!

I've been pretty non-productive at work these last two days and have spent most of my time cleaning, day dreaming, playing with a new phone, setting up mouse traps, or getting lost in the interwebs. This tends to happen every once in a while, where I just can't seem to concentrate or get anything done (polar opposite from the 12-24 hour cram sessions). Usually after a day or two it goes away, or I start feeling depressed about not getting anything done and start working again (laziness can cause depression for a work-a-holic). My hope is that a round of golf, a good bike ride, and some quality time with friends/family this weekend will cure me, otherwise I might need some help to get me focused.

I wouldn't say that these last few days were a complete waste though, as I do now have a wicked new phone all customized, and I am sure that mouse in the office will have packed his bags and left come Monday morning. I also read up on the Google-Apple-AT&T issue regarding the rejection of the Google Voice app from the iPhone app store. The FCC thought that AT&T, exclusive licensed provider of the iPhone in the US market, may have had a bit of a hand in the decision, but now that all the details are out it sounds like Apple acted alone and that the application hasn't officially been rejected yet. This kind of reminds me of the post mortem datacenter reports and reading through each company's filings with the FCC is quite fascinating.

Or if that doesn't float your boat, check out this video of an Astronaut playing around with water, air bubbles, and Alka-Seltzer in space. Either way you are bound to learn something new!

 

Friday, August 14, 2009

Farewell Vonage... Hello RingCentral!

The company that I work for has been a Vonage customer for almost 2 years now (ALMOST!), and while we never had any complaints with the service, it really isn't designed very well for a growing small business like ours. I would still probably recommend it for personal VOIP or single phone line (their ATA adapter with built in Caller ID is top notch and the website is pretty easy to use), but if you want more business features I would recommend looking at www.RingCentral.com instead. They offer features such as an Auto-Attendant (i.e.... press 1 for Sales or 2 for Support...), an optional PC based call controller for answering/forwarding calls, hold music, extensions on toll free or local lines, custom ring schedules (business hours, after hours, Morning/Afternoon shifts), Company Directory, and a lot more advanced options regarding how, when, and where each phone line and extension rings.
So if you are looking to setup a new phone system for a small business, save yourself some time and money and go with RingCentral from the get go. We started with two Vonage lines, expanded to three, and then finally decided to switched over to RingCentral when we got our fourth line. It then took almost 3 weeks and 3 phone calls to port the numbers over from Vonage to Ring Central (Vonage had to manually remove the numbers from their database...) and it cost us $160 to cancel the Vonage account because we hadn't quite reached the end of our 2 year contract yet.
For more info on how RingCentral works check out this video:






Next up: Getting my RingCentral extension to work with Google Voice :-P

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

SIGGRAPH 2009: New displays on display!

The 2009 SIGGRAPH conference is going on this week in New Orleans and there are a lot of cool audio-visual and input technologies being demonstrated. The most interesting ones to me are still very early on in their research stage, but they do give a gimps at the type of human-computer interactions that we might see become more common over the next decade or so. The MIT Technology Review has covered 5 interesting user interfaces and displays being shown this year at SIGGRAPH. My favorite is the Hyper-Realistic Virtual Reality system called Virtualization Gate. Check it out:

It uses cameras and a green screen to create an immersive 3d environment that a user can interact with. The technology is still very much in its infancy and requires a lot of computer power to make the whole thing work, but the same thing was true for facial recognition, full body gestures, and motion capture, which will soon make their way into the XBOX using a simple webcam codenamed Project Natal. God bless Moore's law!