Obi + Google Voice = Great Inexpensive Phone Service

Obi product imageI was recently watching Techzilla (my lunch time tech fix) and they reviewed the Obi from Obihai. The Obi unit allows you to make calls over the Internet. You connect it to the Internet via your home router and plug in a regular old analog phone and you’re ready to make calls to other Obi users for free. You do need to setup a free account on the Obihai website. Just that functionality alone is pretty cool, but it gets better. You can also connect the Obi unit to your Google Voice account and make and receive calls via your Google Voice number. Plus Google is offering free long distance calls in the US and Canada through the end of 2011. They did this last year as well and the extended it through 2011. I’m hoping that they’ll extend the free calling once again. Even if they don’t I suspect the calls will only be about $.01/minute which is still pretty cheap.

It took me about 15 minutes to setup. Nothing too complicated. They have pretty good step-by-step instructions on the Obihai website. Once done I tried calling my Google voice number which worked fine. I then place a call from the phone attached to the Obi unit and it worked as well. New phone setup in under 30 minutes. One thing to note is that the Obi unit does not support 911 calls.

There are two Obi units available, the 100 and the 110. The only difference is that the 110 adds a port to connect an existing land line if you have one so that calls from Google Voice as well as you land line will ring through to your phone. The price of the Obi 100 on Amazon is $43.99 and the Obi 110 is $49.99. Given that it’s only a $6.00 difference I went with the Obi 110.

So, if you want to get rid of your land line, add a business line, or just add another line in your house, the Obi might be just what you’re looking for.

Plays Well With Others

Communicating, sharing and staying organized in the virtual work environment

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

— Plato

Working from home can be a mixed blessing. For the most part it’s great. Your commute is measured in steps rather than miles saving probably an hour a day, not to mention the price of gas and wear and tear on your car.  You can work in your pajamas if you’d like (assuming you don’t use video conferencing in which case you probably should put on a nicer shirt and make sure your hair is combed).

On the down side you’re all alone at home.  It’s easy to get distracted with chores around the house. But most of all, for me at least, is a sense of isolation. You can’t yell across the cubicle wall when you have a question.

These days our work requires new tools to be able to e able to collaborate effectively with others, especially if you’re working from home or working in a distributed environment. We’ll take a look at some of the best tools that I’ve found for communication, sharing and organization and hopefully start a discussion about other great tools. Continue reading

Why do we still have signal bars on cell phones?

In TWiT 255: You’re Holding It Wrong they had an interesting discussion about the antenna issues with the iPhone 4. They pointed out that most all cell phones have issues with reception if you hold the phone certain ways. The iPhone just happens to have made the place not to hold the phone more visible. Cell phones need antennas and unless you want to go back to the days of pull-up antennas this is just a fact of life. Granted Apple probably could have given a bit more thought into the placement of the antenna but frankly given the size of the device they don’t really have many choices of were to put the darn thing.

One thing I found particularly interesting in this podcast was a point that Jerry Pournelle made about why we even have bars to represent signal strength on phones anymore. It made sense back when phones used analog signals and the quality of the call would go down if you had a bad signal. Today with most all phones being digital this doesn’t make sense. With a digital signal it either works or it doesn’t. You can either make a call or you can’t. The signal strength shouldn’t affect the quality of the call. You call may be dropped if the signal gets too low but the quality shouldn’t change. Is this just a hold over from the analog days or is there really some reason for these bar besides the fact that the marketing people like them?