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Posts from February 2011

Photo Tour - Many More Shots of Skype's Funky New Office (From The Designers)

Want to see more (and better) pictures of Skype's new funky office in Palo Alto? After I first wrote about photos of the new Skype office back in December, the designers of Skype's office space let me know that they would have some photos of their own coming as part of their new website. Those photos are now online at:

And yes, indeed, they do give a better view of the whole space, and some narrative text providing some context for the design, too. Very cool to see... as a network geek, I'm hoping that that map is live showing interactive Skype conversations :-)


Many more cool shots over on the designers' website...

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Great Guidelines From NIST on Deploying IPv6

Nistipv6 1As I wrote about over on Voxeo's "Speaking of Standards" blog, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) came out with a great set of guidelines around IPv6. Formally titled "Guidelines for the Secure Deployment of IPv6", the document follows the tradition of many other NIST docs in being more than just guidelines. It's also a great tutorial around IPv6.

You can download the doc at:
UPDATE: Shortly after publishing this post, I was alerted that the URL does NOT work and I, too, have now been unable to retrieve the document from NIST's website. I was able to view it just the other day, and my browser still has a copy in its cache (and I also have a local copy myself). The NIST news archive shows that as of Dec 28, 2010 this document was in fact live. Perhaps the NIST team pulled the doc to update it... I don't know. Hopefully it will be available again soon, and if there is a new URL I will update this post.

It's only 188 pages long, including the appendices and will definitely help if you're just now trying to come up to speed on IPv6.

Kudos to the team at NIST for creating a great doc like this.

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Skype 5.0 Easter Egg: Super Simple Way To Launch Conference Calls!

Media Conference Call 2

Wow! I might have just found a feature cool enough to get me to move over to Skype 5.0 for the Mac, despite my many concerns with it.

Hidden among the many IRC-style chat commands (but not included on that list) is this one that you can type into a group chat using either Skype 5.0 for Windows or Mac:


When you do that, everyone in the chat (using 5.0) gets a notification that there is a conference call and can choose to join into the conf call right then.

What's even cooler is that the call can be either audio or video. Of course, video is only available if someone has a Group Video Calling subscription.

What's even more cool is that the act of typing that command will generate a URL that you can simply pass along to anyone else to have them join a call. You'll see the URL in your chat window. It takes the form (for me) of:


You can now send this URL to people via Skype IM... via other IM... via email... via Twitter... via Facebook...

Anyone who clicks on that link will be automagically dropped into your conference call!

(assuming, of course, that they have Skype installed.)

Pretty cool! Pass around a link and... ta da... a conference call!

Naming The Conference

What is also interesting is that you can name the conference by providing some text as a "token" to the "golive" command. Type in:

/golive devteammtg

and the resulting URL will be:


So you could conceivably create multiple URLs that get passed around for different teams to use at different times.

Creating The URL Without /golive

To that point (creating multiple URLs), you do not need to use the /golive command. You can simply make up a URL using the format I've shown above:


You can then pass this URL around to anyone and they can click on it to jump into a call with you.

What's the difference?

Simply this:

If you type "/golive", your Skype client will be set to automatically join into the conference call when the first person joins the call.

If you just create the URL, you will receive an incoming call message when the first person joins the call and will need to accept the call before the conference starts.

So "/golive" is simply a shortcut to get the call started by making your client automatically accept incoming connections.

Raul Liive over at Skype has further explained this in a post today, "Easily host big conference calls in Skype".

Seeing It In Action

Here is a view of what a call looked like today:


It was somewhat curious in that a couple of us were streaming video (Dean Elwood and I, both on 5.0 for the Mac), while others were audio only. Phil Wolff (Skype Journal) was hosting the call, which you could only really tell from this icon by his name:

Skype 51

What was also curious was that people kept joining the conf call (we were experimenting with this in a chat that a number of us are part of), so you would see people appearing on the 5.0 client screen. As you can see here, the video for Dean and I dropped out... and then later came back in... that part was a bit strange.

Use Cases

So... why would you want to do this?

Internal Collaboration

Well, imagine if you are a team using a persistent group chat to keep in touch. At some point, it becomes apparent that it would be easier to just talk about an issue to sort something out. So someone in the chat just types:


and everyone who is available to join can join into the call by pressing the call button.

Note the distinction here.

Today you can initiate a call to all members of a group chat, but that is the host calling ALL members of the chat right now. It rings everyone, regardless of whether they might be away or not... and you have to wait for people to accept or you have to hang up on those people you know are not around. Also, for much larger chats (say 100+ people), you simply can't do a conf call out to everyone in the chat.

This mechanism lets people choose to join the call.

It also saves the host the effort of going through adding people individually to the call. They just do "/golive" and/or pass out the URL.

Now lets say that in the middle of the call you need to bring in someone from another team. You could try to contact someone to see if they could join you... maybe you might have to try several people to see who might be available - and then add them into your call.

Or, you could just flip over to, say, the "Engineering chat" and type:

We need some help on XXXXX.  
Can someone please join our call at 

Whoever is available could then simply click that link to join into the conference call.

External Collaboration

Going on from there... say you want to bring in someone who is outside your organization... you can just fire them a Skype IM saying:

Hey, if you're available, can you join us at 

Again, one click brings them into the call.

Public Calls

I could also see this as an easy way to publicize "public conf calls". Say that I wanted to have a public conf call related to this blog. I could promote in my sidebar of this blog that on, say, Tuesdays at 1pm, I would have a call at:


I could tweet that out... put it in blog posts... send it via email. And then at the given time I could accept the call and create the conf call.

It could also just be a "standing call"... that anyone could simply click on the URL to jump into a conf call with me. Not much different from the standard:


That creates a 1:1 call with me... but this new URL would let multiple people join into the conf call with me (assuming I accepted the request and launched the conf call).

Along those lines, I could see someone giving this out as a URL for a "support line" or something like that.

What I like is the merging of the connections within Skype and also outside of Skype, i.e. you can pass the link in Twitter and have people join in.

Two Important Caveats

The Host Computer Caveat

Keep in mind when doing this the central caveat related to Skype audio conference calls:

The person hosting the conference call mixes ALL the audio streams together.

Whatever computer is running Skype for the person who initiates the conf call becomes the "conference bridge". It receives all incoming audio streams, mixes them together, and then sends the resulting combined stream back out to all participants.

For this reason, it's important that the host of the call have:

  • a good Internet pipe into their location
  • a decent computer, without a zillion apps running on it
  • preferably a wired connection versus wireless

Now... "it depends", of course. If you are just hosting a conf call for a couple of people, you can probably do it perfectly fine with a laptop on WiFi running many other apps. However, if you are hosting a conf call for 25 other people, you might want a stronger computer and a wired connection.

The Skype 5.0 Caveat

The other detail is that the person initiating/hosting conf calls this way MUST have either Skype 5.0 for Windows or Mac... or some of the later builds of Skype 4.2 for Windows.

Other newer versions of Skype can participate in the conf call, for instance via clicking the link, but they apparently can't host the call.

In The End...

... will this be enough to bring me over to Skype 5.0 for the Mac full time? (I run it on a second computer and run Skype 2.8 on my laptop) Probably not, for a reason I'll explain in another blog post and related to the somewhat crazy way I use Skype right now.... but it will definitely make me keep using Skype 5.0, and maybe I'll get closer to making the move. :-)

Regardless, it's a very cool hidden feature and based on some comments from the folks at Skype, I think it could evolve in some more interesting ways.

What do you think? What other uses do you see for this?

Image credit: nnsanews on Flickr

Free webinar Tues, Feb 15 - Deploying Apps: Cloud vs. Premise vs. Hybrid


With all the buzz around the "cloud" and "cloud communications", what is the reality amidst the hype? That's a topic I'll be discussing in a Voxeo webinar on Tuesday, February 15th, called "Best Practices in Deploying Communication Applications:  Cloud vs On-Premises vs Hybrid". Given that Voxeo's had literally hundreds of thousands of apps deployed in both our hosted cloud and also on customer premises, we've learned a thing a two that I'll be sharing. I'll talk about questions such as:

  • What are the advantages of deploying voice and SMS applications into the cloud? 
  • What are the disadvantages? 
  • What are the security issues you need to be aware of? 
  • When is it more appropriate to deploy applications on your premises? 
  • What kind of hybrid architectures are now available and what are their pros and cons?

Tuesday, Feb 15, 2011
8:00 AM US Pacific, 11:00 AM US Eastern, 5:00 PM Central European


It should be a fun session... and we'll have time at the end for Q&A.

If you can't watch it live, the webinar will be archived for later viewing (and if you register, we'll alert you when the archive is available).

Image credit: me :-)

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Skype Releases Hotfix for Skype 5.0 for Mac OSX

SkypelogoSkype this week released a "Hotfix" for the Skype 5.0 for Mac OSX. Surprisingly the upgrade/update process is not automated... I chose "Check for Updates..." in the Skype menu of my 5.0 client and it told me I was up-to-date. However, when I clicked on the download link in that Skype blog post, I downloaded the new version and was able to drag it to my Applications folder to do the update.

From a user point-of-view, there don't seem to be any new features in this release. It really is just a "hotfix" for a number of bugs, including the issue with Skype not letting other applications use the video camera that I affected some folks I know.

Anyway... Mac users who have gone ahead and moved to 5.0 may want to upgrade now (I have on one system and am still on 2.8 on another). The Skype blog post has a few more details on what was fixed.

P.S. If you haven't been paying attention to what's new with Skype 5.0 for the Mac, you may want to read about the "Gold" release, the launch of the beta of 5.0 for the Mac or my other Skype-related posts

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Skype Adds H.264 Support to iPhone App And Supports Skype TVs

Skypeiphone301This morning's visit to the AppStore on my iPhone brought news that Skype had rolled out version 3.0.1 of its iPhone client. The only news of what was in it was:

You can now make video calls to a wider selection of Skype clients and devices, such as Skype for TV.

It turns out (via a Skype blog post) that what this really means is that Skype has added the higher quality H.264 video codec to the app. As noted, this will let you do a video call with a Skype-equipped TV. (Which you bizarrely could not do from an iPhone before.)

While I don't personally know anyone with a Skype-equipped TV, I'm looking forward to trying this out to see if it changes the quality of the video calls I make. Over the last couple of weeks I've used the iPhone quite a bit for video calls and been impressed so far.

Anyway, if you are an iPhone user, you can head on over to the AppStore and download this new version...

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Nokia and the Ongoing "War of Ecosystems"

Is Nokia about to drop its entire mobile platform for Android or Windows Phone 7? Yesterday the buzz in the telecom space was all about an apparent memo to employees from Nokia CEO Stephen Elop that said Nokia was on a "burning platform" and needed to make some hard choices. The text of the memo, which Engadget has in full, is brilliantly written. The metaphor of the worker on a burning oil platform is well done... and I expect we'll hear more usage of that in the future by others.

The memo is also a very well done and brutally honest assessment of where Nokia stands in the mobile market and where the competition sits. What I found most compelling, though, was the commentary around the "war of ecosystems" (my emphasis added):

The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems, where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things. Our competitors aren't taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we're going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.

We ARE in a "war of ecosystems". No one can doubt that.

On a macro level it is Apple iOS versus Google Android, with Microsoft attempting to have some relevance with Windows Phone 7.

RIM would very much like to still be in the game with its Blackberry OS, but recent surveys don't bode well (66% of Verizon Blackberry users said they would likely move to the iPhone). HP would like to think it can be a player with WebOS (and is making a "big announcement" today) but that seriously remains to be seen. And Symbian? Well... read the Nokia CEO's letter...

The "war of ecosystems" is MUCH broader than the mobile market, of course... it's a war going on across the telecommunications and computer industry in general. It involves so many others, too, like Facebook and Twitter and everyone else in the "social" space...

It's a war around who can attract the most developers to build the most applications on a "platform"... it's a war around "open" versus "closed" ... around "simplicity" and "features"... around "applications" and "big, fat, dumb, pipes"... around "APIs"... around who can be our "portal" for communications ... about how can get the eyeballs...

It's a war for the future of our communications....

... and it's ALL about the ecosystems!

Who will survive?

That story is still being written... it's an exciting time... but a crazy, chaotic time, too...

P.S. Engadget is now saying this memo/letter is true based on multiple sources... and I'm inclined to believe it. From a PR point-of-view, it's a brilliant move to hype and tease about Nokia's announcement on Friday. Many people - myself included - probably had no idea that Nokia was going to be making a huge announcement on Friday.

Well played, Nokia. You got our attention.

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Want to understand where Voxeo is going? Watch this video...

Would you like to understand what Voxeo, my employer, is all about and where the company is going? Want to know about all the cool tools and services we make available for free for developers?

If so, just watch this video interview that I recorded at ITEXPO with TMC:

I spoke with TMC's Pat Barnard about the panels we were on at ITEXPO, as well as, Phono and the other services and products we offer for free to developers.

The amusing part was that this interview was not scheduled in advance but was rather a result of walking by their video area and being asked "How about recording an interview right now?" It was fun to do.... I actually love doing things like this, even just on-the-fly like this. Only one mistake I noticed... the "Facebook Telephone" app is at, not the URL I gave in the video.

I also noticed that I talk fast! And as far as I can recall, this was BEFORE any kind of caffeine. :-)

Anyway, if you'd like an understanding of where Voxeo is going and all the cool things we are doing, this video should help in that...

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Gogo In-Flight WiFi At Least Allows Skype Chat

If you go back in time to September 2008 and recall the whole kerfuffle over the Gogo in-flight WiFi service NOT allowing VoIP calls (which we also covered on Blue Box podcast #83), one of the threads that was floating around was the wish that they would at least allow chat over Skype. If you couldn't make calls, at least you could have IM conversations.

I didn't really pay any further attention to the matter and didn't find myself on planes with Gogo WiFi until this past week... and found that yes, indeed, sometime in the last two+ years Gogo did relax the Skype chat restriction (at least on Delta flights).

The FAQ now clearly states that Skype IM is allowed, while VoIP services are still not permitted:

Photo Feb 06 8 13 34 PM

While I was on a short flight and didn't feel the need to pay for the in-flight WiFi, it was nice to know that I could have used Skype IM if I had wanted to.

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