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August 2007

Posts from July 2007

Travelling to/speaking at ACUTA conference in Hollywood, Florida, July 29-Aug 2

image FYI, on the week of July 29th - August 2nd, I'll be down in Hollywood, Florida, at the annual conference of the Association for Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA).  I will be speaking on... surprise!... VoIP security!  There look to be a great number of interesting talks on the schedule, and so I'm looking forward to wearing my CTO Office hat (versus my pure "VoIP security" hat) and listening to and learning from what many of the folks involved with deploying leading-edge IP communications technologies in the education space are doing.   There will, of course, also be some security talks of interest.

If any of you reading this weblog will be down there at the ACUTA conference, please do feel free to drop me a note, as I definitely do enjoy meeting with others who connect through the social media space.

P.S. And yes, Florida in late July/early August is definitely not my idea of a fun place to be... good news is that we'll be indoors!

Technorati tags: , , , , launches "Open Source PBX community"

image Recognizing the growth in open source telephony, Rich Tehrani and his team over at today rolled out their "Open Source PBX community" at . Sponsored by long-time open source supporter Sangoma, Rich says in his video that they aim for their site to be the place to go for news, commentary and documents about open source telephony.  Right now it seems primarily to have some white papers, a list of resources (which seem to mostly come from Sangoma) and open source-related news and articles.   Given that this just launched, it will be interesting to see what they do with it.

Rich asked for feedback about the site and my #1 point would be - could we please get some RSS feeds?  Unless I missed them, I can't see anyway to subscribe... and that's really how I personally like to read my updates these days.

Anyway, it's good to see expanding their open source coverage and I'll be watching how it evolves.

Skype releases new 3.5 beta that adds video into chats and mood messages

As announced yesterday on the Share Skype blog and in more detail on the Skype Garage blog (and also in the Windows Release Notes), Skype has released an updated 3.5 beta for Windows.  Skype 3.5 beta came out earlier this month, but this new update includes several new features, most notably the ability to add video into a chat or mood message, and per the release notes it also fixes a range of bugs.  Jim Courtney has more info over at Skype Journal, but I found this piece of interest with regard to the new video snapshot capability (which now allows you to take a snapshot of the remote video, i.e. the person you are speaking with):

Providing your video also implies that your provide your remote participant with permission to make snapshots. Video snapshots inherits existing privacy mechanisms associated with turning on your video.

So basically if you use Skype video, you should be aware that the person with whom you are chatting could easily capture images of you. (Obviously this has always been possible with screen capture programs, but this is now built into Skype.)

On the "adding videos to chat or mood message" feature, my initial reaction was that this could be quite cool... but that enthusiasm was a bit tempered when I realized that you can only add video from specific Skype partners (and currently only one, Metacafe).  Alas, you can not just point to a YouTube video... you are restricted to those at Metacafe.  Of course, you can upload your own video there, but you have to go through the whole account creation process, etc.  It strikes me as a bit odd that given the eBay/Google agreement to work together there isn't yet a relationship with YouTube.  We'll see... in the meantime I can imagine Metacafe will see a spike in new accounts from people who want to experiment with Skype 3.5.

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YouTube video from Sun blogger sets shots of Sun/Mitel gear to hip-hop...

Following on my previous post about Sun blogger Craig Bender, I should note that he also posted a video to YouTube that is the first time I can honestly say that I've ever seen shots of Mitel and/or Sun gear set to hip-hop music!   Enjoy...

YouTube video shows the Sun / Mitel collaboration - voice/data hot desking via card...

 One of the many cool things I've been hoping to find the cycles to write about coming out of Mitel Forum last week is the collaboration occurring between Mitel and Sun Microsystems.  First announced June 19th, there are really two components to the collaboration: 1) the Multi-Instance Call Server (MICS) that can have up to 200 instances of our 3300 ICP call control software running on a Sun server; and 2) a very cool integration of a SunRay thin client computer into the base of one of our phones.  With the phones, a user can simply insert their "Java card" into the base of the phone and the user is automagically signed onto the computer and to the phone.  Pull the card out, the user is logged out.  Insert another user's card and the computer and the phone are logged in as that user.  It takes the "hot desking" we've had for years and extends that to now also include the PC.  As I said, it's very cool!

The good news is that I can actually share a bit of the experience with you courtesy of Sun blogger Craig Bender, a.k.a. the "Thin Guy", who writes the Sun Ray Blog.  I didn't realize he was at our show, which is a bummer because it would have been great to meet, but he posted this video to YouTube:

You can see my colleague Stephen Beamish demonstrating the capabilities at the Sun booth at Mitel Forum.  Craig did a nice job editing the video and it's great to see it up on YouTube.

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Google acquires GrandCentral... and enters further into the PSTN side of telecommunications

image News breaking out today is that Google has acquired GrandCentral for something around $50 million. GrandCentral is a service that gives you one phone number that can ring multiple numbers, provide one common voicemail - and all sorts of the other features (see "howitworks" for a list of features). As  the GrandCentral blog entry says:

We started GrandCentral because we wanted to create a service that puts users in control of their voice communications and not the other way around. As you have discovered, with GrandCentral you get all of your phone calls through just one number that never changes and you can link and ring up to six phones to ring when somebody calls you. But that’s just the start. You can set different rules for each caller (some ring all your phones, other can go straight to voicemail), create personal voicemail greetings for each of your callers, and even check your voicemail on the web with all of your messages in just one inbox. We’ll even save your messages for as long as you want.

I first learned of GrandCentral quite some time ago from Andy's blog and subsequently heard GrandCentral CEO Craig Walker talk out at O'Reilly's Emerging Telephony conference at the beginning of this year.  It seemed to be an interesting service, although unfortunately I didn't sign up for the service at the time. (Now you have to wait to be invited if you want to try it out.)

As to Google's motivation, they discuss it in the Google blog entry:

GrandCentral is an innovative service that lets users integrate all of their existing phone numbers and voice mailboxes into one account, which can be accessed from the web. We think GrandCentral's technology fits well into Google's efforts to provide services that enhance the collaborative exchange of information between our users.

GrandCentral offers many features that complement the phone services you already use. If you have multiple phone numbers (e.g., home, work, cell), you get one phone number that you can set to ring all, some, or none of your phones, based on who's calling. This way, your phone number is tied to you, and not your location or job. The service also gives you one central voice mailbox. You can listen to your voicemails online or from any phone, forward them to anybody, add the caller to your address book, block a caller as spam, and a lot more. You can even listen in on voicemail messages from your phone while they are being recorded, or switch a call from your cell phone to your desk phone and back again. All in all, you'll have a lot more control over your phones.

So will we ultimately see voicemail inside of Gmail?  One would assume that we will eventually see integration with GoogleTalk, which would give that service its first direct PSTN connectivity.  With a GrandCentral integration, GoogleTalk essentially winds up with a "SkypeIn" kind of service that can route calls to you on GoogleTalk.  The "WebCall Button" and "Click2Call" services also fit in with other Google efforts to expand further into "click to call" (as you can do now in Google Maps).

All very interesting to see... congrats to the GrandCentral team and it will be very interesting to see what emerges from the integration.

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The truth about the iPhone and other devices - in the end, it all comes down to batteries...

image In the end, it all comes down to *#$%#$?@ batteries!  I was greatly amused to read today David Berlind's ZDNet Blog post, "iPhone redux: Is it time for the battery life equivalent of a 'nutrition label' (see example)".

His statements are entirely true.  We as an industry do need some kind of "truth in labeling" decree about battery life.  I loved his diagram that he came up with (shown on right). 

This point was vividly driven home to me a few years back when for about a year or so I was the product manager for Mitel's wireless portfolio and was involved with the rollout of Mitel's IP-DECT solution in Europe.  Never in my life did I expect that so much of my time in the product launch would be consumed in dealing with issues around batteries! Being a "software guy", I really had very little understanding of the nuances of power consumption and their impact on battery life. It was definitely a great learning experience! As David Berlind says:

Not only was plenty written about the iPhone’s potential battery life issues, the truth of the matter is that there’s only so much you can ask a battery to do.

Batteries can only do so much - and the real challenge with a mobile device is to find every way possible to reduce power consumption so that the battery will go that much longer.  But, as he points out, we want our devices to do so much more....

(Me? I just want to be able to turn on Bluetooth on my Blackberry without having it require daily recharges!)

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