Posts categorized "Travel"

For a brief bit - Skype video calls from 30,000+ feet on Southwest Air WiFi!

Upon entering the Southwest Airlines plane this morning on my flight to Orlando to visit Voxeo's headquarters, I immediately noticed a "WiFi zone" sign on a column by the entry door. Naturally, I had to pull out my Macbook Pro and give it a whirl... and, given the issue of Skype-blocking last summer... try out Skype.

To my great surprise and pleasure, it worked great. (For a little while - see below.) Here's Bruce Lowekamp:

03_33 | Call with Bruce Lowekamp-1.jpg

As you may or may not be able to see in the graphic, our call had been up for 3 minutes and 33 seconds when I snapped the picture.

Technical Call Info-1.jpgUnfortunately, I didn't have easy access to my headset, so I couldn't really have a great conversation. The ambient background noise in the plane was really too much for my voice to be heard unless I bent down toward the microphone... and likewise even with the MacBook Pro volume up all the way it was a bit hard to hear Bruce unless I bent down toward the laptop.

And, of course, I didn't really want to annoy my fellow passengers. :-)

You can see on the right the technical stats for the call. Packet loss was surprisingly low. At the time I captured this window, I had a 3% receiving packet loss... but through much of our call that was hovering down around 0%. A roundtrip of 789ms is, of course, rather entertaining.

Sadly, though, the connectivity didn't last forever. After about maybe 30 minutes of trying this out and making video calls to different people, my Skype account went offline.


No instant messaging/chat, either. Which is exceedingly annoying.

Out in Twitter-land, Fred Posner asked Southwest if they were blocking VoIP, to which Southwest replied:

@fredposner yep...we do.


Actually, what annoys me more is Southwest blocking Skype IM. Other than the novelty today, I don't know that I really want to be making calls from the plane... although I could see the usefulness from time to time.

What I do want is the Skype IM... since I use Skype IM heavily for communication with people including my team. It seems, though, that my Skype connection is completely blocked. Which is unfortunate, given that all my other IM services seem to be working fine.

Southwest, can you please figure out how to block the Skype voice and video, but still leave us the chat?

Despite the VoIP-blocking, though, it was seriously great to be able to use my laptop and work online during the flight. Even better, on this flight the Southwest WiFi was free while they are apparently testing it out. I did a couple of speed tests from DSL Reports, naturally, and seemed to be getting around 3Mbps down and around 200-250 Kbps up. Here's one of the results:

Speed Test -

What a crazy world we're now in... 3 Mbps downlink... on a plane!

P.S. And of course I had to snap a picture like this:


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Sprint or Verizon? Recommendations for broadband access card for my Mac?

Who would you recommend for a wireless broadband access service for my laptop? Sprint or Verizon? (Those seem to be my main choices here in Keene, NH.) And would you recommend the USB dongle or the ExpressCard version?

In heading out the Communications Developer Conference/ITEXPO next week in L.A., the show organizers have already told me there is no free WiFi access at the LA Convention Center... but I can, of course, pay for the access through the local provider. (And probably deal with the same usual headaches of getting adequate signal strength.)

I am so incredibly sick of show WiFi, both in terms of paying for it and also just in quality, that yes, indeed, even though I am a cheap Yankee... er... "frugal", I think I need to suck it up and pay the $720/year to have wireless Internet access over the cell networks. This will also be hugely beneficial for all the wonderful times I spend hanging out in airports.

My choice seems to be either Sprint or Verizon. (AT&T and T-Mobile don't have great coverage in my area.) Both will cover whatever limited roaming I do in my local area... and both have coverage in the major cities I tend to travel to. I've seen both used on the Amtrak train down to New York. They both charge ~$60/month... they both charge $50-100 for your actual broadband access card. They both require a 2-year contract (or reference a 1-yr but then your hardware costs go up.) And they both seem to have 5GB monthly limits (on-network).

On the actual hardware, it seems that I can get either a USB dongle or an ExpressCard. The USB is interesting in the sense that I can plug it into virtually any computer and use it. But the ExpressCard version looks interesting because: 1) I don't use that slot currently for anything else (whereas I do plug things into the USB slots); and 2) it looks like a smaller external form factor, i.e. there's less sticking out of my laptop.

So my questions for you all, dear readers, are these:

  • Have you seen any great reason to prefer Sprint or Verizon?
  • Do either one work better with the Mac? (my laptop these days)
  • Do either work better than the other inside of buildings like convention halls? (I'm imagining neither one works great.)
  • Any suggestions of the USB dongle over the ExpressCard card?

Any advice or recommendations is definitely welcome... I'll probably be picking one of these up in the next couple of days. (Thanks in advance!)

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Heading out to ClueCon 2008, Telephony Developer Conference, this week..

cluecon08logo-1.jpgThis afternoon I'll be heading to the airport to fly out to Chicago to be part of ClueCon this week. Haven't heard of ClueCon before? Here's the quick summary:
ClueCon - is an annual 3-Day Telephony User and Developer Conference bringing together the entire spectrum of Telephony from TDM circuits to VoIP and everything in between. The presentations and discussions will cover several open source telephony applications such as Asterisk/Callweaver, Kamailio (formerly OpenSER), Bayonne, YATE and FreeSWITCH.

Billed as the "Telephony Developer Conference" it primarily focuses on the whole world of open source telephony.

I'll be there as part of two panels. First, tomorrow I'll be joining fellow VoIP bloggers Andy Abramson and Thomas Howe on a "VoIP Roundtable" to talk about current industry themes and trends. Then on Thursday I'll be part of a "VoIP Security Roundtable" talking about... gee... can you guess?

It should be a fun event... I'm looking forward to catching up with Andy, Thomas, Moshe Yudkowsky, Jon Todd and several others. There are also some folks on the schedule with whom I have corresponded but never physically me, so that will be nice as well. If any of you reading this will also be there, please do feel free to drop me a note so that we can connect.

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Walking through VoiceCon in a fog...

1F986311-DE40-482A-B982-3300FE408328.jpgIt's been a rough week for me down here in Orlando at VoiceCon. As you've noticed, I haven't really posted any blog entries. In fact, there have been a number of "firsts" down here which I really would have preferred to avoid:
  • first conference ever where I haven't gone out to dinner with anyone;
  • first conference where I've not recorded any audio interviews (or video), despite carrying all my audio gear with me each and every day;
  • first time I've gone back to my hotel room early each day to collapse;
  • first conference in eons where I've felt like I'm walking around in a fog.

This is all very bizarre me. Being the extreme extrovert that I am, conferences are a time to have conversations, to meet new people, to go out to dinners and lunches, to "schmooze"... "network"... or whatever you want to call it. To learn of people's stories and try to tell those stories through all these social media. I enjoy these events and am so completely in my element. I love it! There are just so many interesting people out there.

But it's darn hard to do all that when you feel like a truck has run you over... and then backed up to run over you again.

As long-time readers know, I've been traveling to what? 20 or 30 conferences over the past couple of years... and never in all that time do I recall being sick for the duration of the event with a bad cold like I am now. Hopefully, the rest, liquids and medicine will eventually kick this, but in the meantime it's been rather a struggle. I've had three speaking events (last one coming up in 45 minutes) and so all my energy has been focused on being ready for those.

It's been a very bizarre show for me!

Heading up to Ottawa tomorrow...

I'm Ottawa-bound early tomorrow morning for two days of closing off my activities with Mitel. Heading back to Vermont on Thursday.  If anyone reading this wants to connect with me in Ottawa, please do drop an email, contact me on Skype ("danyork") or leave a comment here.  Will be staying out in the Kanata area.