Practical stuff....

Well, it seems I have already broken my New Year's resolution, twice actually, the first part was to add a post every day - that did not happen, so the second was one a week. Still striving for that too!
Anyway, a major element of my idea for this site was to have some useful information about setting-up different devices for communicating, mostly VoIP and mostly hardware, though I plan to talk about software that catches my notice as well. I hope to have the opportunity to test out a variety of both and share my findings with you, and hopefully readers will bring their comments, questions and experiences to this group as well.
So here are some of the items to be mentioned:-
The Sipura 3000
The Linksys PAP2
The Grandstream 488
The Grandstream 101 SIP telephone.

Some services coming out now are truly outstanding , one such is Truphone, a small UK company blending VoIP with your mobile phone....a must see!
Another area that has recently started exploding is GPS and how it can offer personal and/or shared tracking, linking with Google Maps and provide messaging services.


Why should so much importance be placed on SIP? Mainly because it is the most widely accepted industry standard so most hardware/software vendors use it and practically all VoIP services use it.
This makes it very easy for almost anyone, anywhere to communicate with each other - usually very cheaply and often completely free. Please note that although it is naturally best to have a broadband connection for this it can be done effectively over a dial-up connection so long as you can accept reduced audio-quality. By the way, what SIP (session initiation protocol) does is essentially the setting-up of the calling-path, something akin to the dialling sequence part of a call on the normal telephone network.
After that both parties also need to be using the same methods of encoding and decoding the digital audio as they speak to each other. Again there are standards for this known as "codecs", and take note that certain companies have chosen to use proprietary codecs. Interestingly the two major names that apparently do not feel they need to follow accepted standards are those with the loudest sales/marketing voices - do I need to spell this out? Please write in if you do not know who they are!
There are many people who are using VoIP today, but are often using different service providers whether in the same country or different ones around the world. One of the beauties of using standards is that it can be made very easy to inter-connect between these service-providers ( sometimes called ITSP's for Internet Telephony Service Providers, or VSP for Voice Service Providers). Some amazing work has been done by an outfit called SIP Broker
who are co-ordinating a huge list of access-codes that are used to allow users to call contacts on other networks. It already numbers some 500 codes, mostly 3-digits but later additions are 4.
Let me give you an example - If you are a subscriber with Packet-8 in the USA and have the account number 12345 and have a friend in Europe on say, Sipgate, then they can call you by dialling this sequence: *449-12345. Brilliantly simple isn't it!
Now although there are already some very cheap rates for calling between the USA and Europe using this SIP method is entirely free!
ITSP's have to pay the telephone companies to terminate calls on the public switched telephone networks (PSTN) but most of them have agreed to accept each other's SIP calls free-of-charge since there are no additional costs to them anyway. Very public-spirited wouldn't you agree?


I think the first topic to address must be VoIP, or voice-over-internet-protocol, largely because it is finally capturing a wide interest, but also because it's current success and what it holds for the future is founded upon industry protocols and open standards.
We owe much to Jeff Pulver who founded Free World Dialup or FWD, www.freeworlddialup.com and instituted the now famous VON conferences. FWD was established so early in the development of VoIP that most of the industry used (and probably still do) that platform as the compatibility reference, knowing that if they could inter-operate successfully with FWD then their systems would work with anyone else's. The tremendous development that has been accomplished by the FWD team is shown by the huge number of features that their system offers.
Another highly significant and very forward-thinking player is GIZMO, www.gizmoproject.com formerly known as SIPphone. The team here has produced one of the most versatile VoIP systems out there. It naturally uses the industry standard protocol SIP, and offers incredible flexibility in terms of interfacing with other VoIP hardware and software.
It was in fact the recent interconnection between Gizmo and Google that led me to want to help "spread the word" to more people. Google-Chat uses XMPP (another open standard protocol which also leads into a discussion on Instant Messaging which I will talk about soon) established by Jabber and plans to incorporate SIP in the near future. I have just discovered to-day that Gizmo announced a co-operative deal with Live Journal, www.livejournal.com which results in an impressive instrument that offers not only normal "blogging" but now the voice-blog...this sounds like some sort of talking diary straight out of a Harry Potter story. Now linked into the Gizmo network it takes another step in social networking with the opportunity for live chat from within a blog!


Mission Statement

"What is this for?" You may ask, well, first of all let me thank you for being here to read this!
Hopefully it will be one of those things which start out as an experiment but quickly blossom into a global success story ! We can all dream can't we?

Actually the ambition is to have a place where I can talk about a passion of mine - The Internet - and some of the ways in which it will continue to bring greater conveniences to our lives.
I hope to talk about some of the technologies involved, how they can be useful and productive, and with a strong emphasis on freedoms. Open source applications for example, open standards for another.
I feel that, initially at least, the focus will be on providing information on how to make things work, to spread the word about new stuff that I manage to discover and especially to encourage newbies to take the plunge with some of the "techie" things that may look intimidating but need not be so.