Category: Reviews

Free Calling, as in No Monthly Fees

In a previous post I talked about my quest to find a good and configurable home office phone system. The first option I want to discuss is a simple and inexpensive solution that will likely work for the large majority of homes and home offices.

This solution is Google Voice and a small device named the OBi. Google Voice is a service provided by Google that bridges POTS lines (Plain Old Telephone Service) and the world of VoIP (Voice over IP.) The best thing is that Google Voice does this for free if calling within the United States or Canada…and very cheaply if calling internationally. The problem is that Google Voice wants to connect your call to either a computer or another POTS line.

This is where the OBi comes into play. The OBi accepts VoIP connections from Google and translates that into something your traditional phone will understand…all without needing a POTS line from your telephone or cable provider. There are several models.  The two most popular are the OBi 100 and the OBi 202.   The primary difference is that the OBi 100 can handle two VoIP services and one telephone while the OBi 202 can handle four VoIP services and two telephones.  This means you could have up to four separate Google Voice numbers and multiple telephones or cordless telephones connected to the OBi.  One for different members of your family or separate personal and business phone numbers.

If I’m losing you, just listen to this.  After spending $40 for the OBi 100, you won’t have any monthly fees for domestic calling unless Google decides to start charging for this service sometime in the future.  Industry analysts do not think this will happen anytime soon. View full article »

Recently I began looking for alternatives to traditional phone service for my home and office.  I reviewed what was available from my cable provider, Cox Communications, but they were expensive.  I had used Google Voice in the past but wanted more flexibility.  I decided to give 8×8 a try for about three months.  They are a true VOIP provider and essentially offer a PBX in the cloud.  They have extremely reliable service and a wide assortment of features but ultimately I wanted more flexibility and thee ability to create additional extensions without a monthly fee and taxes being associated with each one.

I then stumbled onto Incredible PBX.  This offering takes open source tools like Asterisk and FreePBX and packages them so they can run on a $35 Raspberry Pi.  Amazing!  I have been running this now for three weeks and have had no issues.  I can create extensions, voice mail boxes, announcements…even a voice response unit (choose 1 to leave a voice mail, choose 2 to hear the weather, etc.) View full article »

Tired of receiving unwanted calls at home or on your mobile phone? So was I…
Free service from the FTC.


About a week ago I started receiving 5 to 10 calls a day to my mobile phone. They were asking for random people, were calling from different numbers but all had the same hold music when I first answered the phone. Out of curiosity, I spoke to one of them for a bit. They wanted to confirm all of my personal information, including my social security number, before “taking me off their list.” Needless to say, this had all the characteristics of a phishing attack and I gave them no information.

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Fitbit Ultra

Get moving…
$95 – $100 per unit; Buy on AMAZON


The Fitbit Ultra is a great concept for providing motivation to get off the couch.  This very small device measures the number of steps you take and stairs you climb in a given day.  From that information, it estimates the number of calories burned and transmits this information wirelessly to the Fitbit website when you are near the included transmitter.  From the website you can review all of your statistics, even including sleep efficiency.  There is also a social aspect to the Fitbit that allows you to connect, share information or compete with friends.  Fitbit has integrated with other sites as well, such as, Lose It!, Myfitnesspal, Foursquare and Microsoft’s Health Vault.  These connections allow the sharing of information between sites and allows the usefulness of the Fitbit to be continually expanded.

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Norton DNS
Norton ConnectSafe (name changed Summer of 2012) 

A safer way to surf the web
Free for home and personal use


First, let’s define DNS.  DNS stands for Domain Name System.  Every object that connects to the Internet has an IP address, something that looks like  These numbers are hard to remember and can change from time to time so DNS was implemented to simplify this.  Instead of having to remember IP addresses, we just need to remember a website address or URL, something like  DNS is what does the translation from URL to IP address for your computer making the process transparent to you.  Norton DNS takes this an additional step and provides an assessment of the site you are requesting.  If the site is deemed malicious or inappropriate then a warning message is displayed.  If the site is safe, you are taken to the site right away.

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