The last few days I've been busy reworking my house and how wired, or wireless it is as part of a cleaning house project and getting geared up for a new year in just 60 days.
I bought a new Samsung laser printer that is better, faster and less costly than the ink jets are for simple black on white printing, plus costs about 25 percent less than a larger, older designed HP that it competes with. I then got both printers in the house working wirelessly from my laptops and desktop making it easy to print regardless of location, using the Linskys Wireless 802.11b/g Print Server. Let's see. Wireless Phones. Wireless Internet. Wireless Printing...do you see a thread here. By the way.
After experimenting over the past year with all kinds of wireless print servers and access points/routers/gateways, I've come to the conclusion that SMC and Linksys get it best when it come to the manuals and software. Actually, I think they get it best for all the 802.11x products on the market.
Usually I'm a Staples customer or shop over the web via the best price using Pricegrabber.com. But yesterday I was in the mood to buy it now. Besides, with the American Express card's price protection, nothing is ever more than the lowest price on the web, so who cares. I went to Office Depot in Encinitas, CA. I've always had good experiences with them in the past, but yesterday it was a Red Sox winning type of experience.
After calling the store to verify they had the printer in stock and IN THE STORE, something that Staples doesn't always do, they just look on the computer and check, I drove ten minutes. The staff was informed. The techology guys were not Radio Shack rejects or ex Domino delivery drivers. They actually knew features, product differentiation of the Samsung versus Brother and HP. One of them even went so far as to tell me what he thought about Brother (i.e. don't buy it) but more importantly knew the return rates of the products, which products had customers calling for help more, etc. You don't get that at Staples any more.
The Asian checkout babe was cool too. We joked about Halloween and I suggested she would be the perfect beach bunny or swimsuit model, she giggled and smiled, hey, its Halloween and you should see some of the costumes I saw the last few days and what the women were wearing...PC goes out the window it seems.....and then without missing a beat she talked to me about the service options.
I opted for the "if it breaks, bring it in and we give you a new printer, no questions asked." for $24.99 for an extra year. On a $149.00 printer one might question if it's worth it. But here's the kicker, I'm getting 10 percent back on my purchases each time I shop there and the cashier gave me an "employee can reward the customer" discount of $47.36, plus I get a manufacturers rebate of $30.00 dollars, meaning the printer in round numbers cost me something like $55 dollars by the time I'm done before the warrenty. Hello, can you say, "I'll be shopping there more." The store manager Jim was also real helpful, as it seems the warrenty discs were out of stock, so he called another store, got the warrenty details and will mail me the details. At Staples I'd still be in line while someone figured out who to ask what to do.
I've also been in the midst of VoIP provider evaluation time. First I'm sending back my Packet 8 video phone--there's hardly anyone to face off with, and those that have it are in different time zones, only have one, etc. It is certainly a device that is limited in use by the lack of a softvideo client, which is why I'm more excited about XTEN's eyeBeam than Packet 8's video phone. Now if P8 would give away the Xten software then anyone with a computer and an account could set up all kinds of networks to face off with friends and colleague. All it would take is a Logitech camera and a mic and your off.
I've also been experimenting with Broadvoice and Net2Phone's supplied hardware and will over the next few weeks. The folks at Net2Phone gave me a trial account with $25.00 credit. Not sure why, but it seems you get dinged for each call on the WiFi phone, including calls that don't connect. I'm sure their folks will let me know. If anything, they have been super responsive to questions from the start.
Broadvoice sent me two different Sipura adapters. The 1000 and the new, cool, small 1001. I'm also getting their version of the WiFi phone later this week. My test of the 1000 uses the same connection Ethernet cable as the old and new Vonage TA's. The sound quality and consistency of the Vonage Linksys Telephone Adapter is a far cry better than the original Cisco ATA 186. My initial view of the Sipura 1000, is that is more along the lines of the Cisco ATA. I just don't get that "gee it sounds like a real phone" that I get from AT&T's CallVantage, and the close to that which Vonage now offers with the new TA.
Speaking of Vonage, I spoke with their Corporate Communications lead Brooke Schulz. I've known Brooke from the start of her time with Vonage and an as a PR pro I recognize and appreciate how well she is maturing, showing more poise each time we chat. I was in her shoes when I was her age so I always give the younger PR people some slack.
Brooke took my call on Sunday when I noticed two problems. The first was my original Vonage number, that I ported to them from SBC which is forwarded to the new Vonage number for the Linksys (which I now understand can be eliminated as Vonage is close to fixing that too) which in turn is forwarded to my CallVantage line wouldn't make the double jump, even though it makes the single jump. It also seems I can't do the same thing with my Vonage softphone so the issue is inside Vonage on forwarding within their network. That said, the new Vonage virtual UK number works like a charm and does forward from the Vonage Linksys line over to CallVantage whose Locate Me service works without fail. Brooke had me send her a note detailing the problem so one of the network team members could see exactly what was going on.
Anyway, Brooke also revealed that Vonage's PBX is having an issue. This is not causing my problem, but internally calls are not getting to the support team and that's a problem their PBX vendor has to fix and fast as Vonage has support people sitting around, and calls backing up she told me. I pointed out that it reminded me of the hyper growth days of AOL when you couldn't call in to get help...I had called their support number first but got a message basically saying "we're too busy" which is why I called Brooke.
Already this morning, the Vonage team has been in touch with me by phone and email. What's best is the tech knows his stuff and is actually getting to the root of the issue very quickly. They also have a solution for the porting of the original number to the new ATA--hooray! I can stop paying an extra line fee now.
I went to a new WiFi cafe in Encinitas too yesterday, armed with the WiFi phone and my laptop. The laptop calling went perfect, but the WiFI phone with Net2Phone has some issues. Sadly, my contact wasn't reachable yesterday so the some calls make it, some don't, some get charged that don't make it issue needs to be addressed today. All of Downtown Encinitas is now wireless and free for the next two weeks. Bets are that I will be there a lot at their coffee shops, wine bar and some good pasta for lunch at my friend Paolo's restaurant, Via Italia, which may just be the best in North County.
Well it's time to start the blog for the day....