Why I Carry A European Power Strip Now

Some ten years or so ago my then soon to be wife and I were "shopping" in a French electronics store when she spotted a 5 outlet power strip that was for European plugs. It was one of the best things we ever purchased as it has made dozens of crossings.

While I also carry a Monster USA 4 outlet adapter, the longer cord and the bigger footprint makes it very useful in older hotels where the power outlet is only one or two and usually hidden behind some piece of furniture.

By using European power cords for my Apple and Android devices, I have the best of both worlds. I can carry them without the need for small adapters that often get lost, and use the local ones anywhere while having my hotel room all ready for my return.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

4G in France on my iPad

Being on Bouygues Telecom's prepaid means real 4G/LTE with my iPad Air 2.

The experience is quick and responsive. Running the Gmail application, the Chrome browser or Safari yields rapid page loading. Services like Spotify sound great, and having 4G on the iPad sure comes in handy when hotel broadband slows down. I've even tethered the Mac to the iPad once or twice just to get past a slowdown.

Of the three major Mobile operators in France, only Bouygues offers prepaid users 4G. Having now used Bouygues 4G service on my iPhone and iPad I'm happy with it, but also have no complaints with my trials of Orange or SFR as well.

For what it's worth while my T-Mobile SIMs work for free data services here, the looping back when roaming creates a very painful surfing and mapping experience. Not being localized slows down things, and when given how important maps are to those traveling, all it took was one missed exit or turn to make me realize that "going local" is very important. The net net was I could survive a day or so using T-Mobile, but once the shops opened, getting local SIMs changed the experience from tourist to local, sped up my workflow and gave me a "feels like home" experience for real.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Music Junkies Have Our Fix

I've been a music junkie in need of a fix since I was in 3rd grade. It was 1969 and I joined the Record Club of America and voila, the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers, Led Zeppelin III, Jesus Christ Superstar arrived and my world was never the same. As time went on my vinyl collection swelled to 2000 discs, tons of 45s, and by the time I was 16 I was working Saturday's in Plastic Fantastic, perhaps the greatest of all used record stores ever, thanks to the founders Harold Gold and his ex wife Betsy Berlin. Between my late nights hanging in the store on my way home from my office, my Saturday sojourns to 3rd Street Jazz, Platters, Radio 437, Sam Goody, Franklin Music and a bunch of hole in the wall record stores, I was always on the hunt for what would be the next big thing.

Somewhere along the way I started to help some friends spin PUNK ROCK on WXPN-FM on a short lived but life changing once a week 1 AM - 6 AM show called "Yesterday's Now Music Today." We played new stuff. Very new stuff. I donned the moniker R.P Android, said my name was Jeremy Stone (taken from a character in the book, The Andromeda Strain) and was on the air as a D.J for the summer.  It was back then I started to hang out with the Talking Heads, The Nuns, The Cramps, even Bryan Setzer when his band was called The TopCats thanks to Betsy and Harold as they always had these super cool in store appearance and I was asked to help with them. So between the late nights of concerts at STARZ and The Hot Club, my regular job with the Philadelphia Flyers, college by day, hockey games and concerts at the Spectrum at night, my new found record store connections, I was as much into music then as I'm into wine today. And this was all before I was 19.

I mean, come on, how many teens back then were at Yes, Pink Floyd and then Crosby, Still and Nash all in a few weeks period. Years later when I was in my 20s and leading the renovation of the Flyers offices I was using our coaches office as my base of operations in the back of the house. That means, by the locker rooms. One night Nils Lofgren makes a wrong turn and walked into my office, that was a few hours before he was to be part of the E Street Band with "The Boss". I'd been a Nils fan since before Cry Tough and Keith don' Go. Then there was the time Rod Stewart on a solo tour was playing soccer with his son in the hallway at the Spectrum, and I got to "kick it" with him. Another night there was Alice Cooper coming out on stage in a Flyers jersey in 1974. A few days later I got to listen to soundcheck by Emerson, Lake and Palmer as they rehearsed, or later on in years watch the likes of U2 and Van Halen rehearse.  Those stories and more shaped my musical life.

Music was my outlet, while sports was my life. Back then it was the dawn of the Walkman era. We had cassettes, 8 tracks or vinyl. CD's were a ways off, FM album oriented rock ruled the day, so if sports was my master, music was surely my mistress.  WMMR, WYSP and WIOQ were the stations for the masses, and WXPN and WRTI were were new music was really found, and day and night one of those five stations was on my radio.

But I digress.  For years now I've been playing music from iTunes, Pandora or Spotify, and now that I've discovered the extreme setting in Spotify, I finally felt I was getting that better than CD experience. That was before today when pal Phil Baker, the mind behind Neil Young's Pono Music player handed me a Pono and said "have some fun." And boy, am I.

I'm playing Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, which I downloaded in 96khz sound. Talk about a difference. The sound blows away anything iTunes or Spotify can offer. The mix is rich, ripe and alive. The drums of John Bonham are separated from the cymbal crashes. The ethereal guitar of Jimmy Page mixes and splits from the bass line of John Paul Jones, while Robert Plant's vocals come through as if they were inside my head. 

The Pono is audio for music lovers, not for people who just want to hear the latest Lady Gaga song or something belted out by Mylie Cyrus.

The Pono for me, is THE fix to a long lost music junkies' love for great sounding music. To me it makes iTunes sound like AM radio did when I discovered FM or FM when CD's came around. 

But, words don't don't really describe it. You need to hear it for yourself. 

Say Goodbye To Credit Card Declines

Let’s face it, we’ve all had credit card transactions declined even though we were nowhere near our limits. Usually it has to do with location, as that’s one of the factors that the credit card issuing companies and banks love to use to detect fraud. But, when you’re actually the person who is the cardholder making the transaction not only is it unneeded by the merchant, it’s unwanted by you.

Today, VISA has come to our rescue with a new service called Mobile Location Confirmation, powered by a Comunicano client, Finsphere out of Bellevue, Washington. Kevin Fitchard of Gigaom has the details and angles on why this is so, so needed.

Mobile Location Confirmation Video from Visa Vimeo on Vimeo.

I’ve got a few horror stories of when card charges were declined, time wasted, and in one case, it caused me to be somewhere that caused a car accident, as we never would have been where we were when at the time if we hadn’t lost 15-20 minutes going through the verification process when I was shopping at a Staples in Scottsdale.  Another was at Mobile World Congress with Nokia, where I was paying the hotel bill for all of our blogger guests like Eliane Fiolet, Alec Saunders, Matt Miller, Oliver Starr, Stowe Boyd and others.

Well thankfully, as soon as the banks start rolling this out from Visa the issue of the unnecessary declines for suspected fraud will go away.


Honored and Humbled-IT Expo 20 Years of VoIP Pioneers Panel

I have been both honored and humbled at the same time. Two days ago, TMC's Rich Tehrani presented some of my closest friends in world, some who are or have been clients and I with an award.

That award is all about our contributions that made us Pioneers in VoIP by helping make the industry what it is today. For me, it was about as emotionally charged as the day I graduated Temple University, my wedding in Montpeyroux, when I produced the retirement night of the Flyers' hero and longtime captain Bobby Clarke, or the night I brought him out of retirement in 1988 to play against the Celebrity All Star Hockey Team. 

Being up on stage with Jeff Pulver (Von, Vonage), Craig Walker (GrandCentral, Switch, UberConference, DialPad), Andy Voss (NeuEra, Sansay), Mike Tribolet (Vonage, Dialpad, YipTV), Alon Cohen (VocalTec, Phone.com) and Danny Windham of Digium was a rush.

It was a rush because when I first started VoIPWatch, back in 2003, I did it for four reasons:

  1. To be asked by media about the subject and to be an authority about it.
  2. To speak at conferences
  3. To attract new clients
  4. To make new friends

I can safely say those goals were met and continue to be met every day. 

It was also great to see Rich start the IT Expo Hall of Fame and induct friends Alon Cohen and Jeff Pulver. I'm happy to have contributed my part in making that possible too. So if there's one more guy who belongs up on that list of Pioneers. It's Rich himself. He's done as much as anyone to help propel the industry, so while he moderated, he just as easily could have been one of us.

As for whom else could be on that list of pioneers, I've got a few in my mind who can't be overlooked at all.

  • Erik Lagerway for XTEN and what is now Counterpath, as well as many other VoIP based businesses.
  • Dr. Ed Guy and James Tagg, for their work with Mobile VoIP at Truphone
  • Alec Saunders who created iotum and what is now Calliflower
  • Ben Lilienthal of HiDef Conferencing for bringing us HD before its time
  • Jeff Bonforte and Michael Robertson for giving us SIPPhone and Gizmo Project
  • Nicklas and Janus for giving us Skype
  • Om Malik for BroadBandits and the start of GigaOm the first mainline publication to give a SIP about VoIP plus for his willingness to give me "link love" when I needed it back at the start of this journey.

You see, there are many pioneers, so to be singled out on the first panel, and part of the first ballot inductees into what really is the Pioneers of VoIP Club is truly a big honor for me.

Thanks TMC. Thanks Rich. And thanks to all the people I was there on stage with. To be honored along with each of you is to be truly humbled.


At Marriott Hotels Broadband is a Myth

I'm in West Palm Beach at one of Marriott's Courtyard by Marriott properties. Years ago their saying when they first introduced this mid priced, business person's oriented property line which transformed the hotel industry was "Designed by Business Travelers, For Business Travelers" because Marriott actually spent time asking the business traveler, who up until then either backed up into a Holiday Inn or stayed in a full service hotel. Courtyards offer the best of full service properties, but with less frills, and honestly, a more modern feel.

But those days are gone, at least when it comes to broadband. At this property, when you select the "higher speed" which is free for Gold and Platinum members like me, you expect really good speeds. I'm getting 2.5 megs up and down so I can only imagine what the non VIP's are getting. But actually, I could live on 2.5 for email and surfing, but given Marriott doesn't install neutral carrier DAS systems, the cell coverage on both AT&T and T-Mobile is just under two bars on AT&T and one on T-Mobile but not strong enough for the other side to hear the Wi-Fi is what I was counting on to make calls over my laptop, or Wi-Fi calling via T-Mobile. Unfortunately, the bandwidth is so bad that a call will be choppy. So much for business grade Internet.

Thankfully, I also have a Verizon MiFi I'm doing a lot better with 8 megs down, peaking to over 10 megs, and 3 megs up peaking at over 4. So, while that's acceptable for lightweight work as well, things will just take a bit longer than they need to if I had real broadband here at the hotel.

If hotels want to really attack the connectivity issue they need more than just Wi-Fi. They need to look at things like DAS systems and better network gear on the premises. Install a gig of fiber. Run high quality Meraki, Cisco or similar quality access points. Put access points in every room (just like all the Mama Shelter hotels do in France) and give each room it's own piece of the pipe, not simply a cut of it.

By providing the DAS you'll also find that those with MiFi's and broadband deals on their tablets and smartphones end up using that, which means capacity from four carriers is being used vs. the hotel bandwidth. That's a win for the carriers and the hotels, but most of all, for the traveler.

Are Hotels The Same As ISPs?

Marriott, which is still backpedaling from their $600,000 fine from the FCC for blocking users of Mi-Fi's at their Nashville area Gaylord Resort and Conference Center, is now in the process of introducing content from providers like Netflix, Hulu and Pandora right to guest room tv's. For a fee.

This begs the question, are retailers, hotels, motels, hospitals and shopping malls Internet Service Providers? Are they already that under the current FCC definitions, or will they be under what's likely coming either from them, or from a proposed set of legislation from the House of Representatives that's making the rounds?

In my view, and this is only an opinion, the definition of "provider" would need to be broadened to include retailers, hotels, motels, hospitals and shopping malls as well as any property or entity that provides access.

For example, even though Starbucks has Google (and still some locations with AT&T) providing Internet service, at the end of the day, if Starbucks wanted to block traffic to say, dating sites or a set of URLs, such as local coffee roasters, they could. Going one step farther, if the hotel is providing paid access to Netflix, they could block subscribers, or downgrade the speed of Netflix being received over Wi-Fi to an iPad or laptop if the content was coming over their network.

These examples would thus make retailers, hotels, motels, hospitals and shopping malls as well as any property or entity that provides access an ISP.

Citrix Wants To Be In the Phone Business with Convoi

Citrix, best known to many readers here for GoToMeeting and many other enterprise services is getting in the phone business. The are quietly inviting GoToMeeting users into a soft launch for Convoi and they are aiming it to be your second line on your mobile phone, but with features that are geared around business, all based on an Over The Top (OTT) approach.


Key highlights include a second number, voice calls and text. Much like Line2, FLYP or the original pioneers in this space Truphone and TalkPlus (both at times Comunicano clients). What's interesting is that Citrix's Convoi is how they upfront are linking it to conference calling, something I'm waiting for Switch to do with their sister UberConference as a native service.


Will Convoi go where others before it haven't? Maybe. And that's because they have likely leveraged the Citrix network, lots of experience at building scalable technology, are adding WebRTC smarts from their free three party GoToMeeting service and just sheer marketing muscle.


Will AliBaba Do With DingTalk What eBay Didn't With Skype?

AliBaba, the Chinese eCommerce giant has launched a social business communications service called DingTalk in Beta (Translation required) bringing back memories of what eBay hoped to and failed to do with Skype.  The dream back when Skype was acquired by the online marketplace pioneer was to connect the business to business ecosystem that powered it and the customers who shop. That's exactly what AliBaba is trying to do today with DingTalk.


The Chinese market is rapidly expanding, and today, DingTalk is only available in Mandarin. But already AliBaba is claiming their multiple ecommerce platforms have 8.5 million users, so they could have a running start with users and the key features that delivers Over The Top services that bypass the telcos just like Skype:

  • Free messaging
  • Free multi-party calling
  • A business contacts directory that links the eco-system and customers
  • Message Read/Unread status

DingTalk, designed to be a mobile service first, offers voice communications, messaging and team collaboration and already has a downloadable app for Macs and mobile apps in the Apple iOS App store and Android Play Store.

Another Wrinkle

Ironically, there's another wrinkle with DingTalk. It's the fact that Apple has allowed a BETA service app in the App Store. Perhaps something got lost in translation (Apple techs only use Safari not Chrome which auto translates) or Apple has softened their stance on allowing Beta services in the App Store now.


A bit of Deja Vu

Long before Skype became part of Microsoft, it was acquired by eBay because then CEO Meg Whitman (now at H-P) and her team thought that Skype would be a great way to connect those buyers and sellers together too. Unfortunately, that wasn't what eBay's ecosystem wanted, or maybe Meg and her team were just too early, as today we're seeing a shift in how buyers and sellers interact with services like Amazon's MayDay. and WebRTC.

Marriott Says No More Blocking of Wi-Fi

Marriott Hotels has reversed its position on Wi-Fi and will no longer pursue their lobbying efforts with the FCC when it comes to blocking.

For travelers who use Mi-Fi's this is good news, but more importantly, it shows that Marriott is beginning to rethink their digital strategy, and are beginning to listen to the public and influencers. This may also mean that other member hotels who joined up with Marriott who are members of the American Hotel & Lodging Association will likely take the same perspective but continue to lobby the FCC for clarification. SKIFT has more on this.

Marriott faced lots of pressure from Google and Microsoft, who beyond being influential with their lobbyists in D.C. also have thousands of executives every day who travel and likely were having to also rethink where their executives were staying on the road.