B&H Holiday Newsletter
Staying Connected, All Year Long…
The holiday season tends to bring us closer to our extended families than we are throughout the rest of the year. This usually results in a lot of stress, and an extra five pounds from all the cookies, cake, and pie. It must be worth it, because we keep on doing it, every year.
Thankfully there are numerous products available that will help maintain this feeling of togetherness all year round. There are gadgets on the market to allow you to use Voice over IP for Internet voice communication, participate in online video chats, and share digital photos via the web.
Voice over IP
Tired of long distance phone bills and running out of minutes on the cell phone? Shocked at the state of international connection rates? Voice over IP is worth checking out. The technology allows you to have phone-quality conversation via the Internet. While you can easily pull it of with a microphone or computer headset, there is nothing like the feeling of having a real, honest-to-goodness phone in your hands.
This is where Linksys enters the fray, with the iPhone. No, not that iPhone. Linksys's version is a complete VoIP kit that includes Skype software. The phone connects to both your computer and home telephone line, allowing you to use it for standard calls as well as VoIP. Premium Skype service does require additional fees, but at rates much cheaper than standard phone charges in many cases. The iPhone supports up to 120 hours of battery life on standby, with up to 10 hours of talk time. It charges in the included cradle.
There are alternatives to Skype, of course. Services that use the SIP protocol, such as Vonage, often allow your existing phone equipment. This type of service completely replaces a traditional landline, using a broadband Internet connection for all calls. This is done transparently, you'll still have a regular phone number and won't have to fiddle with computer software.
The Wireless Broadband VoIP Router from D-Link is the hardware you need to use existing telephone and fax equipment with a SIP service. It acts as a standard wireless router, with full support for the 802.11g protocol. Four standard Ethernet ports are available for wired connections, and it also features two RJ-11 phone jacks. You'll be able to plug in a phone, fax machine, or any other standard telephone equipment for use with SIP VoIP service. No special software is needed, making it a very attractive for VoIP subscribers.
Once reserved for George Jetson and Heywood Floyd, video chat over the web is now a reality, and a mainstream one at that. If you don't already have a webcam built into your computer, the QuickCam Pro 9000 from Logitech might be one to take a gander at. The compact camera features a true 2 megapixel image sensor for high-quality video and still capture. It uses a Carl Zeiss lens with glass construction for superior image quality. It even features an integrated microphone, giving you an all-in-one solution for video chat.
MyBook World Digital Storage
Western Digital's 1 TB My Book World Edition II hard drive delivers more than simple storage. The two-disk array can be configured in RAID 0 mode for a full 1 TB of storage, or as a RAID 1 for data protection and 500 GB of available space. It features an Ethernet port for connectivity.
The coolest thing about the My Book World, though, is the remote data access functionality. Western Digital bundles the drive with its Anywhere Access software for Windows. Plug the drive into your Internet router, and you'll be able to access it via the Internet from practically anywhere in the modern world. You'll even be able to share digital photos stored on the drive with friends and families. Simply send them an e-mail invitation and they'll be able to access your photos via a web link. You'll have complete control over the security settings on the drive, so you'll be sure that loved ones can only access the files you want them to.
The My Book World Edition is also available in other storage capacities, including single-disk models that don't feature the RAID functionality.
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree…
These are but a few tools that can be used to keep in touch all year round. There are still the old options: the letter, the post card, and even the visit. However, with Uncle Conrad and Aunt Jinnie retired to Florida, and Grandma Edna living in Cleveland of all places, sometimes a phone call or e-mail will have to suffice… at the very least now you can send them pictures of the new baby, puppy, car, boat, or other addition to the homestead with the click of a mouse.