King of Excellent (according to Scaryduck)

Monday, January 10

On money saving technology

TDT and I don't have a landline for the phone. Eircom, the national Irish telecommunications company, are in TDT's words, "thieving bastards." This means that we can't get a landline installed into the house unless we submit two of our more vital limbs into their bank account, and neither of us are keen on that. So, at the moment, we get our broadband via a microwave link, on what is basically a large wireless network with transceivers on the chimney and a modem in the house.
The problem with this system is that we are tied to one ethernet cable for internet access, and we're also restricted to static IP addresses. I have hooked up a router, but still need to designate IP addresses to each and every device I want to connect to the net. I'm allowed one, but currently use 3 (!). I will get a router with the ability to designate IP addresses for me (DHCP), but financial constraints (aka I'm skint) mean I haven't been able to yet.
Now the problem with this set up is we can't get a landline via the wireless system. Or can we? We all know about Skype (dunno if it works with Windows 98 Debster, sorry), the incredibly popular VOIP (Voice over internet protocol) software. Well Skype also does a money making aspect, called Skype In/Skype Out. This means you can get a geographical phone number, and you can call landlines. When you set it up, you can 'lie' about where you are, so you can get a US Phone number even if you're not in the US. Or, more importantly, you can get a British phone number if you're in Ireland. The problem with Skype is it's a bit of a brand name, and it also needs a PC. So let's tackle the last problem first. What about getting what looks like a standard phone, but uses the Internet instead of a landline. Skype offer Skype Phones. These plug into your router (when you finally get one *cough*) and connect using voip. The problem is, they're not cheap. Typically £90 upwards for the phone, and then the subscription to Skype afterwards. Skype should take a leaf out of mobile phone companies' books, and give away a phone if you sign up for a year. So, the alternative? Get out of Skype's way, and go independent.
We had a Tesco Internet phone, which was lovely, until it stopped working. 2 months after I got it, it failed. No more calls, no more number. Bugger. I did get my money back however, after a slight wrangle with the fuckwits at Tesco ("No Mr. Aitch, you can't have your money back. No, having an email saying you can doesn't help. No I know it doesn't work. No I don't care"). I took the money and spent it accordingly, and got myself a most excellent Siemens C475IP for what was at the time about £80. I also got me a VOIP subscription. I say that, but in reality I already had one with Plus Net. So, after a bit of wrangling, I had a new UK phone number working and people in the UK can call me on a UK number (so to most people this means free) and I get the call here. The thing is, and this is the really clever bit, I wanted to use it here as well. I came across Blueface, a company with offices in the UK and Ireland. I got me an Irish number, and using one of the 7 left over slots, I can now receive calls into an Irish landline number. Alongside the British one. Yay. In fact I can have up to 8 accounts, in 8 different countries. The UK is covered by Plus Net, and in fact I get money from them per month from recommendations, so this pays for the UK number. I also get 240 minutes of UK landline calls. The Irish number cost about €10 a month, and I get 300 minutes for free to any Irish landline number. I am looking at a US number, so BLS and BOF (the new nickname for my father, Boring Old Fart) can call me for free. I'm not going to pay for any minutes with that though, so it'll only cost me about $3.50 a month.
The thing is, with this kind of technology, it has to be beneficial to companies to have these systems if they deal abroad. As long as your internet supports it, and it's all working well, then it has to be a boon. I must admit, I have teething problems. Most common is making a call. It'll bleep to say it's dialling, then after 20 seconds come back to tell me the other person isn't accepting my call. I know this isn't the case, and it can be really frustrating. The other thing is sometimes the internet can slow down, and the phone sort of goes into safe mode. It allows calls out, but anyone phoning in will get a "person not available" message. If they leave a message however, I get a notification as soon as it can notify me.
These are all side effects of new technology, and I can put up with them. Part of being a pioneer when it comes to new technology. In the meantime, I can be saving as much as €30 a month by not having the landline and paying for the line rental. This has to be a good thing?