Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just a small post today...
Ever find yourself turning to Youtube for a source of daily music, or even just to fill in those glaring oversights in your music collection? Many have already discovered dedicated music listening services such as Pandora or Last.FM, however, just like Hulu, they block all non-US visitors (or cost money!).


How about something better?

Check out Grooveshark.com: a project by a group of students from the University of Florida who wanted to change the way that music is accessed and shared on the Internet. While it's not an inexhaustible database (It won’t always find what you’re looking for) it does have some clear advantages over Youtube and other music listening sites. Firstly, it’s generally way more efficient than the crap shoot that is Youtube searching… Another nice feature is that rather than having to load up each individual song, you can easily build a queue or playlist that will play through on its own. However, the best feature (by far!) is that it’s not Geo-blocked (in other words, not just for Americans)... Other sites should take note.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot… You can also make backup copies of the tunes you listen to on Grooveshark (but only if you own the original of course!) simply download and install Free music zilla. When used with Grooveshark, Free music zilla allows you to easily download the stream that you’re listening to… Simply launch the Free music zilla application, and then point Firefox towards Grooveshark.com... Once you choose a song to play, you'll see it show up in the Free music zilla window... Simply check the box next to the stream you'd like, and then click the "download" button...

Once the stream has downloaded, just rename the file’s extension from .php to .mp3 and it’s ready to play… Thanks to Dany the Red for first showing the Free music zilla POC!

Go correct some glaring oversights!

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posted by Marcus at 9:39 PM | 2 comments
Saturday, September 19, 2009

Use Google Talk, Skype, or a SIP based VoIP client a lot? Take it from me, being tethered to the PC gets old … fast. To solve this issue, many cordless VoIP phones have become commercially available, but as we tend to do around here, let’s make our own instead!

Ok, ok, I hear what you’re saying and yes, I am aware that this particular project is somewhat old… like, four years old to be precise… but I’ve been compelled to post about it as the landscape of VoIP, SIP and other open (free) telecommunications options on the Internet has changed dramatically since 2005… While I made my first DIY VoIP phone way back when, it hasn’t received much use since the conclusion of the now-infamous “Free Skype-out promotion of 2006”…until recently that is…

So here's the plan...this post will have two parts: In the first, we’ll go over how to make your own DIY VoIP Phone (to bring everyone up to speed) and in the second, we’ll have some fun with the phone and go through a few ways you can start making some free calls! Huzzah!

Part One: Making a DIY VoIP phone

Required Parts:

1. A cordless phone… The original hack from Grynx used a fancy schmancy Siemens phone, but I’ve had success with both Radio Shack/The Source and VTech models. Live dangerously and just buy the cheapest one you can find.

2. One (approximately 6 ft.) 3.5mm male/male stereo audio cable like this

3. A soldering Iron and basic soldering knowledge… You can brush up on your skills with this great guide here.

There have been many posts on making both VoIP phones and VoIP adapters, but one of the original and best guides was posted by Chris J. at Grynx.com. View it here. Alternately, there are also plans here if you’d rather make an adapter so that no modification to your phone is necessary... It should be mentioned that once you modify your phone with the audio cables, you shouldn't try to plug it into/use it with a regular phone line anymore...

Chris J.’s guide is very straightforward, so I don’t need to go over it all again, but I’ll explain it briefly for the curious-without-the-intention-of-making-one...

With the circuit board exposed and the handset on, a small screwdriver is used to probe the various parts of the cordless phone's circuit board in search of where the tapping of the screwdriver can be heard in the handset. Using a halved audio cable, a signal can be sent from an mp3 player into this spot to verify its location. Alternately, to find the “mic”, simply blow or talk into the handset and test the board with a pair of headphones, listening again for the location where your breath/voice can be heard. The two halves of the audio cable are then soldered in place at both locations. The end result will probably look (better than) something like this…

Some candid shots of the Vtech 9118... Just about any cordless phone will do...

Part Two: Having fun with your DIY VoIP phone

While much of this depends on what country you’re in, but hopefully there’s enough info here for just about anyone to piece together a solution that works… I tried a whole bunch of different services (close to 12!) to see if free calling could really be possible here’s an overview of what I found, and what kind of service you can get for free...

Skype is actually a great place to start messing around with your VoIP phone, even though their free calling promotion is long over… By using a service called 1-800-free-411 along with Skype, you can make free 5 minute VoIP calls (even internationally) to regular phones… not bad!
Just start-up Skype and then dial *wait for it* 1-800-Free-411, listen to the ads, and then just dial your number… pretty cool… but what about that 5 minute restriction? Let’s push our luck!

The first real providers I investigated were fairly run-of-the-mill SIP providers such as Freecall.ca, VoipCheap, and VoIPStunt. Having tried all three, I’d only recommend them to those who require only incoming calls. One way to do this is to use one of these services' softphones and link it with either your own Enum or with a service such as Voiptalk. I used Voiptalk to register a local number in the United Kingdom, and then linked it to my VoIPCheap softphone. This way, my friend in the UK can now make a call to a local number, and I will receive it on the softphone/diy VoIP phone. Many other providers of free access numbers also exist, so you could conceivably set up multiple local numbers to accommodate multiple international friends with unique numbers that all connect back to you, wherever you may be.

It’s worth noting that registering for any generic SIP provider (such as the three I mentioned) will provide you with a unique SIP number. Like the Enum, SIP numbers can also be called using regular telephones or POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). A very cool site called SIPBroker maintains a large list of international access numbers that can be used to call both Enum and SIP numbers. Simply find and dial a local number on their list, and then enter your desired [sip-code][number] or ENUM number at the prompt. Easy!

So there are a few solutions, but admittedly, each has its own drawback; but there are a couple services stand out among all the rest… For Canadians, the best free VoIP solution out there can be found at Freephoneline.ca. Not only will the site provide you with a local Canadian number but it also offers free incoming and outgoing calls between these cities:

Ajax-Pickering, Ancaster, Athens, Aurora, Ayr, Baden, Bolton, Bowmanville, Brampton, Breslau, Brockville, Brooklin, Burlington, Caledon East, Calgary, Campbellville, Cardinal, Carleton Place, Clarkson, Cooksville, Delta, Drayton, Dundas, Edmonton, Elmira, Exeter, Fort Erie, Freelton, Galt, Georgetown, Halifax, Hamilton, Hespeler, Hull, Kanata, King City, Kitchener, Linwood, London, Maitland, Mallorytown, Malton, Maple, Markham, Milton, Montreal, Mount Hope, New Dundee, New Hamburg, Newcastle, Newmarket, Niagara Falls, Niagara-On-The-Lake Nobleton, North Augusta, Oakville, Oshawa Ottawa, Pelham, Plattsville, Port Credit, Port Perry, Prescott, Preston, Quebec City, Richmond Hill, Roxboro, South Pickering, Spencerville, St. Catharines, St. Clements, St. Jacobs, Stittsville, Stouffville Streetsville, Thornhill, Thorold, Toronto, Unionville, Uxbridge, Vancouver, Waterdown, Waterloo Welland, Wellesley, Whitby, Windsor, Winnipeg, Woodbridge.


Incidentally, everyone in the world can make calls to the United States with a DIY VoIP phone and the CallingAmerica.com website. Simply enter your desired number, wait nineteen seconds and make up to a fifteen minute call. Good deal, but unfortunately it lacks a dialpad, so it's useless as a hopline.

For Americans, your best bet is Ringplus.net. The service will similarly let you make local and international calls through a local access number, but unlike freephoneline.ca, you’ll need to use a regular phone.

The potential for VoIP and SIP calling is immense. These technologies clearly have huge implications for the power structure of contemporary telecommunications... This is particularly apparent in the case between Apple and Google at the moment, with the former viewing the Google Voice app as a threat to iPhone's very existence. But I digress...

Try it out! Set a number up as a business line, or have some fun calling a distant friend/loved one/enemy/complaint department/or *ahem*... even other uses!

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posted by Marcus at 11:52 PM | 3 comments
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Some great comedy shows starting this month folks. Including one of my favorite shows...

Sadly, if you live outside of the UK you'll have to download these. If you've never checked this show out before do yourself a favor and check the out the first episode of season 1 here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePejwCWPwwg. You now have 5 seasons to catch up on.

If you think my comedy hard-on couldn't grow any further you may want to step back (sorry). Season 7 of Curb Your Enthusiasm starts this Sunday and promises the return of the Seinfeld cast. Although season 5 was kinda weak, season 6 was great. I have high hopes for this.

Also worth mentioning is tonight's NBC Thursday lineup:

8:00 PM Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday

8:30 PM Parks And Recreation

Caught some of the first season of this and was disappointed but thought it had potential. I'll give it another chance since I'm a big fan of Amy Poeler and Aziz Ansari. I Heard that, one of the best working stand-ups today, Louis C.K. will be guest starring as Amy Poelers love interest. If you ever have a chance to see Louis live you will not be disappointed. I believe he's on tour now. Check Louisck.net for dates. Also he has a new sitcom on FX set for 2010.

9:00 PM
The Office
Still enjoy this show even though Pam and Jim irritate me since they became a couple.

9:30 PM Community
Could be good. Joel Mchale is a funny man and Chevy Chases' character looks hilarious.

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posted by Donovan at 11:25 AM | 1 comments
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I don't often take chances at the movie theater these days if I think something could be terrible but a month or so ago, my girl and I made a last minute choice to see Orphan and we were very surprised. This thriller flick is pure entertainment. It's funny (both intentionally and unintentionally), quality suspense, and even good action/fight scenes. The acting may be down right laughable at times (check the husband character in various scenes) but that sort of added to the fun. Watch this with friends.


posted by Donovan at 4:02 PM | 0 comments
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