Tag Archives: skype

‘Skype: BitTorrent Protocol Change Might Kill Service (EBAY)’

Silicon Alley Insider has an article on what a potential BitTorrent protocol change would mean for Skype.  Apparently, by rerouting their traffic to time a sensitive Internet channel BitTorrent might disrupt Skype’s traffic.  Let’s hope not.

But Skype insisted the BitTorrent change wasn’t really a problem, because it’s technically easy to distinguish VoiP traffic from P2P filesharing, even though it’s all on the same channel.

But didn’t the FCC recently rule ISPs weren’t allowed to make distinctions between types of Internet traffic? Nope, Skype says. “If you look at what the FCC said, they said you couldn’t disrupt P2P traffic, not that you couldn’t selectively identify it.”

Read on…

Xobni now has Skype integration

For all you Xobni lovers out there you can now ring your Skype contacts directly from your Outlook client.  For those of you who have no idea what Xobni is it is a free app that puts your Outlook on steroids.  Ars Technica has the story.  Wasn’t this enabled some time ago?

Read on…

Telecommunications update from Tbilisi

A friend of mine who is currently in Tbilisi was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.  To summarize:

  • The mobile phone networks are working fine in Tbilisi.
  • Magticom is the preferred network provider as it has the best coverage.
  • No news on how the networks are functioning in South Ossetia.
  • My friend is currently using an “impressively fast” landline for INTERNET that is faster than the WiFi back home.  Skype, Outlook, etc. all work fine.  Skype video is exceptionally good.
  • Things are returning to normal in Tbilisi and seem to be getting back to the way they were before the conflict.

I didn’t want to bother with asking too many questions straight out of the gate as time spent answering questions means time away from the real work.  I’ll see if I can collect some more info once things slow down a bit.

So, if you are headed to Tbilisi it looks like you are not going to have too much trouble connecting.

(Please note that Skype was mentioned.  It is the unheralded champion of the humanitarian community and has become one of the most important pieces of humanitarian kit out there today.)

‘Fools Rush In: A True Story of War and Redemption’

In the midst of all the pandemonium surrounding the Russia-Georgia conflict I had a chance to chat with my wife’s friend, a Bosnian Muslim, who asked me if I had ever read the book ‘Fools Rush In’ by Bill Carter.  We were chatting via Skype (the preferred method of communication for many aid workers) when she asked me about the book and so I looked it up on Amazon.  I had never heard of it and have to admit I would have probably passed it over had she not mentioned it.

Our friend has been through a lot.  She lived through the siege of Sarajevo and I know that she thinks about those years everyday of her life.  When she asks me out of the blue, “Have you ever heard of ‘Fools Rush In’ by Bill Carter?” I pretty much already know that it is a must read.

I wonder if the conflict in Georgia isn’t stirring something up inside her and if that is why she mentioned it?  Almost as if she was subconsciously pointing me back to a previous conflict to remind me that this war is not a new war.  The images of this new conflict look, to my eye, the same as the ones I saw coming out of Bosnia over a decade ago.  I imagine to her they must also look uncomfortably familiar, almost as they were a continuation of the past.

Moments like this remind me that for many people wars never end, they just relocate.

ThurayaIP Launched

It seems Inmarsat has a serious challenger in the arena of satellite modems.  With the recent launch of the ThurayaIP I am sure that many in the humanitarian community are now considering this newcomer as a worthy alternative to the BGAN.  Until now the BGAN was really the only option for remote INTERNET connectivity when heading to the field.  The spec’s are impressive (the size of an A5 sheet of paper, built in 802.11b WiFi, and Skype compatible) I think this new entry will give the venerable BGAN a run for it’s money.

Check this out:

  • “Standard” background IP service with bandwidth of up to 444 Kbps for Internet access, etc
  • Dedicated streaming IP services ranging from 16 Kbps to 384 Kbps for bandwidth hungry applications like video streaming.
  • Absolutely Portable – Exceptionally small in size (A5 size), ThurayaIP can be easily moved across locations and set up instantly.
  • Highly Competitive – Offers the most attractive and competitive service with volume based charging via various bundling options and unlimited usage price plans.
  • Robust – Conforms to IP 55 standard ingress protection standards; enabling outdoor installation in extreme weather conditions for extended periods of time.
  • Unmatched Flexibility – Easy to use in both portable and semi-fixed environments. Instant LAN setup through multi-user support allows an entire team to share a single unit.
  • Convenience– Simply connect ThurayaIP to a laptop, point to the satellite and enjoy satellite Broadband services.
  • Stand Alone – Easy to setup and start working- no laptop or PC is required to navigate setup. An embedded button and LCD in the terminal guides you through the whole setup control.
  • Complete security with GmPRS encryption algorithm (GEA2) – Connect seamlessly via your preferred VPN application.

Read on…

Macedonia and Ubuntu

I am pretty proud of my adopted country, Macedonia.  (Full disclosure – my wife is Macedonian.)  At the end of 2005 Macedonia became the world’s first wireless country.  The full BBC write-up is here.  Two years later, in 2007, Macedonia became one of the few countries to roll out, en masse, Ubuntu throughout the educational system.  The story, from the Ubuntu website, can be found here and here is a BBC World video detailing the Macedonia Connects wireless story:

A few weeks ago, while my wife was still in Macedonia, I asked her to install Ubuntu on our old laptop which her parents had been using for years, primarily for Skype.  The machine had contracted a bug and I am not a fan of bootleg software.  With the popularity of Ubuntu it was easy enough to find someone to handle the installation (the neighbor) and within 24hrs she was back up and running.  It seems as if everyone in Macedonia keeps a copy of the ISO in their back pocket.

My wife left a few weeks later without explaining to her father how to navigate the new interface and fire up Skype.  She was bringing her mother home for a few months and she was worried about having an open line so her folks could communicate.  I am not sure if her father had ever used the machine while it had Windows loaded and I know he had never seen Ubuntu.  Computer literacy among older generations in Macedonia is quite low but it is improving.  Metamorphosis, an OSI/ Soros backed non-profit, has done a lot of work in this area and has a survey on their site detailing INTERNET penetration throughout the country.

Shortly after returning to the States my wife called her father and asked him if he had a minute so that she could explain to him how to get online.  His response was, “Don’t worry about it.  I figured it out on my own.”  When she told me that I started laughing.  That has got to be the ultimate selling point for a product – a complete neophyte simply sits down and starts surfing the web with little to no difficulty.

With such accessibility is there any argument for aid organizations not rolling Ubuntu out in the field?  I understand the compatibility issues but the stability of the application coupled with the ease of use is a strong argument for mandating that local field offices run Ubuntu rather than other the various versions of Windows that are available.  At this point I am not worried about bugs and even if our machine in Macedonia does crash I’ll just buy the next cheapest machine and load up the latest version of Ubuntu.

Ode to Skype

Skype Logo

Of all the applications I have had the pleasure of using over the years one stands out above all the rest. Skype has been the aid worker’s friend for quite some time and has saved organizations countless dollars and perhaps even a few lives. The call quality is nearly perfect and you can’t beat the $0 price tag. A few highlights…

1) Sitting in my office in LA speaking with an associate in Chad who was sitting on a bed, at night, in the courtyard of her compound and connected to a VSAT via WiFi. I could hear the wind whistling through the tree branches above her.

2) We rolled out Skype at my previous organization’s HQ and found that for a 1hr conference call between two US cities, two European cities and one African city we were saving approximately $300/hr. We estimated a savings of $1500-2000/day with greatly increased communications.

3) After the Nias Island, Indonesia earthquake in April of ’05 the mobile towers were jammed for about 1hr in Medan, North Sumatra. However, Skype was running just fine when we returned to our desks and within minutes I had found an associate in Portland, OR who was up early and I passed on all the specifics. He immediately threw together an email notification and sent it off to a number of organizations. About 30 minutes later the story slowly began to appear on the international news sites.

Skype is an invaluable tool and while it may have recently taken a big hit in valuation it sure has my vote as one of the best humanitarian tools out there.