Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Skype and Your Home Phone

VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, also known as Internet Telephony. If you have high-speed Internet (cable/DSL, LAN) on your computer, you can connect your phone to your computer and make calls. You must have a special adapter for this to work, you simply plug your phone line into the adapter instead of plugging it into the wall jack. The adapter is then plugged into your Internet modem, which allows VoIP to convert the voice signal from the phone line into data that travels over the Internet.

The cool thing is, you still use your phone the exact same way. You will hear a dial tone and you dial out just like normal. With VoIP, everything is combined into one function. Incoming calls will also ring just like normal.

The main reason you might decide to invest in this new technology is to save you money in the long run. VoIP services cost approximately $20 to $30 a month, plus you're not paying for a phone line and Internet connection separately anymore. The VoIP plans also include local and long distance calling, while some even provide international calling.

You may be wondering about sound quality. In most trials, it's excellent. Sound quality is determined by the reliability of your Internet connection. If you don't have problems with disconnections, this could be a good way to go. If you do have frequent stops or shut downs with your connection, VoIP may not be right for your home.

The quality also depends on what you're doing on your computer at the time a call comes through or when you're making a call. If you're downloading a huge file off the Internet or doing several things at once in different programs, you're going to get a "choppy" sound result.

Another thing to consider is that when you have a power outage, your phone won't work. If you're computer doesn't work, your phone won't either. If you have a cell phone to use as a backup, you shouldn't have any problem, but the power thing is definitely something to keep in mind. Also, VoIP services don't normally work for 911 emergency calls.

If you're interested in learning more about VoIP or getting the service hooked up, you can call your ISP and they can help you. You may be able to bundle your phone service with your current Internet service so you will save some money.

As you can see, VoIP has some pros and cons, but it's definitely something to consider as today's technology continues to expand.

Skype Calls with Your House Phone

One of the most popular applications in the VoIP world is Skype: Skype allows you to make free computer to computer calls as well as free calls to any land-line phone in the United States and Canada. With the Skype-Certified VoIP Stick, you can connect your home phones to your computer and use Skype or your regular phone service to help save you money.

You don't need to upgrade all the phones in your house in order to take advantage of VoIP technology. Turn your existing phones into Internet phones with the Skype-Certified VoIP Stick, which blends VoIP access with your existing landline phone service to optimize your call options without changing normal calling habits.

The Skype-Certified VoIP Stick is a control switch that converts analog phones into VoIP phones without losing analog features. The software program runs on your PC and acts as a "decision engine" that can access either your VoIP provider or the landline, depending on your settings.

One of the major concerns with VoIP technology is the processing of emergency 911 calls. The Skype-Certified VoIP Stick provides you with landline access in the event of a 911 call, power outage, or service outage. The control switch defaults all calls to the landline during these events, ensuring the traditional access to 911 call centers.

Click this link to learn more or to purchase the Skype-Certified VoIP Stic from the Smarthome website.

NOTE: The included software may not be compatible with screen readers and screen magnification programs. Be aware of this before purchase and save purchase receipts in case of compatibility issues.

A much less-expensive route is the USB Skype Phone. It comes in black or white, features a bright LCD screen and keypad, is fully compatible with Skype functions such as Skype titles, dial, and contact lists. It even supports the Skype speed dial function.

Click this link to purchase the USB Skype Phone from the ThinkGeek website.

What? You don't like being tied to a cable, even if it's a USB cable? Well, click this link to check out the Skype Cordless Phone.

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