Sunday, December 17, 2006

Skype is too good for this electronic trash

First of all, I think Skype is great as a service. Free computer to computer calls, very cheap SkypeOut calls to most of the world (even Latvia cut its odd-man out outrageous prices somewhat), and I am even thinking of getting a SkypeIn number for my virtual presence in Sweden. I have used Skype to get in touch with my family in the US, to chat with various people by text, to record a few interviews with a recorder plug-in to the application, even to attempt a few video calls on my Mac.
Because we (my wife is a filmmaker and we have a small Swedish-registered company) have been thinking of getting a SkypeIn Swedish number, I thought of getting a free-standing Skype phone to keep around and on-line to take any calls here in Riga (or at least zap them to voicemail) to the Stockholm number.
By chance, the most excellent PR cheerleaders (never a week goes by without a Skype press release or two and a Skype event in Tallinn I will attend on December 20) Hill & Knowlton and their most enthusiastic and competent person, Egita, offered to lend me a Skype phone for testing.
I write all this so that the following tirade is understood as NOT being directed against either Skype or their PR folks.
Put simply, the wireless DualPhone given to me is a worthless piece of shit.
That's the short review. The longer story is that the nicely boxed gadget promises what it cannot deliver and does not even give an overview of how it really works. There is a wireless phone in the box that turns on and leaves the intuitive impression that it runs on WiFi. I even had my WEP protected WiFi password ready...but nothing happens.'
OK, OK RTFM! But the FM only in passing refers to a base station that has to be plugged into one's internet modem or router.
So we move right along from plug and play to finding where the fuck to plug it -- which is my problem, because the cubby-hole home office I have doesn't have enough extensions and outlets. I unplug a printer and do some work arounds and plug in the charger and the base station (a kind of black pod with a red miniature I am HAL the deranged 1968 version of a 2001 computer light on the front). HAL the pod's eye blinks. I press a reset button according to the MFM (my love of this piece of literature grows). At one point, we get a steady red light, and the base station is attached to my D-Link wireless router with an Ethernet cable. The phone offers me a chance to sign into my existing Skype account. So I start writing my Skype name.,
Up pops this dumb-as-fuck secondary menu that suggest which of the three or four letters on the keypad I should use and when I hesitate, it pops one in for me. My password requires capitals, so to get those, you go to upper case and then yet another thingy appears indicating that the phone is in caps mode. To get out of caps mode, I have to go through numerical mode with a click. Ok, done.
The phone sits there trying to sign on. It has another doohickey indicating that it is in touch with the base station (I think). After more than a minute, nothing. Try Again?
Oh yes, did I mention that after the user-hostile process of entering the Skype name and password, the phone offers to remember this. Great, I think, now on pressing retry, I will just sign on automatically. Turns out this half-brained piece of junk remembers only the Skype name and the password has to be re-entered through the same fuck-the-user interface.
It still doesn't work!.
I am writing this early on a Sunday afternoon, and, maybe, by evening, I could actually, by trial and error, get the fucker to work. But that is not the point.
Skype on my iMac or G4 Powerbook is something I can use in less than one minute. Double click..wait..wait..wait..then a SHOOP sound and the windows appear and my online contacts appear in green and I can be chatting or talking to one of them even before the minute has ended.
Any Skype phone should work out of the box and, for my personal preferences, it should be a WiFi device that can stay connected to my always on D-link and always-on DSL line, so I can, indeed, make and take calls without my "PC" (thanks, I hope to remain without a PC for a very long time, except my present job where I have to use one of these cludges from time to time).
Skype -- Niklas, you Estonian guys and gals and the owners at eBay -- dump this piecashit and disown its use of the Skype name. And Dualphone -- go back to baking pastries (seems the company is Danish??). Had they been (and probably, at the manufacturing level, are, Chinese, I would have set, go back to making noodles and let the thousands of Chinese companies that produce useful electronics get on with it).
I hope to get a "real" Skype phone, but no, never this one....


Bleveland said...

With all respect, it can simply be a failing unit which doesn't need to mean that all units behave the same way. The registring procedure worries me... capitals, upper case, push that one 3 times, but not to long and not to short... done to screw up. And a wrong password results in a DOA (dead on arrival). You would send it back, the repair center would test it automatically which would result in a NFF (no fault found). Then there is the option that your DSL modem / router equipment fucks up (firewall, blocked ports or so). What you need is your Dualphone and your home office stuff to work together. When it doesn't it is not beyond reasonable doubt that your Dualphone fails ;-)
Understand me correctly, I do not work at Dualphone and recognize the kind of situation too well and I believe that I can even imagine how you feel. Been there done that, but the reputation of Dualphone is actually not that bad.
However, it pisses me of these days that companies dump prototypes on the market to let us consumers de-bug them. Manuals do.... uhh... no, sorry, no manuals these days. A number ONE feature seems to be "software upgradable" which basically means "what we release is still crap, but we might fix it for you in a couple of months. Then again... this might not be the case here.

I like Skype and use it a lot (have a Skype-in number in Sweden), but they seem to become a little bit "fat and happy" or call it arrogant if you wish to. They are not the only ones that do VoIP.
Look at these guys. My DSL modem has an on-board VoIP gateway (supports the SIP protocol among a few others, but not Skype since they refuse to follow any standards except their own - good luck guys!). I just registred my voipbuster account an have been up and running ever since with excellent voice quality.. Skype is cheap? Agree, they beat most traditional voice providers, but check out Voipbuster... to landlines in Latvia € 0.015 / min + VAT which makes it 0.017 or so, landlines and mobiles in the US: ZERO (!) the first 120 days after you upgrade your account with € 10 + VAT and after these 4 months € 0.01 /min unless you upgrade again. On top of that I have a Latvian phone-in number. Having said that it is a number in the Triatel number serial and treated as a mobile number which kind of sucks (expensive to phone to). Besides, Voipbuster does not offer any phone-in numbers at this moment (sucks even more). Should have taken a chans when they had numbers in several EU countries. Anyway, my point is not to encourage anyone to defeat Skype, but they are far from alone on this market. Especially when it comes to non-PC/MAC VoIP.

Kaspars said...

I wonder how could you be writing about IT technology and be so clueless about it at the same time. Have you even read the manual that is available on their web site. I can't believe you couldn't find it! In my eyes you are losing all the credibility you ever had.

Dualphone is not a wifi phone and was never intented to be. It is a cordless phone for your home that can be also be a Skype phone that works without your computer. If you wanted a wifi phone then you should have bought Netgear or SMC skype wifi phone. There is a reason why one could prefer Dualphone instead of these wifi handies. One is batery life. The second is possibility to use your Skype together with your landline without needing different phones. I haven't tried Dualphone yet (I will do when it will be available in my country) but I believe you that entering your Skype name and password was badly implemented. But even then once you did this, the phone should connect to Skype and be always on, so no repeated entering is required. Your phone could defective or your router blocked the Skype and while I understand that to diagnose these things would be impossible for most people, I had better thoughts about you. Sorry, you disappointed me and in future all your technology related articles I will take with a big grain of salt.

Juris Kaža said...

If you read the post carefully, I do admit to NOT READING THE MANUAL, It was only for a few minutes that I thought it was a WiFi phone. The real problems started when I did follow the manual and attached the Dualphone base station to one of the WiFi router's Ethernet ports. The phone, even next to the base station, was not able to log onto Skype. I don't know if the manual on the website is different from the printed one. In any case, it did not give much information. I don't feel ready to hack my router (a DLink). I am a journalist who writes about technology and technology companies, not a self-taught expert. Anyway, the point is, these phones should not require you to be an ueber-geek to get them started. It might be fine for you (assuming you are an IT specialist), but not for ordinary consumers.

Anonymous said...

Wi-Fi has almost changed the face of new-age communication. Plz share some useful information on it.

Stanislavs said...

stop beating around the bushes. I've been using DUALphone 3088 (PC-free model) for more than 3 years already. I bought it when it just appeared on the market. During this period the firmware has been successfully updated some 3 or 4 times. I have never experienced any problems with receiving calls. It works excellently as a DECT phone too. What I dislike in this model is not IT related, I am simply flabbergasted by its chiseled appearance. It seems I hold a brick in my hand each time I have a conversation using this phone. Couple of centuries ago such phone would have been a magician's accessory but nowadays ... it should be more ergonomical. Among the other things, I am not really excited about the way the charging cradle handles batteries, but it's common for all kind of "smart" chargers unless you get one for 100 quid.

Regarding one's comments full of bitterness, no one seems complaining about necessity to have a driver's license nowadays. Nobody says why on Earth should I have to drive this fucking car to work and back, it just speaks for itself. IT is getting deeper and deeper into our lives. Our children would probably wonder how one can survive without a mobile or internet or a satellite dish on the roof of his house. Meanwhile it takes hours of explanation to teach our grandmas and grandpas how to send a simple SMS and still they would complain that all those IT things are too difficult to get on with. Just use your brain to solve problems and truth to be said there's no much required. RTFM, STFW are the keywords to success in 95% of cases.

OK, just to be honest, due to frequent connect-disconnect of my IT equipment (we just moved to a new house, so not all electricity related issues have been solved yet) my DUALphone somehow managed to sign out. When offered to sign in I entered my username, password (no capitals nor @#$%^& signs, since I am not obsessed by security paranoia) and chose automatic sign-in. It took forever and I still was off the game. It took three days till my patience came to an end, so I visited to find out a solution. Outside of garbage like check that your phone is on, batteries charged, main power is present, etc. I found some useful comments. Finally, I decided to isolate the fault to find out what makes troubles. I tried to reset my router, reset the base station, power-cycled both items, reset handset, etc. Finally, I plugged my phone directly into DSL modem and guess what ... magic, it signed in within a few seconds. Bad workman always blames his tools. My D-Link, gents, D-Link router turned out to be a piece of shit, not the phone.
To sum up, stop blaming your tools, better say thanks to those who heavily contributed to the process of creation of all IT stuff we are using today and I wonder whether one being a journalist would rather enjoy typewriter clop in his room in favour to dulcet background music from his PC or MAC or SPARC laptop, whatever ...