Archive for the VOIP Advice Category

For individuals and network administrators alike, Skypekiller could be the answer to a growing problem. Anyone who has tried to remove Skype from their PC or network without Skypekiller will testify to the fact that ridding yourself of all trace is a futile and frustrating exercise.  Whilst many of the 60+ Million regular Skype users are very content with the service they receive, the application is becoming very problematic for companies worldwide, who have seen employee installs compromise the security and bandwidth utilisation of their networks. 

Add to this the inherent fall in productivity that accompanies Skype usage in the workplace, and you see the need for a comprehensive method for controlling Skype installations within the office environment. 

Enter Skypekiller; a great little application that helps to eradicate Skype from one computer or, just as easily, an entire network, in a matter of minutes.  The method employed by Skypekiller ensures that no trace is left behind, and regular manual or scheduled checks can be run to ensure installs don’t reoccur. 

After installing the application, one of the first actions you can undertake is to detect all PC’s in your network, on which Skype is installed.  Skypekiller then allows you to filter which PC’s or computer types you wish to apply the removal to.  Once you activate the de-installation from the selected target computers, a progress status will be displayed.  The execution response screen shows you how successful the process has been. 

The Skypekiller scheduler ensures that regular clean-ups can be executed without the same level of input being required.  This is a really useful tool for SME’s or larger businesses, to regularly audit networks of all sizes for Skype installs with minimal effort.  For all you Skype haters out there (surely there aren’t many), this could be the answer to your prayers.

Skypekiller Homepage

Let’s face it; if VoIP is to move with the times, their need to be more options for using your service on the move.  More and more cellphone manufacturers and networks are opening up their phones to the use of VoIP over WiFi, with many of them creating new charging plans for the privilege.  The reality is, though, that using VoIP on the move is nothing new, and you probably have all the kit you need right now to start taking advantage.

Skype for Pocket PC has been around for a while now; yet with all the hype surrounding Mobile VoIP, you’d be forgiven for thinking there is such a complex minefield of options, that you’d rather just tether yourself to your PC and be done with it.  That’s why I thought I’d write this gentle reminder to all those readers who feel like they’re missing out, and show you how to get the most of Skype on the move, using your PDA or Smartphone.

To use Skype for Pocket PC you’ll need a minimum 400 MHz processor, Wi-Fi capability, and Windows Mobile 2003 or later. Once you’ve got all that, here’s how to get on the road:

1. Update the version of Activesync on your PDA or Smartphone, in order to make file transfer and updates easier.  You’ll find the latest release at www.microsoft.com

2. Go to the downloads page at www.Skype.com and choose the Pocket PC option.  The Skype for Pocket PC application will be downloaded to your desktop PC or laptop.

3. Open up the application and complete the installation steps.

4. The installer will copy the necessary files to your ActiveSync directory. Click Finish to complete the file copy.

5. A dialogue box will appear, stating: “On the next mobile device connection, the installed applications will be downloaded to the device” Click OK to continue.

6. If it’s not already connected, connect your handheld to your computer.

7. ActiveSync will copy the CAB file to your Pocket PC or SmartPhone and install the Skype application.Skype will now be available in your Program list. 

No prizes for guessing that you’ll need an active Internet connection from your handheld, via WiFi or otherwise.  Once you’ve established a connection, you just login to Skype in the usual way.

If you’ve tried Skype for Pocket PC, tell us about your experiences.  What problems have you encountered?  How does it compare with other Mobile VoIP services you’ve used?  As ever, leave your comments below.  Best of luck!

VoIP technology has come a long way in recent years, far enough that users can now plug in their home phones and use it without any reminder of its broadband roots. With that in mind, there is the matter of choosing which VoIP adapter is best suited for your home and your VoIP service. While many services such as VoIP.com or VoIP Your Life include and adapter with their service, others do not. If you are interested in buying a VoIP Adapter or router for your home phone, here are some options to get you started in your search.

Linksys SPA2102 NA Analog VoIP Adapter (2) FXS, (2) RJ45
Linksys’s SPA2012 is the newest edition of its widely used 2000 series of VoIP adapters. Linksys offers a small variety of other adapters in this line that are suited for larger, business style locations or for those with a single at home phone. This particular model features four ports; two POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) ports to connect your phone, fax machine or speakerphone to, and two RJ45 Ethernet interfaces for plugging in Ethernet cords to computers.

The key features of the Linksys SPA2102 are the ease with which it adapts to most services. Allowing users to complete customized installation and easy access for service providers to control your voice traffic, the adapter has few of the problems many other adapters tend to have such as dropped calls, high latency and poor connections. Additionally, the router allows for easy, remote software upgrades as required by your service provider. The SPA2102 is a relatively small router and with four ports is perfect for the home or a small office. 

D-Link DVG-2001S VoIP Phone Adapter
While not as widely used as the Linksys 2102 adapter nor quite as reliable, the D-Link adapter offers a slightly more affordable option with just as deep a feature set. The 2001S is not a fully functional router however and is used for conversion of internet data to traditional phone line data for use with existing telephones and fax machines. It comes with only one FXS, POTS port and one RJ45 Ethernet port though, making it hard to plug in both a phone and a fax machine without a second adapter.

Additionally, the adapter utilizes SIP protocol, the soon to be standard for most VoIP providers, allowing optimum performance and call quality. This adapter is built to ensure compatibility between most VoIP services and phones. The adapter also includes the ability to allow VoIP service providers access to change server address and other protocols directly on the adapter, ensuring no service interruptions.

Another interesting couple of features of the 2001S are the inclusion of Voice Activity Detection and Comfort Noise Generation. Both features are designed to keep the actual amount of bandwidth to a minimum and ensure high quality calls most of the time. For those seeking a simple solution to connect your existing telephone to your internet access for VoIP service, the D-Link DVG 2001S is a good choice.

Other Options on the Market

While Linksys and D-Link are hardly the only companies on the market to make decent VoIP adapters, they are currently the two most commonly implemented. The VoIP companies are constantly changing as well as the technology associated with the service as well as the adapters. The Sipura line of adapters and routers was a popular choice because it was one of the first to offer easy analog adaptation. Other options on the market include Cisco’s new line of adapters. Once used exclusively by Vonage for its home customers, Cisco has recently reworked its products to more effectively utilize the newest SIP and CODEC technologies for VoIP service. Basically, they ensured that all services are covered.

For those looking for a simple adapter to turn their home phone into an IP phone though, either of the above options is a good choice. The cost varies but will likely remain below $70 and the call quality is consistent, depending on whom your service provider is. Just, be aware of what you need for your home or office and be prepared to recognize those features in your adapter. There are dozens of options on the market and only a few will meet the requirements you desire.

VoIP service is a fickle beast. There are hundreds of different services, all offering something slightly different from the rest. So, for those looking for honestly free VoIP service, it might come as no surprise that finding the right one is not a straightforward task. Of course, most services are entirely free. Ignoring the branded ‘Home VoIP Phone Service” companies like Vonage and ViaTalk, there are plenty of simple applications that with the right equipment can help you bypass the big bad corporate giants.

Skype


Skype has been around for awhile now and is the best known and most popular of all VoIP services, paid or unpaid. With a simple download, users can start talking to any other Skype users in the world for free. The only catch is that the other user must have Skype installed and be talking from a computer. While Skype does allow users to call landlines, that’s where the charges start to come in. However, with a few years of successful service, easy to use software and decent call quality, Skype is a great free VoIP option.

VoIP Cheap
VoIPCheap is similar to Skype in that it is a simple software download that operates solely on the computer. However, VoIPCheap goes one step further in that it offers free phone calls to land telephone lines in many countries around the world. There are a few paid locations though and if you use more than 300 minutes on a single IP address in one week, fees will apply. However, for those with limited phone usage and friends in any of the countries they support, VoIPCheap does offer free calling.

Gizmo
Offering a very slick interface and a simple software download, Gizmo is similar to Skype in that it allows users a PC based calling application for use with any other Gizmo users. Additionally, their service allows users to place calls to other Gizmo users’ home and mobile phones with their “All Calls Free” plan. However, users should read through the terms of service here first as there are a variety of carefully worded clauses and rules that might result in fees being applied to your account.

Windows Live
Like many other Instant Messenger services offering voice chat, Windows Live is a straightforward and well crafted service. It allows any Windows Live members to talk with each other via Messenger for free for as long as they want. The only catch is that if a user decides to call a landline or mobile telephone number there are rates applicable. Also, those calls are expected to be kept under 5 minutes in length, making this is a less viable VoIP option, if looking to replace the home phone.

Raketu
Raketu is a relatively new service combining numerous concepts and services into a single site with a definitive image. Their site allows free calls between your computer and landlines/mobiles in 42 different countries. Additionally, users can use the relatively new and still in development TV streaming service that allows users to discuss television shows in real time. While everything is technically free on Raketu, you will be required to pay an upfront fee of $9.95 as a deposit before making any calls. This money is used to cover any calls you might make to a location not covered in their free calling list.

There are numerous other free applications in development or use at the moment that millions use at any given time. Google Talk currently offers only Voice Mail options, but has in the past and will likely in the future reintegrate VoIP service to its client. Yahoo! offers voice chat as well, though theirs is notoriously slow due to the high volume of their services. Regardless, there are plenty of options for those individuals looking to stay away from the high priced, unnecessary fees of the phone companies. If you’re interested in making free calls, a quick download and a new headset should be all you need.

It’s not something that anyone necessarily wants to talk about, but with the growth of VoIP technology and the takeover of many telecommunications features by IP based services, the risk of security breaches and hacking grows as well. Traditionally, telephones have had issues with tapping and listening in, but it was done on a much lower level, utilizing the outdated technology that current phone systems still use.

With the advent of digital phone service, telecommunications becomes just as at risk as any other aspect of digital security. Eavesdropping, service interruptions and stolen calls are all possible risks of VoIP service. There are however methods to protect against each of these risks.

Denial of Service
Denial of Service is as simple with VoIP networks as it is with existing data networks. The most traditionally method used by hackers to take down a data network is simply to overload it with too many packets, forcing the network to crash and shutdown in response. This method does not always work as some networks have safeguards against it, but it will often cause lower performance rates regardless. 

Flooding
Another method to take down a VoIP network is to send SIP packets, those that are designed to open a new call connection, in mass quantity from a fake IP address. The system will eventually overload and fill up with the fake requests, making it impossible to take actual call requests.

Because the fake IP address doesn’t actually exist, it cannot return the packet that starts the phone call and the process never completes, leaving those SIP packets to sit until they expire. There are ways to keep this kind of attack from happening though. Programs and guides exist that describe exactly how you go about changing your queue size and how long it takes for a request to time out. You can also install firewalls designed to block such packets from unknown or stagnant IP addresses. The firewall itself must be capable of recognizing and scanning SIP messages.

Terminating Calls
A hacker can use the same techniques described above to actually terminate a call you’re in the middle of whenever they want. By inserting specific messages that tell the VoIP protocols to end the call or hangup, they can stop the call at any point. There are programs, such as SIP-Kill that will actively do this for a hacker without them actually needing to understand how the process works.

For that reason, it’s easy for them to attack your calls. However, it’s also easy to protect against it by using an encryption program or service to keep the protocols from view. The right software will check and authenticate all packets before they are allowed, keeping simple attacks to a minimum.

Stealing a Phone Call
This is a problem that people are likely more worried about than anything else. Instead of eavesdropping, a hacker can actually steal a phone call entirely from a VoIP user. In the registrar database where the IP addresses are kept for incoming and outgoing phone calls, a hacker can easily take a look and change the address to gain access to either end of these calls. They simply reroute where the call signal is being sent and voila, they’ve stolen your phone call.

There are numerous methods of encryption that keep this type of attack from happening. Simple SIP encryption goes a long way to ward off simple hacking programs, but for businesses and the like out there, a more complicated security feature such as Transport Layer Security will go a long ways toward keeping your packets safe.

What These Risks Actually Mean
Obviously these problems are going to be few and far between for most standard end users. If you are a regular user in the suburbs of Chicago using Packet 8, you are likely safe, not only because of Packet 8’s own security features, but because you are a regular user and present minimal reward for a hacker. However, businesses and those creating their own VoIP networks absolutely must see to these risks. Encryption is the most important factor in keeping your network safe and for those with the security risks listed above, it’s something you absolutely must attend to.

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