Phil Zimmerman has finally released the Windows version of Zfone. As previously mentioned, ZFone sets up encrypted communications using the ZRTP protocol between two SIP software clients. The Windows version joins existing version already available for MAC and LINUX systems. While this software will be very handy for two individuals that wish to keep their VOIP communications private, in order to truly bring privacy to the predominantly insecure VOIP industry it is hoped that the protocol will be licensed by VOIP handset manufacturers and SIP telephony service providers.
Skype has announced that it will offer free long distance within the US and Canada. This means that a Skype user physically located within the US or Canada can call any landline located in the US or Canada using Skypeout at no charge. The limitations on the calling location appear to be implemented by recognizing IPs used by ISPs located within the US and Canada. Canadian and US residents traveling abroad, and Skype users located outside of North America, are expected to pay the Skypeout rates to call a PSTN number in the US or Canada. However, I suspect that users that utilize corporate VPNs that terminate in North America, or wifi hotspot users that subscribe to one of the pubic VPN services (such as hotspotVPN or PublicVPN) may find they will appear as located in North America even when traveling abroad (this will depend on the location of the public VPN server) and may be able to benefit from the free Skype offer. Another option might be to set up a VPN server on a home computer (for example, iOpus Private Internet Gateway (iPIG))or Internet router.
Not to be left behind, SMC has joined Netgear in also announcing a Skype-compatible wi-fi voip handset, the SMCWSKP100. This handset supposedly works with both 802.11b/g networks but does not contain a built-in browser. So access will still be limited to home/corporate access points or public access points that do not require authentication or clicking through a re-direct page.
Skype has announced the beta release of version 2.5. Some of the neat new features added include:
* the ability to pay for Skype’s various fee-based services from within Skype (instead of needing to use a web browser)
* support for sharing of contact lists between groups
* the ability to send SMS messages from within Skype.
* audio call quality analyzer
* support for Skypecasts (which allow conference calls of up to 100 participants)
I’ve also recently noticed the emergence of third party services that are tied to Skype. For example, Lavalife is running a World Chat for singles and Untye is offering a desktop sharing application integrated with Skype.
PC World’s Techlog has a posting about problems experienced by some users with recent Microsoft security patches. To me, this highlights the need to run software on PCs that can allow users to easily roll-back recent changes. While the security fixes cannot be put off indefinitely, this approach at least allows the user to bring the computer back to a functional state while they figure out the cause of the conflict. It is also very useful when any new software is installed that messes up the existing configuration. Examples of products that provide roll-back capabilities include: Farstone’s RestoreIT 7 and Horizon Datasys’ RollBack RX. However, note that most of these types of products alter the boot track of the hard disk and will conflict with any other software that tries to do the same (for example, certain whole disk encryption software or even certain backup programs like Norton’s Ghost (at least the older versions)).
Emblaze is offering its Emoze push email service at no charge, hoping to generate revenues by selling optional services at a future date. The service works with Outlook, Notes and certain Web-based services such as Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail. A wide variety of cell phones and other PDA-type devices are supported. The client device needs some sort of data connectivity which can include: broadband IP, wireless 3G (WCDMA/UMTS and CDMA2000), Wi-Fi 802.xx, Wi-Max, GPRS (2.5G), EDGE, CDMA 1xRTT or CDMA 1xEVDO.