Tuesday, September 23, 2008

First impressions of X-Lite VOIP software

I've been using Voice over IP (VOIP) for some time now at the office. We use 7490 series Cisco IP Phones. I have also been using Skype for personal calls and Pidgin (using Jabber protocol) for Instant Messaging.

One of the things I don't like about the system is that the phones themselves and their accessories can be costly and bulky. The wireless headsets generally start at over $200. Also, although VOIP potentially enables a whole range of great communications features, such as answering your phone from anywhere, in practicality in my office environment, if I wanted to work from home, I'd need to carry my phone set with me.

Well recently I was introduced to a little "softphone" program called X-Lite by Counterpath which is free and enables you to easily set up your PC as a VOIP phone with the addition of some simple USB accessories, such as heaphones and microphones. I use a Logitech headset and have recently looked at upgrading to a newer cordless model which I will later review.

Anyway, initially I was really impressed with the setup. Besides the fact that your PC will need to be continuously on to use it as a phone, there are several useful options, such as the ability to use my laptop speakers for phone ringing independently of the in call speaking and listening. X-Lite is very intuitive and easy to use and can sit discretely on your desktop and taskbar and run at startup. The setup is cheaper to allow more freedom in the office environment.

One thing I did notice though is that when you want to use more advanced features, you need to upgrade to the full commercial version, another Counterpath upsell product known as EyeBeam 1.5 which retails at about $50. Features like call transferring (essential in an office environment) are blocked for example. In the commercial version, there is also built in Instant Messaging which I believe supports the Jabber protocol.

Another thing that constantly bugged me is X-Lite's update system. It doesn't appear to actually work. A pop-up keeps appearing saying that a new version is available and do I want to download it. But when I click "Yes", it simply closes the application and does nothing. Every time I open the thing this message pops up again after about 10 minutes. Very annoying.

While I'm still searching for a free alternative (such as modding Skype's offering) and something that perhaps integrates into a small business CRM (like PrettyMay for example) as well as Skype for personal use, X-Lite seems to be a good way of doing without the clunky phone.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Movavi Video Converter 6 vs Super by Erightsoft review of video conversion tools

I stand corrected in what I said earlier about video conversion and DVD ripping tools as I recently purchased a license for Movavi Video Converter 6.

Having paid around $50, initially I thought this was a bit too much just for a video conversion tool, however I can say that this product is great value as it does pretty much everything you'd want it to.

While the DVD ripping to AVI is not incredibly fast, the results are great and unlike many similar applications, Movavi is very stable and not prone to crashing, at least on my PC.

It has an option to minimize neatly in the tray without consuming all of the available processing resources, meaning that you can go about your business while you are converting large video files.

I've also converted Apple Quicktime format (.MOV) to AVI and WMV in a wide range of codecs without any hiccups.

The software supports a wide range of conversions of just about any format and great care has gone into the interface design to make it as intuitive and easy to use as possible. What makes it simple is that the interface doesn't overwhelm the user with all of the technical terminology and jargon and options which is common for audio and video. Complexity in the interface (not to mention the difficulty to find and download the application) on the other hand is one of the major failings of Super by Erightsoft.

Searching for a good free application that does these sort of things is extremely difficult and I'm more than certain that the time I wasted combing the web for it would have cost me much more than the price of purchasing Movavi. So my tip is if you are trying to find something that is good value, look no further than Movavi Video Converter 6.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Outlook, IMAP, Gmail problems and slowness - a solution ?

The ongoing saga of Outlook and IMAP has, in the past, given me nightmares. Slow connections, getting headers but waiting sometimes hours for the full messages to download.

I thought I'd solved everything until recently I moved to a Gmail mail server and everything started again. Well I checked and I'm neither imagining it or the only one experiencing it.

Well, I found some information that helped and I thought I'd share it. Apparently most of the problems are due to Outlook's default settings which constantly trying to poll the Gmail server. By customising the settings, you can make a big difference.

Here is a helpful link:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Google Crome Review - First Impressions - Opion on new Chrome browser from Google

I've just been playing around with Google's new beta web browser and I thought I'd write a few things first up.

At first glance, I think the whole "less is more" approach to user interface design has been probably a bit overdone.

The back, forward and go navigation icons tripped me up a bit initially, and I kept looking for the drop down list to access my recently visited sites. However I'm impressed with the way the recent and most visited sites with screenshots automatically appear when I open a new tab. Chrome really takes tabbed browsing to the next level.

Importing settings from Firefox seems easy on the surface, but even though I closed Firefox as advised, it still didn't recognise that Firefox was actually closed.

There are some interface bits and pieces to get used to. I found myself accidentally adding sites to my favourites. But Chrome is much quicker and easier to sort bookmarks into folders which is a definite plus.

It has taken a bit of time to get used to less right click options. In particular, I find myself looking for "Refresh" and "Find" options, only to find them in the toolbar. The page icon is a bit counter intuitive and a bit of a catch all and working out what is in either this or the Tool/spanner icon is a bit tricky at first.

I like the inbuilt developer tools and History tab is great.

As a web developer, I'm really interested in how it renders sites. But having checked out many of my favourite sites, I can't yet see any obvious rendering differences between Chrome and Firefox, which is another real positive. However I did notice that while Hotmail works, rich text editors on Blogger and many content management systems (CMS) don't. I'm told this is a problem WebKit, the engine that both Safari and Chrome are partly based on. But more on this to come soon.

Overall, Chrome Beta is not a bad first up effort by Google, although I still think Firefox is better (although the current version seems unstable) and Firefox will probably remain my favourite browser for the time being ...