Tag Archives: Videoconferencing

Erasing your Hard Drive – Really

How to REALLY erase a hard drive by Robin Harris

Who Knew? Turns out there is a way to do a full erase on a hard drive already built into the firmware on the drive.

So what’s the magic?
Something called Secure Erase, a set of commands embedded in most ATA drives built since 2001. If this is so wonderful, why haven’t you heard of it before? Because it’s been disabled by most motherboard BIOSes.

Secure Erase is a loaded gun aimed right at all your data. And Murphy’s Law is still in force. But hey, if you’re smart enough to read Storage Bits, you’re smart enough to not play with Secure Erase until you need to.

I use Boot ‘N Nuke myself, which he also mentions.

Economics: Home-Grown vs. Full-Service VoIP Providers

While wallowing around getting the Asterisk/Trixbox up and running, I’ve been wondering about the economics of this especially when placed against other possible solutions. For example, Packet8 offers a business phone plan as a service; they provide you with phones, but everything else is provisioned over the internet. No server required.

Packet8 is a full service IP phone provider with both business and home phone plans. They offer a business service with a required minimum of three phones at $40.00/per extension. This includes unlimited calling throughout the U.S. and Canada. Calls to Germany are 2 cents per minute. So, the minimum would be $120.00 per month. They’ll sell you phones for about $99.00 each which is a good deal. If you would rather not buy the gear, and you can commit to a minimum two-year contract, they’ll give an option for $49.00 per month.

That covers the outbound calls and provides you with one inbound number. Additional inbound numbers, which can be virtual numbers, are $5.00 /month. They have a calculator on their site which gives you an idea of what the upfront and monthly costs will be.

If you wanted to start up with an Asterisk box, you would still have to buy IP phones. You can’t get a phone for much less than about $80.00, so that part of the equation is comparable.

Now, as I said with VoicePulse, there is a charge of roughly 2 cents per minute, and it all depends, on the amount of calling you are going to make. Comparing with the Packet8 rate, of $40.00 per extension per month, you would have to talk for thirty-three hours for a single extension to use up the $40.00 bucks. Further, with Packet8 the 5th or 8th phone costs as much as the first phone; there are no cost breaks as you scale up. They have a calculator on their web site that shows the upfront and monthly recurring costs.

Inbound virtual numbers with VoicePulse are $11.00 per month. Of course with Packet8, you don’t have a server; everything is done virtually over the internet connection.

After reading several reviews, (decidedly mixed), on Packet8, I’m thinking that the idea of the Asterisk box is still a good one. For one thing, using an Asterisk server allows you to maintain a hybrid system; a mixture of VoIP and connections to a landline. It also allows you to mix and match your own IP phones and soft phones. And, for me at least, the monthly charges are negligible. I can add as many extensions as I want, for just the cost of the phone hardware.

More Links:

Here’s an older review of the VoicePulse regular (non-Asterisk) service.

Test your network for VoIP. This service will place test calls between your location nd several cities including Sydney, Vienna, Boston, and Montreal.

A similar test for videoconferencing.

Finally, I ran into this great article about how to rewire the phone wiring in your home or business to use VoIP. Many systems, like the home service of VoicePulse, Packet8 or Vonange assume that you want to connect a single telephone to their servcie. This article explains how to work around that problem, and includes a great deal of general information about phone wiring. Get your dykes and screwdrivers ready!

Desktop Videoconferencing Reloaded


Finally, something that works!
A friend recently got himself a new Mac Powerbook, which comes with a built-in video camera and video software. He emailed asking to try a video conference, and I emailed him back with the web address for SightSpeed which has a free desktop video client available for both the Mac and Windows. We installed it on our respective machines and had it up and running in a jiffy.

It worked well. I’m in Vermont on a cable modem, he’s in Pennsyvania on a DSL line connecting through his wireless router. We got what I would rate as 24 frame-per-second video, with no visible artifacts, and fully synchronized sound with flawless echo-cancellation even though we were both using external speakers. Our call went on for more than a half hour; and we talked about a lot of other things other things besides videoconferencing.

This is how it should work. When was the last time that you spent more than a minute of a telephone call talking about the phone call? (unless it was a bad cell-phone connection). The technology “fell away”… and we didn’t have to think about it. Not bad for a first call.

Of interest, then, was the quality of the second call….which was to the SightSpeed tech support people. The guy I got was located in Chicago. This call still had good video and audio, but it broke up several times..probably from a slow internet connection. But then I had already been spoiled by the quality of the first call. This call was still better than anything desktop video I had experienced, with exception of the Polycom PVX software talking to a Polycom room unit.

Like Skype, SightSpeed appears to be a closed system; it will be interesting to see if there will be any way to open it up, and connect to other SIP-based end points.

There has been a lot of buzz about SightSpeed. I think they are on to something.