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CNET to the Rescue: New tech for old phonesThe home phone is not dead, at least not yet. We discuss VOIP and other technologies that make fixed phones more useful, and save you money. With Maggie Reardon of CNET News. Bonus: Road tests!
Hello everybody I'm great gentlemen welcome to CNET -- -- rescue. This is our weekly podcast -- tell the truth about tech products and answer your tech questions. At today we're going to spend some time on a topic that doesn't get a lot of coverage but that affects pretty much all of us. Our home phones. You can just get phone service from your local telco and by a foam from the local Wal-Mart or best buyer whatever. Without giving much thought but really there -- a lot of interesting ways to save money and add features to your home phone service and we're gonna talk about them today. -- a special -- to help without. Our CNET news Telecom's senior writer Maggie Reardon who is dialing in today via the phone alternative Skype from New York Maggie thanks for joining. -- so if you have tech question forcing it to the rescue please call us with your questions to get on the next show and -- 8774386688. Again 8774386688. No question as to basic safety got a problem with getting into your -- -- the call -- -- -- out now. He declined that the next rescue after this one will air on January 12. So you have a critical problem. Ask the neighbor fourteen year old. And then drop excellent health what you -- to -- -- But let's get going with this first before -- get into the whole -- thing I wanna do a quick road test and this is one of -- more than there will be more and other protests in the show but. A -- launch with this one the Chrome book the CR 48. Here it is. I if I also put this on my -- show reporters roundtable and it only opens from one side. This is where the hinges it doesn't open from the this is it. It's a netbook it's called notebook but it's really a netbook it's a low powered machine. You guys all heard about this are about 60000 of the things in circulation. It is a notebook that only runs Chrome -- the browser and an operating system and let me tell you something it's really -- -- and I believe that this little platform here. Is going to. Challenge if not eviscerate the windows netbook market. If they can keep these things low price however again they that this is a prototype machine on a -- -- -- they can't buy this and that's the good thing to. That -- really frustrating. It's low. The heavier than -- should be considering. It's no good for games it's no good for video the mouse pad tracking is sketchy. And it is just such a beta device. But. A -- something we're getting basic work done and browsing the web its so simple -- my nephew comes to visit. In in a week or so. And I've dealt with computers at Mac products -- windows products around the house. He's gonna like twelve years old is gonna wanna get on the computer. I'm gonna give limits that you can't possibly break it a gimmick guest account and can't screwed up like you -- windows or Mac machine so good -- -- around for guests. Afternoon they work okay so that's the -- -- when it comes out watch for serious competitor the windows netbooks so this show. On the home phones based on this question from -- email or video -- he said. I don't wanna pay -- -- no more I'm not talking about cellular coverage expensive boosters are out of the question. I listen to the podcast about cutting the court on our show. -- but nothing was mentioned about phone systems I would be interest in -- -- thoughts about any action -- all. You all thoughts about Skype versus VoIP -- magic Jack. What is the best ladies Skype and Google Voice to simulate a landline when you have -- cellular signal indoors. Well I I started to answer that question and then I realize there's a whole it's a show that's why I called a -- that make -- and help out with -- which she covers them with musings products. The let's get started Maggie let's -- start with a little rundown what do you think is the simplest way. The most -- bill like alternative solution to your regular home phone service. Well. You know him. It depends it it security using cable modem service for example you might -- -- just like that but I on the I changed it around her while I used act or act -- to work just -- -- on any other things you know I'm a little skeptical somebody other. Devices like love men at saint writer I don't -- -- -- Uma device. I mean that EU got it it -- eight. -- -- -- to port your number and things like acting -- and you're getting. Hefty upfront costs in the so I am -- if it really depends on. -- what you. And wait and see more palatable to you you paid -- at -- later. Let's let's talk about one of the most popular products out there because it has an advertising campaign behind it which is the magic Jack. This this is an -- service. It's not. Is that competitors Skype visited competitor to -- what what is the magic Jack -- and is -- good for what they claim it -- good for. Com I think it's and I think it that drawback at your computer so this is -- -- plug into your computer. Well that's -- the real pain in the -- how does how does it work what does -- do. Well it works. Like other voice over IP services you know but it works -- -- it it's like Skype that -- and where it's it's working near your computer. More so than it is just a connection that's that's techniques. Something like a Vonage or even what the cable companies offer com more palatable is that it's real. It's it's just a regular phone service at 88 -- except here your cable modem -- and it back on writing and figure it out. That's where oddities what sort -- sister -- for consumers is that you don't really. I don't want my computer on all the time people are not all the time in -- site. You know it doesn't feel it what you're looking or something completely like irregular -- you might wanna go something like that probably get -- A monthly fee that really any phone service on somebody services can be so -- -- I don't mind paying it out. And. Tell -- talking now about service. Like you'd get from your I it's the are you talking about Vonage or -- the one I have or at for what it's called phone power the -- And yet body changes is pretty cheap at -- looked at their they're -- lately but that's yeah I mean if if you're gonna get it. -- and T and TV service -- -- you're. Your cable company you might just get from bouncer is earned an area it actually pre and -- -- it out like -- when you break up costs. Well -- okay so let's talk about that for second so if he. There are different ways to get voice over right you know -- voice over IP does. Is instead of sending your telephone calls over the phone line which is running in your house it sends your telephone calls over the Internet and then when the phone. Call itself finally have to -- down on the phone system to talk somebody else. Who's not on the Internet then it it leaves the Internet goes to the phone system and grossly oversimplifying but. -- voice over IP does is it leaves the phone call on the Internet all the way to your house. And then what a lot of these systems do. In fact all the systems that we've been talking about so far magic Jack -- A voice over IP from Comcast -- U -- or whatever. Is they convert the Internet signal to a phone signal inside your house so you plug. Your phones into that system moment at the same thing you can take your old telephone and it's a cordless wire with -- wireless extensions you can have your whole house covered with. Voice over IP. And just use your regular phones and dial -- -- in the normal way. Now the big. Changes. -- bold voice over IP systems and older tech ones and I'll put the magic Jack in there. You have to have your computer on because the magic checkbook in your computer and uses your computer as kind of the Gateway. Newer systems and affect -- traditional VoIP systems like Vonage and BI'S_P. one's. Have us that a separate box that you plug into your router. And then that does the work for you so if you are like many households and your computers are primarily laptops which -- on an offer shut down slept or. Out of the house for times. You can still have your phone system working. Because you're not relying on any one computer so -- close we talked about the magic Jack which requires a computer. Many we've got these two kind of different solutions first of all you can go with your help with your ISP. And they will give you a box and like Comcast here in San Francisco the popular solution. And then you plug your phone your home phones into -- -- network from my father has that he doesn't like night. -- -- go back and then the other option is you can go something like Vonage which is unaffiliated with your eyes he. And it's it looks like it's less money but what are the pros and cons Maggie using something like a third parties as much monitor going with the one from your eyes. I think it just comes down costs -- it in -- the usability in terms. And everything else -- are very similar act I I never had any problems -- Options with Vonage and now I -- Time Warner cable's with that -- -- new I don't have any problems with that. I ate it comes down cost and -- easier for you as -- consumer eat. It with less expensive for me to just have a bundled it ends at the triple play. And after a -- separately. So yeah but -- yank it. You act at an average. I negotiations with my -- never got something else people don't realize. Particularly with -- -- -- you can call them up and say hey. Eight -- -- switch services or are considering your service but it's more expensive than what I have now. -- he got you buy a box -- -- really that leverage and -- at the. The box but it costs. Now let's talk about a couple things that you have to consider when you're going -- deleting the phone system. You need. These things need power right. So if you are in -- play. An area where you have power outages are ignored by using your phone and an earthquake or hurricane like that when the phone has on power system at different power system. You need basically to infrastructures to be working to use an Internet phone you need your Internet to work and you need your power to work. You haven't. ELA and this is the case if you have trouble problem it -- None of these will -- it cure your -- -- -- -- eaten so if you add and cut the -- year crappy brought into action. And it can't -- -- -- probably not. Best solution for you and -- only concern another thing to worry about is IE 911 service. I talk up office whether it nine -- and a VoIP system is different from 91 on the pots of plain old telephone system yet. Yes 0911 on regular old telephone system they know where you -- they -- your address so. When you Colleen -- know exactly where you are -- you -- the numbers associated with an address you. And it gets little bit different when you have a service like Vonage for example where you can't take that. By -- router and -- across country. And -- the same phone number and -- IP address. And there's no way for an -- on -- service to know where -- bar and you reiterate their communities are gonna that's pretty -- you you know it's it's incumbent upon you. Two. Make sure you register your address properly. You know it's it's not quite like that people because I get cables associated with -- -- address I can't take my Time Warner Cable. Com. VoIP service and just move somewhere else -- -- shut -- service and reopen it in my new column where it. They have your address and -- that works with 911 and you got like it's -- which is very similar to about Vonage router where its U. -- you get snapshot of like -- Come in they're not -- you know where you are so you acted. -- And I'm quite sure -- -- with that I know which which body age you register on there website where apparently it. The I I can't I. As as much I like using modern technology in my house I have I -- standard eighteen he regular phone system Michael the baby -- on. Even though I have cordless phones over the house I have to one in the kitchen -- the bedroom that it's just two regular old you know Sony hang up the phone phone. Just in case right the bare bones technology because of it -- you -- -- -- -- what does that -- that people with kids shouldn't -- -- I I. I'm a little. Yes I need my address -- children and I told her -- -- don't get ready to hear your regular behind him. I think it's 8911 issue. You don't -- write -- an end in a power issue to you if something happens you wanna be able to get help. Aren't so you could always you know you have cordless phone -- router whatever I mean I have my router on a battery back up and not my refrigerator and it just what's important to me. Now let's talk with -- little hands on here I have in my house something -- system called. Phone power that for my second life which I'm about to retire because I never use it anymore. And it's a VoIP system yet get little Boxee plug into your broadband and you put your phones into it and and you can make phone calls just the normal way over that. Very very low cost extremely cheap. But I've had nothing but problems with an on call quality now I complained about this I think on Twitter. And the CEO called called me up and that you know can and can we talk about -- just make -- -- and what happens is it turns out that all although I have you know. Fast Comcast voice over. Internet service and Gigabit routers and all that stuff in my house I put the phone power modem. On the wrong side of the router it wants to be first. And then everything so can do quality of service -- -- put the router on the other side of that thing and I had them at the wrong way united really wanna -- an enemy line -- money though. Installation every all these guys they installation super easy but it is still possible to mess up. A VoIP installation -- -- and maybe that's had a problem with the just that's quality could be that they need to use that you have a voice -- -- -- -- -- -- We have the Comcast yeah at home and then it's. It's pretty terrible can't really go out like I -- have to do in Oakland he doesn't like it. Yeah it really reminded reminds me too much of sky like it's very might have any problems that I've. And I am pretty sure it's because at the -- it's it's it's quite right. Yes. No I. -- I've never had any problems that went and I don't use that mountain area and you are asked them how much it I felt that -- -- But I hate you a lot of radio -- and things when I'm working from home. I always -- that line -- it's always. Better quality. And everybody would Edgar Allen and -- So I'm really surprised that eighty -- -- at issue -- -- -- an issue with its behavior brought at your house yeah I think. But how -- I can't. The thing is like it might see it might be like actual -- that -- -- the phone had that matter could be lying. It could be Comcast or it could get a gigabyte of it as well. My dad has is an open we get a lot of static and his line yeah and the -- to do so again I thought it was his phones but. He he thinks -- Comcast yeah I think it's podcast. -- -- other solutions to make easyJet time border voice over -- And that -- like that. I need to be perfectly honest I thought about getting rated and I don't I don't eat at home and I really get stuck on its iTunes. Alone change. I just -- the most people Connie brown act the only reason I. Time Warner ponies because when I eight. Was trying to lower the cost of -- -- televisions or if they told me would be cheaper if I signed up but the answer is that so. The -- it. You -- for example actually over -- actions -- it right. -- if you're getting phone service from bright and now not I its network not the traditional phone network that is. Well and IP connection and all of our police. Calls are going over IP infrastructure. Sort -- out in a class act on. -- a lot of people don't realize that that we are -- and using VoIP but it just at some point the VoIP gets translate -- the old phone network. It just happening closer and closer to our homes than it ever -- and and you get a VoIP system what you're doing you're moving that transition into your home. At some point you can just say you know forget the phone system and forget telephones as they are you know traditional you know plug -- you know they -- -- 45 right artwork by object -- and go to a mobile phone or to computer phone like on Skype. Now is Skype a reasonable option to replace a home phone. I don't think it's -- replacement I think it's something it. As a supplement for example I use it to I did my friends overseas where I -- it stops you. -- -- kids. You know we'll do a video chat. But it. Not to replace it altogether because I find -- the quality and -- -- Okay. Net speaking of which we've been talking a lot about program that voice over -- -- one of the great use of yet go ahead making. It's not comedians I mean that's the whole thing about a phone right -- -- be sitting -- my computer. If I'm on the phone the phone rings it don't know a narrow and not air and on -- And I guess you can dial somebody up you don't know their answer not answer but it's not it's not the experience rates -- -- a little bit different. But a Google Voice the caller that were based on the show on -- -- calls that can use Skype in Google Voice etc. to simulate a landline. How important is Google Voice -- where does -- fit into kind of helping people manage their home calling situation. While Google Voice it again it's not a replacement in no way to. City just have one -- -- so it's a way really large like merge -- And. You merger communications -- so that I don't have to call I don't die. You on -- but -- -- yourself on an -- out your home phone if I call one number and it finds you. Okay now one of the things that you wanna talk about and -- said the you don't really need. A landline phone a lot of people now don't know people with kids do but they guessed over -- has -- features that are. Families like have landline phone markets and ice that two lines now I'm going down to one of the mobile phone and -- -- when you're the one line anymore. One of the things that I've recently done which I really love and this is a -- this is protest -- to -- I bought this phone. It's called Panasonic KXTG. 5862. It's a cordless phone. What it is is your standard cordless phone you plug it into one phone line somewhere else and -- you can have. Wireless handsets all over the house I have this -- supports -- -- six I think I've very. But the thing about this one is also Bluetooth. You put your mobile phone next to the base unit. And then the if you're -- if your phone rings that might -- my iPhone down at the base unit in the charging dock. And then whenever I get a call on my iPhone all the handsets in my house ring. -- I can just leave my phone charging I can make calls to there's a button on the things that sells like include I wanna get take advantage of the low. Like nights of free nights rates or whatever but I don't really pay attention to the stuff but you can. Like when you pick up the phone to make call you can decide -- -- wanna -- I can sort of Sony's may eighteenth he regular phone service. Or frankly my eighteen. You can put two cellphones on the system. I just have to say -- for a standard old phone system this thing rocks this is a great phone -- That doesn't work yet -- -- be able to get your you're. Phone directory from your mobile into the phone that doesn't work but one thing that does work. Ring tones do work so if if I have. A special ringtone assigned to you and you call me all the phones in the house ring with that -- -- -- it's -- It's completely awesome phone I love it got on Amazon with pretty cheap. And replace that twelve growth Siemens phone for the piece of garbage so that is the Panasonic XTT 5862. They'll certified its X three which actually is when I got three handsets that -- -- -- more. On its recommendation here for home phone system emerge. The mobile and the land line together. -- I think any other comments from you guys on landline phone tech that we should be locked up for. -- Gas all right that is the law after the show we're not doing this -- -- here. Let's take a couple questions where did before we do that though we gotta pay for the show us a let's go to a quick get. And then we'll be right back. Molly -- and practically inviting you to join us for the 2010 edition of cnet's holiday help desk that happens every Monday at 1 PM Pacific 4 PM eastern starting November 22. It's where we make you look like a brilliant tech gift giver as we take your live calls and we feel your emails in fact when -- Send us an email right now holiday helped -- at cnet.com and along with the rest of cnet's editors will point you to the right product at the right -- Holiday help desk Mondays at 1 PM Pacific time starting November 22 at cnet.com slash life. All right well thanks for everybody for indulging my my passion for old ancient mom -- technology. Let's take some questions here we got one from Mike in Toronto who said how does this so called Wi-Fi triangulation work to obtain geo location data. From what I can tell there -- no triangulation involved and the lat long info must be injected by the highest -- In fact even if or Trang relating to access points would still need to know their own locations. The reason I say this is because at home there's only one Wi-Fi signal available mine. And none others even remotely -- range yet all of my non GPS devices like laptops and iPod Touch. Show me get on top of my house I check my router. And there's no -- I can find it is turned on any kind of location awareness. Is there are some sort of master cable linking IP addresses to lat long coordinates that services like Google Maps refer to. If so that means -- ISP is publicly announcing my precise location which is creepy. I'm not sure this is case because I still show my actual location even when I'm using a VP and becomes over the public Internet and miles away. What an interest in question and you know what the answer is not -- you think obviously. Here's the thing. Mike your. ISP doesn't really. They nowhere to -- you but they don't know -- your router is either. But Google does and Apple might and a company called sky -- wireless exists solely to know where you are and the way they work. Is that every Wi-Fi hub or router -- device in fact has a unique identifier that it broadcasts that out and even if you can't get into the device you can see in many cases you can see this unique identifier and their companies that drive around. In cars with GPS equipped cars sniffing. These identifier and associating this unique Wi-Fi signature with the location which -- they know. Now this is what makes geo location work. On devices in fact in many cases when -- using a mobile device like an iPhone. And you think you're using GPS -- to get a location in Google Maps what you're really using Wi-Fi. Because. That data is faster and lower power. To get -- GPS signals. Now you can prove this yourself by taking your router. To another remote location plugging it in and asking -- and asking Google Maps where you are and you will probably get your old location. Until the car comes by and updates your address. That's how it works uninteresting stuff as -- it. Now there are obviously people -- little concerned about this and look what happened with Google and they're taking pictures instead entrap analysts if you wonder why who what when they were driving around houses. Taking pictures for street view was also collecting -- -- this is probably why they were coordinating Wi-Fi access point ID numbers. With GPS so that they could do better mapping. You know. And it scared by -- Google knowing this information management yes yeah. I type accident it looks I acquire. Went went out that it has great eating it. I need -- -- to act if they're not looking inside payloads to see what year ending -- not be accurate -- eat -- else. They all the content they're looking at -- look in Britain and -- -- necessarily just eating it with. With the billing address or anything like act so it's not necessarily -- -- know who you are right or what your Sani eight is now the location of that what I. And that's exactly what Google -- supposed to be doing but didn't. And it has -- driving by news you're taking it mapping GPS coordinates the -- by IDs why not get a bunch more data. You know if you're an engineer thinking -- -- they do no evil. Yes well it. This is this is an old every topic to react by -- -- -- I think was and over anxious. Engineers are over eager engineer who just couldn't say -- to collecting data. Was a mistake probably. -- another question we got let's see com from John Haller who says hey hey I'm confused. I'm traveling in an RV from Montana at a Florida thing RV park some have Wi-Fi some do not I have a MacBook an iPad with Wi-Fi app and an iPhone 3GS. I am on cellular one because where I live I eighteenth he doesn't have service with the data and a voice plan. The question is when I am -- on Wi-Fi. And when roaming are they still phone calls is the voice plan I have superfluous. And MI chart for each call. Wise is so confusing to me. Shouldn't -- should I just turn off the phone part and put into airplane mode and get another phone with which brought with Verizon which is pretty much nationwide and save money and phone calls because to be back on plan. I was just contacted this morning by sailor one and they advised me that my data roaming was up to 700 dollars and not finished. Data roaming is no allowance apparently -- any appeals -- the Turkmen. While John I'm starting here your news I'm sorry that you live in a place that doesn't have. Eighteenth the iPhone coverage and that you -- it was cool you're able to get a deal on them -- one but here's the first thing. That you need to know data and voice are separate and different. On a mobile phone -- mobile phone all voice calls. Are charged as minutes whether you have a -- a plan or not they go to your mobile phone part of the account. Data is different in most cases and is charged by the amount of data not by the time spent using. You need a nationwide plan obviously you're getting pretty much taken to the cleaners here because your roaming and even in some cases you can have in some some phone. Plans you can have a nationwide calling plan but data roaming is that especially if you go overseas and you'll get screwed is that happening you right here. I would recommend here that you get a phone with has better data nationwide data service. Maybe Verizon and I get an Android phone. -- it doesn't matter what state you're in. -- or get a simpler Verizon phone for voice and use the iPod Touch which is Wi-Fi only and -- pitching -- -- trouble. And and -- thank you anything. Yeah I think there's good suggestions and you know and it it. It's important to understand that -- and that it added that it being separate litigator -- Column and -- just tried it and -- net it back at bright and -- independently -- your get it where you're an. Act traveling guy and an RE OE -- -- means our time so. But clearly cellular one does not -- -- -- like hackers eat out you might wanna get it. Yeah all you snowbird out there get on a nationwide. Have -- plan I would say when few. -- of treaty act and act. All right bill Morgan says how gonna make this the start up faster and -- -- quick answer get Windows 7 if your computer run Vista it can probably run Windows 7 and that's just more modern -- and get off of another more expensive solution ethnicity. Yet but that -- they -- how. How many people -- are there you think in the world who use. Solid state modern solid state drives on -- and has a good question yet know that would work that would certainly work although. If you wanna be -- data you just open power video. This -- it does not support the modern. Low level stream format to. Take best advantage of -- that's the and make them laugh along its Windows 7 supports for him. Noted. -- our -- That's the Robbie our rights during episode 28 the use of the registry -- -- -- the use up a registry cleaning program was discussed as they help in tweaking computers. I am very confused on the subject as I hear conflicting views from credible sources. Some condemning the use -- -- the -- as unnecessary and possibly dangerous and others are recommending specific programs. As beneficial can you shed some light on this issue. Aren't so here's the thing. Yes you can do real damage. When you get into the registry and a bad reps who registry cleaner got -- anything it. We'll bad -- to clean -- cleaner -- really mess up your computer and in theory you should never ever use one but in the real world. What this show's about. Things aren't so clean and registries -- get mixed up and -- clear what type used in its most aggressive mode has never once steered me wrong so as a practical. Set of advice. I would say that. You. Can safely use the cleaner to clean up the crop left behind in the old and system that has a lot of apps on -- -- have been installed and uninstalled. Just don't go overboard and other reg cleaners. And ignored fearing they'll practice the practices. They don't hurt that Wanda and her we've hasn't hurt -- -- your mileage may -- offer a volatile states. Act for a minute that are right I believe that -- -- anything else from the -- any other -- on phones or other stuff. Are any. Good alright guys thanks very much for watching CNET to the rescue this year it is our last show for the year -- back on the twelfth of the new show. If you would like send questions for that show or -- for future shows send them to rescue at cnet.com com. Called your questions in to 8774386688. You can also catch info and all the links from this and previous shows at cnet.com slash rescue. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter RA FE 34 news on this and other shows. The needle thanks for producing -- thanks Kelly for producing on the other -- he's -- here today Maggie thanks for coming in today. And thank everyone for watching listening and being in -- chat room and -- an -- question. Along with --