Technology Article, Issue II

TECHNOLOGY MINUTE…Ever wanted to chat with your family or friend over the Internet?. No, I’m not talking the typing that’s done on instant messengers, etc. I’m talking voice chat. The problem is many people were glued to the Dialpad era, or the days when one use to communicate using Net2Phone or Yahoo! Chat, etc. Well – three things have happened since then. (i) Bandwidth rates have dropped and bandwidth speeds have improved in Pakistan and abroad for the average user (ii) Communication algorithms for VoIP (Voice over IP) protocols have drastically improved the quality of sound as well as the bandwidth required to enable a rock-solid connection (iii) and last but not least – Skype!

Skype is a free P2P client that works on most operating systems. As their tagline suggests free internet telephony that just works! Here is what it does. You simply go to www.skype.com and download the software client (its approximately 5MB in size). Install it on your PC and register (registration is absolutely free). Now, just like an Instant Messenger, your Skype Messenger is online. Ask the same of your friends and family. Once everyone’s onboard, simply double-click on their name and start talking (yes, talking as in vocally). The sound quality is amazing, there is hardly any lag, talk for hours – and the best part about it – its free. Other than your internet charges, no other charges are applicable. Within Skype, you can even have a conference call – i.e. have up to 4 Skype users in on a conference (single-call). You’ll be amazed how easy it is to use Skype and thwap yourself on the forehead for not using it earlier. Skype also has within it, as a paid-service, the ability to make telephone calls (for a fee), but why talk about it, that’s a paid service, we’re interested in the free part. Personally, I use it to communicate with family/friends. It was a difficult task to get your friends and family motivated enough to download and install it, as well as make the effort of buying a headphone/mic set. However, once you have overcome these hurdles, its simply hours of fun. The problem I find with traditional chat clients is the in-your face advertising, the typing complexity and not to mention the imperfections in voice communication. Skype on the other hand specializes in just that – VoIP (remember this acronym). Don’t be fooled by folks telling you that you need a DSL/Broadband line for it. Skype will work wonderfully on your dial-up connection. Its not surprising that millions of users are using Skype – till last count I think it was something like 100+ Million downloads – averaging 40,000 download a day. Get Skype and get talking today!

SECURITY
Most people send and receive emails oblivious to the fact that the message can very easily be intercepted and be read. Granted most people do not need the added secrecy or security, but I for one like my emails to be private. After all if this was not case, then people would not “seal” their envelopes after writing a letter. Securing email however has been a cumbersome task for many if not impossible. Not anymore. Take it from an uber-geek – what I am about to recommend – is simple. Simply go to www.ciphirebeta.com and download their Ciphire Mail software and you’re all set. As the site proclaims “Ciphire Mail is the world’s most powerful email security tool and requires no learning. It works smoothly with your regular email client. Just download, install, and forget”. Secure (encrypted) snoop-proof email is finally here.

DOT.PK
If you’ve been tempted to chat, mingle, socialize and make new friends – within the desi ensemble of course, but have palled your way out of the desi chat channels and IRC (Internet Relay Chat), a lively and happening place on the Internet today to pursue your social circle is definitely Orkut (see www.orkut.com). The only bad part is you cannot just “join” Orkut, you need to be invited by someone who already is a member. With millions of users, Pakistanis are as active as ever on this forum – like we are vying for a medal. After Brazil, USA, and Iran, Pakistan is ranked #4 as far as user demographics are concerned (see www.orkut.com/MembersAll.aspx). With virtually thousands of communities to join in – get on Orkut and increase your network outreach.

In Brief
GO CDMA launches Pakistan’s first WLL (Wireless Local Loop) telephony (including wireless Internet) service (www.gocdma.com.pk) for more information… PIA (finally) launches e-Ticketing (www.piac.com.pk)… KSE becomes first company in Pakistan to implement a clustered load-balanced web-hosting services… Looking for free online storage? Check out www.streamload.com which offers 10GB of free storage (the free accounts can only download 100MB a month and can only upload files of 100MB at a time) – subscription customer who pay $10 a month have less restrictions on them… Microsoft releases anti-spyware tool for free (in the works a free antivirus tool?) – Microsoft insists free for now (thus the beta notation)… Apple launches iPod Shuffle, the newest and smallest iPod and also the $499 Mac Mini – the smallest and most affordable Macintosh computer you can buy (www.apple.com for more info).

Two cool websites I would now like to mention that I came across that are work visiting:

www.gadgetcraving.com and www.reallycoolstufftobuy.com

This Article was originally written for Money Magazine

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