ABC Tower   ABC Nightlife 2 June 2006

Tips & Hints

Posted 16 July 2006

The August Nightlife show looked at the death of Windows 98, email ettiquette and Voice Over IP.

VOIP, or Voice Over Internet Protocol, is the next big Internet thing. VOIP allows you to make telephone calls over your Internet. The technology has been around for almost as long as the Internet itself, but the arrival of consumer friendly products has made it accessible to homes and small business.

To use VOIP you need a broadband connection and a way of talking to your friends, colleagues or relatives. You can use a telephone type handset, headphones or a microphone and speakers to talk and listen. It's important to note that the usage will count towards your account, so we don't recommend VOIP if you have an Internet account that penalises you for excess usage.

The easiest and most friendly way into VOIP is Skype, which is free for Skype-to-Skype and easy to use. Skype offers free calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world and cheap rates to normal phone users, although their rates aren't economical for local Australian calls. Their software can be downloaded from

Skype are not the first, or only, VOIP provider, another popular program is VOIPBuster. Voip Buster offer free calls to other users as well as free calls to certain countries phone numbers. VOIPBuster rotates the countries it offers free calls to so the free countries this month may not be free next week.

There are a number of Australian VOIP providers. The advantage of Australian companies is that they usually offer cheap calls within Australia, which is a major saving if you are dialling within Australia. Freshtel is the most common software company and offers 10c calls anywhere in Australia.

The alternative to the VOIP programs are are the many hardware VOIP providers, these provide a box which you plug into your Internet connection and a handset so you can talk. The most popular Australian provider is Engin. Which also offer 10c calls around Australia.

Internet providers have also jumped on the VOIP bandwagon. Most offer a number of plans which include VOIP. It's best to approach ISP plans with caution as many of them are confusing. The best place to review ISP plans is Broadband Choice.

For businesses, there are many other options which can link into your existing phone service. It is best to talk to your existing telephone provider before replacing your existing phone system with a PABX. You can experiment with a VOIP system with your existing broadband service, but we'd steer you towards a commercial service for your business calls.

Voice Over IP is a great way to reduce phone bills and keep in touch with friends and relatives. We'd encourage all users with a broadband connection experiment to experiment with it.

We covered a lot of ground on the Nightlife and so didn't get through to as many callers as we normally do. The callers that did get through included the following problems:

Wireless Broadband
Geoff asked if Wireless broadband was suitable for VOIP. Our view is no, the connections are often too slow or have too high a latency. However a number of listeners disagreed.

Most Wireless providers have a no-obligation trial period. So you can try it without risk. If you'd like to try a Wireless broadband, then they are available from most retailers.

Dead Motherboard

Strange messages from a computer are rarely good news. If they are appearing before the Windows screen appears then they are even worse news. David called about various messages that appeared when his computer started.

This is a motherboard problem. It might be fixed by resetting the CMOS, which is something a tech should do. Replacing the motherboard might be necessary, this can sometimes be more expensive than replacing the entire computer.

Windows Updates
We strongly recommend updating Windows on a regular basis. Margaret called with a problem running her updates. Microsoft have instructions on fixing Windows Updates problems.

As usual our apologies to the many callers who couldn't get through. The next Nightlife computer spot will be at 10pm July 14, but that is to be confirmed. If you"d like to be kept up-to-date with our schedule then subscribe to our newsletter
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