Good Ideas Lost

May 19, 2008 by Ben Sayers

As with many of my blog entries, the intended audience is just as much my staff as anyone working elsewhere and is not necessarily focused on the VoIP industry as much as it is general business, entrepreneurship and effective management. Please comment with the intention of improving the idea and providing additional value and insight.

At VoIP Supply, we are not a large company by any means, but large enough to have a layer of management between the executive layer and the departmental team members. While sometimes this layer of management is a bridge for the staff to reach out to the owners with ideas and suggestions, often times it is a dam preventing ideas from reaching the surface for a variety of reasons.

Often times the management layer uses its insight into the big picture to filter out ideas that do not mesh with the business direction and needs while at other times the ideas may not fit well with the agenda of the individual manager that it is presented to. Still other ideas are not presented in a manner compelling enough to make it to the top and therefore never receive their intended audience.

While it is in many ways the responsibility of the management team to push up staff ideas just as it is their responsibility to push down executive decisions and requests, it is also the responsibility of the team member to push their ideas and suggestions until they receive sufficient feedback indicating either that the idea has been pushed up or it was not pushed up for a particular and valid reason.

Make the wheel squeak–the loudest one is usually heard first and either oiled (implemented) or thrown out with valid reasoning and justification.

The take away: do not assume that because you had a good idea and presented it to your manager that it was heard, fully understood and moved up the chain, adequately re-presented to the company executives. As often as it is, it is not. I, though perhaps not like everyone else, enjoy hearing from staff members directly when it comes to their ideas and suggestions. Bringing an idea directly to the executive team is highly encouraged and the squashing of such action by my management is highly discouraged regardless of the intent to not waste my time or shield me from something that does not fit the needs and direction of the business. Even if the idea is not a good fit at the time, the value to me and the increased value of the employee comes by way of simply having an idea and presenting it well.

My door is open to anyone at any time. Your ideas are valuable and I’ll decide if it is a good fit for the business now or in the future. This statement is true for employees, customers, vendors, partners and the like.

Jangl and LiveUniverse a Perfect Fit?

Over the last two weeks, rumors have swirled around the industry as to the fate of the once promising voice start-up Jangl, who looked to be in shambles after running out of cash and seeing the departure of their co-founders and engineering team to JAJAH. For those of you not familiar with Jangl, they are a voice 2.0 company with a variety of web-based calling solutions, most notably their “blind” calling service that allows online dating participants to make calls between one another without revealing their true phone number.

This weekend, it was announced that Jangl had been acquired by LiveUniverse, a video, social networking and music media company headed by MySpace founder Brad Greenspan. LiveUniverse, which touts over 55m visitors a month across all of their properties, already has the following and the brand advertisers that Jangl desperately needs in order to be a profitable stand-alone business.

Fortunately for those left at Jangl and LiveUniverse, it does not appear that Jangl will necessarily be a standalone play. Although it certainly has the potential to be a stand-alone business, Jangl has had most of it’s success as a “white label” provider of voice functionality for online dating sites and social networks. The most logical next step for the LiveUniverse is to integrate Jangl’s technology across their web properties making this acquisition more about purchasing a piece of technology, rather than a business.

Next to integrating the technology across their properties, LiveUniverse would be smart to continue to try and attract more social networks and online dating sites as white label customers of their voice capabilities. The downfall of this, however, is that voice is still not a demand feature for the users of said sites. So is the marriage of LiveUniverse and Jangl a perfect fit? I think so, although I believe that it is a perfect fit because the Jangl technology compliments LiveUniverse’s current offerings and enhances the features that the company can offer to their web “guests.” I doubt, though, that the acquisition will do much for the company by way of direct revenues.

Trixbox Integrates GPL Patched/Forked Version of FreePBX

VentureVoIP has an interesting story commenting on a recent post on the Trixbox Forum.

As you may know, Trixbox began as [email protected], and was rebranded Trixbox. [email protected] made use of a configuration tool called AMP (Asterisk Management Portal), currently known as FreePBX, created by Philippe Lindheimer.

FreePBX and Trixbox Joust

Well, Trixbox is distancing themselves from FreePBX, and has moved to create their own GPL forked configuration tool, which is more tightly integrated with Trixbox. Trixbox also cited security concerns, faster bug fixes and improved features as additional reasons for the change. Trixbox has released CE v2.6.2 (build 2.6.0.18), which includes the GPL patch for their integrated version of (formerly) FreePBX, and is currently BETA.

This announcement led to some verbal jousting on the official announcement thread within the Trixbox forums.

Not hard to read between the lines of this one. The team at FreePBX has had growing commercial aspirations of their own over the past year and has made some strategic moves in order to monetize their software tools.

Here are some snippets from the original Trixbox announcement:

…And with the recent decrease of training revenue, it is getting even harder.

Read: FreePBX launched their own Training Seminars which put them in somewhat of a competitive position versus Trixbox’ own FtOCC trainings.

trixbox CE has grown significantly since then, as has FreePBX, once under the reign of Coalescent Systems, then under Rob Thomas and now the trio of James Scanlin (who is the business guy), another partner (who is mainly silent), and the hard-working (yet only single developer!) Philippe Lindheimer.

Read: Trixbox is unhappy with FreePBX’ timeliness of response to bug fixes in conjunction with Trixbox CE. By integrating the FreePBX configuration tool, they are no longer beholden to the FreePBX development team.

And, when we do dutifully report the bugs (in exhausting detail) back to FreePBX we oft get back a request for large tracts of money to fix the bug. Look: we would love to pay large sums of money to FreePBX.

Read: We (Trixbox/Fonality) realize you guys are ambitious…why would we fund you in order to take a run at us?

Perhaps FreePBX is emerging as a potential rival to Trixbox. These impressions are my own, and I don’t claim them to be hard facts. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and to see the reaction from both supporters and detractors within the OSS telephony community.

IPCS Word(s) of the Day: Day/Night Camera

Day/Night Camera = “Day/Night Cameras” are regular cameras with an especially sensitive CCD chip that allows a good image to be captured in very low ambient lighting (regular lighting – not infrared). Do not confuse these cameras with “Night Vision” cameras which is another name for infrared (IR) cameras. Refer to the manufacturer specification to determine if your particular camera is classified as a “Day/Night” camera.

You Have PTZ On the Dome!

May 16, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Making the decision to do a PTZ upgrade was step one, so now we need to move into our next phase of choosing what type of PTZ camera you will need.  Ultimately the topic discussed here today can be applied over several different options when buying an IP Surveillance Camera.

Our very first question is none other than… “Is the camera going to be located indoors or outdoors?”  This will give us the first ideas as to what types of enclosure you’ll need to support your new surveillance set-up. 

Enclosures and location will go hand in hand when taking the first leaps of your purchase.  Dome is the most viable solution with all of these circumstances.  Going with a ceiling or wall mount can work to be interchangeable between indoors and out (with regards to the hardware’s materials).  Newer model PTZ cameras have began to focus on delivering PTZ to household consumers outside of the dome.  These options are available on such models as the TrendNet TV-IP400 or the 4XEM IPCAMWPTZ.

With the exception of some home- based and behind-the-counter set-ups, the dome is highly recommended for its versatility and vandal-proof features.

Portable Skype AND a PSP?

Sony and Skype so happy together?

Well here it is people. Skype is working with Sony to make a portable game station, mini DVD player, Wi-Fi access and now Skype account. Wondering what this is? It is a new gadget for the PSP. That’s right, the PSP and Skype are working together to make you an all-in-one device. Take a look at this from Villu Arak over at the Skype blog. Want more screen shots? Then check out Andrew Brennan’s blog here. Or you can just read the official release info from Skype. So now that you are aware of this, and some of you have that craving to get the newest tech, then I suggest you still do your homework. Just remember that this is still a work in progress, and I do foresee some bugs…

One: Wi-Fi access. What if you are not around the strongest signal in the world? Will there be an echo or dropped calls? Can the device compensate for this? To go along with this trend, what about echo? Will the software have echo cancellation? Here is a scenario I see happening: You’re at a Starbucks, or hotel with an open AP. You have access and it’s a weak signal, then your call drops, or you can hear yourself on the phone. Who do you blame? The access provider, Skype or PSP? With this working on a public network like a hotspot, there is the endless possibility of devices using non-echo cancelling hardware. Just a thought…

Two: Headset for the PSP/ microphone for the system. You’re telling me that this thing cannot use the built in speakers and have a microphone in the attachment to make this a complete conference phone? Now that would be a great idea.

Three: PSP hardware. What if you’re one of those many people that bought the first PSP systems. Sure they work great. DVDs, games, every other function works great, but what about getting this Skype to work? Will you need to trade in your PSP for a newer model? Will the newer model be more? Can you even resell or eBay your old one in an attempt to get money back?

So with those issues in mind I ask you to please think about it. Read up on Skype, Sony, and blogs about when and how this will be deployed.

IPCS Word of the Day: Covert

Covert =  A covert application refers to a situation where you don’t want the person to know that they are being watched or recorded.  Also known as ‘hidden’ cameras or “nanny cams.” Covert cameras are typically legal in a residential setting.  Individual states have various laws concerning the videotaping of employees or business patrons.  In many states, it is necessary to post signage notifying employees and/or business patrons that they are under video surveillance.

Citel Acquired by Tortel USA, LLC

May 15, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Just had a surprise visit from the folks at Tortel USA, LLC, whom have a local office in the Buffalo, NY area. I was surprised to learn that they have recently acquired Citel.

If you are not familiar with Citel, they make some unique products that allow businesses with hefty investments in legacy telecommunications gear from Nortel, Avaya and other tier1 vendors to gain the benefits of IP communications without scrapping their digital handsets. Citel’s Portico TVA products facilitate the redeployment of existing digital handsets from 85% of manufacturers, Nortel, NEC and Avaya included. No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater any longer, and your existing phones can enjoy a second life in service to a new IP PBX core or IP centrex hosted service such as Broadsoft.

The cost savings incurred by not having to purchase new IP phones when migrating to an IP PBX are huge. In my experience, handsets can often represent the majority portion of the overall expenditure when implementing VoIP.

Another benefit here is not having to retrain all of your employees on the functions of a new IP handset. They gain the UC benefits of a new IP communications platform, but the overall user experience is much more seamless and certainly less traumatic for users.

Tortel has deep roots in the traditional Nortel pbx channel, and this acquisition makes a ton of sense from a standpoint of being able to “hit the ground running”. I spoke with them at length, and came away with a sense that Citel was in the great hands, and likely has a bright future.

Linksys Visits IPCS

The folks at Linksys were nice enough to come visit our offices and teach us more about the features Linksys IP Camera systems have to offer. Ed Draper and Dave Hornstein (filling in for Andrew Lissitz) showed us the importance of IP Camera bundles, Power over Ethernet switches and Network Attached Storage (NAS). The guys displayed a PVC2300 camera and all of the free applications included with the camera.

These included:

  • a choice to disable LED lights
  • the ability to chose your stream type
  • detachable lenses
  • creating a recording schedule
  • image settings
  • stream speed
  • full audio
  • motion detection settings
  • mobile phone streaming

and many others.

Realtime Review of Nimbuzz

Nimbuzz: is it buzz worthy?

Nimbuzz

Taking a look at Informationweek.com for the latest releases, I came across this little article. The piece talks about a beta program, Nimbuzz!, in the works to include VoIP services, IMing, Texting (SMS) and Chat all on a mobile phone.

What are even better are the investors of the program: “The company has received several million dollars in backing from venture capitalists, including $10 million from Mangrove Capital Partners, which was the original backer of Skype.”

Want even better news about this? Well, “With this new release, we now also have a genuine free mobile VoIP solution that works on more than 90 handsets including Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Samsung, and LG.”

One more thing about it: And I’m sure you will love this….ITS FREE!

So at this very moment I am downloading it, going to test it and will reply soon with a post on my findings.

Update:

I have tested this program out on my Facebook, MySpace and cell phone, and I have to say I am completely impressed. It is very easy installing the software, just as easy to log into it on your cell phone, and I have not noticed any bugs or issues as of yet.

One thing I did notice is the wide range of programs it will integrate with. Here are some just to name a few: Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Xing, Blogger, LiveJournal, Flicker, Ebay, Outlook, and many many more.

So I urge you to take a look and let me know what you think. It took about 30 minutes of my time to plug the applet into my personal areas, and it’s not difficult to figure out. If you decide to test it out I would be very interested in your thoughts good or bad.

Later!