Monday, 14 March 2011

Magic Jack - Telephone Service for only $19.99 A Year!

Hello Everyone,

Today I'd like to review a product on the market called Magic Jack. Magic Jack is a VoIP (Voice Over IP) telephone service available for Canada and US for under $2/Month (I wonder if Bell can Price-Match this). Basically, you plug the Magic Jack in to your computer, install the software and plug in your telephone to the other end. Also included in your annual subscription is CallerID, Call Waiting, VoiceMail and Call Forwarding just to name a few. The initial cost for Magic Jack is around $49.99, this gets you the Magic Jack device and also 1 year of service. Additional years after that are only $19.95. Let’s go over the pros and cons and see if this service is right for you.

> $$$: Cost! Even the cheapest telephone service offered by Bell is $24.95/month. In a year, that would cost you over $300, plus the cost of the additional calling features and any long distance you may use. At a price point,  the Magic Jack can't be beat when compared to other VoIP providers.

> Portability: Moving? No problem, the Magic Jack and your phone number go with you. Simply get high speed internet at your new residence and you're good to go. No waiting around "sometime between 9am and 5pm" for the phone guy to show up.

> Travelling: Travelling to a country that charges outrages long distance rates? Take your Magic Jack with you, or use the Magic Jack software to call anywhere in Canada and US for free. Not to mention, your family and friends can still call you on the same number at no cost.

> Voicemail on the go: How cool is this? Get voicemail notifications instantly on your smartphone, the Magic Jack service will even e-mail you the voicemail and let you listen to it on your smartphone or computer!

> Cut the cord on all-mighty Bell: Many individuals are using the Magic Jack as a replacement for their home service. Some people even have 2. Use a second Magic Jack one as a dedicated fax line, or give it to a chatty teenager that's always tying up the phone.

> Sound Quality: Voice quality on the Magic Jack is just as good as your home phone service as long as you have a good high speed service and have it setup correctly. Read the Best Practices (1) below for more information on how to optimize the service to work efficiently for you.

> No Contracts: Don't like Magic Jack? Stop using it. There’s no obligation to keep the service.

> Ball & Chain Setup: Magic Jack always needs to be connected to a running computer to work. This may not be a problem for people who have a dedicated computer that is always on. However users that only have laptops will find that their laptops are no longer portable once they have this service. See the Best Practices Below (3) for a possible solution.

> Number Portability: Currently at this time Magic Jack does not offer the option to port your existing number to their service. Once you switch to them you will lose your number, but will be assigned a new one from Magic Jack.

> Ads: Many people may be wondering how Magic Jack can sell their service at such a low rate. This is because they have the ability to display ads in their application at any time.

> Additional Telephones: The Magic Jack device has 1 telephone jack outlet. People who may not be so technically inclined may not be able to setup the device to work on all phones in their household. Read the Best Practices (2) below to find ways around this.

> Customer Service: I have read a lot of complaints from people that the customer service is really not there for this product. I can't really blame them for selling it at such a low price point, but I think most of the issues that customers have are related to the quality of the service. Having said that, if your broadband connection isn't performing up to par, or if you haven't set it up properly, then there's nothing that customer service can do for you anyways. It’s a limitation of technology not the service. This is one of those "it works or it doesn't" type products. Don't cancel your existing telephone service until you've tested, tested, and tested this product and have made sure that it will work for you. A lot of companies use smoke and mirror marketing techniques to try to get you to believe a product works, but a great deal on a phone line is no good to anyone if it doesn't work. There are many forums on the Internet where you would be able to get assistance from other Magic Jack users, but if you are the type of person that needs help right away, there's a good chance you won't get it here.

Best Practices:

1) Ways to improve your sound quality: Magic Jack relies on your Internet connection to work effectively. A slow or unstable connection can be a nightmare when using this service. Before you purchase the Magic Jack do a few preliminary tests on your broadband connection.

> First thing you want to do is run a speed test on your broadband connection. Visit and run a test on your connection. If you are seeing results under 2mbps download speed and under 300kbps upload speed, then this service may not perform well for you.

> Although I wouldn't recommend it, but if you are going to be connecting your Magic Jack to a computer that is wireless, ensure that you have a strong wireless signal in the location where the system will be. Try running a continuous ping test for about 15 minutes between the system and your router first and verify that you aren't seeing any packet loss or high latency. Packet Loss and High Latency can be a killer to this service.

> Once you've verified everything looks good with your setup, go ahead and pick up a Magic Jack. A lot of big box stores are selling this device too, such as FutureShop.

> If you have applications that are heavy on bandwidth, see if you can enable QoS on your Router. QoS stands for Quality Of Service. This feature allows you to dedicate more bandwidth for crucial services like Voice over IP so that your voice quality is not degraded if you are using the phone and someone decides to download a large file or if you have multiple users sharing the same Internet connection as the Magic Jack.

2) Additional Telephone sets. The easiest way to run multiple telephones off the Magic Jack is to buy a cordless phone that comes with additional sets. These phones only have 1 base station that you would connect to the Magic Jack, and the additional sets would just have their own charging base that only require a power outlet. If you still require all the phone jacks in your home to run off the Magic Jack, I found some information on how you can accomplish this on the following site:

3) Solutions for Laptop Users: If you only have a laptop and can't afford to lose the portability (which most of us can't), or don't want to dedicate an existing computer for Magic Jack, consider picking up a low end Windows XP Embedded Thin Client from a computer store or EBay. You should be able to find a decent unit for under $80. Thin Clients are stripped down computers with just the basic/barebone  components to run an operating system. They are not by any means the fastest computer on the market, but they will work great for this scenario. The best thing about Thin Clients is that they are very energy efficient. Some Thin Clients run at about 10watts and are completely noise free as they don't have any fans or moving parts. Dedicate the thin client for Magic Jack and keep the portability of your laptop.

4) If you still are hesitant to always have a computer running for Magic Jack, there are ways you can "hack" it to make it work with an ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) such as the Linksys ATA SPA2102, however this is against Magic Jack's Terms of Service (meaning at any time they can cut you off) and will still cost about the same as a lightweight Thin Client.

5) If you find yourself having errors when faxing over a Magic Jack, set your Fax Machine to a baud speed of 2400, anything higher could cause errors when sending faxes.

Conclusion: From a price point, you really can't complain about this product or the service. When it comes down to it, this product can work very well for people who have somewhat of a technical background. Don’t expect a Magic Jack technician to come to your home to fix a problem. You are pretty much on your own with this, but keep in mind how often you would have to call your existing telephone service provider for help in the past 6 months. Although it may take you some time to get used to it, if you really want to save that $300+ per year, give this product a chance. Hands down this has to be the best solution for any University/College student living on residence, or someone that's always on the go. I will definitely be trying out the Magic Jack once my current promotional contract expires with Cogeco.

Written By: Amardeep Juneja

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Unlock Your Blackberry For Free!

Your North American Blackberry is most likely "locked" to the service provider you purchased it from. Rogers, Telus, Fido, & Bell do this to keep you locked in to their service, preventing you from using your device on another network. Sure, you could try one of those other unlock services that charge you, but why bother? You can now unlock your Blackberry device for free!

Visit and get your unlock code e-mailed to you within 24 hours at no cost! This site also provides free instructions on how to enter in the Unlock code and complete the unlock.

Take that Rogers!

Written By: Amardeep Juneja

BBM Coming To The Android & iPhone?

Yes, that's right. Rumors on the Internet have been flying around that RIM is currently planning on making its successful Blackberry Messenger app and service available to Android and eventually iPhone users. The strategy behind this move appears to be that RIM can profit by charging a one time, or even recurring monthly fee for users who want this app. The app would be a watered down version of what you would get if you had a Blackberry, but does give you the basic features to send messages without the ability to share photos, locations or videos. (Actually a smart idea, first they get you hooked on the service, but then make you switch to their handhold's if you want all the features)

Sources indicate RIM will be developing the app for the Android first since it would be much easier to develop the app for an open platform, but plans are still in the works for an iPhone version as well.

More updates to follow as they become available.

Written By: Amardeep Juneja

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Apple iOS 4.3 Released!

Apple has released its newest version of the iOS device software version 4.3 for the iPhone 3GS, 4G, iPod Touch 3rd/4th Gen, iPad and iPad 2. One of the biggest features in this new release is the "Personal Hot Spot" functionality. This will allow you to use your device as a wireless router for up to 5 other wi-fi enabled devices on the go! (Your service provider may charge you extra to use the hotspot feature) Some other improvements include faster Safari browsing, enhanced features in AirPlay and iTunes Home Sharing.

As Always, ensure to back up your device before upgrading to the new software version. You can update to the latest version simply by connecting your device to iTunes.

Written by: Amardeep Juneja

Kon Boot v1.1 - Access Any Password Protected System

Now, I don't encourage hacking anyone’s system so I hope you use this tool for good intentions only! Today I'm talking about Kon Boot v1.1. Simply put, Kon Boot is a boot disc that will allow you to login to any Windows or Linux machine without knowing the password for any password protected account.

The software works by temporarily virtually changing the OS Kernel during boot and "tricking" the system to log in to the account without bothering to verify if the entered password is correct. After rebooting, the changes are reverted and the system goes back to its normal working state.

Kon Boot has been tested on the following platforms:

Windows Server 2008 Standard SP2
Windows Vista Business
Windows Vista Ultimate SP1
Windows Vista Ultimate
Windows Server 2003 Enterprise
Windows XP
Windows XP SP1
Windows XP SP2
Windows XP SP3
Windows 7

As well as

Gentoo 2.6.24-gentoo-r5
GRUB 0.97
GRUB 0.97
Debian 2.6.18-6-6861
GRUB 0.97
GRUB 0.97

Again, do not use this to login to systems you are not authorized to use. This tool should only be used as a last resort for individuals such as systems administrators who need access to one of their own machines or in the case you forget your own administrator password and need to reset it.

Kon Boot v1.1 can be downloaded here

Written by: Amardeep Juneja

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Dragon Dictation - Voice Recognition For The Apple iPhone/iPad/iTouch

Hello Everyone,

Today I'd like to talk about an app that you may not have even thought of exists for the iPhone/iTouch/iPad. I'm talking about Dragon Dictation by Nuance. Dragon Dictation is a voice recognition application that you can use for entering notes, text messaging, email, and even updating your social networking status just to name a few just by speaking in to your device. The application is powered by Dragon Naturally Speaking and can be up to 5 times faster than typing on your on-screen keyboard. Dragon Dictation also supports a number of different languages such as English, Spanish, Italian, Chinese and Japanese, Parlez vous francais dragon dictation? Oui :)

This nifty little app will set you back $0. Get it while its free! There's also a version created for the Medical industry called "Dragon Medical" which can be used in conjunction with Nuance's eScription transcription platform.

Final Thoughts on this app. Get it, you won't be disappointed! Why waste time typing out long emails on that tiny little on screen keyboard when you can easily speak the email and have Dragon Dictation do the leg work for you? The application is extremely accurate. But "ip jou tak lak this" it may not be.
Written By: Amardeep Juneja

Monday, 7 March 2011

Review of Peer Software's PeerLock - A Lightweight DFS File Locking Solution

Hello Everyone,

Today I am reviewing Peer Software's PeerLock Server.

Overview: Microsoft DFS is a great solution for corporations to synchronize files in remote locations with their own file servers. One of the biggest draw back to using DFS is that it does not support file locks with multiple remote file servers. Due to this limitation, 2 or more users in different branches can open the same synchronized file and can unknowingly clobber another users changes to a file causing all kinds of complications during synchronization. PeerLock server is a real-time file locking solution that works in conjunction with Microsoft DFS to eliminate this issue.

The Competition: There aren't many other software solutions for this problem. The only other program I was able to find was WAFS (Wide Area File Services) by Global Scape. WAFS takes it one step further and actually does the replication for you without the need of DFS, where PeerLock only does the file locking and requires DFS to work. PeerSoft does have a solution similar to WAFS called PeerSync, but it just seems unnecessary to replace DFS with a paid product that does the exact same thing.

First Look: Peer Software offers a free fully functional 14 day trial of PeerLock Server (Only download it when you are ready to install, your trial starts from the day you download the setup). Weighing in at under 3MB, this is a very light weight application that can also be run as a service. You need to install PeerLock on all of your syncronized file servers running DFS. Once installed, you simply just create entries for all the folders you want to watch for open files. Once configured, you can also install the PeerLock service and run the application as a service. Once you open a file on Server A, almost instantaneously the file lock is replicated to all other partner servers in the DFS group. If another user tries to open the same file at a remote site, they are prompted with a standard Windows file lock message indicating that the file is in use. We have been running PeerLock for almost 2 months now and the software has worked flawlessly. Gone are the days of users complaining that their changes didn't get saved, and different versions of the same file on multiple file servers. Annual Maintenance agreement is required when first purchasing the product which covers you for support and new product version upgrades. The cost of the maintenance agreement is 25% of the purchase, with additional years cost being 25% of the current value of PeerLock due within 30 days before your contract is expiring.

- Lightweight application takes very minimal resources on the file server
- Quick, easy straight forward setup and configuration
- Compatible with all versions of Windows, a UAC compatible version for Server 2008/2008 R2 is also available
- File locks on remote servers are created almost instantaneously

Cons:- Licensing runs at about $1400 (USD) per server. This can get quite costly if you have a large number of servers.
- You can only run 1 instance of Peer Lock running on a machine. Either the application itself or the service. If you are running the service, and you want to view the application to see what files are in use, you have to stop the service (which will release all file locks), and then run the application manually. There is no utility included to see what file locks PeerLock has issued. There is an add-on you can purchase for this functionality from PeerSoft, or use the file share manager in Computer Management.
- No central management of the application. If you add a new DFS share on one server, you need to manually update each server you are running PeerLock on with the new DFS share to watch.

Final Thoughts: I think this is a great product for any small to medium sized organization with remote file servers running DFS. The best thing about this product is that it just works. I have not yet had to call support once, nor have I seen any degradation of performance on our servers after introducing this application. Although from a price point it does seem expensive, but the integrity of the data you will protect and the frustration to yourself and your end users you will avoid is priceless.
Written By: Amardeep Juneja

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Review of ThinkGeek's TK-421 iPhone Keyboard Case

I'm a little late at posting this review. But better late then never.

Today I am talking about the good and the bad of the ThinkGeek TK-421 iPhone Keyboard Case for the 3GS and 4G.

I ordered my TK-421 iPhone Case for the 3GS the first day it was available. Shipping to Canada was quick and painless, it arrived about 3 days after I ordered it.

First Looks: The Good, sorry ThinkGeek, I can't really say much here... The bad, the TK-421 is made entirely out of a flat finish plastic. This makes holding the case a little slippery. A rubberized back on the keyboard would have made it more ergonomic. The hinge itself felt a little flimsy right out of the box, and when you slide the keyboard in and out, it slightly rubs up against the back of the case. The case locks open and closes in place using magnets. The weight of the phone is pretty unbalanced when you have the keyboard open. The screen cannot be angled or adjusted to different viewing angles when using the keyboard. The keyboard itself also adds about double the thickness to the phone. Not very comfortable when in your pocket or holding it as a phone.

Functionality: On the good side. It was very easy to setup the keyboard. You turn it on, search for the device using your iPhone, and when pairing,the phone displays the pairing key to type on the keyboard to pair the device. The keyboard is very responsive with no visible lag at all and the phone always picked up the bluetooth keyboard when switched on. Battery life on the keyboard was pretty reliable, I would always charge it the same time I charged the phone. The Bad side, ThinkGeek supplies a very short, mini USB cable to charge the case. There is no wall outlet charger included. Using the keyboard is a bit awkward. It appears the way Apple has designed the bluetooth stack is that if a Bluetooth keyboard is connected, the on-screen keyboard won't be displayed. This can be a problem if you just quickly need to respond to a text message without having to flip out the keyboard and rotate the phone. The power switch on the case is quite stiff and in a hard to reach position. I had to use a pen just to get mine to switch on or off. After a few flicks on and off it loosens up but its still in a hard to reach place. Sometimes when flipping out the keyboard, the iPhone screen does not rotate as expected. My main issue with this keyboard was the layout of the keys. Since the keys are not staggered like a normal keyboard, getting used to typing without looking at the keys will take some time to get used to. In addition to that, there are some keys placed in spots not standard to other keyboards. Example, backspace key next to the space bar?? It would have been much simpler to learn to use if they had used a keyboard with a standard layout. In addition, the hole for the camera is covered up by the keyboard when its closed. You need to flip out the keyboard in order to take photos with your iPhone.

Final Thoughts: If you REALLY need a keyboard for your iPhone 3Gs or 4G, this is pretty much your only option. However, I must say that I was not impressed with this case at all. I gave it a month but still could not get myself to find this as a useful product. It seems like this case was hyped up everywhere. Numerous blogs and newspapers started chattering about this case months before it was available for sale. ThinkGeek really ramped up the marketing on this case, but I believe it's failed to deliver.

Written By: Amardeep Juneja

UltraVNC Single Click - Free Remote Access Is Just A Single Click Away!

We've all been there at some point. Helping a Friend, Family Member, or a Co-Worker with their computer problems. Trying to walk someone through even the simplest task over the phone can turn in to a never ending nightmare. Sure, there are remote access tools out on the Internet that will let you connect in. But the process of connecting in to the system is sometimes more complicated then the actual problem itself.

How many times have you been in this situation?

"Click Start... And then Run... Type C......M......D.......... no, not CMB, D!... D as in David!.. Great, now. Type in I...P....C...O..N..F...I...G... No, Not IT, I P, P like PAUL!"

I've been on support calls sometimes where it takes a user 15 minutes just to get you their IP address. Now, what if the user on the other end just had to simply click 1 button to connect to you? Think of how much time you would save and how Uber cool you would look.

UltraVNC has a really cool add-on called Single Click. A fully customizable tool for your organization that will allow anyone to Send you an invitation to connect to their system.

The basics: UltraVNC Single Click is a mini (starting at just 166kb), standalone (Yes that's correct, no install, no admin rights required) fully customizable free remote access tool.

As with any software, the Official Build on the UVNC Single Click website does have some bugs that I have worked out (Mainly with Windows Vista/7 Aero & Program Compatibility). Follow the instructions below to setup your customized remote access tool.

1) Download the updated uVNC SC Package I have created here

2) Extract the files somewhere, and go in to the SC_VNC_Files directory.

3) There are a few important files here you will need to modify and customize.

background.bmp - This image will serve as the background image for the program

helpdesk.txt - This is the main configuration file. In here you customize the title, and most importantly, the IP address or Host Name the end user will be connecting to

logo.bmp - You can replace this bmp with your own customized logo. In addition you can also replace the 2 icon files with any icon file you wish to use.

4) After you are done customizing the helpdesk.txt file and replacing customizing the BMP files, go back to the root folder, and run the "Compile.cmd" program. This will compile the application for you in to an EXE file called SC_VNC.exe. You can now rename the file and deploy it to workstations, or even copy it to a network share and just create links on your users desktops.

Your Compiled EXE should look something like this

5) Download the full UltraVNC installer on your computer, and install the viewer only. This will install an application called "UltraVNC Viewer (Listen Mode). You will need to install this application on the system that the end user will be connecting to.

6) After installed, Run the UltraViewer VNC (Listen Mode) application. And try your compiled UVNC Single Click Application on a remote computer. When the end user tries to connect to you, you should be prompted with an invitation similar to below:

A few FYI's about this tool:
- This tool works in all version of Microsoft Windows. Windows Vista and Windows 7 users will notice that their desktop will switch from Aero to Basic. Once the remote session is over, the system will automatically switch back to Aero.

- This tool is designed to work on a LAN/WAN. However, with the right setup, you could also get it to work over the Internet. I've tested over the Internet and I was able to connect successfully. The simplest way would be to setup a DYNDNS account and point the helpdesk file connection to your dyndns host name.

- uVNC works differently on different networks. You may need to adjust the settings in the uVNC viewer for optimal performance.

Thats all for now folks. Stay tuned for more Geek Tweets!

Written By: Amardeep Juneja