Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Tom Keating
| VoIP & Gadgets blog - Latest news in VoIP & gadgets, wireless, mobile phones, reviews, & opinions

October 2005

You are browsing the archive for October 2005.

Gates on Gadgets

October 31, 2005

Trick or treat? 

Bill Gates recently predicted that single handheld devices will be introduced to meet all our audio/video/communication needs as well as the imminent death of physical music and film formats such as CD and DVDs. 

Speaking at the inaugural Internet Advertising Bureau’s Engage 2005 conference in London last week, he also noted that current mobile phones have only scratched the surface of their potential and outlined what could be achieved with voice-activated, GPS-enabled handsets connected to computers that will have “disappeared into the environment as we are all connected to the Internet.”

He and other speakers spoke about the importance for new technology to be developed that will help people, rather than just creating another flashy gadget -- technology can only serve as a bridge, never as a destination.  Regarding Microsoft, Gates noted that Microsoft systems offer unbelievable power, but the emphasis must be on how to write software to make this power work for the user -- “empowering technology is about everyone being enabled.”

Yoda break dances

October 31, 2005

Garmin 7200 and Garmin 7500 StreetPilot GPS

October 31, 2005

Garmin has also launched two really huge StreetPilot models, the 7200 and 7500. When I say huge, I mean really huge - as in a 7 inch LCD screen for the Garmin 7200 and a whopping 7.5" for the Garmin 7500! I don't foresee either of these GPS models fitting on most typical car dashboards, I think it's probably too high and will hit the windshield. This may explain why they are pitching this GPS solution as "designed for larger vehicles such as RVs, semi-trucks, and buses, which tend to have less of an angle for their windshields and a wider dashboard as well.

It does have some cool features though. The 7000-series GPS models are WAAS enabled, an optional XM Radio, traffic and weather updates, and can play back MP3 files and books downloaded from

Garmin iQue M4 review

October 31, 2005

Garmin announced a few new GPS solutions today, including a new GPS-enabled Pocket PC called the Garmin iQue M4, which is similar to the Garmin iQue M5. Although I did not get my hands on the iQue M4 (yet), I thought I'd provide my insights since I have seen many GPS solutions and can get a good feel of the iQue M4 just from the feature specs. First, this is the first Garmin Pocket PC to come
pre-loaded with City Navigator North America NT covering the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. There's no need for downloads from your PC, although with only 64MB of RAM, you'll probably need to download maps if you travel to another area of the world. It also includes a built-in MP3 player that lets users browse music by artist, album, song, and genre and the music can be loaded onto an (optional) SD card.

Nero SIPPS Connect VoIP softphone

October 31, 2005

I wrote about Nero's entry into the VoIP space a long time ago and was actually taken aback when I read Nero's press releases espousing their VoIP functionality. I was like "Huh? What? My favorite CD/DVD burning software company is in the VoIP space?" Today, Nero is introducing SIPPS Connect, a VoIP softphone application with voice, IM, and video built-in.

AskMeNow Launches

October 31, 2005

AskMeNow's AskAnything service is designed to answer just about any question for which the answer can be found on the Internet. The product reminds me of the TellMe service, which leverages the Internet and telephone network underneath a speech user interface. According to TellMe, over two million callers use their applications to obtain customer service, connect to a directory assistance listing, or check the latest sports scores.

AskMeNow appears to be a bit different in that it doesn't leverage speech recognition as far as I can tell. I believe they use customer agents to process your questions and send you back the results.

HDTV is growing

October 31, 2005

According to Park Associates, HDTV sales in the U.S. will grow 71% by 2009. Gee, you couldn't fool me. I have a 65" Mitsubishi television at home and my cable provider (Charter) still only offers me 4 HDTV channels via their set-top box.

SBC wants to extort VoIP service providers

October 31, 2005

Russell Shaw's blog brought to my attention an interesting BusinessWeek article quoting SBC CEO Edward Whitacre where he basically says in so many words, "VoIP providers will have to 'pay to play' on SBC's broadband pipes". Check out the exact quote from the article.

How do you think they're going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them.

Best of Digital Life 2005

October 28, 2005

More than 170 top companies, hundreds of new products in the consumer electronics, online and video game categories at DigitalLife 2005 in New York!  Which ones really mattered?

The editors from PC Magazine, Sync magazine and the Ziff Davis Game Group gave these products (including best booth) the nod:
* Best of Show Overall: Microsoft's Xbox 360
* Portable Gear: Creative's Zen Vision
* Home Theater Gear: HP's Pavilion MD6580 Microdisplay TV
* Digital Lifestyle Service: Streamload's Media Max
* Game Hardware: RedOctane's Guitar Hero
* Game Software: LucasArts' Star Wars Battlefront II
* Gift for Kids: WowWee's Roboraptor
* Gift for Grown-ups: XM Satellite Radio's Roady XT
* Hippest Booth: Napster
* Best Future Technology: Toshiba's HD DVD player
* Best Show Experience: Nokia's booth

Let’s see how these do when they hit the marketplace …

Live BlizzCon Coverage Starts Today

October 27, 2005

DigitalLife Makes Triumphant Return to New York

October 27, 2005

Last year, DigitalLife was a new, untried idea – taking a consumer-focused version of the Las Vegas-based, to-the-trade-only Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and holding it in New York City.  As I wrote last year, the 2004 show was a great success and this year’s show was even better.  Attendance at DigitalLife 2005 topped 44,700 for the three-day show at the Javits Center -- and let me tell you, it was packed the day I was there! 

This digital playground for consumer technology buyers (and tire-kickers) featured more than 170 of the consumer electronics and video game industry's most prominent companies displaying their latest digital gadgets, video games and online services.  It is always amazing to see the convergence of technology, entertainment and communications continuing as it continues to accelerate.

What would any show be without new product introductions and DigitalLife 2005 was no exception.  There were scores of new product launches and innovative product demonstrations from both leading and emerging technology companies – the latest and greatest in digital music, home entertainment equipment, video games, HDTVs, mobile computing, personal computers, cell phones, digital photography, digital video and broadband Internet access.  Just some of the leading companies at DigitalLife 2005 included AMD, Creative Labs, eBay, Turner, HP, Intel, Logitech, LucasArts, Microsoft, NEC, Nokia, Palm, Sega, Sony Online, T-Mobile, TiVo, Toshiba, Verizon and XM Satellite Radio.  (Quite an interesting mix …)

Next time, I’ll begin taking a closer look at some of the most innovative products I found as I toured the aisles at the show.

VOCAL's Skype Analog Telephone Adaptor

October 27, 2005

VOCAL Technologies, Ltd. (, a developer of software and hardware solutions for the communications industry, gave me an exclusive on their new line of analog telephone adapters (ATAs) that will support Skype Internet phone service, extending Skype service to any conventional or cordless phone. Although this is a Skype-compatible ATA, the ATA still relies on the host PC to run Skype. So this is not a "standalone" Skype ATA device (Skype client embedded into the ATA) which many Skype users have been clamoring for.

However, I did contact the PR person representing VOCAL Technologies and asked, "How does this ATA connect to the Skype software running on the PC? Is it over the LAN or via USB?" This is important since I'd prefer an ATA to sit on the network rather than be connected to the PC using USB.

Juniper news

October 27, 2005

Juniper Networks has been very busy at Internet Telephony Conference and Expo announcing a few worthy news items. I've been busy, so didn't have time to blog these when the stories broke.

- Juniper Networks, Inc. two days ago announced it had acquired Acorn Packet Solutions, Inc. in a cash transaction valued at up to approximately $8.7 million. Acorn Packet Solutions develops products and technologies that natively connect legacy Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) and other circuit-based applications across next-generation IP networks.

- Juniper Networks has announced a network security solution designed to defend voice over IP (VoIP) systems from session initiation protocol (SIP)-based attacks.

The Dynamic Threat Mitigation solution brings Juniper's routers and intrusion detection and prevention (IDP) systems with its service deployment system (SDX) to create a single unified security solution. The solution mitigates SIP-based denial of service (DoS) attacks and worms by allowing enterprises and providers to identify and respond to them individually.

About Randy

October 26, 2005

Consumer electronics "Gadgets" blogger Randy Savicky has written about consumer electronics for nearly three decades from both sides of the editor’s desk – first as a journalist with some of the top consumer and trade publications and most recently as a public relations executive at some of the world’s largest public relations agencies. His writing, for example, spans the history of personal portable audio products – from Sony’s Walkman to Apple’s iPod – and such technology trends as the “classic” format war – Betamax vs. VHS -- to Zigbee and home automation standards.

In his “day job” as President and CEO of Strategy + Communications Worldwide, Inc. (, he helps companies communicate better to their key audiences to achieve their business goals faster and more easily.

Iotum supports Epygi Quadro IP-PBX

October 26, 2005

I just wanted to share this quick bit of news from Iotum and Epygi before I head back into the exhibit hall. Iotum has some interesting & innovative technology that I will have to check out on the show floor. You can get a flavor for Iotum does from the release below. Epygi also has some interesting VoIP technology targetting the VoIP SMB market.

It's a friggin Zoo at this show!

October 26, 2005

I saw Michael Powell's keynote at Internet Telephony Conference & Expo and I was pleasantly surprised by his affable, jovial personality. He definitely drew quite a few bouts of laughter from the jam-packed audience. I really should have brought my camera to the show so I could upload some photos to my show. I have to say, when I think of a FCC chairman, an important regulator, I certaintly don't think of a joking, smiling, affable person such as Mr. Powell.

Buying a Viper using click-to-call VoIP

October 26, 2005

Cool - looks like my favorite car (Dodge Viper) and my favorite technology (VoIP) are merging together. The next Viper I buy from DaimlerChrysler can be done via VoIP using click-to-call technology from eStara (see release below). Of course, I could also just check out eBay Motors for any used Vipers for sale, which no doubt will soon feature Skype buttons for VoIP "click-to-call" connectivity beteween eBay buyers and sellers. Or I can simply contact my Viper mechanic - the Viper Wizard, Chuck Tator who is the Viper "guru" for the entire Northeast and who also happens to sell Vipers at the last independent Dodge dealership in America.

AOL promotes AIM Triton

October 26, 2005

AOL is rolling out a multi-faceted advertising campaign for the new AIM Triton service. AOL is targeting folks aged 13 - 25 through online, print, indoor and outdoor placements (with a heavy focus on college campuses as well as sites like, Pretty amazing that AOL has turned to "advertising" their instant messaging client as opposed to "grass roots" or word-of-mouth methods that have traditionally brought IM software vendors more IM users. AOL obviously realizes that the Instant Messaging market is a high stakes game that they don't want to lose.

Security concerns slow VoIP adoption for small and medium businesses

October 25, 2005

Looks like yet another survey is claiming SMBs are slow to deploy VoIP - with one of the major concerns being security. You wouldn't think this would be the case since SMBs tend to move faster than larger organizations. There is a bright side in the survey that states SMBs "will probably have greater confidence in the security of IP telephony systems within the next 12 months." In any event, check out the interesting VoIP survey stats below...

Concerns about the security of Internet protocol (IP) telephony systems may slow adoption of the technology by small and mid-sized businesses in the United States, research commissioned by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) reveals.

A survey of some 300 U.S. businesses with 20-500 employees found that just 48 percent currently trust the security offered by IP telephony solutions available today.

Skype keynote address covers the whole gambit

October 25, 2005

Skype's Niklas Zennstrom gave his keynote address to a jam-packed audience. He talked about the history of Skype, the present Skype (including the eBay acquisition), as well as the future of Skype. He listed some interesting statistics during his presentation that I thought I'd share.

First, he listed 61 million registered Skype users, but did add a disclaimer that this number hasn't been updated and is a bit higher. He also added that Skype is getting 170,000 new registrations per day.

Linner with Asterisk guru Mark Spencer

October 25, 2005

Yesterday was a very hectic day for me. I didn't have time for breakfast so I figured I'd just grab lunch after moderating the Open Source Roundtable session which started at 2pm and was scheduled to run until 3:45pm. So my plan was to go 14 hours with no food which is no biggie, since I'm not a fan of breakfast anyway. But alas, the session went over and didn't finish until 4:30pm and I still had a meeting scheduled with Asterisk guru Mark Spencer of Digium.

Wireless Broadband on airplanes

October 24, 2005

Some interesting news worth sharing. AirCell has announced the successful testing of wireless broadband that works while travelling on an airplane.

Tomorrow, AirCell will announce the successful completion of its extended airborne demonstration program that allows potential airline customers and others to utilize the AirCell Broadband System's technology in flight.

According to AirCell, this wireless broadband solution is "targeted for commercial deployment in 2007, the AirCell Broadband System will enable airline passengers to use their own Wi-Fi & cellular devices such as laptops, PDA's, phones and Blackberries in a fully-integrated wireless cabin over an affordable, broadband air-to-ground link."

The system uses standardized equipment and a direct air-to-ground link, so AirCell claims that its installation and operating costs will be a fraction of similar systems that use satellites.

"The AirCell Broadband System is really the first viable system for the U.S.

How to iPod enable your car

October 24, 2005

So you want to iPod enable your car and aren't satisfied with FM transmitters or cassette adaptors? Do your discerning audiphile ears require only the "best" iPod listening experience? Well, look no further than the video tutorial offered by Autobytel. Check out their How-to in their news release which includes a link to the video step-by-step guide on how to iPod-enable your car.

Competition and deregulation will drive the VoIP industry

October 24, 2005

Competition and deregulation will be key drivers for the VoIP industry and the telecom industry as a whole. With so many competitors entering the VoIP fray, state governments are worried about potential tax revenue loss from VoIP services. As such some state officials and lawmakers are very pro-incumbent carriers which also happen to have very strong lobbyists working on their behalf. This has the potential to leave the smaller VoIP startups on the outside looking in.

Digium's new 24-port card

October 24, 2005

I happen to be moderating the Open Source Roundtable with Digium/Asterisk guru Mark Spencer at 2pm today, so I will have to get the details on this news below on their new 24-port card. Should be an interesting panel considering a competitor to Asterisk is going to be on the panel, namely Bill Rich, CEO of Pingtel. Chris Lyman of Fonality and Noah Wood of Nuvio will also be on the panel. In any event, here's the Asterisk/Digium news on the new 24-port analog card.

Digium Announces Highest Analog Density Card in Open Source Telephony Market

Wildcard TDM2400P combined with Digium’s patent pending VoiceBus™ technology provides highest analog density available in a PCI card

HUNTSVILLE, AL — (October 24, 2005) — Digium® Inc., the creator of Asterisk® and pioneer of open source telephony, today launched the Digium Wildcard TDM2400P, the most dense and scalable card available for building an Asterisk-based telephony system for SOHO and SME environments.

Arrived in Los Angeles, should be a great VoIP show

October 23, 2005

Well, I just arrived safe and sound in Los Angeles, California for Internet Telephony Conference & Expo. I'm looking forward to my scheduled meetings with several major VoIP companies as well as moderating an Open Source Roundtable discussion tomorrow. My flight on American Airlines was smooth, but since when did AA stop giving any food? I mean not even pretzels. They were charging like $3 for a sandwich bag.

Xbox Live Outage

October 22, 2005

Looks like Xbox Live is going offline for one whole day in preparation for the launch of the XBox 360 and to undergo some improvements. One whole day of no Xbox Live gaming? What will the Xbox Live addicts do? Will any commit suicide?

VoIP mega-merger mania?

October 21, 2005

Nokia L'Amour mobile phones

October 21, 2005

BlackBerry maker RIM's shares halted after patent ruling

October 21, 2005

Art Deco Collectable Chinese rosewood dragon phone

October 21, 2005

Iomega 120 GB Portable Hard Drive

October 20, 2005

Iomega today announced the expansion its popular small hard drive product lineup with a 120GB model of the Iomega Portable Hard Drive, an ultra-slim high-capacity device that is also available in capacities of 40GB, 60GB, 80GB and 100GB. The Iomega Portable Hard Drive series is designed for mobile professionals, is USB-powered and requires no external power supply. Portable hard drives complement USB flash memory which many professionals carry on their keychain, however USB flash memory storage is often smaller and sometimes more expensive than portable hard drives once you start getting above 2GB. The Iomega Portable Hard Drive series all have a sleek and compact form factor that is smaller than most PDAs and is certainly "pocketable" (fits in a shirt pocket).

Netzero dial-up VoIP claims

October 20, 2005

Sony VAIO VA TV-PC VGC-VA10G and VGC-VA11G Media Center PC

October 19, 2005

Sony announced their new All-in-One LCD TV and PC running Microsoft Media Center Edition 2005. The new Sony VAIO VA TV-PC VGC-VA10G and VGC-VA11G both remind me of an all-in-one iMac (monitor and computer combined in the same chassis). I own a Sony VAIO Media Center PC myself, but it's a traditional desktop PC, which sits on top of one of my speakers. I wish I had a thin horizontal Media Center PC so I could slide it on top of my other home theater components.

In any event, I can certainly see this combined "all-on-one" Sony unit (with built-in TV tuner card) being great for cramped quarters such as a dorm room, but I wouldn't stick this in my family room.

Radar Pitch Baseball

October 19, 2005

Radar Pitch Baseball

Ever wonder how fast you can throw a baseball? Some carnivals and amusement parks have netted areas where you can throw your best fastball and have a radar gone tell you how fast you can throw. With Brookstone's little gadget you don't have to worry about being embarrassed in front of your friends for only throwing a 40mph fastball. You can use this regulation-size baseball from up to 80 feet away and it tells you the speed - all in the privacy of your home - well not inside your home, unless you enjoy breaking things. The internal sensing technology measures and reports the velocity of the pitch when it’s caught.

GIPS adds PCTEL to its growing portfolio

October 19, 2005

GIPS signs up yet another hardware manufacturer to use their remarkable voice engine used in Skype, Google Talk, and other VoIP solutions. PCTEL is going to use GIPS technology for to be used on mobile phones, PDAs, and PCs. PCTEL has licensed both the PPC and Symbian versions of GIPS VoiceEngine Mobile to be used in conjunction with PCTEL's Roaming Client family of products. My how far Global IP Sound has come since I did the first exclusive review of their GIPS voice engine on a Pocket PC back in 2003 - before most people even heard of GIPS.

"Our goal is always to provide the highest level of quality, ease of use and reliability available on the market-and GIPS's technology is clearly the best solution available today," said Biju Nair, vice president and general manager of PCTEL's Mobility Solutions Group."We are confident that GIPS VoiceEngine Mobile will allow us to provide the quality levels that our users have come to expect. GIPS and PCTEL have a long history together going back to PCTEL's modem days.

Intel targets VoIP?

October 19, 2005

I just read the news that Intel today announced record revenue of $9.96 billion for the third quarter, up 18 percent year-over-year and up 8 percent sequentially. Intel never seems to surprise me. Several years ago, some coworkers of mine and I were playing stock options on "Option Friday" (third Friday of the month) and Intel was one of our favorite stock option plays, as was Dell. Both always seemed to surprise analysts and never seem to reach a monetary ceiling.

911 service knocked offline

October 18, 2005

According to the AP, 911 service was knocked offline in Southern California. "An equipment problem knocked out long-distance telephone service and parts of the 911 system for tens of thousands of residential and business customers in several Southern California cities Tuesday, officials said.

(sarcasm alert) Gee, I wonder if the FCC will step in and force the traditional carriers to be in full 911 compliance with 7 nines of reliability (99.9999999%). Better yet, since the carriers did not inform their customers of any potential outage due to their lack of redundancy, I think the FCC should fine the carriers for this 911 outage and force the carriers to notify their customers that 911 may not work. I demand immediate action by the FCC to remedy this unacceptable 911 service!

After all, the FCC is forcing VoIP providers to notify their customers of their 911 limitations or else the VoIP providers must cut their service.


Online Bandwidth tester for VoIP

October 18, 2005

Today, a business communications provider offering advanced internet, VoIP, network and wireless services to small and medium sized businesses, announced the release of its VoIP Test for businesses that measures bandwidth, latency, and detects if SIP and MGCP ports are open. Basically, all this is, is yet another online bandwidth tester that also displays latency and does some simple open port detection. Ho hum...

In any event, if interested, the VoIP Test is available at I ran their tests on our T3 Internet connection and it's not looking good.

SWF seeks SWM via VoIP

October 18, 2005

SWF seeks SWM via VoIP click-to-call? The online classified advertising and classified dating (personals) market may never be the same. eStara announced today the first implementation of their Click-to-Call service in online newspaper classified advertising. The Palm Beach Post is the first newspaper to launch this service, which will connect people who visit classified ads to sellers via the phone when they click on an icon online.

Convergin's converged wireline, wireless, mobile VoIP solution

October 18, 2005

Convergin today announced a service capability interaction management (SCIM) solution for fixed mobile convergence and IMS. This new solution creates a unified service delivery platform for wireless, wireline and IP-based networks. The "unified" platform combining wireline, fixed mobile, WiFi, etc. is interesting since the service providers want to be able to provide seemless applications across all the varying bandwidth methods.

Skype Trojan update

October 18, 2005

According to ZDNet, a Trojan horse, a variant of IRCbot, has been circulating on the Internet in an e-mail purporting to be an update to Skype. Yet another social engineering trick to try and get you to open the attachment. Lately I've been getting a flurry of purportedly from Paypal but they are obviously fraudulent emails.

If you open the Skype "update" attachment, it displays a phony installation error message and installs its payload. It also blocks access to security updates and installs a back door on computers.

It's not widespread, nor do I think this virus will become widespread.

HP iPAQ hw6500 GPS solution

October 18, 2005

NAVTEQ maps are being used to Power HP iPAQ hw6500 Mobile Messenger Navigation System? Since when did HP offer their own navigation software? I wonder if the HP GPS software is simply OEM'ed from a GPS software company. Nevertheless, pretty cool that you can get the superior NAVTECH map data on the HP iPAQ hw6500 Mobile Messenger.

Cincom Synchrony meeting in 10

October 18, 2005

Damn you Kernel Mode Caching!

October 17, 2005

Microsoft's IIS 6.0 comes with kernel mode caching for helping to speed up web page load times. Unfortunately, the kernel mode caching seems to have some side effects that are affecting my index.xml RSS feed that many of my blog readers subscribe to. You may have noticed that my blog web pages had blog entries that didn't show up in my index.xml feed until hours later. The kernel mode cache was designed to take heavily accessed files and stick them in the kernel for faster retrieval.

According to Microsoft:
"The IIS 6.0 kernel-mode cache is designed speed up static file performance significantly by bypassing the need to do a kernel-to-usermode transition to generate and serve the response," says Eric Deilly, IIS 6.0 program manager with Microsoft.

Samsung and Apple part ways

October 17, 2005

According to TMCnet, Samsung Electronics Co.'s talks with Apple Computer Inc. on a possible joint investment to produce NAND flash memory chips have broken down, Samsung said Monday.  The Korea Times newspaper reported Monday that a potential 4 trillion won ($3.8 billion) joint investment deal collapsed because Apple decided to pull out after hearing that South Korea's Fair Trade Commission could investigate Samsung over its supply NAND flash memory chips to Apple. Samsung is supplying the chips, used in MP3 players and digital cameras, including the new, pencil-thin iPod Nano music player.

So Apple, with this breakup, and with users underwhelmed with the current crop of iTunes phones, does this mean you plan on producing your own Apple iTunes phone anytime soon? C'mon, Apple, you know you want to!

VoIP Providers Must Send 911 Fees To Pennsylvania

October 17, 2005

The news below could spell disaster for the VoIP broadband providers, including Vonage, Packet8, AT&T CallVantage, Broadvoice, SunRocket, Voicepulse, etc. Basically, this legislation states that monies collected already by the broadband VoIP providers must be turned over to the state - in this case Pennsylvania, but it won't be long before other states follow suit.

As you may or may not know, many of the VoIP providers charge a "regulatory recovery fees", usually $1, but the VoIP providers have been keeping that money. Whether or not they've been spending these fees or using it to increase their balance sheets for any potential IPO (See Vonage IPO) remains to be seen. But it appears the VoIP providers can no longer get away with this.

Broadband choices in America

October 17, 2005

Windows Vista update

October 17, 2005

Microsoft released an update to the test version of Windows Vista, the next edition of its flagship operating system.

The Windows Vista release is is the first in a series of monthly updates to the Community Technology Preview (CTP). Unlike previous betas, Microsoft is releasing more releases on a monthly basis to garner more feedback from those partiipating in the CTP. The update includes a number of new features, including changes in Internet Explorer 7.

It will also include:
• a "Network Center," a central place for managing network connections, replacing the "My Network Places" and "Network Neighborhood" from Windows XP
• early version of Windows Media Player 11

I think I'll get my Windows Vista beta copy from BitTorrent since it'll probably download a heck of a lot faster than Microsoft's FTP servers, which are sure to be overloaded.

Vonage uses Covergence for e911

October 17, 2005

I had a conference call last week with Covergence, about their pending announcment with Vonage that explains that Covergence is the company that powers Vonage's e911 service. Covergence is an interesting company that has been stealthily flying under the VoIP radar screen, including my radar.

Basically, Covergence is similar to a Session Border Controller (SBC) but much more advanced offering unified security and management of network applications. For example, it is application aware, including SIP-aware and can route e911 PSAP information to the appropriate 911 emergency services gateway.

Samsung BCS IP-PBX goes wireless

October 17, 2005

Samsung Business Communication Systems (BCS) has a new OfficeServ Wireless application. Running on Samsung's iDCS 500 IP-enabled, iDCS 100 IP-enabled, and the recently introduced OfficeServ 7200 platform, OfficeServ Wireless is designed to bring WiFi VoIP to the enterprise. The most impressive part of this news in my opinion is that it supports up to 240 wireless handsets even during heavy data traffic. They must be doing some sort of QoS and packet prioritization using ToS or some other QoS methods.

"OfficeServ Wireless allows users to stay connected and be more productive, even when they're not at their desks.

Blackberry Connect on the Palm Treo 650

October 17, 2005

XBox recall and privacy

October 17, 2005

I received a letter in the mail this weekend from Microsoft about the recall on the power cords on the Xbox consoles due to the potential risk of fire (1 in 10,000 Xboxes). I planned on going to the Microsoft website several months ago when the recall was announced, but just never got around to it. So I've already known about this recall on the power cords, but the really interesting thing is "how the heck did Microsoft find where I live when I never registered my Xbox?"

I bought my Xbox when I lived in a condo in Norwalk over 3 years ago, so even if I forgot that I registered 3 years ago, Microsoft should have had my Norwalk address and not my new home address. Even though I forwarded my old address at the post office, I believe mail forwarding expires after 6 months or a year at most.

USRobotics Skype Phone

October 16, 2005

It seems to be a busy week for Skype phones coming to market. First, was my exclusive review of the Linksys CIT200 Skype phone and now as of Monday, USRobotics is offering a Skype-compatible phone. I should point out that this is an OEM'ed version of what appears to me to be the IPFones USB Skype phone that I reviewed a little while back. USRobotics confirmed it was indeed an OEM product, but they did not confirm if it was IPFones or not.

Japan leads in VoIP

October 14, 2005

Japan trumps the U.S. in technology yet again! Japan is developing a new high-speed network for cell phones that will use VoIP for phone calls which can be transmitted more cheaply, thus saving the mobile carriers money, while also making it less expensive for Japanese mobile users.

The government plans to introduce mobile Voice over Internet telephony by 2007, officials said yesterday. The Internet Protocol mobile phones are expected to relay information at up to 15 megabits per second which is more than a thousand times faster than the fastest 3G cell phones now available in Japan (384 kilobits/s).

AT&T solves 911?

October 14, 2005

AT&T says it has solved the nomaic 911 problem. Yeah, we've heard that one before. Nevertheless, AT&T claims it has solved the issue of VoIP users that call 911 from hotels and other remote locations.

AT&T's nomadic solution, called Heartbeat, tracks the location of users. The way it works is that when a VoIP subscriber turns off their ATA device, AT&T's network will automatically suspend VoIP service.

Chitika on MovableType

October 14, 2005

If you're interested in adding Chitika code to your MovableType blog, here is how I did it. First, some hat tips to for promoting the Chitika code and bringing it to my attention. Props to as well, a WordPress-based blog that has several tips on using Chitika. I also came across a few Wordpress plugins for Chitika, which at first inspired me to write my very first MovableType plugin to handle the Chitika ad code.

Walk this way, talk this way

October 14, 2005

A new technology developed by VTT, Technical Research Centre of Finland can judge your walking gait and prevent a cellphone thief from making a phone call on your mobile phone. Walk this way, else you won't talk this way...

This feature prevents unauthorised use of other portable devices such as laptops or PDAs.

According to Reuters, a device is equipped with sensors that measure certain characteristics of the user's gait. When the device is used for the first time, these measurements are saved in its memory. In normal use the device continuously measures the user's gait and compares these measurements with the values in its memory.

DLO Action Jacket for iPod Nano

October 14, 2005

IPEVO Skype phone

October 13, 2005

IPEVO, a Silicon Valley-based subsidiary of PChome Online specializing in affordable Skype-enabled devices has launched a new USB-based Skype phone called the Free-1. The Free-1 USB phone only costs $29.99 so they aren't kidding when they say that they offer "affordable Skype" solutions. They even have $15.99 models on their website.

PChome Online actually launched the first co-branded website with Skype in July 2004 in Taiwan which they claim helped make Taiwan one of the most successful markets for Skype, and now they are going after the U.S. market through IPEVO.

Here are the specs straight from IPEVO's site:

  • Superior sound quality (16KHz sampling rate).

I hate Firefox

October 13, 2005

I hate Firefox and here's why - the damn clipboard problem! Sometimes the Firefox clipboard works and sometimes it doesn't. I guess it depends what mood Firefox is in. Often times when I copy something and then paste nothing happens.

Packet8 is in the Christmas spirit

October 12, 2005

Packet8 is certainly in the Christmas holiday spirit early. It's not even Halloween or even Thanksgiving yet they're offering a special of two videophones at just $99 each or $198 total. They even have a bad Christmas pun - "Be elfish! Buy a Videophone for you and for someone you love this holiday season." Well, check out this email I just got:

Be Elfish!

Internet Telephony Expo press list looking good

October 12, 2005

I'm headed out to Internet Telephony Conference & Expo in just two weeks and Rich's blog just pointed out to me the impressive press list assembled to attend the show, including Forbes, BusinessWeek, ZDnet, and Light Reading, just to name a few.

I'm sure there will be more press at the show than even this list shows right now. It's the end of the year, so there will no doubt be some major end-of-the-year announcements made at this important VoIP tradeshow. Any journalists, especially those in California, really should be at this show or risk being scooped by competing newspapers, websites, or other news outlets.

I'm sure there will be lots of VoIP news happening at this show and I'll do my best to cover all the exciting VoIP news in my blog.

Intellisync introduces mobile IM for Symbian phones

October 12, 2005

Intellisync, a leader in platform-independent wireless messaging and mobile sychronization software, emphasized its commitment to Symbian OS today, by announcing the availability of Intellisync Instant Messaging, a leading wireless corporate instant messaging (IM) solution for Symbian OS smartphone users, such as the new Nokia phones announced today. The solution is being demonstrated this week in booth # 18 at The Smartphone Show 2005 in the ExCeL Centre in London.

According to the Intellisync, "Symbian OS is the global industry standard operating system for smartphones, and is licensed to the world's leading handset manufacturers, which account for over 85 per cent of annual worldwide mobile phone sales. In the first half of 2005, more than 14.5 million Symbian OS-based mobile phones were sold worldwide to over 200 network operators, taking the installed base of Symbian OS phones to more than 39 million. According to IDC forecasts, by 2009, Symbian will control 59.4% of the worldwide converged mobile device market."

“We are very pleased that Intellisync is bringing its ‘always-on’ mobile IM solution to Symbian OS smartphones,” said Simon Garth, vice president, marketing, Symbian Ltd. “Intellisync’s secure and flexible IM solution adds an easy and efficient way of improving business user productivity both in, and away, from the office.”

Their news release states:

Intellisync IM, is a proven, integrated IM solution that provides an IM-on-PC-like experience for Symbian mobile device users, both in the familiar user interface and real-time exchange of IM as well as exchange of content such as pictures, appointments, documents, spreadsheets, vCards, etc.

Google and Comcast want AOL

October 12, 2005

From Greg's blog titled
Comcast & AOL??? Oh my.

This just crossed the wire. Oh my.

These are interesting times indeed.

Google Inc. and Comcast Corp. are in "serious discussions" to buy a minority stake in Time Warner's America Online, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

AOL has been in discussions with both parties separately, the source said. But in recent weeks, Google and Comcast have had discussions to possibly make a joint investment in the online unit of Time Warner Inc.

AOL is also separately in talks to create a joint venture with Microsoft Corp.

Interesting times indeed Greg. I have nothing further to add.

Digium Partner Program

October 12, 2005

Digium Inc., the creator of Asterisk and pioneer of open source telephony, today announced its Digium Asterisk Partner Program in response to the growing ecosystem of Asterisk and the demand for open source-based telephony platforms. The Digium/Asterisk Partner Program includes two different types of partnerships: Asterisk Solution Partners and Asterisk Interoperability Partners, each available at two different levels.

“The Digium Partner Program is a way to leverage the synergies within the Asterisk community,” said Rick Segrest, Marketing Manager at Digium. “Working with our partners to combine resources will help us all showcase the wide-range of applications in telecommunications from SMB to enterprise in various industries.”

A partial list of Digium Partners include:

  • Aculab – Network and communications hardware
  • Aheeva – Contact center solutions
  • Cepstral – Audio, telephony, assistive, embedded
  • Empirix – VoIP test solutions & VoIP test equipment
  • Fonality – Turnkey PBX systems with GUI
  • IPSando – The IP communications company
  • Polycom, Inc. – IP office and conference phones
  • Ranch Networks – IP PBX phone systems for SMBs
  • Switchvox – IP PBX phone systems for SMBs
  • Tello – Business integration software
  • VoIP Reach – VoIP vendor solution, consulting & administration, termination & origination, e411 directory assistance
  • Vonik – Virtual PBX

Digium Partners will be listed and promoted on the partner section of the Digium website. Digium’s internal sales team will recommend and promote Partners’ products for current and future customer referrals.

Yahoo and MSN Messenger IM clients interoperate

October 12, 2005

Apple Video iPod

October 12, 2005

Apple introduced its much awaited video iPod today, ending months of speculation that the company was developing a video iPod. At an invitation only event held at the California Theater in San Jose, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs showed off the new video iPod, which will be offered as a 30GB model for $299 and a 60GB version for $399. Apple was so secretive about their new iPod that I heard they banned cellphones to prevent the news from leaking out before the news was official. No cellphones? I can't help but picture those old TV shows where the reporters all run outside the courtroom and try and squeeze into the phone booth to report the news to their editor - except in this case the reports are all running out the theater door to use their cell phones!

Simply called iPod and not video iPod, the device will be 30 percent thinner than Apple's current iPod models.

Apple iPod Boom or Bust?

October 12, 2005

Nokia E60, E61, and E70 launch

October 12, 2005

Nokia has launched a series of keyboard-enabled phones that have the "look and feel" of the popular BlackBerry devices. The Nokia E60, Nokia E61, and Nokia E70 are Nokia's first keyboard phones that have obviously borrowed a page from Research In Motion's Blackberry devices by offering a thumb keyboard.

The Nokia E61 is due out in the first quarter of 2006 and is the first phone based on Symbian, that features a thumb keyboard. The eSeries devices also include the push-to-talk walkie-talkie feature, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and infrared wireless connectivity, as well as USB 2.0. The phones feature color screens for viewing emails, plus attachments viewing and editing.

DLO TransPod for iPod

October 12, 2005

The DLO TransPod is a very cool iPod car accessory. The TransPod plays iPod over your car stereo, it charges your iPod, and it mounts iPod with no messy wires or clutter to deal with.

The TransPod broadcasts the iPod’s music to any FM radio frequency (selectable via the cool LCD display) from 88.1 to 107.9 while simultaneously charging and cradling the iPod in the car. This saves you the trouble of buying a separate transmitter, charger and iPod holder.

The TransPod works with any dockable iPod, including the new iPod nano.

The Google Universe

October 12, 2005

Chief executive Eric Schmidt estimates that Google won't manage to index all the world's information until around the 24th century. Thus, it would take 300 years to index all the world's information and make it searchable, Google's chief executive Eric Schmidt predicted on Saturday at the Association of National Advertisers annual conference in Phoenix.

"We did a math exercise and the answer was 300 years," Schmidt said in response to an audience question asking for a projection of how long the company's mission will take. "The answer is it's going to be a very long time."

Ok, well that's indexing only Google Earth (bad pun) information. What about the rest of the galaxy or the indexing the rest of the universe, including all the alien libraries?

Skype and Linksys Partner

October 12, 2005

As I predicted, Linksys and Skype would be announcing their new partnership in conjunction with the launch of the Linksys CIT200. I already reviewed the Linksys CIT200 yesterday, but figured I'd share the release in case you missed it. I didn't get the release until late last night, myself.

Linksys and Skype Team Up to Launch New Cordless handset to Drive Internet Phone Calling

New Cordless Internet Phone Provides Convenient Use of Free Skype Internet Calls

IRVINE, CA and LUXEMBOURG Oct. 11, 2005 - Linksys®, a Division of Cisco Systems, Inc., the recognized leading provider of voice, wireless and networking hardware for the consumer, Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) and small business user, and Skype, the Global Internet Communications Company, today announced their global relationship that will include marketing a new cordless phone that takes free Skype Internet phone calling off the computer and puts it into the hands of callers.

The new Internet Telephony Kit (CIT200) provides callers with a convenient alternative to making free Skype calls while sat at their computer, giving them the freedom to make free Skype calls wherever they are in the home or office.

Palm TX and Palm Z22 handhelds

October 12, 2005

Palm launched their TX and the Z22 handhelds today. The Palm Z22 is an especially affordable PDA at just under the $100 mark ($99). (The Palm TX is $299.) It also appears that Palm dropped the names Zire and Tungsten. The Palm TX is targeted at mobile professionals and includes a large display, integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Parking ettiquette rules

October 12, 2005

I am pretty anal about where I park either of my two sports cars. No, I'm not the type to park diagonally and take up two parking spots - those "people" deserve any vigilante justice they receive such as getting their car keyed. Ok, maybe they don't deserve such a severe punishment, but they certainly annoy the heck out of me. If you want to read about "scoring" various parking spots to determine the optimal parking spot, check out this link - a fun read.

In any event, I went to a diner the other day with my wife and I spied two parking spots in the corner of the parking lot.

LignUp FastLign Alliance to speed up VoIP deployment

October 11, 2005

LignUp has created the FastLign Alliance to help speed up bringing innovative IP Telephony services to market. LignUp has previously won a TMC Labs Innovation Award due to its embracing of more industry standards than you can shake a stick at. Apparently, now LignUp aims to help the VoIP industry along by aligning itself with other VoIP players to help ensure interoperability between the various VoIP components including: SIP-to-H.323 internetworking, billing issues, service activation, session border control, far end NAT traversal, VoIP peering and other VoIP connectivity issues.

Here's a snippet of the alliance news.

Level3 Joins LignUp, NexTone, Rodopi, VoIP Logic, CentricVoice, and tekVizion to Reduce Deployment Time and Implementation Costs by Delivering Managed Telephony Services to Service Provider Customers

LignUp Corporation, a provider of Web services-based voice over IP (VoIP) converged communications solutions, today announced the formation of FastLign, an industry alliance working to accelerate the adoption of IP telephony services.

Interesting new VoIP product

October 10, 2005

Yahoo podcast service

October 10, 2005

Linksys CIT200 Skype phone review

October 10, 2005

Linksys CIT 200 'Skype' Phone

Linksys has partnered with Skype to offer a cordless DECT 1.8-1.9Ghz phone complete with a backlit color display, backlit keyboard, and other features, called the Linksys CIT200 Cordless Internet Telephony Kit. The Linksys CIT200 is tightly integrated with Skype utilizing the Skype API for not just making and receiving calls but also accessing your Skype contacts and profiles. At some point today (Tuesday), Skype and Linksys will officially announce their partnership and the official launch of the Linksys CIT200.

A USB base station acts as the "go between" communicating with both the PC (running Skype) via USB and with the CIT200 using the DECT standard. Linksys gave me an exclusive first look at the Linksys CIT200 and I have to say the Linksys CIT200 is probably one of the coolest if not the coolest product that works in conjunction with Skype. One of the coolest features is that you can scroll through your Skype contacts using the Linksys CIT200's color display and you can see their current Skype presence (online, offline, etc.).

The fracturing of the Internet

October 7, 2005

Sadly, the fracturing of the Internet has begun.

First, we have Level 3 and Cogent Communications, two major Internet backbone providers bickering - they've cut off peering Internet traffic to each other. From ZDNet:

Two major Internet backbone companies are feuding, potentially cutting off significant swaths of the Internet for some of each other's customers.

On Wednesday, network company Level 3 Communications cut off its direct "peering" connections to another big network company called Cogent Communications. That technical action means that some customers on each company's network now will find it impossible, or slower, to get to Web sites on the other company's network. more...

Then you have instances of ISPs blocking VoIP traffic.

AOL offers presence to bloggers

October 6, 2005

AOL seems to have its sights set on the blogosphere. After the news today of AOL purchasing Weblogs, Inc, AOL is now offering online presence capability for its millions of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) users to be use in conjunction with online blogs. As part of promoting this new feature, AOL has partnered with Six Apart (MovableType & TypePad), Facebook, Inc., LinkedIn Corporation., and I should mention that Skype already offers the capability to show your presence on a web page.

Wow, AOL buying Weblogs, Inc

October 6, 2005

Satellite VoIP service

October 5, 2005

So you wanna setup an IP-PBX phone system in Antartica and use VoIP to terminate calls, do ya? What's that you say? You don't think you can get broadband Internet access in Antartica to deliver the VoIP packets? No worries - with satellite broadband, you can setup an IP-PBX in the most distant, remote place on the planet.

SIPThat joins TMC bloggers

October 5, 2005

Global IP Sound goes after VoIP hardware

October 5, 2005

Global IP Sound, best known for their fantastic codec and voice engine that handles packet loss, jitter, and delay, employed by the likes of Skype, Gizmo Phone, and GoogleTalk has now decided to enter the VoIP hardware space. Specifically, they are planning on offering their award-winning codec & voice engine to ATA manufacturers to be embedded. If the ATA manufacturers jump on board, this will mean much better sound quality for home broadband VoIP users, particularly during periods of Internet congestion.

Today GIPS announced Voice Quality Enhancement (VQE) for ATA. The module uses GIPS patented echo cancellation technology to improve voice quality in low-complexity ATA box solutions.

Sprint sues Vonage

October 5, 2005

Sprint Nextel has sued Vonage,
and Voiceglo claiming they have infringed on seven patents related to Internet telephony technology.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court by one of Sprint Nextel's subsidiaries, seeking an injunction that would
bar the defendants from using Sprint Nextel's patented
technology and seeks unspecified monetary damages. It's unclear from what I have read if this is related to the Nextel patents that use packetized delivery of voice for the annoying "push-to-talk" feature that Nextel phones have. If it is related to this patent, then one-way CB-radio like functionality is not the same as full-duplex VoIP communication. Besides, VocalTec did VoIP way before Nextel ever did.

From what I understand, the patents cover technology that enable the processing and delivery of voice over Internet Protocol.

Teamspeak the VoIP server for gamers

October 5, 2005

Teamspeak is one of the best kept secrets in VoIP, hidden in the dark bowels of the online gaming community. Teamspeak offers a scalable VoIP application which enables many users to simultaneously speak to one another. It was designed with the online gaming community in mind. In fact, I am told that Teamspeak has over 1 million online users (compared with Skype's 3 million).

Putting Skype on the backshelf

October 5, 2005

FTTH Jealousy

October 4, 2005

Just got this news release on a FTTH deployment that includes IPTV, voice, video, video-on-demand, HDTV, ludicrous 100 Mbps Internet speeds, and more. Man, my cable broadband is starting to look like lame dial-up when I read news releases like this!

Optical Entertainment Network (OEN) announced today their plans to deploy fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) to over 1,600,000 households in Houston, Texas, the 10th largest television market in the U.S. The company, who has partnered with leading European and North American vendors plans to launch its United States service offering in December 2005 and begin European operations in Q2 of 2006.

The company has designed the first truly integrated IPTV service for Video, 10 to 100 Mbps Internet, Voice, Video-on-Demand (VOD) and other broadband applications such as, Home Security, videoconferencing and telemedicine.

UpBeat Audio's iPod Portable Amplifier

October 4, 2005

As if your ears weren't already hurting and experiencing ear tinnitus courtesy of your iPod, a company called UpBeat Audio's new Boostaroo Revolution can amplify the sound even more - up to four times the volume. Not only is it a portable amplifier, but it also enables 3-D surround sound when plugged into any audio player, including the popular iPod Nano. It weighs six ounces, and is about the size of a disposable lighter. They claim that the Revolution is the market's smallest portable amplifier and two-way splitter.


  • Drives two sets of high-end headphones (greater than 60 ohms), or mini-speakers, to share tunes or movies
  • Quadruples the volume
  • Demultiplexes compressed digital music files and images stereo into high-definition 3-channel surround sound

The $79.95 Boostaroo Revolution powers portable players that have a headphone jack, such as: - iPods, including the new Nano, and other MP3 players
  • DVD, CD and satellite radio players
  • Laptops - Pocket PCs
  • Handheld video games such as the Sony PSP, Game Boy or Nintendo DS
  • Motorcycle intercom gear

It is available immediately from and begins hitting the shelves later this month at Dr. Bott,,, Airport Wireless, In Motion, AltiTunes, and Hedonics in Canada.

Free SkypeOut dialing hack

October 4, 2005

In my recent post on a free 411 directory assistance service I stated that in theory you could use SkypeOut to dial 800-FREE411 and then have 800-FREE411 connect your call free of charge, but you'd still use up your SkypeOut minutes. I wrote:

Too bad Skype doesn't charge less per minute for (toll free) 800 numbers - if they did then you could save money by always dialing though's service. Of course, that wouldn't be very nice to since they pay for the call. (when you dial their 800 number and they connect the call)

I thought about checking Skype's website to see if they did indeed discount 800 numbers, but I was too busy to check and I figured one of my blog readers would "catch me" if I was wrong.

Asterisk The Future of Telephony book

October 4, 2005

There's a new book on the popular open-source Asterisk IP-PBX phone system out, titled Asterisk : The Future of Telephony that you may be interested in. One of the coauthors stated, "Shortly after discovering Asterisk, I realized that this phenomenon was going to radically alter the telecommunications industry. I knew that open source telephony represented a bright new future: not just for me, but also for the telecom industry as a whole," says Jim Van Meggelen, "Asterisk is as much a cultural revolution in the IT and telecom industries as it is a technical one." I need to get my hands on a copy and do a book review. In meantime, here are some other thoughts from the various book authors...

Internet telephony with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) hasn't yet reached critical mass, but it's poised to.

Free 411 directory assistance

October 4, 2005

Just discovered a free 411 directory assistance from It's pretty cool, I just called it and it asks city and state. It repeats what you said in a female voice and asks if what she said is correct. You simply say "yes" or even "correct" and it will recognize your affirmative reply using speech recognition.

Mplat FlashPhone for VoIP

October 4, 2005

The Mplat FlashPhone F2K
is a USB device that supports Skype, Google Talk, MSN, Xten, etc. with an integrated microphone and external headphones/ear buds.

I don't know what the deal is with the wet promo image they used on their website. Are they trying to say this is a sexy VoIP device or that it's waterproof? In any event, it comes bundled with Skype, but again supports any VoIP client software.

First city to deploy broadband over powerline goes live

October 4, 2005

Free WiFi a God given right?

October 4, 2005

I was just checking out Ubergizmo, and they posted a story about the San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom declaring that Wifi connectivity is a 'fundamental right', the equal of food, clothing, and shelter. This is the same mayor who shortly after he was elected permitted same sex marriages to take place in City Hall which stirred a political storm and made him a national celebrity after previously being unknown..

In any case, Newcom envisions an "affordable" Wi-Fi network covering the 43 hills, and 49 square miles of San Francisco, with Google as one of the bidders. Whether or not this is simply another "publicity stunt" on Newsom's part or if he legitimately wants free WiFi for all San Franciscans remains to be seen, but they apparently have $200 million extra to burn.

Playing videos or live TV on your Treo

October 3, 2005

The Treo 650 has a very loyal following including developers who are continually adding cool applications to the Treo, including media players. A friend of mine owns a Treo 650 and pointed me to a new Treo media player called the The Core Pocket Media Player (TCPMP) that supports many video formats: .AVI (DIVX/XVID), .MPG, .OGM (OGG media video) and .MKV (Matroska). It supports Xvid, Mpeg4-SP, Divx, MPEG1, and more. The popular Treonauts blog has more on this bit of news (including screenshots) and makes this important point about not having to re-encode the video file to fit on the Treo 650's small screen (the media player does all the work for you):

The best part is that our days of having to re-encode each of our video files for playback on a 320x320 or other small handheld screen size are gone.
Featured Events