Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ooma phone system

For last few years a company called Ooma has been creating a lot of buzz with the promise of unlimited phone calls within US. When it came out first, it turned out to be too good to be true. They were selling an instrument which connected to your high speed Internet connection and home phone and provided unlimited long distance within US. VoIP based system like similar services from companies like Vonage etc. Difference is that you do not pay any ongoing monthly fees. At least per the company you would get free phone service for life.

Few years back price was bit high. Like $400 for the equipment. Company also went through a lot of changes. Recently, I started seeing a lot of buzz again. Price of the equipment also had come down. Like $200 now. Vonage service which I have had for 5 years now was becoming expensive and unreliable. Thought I would check this out this time.

So, ordered Ooma from my favorite web retailer Amazon.Com. Cost around $215. Got the system in a week or so. Setting up was a breeze. First registered the device on Ooma's web site. That is the activation part. Then connected the Ooma hub to the cable modem and home phone and voila, I have a new phone system and was able to start making calls in no time. Call quality has been good so far.

Ooma seems to have gone a step further in VoIP with several enhancements which make it a superior service compared to plethora of other VoIP providers like Vonage. Vonage which was very good when started has consistently fallen down in quality with unreliability. Ooma also has built in QoS system which adjusts the bandwidth consumed by other applications on your network by prioritizing traffic. So, you should not see any drop in quality while downloading or uploading large files like using Torrents etc. This takes away the need to use Hawking broadband booster etc. which I was using to control upstream bandwidth.

Also, it makes sense economically. Vonage's limited plan was costing me like 20 bucks a month. Ooma will be paid off in less than 10 months. After that it is really free. Even if the company goes belly up or something else happens as long as you can use the service for 2-3 years, you will have made more than what you have spent.

Ooma package also comes with a device called Scout which gives another full fledged line without a new number. That's really smart. I have not had to use it but if you have a need for multiple lines, you can use it. By purchasing additional scout devices, you can expand the base system to have additional lines.

Ooma also offers premium features for a price of around $100 per year. I have not bought any yet. At this time, they are allowing Multi-Ring free of cost. This is one feature that is very nice. You can have your cell phone or other phone ring when somebody calls you on your Ooma number. If they take away this feature, that will be somewhat of a problem but with free calling you can not complain.

All in all, a very positive experience so far. I had also liked MagicJack. But, it requires that the device is always connected to a computer which needs to be always on and connected to the net. MagicJack is really useful when you travel. All you need is some broadband connection. Go online, connect your magicjack, put on your headset and you can make free calls to any number in the US. Ultimate test of this was when I was at Seoul airport last year enroute to India. Made a call from Seoul to a calling card number in US to make a call to India using free Internet service offered by the airport.

Hope your experience with Ooma will be as good or better if you choose to try it out.


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Monday, May 25, 2009

Greatest mistake

"The greatest mistake we make is living in constant fear that we will make one." -  John Maxwell

They say that the most of the greatest discoveries are 'stumbled upon'. If that is so, we won't stumble upon anything if we do not move at all. So keeping on moving all the time is the source of all good things. Sometimes we may stumble upon on a stone, fall down and skin our knees. Thinking that we will always hurt ourselves, if we refrain from moving, there is no chance that we will stumble upon anything including anything worthwhile.

'Tortoise can move only when it sticks its neck out.' You know, tortoise is fairly immune to all sorts of external attacks when it draws itself in its hard shell. But, it can stay safe and it can not also move at the same time. In order to move forward, it has to stick its neck out. When it has its neck out, it is also vulnerable. But, that does not stop tortoise from sticking its neck out and moving forward.

'Greatest risk is not taking any risk at all.'

As long as we make it a point to factor in for some amount of mistakes, it should be fine. We start dreading  mistakes because during planning we tend to think that things will go as planned. That is very naive and stupid. If you have some experience, you always know that things that you desperately want happen always take more time than expected and things you never imagined happen from nowhere. When things that we did not want occur from nowhere, it surely leads to disappointment. The disappointment is more especially if we had not planned for it all. So, the right thing to do is to always make ample allowances for such things and then start off on our mission. With this mind set, all small irritations do not bother us that much. We just need to remind ourselves that we had not thought about this particular thing but we had put a blanket contingency for this sort of things.


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Brilliance & BS

"If you can't dazzle with brilliance, baffle with BS."

No additional explanation is necessary. Is there any? :)


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Wanna rock the boat?

'Rock the boat'- heard of this expression? Used like 'He does not rock the boat. He goes with the flow.' Used in corporate settings like - 'He puts up with a lot of senior management bullshit. He just wants to hang on to his job. He does not rock the boat. Just bidding his time.'

An idle discussion with a friend gave a new perspective on 'rock the boat' recently.

My friend, who I consider as one of the most pragmatic, practical and philosophical persons I have ever known said something on the lines like this. "You job also sucks. I have a lot of good ideas. But, I also know that with all the things going on in my place of work, it just does not make sense to rock the boat. Let me stick it out here for a while. I am outta here after that."

"I do not want to rock the boat. I know that first of all I am in a leaky boat. Leak is getting bigger and bigger day by day. To make things worse, the boat is in a crocodile infested lake. The leak is so big that actually a crocodile's snoot is sticking through it and kissing my bottom. Luckily, the croc is not able to open its mouth and grab me. That's good. To make things even worse, wind gust is picking up and boat is rocking as such. When I am in all these predicaments at the same time, you think I will rock the boat? You must be kidding."

Wow! I thought. How far one can take a simple expression like 'rock the boat' and describe the situation so nicely with a great analogy. Here crocodile infested lake is his company,which like many other companies is going through difficult times. Crocodiles are people around him who are also battling out for survival and his bosses who are eager to cut him or anyone at his level to save a lot of money. Leaky boat is his position. Winds brewing is the economy deteriorating.

He said all this in a few minutes with his inimitable touch of humor which is always so classy. So, next time when somebody challenges you to rock the boat, make sure you are in good condition before you do.


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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Voting machine v/s Weighing machine

"Stock market is a voting machines in the short term. It is a weighing machine in the long term."- Warren Buffet

Gem of wisdom from one of the best investors of all time. In the short term, some stocks are so hyped that it feels as though it is a popularity contest among stocks than anything else. It's only after a long time, real value rises up to the top after the fancy has faded. This is especially true of so called new age stocks. Go back and see what has happened to many high flying stocks of  last dot com boom etc.

Buffet does not get caught up with voting contests. He weighs them. In order to weigh a stock, he would like to understand them. Because weighing a stock here means finding its intrinsic value over a long time. That's why Buffet does not invest in stocks that he does not understand. Look at his holdings. All boring companies. Soft drink company (Coke), a few insurance companies, metals, food etc. Basically bread and butter kind of stocks. Despite this,his holding company has beaten market over and again. He too has had a poor streak over last few years but his performance has not been worse than the market in general.

This is not to mean that you should stay away from new age companies. Important thing is to understand what you are trying to accomplish. If you spot a good opportunity with a fancy stock, go and buy it. But, be sure to know when to sell it as well because popularity wanes as fast as it rises.

By the way. Buffet's new biography 'Snowball' is a great read. I listened to the audio book recently. It is the first book by any author that Buffet has authorized. He has spent several hours with the author and that shows up in the authenticity of the book. Several nuggets of wisdom from this man's life. You may enjoy reading or listening to it.


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