Windows Client UPDATE--Taking the Plunge into VoIP--August 5, 2004

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1. Commentary: Taking the Plunge into VoIP

2. Reader Challenge
- August 2004 Reader Challenge

3. News & Views
- XP SP2 Has the Pole Position as Microsoft Races to Complete Major Security Update

4. Resources
- Tip: Synchronize Time on Windows XP Systems
- Featured Thread: Problem with XP Pro and Outlook Express

5. New and Improved
- Micro 2000 Enhances RemoteScope Client-Management Product
- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

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==== 1. Commentary: Taking the Plunge into VoIP ====
by David Chernicoff, david@winnetmag.com

I recently went through the unpleasant experience of moving my home. Added to the general annoyance of such a move is the fact that I work at home, so I also had to move my home office--which contains a significant amount of computer hardware and networking equipment. Planning and a little help from a friend made the home-office move go smoothly, but the single most annoying thing to move was something I had no control over: my telephones.

Although I was moving a fairly short distance, I was leaving the telco exchange I'd had for the last 8 years--so I'd have to change my business phone numbers. Changing those numbers is a big deal; I get quite a few phone calls every day from vendors and PR people, and I'd have to alert hundreds of contacts to the new number and make sure they used it.

Because taking my number with me wasn't a simple option from my local telco provider (Verizon), I decided to take a chance and move my office numbers to a Voice over IP (VoIP) provider. I evaluated offerings from the three major players in the consumer VoIP market: Packet8 (http://www.packet8.net), DeltaThree's iConnectHere (http://www.iconnecthere.com), and Vonage (http://www.vonage.com). Although Packet8 and Vonage tout their local-number-porting ability, I selected Vonage based on the combination of price and features found in their Unlimited Business package. (I couldn't determine whether IConnectHere offers local number porting.)

After I signed up online for Vonage's service, I soon received a confirmation email message that included a new temporary phone number that I'd use until the process of moving my number from Verizon to Vonage was completed. I received the digital phone adapter the next business day. (Vonage is in New Jersey, I'm in Pennsylvania; the adapter was sent by regular shipping.) The adapter is required to use VoIP on a regular phone; the vendor includes it in its VoIP service at no extra charge.

My sole concern was that the vendor's recommended configuration for the digital phone adapter was to connect it directly to my cable modem, thereby putting it in front of my router/firewall/gateway. Because I use Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2000 for testing and to protect my network, I didn't really want to put the DPA Network Address Translation (NAT) in front of ISA Server. I did a quick Web search for "Vonage reviews" and, based on the Vonage-user comments I found, I determined that the digital phone adapter should work when it's plugged in to any Ethernet port on my network. I simply plugged the adapter into one of my switch ports and found that it worked just fine.

So far my experience with Vonage's VoIP service has been positive: Call clarity has been excellent, and I've had no service interruptions. Vonage provides two customer service channels: email and telephone customer support. Response via email has been fast; telephone support has been a mixed experience. I found Vonage's phone support employees to be helpful; the downside was a 20-to-35-minute wait to talk to a support rep.

I can easily obtain detailed information about all my phone calls, inbound and out, through the user control panel on Vonage's Web site. Adding features and phone numbers is simple, straightforward, and inexpensive ($4.99 per month for a virtual number). Given the number of clients I have in California, I'm considering adding a virtual phone number in the Bay area to give my clients a local number to call.

Although it seems that the consumer VoIP vendors are experiencing some growing pains, my impression is that the VoIP technology is mature enough for consumer use. I'll report back in a few months when I've had a chance to fully wring out the service and its features.

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==== 2. Reader Challenge ====
by Kathy Ivens, challenge@winnetmag.com

We had no winners for our July 2004 Challenge. Visit http://www.winnetmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=43190 to read the answer to the July Reader Challenge.

August 2004 Reader Challenge

Solve this month's Windows Client challenge, and you might win a prize! Email your solution (don't use an attachment) to challenge@winnetmag.com by August 19, 2004. You must include your full name and street mailing address (without that information, we can't send you a prize if you win).

I choose winners at random from the pool of correct entries. Because I receive so many entries each month, I can't reply to respondents, and I never respond to a request for a receipt. Look for the solutions to this month's problem at http://www.winnetmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=43511 on August 20, 2004.

The August 2004 Challenge:

During a visit to a client site I had lunch in the employee cafeteria, where I couldn't help overhearing a conversation that was taking place at another table. Some Help desk employees were initiating a new member of their team, and one of the topics under discussion was the use of jargon. In fact, it was a technical jargon lesson. See if you know the jargon I overheard being taught that day.

Question 1:
What does SAS stand for, and what does it refer to?

Question 2:
What's a PAN?

Question 3:
What does PCMCIA stand for?

==== 3. News & Views ====
by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@winnetmag.com

XP SP2 Has the Pole Position as Microsoft Races to Complete Major Security Update

As Windows users who are plagued by security problems eagerly await Microsoft's oft-delayed Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) release, signs have finally started to indicate that the wait, at long last, is coming to an end. First, Microsoft Australia mistakenly reported that the company had released SP2 to manufacturing, then quickly retracted the announcement. Then, yesterday, sources told me that Microsoft Windows Update V5, the next-generation version of Microsoft's software-updating service on which SP2's software-updating features are based, has been completed. Taken together, these two events suggest that we'll see the Web release of XP SP2 within a week.

As with earlier service packs, Microsoft will release SP2 in stages. The product will first be available for download to premier customers, then to the general public on the company's Web site (the so-called release to Web--RTW), at which time Microsoft will also begin taking orders for the free CD-ROM-based version of the product. Then, 2 weeks later, SP2 will be available through Automatic Updates and Windows Update. By early September, PC makers will begin shipping new PCs with the software installed.

Although XP SP2 offers much-needed security improvements over currently shipping versions of the OS, you shouldn't take the release lightly. Some of the upgrade's new security features will break existing Web sites, intranet sites, and custom applications. Customers, particularly corporate customers, should evaluate SP2 carefully before deploying it. Nevertheless, my advice is to install SP2 as soon as possible. Regardless of potential incompatibilities, simply installing this release will result in a more secure environment.

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==== 4. Resources ====

Tip: Synchronize Time on Windows XP Systems
(contributed by David Chernicoff, david@winnetmag.com)

Someone recently asked me how a small company could ensure that all the computers in its local network had the same clock time. Many of the company's systems had different times, which caused timestamp problems in an old custom application that the company used. For a change, this was an easy question to answer. You can synchronize time on all Windows XP computers on a network by performing the following steps. (This procedure works only on computers that aren't members of a domain.)

  1. On the Taskbar, double-click the Date and Time display.
  2. Click the Internet Time tab.
  3. Select the "Automatically synchronize with an Internet time server" check box.
  4. From the drop-down box, select the same time server for all of your computers.
  5. Click the Update Now button to force synchronization.

The clocks on your computers will now be synchronized to the same time server on a daily basis.

Featured Thread: Problem with XP Pro and Outlook Express
Forum participant "Mingle" wants to know how to import Outlook Express information for a Windows XP Professional Edition client so that it can access email through a Windows Server 2003 domain. If you can help, join the discussion at the following URL:
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Micro 2000 Enhances RemoteScope Client-Management Product
Micro 2000 released version 2.5 of its RemoteScope software, which lets administrators remotely manage networks of Windows-based PCs. New features and enhancements include the ability to back up critical files on client workstations, a network-wide file-search capability, the ability to create chat rooms or virtual conferences, and a script creator, which lets you write scripts to further customize RemoteScope functions. The product still includes core functions such as remote control, automated software rollout and task management, searchable inventory, license tracking, and scheduling. For more information about RemoteScope 2.5 and product pricing, contact Micro 2000.

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