Here’s why a headset remains the very best way engage on the phone, hangout, video chat, etc.

Whether in the board room, office, home office or car…using a good headset is how I ensure that I can both hear and be heard clearly! This has long been my habit, and if you wish to communicate effectively it’s a strategy that you should consider as well.

In the past I’ve described my rationale on various occasions, even offering recorded examples so you can hear the difference for yourself. I recently found the following nice image that illustrates exactly why a headset is the superior choice.

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A trio of conference phone reviews are forthcoming

There’s quite a list of items here queued for review. It only just occurred to me that there are three different conference phones that have accumulated; the Konftel 55W, Grandstream’s Android-powered GAC2500 and the Revo Labs FLX UC 1000.

Trio of other conference phones

Some of these have been in-house for quite some time. As a lone-wolf in a home-office my requirement for conference phones is considerably less than in years past. Although I have been deploying a number of conference phone in support of ZipDX activities.

There has been something of a shakeup in the conference phone space. For a long while Cisco sold an OEM version of the Polycom’s SoundStation IP7000. That model, now quite vintage, has been my benchmark for many years. In 2013 Cisco replaced the IP7000 with something from Revo Labs, who are a subsidiary of Yamaha Corporation. Their FLX Series has been growing steadily.

Grandstream‘s GAC2500 is their first conference phone offering. I participated in their beta program last fall, prior to the launch of the product. OnSIP have written a glowing review of the device, which tempered my own sense of urgency.

It may be that one of these newer models has a chance at taking the crown.

Webcams in 2016: Where are the USB 3.0 models?

roboshot-12-usb-front-300pxIt may seem like my long, winding exploration of webcams has stalled, but I assure you that’s not the case. I’m moving as fast as the industry will permit. The fact is that the industry just isn’t moving very quickly.

Back in October 2013 I first penned something about my hunt for a USB 3.0 webcam. At that point there were basically none to be had. A few months later when Vaddio presented their Huddlestation product on VUC472 they mentioned that USB 3.0 capable chip sets for such devices were anticipates later in 2014.

Well, it’s now well into 2016 and where are the USB 3.0 webcams? I actually get asked this question quite a bit, most recently in a tweet from George Ou of ZDNet.

While I responded to Mr. Ou, the question comes up often enough that I’d best address it here in the open.

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On The Verge Of Misleading About Devialet

us-phantomThis morning I read an article by Dan Siefert on The Verge about Devialet licensing  the technology in their Phantom Bluetooth speaker. Rarely have I seen such a collection of errors make it to view by such a relatively mainstream media outlet.

For example:

“Sannié says that a system using SAM can reproduce lower frequencies without changing its hardware at all, and it can even enable noise-cancellation without the need for a subwoofer.”

There is no relationship at all established between “noise cancellation” and the requirement for a sub-woofer. Perhaps this was taken out of some larger context where that relationship was defined. Taken on it own this statement is bewildering. It implies something that, at least without clarification, has no basis in fact. Noise cancellation and sub-woofers are usually unrelated topics.

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My First Raspberry Pi Project: Using Hifi Berry DAC to Emulate A Squeezebox

RPI-HB-DACRCA-300pxSome time ago I received a Raspberry Pi B+ as a gift. It had been on my amazon wish list, and for good reason. It looked like one practical approach to emulating the venerable Logitech Squeezebox, which to this day serves as the basis for music playback hereabouts.

Since we were not expanding our music playback scheme there was at first little motivation to got ahead with this effort. That is, until the analog outputs of our existing fleet of Squeezeboxes started to fail. Eventually the analog outputs become unusable, the result of failing electrolytic capacitors. Three of our five SB3s now suffer this malady.

So, not long ago I set to the task of emulating a Squeezebox using a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, a HiFiBerry DAC and a 4 GB micro-SD memory card. To this core I added a suitable case, a power-over-Ethernet splitter and piCorePlayer. All in, this rig cost under $100.

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Opinion: The FTC Loves Robocalls

robocalls_0Recently NPR’s Marketplace featured an interview with Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman of the FTC. The interview can only be described as softball. Host Kai Ryssdal didn’t press her on any of the real issues facing the organization. He most specifically didn’t ask her about the number #1  consumer complaint – Robocalls.

Their own reporting in 2013 indicated that they receive 200,000 complains/month about robocalls. This reality inspired a one day summit in 2012, then the first Robocall Challenge in 2012-2013.

Several other events have since been held in an attempt to engage the technical community with respect to this problem, including:

While they’ve handed out cash prizes, neat T-Shirts and other goodies, they’ve haven’t made any measurable progress in combatting the scourge of robocalls.

Oh, they’re no doubt busy…having a nice time…and engaging the dev community, which are a younger group of people that could have a transformational effect on the organization. According to the recent NPR interview their staff are mostly lawyers ands economists at present, though they intend to add more technologists in the future.

We might not expect much on the matter in 2016. After all, it’s an election year. Elections breed robocalls like mosquitos in a swamp.

I suspect that the FTC is so engaged in their current activities that finding a real, deployable solution isn’t even a consideration anymore. All of the contests and PR exercises have become their M.O.

Hereabouts the robocalls continue unabated, despite being on both state and national do not call registries. Excuse me, the phone is ringing. Again.

Incidentally, it happens that this is National Consumer Protection Week. #NCPW2016