No Dublin Office but need a Dublin Number? Skype In will do nicely

We’ve got two problems.

  1. We’re Drogheda based and so have an 041 instead of an 01 number. People still have a hangup about calling out of their area code (maybe goes back to the old Dept of Posts and Telegraph Days, if you’re old enough to remember the old Orange Renault 4 Vans).
  2. We’re often out of the office (doing important consultant-y things on client sites).

Skype Logo

We could use a Virtual Office, but that would be overkill most of the time. Instead we use SkypeIn, which has given us a London number for over a year now (+44 2081 23 2081) for just over 30 Euro. Conor reported today that SkypeIn finally has Dublin numbers available. So after signing up, our new Dublin office is (+353) 01 44 33 123.

We’re fairly open about who we are and what we do (hence this blog post) ; but a lot of people find it reassuring / convenient to be able to use these numbers instead of a mobile.

Update: John Ward makes an important point about the geographic restrictions on the users of these Dublin numbers, and probably (re) started a discussion on ‘what is a Dub?’ (See comments)

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How to make your Nokia 770 think it's a Nokia 800 (OS 2007 upgrade)

If you read the comments on the Nokia 770 Review – mobile internet without holding a PDA brick to your ear, you’ll see that the following themes pop out:

– The need for a full browser : the default one (Opera mobile) doesn’t play well with Ajax, so you’re hoping that there is a functional HTML only website version available (e.g. there is for Google mail , but for a lot of other websites you’re sunk). Big problem for James.

– Skype rather than just plain VOIP for free telephone calls. Yes , I know it’s feeding the corporate monster, but it’s the one that I happen to use.

– A general feeling of being slow /being left in a Cul de Sac: Not a problem for me , but Ken is reporting that it has been discontinued.

Nokia Internet Tablet n800

Upgrading to the latest version of software (Nokia OS 2007) should solve the problems to a greater or lesser degree. It gives you a Skype client. It allows you to run a Firefox based browser. It gives you more choice of programs , both commercial and open source. Problem is that it isn’t officially possible.

Some details of how to do the upgrade are at http://nokia770.com/370 . Remember , it’s called hacker edition for a reason. While I don’t think you’ll lose the information on your flashcard, don’t quote me on that. Basically, you download the unsuported version from http://tablets-dev.nokia.com/ then use the standard PC based installer to transfer it to your Nokia 770. Et Voila! It thinks it’s an Nokia 800. I’m still playing with it , so don’t be surprised if there is another post in 10 mins cursing it …. initial impression is that it runs (noticably) faster.

Best option is to be like Elly and marry your Linux tech support.

Mobile Internet without holding a PDA Brick to your ear

For a (semi) Techie, I’m not that much into gadgets. Until now , there are only three that I’d class as ‘must haves’.

  • Vodafone Broadband internet card – it means I can get the Internet on the train. Living in Drogheda with a lot of clients in Dublin, this means about 10 hours extra a week when I’m now connected.
  • Hard Disk TV recorder – most of the good shows are on after 10pm. I’m up early most mornings and that is way past my bedtime.
  • A Phil and Ted. You either know what this is , or you don’t , but if you have one you’ll swear by it.

Nokia 770
Now I’m going to add a fourth : the Nokia 770 , bought solely on Damien’s recommendation. It’s not a phone , more of a big screen that you can add your existing phone (it connects pretty automatically via bluetooth, and will use any available wireless network). It solves the problem of using internet on your mobile ; before you had to choose between a normal-ish phone with a tiny internet screen, or a large screen but having to hold a brick to your ear to make calls. It’s almost small – about the size of 2 decks of playing cards.

I was getting a bit worried before it arrived as Elly has one and is cursing it, but it solves two problems for me:

  1. If on the train / other location, and can’t use my laptop (e.g. I didn’t get a seat and I’m standing up), then I can still get (fairly decent) access to email and other online services (Google Maps, Del.icio.us bookmarks, LinkedIn Social Networking being the ones I’ve tried so far).
  2. When I couldn’t be bothered getting out the laptop (e.g. 5 minutes before a meeting), it’s useful for a quick check.

So, it’s not perfect , but it does the job that I want it to do ; for a little over 100 Euro – Bargain. Yes , it could be quicker, but it does a fairly good job of showing most websites (including this blog, the main site and the wiki). It’s a pity it doesn’t have flash, nor play the BBC internet radio , but I’m sure I can get downloads for it. It does do GoogleTalk for free Voip calls and have other internet radio stations. And , if you’re bored you can use it as an MP3 player. Battery life (4hrs) isn’t great, but (a) the charger is very very light and (b) if I need internet that much I’ll use the laptop.

An added bonus is that I’ve been looking around for a simple ‘Contacts Management’ solution. The 770 has one built in , with more that you can download /access online. Not holding my breath that it will solve this problem as well for me (would never have considered a PDA before), but icing on the cake if it does.

As a personal quirk , I like the fact that it’s an open platform (it’s Linux based). What it means for normal people is that there are plenty of 3rd party downloads if there (I’ve added a PDA and a console to monitor web servers) without having to pay through the nose. While I’ve dabbled with development for mobile devices, that wasn’t the main reason for buying this thing.

It will be interesting to see how Conor, Niall , Walter and Gordon are getting on with theirs. And to answer Michele’s question, the email client is ok , but I’ll end up usign Gmail (they’re hosting Firstpartners email , no synch issues.)

Update: Ken also has a review, with real life pictures (give a better flavour of the size of the thing, even though the screen is much sharper in real-life.

CRM Experts predict 2006

TechTarget is running it’s CRM predictions for 2006. Among the top predictions are:

  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management) will become less of a standalone function, and even more highly integrated with business process.
  • SugarCRM (Open Software) will make it’s breakthrough into the mainstream (we told you so).
  • SugarCRM will not only become a viable alternative to low-end Oracle and SAP , but also to online services , such as SalesForce.com
  • Voice over Internet (VOIP – think Skype) will become increasingly important in the  call-center.

Technical Knowledge Base – Just Launched

Our Technical Knowledge base has just been launched.

We found that over the last 5 years , 80% of the solutions we were building were the same. How many ways are there to take information from the web, apply some business rules or logic to it, and then save it into a database?

Currently the knowledge repository contains information on Enterprise Java , XML , Eclipse, Oracle, Architecture, Project Management as well as a lot of useful links for Dublin, Ireland and Technical specific areas.

The public area to the site can be found here. All information is generic, non-client specific, and can probably already be found on the web, although it is much easier to read it here!

Voice is the future of the internet (VOIP)

If somebody took away your web connection, you’d moan a bit, but you’d get on with your life. Lose your email connection, and those nice people in tech support better sort it out, and fast!

Voice over the internet (VOIP) is a similar ‘killer application’. You may have heard of it during the ‘EBay buys Skype for $2.6bn’ deal. One of the best introductory articles on the subject is on O’Reilly
(Slightly Technical).

Even if you don’t have access billons of Euro, here’s a list of things that it can do for your business:

  • Free calls between employees.
  • Reduced cost calls to ‘normal’ telephone numbers.
  • Give your UK and Irish Telephone numbers, diverted to your mobile , at minimum cost.
  • Low cost link in for teleworkers call centres , instead of being in the one building, can be distributed into employees homes.
  • Telephone and Video conferences at a fraction of the cost of specialised equipment.

Do you think Eircom can match 2c a minute calls, not just to Ireland, but most international destinations? Calls to mobiles are currently about 22c, but this is cheaper than many of mobile-to-mobile rates currently on offer. All this for one (very easy to use download) from Skype. There are other products, but this is the easiest to use.

On a more sophisticated level, products like Asterix give you a mini telephone exchange running on your PC. Normally you wouldn’t get too excited about this, but if your telephone system is just another web application, then you could customise it almost as easily as you do your web site. Some of the ideas that the being dreamt up are:

  • Combine it with Voice Recognition software (IBM has a good package) so that users could ‘talk’ to your website.
  • Interactive games, with users phoning in answers
  • Low cost Data Capture (e.g. Sales reps phone in orders direct to SAP, no need for expensive laptops)
  • Outbound calling with premium info – e.g. Horoscopes or Weather forecasts (be careful with this one, or your customers will not thank you for it)

How do you plan to use Voice over the internet?