Switching From Vonage to Google Voice For Free Home Phone

So I have a big Comcast internet pipe, so I thought there just has to be a way to get home phone service for less than Vonage, which is close to $30 a month. I took a look around and found a solution that while a little dicey, got me where I wanted to be – home phones that ring for free AND using my original land line (well now Vonage) number.

The steps to port started with a trip to Wal-Mart, where I purchased a T-Mobile “Monthly” phone for $20 (monthly is their new word for pre-paid – which is what I was after.) I have read that you can do this for even cheaper by popping into a T-Mo shop and picking up an even less expensive SIM and use it in an existing phone. I’m guessing that you can do this on any wireless carrier.

My final goal is to get my land number ported to Google Voice. Google lets you port numbers in, but only mobile numbers – this is why I have this cheap little phone with it’s 10 minutes of built it call time. This is where the leap of faith comes in. To activate the mobile phone I called T-Mo’s activation line and was pretty quickly asked via automated menu if I wanted to port an existing number. This threw me to a human and I asked them to port my Vonage number to the prepaid phone. They said it would take 24 hours. 30 hours later, nothing had happened, so I called T-Mo and they said I would need to call during normal business hours. Great – I have a feeling this is going to be painful.

The next day I called again (I had asked for a direct # to the porting department the night before) where they looked up the port, and said “oh, it’s almost done, hold on – O.K. it’s done.” Suspicious, I hung up and called the land line number, and sure enough the plastic little phone rang! Next I called Vonage and cancelled the account – a pretty nice feeling. Step one was complete.

Next I needed to port to Google, so I logged into Google Voice and clicked the “gear” and clicked on “Voice Settings” where I found the port a number button. When you click this, Google goes out to find out if the number is mobile (which it had just become ūüėČ ¬†) and reported back that it was able to do the port. Next up is another $20 as that is what Google charges for the port, followed by a bevy of “Are you sure???” questions, warnings, and statements. When I got to the end, it said the port should complete within 24 hours.

About 26 hours later I got an email saying the port was complete! Nice! Step 2 complete. Next I wanted to get a rug to tie this room together – make the phone lines ring when my Google Voice number is called. I hopped on Amazon and picked up an Obi110 device – Voice Service Bridge and Telephone Adapter for about $50. When the device came, I replaced the Vonage device with the OBI110 and logged into their site and registered it. Their instructions had you check the Google Chat box back in your Google Voice settings ( had missed this the first time through). After I got a completed setup with OBI, I picked up my cell phone, dialed my good ‘ol land line and shazam! Phones ring all over the house just like they had at the beginning of the week – only now for FREE (well $90 later I have free phone service.)

My wife says the quality is better than Vonage, and I have to agree. There are some considerations using this setup – 911 calls are not automatically routed. But this was going to be the case if we had decided to jut go Cell anyway. Google Voice may not be free forever. I’m guessing they stay free, but I can cross that bridge later if need be. There are other low cost alternatives to hosting your Voip number, so maybe a port to them would be a fix for that.

C# Path of dll vs. Application path vs. EntryAssembly path vs. Form path

OK, I have stumbled on this one a few times so I thought I would blog it up so that I had a place to come and find the answer. The problem most recently was an application I wrote that I use as a command line tool, but other times as a class that hits a constructor. Either way a property file is needed, and depending on the way I call it I had trouble finding the path to the config…

The problem is, when you use Microsoft Visual Studio to launch the debugger, the Application.StartupPath can’t be relied upon, as it points to the Studio directory. At run time it might work, but not for the case I had in mind where I needed to know where the DLL itself was.

So you can use this:

System.Windows.Forms.Application.StartupPath

But that is for a windows form startup path – useful, but not for me.

This will give you the directory the app started in (but again, it may be a Visual Studio directory if debugging):

Application.StartupPath

And this will give you the process executable in the default application domain, or the first executable that was executed by AppDomain.ExecuteAssembly – again, not what I needed:

System.IO.Path.GetDirectoryName(System.Reflection.Assembly.GetEntryAssembly().Location)

Finally, the winner is (and look closely – GetExecutingAssembly vs. GetEntryAssembly)

System.IO.Path.GetDirectoryName(System.Reflection.Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly().Location)

This snip allowed me to find the directory where the DLL was currently executing, and thus the config that sits next to it. So many ways to get at run-time information! Hope that helps you!!

Google Android Market VS. Amazon Appstore

There are plenty of 2nd party App-Store wanna-be’s out there like SlideMe.org, AndroLib, AndAppStore and others that have tried hard to crack the Google Android Market gold mine, but have had only mild success. While Google rested on their “we own it” laurels, and did little to bring the Android Market to the public in bigger ways, monsters like Amazon now loom in the background – threatening t o bring real web development and internet sales skills to the table.

Google may have the lions share of the app sales game at the moment in the Android space, but are they moving too slow to lead?  Recently the search giant introduced a new web presence for the Android Store that allowed online browsing, and push to phone Рsomething sorely missing from the Android experience, but possibly too little too late.Google needs to step up their game here I think, or the doors might be open exposing the castle keep here.

The thing with smart-phones and app stores is that they need to be sexy! You have 10 minutes to kill, so you turn on your phone, hoping to be amused, informed, amazed. Google’s less is more search interface, while perfect for the desktop experience, doesn’t fly here. ¬†The current Android Market web experience is like it came from the same department – sans sex. Google needs to bring in some designers and marketers that know how to make me A) open their app store when I have 10 minutes, and B) be excited to be there and get new stuff.

Amazon has recently moved into Google’s space with their Appstore. ¬†Having looked at it from the beginning, months prior to the release, I can say that they have really come a long way. ¬†In fact, I think maybe they have even one-upped the big G’s gold standard. They have editors (that are used to selling stuff!!) writing content for app descriptions, and have an app submission process that is getting pretty sweet. Their one click purchase system makes it a breeze to get that new app, and their Appstore is fresh and feels right.

Look for more competition in this space, as there is plenty of money to be made here. ¬†For now, these two behemoths have the dance floor and while it may not yet be even money, look for Amazon to do everything in it’s power to be in mobile as a formidable leader.

Motorola Xoom Standard Dock Review

Along with the Motorola Xoom Wifi, I picked up the standard dock for it as well.  The dock itself is a heavy little thing, which gives it plenty of stability when you are touching your tablet while docked.  The Motorola Standard Dock comes with an adapter for gel case users, and a power supply. The power supply is the same proprietary adapter that the Xoom uses (no surprises there I guess) but still made me disappointed once again that the device is not powered by mini-usb.   The tablet light sensor lines up nicely with a dot on the dock so you can easily get it into position. Also included is a standard jack to route your audio into a better sound system without fuss when docked.

 

I like the dock overall, but here is the list:

Good:

  • Sturdy, heavy duty feel
  • Sound routed to external system works great
  • Charges unit
  • Stays “dim-lit” so you can see your desktop/apps when not in use
  • Makes for a great living room end table slide show dock

Bad:

  • If you are a developer and think this thing will have a mini-usb pass through so you can develop and debug while docked, think again.
  • The viewing angle while docked, to me, seems a bit steep
  • MSRP is $50 – are you kidding me? ¬†You can find it cheaper, but still…

So there you go, aside from a few complaints this thing is a solid addition to the Xoom. ¬†I’m guessing a nice Bluetooth keyboard would make this thing a pretty handy travelling PC. You can pic the dock up at Amazon over here:¬†Motorola Standard Dock and Power for MOTOROLA XOOM (Motorola Retail Packaging)

 

Motorola Xoom Wi-Fi Review

The day finally came where the price point and no need for a data plan device stars aligned and I found myself down at the local Costco picking up the Motorola Xoom – Wifi version.

The device was on the shelves 3/27/2011 (and not 3/26 РI stopped in and checked, just in case.)   As a bonus for using Costco, they throw in a free gel case, and dropped the MSRP from $599 to $589.  I got there pretty early, but from what I could tell only one other had been sold at that point.

 

The Good:

  • The build quality is amazing – super sturdy
  • The battery life is great (and it was even charged out of the box)
  • Honeycomb (Android 3.0) is polished and ready to contend with any tablet OS
  • The speed is great, makes my Nexus S seem slow (and it’s not…)
  • WiFi is great, even picked up my shoddy WiFi at work all day
  • Micro-SD slot!! ¬†Stereo Speakers!! Decent Camera! ¬†Flash!! Camera Flash!!
  • The Honeycomb built apps (like Gmail etc. are all so much better than the phone versions, with preview and all kinds of extras.
  • Mini-HDMI and USB
  • Tethering to my Nexus S was seamless

The Bad:

  • This thing is heavy – I thought the same of the original iPad – build quality/battery showing their head?
  • Apps – tablet specific apps are in the 50’s as I write this, not thousands like the iPad. ¬†Also, a few apps simply don’t like the layout and hung.
  • Probably a setting, but new apps stick icons on your desktop
  • I find the power button on the back side to be in a weird spot
  • It has a proprietary charger, not the mini USB, so car charging is out for now

With the 90 day return policy I felt confident to pull the trigger on this Moto-offering, and I can tell you I haven’t been anything but pleased in the outcome. ¬†I even ponied up and ordered the dock which comes tomorrow. All I can say is you have to get one of these. ¬†If you have been waiting for the right moment to get in on the tablet bandwagon, now is the time, get yourself a Xoom.

 

TFS Instance Appears Read Only Until Mapped

OK, I’ve run into¬†this one with Microsoft’s TFS server a few times so i thought I would talk about it to help me remember it.¬† MS has come a long way with their version control software, with TFS light years ahead of some of the old versions of Visual Source Safe, but there are always “duh” moments that a co-worker helped me to remember today.

At my job we use a single TFS server and have instances that are created for various groups in the company.¬† If you want access to another instance you open a ticket with the IT folks to give you permission to get at it.¬† There are 2 types of access, read only, and an “Advanced” developer mode that gives you the keys to the candy store.

After my request for total control of the TFS repository was completed, I went into Team Explorer and then into Source Control and saw the new instance ready to go.¬† I wanted to create a directory and start adding some code to the repository but noticed that by right clicking “New Folder” was grayed out.¬† All I saw was “Refresh” and “Add items to Folder”.¬† My security request had surely been mishandled I thought (or less likely I had asked for the wrong access ūüėČ ).¬† I opened another ticket and got – “You already have “Advanced” stupid”.

Well, a few minutes scratching my head had me stumped and wondering what to do.¬† I checked with the owner of the repository and he said I should be good to go as long as I have advanced.¬† Oh, and have it mapped correctly.¬† Mapping!!!¬† This is the key!¬† Just because the repository is shown in your Source Control Explorer, until you have it mapped you might as well only have read access.¬† So I right click on the instance, choose “Map to Local Folder” and enter the path that I want to map it to and POW! – we have liftoff!¬† I now have a correctly mapped folder that I can create folders and add content to my hearts content.¬† On to the coding!

Redirect a Site to Sub-directory with a Little aspx code snip

So my problem was I installed DotNetNuke on a web host provider, but they forced you to put the install into a subdirectory.  I needed a way to permanently redirect anything that came in to http://original.com to http://original.com/new.  Turns out that the following little code snip does the trick, all without losing your search engine ranking Рdouble score!  I saved this in the root of the (ASP.net) site as Default.aspx

<script language=”c#” runat=”server”>
private void Page_Load(object sender, System.EventArgs e)
{
Response.Status = “301 Moved Permanently”;
Response.AddHeader(“Location”,”http://www.new-url.com”);
}
</script>

FunnyDawg.com Web Hosting == complete FAIL

Wow. ¬†What a lousy day. ¬†Today I found out what a huge FAIL FunnyDawg.com is. ¬†They had been my web hosting provider for the past year and it cam to a huge crumbling mess today. ¬†I knew going in they weren’t exactly the biggest name in domain hosts but I gave them a chance and wish SO badly that I hadn’t.

Over the last year my suspicion¬†that FunnyDawg really is just that – a dog, were aroused by a few bad experiences. First they changed “control panels” and let me know that I would have to start a new account a few months into it all, and start my site over. ¬†Great. ¬†Next up the Dawg is really messed up – have 2 domains? ¬†They are both called FunnyDawg-small in their admin console. ¬†Have fun drilling into each one to figure out which is which every time you go there. ¬†Want to update your DotNetNuke site? ¬†Fat chance there buddy, no admin rights to install new plugins or get updates to the ones you have.

This is pretty annoying stuff but today the FunnyDawg.com folks really showed what they are made of. ¬†2 weeks back I cancelled domain hosting for my 2nd domain “y.com”. ¬†Sure enough, their admins dropped y.com from the admin panel. ¬†February comes and they charge me for x.com AND y.com hosting. ¬†I opened a ticket today and sent them this:

Hello, I opened a ticket and never received a response:
[263-14666E1A-1842]
I am being billed for hosting a domain (y.com) that I
cancelled. Please reimburse and discontinue future billing.
Thanks,
Mike Allred

So what do the geniuses at FunnyDawg do? ¬†Delete x.com and close my account! ¬†Awesome! ¬†OK, no problem, site is down a half day, I’m gonna live because they are going to fix it. ¬†I open another ticket. ¬†The response?

Sorry once an account is canceled it cannot be reactivated and must be re-ordered.  You were billed for the existing account which you wanted deleted.  The account was deleted and refunded per your request.

Huh? ¬†I requested a deleted account? ¬†Long story short, they claim they cannot reactivate the account. ¬†Everything is gone. ¬†History. ¬†Several emails later with the FunnyDawg.com owner and half witted “Billing” person I’m guessing they leave my with “nothing can be done.” ¬†WOW. ¬†You guys couldn’t admin your way out of a paper bag.

OK so the obvious: never use FunnyDawg.com web hosting – it’s a complete joke. ¬†I posted a comment on their forum asking if I was going to have my site issue addressed. ¬†They deleted the post. ¬†When I said I would let people know about his great site, the scum bag that emailed me also suggested:

If one thing is posted anywhere you’ll hear from our attorney immediately!

HAHAHA. I suggested he is an idiot, and posting reviews of his lousy web hosting site would be my new hobby.

Check them out, I warned you.

Sharing the Family Media – Subsonic

For some time I have been looking for a way to easily share the family media. I have a networked house (including a domain server – overkill?) and a family full of media users. Recently the problem has moved beyond our 4 walls as the little tykes have grown and moved to their respective colleges. I needed a way to take the media to the internet and recently found nirvana.

Enter Subsonic. Subsonic is a great little software gadget that sets up a web server on your computer that can be accessed from wherever you are. There are Android apps, iOS apps, and a decent browser interface that lets you play music and videos right in the browser. Like what you are hearing? Just click the download button and you can transfer it to your current location (like your phone, or friends house…)

Install and setup is not for the beginner, but not an expert only solution either. Check out the site for downloads: http://subsonic.org. I highly recommend this as a great way to access your media from the web – wherever you may be.

No Internet connection… Weird Gateway of 0.0.0.0

So I rebooted tonight after a Windows Update and found that I no longer had an internet connection. I checked the usual suspects – cables, routers, switches, modems etc. – no luck. Took a look at my ipconfig and found a mysterious 0.0.0.0 gateway in addition to the usual 192.168.0.1 – something looked foul. I tried ipconfig release but nothing helped. Here is what I did to fix it:

1. Right-Clicked on the desktop, chose new->shortcut
2. Typed “C:WindowsSystem32cmd.exe” (no quotes) as the location
3. Right clicked on my new shortcut, chose “Run As Administrator”
4. At the command prompt I typed:

ipconfig

5. This gave my IP config like this:

Ethernet adapter Local Area Connection:

Connection-specific DNS Suffix . :
Link-local IPv6 Address . . . . . : fc80::c559:6cf0:33c0:15c5%11
IPv4 Address. . . . . . . . . . . : 192.168.0.144
Subnet Mask . . . . . . . . . . . : 255.255.255.0
Default Gateway . . . . . . . . . : 0.0.0.0
192.168.0.1

5. This gives you a list of your internet adapter info, one of which is your IPPv4 address. As you can see above, the weird gateway is listed before the normal one. Here is the command that I used:

netsh interface ipv4 delete address “Local Area Connection” addr=192.168.0.144 gateway=0.0.0.0

This removed the strange 0.0.0.0 gateway, and my internet connection ! If you have the same issue, make sure you change your ip in the command replacing the 144 address I had. Good Luck!