P2P VOIP: A Bunch Of Letters That Mean “Free Phone Calls”

Skype is an up-and-coming voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP) service from the makers of Kazaa. Using their experience in P2P networking, these kids have come up with software that has fantasic voice quality. The only problem with it at this point is that it’s computer-to-computer only, and doesn’t connect to landlines like some other services. It’s not fancy, and doesn’t support video at this point, but it’s free and works around the globe. And supposedly it cuts though firewalls like butter, making it great for calls from work.

One more thing: It’s ad-free. For anyone familiar with Kazaa, that’s good news.

Web Archive Saves Deleted Gov Docs

If you’ve ever wondered what the government is hiding from you, you’re going to love taking a visit to the Memory Hole. This non-profit site run by freelance writer Russ Kick archives documents from secret governement sources. While most of the information has little or nothing to do with space aliens or JFK, there’s some pretty juicy tidbits including many released and then retracted reports from the Bush administration’s own assessment on the “war on terror” and other insider information.

Disclaimer: I only mentioned space aliens so you’d check out the site for your own good. There’s really nothing there at all on space aliens. But maybe if you PP this guy some money he’ll come up with something.

Push To Talk Coming to GSM

Nokia has announced the first GSM phone (T-Mobile & Cingular in the US) to support the walkie-talkie like functionality of “Push to Talk”. Why anyone would care, I have no idea. Except construction foremen, I can’t see why anyone would care to have this feature, which is annoying both to recipients of calls as well as those around them. In an apparent attempt to include as many useless features as possible, the new 5140 also includes a digital compass and a virtual “fitness coach.”

Gateway DVD+R VCR “Replacement”

Expanding on its entry into the digital entertainment hardware market, Gateway has released some details on an upcoming DVD recorder for the home theater. The new unit will cost around $350, and works as a standalone unit with no need for a PC — just like a regular VCR. While it’s pretty bare-bones, this device should be useful for those looking to back-up their TiVo programs or downloads on a PC while also adding digital recording direct to DVD to their entertainment center.

Any DVD recorder that doesn’t include a hard-drive recorder as well is of limited use, and will probably come down to $100-$150 pretty quickly. I for one am holding out until the prices come down on combo units like the Panasonic DMR-E100HS.

Nintendo Console Gaming Without the Console

Nintendo’s got a cool new little device on the way called the iQue. The device (left) is a one-generation old gaming console that is entirely contained in the controller. This makes it an ideal device for gaming at a friend’s house or keeping the kids entertained on the road, since it will plug into any TV. The games, which are the same as those for the N64, come on memory cards that fit into the device. Price is expected to be around $60, with games costing probably another $20-$30. An interesting side note: this is the first gaming console ever legally allowed to be sold in China.

Update: it seems the games may be available for download through special kiosks to a flashable memory chip. Whether this is the sole method of distribution is not clear. My guess is no, since while it reduces hardware costs for the end-user it dramatically increases the costs for retailers and complicates existing distribution channels.

Mobile Blogging Software: Nano-Review

In the course of reviewing the Sony UX50 I discovered that it is perhaps the best possible tool for mobile bloggers. But my service, Blogger, doesn’t offer email blog updates and while the web interface is fine from the PC, it’s cumbersome from a PDA. That’s when I ran across Vagablog.

Vagablog is software for any Palm OS device that has wireless access, which means pretty much anything in the Palm Tungsten line, or any number of other units that have Bluetooth, WiFi or cellular data connectivity. Vagablog is a prototypical Palm application: it is simple, cheap and effective. And it works with JournalSpace and Blogger, two very good free blog hosts. It supports multiple blogs too, so if you’ve got a couple places that you like to post this is definitely a great tool.

While the features are pretty limited right now, Vagablog plans to support pictures, basic HTML coding for links, and other features that will make blogging as simple as just jotting down some notes about your day. And the $7 price can’t be beat for a tool that just keeps getting better with each update.

Rocket Geeks Rejoice!

This Sunday night, from 8 to11pm, the Discovery Channel is running Rocket Challenge, a marathon of three 1-hour shows devoted to amateur rocketry. From the previews, it looks like they at least did a great job filming lift-offs and in-flight camera sequences. I’ve been amazed that there haven’t been more of these rocketry shows on Discovery, TLC, etc. Hopefully, we can look forward to more in the future.

Sterling’s New Blog

Street Tech pal and Chairman of the Cyberpunk Faction of the AARP, Bruce Sterling, has a new Wired-sponsored blog.

Check out the item about our former bOING bOING (the print zine) and Beyond Cyberpunk! (the e-book) mascot Kata Sutra, apparently now a sleeper agent at the Business Software Alliance. Their character, Meg A. Byte, sure does remind us of our favorite hacker grrrl. I sure hope they’re not playing fast and loose with our intellectual property! That would be wrong.