Monday, July 26, 2010

Amazing Advances in Technology

Being a phone man for thirty years, I have watched many changes in both the telecommunication corporate world and the technology used to drive the phone business. From AT&T to PacBell, then to Pacific Telesis and then SBC and then finally back to at&t (small letters), I have seen AT&T go from the world's largest phone company, only to be broken up into seven regional companies, then reformed back into one of the world's largest phone companies, once again.

But it is the technology that has really been the game changer. I started out with good 'ol tip and ring (phone speak for positive and negative), dial phones and a new technology called touch tone. Then they started adding calling features to the phone service. Voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, all added to the the phone experience. Then came the faxes and pagers. Again, this sparked a boom to the industry, but with that boom came the next problem. Not enough telephone numbers. So to help alleviate the problem, they first started by requiring that a "1" be dialed before the area code. That lasted for a while, but soon a new technology was to arrive...the cell phone. Again, the number pool was getting smaller, so now it was time to add more area codes. This was usually not a pleasant undertaking. People and businesses had to change phone numbers that they may of had for years or even decades. In some cites, you need to dial 10 digits, just to call a neighbor across the street. But the change was needed to expand the availability of phone numbers.

Then came the Internet, and phone lines were being used for a whole new technology, DSL. With the explosion of the Internet, faster data transmission was needed to accommodate the advances in web page design. More and more transactions were moving across the Internet and the phone lines. But this technology was a double edged sword. With the higher data transmission speeds came a new technology called VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) that would allow you to bypass the normal phone company to make phone calls that were free or very low cost. The traditional landline phone was fast becoming a dinosaur. And since that was the division of phone service I was in, I too, was becoming a dinosaur. As the company downsized, I became part of the discards.

After that short history lesson, it brings me to the original point I was writing about. The VOIP service, Skype. I've had Skype for a while now, but didn't really use it a lot because it required me to sit at my computer to make a call and it required the person I was calling, to be at theirs. Did a few video calls to my friends, but that was about it. But last week I bought a subscription to Skype that allows me to make calls to any land or mobile phone in the US and Canada, for free. So now, the people I call on Skype don't have to be at their computer to receive the call. Then, I took the next step and bought a local Skype phone number, so now our friends can call us, where ever we are, even in Belize, as though it's a call to the 805 area code. And it comes with all the features, such as call waiting, voicemail, etc. And to add to the experience, I bought a Skype phone, made by Logitech.

The land line phone, the cordless phone and the Skype phone

It works just like a cordless phone, dial tone and all. In fact, it has better range and quality than my cordless phone. I just pick it up and dial, or I can choose from my Skype list. And with all the features available, the $5.00 a month access with a phone number and the portability, I can see why the land line is becoming a dinosaur. And you can pick your telephone number from anywhere in the US or Canada. You want a New York, New York telephone number, no problem. How about Miami or Vancouver? Again, no problem. At the airport with wi-fi access? Starbucks? Got Skype there too. Just bring along the phone and you have a cordless phone for on the go, able to receive calls anywhere in the world.

Not the same 'ol phone company.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Pieces Are Coming Together

It's been over a month since my last post and we are slowly progressing ahead. We are done with all the fixes to the house and are ready to put it on the market on Monday. We have a realtor coming to the house on Monday and that should put the ball in motion.

I sent off the paperwork for the QRP (qualified retirement program) yesterday, so I hope in a couple of months we will have our application accepted so we can begin the big move. We have begun storing boxes, appliances and furniture in and area about the size of a 20 foot container and right now it's about 3/4 of the way full and we still haven't packed Mischelle's shoes and purses. We're going to need a 40 footer for sure.

We also needed a new vehicle for Belize, because our 2003 Avalanche was too old to qualify for the QRP. It's a shame, because I love our Avalanche. A fully loaded dream truck. But with the duties and taxes on an eight cyl. somewhere around 80-90% of Blue Book, it didn't make sense to keep her. Oh well. Time to let go and find a new love.

I was not looking forward to the process of finding a new car, the salespeople, the time, and all the different vehicles, options and of course, prices. But the Internet helps with that and has made quite a difference shopping for a car. You can look up reviews and prices. Makes and models. When you go to the dealership, you can be well armed to stand your ground for your make, model and price.

After looking at all of options in our price range, we decided the Nissan Xterra was the best truck for us. Not at the top of all the ratings, but a good, sturdy truck that has been around for a while with a nice V6 motor that has been well tested.

We ended up getting a 4X4, figuring we will use it quite a bit in Belize. I wasn't too happy with the color (I would have preferred a lighter color), but the price was right, and the only other car in a light color was 600 miles away and a $900 flatbed towing rate to get it here. No thanks, I'll take the darker color. Just knock a few hundred off, if you want to sell it to us. With the Internet, you can find out what others are paying across the nation and just play a little hard ball with the dealers. But after all was said and done, the car buying experience was not that bad. We had a good salesman, there was a good factory rebate and the last of the 2010's had to go to make room for the 2011 models.

So now, we are a little bit closer to getting to Belize.