Sunday, February 10, 2008

My new magicJack

Back in December, my friend Stan sent me an e-mail about a new device called magicJack. Stan is almost as big a gadget freak as I am and knew I would like this thing. Their web site is cheesy and looks like they are selling newer, better, sharper Ginzu knives, but the product works. The device is two or three times larger than a thumb drive and plugs in to your computer's USB port. It has an RJ-11 phone jack on the other side. It allows you to make free phone calls anywhere in the U.S.

I ordered one and tried it out while I was in Canada. You plug it in and it automatically installs and then updates their software (it has a small amount of storage with their software on it.) The software took a few minutes to install and then update; once I did that I then had to configure the software. It assigned me a telephone number (I selected the area code - none in Hawaii, though) and I was good to go.

I plugged in a regular telephone to this device, got a dial-tone and dialed out. When I tested it here in Hawaii, it performed great about 80% of the time. Sometimes there was some "white outs" in the conversation; I am assuming this is must lost VOIP packets or something. This only happened while I was in Hawaii. When I was in Canada it worked great.

Based on some reviews I read, their customer service leaves something to be desired and they need to fire their Web site designer, but the device does work as advertised. I'm off on an overseas trip this next week so I'm going to see how well it works while I am traveling to Asia where I'm sure the bandwidth will not be as good.

Viva Whistler and Blackcomb!

A few weeks ago I made a trip with some friends up to Whistler/Blackcombe. It is a bit pricier that U.S. ski resorts, but they had a ton of snow and lots of things to do while we were there. I had a few observations about Whistler that I thought I should share:

I usually notice bad customer service, though I am very tolerant of lapses in good customer service. This comes from being a waiter when I was in college. The customer service at Whistler was really outstanding, though. One of my friends fell on his first run of the first day and twisted his knee. He could not ski the rest of the week. Whistler refunded his lift ticket and the ski rental place (Spicy Sports) refunded his equipment rental costs. Neither had to do that, but I'll remember that consideration when planning a trip next year.

The lift operators were the most polite and friendly ski resort personnel I have ever encountered. Most were from the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. They all had a friendly greeting or a kind word when you were getting on or off the lift. Zowie! Certainly not the kind of attitude you get from lift operators in California or Colorado where they seem to barely hide their disdain for you.

I was also impressed with Vancouver. Vancouver's "highways" really can't be called that since the main highway up from Washington state dumps right in to the city streets. However, parking there is very easy. You an pay your parking meter either with a credit card (using the machine on the street) or you can pay with your cell phone. A very cool feature that I did use.

So, Canada/Vancouver/Whistler - After you get that whole "Olympics thing" behind you in 2010, I'll definitely be back.