Friday’s Hot Tip: Technology

I haven’t had a working cell phone since the beginning of January, which initially caused me a great deal of stress. Now just looking at what I owe AT&T causes stress…but that’s not the point here. Since I’d given up my home phone and gone mobile-only, I was outta luck for arranging job interviews, coordinating outings with friends, and checking in with Momcat and Pops. I think it was T-Wizzle who suggested I look into Internet phones – it would be logical that she would make this suggestion, as she is the most techno-savvy friend I have. Everyone should have their own T-Wizzle, and I’m sure she would agree. She’s just that kind of girl. Be sure to lock up your good whiskey before she comes over, though. But I digress.

I am a big user of Yahoo Messenger, so I looked into Yahoo Voice for making Internet phone calls. There are two components to Yahoo Voice: Phone Out and Phone In. With Phone Out, you can make calls from your computer to any phone number worldwide for incredibly low rates. Within the United States, it’s one cent a minute. Yes, I said one cent. For my Canadian readers, it’s one cent per minute for you as well. Got friends in Swaziland? Giving ’em a ring will cost you 12 cents a minute. What about a call to Down Under? One minute will set you back about 0.018 cents. The beauty of the Phone Out setup is that there are no setup fees; if you have a PC, an Internet connection, and Yahoo Messenger (which is free to download and use), you’re ready to make calls. At the end of January I bought $10 worth of minutes…and as of March 7, I have $7.67 left. Anyone that knows me in the real world knows that I can talk and chatter for days, so for me to have such a high credit balance is pretty amazing. Either that or I’ve been pretty closemouthed…nah, not possible.

Being able to call out is all fine and good, but in my situation I needed a phone number where I could be reached as well. That’s where Yahoo Voice’s Phone In becomes very handy. For a fee of $2.99 per month (or $2.49 per month if you pay for 12 months in advance), you can get a phone number that rings at your computer. For U.S. users, you get to choose from a wide selection of area codes and phone numbers. Through Yahoo’s Phone In, I finally got a number in one of the most desirable area codes in L.A., so I feel like one of the cool kids. Again, the Phone In service works with Yahoo Messenger, so anywhere you’re on the Internet and you’re on Yahoo Messenger, you can receive calls. Don’t feel like answering? Let the call go to voicemail. And if by some crazy chance you’re not online, any incoming calls will go to voicemail.

Which leads me to the one drawback with this service: you can’t customize your voicemail greeting. That is, I couldn’t find anything on Yahoo Voice’s website to tell me how to do this. My guess is that this capability will come in the next version or so, because as everyone knows, you can’t stop progress. You can’t stop the beat, either, but again, I digress.

“But what about the sound quality, Moxie?” I hear you ask. Well, my friends, the sound quality is excellent. I live on a busy street and sometimes I have to jack up the volume in order to hear everything, but everyone I have talked to via Yahoo Voice has said the sound was crystal clear and distortion free. The only time I had issues with distortion was when I talked to Deena, my friend who lives in the sticks on the East Coast and has some cell phone issues to begin with.

So if you’re looking to set up a business line on the cheap, or you want to make some long distance phone calls without spending a ton of money, put your miked headset to work and buy some time on Yahoo Voice. In fact, the first 4 people that e-mail me (see address on the sidebar) will get hooked up with free minutes on Yahoo Voice, so you can try it for yourself. Check it!

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