Updates from May, 2009 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Vanberge 9:29 am on May 25, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Google Voice and Skype – Cheap Awesome Home VoIP Phone Service 

    For about 3 years, I’ve lived totally without a “Land line” phone and used only a mobile phone.

    At the same time, carrying two cell phones around was always a pain so I decided to cancel my “personal” cell phone and use only my employer provided blackberry. I recently got lucky enough (after weeks and weeks of pestering anyone I could find) to get an invite to Google voice, and that service has given me a completely new way of looking at phone service. I have been waiting for this forever.

    Here’s what I’ve done this week:

    1: Skype Unlimited Calling Subscription.
    An unlimited US/Canada calling plan from Skype is about 34 dollars a year (2.79 / month). This unlimited calling plan allows me to call any phone in the continental US and Canada and talk as long as I want. For 2.79 a month, you just can’t beat that.

    2: Skype Online Number.
    When I signed up for an unlimited calling subscription, I got a discount on signing up for a Skype phone number at a 50% off. Subscribing to an online number is usually 60 bucks a month; but since I signed up for unlimited calling it was only 30 dollars for a 12 month subscription. This brings the TOTAL cost of Skype for a year of unlimited service with a callable phone number to about $64.

    3: A Landline Phone VoIP Gateway USB adapter.
    I ordered a Skype VoIP gateway which I will connect to my home server computer via USB. This product’s only (and very minimal, IMO) downside is that it must be connected to a PC in order to work. This adapter allows you to make and receive Skype calls from your normal phone handset. Plug in your standard cordless phone receiver with a couple satellite handsets, and you’ve got a pretty solid home phone that converts to VoIP using your Skype account. This product was 27 dollars and about 5 dollars shipping for a cost of $32.

    4: Tie the Room Together with Google Voice.
    Using Google Voice, I’ve set up a primary number that I use to forward to my Mobile phone and also my Skype number. So, anytime somebody calls me I have the option to answer it on my actual cell phone, on my computer with Skype’s soft client, or on a normal cordless phone handset hooked up through the VoIP gateway adapter.

    I’m not a person that likes to spend hours on the phone, but at the same time I feel good about giving my employer a break and not using my work cell for 100% of my personal phone calls. And really, I feel like this setup is pretty “bad ass” from a techie perspective.

    To give some perspective, here are the base prices for some other VoIP solutions:

      Vonage: 24.99 / month
      Charter Home Voice: 29.99 / month
      Comcast “Digital Voice”: 24.95 / month

    My setup, although a little more hands-on to set up, is VASTLY cheaper than these other options – and provides a unified voicemail that I can access online, amazing call forwarding features through Google voice, number blocking, call screening, and pretty awesome flexibility to make calls from cell/normal phone/computers running Skype.

    With a setup that I like more than Vonage, Comcast, or Charter – my total cost per month for the first year of service will be about $8.05 per month. ($30 Skype number + $33 VoIP Gateway + 33.60 annual Skype subscription for Unlimited calls / 12 Months) And that number will go down significantly next year without having to purchase another gateway device adapter.

    Google Voice is seriously changing the game, and I have officially jumped in.

    • Jeff 9:35 am on June 1, 2009 Permalink

      Thanks for the great suggestions for using Google Voice and Skype for a great phone-system setup. I’d love to do something similar but haven’t been able to get a Google Voice invite – any chance you have an extra one that you could pass on 🙂

    • Vanberge 10:31 am on June 1, 2009 Permalink

      If I do happen to come by some invites- I will pass one your way.

      Thanks for your interest; and for your comment!

    • Rick Alleva 8:34 am on June 6, 2009 Permalink

      Hi…Great tips. I just learned of Google Voice and haven’t yet gotten an invite. I’ve been thinking of using Skype for most calls but they don’t yet offer numbers in my area (Maine) and I don’t want every call to be long distance. But tell me if Skype is necessary to do what you want with Google Voice. If you have free friends calls via Verizon or yes you can get 5 from Sprint too, if you use the Google Voice number as one of them will this give you free calls to that number without having to pay for Skype, then still use the adapter and call features of Google Voice…Just trying to figure out what may work and you seem to have a good sense…Thanks

    • Vanberge 8:19 am on June 11, 2009 Permalink

      I think what you’re asking is technically possible – but Google Voice itself doesnt work as a soft voip client. You’ll need some device for google voice to foward calls to.

      But, the setup can be done for totally free using Google Voice with Gizmo5. I keep meaning to check out Gizmo5 because it’s free and Google Voice can forward to it directly; but Skype I think is a bit more flexible than Gizmo5.

      Hope that helps; and hope you get an invite soon.

    • RAFAEL C. 3:00 pm on June 27, 2009 Permalink

      You Sir Are A Genius, Is This The Final Voip Design Version You Came Up With Before I Duplicate Your set up?…I Have The Palm Pre FYI….

      Thanks Rafael a NY Friend!

    • Vanberge 7:31 pm on June 29, 2009 Permalink

      Yes – that is the setup I’m still currently using. works like a charm.

      the only thing that I wish were different would be if I could get Skype to show my Google Voice number. Which should work as Google voice accepts texts from web based sms gateways.

    • Andrea Fahy 4:08 pm on January 11, 2010 Permalink

      I’m not having any luck setting my Google Voice to forward to Skype, any tips? simply receiving a “could not verify” message 🙁

    • Vanberge 4:23 pm on January 11, 2010 Permalink

      Do you have a skype online number?
      Does your number ever get the phone call? – or, does if fail to hear the key tones as you type the verification code.

      I would say try removing/re-adding your phone in the google voice settings page (and use a different name).

      If that doesnt work – you might try the forums – there are some prefixes that google voice has difficulty calling sometimes in order to place that verification call.

      Good Luck!

    • jordan 4:43 pm on April 13, 2010 Permalink

      It is so awesome that we have this new home voip phone service so that it makes communicating that much easier! Is Skype the best one that is out there or should i be looking for something else that is better?

    • Tod 9:37 pm on April 15, 2010 Permalink

      In response to Andrea – If you have Skype to only allow calls from people in your contact list you need to turn that off temporarily. The Google number that is calling your Skype land line isn’t in your contacts and isn’t being allowed through.

    • Jones Lebond 12:26 pm on June 4, 2013 Permalink

      Okay so this is a little tricky. I have a Skype and a Google voice. I am going to Europe for two weeks and verizon’s international plan’s are quite expensive. Keep in mind I currently own an android as well. So I have many questions.

      1.How do you pay for Google Voice and Skype?

      2. For google voice do I have to bring my computer?

      3. I have heard that in order for google voice to work like skype, I will have to get an app called Groove IP or else google voice will charge on verizon’s international plan. Is this true? If not how can i make international calls to the US straight from my android without using verizon’s minutes?

      4. Where can I find rates from Europe to the US or is it the same from US to the European country?

      5. Is there a feature on Google Voice that makes it voip?

      6. Is skype ultimately cheaper and better for my situation?

      Thank You.
      Thank you. 🙂

    • Vanberge 2:23 pm on June 5, 2013 Permalink

      Here are answers as best as I can provide:

      1. I don’t pay for Google voice at all, and I just pay for a skype subscription and number.

      2. No, google voice just forwards calls for you. I had it set up to forward to my skype number, which would then ring at my computer (if skype was open) or at my phone which i have the skype adapter.

      3. Google voice doesnt work like skype – skype is a calling/voip type service and google voice really only just brokers the calls and connects them.

      4. I have no idea here and have never travelled internationally. Skype and Google both publish calling rates (as you can make calls directly within Gmail now, a new feature since this post had been written)

      5. Nope. Google voice by itself does no calling. But it can forward to your google talk/gmail which you can use as a voip client (use google talk client or gmail chat)

      6. I am not sure, you’d have to compare skype’s calling rates vs Google talk’s. Again, Google voice does nothing to make teh call for you; only deliver the calls to whatever service or device you’re using.

      Hope those help!

  • Vanberge 8:11 pm on May 20, 2009 Permalink | Reply  


    Ever since Google Browser Sync was ceased; I’ve been looking for a better way to have a unified browser experience.

    I have 4 different computers at home, and three different computers at work. Sometimes I use Internet Explorer, sometimes Firefox, sometimes Firefox in Linux.

    With all these computers and all these browsers, keeping my bookmarks synced has always been a pain. I tried Microsoft’s sync toy, I tried Google bookmarks, I tried not using bookmarks at all…

    When “Foxmarks” debuted a new version for Internet explorer, my browsing world came together. They’ve since changed the name to Xmarks, but really it’s the tool of the year in my opinion. I created two accounts; one for home and one for work – so my bookmarks are seamlessly synchronized between platforms and browsers without me even thinking about it. It’s even intelligent enough to map Firefox’s bookmarks toolbar to Internet Explorer’s Links toolbar, which is good considering that’s where most of my bookmarks are.

    I’ve been hoping for a tool like this for a long time… and Xmarks does not disappoint.

  • Vanberge 10:53 pm on May 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Event Log Management in 10 Minutes 

    Log management in an IT infrastructure is always going to be a challenge…

    I’ve attempted to work with several “Enterprise” tools including GFI’s Languard, LogLogic, EventTracker, and a few more that aren’t even worth mentioning.

    No matter the tool, the story is always the same: It’s a pain to work with logs, and a “pretty” interface and some neat looking graphs don’t offer that much benefit. Adding onto this general problem is the time and effort it takes to manage and maintain a log management solution. Some may even make the argument that it could be faster to manually review logs in some cases. Making a long story short – Log management sucks.

    Which brings me to a solution that completely negates the first part of this post. It makes log management quick, easy, and even a little bit fun. Better yet, it’s completely free!

    If you want to have a solid, scalable, and reliable log management solution in LITERALLY 10 minutes, then follow these steps.

    1: Download Splunk.
    Splunk is an awesome product. Plain and simple. It will index log data from almost anything you can throw at it. It can take syslogs, application logs, Windows event logs, and even straight up files/directories. Whether you have a Windows server, a Unix/Linux server, or even a Windows XP workstation laying around (with decent specs) then you can install Splunk in just a couple minutes. It’s painfully simple to install and get set up with an initial and default configuration. The only thing to configure before moving on to step 2 below is to make sure you have port 514 defined as a datasource on both TCP and UDP. This will allow your Splunk server to index log data we’re going to throw at it. Note that Splunk does have both a free version and a enterprise version which costs money. The free version is adequate for most small/medium deployments as it can index up to 500 megs daily. The enterprise version is definitely not a waste of money though if you’re looking at a large deployment.

    2: Download Lasso Server.
    LogLogic has released a very powerful tool for log collection. This tool is designed to run on a Windows Server or XP/Vista workstation, and it makes it VERY simple to gather log data from multiple Windows Server systems. The install takes only seconds: just add your log destination (read: Splunk server you just set up), and then add your Windows server hosts that you want to collect logs from. The Lasso service takes care of the rest. It will poll all your Windows servers, grab the event logs from them via WMI calls, convert those logs into syslog format, and then send them off to your Splunk server on TCP port 514. Splunk takes care of the rest by indexing all that log data and making it usable, searchable, and actionable. Note that If you’re running mostly Unix/Linux servers, then you don’t need a tool like Lasso to collect your logs. Just set them up to forward their own syslog data to your Splunk server directly.

    3: Tuning.
    By default, Splunk provides an easy to use search interface for you to easily find and locate log data. Depending on your needs, you may want to spend some time tuning Splunk to do scheduled searches, send emails if it finds certain results, outline custom search queries for specific messages, etc. Splunk is a very flexible tool that can be scaled to meet the needs of even large enterprise organizations. It can do all kinds of cool things if you want, but even the simple fact of having a log repository that you can search if/when you need to is priceless.

    This combination of tools gives system administrators a quick and simple way to tackle the task of log management. And really, there’s no downside. It’s free (assuming you have access to some decent hardware to run it on), it’s easy, but most of all it’s very powerful. My thanks to Splunk and LogLogic for providing these tools to the community. It’s good to know that there’s companies out there making solid products and standing behind them.

    • ben 2:21 pm on May 14, 2009 Permalink

      disclaimer: i work for splunk.

      Thanks for the kind words about splunk. If you would rather not install multiple software applications, you can actually use splunk to collect data with wmi as well.

      Here is some information on setting up windows data inputs:

      And a video all about setting up splunk for windows is here:

      In our 4.0 version of the product (currently in beta) you will be able to do a lot more of that setup through the UI.

    • Vanberge 2:58 pm on May 14, 2009 Permalink

      Is this you Ben? You need to update your blog! 😀

      Thanks for the info… Always good to learn something new.
      Can’t wait for 4.0!

      p.s. – who would I have to talk to to get hooked up with some Splunk stickers or something. ;-P

  • Vanberge 1:12 am on May 12, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    New Theme 

    Can’t really explain why – but today I felt like changing my “Look n’ Feel” again.

    Oddly enough, I started using K2 on May 10th 2008 – so it’s been my theme of choice for about 1 year exactly. At the time, I said to myself that I would never change from K2. Just because it’s such a pain in the ass to take a theme and integrate it with my existing content and pages.

    Enter this evening, where it’s currently 2:09 AM and I finally have things integrated for the most part.
    I hate themes. I hate feeling the need to change them.


    • chouse 5:37 am on May 12, 2009 Permalink

      ooooooooooooooooh pretty

    • vanlandw 9:01 am on May 12, 2009 Permalink

      great work numba ‘4’

      I need to put some time into my homepage as well everything is out of date and my theme is getting kinda stale as well.

      you have done a good job


    • Vanberge 9:38 am on May 12, 2009 Permalink

      Yeah I like this theme alot; I just have to cut together some header images instead of using these stock rotating ones.

      K2 is a great theme but as you say vanlandw; it just kind of got stale.

  • Vanberge 3:10 pm on May 9, 2009 Permalink | Reply  

    Grand Theft Auto 4 – End Game Stats 

    Today I finally completed the storyline content of GTA4 on Xbox360. The last missions were pretty amazing, and overall this is one of my favorite games I’ve ever played. The storyline is surprisingly deep for a video game and it does a great job putting you into the middle of it. I don’t want to give away any spoilers; so I’m going to copy Vanlandw’s idea and publish my stats. Here are some of the more interesting parts of my GTA4 Experience:

    • Game Progress: 63%
    • Missions Passed: 94
    • Missions Failed: 33
    • Missions Attempted: 127
    • Replays used: 33
    • Times Busted: 0
    • Times Died: 20
    • People Killed: 848
    • Playing Time: 38 hours, 48 minutes
    • Favorite Radio Station: Liberty Rock Radio 97.8
    • Least Favorite Station: K108 The Studio
    • Times Cheated: 0
    • Days passed: 93
    • Cars stolen: 215
    • Bikes Stolen: 22
    • Boats Stolen: 6
    • Helicopters Stolen: 1
    • People run down: 352
    • Fires Started: 118
    • Criminals Killed: 41
    • Favorite Transport: Motocycle
    • Farthest Jump: 348 ft
    • Highest Jump: 97 ft
    • Longest Wheelie: 561 ft
    • Flips done in vehicle: 39
    • Successful Dates: 17
    • Time on Internet: 24 minutes
    • Girls Dumped: 1
    • Scored with Girl: 4
    • Times Drunk: 8
    • Bullets Fired:  15,002
    • Headshot Kills:  236
    • Vehicles blown up:  101
    • Shooting Accuracy:  57%
    • Kills by Free Look:  42%

    Overall not too bad I guess… It was a pretty fun play through

    **updated title for SEO

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