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[aprssig] OT question.

Stephen H. Smith wa8lmf2 at aol.com
Sun Oct 14 04:26:25 UTC 2007

Wes Johnston, AI4PX wrote:
> I'm trying to find a "phone" type app that allows for voice chatting 
> between workstations similar to skype.  I had thought that skype would 
> work w/o a connection to the net since it is peer to peer, but the app 
> won't initalize w/o a network connection to the outside world.

Skype is only peer-to-peer to the extent that eDonkey2000 and Bit 
Torrent are peer-to-peer.   All three require centralized servers to 
broker the initial connection between the two peers. In the case of 
Skype, your initial network logon is handled by Skype's centralized 
servers.  Your contact list is also stored on their server. At first i, 
I thought this was rather invasive, but it's actually rather 
convenient.  You can have multiple copies of Skype on machines in 
different places. No matter what system you log on with, your contact 
list is there for you. You can even log on as a guest on someone elses 
Skype installation and your buddies will follow. 

> These so called USB skype phones are simply sound cards that look like 
> small cell phones to the end user.... they appear as a 2nd audio 
> device under windows. 

Not all of them.    I have a Linksys Skype phone that is basically a 
cordless phone with a base station with an Ethernet connector that plugs 
into your router like a PC.   You don't even need to have the PC on -- 
just the router and Internet connection.   It's a totally hardware-based 
Skype device.   The handset which is about the size of a Nokia 
"candybar" cellphone has a color LCD screen that displays the same Skype 
user interface you see on a PC.  Skype software (actually firmware) is 
in the base station.  You can access the base station's IP address with 
a web browser on a PC,  just like the typical router setups, to 
configure the setting if you don't want to go through the masochism of 
configuring a device through it's keypad.

The base-to-handset link operates in the 2.1 GHz DECT (Digital Enhanced 
Cordless Telephone) band so it doesn't get trashed either by 2.4 GHz 
Wi-Fi gadgets or other cordless phones.  The range is phenomenal since 
it is operating in a nearly vacant band.  I had it working a block and a 
half from the house, with the base station hung on a wood-paneled wall 
about 9 feet above ground level.

> I'd like to find a chat program that does not need an outside network 
> connection AND allows me to select the 2nd audio device as the target 
> of the chat program.  This will allow the ringer to come thru the PC 
> speakers and the voice chat to come from the "phone".

The Microsoft Netmeeting program that has come with every version of 
Windows since Win95B will truly work peer-to-peer locally and is 
H-325-compatible.  All you need is the IP address or name of the other 
machine on the LAN that you are trying to reach.    Netmeeting is not 
very useful over the Internet because it randomly uses a huge range of 
IP port numbers, making it impossible to port forward around a router 
securely, but on a local network with free access between machines it 
works well.   The advantage is that it comes with every copy of Windows 
and is free. 

Oddly, it doesn't show up on the Start Menu on many Windows 
installations, but you can launch it by entering "conf.exe" in the run 
box of the Start Menu.

Further, it will automatically recognize and use most webcams and go 
into video conferencing mode if both ends have cams.  It will also do 
application sharing, text messaging and file transfers if needed. 

Another app that has many of the same functions is LapLink. Although it 
is primarily a file-transfer utility, it also allows remote control of 
the other PC, and allows voice chat and text messaging.  The general 
concept is similar to PC Anywhere or Carbon Copy, but (in my opinion) 
the user interface is far cleaner and easier to configure. It uses a 
proprietary protocol (it will only talk to another copy of itself) but 
works very well.    


Stephen H. Smith    wa8lmf (at) aol.com
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