Skype-y Goodness

pro.pngMy server room is loud. That’s not a bad thing, but it does mean that if I’m in there, I can’t hear my phone in the next room. That is a bad thing. As much as I’d like to avoid it, people do need to speak with me sometimes. Ugh.

I realize the most logical course of action would be to get a phone in there. The problem is that we have digital (not voip) phones, which require special wiring, special phones, and an especially large pile of money to acquire. Enter Skype.

For $60 a year, you can get Skype Pro and a SkypeIn number. Yes, $5 a month isn’t free, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not really expensive either. What it gets me is most assuredly worth it. Here’s my setup:

  • All calls to my office phone ring twice, then get transferred to my SkypeIn number
  • A computer in my server room runs Skype, which I can easily hear and answer
  • If I don’t answer (or Skype is not on), calls go to voicemail that I can retrieve from anywhere.
  • I ordered a WiFi Skype phone, so I can carry it around the school and get calls anywhere we have WiFi

This may seem like overkill, but it makes especially good sense when you take into account the following:

  • The voicemail system on our desk phones rarely works for me, and I miss calls often
  • There is zero cellphone coverage in the school, so forwarding to my cellphone is pointless
  • “Skype Me” is fun to say 🙂

So feel free to Skype me. My account is shawnp0wers.

13 thoughts on “Skype-y Goodness

  1. I’ll answer with a qualified no.

    Depending on your setup, I’d suggest either using an external USB drive for backups, or a network based server for backups. Hard drives are so cheap anymore, it’s foolish (in my opinion) to use anything but a hard drive. Tapes are bad for many, many reasons.

    I have lots more advice to give, but I’d need to know your setup, expectations, and geek level. 🙂

  2. Shawn – thanks. We have an external HD for back-ups. I just don’t trust HDs for long term storage, though, and I want this data stored for decades. We’ve got scanned copies of irreplacable picutres that we copied in the ROC that were destryed ina typhoon since.

    Geek level – zero. I’m a user, and I program in Matlab, SAS, Visual Basic and Fortran for Pete’s sakes.

    Setup – ~ 1.5 year old HP desktop running XP Media Center. Internal HD and external Maxtor HD for back-up. No modifications to the factory setup.

  3. The Luxor in Vegas is a total cell phone dead zone too. I can see the casino floor – that makes security sense. But the rooms? Bleah.

    I actually should play with Skype. Our company uses Cisco IP communicator. It worked fine on my old PC notebook… but is one of those image-to-hardware translations that does not work in Parallels on my MBP. I haven’t spent a LOT of time messing with it, but I think it’s likely to be a pretty problematic, if not outright impossible, fix.

    I’m glad you wrote this, you’ve given me ideas. 😀

  4. John,

    If it’s irreplacable information, I would suggest burning the information onto several CDs/DVDs, and then storing those discs in places that are not your house–safety deposit box, homes of other family members, etc.

    I don’t know of anyone who uses tape backups for anything. It’s all burned to DVD or backed up on a second hard drive.

    For the short term, I would definitely recommend a second external hard drive. For the long term, burn things to DVD and then store those DVDs somewhere that is not your house.

    I don’t worry to much about backups, but that’s because my important information tends to be on several different computers–I simply copy the pertinent folders from one computer to another via my USB key drive that I carry with me (and the important files stay there). But if you don’t have multiple computers, an external hard drive is definitely the way to go.

    And that’s the recommendation we make to our users, for what that’s worth.

  5. What Michelle said. (Not about my medicine, which I did finally take, but about data)

    Even DVD/CDs can’t be trusted for permanent storage. I don’t know of anything that is trustworthy by itself. Sad, I know.

    Depending on how MUCH data you have, I’d go with the multiple copies idea. If you go with multiple copies and multiple medias — you’re bound to be pretty safe.

    I also know there are a bunch of automated backup programs out there, many likely free. Usually the problem with data loss isn’t that the backups are bad, but that they don’t exist. 🙂

    Tapes are really not used much (there are exceptions, but I’m not even in favor of those cases).

    So my big advice is automate, automate, automate. On several external hard drives. And burn CD/DVD backups every few years and store them offsite.

  6. John –

    The current best solution for long-term storage is Ultra Density Optical (UDO), with lifetime estimates of up to 50 years. The bigger problem with long-term storage as I see it is technology – changes in types of media and changes in data formats. Even if the media were to last 100 years, the media itself may not be readable, or the data may be in a format that is no longer readable.

    Long-term storage of photos is best done by printing them on acid-free paper and storing them in a temperature and humidity-controlled storage compartment or facility where light does not penetrate. The same can be done with printable documents. Paper is low-tech, but as long as it is acid-free, a reasonably heavy bond, and is stored properly, it is readable for thousands of years. Unfortunately, color photos will fade eventually despite the use of the best paper and dyes and controlled storage.

    As for my own data, I have already moved from 8″ to 5.25″ to 3.5″ floppies to CD-Rs (I had some on cassette tapes – early TRS-80 and Timex-Sinclair 1000, but transfering the data was impractical) in the time I have been working with computers professionally. I also verify data periodically to insure it is still readble.

    You might want to Google “BBC Domesday Project” as an example of the problems with archiving data long-term. Wikipedia has a short article on the project as well, with some good links.

  7. There really is no long term storage medium out there in the digital world. The only thing that lasts is paper. The only way to keep digital copies of something for more then 10 years is to make lots of copies and keep copying everything you want to keep to some other medium.

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