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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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May 2006, Week 3 -- Who, What, Where:  Especially Where

Boost Mobile Phone

   Cell phones are great for keeping in touch with people. How about spotting where they are? With the right phone, you can do it.

 

   The right phone is one that can use a GPS tracking service. GPS stands for Global Positioning System, so if you and your friends, your kin or co-workers have the right phone and service, it will tell you where they are, and tell them where you are.

 

   A tracking service from Nextel costs $10 a month, but there's a Web service called Mologogo (www.mologogo.com) that does it for $6 a month. Not a big price difference, but Mologogo will sell you a phone and the proper locating software for $99 as a package deal.

 

 

 

   The phone is from Boost Mobile phone, a subsidiary of Sprint/Nextel, and is available from many retailers. If you go to the Web site www.boostmobile.com, you can get a list of nearby outlets. The key here is that the phones are GPS-enabled, which is what you need to find out where another user is located.

 

 

 

   The impetus for all this was a federal regulation requiring cell phone companies to enable 911 emergency call service by the beginning of this year. They didn't meet the deadline, but things are coming along. Cell phone users currently have a problem calling police in case of an emergency, because if you can't tell the police where you are, they don't know. With so-called land-line phones, the location of the originating number can be traced.

 

 

 

   GPS is a natural addition to cell pones, and it's likely there will be a number of special services that will spring up to use it. Already, one called CatTrax  (www.kidssafegps.com) not only tracks the location of a phone registered with its service, but also alerts parents if the carrier of that phone is in an area that houses a registered sex offender. (Laws in many states require convicted sex offenders to register with the police wherever they live.) The charge for this service is $20 a month. By the way, alerting you to where a sex offender lives can provide a false sense of security since it doesn't necessarily mean that's where they are at that moment.

 

 

 

The Next Face You See

 

 

Ojo Video Phone

   We dealt with the "where" and even the "what" in the report on cell phones that can track your location. Now let's deal with the "who," as in: "Oh, it's you."

 

   We never thought we would like a video phone, but the new Ojo (www.ojophone.com) makes ordinary calls feel flat. It costs $349 with a removable handset, and you have to have a high-speed Internet connection and a router to use it. But you do not have to connect to a computer. In that way it is different from webcams, which do need to be attached to a computer. With the Ojo, we could just push a button and make a call.

 

   Video phones have been a staple of those "someday" articles that appear regularly in magazines. As in: "Someday we will all use video phones." We would also all have helicopters in our backyard and household robots that would clean up and prepare meals.

 

 

 

   None of those things have happened, of course. A few video phones became available in the 1960s, but they were very expensive, the service was terrible, and it turned out there wasn't much demand for them anyway. Now they come not from phone companies, but from specialized firms. Along with the Ojo, there are new video phones coming out from Viseon, Packet 8 and D-Link, the latter a well-known maker of high-speed routers.

 

 

 

   Setup was a snap, literally. We plugged the ethernet cable into the router until we heard a snap and plugged the power transformer into the wall outlet. We called a toll-free number to set up an account, and after that it was just turn on the Ojo and dial.

 

 

 

   In order to see the person at the other end of the call, and for them to see you, they have to have an Ojo phone too. When we did that, the color display was clear, handled motion well and sound was normal. The display panel on the phone actually has two displays; the larger one lets you see the person you're talking to, and underneath there's a small one that lets you see yourself -- how you look to the other person. This is pretty important, since you may think you look confident and self-possessed, but you really look like an idiot. (Take what pre-call measures you think best.)

 

 

 

   When you answer a call, the camera is in the off position. You have to push a button for the caller to see you.

 

 

 

   We can see the use of this for someone in business who might want to hold up a product or see what an associate just bought at the Sotheby's auction in London, and we can certainly see it for contact with family members or loved ones far away. You can leave video messages if they're not there.

 

 

 

   The video phone can be placed anywhere it can connect to a high-speed Internet line. Frankly, we loved it, and if we can talk our friends and relatives into buying video phones, it would make calls more fun.

 

 

 

Books

Fixing Win XP Annoyances

 

"Fixing Windows XP Annoyances" by David Karp; $20 at www.oreilly.com.

 

   XP annoyances! Are they kidding? Are frogs waterproof? These computers are full of annoyances. This books will help you with many and may add weeks to your life by relieving the stress. Includes a good, simple explanation of how to set up a network.


 

 

NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers" Web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com and Joy Schwabach at joydee@oncomp.com.