Bob and Joy Schwabach

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October 2006, Week 5



             We tried out a device called the "Spracht Aura Mobile BT." (Spracht? Where's my German dictionary?) This lets several people talk into a cell phone at once; no crowding.

   The Spracht Mobile easily fits in one hand (most of the space is taken up by the unit's speaker). The sound quality was terrific, better than the cell phone itself, and Spracht we're talking about an expensive Sony Ericsson cell phone here. It can be used with any phone that has blue tooth capability, or connected to any PC or Mac computer with a cable.

   You both speak and listen through the same device. The volume is good enough that everyone could hear it in an open car or a conference room.

   If you're connecting it to a computer, it's a quick and easy way to make Skype calls, the software commonly used for making Internet phone calls. Skype now lets you connect to land lines at no extra charge, by the way. We talked for an hour to friends in California, and the quality was great. Computer to computer calls were always free with Skype and other Internet phone services, but being able to call someone's regular phone line free of charge is a new wrinkle.

   The Spracht Mobile comes with several accessories for connections to various devices, including a charger that plugs into a car's cigarette lighter. Since it has good pickup and volume, it's kind of ideal for hands-free operation in a car or elsewhere. The battery is good for four hours of talk or 24 hours on standby.

   List price for the Spracht Mobile is $150, which is not cheap but the quality was excellent. Web info at

Free phone calls

   We found another service for making free phone calls over the Internet; it’s free to many countries and nearly free to the rest. It's, and using it is reminiscent of the old phone systems that used an operator to connect your call.

   There's no software to download, and you don’t need a high-speed Internet connection, dial-up will do. You just go to their Web site and type your phone number in a box on the screen. Then select the country you're calling and type in the phone number you want to reach. A few seconds later your phone will ring and you will hear a message telling you that JaJah is connecting your call.

   That call can be to a cell or regular phone. You can make free or low-cost calls to land-based phone lines almost anywhere in the world. Calls to cell phones can't be made everywhere but work in the U.S., Canada and some Asian countries. You can schedule calls from an Internet café when you are traveling. A new mobile version lets you initiate calls from your cell phone, if you have one of the supported brands. We tried it and it was simple to use and the sound quality was good.

A New Webcam You 

   Logitech has some free software to add video effects to what people see when you're using your webcam. Instead of your own face you can use a cartoon characterVideo Effects that smiles when you smile, frowns when you frown. You can also put a crown on your head, look like an alien or turn into a talking Bambi.  

Video Effects

The software uses animated 3-D renderings that change in accord with your movements. It works with Logitech web cameras, which sell for around $50-$100 and are widely distributed (even we have one).

The Fantom Strikes

   The new Fantom hard drive provides a terabyte for $546. Time for some definitions: A megabyte is a million bytes. A gigabyte is a thousand megabytes. A terabyte is a thousand gigabytes. It's a big number; think of it as 1,500 CDs, fully loaded. Oh, and a byte is a single character, like a letter or number.Fantom Drive

   A Web search turned up a similar drive at for the same money, but it didn't have a fan or internal air flow. Heat buildup is a common cause of drive failure so we would go with a drive that has a cooling fan. If you have a drive failure with a terrabyte of storage you have a real problem. Formatting this giant drive took about an hour and a half.

   We tried out a Fantom 500 GB drive (list price $270). It's very solid and weighs a hefty six pounds. More info at

The numbers report

   If you haven't blogged yet, don't fee bad about it; we're all over-blogged and counting. Estimates run between 10-30 million blogs and rising. Postings to these blogs run about one million a day. According to a survey by Insight Express, only one percent of us would miss blogs if they all disappeared tomorrow. One fourth of all users would severely miss the web and e-mail, about the same as those who would miss TV.

It's a mystery to us

   Yep, there's a new Nancy Drew mystery game, and some day we're going to solve one of these (if we live that long). The latest is "Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave." That doesn't mean that Nancy is the creature; it means thatKapu Cave she's looking for ... well, you get the idea. The Hardy Boys are there to help, though not much. It's $20 for Win XP, and aimed at ages 10 and up.


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