Bits & Bytes
Making Net Phoning Less Tangled
MAKING FREE PHONE CALLS via the Internet using your PC sounds like a great idea. But the sound usually isn't very good--its more like ham radio. Plus, Net calls are cumbersome to set up, and basic features such as voice mail aren't widely available.
Now, a Phoenix-based startup called visitalk.com has come to the rescue. The company has devised a scheme for permanent 12-digit Net "phone numbers" and built the first clearinghouse for assigning numbers and routing calls. Some 50,000 Net phoners have already signed up for numbers on the visitalk Web site, allowing them to find each other more easily and place calls from anywhere, the way cell-phone users can roam among cities. Better yet, visitalk.com offers voice mail and other services that make the Net more like a real phone system. On tap for this fall: video mail, conference calls, and audio chat rooms.
Using the ad-supported site requires a PC equipped with a sound card and a mike, and Net phone software, such as Microsoft Corp.'s NetMeeting or White Pine Software Inc.'s CUSee-Me. You can also use a digital camera for videoconferencing. To get reasonable sound quality, though, use a high-speed link such as a cable modem rather than a regular phone line. After all, when's the last time you closed a deal via ham radio?By Andy Reinhardt; Edited by Timothy J. MullaneyReturn to top
A 12,000 Dow? Ladies and Gents, Place Your Bets
COMPARING THE STOCK MARKET to a casino is one of the oldest analogies in the book. But now, the stock market and a casino can be found (sort of) in the same place--on the Internet. Online casino Intertops.com has added bets on the progression of the Dow Jones Industrial average to its sports-and-novelty betting.
Intertops Managing Director Simon Noble says the Antigua-based company has received 2,700 bets since June on whether the Dow will top 12,000 during 1999. Nearly all bettors think it will. The 1,200 bets Intertops has received on whether the Dow will close the year over or under 11,300 are evenly split.
At an average bet of $22, Intertops isn't sweating the action. Besides, if the casino really wants to take a risk, maybe it should put some money into stocks.Edited by Timothy J. MullaneyReturn to top
Teach a New PC Your Old Tricks--Fast
BUY A NEW PC OR UPGRADE FROM WINDOWS 95 TO WINDOWS 98, and most of what made your old PC an intimate friend will be lost. Bookmarks, screensavers, customized dictionaries, and toolbars won't make the move. It can take weeks of fiddling to give your new machine a familiar face.
Now, a program called Desktop DNA from Miramar Systems Inc. moves all of your personalization, Windows system settings, and application preferences, along with the usual files and folders, when you shift from one computer or Windows operating system to another. The program walks you through seven steps that determine what features you want to move. You can tidy your workspace, too, using Desktop DNA to screen files by author or date modified instead of moving them all to the new system.
For now, Desktop DNA is available only to commercial users: It is priced based on the number of machines to be converted, starting at $245 for five PCs. The Santa Barbara (Calif.) company will offer a consumer version by yearend for around $50.By Larry Armstrong; Edited by Timothy J. MullaneyReturn to top