Voip hacker headed for jail

Friday, September 28, 2007

His boss supposedly ran off with one million bucks, but Robert Moore, the operation's technical muscle, only got $20,000 - and federal prison.

Moore hacked 15 VoIP companies and allegedly stole and then sold more than 10 million minutes back in 2005.

Information Week has the full story and an interview (very interesting stuff)

Moore, 23, will begin his two-year jail sentence this week.

MartinTibbitts: Ooma is a "leaky PBX"

I've never heard this term before, but Martin says "Leaky PBX" was a term from the mid 90s that applied to PBX systems that did toll-bypass through "back door" means - as a result they were shut down. He says ooma is doing essentially the same thing and adds:

Neat trick! But will it fly? Honestly, I fully expect lawsuits to fly here. Ooma is clearly violating the intent of the law here…as well as engaging oblivious users to violate their agreements with the local phone companies (RBOCs) and engage in unlicensed long distance termination. Honestly, knowing how the RBOCs legal strategies work, I expect them to jump on this hard….after waiting to see if Ooma makes any impact at all.

Indeed. That last point is a key one. The phone companies are not going to waste a lot of time and money on ooma, if they don't end up being much of a player, and simply fade into oblivion on their own.

How can I get free VoIP?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

As someone said, there is no free lunch. However, there are some companies providing free, or near free calling, usually with certain limits.

Before we get to that, let's talk about what's not free. Paying $25 per month to get "free" calls is not free. Therefore, we're not talking about such things here.

The main reason that VoIP companies offer free calls of one kind or another is to lure customers into purchasing credits to make calls to paid destinations. But we have to realize that while VoIP calls are very cheap, they are not completely free. Somebody is paying for the "free" calls and eventually those chickens have to come home to roost.

PC to PC, and PC to Phone calls

There are many services available for calling from a PC to someone on a PC, Skype being the most well known. You can call inside the Skype network for free. But if you want to make calls to regular landlines, you'll have to pay. The subscription fee for calls in North America is $30 per year. It's not a great deal of money but it still isn't free (this option applies only to calls made from within the US and Canada).

Other services in this group include GizmoProject, Free World Dialup, and dozens of others.

Phone to Phone

There are fewer choices for free calling from a regular phone to a regular phone. Here are three of note:


Jajah doesn't push their free calling aspect very much. They are more often described as a way of making cheap calls. The way the service works is you register your number and if the person you're calling also registers, you can call each other free, if you initiate the call at the Jajah website. There is a lot of fine print on "free" calls and perhaps this is why the service isn't well known for this feature - but supposedly you can do it.


PhoneGnome is a very inconspicuous service that works like Jajah above, but the service appears to focus on free calls between members more than paid calls (which are almost hidden on the website). People can register their numbers and then call each other free. The service is free for both mobile phones and landlines in the US and Canada, but landlines-only outside the US. Other numbers can use the service, but they must pay a per minute fee to place calls.

Both PhoneGnome and Jajah have somewhat complicated pricing schemes for paid calls, that is, calls made from or to numbers that are not free (for whatever reason).

Both companies also have so-called "Fair Use" policies that put restrictions on the volume of free calls - but this is reasonable given that these companies are giving us something for nothing.

Jajah says the following:

JAJAH asks its customers to pay from time to time. If you choose not to pay, JAJAH may need to limit your free minutes. To take advantage of free minutes, users should deposit funds into their JAJAH account.

Again, I'd say that's fair. A lot of people complain that this kind of thing is a "rip-off", but I disagree. When they start playing bait and switch, that's one thing, but I think placing reasonable limits is perfectly fine, as long as they are transparent about it. You are getting a free service after all.

One thing I don't think is reasonable is the practice of random charges out of the blue, without warning, which has been reported about some of the services like VoIPcheap, VoIPbuster etc.


Jaxtr is another similar service, except instead of the service calling your phone when you place a call and then connecting you to the called party (which is how the above two work), with Jaxtr, the people that want to call you get a local telephone number to call you on. Instead of phone numbers, you know "friends" on Jaxtr by their email address. Jaxtr gives you a number for each "friend" (that is supposed to be local to you). When you call one of these numbers, it rings to that friends real phone (but you never need to give out your actual number).

Jaxtr limits users to a certain number of free calling credits each month and this seems to vary with the kind of account one has (they call them "jax") And, again, there is a complex scheme for the actual call costs (reminds me of "message units"). At this time, Jaxtr is still in Beta, and doesn't offer a way to buy additional credits.

Final Thoughts

Another important note. All this free calling generally applies to the same set of countries, or more directly, it always excludes places where there are few low-cost calling options, such as India, Africa, and the Middle East. There are VoIP options, including those listed above, that might be able to save some money for calls to/from these regions, but there are no free options. (If you're willing to buy a $99 hardware box, you can use the PhoneGnome service free in any of these regions).

In conclusion, as we state above, there really is no such thing as completely free VoIP, but there are ways to make zero-cost calls and significantly reduce your phone bills using a combination of free and low-cost calling options. This means that you will need to put some time and research into it, but in the end you can achieve almost free calls using VoIP technology and services.

Voipbuster - Free for the mathematically challenged

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

We often see people talking about getting "free" calls by using Voipbuster.

I don't get it. If I understand correctly, the way it works is you have to give them 10 EUR (about $15 USD) and that qualifies you for a maximum of 300 minutes of "free" calls per week to specific "free" locations for a few months (each call limited to one hour). Then you have to "top up" (put in another $15) to make more "free" calls.

When I do that math, it sounds more like I'm paying $60 per year for a limited amount of "free" calls. Regardless of the annual total, it sure as heck isn't "free" - and you still have to pay for calls to "non-free" numbers (most mobiles outside the U.S., India, etc).

Wikipedia says

"company continuously increases its prices in some hidden ways. It changes terms constantly without notice"


"Latest feature seems that the 10 euros you pay to get 'free nations' can no longer be used as credit, you lose the money after 90 days. Any non-free destinations need a separate 10 euro credit."

I don't understand how this company has such a great reputation on the blogs.

In short, caveat emptor.

Note: The company behind Voipbuster, Betamax GmbH & Co KG, runs dozens of other services under many different names, all with a similar scheme (see this site for more information).

A ShoePhone? Really?

Well, not really. If you thought the VoIP company and product names weren't already bad enough, the latest is ShoePhone - no seriously.

Unfortunately, it doesn't have anything to do with Maxwell Smart... or shoes. It's a VoIP conference call system, or something like that. They call it "Interactive Conversations".

It looks like you can call it with SIP at the address sip:123@ so you could use it free (I think) from an Asterisk PBX or any voip system that lets you call SIP addresses. For now, the service is free and allows up to 250 people to participate in a session (talk, listen, text-chat).

I have to say, the website is pretty confusing. I can't figure out how to use the service or software (or whether the service can be used without their software) but it looks like there might be something under there, once I do figure it out.

FierceVoIP - VoIP devices

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Two similar but different VoIP devices to augment home wireline with VoIP:
PhoneGnome: PhoneGnome answers ooma's call
ooma: ooma chief talks with FierceVoIP

There's a bit of a debate in the comments to both articles, with rabid supporters in each camp.

There is a really interesting tidbit in one of the comments from the PhoneGnome CEO:

The PhoneGnome box could be plugged into the Ooma box to enhance (or augment) the ooma service with additional features and capabilities, whereas the reverse doesn't apply to the ooma box. A PhoneGnome box would augment the user of ooma service with new features like (1) softphone (use your ooma account on your PC at Starbucks); (2) use ooma service on your mobile phone; (3) use an alternative VoIP provider for international calls to get cheaper rates (or even free); (4) use your Ooma service from alternative locations (say outside the US to make free calls to anyone in the US, or on a wi-fi phone from a hotspot).

I think this means that one could connect the PhoneGnome box to an Ooma service and then set it up so one could place calls via SIP to anyone in the U.S. In other words, I could use a wi-fi phone at work to make free calls to anybody in the U.S. Or I could call any U.S. number free from outside the U.S. (say from India to the U.S.) I guess I could do the same thing by connecting the PhoneGnome box to a Vonage account for that matter, but it's an interesting twist to the Ooma line sharing scheme.

Two Jons Disagree About Ooma

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Just as Jon Arnold reports that he likes Ooma, another Jon, Jonathan Greene at atmaspheric | endeavors complains about several annoyances including: "an audible buzzing background sound [that makes] it very difficult to hear the other party" and issues with outbound caller ID (the Caller ID the person he calls sees).

CallerID is apparently hidden for “Security Reasons” by default, but you can enable it on outgoing calls by dialing *82. I expressed my discontent with this option and suggested it be a one time activation with the option to block as needed - the way everyone else handles it.

Jon Arnold, on the other hand, says:

Ooma works, and I think it's a well designed product. That's the easy part in my mind. Getting this to market and convincing people to spend this kind of money upfront from an unknown company will be the real challenge in my mind. Right now, Oooma is very Voice 1.0

We should note that neither person actually paid the $400 for their Ooma box - they got it free as a beta tester.