Skype anywhere

The VoSKY Call Center is a small box from Actiontec that lets you make a Skype phone call from any phone, even out at the airport.

Skype, of course, is the software that lets you make calls anywhere in the world for free or very little money (commonly only two or three cents a minute even for international calls to people not using Skype). It is free to download from www.skype.com.

You connect the VoSKY box to your computer and phone jack, and you can then call it from any phone. It will work like an automatic phone operator; you tell it what number you want to call, and the call goes out. Conversely, it can handle incoming Skype calls and transfer those to any phone number you give it.

An interesting sidelight here is that the device can be plugged into a phone and computer at Internet cafes in countries that have limited broadband service. Then any call to that number can be re-routed to an international number and only the Skype rates will be involved. We found the box for US$62 at Amazon.com. Get technical info from the Actiontec Web site: www.actiontec.com.

Growing the family tree

There’s a new Web site and service for creating a chart of your family tree, and it is by far the best we’ve ever seen.

The site is called Amiglia.com, and it lets you attach photos, commentary and sound to a treelike structure representing your extended family or group, past and present. Anyone on the tree can add his own stories, pictures and memories.

The leaves, so to speak, are linked to each other; a change in one is recognized by the others. A broadcast e-mail can be directed to all members who have an address listed. Clicking on the “people” tab can show you everyone at once in a huge display of close relatives and distant cousins.

When you begin a family tree here, Amiglia creates a new Web site: yourname.amiglia.com. That site can be password-protected. Any information you want can be added to tabs on the site and associated with the people in it. You can add photos, slide shows and entire videos. We added photos of a visit to the mountain tram ride in Palm Springs, Calif., and the site created links to all family members identified in the photos.

The Amiglia.com site is in beta testing right now and free to all comers. A calendar will be added soon, allowing for the scheduling of family reunions and other events. After beta testing is over, general membership will remain free, with one gigabyte of storage. Above that, the charge will be US$50 a year for 100 gigabytes of storage. That’s enough for 20,000 photos and a lot of explanations.

Ghost sites

Recently we wanted to start up a new Web site for children and went to domain.com to see if our choice of name was already taken. Yes, it was, and so were dozens of other kid-friendly names.

A new tribe of “Internet squatters” have taken up residence out there in the ether. They register lots of domain names so they can later turn around and sell them. Usually there’s a minimal fee. The one we wanted was on sale for US$1,500, about US$1,495 more than we were willing to pay.

How can these people afford to register dozens and even hundreds of ghost Web sites? It turns out there are companies like Dotster.com that offer Web hosting really cheap.

The basic Dotster package provides one Web site and five gigabytes of storage for less than $10 a month. For just over $10 a month you can register 50 domain names and have 10 gigabytes of storage. Even the most basic service includes e-mail, anti-virus and anti-spam software, plus “Web analytics,” which tells you how many people have gone to your site. Other software is thrown in to let you create blogs, guestbooks and photo galleries. Cheap, eh? Someday everyone in the world will have a personal Web site.

Internuts

At www.KOLjunior.com: A great new children’s Web site from AOL. This was very impressive. Games, music, bedtime stories, movie clips from “Bambi” and all of “The Little Princess,” a classic Shirley Temple movie. Because AOL is a division of entertainment giant Time/Warner, it has an enormous advantage with a children’s site. There’s no reason why much of the huge library of Time/Warner movies and educational films could not be made available. Tough to compete with that.

An interesting and amusing feature of this site is the tiny tot critics. Little kids rank toys. We liked a criticism by Matthew H., of Missouri, age four, commenting on a Tigger the tiger stuffed toy: “It’s too young for me.”

The numbers report

An Associated Press poll found that four of every 10 Americans play video games, and 45 per cent of those play games online. Other studies have indicated that the increasing amount of money and time being spent on video games has affected movie revenues. The two categories are roughly equal now.

The International numbers report

Verisign, an Internet service company, reports that 8.5 million new Internet domains were registered in the third quarter of 2005, a 33 per cent increase over the same period the previous year. It’s about a 100 per cent increase from the third quarter of the year before that. The Internet is currently used by more than a billion people.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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