MagicJack…NetTalk – the definitive test?

Initial Response

I did get Magic Jack installed, with the powered USB hub – it was a simple process. The testing is showing good results so far. I could make a local call with no issue. I did find a small glitch.

  • I can’t call the Alaska state library from Magic Jack (busy signal), but I can from Skype. I was successful in calling the Wyoming and Hawaii state library systems.
  • I was also able to hook it up as a ringing phone through Google Voice. I’m now at VOIP central and it’s a pretty good tool, when used with Google voice, Skype and a backup ATT landline. Goodbye Vonage after September 11.

Conflict With Skype

There’s an interesting thread on a Magic Jack/ Skype conflict at magicjacksuppor…. Unfortunately, the thread poster didn’t resolve the issue. I should know, as I met a similar problem – no sound from Skype. I looked at the Skype options… it’s set to the same audio source as Magic Jack. When I set Skype to the Real Tec audio, Skype and Magic Jack both work fine. I think Skype audio got set when I installed Magic Jack.

I have temporary taken out my Skype phone, until Vonage goes away. I’ll then put it into the Vonage router port. The bottom line is you won’t find me on Skype 24/7.

Another Magic Jack/Skype Bug

I did discover a bug with Magic Jack. After about a day, I discovered I couldn’t boot up my machine. However, if I unplug the Magic Jack for a second and plug it back in – everything’s fine. I’m running Windows 7 and this is puzzling – yet not a showstopper. Since I utilize a powered USB hub, the hub is facing where I sit.

Even these high-priced VOIP solutions can have bugs. For the first 2 months I had Vonage under Comcast, I used their router, in front of my computer. I discovered, after a couple of days, the Vonage router dropped packets. I finally arrived at a solution. What you need to do is to have a good router (I.e. Linksys) after the cable modem. Then you plug the Vonage router, computer, etc., into the Linksys router.

I avoid the Magic Jack support, as I know I’ll only get level 1 support people. This is the same with Vonage. Occasionally, in my early days with Vonage, I’ll be transported to level 2. I do know they have a level 3 hidden somewhere, as I had a Vonage problem escalated to level 3. On the other hand, I haven’t been extremely impressed with the Comcast technicians I’ve met – either on the phone, or in person.

A Skype/Magic Jack Workaround

My first response is to update the Magic Jack Driver to the latest Windows 7 version – no improvement.

I discussed the problem with a software engineer and a student who majored in computer hardware. I decided to reverse the last action I did – reset Skype to use the Magic Jack sound driver. When I did that, everything was OK. If I disabled Skype at start-up, I still have the original problem, when Skype is set to the RealTek audio driver. We have a sound driver contention, with Magic Jack and Skype at start-up. I need to explore this mystery further.

Question to myself: Will updating the PC drivers via Driver Detective, or one of their competing software vendors, resolve this issue?  For around $30, I can use it for 1 year on 10 computers.

Final Thoughts

I hope I haven’t discouraged anyone from trying Magic Jack – it comes with a 30 day trial, but I urge you to buy it at a vendor store (I.e. Walgreens, Target, Radio Shack, etc.). Other then the quirks I’ve mentioned, it’s a good tool. Remember I’ve also had issues with the higher price Vonage service, before putting the Vonage router behind a Linksys router.

Remember the kid I know who graduated with a degree in computer hardware from Devry? He has installed and used it successfully on different computers. But there’s one thing I have going for me – I’m trained to diagnose different software problems – the average person is not.

MagicJack doesn’t consume much memory – about 10,000 K, which is about the same as Google Chrome.  When I look at FireFox, it consumes about 425,000 K.  These figures come from my Windows task manager.

How about sound quality and reliability?  Actually, both are pretty good – so far.

A MagicJack competitor

There’s an interesting competitor I found called NetTalk (nettalk.com/…).  I like that the device can plug into a router and connect to an ordinary phone.   I called the company to confirm their headquarters is in Miami, Florida.  This is what  I found out:

  1. Through the College of DuPage library, I have access to Hoovers.   The location in Miami, Florida, has 26 employees and an annual sales of 2.6 million.
  2. I did look them up on the Better Business Bureau database.    They’re a BBB accredited business since 7/30/2010, with an A rating, for the Miami, Florida location.
  3. The location at Van Nuys, California, has gotten a D rating from the BBB, based upon one complaint. Both the California and Florida locations showed the same website.  Florida is probably the corporate headquarters and California the distribution center.
  4. The COD library accessible publication Reference USA presents different data, but shows a credit rating score of B+.  Is it possible that Hoovers has more updated information? To verify, I had someone from the Small Business Development Center at Elgin Community College, run a Dun and Bradstreet report.  The D&B report agreed with Hoovers – 2.6 million in annual sales and 26 employees.
  5. I did find a good article on it at thecoffeedesk.c….
  6. None of my Google Chrome, FireFox or Internet Explorer Web of Trust plug-ins flags them (see http://www.mywot.com/).

I do like the fact that this service works through a router and an ordinary phone.  This is a big plus over Skype, where you have to buy a special phone.

NetTalk – What’s up with your shipping policy?

Note to myself: Perhaps I should just let NetTalk “mature” a bit more (the same applies to the current state of Skype phones).  My current US Skype land line call subscription runs out  around March 24, 2011, and the current Skype phone (Ipevo Solo) is discontinued.

But Wait…NetTalk just became BBB accredited, with an A+ rating…They do 2.6 million in annual sales, according to Hoovers and Dun and Bradstreet…They just came out with a new and improved model – let’s order it.

Here’s what my order status says, off their website: “Your order has been shipped on Wednesday, August 11, 2010 by U.S. Postal. Please expect delivery between Wednesday, August 18 and Wednesday, August 25. You do not need to sign for your package.”

I found it it’s being shipped by USPS – Not priority mail with electronic delivery confirmation.  That’s what a customer service live agents mentioned.  Let’s compare this shipping policy with some other companies I know.

  • If I order something at 1-800-homeopathy at 1-800homeopathy…, I only pay $5 – regardless of the order size.  I then get my choice of UPS ground or USPS priority mail.
  • If I order from Active Herbs at activeherb.com/…, and my order is over $48, I get free Priority mail shipping with delivery confirmation.  They also email me the confirmation number.
  • If I order items over $25 from Amazon, I get free shipping and an electronic delivery confirmation mailed to me.  I can then go to usps.com/shippi… and track my package.  Did I mention that this free shipping over $25 also applies to Amazon ordered MagicJacks?

Here’s another mystery.  I get a UPS notice on Friday, August 13, while I was away.  I called UPS with the tracking number and they said it was from DBS delivery services.  I’m not expecting any UPS package – is this my NetTalk device?  If so, then why did NetTalk customer service say it’s being delivered by USPS?  I’ll find out on Monday, August 16.

Parting Thoughts

Gizmo5 + Grand Stream 201 + Google Voice = Gizmo Voice

It’s a great combo. Google acquired Gizmo5 but hasn’t yet released it to the public. I’m grandfathered in, since I had a Gizmo5 account before the acquisition. I like to see what Google finally proposes as a public offering.

Let’s see now:

  • MagicJack can make residential out calls, when the computer is on.
  • NetTalk can make residential out calls, when the computer is off.
  • I can make business out calls via Gizmo Voice, utilizing Grand Stream 201 via Google Voice
  • Google Voice can ring all numbers via a central number.
  • ATT measured rate land line will allow me to call 911, toll-free and is an excellent, back up system.
  • I can contact my overseas contact via Skype-to-Skype
  • Vonage…Please remind me…why do I need you after September 11 (my Vonage 1 year contract is up then)?

P.S. We’re not finished here folks – more on MagicJack, NetTalk and my breakup with Vonage, in the near future.

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4 Responses

  1. Here’s some interesting news I found about MagicJack, while looking at the COD Hoovers tonight. I’m looking at the VocalTec Communications entry out of Israel, which had $6.9 million in sales in 2009. “In July 2010 the company acquired YMax, maker of the popular magicJack phone product and service. ” Great – a strong company is now behind MagicJack – I think.

  2. That call to the library in Alaska that didn’t go through? It’s because it’s in Alaska. Evidently MagicJack won’t let you call Alaska. At all.

    Source: http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r24566829-HELP-Magic-Jack-cant-call-local-ISP-area-code

  3. I did discover a bug with Magic Jack. After about a day, I discovered I couldn’t boot up my machine. However, if I unplug the Magic Jack for a second and plug it back in – everything’s fine.

    This “bug” is caused by the boot options in your BIOS. The Magic Jack has a small Flash Drive in it and your computer is probably set to boot off USB first when a USB drive is available. By unplugging it, you make it unavailable for the PC during boot up. I have the same issue when I leave my external Hard drive plugged into my laptop and then all I have is a blinking cursor on power up.

  4. I find Magic Jack to be completely unreliable. I’ve used it now for a year. Since I am a senior on limited income I thought it would be a great deal. I was wrong. It works very poorly in a highrise..When I moved into a smaller building it worked better…however, it is to the point NOW where I have no idea if it will connect or not. This last time I got such a rude customer service person (Crissa) and all she was interested in was DEFENDING Magic Jack and making sure everything was my fault. I was only looking for answers…not to blame. Her main comment to me was “Well, if you say its working NOW than its not Magic Jack’s fault” . (I know its not my computer)… Up until that point I would have been willing to buy a new Magic Jack…but not any more. Since it is impossible to speak with anyone “in person”…I asked for an address in order to mail them a letter. It has been two weeks, I still have no response. I am glad my granddaughter is putting me on her cell phone plan. I very much regret wasting money on Magic Jack.

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