[SATLUG] $200 Laptops Break a Business Model

Henry Pugsley henry.pugsley at gmail.com
Mon Jan 26 10:25:06 CST 2009


On Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 8:44 AM, Borries Demeler
<demeler at biochem.uthscsa.edu> wrote:
> Just wanted to share a couple of items with this group:
>
> 1st item:
> I recently ordered a MagicJack - anyone knows about this? For $39.95 +
> s/h you get a little usb plugin device that at the other end allows you to
> plug in your home phone. If you run Windows or Mac OSX and have broadband,
> this allows you to make/get unlimited calling in the US, Canada and
> Puerto Rico.  There is a $19.95 yearly charge for this service (first
> year is included in the $39.95). It includes voicemail, a local number,
> and caller ID. I run the software on an XP image running under VMWare on
> my linux laptop. If you set up your network correctly, it works great,
> sound quality is very good, even on international calls (for which you
> have to pay, but only very little). You can also use a headset instead of the
> phone. They are working on a Linux driver, but no ETA yet. The concept and
> cost is the best VOIP solution I have found, so now I want to get rid of
> my landline and replace it with this MJ device. I did have several startup
> difficulties, which were all resolved with the help of their online chat
> help, but it was tedious and time consuming. The problem was the original
> number didn't work for incoming calls, they changed my number, now it works
> great. One word of caution: They chat help is pretty incompetent, until you
> get elevated high enough in their hirarchy.

This sounds kind of shady to me .. I think someone else posted on the
list about the ad-driven nature of this device.  A quick serach for
"magic jack eula" turns up this scary little tidbit:

"You also understand and agree that use of the magicJack device and
Software will include advertisements and that these advertisements are
necessary for the magicJack device to work ... Our computers may
analyze the phone numbers you call in order to improve the relevance
of the ads."  (http://www.magicjack.com/tos/)

Microsoft could learn  from these guys.  Not only is it ad-driven (or
will be shortly), they tell you up front that they WILL spy on you to
keep the service running.  I imagine tampering with the software to
block the adware/spyware portion will result in deactivation of your
account.  These guys aren't maintaining infrastructure and a help
center on $19.95/year per subscriber without some additional means of
income (i.e. ads and marketing data).  I also found some other
complaints regarding customer service (or lack of) and the inability
to make simple changes to your account in a timely manner (like e911
dialing).  Their ToS even states that they are not required to provide
911 dialing and therefore it is a "best efforts" feature.  Thanks
guys!

For $15-25/mo you can get better service from Vonage (Call Fwd,
SimulRing, 3-way, fax, etc)  and actually have someone to talk to when
things go wrong.  Oh, but $25/mo > $20/year.  Well that $20/year is
more than $20 if you don't have a Windows or Mac machine sitting
around.  If you buy a $200 PC and a $125 copy of Windows (student
edition) to keep it legal, your cost for the first year is now $365 or
$30/mo, and you have to put up with ads and spyware.

Sorry for the negative rant, but most things that sound too good to be
true normally are :)

-Henry


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