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skype-ban.jpgThe Ethiopian government has made it a criminally offence to use VoIP services like Skype or Google Talk in their country, punishable by as much as 15 years in prison.

The bans also extend to social networking features that make video or audio chat over the web possible.

The law was passed last month, but has only just been brought to the attention of the international community.

Ethiopian government officials that the bans have been brought about by "national security concerns". However, dig a little deeper and the true motive quickly becomes apparent; Ethiopia is served by a single, state-owned telecommunications carrier. Banning VoIP services (many of which offer free web-calling) helps the Ethiopian government protect their monopoly over communication services.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Communication and Information Technology also gained "the power to supervise and issue licenses to all privately owned companies that import equipment used for communication and information."

The governemnt is also said to be blocking access to the Tor network, an independent ISP which allows people to surf the web anonymously.

Via: Tech Crunch

Skype

Skype has been updated to version 5.8 for Windows PCs, bringing 1080p Full HD video chat to the table.

So long as you've got a Full HD webcam, an internet connection that can manage consistent 2Mbps upload and download speeds and some pals who don't mind seeing your ugly mug in high resolution, you can chat away at 1080p quality.

The update also adds group screen share, which lets Skype Premium subscribers share their entire desktops or a single app with pals on their friends lists, making Skype an even more powerful collaboration tool.

The last major addition is video calling with Facebook friends, regardless of whether or no they're on Skype. You can now also hide Facebook contacts from within the Skype client and set up mic-muting hot keys. Skype is now also integrated into the Bing toolbar, an inevitability following Microsoft's purchase of the VoIP service.

Skype 5.8 for Windows is available now by clicking here.

messagenettalk.jpgMessagenet Talk, a new voice-over-internet and texting application for PCs, Macs, iPads, iPod touches and iPhones launches today, looking to offer a simple, cheap alternative to Skype and Google Voice.

Offering free calls to PC and Macs, Messagenet Talk's main draw is the fact that you can call any computer user at anytime, regardless of whether or not they have downloaded Messagenet software in the past. A user sends an email link, or instant message through social networks to the person they want to call, which when clicked instantly starts a voice conversation between the two.

Messagenet Talk users can also chat not only through PCs and Macs, but also iPhones and even iPods and iPads. Registering with Messagenet Talk lets users take the service mobile, meaning that costly roaming charges when abroad can be avoided. SMS and regular phone calls are also supported, with rates lower than Skype's for more than 200 countries, including the US, the EU and China.

"Our goal was to create a truly universal and simple service that brings together the devices and services that people on the move really want and need," said Andrea Galli, CEO of Messagenet.

"There is a large customer segment out there that understands it Should be possible to use the internet to make convenient, high-quality telephone calls at a low cost from anywhere on earth. Messagenet was developed with those people in mind.

"Messagenet is not just an incremental improvement to Skype and the other services out
there," added Galli. "It's a versatile package that puts VoIP to its best possible use. Our goal has been to make VoIP do everything people want it to do with utmost ease of use in mind."

Head over to www.messagenet.com for more info on the service.

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Facebook and Skype have announced a new partnership that will see the pair join forces to bring video chat to the world's largest social network, alongside group chat.

Via a downloadable plug-in, users will be able to video call their Facebook contacts directly from the Facebook website within the browser using Skype's technology.

"Working with Skype underlines our approach with how we are building this stuff. We want to leave these types of apps to those who are best in class in creating these things. This is a big difference from other internet companies who try to do millions of things on their own," said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a thinly-veiled swipe at rivals Google and their own chat and video calling services in the wake of the launch of the Google+ social network.

"Social networking is at an inflection point right now. The narrative has always been about connecting people," added Zuckerberg.

"The amount of stuff that is shared today is twice what it was a year ago. That kind of exponential growth is profound. The thing that is growing faster than people on Facebook is the amount of sharing on Facebook."

"If you look at how sharing is growing, then you can plot this out in the future. So, if this is what people are sharing now then what apps do we have to create to encompass this in the next few years."

A massive boost for Skype in particular, they now have a direct link to the 700 million+ Facebook users.

It's already been a busy couple of months for the video-calling experts. Microsoft reached an agreement with Skype barely two months ago in which they bought the service in a deal worth reportedly over $5 billion.


Owners of select Android phones with the Skype app today get an update that lets them use the popular VoIP client to make video calls too.

Working over both Wi-Fi and 3G connections, users can use both front facing cameras and rear facing cameras (usually of a higher quality) within the calls, using a spruced up interface to switch on the fly between the two.

It's not only Android-to-Android video calling here either; you'll also be able to video chat with Skype users on iPhone, Macs, Windows PCs and HDTVs with webcam functionality too, making it far more useful than the iOS-only FaceTime app from Apple.

There's also a slew of other additions too, such as a more intuitve main menu and a "mood message box" letting you broadcast whether you're happy, sad, confused, befuzzled or anything inbetween.

So far it's only compatible with HTC Desire S, Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo, the soon-to-be-released Xperia Pro and Google Nexus S handsets, but those who can access the new features can get a quick preview by hitting the video above.

skype-thumb.jpgFacebook are said to be attempting either a takeover or partnership with popular VoIP firm Skype, a new report states.

Figures of as much as $4bn have been bandied about by Zuckerberg's empire, should Reuters sources "with direct knowledge of the discussions" be believed. Considering Skype's recent valuation was somewhere around the $1bn mark, that seems an extraordainarily high price tag.

Google too have been linked to a buyout of the video calling service.

Facebook already features integration with Skype 5.0, allowing users to voice chat with their social networking friends directly from the application, perhaps suggesting that they're in a better position to snag a deal here over Google.

Skype, of course, are staying tight lipped on the reports.

Klipsch ProMedia In-Ear.jpg
Name: ProMedia In-Ear (Klipsch)

Type: Gaming earphones

Specs: Click here for full specs

Price: £78.52 from Amazon

Image Gallery: Click here

While gaming headsets are normally of the bulky over-ear kind, the increasingly portable nature of gaming laptops would surely benefit from a pocketable pair of in-ear gaming buds to accompany them too. Enter the Klipsch ProMedia In-Ear gaming earphones, as adept at blaring out the sounds of exploding zombie guts as they are Mozart on your iPod.

Despite costing just around £80, you're getting a very solid pair of noise-makers here, in both build and sound quality. With a fiery red-and-black design, the small buds fit comfortable in the ear, with a cable long enough to reach even the most well-hidden soundcard or deeply-pocketed MP3 player. A small remote and microphone sits about a third of the way down the lead, with a single button embedded. A clip for attaching the cable to a jacket lapel is also included, alongside a splitter for a laptop's separate microphone and headphone inputs.

Bobbing along to a range of music, we were pleased with the earphone's noise-isolating design. While not quite silent, the passive noise cancellation worked very well at blocking out ambient noise; even better if you pick the right size from the three included ear gels (med, large, small/med dual flange).

Sonically they were a treat for music too. The harsh mix of sounds on At The Drive-In's Relationship of Command album were deftly separated, with crystal clear vocals, crunching guitars in the mid-to-high range and sharp snare and hi-hat sounds in the top-end. Bass had a decent kick, but was a little lacking compared to other gaming headsets. Listening to Radiohead's fairly bass-heavy latest album King Of Limbs felt a tad weaker than we'd grown used to with our standard Astro A40 gaming headset for example.

Testing out the Klipsch ProMedia In-Ear's gaming guts, we tore through a few missions of Bioware's original Dragon Age title on the PC and came away very impressed. From the clashing of swords to the crisp voice-over work, the buds nicely enveloped us in the game's world, with strong separation across the stereo channels giving a decent feeling of movement. Again, bass response in the booming Lord of the Rings style soundtrack was a little weak, but not so bad as to feel tinny by any means.

A quick game of Left 4 Dead 2 over Steam, notorious for its voice-chat compression, received a thumbs-up from our online pals, with the Klipsch ProMedia In-Ear again doing well to avoid hiss or interference in its microphone. However, while the mic worked well for gaming and VoIP PC programs, it's worth noting that it's function is limited only to VoIP apps like Skype for iPhone, and not for regular call taking.

They may not pack the bass-y punch of other in-ear headphones, nor the pseudo 5.1 effects that now come as standard in many over-ear gaming headsets, but in terms of versatility, clarity and portability, the Klipsch ProMedia In-Ear are the travelling gamer's new best friend.


4/5


Skype

Today Skype broke a new record, reaching 27 million users online simultaneously.
The announcement comes shortly after the iOS video chat release, and indicates that the recent growth in Skype's customer base can be accredited to the rise in popularity of video chat on smartphones.

Although video chat has been available for some time, it seems as though it has only recently been coming into its own. In fact only last week Skype announced that Video calling had accounted for approximately 41.5% of all Skype-to-Skype minutes in the second half of 2010 and introduced Group Video Calling as part of their new Premium package.

As they plan to enter the Android and TV markets, these numbers will only continue to grow.

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Skype announced this week the launch of a bespoke, low-bandwidth version of their VOIP software, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UNHCR-version of Skype, will be deployment across 120 hardship locations served by UNHCR staff members, and provide Humanitarian workers in the most remote parts of the world a new low-cost way to communicate with colleagues, friends, and families.

Aid workers are typically separated from their families for months at a time, sometimes with very little notice, and have limited opportunities for communication. Skype will provide both free and low-cost voice and video calls over the Internet even when accessed through low connectivity networks. For those stationed abroad, this announcement couldn't come at a better time. As we enter the holiday season, this new version of Skype will provide these humanitarians with a way to keep in touch with their loved ones.

The new software has been tested successfully in Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan and is now being rolled out in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Chad, Congo, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Uganda.

Skype and UNHCR are subsequently hope that this is the first stages in the development of a communications solution that can be used to benefit refugees more directly. For example allow refugees to reach family and friends across borders, as well as facilitate protection operations, including repatriation, resettlement and family reunification.

Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees commented on the new partnership stating:

For us, helping the world's displaced is not just about delivering the basics of food and shelter but ensuring they are able to access all the benefits of modernity, including the ability to communicate regularly with friends and family. Our partnership with a technological innovator like Skype significantly advances our aspirations in this regard

skype-logo.jpgThe Skype 5.0 beta release was launched this week, bringing with it the ability to hold five-way video chat sessions amongst your group of contacts. Much like in an instant messaging conversation, you can now add contacts to chat sessions, who can drop in and out as they please.

So far, only a Windows version has been released, but Mac users are promised an update too later on in the year.

"With the latest version, you'll be able to bring the whole family together for a chat, for lunch, or even for a birthday," notes a post on the Skype blog. "You'll be able to spend quality time with your best friends, planning a trip, or even hosting a book club. And you'll be able to meet with colleagues from across the world without leaving your desk.

"Once you're all set up, it's easy to start a group call - just use the Add button to invite people into the conversation, and click the Video Call button. Group video calling is just one in a set of new premium features you'll see us roll out during 2010. We haven't set prices for these premium features yet, but rest assured that we're still absolutely committed to bringing you free voice and two-way video calling."

Head on over to the Skype website to pick up the 5.0 beta for Windows, and check out their preview of all the new features.

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skype-logo.jpgSkype, the free online voice and video calling service, is to run a public beta test of a new group video chat function next week.

Up to five people will be able to talk to and see each other simultaneously in the new feature. However, while the service will be free initially during the beta phase, group video chat will become a premium feature when it rolls out to the general public in its final build.

The service will hit Windows first, heading to Apple's Macs later on in the year.

Skype's other premium subscription services are also going to get an overhaul. New options will allow the choice of being able to pay for both mobile and landline calls, or just one of the two, for those who use Skype as an alternative to a regular telephone.

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symbian skype.jpgNokia and Skype have joined forces today to announce the release of Skype for Symbian phones. The app is available now from the Ovi Store for free, allowing users with a Wi-Fi or 3G connection to call other Skype users free of charge over the internet.

Initially, the Skype for Symbian application will be compatible with the following Nokia touchscreen models: Nokia N97, Nokia N97 mini, NokiaX6, Nokia 5800 Xpress Music and Nokia 5530 and the following non-touch devices: Nokia E72, Nokia E71, Nokia E90, Nokia E63, Nokia E66, Nokia E51, Nokia N96, Nokia N95, Nokia N95 8Gb, Nokia N85, Nokia N82, Nokia N81, Nokia N81 8 Gb, Nokia N79, Nokia N78, Nokia 6220 classic, Nokia 6210 Navigator, Nokia 5320.

Plans are in the works to bring Skype to Symbian phones from other manufacturers, such as Sony Ericsson too.

"Skype, the king of Internet communications, running on Symbian, the world's dominant smartphone platform, makes for an explosive combination," said Larry Berkin, Head of Global Alliances and GM USA, Symbian Foundation. "With Symbian's global reach, Skype is that much closer to becoming the ubiquitous real-time communications platform for hundreds of millions of Symbian-based mobile users."

It's great news for Nokia owners on unlimited data plans who are looking to save some of their precious minutes, or those looking to make calls from abroad.

For more info, click here.

Bambuser.JPGBambuser is an innovative live service which allows its users to stream video content from their mobile phones or webcams to anywhere on the web in real time. It lets your friends check out exactly what you're doing, as you're doing it, and can be incorporated directly into your Twitter or Facebook stream.

Bambuser began life as a university project, in which a student was looking to give his long-distance girlfriend a tour of his dorm room over the web.

With the demand for immediate information growing thanks to the popularity of sites like Twitter, Bambuser looks a handy tool for keeping on top of the fast world of personal and worldwide news.

For more info and to pick up the app, click here.

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At last, Skype has come up with a new version of their VoIP software that I actually want to download for reasons beyond the fact that it happens to be the latest. The Skype 4.1 beta sees the addition of screen sharing across Windows, Mac and Linux plus other trinkets like birthday reminders and a more in-depth contacts search.

Naturally, none of this costs any extra and, in case you're worried about the privacy issue, it's totally up to you whether you share the whole screen or just a part of it.

star-trek-film-communicator.jpgWith the Star Trek film out on Friday, it's high time everyone started cashing in on Kirkmania and, after Toshiba's protective plastic, it's now the turn of the Star Trek Communicator VoIP handset.

Now, before you get too excited, this device is a lot more useless than you might think. Yes, you can use it for Skype or whatever kind of chat service you use but only when it's plugged into your computer via USB. There is Wi-Fi or 3G involved here.

On the plus side, if you are an incurable Trekkie, then you'll be pleased to hear that it comes complete with 21 different communicator sounds and a six foot USB cable with which to parade your new toy about while in your Star Fleet Dressing gown and Tribble slippers.

Buy one

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In a world's first, 3 is offering all those with Skype enabled phones free Skype-to-Skype calls and IM from 1st May. Whether you're pay-as-you-go or contract you will not have to pick up a penny of the cost for your Skype data so long as you have a 3 Skype-enabled handset and you are calling within the network. In theory, all you'll have to do is buy a 3 SIM, stick it in a Skype-enabled phone and away you go.

What's more, for the summer, 3 is extending the deal such that anyone on an unlocked 3G handset will be able to take advantage of the offer whether or not they're on 3's network.

The deal looks like a fantastic way for the youngest of the networks to grab a whole load of customers and pick up the money from the non-Skype calls at the same time. It's an excellent move and really good offer. Time to fork out the £1.99 for a 3 SIM.

CLARIFICATION:

Just had a word with representatives of 3 to understand all the ins and outs of the deal. Firstly, the offer has no end date at the moment. It is indefinite. Secondly, so long as the call is made over Skype then it doesn't matter what network the recipient is on. So long as you are making the call from 3, then the call will be free. Presumably, though, if the other person is on another network, then they'll be picking up a data cost at their end.

The service will work on all handsets so long as you can run Skype on them and you stick a 3 SIM into the back. Capiche?

3 Skype Offer

S2 Skypephone Review:

skype-logo.jpgThe Nintendo DSi takes a step closer to becoming a mobile phone after Skype reps confirmed that a VoIP client is technically possible for the device. The company refused to confirm or deny the suggestion that it's actively developing for the device.

It's already possible to run VoIP software on the DS and DS Lite, via the installation of the SvSIP homebrew application, but homebrew applications are currently blocked on the DSi due to piracy worries.

Skype applications are already available on most mobile phones and the PSP, so it wouldn't be surprising if the company had at least some form of DSi client in internal development.

Given Nintendo's intention to build the DSi into more than just a gaming device, it's difficult to see any reason why they wouldn't approve such an app, unless they're planning a VoIP client of their own, which has been rumoured.

(via Tech Radar)

skype-logo.jpgIf this month's news of Skype all over mobile phones of the world got you thinking how hot the VoIP company is right now, then you might be pleased to hear that eBay is letting the communications service loose on the stock market with an IPO all of its own.

Skype generated a cool $551 million in revenue in 2008 and, although they are beginning to run into the old market saturation problem, it doesn't take a genius to see it's all about the services they'll be offering in the future rather the number of accounts.

So, if you think the future is sky blue, then you might want to set aside some cash for next year. Buy low in 2008, sell high peaking some time around 2013. That's my completely inexperienced and entirely non-culpable piece of financial advice for the day.

Press Release

S2 Skypephone Review:


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The Skype application for the iPhone hasn't even been out a week and already they've clocked up over 1 million downloads for the world's favourite VoIP service. To put that in perspective, that's one downloads every six seconds.

Naturally, they won't keep up this rate for long with market saturation on the horizon but it looks like Skype has shown the fastest uptake of any app for the Jobs 5800 since they started accepting external software.

Perhaps the networks have been right to fear Skype's pulling power when it comes to undermining their profits but for more discussion on that, check out our Tech Digest podcast.

Skype

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I have a dream that one day the mobile nation will rise up and cast off the shackles of the networks. I have a dream that one day phone contracts will drop below the £5 per month mark. I have a dream that one day we will all see each other when we talk. I have a dream that my little children will be able to use their mobiles the world over without suffering a penny of roaming charges. I have that dream, but I'm not sure that dream is VoIP.

Today we heard that Skype is to launch on the iPhone 3G and BlackBerry in the coming weeks. According to Skype Chief Operating Officer Scott Durchslag, it was the number one request from customers, and I can't help wondering why? Let's ignore the oversized elephant in the room that is the fact that this isn't the first time using your Skype credentials for mobile VoIP on the iPhone has been possible (see Nimbuzz, TruPhone and Fring). Let's also forget that there's already other mobile VoIP services that people could have been using instead on other handsets (see Vyke, Tesco Talk WiFi, etc). What I want to know is how much of a difference will the mass use of mobile VoIP make should mobile Skype be its saviour? Will it bring me closer to my dream?

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