A downside of VoIP

I live in Germany but maintain a US-based VoIP number through a VoicePulse.com account. The VoIP account allows Rebecca and me to cheaply call the US, and gives our friends and family a “local” US number at which they can reach us in Germany. I’ve got a standard digitally cordless analog phone (heh) that plugs into a Fritzbox supplied by my ISP - 1und1.de. The Fritzbox is a wonderful piece of kit that works as a DSL modem, DHCP-enabled router, WIFI AP, and has two analog telephone adapters (ATAs) built-in. Since 1und1 gives us a free German VoIP number, the FritzBox handles three incoming and outgoing phone lines - my VoicePulse US number, my 1und1 Germany number, and my standard analog line supplied by Deutsche Telekom. Any incoming call lights up all phones connected to the FritzBox. Add in mine and Rebecca’s mobile phones, and in one apartment we have five phone numbers between the two of us. It only seems slightly overkill.

The downside to all of this global connectivity is that people can no longer assume we’re physically tied to a location based on our phone number. When I signed up with VoicePulse, I chose a Charleston, South Carolina area code + prefix. A few years ago, this number identified you to a certain area determined by your phone company. Now, with US number portability and VoIP, locations and numbers are completely detached. My Voicepulse number can ring at a Starbucks in Hong Kong just as well as it does here in Stuttgart.

Quite often our US line will ring anywhere from midnight to 2AM CET, which means we’re likely already in bed or about to be. Midnight to 2AM CET is 6:00-8:00 PM EST - prime-time for telemarketers or overly eager bank representatives to call. I usually just conduct whatever business they are calling to conduct and then politely explain that they’re actually calling Germany, and that I’m anywhere from 6 to 9 hours ahead of them. “Please note this in your system,” I would say. That seems to ...

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Stuttgart’s Besenwirtschaften

Stuttgart MoonStuttgart has these wonderful little hidden little charms that make it a really great place to live. One of our favorites are the Besenwirtschaften, which are traditional Swabian wine houses. They’re operated by the families that own the numerous vineyards around the Stuttgart area, and by law they are allowed to open 4 months out of the year. They are scattered throughout the city and its surrounding towns, and if you find one you can enjoy very simple (and cheap) Swabian food and fresh wine from that year.

One of my favorites is a place in Degerloch that a German woman introduced me to. It is essentially a living room that overflows into a side room, so the atmosphere is wonderfully warm and intimate. At the most, 20-30 people pack into these two small rooms, and the close quarters means that you are forced to meet and talk to your fellow wine drinkers. Two out of the three times we’ve been there, we’ve had Germans who were young kids during WWII come tell us about their first experience eating bananas and oranges given to them by American GIs. It really is quite nice of them to tell us this, and it makes us feel welcomed in Stuttgart, where our social circle mainly revolves around the large community of expats working for the many international companies based in Stuttgart.

Anyway, so we went last Saturday, which happened to be the same night as the big lunar eclipse. Between 5 of us, we had about 6 liters of wine, so by the time the U-Bahn got me home, I wasn’t as steady as I needed to be to take some good eclipse photos. I managed to shoot two frames before passing out. My next one is really a drunken picture, and the following night I took a few more frames since my camera was already out.

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Streamburst is brilliant

I just came across Streamburst via Techcrunch. Within minutes, I was happily downloading In Search of the Valley at a blistering 8-9 megabits per second, probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to topping out my 16-megabit ADSL connection. By the time I finish this blog post, a full DRM-free 1.1 gigabyte DVD-quality movie will be ready to watch, all for $7.99. That’s brilliant.

I went to ISOTV’s website, added the downloadable movie to my part, and paid using paypal. I was then presented with three download options:

I could choose to download any or all of the three formats, reminiscent of allofmp3.com. The encoding itself is DRM free, and I can choose to play the movie on whatever device I want.

What’s the catch? Streamburst prepends the movie with a 5 second clip showing who originally purchased the movie:

I’d much rather see my name on a movie than the completely pointless FBI warning on Hollywood releases. Streamburst also supposedly adds some sort of invisible, durable watermarking that is intended to be persistant through re-encodings.

I absolutely hate DRM. I hate it so much that I don’t even use some iTunes credit. I think audible.com would be an awesome service if it wasn’t for its DRM. I have 2 audible.com book credits that I’ll probably never use. It’s really that much of a pain in the ass, although admittedly it is probably worse for me being a desktop linux user. Like most people, however, I just want to be able to play my media on any device I want to use. I don’t want to be locked into a single piece of hardware or software to play back media that I’ve legally purchased.

Is this Streamburst going to stop piracy doing this? Absolutely not. I can easily clip the 5 seconds of my name and transcode the video into another format easily. However, I did just spend $8 on a movie I was interested in but not enough to purchase the DVD ...

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