> sightings



April 11, 2006

David Pogue found the VoSky Call Center and wrote about it in the New York Times. I have a similar set-up from Blueface but it's not smart enough to detect and ring Skype users when they come back online. However, Blueface does not require an always-on PC hooked into your internet connection.

Actiontec sell the VoSky Call Center for $60. It connected to the back of your PC via USB. It also clips into your phone line and will easily serve a wireless phone through another connection. You get instructions in the box.

You need Skype to work VoSky. You populate a VoSky buddy list with Skype addresses of your contacts, assigning a speed-dial number to each one. "Then you're ready for the VoSky magic show," Pogue says in his article.

The Call Center will let you call Skype buddies using the telephone on your desk. You pick up the handset, dial ## (which means, "This one's for Skype") and listen to a recorded female voice say: "Welcome to the VoSky Call Center. Please enter your contact's speed-dial number." (She pronounces it VOSS-key.)

There's a quick click, and then the call is placed. Your comrade, perhaps thousands of miles away, hears the familiar Skype ring tone, sits down at the PC, puts on the headset and answers. You, meanwhile, chat cheerily on your cordless phone as you move about, do the laundry or set the table.

The sound quality is excellent. It's not as good as a Skype-to-Skype call, of course, because you're listening on a phone — but it's much better than a regular phone call.

If you've signed up for SkypeOut, that 2.1-cents-a-minute plan that lets you call phone numbers rather than computers, you make calls in exactly the same way. Pick up your phone and touch ##2 (or whatever the speed-dial number is), or even ## plus a standard phone number in international format.

The second magic trick is even more impressive. This time, you can make a Skype call from your cellphone, wherever you happen to be.

To make this work, you tell the Call Center's PC software ahead of time how long it should wait — say, until the fifth ring — before answering incoming calls.

Then, when you're out and about with your cellphone, you dial home. After the designated number of rings, the Call Center's recorded young lady answers. After you plug in your password, she prompts you to touch the desired speed-dial number, and off you go. You're talking free to your aunt in Antigua, from your cellphone, courtesy of your home phone and your PC.

"Free" is a relative term, of course. Just calling your home number may still be using up your cellphone's monthly minutes, depending on the time of day and what kind of cellular plan you have. Even so, you'll save a lot of money if you call internationally.

Trick No. 3 is Skype forwarding. If you're away from home when somebody tries to reach you using Skype, the Call Center rings your cellphone (or any number you specify) so you can take the call.

The Call Center's last trick is call return, and it's pretty neat. Suppose you try to reach Dad in Dallas, but he's not at his desk. In that case, the Call Center's recorded voice offers to call you back when he is online. Sooner or later, when you least expect it, your cellphone rings; it's your Call Center, whose voice lets you know that Dad is online again. She tells you that if you'd like to call him right now (using Skype), press 1.

Incidentally, none of this affects your home phone's ability to make regular phone calls. You place them just as you always do (without dialing ## first), and the phone rings normally when someone calls you. Handy indicator lights on the Call Center box let you know whether you're answering a regular call or an Internet call.