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The Computer Buzz January 14th, 2010


Nome and Paul Van Middlesworth - owners - The Computer Fact
ory
 

 

What’s up with “Magic Jack?”

By now we’ve all seen the MJ (Magicjack) ads on TV. It looks like a really good deal. Instead of paying your local telephone company $25 or more each month, you simply buy the MJ device for $39 and pay $20 a year for the service, a savings of over $200 a year. That doesn’t even count the fact that all your domestic long distance calls are free.

MJ is another implementation of VOIP (voice over Internet protocol), a technology that has been available for the past ten years. It uses your high-speed Internet connection (Cable, DSL or Satellite) instead of the telephone company’s landlines to transmit voice messages.

In addition to providing low cost basic phone service, MJ also provides voice mail, caller ID, call forwarding, call waiting, 3 way conferencing and 411 directory assistance, all for free. The installation is a snap. You simply plug the MJ into any USB port on your PC and allow it to load its software. You then plug your phone line into the MJ and start calling all your friends and relatives.

MJ is selling at the rate of 10,000 installations a day at present, it almost sounds like a no-brainer but there are some factors which might make MJ a bit less attractive. For example, if you already have DSL you cannot stop paying the phone company for basic landline service. It’s part of your “package”. Also, your cell phone may already provide for virtual free local and long distance service within your contract minutes.

Some other downsides of MJ or any Internet based telephone service are that it can’t work when your PC is off, down or when your Internet service is down or when you can’t get on the Internet. Since your VOIP relies on your PC’s Internet connection, you would not have service during a power outage. Telephone landlines don’t use power from your electric utility grid so a power outage rarely affects landline service. In these circumstances incoming calls will be accumulated on MJ’s voice mail server. Hopefully MJ has a very large and reliable voicemail server.

The MJ EULA (end user licensing agreement) has this troublesome statement.
“You also understand and agree that use of 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.”

While it is politically incorrect to notice, the syntax of the EULA statement sounds strangely Asian. This is a license to track user telephone calling patterns. The stated purpose is to help them better spam you and the people you call and that is bad enough but what stops them from selling this information to others?

To us MJ sounds like it might be a useful and money saving service in some limited circumstances but it doesn’t look like a viable alternative for most landline and cell phone users.

 

 

 

 


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