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    Locals add value to online software services

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business in Vancouver September 18-24, 2007; issue 934

    High Tech Office column

    Over the past couple of years, I’ve converted to using online services for my e-mail, calendar, contact list and more. That way, I have access to the same information at work, at home, travelling – anywhere I can access a computer and the Internet without the fuss of keeping multiple systems in sync.

    There are a number of issues, though.

    You need to trust your data to whoever is hosting the service. And while most services do a better job of backup than most of us do, servers sometimes crash, making your data at least temporarily unavailable. (The temporary shutdowns of the Skype VoIP system and Microsoft’s Windows Activation servers were recent reminders of this.)
    And inevitably, there are times when the Internet just isn’t available – long flights, for instance. At those times, it would be nice to be able to have a copy of the data on my computer. Just like in the days before online services.
    Vancouver startup Calgoo (aka Time Search Inc.) has a solution to at least part of this dilemma. Its Calgoo Calendar software lets users do several useful things.

    First, it allows them to synchronize calendars stored on their computer (using Calgoo’s calendar, Microsoft Outlook or Apple iCal) with online calendars hosted by Google Calendar (hence the company and program name). More sources of calendar information are promised.

    As well, it lets groups of users – members of a business workgroup, a family, a team – co-ordinate schedules.
    Calgoo offers identical versions for Windows, Macs and even Linux – a very good feature in my book. It comes in two versions: standard, which is available as a free download, and pro, currently $30 per year.

    The free version requires users to click to synchronize their various calendars; the pro version syncs automatically. The free version lets users combine up to five calendars, while pro users can combine an unlimited number of calendars.

    Pro version users get e-mail tech support. Otherwise the two versions are pretty much identical. Both versions offer to-do lists, contact management features, sync with Outlook contact lists and allow subscription to a variety of special-interest calendars and schedules.

    If you want to use Calgoo’s software, you have to go online and download a copy. CounterPath Solutions (formerly Xten Networks) makes software that you may already be using without ever having heard of the company. Also Vancouver-based, CounterPath is a world leader in softphones: computer programs that let you make voice and video calls using the Internet. Its eyeBeam and Bria softphones are distributed to users by more than 250 Internet and VoIP service providers in more than 50 countries branded with the service provider’s name.

    While the company’s eyeBeam software looks and feels like an on-screen videophone, keypad and all, the company describes its new Bria as more of a multimedia communicator, built as an extension of the user’s address book to offer a more robust way of managing communications.

    A third product, X-Lite, is a free softphone based on eyeBeam, available for download from the company’s website. It can be used if you already have VoIP service or are connected to an IP-PBX phone network. (As with most technology, if you have to ask, then you probably don’t have it.) With the appropriate service, it can be used to call other softphones or connect to mobile or landline phones. It can also send video and instant messages to compatible softphones.

    An X-Lite demo version is upcoming. It promises to allow users without VoIP connections to “call” other X-Lite Demo users. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan

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