The Linksys CIT400 iPhone for Skype
O Joybubbles, Where Art Thou?

Francis Vale

Joybubbles is dead at 58.  What a loss.  I could have used his special phone hacker skills when Sunrocket, my VOIP provider, went belly-up. Joybubbles was a blind genius, whose real name, until 1991, was Joe Engressia.  Joe and his towering 172 I.Q. somehow discovered back in the late 50’s that you could outfox Ma Bell and make free LD phone calls by whistling into the phone at exactly the right 2,600 cycles per second tone. Phone phreaking was born. 

Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were phone phreaks.  One of Mr. Steve’s first products was a “blue box” that mechanically emulated Joybubble’s whistling for free routine. Circa mid-1960’s to early 1970’s, those who didn’t want to finance seed capital for Apple Computer just bought a box of Cap’n Crunch cereal. Some boxes contained a cheap plastic whistle that produced the right 2600 Hz tone that spoofed the phone networks. You can still find these whistles selling on eBay.



But instead, I got a Linksys CIT400 wireless iPhone with built-in Skype. You may recall that Linksys/Cisco originally owned the trademark to iPhone.  But apparently, Jobs thought the name was his by divine right. After the expected legal tussle, Cisco and Steve mutually agreed that Apple and Linksys could both continue using the iPhone trademark.  A pretty incredible outcome, but such is the power of Steve’s Reality Distortion Field. 

The dual mode Linksys iPhone is a very cool piece of kit.  There is no need to plug it into a computer to use Skype.  Instead, the iPhone comes with a small, silver, square base station sporting two connections, one for a regular telephone landline and another for Skype that requires a spare Ethernet port on your router or switch. Use the iPhone’s keypad and enter your Skype login and password, and fire up. The iPhone automatically connects over the Internet via the base station and downloads all your Skype contacts and other Skype info into phone memory. 

The wireless iPhone CIT400 is a slick design, with a very clear color LCD screen that lists all your Skype info, including how much money is left on your Skype Out account. The iPhone’s easy to use keypad let’s you manage your private or public Skype profile, add contacts, get Skype voicemail, reject a Skype call, do conference calls, and a slew of other Skype features.  The iPhone also has a built-in speakerphone and a jack for an optional headset. Although the iPhone handset is wireless, it requires its special base station for operation.  You cannot use the iPhone all by itself at a WiFi hotspot.

When calling overseas or domestically, Skype connections were almost instantaneous, and call sound quality was excellent. In contrast, Sunrocket was much, much slower to connect international calls. Sunrocket VOIP sound quality was about on par with the Skype iPhone.

The iPhone connector box has two distinct rings and alert signals for landline and Skype incoming calls so you know which is which both audibly and visually. A short beep will alert you that a second Skype call is waiting. You can also switch between two incoming Skype calls.  However, you can’t switch between incoming/outgoing Skype and landline calls at the same time. It’s one phone mode or the other

So naturally, right after I switched to using the iPhone, Skype suddenly died for a couple of days. Skype snafu’d because, apparently, a gazillion PC users did a simultaneous patch o’ the day WinXP security upgrade and everyone more or less rebooted at once, overloading buggy Skype servers around the planet.

Maybe Joybubbles would have helped me make a free LD call to Estonia so I could bitch.

21st, The VXM Network,