To lie or keep in hiding, as for some evil reason. To move or go in a mean, stealthy manner.
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Jr. Skulker TapakaH told us about yet another free PC-to-phone system that lets you make phone calls from your PC speakers and microphone at your end and real phone numbers at the other end. Go2Call makes calls to U.S. toll-free numbers for people overseas (but not other U.S. numbers), and free calls to the UK, Ireland, and Germany. WebSkulker has a couple of criticisms about it, although he shouldn't since it is a free service. (1) When you sign up for your free account, they send you a random password by email, and there doesn't seem to be any way to change it to a password that you can remember. (2) WebSkulker can't get it to work from his Windows NT or 2000 systems, but it does seem to work OK with Windows 98.
Typical of the PC-telephony web sites, the Go2Call site has a store for purchasing headphones and other gadgets that might be better then using speakers and a microphone. WebSkulker purchased their FoneNet Connect device that you can read about at the links above, and he kind of likes it.
FoneNet Connect is a little box that lets you use a normal telephone instrument as the headset for making PC-telephony calls. The pictures, diagrams, and instructions at the second link have all the details, but basically this box wires in between your PC's microphone and speaker jacks and your microphone and speakers, and it wires in between a telephone instrument and the modem or wall phone jack that it currently goes to. Most of the time, the box connects the devices so that everything works normally as it always has. But when you want to make a PC-telephony call, the box routes the PC speaker jack to your telephone's earphone and the telephone's microphone to the PC microphone jack and amplifies the signals appropriately. You can then hold your telephone handset to your ear and make the call in a way that feels much more natural.
WebSkulker tried it out with a couple of calls using DialPad and Pagoo and likes the concept a lot. He has always hated PC-telephony and avoided it as long as there was a reasonably-priced way to make a "real" phone call. Part of the problem is the quality of PC calls, but part was that he just didn't like talking on the speakerphone-like microphone and loudspeakers or a headset. Holding a telephone handset up to his ear just felt normal, and the poor quality of the call didn't matter very much.
WebSkulker does have a one major disappointment with the FoneNet Connect that will probably be the same with any such device. Pressing touchtone buttons on the phone sent the touchtone sounds to the other end, but with enough distortion that the voice mail system or whatever at the other end didn't recognize that anything was being pressed. This isn't really a problem with most of the PC-to-phone services because they give you an on-screen touchtone pad that will cause their server to generate high-quality touchtones that do work.
WebSkulker mentioned in the 1/13/00 issue a site that lets you play with a very old text-to-speech synthesizer. Jr. Skulker Gary told us about the first site above that does the same thing, but with the latest and greatest speech synthesizer from AT&T Labs. Click on the first link and read about the technology, then try out their interactive demos that let you type in some plain text, a phone number, and a name/address/number combination to see how the synthesizer works in typical applications. Gary points out that there is a use for this site other than playing and learning about the new technology: "It's great for generating answering machine messages!"
The second and third links came from the AT&T site. The second is to a page that lets you type in some plain text and then hear it spoken on many different brands of synthesizers as a comparison. The third link is to another AT&T Labs project that designs 2-D and 3-D animated characters whose lips and other features move automatically in response to the words being spoken by the speech synthesizer. Some of these are cartoons and some photographs of real people with moving lips etc. superimposed. Go to the third link and press the "Demo Examples" button at the top left. You need to have a recent version of QuickTime to get these demos to work, and the first time you try, QuickTime may ask permission to add a couple of specialized plugins.
Roaches are among the earliest skulkers on the evolutionary chain, certainly the most common non-human critter that skulk amongst us humans. Even animal lovers don't seem to have a problem killing them, but: "Stop! Don't crush that cockroach. At least not until you see whether there's a bar code on its back. Seems a group of American exterminators looking for publicity tagged 350 of the critters and set them loose for bounty-hunters. One roach in particular could make you rich faster than you could say 'Regis Philbin.'"
The first link is to a streaming CNN video about this contest. The second link is to the contest home page.
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