A few days ago I was browsing in my local Best Buy store and encountered an endcap loaded with the magicJack gadgets. With a price tag of $39.99 they promise to deliver telephone service for a year. Calls to the United States and Canada are free, calls to other countries are cheap (compared to other carriers) and the service is renewable for $19.99 when the year expires. You must have a broadband connection to the internet for the gadget to work. Another shopper commented to me, “Hey, I have one of those and it really works.” On an impulse, I bought one.
Being a user of Skype, I knew what was going on here. This was obviously a hardware implementation of a VOIP service, i.e., using the internet to make voice phone calls. Comparing this service to Skype there were three appealing features. (1) It is cheaper. Skype charges about two cents a minute for domestic calls. Your “break even” point will vary. For me it was about five months of service. (2) You use an ordinary telephone; no headset is necessary. (3) You are given a real landline telephone number. People can call you with their ordinary telephones or cellphones.
The downside. The gadget works with Windows and Mac, but not Linux, at least not directly. Upon plugging it in there was a sound and nothing more. Did not I just recently publish an article on how to emulate a Windows machine in Linux? This could be an acid test. Sure enough, I started my Windows virtual machine. VMware Player saw the magicJack and invited me to connect. Upon connection, the device installed drivers into Windows. In a few minutes I had a phone number and I was talking on my phone. The voice quality was excellent.
This is an excellent product. While the lack of a Linux driver is a negative, most of us have learned how to live with a Windows/Mac product when we have to.