To lie or keep in hiding, as for some evil reason.  To move or go in a mean, stealthy manner.
ISSN: 1527-814X Tuesday July 18, 2000

WebSkulker Newsletter
Well I don't care about writing C,
Skulk Skulk, Skulk and Hack High School

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Free phone skulking to UK, Ireland, Germany

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.

WebSkulker kind of likes this

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.

Animated skulkers

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.

World's first skulkers?

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.

This made WebSkulker laugh

Answering Machine Messages 

A is for academics, B is for beer. One of those reasons is why we're not here. So leave a message. 

Hi. This is John: 
If you are the phone company, I already sent the money. 
If you are my parents, please send money. 
If you are my financial aid institution, you didn't lend me enough money. 
If you are my friends, you owe me money. 
If you are a female, don't worry, I have plenty of money. 

(Narrator's voice:) There Dale sits, reading a magazine. Suddenly the telephone rings! The bathroom explodes into a veritable maelstrom of toilet paper, with Dale in the middle of it, his arms windmilling at incredible speeds! Will he make it in time? Alas no, his valiant effort is in vain. The bell hath sounded. Thou must leave a message. 

"Hi. Now you say something." 

"Hi, I'm not home right now but my answering machine is, so you can talk to it instead. Wait for the beep." 

"Hello. I am David's answering machine. What are you? 

(From a Japanese in Toronto) He-lo! This is Sa-to. If you leave message, I call you soon. If you leave sexy message, I call sooner! 

"Hi! John's answering machine is broken. This is his refrigerator. Please speak very slowly, and I'll stick your message to myself with one of these magnets." 

"Hello, this is Sally's microwave. Her answering machine just eloped with her tape deck, so I'm stuck with taking her calls. Say, if you want anything cooked while you leave your message, just hold it up to the phone.' 

"This is not an answering machine - this is a telepathic thought-recording device. After the tone, think about your name, your reason for calling, and a number where I can reach you, and I'll think about returning your call." 

"Hi. I am probably home, I'm just avoiding someone I don't like. Leave me a message, and if I don't call back, it's you." 

"Hi, this is George. I'm sorry I can't answer the phone right now. Leave a message, and then wait by your phone until I call you back." 

"If you are a burglar, then we're probably at home cleaning our weapons right now and can't come to the phone. Otherwise, we probably aren't home and it's safe to leave us a message." 

"You're growing tired. Your eyelids are getting heavy. You feel very sleepy now. You are gradually losing your willpower and your ability to resist suggestions. When you hear the tone you will feel helplessly compelled to leave your name, number, and a message." 

"You have reached the CPX-2000 Voice Blackmail System. Your voice patterns are now being digitally encoded and stored for later use. Once this is done, our computers will be able to use the sound of YOUR voice for literally thousands of illegal and immoral purposes. There is no charge for this initial consultation. However our staff of professional extortionists will contact you in the near future to further explain the benefits of our service, and to arrange for your schedule of payment. Remember to speak clearly at the sound of the tone. Thank you." 

Please leave a message. However, you have the right to remain silent. Everything you say will be recorded and will be used by us. 

"Hello, you are talking to a machine. I am capable of receiving messages. My owners do not need siding, windows, or a hot tub, and their carpets are clean. They give to charity through the office and don't need their picture taken. If you're still with me, leave your name and number and they will get back to you."


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