Search Results for: ooma

Ooma Telo Phone Service Discounts + Long Term Review

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Updated, now only $99 with free shipping via referral below. The Ooma Telo is a VoIP system that creates a home phone service through your broadband internet. Just plug in your regular landline phones and go. Features include unlimited domestic long distance, 911 service, caller ID, voicemail, and call waiting. In addition to the one-time purchase price, new customers must pay a share of government taxes and regulatory fees that works out to around $5 a month. Consumer Reports rated it their #1 home phone service in their June 2012 issue. Here is the Consumer Reports “Claim Check” video:

My Long-Term Review

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Ooma Landline Phone Number Porting Timeline & Review

You may recall that I recently bought an Ooma VoIP Telephone system since it offers me unlimited phone service for an upfront price of about $200. Porting your landline phone number over to Ooma costs $40, but can be worth it for some folks. (It’s also free with a 1-year $99 subscription to Ooma Premier service, which includes a second phone number.)

Although Ooma warns that it can take up to 4-6 weeks, the results are highly dependent on your local telephone company. I thought I would share the timeline of a friend’s successful port which took 19 days.

Day 1 – Filled out port request online.

Day 3 – Faxed/e-mailed in required paperwork, which required some signatures and a copy of recent phone bill.

Day 9 – Received the following e-mail from Ooma. Emphasis is mine.

You’ve recently requested your phone number to be ported to ooma. We have submitted all of the information you provided to your current Carrier and are still awaiting confirmation. We will notify you via email once we have confirmation of the actual completion date.

Please keep in mind that if you have DSL on the same number that you requested to port, you will lose your internet connection when your number is ported. ooma will not work without a broadband connection, so this is a friendly reminder to insure you do not experience down time.

Day 12 – Another e-mail from Ooma.

You’ve recently requested your phone number to be ported to Ooma. The expected completion date of your request is scheduled for 12/29/09 [Day 19].

Day 19 – Final e-mail from Ooma.

Thank you for placing your order with ooma, your porting request has been completed. Please reboot your ooma hub so your account will be updated with this number. You may also contact your local carrier to cancel your account with them.

As promised, on Day 19, the regular landline phone went dead. If you called it, it said “This number is no longer in service.” But after rebooting the Ooma unit, all calls were immediately picked up by the new Ooma line. After calling the telephone company to cancel, they said that everything was already terminated and that the final bill would come in shortly. I guess since the number was already gone, they had no reason to try and convince me to stay.

In general, I think Ooma did a very good job of providing regular updates during the process. The overall process was as smooth as could be expected, with the worst part being that it still took 3 weeks total.

Sending Faxes with Ooma Phone Service

Today I tried to both send and receive faxes through my new Ooma VoIP phone system. I used a Brother MFC-7340 multi-function printer and my Ooma is connected via cable modem.

While fax is not officially supported, there is a section with several tips in the Ooma Support Knowledgebase, which I highlighted below. Short version: Connect your fax machine directly to the Hub, and dial *99 before your fax number. Both sending and receiving worked perfectly for me on the first try. I’m very impressed!

While the ooma system is not guaranteed for Fax transmissions, it often works successfully, provided you follow these simple instructions:

1. For the best results, make sure your Fax machine is connected to the back of the ooma Hub or Telo unit, not the ooma Scout. The fax machine should be plugged into the “PHONE” port of the ooma device. If you plan on using a phone handset with the ooma Hub or Telo, you can use a splitter to connect a phone handset and the fax machine to the ooma device.

2. Dial the prefix *99 before you dial an outgoing Fax call. Please note that you may need to insert a pause or two in the dialing sequence after entering the *99 prefix and before entering the Fax number.

If you are still unable to send or receive a Fax, try the following additional steps:

1. Disable “ECM” (i.e., “Error Correction Mode”) on your Fax machine.
2. Decrease the transmission or baud rate.
3. Reduce the number of pages that are sent per fax.
4. Decrease the desired image quality of the fax.
5. Discontinue any large file downloads (for receiving faxes) or uploads (for sending faxes).

Obihai Free Monthly Home Phone Service; VoIP Adapter Deal for $30

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If you still have landline phone service and are looking for a cheaper alternative, Obihai is officially supported by Google again (it ended back in May 2014):

Obihai is excited to announce official support for Google Voice. With a Google Voice account and a companion OBi device you can make and receive VoIP calls on a regular telephone. To get started, just login to the OBiTALK website, add your OBi device and select Google Voice as your service. You’ll then confirm your account with Google, and within minutes, you will be making and receiving calls from the comfort and convenience of your home phone.

An Obihai VoIP phone adapter is a little box that will allow you to plug in any standard landline telephone and use Google Voice to make free phone calls within the US and Canada. You can also make cheap international calls starting at 1 cent a minute. Many people have been doing this happily since 2011.

To celebrate, Obihai is running a promotion where you can get a Obihai OBi200 VoIP Telephone Adapter from NewEgg for only $29.99 with free shipping (also works with Shoprunner) after using coupon code EMCPAWW99. Promo ends 9/14/14, or while supplies last. Retail price is $49.99.

Even though I am still quite happy with the quality of my Ooma VoIP phone service, it is really hard to beat 30 bucks upfront and no ongoing monthly fees or taxes. (Note: It is up to Google to continue offering free domestic calls, which they usually only promise a year at a time.) I just bought my first Obihai box just so I can tinker with it and maybe send it to my parents.

Stock-Picking Mutual Funds Still Lacking in Persistence

It is very tempting to invest in an actively-managed mutual fund that advertises above-average historical returns. Why would you bother investing in the ones with below-average returns? However, there’s something behind the whole “past performance does not guarantee future results” fine print. While there will always be funds that outperform looking backwards, that fact just doesn’t reveal very much about the future.

Index provider Standard & Poor’s publishes something called the S&P Persistence Scorecard twice a year, which examines the persistence of mutual fund performance over consecutive and overlapping time periods. By using quartiles, relative performance is compared, not absolute performance. Do the funds that had top returns in the past continue to have top returns?

The most recent December 2013 study [pdf] reaffirms the general conclusions of many other similar studies on persistence of actively-managed mutual fund performance, namely that it is often nowhere to be found when compared with random chance.

Very few funds can consistently stay at the top. Our studies show that as time horizons widen,the performance persistence of top quartile managers declines. Of the 692 funds that were in the top quartile as of September 2011, only 7.23% managed to stay in the top quartile at the end of September 2013. Similarly, 5.28% of the large-cap funds, 10.31% of the mid-cap funds and 8.15% of the small-cap funds remain in the top quartile.

For the three years ended September 2013, 19.25% of large-cap funds, 20.1% of mid-cap funds and 26.8% of small-cap funds maintained a top-half ranking over three consecutive 12-month periods. It should be noted that random expectations would suggest a rate of 25% and small-cap funds was the only category to exceed the repeat rate.

A good analogy I’ve read is that you don’t drive by only looking at your rearview mirror.

More: Barron’s, Rick Ferri/Forbes

Money Saving Guide

It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you keep that matters. Here is a collection of my best posts about reducing various expenses. Now, there will always be areas where you choose to splurge, but at the same time you should save money in other areas that are lower priorities. Please consider it a work-in-progress.

Housing

Transportation / Cars

Food

Cellular & Landline Phone Service

Best Value in Smartphone Plans? T-Mobile $30/month Prepaid 4G with Unlimited Data

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Even though I know you can get cheap, basic cell service for under $10, I do find value in having a smartphone with mobile data, for business reasons and mobile hotspot use if nothing else. My current contract is coming to an end, so I’ve been looking for the best current value in smartphone plans.

I kept hearing about a T-Mobile $30 a month prepaid plan that with a little “hacking”, you could turn into an unlimited minutes, text, and data plan for $30 a month with no contracts! Too good to be true? After many hours of research and tinkering around, I finally have it all set up and have been using it for a little over a week. Here’s a summary of what I discovered (ended up being a bit long):

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S&P Persistence Scorecard: Don’t Pick Mutual Funds Based on Past Performance

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It is very tempting to invest in an actively-managed mutual fund that has above-average returns. Why would you invest in the ones with below-average returns? However, there’s something behind the whole “past performance does not guarantee future results” fine print. While there will always be funds that outperform, it is exceedingly difficult to pick them out in advance.
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How Not To Select A Good Mutual Fund

I was looking through the Barnes & Noble bargain bin and found a book called “How to do just about everything”. Okay, how to unplug a toilet… how to carve a turkey… hey, a personal finance section! Wow, quite awful. After coming home and looking up the book, I found out it was by eHow.com. I should have known. Check out this gem on How to Select a Good Mutual Fund (eHow link), which offers the following advice:

2. Determine how many mutual funds you will invest in. Three to five funds is generally considered an adequate amount of diversification.

Yes, let’s determine diversification by the actual number of funds. One… two… three… done! Never mind that I could easily have more diversification in one mutual fund than in 15 separate niche funds. This is like deciding the best book is the one with the most pages. At least later on it says to vary the size of companies in the funds. However, there is no mention of real diversification between stocks vs. bonds, domestic vs. international, passive vs. active management, etc. What else?

5. Choose high-performance funds by using Internet resources and newspapers to pick those funds that have had the best performance over at least the last three years.

Huh? I don’t know how the advice could get much worse than this. Picking whichever funds that had the best performance over the last three years will virtually guarantee that you will have below average returns going forward. Check out these articles on the persistence of mutual fund returns based on studies of actual mutual fund return data over decades. “The majority of well-done studies tend to support a lack of persistence for all but the worst performing equity mutual funds.”

Don’t chase performance! Again, we see no mention of better indicators like expense ratio, turnover ratio, tax-efficiency, manager ownership of shares, etc.

Content Mills Warning
So how does such a poor article get prominent placement in search engines, not to mention published in a book? eHow is a content mill that encourages people to churn out large numbers of articles with low quality standards, promising them a cut of all future ad revenue. Google has recently penalized them for their low-quality articles as well.

In addition, eHow has a history of treating their freelance writers poorly, and their most recent move was to cut off their share of ad revenue completely, offering them either a lowball buyout or nothing. I’m sure they have some good articles, but in general I would say you’re better off avoiding them, especially for money-related topics.

How Often Should I Rebalance My Investment Portfolio? Updated

Here’s a slightly updated and revised version of an older post I had on rebalancing a portfolio to maintain a target asset allocation.

What is Rebalancing?
Let say you examine your risk tolerance and decide to invest in a mixture of 70% stocks and 30% bonds. As the years go by, your portfolio will drift one way or another. You may drop down to 60% stocks or rise up to 90% stocks. The act of rebalancing involves selling or buying shares in order to return to your initial stock/bond ratio of 70%/30%.

Why Rebalance?
Rebalancing is a way to maintain the risk to expected-reward ratio that you have chosen for your investments. In the example above, doing nothing may leave you with a 90% stock/10% bond portfolio, which is much more aggressive than your initial 70%/30% stock/bond mix.

In addition, rebalancing also forces you to buy temporarily under-performing assets and sell over-performing assets (buy low, sell high). This is the exact opposite behavior of what is shown by many investors, which is to buy in when something is hot and over-performing, only to sell when the same investment becomes out of style (buy high, sell low).

However, in taxable accounts, rebalancing will create capital gains/losses and therefore tax consequences. In some brokerage accounts, rebalancing will incur commission costs or trading fees. This is why, if possible, it is a good idea to redirect any new investment deposits in order to try and maintain your target ratios.

How Often Should I Rebalance?
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Google Offers Free PC-to-Phone Calls To US & Canada

There was a lot of media coverage yesterday when Google announced that they would offer PC-to-Phone calls to US and Canada numbers for free from their Gmail interface. To try it out if you haven’t already, just log into your Gmail email account.

But wait… Google Voice (GV) has offered free US long-distance for a while already, and they’ll call your landline or cell phone so that you don’t have to sit by your PC and use a headset. Much more convenient in my opinion, even though I still love my Ooma. I primarily use GV for their voicemail transcription feature.

On top of that, let’s say you live in Texas and a big chunk of family and friends live in San Francisco that use landlines. Sign up for a Google Voice number with a San Francisco area code, and have your friends call that number. It’ll count as a local call for them, and will be forwarded for free to your existing phone.

However, this does make it more convenient to use, since Google’s service works within a web browser (plugin required) instead of a separate application. Skype might have to drop their prices as well, since they charge 2.1 cents a minute or $3 a month unlimited for the same features. Another perk is for international residents that want to call into the US for free, it appears you just need to have Gmail and have the default language set to “US English”.

Google Voice Now Available To All In US

Google Voice announced today that it is now available to everyone in the US, with no need to track down an invite. Here’s a nice, quick intro video for the service for the unfamiliar:

For more tips, see my previous post on how to save money with Google Voice. Did you know you can use it to get free long distance anywhere in the US with your landline? Or, you can give your out-of-state parents a local number they can now call to reach you without paying long distance charges either. GV has expanded their available area codes recently, although many areas are still unavailable for now.

I currently use Google Voice as an additional freelance work number to give out, as opposed to my “one number to rule them all”. I also have it set up to handle my voicemail for my cell phone, in which GV transcribes them and sends it to me as a text message. The overall transcription isn’t the best, but enough to get the general idea and it manages to excel at recognizing phone numbers. I do enjoy the convenience of just reading messages as texts, and being able to listen to messages online while traveling internationally.

Any Gizmo5 experts want to write a guest post on how to build your own VoIP phone service with Google Voice on the cheap? Update: Gizmo5 is closed to new accounts. Lifehacker has a post about using Sipgate to make free calls (a bit clumsily). Since I’m happy with my Ooma, I don’t think I’m willing to put in the research time. :)