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September 20, 2005

Peerflix, first takes

So, I signed up with this service called Peerflix in late July. I tend to tinker with new web services, so this should be no surprise.

Here's a basic description of Peerflix:

Mediated DVD-by mail exchange system. You send off movies you have, get credits, use those to acquire other movies. They charge a fee (currently $0.99) for each movie you receive. The sender pays postage.

Now, apparently, despite a name clearly meant to sound like Netflix, and having a usage model that would've easily worked a lot like Netflix, they apparently originally thought that users would probably just exchange movies they liked for those they didn't, and be done with it. How odd. I'd think it would be obvious that some folks would fund into the system with a few DVDs they could manage to trade in, and then trade continuously after that. I guess they finally figured it out, though.

Since July, I've sent off about 8 discs of my own, all movies I didn't really want to own anymore. In exchange, I've gotten about 5 more movies (one more is still in the mail). That's less, but the movies I sent originally were really lousy movies, so, it's not such a big surprise.

Bottom line: if you've got easy access to a printer, this service is pretty easy to use, and it's worth checking out... especially if you've got any movies sitting around that you don't want.... you can essentially treat it as Netflix, but without having to pay an ongoing subscription. Instead, you pay $1/trade, whenever you do them, and they don't hassle you about sending discs. They do reward referrals, though, so ask me for an invite. As a bonus, they make it a lot easier to trade movies with folks who are your “friends”.

They dropped the beta moniker from their site today, but they're still doing promotions to get new signups... the first trade is free, they give your first credit (equal to about 1/2 of a typical DVD, 1/3rd of a new release), and, once you do your first trade and ante-up, they'll send you a DVD (from a finite list they supply, but some of which are decent) for free. In the very least, you can trade that one, and end up with enough pool credit to trade a new release disc right off the bat.

Update: Seems Slashdot actually covered a topic quickly. Here's the slashdot story, rife with misinformation about the doctrine of first sale, and the cost of Peerflix vs. Netflix.

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September 11, 2005

VoIP hack: Custom call routing based on your current Plaze

I've been trying to think of something else cool to do with my VoIP system. I've lately added crude least-cost call routing, several more incoming numbers (I found a company at least currently providing Bay-Area local numbers for apparently no subscription cost! Hello, business model?).

Anyway, I've also been playing lately with a kind of nifty location service called plazes. In a nutshell, plazes provides a system whereby your computer registers itself. Plazes uses information about the network you're currently on (information about the gateway, actually) to uniquely identify a network. If your network has already been identified and information about it entered into Plazes in the past, Plazes will know where you are. (There are some limits, and the tool that registers your location only currently runs from full-fledged machines. No laptop? Plazes probably won't work for you - I was hoping to code support for Plazes for the PSP, but that seems doubtful, at least, without an expensive PSP development license, given what Plazes needs to know about your local network to identify it).

Like any good Web 2.0 company, you can get at this information programmatically. You can query where you are directly, and opt-in to letting others see where you are and where you've been, if you so desire.

I've been wanting such information for a while to teach my home asterisk system how to route calls for me.... see, when I'm at home, my cell phone is really unreliable. Sure, you can simultaneously dial a bunch of numbers (this is a trivial thing in Asterisk, why is it so hard for normal phone systems?), and just let the first one to pick up win. But, what if your home cell coverage is so bad that your cell phone sometimes goes straight to voicemail - thus, cutting off the simultaneous ringing of your other services?

Besides, there are other times when location can be a better hint to how to route calls. I'd rather my work phone not ring all weekend, when I'm working from home, etc. There's no reason for it to, and it means someone at work could possibly answer my phone when I'm not around.

My solution was to use the plazes information to decide what numbers to simultaneously dial. Right now, when I'm home, I just ring my home phone, and, optionally, a software phone on my laptop. When I'm at work, I don't ring the home phone, but I ring both my cell and my office number. When I'm not logged in to plazes, or I'm at a plaze I haven't written a rule for, I try my home, my cell, and my softphone.

Well, there's the background. Want to do the same thing? (prereqs: have an Asterisk install, a plazes account, and at least one DID service for your Asterisk) Head over to my tiddly wiki where I lay out the code and the instructions.

Questions/Comments? Please post them in the comments.

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