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by Gary Woods

There are a lot of Voice Over IP (VoIP) services out there. Skype, Vantage and even Cox has a one of these plans to make your cable into your phone carrier. Basically what happens is you hook up a phone to your computer and use your high speed internet connection to make phone calls. The call quality is generally not quite as good as a dedicated land line but the price can be dramatically cheaper.

One service that has been getting a lot of press lately is called MagicJack. The big deal about MagicJack is that he costs only $19.95 per year. You can get a free trial for 30 days from and once your device arrives you plug in any household phone into it then plug the other end into a computer that has a high speed internet connection. After a bit of setup you pick up the phone and talk for free anywhere in the USA and Canada.

Among the services you get with MagicJack are free directory assistance, a free phone number, free call waiting, free voicemail and free caller ID. It works with Windows XP, Intel Macs, and Windows Vista and you actually don't even need a phone because it can work with the microphone and speakers on your computer.

There are definitely some detractors of MagicJack and I wouldn't use it for my only telephone. But if you're looking for an in-expensive second phone this could be something that might work for you. The bottom line is you've got 30 days to decide whether this is something you can live with before moving forward. Check out MagicJack.

If you have any suggestions or questions for me please drop me a note at or see my column on the Internet at or call me at (805) 729-0910

Gary Woods is the Computer Trainer for the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. And he is a Broker/Associate at Home Realty & Investments, Inc