Voicemail Problems with Skype

Posted by: on Mar 26, 2010 in Blog | | 5 Comments

For small businesses in need of only a few phone numbers, Skype is a great value. I pay about $60/year for a phone number that rings wherever I’m logged into Skype, plus voicemail. When it works, which is almost all of the time, it’s fantastic.

The trouble is “almost all of the time.” So for Googlers benefit, here are three problems I’ve had with Skype voicemail over the last couple of years that aren’t answered by Skype’s FAQ and unlikely to get a straight answer from tech support in the first response.

These solutions are for the Mac client, but can probably be adapted to Windows. I doubt the files are different, but the paths to them will be.

Can’t hear any audio when you listen to a voicemail?

Calls go to voicemail immediately, without ringing?

For both of these, quit Skype, then delete the file ~/Library/Application Support/Skype/shared.xml.

Unanswered calls not going to voicemail?

Quit Skype. Open ~/Library/Application Support/Skype/your-user-name/config.xml in a text editor. Look for:

<Call>
  ...
  <NoAnswerTimeout>10</NoAnswerTimeout>
  ...
</Call>

The number is the delay, in seconds, before Skype will do something with the call. If this is missing, Skype won’t send the call to voicemail.

What Happened to Programming

Posted by: on Mar 10, 2010 in Blog | Tags: | One Comment

Last week, Mike Taylor posed the question “whatever happened to programming?” (also see his followup). I think part of the answer is simply “it’s grown up.”

Programming, either as a hobby or a career, has only been around for a little less than 70 years. (The first was the Colossus, built and used by the British during World War II to read encrypted German messages.) This is very young when compared to other scientific fields: agriculture, construction, various engineering disciplines, etc.

I won’t disagree that building the very fundamental parts of a new application from scratch can be very enjoyable. Perhaps not printf(3), but certainly other parts. The problem is bug rates, though: any seasoned software developer knows that writing less code means less bugs. If high-quality libraries are available that provide 80% of the functionality of your new application, you will likely end up with a better product, in less time, than if you chose to write the entire thing yourself.

Consider the sorry state we’d be in if:

All farmers experimented with their own methods of weed and pest control (organic or not), instead of using techniques proven to work in the past. Our agriculture industry probably couldn’t meet the population’s demand for food.

Architects and builders “winged it” when building new homes and office buildings. Bugs in that industry would likely mean structural failure. Who would want to live in those houses?

How about automakers? It’s one thing to build a kit car as a hobby, it’s quite another to tinker with your designs when you’re producing cars on a massive scale for general use (just ask Toyota).

It may not be as glamorous, but if our collective bug count goes down and the software industry ships better products that don’t require constant patching, I can’t help but consider this a very good thing.