TotalTalk - Setting Up
At this point, the router was configured and running on my network, so it was time to really check out VoIP. AOL TotalTalk has three different levels of service (Figure 8). At the low end, you can get unlimited local calling with 3.9 cents a minute long distance; this will set you back $18.99 a month. The middle offering, at $29.99 a month, offers unlimited domestic long distance within the US and Canada. At the high end, for $34.99 a month, you can get the same unlimited long distance, plus support for international calls, the toll of which will vary depending on the country you call. All prices are before tax and fees - these add up just like they do with standard phone service.
Figure 8: TotalTalk Plans
The instructions indicated that to fully utilize the VoIP features of the service, I needed to install the latest Beta version of the AIM Triton service. Thus, off I went to beta.aol.com, to find the software for installation on my XP laptop. Installing the software involved the standard process of downloading and running an executable program, agreeing to multiple Terms of Service, telling it not to install an AOL toolbar on Internet Explorer, not to change my home page, not to change my default browser, not to install a plaxo.com integrated address book, and so forth.
After the installation completed, I had new shortcuts on my desktop for "Free AOL With SPAM Blocker!", "AOL Explorer Browser", "AIM Triton", etc. When I started up the AIM Triton software and logged in, the AOL Explorer Browser was spawned and I was greeted with a full-page animated advertisement for Ford. This I closed immediately. Then I noticed that the AIM client itself was also displaying ads as part of its display. At one point, while exploring the options, I was greeted with a poor quality, loud, grating audio clip of Jingle Bells.
My first thought was that I had contracted a virus while installing all of the AOL software, and it was taunting me. But then I realized that I was being annoyed courtesy of an ad running inside the AIM client itself. Nice. As I continued exploring, nothing seemed related to my VoIP service, until I selected the "Dashboard" option. This kicked off the AOL Explorer Browser once more and directed it to a totaltalk.com web page detailing the status and settings of my VoIP service. This was where the real configuration and status checks were done. Once I verified that I could access this same web page with my own browser, and I verified that there were no more VoIP options in the Triton client, I retreated to my iBook - where I could work without being assaulted by noisy, full-screen animated ads.