We spent a few days recently trying out a new mobile phone for Internet calls.

It looks like a cell phone, but it’s designed to make calls over the Internet using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology. There are a number of services that provide this (Vonage and Skype are among the

best known).

The phone can be used to make calls when you are in range of a wireless “”access point,”” meaning a wireless router that is connected to the Internet. Such access points are becoming increasingly common. Many coffee shops, restaurants and hotels now provide them as an attractive convenience for customers.

We were able to make phone calls just driving around the city, apparently because we would often pass someone’s wireless access point and wound up piggy-backing on their connection. That connection held if we stopped there, but quickly faded as our car moved away.

We tried making calls from a Starbucks coffee shop and one from a Panera bread shop, but couldn’t connect. The phone indicated that a wireless Internet source was present at each place, but we could not make a call. When we walked into a Hilton hotel, however, the phone instantly became active and we were able to make calls both locally and cross-country, sitting comfortably in the lobby. Sound quality was crystal clear.

The issue of whether it works or not turns out to have nothing to do with the phone, but with the VoIP service used and whether the particular “”hot spot”” you’re at has a firewall blocking the port used by that service. The Hilton apparently welcomes all comers. When we asked a manager at Panera if she would please unblock the port we needed, she was apologetic and said she didn’t know how to do this. We would guess that very few restaurant or coffee shop managers know how to do this.

Internuts

We found these links at the SmartMoney.com Web site and thought some of them were worth passing along. The comments are our own.

The official Web site of the American Medical Association (www.ama-assn.org) has a list of physicians available for consultation online and lists of specialists in your area. You can also find out if your doctor is licensed and where he or she went to school. Which reminds me of a joke that was current back in college: “”What do you call the guy who finished at the bottom of his class in medical school?”” Answer: “”Doctor.””

You have to pay for this service (www.healthgrades.com), but it lists hospitals and their results for various types of care: cardiac, strokes, gastro-intestinal, orthopedics, etc. It also gives cost figures.

Patient ratings at www.ratemds.com for 8,128 doctors. These are entirely subjective and some are just plain silly. For example: Browsing the list we found doctors given poor ratings just because it was hard to get an appointment.

That’s Entertainment

Guild Wars, the Collector’s Edition, www.guildwars.com.

We have been reading “”new and thoughtful appraisals”” of the computer gaming world by writers who think there might be something in all this after all. This, as Yogi Berra used to say, “”is like deja vu all over again.”” We wrote about this more than 20 years ago and it seems obvious: Games are educational. Whether they’re meant to be or not, they are. You are learning something when you play, and it isn’t just how to drill the bad guys before they get you. You learn planning, strategy and above all: thinking.

Guild Wars is an adventure game that gets four out of five stars and generally “”awesome”” ratings from players. You must have an Internet connection to play. The collector’s edition comes with a noise-canceling headset (so you can chat with other players), three months free voice chat hosting, a hardcover art book, sound track CD, and a software module that lets up to seven players form a team and talk to each other as they plan their moves.

Just to show you who’s got the favor of the gods here, all game characters created with this version have a glowing aura, which is visible to all other players as your character moves around. If that isn’t pretty intimidating, we don’t know what is.

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