Confused by dual Duals

And that’s where Clive’s problems started: “The device works fine in every obvious way, but I can’t distract myself from the fact that it emits a very high pitched ‘whine’. This isn’t in any way loud, but it’s there – all the time. When the office is a hive of activity, it isn’t obtrusive at all, but when it’s quiet this noise is obvious both to me and my wife. I bought the device through an Amazon subsidiary and, to be fair, it swapped it directly after I raised the issue, but the replacement makes exactly the same noise. Is it me? Is it likely that this device, being of ‘industrial’ quality, will make more noise than my old domestic Netgear router that was silent or is this one also faulty? I don’t want to take issue with the vendor because it was great and I don’t want to begin what will undoubtedly be a long and drawn out issue with Netgear unless the device is clearly faulty. Hence this email to you – was the device you tested silent, or did it, too, emit a similar high-pitched noise?”

Confused by dual Duals

Thanks for the email Clive and, yes, the device I have here does produce a very low-level whine. I’ve encountered this type of noise before: back in the early days of computing, my ZX-Spectrum used to make a remarkably similar noise! I believe that what we’re both hearing from the DGFV338 is “chip noise”, sound generated by high-frequency currents in the processing and RAM chips. Many chips produce this kind of noise, but it’s normally produced at an inaudibly high frequency. Unfortunately, though, the Netgear wireless router appears to produce a noise that’s just about detectable by the human ear. It really isn’t very loud, and I’d describe what I hear as very faint indeed. In a normal office or living-room environment, you wouldn’t notice it – I think you’d only notice it in an otherwise silent room such as a bedroom. I’d be tempted to simply shove the device into a (non-metallic!) cupboard, or maybe the loft, but if it really does bother you the published specifications for this device declare an “acoustic noise” figure of 0dB, so you’d be within your rights to return the router as faulty. But having said all of that, I still think it’s a great bit of kit, and still highly recommend it for people working from home, especially since it’s one of the few devices that will cope with both ADSL and Cable broadband. Just don’t put it on your bedside table!

Not-so-lucky numbers

You may have read press reports late last year about a problem with London telephone numbers and Skype. In a nutshell, Skype offers a facility called SkypeIn, where you can purchase an inbound landline-style phone number directed at your Skype account. That way, wherever you’re running Skype, be that on a PC, a mobile or a dedicated Skype handset, you’ll get an incoming call whenever someone rings that number. Skype currently charges £35 a year for a SkypeIn, with UK numbers available in Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester. And, of course, there’s a similar selection of incoming numbers and area codes on offer from various countries around the world.

The problem arose because Skype didn’t own its London 0207 numbers, but rented them from a selection of third-party providers. Inevitably, the 0207 numbers have become very desirable – particularly with “virtual” services such as VoIP, where you can appear to be located in central London even if your office is somewhere out in the sticks – so there’s now something of a shortage, which prompted one of these third-party suppliers to charge Skype more for them. Skype wasn’t at all happy, claiming the proposed fee was uneconomic, and the two parties fell out. As a result, around 8,000 people using 0207 SkypeIn numbers had to stop using them late last year, which was a big problem for small businesses that had printed their SkypeIn number on business cards, letterheads and company vehicles. Luckily, a company called Voipfone – which I’ve mentioned in this column a few times before – is allowing Skype customers to transfer their 0207 SkypeIn numbers to its own service, but I doubt many Skype customers will be aware of this offer.

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