Let PhoneMiser do the walking for the lowest long-distance rates

Personal Computers

November 03, 1997|By Craig Crossman | Craig Crossman,The Miami Herald

IF YOU haven't selected a long-distance service, chances are that one of the big three (AT&T, Sprint or MCI) has been chosen for you. When you make a long-distance call, you must have a long-distance carrier. Just one. But which one?

All of them offer calling plans and special rates that try to lure you away from the others. True, you can switch carriers when you discover a better rate, but then there's usually some sort of connection fee. If you want to go back, there are those reconnection fees. And it really isn't practical to keep switching since rates and plans change faster than you can say "deregulation."

But now you can use your computer in a whole new way. MediaCom has come up with something called PhoneMiser. The company claims that it can significantly reduce your long-distance bill and it accomplishes this by letting you use more than one long-distance carrier at the same time.

PhoneMiser is a hardware and software system that works on any Windows 95 system. Plug the attachment into your parallel port and run the program. Using your computer's modem, PhoneMiser downloads rate information from MediaCom's constantly updated database of long-distance carriers. From there, it's pretty much automatic. Just pick up your phone to make a call. PhoneMiser instantly determines when and where you are calling, looks up which carrier offers the lowest rate at that particular moment and routes the call. This entire process takes an imperceptible moment and works with any phone or extension phone on the line. You don't need to be anywhere near your computer.

MediaCom's lower phone bill claim is easy to confirm. Looking at the computer's screen shows you how much the current call is costing you and how much it would have cost you using your currently registered long-distance carrier. Nice. And PhoneMiser keeps a running total of your calls right up to the moment. No need to wait a month to see your phone bill. Details such as time, date and to where each call is placed are kept in PhoneMiser's log file and can be displayed at any time. At any moment, you instantly see what you've spent and what you've saved.

PhoneMiser uses Windows 95's multitasking ability to run while you are doing other work at the same time. This is because PhoneMiser must be running at all times or at least during the hours you use your telephone. When the computer is off, any long-distance calls are routed only through your regular long-distance service.

MediaCom guarantees that calls placed via PhoneMiser are billed in second increments, that you get the lowest rates since MediaComs uses carriers that do bulk buying of long-distance time and that you get the same fiber-optic quality of the big three services. The company's literature claims you will see savings of up to 66 percent (or higher, according to the company's CEO).

PhoneMiser's estimated cost is $90. The first three months of updates also are included. After that, a $4.95 service charge is added monthly.

"Myst" fans rejoice!

Just in time for the holidays. The sequel to the all-time best-selling computer game has arrived.

Within its first year, "Myst" outsold every other CD-ROM game by a margin of four to one and has maintained its best-seller status for nearly four years. That's a tough act to follow, but from what I've seen from my copy of "Riven, The Sequel To Myst," it looks like Broderbund, the game's publisher, has another winner on its hands.

The authors have succeeded in preserving the qualities that made "Myst" so successful. Other than a few instances and glimpses of live characters, the player has a feeling of being totally alone in an environment that has been inexplicably abandoned and untouched by anyone for a long time. The wind whistles across the beautifully detailed landscape. Bodies of water looming in the slightly fogged distance make a quiet rushing sound as you approach. All of it evokes the same visceral response one gets from playing "Myst." This is a game that should be played with the light out. The five CD-ROM set, which works on PCs and Macs, sells for $45 to $50.

Pub Date: 11/03/97

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