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Archive for the ‘Web Sites’ Category

Google Voice: Voicemail Tip

September 19th, 2010, 4:43pm by Mike

I’ve written many times before about Google Voice, but I’ve just discovered something I didn’t know: Google Voice can be set to handle your voicemail, even if you are not using a GV number as your main contact number. Why would you want to do that?

Here’s my use case:

I’m traveling to Europe with my AT&T iPhone, on which I’d like to receive emergency calls, but not calls from random people who don’t know I’m out of town. It’s not made clear on any website, but AT&T charges $1.29 per minute when roaming in Europe. While you’re not charged if you don’t answer incoming calls, you are charged at the $1.29/minute rate for the duration of any voice messages left, regardless of whether you listen to them or not. (Practical joke idea: bankrupt your friends by calling them when they’re in Europe! Imagine the fun when they get a thousands-of-dollars phone bill! Won’t that be hilarious?!?)

Here’s the fix:

  • Set your iPhone’s voicemail to use GV voicemail. There’s a setting in the Phones tab of the Voice Settings, next to each eligible phone, saying “Activate Google Voicemail on this phone.” It’ll direct you to do the same thing as in this blog post.

  • Set GV voicemail to forward transcripts of your calls by email.

  • Check your email via computer or iPhone when in wifi coverage. Otherwise, keep your phone in airplane mode (and keep in mind that you can toggle wifi on while in airplane mode — activating airplane mode deactivates both the wifi and 3G radios, but the wifi radio can then be turned back on independently).

Following this plan, you’ll get notified of voicemails as often as you check your email (which for me, is often, especially when hotels and business locations increasingly have wifi). From the transcripts (which vary wildly in their accuracy, in my experience), you can at least make out the gist of the call, and decide whether it’s important enough to call back (and call back via Skype). The downsides: If your caller doesn’t leave a voicemail, you won’t see any notification of missed calls unless you log into Google Voice (which you can do via wifi from your mobile phone).

Of course, if you’re already using GV as your main number, this isn’t news, but for those of us who haven’t made the big switch for everyday calls, this is great.

Is The Web Dead?

August 17th, 2010, 1:43pm by Mike

I’ve had several conversations over the past couple of years with you guys that usually start with discussions of the iPhone versus other platforms (as most conversations between us do), and eventually move into whether the web as we know it is succumbing to the world of apps — which in some cases, are nothing more than site-specific microbrowsers. And then somehow we always get into the webOS/Android/iPhone discussion.

In Wired this month, Chris Anderson’s article “The Web Is Dead, Long Live the Internet” makes the case that, yes, apps are killing the open web. Most of what we do, particularly on mobile devices, is via (non-browser) apps. “For the sake of the optimized experience on mobile devices, users forgo the general-purpose browser. They use the Net, but not the Web. Fast beats flexible.” I agree. But I don’t think this is just the case for mobile apps — it’s at least as big a deal on desktop/laptop operating systems.

It’s clear to me that “apps” (both desktop/laptop OS and mobile) are replacing the browser more and more. Apps offer specialized capabilities that the Swiss army knife browser simply doesn’t, from a usage point of view. For example, I’m typing this post in a desktop blogging application (MarsEdit), when I could use the WordPress site on the Pyslent server. I even paid for the privilege of this Mac application. Among other things, what I got was integration with my desktop OS and file system, a much more flexible editing environment, and the ability to save files locally. So yes, I could have done this in a browser, but my user experience with an app is much better.

I also use applications (on my laptop) to integrate with Google Calendar (iCal and BusySync), SimpleNote (Notational Velocity), GMail (Mailplane), Google Reader (NetNewsWire), last.fm (iScrobbler) and Twitter (Tweetie), among many others. For that matter, I use Entourage for my work email, when Outlook Web Access would function perfectly well. In all these cases, I could use my browser, but I prefer features and/or the UI of the application to the web version. In fact, in each of the above cases, as far as I’m concerned, the web service is simply a cloud-based storage area that I access exclusively with apps, whether by phone or mobile device. The browser is what I use for Google searches — most of my web reading is actually done via RSS using dedicated RSS readers.

This makes me wonder how the Google’s Chrome OS is going to fare, where basically the browser is the OS. Seems like they’re zigging when the rest of the world is zagging.

What do you guys think? We’ll never get rid of a general-purpose browser, but do you think it’s less important now than it was?

Flickr App Garden

November 16th, 2009, 2:22am by Jake

So Flickr has introduced their version of the App Store, which isn’t really an app store at all Rather, The App Garden is a collection of descriptions of and links to useful Flickr add-ons such as iMapFlickr, Darkslide and many others. I’ve marked some as favorites to make them easy to find. Just browsing around I found some useful tools, such as the one seen above.

Is Twitter Down for You?

August 12th, 2009, 10:44am by Jake

Twitter down. Guess it’s time I finally started the tumblog.

Dopplr, Flickr & Machine Tags

July 9th, 2009, 4:48pm by Jake

I twittered this morning about some new integration of Flickr & Dopplr using what Flickr calls “machine tags.” These are a special sort of tag that are interpreted by Flickr (or other web services) to serve some other function, and they usually follow a clear naming convention. A common use before Flickr introduced geotagging was to use machine tags to specify the latitude & longitude. There are also conventions that are used to identify other Flickr members in photographs. Today I noticed a blog entry about the Flickr-Dopplr (they both hate the letter e!) collaboration. You can now tag photos so that they show up on Dopplr, and so the Dopplr site is linked from the Flickr photo page.
The best way to understand this is by looking at an example– such as Fenway Park. Right now, it’s pretty well dominated by my photos since I tagged a bunch of Fenway shots. What do you think?

gdgt launches

July 1st, 2009, 8:01pm by Mike

You have to hand it to Peter Rojas and Ryan Block, the minds behind the founding and popularizing the gadget blog genre, first at Gizmodo and then at Engadget. The two have teamed up again for a new site, gdgt, which just launched, and it definitely addresses areas of the gadget world that hasn’t been tackled elsewhere (at least not on this scale): How do you find a gadget based on specs? And what do you do after you buy a gadget? Where do you go to find out more about what you can do with it, problems people are having, and fun hacks and tips?
From their welcome statement, they say that the goal is both to create the world’s biggest gadget database, and a way for people to create and share info about gadgets. What they didn’t say is that we gadget people already have plenty of ways to talk about our gadgets, and do so regularly (as our non-gadget friends and family members often remind us!).
One thing, though, is that they’re definitely doing what gadget and computer companies have tried to do for years, with varying degrees of success — build a community around their products — and they’re doing it on a much larger, product-agnostic scale. I guess they’re banking on their street cred to carry them through, but I wonder whether people will flock to gdgt when there are companies with huge discussion/support forums, and independent fan sites that already attract the die-hards.
Looking forward to hearing the story of the site on this week’s podcast.

Twoubles with Twitter

May 7th, 2009, 12:39am by Jake

The Twitter phenomena has now reached new levels of craziness, with Ashton getting 1 million “followers” and Oprah and dozens of other celebrities (follow @carolina to see regular updates on famous people on Twitter). But as it scales, it gets harder to take advantage of the seemingly new utility without friends’ updates getting lost in sea of tweets. For example, I now follow just over 100 people & I’m constantly pruning the list. That’s almost too much. At the same time, I’ve stopped following many people that interest me b/c they tweet too much or just don’t add enough value. Yet I’d like to keep an eye on these users, and be able to search or scan their updates quickly to see what the top topics are.
There are tools out there that will do this (Tweetdeck is frequently mentioned), and there’s also the possibility of multiple accounts. But that seems so inelegant, and ultimately frustrating. For example, if I come to rely on Tweetdeck, what happens if I’m surfing from a friend’s computer or on my cell phone? That’s just one pet peeve. I think Twitter could alleviate this issue by allowing users to create groups or lists of people to categorize them. What does everyone else think are the big Twitter shortcomings? How can the service become better, and how can we use it more effectively?

Why Google Voice Hasn’t Won (Yet)

March 23rd, 2009, 7:15pm by Mike

Google made big news a couple years ago with their purchase of GrandCentral, after which they did … nothing. Until a couple weeks ago, when they announced Google Voice, the evolution of GrandCentral. So what?
I’ve had a GrandCentral number for a couple of years. Its key feature has always been the ability to use one number, and set what phones ring when that number is dialed (even on a caller-by-caller basis). I mainly use it for 2 things: (1) to give to people I don’t want to give my mobile number to, like service people, who might still need to get in touch with me by cell phone, and (2) for work people who might need to reach me whether I’m at my desk or on my mobile phone. In fact, my GC number is what I put on the corporate intranet as my mobile number, so as not to put my actual mobile number all over the place. If I am ever forced to get a company-sponsored phone, I’ll just tie that into my GC number. To complete our telecommunications situation description — we haven’t had a landline in about 5 years, and recently we’ve been using Skype for times when our cell phones weren’t the best idea (like international calls or conference calls for work).
So, when I heard about the bells and whistles of Google Voice (like free voicemail transcription, free domestic calling, cheap international calling), I thought it was the end of Skype.
But the killer feature that Skype still has is that it actually lets you make and receive calls through the computer. As far as I can tell, Google Voice doesn’t. You can place a call “for free” by putting in a phone number, and telling GV which phone to ring (e.g., “mobile,” “work,” etc), and that’s great. But without a landline, you’ll be using mobile minutes to actually talk. No good, that. Needless to say, for the (admittedly few) international calls I make, it’s no good for that, either.
Also, I’m not quite ready to throw all my contacts up on Google (and, reader, you should be worrying about me, and your other friends, putting your phone numbers up on Google!) — I’d rather have some integration with my computer’s Address Book. Or my iPhone’s, which brings me to the fact that…
The other thing that Google Voice sorely lacks is iPhone integration. GrandDialer was a program that did two things: integrated with your iPhone contacts, and set your outgoing caller ID number to your GrandCentral number (key if you’re trying not to give out your cell phone number). When you dialed through GrandDialer, it would connect via the iPhone’s data connection, then ring your phone when the call was being placed. Brilliant. Google’s current mobile website for Google Voice is OK, but definitely suboptimal. Thankfully, it sounds like another independent developer is taking up the mantle and writing a similar app for Google Voice.
Hopefully we’ll see the whole thing grow, with Google opening it up a bit to outside developers. Anybody else tinkering with Google Voice? Any thoughts?

Geode Brings Location Awareness to Firefox

October 22nd, 2008, 3:05pm by Kelvin

Is this groundbreaking?  The iPhone and Mike’s EyeFi card use a service called Skyhook to determine your location based on your WiFi hotspot, but I dont’ think there’s a way for PC browsers to take the same information and automatically fill in the location fields in services like Yelp, maps, Yahoo yellow pages, etc. This service for Firefox seems like a first step in building the necessary APIs, and it looks like Yahoo has support. Cool or not?

Featured Firefox Extension: Geode Brings Location Awareness to Firefox


August 13th, 2008, 2:34pm by Mike

logo.gifAt least two of us (Kelvin and I) have been playing with Evernote, one of the ever-growing stable of Web 2.0 apps/websites/whatevers that allows you to store and retrieve notes “from the cloud.” My main use is to take pictures of wine labels of wines we like, so that when I’m at Trader Joe’s, I can remember which $5 bottles of wine were good and which ones suck.
There are some things to like about Evernote, the coolest of which (to me) is the ability to search text in images, which makes it a great combo for the iPhone. There are a lot of things to not like, too. Until the most recent iPhone update (yesterday), you couldn’t edit a note after uploading, only view it, which is sorta dumb. Also, ideally, I think the notes database would be local, so that you could access it without a network connection.
Anyway, I figured that we needed a place to discuss it. Anybody else using Evernote? What for? What do you think of it?

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