A Practical Review: Google Voice

Running my own business, I am more or less required to check my voicemail multiple times a day, which is why it’s so unfortunate that it’s one of my least favorite things to do. I have always found voicemail too linear, slow, clumsy, and a generally arduous process. That was until I found Google Voice.

Google Voice offers many different ways to customize how people call you, how you receive calls, and how you receive voicemails. Google also lets you pick and choose which aspects of Google Voice you want to utilize so it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Its also free and isn’t supported by ads!

Here’s the complete  Google Voice feature set:

  • Voicemail audio in your email inbox
  • Voicemail transcription in your email inbox
  • Voicemail transcription sent via SMS
  • Web access to voicemails
  • A single phone number that rings all your phones
  • Place calls via web interface
  • Send SMS via web interface
  • Keep an online address book
  • Log your call history
  • Custom greetings for different callers
  • Low cost International calling
  • Forward, embed, or download voicemails
  • Block calls
  • Send unwanted callers straight to voicemail
  • Record calls
  • Conference calls
  • Screen calls

That’s a whole lot of features to think about. The ability to use one or all of them was the selling point for me and probably the main reason the integration of Google Voice hasn’t negatively affected the other features of my phone/phone line/work flow.

The only feature I wanted to use in Google Voice was to be able to receive my voicemails via email. My work flow for managing and responding to emails was already bullet proof and simple: immediately flag emails that require me to do something and then unflag them once its been done. With my voicemails showing up in my inbox, now I can flag voicemails for followup in the same universally accessible platform as I flag emails. To activate this feature, all you have to do is go to the ’settings’ page in Google Voice and click, “activate Google Voicemail on this phone.”  Then they give you a number to dial based on your phone service provider which tells them to route your voicemail to Google.

While the email/SMS transcriptions are sometimes only 50% accurate, they are usally close to 90% intelligible if read phonetically. The audio files of the recording are also included in the email via an embedded player so you can cross check if necessary. Also, your old phone based voicemail will cease to function so make sure you have a data plan or you won’t be able to listen to your messages.

Currently, you can log in to your Google Voice account and place calls via the internet. Just type in a phone number and click ‘call’ – seconds later your phone will ring and as soon as you answer, the call begins ringing on the number your dialed online. FEATURE REQUEST: I would be on cloud 9 if Google would integrate this ‘internet dialing’ feature into general web browsing so that you could right-click any phone number on a website and ‘call’ it without ever having to transpose the number to your phone.  Google has been constantly adding features to Google Voice; hopefully this one isn’t far off.

I can highly recommend using Google Voice as your voicemail provider if you want to use your inbox as the hub for both your email and voicemail. As for the other features, you’ll have to experiment and find what’s right for you.

Written by Doogin

March 17th, 2010 at 8:22 am

Three Unique “Old Phone” Iphone Ringtones – FREE

with 5 comments

Ironic that the only good ringtone in this "phone of the future" is the sound of a telephone from the early 1900's.

Ironic that the only good ringtone in the "phone of the future" is the sound of a telephone from the early 1900's.

The Short Version: Love the ‘Old Phone’ ringtone for your iPhone, but want to be able to tell your calls apart from everyone else’s? Download 3 free unique ‘Old Phone’ ringtones HERE.

If you’re one of the cool kids, you probably already have an iPhone. And if you do, you probably also have the ringer set to ‘Old Phone’ just like the majority of people sitting in my neighborhood coffee shop this morning (myself included).

While in this crowded coffee shop, every 10 minutes I’d hear that oh-so-familiar sound and reach into my pocket. Not only was it never my phone that was ringing, but each time I’d notice a 1/2 dozen other people mistakenly grab for their phones too.

So then I got to thinking… What if i could find a different ‘Old Phone’ ringtone that still kept me running with the cool kids, but was distinct enough that I’d be able to differentiate it from everyone else. Well, the short story is I couldn’t. Everything i came across on the internet sounded too similar to the stock ‘Old Phone’.

I resorted to doing it the hard way and was able to track down some great public domain antique telephone samples, edit/master them in Sony Vegas, and then turn them into iPhone ringtones by following this tutorial.

The end result was 3 distinctive ‘Old Phone’ style ringtones that you can easily tell apart from the stock ringtone because they have two quick rings instead of the normal long one. Check out the samples:

Old Phone Sample #1 :

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Old Phone Sample #2 :

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Old Phone Sample #3 :

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

I also stumbled across a great classic 80’s phone ring too:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

If you want to use any of these, you can download them as iPhone ringtones by clicking the link below. From there, all you do is expand the zip file, drag the ringtone files into iTunes and sync your iPhone. You may also have to go to the ‘ringtone’ tab in iTunes and tell it to sync your ringtones, if you haven’t already.

FREE DOWNLOAD – Three Unique “Old Phone” Iphone Ringtones

Enjoy, but stay away from my coffee shop:)

Written by Doogin

March 11th, 2010 at 6:32 am

A Practical Review: Carbonite Online Backup

First off, any online backup is better than none. Regardless of which you ultimately choose, you’ll sleep better knowing your digital life is safely locked away in an underground bunker somewhere near the center of the earth. Eventual computer failure/theft/accidental destruction/etc. is guaranteed and indiscriminate:

Having used both Mozy and Carbonite, I am much more a fan of Carbonite.

Here’s what I like about it:

  • Unlimited backup for $44 a year with 3 year term
  • Files are backedup is real-time, not every 24-hours
  • Manual control over what files/folders to backup via right-click in Explorer
  • Explorer indicates if a file has been backedup with a green or orange dot over the file icon
  • You can temporarily pause the backup upstream, or throttle it down if you need the bandwidth.
  • Locally deleted files remain on their servers for 30 days in case you need them.
  • Mac and PC. PC version only uses 6MB of memory for UI and 16MB for the background service.

Mozy offers a similar package ($52/year with 2 year term), but their UI drove me crazy. It took 10 minutes sometime to open the program to check the backup status and the one time I needed to retrieve a backup, the file wasn’t there.

Carbonite’s interface isn’t anything spectacular either, but it’s fairly intuitive, simple, and hasn’t caused me any problems. Since the backup status of a file is clearly visible in Windows Explorer, I haven’t had much need to go into the UI anyway.

My current Carbonite backup is just rounding 400 GB, *gulp*, yeah, 400 GB. That’s a whole lotta website dev, photo shoots, and business docs I no longer have to worry about, and at less than $1 a week, it’s well worth the investment and peace of mind.

Written by Doogin

March 9th, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Posted in Practical Reviews

The Phantom HD Camera and High-Speed Video

Slow. It’s the new fast.

Time and gravity are the two most absolute constants in the universe. Sure, there are some theoretical physicists that might disagree. But excluding the abstract, I don’t think many people would argue- which is why watching stuff shot on these new high-speed cameras is so cool! Even though man will always be at the mercy of of these two universal absolutes, at least now we can make it look like we’re not.

High-speed video cameras have been around for some time, but the Phantom HD, and now the Phantom HD Gold, are turning heads and spawning a bunch of 1080p creativity. Behold the glory:

And, yeah, in case you’re wondering… you can’t afford one either. Even $2,500 for a daily rental is a lot unless you’re someone like Pedigree:

Amazing all the emotions that go into a sneeze that I never noticed. It’s like the 5 Stages of Grief all crammed into 1.5 seconds. Here’s one from down under – remember to cover…

There’s something simple and beautiful about watching things in slow motion and being able to pay attention to detail you’d otherwise miss. It inspires me to believe that there is so some much more around me I have yet to appreciate, if only I’d take to time to slow down and notice.

Written by Doogin

March 5th, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Posted in Audio & Video

A Practical Review: Good bye Start Menu, Hello Launchy

For the average computer user who only uses 2-3 programs on a regular basis, having to use the Start Menu as a portal to all your programs isn’t much a of problem. But if you’re doing dev/design work, you’re probably used to constantly juggling a multitude of programs and windows, pallets, folders, websites, etc. and digging all that out of the start menu or cluttering up the desktop becomes more and more problematic.

Over the years, I’ve tried dozens of UI performance enhancers with consistently disappointing results. Most get trashed immediately, others manage to last a week or two and eventually get uninstalled, accompanied by a sense of failure and frustration.

But not you, Launchy . You’re here to stay.

Imagine a reality where:

  • You never have to click ‘Start’ and sift though ‘All Programs’ again.
  • You don’t have put all your favorite apps on the desktop or quick launch bar.
  • You can open any program with the keyboard in 2-4 keystrokes.
  • You can open any folder with the keyboard in 2-4 keystrokes.
  • You can open any website with the keyboard in 2-4 keystroke.
  • You can open any bookmarked with the keyboard in 2-4 keystroke.
  • You can perform a google search with the keyboard in 2-4 keystrokes.

Welcome to my world. Come on in, the water’s fine.

From the horse’s mouth:

  • “Launchy is a free windows and linux utility designed to help you forget about your start menu, the icons on your desktop, and even your file manager. Launchy indexes the programs in your start menu and can launch your documents, project files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes!” – http://www.launchy.net/

Here’s the low down:

  • Its open-source and therefore free.
  • All you do is install the program, let it know which directories you want it to index, assign it your favorite keyboard shortcut combination, and BOOM.
  • Thereafter, just hit the key combo (I’m partial to ctrl-space) and this little box appears:
  • Just type what you’re looking for and it gives you live results as you type.
  • It also remembers what you’ve typed previously to launch each program. So to open Flash CS4, all I have to type in is ctrl-space, f, enter.
  • Now the 2 dozen apps I use on a regular basis are just a keystroke away, my desktop is clear, and I haven’t bothered with the Start Menu in months.

Life is all about the little things, and this little gem has left a big impact on how I use a computer.

Learn more here:
http://www.launchy.net/

Download it here:
linky

Written by Doogin

March 2nd, 2010 at 11:30 pm

Posted in Practical Reviews

The Windows Key and how it will change your life.

It seems fitting for a Microsoft product that the two most useful keystroke combinations in Windows have been around since Windows 95, and yet still the vast majority of computer users don’t know they’re literally at their fingertips.

I’m of course speaking of that little Windows Key on the bottom row of the keyboard that most people hit only on accident and then wonder why the heck their start menu just appeared. Well, it turns out that little bugger is quite handy and addictive. Are you ready to have your mind blown and your productivity forever increased? Here goes….

Windows-D
Pressing the Windows Key and the “D” key minimizes every open window and reveals the Desktop. Press it again and everything goes back to how it was.

Windows-E
Pressing the Windows Key and the “E” key opens Windows Explorer to “My Computer”.

Going back to the desktop or navigating to project directories is are two tasks I might do a hundred times over the course of a day, so I’m pleased to report these keystrokes are actually quite ergonomic and comfortable, and not the finger yoga that most other keystrokes are (I’m looking at your Alt-F4).There’s a handful more good-to-know key combinations you can do with the Windows Key, even a few new ones in Windows 7, but the two above are my bread and butter.

Written by Doogin

February 15th, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Tips & Tricks