Archive for March, 2006

Telephone Karaoke

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

CheeriokeThis is funny. Sad but funny. So you start by going to the "Cheerioke" web site and creating a look for your character. Then the site gives you a toll-free phone number: you call that number then sing along with your choice of three songs. Once you've finished, hang up the phone and turn your attention back to the web browser: the animated character that you made will sing the song back in your voice. You can save your song to the gallery for others to hear, and listen to others' horrific attempts at singing. It's great integration of the web and phone.

Try it at

Dial the Weather

Monday, March 27th, 2006

"What is the weather in Las Vegas?" "Will it rain tomorrow in San Jose, California" "How windy is it in Chicago?" "Are there any weather alerts?" You can ask any of these questions, and more, to Jupiter, a voice-operated computer that knows about the weather around the world.

The system is a research project at the MIT Computer Schience and Artificial Intelligence Lab. It has been running since 1997 and has fielded more than 100,000 calls.

To call Jupiter toll-free, dial (888) 573-TALK (that's (888) 573-8255.) From outside North America, the number is (617) 258-0300.

SMS Game: Limbo 41414

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Here's an interesting new game — sort of a combination of an auction and a sweepstakes that's played over text messaging. Limbo 41414 puts big-ticket items up for auction: stuff like a Hummer, a plasma TV, and so on. Players "bid" on the items, but unlike ebay, to win the auction you have to have the lowest bid that doesn't match anyone else's bid. The company claims that players come away with stuff like a video iPod for $4.30 and diamond earrings for $1.45.

To join Limbo send a text message with the word FREE to the number 41414 or go to to learn more.

The game doesn't support my mobile phone company, so I can't play via SMS. However, you can also bid on some auctions by calling 1-877-771-9257. I was able to try for tickets for an NCAA championship game via phone (I placed a unique bid but wasn't the lowest: the automated voice told me to call back to try again.) I could not bid on the Hummer via telephone — for that, you need to use SMS.

I don't understand the company's business model at all … maybe you should try to win cheap stuff before their investors figure it out.

Call Time

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

Phone numbers that tell you the time are nothing new, but if you really want to know the exact time, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are the folks to call, at (303) 499-7111 (located in Colorado) or (808) 335-4363 (Hawaii). The time announced on these numbers are calibrated to NIST's atomic clock, and are normally delayed by less than 30 milliseconds when calling from land lines in the continental United States. According to NIST, the Colorado number receives more than one million calls a year; the one in Hawaii more than 50,000.

Free 411

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

411 Metro (at 1-800-411-METRO) offers free directory assistance for businesses and residences in the U.S. My calls to 411 Metro have been handled by friendly and smart live operators. It's advertising-supported — I just had to hear a short (maybe 5 second) ad. We've covered another free directory assistance service in the past, but it's nice to have a choice. Personally, I like 411 Metro a bit more than Free411 due to the live operators.

Matchmaking & Party Line Phone System

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

K-Fone is an interactive voice system based in Southern California. It offers voice mail, matchmaking, public discussion forums, and party lines.

The phone numbers are (818) 344-5000 and (323) 666-9946. The service is free (aside for any long distance charges.) The first time you call, you'll need to register, which involves providing your telephone number, name, and other information for validation.

Free Party Lines

Saturday, March 4th, 2006 offers a number of free party lines. Each service has 30 party line "rooms" that can have up to 8 people each. Other features include voicemail, personals, and bulletin boards.

The numbers are:

  • Internet Donut: 360-615-9402 (Washington state)
  • The Boston Raven: 617-723-5603 (Massachusetts)
  • Raven: 404-920-0146 (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Male Box: 404-920-0150 (Atlanta, Georgia)

The company also offers a large number of pay-for-play party lines. These four, however, are free (except for long-distance charges). None of these party lines are appropriate for kids.


Saturday, March 4th, 2006

The Cabarrus (North Carolina) County Public Library system offers a free dial-a-story for kids. You can call any time to hear a recorded story. When I called, I was treated to "The Very Lazy Ladybug".

The phone number is (704) 920-1188.