Archive for October, 2006

Prank Phone Calls

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

Now, you shouldn't make prank phone calls… that would be wrong. But if you were going to make prank phone calls, you could use AfterVoice to do it: using text-to-speech technology, the service will call the phone number that you specify and recite the text that you enter, in your choice of 11 voices (including 4 non-English voices.) You can even specify the name and number that will appear on your victim's caller ID.

Not that you'd do that.

Free Dial-A-Story

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Another free dial-a-story line for kids: this one from the Kern County (California) Library: 1-661-868-0794.

This Public Library Dial-a-Story Lines page lists even more.

Free Directory Assistance

Friday, October 27th, 2006

The free directory assistance service 800-411-METRO is dead, but 877-520-FIND is a new free service for finding businesses. No live operators, but the voice recognition system is easy to understand, and understood me perfectly. There are no ads, and you can enter a ZIP code rather than saying the city to get more precice local results, you even can dial the name of the business instead of speaking it (if you don't want everyone around you to know your business.) After listing up to 8 businesses, it can connect to you to your choice, without you having to hang up and dial the number directly.

Price Comparison By Phone

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Frucall is a free, telephone-based service that helps you find the best online prices and rating information for any product based on its UPC barcode number. When you're out shopping and are wondering if a product on the shelves is available for less online, you can call Frucall at 1-888-DO-FRUCALL. Dial the product’s barcode number: the system will search major online merchants for the best online prices for that exact item and read them to you over the phone.

When I called and requested the price for a book, Frucall recited the range of new and used prices which included estimated shipping costs. The computer voice said: "New prices range from $19 to $50.50. Not available used. Price at Alibris is $19. Price at is $20…" You can opt to receive the price info as a text message, hear brief product reviews, and bookmark the item for later.

Although I found the computer voice difficult to understand at times — I sometimes couldn't decipher the names of the online stores that it spoke — this is a darn useful service for price comparison when you're in a brick-and-mortar store.

In addition, you can register at Frucall's web site, which enables SMS reminders, group messaging, and additional features.

Tip: when you are dialing the barcode number for Frucall, be sure to dial the single digits that may appear off to the left and right sides of the barcode.

Federal Government Information

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

The United States federal government has a new phone number that's a one-stop shop for all manner of information. 1-800-FED-INFO (that’s 1-800-333-4636) delivers information about passports and visas, government funding, federal jobs, social security, document authentication, medicare, taxes, identity theft, and other topics. The detailed recorded information may answer your question, and human operators are available during business hours to assist you if needed. If you can't find the information you need in the federal government's web portal,, FED-INFO might be helpful.

Fast Answers on the Phone

Friday, October 6th, 2006

Have you ever been somewhere, anywhere, wanting to know something and wishing that you had access to the Internet to look it up? (Recently I was in an electronics store eyeing a camera, wondering if I could get a better deal at Amazon. . .) Internet Search Pro is a free service that can bridge that gap.

Just call 1-888-ISP-FOR-U (1-888-477-3678) and you'll be connected to a human Internet researcher: ask her your question and she'll look it up online. According to the company, you can ask them to look up phone numbers, movie schedules, song lyrics, recipes, etc.

When I called asking for the price of an camcorder at Amazon, the researcher (with a thick Indian accent) put me on hold for a minute then came back with the correct price. She even offered to read the reviews of that camcorder.

But when I asked how they can offer a free service like this, with a toll-free telephone number, she couldn't answer that. "I'm not supposed to say. We are beta testing the service right now."

Free International Calls

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

A company called Futurephone is offering free international calls from the United States to 55 countries. According to the company, there's no catch — no advertising, no calling from a PC, just free and unlimited overseas calling from any telephone.

Here's how it works: dial 1-712-858-8883, a phone number in Iowa. After selecting the language for voice prompts, you're instructed to dial 011 followed by the country code and the number that you want to reach. In a moment, you'll be connected to that number. Futurephone says the service will be free until the year 2010.

A list of the countries that you can call is at the Futurephone web page. (If you need to know the country code and city code for your call, visit How To

I tried Futurephone briefly and it worked as promised, but I'm interested in others' opinions about the service. If you've got someone to call in another country, give Futurephone a try then post your results here.