Archive for May, 2008

Amazon TextBuyIt Free SMS Shopping Service

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Amazon TextBuyIt is a service that lets you find, compare, and buy products using SMS text message from your phone. Just dial the shortcode AMAZON (262966) on your cell and include in your message appropriate keywords for your search, or get more specific by sending the UPC or ISBN for the items you're interested in. They will send you back information about matches, two at a time. You can choose to buy one of your hits, or ask for more information on an item, or even to view more results.

Once you've decided on what you want, you send them a message back to place the order. They will phone you back to confirm your order, and verify payment and shipping information. Then it's all over but the waiting for the delivery guy.

Amazon TextBuyIt is a free service; your carrier's charges for text messages will apply.

Healthy Living Reminders

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Everybody's got goals. For many of us, those goals include trying to live healthier. Maybe you'd like to drop a few pounds, or get to the gym more regularly. If you'd like a little encouragement, and maybe a few reminders, you might want to take a look at Wellphone.

A free service, Wellphone lets you set goals for yourself, track your progress, and even have reminders sent to you via email or text message. Looking for healthy living tips? Sign up for info on healthy eating, exercise, and more. Looking for a new health club, or away on business and need to find the closest gym? Their service can help with suggestions for you.

Once you've signed-up on their website, interacting with Wellphone is a simple as sending a text message to 878787, including the word "goal" to log your progress, "local" to check out local resources, and so forth.

Text to Speech Converter

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Tired of the ranting and raving of the radio talk show guys? Top 40 not your thing? Can't stay awake with NPR playing? How about listening to a rousing Wikipedia article or two?

Pediaphon is a free service that converts Wikipedia articles to audio for you to listen to on your phone, MP3 player, or in iTunes. Just enter your search term, click the button, and in a jiffy you'll have your article as an audio file.

This is all good if you've had the foresight to grab the articles you want before you leave home, but what if you didn't? If you need one right now, and you're not somewhere where you have access to the Web, you can use their Pediaphon by Phone service. Choose from an extensive list of phone numbers in the US and beyond, dial in, punch a few numbers, and you're streaming Wikipedia audio directly to your phone.

Sure beats listening to reruns of Dr. Laura.

Cell Phone Coverage Complaints

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

"Can you hear me now?" It's more than just a TV commercial—we've all been victim to spotty coverage, loss of signal, and the dreaded "my cell phone works at work but not at home" syndrome. Is it just me, or do other people have the same problems where I do? maintains a wireless coverage complaint database. You can check out their map to see who's having problems where. Color coded by carrier, it may help you to see that you're not alone, or to decide which new carrier you don't want to sign up with. You can report your own problems as well, and maybe help somebody else avoid troubles in the future.

In addition to the map, they've got useful information about coverage issues (beware the big concrete and steel office building), and links to individual carriers' coverage maps.

Trapster Speed Trap Sharing System

Monday, May 19th, 2008

We've all had that sinking feeling: you see the cop in your mirror and look look down at the speedometer to see the needle inching above the posted limit. It's not like you're racing down the street, but you may have to try to explain it all to The Man. It would be nice to have a reminder to keep you on the straight and narrow.

Trapster is an application for your phone that updates you with real time speed trap information. Unlike radar detectors, where you may find out too late that you're being tracked, Trapster lets you know before you enter a targeted area. In addition, you can be warned about red light cameras and other enforcement tools that you may be about to encounter.

You can install the Trapster application on your phone, or you can access their service via voice and SMS without installing anything, or even log onto their website from home or the office. Report traps that you've encountered, and hear about new traps reported by others.

We don't want to suggest that you should drive any way but safely, but sometimes a gentle reminder can go a long way in helping you to remember to be careful out there. While some jurisdictions use traffic enforcement for "revenue enhancement," ultimately anything that encourages you drive more safely is probably a good thing.

Call to Confess

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Got a lot on your mind? Need to get it off your chest? More naughty than nice? Maybe it's time to 'fess up.

Call to Confess doesn't care who you are or what you're about. Just phone them at 1-848-482-5568 and tell them all about it. It's not the same as going to Confession, and nobody's going to assign you penance, but you may just help yourself out.

Of course, you should remember that the standard rules of the confessional don't necessarily apply here. You can listen to the confessions of others—and probably your own also—on their website.

Pet Loss Support Hotline

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

If you've ever had a pet, you know how wrapped-up we can get with them. Whether you take Fido in weekly for a grooming, or take a more laid-back approach to pet-rearing, they become an important part of our lives. Studies show that folks who have pets accrue a number of benefits, including decrease in stress levels, reduced blood pressure, and many more. Those little guys are a pretty big deal.

Unfortunately, doggies and kitties aren't forever. Suffering the loss of a companion like this, whether by death or other loss, can be pretty hard to work through. Having a friendly ear available to talk to can help us to get through this tough time.

The Center for Companion Animal Health at UC Davis provides a Pet Loss Support Hotline to help people in this trying time. The Hotline is staffed with people who can listen to you, help you sort through your emotions, and refer you to local help. They also have materials they can send you free-of-charge.

You can reach the Hotline toll-free at 1-800-565-1526. They are currently staffed in the evenings between 6:30 pm and 9:30 pm Pacific Time, Monday through Friday.

Sell Your Old Cell Phone

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Do you have a drawer full of old cell phones? You've got the latest fancy-schmancy instrument, and you know there's no way you're ever going back. What are you going to do with all those old ones?

SecondRotation might buy your tired old phone from you. Enter your brand and model information and see if they're interested, and get an estimate of your item's value. The actual price you get will be subject to their inspection after you send your phone in. If you're trying to get rid of something left over from the '90's, they may suggest recycling rather than making an offer to buy it from you, but if you have a perfectly reasonable late model phone that you're not using because you just upgraded to the latest iPhone or some such, you just might get their attention.

In addition to phones, they're also interested in other electronics, like laptops, digital cameras, camcorders, and more. Hey, instead of just the kitchen drawer, this may be your chance to clean out that closet full of electronics as well.

Medicare Hotline

Friday, May 9th, 2008

It's an election year, and among all the issues everybody's talking about is health care. Regardless of where you stand on the topic, there is one health care area that touches all our lives: Medicare. Whether it's you yourself because of age or disability, or parents, grandparents, or others, we all know somebody who is part of Medicare. Like most things big and complicated, the benefits and requirements can be complicated, to be sure.

The Medicare Hotline is available from the US Department of Health & Human Services. If you've got a question, they've got an answer. Phone 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to get answers on questions about Medicare, health care plan choices, order publications, and other topics. They've got recorded information, or you can talk to a real person 24/7. Not many other governmental agencies make themselves available like that. For TTY/TDD users, the number is 1-877-486-2048.

Get Answers for Free via Text Message

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

A certain electronics store used to boast "you've got questions, we've got answers." I suppose that's probably true, as long as what you were asking could be answered by something sitting on their shelves. But what about other questions? Sure, you could go to Google for answers, but it's not always easy to frame your search in such a way that you don't get a kazilion answers, none of which really answer your question.

Enter ChaCha. This is a slick service that will answer your specific questions. Not just another search engine, ChaCha relies on Guides—real human beings who will answer your questions. Whether it's the price of tea in China, or where to get the best pizza in Poughkeepsie, they've got thousands of Guides spread all over the country, so they really will have a good answer to your local questions, as well as more general ones.

ChaCha is a free service, and it's available via SMS text message, or you can phone your question in. To ask a question, text your question to 242242 (CHACHA), or phone them at 1-800-2CHACHA (1-800-224-2242). They'll text you back an answer as quickly as they can. Although this is a free service, your carrier's normal text messaging rates will apply.

So I wonder where you do you get that pizza?