Archive for the 'Useful Tools' Category

AbbyMe is like email for your phone

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

AbbyMe is a free service that makes phone calls for you. While you could use this service to send yourself a wake-up call, or other reminder, its power is in its ability to place calls to several numbers at once. When you send an email to a group, you just list all your recipients in the "to" field, type your message, and send it; when you have to phone those same people, you have to call each of them one at a time. With AbbyMe, you can call a group all at once, saving tons of time for you.

To send a phone message, you just enter the phone number of your intended recipient (or recipients), type in your message, and go. You can embellish your calls by adding media files to them, choosing from a long list of canned sound clips, or you can even upload your own files. Send your message, or use their built-in scheduler to pick a future time to send your message.

Go directly to voicemail with Slydial

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Do you ever intentionally phone somebody when you know they're not not available to take your call? Maybe you need to just leave a message and don't need to talk about it: remember, the club meeting's a 7:30 tonight. Maybe it's somebody you don't want to talk to: hey, it's your brother—did you mail me that check yet? Whatever the reason, you have to make your best guess about when the person you're calling won't be available, and hope you guessed right.

You can take the guesswork out of it all with Slydial. All you need to do is dial 267-SLY-DIAL (267-759-3425) and follow the prompts. You'll have to listen to a short ad (that's how they can provide this service for free), but then you go directly to voicemail for any cell phone number in the US.

Slydial is a free service—you don't even have to sign up to use it—but the phone number is in Pennsylvania, so if a call to there costs you, this call will cost you as well. There are extra services available after signing up (speed dial, etc. for your contacts). If you really want to go all out, there is a paid version as well, where you don't get the ad and you can leave messages of unlimited length.

Remember all your appointments with MemJog

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Are you busy? Well duh—who isn't? With a full schedule to stay on top of, it's easy to get confused and show up for meetings an hour late, or make important phone calls an hour early. If you're not sitting at your desk, your calendar probably isn't available to you. Reminders on Outlook are only useful if you're sitting there watching them pop up.

MemJog is a free service that sends reminders to your mobile phone. Create an account, make sure your phone works with the service, and start entering reminders. Now you've got no excuse for missing important events.

While they include a lot of cellular carriers in their list of supported systems, they don't include everybody (Virgin Mobile is missing), and they're not completely up to date (they're still talking about Cingular).

While MemJog is free, remember that you carrier may charge you for SMS text messages.

Get realtime traffic information

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

One of the biggest pains-in-the-neck about modern life is the commute. Unless you just camp out under your desk, you've got to get from home to work, and then get back home at the end of the day. Some days are good, some days are bad, but you just can't avoid that drive. If knowledge is power, here's a trick that may just make you a bit more powerful.

Sign up for a free account at Traffic.com. Now you have access to a wealth of knowledge about current traffic conditions. Not only that, but you can access it in the way that makes the most sense to you. Before you leave on your trip, open your browser and consult the web site. or you can have updates sent to you via email or you can subscribe to an RSS feed. If you're already out in it, you can always phone for an update—either send a text message to TRAFC (87232), or phone 1-866-MY-TRAFC (1-866-698-7232)—to find out about what's happening right now.

Traffic.com is a free service and covers many major metropolitan areas.

Make free calls to any North American number with earthCALLER

Monday, August 25th, 2008

What's the best rate you can get to make a phone call? How about free? Jaduka Labs offers a free service they call earthCALLER, that will let you phone anywhere in North America for free from your PC. Using VOIP technology, all you need is a microphone and speakers or a headset to make those calls. As you'd expect, you can create a contact list and there's even several speed dial slots for often-called numbers. Call history tracking lets you know what you've been up to. A built-in speed test helps you to see whether you've got the bandwidth necessary to make calls.

Because of its reliance on ActiveX components, earthCALLER is only compatible with Windows systems, and you must be running Internet Explorer 7.

PhoneMyPhone automated telephone reminder

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

There are some times when it's never good to get a phone call: dinner, after-hours, while you're in the shower. We can't do anything about that. There are other times when it's good to get a phone call: you slept past the alarm and you're about to be late, you just installed a new phone (does it work?), or you really need to get out of a bad date / movie / dinner with the in-laws. A times like these, you'll be glad you know about PhoneMyPhone.

The name pretty much says it all here. Just go the their website, enter your phone number, tell it how many times to call, and choose when to call—either now, or at some specific time in the future. Use it for a wake-up call, a reminder for meetings, or any other time when it would be handy to have the phone talk to you.

PhoneMyPhone is a free service.

Free conference calling with audio recording

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Sometimes only a voice will do. You can send email, you can IM, but sometimes the only real way to communicate meaning most efficiently is to get on the phone. If you're dealing with a bunch of folks, a short—or maybe a not-so-short—conference call can get everybody on the same page with all their questions answered at once. Conference calling services can be expensive and cumbersome. Even some of the free services can be a pain to use.

The offering by Basement Ventures is called FreeConferencing, which pretty much says it all. With never a charge for conference calling, you simply set up the call—it doesn't need to be done in advance—give your participants the pertinent information (date, time, call-in number), and you're good to go. One of the big features they include is conference call recording, allowing you to keep a record of the conversation, useful for later review, or sharing with people who weren't able to be in on the call. You can even podcast your call.

BV FreeConferencing is a free service.

Use-anywhere wake up call

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

People have all kinds of reasons for liking to stay in hotels. Some folks like room service. Others enjoy the chololate-on-the-pillow turndown service. Our favorite is the wake-up call in the morning. Rather than the ACK-ACK-ACK of the alarm clock, or the rantings of a talk show guy, you get a simple phone call. It's not quite the same as mom coming in and waking you up, but it's close.

Wakerupper is a free service that will make a wake up call, or phone you any other reminder that you want. Go to their website to set the time and phone number for the call. You can even enter your own text, so when your call comes in, you'll hear your message read back to you by a pleasant electronic voice.

Now that you know you're going to be awake on time, think of the other types of calls you can arrange: reminders for meetings, picking the kids up from soccer practice, and more. It works with any phone in the US or Canada, so you can use it while you're traveling as well.

Convert text into downloadable MP3s you can bring with you

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Everybody says you can't take it with you. That may be true, if we're talking about money and possessions at the time of the Last Roundup. But what about looking at a slightly shorter timeline?

Read The Words is a free service that lets you easily translate text into speech so that you can carry it along with you. After signing up for a free account, you can upload your text as a Word DOC, a PDF, web pages, or even an RSS feed. Choose from one of fifteen readers and your text—in English, Spanish, or French—will be translated into the spoken word in about a minute.

Once you've done that, you can listen to your text online, download it as an MP3 for your iPod or phone, post it to your blog, or even create your own podcast.

Picowiki: a personal wiki with mobile users in mind

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Whenever you go out, is your briefcase bulging with notes? Or you jam a fistful of PostIts into your pocket and hope for the best? It'd be nice if you could bring all your stuff with you without having to bring the whole office along, or risk a serious paper cut.

Picowiki is a hosted wiki designed specifically to work well with your iPhone, Blackberry, or PDA. Sure, you can cram it full of stuff back in the office, but it features an easy-to-use interface and its own "markdown" language (get it? markdown, not markup) for formatting text. Instead of having to use regular HTML markup to create a heading, for example, you don't have to wrap your text in "<H1>" and "</H1>" tags—you just run a row of equal signs (=====) under it, and as if by magic, it's rendered as an HTML heading. There's also a GUI toolbar that lets you impose markup directly, just in case you don't remember that "**" is the command to bold text.

You can set your wiki as public or private, so you can decide whether you want to share your content for collaborative work, or keep your musings to yourself.

Picowiki is a free service.