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GrandCentral, Faith and Web 2.0

April 13, 2008

GrandCentral
GrandCentral is down right now, to much gnashing of teeth [techcrunch].

I’ve been a big fan of GrandCentral since the beginning, and I still am. But I didn’t trust them back when they were a plucky startup, and that didn’t change with their acquisition by Google.

One of their original promises was “a free phone number for life”. Unfortunately, “life” on the internet is usually 3-5 years, less time off for bad behavior or poor market estimation.
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Make Free Ringtones with Myxer

April 14, 2007

MyxerTones - Ringtones from your musicFor several years, one of the most popular posts here has been a nice, simple 247 step process for making your own ringtones. Download this, convert that, do something else.

There’s a MUCH simpler way — MyxerTones is quick, free, and doesn’t require a degree in obfuscation to use. Got a piece of music you want to make into a ringtone? Upload it, and Myxer will message your phone with a link to download it, in a format that works on your phone. All you pay is the cost of the text message.

Granted, this does require you to have web access on your phone, and in certain cases, it can’t guess the format (it offers you all of the possibilities; AAC worked fine on the N95), but still, this is worlds easier than anything else I’ve ever used.

Give it a shot!
[tags]ringtones, cellphone, myxer, nokia[/tags]

Nokia N95 First Impressions

April 14, 2007

Nokia N95
Yesterday the FedEx guy showed up with my new Nokia N95, fresh off the plane from Hong Kong. The idea of a well-connected, web-enabled feature-rich phone that also had a decent camera was just too tempting.

I like the idea of shooting pictures and videos, but I seldom leave the house with the intention of doing so; even though I’ve got a nice small digital camera, I hate dragging it around with me on principles, and even when I do want to use it, it’s seldom charged up.

The N95 is a better camera than my little pocket digital, and since I keep my cellphone charged and with me 24×7, I won’t have any excuses not to take a few pictures.

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Jott (mini Review)

April 3, 2007

JottI know that Jott has been around awhile, but I’ve only just started messing with it — and now I’m a believer.

The concept is elegantly simple — you call Jott (typically from your mobile), tell it who you want to leave a message for (in my case, usually “me”), and speak a short message. A minute or two later, the message (transcribed) shows up as text in your email.

This is a great application for the terminally disorganized (again, usually “me”) — tie it to a speed dial number on your mobile phone, and when something occurs to you that you need to deal with later, press the button, and leave your message. When you get back to your computer, there it is, ready to be dealt with or dropped into the task management system of your choice.

If this kind of thing keeps up, I could start running out of excuses for not getting stuff done.

You can also add your own contact list (I now have too many web apps with contact lists — I need some way for them all to be synced automatically), and send Jotts to other people or groups.

The transcription is very good, and in fact, appears to be manual. There are a lot of assurances on the site about the privacy of your messages, but if you want, you can ask to leave your jotts untranscribed, and do them yourself.

All in all, another great “voice 2.0” application. My only concern is whether they’ll start charging for the basic service once it’s out of (open) beta, and if so, how much.

Jott

[tags]Jott, Voice 2.0, Mobile, Smartphone, Task Management, GTD[/tags]

GrandCentral hits the spotlight

March 15, 2007

GrandCentralTechmeme points us to a great write-up on GrandCentral by David Pogue in today’s New York Times.

I’ve been using GrandCentral for awhile now, and David’s article does a nice job of introducing “what it’s all about”

In short, GrandCentral gives you one local phone number — “for life” — and then slices and dices calls into that number to provide an amazing array of features:

  • Incoming calls can be set to ring all of your numbers simultaneously — your office line, your cell phone, your home number, etc. You can control which numbers ring on a time-of-day basis, or on a caller by caller basis.
  • When a call comes in, GrandCentral identifies the caller ID — if it can match it to an entry in your contact list, it gets the name from there, otherwise it asks the caller to give their name while it “attempts to locate you”
  • When you answer the call, GrandCentral tells you who it is, and gives you the option of taking the call, taking the call and recording it, sending the caller to voicemail, or sending it to voicemail while you listen in — in the latter case, you can pick up the call mid-message if you like, just like on your old answering machine.
  • In mid call, you can start or stop recording if you like, by pressing a key. You can also press a key to cause all of your numbers to ring again — and pick up the call where you left off, but on a different line. (Convenient for switching from your office phone to a cell phone, for instance).
  • You can assign voicemail greetings, and even “ringback tones” (the “ringing” the caller hears while the system is calling you) on a caller-by-caller or group-by-group basis, by recording a message or uploading an MP3, respectively.
  • Voicemail notices are delivered by email, and by SMS to your cell phone.
  • Calls can be screened against GrandCentrals growing list of telemarketers, and dumped to voicemail – or a phony disconnect notice. You can add your own list of annoying callers to this list as well.

All of this is driven through a very well-thought-out web front end, where you can change your settings, listen to voicemail, review your calls, edit your contact list (or import it from a variety of address books or organizer programs and services), and even place a call.

Other features allow you post recordings online or mail them, and place a “click to call” button on a web page where a user can enter their number, and GrandCentral will call you, then them.

Oh yeah — and all of these features are free. At least for now, while GrandCentral is in beta. Indications are that the basic service will remain free, with a “fully loaded” account quite inexpensive when the service officially launces..

All in all, GrandCentral is amazing, and amazingly useful — if you still don’t get how, check out this video from the NYT article.

In using it however, I’ve discovered a few things you may want to consider, before you jump in with both feet.

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