Preview of Google Voice: All Calls to One Number

April 20, 2009 – 8:11 am by Gabe Anderson | 2 Comments »

A few years ago a company called GrandCentral launched with the idea to give you one phone number to manage all your incoming calls and voicemail. As someone who likes to embrace new technology, I signed up for a local (518) phone number way back when, but never did much with my GrandCentral phone number, besides configuring it to ring both my home and cell numbers, and giving it out to a customer or two. It worked as advertised, but wasn’t too exciting.

Google acquired the company for more than $50 million in 2007 and just recently relaunched the service as Google Voice, adding some cool new features. Currently, only those of us with GrandCentral accounts who activate Google Voice can use it, but you can request an invite here (or try to buy an account on eBay).

google-voice

In the meantime, here are some of the highlights of Google Voice:

  • All incoming calls to one number: Though I haven’t jumped on board yet, I could give out my single number to everyone I know, and control when and where those calls ring.
  • Custom ring schedules: One of the really cool things about Google Voice is that you can set up custom ring schedules for each of your phones. For example, if I’m using Google Voice to direct work-related calls to my home number, I probably only want that to happen during weekday business hours and not on weekends. Done. Likewise, if I’m traveling and don’t want to miss a call from my customers, I probably want to have my Google Voice number go directly to my iPhone and not even bother ringing my home number. Done.

    custom ring schedule

  • Free outgoing calls: Call anywhere in the U.S. free of charge. Other people will even see your Google Voice number as the caller ID number. And like Skype, there are nominal charges for international calls.
  • SMS Messages: You can send and receive text messages right through your Google Voice account. I tested this using my account on my iPhone with a friend and his iPhone, and it worked great. It was smart enough to use the iPhone text messaging app and to display the text as coming from my Google Voice number.
  • Call groups: Using your Google contacts and groups, you can control whose calls ring which of your phones. So if I always want calls from friends and family to ring through only to my iPhone and even play a particular voicemail greeting, I can do so.

    family greeting

  • Voicemail transcription: If you miss a call or have it sent directly to voicemail, get an email with the transcribed voicemail and a link to the message. You can even opt to receive notification of new voicemails via text message.
  • Gmail-style user interface: The entire Google Voice experience is managed through a slick, Gmail-like interface that will be familiar to anyone who already uses Gmail:

    user interface

Lots more features are outlined here.

Google loves to be the inbox for the world’s information, and the company is giving us a lot of incentive to make the switch and manage all of our incoming calls through Google Voice. I’m likely going to make the jump.

Read TechCrunch’s recent review of Google Voice here.

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How to Stop the Conficker Virus Before it Starts on April 1

March 30, 2009 – 8:36 am by Gabe Anderson | No Comments »

On Wednesday, April 1 a virus called Conficker will “call home” from Windows machines that have been infected since November 2008. No one is sure who created the virus or what, if anything, will happen, but it could be bad (or it could be nothing), but why take any chances?

Unlike many of those emails people forward to you, this virus is real and if you’re using a Windows PC, it doesn’t hurt to take some quick preventive measure. You can Google it to learn more, or check out this CNET FAQ.

The two best things you can do are the following:

  1. Make sure you run Windows Auto Update.
  2. Run the BitDefender Removal Tool (either the Web-based version on the left of that page or the downloadable EXE version) to scan your system and, if necessary, remove the virus.

After you run the scan, if you see something like this, you’re good to go:

Conficker virus scan

So spread the word and make this virus a non-issue.

(Thanks, Adam, for the heads-up.)

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How to Take iPhone Screenshots

March 27, 2009 – 8:45 am by Gabe Anderson | 7 Comments »

iPhoneMy company uses salesforce.com for our CRM. The other day I installed the Salesforce Mobile app on my iPhone so that I could access our customer data on the go. I had enabled mobile access in our account, so I thought everything should work pretty easily.

I launched the app, typed in my user credentials, clicked the “Activate” button, and thought I was on my way to a quick and easy way of using salesforce.com wherever I was. But lo and behold, I was presented with an error screen.

I replied to the email from salesforce.com that had promoted the new “Lite” version of the app — a smart move on the company’s part since previously salesforce.com was charging for mobile use and it just didn’t seem worth it for my company to pay them even more than we already are just to access our data from an iPhone app — and my first instinct was to type the details of the error message from my iPhone into the email.

“Wait,” I thought, “that’s silly.”

The iPhone is a Web device with a very simple and handy feature: Screen capture. Just as you can do at your computer (using built-in OS features on your Mac or PC, or using an even more powerful tool like SnagIt), the iPhone allows you to take screenshots of whatever you see on screen (haven’t you always wondered how they get those screenshots into all those reviews?).

Here’s how to take iPhone screenshots:

  1. Hold down the home button.
  2. Press and release the sleep button (top right of device).
  3. You’ll hear a camera click and the screen will flash white.
  4. Go to your Camera Roll and voila! There’s your new screenshot (saved as a .JPG photo).
  5. Tap the photo and email it away.

So that’s exactly what I did when I got that Salesforce Mobile error. Rather than describing the problem to salesforce.com support, I showed them this screenshot:

sfdc-iphone-app-error

Enjoy!

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Organize Your Desktop Icons with Fences

February 17, 2009 – 9:35 am by Gabe Anderson | No Comments »

A clean desktop — both real and electronic — is one of those things for which many of us strive.

On my Windows computers, I’ve started using a “Junk” folder at the root level of my hard drive (C:\Junk) with a corresponding alias / shortcut on my desktop to stash all the temporary files with which I work during the day and don’t want cluttering up my desktop. It also allows me to save disk space by regularly purging the folder’s contents, and not including unnecessary files in my automated backups (via Mozy).

I do, however, keep a handful of program and folder shortcuts on my desktop. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to keep those organized — and even hidden or displayed with just a double-click on the desktop?

With a really cool little utility called Fences, now you can.

Fences

After installation, Fences offers to organize your current desktop items for you: It groups them into logical categories and creates virtual “fences” around each group, giving you the ability to move each group of icons where you want it on your desktop.

Then you can double-click to make all fences invisible, giving you that clean desktop. You can even specify which fences or individual icons you don’t want to hide.

It’s a simple concept, but really goes a long way in helping you feel more organized when working on your computer.

(Thanks, Adam, for the tip.)

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Remember Everything with Evernote

January 19, 2009 – 9:52 am by Gabe Anderson | 2 Comments »

While visiting family and friends in San Francisco for Christmas and New Year’s, my friend Tim was raving about a Web app called Evernote — how it was allowing him (and his boss) to remove all paper from his life, when he combined it with a new high-speed scanner (though a scanner is not required).

I’d heard of Microsoft OneNote and had even tried it out way back when, but didn’t like that all the notes and information I created were “stuck” on my local computer and not accessible via any Web browser.

Enter  Evernote — it was like a Web-based version of OneNote, Tim said, where your data gets indexed, tagged, and even OCR’d (Optical Character Recognition), such that any text in documents you scan gets automatically converted to digital text and searchable in your account. I was intrigued.

 evernote-logo.gif

I soon signed up for a free account and have found Evernote to be even better than I expected. The idea is simple and the tagline is really true: Remember everything. The application creates a timeline of documents for you, so that you can get a virtual history book of your digital life for everything you input to it — be it simple notes, task lists, PDF docs, photos you take (e.g., wine labels, birthday cards, business cards etc.).

Say you have a stack of business cards you don’t want laying around. Just scan them all (or take photos of them), upload them to your Evernote account, add some tags (or let the OCR do its thing), and you can always search for these business cards alongside every other piece of information in your life.

You can input via a number of methods:

  • Web app
  • Desktop app (Windows or Mac)
  • Mobile device (iPhone or Windows Mobile)

I did, of course, immediately install the Evernote iPhone app and it’s quickly become one of my favorites.

evernote-iphone.png

As outlined on the company’s site, I can capture a number of different input types via my iPhone from anywhere, enabling me to do all of the following:

  • Create and edit new notes on the fly
  • Snap a photo right into your account
  • Record a quick voice memo
  • Easily access all of your notes
  • Select notes for offline viewing

The sync between the iPhone app and my Web-based account happens almost immediately. I can then jump into my Web account and email myself (or anyone else) any of my notes, reminders, or documents.

The basic account is free and allows 40 MB of uploads per month. The premium account is $5/month or $45/year and gives you 500 MB of uploads per month, additional file type support, stronger security, and more. I haven’t upgraded to premium yet, but the more I start using and depending on Evernote, the more likely it is that I’ll upgrade.

Start organizing and remembering all those little inputs in your life today.

Happy New Year!

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Manage Finances Automatically with Mint.com

December 23, 2008 – 9:20 am by Gabe Anderson | 3 Comments »

I’ve long been a Quicken user and still use it for the primary management of mine and my wife’s finances (currently on Quicken Deluxe 2007). I’ve also tried out just about every online financial management tool out there, including Wesabe and Mint.com.

Since my first interaction with it during its beta period, Mint.com has consistently impressed me and stood above the rest, for its simplicity, comprehensiveness, and ease of use.

Mint.com

Plus, it’s almost totally automated: You configure your accounts once and from then on, it automatically downloads and categorizes all of your transactions and account balances for all your cash, credit, and even investment accounts.

Along with being very secure, Mint.com provides a number of other great features:

  • One-time setup (followed by automatic updating of accounts)
  • Automatic expense categorization (you can tweak)
  • Accessible anywhere (all you need is an Internet connection & a Web browser… or iPhone)
  • Beautiful, interactive charts (in the Trends tab)
  • Suggestions on ways to save (better credit card offers, etc.)
  • Lots more…

Mint.com won the TechCrunch 2007 and since last year, I’ve really seen lots of improvements in the site (no doubt the $17 million of venture capital funding helps).

Every time I spent a little time with Mint.com, I question while I’m still using Quicken (maybe for the historical data?). Intuit keeps trying to get me to pay for an upgrade to Quicken 2009, but rather than doing that, maybe I’ll just invest more time in what Mint.com offers for free.

There’s even a new iPhone app for Mint.com, which I’ve already installed and is really cool in providing a snapshot of your finances, details on recent transactions, etc.:

Mint.com iPhone app

Intuit now offers its Quicken Online free of charge, likely in an effort to compete with Mint.com and other free online financial management apps.

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How to Configure Windows Vista to Login Automatically

November 24, 2008 – 9:23 am by Gabe Anderson | No Comments »

The very first tip I wrote in this blog back in Janaury 2008 was How to Configure Windows XP to Login Automatically. So here’s the Vista version of that same concept, if you prefer not to have to login to your computer every time you turn it on.

 How to Configure Windows Vista to Login Automatically:

  1. Go to the Start menu and type netplwiz in the Start Search field.
  2. Hit Enter and the advanced User Accounts dialog will open.
  3. Highlight your primary user in the list and uncheck the box Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer:
    snag-1850.png
  4. Click OK.
  5. Type in your Password and again in the Confirm Password field:
    snag-1851.png
  6. Click OK.

That’s it! From now on, when you restart your computer or turn it on, you won’t have to worry about typing in your password.

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Ocarina: Play Music on Your iPhone

November 13, 2008 – 8:59 am by Gabe Anderson | 2 Comments »

The versatility and all-around awesomeness of the iPhone continues to amaze me on a near-daily basis. Last night while sitting in my living room, I was playing one of the all-time best video games around: Pac-Man. I then downloaded (another) weather app for the iPhone: The Weather Channel’s iPhone app, which is the best one yet since it includes current conditions, a 36-hour weather report, hourly updates, weather maps, and even local video reports of the weather. Too cool.

But I digress.

The coolest app I’ve seen in a while and which I bought earlier this week is Ocarina, billed as “the first true musical instrument created for the iPhone.” Further, “Ocarina is sensitive to your breath, touch and movements, making it even more versatile than the original.”

ocarina-fingerholes-phone.png
But wait, there’s more. What makes the Ocarina so crazy cool in this digitally networked world is that not only can I play music I find in the Forum of Musical Scores, but I can switch to a view of the globe that randomly selects someone else playing his or her Ocarina on the iPhone right now. I can bookmark my favorite players if I want to listen to them again in the future. It’s pretty incredible when you stop to think about it. TechCrunch also likes it.
ocarina-world.png
Here’s this application that runs on my cell phone that makes music when I blow into the speaker. And I can listen in real time to others around the world doing the same thing. Too cool.All that and there’s even a Zelda mode, so all of us Zelda fans can make music like that from the classic game, which transports me back to 1986 when my friends and I would set up a tent in my backyard, run a long extension cord from inside my house, and carry my TV and Nintendo into the tent, where we’d stay up all night playing Zelda.Here’s the Smule team playing Stairway to Heaven on their iPhones via Ocarina:
I can’t do that… yet. But I have been able to make Joy to the World sound somewhat decent. I played the sax for most of my life growing up, so maybe it’s the pseudo-musician in me (even though I may still be tone deaf), but I’m having a great time rockin’ out with my virtual musical instrument.

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Find Your Polling Place & Vote

November 4, 2008 – 7:53 am by Gabe Anderson | No Comments »

This isn’t really a tech tip post, but it’s an incredibly important day, so here’s the technology angle:

  1. Google polling place.
  2. Type in your address:
    snag-1762.png
  3. Go there.
  4. Vote.

vote-button.jpg
 
 It’s your Constitutional right and duty. Don’t waste it today. This is an historic election.

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Search, Don’t Sort Your Email & Files with X1

October 30, 2008 – 8:19 am by Gabe Anderson | 2 Comments »

x1_logo.gif One of the must-have utilities in my daily work arsenal is X1, which archives every email and file on my computer in real-time — as new emails come in and out, and as files change — and enables me to search for anything with lightning-fast speed. It’s like Gmail for the workplace since you use it with Outlook or Lotus.

Download the X1 Professional client and start indexing your emails, then you never have to worry about organizing your emails into folders again. Just like Gmail: Search, don’t sort.

You can search by keyword/phrase or specify other criteria like From, To, Subject, or even Attachment name, and your archived emails pop up instantly:

 x1 screenshot

If you’re looking for an email you sent, just start to type the word “Sent” in the Folder Name column and boom! There are all the emails matching your search term in your Sent Items folder.

X1 will search your active Exchange mailbox as well as all of your archived .PSTs. Since I started my current job more than 4 1/2 years ago, I’ve rarely permanently deleted any email, so I have more than 170,000 archived and instantly searchable emails, thanks to X1 (that total includes old support emails from when we were a smaller company and support emails would come directly to my account).

Here’s a cool way to use X1, which many of my colleagues and I do:

  1. After you’ve read or acted on an email, just delete it (like archiving in Gmail).
  2. Ensure your Outlook settings will never empty your Deleted Items folder (Tools -> Options -> Other -> Uncheck Empty the Deleted Items folder upon exiting).
  3. Set X1 to index your Deleted Items folder (Tools -> Options -> Indexing -> Email -> Outlook -> Select Folders To Scan).
  4. My Deleted Items folder gets auto-archived to a local .PST folder along with other mailboxes every 14 days, so everything just works automatically and keeps the size of my mailbox on the Exchange server down, and my Outlook running fast:

Deleted Items Auto Archive Settings

If you use your Outlook to check other email accounts via IMAP, you can even configure X1 to index those accounts or specific folders in those accounts.

Another tip: Set the X1 preference to  Keep copies of email in index (Tools -> Options -> Indexing -> Email). This ensures that your email previews pop up as quickly in X1 as they do in Outlook itself.

I’ve tried other desktop search tools — yes, even Google Desktop — and X1 is far superior to every other one out there.  X1 just works and works well.

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