If You’ve Got Unlimited Texts…Use Them

September 26, 2009

Followers of this blog know that I am not a fan of text messages or more specifically the crazy rates cell phone companies charge for them. These 160-character (and by the way, when’s the last time you got a 160-character message from someone) communiqu├ęs can cost 20 cents a message.

However, some people have avoided this problem by getting unlimited text messaging. One option to take advantage of this is to send and receive massive amounts of messages, but that doesn’t show much creativity. One way to really take advantage of unlimited texting is a new service called DotGo, which I heard about here from the good folks at technologizer.com.

DotGo allows you to send the domain name of a website in a text message to them. The top-level domain (e.g. .com, .org. .edu) will determine the number that what number you use for the text message. The number is actually spelled out using the letter values on the number pad, (DOTCOM address go to the number 368266.) which makes it easy to remember.

You are then sent a text message with a description of how to interact with the website you’ve entered. When you use this website techeap.com, you’ll get a list of the last ten blog posts (in 3 separate messages) and if you wanted to read any of them you would just reply with the number for that entry. Dotgo would then send you a series of text messages until the whole article is sent.

While this may not be the most efficient way to read a website, many other website are much more optimized to use this technology. If you use enter Google or Yahoo and a search term, DotGo will return some of the top hits. There is a simulator on their website, but it was not working for me when I tried it.

One very useful integration for me was with NJTransit. You simply send them the message NJTransit and the locations you want to go between, (for example “njtransit nypenn woodbridge”) and they will send you back a schedule of trains.

Some queries got returned faster than others and my tests were mostly done during off-hours, but the service was pretty speedy overall. While this certainly will not replace browsing on a web-enabled cell phone, if you don’t have an advanced phone and you need a way to get information, this may be exactly what you need.

The service is free, but some of the sites it has integrated with will have ads embedded at the end of messages about them. They promise and I haven’t gotten any spam or other unrequested messages from them. All of the tests I did, did not have any ads, but I’m sure that will change as the service matures.

Is this something that you might use? Let me know in the comments.

It’s Like Being Friends…with Audio

September 19, 2009

Sometimes you come across an interesting service that seems useful, but you aren’t exactly sure what to do with it.

Well, that’s the situation that I’m in with AudioPal.com. My previous post (if you linked here from somewhere, you can go to the main page at www.techeap.com to see both posts) shows you what this service is.

You go to AudioPal.com, call a toll-free line, enter a personalized code, and record a message. You give them an e-mail address to send the code to link it to your website. It also offers integration with many blogging services, including this one at WordPress.com. This makes it pretty convenient to add it to your site.

The drawback is that it only offer :60 of recording time. That really isn’t very much to do anything that amazing. I could see doing a contest or giveaway using a system like this. However, if you had a decent microphone at home, you could probably record something with better quality by yourself.

The site is very easy to use, and I’m impressed that they are offering this for free. This is serving as a way to market their other site at Sitepal.com. There you can get speaking avatars to talk to people logging in to a web site at a variety of different price points.

Now I’m left with an interesting service with which I can’t figure out any useful things to do.

Do you have any ideas? Let me know in the comments.

AudioPal Widget

September 19, 2009

The Redbox of Doom

September 12, 2009

It’s the cheapest legal way I know of to see one new DVD release and this, if you take their word on the subject, means doom for the movie industry.

In my area, it’s called Redbox, but other similar companies include DVDPlay, Moviecube and DVDXpress. The idea is that you pick a movie from the machine, put in your credit card and out pops a DVD. You are charged a low amount (usually $1) each day that you have it out. If you lose it, you are charged $25 for not returning it and that’s the end of the transaction.

These machines usually pop out around grocery stores and pharmacies, which are very happy to have people coming back to them every day with a chance of picking up a few extra items.

The machines make money because there is very little overhead and increasingly they are able to get DVDs at wholesale cost, so it takes very few rentals to make a profit. Finally, some of the owners of the machines sell the DVDs as used after they’ve been rented out for a while, so they make money on both ends of the arrangement. Consumers pay much less for renting the DVDs than they would from a rental store and much less for buying a used DVD then they would pay for it as new.

Of course, as the New York Times reports, not everyone is happy with this arrangement. 20th Century Fox, Universal and Warner Brothers are refusing to sell DVDs to Redbox until 28 days after a DVD has been released. The thinking goes that who will pay full price to buy a DVD or rent it from the cable company with the markup that they charge when they can get it from Redbox for a dollar.

Sony, who is one of the companies that has signed a deal with Redbox, got them to agree not to sell their DVDs as used and instead the destroy the DVDs after they left the boxes. This is probably one of the best solutions for both sides, as DVD rentals can still happen at a reasonable rate, but the movie companies won’t cannibalize sales of their DVDs.

It will be interesting to see the development of this market as Blockbuster plans to enter the market with their own line of kiosks.

Have you used these kiosks? Are they in your area? Let me know in the comments.

On-line Life After Real Life Death

September 5, 2009

I’m going a bit off the beaten track today after I saw an interesting article in Time about what happens to your on-line accounts after you die.

This was certainly a wake-up call for me when I consider how much of my life is secured behind passwords and other security features. Time reports that both Hotmail and G-mail will allow you a CD of the deceased’s e-mails, but doesn’t seem to allow actual access. Facebook will either take down a profile, or create a memorial profile that only users friends can access. Flickr will lock families out of any images marked private.

The main thing to take away from this is that each site has its own methods of dealing with the digital assets of the deceased, so this should be part of anyone’s planning for their death.

A number of sites, as described in the MSNBC article, have started to help people prepare for their death. One site, Deathswitch, which seems like a disaster waiting to happen, will send out a notice to predetermined e-mail addresses in the event you haven’t checked in on the site that week. A more reasonable system might be Slightly Morbid, which will alert your designated people, when family members let the site know.

I think in my case I’m considering including a sealed envelope of instructions along with my will for access to these accounts. In this case, a low-tech solution may be the best answer to a high-tech problem.

What are your thoughts and have you done any digital death planning? Leave them in the comments.