Saturday, January 30, 2010

Better Than Smoke Signals

It's time to talk about Google. I have become something of a fanboy in recent years and today I feel like sharing. I use a lot of their other products: Gmail, Blogger (obviously), Reader, Calendar, Tasks, and Documents, to name a few. The fact that they're all synchronized is a big deal to me, the systems engineer. Google doesn't provide the only such system, but theirs is a good one, especially if you're already using Gmail.

I have also recently added two new Google products to my toolbox: Google Voice and Google Wave.

Google Voice is a phone forwarding system that gives me significant control over my phone lines, voicemail, and text messages. I've had it for a few months now and I love it. It would be even more useful if I had multiple phones, but for now I just use the voicemail capabilities. I can filter calls, put up specific messages for specific callers, save voicemails to my computer (I really wish I had this capability when my dad left the Goose V-formation joke on my voicemail), and receive transcripts of each phone message as an email or a text on my phone. It's quick and easy to check (and while the transcript program isn't perfect, it's good enough for me to use to interpret the urgency and topic of the message). It's still in beta and requires an invite to get in, but those are relatively easy to come by. I've used up my invites already, so I can't get you in myself, but I know a few people who might. And I got in by requesting an invite directly from Google. Check it out if either of the following apply to you:
  • You have multiple phones and want to manage when calls go to which lines. Especially useful for those of you who have poor cell reception in your house, or who can't or don't want to get cell phone calls at work.
  • You like to keep old messages, but hate trying to navigate the list structure of traditional voicemail to find them again.
Others are doing similar things with voicemail. For example, Verizon now offers Visual Voicemail on their smartphones and I'm sure other companies do as well. I suspect all voicemail is going to head this direction soon.

Google Wave is billed as what email would look like if it was invented today. It's a communications/collaboration platform that acts as a sort of combination of Gmail, Google Docs, Wiki, and Instant Messaging (if none of those words mean anything to you, than you probably don't need Wave either). It's great for collaboration. Sarah and I have been doing a fair amount of our wedding planning with it. The trouble is that it's the kind of thing that is only really useful at scale. Right now it's kind of empty, although every time I sign on, I see more of my design friends have joined it (especially those still in school). This one is also still in early beta, so it has issues. They're getting better, and the promise is there, but it still needs some polish. I do have plenty of invitations available for this. If you're interested, let me know.

I realize I'm not selling it very well, but it is an excellent tool. If more of my friends were on it, I'd use it to organize our Xbox Live nights and coordinate groomsmen activities. This would have been the perfect place to organize the weekly Dinner & Game nights we used to have in DC. And, of course, I can imagine some pretty entertaining B&B conversations on here :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Minor Obstacles

There are interesting stories popping up all over my life that I've wanted to tell you all about. Bolt was just more important, I had to make sure everyone read that entry before I was willing to post any more.

No? Don't buy that one? Yeah, Bolt's not my proudest entry. (Not bad, but I've done better.)

How about this one then:
I was kidnapped by a band of thieves who needed my unique expertise to pull off a complicated caper. Our adventures together were hilarious, heart-warming, and poignant (especially the scene where we discovered what the leader was really after). Unfortunately, the President has forbidden me to speak of any of this.

No again? You're a tough audience. Tell you what, I'll put up a bunch of excuses and you can just pick your favorite:

  1. I traveled to a remote mountaintop guru to discover the meaning of life. He was on vacation when I got there, so I'll have to go back some other time.
  2. I've been recovering from the B&B party.
  3. I was struck by lightning and began to generate a field that interfered with electronic devices, thus making it completely impossible for me to use a computer to post my blog. On the other hand, it did give me the power to thwart a villanous conspiracy of robots. So that's good.
  4. I took a vow of digital silence. I break it now only because the need is so dire.
  5. My grammar was stolen from me by a mad-scientist named Frank. I tried to write for help, but the result was unreadable and deeply embarassing. I had to retrieve my grammar on my own.
  6. I caught a bad computer virus and could only speak in binary for a long time. I had to quarantine myself from my computer so as not to get it sick, too.
  7. I was playing a video game and reached a two month long cut-scene that I couldn't pause. I spent the rest of the time since then catching up on sleep.
  8. I went on tour with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
  9. My evil twin kidnapped me and took my place. He spent the time applying to jobs, helping plan my wedding, and playing video games. He occasionally thought about all the blog entries I couldn't write in captivity and then laughed maniacally.
  10. There was an accounting error and the finger company thought I had missed several payments. They repossessed both hands until I was able to show them their mistake. They returned the hands (obviously) but never apologized.
  11. I slipped on a temporal distortion getting out of the shower one morning and spent twelve weeks stuck in 1937.
  12. There was an accident involving superglue.
  13. The authorities finally caught up with me and I had to serve my time for the incident in Morocco. It's probably a good thing they never connected me to the Paducah thing or you'd never get your blog entries back.

There, what do you think? Let me know if you need any more. In the meantime, I think I'll stop writing excuses and start writing blog entries again (well, once I've dealt with this secret alien invasion).