Listen to the (Google) Voice In Your Head

google_voice

It’s easy to get lost in all the buzz over Google’s latest babies – Voice and Wave.  Both are generating a lot of attention among bloggers and tech-enthusiasts, even though each service is still only available by invitation.

I have been invited to use both, and for the past week or two I have been trying them out.  Here are my thoughts about Google Voice:  I love it.

That was easy.  Over the next few paragraphs, I’m going to try and convince you why you should, too.  Before that, however, it’s probably good to do a quick overview.  If you aren’t familiar with Voice, it’s essentially a service to manage your current phone system.  No matter how many phone numbers you have (work, home, mobile, etc), Google Voice can help you manage them efficiently.

Can I have yo’ numba?

When you first sign up for Voice, you’ll have to pick your phone number.  That’s right – Google Voice gives you a new number.  Don’t worry, your old number will still work as Voice simply forwards calls to your phone.  For me, picking a number was the fun part.  Not only do you get to choose from a list of available numbers, but you can search for number or letter combinations for convenience.

As far as setting up, that’s about it.  You’ll customize a few settings before getting started and then you land on your Voice page.  Ah, the beauty.  All of your Voicemails, Contacts, and SMS messages stored in one location, in an interface similar to Gmail.

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New Music Store Comes to BlackBerry

7digital_logo

BlackBerry users have cause for some serious excitement – a new UK mp3 store called 7digital has come out with a BlackBerry music store to rival the popular iTunes mp3 store for the iPhone and Amazon mp3 for the Palm Pre. Finally.

What’s more, 7digital boasts cheaper (and DRM-free) songs – many of which are only $.77, as compared to the many new $1.29 price increases iTunes has seen. For some time now, it seems as if the only option for BB users was to transfer music with desktop software or through a removable media card. No longer.

For me, the immediate problem with this was slow 3G speeds. I love my Curve, but sometimes even keeping an ESPN game tracker open could take forever. 7digital has an answer for this. When you choose to download a song over a slow connection, you will be downloading a lower-quality track. The next time you’re in an area that can handle more data transfer (or in a WiFi spot if your BB supports it), the song will re-download in high quality and replace the old version. Pretty cool, right?

After browsing the available songs in their store, I’m impressed. There’s even a “Future Releases” section to showcase upcoming music – though this is mostly EP’s and lesser known Indie bands. 7digital reports that it currently has over 7 million songs for download.

It seems like the number one thing I get attacked about when comparing the BlackBerry to the iPhone is the lack of music playability. While 7digital currently does not offer a compatible app for the Curve 8320, I’m still excited about the possibility.  Take that iPhone users – and I can listen to my music without squealing in delight at the word “Apple”. Sure, the BB’s storage isn’t comparable to that of the godPhone, but it’s a step in the right direction – and we’ve been able to picture message for years.

(via PCWorld)

Camping in Virginia

I got back from our family vacation earlier this afternoon.  The first 4 days of our trip was to camp in Virginia (near Rugby, I believe) and from there we went to stay in Boone, NC for 2 days.  This post serves two purposes – the first to link to pictures of the trip (just in case, for some reason, you’re interested).  The first linked photo below will take you to my Flickr set (more pics to come) and the second to my public Facebook album, though I would love for you to friend request me (as a few readers have already done)!

camping in virginia

camping in virginia

The second is a quick thought about mobile technology.

As you well know from my posts, I have a Blackberry.  Now, I am all for taking time away from electronic gadgets and gizmos to enjoy creation and rest.  However, car trips are a different story.  Now, I’ll follow up this post with one soley dedicated to this, but I discovered Pandora for Blackberry on the 5-6 hour ride up to the mountains.  It’s amazing.  First of all, it’s free.  Second, it’s easy to use, doesn’t take up much space, and buffers quickly.  If your iPod playlists are getting dull on car rides, Pandora for Blackberry is the way to go.

As a side note, it was great having my camera and iPod as well.  Obviously.  I debated whether to even say it, but it honestly amazes me how much we can do nowadays.  Especially on mobile devices.  I can watch movies, catch up on TV shows, and listen to custom playlists, audiobooks, and podcasts wherever I am, at the push of a button.  I have better specs on my $125 camera than anyone would have imagined a few years ago.  But I digress.  My point is simply that we often take for granted everything we can do with this stuff.  Technology is awesome.

Backup Contacts With Google Sync

A friend of mine (@mindstorms6) showed me how he uses Google Sync to backup his phone contacts to his Gmail account.  Like many Google mobile applications, I have found this suprisingly very useful.

I am always paranoid about losing contacts.  My phone is strictly for personal use, but I still have over 100 entries (including numbers, email addresses, etc) in the Address Book.  The thing is, even though I try and save them to the SIM card, they usually automatically save to the phone or switch when I add a picture or ringtone to the entry.  In addition, lakes, pools, and other natural beauties provide more cause to stress.

Anyway, Google Sync provides a free (except for data plan charges of course) way to backup all your phone contacts.  Simply download the program (or click here if you’re on your phone – iPhone, Blackberry, etc) and set your synchronize settings.  Next thing you know, all of your phone contacts will be listed in the “Contacts” section of your Gmail account.

And just like that, my stress is gone.  Enjoy.

Thoughts on Palm Pre (AKA, “iPhone Killer”)

As is the nature of Palm, simple design flaws keep this device from being anything close to an iPhone killer.  Let’s face it – a large part of the reason the iPhone is so big is because it looks good, and it’s easy to use (but mostly because it looks good).

OK, so what’s right with the Pre?  In terms of software, almost everything.  It looks as if Palm has FINALLY gotten a modern look for their OS.  In other words, it looks good – really good.  In a lot of ways, it looks a lot better than the iPhone software.  It is apparently Linux-based, and debutes a new operating system called webOS.  Basically, it works with different social networking, email, and web sites to make your life easier.  That sounds stupid, but that’s what it does – web searching, organizing, etc is much easier with the Pre than other smartphones.

Obviously, the phone is touchscreen, and many iPhone-like guestures and icons are used for navigation.  The display looks good for the most part, yet the screen is a little small and doesn’t look as flat as the iPhone’s.  The phone can, however, run multiple applications at the same time, using what seems like multiple workstations (like the multiple desktops in popular Linux distributions) for organization.

My real problem, however, is the slide out keyboard.  First of all, you cannot have a slide ANYTHING on a phone that’s considered to be an iPhone killer.  Part of the appeal of Apple’s smartphone is that it’s heavy duty – it’s metal, solid, and simple.  The Pre is plastic, it slides, and it’s more complex (read: cheap) looking.  Second, the keyboard is tiny.  And it doesn’t appear to be very raised.

All in all, Palm’s got a lot of work to do.  A bigger screen, an alternative to the small plastic keyboard and metal encasing would be a good start.

Facebook 1.5 for BlackBerry

A few days ago, I upgraded all the software and apps on my Blackberry Curve. It actually didn’t take as long as I thought it would, even though it backed up, wiped, and restored everything on the device. Apart from some great changes in the main software (and the addition of a video camera), it updated the Facebook for BlackBerry application to version 1.5.

While I’ve had this app for sometime, I don’t use it that much – I find it easier to simply go to the mobile web version, which lets me see messages, wall posts, and notifications easier.  However, the new version has several great features that make it worth while.

First, contact synchronization.  Simply put, the app synchronizes contacts in your phone with your friends.  If a number matches a friends number online, it will add a “Facebook Name:” field to the Address Book, and randomly sync their profile picture to your phone for caller ID.

Second, phone notifications.  Just like when you have a missed call or receive a text message, you now get a Facebook icon and message number when you receive messages, notifications, etc.  Even better, the notifications and messages are sorted with your texts and emails for convenience.

Lastly (at least for this post), the addition (and ease) of “Send to Facebook” buttons.  For instance, when you snap a picture with your phone, you can send it to Facebook with the click of a button.  The uploader doesn’t seem as bulky as other application uploaders.

Review: Blackberry Curve 8320 (First Thoughts)

blackberry-curve-8320

Last Friday was my birthday, and I asked for money from everyone in order to get a Blackberry Curve. For over a year now, I’ve wanted this phone. However, during my last phone purchase, they were more than triple the cost of my second choice, the BlackJack.

A recent problem with my BlackJack screen gave me an excuse to get the Curve, and the birthday gave me the means.  Here are my initial thoughts.

The Purchase

I decided to go with the 8320 series over the 8310 for one reason – wireless internet.  That’s right, the Curve can connect to Wi-Fi hotspots for quicker internet access, and my favorite, UMA calling.  Essentially, UMA makes calls through a wireless network to save minutes and eliminate the problem of poor phone reception at home and work locations.

I picked up my Curve for about $200 online.  It wasn’t brand new, but at a retail price of $499.99 at Best Buy (through T-Mobile, without a 2-year contract), I considered this a deal.  I went with the dark grey over the brighter silver color, since I figured it would hide scratches for blemishes.  However, both looked really good, and if I’m not mistaken, you can buy new faceplates if you don’t like your color.

Out of the Box

Due to the weekend, it was about 4 business days before I got my phone by mail.  Upon opening the box, I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t all that impressed.  Sure, the design is sexy, but it looked like the pictures I had seen, and there wasn’t any crazy special features that I could see.

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