[blind_tech] fw: [Electronics-talk] One number to ring them all

  • From: Zach D <chickerland@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: braillenote@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, blind_tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, techfortheblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 21 Mar 2009 12:44:31 -0600

I thought this was awesome! Have a good time and enjoy!

 ---- Original Message ------
From: "Sherri" <flmom2006@xxxxxxxxx
Subject: [Electronics-talk] One number to ring them all
Date sent: Sun, 15 Mar 2009 08:24:28 -0400

This sounds great!
  Tech Update of the N Y Times, Washington Post, and MIT's Tech 
Review
      State of the Art

                             One Number to Ring Them All

      By DAVID POGUE

      If Google search revolutionized the Web, and Gmail 
revolutionized
      free e-mail, then one thing's for sure: Google Voice, 
unveiled
      Thursday, will revolutionize telephones.

      It unifies your phone numbers, transcribes your voice mail, 
blocks
      telemarketers and elevates [10]text messages to first-class
      communication citizens.  And that's just the warm-up.

      Google Voice began life in 2005 as something called 
GrandCentral.  It
      was, in its own way, revolutionary.

      It was intended to solve the headaches of having more than 
one phone
      number (home, work, cellphone and so on): Having to check 
multiple
      answering machines.  Missing calls when people try to reach 
you on your
      cell when you're at home (or the other way around).  
Sending around
      e-mail at work that says, "On Thursday from 5 to 8:30, I'll 
be on my
      cell; for the rest of the weekend, call me at home." And 
having to
      change phone numbers when you switched jobs or cities.

      GrandCentral's solution was to offer you a new, single, 
unified phone
      number, in an area code of your choice.  Whenever somebody 
dialed your
      uni-number, all of your phones rang at once.

      No longer did people have to track you down by dialing 
multiple
      numbers; no matter where you were, your uni-number found 
you.  And all
      voice mail messages landed in a single voice mail box, on 
the Web.  (You
      could also dial in to hear them as usual.)

      On the Web, you could play back your messages or even 
download them as
      audio files to preserve for posterity.  You could even ask 
to be
      notified of new voice mail by e-mail.

      But wait, there was more.  Each time you answered a call, 
while the
      caller was still hearing "one ringy-dingy, two 
ringy-dingies," you
      heard a recording offering four ways to handle the call: 
"Press 1 to
      accept, 2 to send to voice mail, 3 to listen in on voice 
mail, or 4 to
      accept and record the call." If you pressed 3, the call 
went directly
      to voice mail, but you could listen in.  If you felt that 
the caller
      deserved your immediate attention, you could press * to 
pick up and
      join the call.  This subtle feature saved time, conserved 
cellular
      minutes and, in certain cases, avoided a great deal of 
interpersonal
      conflict.

      GrandCentral also let you record a different voice mail 
greeting for
      each person in your address book: "Hey, dollface, leave me 
a sweet
      nothing" for your love interest, "Hi, boss, I'm out making 
us both some
      money" for your employer.

      You could also specify which phones would ring when certain 
people
      called.  (For the really annoying people in your life, you 
could even
      tell GrandCentral to answer with the classic, three-tone 
"The number
      you have dialed is no longer in service" message.)

      Also very cool: Any time during a call, you could press the 
* key to
      make all of your phones ring again, so that you could pick 
up on a
      different phone in midcall.  If you were heading out the 
door, you could
      switch a landline call to your cellphone.

      GrandCentral also offered telemarketing spam filters, 
off-hour call
      blocking ("never ring my BlackBerry on weekends"), and a 
dizzying
      number of other functions.  For people with complicated 
lives,
      GrandCentral was a breath of fresh air.  It felt like a 
secret power
      that nobody else had.

      Then, in 2007, Google bought GrandCentral.  It stopped 
accepting new
      members, ceased any visible work on it, and, apparently, 
forgot about
      it completely.  The early adopters, several hundred 
thousand of them,
      were able to keep using GrandCentral's features.  But as 
time went on,
      their hearts sank.  In January, Salon.com summed it up in 
an editorial
      called, "Will the Last One to Leave GrandCentral Please 
Turn Out the
      Lights?"

      As it turns out, the joke was on them.  Google was quietly 
working on
      GrandCentral all along.  Starting Thursday, existing 
GrandCentral
      members can upgrade to Google Voice.  In a few weeks, after 
debugging
      the system, Google will open the service to all.

      Google Voice starts with a clean, redesigned Web site that 
looks like
      an in box, a la Gmail.  It maintains all of those original 
GrandCentral
      features - but more important, introduces four 
game-changing new ones.

      FREE VOICE MAIL TRANSCRIPTIONS From now on, you don't have 
to listen to
      your messages in order; you don't have to listen to them at 
all.  In
      seconds, these recordings are converted into typed text.  
They show up
      as e-mail messages or text messages on your cellphone.

      This is huge.  It means that you can search, sort, save, 
forward, copy
      and paste voice mail messages.

      No human effort is involved; it's all done with software.  
As a result,
      the transcriptions are rarely perfect.  For one thing, 
Google's software
      doesn't seem to have discovered punctuation yet.  ("ohh hi 
it's michelle
      i just wanted to let you know that i really had fun last 
night and it's
      really great to see you okay talk to you later bye bye.")

      There are errors, of course; it's hard enough for people to 
understand
      cellphone conversations, let alone computers.  Cleverly 
enough, the Web
      site displays transcribed words more faintly (light gray) 
when it is
      less confident about the transcription.  Fortunately, it 
generally nails
      numbers -- phone numbers, arrival times, addresses.  And 
the rest is
      accurate enough to convey the gist.

      Companies like PhoneTag, Callwave and Spinvox already 
transcribe voice
      mail, complete with punctuation.  They're great, but they 
cost money.
      Google Voice is free.

      FREE CONFERENCE CALLING Never again will you pay for a 
conference call,
      or require a special dial-in number, or mess around with 
access codes.
      All you do is tell your friends to call your GrandCentral 
at the
      specified time -- and boom, you can conference them in as 
they call
      you.  No charge.

      DIRT-CHEAP INTERNATIONAL CALLS If you dial your own Google 
Voice number
      from one of your phones, you're offered an option to call 
overseas at
      rates even lower than Skype's (and much lower than your 
cellphone
      company's): 2 cents a minute to France or China, 3 cents to 
Chile or
      the Czech Republic.  Sweet.

      TEXT MESSAGE ORGANIZATION Google Voice's last feature is 
its most
      profound.  The old GrandCentral wasn't great with text 
messages sent to
      your uni-number.  In fact, it ignored them.  They just 
disappeared.

      Google Voice, however, does the right thing: it sends text 
messages to
      whichever cellphones you want -- even multiple phones 
simultaneously.

      Even more important, it collects them in your Web in-box 
just like
      e-mail.  You can file them, search them and, for the first 
time in
      cellphone history, keep them.  They don't vanish forever 
once your
      cellphone gets full.

      You can also reply to them with a click, either with a call 
or another
      text; your back-and-forths appear online as a conversation.

      Google Voice eliminates some of the annoyances of its 
predecessor.  You
      can, if you wish, turn off that "press 1, press 2" option, 
so when the
      phone rings, you can just pick it up and start talking.  
Google has also
      done some Googlish integration; for example, your Gmail and 
Google
      Voice address books are the same.

      Nitpicks? Sure.  The service has vastly beefed up its 
selection of
      available uni-numbers, but there are still some area codes 
you can't
      get (212 is especially rare).  As a side effect of Google 
Voice's
      ring-all-phones-at-once technology, you sometimes find 
fragments of
      Google Voice error recordings on the answering machines of 
the phones
      you didn't answer.  (Solution: make your voice mail 
greeting at least 15
      seconds long.) There's a learning curve to all of this, 
too.

      Still, you can't imagine how much the game changes when you 
have a
      single phone number, voice mail transcriptions and 
nondeleting text
      messages on every phone.  Suddenly, your communications are 
not only
      unified, but they're unified everywhere at once -- the 
cellphone, the
      Web and the e-mail program.  And all of it free -- even 
ad-free.

      There mthe cay be some fallout as a result; I'd hate to be 
a company
   that
      sells voice mail transcription or conferencing calling 
services right
      about now.  But that's life, right? Every now and then, a 
little
      revolution is good for us.


E-mail: pogue@xxxxxxxxxxx

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  • » [blind_tech] fw: [Electronics-talk] One number to ring them all - Zach D