Archive for the ‘Informative’ Category
Thursday, June 6th, 2013
Just a follow-up to the last article with some new films. It’s been pretty exciting as some of the ones on the last list started rolling out, and hopefully most of these will make it as well. As always, I don’t knows if any of these will be any good, but they’ve captured my attention to the point where I had to make a note of them.
Let me know if I missed any.
Aaron Swartz – The Internet’s Own Boy
Documentary on internet pioneer and activist Aaron Swartz. Anticipated early 2014.
The Archive Documentary
Can’t find a lot of into on this one, but there’s a “part 1″ of it about the Internet Archive (which you can find hosted there for download). Release unknown.
Interesting fictional film shot on black and white video about 80′s geeks programming chess computers. The technology behind the filming almost interests me more than the plot. Currently screening.
Documentary about digital media and the file-sharing generation. Currently screening.
From Bedrooms to Billions
Documentary on the video game pioneers located in the UK. Anticipated late 2013.
The Gamer Age (previously Beyond the Game)
Documentary exploring gamer culture from many different angles. Currently screening.
Hackers in Uganda – A Documentary
Documentary about hackers contributing technical education and equipment in Uganda. Currently filming, anticipated early 2014.
High Tech, Low Life
Documentary following two Chinese citizen journalists as they travel the country. Anticipated 2013.
Inside the Dragon’s Lair
Documentary focusing on the legacy and history of the groundbreaking LaserDisc-based ’80s arcade game. Currently filming.
The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time
Documentary about classic arcade game collecting, but also focuses on arcade culture. Recently released.
UNDER THE SMOGBERRY TREES: The True Story of Dr. Demento
Documentary about the legendary DJ, Dr. Demento. Anticipated 2014.
The Video Craze
Documentary focused on ’80s arcade culture. Anticipated late 2013.
Video Games – The Movie
Documentary about the video game industry and culture resulting from it. Anticipated late 2013.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
Documentary about WikiLeaks and US government security breaches. Already has a large number of negative reviews. Anticipated 2013.
Saturday, October 13th, 2012
I often have a hard time finding movies to watch these days. I’m a big fan of documentaries, but even my long list of niche interests doesn’t always help me find something to watch that I have a genuine interest in. Fortunately, we live in a fantastic age when viewed from a media-centric perspective. If you look at the number of independently produced films from ten or even five years ago, you probably will not find as much as you could hope for. With low cost, high quality video equipment and crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGogo, even someone with a shoe-string budget can pump out a fantastic picture.
Having said that, I’ve been trying to throw some money at these crowd-funded film projects to reserve my copies for when the films are completed. I’ve been closely following others which are produced without this aid. At the end of the day, I have a big list of films I’m anticipating and I thought I’d toss them all up in one page for those that may have similar tastes.
Now as I said, many of these films are crowd-funded. Crowd-funded projects do not always stick to schedule, and do not always get finished. It’s sad, but it’s the way of the world. With that little disclaimer out of the way, I try not to put my faith in anything that looks fly-by-night or generally poorly executed. Anything I have listed here appeared solid enough for me to trust them with a little bit of my money.
In all, I am waiting for 27 films to come out (mostly documentaries). Since this is a weird number, I’ve listed three more films which have already come out this year as a “bonus” to give the list a push to a more respectable count of 30.
Hopefully you can find something you’ll want to pursue.
Documentary about the 6502 chip and assembly programming. By Jason Scott. In Production, anticipated late 2015
8 Bit Generation
A documentary about retro computing and retro gaming, complete with interviews of some key players. All information about this film seems to have stopped last year, and nobody knows the current status. The domain stopped resolving a little bit ago, and many of the pre-orders are being automatically refunded as they are timing out. Possibly completed, originally anticipated late 2012.
Adjust Your Tracking
Documentary about modern VHS collecting and the VHS collecting community. In production, anticipated early 2012.
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Long awaited movie for the Angry Video Game Nerd, based off the web series of the same name. In production, anticipated Summer 2013.
Documentary about arcades (the places, not the video games in them). By Jason Scott. In production, anticipated lat 2015.
Arcade: The Last Night at Chinatown Fair
Documents the last week of Chinatown Fair, NYC’s last arcade. In production, anticipated 2012
Documentary about the crowd-funding phenomenon. In production, anticipated early 2013
Documentary on the past, present, and future of the cassette tape from a musical perspective. In production, anticipated early 2013.
Documentary about the rise of the information age and the people who shape it. Currently Screening, no DVD release date yet.
Microsoft produced documentary about the start-up scene, focusing on five companies and their founders. In post production, no release date.
DEF CON Documentary
Documentary focusing on the DEF CON conference and the people who make it up. By Jason Scott. To be available as a free download or purchasable physical copy. In production, anticipated late 2012
A film about the politics behind hacking and freedom of the internet. In production, anticipated early 2014.
Here Come the VideoFreex
Documentary about the 1970’s video collective and their archive of tapes. In production, anticipated late 2013.
The King of Arcades
Documentary about Richie Knucklez and his arcade. In production, anticipated early 2013
Minecraft: The Story of Mojang
Documentary about the Mojang studio and the development of Minecraft. In post production, anticipated early 2013.
Persistence of Vision
Documentary about Richard Williams’ lost film, The Thief and the Cobbler. Currently screening, anticipated 2013.
Pure Pwnage – Teh Movie
Feature film based off of the Pure Pwnage web series. Set to pick up after the original series. In production, no current release date.
Short cyberpunk film about a female hacker who will die if she cannot figure out the code on the iPod strapped to her hand.Currently screening, no DVD release date yet.
Documentary about the maker movement and hackerspaces. In production, no release date.
Documentary about the home video revolution and our relationship with media. In production, anticipated 2013.
Documentary about the medium of tape. By Jason Scott. In production, anticipated late 2015.
Documentary about the founding and members of The Pirate Bay. In production, anticipated early 2013.
Two Hands Project
Documentary about hackerspaces. Being edited by Jason Scott. No release date.
Documentary about the Amiga computer. In Production, anticipated 2013.
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists
Documentary about the Anonymous movement. An unfinished version has leaked on the web. Currently screening, digital download and physical copy anticipated late 2012.
The Wireless Generation
A documentary about how people are taking jobs that are solely online and travel the world. In production, anticipated late 2013
A documentary about cyber crime as seen by the security team at Facebook. In production, anticipated Summer 2013.
Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters
A documentary about competitive Tetris playing. It’s actually much more interesting than it sounds. The whole documentary follows tracking down the best players, and culminates with one definitive competition to name the master. Currently available for digital download and DVD.
Indie Game: The Movie
A documentary about independent game development. I happened to really enjoy it, though some people thought the interviewees were pretentious. It still gives an interesting look into the world of independant game development. Currently available for digital download, physical copies are available for pre-order.
Video Game High School
Okay, it’s not a film but Freddie Wong co-produced this comedy/action web-series this summer. The story takes place in a video game dominated version of the present day, and revolves around a high school student who gets accepted to the prestigious Video Game High School after killing a top player in an FPS. The episodes are available streaming online in high definition for free, and DVD/Blu-Ray is available for pre-order.
Thursday, August 30th, 2012
Last week, videos from Black Hat USA 2012 hit the internet. Three days later, videos from Def Con 20 made their electronic debut. Only problem is, these videos were not meant to be distributed online.
Black Hat and Def Con conference videos for any given year usually retail about $400 USD for a set of DVDs. The DVD’s are relatively basic and consist of MOV files and a few PDFs to constitute a program. While Def Con videos are generally put up online for free a few months after the con, Black Hat videos don’t make such an appearance. Ever.
So here I was, perusing the internet for videos from these conferences on Youtube, when I noticed some new directories pop up on a familiar site: Good.net. I have few moral conflicts about sharing where to get this “pirated” content since the site in question will be shutting down tomorrow. For the unacquainted, Good.net is a strange hosting company which currently hosts darkoz’s “BlackHat/DefCon” mirror after it took up too much space on the last host (easynews for the detail-hounds). I’ve been archiving it, in parts, for almost a year. It gets updated every so often and is probably one of the single best sites for hacker media.
Anyway, these new directories for Def Con 20 and Black Hat 2012 originally came up unpopulated but slowly filled with content over the course of a few days. The Black Hat videos were mirrored and posted to Reddit where they spread and generated so much traffic the mirror went offline and Good.net removed the videos due to DMCA violation. This all took about 24 hours. After this, torrents started to pop up with the Black Hat videos where they remain primarily. More interestingly, a few days ago the videos actually went back up on Good.net as though nothing happened. The Def Con videos were pumped out in a similar manner. They popped up on Good.net and were torrented a day or two later.
Let’s talk about the videos themselves. Not the content and quality of the talks, but the actual files. This MOV format seems standard from checking out disc dumps of previous years (like so). No surprise there. However, the videos seem to have little care put into their production. From Def Con alone, I noticed only about half of the videos seemed to have correct metadata and two videos had aspect ratio issues. A handful of videos also suffered from video problems, meaning either the video camera failed, or the screen capture did. Further, the file names leave something to be desired. Looking up the presentation names to go with the files or playing guess-and-check is annoying, but tolerable for freed videos.
I’m not the only one who got in on the idea of downloading all the videos. If you do just a little bit of looking, you can see where people made download lists to feed into wget (here and here) and even a handy looking renaming script.
So where did the videos come from? It’s no stretch of the imagination to believe someone dumped their discs, and I’m sure this is the case. The archive at Good.net aggregates content from tons of active media archives and submissions (some stuff I put up actually got mirrored there). I’d wager that darkoz got the files as a donation. If he dumped the discs himself, why wouldn’t he include a program for the Def Con videos?
Though Good.net will be closing its doors, this hacker con mirror usually finds a new home.While I’ve done my best to mirror it, I cannot have foresight for any videos that might be added to it in the future, and hope the collection continues to grow. Where there are conference videos, there are people out there willing to share them, whether they be pricey or free.
Let’s see what slips through the cracks next year.
Sunday, July 15th, 2012
I’ve had a Fibit Ultra for a bit over a month now, and it’s a pretty cool little gizmo. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, think of it as a smart pedometer. What does that mean? Your traditional pedometer will track your number of steps. The Fitbit, on the other hand, will track your steps, floors climbed, distance traveled, calories burned, activity level, and even sleep patterns. It also has basic clock and stopwatch functionality. When you buy the device, you get the Fitbit itself (about the size of a thumb drive), belt clip (the Fitbit is fashioned as a clip, but sometimes clothing is a bit too thick), arm band, and a charging station that doubles as an access point. The last item is especially interesting: You connect your Fitbit to charge once a week or so, but keeping the station hooked up via USB to your computer will allow you to wirelessly synchronize whenever you are within range (about 15 feet). This reports your stats to their online service so you can pull it up anywhere you have access to a web browser. In addition to keeping track of your daily stats, the online software will graph all of your activity in weekly/monthy segments and give you “badges” for your daily or overall progress.
I don’t talk too much about my personal life, but over the past year I’ve lost 95 lbs from a combination of vigorous walking and diet change. In this sense, I’m predisposed to exercising, which I continue to do often. That said, the Fitbit is a fantastic motivator. You can check your daily stats against goals set up, and you do get the push to go out and meet them. You might find yourself taking the stairs instead of the elevator a bit more, or walking to the store instead of going for a drive. There is even Facebook integration so if you had friends also using the Fitbit, you can choose to share your stats and “compete” with them. Overall, the Fitbit is great for walking/running activities. If you lift weights or cycle, this isn’t the device for you. I tried affixing the device to my pant leg while biking, but this just gave an inaccurate reading. Keep this in mind when considering your exercise regiment.
The Fitbit Ultra
Getting down to the technical side, the Fitbit comes equipped with three accelerometers (implying three axes of movement), which is how it tracks your paces and activity level. Unlike most other smart pedometer devices, the Fitbit also boasts an altimeter to figure out if you’re climbing any floors or hills. The Wireless station uses a proprietary ANT protocol for data transmissions. It is comparable to ZigBee in that it has a “sleep” mode and similar packet behavior for small data transfers.
Fitbit also offers a scale product which acts in a similar fashion to keep track of your weight, as well as a “personal trainer” service to help you plan meals, manage your sleep, keep track of different lifestyle habits, and give you an in-depth report of your statistics. I’m not too into these, but they’re something to think about if you are considering getting on the bandwagon. Smart phone apps are also offered for free to help you keep track of your goals, stats, and dietary habits.
Daily Activty Stats
In my experience, the Fitbit is an all around nice device. A few people complain about the durability, but I have yet to have it show any signs of wear. The display is pretty nice and put under the plastic casing. It sounds a little strange but looks sleek. The Fitbit stands up well against heat, I wore it to a cramped concert that was unbearably hot and the device was perfectly fine on exit. There have been some reports of it not holding up well in wet weather, but this is to be expected. I don’t plan on submerging it in water or anything, but if it’s raining hard out and I still feel like exercising I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to slip it into a cheap sandwich bag and be on my way. Functionality-wise, everything works as expected. The pedometer keeps track of your steps accurately and computes distance traveled (miles), so surprise there. The floor counter will count your floors (not the individual stairs). I’m not sure how it determines a “floor” as a measurement but it works. Calories are a little off since it uses your height and weight to determine amount burned, but it doesn’t make a big difference to me. The web interface works well, and generates helpful graphs. Battery life is amazing, to the point where I forget that the thing even runs on batteries. The sleep tracking is also really interesting an easy to use: You just attach the Fitbit to the wristband and activate the stopwatch before you go to sleep, and the device tracks how often you wake up to determines the quality of your sleep.
I can say that the Fitbit does everything I’d want and expect, and was a solid investment for me. If you’re liking this smart pedometer idea but aren’t sold on Fitbit, check out the Nike+ Fuelband and the Jawbone Up. I haven’t used them, but they’re also front runners on this new wave of devices.
Monday, October 25th, 2010
A few months ago, I mentioned Get Lamp in a post about Kickstarter involving Jason Scott. For those of you who don’t know, Jason Scott is probably one of my favorite people. Not to sound creepy or anything, but this guy is really awesome. My first brush with the world of Jason Scott came through one of his many websites, textfiles.com. When did I find it? I don’t remember. Why did I find it? I don’t remember that either. The site revolves around BBS data: text files from pre-internet, ANSI, door games, shareware, and much more from a long lost subculture. Without the efforts of Jason and others like him, a whole era in the history of computing could have been lost to the world.
If anyone knows me, they know I like it old. So the pairing of myself and this website provided hours and hours (probably days and days considering my use of dial-up at the time) of entertainment. Only after discovering this website did I find out that Jason also produced an appropriate documentary, BBS: The Documentary. I’m not going to lie, when I first saw the page for it, I thought spending $40 was completely ludicrous. If you consider that I was about 14 at the time of finding it, this doesn’t seem like a strange thought. After my Bittorrent skills improved, and I found out that the documentary had been released through this medium, I was more than happy to spend a day watching all eight parts back to back. Shortly thereafter, I bought myself a hard copy, and it has been a staple of my DVD collection ever since.
I watched that documentary over and over, and in the meantime Jason was busy. Over the next five years, he gave numerous presentations at hacker conferences, organized Blockparty (a demoscene con), started a widely popular twitter profile for his cat, founded archiveteam and spearheaded a project to preserve geocities, and more recently released his second film, Get Lamp.
Get Lamp is a film about interactive fiction. If you ever read one of those “choose your own adventure” books, you get the idea. Interactive fiction is not limited to the paper world, and shows up in the earliest of computer games from the 1970s. Without interactive fiction, who knows where we would be technologically, considering how the ever-growing development of computers mirrors the interest of people wanting to hunker down and play video games.
The documentary itself is well done and well presented. As soon as you open the package, you will know you are in for a treat. The artwork on the case is beautiful, the discs are nicely pressed, and the collectible coin included with the set is an interesting little addition to the whole experience whether you are a numismatist or not. The film plays out smoothly and is quick to capture the viewer. Though it is not as long as his previous film, you experience an equally engrossing movie, and have plenty of interactive features and extras to keep you coming back as you look to squeeze every glorious bit of content from the discs.
If there is not enough content to keep you occupied, it is likely that Jason will one day release the entirety of the interviews online, unedited. How can I make such a strange prediction? He did it before with his previous film. You might one day see hours of material from a guy that ultimately had a 20 second spot in the final cut, but whether or not this content will actually come to surface is anyone’s guess as of this moment.
If you haven’t been able to tell already, I consider Jason Scott a bit of a personal hero, and I know he has reached others in the same way. Without textfiles.com, I may never have been lead down the path that made me form the IPTV Archive or any number of projects that I’ve found myself involved in throughout the years. Now that Get Lamp is done, there is the question about what the next step is for Jason Scott. He is currently touring and screening his new film, but what could follow is anyone’s guess. Maybe he will pick up on his previously announced third film Arcade, or dive into the backlog of things to archive.
Whatever he does do, you can be sure it is going to be worth noticing.
Monday, July 26th, 2010
About a year ago there was a stir of a new movie on Bittorrent sites. This movie was called The Lionshare and got a lot of attention because it was only released via torrents. That’s right, no DVD release, no theater time, just a torrent download for anyone who wanted it. It was distributed by this interesting company (I guess you could call it a company) called VODO that distributes indie films via torrents. Now why you would need some sort of service like this, I do not know. I suppose that this kind of thing may help get your film out there, but I don’t even know how many people had heard of VODO before The Lionshare, and I wonder if The Lionshare helped out VODO more than vice versa. I do understand the need for a like-minded distribution site. It can be hard to track down more of the same genre of stuff when all you have to go on are torrent links and word of mouth.
So as for The Lionshare, I watched it a few months after I downloaded it. I was mostly deterred from the reviews. The minority seemed to like the film and praised it as an honest look into the life of a twenty-something in modern day, but the majority of reviews I read said the movie was nothing more than a bore, and showed the limits of releasing a film in this manor. I got around to watching it and have to say my opinion lies somewhere in the middle. I think that the movie starts out beautifully, but loses momentum before you really start to learn anything about the characters. Without ruining the story, I’ll tell you that a guy goes on a blind date with a girl, and she invites him to a torrent site, and it follows the guy. This might be as far as this reflects the life of someone today. Women and technology are always good subjects, but I feel that the movie starts to get too hip considering anything besides this.
About two months ago, I found another link in The Lionshare’s universe. There was a Kickstarter (see my previous post) project dealing with a new science fiction show released only on Bittorrent. At this time, internet only television has become an interest phenomena. I’ve seen billboards all over the sity for a show released only online called Reinvent The Wheels which looks to be more of a mainstream thing following a niche concept. This science fiction show, Pioneer One, is a television episode by the same crew that pulled off The Lionshare, and I have to say that I like this work much better. Without giving away too much, it has a watered-down X-Files vibe that I really enjoyed, and centers around a strange piece of debris that lands in the United States. The production value for this is also much higher and looks professional, there there are hiccups. After watching the first episode, I was sad that there were no more. The Kickstarter was only made to produce one episode, so who knows if more will ever be created.
So give these videos a try if you see something you like. Both are available freely on torrent sites and I’m sure there are direct download links up somewhere by now. You might just end up having some new favorite media.
Friday, June 25th, 2010
There is a site that has been drawing attention among a few groups of people called Kickstarter. Kickstarter works using a process called crowdfunding, which means a project is funded by a large group of people. So lets say I have some sort of project. It can be a video project like a movie, an audio project, art, food, an event, technological advancement- the list goes on. Now, I have my project but it requires a certain amount of money to get started. So I could go to Kickstarter, explain my project, provide some images, and say that I need a certain amount of money to make it all happen.
This is where Kickstarter gets cool. After you say how much money you need, people can pledge certain amounts, and Kickstater keeps track of how much more needs to be funded. This is all done over a predetermined time allotment. So I have my project up, I need $10,000 and have 80 days to get the donations I need. If at the 80 day mark I don’t have the funds, everyone gets to keep their money. But, if at the 80 day mark I have hit the goal or even gone over, I get the money to finish my project.
But why would people donate, and how does Kickstarter make money? Aside from people wanting to fund a project because of their own interest in it, they can also be offered incentives. So If you pledge $25 I could send you a t-shirt for my event, or if you pledge $50 your name gets to go in the credits of my movie. Kickstarter makes money by trimming off 5% of the funds for a successfully funded project. So if your project raises $20,000, Kickstarter still makes a significant amount to stay afloat.
I first found out about the site through Jason Scott’s Sabbatical to complete his new documentary, Get Lamp. I have been coming back to the site infrequently, and noted other projects that I am interested in such as The Waterman Movie, which is based on a popular web series and has been in development for years, as well as a Documentary on “The Thief and the Cobbler”, “The Thief and the Cobbler” being a film that was in development for three decades and eventually pulled away from the director and chopped up into different movie. Every once in a while, a new project pops up that grabs me, and it gets me thinking. Really, this service is truely amazing. There is no better way to reach people to create a niche project that reuires funding. I can just imagine how much more would have been accomplished had this site been around ten years ago, and how much it will accomplish over the next ten years. I also consider that I may one day be able to utilize it. I can fathom a few projects that could take advantage of this as a way to reach people, though they may be a long way off.
I hope to see Kickstarter thrive, and help out some truely unique projects as time goes by. I do have to mention that the site does not take pledges using Paypal because of how Paypal handles refunding. A credit card is needed for now, though other options are being looked into. Check out kickstarter yourself and see what you find, you might be surprised.
Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
I recently purchased a blue lineman’s handset for $12. It is quite an interesting piece of hardware. At first glance, it looks like a standard handset, but upon further review there are characteristics that set it apart. On the back of the handset is a rotary dial used for dialing numbers, a hook to connect it to the belt, and two test leads with alligator clips. The alligator clips have a piercing spike in them to connect to insulated wires. No stripping is necessary. On the side of the phone, there is a switch that can go between TALK and MON. MON in this case stands for monitor. There is also a nice “Bell System Property – Not for sale” engraving.
I brought the handset home and plugged it in. I had the switch on TALK and instantly heard a dial tone. I decided to call my cellphone, and entered the number (which can take a bit of time using a rotary dial). I got connected and heard my voice mail message. I decided to try to use my old Radioshack tone dialer next. I punched in the number on my tone dialer, and held it up to the handset. I hit the dial button on the dialer, and heard the tones through the earpiece of the handset, but the tones did not register on the handset itself, and the number wasn’t called.
Next, I flipped the switch on the handset to MON mode. At first, I didn’t hear anything on the line. I hooked up a standard phone nearby, and picked up the handset of that phone. My lineman’s handset instantly had a dial tone, and was monitoring the line. The MON setting also turns off the microphone in the handset, so there are no slip-ups when monitoring.
Other than the cool factor, there are a few things I can do with it. I could use it as a house phone, though it does not have its own ringer. I could also do some wire tapping, but that is illegal. It is not a very practical piece of hardware, but it certainly does hold my attention. Maybe the web will end up lending me some ideas of what I could do with it.
Friday, September 11th, 2009
I ran accross an interesting little web service called inumbr which gives you a free disposable phone number. At first glance, you get to choose an area code. There are twenty two to choose from, so you’re bound to find one close to your location (if you are in the United States that is). You also get to choose how long the number is active: one hour, one day, or one week. Then you enter the number to forward too and an email address for activation. Pretty simple, right?
After registering I notices I received a number and an extension anyone could call to reach me. I also saw I was given the option to record a personal greeting. It also appeared that I did not even need a valid email address to get a number as I didn’t have to click any activation links. The number was just handed to me in-browser. I went back to the inumbr home page and notices that I could manage my inumbr account by logging in with the number they gave me and the number I chose to forward it to. Here, I was presented with more options for my inumbr.
I saw that I could change the length of the number’s lifespan between the three mentioned terms before, as well as a one month option that wasn’t there earlier. I also saw that they gave a slot for a second number in case the first was unreachable. After that, there are many check boxes for additional features. “Don’t accept calls from blocked caller ids,” “Don’t accept calls from suspected telemarketers,” “Forward all calls directly to voicemail,” “Do not disturb from 9PM to 8AM,” “Turn off call screening,” “Activate voicemail for missed calls.”
So in all, I got a free throwaway number with a handful of features. This is great if you have to supply a number for something and don’t want to reveal an actual one, or maybe just see how you can mess around with phones.
Friday, August 7th, 2009
So it is probably common knowledge now that Google has unveiled the Google Voice service which is pretty groovy. I didn’t jump on the boat when most people did. I heard some buzz about it, but didn’t really know what it was and dismissed it as something that was probably related to Google Talk. After I understood the concept of getting a number for all your phones and some interesting features, all for free, I thought I might as well see what it was all about.
The invite process was a lot less hassle then I’d guess most thought it was. I knew some people that signed up for an invite years ago when the service was still called GrandCentral. These people that requested invites years ago were just receiving them now which suggested the invite system was really backed up. I took my chances and put in for an invite. About five days later, I received an email telling me to pick up my new account. This part is easy enough. You go through the steps, the best being picking your number. Thankfully, you can search them using letters as well as numbers, so I could throw in a significant phrase and hope that it would spit back a local number. After maybe a half hour of debating, I settled on a number and was greeted by the Google Voice dashboard.
The dashboard, as you can see in the low resolution picture above, is almost a complete clone of the Gmail dashboard. This was great news for me as I am very familiar with using Gmail, and the Google Voice dashboard behaves in the same way considering placement of settings, inbox, etc. Basically, if you have used just about any email service, you should be in good shape. From here, I edited my settings, and toyed with some of the features.
I first decided that I just wanted to link the number to my cell phone, and ignore the options for house phone and work phone. I then went through the settings one by one. I added my voicemail message, as I am mainly going to use the number for that. I skipped the recording of my name as I don’t need that quite yet. I also set up notifications to use in conjunction with the voicemail. Whenever I get a voicemail, I get emailed and my cellphone receives a text message. So now, I have the ability to know if I have a message whether or not I have internet access.
Google Voice also has many privacy features. There is a call screening option that asks callers to identify themselves. Google will also provide a variety of options for when someone calls your number. You can choose to pick up the call, let it go right to voicemail, listen in on the voicemail that is being left, and even record the entirety of the call. There is also the ability to block numbers, and even allow different phones to ring depending on who calls.
Where I believe Google Voice really shines is how it handles the voicemail online. I already mentioned receiving notifications, but Google Voice goes far beyond that. For one, you can listen to the voicemail online, so just fire up your browser and point it to your account to hear what people have left. Google Voice will also automatically transcribe the voicemail, and even send it to you via email/sms if you desire. I also must add that there is a “Do Not Disturb” option which I use that will just connect a caller to voicemail without ringing any phone, so you never get annoyed with calls when you don’t want them.
In all, I can say that Google Voice is an interesting little Google project and I am interested in how they might improve upon it. I’m also interested in how people might use this in unexpected ways, considering how popular voip is these days. There are features like conference calling and free U.S. based calls which I am sure people can find interesting uses for. If you want to try calling me, feel free to check out the widget to the right of the screen.