Author Archives: cadllaura

Google SMS

Talking on the phone has never been something I enjoy. By far, my favorite way to use my phone is to use the SMS text messaging service. In a previous article, I wrote about 20 cool things most people probably don’t know you can do with your SMS service. If you are like me, you’ve grown accustomed to relying on the internet to provide you with instant answers to all of your questions from “what time does the bank close” to “what was the band that sang that one song?” But even if you don’t have internet access on your cell phone, you aren’t necessarily cut off from all the answers. You can get answers to many of these just by sending text messages to various service providers.

I find Google SMS services to be the most useful in my daily life. If you send a text message to “GOOGL” (“46645”) with your search text, you get an instant reply. Here’s some of my favorite Google SMS searches.

Here’s how it works. Maybe you have a question. For instance, you want to know when President Obama was born. You whip out your handy phone and text “Barack Obama Birthday” to Google’s SMS number. Within seconds, you should get a reply something like this (complete with the reference website):

Texting “movies 48917” will return numbered list of movies currently showing. For example, I received:

If you reply to that message with the number for a specific movie, Google SMS sends you the times that movie is playing. So I reply with the number 2 (or if you already know what movie you want to see, you can skip the first step and just send “gamer 48917” as your text message). Google’s response:

Texting “weather lansing” (or “weather 48917”) returns something like this:
…and so much more
The following list of additional searches and sample queries comes from Google SMS’s own page. One real handy thing is that Google SMS will remember your zip code once you set it (text “location 48917” or “location Lansing” to Google to set your default location). Once you’ve set your location, you can simply text “movies” instead of “movies 48917.”

Search Feature Sample Query
Local sushi 94040
Glossary define zenith
Sports score red sox
Stocks stock tgt
Zip Codes zip code 72202
Directions directions pasadena ca to 94043
Maps map 5th avenue new york
Flights flight aa 2111
Area Codes area code 650
Products price ipod player 40gb
Airlines united airlines
Translation translate hello in french
Web Snippets web hubble telescope
Calculator 1 us pint in liters
8 usd in yen
Airports*** sfo airport
Help help local
Local time time new york

Blog Posts Sent to Your E-mail

Feed Your E-mail Inbox

Feed Your E-mail Inbox

Want to receive our Blog posts directly to your E-mail inbox? Sign up for one of the services described below. After you give the service your email address, it will ask for the web address of any site you want to receive  automatic updates from. Paste in the web address of Tech Corner ( Now whenever the Blog posts a new article, you’ll receive the post in your E-mail.

This will work with most websites, news headlines and Blogs.

Feedblitz is my favorite service. If you enter the “RSS feed address” or web address for a  website or Blog, Feedblitz will send you the full post in a message to your address. It retains most of the formatting of the original website with pictures and links.

RSS feed icon

RSS feed icon

Most websites and Blogs now have an RSS icon you can click on to get their RSS address.

If a website or Blog uses Feedburner to promote their own website, then they’ll have a link on their webpage that will ask you for your E-mail address. That’s the address Feedburner will use to send you emails. But to add your own feed from a website that doesn’t promote itself using Feedburner, you must sign up for a Google account before subscribing the a feed. You can use Feedburner to subscribe to any website, not just the ones that themselves use Feedburner, but I found that signing up for a new feed was clunky an not very intuitive.

Feed My Inbox
Feed My Inbox provides daily summaries of your Blog subscriptions.

Nutshell Mail
Nutshell Mail sends periodic E-mail summaries of the websites, Blogs or social media web pages. You can set your own schedule for delivery, once a day, once an hour or anywhere in between. You can also send a message to their provided E-mail address for an immediate update at anytime in between your scheduled updates.

Peekfeed works quite well and sends summaries of the newest posts from your feeds. A drawback of this one is the E-mail is in a plain text format, so none of the links or pictures get translated.

Tweet By Mail
Tweet By Mail sends E-mail updates from the people you tell it to follow from your Twitter account. But you don’t have to get tweets from every single person listed in your Twitter follow list. If you follow lots of people using Tweet By Mail, this will fill up your email box very fast. You can also use it to email updates to your own account. A handy feature of this service is it retains the clickable links people put in their tweets.

Feed My Inbox:
Nutshell Mail:
Tweet By Mail:

An introduction to Twitter

If you’ve been keeping up with new sensations on the web, I bet you’ve run into the word “Twitter.” Is this just another internet fad? Should you join the bandwagon? Even if you don’t become a Twitter addict, casual subscribers can find benefits from joining. You follow only the people and organizations you want updates from. It’s easy to add or remove Twitter users from your personal update feeds if you find you don’t like what they have to say or they barrage you with 100 “tweets” per day.

Participate at your own pace
I think of Twitter like either “fast email” or “slow instant messaging.” You can stay logged out for a couple days or a week if you want to, and then return and catch up with the important news. Or you can go to another extreme and get text updates on your phone or keep a Twitter window open on you computer screen, so you can read all the updates immediately as they’re posted.

Keep in contact with your family and friends
I find myself so busy sometimes, that if your friends and family also use Twitter, it’s easy to keep up with them throughout the day.

Bite-sized blog posts
With newspapers vanishing around the country, many people find that blogs are becoming their current events source of choice. But not everyone has lots of time to devote to reading blogs. Many blog sites now will post little mini-tweets with the subject of their most recent blog posts and include a link to the full article.

Breaking news
Twitter is totally worth a test drive even if all you do is follow news media sites like CNN or the New York Times, if you like to keep connected to today’s news. In particular, a lot of people think that Twitter is the perfect medium for breaking stories or on-going, quickly changing news. For instance, Twitter is an easy way to keep up to date with the current aftermath of the Iranian election or something like an Amber Alert. Important talking points from speeches like presidential press conferences are often posted to Twitter live while it happens. You can also get up-to-the minute election results and weather warnings.

Quick, personal answers to questions
If you follow people in your particular field of interest on Twitter and have followers of your own, you can ask questions to people or run a poll and often you will get an immediate answer or opinion. In the past couple days I’ve received questions ranging from news outlets asking me my opinion on the medical insurance reform to individuals asking for my favorite homemade salad dressing recipe.

Humor, conversation, support groups and interesting links
By following people, you can easily get as many links to pictures of cute cats or funny websites that you can stand. Even just a conversation or support group is easy to participate with on Twitter. Enjoy watching the newest CSI? Join people in discussing it while you’re watching it.

Keep up-to-date with new technology, trends, or free giveaways
Do you have a topic you like to keep up-to-date with? New computer games or iPhone applications? What’s going on with Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore? Get your librarians most recent book recommendations. Or you can also receive free coupons and entries to drawings or information on special sales from your favorite stores if that’s something you’d find useful.

Things to keep in mind
As always, the internet can be a confusing or even scary place to hang out. Always be aware that complete strangers can easily be offensive or they might be potential bad guys that are out to do you no good.

1.) Like Instant Messaging and SMS phone text messages, people on Twitter will use casual internet slang. If you are completely confused or frustrated by people who use internet slang, shorthand or emoticons, then you may not enjoy following some of the Twitter users. But most professional users or news organizations will, in general, use a more literate style of grammar.

2.) Just like with email, there are tons of spammers and scammers out there in the Twitterverse. There’s unsavory individuals who want your money or try to convince you to download a virus. Always be careful when clicking on any link on the internet.

3.) Be aware you’ll might receive links to porn. You can always block people that are merely peddling naughty websites. But don’t be surprised if you get these kinds of people following you. The Twitter administrators respond to reports of spam and abuse on the website and delete accounts, but the way that messages are so instantaneous on Twitter means the sometimes unsavory messages get through to you.

Guide to internet abbreviations and slang
Tips to avoid Twitter viruses and scams
CADL’s twitter updates

Before You Buy, Ask Yourself This

Somebody asked me if I have an addiction to buying and using electronic gadgets. Their question made me ask myself if I did indeed have a problem with money. To help myself reign in my current spending, I revisited my list of questions to ask before I buy something. I’ve written this list down on a note and wrapped it around my credit card. This way, whenever I pull out my card to pay for something, even if it’s online, I am confronted with this reminder to question whether or not it’s wise to buy that hottest new electronic gadget.

Questions to ask before you buy anything

1.) Will I use it? How often?
2.) How many do I already own?
3.) How long will it last?
4.) Can I do without it?
5.) Can I borrow it from someone else?
6.) Can I get it for cheaper someplace else (like the thrift store, Walmart or Craig’s List)?
7.) Is it made from renewable resources or post consumer recycled materials?
8.) Can it be recycled when I’m done with it? Will I recycle it?
9.) If it breaks, do I know how to fix it? Will I fix it? How much will that cost?
10.) Does it require maintenance? How much does maintenance cost? Will I actually do the maintenance?
11.) Is buying this product in line with my views on global labor, economy and human rights?
12.) If I use a credit card to pay for it, do I have the money to pay the bill in full when it comes next month?
13.) If it involves a recurring monthly payment, how much would that cost? Can I cancel the subscription?

It’s not that this list is supposed to be a spending deterrent. It’s more something to use to remind me to put my purchases in perspective.

Are you a shopaholic?
Saving money
“Foolish” ways to pay off your credit card

SMS/Text Message Tricks

or How I beat the iPhone at its own game

Phone Text

She's got internet. How come I don't?

In one sense, I’m kind of stuck behind the times. I don’t have internet on my phone. I know that I should “get with the program.” I’m aware that I’m a sorry excuse for a tech nerd. Therefore, my blog post cannot possibly be relevant, right? Well, if you have a moment, I thought I could share some of the things I’ve come to learn about text messages.

Most cell phone plans include the ability to send text messages to and from your phone. Usually you have to pay a dime or 25 cents per message. I think all of the providers now let you purchase bundles of 100 or 1,000 (or whatever) which decreases the cost per message down to $0.01 or less. These short, quick messages (in the U.S. this is typically limited to 160 characters or less) are apparently popular among teens – I don’t know any, so I can’t confirm this.

Phone Text

Even if you aren’t into texting your pals, I submit to you these reasons to take a fresh look at your phone’s text capabilities and consider adding some text messages to your cell plan.

Some of the things I bet you didn’t know you could do with SMS text messaging:

1. Movie times at your local cinema
2. Driving directions
3. Stock quotes
4. Traffic updates
5. Weather updates
6. Translate words to and from English
7. Send email
8. Watch your auctions on eBay
9. Post to your blog
10. Compare prices for merchandise
11. Find wifi spots
12. Check whether your flight is on time
13. Keep up with Twitter
14. Get alerts and add events to google calendar
15. Track your package
16. Convert metric to english measurements and back again
17. Calculate math
18. Receive AMBER alerts
19. Get RSS feeds

and my favorite:

20. Find the nearest restaurant. This is where, according to my limited and unbiased experience, TEXT BEATS iPHONE. Yes, I mean it!

Chinese food sculpture

I’m driving back to my place with a friend. He has a mad hankering for some Chinese take-out. I can’t think of any asian restaurants between our location and my house. To prove his “tech cred,” he whips out his iPhone and waits for Safari to load, navigates to a search page, types in his query, and then he waits some more. “Is House of Ing nearby?” he asks. No, I tell him. “Where is P.F. Changs?” No, that’s not on the way home. It’s all the way on the other side of town. “Is the Apple Jade on Clippert Street close by?” No, no. You’re way off.

I pull over into a gas station and set my phone to the task. I type the word “chinese” into a text message and send that to 46645 (or “GOOGL”). In less than TWO SECONDS, I get a reply message with the address and phone number for three restaurants in my zip code. If I replied to that message, they would have sent me even more restaurants. That’s right. In a mere 10 seconds, I receive more accurate and pertinent information than he gets after five minutes using the internet connection on his iPhone.

I don’t mean to gloat. I am totally jealous of everyone with an iPhone. But even if you do have an iPhone, when time counts, when your appetite won’t wait for your “edge” connection to find a network to use, when you are just dying to know the Spanish for “where is the bathroom,” you might want to ask the 14 year-old next to you to text you the answer.

Tech Corner: Google SMS
Wikipedia SMS entry

16 more things to do with text

The Magical iPod Touch

iPodNot everyone can afford the iPhone and the AT&T cellular contract that comes along with it. I personally have been using T-Mobile for my cell phone, so an iPhone isn’t in my near future.

However, I did trade in my iPod Nano for an iPod Touch. When the Touch came out, I wasn’t too sure what the point of it was. Why have all those application on an iPod. But now that I’m using it every day, I fully appreciate all of its features.

I bought the iPod Touch with 8 Gigabytes of memory for $230. It’s about 4 inches high by 2.5 inches wide. It’s a mere 1/3″ thick. Amazingly thin, in my opinion. The home and power buttons are the only actual push-buttons. Every other feature is done using the touchscreen.

What’s great about the iPod Touch is that it does more than just store files and play music and movies. Much more. Most applications and programs that can run on the iPhone will also run on the iPod touch. Basically, the Touch is an iPhone without the phone (more on that a little later).

Besides using the iTunes song and podcast features, I also use other programs daily.

calendarI use this simple calendar program to use as reminders for my appointments and dates.

This is a simple note taking application. Typing long notes using the touchscreen keyboard can be a bit tricky until you get used to it, which really only takes a couple minutes.

To Do’s
This is one of my most used aps. It doesn’t come standard. I transferred it for free using the iTunes store (the same way you add more music to the iPod). I create “tasks” and can add details and set the task’s priority. Then you tap to check them off as you complete them. My only wish is that it integrated with the Calendar program.

shopshopThis is another free program I use. Type in what you need and the quantity, and it adds the item to a list. When you buy it, you check it off the list. You can even have more than one list. It remembers what you’ve bought before so you can quickly add them again later to a different list.

Safari,, Public Radio Tuner, Mail, Tweetie
I also use these programs, but they are all internet-based applications. This is where the iPod Touch is different from the iPhone. With the iPhone you can make cellphone calls everywhere as well as using the internet everywhere. But with the Touch, you have to be in an internet wifi zone to use the internet programs.

Chess, Books, Maps, etc.
apsThere’s just too many included and free applications that you can add to the Touch. Free books are available for download that you can read on you iPod. You can also get free games and 3D games that you play using the touch screen and gyroscopic accelerator that really enhances game-playing because it controls the game by not only the touchscreen, but also how you move the iPod up and down and around.

pwnedThis is for super advanced users only. Basically using instructions from the internet, you can hack into the iPod and install really sweet programs that truly expand the possibilities. The downside of this is that there is a chance you will irrevocably break your iPod. And Apple won’t refund or fix it for you if you’ve attempted to “jailbreak” it. If you do jailbreak your iPod, you can add more free programs and utilities. The especially awesome program you can add is one that turns you iPod into a phone that can use free calling services like Skype, but you do have to be in an internet wifi zone for this to work.

Apple Store
Lifehacker’s list
of good and FREE iPhone and/or iPod Touch programs
Feature Guide for the iPod Touch (pdf)
Gizmodo’s review of the iPod Touch

Asus EeePC Netbook

Lately, whenever I’m surfing at a wifi hotspot, complete strangers stop and ask me about my computer. They’re completely fascinated by it. “It’s not just a computer,” I tell them. “It’s an Eee.” Tech people call it a “netbook.” Basically what that means is it’s a small, very portable laptop designed for you to easily take to your favorite local Biggby’s or Capital Area District Library location. Not only does it fit inside a backpack, it probably fits in the cargo pocket of your khaki pants. It’s THAT small.

My Eee has video, ethernet and three USB ports, as well as a 1024×600 screen. Wait, what’s that you say? You can’t play World of Warcraft on 1024×600 measly pixels? I hear where you’re coming from, man. I know that if you combine the Eee’s minuscule screen real estate with a Celeron M 353 processor, a keyboard 15% smaller than normal, a less than impressive 16 GB hard drive and the lack of a CD/DVD drive, it might sound ludicrously inadequate. But wait!

Think about what’s required in order to read internet blogs, MySpace, and watch YouTube. With the Eee you get a fast wireless connection and internet browser, which is basically all you need to do 90% of the things you do on a computer. You can sit in your recliner in front of the tv and use the Eee to IM your friends, job hunt and upload (using the Eee’s SD card expansion slot) pictures to your Facebook page. You don’t need CDs and a huge hard drive because you store all your documents on Google Docs, stream all your music and transfer files wirelessly. The Eee also is designed to be pretty durable, sturdy and able to withstand moderate amounts of physical abuse and the inevitable accidents caused by overly-caffeinated antics resulting from sitting too long at the Gone Wired Cafe.

Yep, it comes with all the plugs and pins you need to connect it to your camera, mouse, iPod, etc. (None of which are included with the Eee.)

It’s smaller than your notebook paper. And see that? Even more holes and sockets.

Let’s admit it, people. If you use an iPhone, you can’t type fast enough keep up with a heated IM argument. Lugging around this thing will slow you down during the Zombiepocalyse. The Eee is best for when you need a lot more than a Blackberry but don’t want to be slowed down by a full-sized laptop.

My favorite part about the Eee is that you can mosey into Target or Best Buy and wrestle one up for yourself (or your loved one) for less than $300. Buying the model that runs on Linux instead of Windows knocks that cost down to $250. I think that’s less than the cost of most iPods, isn’t it?

Before you jump blindly into your Eee purchase, I have just one final heads up: any netbook shouldn’t be your only way of accessing data and the internet. The goal here isn’t to store your entire music collection or edit home movies, so you’ll probably want to keep your iMac around for that kind of stuff. The rest of the time, however, save electricity and desk space. Compute nimble: compute Eee-style!


5 things to consider Before Buying a Netbook

Electronic Buying Guide 2008