I am constantly amazed by how many techno-savvy people I run into on an almost daily basis that have never even heard of Google Voice (GV), probably one of the best communication tools on the Net and its FREE. Where else can you get a free local telephone number that you can configure to ring your mobile phone, your home phone, and your work phone, all at the same time, only Google.
Actually, I’ve never really been a Google fan, Gmail looks a little slapped together, I prefer Windows Live Mail, which has a downloadable client which is part of Windows Live Essentials. Google Sites, their free websites don’t look as professional as Microsoft Office Live Small business, although they are doing better and Microsoft has started charging for the once free service. All that said, you’ve probably guessed I’m a Microsoft guy at heart. However, Google does have some beautiful products that work better than anything else on the market. Google offers by far the best search engine on the Net,Picasa is an incredible photo sharing package, and Google Voice, well read on.
I first heard about GV in July on 2009 when it was in beta. A friend had told me about it and ten minutes later I was online signing up for an invitation and watching the promotional videos on their site. It took three days to receive the GV invitation. I was really excited and wasted no time signing up – today you can just signup for a GV number without waiting for an invitation – and choosing my new GV number. Since then I have used GV almost daily from everything work related calls to selling items on Craigslist and all at the same time keeping my personal mobile number private. I give out my GV number instead of my mobile number so much that I think only three to five people have my actual mobile.
Originally, Google Voice wasn’t Google at all, but a company called Grand Central, that charged members a monthly fee to use their service. Google acquired them in 2007 and brought it online as a free service. Now you can even port your GV number to some mobile carriers. In my case, I like having both my mobile number and my GV number, but some may choose otherwise for any number of reasons. Sprint customers will soon be able to use all of Google Voice’s features with either their Sprint number or in combination with a GV number.
GV comes with many useful and well thought out features. The main feature is that when your GV number is called, you can configure it to ring several phone numbers at once, such as your mobile phone, your home phone, and your work phone, as well as your Google Chat applet. This is useful, especially if you have a more expensive mobile plan, although it can be alarming in the beginning when your mobile and desk phones start ringing at the same time and you’re not quite sure which to answer first.
One of my favorite features is the ability to set the hours your GV number is allowed to ring. This is very useful for work related calls that you don’t want to receive while you are at home with your family or on the weekends. Many companies are allowing the use of personal mobile phones for work use. This saves the companies money by only having to pay their employees a stipend, great for them, bad for you. It allows your fellow staff members access to your mobile number to call you whenever they want. With a GV number, you just configure your times and those calls go directly to voicemail. You can also set up groups within your contacts that allow you to set who is screened, which of your numbers are called, or who is sent directly to voicemail.
Which brings us to voicemail and transcribed voicemail that is sent to your email account. The voicemail feature is basically just like any other voicemail system. You call your number, listen to your voicemail, keep it, delete it, whatever. The transcribed voicemail is a great feature. Each time a voicemail is left; it is transcribed, and then sent to your email inbox. The only drawback is that the transcription is done by computer and sometimes your message looks nothing like it sounds, but at least you do have a link to the original voicemail.
The last great feature I am going to mention is the SMS feature. Free text messaging from the Google Voice web page, from your email and from your mobile phone, once configured. This cuts down your costs if you have a limited text plan on mobile.
If you are like me, you have a smart phone and Google helps you there too. There are versions of the GV apps for the iPhone, Blackberry, and of course, Android phones. Third party apps are also available depending on your phone. Google Voice offers so much and at the great price of free, you can’t beat it. However, as a disclaimer, International calls do cost but are very cheap, and your mobile phone carrier will charge you for your calls because they are generally greedy but in the two and a half years I’ve used GV, I’ve never been charged for its use. Just make sure you add your GV number to your A-List, Top 5 or whatever your carrier calls the few numbers you are allowed to call free.
Check it out at the link below. Let me know what you think or if you are a current user, I’d love to hear from you as to how you use it.
Okay, so you’re surfin’ the Net, looking at this article, watching that video, checking your email, and drooling over the hotties in the Entertainment section of your favorite news site. Somewhere along the line, you hit a website or open an unfamiliar email and unknown to you, a small application is installed on your computer. You didn’t see it happen, there were no warnings, no blinking lights, not one thing to tell you your computer has been compromised by malware, otherwise known as computer viruses, worms, Trojans, adware, spyware, or rootkits.
Whatever the malware is, it is almost always harmful to your computer, if not just truly annoying. It might cause your computer to slow down or it might wipe out all the family photos on your hard drive. It might join your computer to a botnet, a collection of infected computers, and run hidden in the background, automatically doing the bidding of its programmers such as executing a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on websites and or Internet services.
Unfortunately, most people don’t update the anti-virus software or they let the subscription expire. If your computer came with anti-virus software, such as McAfee, Norton, or another vendor, it is important to verify that those applications are updating the virus files daily. Also if you don’t turn off your computer at night, schedule a nightly quick scan and a full scan at least once a week to check for malware. If you do turn off your computer at night, schedule a time to run the scan once or twice a week. Additionally, learn how to use the anti-virus software; each vender has help files to answer any of your questions.
As it is hard for most anti-virus software to catch every instance of malware it is good to have a backup plan. Luckily, there are several freeware options out there. One of the best is Malwarebytes, which often finds malware that is passed over by other scanners. Other programs include Adaware, Spybot, IObit Security 360 and Advanced System Care, and a host of others. Each of these scanners is well made and can be found at Download.cnet.com. It is important to know that each of these free scanners need to be manually updated with the latest anti-virus files, the paid versions automatically runs these updates. Another, newer malware scanner is Microsoft Security Essentials 2011, which can be downloaded at Microsoft.com. It can be run in conjunction with most anti-virus scanners and updates automatically with Windows Update.
Computers are like cars in that they need to be serviced and cared for. One way to do this is to update your operating system. Windows has several versions, currently the oldest version that Microsoft still supports is Windows XP and it should be at Service Pack 3 (SP3) and Windows Update should be set to auto-update. Windows Vista and Windows 7 should also be set to auto-update. Microsoft issues security updates often and they should be installed to ensure the safety of your computer and the personal information on it. Hackers design the malware to attack computers that are vulnerable and usually those are computers that have not been updated.
Update your Internet browser. Whether you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or any other browser, make sure you are using the latest release. This ensures your Internet surfing is safer. If your computer is running a Windows XP operation system, Internet Explorer 9 will not work on it so you might want to look into switching to Firefox, Chrome, or Maxthon 3, which is the browser I use.
Lastly, never open an email or a file attached to an email from someone you don’t know. If you receive an unexpected email with an attachment from someone you do know, call them and verify that they sent it, especially if it seems suspicious in any way. Some malware comes as an attachment and once opened will show a file, play a presentation, or open a website and in the background install a malware program.
If you do find that your computer is infected with malware and you can’t remove it with any of the scanners above, seek professional assistance. If you’re lucky, you might have a relative that works with computers. If not, shop around and get references for local mobile computer technicians. Additionally, most computer superstores have mobile computer services or allow you to take the computer to them.
As always, back up your important files often, in case you need to restore that data.
It is March 21, 2011, a Monday. I have spent the better part of the day searching the job boards for postings that apply to my technical background, sending out resumes, and applying for jobs online. In return, I see a few read receipts and a couple of automated emails that confirm my applications have been received. This is a common day for me. On average I send out five to seven resumes and apply for anywhere from two to seven jobs every weekday. If I’m lucky, I get a phone call from a prospective employer.
I am a 44 year old father of one and married, luckily to a working wife. At the time of this writing, I have been unemployed for 270 days or since June 24 which was my last day of employment, with the exception of the few side jobs I’ve worked fixing friends computers. I worked for a local city municipality in the Information Technologies Department. It was a good job that paid very well, almost $80,000.00 a year. Unfortunately, the economy, the State of California’s budget, and just bad financial administrator on the part of the city, kicked the city hard. I was among several permanent employees, some with 20 plus years on the job, who were laid off, in two separate lay-offs. Now, I make $900.00 every two weeks from my unemployment benefits. I’m not complaining, that’s still more than a lot of people make.
Since I was laid off, I have treated unemployment as my job. I wake up in the morning and get ready for work; I shower, get dressed, and grab my coffee. Then I make the long walk to work, my computer which is about 15 feet from the kitchen. I start my day. Of course, there are the distractions of my 3 year old daughter, who also needs to get dressed, go potty, and have breakfast. After she is setup for the morning, I get to work, the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse playing in the background. First it’s Craigslist, then Monster, TheLadders, USAJobs, CalJobs, Indeed, and several others, looking for the latest jobs that meet my search criteria and skill-set. I try to find the jobs I haven’t already applied for and frequently check my list of jobs applied for neatly kept track of in an excel document.
After several hours of job search, my daughter and I take a break. We go for a walk around our neighborhood, pick some dandelions, and enjoy the beautiful vistas Southern California has to offer. From my house, I can see the expensive and expansive estates of Rancho Santa Fe, a quite affluent area in north San Diego County. Back at the house, we eat lunch, and then it’s back to the grindstone. More job hunting for me and more play-time for my daughter. Often, I wish she could have more time in preschool to be with other children, but it’s just simply not affordable on my wife’s income and my unemployment benefits, so she gets to spend the days with me.
I check the job boards again, making sure I haven’t missed anything. I check my LinkedIn account, send out a few Twitter updates, check my email for the umpteenth time, and end my job search for the day. I read a few articles to try to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the Information Technology field. I take a deep breath. It’s around 4:00 PM, time to go to the park. I pack up my daughter, and off we go. For an hour or so, I wipe my mind of the worries of being unemployed and play with my daughter, talk to the other parents about being a parent, and watch her interact with other children.
Home again, its dinner, Momma is home, and the evening is upon us. Soon it will be a new day, and it will all start over again. More resumes to send out, more applications to submit, more waiting for that phone call that promises hope for a new job and a new beginning.
After 270 days of being unemployed, I am still hopeful and in good spirits. I know that it is only a matter of time before I am hired by a great employer, but in the meantime, it sure would be nice to feel that security and purpose of being employed again.
How are you doing?
Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you enjoy my insights into Life and Technology or whatever else comes up. I look forward to your comments and connecting with you. So let’s run with it.
God of Nothing…
Note: This is a mirror of my blog at http://godofnothing.blog.com/ However, only the articles are mirrored, comments are not. I haven’t yet decided which will be my main blog and which will be the mirror. I’ll figure it out.