Friday, November 23, 2012

Forward SMS messages to your email

Recently I found an increase in the number of text messages I receive.  I don’t why so many prefer texts over emails but for me it was a hassle.  My main issue was I don’t wear my mobile phone when I am home.  It sits on charge.  I can answer calls anywhere in my house on my mobile phone because I have a Panasonic Blue Tooth cordless phone that communicates with my mobile device.

When I am watching TV, I have no clue a SMS was sent to me.  I have a tablet computer on my sofa that alerts me to new emails but not SMS messages.  I decided to research the ability to forward text messages to my gmail account.

I found two applications that do the job.  The first is called PopMyPhone.  Not only can this send emails for SMS but it can email you about missed calls.  My only gripe with this app is it’s tied to a 3rd party server to pass the SMS messages to where they get emailed.  I would have preferred a solution where the phone sends the email directly.  This is app is free provided you don’t receive more than 50 texts per pay.  I realize that won’t fly for many but for my needs it works.  Another minor gripe is the email has lots of help info in the body of the email.  I find that annoying and there is no way to opt out of the help messages.

The other app I found called SMS Backup+ can accomplish my needs although it was not really designed for it.  This app is geared to backing up all your SMS messages to your gmail account.  With a little tweaking in the setup options you can fudge it to just send an email after a SMS is received.  There will be a one minute delay in the email being sent but it’s all done locally on your phone with no 3rd party servers.  This app has one major drawback, the developer treats these emails as backups and forces the emails to not land in your inbox.  They are labeled with a ‘SMS’ tag but I would prefer them to show in the inbox which I was not able to do.  I tried contacting the developer about a possible enhancement but they did not respond to my request.

Here are the settings you need to get SMS Backup+ to forward your SMS messages:

Connect and Auto backup must be checked
In Auto Backup settings

  • Regular schedule is set to Never
  • Incoming schedule is set to 1 minute

Under Backup settings

  • Uncheck Mark as read otherwise you could miss the email

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Windows Live Calendar Gadget

When you use devices like Androids and iPads you get spoiled with the nice calendar options that are available.  I use Google calendar and wanted a simple calendar on my Windows 7 desktop so I would not have to keep a tab open in my browser to see what events are coming up. 

Windows Live Calendar Gadget filled the void.  This is a simple clean gadget that runs on the Windows 7  desktop.  It supports iCal which means you can link it to your Google Calendar to get your events on the desktop.  It’s a bit tricky navigating Google calendar to get your iCal address.  Click the gear in the upper right corner and then select settings.  Then select calendars in the upper left area and then select your calendar in the displayed list.  Then click the green iCal button and the URL will be shown that you need to paste into the Windows Calendar Gadget. 

The calendar looks very similar to the included Windows 7 gadget.  The difference is it shows your events below the calendar and highlights the day in a bolder font.  When you click the event in the list it shows more details.

The default look is a midnight skin.  I changed mine to the Aero look.  My only gripe is the size of the calendar.  Mine is set to large but it’s very tiny.  The developer needs to adjust the code for more sizing options.

The calendar site is here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Voice Pulse experience

I have been using Voice Pulse for about 4 years now.  When I signed up for VOIP my primary interest was to save on my phone bill.  Verizon aka the ‘Billing machine’ had sent me a notice that due to the fact that I did not make many long distance calls with them they were going to surcharge my account.  Yes I rolled my eyes on that sentence.  Between all the bogus FCC and other taxes, I had enough of their overpriced phone service.

So I pulled the trigger, visited one my favorite forum discussion sites called and read the experiences from other users.  I went with a service called Voice Pulse which back in the day worked and had good service.  Well that was then and now it’s a whole different story.  About 18 months ago something changed over at Voice Pulse.  I have no idea what but the service went downhill.  First they dropped their internal voice mail system and went with a 3rd party called YouMail.  You can probably guess what happened, a finger pointing game when voice mail did not work correctly. The MWI (message waiting indicator) was the main problem.  Someone would leave you a voice mail and you had no clue voice mail was sent.  Well many months (years) later it still does not work to any degree of reliability.  Next was the voice quality.  It was always good (not great) but more than acceptable.  Then Voice Pulse did some sort of update which made my AT&T TL92328 cordless handsets a door stop.  Nobody could hear me, the output was very soft.  They worked fine on any other VOIP / POTS service but not Voice Pulse.  I had to buy all new handsets from Panasonic to get my phone service back.  (some savings switching to VOIP!)  Then my cell phone minutes were on the rise because none of my friends could reach me on my Voice Pulse number.

So months past, I opened several trouble tickets with them.  It became very clear they were a 9-5 shop.  If something went down during the evening hours it would be down until the next day.  I was kinda shocked when they had a big outage and had no idea for the whole evening.  You would think they would be monitoring major system outages 24/7.

Then the bizarre started, the phone would ring, you would answer after the first ring and nobody was there and calls went directly to voice mail. And of course with no surprise the MWI indicator was not working again.  Then I could not call any 800 service, my cell could call the same number but not Voice Pulse.  So the end of the road came when mega storm Sandy hit the east coast.  I was not able to make almost any call yet my cell phone could call the same numbers without issue. 

For anyone considering VOIP my experience is don’t port your number on day one.  After reading many reviews / issues on the forums get a temporary DID number and carefully test your selection.  None of them are perfect.

I will do a follow up with which is my new VOIP service.  So far it works great.    

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Google’s gMail flags it’s own mail as SPAM!

I recently jumped ship from Apple’s iPhone to a Samsung Galaxy S3 Android phone.  I signed up for Google’s App store which is known as Google Play.  Today I check my SPAM folder and find legitimate emails from their app store!  This is really sad when Google flags it’s own emails as SPAM. 

The funny part is there are no Apple emails in my SPAM folder.

Take a look below at screen capture in my gMail account.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Accessing your Android device from Total Commander

Android devices running 4.0 or later don’t have a built in option to show a drive letter when connected to a PC.  Luckily my favorite tool – Total Commander can deal with this pretty easily.  As most Total Commander fans know, it’s the swiss army knife of file management.  Now there is an easy way to create that left / right control to manage your Android.  Follow the below steps to enable this feature.

From Total Commander on your Windows PC select the Start menu and then “Change Start Menu”.  Click “Add item” and call it “Android” or any other name you wish.  Then look towards the bottom for the “Command:” area and enter the following: cm_OpenDrives and then click the OK button.

Now try your new start menu, select “Android” and you should be presented with a list of drives on your Windows PC.  There should be a device on the bottom that is your Android device.  Double click it and now you have a left / right scenario to copy/move your content.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

iPod center button stuck fix

I have an old classic 4th gen 20gig iPod where the center button stopped working.  When trying to press the center button it would not move.  No matter how hard I pressed the button it was frozen solid.  After opening the iPod the button started working.  It turns out the lithium battery in the iPod is right underneath the scroll wheel  and over the years the battery swelled to the point where it was jamming the scroll wheel center button.

The most difficult part about replacing the battery is getting the iPod open.  I won’t go into the details because there many howto videos to document the procedure.  So if you are handy and have some good close-up vision it’s not too hard to disconnect a few ribbon cables to get the battery replaced.  Considering the cost of a new iPod classic it’s worth the effort.  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

ATI HDMI Audio problems

I recently upgraded my HTPC running XBMC with an ATI 6490 video card.  My prior Nvidia card did not have a HDMI port and I wanted to start utilizing the HDMI HD audio features that are not available on an optical TOS link.  FYI this audio problem seems to exist across their entire line of HDMI cards.

I have not been an ATI customer for a long time because I never had a good experience with their drivers.  Well some things never change and ATI proved it this month.  Their driver stability is as legendary as I experienced years ago. 

I had to downgrade my drivers from 12.4 to 12.1 to get HDMI audio working.  The audio would start off ok until I switched inputs on my Pioneer VSX-1121 receiver.  I have HMDI controls disabled but the ATI broke something past version 12.1, the audio would go away with a red X over the sound icon in the system tray.  The error was “No speakers or headphones are plugged in”.  Once I would reboot the PC the audio would start working again until I switched inputs on the receiver.

To add to the complexity of fixing the issue the ATI installer does not warn you that it will not downgrade drivers.  It ‘appears’ to work but it actually does not overwrite older files.  I had to manually delete their busted drivers to get the older ones installed.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

iPad 3rd gen eBay case

I got my iPad 3rd gen on opening day but decided to sit back a few weeks and let the cheap knockoffs from eBay come out.  I hate paying crazy prices for a case.  My goal was a front/back case, borderless, thin, cheap and of course compatible with the 3rd gen iPad.  I don’t care for those 360 cases on eBay, I have one and they are clumsy to use and are thick. 

So one finally popped up, $16 bucks with free shipping from Hong Kong.  I waited hoping to find one in the states and finally just caved and ordered it from HK.  To my surprise it only took a week to arrive.  I am very accustomed to HK orders taking way longer. 

The case is nicely made, thin and has a suede like interior that will not scratch the iPad.  The case was advertised as iPad 3 compatible yet the smart switch (magnetic) does not work.  I confirmed the case does have a magnet in it but it’s located where the iPad 2 wants it.  I decided to keep the case anyways, it’s not worth the hassle of returning it to HK, and overall I really like it.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Google Contacts where are they?

I use Gmail and love it.  I also use Google contacts.  For the past few weeks it’s been bugging me how awkward I thought it was to access my contacts from Gmail.  The menu on the top left shows Search, Images, Maps, Play, YouTube, News, Drive, Calendar and a More feature and nowhere is there a button to access my Google Contacts.  It’s right in front of me but I was too blind to see it until I Googled the question. 

On the upper left side of your Gmail screen is Gmail with a down tick arrow.  That’s where Google ‘hid’ the access to Contacts.  It’s easy enough to use but it does not follow the flow.  I don’t why Google put the contacts there instead of the upper menu where everything else is.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

AVI Trimmer - Edit MKV files with no encoding

I have been wanting for years a way to clip a MKV file without having to go through the lengthy process of encoding the clipped output.  I entered the magic keywords into Google this week and found my solution.  Not only does it work great but it’s free! 

AVI Trimmer is the solution.  Don’t let the name fool you, it works with MKV files. I have spent countless hours with Handbrake clipping large MKV files just to get that 3 minute music performance from a large video file.  Those days are over now.  I clipped my first movie in about 30 seconds, that’s how easy and fast this gem is.

AVI Trimmer can work with MPEG4, Divx or Xvid and other video formats.  Audio support is also very flexible.  The program has a built in video viewer.  You drag an edit bar over the timeline where you want to start the clip and end the clip.  The edit bar shows you the time in hh:mm:ss:ms format.  You just enter the start time and end time into the window and press save.  The file saves in seconds because there is no encoding.  It’s that easy and fast.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Windows 7 folder sharing with no password

I gotta love Microsoft.  At times they can easily make you lose your hair and in my case it shows I don’t have much left.   I recently reloaded a Win 7 PC.  I wanted easy folder sharing access between two PC’s on a local LAN.  The catch was I wanted no passwords.  You would think this should be simple.  After going to the Network and Sharing center I went to Advanced Sharing Settings and selected my Home Network.  I verified the following settings:
  • Turn on network discovery
  • Turn on file and print sharing
  • Turn on sharing so anyone with network access can read/write files in public folders
  • Turn off password protected sharing

I shared a folder and to no surprise it was not working.  I rebooted both PC’s and still nothing.  Googling the issue yielded lots of similar complaints and no answers.  I finally found the secret, a security policy that must be changed in order for this to work.  The policy is called "Limit local account use of blank passwords to console logon only". Why Microsoft has the option “turn off password protected sharing” is silly since it won’t work without a registry change.   Luckily Windows Ultimate comes with gpedit.msc.  Change the line highlighted in blue, make sure to disable it. If your Win 7 does not include gpedit.msc follow this article or read below for the registry modification.

These instructions below are only for versions of Windows 7 that do not include Gpedit.msc.  Run regedit from the Start Button and navigate to the following location (follow the picture below with the words highlighted in yellow):

           Then look to the window on the right side for LimitBlankPasswordUse

Make sure that LimitBlankPasswordUse it set to 0 (zero).  Make the change and then reboot your system.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

MSN Direct pulls the plug today

Good old Microsoft pulled the plug today on MSNDirect radio services.  MSN Direct was used to deliver data feeds over FM radio signals.  Companies like Garmin (GPS) and Oregon Scientific  designed many of their products to use this service.  I own a Garmin Nuvi GPS that had traffic updates that were using MSN Direct.  My Garmin can still navigate but I will no longer know if there are any traffic issues on my route.  I would have to buy a new GPS to get back that functionality.

What’s more upsetting are weather stations.  My Oregon Scientific weather station has turned into a door stop since Microsoft pulled the plug.  What’s even more insulting is they are still selling these MSN Direct weather stations on Amazon!

I wonder how many people will be placing support calls over the next few weeks wondering why their electronic gadgets stopped working all of sudden.  I hope Microsoft gets some heat from this latest move.

My now useless weather station