Editor's Picks: What We Like
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Well, Google’s done it again. In March, the company added to its collection of wildly successful free Internet services with the release of Google Voice, a revamped version of the program GrandCentral, which Google bought in 2007.
According to a New York Times article, GrandCentral was introduced in 2005 as a way to simplify our increasingly mobile lives. The service worked by unifying all of your phone numbers under one umbrella so when a person dialed the universal number, all your devices rang. It also allowed the user to decide how to handle the call — pick it up, send it straight to voice mail, record the conversation and more — and even offered the options of personalizing voice-mail greetings for different callers and specifying which phones would ring when certain people called. Further, all voice mails went to one inbox, which you could access on the Web.
Google’s new version does all that, but offers expanded features, as well. Perhaps most notable is the voice-mail transcription service, which converts phone messages into typed text that is then e-mailed to the user or sent via text message to his cell phone. Google Voice also offers free conference calling, cheap international calls and text message organization capabilities.
Now you really can have it all — for free!
Turning Tunes Green
Who knew “green” and MP3 could make such beautiful music together? With the Eco-Media Player, environmentally conscious music lovers can nix the feelings of guilt associated with blasting tunes at the expense of electricity.
The Eco-Media Player is powered simply by winding it up. But its relevance is far from dated, and getting the device to play doesn’t require a workout, said inventor Trevor Baylis. One minute of winding will generate up to 45 minutes of playback. Aside from its eco-friendliness, there also is an added convenience: Since you’re its single source of energy, you’ll never forget your charger at home again.
You can even play video and FM radio, record hi-fi memos, view photos and store data. There’s also a line-in socket, LED torch and speaker. And you can use it all without wasting a single energy resource.
The Eco-Media Player costs $199, which isn’t cheap, but for the amount you’re saving your conscience, it’s likely a worthy investment.
Cell Phone Masterpieces
Between writer’s block and complicated plotlines, authors have a number of factors to contend with when writing. However, one writer in Japan hopped on a growing trend when he turned to a common device to help keep the creative juices flowing: his cell phone.
According to a CNN article, Yume-Hotaru literally composed an entire novel at seemingly odd times — such as between classes or while on the bus — with nothing but his thumbs. The novel, in fact, became so popular that publishers offered to convert his digital book into a paper one.
Cell phone novels — or keitai shosetsu, as they are sometimes called — have long been popular in Japan, perhaps because they address topics that are traditionally considered taboo in Japanese culture, such as sex, rape, disease and drugs. As the book is being penned, writers have the option of posting separate chapters to Web sites while readers can get up-to-the-minute content and even provide feedback to the writer — which in some cases actually influences the content of the story.
Due to the incredible popularity of cell phone novels in Japan, the genre now is spreading to other nations.