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June 15th, 2009

Google Voice...

Okay, peoples: when it becomes publicly available, you've got to get Google Voice (http://www.google.com/voice).  It's absolutely brilliant.  To be honest, most of the functionality and the idea came from Google's acquisition of Grand Central about two years ago, so I'm not trying to play this up as the next awesome thing just because it's a Google product.  No, it's just freakin' awesome.


So, I got my account about two years ago and it's been sitting around kind of collecting dust.  A few people know about it and use it, but not too many.  Here's some of its coolness, but I'll save why I'm so excited about it until the end...

First off,  Google Voice let me select a new phone number by picking a geographic location and it then presents a set of available numbers in that geography and I pick the one I like.  I selected phones nearby to 95006, the ZIP Code for Boulder Creek.  None came up, but ones for very nearby Ben Lomond did, so I grabbed 831.609.5025.

Next, I told Google Voice about my four other phones: my home phone, my cell phone, my work phone, and my work cell phone.  I told the system what times of day it was okay to call each phone, as well, so if it's the evening, calls don't get routed to my work number.

At that point, when someone called, all of my four other phones rang, and the call was routed to the first one that got picked up.  So if you have a home phone and a cell phone, people just call the Google Voice number and they don't know whether I'm talking on my cell or at home or ... wherever.

Then I turned on the phone screening feature, so people who I don't know will have to somehow identify themselves (either by caller ID or, if their caller ID is off, by saying who they are).  This way, I don't have to answer those annoying non-profit telemarketers if I don't want to, and I never get an automated call.

I also told it about a few common contacts: Heather, my parents, my sister, Heather's family, etc.  I grouped these contacts into different groups, like "Family", "Work", and "Friends".  I then set up different routing rules for the different groups, and turned off phone screening for these folks.  This way, when my sister calls, _all_ my phones ring, and when my boss calls, just my work phones ring.

A few months ago, I started using Google Voice to call friends in Bulgaria, at a rate comparable to Skype - the difference is that I can use any of my phones to make the call.  First, I call from one of my phones to my Google Voice number and then the system identifies me and lets me dial out.  So I can actually make _all_ my calls through Google Voice, which would be a really cool feature if I had one of those call plans that lets me select five phone numbers for which minutes don't count against.

Now here are the two parts that I think are really, really cool...
Last week I figured out how to change the forwarding rules on my cell phone so that if I don't answer my phone for any reason, the call is forwarded on to a different number.  Normally, the call is forwarded on to my cell phone provider's voicemail number, but now all of my missed calls are routed through to my Google Voice account.  This way, if my sister is calling my cell phone and I accidentally let my battery discharge so it's off-line, the call is automatically forwarded to Google Voice and can be picked up by any of my other phones.  I also caught a screened call from my doctor's office this morning in precisely the same way.

The other thing is that I was traveling on Saturday and my phone had discharged, so I put it on the charger in the car.  Once we got to Woodside, it had charged enough to turn it on, which I did while we stopped for some supplies.  There was an open wireless connection there, so I connected and checked my e-mail.  Turns out, a friend had called to get a status update on my travel plans, but my cell phone was off at the time so he was directed to Google Voice.  I didn't answer any of my other phones, so the call was sent to voicemail, and a message was left.  Once the message was left, Google Voice used our own text-to-speech technology to transcode the message into an e-mail, which I read while in Woodside.  It also sent me an mp3 with the message, which, just for grins, I compared to the transcoding, and it was spot on.

Anyway, pretty cool stuff!  I now feel a little better connected even when I've yet again forgotten to charge my cell phone...

WTF, Microsoft?

gbloom$ curl -I 'http://www.google.com/'
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Cache-Control: private, max-age=0
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 2009 05:37:09 GMT
Expires: -1
Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1
Set-Cookie: PREF=ID=0df7dfac1cae97f0:TM=1245130629:LM=1245130629:S=AZ2F2Y1Jyvitwq_3; expires=Thu, 16-Jun-2011 05:37:09 GMT; path=/; domain=.google.com
Server: gws
Transfer-Encoding: chunked

gbloom$ curl -I 'http://www.bing.com/'
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Cache-Control: private, max-age=0
Content-Length: 0
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
P3P: CP="NON UNI COM NAV STA LOC CURa DEVa PSAa PSDa OUR IND", policyref="http://privacy.msn.com/w3c/p3p.xml"
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 2009 05:35:20 GMT
Connection: keep-alive
Set-Cookie: _FS=mkt=-US&ui=en-US; domain=.bing.com; path=/
Set-Cookie: _SS=SID=58F669CFBAEE485989D84DB7FCB50C35; domain=.bing.com; path=/
Set-Cookie: _UR=OMF=1&PV=1; expires=Thu, 16-Jun-2011 05:35:20 GMT; domain=.bing.com; path=/
Set-Cookie: AFORM=NOFORM; expires=Mon, 20-Jul-2015 23:59:59 GMT; path=/
Set-Cookie: MUID=046EBE73FB4E449890C45A9D193756C5; expires=Mon, 20-Jul-2015 23:59:59 GMT; domain=.bing.com; path=/
Set-Cookie: OrigMUID=046EBE73FB4E449890C45A9D193756C5%2ca93a55dbfde74cf58b4a9a773b854898; expires=Mon, 20-Jul-2015 23:59:59 GMT; domain=.bing.com; path=/
Set-Cookie: OVR=flt=0&PerfTracking=0&DomainVertical=omtest1&Cashback=cbcontrol&MSCorp=kievfinal; domain=.bing.com; path=/
Set-Cookie: SRCHD=D=766415&AF=NOFORM; expires=Mon, 20-Jul-2015 23:59:59 GMT; domain=.bing.com; path=/
Set-Cookie: SRCHSESS=GUID=15EF52369F02498C8F0F074913533ACE&TS=1245130520; expires=Tue, 16-Jun-2009 05:55:20 GMT; path=/
Set-Cookie: SRCHUID=V=2&GUID=A2380E9B9F1B48F5A0C58C9CB809B493; expires=Mon, 20-Jul-2015 23:59:59 GMT; path=/
Set-Cookie: SRCHUSR=AUTOREDIR=0&GEOVAR=&DOB=20090616; expires=Thu, 16-Jun-2011 05:35:20 GMT; domain=.bing.com; path=/

1. Google reports a "Server" value, while Microsoft doesn't.  Hrmm.  What is Microsoft hiding?  Is it possible that Bing runs on Linux because IIS/Windows isn't scalable enough?
2. Google sets a single cookie.  Microsoft sets eleven.  What possible reason could there be for this, except perhaps Microsoft doesn't really know how to make use of cookies?
3. Google's user identification cookie expires in two years.  Microsoft's user identification cookies expire in six years and a month.  Why aren't privacy advocates in an uproar about this?

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