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Magicjack Beats Google Voice to the Punch for Free Voip Calls

I love Google Voice. In fact I love Google Voice to the point that I use it exclusively both online and IRL as my preferred contact number.  The ability to selectively block numbers, the voicemail transcription, and the ability to send certain callers straight to voicemail make this service the perfect enhancement to my run-of-the-mill cell service.

The only thing missing, with Google Voice being an online service, is the seemingly obvious but not-yet-appearing ability to make and receive calls from more than just a cell or landline. Google Talk has given us the ability to make voice calls to other Gtalk users for years now, and with their 2009 acquisition of Gizmo5, it seemed a desktop app allowing users to make free calls to other phones via their home computers would be just around the corner. Techcrunch confirmed this last month when they produced video of what they claimed was the unreleased pc application.

Out of the shadows, and very much unexpectedly, VocalTec Communications Ltd., the company behind Magicjack, has announced it will be releasing just such a product this week. Called ‘MagicTalk’, it will allow users to make and receive unlimited calls to landlines and cell phones in the US and Canada free of charge from their desktop or laptop, and the company plans to release versions for the iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry platforms in September or October. Each user will be assigned a phone number, although the company will allow numbers to be ported in for a fee. Calls to international numbers will also be extra.

While I’m disappointed Google let a competitor get there first, I’m really excited about finally being able to make truly FREE and unlimited calls from my computer, allowing me to drop the $20 a year Magicjack subscription, and the quarterly $7.95 I was spending on a backup Skype calling subscription.  Magicjack is fully compatible as a forwarding phone for Google Voice, so Paul and I may even be able to sort out a solution for our two personal accounts as well as him using one for business.

While I’m still anxiously awaiting Google’s desktop app, I will be happy to test out MagicTalk in the meantime and look forward to comparing the two services.

Google Buzz Notifications Overwhelming You? Here’s a Fix!

Google Buzz launched yesterday, and the internet seems to have very mixed reactions on the fledgling service. The biggest complaint I’ve seen so far is the notification system, which by default sends you updates on every conversation you’ve been a part of, either on your own, or when someone else mentions you. With everyone playing with the shiny new toys, it’s looking to become an inbox avalanche if Google doesn’t tidy this up and add some settings.

In the meantime, here is a quick way to get your inbox back under control-

Go to your settings page, and select the ‘filters’ tab, then at the bottom select ‘create new filter’.

A box at the top will give you different options of how to filter. In this case you want ‘Subject’ since Google consistently labels the notifications. Put the word ‘Buzz’ in the subject box and click ‘next step’.

Tick the box that says ‘Skip the inbox(archive it)’, and then move down to the box that says ‘apply the label’, and tick that as well. From the dropdown choose ‘create new label’, and name is whatever you want. (‘Buzz’ cannot be used, so I call mine ‘Buzznotes’.)

Click ‘create filter’ and you are done.

What you have essentially just done is made the notifications automatically archive upon arriving in your inbox, so they won’t show up with your regular mail and clutter things up. When you want to read them, just click on your label name in the sidebar, and all notifications will show up, allowing you to read them at your leisure, or mass delete them.

Alternately, if you know you will never read them, follow the same steps as above, only when you reach the 2nd page in the process, tick the box that says ‘delete it’ instead of the archiving and labeling boxes. All future Buzz notifications will then be deleted upon arrival.

It’s not the perfect solution, but this should keep things tidy until Google gets around to giving you adjustable notification settings in the Buzz interface.

Before Google Launches Buzz, It Needs Better Contact Management

Like many around the world, I just watched Google’s announcement of their initial rollout of the Google Buzz service, Google’s new product which aims to aggregate and organize all of your friend’s social content. Miss the announcement? Check out the short version here-

Sounds pretty neat huh? What’s not to love about a service that takes the best of what Google has to offer, along with the best features of Twitter and Foursquare, and puts them all in one place?

In my view, there’s a serious problem lurking, and it centers around what Google seems to think they are doing a great job of- contact management.

If you are a regular Gmail user, you know that everyone you email with, even once, be it to a company or even an unsubscribe address, is saved into your contact list under ‘All Contacts’. (This has served useful on an occasion or two, but for the most part just adds ‘clean out contact list’ to the weekly ‘to do’ list.)

It is from this contact list that Google populates all your other contact lists, such as your Google Voice contacts, your Google Reader friends, and so on. Not having to re-create your contact list across every service can be nice. But what if you don’t want the same contacts on every service?

Google looks at you and gives you the finger.

As far as I can tell, there is no way to separate out your Google contacts from one service to the next. See those ‘unnamed contact’ entries in the picture? They have no information other than the address to Google profiles. No names, no photos, no identifying information whatsoever. They are people that I follow on Google Reader because they have interesting shares. Yet as you can see, if I try to delete them from my Google Voice account where they are not useful and just clutter things up, they will be removed from my Google Reader list.

Do I really need my Google Reader friends in my Voice account?

As much as I love integrated contact lists, with the sheer amount of services Google provides, some method of managing and deleting contacts from one service without losing them in another needs to be provided, or people will very quickly find themselves sharing information with those they might not want to be sharing with.

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