links for 2007-09-28

One Laptop Per Child: Why Media Folks Should Care

Laptop.org
Don’t know what to do with a computer that looks like this? Don’t worry — you’re not the target market.

Lately I’ve been learning more about, and getting quite intrigued by, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. Yesterday I listened to an IT Conversations podcast talk by Michael Evans, VP of corporate development for Redhat, one of the leading producers of Linux and open-source technology. That really tied together for me why this project is so compelling.

Originally I’d thought this project was interesting but rather frivolous. I mean, when millions of kids are dying around the world every year from malnutrition, dirty water, preventable diseases, and toxic environments — let alone the lack of energy and communication infrastructure in many populous parts of the developing world — a laptop sounds a bit like like Disneyland.

But now I think I get it. Here’s what I find so compelling and significant about OLPC…

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links for 2007-09-25

links for 2007-09-22

links for 2007-09-21

Re-Ality, via Flickr (CC license)
She’s Geeky. Way cool.

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Yikes! iPhone Bills Look Scary!

Earlier, when I mentioned that I’m finally going to get some kind of smart phone, David Brazeal suggested that I might want to get an iPhone. I’ve seen them — they’re sleek, they’re cool, they even came down in price. But for me, I need to make sure the billing isn’t a nightmare. In the past, I’ve found that’s been the biggest hassle of cell-phone ownership.

I took a second to see if anyone had posted about their iPhone bills online. Oh yeah, they have — and this makes me really nervous:

bill.jpg

And then this….

Of course, since then AT&T simplified its iPhone billing…

But I still really want to see one of those bills for myself. I’m worried not just about the detail, but about “surprise” charges that might be hard to spot and time-consuming to contest.

I Need a Smart Phone, or Something….

My trusty Tracfone just ain’t cutting it…

It’s getting embarrassing. Mobile content is increasingly part of what I cover in my media consulting work and blogging, yet I have the most bare-bones, behind-the-times cell phone imaginable. It’s an ultra-basic Nokia, and my carrier is the pre-paid service Tracfone. No web browser, and not much else. Currently I really only use it when traveling, although I’m starting to use it with Jott.

But I hate waste, and I’m starting to find little reason to pay for a landline plus cell phone (even a pre-padi one). I’m not really a phone person, and I barely use either one. But I need to have some kind of phone, because, well, that’s just life. So why not just pay for one that does all the main things I need?

Plus, I’m absolutely terrible about listening to voice mail. I generally do so only about once a week. Now that I’m managing all my tasks via e-mail, I find myself just wishing that my voice mail could automatically be routed to my e-mail as an audio attachment. There are services like CallWave and K7 which do that, and SimulScribe offers a message transcription service. Trouble is, these services don’t work with landline voice mail — only mobile providers.

I’ve resisted getting a regular cell phone not just because I generally hate talking on the phone, but because I’m very wary of mobile providers and their billing practices. Those bills are some of the ugliest, most cryptic documents I’ve seen, and somehow you keep getting charged for indecipherable and poorly documents services. My goal right now is to reduce stress, and just thinking about cell phone bills is a stressor.

But I know ultimately if I make a good choice, it’ll be good for me. I’m just starting my search, so if you have recommendations for phones, providers, and deals, please comment below. Here’s what I want:

MUST HAVE

  • Easy-to-understand bills without a lot of unexpected charges
  • Easy-to-understand, reasonably priced plan for calls, text messaging, and web/data access
  • Intuitive user interface for all basic functions
  • Good coverage throughout US, especially in Colorado
  • A decent web browser, e-mail interface, and feed reader
  • Must synch with Mac iCal (and generally be Mac-happy)
  • A keyboard that won’t tie my fingers in knots
  • Decent camera (for still and video/audio, at least short movies)
  • Good battery life
  • Screen that’s easily readable in sunlight
  • Reasonably priced optional data plan for my laptop (tether the phone as a broadband modem)
  • Customer service that doesn’t make me want to become an axe murderer.

Ideas? Tips? Please comment! Thanks.

Jott: Auto-Transcription as Entertainment

RBerteig, via Flickr (CC license)
Cattle eater? Huh?

I’m trying out Jott, a free service that transforms short (30-seconds or less) phone messages into text, sent by e-mail or SMS to you or whoever you choose. This fits in with my overall strategy of managing all my tasks through e-mail. (Yes, GTDinbox is still rocking my world.)

I’m using it not only to send reminder notes to myself when I’m away from my computer, but also to send quick messages to my husband. As I was cooking lunch a short while ago, I grabbed my phone to send him a reminder to get a couple boxes of cat litter.

Here’s what he received:

“Hey dude, we are out of cattle eater and that we need some. Could you pick some up today and bring it over, two or three baskets of it. Thanks.”

Well, needless to say, the local Safeway probably doesn’t carry much “cattle eater,” and certainly not in baskets. But he did figure it out and we both had a good laugh. Such is life when you rely on automated transcription as a communication tool. I’ve had fun with this before, especially with Babelfish.

I’ve heard that some people use Jott as a microblogging tool. That is, you can jot to an e-mail address, and several popular blogging tools allow you to post by e-mail. I was thinking of trying that too, just to see how it work. So if you see any requests for “cattle eater” or other cryptic items here, you’ll know what’s up.

What are your favorite Jotts or other autotranslations gone awry? Please comment below.