Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pinger and Free International Calls!

I've been experimenting with Pinger the last month. It is a service which allows you to record a message from your phone, to be sent as an mp3.

This is great when you know somebody is in a meeting. Or when you have only a couple of minutes to spare and you don't want to be locked in a long conversation. Think of it like recording memo's.

I discovered the service via TechnCrunch. There is also a short description in a recent technology article from David Pogue in the Wall Street Journal:

FREE ‘PINGS’ Pinger is a new way to reach someone: a method that combines the immediacy of a text message with the personality of voice mail. (You can sign up at You call one of Pinger’s access numbers, say the name of the person you’re calling, and then speak a message.

Suppose you’ve just pinged your sister. She receives a text message to let her know. With one keystroke, she can hear your message — and with another, send a voice reply. There’s no waiting to roll over to voice mail, no listening to instructions, no outbound greetings.
But there is something even more interesting in his article: FREE INTERNATIONAL CALLS. That's right! (I haven't tried this yet, until tomorrow that is.)
You can now call any of 50 countries from the United States, free. Talk as long as you like. You pay only for a call to the access number in Iowa, which is 712-858-8883; if you use your cellphone on nights or weekends, even that’s a free call.

There’s no contract, no ads, nothing to sign up for. At the prompt, press 1 for English. Then punch in 011, the country code and the phone number. The call rings through immediately.

Fine print: In some countries, you can reach only landlines, not cellphones. And in part because FuturePhone’s lines have been flooded, its success at placing calls is not, ahem, 100 percent.

But it’s hard to argue with “free,” which, according to the company, it will be until at least 2010.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

PG&E: Heat Storm Credit

Fall has been very mild in Northern California. Yesterday the temperature was still 76F/25C. We barely had to turn on the heater in the morning. Our electricity and gas bills have been low. The Oct 15-Nov 15 bill was a grand total of $39. Something struck me as odd on the statement: the bill included a Heat Storm Bill credit of $4.35. PG&E 's website has more details:

PG&E is giving customers a credit. As we all know, California experienced unusually high temperatures in late July 2006. Higher temperatures led to higher energy usage and that, unfortunately, led to higher energy bills. Because of this unprecedented situation and because of our broader commitment to serving our customers, we’re taking unprecedented action. We are retroactively lowering your July bill. In October all residential customers will see a 15 percent credit based on their electric energy usage in July.
Let me repeat the PR-machine-at-work "Because of this unprecedented situation and because of our broader commitment to serving our customers, we’re taking unprecedented action."

When a big corporation is handing out cash, count your chickens!