Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Google Voice is awesome. It's the greatest service you can't get yet today. One number for all my phones, for life, replete with text messaging capabilities and a whole slew of cool features.

But, as much as I love Google Voice, I will stand on my soapbox here for a few moments to yell into the ether about a couple of glaring omissions in the current release that I think Google should address sooner rather than later: MMS message support, and support for sending a mobile message (whether SMS or MMS) to multiple recipients at the same time.

MMS messages are multimedia messages and are sent much like a text message. They're different than SMS message sin that they might include a video or a picture. Right now, if I want to receive a MMS message, I have to tell people to send them to my actual cell number, not my google voice number. Why? Because Google Voice quietly and calmly eats MMS messages, never to be seen again. This completely defeats the purpose behind the "one-number-for-them-all" story. So, it needs to change. When the iPhone on AT&T gets MMS service, which is likely to happen in July sometime, this need will become even more apparent and important.

MMS support could probably be delivered in two phases. Right now if you send a MMS message to the Google Voice number, it just disappears into the ether, and is never delivered anywhere. You don't even know someone tried and the sender assumes it was delivered. To rectify this, Google could do a first phase change where MMS messages would simply be forwarded in original form to the mobile phone(s) configured in the system, without worrying about displaying them in the Google Voice web interface. In a second phase they could then enable web-based viewing.

Second on my list is adding the ability to send an SMS (and MMS as a bonus) message to a group of recipients. We already have contact groups, and we can select more than one contact at a time in the web interface, but the option to send a SMS message disappears from the user interface as soon as you select more than one recipient. I regularly use SMS messages to notify members of a church youth group about meetings and other announcements as a group, so enabling a group-send as well as select-multiple to send SMS would be huge for me. As a bonus, provide me with a phone number that is virtually tied to that group so I can send one txt to my group number on my mobile phone.

What features would you like to see added to Google Voice?

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Mobile | Tech
Tuesday, 23 June 2009 21:42:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The latest news via Unstrung's Michelle Donegan is that AT&T's 3G Microcell, which has been in a limited and private beta in the United States for a few months now, will be available in a sort of public beta in the coming weeks, in select (and as-yet unnamed) cities. The 3G Microcell is a device that you plus into your broadband connection at home. It has a 3G transceiver built in, and allows you to create a small cell area of coverage (hence the name "microcell" of course). I've written about it before, here and here.

From the news article:

According to AT&T's executive director for radio access network delivery, Gordon Mansfield, who was speaking at the Femtocells World Summit in London today, about 200 users are testing the femto service in targeted customer trials.

In the coming weeks, he added, "we will expand that into a marketing trial of the AT&T-branded 3G Microcell, which will be open to customers through our AT&T stores… in a handful of cities.

"We're on track for a full national launch by the end of 2009."

The equipment comes from network infrastructure equipment giant Cisco.

I'm hoping that Portland is one of the metro areas they include in the text phase, since my home has pretty much zero coverage. But I do have broadband and would truly benefit from the product.

AT&T plans to add a whole bunch of 850 Mhz spectrum to it's 3G service infrastructure, which should improve it's network performance and capacity substantially. Many have experienced the dropped call and unavailable network performance issues on AT&T's network, so this is a welcome change. But for those of us who simply live just outside the workable coverage area, the 3G Microcell will open even more doors for its customers.

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Mobile | Tech
Tuesday, 23 June 2009 20:56:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 08 June 2009

Today Apple announced the next rev of the iPhone, the "iPhone 3GS." It has beefed up processing power and some cool new features like a better camera, more storage, etc.

Normally I'd be ultra excited about getting one as soon as its available. But this time around, I'm having a hard time getting inspired.

It has nothing to do with Apple's hardware and software. In fact, the processing power boosts and other changes are very, very tempting, and in a world where all else was equal it would be a no-brainer for me to drop the early upgrade cash on the table and move on up.

But the fact of the matter is, with AT&T's ultra-poor network performance on my current iPhone 3G, I think I'm better off waiting until Apple adds another U.S. carrier. I consistently have to turn off the 3G capabilities on iPhone 3G in order to avoid dropped calls and to successfully get network connections. That was the case with the first iPhone 3G I had, too. To top it all off, the service has gotten worse recently in my experience. I just can't see dropping that much cash for a new phone to operate on a network that already sucks. I've been sorely disappointed by AT&T, almost to the point where I want to call them and tell them they've consistently failed to perform to the level of service they claim (which is 100% the case).

It's time for Apple to drop that bomb on AT&T. Failure to perform in this case is going to cost Apple market share. It's got to be embarrassing to the company. During the announcements made today at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference, every time AT&T was mentioned the crowd just laughed. Seriously laughed, and not because there was a funny joke. It was because AT&T's quality is so lacking one just can' t help but either laugh or cry. They even laughed when AT&T was not mentioned - most notably with regard the fact that the carrier's logo was missing from some key slides in the presentation, pointing out AT&T's lack of launch time support for MMS and tethering, two of the key selling points for the new phone model.

AT&T has turned into that partner that Apple doesn't need, and shouldn't want. It's time to make a change. AT&T has simply failed to perform. When you can't reliably make and maintain calls and the data network won't keep a connection between towers, something's just not good enough. I hope Apple will step up - sooner rather than later - and add another carrier or two even before AT&T's exclusive agreement expires. It takes two to be successful in any partnership, and in this one AT&T's turned into a bit of a boat anchor.

What would change my mind on this one? Simple: When my current 3G phones work like they should on AT&Ts network, I'll be the first one to say so right here. Out loud and with conviction. But, I'm not holding my breath quite yet.Tmobile

Maybe a good jailbreaking and switch to Tmobile will work on the new OS and device. I'm sure someone will figure out out. Desperate times call for desperate measures. We shall see.

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Apple | Mobile | Tech | Things that Suck
Monday, 08 June 2009 20:16:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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After a year and a half of doing some fun security and IT consulting (along with taking some valuable personal time off), last week I returned as a contractor to work full-time at the "parent" of the company I used to work for. Fiserv acquired CheckFree last year, shortly after CheckFree acquired Corillian - which was the company I at worked for about eight years.

My new responsibilities involve working on enterprise security strategy for the company as a whole. I'm excited to be back working with a bunch of people I respect and admire. Completing the full-circle path this transition represents, I'm even sitting back at very the same desk I occupied when I managed Corillian's IT department several years ago. Funny how these things happen! It's been fun to catch up with my old coworkers and to get back in the seat.

Who knows... I might even be inspired to write more here in the future, now that I'm getting my brain back into technology again full-time. :)

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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Monday, 08 June 2009 19:52:29 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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