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Category Archives: Online Services

Digital Snail Mail Redux: Earth Class Mail

Earth Class Mail

By Evan Ackerman

A while back we wrote about PixelLetter, a service which takes your digital documents and turns them into physical mail and sends them off for you. Earth Class Mail is a service that does the same thing, only backwards… They’ll receive all of your physical mail (you can pick a physical mailing address in any of 19 cities), scan each envelope, and then make the scans available for you online. You can chose what to do with each piece of mail, from having them recycle junk mail, to forwarding you more important items, or (most appealing to me) opening your letters and creating PDFs of the contents for you to download from their website.

The downside is that you have to wait a bit regardless of what you decide to do with the items Earth Class Mail receives. If you want a scan, it takes a business day, and if you want the physical item, well… Back through the post office it goes. According to Earth Class Mail, however, most people using the service don’t want the mail itself, which I can totally understand, since I’d much rather have a digital copy that I won’t misplace. The company plans to integrate some kind of check depositing service in the near future. And if you’re worried about security, they hire employees with government security clearance (including many retired veterans). In fact, they don’t allow any recording devices into the mail handling area, not even pencils.

Monthly pricing plans start at about $15 a month for 30 pieces of mail or less. Forward shipping mail and package handling does cost extra… Check out the pricing plans here.

[ Earth Class Mail ] VIA [ RFJ ]

Online Sidescrolling Game Features ASCII Graphics

ascii online game.jpg

By David Ponce

If you’re at work right now, you’ll have to thank us for pointing you to a wickedly hard, yet strangely compelling sidescroller. If you’re like us, you’re likely to waste a good chunk of time on it. But what makes it particularly interesting is that its graphics are made entirely in ASCII. If you happen to not be a complete geek, and don’t know what ASCII is, go here. The game comes from Japan, and is called Jineseiowata no Daibouken, which means something or other. It also happens to be loaded with references to classics, like Street Fighter, making it even more appealing.

The reason we even bother to show you this is to highlight how gameplay is so much more important than polygon count. We’re looking at you, Sony.

If you don’t feel like playing, but are still curious to know what the game looks like, we’ve also posted a video showing you a few minutes of gameplay. It’s a bit of a spoiler, so be warned.

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Today’s Top Tech: AllFreeCalls Lets You Do Just That

allfreecallsBy David Ponce

The real Top Story? Come on! Windows Vista’s in store. Go spend some money.

Now, let’s just start by saying this isn’t, for once, about VoIP. This is about ridiculous regulatory loopholes, and how some clever folks are able to exploit something (or someone… no one’s really sure), to give consumers a cool (free!) product, at least for the moment. If you’ve always wanted to make free calls to one of 41 specific countries from your mobile, or landline, you’re in luck. AllFreeCalls gives you an Iowa number to call (712-858-8094). Once you’ve called it, you can then dial your destination number free of charge or time restrictions, provided it’s one of the supported countries. The only cost to you might be the long distance to Iowa, though several cellular providers have nixed long distance charges within the US. There’s nothing to install, no need for a PC, a hotspot, EDGE, 3G or whatever. It uses the POTS, and some dumb laws. Apparently.

Here’s how we think it works. There seems to be some sort of regulation in Iowa that gives rural telcos a kickback for every call received… Yeah, they get money for you to call them (go figure). And that amount happens to be larger than what it costs them to patch you through to your destinations, so they can operate in the black. Supported countries include Australia, Belgium, and Bengladesh, to only name a few. It’s not clear exactly who is giving the telco these kickbacks, just what the specific legislation is, nor whether it’s the taxpayer that’s picking up the tab in the end (it probably is). But, well, who cares, right?

Check it out while it still works. Bureaucrats have a knack for clamping down on free.

[ AllFreeCalls ] VIA [ Techcrunch ]

Podzinger Can Search Video Speech

podzinger logo By David Ponce

Yesterday, we showed you Blinkx, a video searching site that allows you to search videos according to their descriptions and associated tags, and to display the results in an embeddable wall of thumbnailed clips. It looks slick. However, Blinkx is not the only video search site around, and though it looks like it got hit by the ugly stick a couple times, Podzinger just might have a little bit more functionality. Instead of limiting your search to how a video’s been tagged, the company’s speech-to-text technology analyzes everything that’s said in a given video and allows you to search the resulting text. Not only that, but the results display the search words highlighted and clickable; doing so takes you to the exact spot on the clip when the word is spoken.

In a trial of Holiday Gadget, the technology proved to be solid, and it kind of scares us to see such accuracy in speech recognition. Still, it’s a step in the right direction, whatever that means.

[ Podzinger ] Thanks, Jasmine!

Blinkx, Video Searching And The Wall

By David Ponce

Y’all’s heard about YouTube getting bought by Google for a cool $1,65billion, right? So, I imagine you get the message: video is hot. There are video sharing/aggregating/searching sites popping up all over the place, and one of these recently caught our eye. It’s called Blinkx, and what you see above this text is one of their products. It’s a little slow loading, so be patient. Blinkx is essentially a video searching site, and they feature “6 million hours of video content”, which you can easily search. In this sense, it’s not unlike YouTube. But they don’t host the entire videos. Instead, once you find videos related to your search, you can watch a short preview, after which you’re prompted to watch the whole thing at its source.

But the really cool feature is this thing called “The Wall”, and it’s what you’re seeing now, right above. You can search for anything you like (in this case, we searched for “gadgets”) and then display the results in a wall of clips, which you can embed on your site. You can choose how large you make it, which can be as big as 8 by 8, or 64 clips simultaneously streaming to you. We decided to spare you the time it would take for a thing like that to fully load. The display is also continuously updated via RSS, so presumably the mix of clips changes over time.

If you want to see something really fun, mouse over the clips and see what happens.

[ Blinkx ] VIA [ TechCrunch ]

Make Your Own Motivational Poster

motivational poster By David Ponce

If you live in North America, there’s a good chance you’ve come across motivational posters, with trite little sayings that are supposed to inspire you to greater heights of productivity and achievement. They were all the rage some time ago, and even though you could have always made your own, you would have had to put in some effort. No longer. With this website, it’s a snap to make your very own. Upload picture, select a few options and you’re done. Of course, you have to come up with your own motivational text, but that’s actually a great thing: now you can tell fat Suzie down the hall to get some work done, and make her feel great about it.

[Motivation Poster Generator] VIA [TRFJ]

Determine Your “Blog Juice”

My Blog JuiceBy David Ponce

Here’s a fun little tool if you own a blog. It’s called Blog Juice and it comes from company Text-Link-Ads. This company is a third-party reseller of text links, much like AdBrite, though they seem to be gaining some traction lately, probably due to their, eh, $10,000/month partnership with TechCrunch. Anyway, they use a fancy AJAX interface to determine your blog’s influence and rank it next to other blogs with stronger and weaker juice, just to give you an idea of just where you stand. It takes Bloglines subscriptions, Alexa and Technorati rank, as well as Technorati inbound links to perform its calculation. You can also enter other sites to compare against. What’s interesting is that this is the “algorithm” Text-Link-Ads probably uses when they determine the value of text links placed on your site. Of course, you can also visit their link calculator to get an idea of how much money you could be making with them… but this isn’t as much fun as getting your “Blog Juice”, with snazzy badge to boot.

[Blog Juice Calculator]

Searchmash – Secret Google Search Experiments

Searchmash (Image courtesy Searchmash)
By Andrew Liszewski

I’ve occasionally debated with my friends as to which one of us first discovered Google years back. It will probably never be decided but for a bunch of geeks who pride themselves on being the first to see everything new online it’s an important badge of honor.

There might be others out there like us (though for the sake of mankind I hope not) so here’s a link to a new site called Searchmash which appears to be a ‘secret’ place for Google to try out new search techniques. For now there’s nothing too innovative going on, searches will return image thumbnails as well as the usual list of results which can be re-ordered as needed but keep checking back because I can only assume (and hope) that there’ll be some cool stuff appearing here some day.

[Searchmash] VIA [Tech Digest]

Jajah Mobile Launches Seamless Mobile VoIP Calling

jajah logoBy David Ponce

As we’ve mentioned before, countless times, VoIP is great. But it’s not yet the landline/mobile killer that it has the potential to be. One of the reasons for this is that you generally have to be tethered to a computer to take advantage of it, and most people whose skins haven’t turned translucent from lack of sunlight… actually venture away from the PC/Mac from time to time. Sure, there are workarounds, like Actiontec’s Call Center, but they introduce some complexity into the equation, requiring you to call home, enter passcodes, etc. That may all change with a new offering from Jajah. They’ve recently announced the launch of Jajah Mobile, an application that makes VoIP calls from mobiles easy and, above all, seamless.

Once you’ve installed the application on your (hopefully supported) handset, you simply specify which call is to be routed through Jajah, and dial. The phone then connects you to a local Jajah number, and the company routes your call to its destination for you, performing VoIP magic in the middle. If the call happens to be to another Jajah user (whose number is registered in their database), and this user is in a certain zone (like the US, Canada and part of Europe), then the call is free! If not, it’s still probably a lot cheaper than your carrier would charge you. But most importantly, it’s simple, easy and yes, seamless.

At the moment, many Symbian phones and Java enabled handsets are supported, and the company is working hard to add more.

[Jajah Mobile] VIA [TechCrunch]