January 30, 2008

my mobile office

the stuff in my commuter bag

Read/Write Web did an article last summer about "rolling your own office." As a telecommuter, and a consultant/freelancer previously, I'm intimately familiar with most of those tools, and have fully and completely jumped on the web application bandwagon. My calendar is online. My email is web mail. My project management tools and todo lists are online. My "office" software is online. I haven't yet paid for online storage, but I do have an account at box.net, and am seriously considering making the move. (Currently, I use Hamachi to VPN to my desktop at home. This is fine most of the time -- except when massive storms hit San Francisco and the power goes out.)

Early last year, frustrated with Sprint's voicemail system, I began looking around ago for an online substitution. I started using GotVoice to check my voicemail and get it on the web (visual voicemail pre-iPhone!). Then I signed up for a GrandCentral number and fell in love. I emailed my family and work contacts, put the new number on my business cards, and made the switch. I've used Skype when I'm on the go and can't get a cell signal, but haven't had to resort to this too often.

I write all this to get to the point of this post... I'm currently in Vancouver at Web Directions North, and AT&T's international rates are pretty high. After the first day of making calls, checking email, going online, etc., I realized that I was roaming and promptly turned data roaming off. I can do without the email and the browsing, especially since I have access to WiFi at the hotel during the day. But what to do about all those pesky calls coming in?

Here's what to do (if you have a GrandCentral account):

  1. Download Gizmo (like Skype, but VOIP/SIP)
  2. Set up your Gizmo account
  3. Add your Gizmo number to GrandCentral
  4. Tell your friends, family, coworkers to call your GrandCentral number
  5. Take your calls on your computer!
VoilĂ !

[non-sequitur]I want to start capturing all the various incarnations of the usage/mis-usage/misspelling of "voilĂ ." This might be via blog, twitter, flickr, or something else entirely (tumblr?) but it will happen one of these days. I've seen "wahla!", "wahlah!", "viola!", "vwalla!" and oh-so-many more.[/non-sequitur]

So, if you travel a lot, have a Skype-In number (or otherwise use Skype a lot), frequently head to the mountains where there is no cell signal, or are just plain curious... go download Gizmo and give it a whirl. If you need a GrandCentral invite, just hit me up in the comments or on Twitter. I know they're still in beta (so everything is still FREE!), but I don't know the status of whether you need an invite or not.

Try it out!