The times, they are a changin’.

I have recently been slowly abandoning some of my Luddite ways. For example, I recently upgraded my mobile phone from an ancient Nextel Motorola to a much smaller and less brick-like LG VX3400 from Verizon Wireless. Along with this upgrade came the ability to send and receive text messages. Besides sending witty, if brief, messages to friends and family on the retina-scorching, squint-inducing screen, I have also been able to try out some of the newer SMS-based web services such as Google SMS and Dodgeball. I’ve also recently discovered, or re-discovered another fun tool: Google Reader.

Google SMS

Google SMS makes 411 and similar phone-based information services obsolete. You send a search query in an ordinary text message to Google (to GOOGL or 46645) and the mystical computers at Google send a message back to you with your results in a matter of seconds. It’s amazing and it’s free, less the ordinary text message rate from your mobile carrier. I have found it especially handy for looking up addresses and phone numbers of businesses when I am not near a PC. There is a ton of other information Google will gladly send to your phone including weather forecasts, driving directions, movie showtimes, sports scores, translations, and more. Some of my recent queries: “trader joe’s 20001”, “weather lake orion, mi” “casino royale 20001”.

For more information check out the Google SMS site.

Dodgeball

Having recently been acquired, Dodgeball just so happens to also be brought to you by the Google wizards in Mountain View. Dodgeball is a social networking service that uses text messages to inform you of where your friends are.

It works like this: You sign up for a free Dodgeball account; you invite a bunch of your friends to join too, if they haven’t already; you start “checking in” with Dodgeball when you want to let your friends know where you are. For example, if you go to your Wednesday night bowling league, you would send a text message to Dodgeball when you get there, “@Marvel Lanes”. Then all of your friends are notified of your location and if they’re nearby, they can meetup with you. You can also keep track of your friends’ friends as well as “crushes”. Ignoring the obvious privacy implications, this can be a useful and fun service.

Dodgeball seems to me like a stepping stone to more convienient location-based services that use GPS technology, such as those already available on Helio devices using Google Maps, that eliminate any need to actively “check-in” because the service already knows where you are.

Google Reader

There are such a great number of interesting websites and blogs publishing on a daily basis that we are officially in a state of information overload. How in the world is one expected to sift through the dozens, or even hundreds, of interesting sites everyday and keep up-to-date? Someone should come up with a system to make this really easy, fast, and efficient. Oh? Someone did and his name is Dave Winer? The solution is something called RSS? Zippity do da!

RSS allows us to easily “subscribe” to large numbers of sites that we are interested in and quickly flip through the headlines and articles all in one place: an RSS feed reader (or aggregator). In September 2006, Google released a thoroughly overhauled and much-improved version of their web-based RSS reader, aptly named Google Reader.

Like Gmail, Google Reader provides a very intuitive and efficient user interface. GR makes it easy to quickly flip through your feeds (the keyboard shortcuts are a nice touch), subscribe to new feeds, and one of the coolest features: the option to easily share particular articles you come across, thereby creating your own “link blog”. For example, take a look at my link blog. Better yet, subscribe to it! (feed address)

RSS gets really fun when you start to subscribe to feeds other than just regular news/site feeds, such as: songs listened to by friends, custom search result feeds, or photo feeds.

Coming up in the next post: Picasa, Coverflow, Pandora, VDC.com.

Bye everybody, bye!

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