GSM car starter

It’s just starting to warm up around here but it was very cold for a long time. We’re not fond of going anywhere when it’s way below freezing but those professional hermit opportunities never panned out so we’re stuck freezing our butts off. Fed up with his frigid auto, [Aaron] installed a remote starter to warm the car up before he got to it. This didn’t help at work because of the distance from his office to the sizable parking lot is too far for the key fob’s signal to carry. He decided to make his starter work with GSM so he could start the car with a phone call.

The first attempt involved a pre-paid cell phone for $30. The problem is that anyone who called the phone would end up starting the car. After a bit of looking he found a GSM switch that just needs an activated SIM to work. When called, it reads the incoming phone number for authentication but never picks up the phone so there’s no minutes used. He cracked open an extra key-fob and wired up the lock and start buttons to the relays in the GSM switch. Bam! A phone call starts (and locks) his car.

Maybe this isn’t as hardcore as body implants but it’s a fairly clean solution. He uses the car’s 12v system to power the switch and pays $10 every three months to keep the SIM card active. There’s an underwhelming demonstration video after the break showing a cellphone call and a car starting. Continue reading “GSM car starter”

BT phone is much more than retrofit

[Santiago] turned his Ericfon into a Bluetooth phone. This is completely different from the handset retrofits we looked at last month. This is because he didn’t simply crack open a BT headset and cram it into his phone. He developed his own hardware for full functionality.

This is an open source project with available hardware details that he intends to turn into a kit. [Santiago] has purposed a PIC microcontroller to connect with a WT32 bluetooth module. The PIC allows for a dial tone, dialing with the original rotary dial, and produces the original sound when the phone rings. What he now has is a way to have a home phone without a landline. As seen the video after the break, the Ericfon works the same as it did when it was new, except the connection is made through Bluetooth and not via a copper phone line. Continue reading “BT phone is much more than retrofit”

Does your phone have a GOOG-411 button?

While visiting family we noticed that their telephone had a dedicated GOOG-411 button. We’ve been using Google’s free 411 service for what seems like years but seeing this show up in the form of an auto-dial button is astonishing.

The question that pops to mind: how is this not an antitrust suit waiting to happen? Directory assistance is BIG MONEY that Google undercut when launching its free service. By shipping phones that have the number pre-programmed doesn’t that limit choice and competition in the same way that shipping Windows with Internet Explorer does? Perhaps the difference is that Microsoft has a near monopoly on the PC OS market while GE can’t say the same about cordless phones.

We’re not antitrust lawyers, and neither are you, but we’d still like to hear your opinions about this in the comments.

Bluetooth handset hacks

Cramming Bluetooth headset circuitry into an analog telephone body has become an extremely popular hack. With declines in the prices of these headsets, and older telephones being seen as storage-room-clutter this hack is just waiting for you to get started. Join us after the break for a look at what others have already accomplished.

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PhoneTag helps you read your voicemail

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Have you ever been too busy to check in with your voicemail service? PhoneTag might have the solution for you.

Some of us might have done it before, let voicemails pile up if we know nothing urgent or important is coming down the pipes. Wouldn’t it be much simpler and more convenient if those voicemails played by our rules? PhoneTag is a speech to text service that converts a voicemail into text and sends it via email or SMS which you can read through and reference at will. The accuracy on this type of service is usually pretty good, but some translation is required as spoken words can sometimes be misinterpreted depending on the clarity of the call. On the security side of things, we tend to be a little hesitant of personal and business voicemails running through an extra service. PhoneTag does state that they use some kind of “special algorithm” that will guarantee voicemails are secure and private.

While there is a free trial period, this service is going to cost you. You can sign up for anything from a per message price of $.35 to an unlimited plan of $29.95/month. You are going to have to do your own calculations here to see if this is the best way to go, but this will save you from using your monthly minutes for checking the voicemails in your mailbox. As alternatives, Google Voice offers the same service for free and SpinVox charges a fee per use.

Create a temporary phone number with inumbr

Maybe you don’t want that one person that has barged into your life to know your private phone number? Could be a salesperson or a co-worker who you aren’t that impressed with, but have to get in contact with. Check out inumbr.

inumbr is a free online service that gives US users the ability to set up a unique phone number, have it forwarded to any number within the US and then have it set to expire without a trace when finished with it. The unique inumbr’s are never reused, and can be extended if longer terms are required. Users choose from a list of 22 area codes from major US cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, select an expiry date and set a number that it should be forwarded to. When the term is up, the number is expired from the system, and never used again for any other user. If you wish to use the number at a later date, you can log into the inumbr system and reactivate it.

As we are becoming more and more mobile and security conscious, the desire for these types of services grows. A phone number can now be given out at will, with security and privacy remaining intact. Google Voice is a major player in this arena. A somewhat similar service, they allow for a unique number with voice mail to forward to other numbers at will, creating a masked or unidentified private number that can be used to give out to 3rd parties. inumbr makes this process simpler with the ability to cut off and reactivate numbers as desired.

Hackit: Why we don’t need phone numbers

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We’re starting to think that phone numbers are deprecated; it may be time to integrate how we connect telephones with the new digital millennium. To get a firm grasp on this topic it is important to take a look at the reason we started using phone numbers, why we still use them, and the why’s and how’s of transitioning to a new system.

Continue reading “Hackit: Why we don’t need phone numbers”