Adding Gizmo5 and GoogleVoice Gadgets to Gmail

Aha! Thanks to @paulmyatt ( http://ow.ly/iWem ) I have discovered how to add a GoogleVoice gadget to Gmail’s sidebar. Yay! I also then figured out how to add Gizmo5’s VOIP gadget as well – so that now, I can see my GV voicemail’s in Gmail, send/receive SMS there, make phone calls with GV, and receive phone calls to my GV # via the Gizmo5 widget. Sweet… (It’s also possible to add both of these to iGoogle, but the URL’s are slightly different…)

Part of the reason this is possible is Google Labs – a feature most Gmail users probably have no idea about, but which is awesome. You have to go to “Settings” and then to “Labs” to see all the possibilities. There are some great ones. The problem is, they could disappear at any time, but aside from that… Google Calendar, Google Docs, the ability to have chat on the right, “mark as unread” button, send SMS in Gmail chat, and, for the purposes of this post: Add any Gadget by URL… Very important! Once you have enabled that, you can enter the URLs below to add either GoogleVoice and/or Gizmo5 gadgets to Gmail…

Oh, disclaimer: the Gizmo5 gadget is too wide for Gmail, but with the side-side scrollbar, it’s still usable… Enjoy!

Google Voice by Nicholas Wilde
http://hosting.gmodules.com/ig/gadgets/file/103004048084238050439/GoogleVoice.xml

GizmoCall by Br. Francis Therese
http://hosting.gmodules.com/ig/gadgets/file/103368509318653270970/gizmo5.xml

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GoogleVoice for easy audio/text recording for eLearning

I retweeted a post today that went like this: “@rosslarocco,@gfriese: 3 ideas to create #eLearning content with #GoogleVoice, http://ow.ly/hFR7 easy audio recording 4 faculty!” After visiting that page it hit me that the text transcription of the voicemails in GoogleVoice could have some implications for section 508 compliance in online courses. Basically, by using GV to record audio you will also automatically get a text transcription of the audio. Although you won’t have the highest quality of audio, as we’ve seen over the last decade or so, great content overcomes diminished production values. Also, the text transcription won’t be perfect, but after touching it up, you will have at least had a super easy way to record and embed audio into your course, as well as a head start in transcribing the text for the audio.

So here goes:

And here’s the text, which I can retrieve from either the email GV generates or logging into GV itself:

Hey,  this is Clark. This little mini lecture is about how you can use your google voice number to leave yourself a voicemail and then you can embed that into your course has an audio file. So you could use it for recording, say, a little mini-lecture or an announcement for students for which want audio and so on. And then once I’m done, of course google voice is also going to transcode or make a transcription of that voicemail into text which means that I can take that text and I can touch it up, because I’m sure there’ll be a few errors in there, or you know here or there. But I can touch that up and then I can, you know, use that text transcription to make this audio more section 508 compliant by including the text transcription of the audio file in my course as well. So I’ve got an easy way to call in by phone, basically, or on the computer as I’m doing and make an audio recording that I can… it’ll give me an MP3 of that recording it’ll make make it so that I can embed that recording into an activity or discussion forum in my Moodle course, for example. And it will also transcribe it in the text so it’s kind of a multifaceted easy way of doing audio for an online course and helping you along the way of getting a text transcription for that audio as well.  So I think that is pretty cool and, have a great day, thanks.

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Converged Phone Number / VOIP Solutions

Here are some of the things I’ve currently be using: (in a non-cellular region ie. no iPhone or the like:)

  • Gizmo5 – very much like Skype, and supports porting your number. Cost is similar to Skype, but it also works with other instant messengers. Calls can be forwarded to Skype, GoogleTalk, and other places.
  • Gtalk2VOIP – turns out this little Russian invention will allow you to receive SIP calls in Gmail’s Chat window (if you have the audio/video plugin installed) – even though they “only support using the GoogleTalk application” which is only for PCs (and they actually went as far as to say “use Google Voice or don’t use it at all” which was rather annoying…) Anyway, I found that if I set up their service and used it on the Mac in Gmail chat, I can receive calls to my 718 SIP# – for up to 3 minutes for free. Turns out they also have a “follow me” number you can set, and if you use an SIP URI, it will forward to that for free if you don’t answer the Gtalk call.
  • Skype – of course, for skype to skype calls. And SkypeOut is reasonable at under $30 for unlimited calling to land lines and call forwarding. But SMS is too expensive, there’s no way to port a number to Skype.
  • Google Voice: Speaking of SIP URI’s, Google Voice just took over from where GrandCentral left off, and is looking good, as you can have 1 number ring all your other numbers. GV has an SIP URI you can plug into the GTalk2voip Follow Me field, so that calls are routed to your Google Voice number, or, your Gizmo5 number which also supports SIP URI.

Ok, confused yet? I’ll map it out:

  • Someone calls my old 718 # from a land line.
  • This actually calls my SIP number at Inphonex.com
  • It rings me in Gmail chat – thanks to Gtalk2Voip connecting to my SIP provider (free up to 3 min.)
  • If I refuse or don’t answer, it forwards to my SIP URI. Let’s say that’s set to my Gizmo5 SIP URI. (free)
  • If I don’t answer there, it’s set to forward to my Skype name. (free up to 3 min.)
  • If I don’t answer there, it’s set to forward to my GoogleVoice number. (free)
  • That will ring my cell, office, home or other number.

It’s all pretty dumb, but it seems to work, and that way if I’m running around here or there, one can just dial 1 number and it should track me down.

If or when Google Voice starts allowing number porting, and receiving calls in Gtalk, I will port my 718 # to GV, drop inphonex, save some money, and then I’ll have 1 converged number which I’ve been using for years, and can simultaneously ring my cell, office, Gtalk, Gizmo5 (and thus, Skype). I’m actually glad Skype doesn’t allow number portability, as I might have ported my number there previously and been stuck. Notice that among them, currently I’m paying for SkypeOut and for Inphonex. Once GV allows porting, I should be able to drop the Inphonex and only pay for SkypeOut to have full coverage. Whew. Is there anything more boring than this blog post?

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How Netflix Can Screw You With “Holds”

Have you ever put your Netflix account on hold while on vacation or for some other reason? Did you realize that under Netflix’s current business practices and policies could actually end up paying for your account anyway, even though it’s on hold?

I put my Netflix account on hold on December 2, 2008, because I was getting tons of videos to watch for the SAG awards nominating committee. Unfortunately, what I didn’t notice was that my credit card had just paid for November 28 – December 27, 2008. So I figured – I bet Netflix is sophisticated enough to catch that and give me credit, or roll the credit forward into the next month of service…. Oops.

Then, on January 15, 2009, I was notified that my hold had ended, and I decided to lengthen it, so I changed it to March 1, 2009. Meanwhile, my credit card had already been charged again, on January 15, 2009. Double whammo!

So then March 1, 2009 rolls around (today) and yet again, I am charged for the next full month. There are still no credits in my billing page, no acknowledgment of the fact that I had paid for nearly 2 full months of “on hold” service. So I call up Netflix, and lo and behold, I am able to be given credit for the January charge, but NOT the December charge, because it was too long ago. Yeah. Uh… Huh?

So Netflix is sophisticated enough to manage putting your account on hold or off hold, but not to connect that with its billing system, apparently. The morals of the story is:

  1. If you put your account on hold, best to either do this on the last day of your current paid for cycle, or monitor what you have paid for and when, and call Netflix right away if you deserve credit – their systems are currently set up to screw you if you don’t call or wait too long.
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COIL Center Conference: Cross-Cultural 2.0

From Collaborative Online International Learning Conference, Purchase, New York, November 2008:

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SLOAN-C ALN Conference 2008: Faculty Development, LMS Migration and the iPod…

From SLOAN-C ALN Conference, Orlando, Florida, November 2008: Did I Ever Tell You the One About the Faculty Development, the LMS Migration, and the iPod?

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Excellent Video!

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Netvibes and sites.google….

I’m psyched about Netvibes’ “public page” – which allows one to set up a publicly available collection of RSS feeds, images, widgets, tabs, etc… It’s like a portal and RSS aggregator that can be shared with the world. If only it were possible to co-create the public page with a group….

http://www.netvibes.com/distancelearning/

netvibes

netvibes

Then, there’s Googles “sites” – which is basically Google’s foray into wiki-dom. And what a fine foray it is. I find it better and easier to use and with better features than pbwiki, zoho, and loads of others. There is also the added advantage of single sign-on with Gmail, integration with Google Docs, Calendar, widgets, etc etc… If only the embedded spreadsheets and docs were read AND write….

Anyway, the two of these = some serious possibilities for web 2.4.2… I could see some serious community-building and cross-cultural collaborative projects come out of these. They really do need an easier way to incorporate easy synchronous live activity such as chat, though… Perhaps a DimDim widget?

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Plugoo vs. Wimzi

Since part of my job is tech support for end users of Moodle, I’ve become a recent fan of web page-based widgets that speak to instant messengers. That is to say, I can run my usual instant messengers (AIM, Gtalk) and embed some HTML code into various places on the web where users can just strike up a chat with me, ask questions, etc. and get realtime help – and it comes through to my instant messenger. Users seem to love it. They are used to putting in tickets that can take up to 24 hours for a response.

BUT, the problem is, I can’t seem to find THE PERFECT IM WIDGET… I’ve frequently been using Wimzi:

Wimzi IM Widget

Wimzi IM Widget

– the AIM widget, but it has several problems:

  • The Flash version doesn’t correctly show if I am “available” “away” or “offline” and
  • the HTML version doesn’t seem to work at all as of late, and
  • the “name” space doesn’t seem to do anything at all, which baffles users when I ask them for their name and they’ve already typed it in, and
  • there’s no way to “pop out” the widget so that users can easily pop it out and chat while they continue to surf/work.

Then I stumbled onto Plugoo, which also looks promising. Like Wimzi, it allows a high level of customization (actually, quite a bit more customization for colors, messages, and sizes), as well as a “detach” icon for detaching/popping the widget out. Well, it LOOKED promising.

Plugoo IM Widget

Plugoo IM Widget

As it turns out, it:

  • takes a lot longer to load,
  • doesn’t respond to changes in status (away, offline) unless the user reloads the page or clicks
  • the detach icon doesn’t show up or work, at least in Firefox on a Mac.
  • It’s also generally a bit slower to respond – probably because it goes through their server (which also adds more potential functionality.)

Oh well, I thought I had found the one. The detach thing isn’t a dealbreaker, either, but the non-response to changes in status absolutely is. Wimzi’s widgets change immediately when I change my availability status.

I’ll keep looking, and if anyone knows of another that meets these requirements, please let me know…

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NERCOMP 2008: An Outsourced Open Source LMS and a Pot of Gold?

Here’s the presentation from the NERCOMP Annual Conference in Providence, RI, March 11, 2008:

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