Pointly – Location Sharing via SMS

My first app, under my personal banner is available in Google Play Store. iOS version is coming soon (as soon as Apple approves it).

Pointly is a location sharing app, where the device sharing location don’t need any data. The device receiving the location, also don’t need data, as long as the Google Maps is cached! All transactions happen through SMS. Completely private. More Android integrated features coming soon.

The app is FREE with no Ads or in-app purchases! Give it a try and give your feedback!

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Want a free cell phone service? Try this. (US Only)

We all know the cell phone plans in the US are expensive and inflexible. How about a carrier in this country that offers a service that is FREE? Yes, totally free. $0 per month. No contract. In comes, Freedom Pop.

 

Ok, what is the catch? Well, the only catch is that it is a “Freemium” model service where you get base everything free and they will try to nickel-and-dime you for the add-ons. If you are smart enough you can stay with your budget of $0.

What is included in this FREE service? Not bad at all actually. At the time of this writing, the FREE plan includes 200 minutes, 500 text messages and 500 MB of data. Yes, you read that right. This includes data as well.

One flip side is this carrier is a MNVO of Sprint. That means they leech onto Sprint network for their service and you need to have a Sprint based phone for this to work. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

You can get a HTC Evo 4G at eBay for around $50. This phone was crowned best cell phone ever on its hay day (well, 3+ years ago)! Once you get the device in good condition, go to this site, to activate your device to your account. Follow the instructions you get carefully to register the device to the Freedom Pop network and you are all set! There are other phones that may work as well, but HTC Evo 4G is tested by myself to work.

If you are in market for a cheap service for minimal usage, you cannot go wrong with this plan. For some unlikely reason it didn’t work out for you? You can walk out. You won’t sign a contract here!

[Updated] Chromecast: My First Impression

UPDATE: Chromecast can stream AVI, MPEG, and MP4 video files from computers. For now MKV files only play video, with no audio. May be a software update can address that.

Got my Chromecast delivered today and got a chance to play around with it.

What is it?

My previous article explains a bit about that.

https://sivag1.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/chromecast-cheapest-smart-tv-upgrade/

Setup:

Fairly simple. You can setup following provided instructions using your PC / Mac or in Android App. iOS App for setup is coming soon as of today. Doesn’t mean you cannot play videos from iOS devices. You can still play from iOS devices after initial setup. It is said to be having 4 GB of flash memory and 512 MB of RAM.

PROS:

  • Stream from Android and iOS devices (Netflix and YouTube for now. More apps coming).
  • Anything and everything you can play / open / do in your Chrome browser of Windows / Mac. This means a lot. Any content where there is no app, we can simply play from the computer. This also means you can open a local video file in your chrome and that can be streamed.
  • Queue Management of the content. I can keep adding videos from YouTube to the TV playlist. Other devices in the same WiFi network can see and control the queue as well.

CONS:

  • Only Chrome Support in computer browsers. That is enough anyway.
  • Sorry to Blackberry and Windows phone owners. Hey, still you can use your computer to stream.
  • Some local file types may have challenges, for now.
  • Mobile device streaming at the mercy of individual apps. Glad to have Netflix on board. There is YouTube obviously. I am expecting that supported app list to grow fast. Need an app to play local mobile device videos / pictures.
  • No mirroring of mobile device like iOS AirPlay.

Will it replace Roku / Xbox Streaming / Apple TV?

It potentially can, if you have a computer at home. For me, it definitely will. It will even replace my Home theater Windows PC. There is hardly any content that is not playable in computer but only in these streaming boxes. Anything that plays in Chrome browser, can be streamed to Chromecast. Period.

 

But if you are a heavy user of any of these other streaming boxes and got used to it, you may not throw it away. But for $35, you wouldn’t mind having this as well!


[Updated] Chromecast: Cheapest Smart TV Upgrade

[Update] Limited time Netflix promo is gone in just one day. Google claims too high demand.

Today Google introduced a brand new device called “Chromecast”. It is a HDMI dongle, that enables you to play Videos and Music into any HDTV.

How to use it:

  • Once the initial connection and setup is complete, you can select Videos and Music from a smart phone / tablet and play or queue them to be streamed to TV.
  • Content is NOT streamed from the mobile device but straight from Internet. So the mobile device can be continued to be used for other purposes.
  • The mobile device only acts as a remote.
  • Has so many bells and whistles, to differentiate from any other living room streaming solution.
  • What more, it can stream your PC / Mac Chrome browser exactly as is.

What Source Device is Supported:

  • iOS (6 and above) and Android (2.3 and above). No Blackberry or Windows support yet.
  • Any PC / Mac Chrome browser. Yes, “any” content of a Chrome browser can be shared / streamed to TV.

What is the cost?

In US, only costs $35. But that includes 3 months of Netflix for new, past and existing customers. Makes the net price only $11.

Where to buy:

For now Google Play, Best Buy and Amazon. I prefer amazon for free shipping and no tax.

It is currently sold out in Google Play and Amazon. It is back ordered with couple of weeks of delay. Click below to get going!

http://amzn.to/17EuEl3

Cut the Cord: Landline Phone Bill

It is interesting to see some Vonage advertisements that you no longer need to worry about (hefty) phone bills. But wait, you still are paying for their service a hefty $35 including all the fancy taxes and fees. Ok, what if, you really want your landline bill to be Free? In comes Google Voice.

http://www.obihai.com/googlevoice.html

The above link explains how this works and where to get the device. What are the caveats?

  1. Google Voice may not be permanently free. It is made free every year so far, but that does not guarantee next year.
  2. This setup does not support direct e-911 calls through Google Voice. But wait, before you panic, there is a work around. You can pretty much setup other carries just for this feature along with Google Voice. http://blog.obihai.com/2011/11/calling-911-with-obi-devices.html
  3. The unlimited International calling to countries like India is missing! Yes, Google Offers International calling at much cheaper rate of 2c to India (https://www.google.com/voice/b/0/rates). For a normal use of 1000 minutes of India calling, it costs $20 and still cheaper than Vonage. Also there are other cheaper carriers who offer 1c a minute making the switch more preferable (https://www.telcan.com/).

The PROS really outweigh the above CONS:

  1. FREE (except the one time device buy of $40-ish and any international calls)!
  2. Excellent call quality
  3. Google Voice features like call forwarding, voicemails etc.
  4. You can send / receive text messages too (in your Gmail)
  5. On the Go, want to access your Home Phone? Simply logon to apps like Groove Ip (Android) and Talkatone (Android and iOS) with your Google Voice and your home phone is in your palms anywhere you go, even International! Both incoming and outgoing!

But wait, if you are a Vonage user, you really cannot port your number to Google Voice directly? Weird. I used an intermediary – T-Mobile Prepaid. First ported the Vonage number for a free T-Mobile SIM. Then in a day or two, ported the T-Mobile number to Google Voice.

Try it and let me know your story in comments!