Sunday, November 30, 2008

How to make free long-distance calls UPDATED (AGAIN)

In a semi-continuation of my previous post, how to score all the free Starbucks coffee you want, now I'll tell you how to make all the free long-distance calls you want.

To be absolutely zero cost, you'll need three things for this:
  1. A phone line from which you can receive incoming calls for free
  2. A computer connected to the Internet
  3. A Grandcentral account
It may be difficult to get a zero-cost phone line, but perhaps you already have one and don't realize it. Have a phone at work? That'll do. Have pure-Internet DSL? You might have a phone line attached to it. I can't make long-distance calls from either my home or work phones, not directly, but I CAN receive incoming calls, which is the important thing.

Second is an Internet connection you can access, which again isn't free. Although, I do have a free connection at work, and there are a number of open Wi-Fi access points around my apartment. Since you're not going to be browsing around the web or downloading anything, it shouldn't be too terrible to jump on someone else's connection for just a moment. Dial-up is right out, though, since you need that phone line to be open (unless you have two+ phone lines, in which case it's fine).

The most difficult of the three to get will be the Grandcentral account. Grandcentral is a fantastic service that is currently free (although they have stated that some features may become for-fee once it leaves beta, but now that Google owns them...).

So, if you don't already have a Grandcentral number (and why not?), head on over to and reserve one. You'll have to spend some time on the waiting list, but you should get through eventually. Then come back here.

Got one? OK, the feature you're going to use is called Click2Call. From your call log, or messages tab, or address book, you'll be able to see CALL buttons next to the phone numbers of your contacts. Click that, and you'll get a prompt with your phone numbers on it.

Pick a phone number, Grandcentral will call you, and when you pick up it will call your contact.

Even if that is a non-local number.

On George's suggestion, I googled a restaurant in Toronto, Canada, and tried the same trick with them. I got through, no problem. So, technically, this is a way to make free international long distance calls too. However, when I tried a number in Japan, it didn't work, so you're limited to the US and Canada. Still, more than worth the price of admission ($zero).


Having had to recently make a brazillion calls this way, I found a much easier method. Previously, I was editing an account to point to the number I wanted to call, then calling it. But you have to edit the account again FOR EVERY NUMBER. When you must make many such calls, it quickly becomes a pain in the ass.

SO! Now I call myself.
I select my own address book entry, call my home phone, and input the number I want to call as the temporary number I'm calling from.

Now, if I were to try to do this when calling an actual person, it would be a bit strange. Their phone would ring, it would pick up, they'd hear my phone ring, then I'd pick up. But, since I'm calling automated systems, it's no problem. Although, I DO miss the first part of the menu sometimes.

OH! I just thought of a wonderful terrible prank. ^_^ Obviously, it starts with picking two random numbers from the phone book...

Hello, clever people. So, pick two random phone numbers. Put one in your address book, and call it.... from the other (temporary number). These people are going to have no idea what's going on. Guy A picks up his phone, it then calls another person (Girl 1), who wants to know why Guy A is calling. Guy A is very confused; someone called HIM! Argument ensues. Give them a minute or so, then do it again. And then again. That's the mean part. Here's the EVIL part: Switch the numbers. Now Girl 1 is calling Guy A. Even GREATER confusion ensues. And now here's the drawback: Each person will be getting YOUR number on their caller ID, so you're not going to be too hard to track down. ^_^

Update Again:
Now that GrandCentral is Google Voice, they took this little trick and put it right on the front page, with a simple button to press. They even tell you about it in the FAQ. So much for trickery, eh? (There's also super-cheap international calling. 2 cents/minute to Japan? Really?*)

[*Update again, again: No, not really. Japan is up to 3 cents/minute, and Canada is no longer free it's now 1 cent/minute. Darn economy!]

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

I have to admit, I'm a fan. SMBC (by Zach Weiner) is one of the funniest webcomics I've seen, and it's updated so frequently! Unlike some comics. (PBF, I'm looking at you)

(Remember to hover over the red dot for a bonus votey-comic)

Pickup Lines that don't work
(There are a lot of these, but there's no text index so I couldn't find the others. If you have a webcomic, please, put Oh No Robot in your template.)

As a former English teacher, I identified with these

As a computer scientist, I identified with this one

As a person with both a penis and an Internet connection, I identified with this one

For George

About religion

About MY religion
(scroll down to see the future of creationism vs evolution)

Whenever I see these, I think of my vegetarian friends

You can't argue with math

Also, here is Zach (on the left) with Marty, demonstrating Marty's newest magic trick for the iPhone.

(also, YouTube has widescreen now?)

Monday, November 24, 2008

As You Wish

This comic made me feel old.

(Also, 222 more posts until the jackpot)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Downloading Often Is Terrible


This has been up for almost a month, and I'm just hearing about it now?

Friday, November 21, 2008

I Hate Stupid People

So, this great site called "Let me google that for you" showed up on Digg. I *LOVE* this site. You can get a URL that will take someone to an animated page where it types in their query and presses submit and sends them to the Google search results. Fantastic!

Then, in the comments, someone suggested this link. It's a LMGTFY link that takes them to the JFGI site. JFGI is another great site for people tired of asking them questions they could be asking Google. Brilliant!

But the long URL gives it away, so I wanted to make a TinyURL. A handy new feature of TinyURL is that you can specify the codeword in the link. So, instead of I could have something like EXCEPT I CAN'T.

Someone (quazerjim) took that URL already. It looks like they wanted it to be a recursive call to LMGTFY. But they failed, oh so miserably.

FIRST of all, Google doesn't index redirects. SO, it was never going to work anyway.

SECOND, they didn't type in the query correctly! Did they even TRY? CHECK YOUR LINKS, PEOPLE!

lmgfty was taken, jfgi was taken... Sheesh.

I did manage to get a SnipURL though:
Should be easy enough to remember, if you ever need it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grad School II

How to tell when you're ready for Grad school: When you realize that you've had all the sleep you're ever going to want to have.

How to get free Starbucks drinks

Short version:
  1. Buy a Gold card and a drink. Pay $25.
  2. Return Gold card. Get $25.
  3. Go to step 1.
Long version:
Starbucks has a new Gold card. It costs $25, and you get 10% off your drinks for a year (and some other benefits, like access to the wifi). Also, you get a free drink when you buy it.

Most importantly, you have 30 days to return it if you change your mind.

I know this, because I thought that the Gold cards were like the regular Starbucks cards, where you pay $25, and you have a $25 credit on the card. Well, that's not the case. When I found that out, I returned my Gold card, but they of course did not charge me for the drink they gave me when I got it. So, free Starbucks. ^_^

Offer good while supplies last, or until they close this loophole.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I'm offended by Peta, so I don't talk about them much. But recently this comment by RogerStrong showed up on Digg.
I have a personal theory that PETA is run by the meat industry.

An ad campaign a few years ago demeaned murdered women in B.C. A PETA billboard in Boston compared the suffering of cattle to that of Jews in Nazi Germany. They tried to put up a billboard in Santa Fe featuring a pig with the caption: "He Died for Your Sins."

A popular and respected animal rights movement would lead to higher and more expensive standards for raising farm animals. To prevent this, they've created an organization with so much disgraceful publicity that the term "animal rights group" becomes synonymous with "a bunch of wingnuts."

PETA repeatedly attacks groups like the March of Dimes, the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and the American Cancer Society for conducting animal testing to find cures for birth defects and life-threatening diseases. They've urged Yasser Arafat to spare animals in suicide bombings, with no concern for the humans who were being killed.

This keeps rational people away from the animal rights cause. If PETA didn't exist, the beef and pork industries would be smart to create an organization just like them.

3rd Cutest

My Internet travels have lead me to the third* cutest kid on the planet (and possibly a future dictator):

*The first being my nephew and the second being Capucine**

**Via Thomas' site.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ben takes a photo of himself everyday

'A take-off on the recent "____ takes a picture of ___self for __years" trend.' Of the bunch, this one is my favorite, for reasons that become obvious when you watch it. I can't believe I haven't posted this already.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Science Bless the Internet and all who dwell within the Internet.

Topless Wii is probably NSFW.

If it IS SFW where you work, I want to work there.

Friday, November 07, 2008

John Williams Tribute


Pretty much the coolest thing I've seen all day.

Update: GONE. See it on Corey's Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Night

Just saw this on

I'm as pro-Obama as the next guy, but I'm not sure what criteria they're using to say that his 46% beats McCain's 52% for Michigan.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Grad School