Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Latest Tinkerings

Google Voice

About a month ago I put my name on the "send me an invitation" list for Google Voice. Yesterday I finally received my invitation, and set the account up today.

If you haven't heard of this before, it's a free phone number from Google, free voicemail, free SMS messages, but not actual phone service. It rings all your existing phones, or just the phone you tell it to. It can forward SMS messages to your mobile phone or not. It can give different callers different greetings, and block callers. It handles voicemails as an email with an audio attachment, and attempts to transcribe the message.

The above image shows Google's attempt to transcribe me leaving myself a voicemail. Those of you who have heard me speak know I mumble terribly. In fact, I'm barely comprehendable when I'm right next to you in a quiet room. I left myself a mumbly message and said exactly the following:

"Hi Curtis, this is Fred. Give me a call when you get a chance. See ya'. Bye."

Hearing "Curtis" as "Chris" I've been putting up with my whole life, so no surprise there. I kind of slurred together "See ya" as one word, so missing that is understandable, too, I just don't know how they got "Ciao" out of it.

Another cool thing you can do is put a "call me" link on a web page or email that doesn't expose the phone number, and you can delete it later. Looks like this is going to be a fantastic service, and I'm happy I signed up early.

Ebay Merchant Account

Several years ago I helped a lady set up a website to sell her handmade jewelry. She owned a domain name and had a web host set up, and a php-based e-commerce engine that had hooks into Paypal. The main purpose of her seeking me out was to have me add code to the php scripts that could handle county lookups by zip-code, and offer a choice of counties to the user if their zip-code spanned counties (like mine does: 43081 crosses the county line between Franklin and Delaware counties). This was all to handle a new Ohio tax law that required Internet sellers to charge the correct tax rate for destination counties.

That part was pretty straight-forward; I just added a page that, if the destination state was Ohio, queried a lookup table (PostgreSQL, I believe it was... select county from lookup_t where zip = $input, something like that - after $input was sanitized, naturally), and prompted you if there was more than one hit. The hard part was understanding how it interacted with Paypal. To help me get that working, I signed up my personal account for merchant functions.

Long story short, I figured everything out, got the website working famously, and the lady who hired me never had enough sales to support the site. She contacted me a year or two later to retrieve the customer info from the database before the site was taken down. Bummin'. Although, now I can do this with my paypal account:

Bring a Bag of Awesome to your parties! (only $10, plus tax)

Hire Curtis and Liberty to come to your parties and bring their keen insight, skill at party games, clothing and computer repair, and optional bouncer services if the party gets out of hand. For each extra Bag of Awesome you buy, we'll bring some sort of treat - 6 pack of cider, pizza, hors d'eouvres, board game, paper mache sculpture, what have you. Buy now, we ain't getting any younger!

The above button is the result of me experimenting today. It's actually functional, so don't play around with it unless you really intend to send me $10. Plus tax.

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