Make and receive calls with an iPod touch

I’ve been part of the growing mass that has dropped their landline in favor of a mobile-only phone connection. I’ve been, officially, without a landline for six years. The seven years prior to that a landline was primarily used for fax and dial-up.

I’m hardly ever on my cell phone. I much prefer communicating via email. It provides all information I need in a readable form, that I can organize, and easily access if needed. There are times, however, when a phone call is required, and I’m sure we’ve all experienced those overage charges that can really cut into your profits.

So how do I alleviate my mobile overage problem? I make outbound calls on my iPod touch via a wifi connection. I’ve been doing this for a while, but have really been pushing it lately since my cell phone use has dramatically increased.

Here is what you’ll need to use your iPod touch as a phone:

Google Voice
Before Google acquired this technology it was called GrandCentral. I had a GrandCental account, and was part of the invited group to move over to Google. In the beginnings of Google Voice you had to be invited to participate. Fortunately my invite came via the acquisition process.

To get a Google Voice account you will need a Google Account. For most, this means having a Gmail account, but you can have a Google Account and not use the Gmail service. I will say, however, that to fully utilize your iPod touch as a phone, you will need a Gmail account and Google Account. The reason is that we need to access Google chat, which is part of Gmail. I won’t go into the specifics here, as it seems fairly straight forward, but make sure you have both a Google Account (using the address) and a Gmail account.

When you first setup a Google Voice account you are asked to choose a phone number. You specify a city or area code, then they provide a list to choose from. Choose your number and setup your account.

Install Talkatone from the App Store. When you launch the Talkatone app the first time, you will be prompted to enter your Gmail email address and password. Make sure to use the Gmail account you used to setup Google Voice. Talkatone doesn’t require a special account. Instead it uses your Google Account to connect to Google services.

Login to your Google Voice account, go to Voice settings (access them via the little gear in the top right of the browser window). On the ‘Phones’ tab, check the box next to Google chat. Make sure to log out of all Google services, including Voice and Gmail.

Now, go to and login using the Google Account/Gmail account you used to signup for Google Voice. Find your contact list and click on the Call Phone action at the lower left section of the page. Make one call with the phone widget in GMail to your regular phone number. This step allows Talkatone to access the service, telling both Talkatone and Google that you’ve successfully setup Google Voice.

Finally, make sure to sign out of all Google services, including Voice, Gmail, and GTalk. If you don’t, calls made to your new Google Voice number will be forwarded to Gmail/GTalk and your iPod touch will not ring.

Come back to the Talkatone app and tap the ‘I did make a call from GMail web chat’. That way Talkatone will know that you successfully setup Google services.

You can now make and receive calls via Talkatone on your iPod Touch. Use the keypad to dial numbers direct, or use your Contact list. Get comfortable with Talkatone and visit the Settings tab. Make preferential selections for Notifications and Sounds.

And to clarify, you must have Talkatone open in order to receive calls. It’s not important that it be active, only that it be open and in suspended mode (aka multitasking). You can quietly keep it open while you use other apps on the device. When a call comes in, you will be notified (if you’ve setup your notifications as such).

I’d also like to say that while Talkatone supports SMS via Google Voice, I much prefer the Google Voice app for my texting. This didn’t use to be the case, but since Google Voice added landscape support, I’m sold on their app.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

QR Codes: What the heck?

We’ve all seen them, and they’re becoming more heavily integrated into print with the prolific infiltration of smartphones and other mobile devices. But what is it, and how can it be used?

A QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) first designed for the automotive industry. More recently, the system has become popular outside of industry due to its fast readability and comparatively large storage capacity. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be made up of any kind of data (e.g. binary, alphanumeric, or Kanji symbols).

Thanks again, Wikipedia!

QR codes are typically scanned by smartphones (or other mobile devices such as iPod touch) to direct the reader to a website or perform some other task more easily. For example, the reader can scan the QR code and be directed to your website without the need to actually type in the URL. This is done by using apps installed on the device. Qrafter, for example, is a good one. I prefer RedLaser. Different scanning apps provide different benefits. I like RedLaser because it can scan many different types of codes, including UPC bar codes, which then checks online (and sometimes local) resellers for the lowest price.

Beyond performing a cool, vital function, they also serve as a way to legitimize certain printed materials. I recently created some tickets for a Boy Scout Troop’s Annual Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser. The QR code simply directed the user to the troop’s website, but the purchaser of the ticket would assume it was a unique barcode number. This would inhibit the duplication of tickets and reduce fraud.

QR codes can be used to perform many functions. For example:

Browse to a Website
Bookmark a Website
Make a Phone Call
Send an SMS
Send an E-Mail
Create a vCard
Create a meCard
Create a vCalendar Event
Google Maps
Bing Maps
Geographical Coordinates
iTunes App URL
iTunes App Review URL
Android Market Search
Foursquare Venue URL
Youtube URL for iOS
Encode Latest Tweet of a User
Tweet on Twitter
Twitter Profile Image Overlay
Create Blackberry Messenger User
WIFI Network for Android
Free Formatted Text

So, now that we know how to scan them, how do we create them? I personally like the generator created by Kerem Erkan. It allows you to export the QR code to many formats, my favorite being vector EPS. This allows me to open the QR code in Illustrator, easily adding it to the client’s artwork.

It’s important to note that all of the data required to perform the action is stored in the QR code itself. No third party website or service stores the code behavior or tells the smartphone what to do. The scanner reads the QR code, decrypts it, then performs the action.

By the way, the QR code at the top of this post actually works. Give it a try. You should be taken to the mobile version of this blog.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

Organize and archive your workflow

When I first started in graphic design, back before CD burners and cheap platter storage, we used 3.5″ floppy disks to store customer’s digital artwork. We had a rack on the wall that held several hundred disks, all labeled and marked with numbers. Those numbers correlated with a database stored on the computer which listed what each disk held. It was quite cumbersome, but really all that was affordably available at that time.

Over the years we moved to larger tape drives, zip drives, flash, and so on, until we eventually came to DVDs and hard drives. We’re at the point now where regular consumers can have terabytes of storage, locally or on their network. And at prices that are remarkably cheap.

I’m very picky in the way I organize my files. All of my personal projects have their own folder. Business files have their own folder. Current websites have their own folder, as does current design and current video project. All websites are organized by domain, and all design projects are organized by client name. Any web sites or clients that are considered ‘dormant’ are moved to ‘archive’ folders. These archived folders are then moved onto DVDs for permanent backup. I should also point out, during all of this time, all files on every computer on our network are backed up in three places (delta, every hour), automatically. So, if a drive or DVD were to go bad, we could always find a replacement somewhere.

Now, when it comes to naming your files, be specific. I had someone chuckle when I used the accent marks on résumé instead of just typing resume. I had to explain that résumé (that important piece of paper you provide with a job application) and resume (starting a process which had been paused) are different. If I wanted to search my computer to find a résumé, it would be much quicker as all instances of resume would be removed.

Also, if you don’t know which project a piece is attached to, ask! It’s better to be organized when they come back 2 years down the road and want to make a change to the flow chart for the XYZ project. If you had simply named it ‘flow_chart_32’, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to find. Store it in a folder named ‘XYZ’ inside the client’s folder. This might seem overly simplistic, but I’ve worked with individuals that were very sloppy, and stored practically everything on their desktop. I’m not saying that’s bad, but ProGravix doesn’t allow it.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.