Making the wifi-->landline connection
October 27, 2010 11:00 AM   Subscribe

I often work during the day in libraries or coffee shops with wifi but I'm too cheap to buy a cell phone. I have a laptop and a recent ipod touch. What are some clever ways I can contact my wife at home when I have something time-sensitive I need to share?

Here are some of my preliminary ideas, to get the thread started.

1. Email: she doesn't check it that frequently.

2. An email notifier that plays a .wav file would be cool. I haven't found one yet that works on windows and is freeee.

3. I would love to find a service that let me record a voice message and have it delivered to our landline.

4. I have the "Whistle" voip app, but it only works intermittently, and I'm trying to avoid actually making a phone call because it kills my writing buzz, if that makes any sense.

5. My wife has a cell phone but she just doesn't get text messages or hear her phone.

Upon reflection, it's almost like my wife doesn't *want* me to contact her. Hmmmm....maybe this is a social problem.

I realize these are narrow and weird constraints. Thanks for any tips.
posted by craniac to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
2. An email notifier that plays a .wav file would be cool. I haven't found one yet that works on windows and is freeee.

Hmm, does she use GMail? Or can you set her up with a free account just for messages from you? I use GMail, and both Chrome and Firefox have Gmail checker extensions that make a noise whenever I get an email so long as my browser is open. And they're free.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:07 AM on October 27, 2010

Is there a reason why you couldn't just use Skype too call the home phone or her mobile?

If it's truly time sensitive I think a call is the best option and it's pretty cheap.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:08 AM on October 27, 2010

I've never used this, but:

I suspect most services like this can't *really* be counted on in absolute emergencies, though. You'd need to have some system set up with her where she confirms she's gotten anything you send.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:11 AM on October 27, 2010

Do the new ipod touches have a mic? If so, couldn't you use the "call phone" feature from gmail or skype to contact your home landline.

I also recall numerous blog posts about "turning your ipod touch into a cell phone." Note that most will recommend a personal wifi device because they assume that you'll want these capabilities all the time. It sounds like you'll be happy just being able to call home from places that have free wifi, so you won't need one.
posted by kaybdc at 11:14 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seriously, call her from gmail. It's amazing on a stick. If you have Google Voice on the same Google account it will show that number in the caller ID.
posted by theichibun at 11:16 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

2. An email notifier that plays a .wav file would be cool. I haven't found one yet that works on windows and is freeee.

This is built into Windows. Control Panel - Sounds - New Mail Notification
posted by ssg at 11:19 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Gmail Notifier, if she uses Gmail.

Have you thought about getting a pager with a service that allows you to send pages via the internet? Get one and set it to vibrate. They're small enough an unobtrusive enough that you can always have them on you. I'd imagine they're dirt cheap now.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:36 AM on October 27, 2010

You could always use IP relay -- an operator will dictate to her what you type. Not exactly as convenient as google voice, but still kind of fun.
posted by orville sash at 11:39 AM on October 27, 2010

Seconding gmail's call phone feature. My office is in a cave with no cell reception, and for some reason even the landline in here is fuzzy and difficult to hear. I tried the call phone from gmail and it worked great. And free. You'll need headphones with a sensitive mic if you don't want to piss off everyone in the coffee shop, but otherwise, yeah. That's my vote.
posted by Buffaload at 11:41 AM on October 27, 2010

You can install Skype on your iPod touch and ask her to do the same on her computer. Then you'll be able to call her, and she will be getting a sound notification when you are calling. You can also add credit to your Skype account and call her landline/cellphone/whatever if something is really time sensitive.

That being said, if I were you I would just get a prepaid cellphone package. It works well for me as my conversations tend to be pretty short. You can get a simple phone for $20-$30 bucks and then just pay for as much as you talk. Provided you use it in time-sensitive situations it should be pretty cheap.
posted by adahn at 11:44 AM on October 27, 2010

You can download the "Line 2" app to your iPod touch and for $10/month you get unlimited minutes and unlimited texting as long as you are on WiFi.

You can also check out Whistlephone (you get a "phone #" to make and receive calls with).

Textnow, Textplus, Heywire are free text messaging apps.

You can IM using Skype, MSN Messenger or AIM.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 11:47 AM on October 27, 2010

If you have a 4th gen ipod touch, you can turn it into a phone, sort of. That will not solve the problem of your wife not checking the computer, though.
posted by rtha at 11:52 AM on October 27, 2010

A while ago I was visiting someone. Their (landline) phone rang, they listened for a minute and hung up. they said, "That was...a text." Apparently someone sent a text to their landline, and something (?) was able to transcribe it to voice, autodial and play it. We didn't know any more about it, but this exists out there somewhere.
posted by galadriel at 1:07 PM on October 27, 2010

+1 google voice or skype
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:27 PM on October 27, 2010

What about some sort of IM (I mostly use MSN to communicate, but there are tons of options). It's easy to have some sort of sound play when you IM her and it's way easy to do from either a computer or iPod touch. And then you don't have to call, but it's still pretty instant and conversational.
posted by R a c h e l at 2:15 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not to get all old school here, but couldn't you simply ask the library/coffee shop to use their phone? If you explain the situation, I'm sure they'd oblige. Plus there are those creaky old relics of an earlier age called pay phones.
posted by hiteleven at 3:38 PM on October 27, 2010

seconding the IP relay. you can type all you want, the operator reads it. you have to know the "codes" like GA and sksk and stuff, but you can google that.

Sprint TTY

and you can do it through your IM.
posted by ChefJoAnna at 5:04 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

it sounds like you're trying really hard to find a technology solution to a social problem. Tell your wife to check her email or text messages if she wants to keep track of what you're up to while you're at the library.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:20 AM on October 28, 2010

What I'm trying to do in these situations is give my wife an urgent piece of information without being drawn into a long, distracting conversation that sucks the energy out of whatever project I'm currently working on. I will probably buy her a smart phone.
posted by craniac at 12:12 PM on April 10, 2011

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