I'm really beginning to enjoy watching the evolution of my off-grid life decisions by looking back at previous posts. i've tried many things in the past that didn't really work out. there's a lot of experimentation living this life style. i revel in it. i'm off paper towels and i'm on them again, just to see how much trash i was accumulating. Twice before, in this blog, i've discussed cellphones and internet. with no viable internet service provider, i had improvised an elaborate system to piggyback my wifi on AT&T's edge/3g network. i was kinda proud of myself, and it worked well for a while. however, cell/internet service is a constantly changing game. especially in the sprawling east el paso desert. wifi, it turns out is becoming as easy to find as a cellphone network. Southwestern Wireless (i'm gonna pay you guys as soon as i get paid, i promise) is a company based out of Roswell, NM offering internet service via long range wifi. radio waves from one antenna to another, and to my land. to be honest the service has too many users, and needs to be upgraded. i'm lucky to get 1mbps down and they promise 2, but it's my own wifi network that both my computer and my cell phone can use, in a place where AT&T is spotty at best.
This is the part that's evolving. more than ever, today we use cellphones to do computer things, and we also use computers to do cellphone things. Google (my dear and glorious leader) has created a service that allows people to send and receive SMS's (text messages) and phone calls using your gmail inbox/chat interface, in any major web browser. The service is called google voice. when the service first launched, i got my free "google number" and tested it out. incoming calls to that number could be forwarded to any other number, or to google talk (the chat feature in your gmail inbox). in addition when you got voicemails, they came in the form of an email, with an audio file you could download and listen to. Google even attempts to transcribe the message, which is both scary and kinda funny given how wrong they often are. It was a cool service, but i didn't want to give everyone i know a new number so i didn't use it very much.
Since 2010 i've been using the same exact version of iphone. An iphone 3, same iOS, almost always with broken glass, jailbroken, with the exact same SIM card they gave me when i last re-upped my contract. Winter 2013 was a little tooth and nail, but as usual the desert provided. only being able to buy gas and food, i let my cell phone bill get out of control, and AT&T suspended my account. for over a month, until i could pay the bill, i couldn't use my phone as a phone. instead i used my phone like a computer, using google voice to send sms's from my email inbox. i thought i was pretty clever until i started doing a little research about it, and found a HUGE community of people already way over my head. That's when i learned you could port your existing phone number to google voice for a one time fee of $20.
I got some money, and i paid off my cell phone, getting it reactivated and functional again, and then i went for it. porting my old phone number over to google was remarkably easy. google takes care of everything, it even cancels your contract with your existing carrier. that was a satisfying/terrifying moment, but only the beginning of a long and continuing journey.
It took 24 hours, and i could receive and place phone calls using my laptop from my old number. SMS started working again about 2 days later, and i would get them as emails. when i reply to the email it sends a text message back to the sender's phone, and it comes from my phone number, that i've had for the last 15 years! MMS, text messages with data attached such as pictures, don't work yet, and i think i don't get messages sent to more than one recipient (i've read), but it's hard to say unless someone tells me. the only only missing link was getting my iphone, using only wifi, to work like a phone again when making and receiving calls.
Google actually wrote an app for iphone that lets you make phone calls with google voice. Furthermore Voice is open source, and there are several third party apps that do what i wanted to do. but that old, broken, piece of shit iphone3 was so obsolete that none of the apps would even install on it. i needed a new phone, that worked more like a computer. I started shopping. i wasn't gonna buy a new phone, and used phones, generation 4 and higher, were still too expensive for me, so i resigned myself to wait for a good friend to upgrade to the newer, sleeker iphone5. it took about 4 months and a good friend i found. his old phone, a little worse for ware, was useless to him, and solid gold to me.
Last night, after getting the phone, i went into the settings, and switched the phone into airplane mode. then under "wifi," i turned wifi ON. finally i deleted everything on the phone, and installed the highest rated google voice app i could find in the phone's "App Store". The app was called "Mo+ GV Phone." (i cannot find a website for it.) Exhuasted from work, and staying up late to play with the new phone, i put it all away and went to sleep.
This morning when i woke up, i immediately launched the app, and i successfully called mom. the call was crystal clear! After the call i had mom call me back to see if it would ring. i put the phone to sleep and set it off to the side and waited, expecting it to go straight to voicemail. to my surprise the phone rang and i picked up, and talked to mom for another 5 minutes. Until google voice starts charging i have an iphone 4, which when on a wifi network, works using my phone number, for ZERO dollars a month. ** edit ** i've started using a different app. it's a little less invasive ad wise, and still free. it's called "talkatone."
Google is my dear and glorious leader, but still hoping my van doesn't break down,