Tag Archives | technology

Expat Tech: Twitter

twitter 300x110 Expat Tech: TwitterUnless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, you’ve probably heard of Twitter. It has been covered by every major news source, spoofed on the Daily Show, made the talk show circuits, contributed to the break-up of Jennifer Aniston and John Mayer, had Ashton Kutcher post a picture of Demi Moore bending over in a bikini and then race CNN to 1,000,000 followers, been touted as the next Google, seen Oprah sign up, praised, criticized, and more. So, now is the time for you to get on the Twitter bandwagon.

This post is not going to go into the intricacies of Twitter – there are tons of pages that already do that – but we’re going to talk about how you can use Twitter to meet people in Buenos Aires, find out news, ask for advice, see trends, help others out, etc.

The first step is to sign up for an account and get familiar with the service.  Twitter has a bit of a learning curve, there’s no doubt about that.  You’ll need to learn the concepts and vocabulary, acceptable behavior, find people to follow, get followers, personalize your page, and grasp other general concepts. You’ll probably wonder what the hell all these people posting less than 140-character updates is all about and why you’d be interested. Stick with it, it’s worth it. There is truly a wealth of information available on the site and it’s growing every day.

Once you’re familiar with using Twitter, the search function is the next place to really explore.  This is one of the powerful areas of the site, and in our example case, we’re going to show how to use it to monitor information about Buenos Aires.

– Go to Twitter Search and in the search box, enter: buenos aires OR buenosaires OR bsas OR #buenosaires
– Hit enter and you’ll get the results for any mention of Buenos Aires or its common abbreviations. You’ll find a wealth of information and people who may interest you. Feel free to reply to them or follow the ones who interest you. Unlike Facebook, following people you don’t know is highly encouraged.
– Now, on the upper right, you’ll see a link which says “Feed for this query.” You can copy that link to Google Reader and have a constantly updated stream of mentions regarding Buenos Aires.

Of course, you can do this for any terms that you are interested in.  This is the real power of Twitter – seeing a stream of information in real-time, unlike Google which must take the time to index web sites.

Give it a try and feel free to leave a comment on this post with your Twitter name.  I’m @davemccomb.  See you there!

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Expat Tech: Google Voice Coming Soon

google voice Expat Tech: Google Voice Coming SoonMore interesting news from Google – they have just announced Google Voice, a new service that will give you a new US phone number from Google with a slew of services to go along with it.  The basic premise of Google Voice is that you will have one number for all your phones, for life.  When this number is called, it can ring all of the phones that you have (home, work, cell) and also handle voice mail.  As these numbers change, your Google Voice number will remain the same.

Now, most expats are already using voice-over-ip (VOIP) services like Vonage or Skype, so why would you need this service?  While it’s true that this is not a VOIP service (yet) and you will still need an existing phone to place and receive calls, Google is offering a tremendous number of services that most other VOIP don’t provide – and they’re doing it for free.  Some of these services include:

  • Call US numbers for free and cheap international calling (might be cheaper than using another VOIP service)
  • Voicemail transcripts – receive your voicemail as email or text messages automatically converted from voice to text (Vonage charges $.25 per message for this)
  • Call screening – announce and screen callers
  • Listen in – listen before taking a call
  • Block calls
  • Taking calls – answer on any of your phones (No word on whether it will support international numbers or what the cost would be.)
  • Phone routing – phones ring based on who calls
  • Forwarding phones – add phones and decide which ring
  • Listen to voicemail – check online or from your phone
  • Notifications – receive voicemails via email or SMS
  • Personalize greetings – vary greetings by caller
  • Conference calling
  • Call record – record calls and store them online
  • Call switch – switch phones during a call
  • SMS – send, receive, and store SMS
  • And more… (Visit the Google Voice features page for the rest and to view short videos on these services)

The free SMS services are especially interesting since many expats are unable to send and receive US-based text messages, so this would be an easy way to enable that.  And, SMS text messages are becoming more and more critical as many US-based services use them as an additional measure of security for authenticating accounts (PayPal, Craigslist, etc.) or for approving bank transactions (I had this at Bank of America but had to turn it off when I moved to Argentina).

The downsides to Google Voice?

  • You will need to pick a new number from Google as there is not currently any way to transfer your existing number to them. This means changing your old number everywhere.
  • You still need a US based number for the call forwarding to work. At this time, the service is US only.  Though you could sign up just to get a free number with voicemail, SMS, etc. and not have the forwarding or calling features.
  • The Google Voice service is not yet available but will be rolling out over the next few weeks.  You can sign up to be notified when it launches.
  • There is no fax support, so it may not replace all of your numbers yet.

All things considered, it looks like an amazing service and I’ve already signed up for the wait list.  You can read more abotu Google Voice at:

–  Google Voice: A push to rewire your phone service [C|Net]
GrandCentral To (Finally) Launch As Google Voice. It’s Very, Very Good. [TechCrunch]

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Expat Tech: Google Translate

Today I thought I would start a series of posts about technology solutions that I have found to help deal with a number of common problems that I have encountered.  These are some technical ways I’ve been dealing with issues that I have run up against.

google translate Expat Tech: Google TranslateOne of my ongoing issues is not speaking or reading much (any) Spanish yet. While this presents some problems in the real world, it also means that it is more difficult to navigate some of the local web sites which are entirely in Spanish or to email some of the people I deal with while here.  Luckily, Google Translate makes all of this a lot easier.

Google Translate has a lot of features and options. From the main page, you can enter a block of text and have it translated from one language to another. This is great for handling email conversations.  You can also translate a web page by entering its URL and clicking translate. They also have a feature to add 1-click translations to your browser’s toolbar, so whenever you want to translate a site you’re viewing, all you have to do is click once.  The translations may not be perfect, but they definitely do the job. Note that this only works well on basic text and does not help with Flash-heavy web sites.

In addition to this, they have Translated Search which takes your search query in English, converts it into Spanish, searches Spanish language sites, and then converts the results back into English. There’s also a dictionary for looking up words and they’ve just released Google Translate for the iPhone too, so now it’s portable.

It’s an indispensible tool for anyone learning a new language or needing to view a foreign language web site.

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