SMS searching, the Windows way.

20-11-2006 by Dylan Tweney

Not one to be left behind by Google, 4INFO, and Yahoo, Microsoft has just launched its own SMS search service. It works a lot like the others do: You create a text message with your query, then send it to a special short code — in this case, 95483 (which corresponds to “WLIVE” — for “Windows Live” — on your cell phone’s keypad).

Here are some of the queries you can use with Windows Live Mobile SMS Search:

  • Business searches by location: “florist san mateo ca”
  • Reverse phone number lookups: Just enter the phone number
  • For stock quotes, use the letter Q plus a ticker symbol: Q AAPL
  • For instant answers from Encarta and other reference sources, start your query with a question mark: “? war of 1812”
  • For definitions, start with the letter D: “D ennui”

For all the details, check out the Windows Mobile SMS web site.

And here’s a blog entry announcing the service: Windows Live Mobile launches SMS Search Beta

Sprint users with Palm 700wx phones: SMS trouble.

16-11-2006 by Dylan Tweney

According to treocentral.com, some users of Sprint’s 700wx have had problems sending SMS text messages. In some instances, Treo users are not able to send SMS messages to recipients using other carriers or certain other Sprint phones. In other cases, Treo users may receive duplicate messages, particularly if the messages are longer than 140 characters.

According to the site, Sprint customer service is aware of the problem but has not yet provided a fix for it: “Palm and Sprint are aware that 700wx customers have been experiencing issues sending SMS messages within and outside the Sprint network. … We are working on an update which will be available via the web or over-the-air by the end of the year. In the meantime, Sprint customers may request credit for any charges incurred as a result of this error.”

Treocentral has a forum discussing the Treo SMS problem. And you can always contact Sprint customer service if you need specific help or want your account credited for the extra text messages.

UPDATE 11/21/2006: Palm has issued a patch for the Treo 700wx that fixes this problem; Treocentral has the details. Or click here to download the update from Palm.

SMS messages as forensic evidence.

by Dylan Tweney

Be careful what you send in a text message. A company called Paraben Corp. sells software that allows police to retrieve SMS messages that you’ve sent or received on your phone. In fact, at least one killer got nabbed when the police found a text message on his phone confessing to the murder he’d just committed.

How long do text messages linger on your phone? That depends on how actively you text. If you send a lot of SMSes, old messages might only stick around for two weeks or so. For less avid texters, old messages could linger for a couple months.

Generation Text Finds It Isn’t Easy Getting Rid of Cellphone Messages (WSJ – subscription may be required)

Send SMS messages from Skype.

by Dylan Tweney

Good news for people who use Skype: You can send SMS text messages to your friends’ mobile phones from within Skype. You need to have Skype 2.5 for this to work. For Mac users with the beta (pre-production) version of Skype 2.5, you can also receive text messages in Skype, so your friends can reply to you.

To send a text message from Skype, go to the Tools menu and select Send SMS Message. You’ll be prompted to select the recipients from your address book, but you can only pick from those who have entered their mobile phone numbers in their Skype profiles, or for whom you’ve entered mobile numbers in your address book. Or, you can enter the mobile number of the recipient manually if he or she isn’t already listed.

You can specify whether you want the text message to list your Skype ID or your mobile number as the sender of the message. If you want to be able to receive replies, you will need to have an SMS-enabled mobile phone.

This is a convenient way to send a message to several people at once, since Skype lets you enter multiple recipients.

Note that you will need SkypeOut credit to send SMS messages. Skype charges a tiny bit less than 13 cents per text message ($0.129 to be exact).

More info on Skype 2.5 for Mac: Skype adds SMS to new Mac beta

Download Skype 2.5 beta for Mac

Download Skype 2.5 for Windows

New SMS speed record.

12-11-2006 by Dylan Tweney

Think you can text pretty fast? Try typing this 160-character sentence: “The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.” A 16-year-old Singaporean student, Ang Chuang Yang, did it in 41.52 seconds, using a standard phone keypad. That’s a new world record, beating the previous record of 42.22 seconds set earlier this year. Clearly, having nimble fingers helps, as does lots of practice — but Ang also recommends using a phone with large keys on its dial pad.

SMS speed champ says use big keys | NEWS.com.au

Breaking up via SMS.

10-11-2006 by Dylan Tweney

SMS text messaging is useful for a lot of things: Sending notes to your friends when you’re in a meeting or some other place you can’t talk; letting people know where you are without interrupting whatever they’re doing; passing love notes; getting information from Google SMS or 4INFO. But there’s one thing you should never send via SMS: a Dear John letter.

Text messaging is way too impersonal (not to mention brief) to use it for breaking up with someone. Not that it stops some people from doing just that. In fact, it appears that Britney Spears just broke up with her husband (and father of her children) Kevin Federline via SMS. Now that’s cold.

This video catches the moment on film where KFed gets the bad news via SMS (it’s about 1:30 into the video).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GliNjOzP1M]

San Francisco quake alerts via SMS.

31-10-2006 by Dylan Tweney

Do you live or work in San Francisco, or know someone who does? AlertSF is a free service that will send text messages to your phone, BlackBerry, or pager whenever an earthquake occurs in the city. The alerts may also include potentially critical information about where to get help or emergency services after a disaster. The system is also set up to deal with a tsunami hitting San Francisco.

To sign up, go to http://alertsf.org and sign up for a new account. You’ll need to enter an email address (that will become your login) and password, then tell the system what kind of phone or pager you have and what it’s number is. Once you’ve created an account, it will send a confirmation text message to your phone. You can also pick one or more areas of the city or specific addresses that you’re interested in, so you can keep tabs on your home, office, and child’s school, for instance.

Important note: Systems like this can only work if your carrier’s cellular network is still available after a disaster. If a tsunami strikes your city and knocks down all the cell towers in a particular region, your cell phone will not work at all, for voice or for text messages. It’s also important to remember that you may not be able to recharge a cell phone if the power is out. However, if your phone is working and the cellular network is available, text messaging can be an extremely effective way of communicating during an emergency, and services like AlertSF can really help.

Texting for prizes.

30-10-2006 by Dylan Tweney

High school students in Chula Vista, California recently got a surprise visit from hiphop mogul Diddy. How? Students at the school sent more text messages than any other San Diego area school during a local radio station contest.

During the four-day contest, Chula Vista students sent 34,000 SMS messages to the radio station, with some students sending hundreds of messages singlehandedly.

According to the news report, 40% of Americans with cell phones have tried SMS texting — and it’s definitely catching the eye of marketers interested in snaring our attention.

For instance, it’s not uncommon to find SMS “short codes” embedded in ads, CDs, or other products. Send a message to this special short code and you can get access to special ringtones or information — or you can get a chance to win a prize.

Exciting new marketing trend? Or yet another high-tech way to distract students from their schoolwork? Let me know what you think.

SMS Viruses: Should You Be Worried?

06-09-2006 by Dylan Tweney

Last week, the antivirus software company McAfee announced that they’d seen several examples of malicious software targeting people via SMS. McAfee dubbed these “SMiShing attacks,” for “SMS phishing.” (Phishing is a kind of fraud where people send bogus email messages, purportedly from some official source like your credit card company or a government, to try to trick you into giving up your personal information or clicking on a dangerous URL.)

The way these attacks worked is that people would receive an SMS message saying something like “You’ve just been subscribed to a dating service!” or “This is your cell phone company. Click here to download our cell phone antivirus software.” Then, if people responded to that SMS message — either by replying to the SMS or by following the URL embedded in it — something bad would happen. In one case people were charged $2 when they tried to unsubscribe from a bogus dating service. In another case, clicking on the link loaded “Trojan Horse” software onto your phone, disabling it.

Does this mean that you need to start worrying about SMS viruses? Not really. Both attacks were fairly small, and they were limited to European cell phone users. Also, the victims had to have a particular cell phone model for the attacks to work. All in all, these were pretty weak security attacks.

Still, the attacks underscore an important lesson: Don’t act on anything in an SMS text message unless you know, and trust, the sender. Even if you get a message that says it’s from your cellular carrier, don’t click on any links in the message or reply to it. Instead, dial your carrier’s usual customer service phone number — or visit your carrier’s web site — to investigate the offer before doing anything about it.

AMBER Alerts via SMS.

05-09-2006 by Dylan Tweney

AMBER Alerts go out whenever the police have information about child abductions. In many cases, these alerts — which are usually displayed on TV broadcasts, freeway information signs, and other public places — have resulted in timely tips that have helped law enforcement recover the kidnapped child.

Now you can get AMBER Alerts on your cell phone, too. The wireless industry association, CTIA, teamed up with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the U.S. Department of Justice to deliver geographically-targeted AMBER alerts via SMS. That means whenever an AMBER Alert goes out in your area, you’ll get an SMS text message telling you what to look for (the make and model of the kidnapper’s car, or a license plate number, for instance).

To found out more, see the CTIA Wireless Foundation page on Wireless AMBER Alerts, or go directly to the sign up page for wireless AMBER Alerts.

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This site is published by Dylan Tweney, a professional writer, editor, and content strategist.