Skipping the Voicemail Greeting on Cell Phones

The other day, I was calling a friend and had to sit through a lengthy greeting. It made me think that there has to be a way to skip over the greeting and just leave a voicemail. I looked at the different carriers and lo and behold…there is.  In order for this to work though,  you will need to know their carriers. Here’s how to skip the message and get right to leaving a message.

AT&T: press #
Sprint: press 1
T-Mobile: press #
Verizon: press *


Sending a SMS Text Message to a Cell Phone From Your Email

Every now and then, I’ll be on my computer and I’ll want to send a text message to a friend’s phone. I’ve realized that it’s much quicker for me to type the message in my email program and send it than to pick my phone up, enter the text and send.

If you know the carrier your friend or family member uses, it’s easy to enter their information in the To field of your email, type a subject and then the message. When you click send, it’s delivered to their phone. When they reply,  the reply is returned to your email.

The following is a list of carriers and the format you would use to send the message to someone.

Mobile Carrier – Maximum Characters – Email Address
Virgin Mobile – 125 characters –
Beyond GSM – 160 characters –
Cingular AT&T – 160 characters –
Verizon – 160 characters –
Boost Mobile – 140 characters –
Nextel – 140 characters –
Sprint – 160 characters –
T-Mobile – 140 characters –
Alltel – 140 characters –
Qwest – 185 characters –
MetroPCS – 185 characters –
Cricket – 143 characters –

You don’t have what? No Antivirus?

Twice in the past couple of weeks I’ve had people come up to me with strange pop-ups on their computers. When I ask if their antivirus programs were up-to-date, their response was, “I don’t know if I have an antivirus program.” Sure enough, when looking at their computers, there was nothing installed.

The belief of some is that the computer came with an antivirus program, so it must be there. Reasonable enough. What’s not is that the program that came preinstalled on the computer is usually only valid for 60 to 90 days and then it stops updating.  At that point, you either need to pay the vendor to continue with the updates, or you need to install a different antivirus program.

There are several very good free antivirus programs, such as Avira, AVG and Avast. These continue to get very good reviews and being that they are free, there’s no excuse not to have one.

What I recommend, after a user gets these strange pop-ups, is to go to, download their anti-malware program, run it to clean your system. Then, go to an online antivirus scanner, such as Panda Software’s Free Online Scan or Trend Micro’s HouseCall. One other tool to run at the Trend Micro site is RUBotted to see if your computer has been hacked and is now a Bot. After that, install one of the free antivirus programs above and make sure it is set to automatically update.

Even with all that, there’s no guarantee you won’t be infected when a virus comes out, but it’s a whole lot better than having no protection at all.

So What Is It Good For? Flash Drives v. External HD

I had someone call me the other day saying that they had plugged their USB thumb drive into their computer and it wasn’t recognized. When they plugged it into another computer, it came back saying that it wasn’t formatted and need to be. They had been storing files on it and it had failed.

I recommended that for backing up files, the better option would be an external USB hard drive. They have much more capacity for storage, have a small footprint, easily fits into the computer bag, and hold up better than thumb drives do.

I’m not knocking flash drives. I have several that I use but for me there is a convenience in having something I can put in my pocket as I’m repairing computers. For most people, who need something to backup and store files on, I wouldn’t recommend it.

External USB drives are very inexpensive, have enough capacity to back up your entire hard disk, often times come with backup software to automate the task and most of the time will last for several years.

Flash drives have a purpose, it’s just not as a backup device. Use an external hard drive.