Free Money! (No, Seriously)

Back in the good old days (late 1990’s) companies like AllAdvantage paid us just for browsing the web (and having a small window that covered the bottom of our screen and rotated ads). I made some money off these programs (I think maybe $100 from AllAdvantage), but due to abuses these programs turned down (folks found ways to automate the process of appearing as if one was using the computer).

Bag of Money, image thanks to mcol and OpenClipart.
Bag of Money, image thanks to mcol and OpenClipart.

Well, it looks like the good old days may be coming back to us – so get in while you can. Okay, honestly, I think at least this company has a more sustainable and less cheatable model. I actually think its a bit of genius and I expect them to do well – though some competitors might come onto the scene who will offer them a run for their money.

What am I talking about? An Android application called Locket. If you have an Android smartphone (e.g. Verizon Droid, Samsung Galaxy, HTC One, and almost all smartphones that aren’t Apple iPhones), you can use this application.

The concept is simple. When you turn on your phone’s screen to take some action (make a phone call, browse the internet, text message, play a game, write a note, check your bank balance) you are immediately presented with the “lock screen.” You may a swipe motion to “unlock” the screen – this “lock” mechanism prevents you (at least theoretically) from accidentally pocket dialing folks.

Locket is a small Android application that “takes over” your lock screen. When you turn on your screen you’ll see an image (an ad). Its unintrusive, oftentimes interesting, and you can unlock like usual. Every (well almost every) time you unlock your phone, Locket gives you $.01.

Granted, that isn’t much. You aren’t going to get rich off this program – but seriously, it doesn’t reduce your productivity at all and I actually find the lock swipe mechanism to be better than that included by default with my Samsung Galaxy S3.

I’ve been using Locket for around 24 hours and have earn $0.18. Hahaha. Yeah, it isn’t much, but lets multiply that times a year: 365 * .18 = $65.70. It still isn’t much – but it almost covers a month with Verizon or AT&T of cell service and you are essentially being paid to do nothing.

I don’t use my phone super frequently. I use it for more than most people do (e.g. note taking, medicine adherence monitoring, banking, health monitoring, and so on) but not as frequently as many (I hate texting and phone calls) – so I imagine that others might earn a fairly easy $150 a year. Nothing to sneeze at, imho.

So, go get it. What does it cost you? No, I’m not getting paid to say this…I just like for people to use good products (and sometimes I do get paid, but not this time). 🙂

Escaping the Trap of Cell Phone Tracking

[Editor’s Note: This article is a guest post by JoBeth Hartford. She works for a mobile media company writing video scripts. She hopes to start her own mobile tech publication someday in the future. The article tackles the topic of cell phone tracking – mainly from a non-governmental angle – not highlighting the recent issues revealed by Snowden’s disclosures regarding the FCC. Personally, I’m not concerned about “Big Brother” watching me, I figured we have been being watched for years now. 🙂 My recommendation: stick with a smartphone, they make life easier…]

Introduction

The idea that the government can access private phone calls has always been a hot topic, bringing up questions like “Is government listening in?” “Are phone logs tracked?” “Can text messages be accessed?” After making headlines during the Bush administration, this subject has been in the news again recently, when it was discovered the government has been tracking cell phone records of people of interest.

The idea that your phone may not be as secure and private as previously thought has many people understandably concerned. After all, most people think when they call their friends, family, co-workers, or the guy who is handling their car repair, any information will stay between the exchanged voices on the cell phones.

The FCC and Phones

As it turns out, cell phone privacy is a real enough issue that the Federal Communications Commission recently planned a vote on whether to require cellular carriers to better protect their customers’ privacy. The new rules, if approved, would make sure that cell phone companies were taking “reasonable precautions” to safeguard any personal information, including which phone numbers their customers were dialing, the locations of the calls being made, and even how many minutes or hours the calls lasted.

The FCC began to take a hard look at cell phones and privacy matters after a security researcher discovered a couple of years ago that cell phone companies often utilize a specific type of software that is capable of gathering data about how and what consumers are doing with their cell phones. While the cell phone companies contend they only use the data to learn more about their phones and networks, it was concerning enough to cause the FCC to take action.

For most law-abiding citizens, the thought their mobile service provider or even the government can monitor a text reminding their spouse to pick up milk, or their calls to friends about what their kids are up to, is definitely troubling. While it seems safe to say people who are not doing anything wrong have nothing to worry about, the situation has Big Brother overtones that have many people wondering what to make of all of it.

How Cell Phone Users Can Take Action

Fortunately, there are steps cell phone users can take to help protect their privacy as much as possible. People who are truly concerned about this issue should opt for a disposable phone, which may be more difficult to trace back. Of course, this type of phone may not be the best solution for folks who truly need all the bells and whistles of a fancier device. In this case, people can use a free app such as Protect My Privacy, which stops other apps from getting a hold of contacts and other personal information stored on the phone.

Certain brands of cell phones also tend to be more easily accessible. For example, some phones are automatically linked to its owner’s Google account, which means each and every text and call is easily tracked. Inquire about your phone’s connections and privacy features. For those who are concerned about privacy, simply purchase a different type of cell phone.

What’s your opinion about the personal security of cell phone usage? Share it in the comments.

OhDontForget: Useful, But Not Perfect.

Oh Don't Forget SMS Remind Service logo.
Oh Don’t Forget SMS Remind Service logo.

Trying to keep track of what I’m supposed to be doing and when is complicated. I’ve gotten much better at it over the years – but I still manage to miss a meeting here or there, forget to pay a bill, or so on. I use Asana, Google Keep, and Google Calendar, along with their integrations into my Galaxy S3 smartphone to keep me going.

But now the question is – how do I keep other people going? I’m in the position of assigning responsibilities to folks – if it is something with an impending deadline, how do I remind them that the deadline is impending without wasting my time? And how do I remind someone if something needs to be done on a certain day or at a certain time of day? These are more difficult questions.

Right now I use a combination of Boomerang and Ohdontforget – neither of which is a perfect tool and both of which I wish would have their functionality integrated into Asana.

So what is On Don’t Forget? Its an SMS reminder service that allows you to schedule an SMS message to be sent to a specified phone number at a specified time and can include the ability to repeat the message on a specified basis.

So, lets say Isaac needs to do something for me tomorrow night at 7 pm, but I know he might forget –  I can use ohdontforget to schedule a SMS reminder to go out to him at 7 pm. This won’t help if he is out of the area, but as long as he is in the area – it is a lifesaver.

The service does cost $5/mo., but I’ve bit the bullet and signed up and have been using it for a few weeks. The biggest feature it doesn’t have that I would like it to have is the ability for individuals to reply back to my initial message with a status update: e.g. CANT, COMPLETED, POSTPONED, etc. Then I should get notified by email or text regarding this update. This way I not only know someone has been reminded, but I can also relax knowing that the task has been done (or make alternative arrangements if it isn’t getting done).

Besides that, I’d also like to see them add the ability to search sent SMS messages, to delete SMS messages en masse (especially sent ones), and to create templated messages. But all of these are fairly minor compared to the ability to receive status updates regarding tasks (and also to auto-kick off a snooze/delete of the reminder once the task is completed).