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Answering machine software for your PC does even more

January 1, 2003

in All Articles,Audio,Email and messaging

“Nobody’s home! Nobody’s home!” These original and inspired lyrics are to be sung in time with the opening bars of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (you know: “da da da DUM!”) These prerecorded answering machine messages were sold on TV and store shelves, right next to cassettes of Phil Collins and Madonna.

This was part of a 1980s fad, when answering machines first became popular. At the time, all they did was play a message and record responses. With such technology limitations, the message itself became the creative medium: “Thanks for calling the Kaiser Water Works. Sorry, none of the drips can come to the phone. BEEEP.” (Okay, at least in my house, maybe “creative” wasn’t the right word.)

My current answering machine lets me dial in remotely and make and listen to messages. It’s a digital machine instead of cassette tape, which means the sound is clearer, but the recording space is limited to about 10 minutes. These functions are pretty standard today.

Your computer can be an answering machine too, and can have far more features than what you’d normally get at the store. So turn your computer on and plug in your modem.

A good computer answering machine package is EzVoice. Try it free for 15 days. If you like it, registration is only $27, just slightly more expensive than a more limited store-bought answering machine.

To use EzVoice, you’ll need a computer with sound card, speakers, microphone and a voice-enabled modem. Older modems allow your computer to use the phone line for data communications like fax and Internet. Newer voice modems allow your computer to support voice communication and recording. To see if you have a voice modem installed in your PC, install and run EzVoice, and choose “Modem and Call” from the Setup menu. You’ll will either be allowed to select a modem to use, or will receive notification about a non-voice-capable modem. Depending on your PC, a voice modem could run from $20 to $50.

EzVoice provides cool features not usually available in similarly-priced machines:

While it has standard functions like remote message retrieval and Caller ID display, it doesn’t stop there. It has the ability to filter messages into mailboxes based on Caller ID, and can give certain callers unique messages. Message recording time is limited only by the size of your PC’s hard drive (we’re talking dozens of hours, even for low-end PCs). Be notified by cellphone or email when new messages arrive from specific contacts. Give your callers the ability to “Push ‘1’ to leave a message for Bilbo, or press ‘2’ for Frodo.” Add notes to any message. If you’re getting calls from a telemarketer, assign them to receive the “anti-telemarketer tone” error message, which may get those automated computers to stop calling.

The biggest drawback to using answering machine software versus store-bought answering machines involves your computer: It must be left on all the time to answer messages. This uses more energy, but if your computer is usually on anyway, it shouldn’t be a problem.

And a special message from the “be aware of what you ask for” department: Not all free downloads are a good thing: While researching this article, I found problems with “Accurate Answering Machine” from NemayaSys. While the software looked like simple but well-functioning free answering machine software, I found the install program also installs adware (pop-up creating software) without the user’s permission or knowledge.

Here’s the link to the adware-trojaned Accurate Answering Machine software. (Warning: Accurate Answering Machine is bad, unethical, potentially dangerous software – Don’t download or install unless you’re comfortable fixing the problems it causes.)

Here’s the adware it installs.

I read the Accurate Answering Machine license agreement very carefully, and found no mention of the adware payload. So not only does NemayaSys install adware, they don’t even try making the usual legal effort to justify it. Stay away.

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