Awesome Voicemail for Android

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Most phone carriers these days have pretty poor voicemail capabilities. You have to call in to “check” your voicemail, your voicemail box can fill up, and voicemails just play in order without any good way to see what you want.

There have been some advancements in so-called “visual voicemail”, but they are not available to all of us. In this post I will show you how to set up an amazing voicemail for your Android-powered device that only requires your carrier support call forwarding (a pretty standard feature, these days). You will be able to get your voicemails instantly (or, if you don’t have cell data, whenever you have wifi), see immediately who they are from and keep them sorted by the sender, and also read a text approximation of the content so that you don’t always have to listen to it!

All services and technologies referenced in this post are Free Software or Open standards.

You’ll need a Jabber (also called XMPP) account

If you already know you have one, and know what your Jabber ID is, you can skip to the Movim login below. For everyone else, I suggest you register with Movim. Do this part from your computer (not from your phone or tablet). If you click that link, you’ll see a screen like this:

Register with Movim

Fill it in. Your Jabber ID will be whatever username you choose, plus “”. Don’t forget your Jabber ID or password! Push “Create” and you’ll see a page like this:

After Registering with Movim

Click the link that I have circled in red to be taken to the Movim login page, which looks like this:

Movim Login

Enter your full Jabber ID (username you selected followed by “”) and password. Congratulations, you are a part of the Jabber network!

Leave the logged-in Movim tab open while you do the next part.

Get a phone number with the voicemail service

The way this voicemail is going to work, you’re going to set call forwarding to another number. So you’ll get a number with the voicemail service that is in your local area so that the forwarding is a “local call”. The numbers cost $2.99 USD/month right now, but the first 30 days is free so you can try it without risk or handing over your credit card or anything like that.

Head to and you’ll see something like this:


If one of the displayed phone numbers is in your local area, you can click that. Otherwise click the “…” and you can search by area code for a local number. Write down the number you select, you will need it later. Once you have selected a number, you will see a screen like this:

JMP Register: fill out JID

Fill in your Jabber ID as shown and click “Submit” to continue. The registration process will send you a verification code as a message. So head back to your logged-in Movim tab.

Movim Chats Screen

If necessary, click the icon I’ve circled in red to go to the “Chats” screen. Then, select the conversation I’ve circled in blue to get your verification code. It will look like this:

Movim chat showing JMP verification code

That part I’ve circled in red is your verification code. Cut-and-paste that back into the registration process in the other tab, like so:

Entering the verification code for JMP registration

Press submit, and scroll all the way to the bottom of the next page. Here you will fill out and verify your real phone number (the one people use to call your cell phone already). We will use this later to record your voicemail greeting. The filled in page should look like this:

Set JMP forwarding number

When you press “Submit” you will receive a phone call at the phone number you entered. A voice will read you a verification code, which you must type into the form that will look like this:

JMP verification code from phone call

Press submit, and you’re done this part!

Set up the voicemail

Head back to your logged-in Movim tab:

Back in Movim, Cheogram wants to talk

If necessary, click the icon I’ve circled in red to go to your “Contacts” screen, then click the green checkmark I’ve circled in blue to allow to talk to you.

Click the cheogram contact

Then, click your newly-added Cheogram contact, which I have circled in red.

Select the "configure calls" action

Now we want to configure the call behaviour of your new number to always go to voicemail. So select the “Configure Calls” action, which I have circled above in red.

Set it to go to voicemail after 0 seconds

We want it to go to voicemail right away, so set it to 0 seconds and press “Submit”.

Message showing configuration has been saved

You should see a message indicating the configuration has been saved, as above. You can just click “Close” on this message.

Select the "record voicemail greeting" action

Your voicemail is working now, but the greeting on the mailbox will be a robot voice. Probably you want to record a greeting in your own voice, so click the “Record Voicemail Greeting” action, which I’ve circled in red above. You will receive a call on your phone, and a message will tell you to say your desired greeting at the beep. When you are done with your greeting, hang up, and it will be set automatically.

You can just close this one

Once you’ve recorded a greeting, just press “Close” to get rid of the notice on your screen. If you want to change your greeting at any time, just select the action again.

Setting up call forwarding

Of course, you need to actually set up your phone so that your carrier will forward calls you don’t answer to the voicemail service. Every Android version is slightly different, but I’ll walk you through a generic process and it should be fairly similar on your device.

Go to Android call settings

Go to your dialler app, tap the three-dots menu in the top right, and select “Settings”. This may also be under “Call Settings” in your global device settings menu.

Android dialler settings screen

If necessary, tap “Calls” to go into call settings.

Tap "Call forwarding"

Tap “Call forwarding” to go to forwarding-specific settings.

Call forwarding settings

There are often various call forwarding settings available, set everything (except for “Always forward”, you don’t want that) to the phone number you selected from the voicemail service, which you wrote down earlier.

Getting Voicemails on the Go

Your voicemail is all set up and working now! But, probably you want to be notified of new voicemails on your cell phone, and not through the Movim web interface on your computer. So you’ll need a Jabber app for your phone. I suggest getting Conversations which you can get for a couple bucks from Google Play, Amazon Apps, or F-Droid.

Conversations first launch screen

When you first start Conversations, it may ask if you want to create a new account. You already have an account, so choose “Use my own provider” which I have circled in red.

Convensations Login

You will then see a login screen, very similar to the Movim login screen. Enter your full Jabber ID (remember: your username plus “”) and password, then tap “Next”.

That’s it! You’re all set up to receive your amazing new voicemails directly to your Android phone!

Holiday Greeting Freedom

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This year I’ve been working on a new project for cultural freedom. I have adapted several freely-licensed characters and visual art for use on greeting cards. Starting with greeting cards targeting Christmas and the winter holidays generally my plan is to take orders throughout October so that cards can be printed and shipped to people in November (in plenty of time to mail them out to the intended recipients before December 25th!)

I have cards representing art from several different artists in the commons, including David Revoy’s Pepper & Carrot comic, Nina Paley’s Mimi and Eunice, Piti Yindee’s Wuffle, and the Blender Institute’s Caminandes (specifically the most recent wintery episode). This is a unique opportunity to support these artists and help Free Culture get more awareness.

Because this art is all found in the commons, I can produce these cards without needing any special contract with the original creators. No extra legal work or permission needed, I can produce these on the strength of the Creative Commons Attribution and Zero licenses of the sources. However, because I believe in supporting the work that enabled me, all revenue above expenses will be donated directly to the original creators (I’m not even keeping a cut for myself).

So hurry to get in your order, either with a greeting you like, or you can order a blank version if you prefer to write everything yourself.

UX Stability

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When I help friends and family with technical issues, or listen to them complain generally about their tech issues, one big theme comes up often: the upgrade treadmill. I don’t just mean that they complain that they have to always buy a new computer (though this is certainly an issue), but when they get a new computer they don’t know how it works. Every time an update for any piece of software installs, they have to learn their system all over again. And they feel like they didn’t really have a great handle on it to begin with.

This, I believe, actually leads to users being less willing to learn in the first place, since they (often rightly) believe that any knowledge they gain will be obliterated by changes to their User eXperience in short order. Software systems are, in this way, very user-hostile.

One way to solve this problem might be to simply not install updates, but this leads to a whole host of issues. The first one technical people will talk about is that not installing updates means your computer is even more full of security holes than usual. Enterprise-focused solutions involve so-called “Long Term Support”, where security fixes are backported to older versions of software for some support window. This can help in the short-term, but faces its own dilemma: if the support term is too short, then users are still upgrading fairly often, and the longer you make the support term, the longer users have to wait for new features and (sometimes) bugfixes.

But wait! Don’t the users not want new features? Isn’t this a good thing? Wrong. Users want updates what they don’t want is change. When Firefox gains the ability to play a new kind of video, users want that, because they want the webpages they visit to work. When Libreoffice improves support for a popular file format, users want that, because they want to be able to open files they get sent. Even straight-up new functionality may be welcome in certain cases. So long as the new feature does not invalidate the user’s existing workflow. This is the key. A user that can trust their workflow will keep working (and you won’t replace all their menus with new menus, or worse, non-menus) is (I think) more willing to learn to begin with. Certainly more happy in the long run.

So keeping a system stable in the way that, say, Debian or RHEL or Ubuntu LTS do is a very useful start, but it’s not the whole story. We need a system that stays the same (or at least, whose core components change very little) while also receiving bug fixes and new functionality. Backporting, from time to time, bugfixes and new features in a way that preserves the user’s experience. For what support window? This is a big task, and starting with shorter timeframes may be needed, but ultimately? Forever. Or for the life of the users at least. A user should never be put into a position where they are forced to re-learn their system just to keep using it. Computers are tools that many people find essential to their daily lives, and there is a duty to provide them with systems that keep working, not just technically, but for the user.

Obviously, we cannot achieve this with proprietary software, so software freedom is an important part of this. And also, we cannot easily achieve it with any application that delivers the UI remotely (such as a “web app”), so native clients for popular web applications and similar technology may be needed in order to be able to provide this kind of stability. This is not a small task that we can accomplish overnight, but I believe it is part of the essential solution to the problems our society faces with their daily computing needs.

Disney, Copyright, Trademark

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Some interesting thoughts on Copyright and Trademark from Twitter:

@doctorow said at

Mickey Mouse is almost certainly in the public domain already, because of procedural missteps in registration/renewal of PLANE CRAZY

@doctorow said at

But Mickey is also a trademark, so spending millions to establish that Plane Crazy put Mickey in the public domain would get you very little

@doctorow said at

Disney would use trademark law to shut down any commercial use of Mickey, whether or not PLANE CRAZY was public domain

@jmcgarry0 said at

@doctorow This why I always thought the copyright thing was sort of silly. Trademark will let them control characters forever.

@JulianLives said at

@doctorow A great example of this is Tarzan, who entered the public domain in the 2000s, but who is under trademark by the ERB Estate.

@doctorow said at

Tarzan’s just copyffraud (same as Conan/Lovecraft/Buck Rogers, and until recently, Sherlock

@doctorow said at

Much as they’d prefer to keep rivals from making their own Pinocchios, they’re really worried about $0.99 reissues (re:

@doctorow said at

Of course. That’s not the point. Disney worries about commercial works based on their work and cheaper editions (re:

@doctorow said at

If Disney fails to secure copyright term extension in 2018, then by 2028, it will also lose Snow White

@doctorow said at

Five years later, it will lose Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, and Saludos Amigos

@doctorow said at

By the time we get to works from 1950, Disney starts to lose 1 major film/year:

@doctorow said at

That’s why Disney fights tooth and nail to keep Steamboat Willie in copyright: nothing to do with Mickey, really

@doctorow said at

No, they’re buying other franchise because they’re fully financialized (as are all other major corps) (re:

@doctorow said at

When you make big bets that are closely watched by shareholders, you hedge those bets.

@doctorow said at

That’s because Disney has a lot of capital. Large bets, well made, are better bets than small undercapitalized ones (re:

@doctorow said at

This produces winner-take-all effects that also choke out new franchise development

@doctorow said at

The best predictor of success in your next film is remaking a film that was already successful.

@doctorow said at

The intrinsic conservatism of large film bets means more remakes, reboots, sequels and prequels from all parties

@doctorow said at

Financialized orgs prefer making capital investments to actually making stuff.

About Public Domain Day

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Mike Linksvayer says:

Copyright is unjust. Works created under that regime are tainted. Extreme position: the disappearing of works subject to copyright is a good, for those works are toxic for having been created under the unjust regime.

While I understand where he is coming from, I have to disagree with this position. Many works released under a highly-restrictive “All Rights Reserved” license are done so more out of laziness than anything else. If a creator creates something they wish to share with the world, but is not aware of how the system is at work to prevent sharing (many creators I find to be unaware or misinformed, generally, about copyright) we should definitely celebrate the liberation of that work. That the liberation may eventually come through the expiry of the copyright and not through a conscious act of the creator does not, in my view, taint that liberation.

While a poorly-documented copyright holder or future retroactive extension may steal this work back from us, the same holds true even for work born free. We take at face value most declarations of a free birth, but poor documentations or changes in the law may yet steal more of even these works from us (though, of course, we work to avoid that fate).

Separately, I believe that Linksvayer sees works that have spawned significant proprietary legacies (take for example, James Bond) are tainted by these legacies. In this case I agree that the acceptance to the commons of the origins of such a legacy (such as the James Bond novels) must be taken with caution, since anything building on this source often serves to promote the still-encumbered legacy more than it does to add to the commons, and may even run afoul of legal actions by the owners of such legacy (similar to the problem of clean room reverse-engineering).

However, without an effective system of cultural copyleft (which we lack, though CC-BY-SA is a fine attempt) there is nothing to prevent a fully-encumbered legacy from springing from born-free work. There we would find ourselves stuck with the same conundrum. If a proprietary television program based on, say, Pepper & Carrot became very popular, would it thus become useless as a free body of work? Would we have to move on for fear of providing more benefit to the encumbered program than to the existing free work? I hope not, but I don’t know the answer.

So, I say, celebrate Public Domain Day! Much new work enters the commons, not just the select samples that have spawned an encumbered legacy. Use, study, share, remix!

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