Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Send and Receive Faxes Online – Free (or almost free)!

Faxes are becoming less essential in our lives as we can usually substitute scanned documents sent by email. Now and then, however, it’s useful or even necessary to send or receive a fax. There are a couple of low-cost (or free) solutions for this.

If your phone line is connected to your computer, then you can simply use the built-in fax services of you computer. However, that can be hard to set up. In any case, many of us no longer have working phone lines.

To send faxes, the service I like is FaxItNice. You can fax a document up to 10 pages long for $5. However, the better option is to sign up for the plan where you pay $20 up front, then pay only $0.18 per page whenever you want. Credits don’t expire. I’ve been using the service for 7 years and so far it has been quite stable and reliable. You just fill in name and number of the recipient, select a document you want to send (Word, text, PDF, images, and many other formats), and press the button to upload the document. You can preview the fax, add a cover sheet, then click to send. The service then sends the fax for you, redialing as needed until it gets through. You can try the system for free (one fax) here.

To receive faxes, which I need to do even less often than sending them, I use K7. It’s completely free. You just sign up to get a phone number which will then receive your faxes. When someone sends a fax, K7 will convert it to a fairly small image file and email it to you. You can also log in to view your faxes.

There are other services for sending and receiving faxes, but I haven’t found any better deals than these. Let me know if you have more suggestions.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ushahidi to map conflict in Jos, Nigeria

temp I’ve been interested in Ushahidi for some time now but had never gotten around to installing it. If you haven’t heard of it yet, Ushahidi is a web-based, community-oriented tool for mapping events. It has been used for tracking civil unrest, events related to the recent earthquakes in Chile and Haiti, and so on.

I finally did set up a test installation a few weeks ago, just in time for the latest outbreak of violence around Jos. You can see it at here. The killings this week were south of Jos. I still have not figured out how to connect email to the Ushahidi server, so it is not receiving alerts or sending them out. Also, there is no mobile phone connection so it’s not receiving text alerts. Anyone who wants to help set these up would be welcome.

I have also set up a news feed to gather from many sources news stories related to the conflict centered in Jos. I’ve used Yahoo Pipes to pull in the headlines from CNN, Reuters, al Jazeera,, and so on, then extracted the ones dealing with the Jos situation. You can view the stories or use the (RSS) news feed to put the headlines into your favorite news viewer such as Google Reader.