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Smart TextMail and mobile alerts on tasks, website availability

One of my longest mobile experiment drew to a close early this month with my rediscovery of Smart’s TextMail.

For more than a year, I’ve been trying one service after another in an effort to get my e-mails sent as text messages to my mobile phone. The answer, you might say, is simple: buy a Blackberry.

I’m not, however, prepared to spend thousands of pesos for the device and its mobile e-mail solution when I have only very specific alerts in mind: website availability and tasks reminders. For regular e-mails, I am perfectly satisfied with the GMail for mobile Java application.

Scrybe online planner ONLINE PLANNER. My current online planner of choice, Scrybe. The free service allows me to manage my tasks and get alerted of deadlines via SMS messages sent through Smart TextMail. Click on photo to enlarge image.

I run and help oversee several websites and need to know whenever the servers where these are hosted encounter problems so that I can work on fixing it or submitting a support ticket. All the sites I run are monitored by free web server monitoring services that check every few minutes or so whether these are available.

Whenever the monitoring services I use detect any of the my sites to be down, it immediately sends an e-mail to alert me of the problem. I wanted to be able to get that message as an SMS alert. Sure many of these services offer SMS alerts, but for a fee.

Tasks management

I also manage my tasks online. For projects where I work with other people, I use ProjectPier or Basecamp. But all my tasks—whether work-related, blog-related, or personal—are managed from a single online application.

I tested one application after the other, looking for one that offered SMS notification of deadlines. Google Calendar offers SMS notifications for the Philippines. The listings page says you can enable notifications for Smart, Globe, and Digitel. I have a Smart phone but have never been able to enable it. The settings page gives me an “invalid carrier” error message after I enter my Smart number.

I then decided to use Remember The Milk, a free online tasks manager that offers SMS reminders to Philippine phone numbers. The problem was that in several instances, the SMS messages came late, several hours after when I wanted to be reminded of a task. Remember The Milk is also limited to task management. I’ve also tried Backpack and it’s great for managing tasks but again, some SMS alerts are received later.

I found a better service with Scrybe. I say it’s better because it also allows me to manage my web notes. Scrybe is a really cool service for managing tasks and storing notes and it has an interface that’s such a joy to use. (Blogger’s note: I’ll write more about the service later.) Scrybe is an invitation-only service so if you want an account, leave me a note below and I’ll send you one.

Scrybe and SMS alerts

I transferred my tasks management to Scrybe because with it, I did not need to use another service for my notes whenever I need to do web research. The only problem with Scrybe is that it doesn’t offer SMS alerts for Philippine phone numbers. What it offers is sending alerts to a mobile phone e-mail address (your mobile phone [email protected] provider’s web address). For several months, I wasn’t able to use its SMS alerts.

Scrybe e-mail, sms notification E-MAIL, SMS ALERTS. Scribe notifies you via e-mail or SMS of deadlines of your tasks. I was able to activate SMS notification by using Smart’s TextMail service. Click on photo to eenlarge.

I knew the best solution was Smart’s TextMail but for several days of playing with the service a few months back, I couldn’t activate it, not even when a tech support staff from Smart guided me through it. When I still couldn’t activate the service, I gave up trying and made a mental note to try it again after a few months.

Early this month, I tried Smart TextMail again and found that it had been improved. I was told that it’s now being managed by a content provider, Mobile Arts (warning: the web site plays horrendous music so you better turn off your speaker.)

Registration

The service has also been transferred to www.mySmart.com.ph. I tried registering for the service about two weeks back and in no time, my mobile e-mail address was set up. If you don’t explicitly register for a username, your mobile e-mail will be your Smart number @mySmart.com.ph. The mobile number is in international format so if yours starts with 0918, it will be written as 63918.

To get your own personalized Smart TextMail address, send REG USERNAME PASSWORD YOURNAME to 200. The username you enter will become the first part of your e-mail address. After registration, add the e-mail address of the servers that send you alerts so that their messages are immediately sent to your phone.

If you get a message from someone not in the address book, the server just notifies you of the message and asks you to reply with G if you want to get the entire message. In my case, I added to my address book the e-mail addresses of the senders of my website availability notices and the e-mail address Scrybe uses to send reminders.

In using the service for more than a week, I find that I get the alerts as soon as these are sent. I now know immediately whenever any of the web servers I use is down. With the alert, I can then check the site and send a support request to the web host.

Scrybe notifications for tasks deadlines are also received on time and I’m now able to fully take advantage of it’s task management service.

I’m just using some of my TextMail account’s services. It is a full mobile e-mail solution if you’re comfortable with managing e-mail using text. It even generates access numbers for e-mail addresses. Any text message you send to these access numbers are processed and sent as an e-mail message to your contact. The SMS alerts are free but you are charged P2.50 each time you send a message.

I just hope that Smart TextMail maintains this quality of service. It has become an indispensable tool for me.

By Max Limpag

Max is a journalist and blogger based in Cebu City, Philippines. He is co-founder of the journalism start-up InnoPub Media.