Google Voice

Suburban Station used to be a bomb shelter, back when people actually cared about bombs versus simple vaporization at the hands of nuclear weapons. We sort of brushed that fact under the carpet by taking away the signs on the walls but if you’re looking in center city you can find the signs. Mostly they’re on the forgotten byways but the really brutal part is that fallout shelters are typically lined with lead. Trying to get a piece of sky from the station is impossible. To add insult to injury, the stations are underground. Lead or no lead you simply won’t be getting signal in that much earth shadow.

Note to TMobile – want to be really popular in the city real quick? Put a low power cell antenna in the station.

That being said, I am a huge fan of google voice. If you have an android anything with as much as a speaker and a microphone, you want this. I use it for just about all my calls now when at home, since there’s no sense in using my minutes and I know my wifi isn’t going anywhere. Even if you want a “burner number” so you can finally call Taco Bell and order a Border Jumper, make a fake google account, grab a number and go nuts. The one big problem is that it doesn’t work unless it has cellphone signal. This is particularly hilarious when you realize that a lot of “tablets” (android devices which aren’t phones) can’t ever get cellphone signal by virtue of the fact that they’re not phones. No antenna, no SIM card, no NAM number.

The simple reason is because Google Voice integrates tightly with the cellular state machine. XDA has a whole thread on it. The amount of work that has to go into hacking Google Voice to not do a cellular state check is frankly over the top and manufacturers have gone out of their way to customize the OS and framework to prohibit you from taking a “tablet” device and using it as a cellphone (samsung, I am looking at you). AOSP ROMs get a bit of a pass since they have a more vanilla framework but the whole binary module loader thing that ATI and nVidia blazed a trail for means that the state machine sometimes ends up in one state and the API reports another because no-one has really dumped a working version of the modem firmware yet for samsung devices. Frankly Google I’m sort of happy this is biting you in the ass for having to support older phones.

Anyway, the good news is the same XDA thread above also mentions someone who solved the problem. If you have a 2.1 or better device (read: all samsung phones), you can download GrooVe IP which makes the calls for you. I have a bit of a problem paying him $5 for the registered version because literally all the developer did was enter the google voice API (voice is required to be installed) after the state machine check and just piggyback from there. The 1MB file size is UI cruft, the actual application is only a few KB. Now I can make calls over the comcast xfinity access points without burning up minutes and more importantly without any cellular connectivity at all.

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