From:         Bob Rankin 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 11 Aug 2005 - SMSing Around


The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

You've got a burning question... but you're stuck somewhere with no internet connection. News Flash... Google SMS lets you search the web from your mobile phone!

Google SMS serves up answers to specialized queries, and it's as simple as sending a text message. Even if you don't have web access on your cell phone or mobile device, you can send your query as a text message and get phone book listings, dictionary definitions, movie listings, driving directions, stock quotes, product prices and more.

OK, upfront disclaimer time. Google SMS is still in beta (test mode) and only works on major wireless providers in the USA, namely AT&T, Cingular, Nextel, Sprint PCS, T-Mobile, and Verizon. The good news is you don't need a brand-new fancy phone with web browsing built in. Google SMS should work on almost any mobile or handheld, as long as you have the ability to send and receive text messages.

Must... Have... Pizza!

And wings, please, with medium sauce. So let's try a query. We'll find a nearby pizza joint in Millwood, NY. Send your text message to 46645 (the numbers spell "GOOGL") like this:

pizza millwood ny

Or, if you know the zipcode, you can shorten it to:

pizza 10546

You'll get your answer in a reply text message, usually within a few seconds in a format like this:

(1of2) Google Local:

Euro Pizzeria 238 Saw Mill River Rd
Millwood NY 10546 (914) 944-3500

The "1of2" tells you to look for another message labelled "2of2" with more results. You may get up to four responses.

86ing 4-1-1

Google SMS also serves up business and residential phone listings. Why would anyone ever call the phone company for information and *pay* for it, when Google SMS is free? Here are some examples:

Home Depot 02116 Blue Martini 12550

Or to find publicly listed phone numbers and addresses for residences in the US, try a query like one of these. Specify all the info you know to increase the chances of a successful search. Note that you can omit first name, use an initial, specify the city and/or state, or just the zipcode or area code.

john smith palo alto ca smith 10940 j smith 914 845-343-2623

Lampshade Now Optional

Google SMS will make you the life of the party when people around you notice your skill at retrieving dictionary definitions and doing price comparisons. "Hey Alice, Bob just looked up the word 'bloviate' using his cell phone!"

define bloviate

If you're in a store bargain hunting, Google SMS will access Froogle to search millions of products from stores on the web. The results contain no ads, just current prices for products available online.

price dvd player price knife sharpener price 27 inch sony television

SMS to Impress

Suppose that girl at the party is just not impressed that you can get phone listings and compare coffee makers with your phone. What if she says "Well that's fine, but what about the moons of Uranus?" Not a problem... Snippets to the rescue! A snippet is an excerpt from the results page when you do a search on Google. You don't get the full web results and you can't click on any of the links, but sometimes the answer to your question will be found in the snippets. Happily,

G moons of uranus

returns this:

Google Web: * The Moons of Uranus-The following image (Ref) shows the 5 largest satellites of Uranus: Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon...

Surely that will leave her speechless. Here are some other snippet search examples:

G population fresno ca G somers education foundation G USMA concert band schedule

It Slices, It Dices

So your old, clunky cell phone doesn't have a calculator? Google SMS does! The calculator can solve basic math problems, convert units of measure and other fun stuff. Some examples:

52134*98.6 23967/12 2^20 sqrt(490) half a cup in teaspoons 2 gallons in liters

Query with an area code and see the region that area code covers.


Or query by zipcode and get results for the area that zip covers.


If you forget any of the Google SMS commands, just send 'help' as a text message to 46645 and you'll receive instructions and tips on how to use the service. Oh, and if your phone is configured to add a signature to outgoing text messages, you'll have to turn that off to receive Google SMS results. Want more info on Google SMS? Visit

Not For Geeks Only: LowFat Linux

Long-time readers will remember that I wrote a book called "The No BS Guide to Linux" a few years ago. That book is out of print, but the contents are as fresh and relevant as ever, so I decided to put all that material online, freely available for anyone who wants to learn the basics of using Linux without getting bogged down in too much detail or technobabble.

This free online tutorial will teach you about the Linux file system useful commands, text editors, data manipulation, shell programming, accesing DOS and Windows Files from Linux and much more. I hope you find it useful.

That's all for now, see you next time! -- Bob Rankin

The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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