Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 02:43:57 -0400
Sender: The Internet TourBus - A virtual tour of cyberspace
From: Bob Rankin
Subject: TOURBUS - 20 Apr 1999 - Free Faxing
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII
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TODAY'S TOURBUS TOPIC: FREE FAXING
It happens every once in a while... someone will ask you to fax them
some important information, or they'll say "What's your fax number?"
But you don't HAVE a fax machine. This is no longer a problem, thanks
to two nifty Internet services that allow you to send and receive
faxes using email.
But before we explore free Internet faxing, please visit our sponsors
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EFAX - RECEIVING FAXES BY EMAIL
Until recently, if you didn't own a fax machine, you had several
not-so-wonderful options for receiving faxes.
1) Give fax senders the number of your local "quick copy" shop
and hang out at the deli next door while waiting for your fax
to arrive. In addition to paying for the incoming fax, you can
run up a hefty Doritos and 7-Up tab. (You can tell I've been
there and done that.)
2) Give fax senders your home phone number, then hope your faxmodem
software is working properly. Loudly yell "Nobody answer the
phone... I'm expecting a fax!" to the other occupants of the house.
Apologize to the neighbor who calls and gets that awful squealing
sound in their ear. Wait for fax to arrive. Grumble because you
have only one phone line and you can't go online or make other
calls while waiting for the fax. (Again, experience talking here.)
3) Buy a fax machine and get a second phone line installed. Grumble
because you have to pay lots of money for the fax machine and the
monthly phone charges - just so you can receive one or two faxes.
Enter eFax.com - a new service that lets you receive all your faxes
at your existing email address! With eFax, you get your own personal
fax number, and it's totally FREE! There are no setup fees or hidden
costs, and it's easy to view or print your incoming faxes.
How Does eFax Work?
Here's how the eFax service works. First, you visit the eFax site at
to sign up for the service. The non-intrusive signup screen asks only
for your name, email address, postal code, and country. After you sign
up, you'll receive a confirmation email with your personal eFax phone
number, and the eFax Microviewer software as an attached file. Just
save the attachment, and you're ready to receive faxes.
When someone wants to send you a fax, they dial your eFax number, just
like they normally would. There's no need for the sender to know that
you are using the eFax service instead of a "real" fax machine. The
incoming faxes can include text, graphics or both.
Your fax is received at the eFax Service Center, and then forwarded to
your email address. When it arrives, you just click on the attached
fax document and the Microviewer is automatically launched to view it.
The Microviewer runs on Windows, but Mac users can still join the fun.
At the eFax site, you'll find a link to download a TIFF viewer which
does pretty much the same thing. (Unix lovers can use Gimp to view
TIFFs - see http://www.gimp.org/)
Note to non-USA Readers: The eFax.com numbers are located in the USA,
so if you receive faxes from the US or Canada, give the senders your
eFax number and they'll be able to fax you without paying the higher
I've tried the eFax service myself and it seems to work fine. I got
my personal eFax phone number and sent myself a test fax, which was
received within two minutes. There really is no catch, except for the
fact that the Microviewer screen displays a small ad banner while
you're viewing faxes.
FAXAWAY - SENDING FAXES BY EMAIL
Okay, we covered the receiving end. Now how do you SEND a fax if you
don't have a fax machine? A faxmodem can be used, though some people
have trouble setting up the software and getting it to work properly.
But if you know how to send email, you can use the FAXAWAY service to
send faxes all over the world.
The FAXAWAY service is not free, but they do offer a free trial which
allows you to send $5 worth (or a maximum of 15) faxes by email. To
sign up, visit
You don't have to provide ANY personal info (except your email
address) to use the free FAXAWAY trial. I really like the FAXAWAY
service, because it's so intuitive. Just compose an email message,
address it to INSERT-FAX-NUMBER@faxaway.com and press the Send button.
The free ride allows you to send text faxes, but not images. After
the free trial is over, you can register as a Faxaway user and send
text and/or graphical faxes at very reasonable rates. You pay only
for the time required to send your fax, and rates vary for different
parts of the world.
But What About TPC.INT?
For completeness, I should mention the TPC FAX service, which is
another "free fax by email" service that's been around since 1993.
This is a cooperative volunteer effort which allows any Internet user
to send a free fax to many places in the world. You can check it
Unfortunately, there are two big problems with TPC FAX, and they are:
1) It's free.
2) It's been around since 1993.
What do I mean by that? Well, the service has become so popular that
it's become almost unusable. Several years ago, I sent my cyberpal
Dan Dern a fax using TPC.INT and it was delivered in minutes. A few
months ago I tried sending a fax via TPC and EIGHT DAYS later I got a
message saying my fax could not be delivered because it had been in
the "undelivered" queue too long. Oh well - you get what you pay for.
You may have better luck, depending on your location and/or the
location of the recipient. Not all parts of the world are covered,
but it may come in handy, especially for the occasional transmission
to a far-flung destination.
One caution: Please DON'T try the TPC FAX service just for the sake
of curiousity. It would be a shame if thousands of TOURBUS riders
clogged up the pipes with "Just Testing" faxes while others were
trying to send bona-fide messages.
That's all for now, see you next time! --Bob Rankin
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