Perl script and Alfred workflow for quick call notes

As a part of trying to live a more paperless life, I'm determined to take notes electronically when I'm sitting at my computer, instead of jotting them down on scraps of paper and then putting them into a document later.

When a phone call comes in, I want to be able to start typing my notes about the call right away so that I'm not distracted as I'm switching over to my text editor, opening a new document, saving the document someplace to make sure I don't lose what I'm typing, and THEN being ready to actually take notes.

I've been using the OS X productivity app Alfred more and more lately, and so I decided to create a simple Alfred workflow that would let me get a phone call notes file up in front of me, ready to edit, with minimal typing.

I wanted to make sure that the resulting notes file was named in some reasonable way that I could find again later, and so part of creating the workflow was figuring out how to take a free-form description of the call that I'd be typing in as it started, and turn that into a filesystem-friendly name (sometimes known as a slug). I ended up using a simple Perl script to do that for me.

The Alfred workflow, then, is just a keyword and a script run:

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 2.06.56 PM

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My VOIP home phone setup using trixbox

004 1I've generally been content not having a physical phone line at home and using my cell phone instead. I'm not much of a phone person anyway, my back yard looked a lot nicer when Verizon cut down the unsightly cable, and it's certainly a cost savings. But sometimes, I still long to have a regular old phone sitting on my desk that I can pick up and make a call on. Recently, for various reasons, I've been playing with having just that setup, but with a twist: my new home phone setup is run on open source software, and the conversations are carried over my broadband Internet connection.

Here's my configuration (perhaps mostly for geeks, but hopefully also for anyone who's interested):

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Is it possible for Sprint customer service to be this bad?

Presenting: another epic saga of wireless phone company incompetence...bear with me.

I'd had my Sprint cell phone and plan since 2001 - six years of relatively problem free operation (minor billing annoyances aside). And they recognized that I was a loyal customer who always paid my bill on time - in recent years they regularly sent me offers to "upgrade my plan" or my phone and receive a billing credit (but we all know this is because they wanted me to renew my vows and sign on to a new contract).

Recently, I decided that I wanted to look at a phone upgrade. 6 years had taken its toll on my Samsung A500, and I was excited about the possibility of a phone that would better sync up its contacts and calendar with my computer. I had asked Slashdot about such a product a few years ago, but the offerings were much more promising now.

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Linksys customer service destroyed by earthquake

I called the sales team at Linksys today to ask for help in picking which one of their products Summersault wanted to purchase. I saw this notice on their "contact us" web page:

Due to a major earthquake in the South-Pacific area, telephone, internet circuits, and services from the United States have interrupted our call center operations. We apologize for any inconvenience or delay and appreciate your patience.

I felt bad for them, but carried on and called them anyway, assuming that they would prioritize sales calls in their time of rebuilding. The guy who answered the phone made it very clear, before letting me say anything, that he would ONLY help me with PRE-SALES questions. (I suppose it's a universal problem that people call the sales extension when they really need technical support, assuming they'll get someone faster.) I said "okay, I need help deciding which one of your products to buy." I explained our requirements and which product I thought we needed, and his response was...

"Okay, let me get you over to..." and then I hear a click, and all of the sudden I'm back in their automated voicemail menu, with options that were completely unrelated to my question. No "can I transfer you?" or "Can you hold?," just an end to our sales conversation. Wow.

Now I know which Linksys product I need to buy: none of them.

The difference between dollars and cents

IMG_1326.JPGI have yet to reach the end of the enjoyment I am experiencing from hearing this tech support call that someone recorded: Verizon doesn't know the difference between dollars and cents. As it turns into a global phenomenon, the caller documents his experience on his blog: http://verizonmath.blogspot.com/.

Your call may be recorded to insure quality, indeed.

Sprint PCS needs to run cron jobs more often

Fair warning: this post is pure rant.

I have a Sprint PCS phone that I use as my primary, and only, home phone line. There are tons of reasons why I like this arrangement, which I won't go into here, but I've been a loyal, pay-on-time Sprint customer for several years now. Which is why it was maddeningly frustrating to go to make a call today and get a note that my account had been shut off because I was over my spending limit.
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