**Companion Resources Newsletter**
edited by Paul D. Leichty
Volume 2, No. 1 January 2000
[Note on 12 January 2007: Some of the resources listed in this edition of the Newsletter are no longer existent or no longer free.]
Happy New Year! It is my privilege to begin a second year of the Companion Resources Newsletter. This newsletter is an attempt to bring the latest technological resources to bear upon the task of building community right where you are. Often, I point to interesting web sites that feature an important model for community builders. This month, I will feature a mixture of practical tools for communication. As always, the links mentioned in this newsletter can be found on the Companion Resources web site at https://companionresources.org
Communication, whether by phone or e-mail, is important to many community-builders these days. To be able to find information quickly and build networks of common interest around the world is a tremendously useful aspect of our modern technology. The resources gained offer a headstart in building communities in our local settings.
Whenever useful resources are free or at a very low cost, then we really have a winning combination! I would like to highlight some of the resources I have found most useful. I’ve started a new section of Companion Resources web site called “Free Resources” to collect some of the most useful links. I invite you to submit your own favorites for my review. You can find the web site at https://companionresources.org/free and you can write to me at email@example.com via e-mail.
Fax machines are a routine part of life for most businesses and other offices. However, not many homes have fax machines. Most folks realize that they can send out faxes via their personal computers. Anything that can be printed to a printer can be “printed” to a fax program instead, which automatically dials the number you provide and sends your document to any fax machine. In addition, with low-priced scanners available to hook up to your computer, a document available only on paper can be faxed almost as easily.
However, the disadvantage to having a computer fax is the awkwardness of receiving faxes. Most people don’t want to keep their computer and fax program on all of the time, even if that program can sort out the signals and answer only when it’s a fax, sending your regular phone calls ringing through to your telephone. Recently, a number of computer-based services now make it possible for you to give out a separate fax number and receive that fax via e-mail or on the web. I’ll tell you about the two services that I use.
*eFax* is probably the easiest and most sophisticated of these fax programs. The basic eFax service is free as is the software viewer that you download to read your faxes. eFax gives you a random number somewhere in the U. S. and when people send faxes to that number, they show up in your e-mail box as attachments to an e-mail message. You can then read those messages through the special viewer on your screen or print them on your printer. There are a few ads, but they are small and unobtrusive. The only downside to this service is that your eFax number is almost certain to be a long distance number for you and therefore likely for others most likely to fax you. However, many faxes are long distance anyway and because they go through quickly cost the sender only pennies.
The folks at eFax also have some premium options, which, for a low monthly fee, address these concerns and add even more sophisticated services. You can go to www.efax.com and read all about the options. I’ve found that the free service works fine for me. You can send a message to my eFax number at 815-333-0951.
*uReach* is an even more amazing service! A uReach number is a toll-free number in which anyone can send you a fax _without_ paying long distance. The great thing about it is that for receiving only occasional faxes, your cost is also $0.00! Up to 30 minutes a month is free and accumulates to a maximum of 60 minutes. The other wonderful thing about uReach is that it also can receive voice mail messages and even e-mail! These messages can be accessed via your special web site at www.ureach.com or via telephone as you dial your own uReach number. In the last number of months, a whole array of services have been added that are even more amazing. Check it out for yourselves at www.ureach.com. There are other similar services out there, but none that I know of that give such a vast array of services for free. And if you need extra minutes (and I haven’t yet) the rates are much less than telephone calling cards. Feel free to send a fax or leave a voice mail message for me at 877-214-9838.
All of these services assume that you have both a telephone and a computer of at least Pentium class running Windows 95 or later. (Sorry, I’m not aware of how these services work with Macs; maybe someone who has one can let me know.) Anyway, if you need to upgrade either a phone or computer, there are a number of options on the Companion Resources web site. Let me just highlight CR Electronics, my newest online store, which has both. The site is easy to navigate and you can compare features side by side. You can safely use your credit card and the service is fast and easy, with products delivered right to your door. Go to http://crelect.vstoreelectronics.com and see for yourself.
Free Internet Access
Until now, many persons shied away from the World Wide Web because of the expense of $20-22 a month for full Internet access. Many people were able to get free e-mail from Juno (www.juno.com) and contented themselves with that. However, the picture is changing. Since the beginning of the year, Juno is offering full Internet access, including e-mail, the World Wide Web, and even space for your own web site for free! All that is needed (assuming you have Windows 95 or later) is an upgrade in software.
More services are emerging that offer free Internet access. Often it comes at the expense of having to put up with annoying ads popping up in windows all over the place (like the ones on Juno). However, there is at least one free Internet service provider (ISP) that is trying a different approach. Freewwweb promises no annoying ads as you browse; however, in exchange, their home page must be your home page. In other words, when you open your browser, you have to go through their home page to get anywhere else. Presumably, that page has plenty of ads that support their free service. However, that seems much better than all of the pop-up windows or banner ads on every page. And Freewwweb (which can be found at www.freewweb.com) has an impressive number of local phone numbers which make it accessible from almost anywhere in the United States. (Sorry to those of you in other countries, but most of these services are limited to the U. S. only.)
I have not tried either of these new services, so I don’t know how they compare with regular ISP’s or services like AOL and Prodigy. Your comments are welcomed. We can learn together!
Finally, there is something on the fun side (although genuine encouragement of others is certainly part of building community), free electronic greeting cards from Blue Mountain Arts. There are a number of sites that offer free greeting cards, but Blue Mountain (at www.bluemountain.com) is my favorite. There is more on this site than I can possibly describe including ideas for many holidays and occasions and cards available in many languages as well.
So now that you and your friend both have web access as well as e-mail, send a card!
You’ll find these links to these resources and more by going to the Companion Resources home page (https://companionresources.org). While you are there, check out some of our online stores. You can order quickly what you need and have it delivered to your door. You also help support the ongoing work of Companion Resources!
Next month, I hope to review one more “freebie” and also do a book review of an interesting book I am reading. Until then, keep building community!
Paul D. Leichty
Fort Wayne, Indiana
“People Using Technology Building Community”