Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Faxing from your computer for almost free

Welcome to the first post of Albo Wanderings. It will be hosted here on blogger until my server gets access to the web again in Florida. I expect that, by reading this blog, you'll get a good sense of all my quirks - my penny pinching/efficient tendencies, my random interests, electronics, ecology, computers, good deals, hacking your life, ....

To start things off, I thought I'd let you all in on my little faxing setup I have going. I'm running a risk here that my faxing paradise will be discovered and some exec will tweak their service agreement just to spite me. Oh well, I can't resist.

I was searching around for fax services that served the little guy - someone who sends and receives faxes once every couple months. For such low usage, having a fax machine is unwieldy, and especially so for someone who travels around as much as I do. An online solution is clearly superior. The problem is that most services charge you a monthly fee. For a small guy, that would probably add up to about $10 / fax.

The one service I found that doesn't charge you a monthly fee is Interfax (http://www.interfax.net/). After you set up your account, you load it up with $10 or so and you pay $0.11 per page to fax. Most importantly, as far as I can tell, you can send one fax every 10 years, and they don't penalize you for it. To send faxes via this service, you email an address at fax.tc. For example, if you wanted to send a fax to information, you would email "+18005551212@fax.tc". You can add all sorts of attachments, and the most important part to remember is that, if you also want the body of your email included as a page as well, you write "/b" at the end of the subject line. It's probably not a great solution for grandma, but if you're have even the smallest inclination towards command lines, this works great. (Interfax seems to actually focus on webservices, and providing their service to other websites and tools via that route, but they've nicely kept open an email interface as well).

Interfax is only an outbound solution, though. They charge a monthly fee of about $13 for receiving faxes. So how do we get around that? You can actually sign up for an inbound-only account at eFax (http://www.efax.com), for free! That's right - they'll give you a number, in a Salt Lake City area code or something like that, and when you receive a fax, they send you an email. You need to install the eFax messenger software, but it's no big deal, and there's no spyware included that I know of. eFax insists on sending you occassional promotional emails, which is basically the price you pay for their free service. For someone who is pretty sensitive to spam, it's still worth it. They only send out 2-3 emails a month or so, if memory serves.

So there you go. Tell 'em I sent you. Happy faxing - what a great retro technology that just doesn't seem to be going away. And if interfax or efax is reading this: please don't change a thing!

1 comment:

jane said...

One of the best providers of online fax service is Popfax.com, and it's really reliable and very useful. For urgent sending you can use FreePopfax.com.