How to send text messages from your laptop or PC

If you’re trying to co-ordinate a group of petanque players, it can sometimes be handy to be able to send them text messages via email from your laptop or PC. Here’s how to do it.

The first thing you need to know is that, for the purposes of emailing a text message, each cell phone has an ordinary email address. The format of that address is

phoneNumber@carrierSMSgateway

The phoneNumber should be 10 digits. It should include the area code. It should include only numbers – no dashes or parentheses. So for a phone number of (333) 444-5555 the phoneNumber in the email address is 3334445555.

The carrierSMSgateway is the SMS (“Short Message Service”) gateway provided by the telephone carrier. If you know a telephone number, there are several free web sites that will let you look up the carrier of that number, and the carrier’s SMS gateway. One web site that I found easy to use was freecarrierlookup.com

freecarrierlookupdotcom

In the image, you can see that the carrier for this particular number is Verizon Wireless, and Verizon’s SMS gateway is vtext.com. Very conveniently, freecarrierlookup.com provides the full SMS gateway address (5206644133@vtext.com) for the number that was looked up, so I can just copy-and-paste it into my email program.

When the recipient receives your text message, he will see your email address (the “Reply-to” email address that you provided when you sent your email message) in the place where he would normally see the caller’s telephone number. If the recipient replies to your text message, his reply will be sent to that email address.

But, a WARNING—
Email providers often regard email that is sent from a telephone number as coming from an unknown or suspect source. Some will flag such email as spam, so that the reply ends up in your email’s JUNK MAIL folder. Some will greylist the reply and delay it (this message was delayed for an hour).

X-Greylist delayed 3601 seconds by postgrey-1.34 at mail8.webfaction.com

Some email providers will silently and completely filter out the reply— you receive no reply and no indication whatsoever that the recipient replied to your message. So, at least until you’ve experimented and determined otherwise, don’t assume that replies to your text message will get through to you.

When the recipient receives your text message, he will receive a text message consisting of the SUBJECT line of your email message (in parentheses) followed by the text of the message. You can use a very short subject line. When I send a text message with a question, I like to make the subject line just a question mark, so the recipient gets a text message that starts with “(?)”.

Keep your messages (including the SUBJECT line) short. Try to keep the whole thing to less than 160 characters. If your message is longer than 160 characters, your message will be broken down into chunks of 153 characters, and each chunk will be sent as a separate text message. Some carriers are smart enough to re-assemble the short chunks into one long text message, but most are not.

If you’d like to review your message before sending it to others, send it to your own phone. Then, if it looks good, you can send it to the real recipients.

Note that this information only applies to telephone numbers with US and Canada area codes. That is: numbers with country code = 1. You can send text messages to foreign countries, too. When dialing, you first specify your country’s “exit code” to get onto the international exchange, then you specify the recipient’s country code and his telephone number. For international dialing, one source that I found to be useful was www.howtocallabroad.com. It will tell you, for instance, that the exit code for the USA is 011.


How to access region-restricted web sites

On December 23, 2016 the world championships in Madagascar were streamed on a French TV channel, La chaîne l’Équipe. But if you are in the USA, and went to that web site to watch the championships, you saw a message saying that the channel is what is generally known as “region restricted”. You can see the message now if you wish— just click on this link to www.lequipe.fr/lachainelequipe.video_region_restricted

I won’t go into the technology behind how region restriction works, or the several ways to get around region restrictions. If you’re interested in that, you can Google for that information.

Here I will describe the fairly simple and easy tool that I used, that allowed me to watch the championships. It is a product/service called TunnelBear. TunnelBear is a highly-rated VPN provider, and it worked well for me. Here’s how you can do what I did.

  1. Get the Chrome web browser. It is a good, fast browser, and it is free. It can be downloaded from Google’s web site.
  2. Open the Chrome browser. Go to the TunnelBear web site and navigate to the DOWNLOAD page.
  3. On the DOWNLOAD page, scroll down until you see “Browser Extensions”.
  4. Download and install the TunnelBear extension for Chrome.
  5. The download comes with 500Mb of free data. That’s enough to watch several minutes of video and to make sure the browser extension is working, but it is not enough to watch an entire petanque game. I signed up with the TunnelBear service for a monthly subscription, which comes with unlimited data, at a cost of about $8 per month. That was enough to allow me to watch all 8 hours of the world championships. (You can also get the TunnelBear service for a much lower cost with a yearly subscription.)
  6. After you have watched the championships, assuming that you have no other use for TunnelBear, remember to go back to the TunnelBear web site and cancel your monthly subscription. (Technically, the way you cancel a monthly subscription is to downgrade it to a free subscription.) The cancel/downgrade process is quick and easy. If you don’t cancel/downgrade, your monthly subscription will remain in effect and TunnelBear will continue charging your credit card every month.

If you stream French TV, you need to be aware of time differences between France and the USA. Right now, where I live, we are on Mountain Standard time, which means that we are 8 hours ahead of French time. The French broadcast started at 1600h (4pm), which means that it started at 800h (8am) our local time. Depending on your time zone and whether or not you are on daylight-savings time, your time will vary.


How to blacken your boules

There are a number of reasons why you might want to make the entire surface of your boules black. You might want to make it easier to tell your boules from other players’ boules. You might want to play solitaire. You just might like the color.

Gun blacking comes off on your hands and wears off quickly. Black magic marker (permanent marker) is time-consuming and messy to apply, and leaves your boules slightly sticky for a while. Now Kim Badcock, of the Mission Beach Petanque Club in Australia, has a tip for what may be the best method yet.

In response to our post on boules and rust Kim wrote

Did you know you can make your SB boules black again and very easily. A soak or wipe over with a very weak acid solution (vinegar, lemon juice, dilute hydrichloric acid etc) will change the outer molecular layers of your boule to magnetite (black colour). Quickly wipe with an oiled cloth afterwards to help seal in the colouring.

This should work with all carbon-steel boules. It shouldn’t work with stainless steel boules or with chrome-plated boules (which means that it shouldn’t work with leisure boules).

Following Kim’s suggestion, I bought an inexpensive jug of distilled white vinegar. I left two La Franc SB boules to soak in the vinegar overnight. (La Franc SB boules are relatively soft carbon-steel boules, acier au carbone.) In the morning they were really black. When I washed them off, a lot of black came off on my hands. The boules were left with a deep uniform matte gunmetal grey color. There was a small shiny spot where they had been sitting on the bottom of the container.

In this picture, the brownish boule in the front is a rusty boule that has been brought back from the dead. The two vinegar-blackened boules are at the back. The boule at the left has been played with more than the boule at the right, so it is more scratched-up. The image doesn’t really capture the color of the boules. The boules, while not absolutely black, are a much darker grey than they appear in the photo. In play, they do appear to be black.
Click to see larger image.

This picture was taken immediately after I treated the boules. Since then, I’ve played with them a couple of times and the color seems relatively long-lasting. In any event, even if the color doesn’t last forever, renewing the color with another vinegar soak is essentially effortless. I’m happy with the result.


Update, April 28, 2017
Today, about 5 months after the date of the original post and after perhaps 30 to 50 hours of play, I thought the boules were beginning to look a bit shiny, so I blackened them again. Soaking them for 6 hours in distilled white vinegar restored them exactly to the condition that you see in the pictures in the original post.


How to remove magic marker from boules

During the off season I like to play solitaire. To make it easy to distinguish the two sets of boules, I cover one set pretty completely with black magic marker. When regular play resumes, I can easily remove remove the black marks with a product called “Goof Off”. You might be able to find it at your local hardware or hobby store. Otherwise, it is available via Amazon.com or from www.goof-off.com.
image_goof-off_can


Night play beside the baseball fields

Tucson’s climate is warm and dry (like the South of France) and there are many places in public parks that make fine petanque terrains. We don’t need a dedicated petanque boulodrome (although an air-conditioned one in summer would be nice). We prefer to play in the park on an open terrain.

There is, however, one problem with this arrangement. We can’t play after dark because none of the places where we play during the day has lights for night play.

There is a solution to this problem. I’m blogging about it because the solution is probably available in other cities, too.

 
In Tucson, the city and the county have a variety of public recreational facilities— parks, swimming pools, and community centers. There are also several large sports complexes scattered around the city. These facilities are designed to support sports that require large playing fields— baseball, (American) football, and soccer.

In these sports complexes, the baseball fields are typically pie-shaped. They are laid out in a large circular area that is divided into four quarters by wide gravel paths. There is one baseball diamond in each quarter. The paths between the fields give players and spectators access to the fields and to viewing stands. Tall posts supporting floodlights are located on the paths— the floodlights are very bright, and illuminate the fields on both sides of the paths as well as the paths themselves.

The paths are very wide. Because people walk across them a lot, they are hard-packed. They make perfect petanque terrains.

Aerial view (courtesy of Google Maps) of a typical sports complex— the Golf Links Sports Complex— in Tucson, Arizona, USA. The main entrance is from the parking lot in the upper right-hand corner of the photo.

Monday through Thursday evenings, city-league softball games are played on the fields. Games are scheduled for three time slots beginning at 6:30, 7:35pm, and 8:45pm. While games are in progress (roughly between 6:30pm and 10:00pm) the fields and paths are brightly lit by the floodlights located on the paths.

Between games players arrive and leave before and after their games, and there is a lot of foot traffic on the paths. But once the softball games have begun, the paths are virtually empty. The empty paths make excellent lighted petanque terrains.

A perfect lighted terrain for night play, on the paths at Golf Links Sports Complex.

View from the main entrance of the Golf Links Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona. The access path for the baseball diamonds makes a perfect lighted terrain for night play.

The moral of the story…
What worked in our town might also work in yours. If you’re looking for a location for night play of petanque, you might be able to use facilities built for night play of other sports.

What to look for when you’re looking for places to play

When you’re looking around town for suitable places to play, it helps to have some basic ideas about what’s important in a playing area. Here are a list of criteria for you to keep in mind.

Such a list can also be useful when conferring with your local Parks & Recreation Department about what features are important in a petanque facility in a public park.

Here is the playing area of the National Capitol Club de Petanque in Highlands Park, Alexandria, Virginia. It has all of the features that you want in a playing area — space for five terrains, convenient metered public parking (free on the weekends) and handicapped parking, portable restrooms, benches overlooking the terrains, picnic tables, big shade trees, overhead lighting for night play, a nearby playground for the little kids, and (obviously) a pleasant location.  It also has a storage shed to which the NCCdP has a key. The shed is useful for storing rakes (for clearing fallen leaves and branches off of the pistes after rain storms), plastic circles, guest boules, etc.

Absolute requirements

  1. A venue where people feel safe and comfortable. (A public area is preferable to an isolated area.)
  2. An appropriate playing surface…
  3. … that is large enough to host at least two games, and preferably three or four.
  4. Nothing above the terrain to prevent medium-high lobs.  That includes such things as low-hanging power lines, lights, or tree branches.

Very important
There are four features that are very important. Each of these may be an absolute requirement for a significant portion of your players.

  1. convenient, affordable parking (free or inexpensive)

    Most players will need to drive to get to the petanque courts, so they will need parking. For players with mobility issues, it is important that it be easy to get from the parking area to the playing area.

  2. restrooms

    If you play regularly in a park, in an area without restrooms, the Parks Department may be willing to install portable restroom facilities in the area.  No harm in asking.

  3. shade

    Tall buildings can provide adequate shade, but the shade from tall trees is much more pleasant. In some climates, shade is an absolute necessity. Shade varies with the position of the sun and the time of day, so be sure to check the shade in the same season and at the same time of day that you expect to be playing.

  4. places to sit (picnic tables or park benches)

    Everybody occasionally needs to be able to sit down and rest. For older or disabled players, this can be an absolute necessity. For players’ companions who watch but don’t play (spouses, grandparents) this is an absolute necessity. A table can be very helpful — for leaving snacks and equipment, as a place to sit and chat, as a work platform for scorekeeping, or as a dining table for club picnics.

Desireable

  1. accessible to players who use crutches or a wheelchair.

    For smaller clubs, this may not be very important. For larger clubs, especially those who know they have players with mobility issues, this is Very Important. Petanque is ideal recreation for veterans with lower-limb injuries. Remembering their special needs will be good both for them and for your club.

  2. a pleasant location (Ask yourself — “Would playing in this place be a pleasant experience?”)
  3. public foot traffic

    Petanque has always been a public, social game. Playing in a public park, surrounded by visitors and families enjoying the park, is not only traditional. It is also more fun, safer, and more likely to gain public exposure for petanque and for your club.

  4. a nearby playground area where companions with kids can wait while you play
  5. a dog-friendly area where your pooch can wait while you play
  6. water fountains
  7. facilities for club picnics (picnic tables, grills, covered event areas)
  8. lights for night play
  9. a lockable storage shed

    Very helpful for storing circles, guest booles, rakes, promotional literature, folding chairs. If your park has a shed, you can probably get a key by registering with park authorities.