Google Calendar of events via RSS?

My job is very close to the major convention center in Boston. I’ve noticed that when I leave work and get on public transportation that if there is a major event at the convention center, that the public transportation line I take, the silver line, is extraordinarily jammed. Now you’d think that the MBTA, who runs the system here, would figure this out and add some more buses so people like me didn’t have to cram on top of other folks to make sure we can catch our train home on time.

But that’s not what this is about. Because of this, I realized that I need to be more aware of big events at the convention center, so I can give myself a bit more time to catch my train on those days. It turns out the convention center has a good schedule of events online, but that isn’t something is easily viewable in a calendar format. Luckily they have a RSS feed too.

So then I thought to myself, “Self, wouldn’t it be great if you could see this as a dedicated calendar, perhaps via Google Calendar.” That’s where I manage the rest of my non work events, so it just seemed logical. I wanted to simply create a new calendar, add the RSS feed of events, and have Google figure it out. But Google Calendar doesn’t enable that. I searched for a while to figure out if I was missing something, but I wasn’t. It seems there are a lot of people that want to do this though, so I figured I’d document my solution here.

I learned that you can create a Google Calendar via an iCal URL. So then all I needed to do was figure out how to convert the RSS Feed to iCal. Here’s what I did.

1) I found this useful site to convert the RSS Feed to iCal.

2) I copied the converted URL

3) I went to Google Calendar and under “Other Calendars” and then clicked “Add by URL”

4) I pasted the URL of the iCal feed into the “Add Feed” window that popped up.

5) That’s pretty much it. I had to make a few other tweaks to Google Calendar, like changing the name of the calendar. But if you want to see it, or use it, it’s here for all.

Now I wish that Google would let me control permissions on the calendar like it does for native Google Calendars but that’s a pretty minor request. Overall, I’m happy I solved my problem quickly, and hope that others will benefit too.

Using Google Voice to get voice mail transcripts

I’m pretty sure that this has been covered elsewhere.   In fact I decided to do this from reading a post somewhere, so I know its been covered elsewhere,  but now I can’t find it.  Since I’ve seen a few folks asking about how to use Google Voice, I figured I’d document how I use it here.  Basically, I prefer to get text messages and/or emails of my voice mail to my cell phone, so I can read messages without having to call a number and press a whole range of keys to hear everything correctly, write down a number, etc.   Here’s what I do.

  1. First, you need to have a Google Voice account.  If you don’t, I think Google is gradually dolling them out at google.com/voice
  2. You should setup your Google Voice account so it recognizes your cell phone, or whatever phone you are using for this.
  3. Then you will need to use the codes at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_forwarding to setup your phone to forward missed and busy calls to your Google Voice number.
  4. You use the codes by dialing the following, for example, from your cell phone *61* 1234567890# where 1234567890 is your Google Voice number.   This would set up your cell phone to forward missed calls to your google voice number.
  5. You may want to consider doing the same thing by using the right *code from the wikipedia page above to also send busy calls to Google Voice.  Note that I’m not sure these codes work for everyone.  It may depend where you are and who your cell carrier is.
  6. Then set Google Voice to use “Do Not Disturb” as this basically sends all calls to your google voice number right to email.  Do this by clicking on “Settings” and then checking “Do Not Disturb” and then “Save Changes”
  7. Be sure you have also selected “Transcribe Voice Mails”
  8. In the “Notifications” settings for google voice, you can enable transcripts of messages to be sent to an email address, a mobile phone via SMS, or both.

And that’s it.  Be sure to record your  Google Voice voice mail as that’s what people will hear, not your voice mail that you probably setup earlier for your cell phone.

It works great for me.  So if you have read this far, I hope you found this helpful.