Now THIS is pretty cool. Don’t be mad at me if they’re swamped and it takes you a while to get your “go ahead” — I just got mine after a couple of weeks. But I tried it, and, well, it’s pretty cool:

Basically, once you’re signed up, you just call 800-555-TELL and say, in words, what you want — stock quotes, the weather, local movie listings, a traffic report. You can even make free long distance phone calls.

It’s all free. At least so far.

If you’re calling from your home base, Tellme seems to know that and doesn’t ask you to punch in your ID number. You just say “movies” or “traffic” and off you go.

If you’re calling from a different phone, you do have to enter your ID number, but just the first time — and it’s easy to remember. At least for now, your ID is just your 7-digit local phone number.

If you’re calling in from a land line, you won’t have to tell it where you are. It knows. (If you want to know the weather back home, you can get that, too.) And if you’re calling from your cell phone, well, then you may have to tell it where you are. But how hard is to say “Los Angeles?”

There is one big caveat in all this (apart from the potentially long wait to get signed up with an account). This is one site where I think you should actually read the User Agreement and the Privacy Policy.

The way it currently reads, at the end of this test period Tellme can modify its User Agreement and Privacy Policy any way it wants without notifying us, and we are deemed to have agreed to the changes (even though we may not know they have changed) the first time we next use the service. It is our responsibility, the User Agreement explains, to check the web site and keep abreast of any changes.

So, theoretically, at least, if the new policy is that “we will give or sell your information to anyone we want any time we want” . . . and if the new user agreement is that “we will bill you $5 per call” . . . that’s it — we’ve agreed to it unless we’ve checked Tellme’s web site and reread the Agreement and Policy before each call.

Obviously, this is ridiculous, and I assume nothing nearly so nefarious is intended. Still, Tellme should add something like this to its current User Agreement:

Notwithstanding the likelihood that we will alter the terms of this agreement at the conclusion of our test period, we will absolutely will not, under any circumstances, begin charging you for our service without having first notified you of the proposed fee schedule and gotten your explicit, active approval. Likewise, we will not share any of your personal information without having first obtained your explicit, active approval of such a change in our privacy policy.

I’ve suggested this, and been thanked for the suggestion, but so far, no change. Anyway, it can’t hurt to check out the demo. Voice recognition is really almost ready for prime time.

Speaking of talking computers . . . would you like someone to read my column to you every morning while you’re getting dressed? I haven’t tried this, but it’s free: ReadPlease. Apparently, after downloading the software, you can then cut and paste anything you want into the Windows clipboard and have ReadPlease read it out loud. You even get to choose the reader’s voice and speed. (I got this tip from TheFreeSite newsletter, which is also free and alerts you to lots of other free stuff. I tell you: this dot-com economy is a gold mine! I can’t believe all those stocks tanked.



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