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Thursday, 6 November 2008

Fax For Free via the Internet

In my last attempt to be able to vote on November 4th (my absentee ballot came too late for me to send it off in time) I tried to fax a copy of my ballot to my city clerks office. Unfortunately, I don't have a fax machine. More unfortunately, I live in a rather third-world African city that just so happened to be experiencing violent demonstrations that day so I couldn't go out, not that I have easy access to a car or know where the heck I would have found a fax machine anyway.

I seemed to remember having seen once or twice, or two hundred times, annoying pop-up ads that said something about sending faxes through the internet. So I started browsing around online for other solutions. An initial Google search brought up dozens of sites offering this service, but, being me, I decided I was feeling lucky after all and typed "free" into my search bar and tried again. I got dozens more options, but what I was really looking for was advert-free, registration-free, no-strings-attached faxing services - a pretty tall order.

The closest thing I found was the free faxing service provided by drop.io. Drop.io allows you to upload files to a URL you specify, for example http://drop.io/whateveryouchose, so that you can pass the URL on and share them with other people or access them later. All types of files can be uploaded, not just a simple email message. You can also send people the files that you've uploaded, including by fax. It's completely free and while you do have to chose a password to associate with the URL you picked, you don't have to provide an email address or name, or register in any other way, making this an awesome choice. However, on further investigation, after uploading my files and going through the whole process, I discovered a glich. Drop.io has temporarily (I hope) suspended their faxing service. Their reason: unreliable service from their partners. They say that they are looking for other companies to team up with in the future so that they can start the faxing service again. I was disappointed to be sure, but happy to have found out about their file storage anyway; you never know when that might come in handy. And I'll keep checking back about faxing and if they offer it again, I'll let you know.

The next service provider I looked at was TPC, another totally free option, although they do ask for your email so that they can send you a confirmation notice when your fax is complete. I wouldn't be too worried about that though, as they're just a couple of really nice people who run the show for research purposes and out of the goodness of their hearts; I don't think you're headed to spam central, but that's just my judgment call. Obviously, you have to decide for yourself. My reason for not using their service was that I needed to send a copy of my ballot, not just a simple message. TPC doesn't allow you to fax files, only messages, so this wasn't going to work for me and, frankly, I can't see many uses for it as usually the whole point in faxing is to send a signed document and the like, not a simple message. But I guess if you needed to send a telegram-style message to someone living in the dark ages where they didn't have an email account but had a fax machine it might come in handy.

In the end, I had to settle for a free faxing service with adverts. I used faxZERO, and while I did have to give them my email address, I didn't have to register with a username and password and I haven't seemed to have gotten any more spam than usual (though I did use an alternative email account I created for these types of things just in case). With faxZERO you can only send one file less than 3 pages and the recipient will be shown an advert on the coverpage.

I sent my ballot off and hoped for the best. About 15 minutes later I got a confirmation email from faxZERO and shortly afterwards and an email from my city clerks office. They couldn't count my vote. Only absentee ballots arriving by hand or by snail-mail are considered valid in my state, but I was applauded for my efforts and can confirm that faxZEROs services do indeed work if you're ever in a similar pinch. Once again, thank you, Internet. At least now I can say I did everything in my power.


James said...

GotFreeFax.com is another website that lets user send free fax online to the US and Canada. User can either upload a PDF/Word file or enter text to fax. Plus, it does not add Ads to user's fax, which makes it very suitable for faxing formal documents.

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