TrapCall Reveals Who’s Behind Blocked Calls

Free service TrapCall reveals caller ID information from blocked calls, unmasking numbers of blocked calls from telemarketers and prank callers with virtually no extra effort on your part.

TrapCall works like this: When you reject or miss a call, your phone forwards those calls to TrapCall’s toll free number (you have to follow TrapCall’s setup guide to do this). Once sent to TrapCall, the service works its magic on the missed call and then re-routes the call back to you, this time with the caller ID unblocked. If you reject the call a second time, it’ll go straight to your normal voicemail. On the caller’s end, all they hear during this whole process is ringing.

TrapCall offers three tiers of service. The free version does caller ID unmasking and lets you set up unwanted caller blacklists. The other two pay versions offer more features, including voicemail transcription, caller ID names, support, incoming call recording, and more. You’ll need to check with your carrier to see that it supports TrapCall (and also to verify whether or not the service will cost you anything from their end—as call forwarding sometimes does).

The unmasking of blocked calls is great for people frustrated with telemarketers and prank callers, but there is a troublesome side to this service. Namely, as Wired discusses, victims of domestic violence count on caller ID blocking as a form of protection. It’s a serious outside case, to be sure, but for general use, TrapCall does what it says, and it does it well.

Elisa is a Simple, Streamlined Media Center

Windows/Linux: Elisa Media Center doesn’t go in for swooshing sound effects or social networking. This open-source media center puts your music, pictures, and videos on your screen, period. See it live in screenshots below.

We’ve given Elisa a shout-out before, in our guide to operating your computer with Wii controllers, because it works surprisingly well. And it’s gotten a shout-out or two before. But we’re overdue for a look at how Elisa simply puts your non-protected videos, music, and pictures onto your computer or TV screen.

Click on the thumbnails below to get a larger look at how Elisa looks on your screen, along with captioned details on Elisa’s features:

 Elisa's main menu, which spins in smooth fashion between music, movies, pictures, settings, and plug-in management.  From the "Settings" menu, head to "Add Folders" and browse to any folder on your system, or USB devices, that contains stuff you want to watch. Click the "+Add" button next to the folder, and Elisa asks which categories it should go into.  All three of the media menus look something like this, with options to open your local stuff, grab material off your Samba/Windows network shares, or use Internet-enabled plugins (more on those later).
 Elisa's actual media player is fairly minimalist, but does a good job opening nearly any kind of media file. Here it's taking on a DVD I ripped and didn't bother converting.  When you first start Elisa, it spends a lot of time digging through files and searching out related cover art. The results are usually worth it, as seen here.  Flickr, Picasa, Shoutcast,, and other plugins are available right out of the box, and plenty more are available from inside the app and at Elisa's <a href="">website</a>.
 Here's how Elisa handles a Flickr gallery.  Like its much-revered counterpart <a href="">Boxee</a>, Elisa can automatically sort out TV shows and Movies, and stream videos from network locations too.

Elisa is a free download for Windows and Linux systems. I couldn’t get it working on my Windows 7 beta, or (seemingly) activate the plugins in Ubuntu 8.10, but Windows XP worked just fine out of the box. Drop any tips, favorite plugins, or other Elisa advice in the comments.

NBC Direct Offers Free HD Downloads

Windows only: Sure, almost all the offerings on NBC Direct can be watched at streaming site Hulu. But if you’re an HD fiend and want offline access, NBC Direct’s player might be worth checking out.

NBC Direct is definitely powered by DRM and ad-powered software, so if you’re not cool with that, well, you probably know a few other places to look (like, er, Hulu). But if you dig the idea of subscribing to, and downloading higher-quality videos of your favorite NBC shows, it’s not a bad way of getting them guilt-free.

About NBC’s definition of HD:

Standard Quality videos are available for download at 360p resolution while registered myNBC users will have the option to download High Quality video at 720p resolution.

Thanks to wqwert for the clarification!

Installing NBC Direct means downloading a little applet, which then puts an add-on into your Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox browser, and runs a system tray applet to download and watch shows offline. When you’re connected, it seems, you’re also a peer source for other NBC Direct users:

Once the installation starts rolling, you’ll be asked to close down your browser. NBC Direct downloads and plays its shows through your browser, and it plugs in a rights-restricted media handler to do so (pictured at right).

When you launch NBC Direct from a shortcut or by heading to, you’ll get a pretty easy-to-follow menu of offerings. The full episodes and clips offered tend to follow the Hulu model—usually a few episodes back from the most recently aired episode of current marquee series, and fuller archives of kitsch/nostalgia shows, like Miami Vice. From any video, you can click to download, subscribe to the series (which starts downloads automatically, assuming you haven’t killed the NBC auto-starting tray applet), and switch to bigger views:

Even when you’re “offline” to watch a show, though, you’re getting some ads. The one complaint I’d make about NBC’s video site, versus Hulu, is that they take “fullscreen” to mean something less than literal. Here’s an episode of The Office, in HD, set to “Fullscreen.” There’s actually a bunch more space at the bottom and right-hand side, but I clipped it for Lifehacker page constraints:

If you’re planning to be away from a net connection for a while and want to catch up, NBC Direct’s not a bad option, and it does offer good quality shows for free. It’s free to use, sign-up required.