Like any 21st-century citizen with ears, it's fair to say I have something of a love/hate relationship with musical mobile phone ringtones.
I love mine and I hate everyone else's.
For example, I'm no fan of Lady Gaga. Now wait, just wait - I don't know her and I have no reason to believe she's anything other than a fine person. But since I don't like her music, I think I should be allowed to live in a world where I don't have to have the chorus to Born This Way seared into my brain.
But I don't live in that world. I can't live in that world because I occasionally eat in mall food courts next to teenagers who have mobile phones blaring from their handbags that apparently everyone can talk over except me.
Not that I blame the kids. The ringtone format itself was designed to alert, not entertain, and 20 uninvited random seconds of any song, forced upon us in a loop over a two-minute interval with just enough silence in between to produce apprehension about the next incoming volley, is just as annoying as the next.
Fortunately, there's a smartphone app out there that can help us get the digital age's signal-to-noise ratio back in balance. Though not specifically designed for this purpose, Create Ringtones! (free for iPhone; Android users can try a similar app called Ringdroid) allows users to construct their own personalised alerts for incoming calls from any song in their music collection or, more to the point, record their own.
Once you download the app and turn it on, a simple five-button interface appears allowing you to, among other things, sample music from your library or lay down 30-seconds of your own sounds using your smartphone's microphone. You then, oddly, must take the scenic route to add the new ringtone to your phone, first e-mailing the .m4r audio file to yourself, then downloading it into your computer's iTunes application before it can be transferred back to your phone the next time it syncs up.
Still, with this tiny bit of power comes great responsibility. You will be tempted to assign your boss's incoming calls with Chopin's Funeral March or tag your mother-in-law's with Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries.
But why not do humanity a favour and give everyone their own ambient sounds, from ocean waves to Amazonian rainstorms to birds singing in rustling trees?
Even better: is there someone you'd like to block from your call list? Just record and assign them 30 seconds of silence and they could magically disappear.
You might even want to make that last one your default ringtone. I'm sure everyone in the food court would be appreciative.
Have some great personal finance apps that you want to share? Write to Curt Brandao at firstname.lastname@example.org