DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

June 27, 2017

Voice Assistants

Some of the big technology devices to hit in recent years are Voice Assistants. The idea first came about on TV with Star Trek in the ‘60s. This was when you could communicate by voice instructions with the computers. In the real world, “Siri” started on the iPhone 4S at its release in October 2011. And then, “Ok, Google” began in July 2012, and was first supported on the Galaxy Nexus smartphone. So yes, as always Apple created it first (like phones) and then others improve on it. Most will agree that OK, Google surpasses the Siri app at this point in time. Then there came Cortana from Microsoft, which was announced in January 2015 for Windows 10 desktops and mobile devices.

With those assistants you can look up weather, call people in your address book, get a phone number, get your map to plan a drive, etc. Be careful on that mapping part as I keep seeing articles about people getting lost using them. However, for us, Waze and Google Maps have always been spot on.

Google vs Amazon

Starting last year Amazon and Google started rolling out their devices, with Alexa, (the Echo and Dot seem to be the most popular) and Home respectively. There are other devices available but they are bought in insignificant numbers by comparison.

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Now the Voice Assistants are standalone devices and are selling like, well actually better than, hot cakes. According to the 2017 report from VoiceLabs, “Amazon Echo and Google Home…will sell more than 24 million units combined through the end of 2017.”

Amazon Alexa vs Google Home

They are devices that connect to your Wi-Fi and you speak to them. You can verbally ask questions, set alarms, get news, check the weather, get directions, find phone numbers, perform conversions, do math, find how long it takes to get somewhere (using local traffic conditions) and many more things.

I have been testing a Google Home and it is very, very accurate in both translating your voice and giving accurate responses. In the morning I asked it to tell me about my day. It proceeded to first give me the weather predictions for the day followed by my calendar’s agenda. Then it started telling me the news from various news stations. You can set the news channels you prefer if you wish.

To use the Google device you must have Wi-Fi, either an Android or iPhone device, the application Google Home installed and you are ready to go. The setup process took about five minutes including Google Home updating itself. It was quite easy.

It will also integrate with some other devices; although, at this time the Alexa mixes with many more. That means it can possibly run your TV, cut off your lights, communicate between you and some of your appliances, etc. The only other system I have that it works with is Google Chromecast hooked to my TV. So I can play items there automatically and control them by voice.

Amazon’s devices work pretty much the same; however, as usual, people debate over which is better online all the time. For me, since I am a Google/Android fan I would go for the GH, but either is good. Are these devices a need? No, but I am going to predict that we are going to see a lot more of them in the future.

If you get one do not forget to play with it. Ask it to tell you a joke, ask it how tall you are, ask it if the other device is any good, etc. It made me laugh when I asked it what the fox says…give it a shot if you get the chance.

November 15, 2016

Take a Chill Pill Folks

I have decided to not mention you know…that which has been going on in our country lately that shall not be named.  To relieve some of the stress out there I have decided to give you a few fun sites to visit on the web that may put a smile on your face.

Visit the AkinatorFirst off is one of my favorites, “Akinator” found at en.akinator.com.  To use the site, think of a character, alive, dead, fictional historical, etc.  The only requirement is that they are known to the general public.  Fill in your age, why I have no idea, think about your character and start answering questions.  Today I tried Abraham Lincoln and Peter Pan.  Akinator got them both in (a guess here) less than 15 answers. Give it a try and do not worry.  Although it may seem like it, it is not magic or mindreading but a really well done algorithm   and database combination.  Just the miracle of computing quickly.

Next is one that may be useful for some of you but I think funny, MyFridgeFood.com.  Go to the site and check off the items you have in your refrigerator.  Now click the, “Find Recipes” button and you have a list of dinners to make.  To be honest I tried it and occasionally it will add a general item I did not list, but still interesting.

How about Rock-Paper-Scissors-Game.com.  The name says it all, click the one you want and keep a running total.

How about a handy app that will clean the inside of your computer’s monitor?  Try sanger.dk.

Do you like to shop on Amazon.com and sometimes run out of ideas for gifts?  Go to WeirdOrConfusing.com.  Every click of the. “Please” button will take you to Amazon to show you something – you guessed it, weird or confusing.  How about trying to bounce a few cats at cat-bounce.com.

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Try PointerPointer.com and no matter where you hold your mouse pointer someone will find it and point at it.  Now that everyone is pointing your way show them some art. Go to ThisIsSand.com and make some sand art.  It will give you a few easy instructions when you enter the site, make sure to read them on your first visit.  Now create!

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Would you like to watch a movie by a cozy fire but you do not have a fireplace, try TheInternetFireplace.com.  How about seeing if you can tell where a picture was taken?  Go to GeoGuessr.com and with Google Maps try the single player mode.  The closest I got was about 700 miles.

There are always funny cat videos on YouTube.com, but I am sure many of you have already seen them all.

Finally, and only try hmpg.net last.  Warning only use this site if you are absolutely finished.  Now I bet for a little while you have forgotten all of that stress.

October 29, 2013

Get Help, Join Me

Last week we looked at "Windows Remote Assistance" to see how you could give or receive help with your computer issues.  It works well but as I said there are drawbacks in that you need to be going from a Windows to a Windows computer and could not link with a Mac or Ubuntu (Linux) system.  Today we will look at "Join Me."

There are many programs which do pretty much the same thing.  Some of the more popular applications are "DameWare," "Go to Assist," "PC Anywhere," "LogMeIn" (the parent company of Join.me) and many, many others.  Some of these charge (a lot compared to free) for their services and others are free.  However, I do not believe any are as easy as Join.Me. 

First, the person who needs someone to log onto their computer for help needs to start the process.  It is easy since all you do is open your browser and type in "Join.me" in the address bar.  It will automatically add "https://" (the "s" means a Secure site) and take you to the site.

join.meNow, if this is the first time you have used it go to "Share," "Basic" and click the large orange arrow button.  This will start downloading the small executable file to your computer.  Once the download has finished, find the file and double click it to start "Join.me."  Your browser may also choose to "Run" the file if your browser allows it which is fine. 

 

join.meOnce installed and running you can click the "Share" button and a nine digit code will be generated for you.  It will show something similar to, "join.me/252-743-655." The nine digit number varies each time you use it.  Now give the helping person the nine digit number or email them the generated link.

If you email them the link they can click the link in the email and be instantly logged onto your desktop.  If you read them the number, via phone as most often happens, they log into Join.me just as you did.  But this time they choose the "Join" the meeting after they add the nine digits.  They finally click the green arrow and they are in.  They will go to your machine and you can both see what is going on with your computer.  Do not worry about anyone else using the code.  Once you end the session and close "Join.me" someone else would need a new code, generated only by you, to get into your computer.

You have full control and the "helper" can only view your computer unless you allow them further access.  If you wish to give them permission to actually "drive" your computer go to the meeting tools (pointer) button and click, "share mouse control."  When they are finished take it back.  Easy.

It includes many other neat features such as allowing the people you invite to have voice chats over the Internet using their free VOIP, text chat between all the members in the meeting, transferring files to each other and more. 

There are always updates and changes to this and every other app.  They recently added a couple you may find helpful…if you are a helper.  If you have an Android phone/tablet or an iPhone/iPad you can only view someone’s computer from them.  You cannot share your screen to get help.  It also depends on which version of either OS you have.  For Apple products it must be the latest version and depending on what you need to do it could cost you.  For Android, free…ah, my favorite word.

October 22, 2013

Get Help, Windows Remote Assistance

After the column last week about "Problem Steps Recorder" Andy emailed from Waynesboro, VA and asked an interesting question. 

He was wondering if there is a program that allows him to give a "fix it" person access to his computer to repair it from long-distance.  He had heard of large computer manufacturers logging into home computers to fix problems on computers they had sold.  Could he allow one of his more knowledgeable friends to log onto his computer to do the same thing?

Remote AssistanceWell sure, Andy, you can.  There are maybe two million ways of doing so.  I have a couple I recommend over the others.  Here are my favorites.  

The first one, already built into your computer by Microsoft, is known as, "Windows Remote Assistance."  This works very well and may bring your search to a close.  But read on. 

Easy ConnectFor WRA if both of you are using Windows 7 you can use, "Easy Connect."  To get there click your Windows start button, then type "Remote Assistance."  Now click on, "Invite someone you trust" then finally, "Use Easy Connect."  After it checks your network to make sure you have enough speed to share your screen it will give you a password.  The other person starts up Remote Assistance on their computer and clicks on, "Help someone who has invited you."  After it starts on their side give them the password.  Usually at this point you are on the phone with them so you can read it.  Do not fret, after you close this session of Easy Connect on your computer a new password would be needed to log on.  So you are immediately protected once you close the program.  

They will now be able to see your computer and guide you through your troubles.  You can also allow them to run your computer from their location by clicking, "Would you like to allow PERSON’S NAME to share control of your desktop?" 

Make sure they can see what you want them to see.  Remember they can see your windows screens so close other apps if you do not want them to see them.  If you suspect them of doing something evil (like looking for passwords, etc.) you can shut them down.  Chose, "Stop Sharing" or just close the applications window.

If you and the "helper" are using different versions of Windows you only need to do a couple of things differently.  So try this.

Use the same sequence you did originally by going to Start, Remote Assistance, Windows Remote Assistance but this time chose either, "Invite someone to help you" or "Save this invitation as a file."  I recommend the first over the second just for ease of use.  Finally click, "Use email to send an invitation."  Fill in their email address and send that info to them.  When they receive the email it explains what to do with a link to click.  Once the link is clicked they follow the instructions in the file and gain access to your system.

Next, week I will give you my absolute favorite way to connect.  The reason I value it is that you can help Mac, Windows or even Linux computer users – regardless of versions.

October 15, 2013

Get Help, Problem Steps Recorder

I have had people tell me many times that sometimes their computer will give them a problem.  No surprise there. But then when they talk to a geek or go to have it fixed they either cannot explain it to the geek clearly enough, they may forget exactly what happened or they cannot get the problem to duplicate itself at that time.  They then feel hopelessly lost.

Never fear, Microsoft thought of you with Windows 7 and continued it in Windows 8 (if you are one of the unfortunates using it) and hopefully from that point on.  The application is called, "Problem Steps Recorder" and is really a miracle of the technology age.

It is very simple to use and will give your computer geek more than enough, maybe even too much information regarding what is going on with your computer.

To get to PSR you can either click on your Start Orb and type Problem Steps Recorder and click the link that reads, "Record steps to reproduce a problem" or just type "PSR", see "psr.exe" and click it to start.  

PSR Start ScreenA rectangular window will pop up on your monitor that is label in-kind.  At that point you have only three options.  First you could close it with the "X" on the upper right.  Next, you can get help by clicking the question mark SNAGHTML3c02deunder the close "X."  Lastly, click on "Start Record."  With the last one you will be recording your screenshots anytime you click your mouse or type.  Each thing you do is recorded along with exactly what page you were on, the X and Y coordinates of the mouse location, exactly what you enter into areas, etc.

While recording, you can also add a comment by clicking the appropriate button on the controller for PSR.  It will open a text box in the recording area and you can type notes or thoughts with regard to the process. They will appear when you play the file back later.

Once you have finished stepping through your process click the "Stop Recording" button and you may then save it.  It will automatically create a "zipped" file to make it easier to email or take to another person for help.  If you would like to experiment try it now.  Save the file, (best to your desktop) and once it completes unzip the file and run the video to be amazed.

This is an excellent help tool and really easy to use.

October 19, 2010

TAC Drives for Medical Emergencies

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , — Ron @ 4:54 am

Anyone with a medical condition should have some form of medical ID on them.  In the event you are incapacitated you want the rescue squad to know you are a Type 1 diabetic (like me), epileptic, asthmatic and or any of the other "…tics" out there.  It can only help them and you!

Last year I wrote about how I created my own, "MedicAlert" dog tags and received lot of emails about them.  Some of you thought they were a good idea…others not so good.  I have continued using them until the last couple of weeks.

I was looking online for something better than what I had.  My dog tag had basic contact information on it along with a website URL where all of my medical info could be obtained.  That is a fine idea but what if the rescue people find me where there is no internet connection and they can’t get to my webpage? 

Well, I found something online that takes care of that "lack of internet" problem.  Quite honestly, I wish I had created this device and could have; however, I didn’t.  The site is called TAC Drive (tacdrive.com) and includes the best of all worlds as far as I am concerned.  

imageTAC Drives are almost identical in size to a regular dog tag, though thicker.  You can have contact information engraved on them just like I had with my old tags.  Mine has my name, my medical condition, my wife’s contact info and my two doctors’ names and phone numbers. 

So now you are thinking, "Okay, what’s the big deal?  You had all of that before."  The big deal is the 0.25 inch thickness which contains a thumb drive.   The drive portion of the TAC Drive holds software that has all of your medical information on it.  You can put anything medically relevant on it:  all of your ICEs (In Case of Emergency contacts), any medications, your doctors, (their names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.) and a whole lot more. 

The medical information only takes up a small portion of the thumb drive space so you can also store other files on it.  The TAC Drive’s storage sizes range from 1GB to 8GB and prices are $20 – $55 which is very reasonable for what you get.  You can add other files to the drive, encrypt those files and with a premium account upload those files to the internet for backups.  They also come in several different colors and there are a couple of exterior designs to choose from.

So The one that Ron bought.next time you are in a situation where this information is needed the rescue person can see your contact info on the outside of the TAC Drive. They can obtain all the necessary information when they plug the drive into their computer. 

In 500 words I cannot tell you enough good about these devices.  Email or call the support people and they will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have, as they were for me.  If you need something like this I highly recommend you get to TACDrive.com, choose the one you want and update your medical information quickly.

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