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.

January 6, 2015

2014 Sites in Review, Part 1

Welcome to the beginning of our fourteenth year together with the Double Click column.  Every January we review the sites that we visited in the previous year.  Today is no different.  So as always, if the site addresses are too long to type I have shortened them using the "bit.ly" app so the links may not look quite right.  Without further ado…here they are in their order of appearance with short descriptions of each.

Thanks for reading the column and emailing me with your great questions.  I love writing it and hearing from you! 

  • Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and ABC – add ".com" to any of those to view TV shows, movies, video clips, etc.
  • Chromecast.com – this Google device allows you to broadcast anything from your Android, iPhone or Windows phones and computers to your TV.
  • Chromebook.com – Computers that run the Chrome OS (Google) and have everything you need in the Cloud. 
  • Google Drive/Docs,  – Google’s Office substitute and a good one it is, with this you may not need to purchase Microsoft Office.
  • McAfee – one of the many antivirus applications available for your computer’s protection.
  • Libre Office and Open Office – the two leaders in the free Microsoft Office replacements.  Both are good; however, fall short in some areas. 
  • Google, Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, IxQuick and StartPage – add ".com" to any of these for search engines, the last three do not track your searches but the first three do.
  • Google Location History – this site will show you where you have been in the recent past on Google Maps. 
  • Copy, bit.ly/roncopy – free online cloud storage, use the link shown and get 20 GB instead of 15 at Copy.com.
  • Dropbox, bit.ly/use-DropBox, same as above; however, you get 2 GB, many people prefer this to all the other online storage options since it was one of the first.
  • Google Drive and OneDrive, (by Microsoft) – Google’s and Microsoft’s cloud storage sites both at 15GB free. 
  • OneNote, Microsoft’s great note taking application, free online.
  • MultCloud, put all of your cloud storage on one site (notice spelling, no "i").

Tune in next week for the last half of the sites we visited in 2014.

December 9, 2014

Tech Christmas, Part 1

Wearable Tech is one of those technology terms that makes some sense.  It is a technology device that you wear like clothes or jewelry.  However, it does more than just look pretty. 

Here are a couple of the more popular items that seem to be making lots of news (or advertising) this time of year.

First up, how about a pair of video sunglasses?  Wear them while you are at the beach, snow skiing, hunting, etc. and capture good video of what you are seeing.  Take your new glasses home, hook them up to your computer and show it to all of your friends. 

Look around and you can find them from around $30 to $400 a pair.  You next question is, why the large price range?  As with all technology products the costs of specifications add up.  The less expensive pairs have lower "film" speeds, fewer pixels, cheaper lenses, poor battery rates, etc. 

Fitbit choicesAnother popular item this year is wearable fitness products.  One company that seems to do more than some of the others is "Fitbit" (fitbit.com).  Most of the Fitbit products look like a wrist watch without the watch.  The basic models keep track of the number of steps you have taken, distances, calories burned and stairs you go up and down all day.  They say that at night it measures your sleep quality, helps you learn to sleep better and will even wake you in the morning.      

The more advanced Fitbit models can track your pulse, sync information wirelessly to your computer, has GPS tracking and can send you notifications from your phone and other features. 

There are also a plethora of Smart Watches for Android, iPhone and Windows platforms.  Some are rated very good; however, some are rated not so good.  Research online before you purchase one.  They are fun but somewhat expensive.  As always with new technology the prices will drop, but if you are on the tech-cutting-edge you may want to get one now.  It will show you emails, alarms, weather, and most everything your phone will but it is on your arm.  Guess what?  They also show you the time and date. 

RinglyAnother very recent addition to the wearables is, "Ringly" (ringly.com).  It is similar to the Fitbit and Smart Watches but is smaller and does similar tricks; but is mostly for alerts.  Priced from $195 to $260.

Water Dancing Droplet SpeakersFor the more budget conscious how about a pair of Water Dancing Droplet Speakers? (bit.ly/1vnbQQz)  Once your music starts playing, the speakers will send colorful jets of water up and down in time with the beat. The site is in the UK but they are $39 in US dollars. 

 

HFHiCALL Now for one of my favorites which I have been talking about for a couple of years.  Hi-Fun HFHiCALL phone gloves.  These are fairly normal looking gloves with a Bluetooth connection to your phone.  There is an earpiece in the thumb and a microphone in the pinkie finger.  You got it!  Fold your three middle fingers down and talk to the hand.  These run from $39 to $75 depending on the version, color, etc.  The best prices appear to be on Amazon.

December 2, 2014

September 23, 2014

June 10, 2014

January 28, 2014

Chromebook

Last time we looked at some of the neat features in Google’s newer device called "Chromecast."  I liked the column so much I went out and bought one for my household.  (Wow, I am easily persuaded.)  It works as described with new features and applications being added all the time.  I did have several reader questions about it and the main one was, "I want one but how hard is it to install?"  I have to tell you it was very simple.  All you do is follow the 4-5 steps in the installation paper which comes in the box.  It worked flawlessly for me. 

After the install completed (which took less than ten minutes with the longest portion being the update of the device itself) we were watching streamed shows immediately. 

Unfortunately when I went to the local big-box store to purchase it another, "Chrome" item struck my eye.  More unfortunately, I bought that also.

This item is another Google product named, "Chromebook."  Are you starting to get the picture with Google and their naming conventions?  By-the-way, their browser is named "Chrome."  I guess they like chrome since it is bright and shiny.  The Chromebook runs the Chrome browser as its operating system hence the name.

The Chromebook looks a lot like a notebook computer.  It is slimmer and lighter (about 2 pounds) than a regular windows notebook and mine has an 11" monitor.  So it is basically smaller all around.

imageWith it I can surf the internet, use email, play some games and do many other things online.  One big difference with a Chromebook is that one word in the last sentence, "online."  You can perform some of the functions without being connected to the internet; however, for everything to operate properly you need the net.  It is a cloud based device meaning that everything it does is stored on or taken from the web. 

Another difference is they do not have an internal hard drive.  They do have a small internal SSD, solid state drive.  The one I bought has only a 16 GB drive – the same as my phone.  Well then, where do you put stuff?  The storage for documents you create is in the cloud. 

Since Google created the Chromebook they also have the storage.  Called Google Drive, where you get 15 GB of storage.  To give you an idea, all of the columns I have written since January, 2002 (OVER 1,100) take up only 109 MB of room.  That is less than 1% of 15 gb, so there is really plenty of room for documentation.  You can also store photographs and any other types of files.  Google now offers a deal where for two years you get 100 gb of free cloud storage.  After that you get to purchase it at $4.99/month, currently.  I can also plug in a thumb drive and store files there.  I would not choose to buy the online storage but I could save a lot of documents on the SSD provided very easily.

imageSince the Chromebook runs on the Chrome browser it has a very, "internet feel" to it which most everyone is familiar with so it is easy to use.  Google Docs is your online replacement for Microsoft Office and does a pretty good job of emulating all of its features and capabilities, especially for normal, non-geek types of people.

I will be writing most of my columns on it for the foreseeable future — like this one.  Since I usual write while not at home and "on the road" I will be using it for quite a while.  As long as I have wi-fi I can do most everything I need to do.  However, for my business use I have to stick with a "real" computer due to the programs specific to my job which will not run in the Chrome browser.

January 14, 2014

2013 Sites in Review, Part 2

This week I will continue with the second half of the links we talked about last year at DoubleClicks.info.

Remember, if the site addresses are too long to type I have shortened them with bit.ly.  Here they are in their order of appearance with short descriptions of each.

  • Dropboxbit.ly/aszzao.   A very good cloud storage app.  Use the supplied link to sign up and get more space.
  • Kill Diskkilldisk.com.  This application will totally wipe your drive clean so that it is almost impossible to retrieve deleted data.
  • Nexus 7 2013bit.ly/1esugJz.  My current favorite Android tablet. 
  • Hulu.com and Hulu.com/plus.  The very popular free and paid TV movie streaming apps. 
  • Google Musicplay.google.com/music.  Google’s free/paid (depending on what you want) music streaming plus you can upload your own music to it and listen anywhere you have internet connectivity.
  • BGCallwww.vieas.com/en.  A wallpaper changer which was less than adequate at the time I wrote about it.
  • Google Keepgoogle.com/keep.  A very good note taking app where you can add pictures, lists, texts and be alerted by them using the time or location of your mobile device.  I just hope Google does keep this one.
  • Recuvapiriform.com/recuva.  Did you accidentally empty the Recycle Bin and need a file back?  If so try this app which is one of the better ones for recovering deleted files.
  • Facebook.com and Twitter.com.  Two popular social web sites.
  • PayPal.com. A safe place to pay for online purchases.
  • Device ManagerAndroid.com/devicemanager.  How to locate, send an alert or wipe your data from your Android device(s).
  • Ubuntuubuntu.com.  Operating system which operates as well as Windows; however, this one is free. 
  • Join Mejoin.me.  A free application for individuals, which will allow you to log onto someone else’s computer, while they are there.  Great to use for helping and training.
  • Should I Remove Itshouldiremoveit.com.  A free app that will locate and remove unwanted programs including adware, toolbars, bloat-ware, crap-ware and other junk.
  • AniPet Aquariumbit.ly/anifree. A nice live wallpaper for Android devices. Also similar for Windows and OSX is Serene Screen at serenescreen.com. 
  • Glympseglympse.com and Waze.com.  A good and much better GPS navigation app for your mobile devices. 
  • Chromegoogle.com/chrome, Firefoxfirefox.com, Internet Explorer – search at Microsoft.com, Operaopera.com and Safariapple.com/safari.  The five most popular web browsers.
  • OpenOffice (openoffice.org) and LibreOffice (libreoffice.org) are two similar but excellent free replacements for Microsoft Office. 

I look forward to continuing the discussions about software, computers, the internet and all sorts of technology this year.  I hope that you, your families and friends have a great 2013 and continue to join me in the newspaper, on the radio and on the web! 

January 7, 2014

2013 Sites in Review, Part 1

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year since we last talked.  I wanted to say, "Thanks!" to all of you readers who support the "Double Click" column by reading and writing over the past 12 years.  It is very much appreciated.  Please keep it up.  I always enjoy hearing from you.

It is the time of year when I review all of the sites mentioned during the previous year.  As always, have fun remembering, discovering, or rediscovering all the info! 

If the site addresses are too long to type I have shortened them using "bit.ly" for print, so the links may not look quite right.  Without further ado…here they are in their order of appearance with short descriptions of each.

  • Online music streaming sites;  "Slacker Radio" (slacker.com), "Spotify" (spotify.com), "Maestro" (maestro.fm), Last.fm and the one I like best…Pandora (pandora.com).   These are accounts for listening to most any type of music imaginable. 
  • Google Musicmusic.google.com.   Google’s music site is similar to above; however, you can also upload up to 20,000 of your own songs and listen to them online from any device.
  • Daily News-RecordDNROnline.com.  My flagship newspaper, read it often! 
  • Double Clicksdoubleclicks.info.  This column’s site, read it often, too!
  • Portable Appsportableapps.com.  A site where you can get apps that are… well, that’s obvious.  
  • Microsoft Officebit.ly/1kJ3oK4.  You know this one, "The" most popular office suite of programs.
  • Libre Officelibreoffice.org.  One of the two most popular free office suites.
  • Solutosoluto.com.  One of many ways to speed up your computer and keep all of your applications up to date, not just the Microsoft ones. 
  • Lynda.com. A paid online training site for many different applications used today.
  • Microsoft Office Trainingbit.ly/1cBOoM9.  Good free office training.
  • YouTube.com – among millions of other videos you can find excellent Office training videos created by people like you and me.
  • Google.com – the most popular search engine.
  • Gmailgmail.com.  Google’s branded email.
  • A Toy Train in Spacebit.ly/1bHdbc3.  A dad uses a Raspberry Pi computer to take his son’s toy train into space and return with some great video of the ride.
  • Newsblur.com, Feedly.com, TheOldReader.com, Pulse.me and Flipboard.com.  Several of the many popular RSS feed readers to replace the dead and gone Google Reader.  They vary for mobile platforms and web viewing.

Well that takes us through the middle of 2013.  Check out part two of the year in review next week.

November 12, 2013

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