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.

March 3, 2015

Google Tricks, Part 3

Google Logo

For the last couple of weeks I have told you about some interesting Google tricks you can do, some helpful, others fun.  Your interest in emails has shown me that you would like a couple more of their tricks, so here we go.  Remember always start on the main Google.com page for these to work.  Most will anyway but they will definitely work from the main page.

Pretend that you are researching some item on Google, say bananas.  You search using Google.com as usual with, "banana farms" and find many links with information.  Many of the sites reference, "Chiquita" but you do not want any more information on that company.  To weed out that company type, "banana farms -Chiquita".  The results will have removed, "Chiquita" from most all of the searches.  The use of a minus sign filters your searches by removing the following word.

You may want to get information is a particular format, say a Microsoft PowerPoint slide show which contains the phrase you are looking for.  Search Google this way.  Type, " ‘space the final frontier’ filetype:ppt" in the search box.  Two things to remember.  First thing is that you need to put regular quotes around the phrase you are searching and no space between the colon and the file type after it.  You could also search for graphics using, "jpg" extension; however, it is better to use the Google image search for that.  Other extensions you may search for are Word files (doc and docx), Excel (xls and xlsx), Portable Document Format (pdf), PowerPoint as stated previously (ppt), Text (txt), Open Document Format (odf) and many more from various programs.  

What can you do if you remember reading an article on a site in the past and need to "refind" that article?  Google allows you to search a site for keywords.  For instance you remember an app I wrote about called "Ninite" and want to find it.  You could go directly to my site and search for it or you could go to Google.  In Google type, "ninite site: www.doubleclicks.info" search and you will find several times I have mentioned it online.  Capitalization does not matter; however, spacing is very important.  You must have a space between the term you are searching for and after the colon or you search may fail. 

Two last items are more of a set up and not a trick.  First, if you like the "I’m Feeling Lucky" link in Google and now it is gone most likely you have somehow turned on "Instant predictions."  To go back to the "old" way go to Google.com page, look in the lower right corner and click, "Settings," "Search settings." Finally under "Google Instant predictions" click the "Never show instant results" button.  While there you can also try, "Advanced search."

Try searching with your voice if you have not before.  From Google.com click the gray microphone to the right of the search box.  You will see when it is ready, then just talk away.  This will only work if you have a mic on your computer and it is on/working.

April 21, 2014

2014-04-21 WSVA Show Notes

Today we had the April show on WSVA, 550AM.  If you have 40 minutes to learn some new tech info and listen to Jim Britt and I having fun…take a listen here.  A few calls, a few issues, a few news items and a lot more.  Enjoy the links we talked about below.

Tech News
Heartbleed Explained
If you’re an IT professional, gadget blogger or token geek in your circle of friends, chances are, you’ve been hounded relentlessly over the past couple of days about "this Heartbleed thing."

"Do I need to update my antivirus?"

"Can I login to my bank account now?"

"Google already fixed it, right?"

We’ve heard them all, but the answers aren’t all that clear or simple. In an attempt to take the pressure off — it is the weekend after all — we’ve put together a primer that should answer all of those questions and a few more. Next time someone asks you about that "Heartbleed thing," just shoot them in our direction.


Ron’s Android App Recommendation
(This app can be found on Google Play from your Android phone,
tablet or viewed on your PC from the link below.)
SnapSeed

Snapseed is the only photo app you’ll want to use every day. It makes any photograph extraordinary with a fun, high-quality photo experience right at your fingertips. Anyone can enhance, transform, and share their photos with ease using incredibly advanced features from the leader in digital photography software. Built-in Google+ capabilities make it even more powerful to share your images with your friends and family.


Links mentioned:
"Play Some Music"
EndGadget
Sometimes, having your entire music collection in your pocket can be a bit overwhelming. When there are hundreds (or in our case, thousands) of tracks at your disposal, where do you even begin to listen? To help thwart that paralysis of choice, Google is going to do the guessing for you with its latest tweak to Search. From Google Now or the search bar, simply say the magic words "play some music" and your Android device will start playing a random Play Music "I’m feeling lucky" mix that’s based on recent listening habits.


  • Rent an MBA abcnews.go.com
    The best business brains can now be hired on the cheap and by the hour. Two new websites make it possible for companies and individuals to get consulting help from young MBAs newly minted from such top business schools as Harvard and Wharton.

    The same 35-hour consulting job for which a traditional, blue chip firm might charge $20,000 might cost as little as $1,500 on these sites. That’s, in part, because the participating MBAs typically are ones still in school or just starting out on their careers; it’s also because the websites don’t carry the same overhead as traditional consulting firms.


    Have a great afternoon and let me know what you would like to hear about on the show next month, Monday, May 18th.

    Ron

  • 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.

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