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.

June 20, 2017

Email Negatives, Part 2

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:25 am

Last week I wrote regarding some of the good of email, see “Email Positives, Part 1” if you missed it. This week I will voice some of my concerns regarding this great feature of the computer age. Email has been around forever. Well not quite, as Ray Tomlinson is attributed with devising email in 1972 or 1971 depending on where you find that fact. Forms of it existed as far back as 1965 but not by the masses.

Email, Angel or Devil

First up, email forces employees to often multitask. Now, at this point in time multitasking is considered by the “authorities” to be costing employers a lot of time and money. One researcher said that he found about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task. My thought has always been that task switching was nuts from the beginning. Yay me, I got one right! I can even prove it if you take one of my classes on technology. So, jumping in and out of email costs corporations money today. There is also a personal stress factor with multitasking that we will not go into today.

Read this one of many articles on Multitasking - Lifehack

Check this article on Lifehack about the good/bad of Multitasking

Another issue for business is that email can be easily abused by many as workers jump in and out of worthless emails whether personal (yes, at work) or company produced. Some companies have found that without specific boundaries their employees may send many emails to family and friends instead of doing their jobs. Think about all of those emails you are “Courtesy Copied” (you know, the CC on your email app) on daily which are no concern of yours. You still need to review them to make sure you are not responsible for something mentioned.

Next, many people change email addresses – often. This means that if you sent email to them yesterday it may never be read. If they do not respond it does not necessarily mean they are avoiding you.

As of March, 2017, statistics indicate that 57 percent of all worldwide email is spam. Another time waster. And BIG money waster. In January, 2017, it was estimated that worldwide a little over $2 billion dollars was spent in time wasted in corporations from spam.

Catching up on Email after Vacation?!Another email time killer…email catch-up. For instance, in my first days of business with email I would go on vacation for a week. When I returned to work I would spend most of a day going through them to see what I needed to act on, save for the future, ignore, or delete. That took a lot of my time. Even though I was paid at work I felt horrible having to waste time going through this process.

Now, I, like most other employees nowadays, check it once daily or at least every other day while vacationing to keep the load down when I return. So now email is messing up your, and my off time.

Next, one of the major issues with email. Viruses, scams, phishing, frauds, deceit, etc. See the amount of money mentioned above? That does not include the individuals who continue to fall for scams from email all the time or the money they throw away.

OK, I am now done ranting about email, even though I do not consider it all bad. Do you consider it a good thing or bad for you and/or your business?

March 20, 2017

2017-03-20 Show Notes @ WSVA

Welcome back for another month of the WSVA radio talk show!  I hope you enjoyed it if you were able to listen this morning at 9:00 am ET.  If not you can listen to the show here.

These are a couple of the major things we mentioned today.

Have at ‘em.

Tech News

March 20, 2016

5 Technologies That are Making Farms Smarter and More Efficient Than Ever Before

  • Wi-Fi-connected crops
    A modern farm typically has electronic sensors distributed throughout the field that can monitor for different conditions; in some cases the gadgets send data to an on-the-farm server or to the cloud
  • “Liveware” gene editing
    Gene/DNA edits can make some plants more resilient to climate change, consume less water and increase yields, etc.
  • Robot farmers
    The rapid pace of development in self-driving cars is also happening on the farm. Self-driving tractors and robots are becoming more common as a way to control payroll costs by automating time-consuming tasks done by humans. This doesn’t include even more harvesting which has been done mechanically for years.
  • Eyes in the sky
    Mapping technology (along with other uses) is a vital part of data-driven agriculture, and getting those maps is easier and more cost-effective than ever before thanks to the explosive growth in drone technology.
  • Wavelength management
    Urban and vertical indoor farming is becoming more popular, giving growers of specialty crops ways to produce year-round regardless of outdoor weather conditions. But one challenge has been helped by now being able to provide the ideal wavelengths of sunlight that optimize growth in cramped indoor spaces.

Surprising Number Of Americans Would Chop Off A Finger To Stay Online Ouch

Americans love the Internet. Some love it so much that they’d rather chop off a finger than stay offline forever, according to a new survey.

In March, 2016, researchers at AT&T asked over 2,000 Americans what they’d give up to stay connected, and people admitted that they’d part with some pretty essential things. Their answers, which are meant to be more fun than scientific, illustrate the extent to which the Internet has become a nearly indispensable feature of modern life.

A full third of respondents said they would sacrifice a digit. Another third said they’d ditch their sense of taste. More than 15 percent of the people surveyed said they’d forgo human interaction before ditching the Internet, and nearly 20 percent said they’d give up love.

Over half said they would allow a stranger to die if it meant holding onto their Internet connection. And a measly 35 percent said they would give up the Internet if doing so would allow them to cure cancer.


EU authorities demand changes from Facebook, Google, Twitter

Social media companies Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc and Twitter Inc will have to amend their terms of service for European users within a month or face the risk of fines, a European Commission official said on Friday.

Germany, the most populous EU state, said this week it planned a new law calling for social networks such as Facebook to remove slanderous or threatening online postings quickly or face fines of up to 50 million euros ($53 million).


That is all for today see you next month at 9:00 am on WSVA, April 17!

Ron

August 30, 2016

Now You Can Delete That File

It hit me the other day that I have been remiss in sharing a great application with you.  I have been using it for well over five years and have never mentioned it.  So here we go today.

If you have used a Windows PC regularly for more than a few weeks you have run into this issue.  You know the frustrating feeling you get when you go to delete a file, group of files or a folder and you cannot.  You will get some type of notification telling you that it cannot be deleted.  You can right click, delete or try selecting it and pressing your delete key or even dragging it directly to the recycle bin, but it just does not matter.

Sometimes the notice will inform you that another program is using it, there is a sharing violation, etcetera.  You can try my old standby trick to delete them.  Wait for a few minutes and try to delete them again.  Sometimes, but rarely, this will work.

This is usually caused by some other program using the file for some known or unknown reason.  For instance, I have had the issue when working on a Word file typing a document.  I did not need the file and went to delete it from my computer.  It gave the notification that it was being used by another application.  I searched and found, yes, I left it open in Word and did not close the file.  In that case it makes sense and once I close the Word program, the file is released and then can be deleted.

However, way too often for me, I cannot figure out what has the file under its control.  I can look and search and cannot find why the stinking file will not go away!

Now for the application I mentioned earlier.  It is appropriately enough named “Unlocker.” It does just that.  If you have a file/folder that needs to be removed and you cannot delete it, Unlocker will.    After it is installed you will have a new command available when you right click on a file that says, “Unlocker.”  Click it and choose between “No Action,” “Delete,” “Rename” or “Move.”  Choose the one you want to use, usually Delete, and click OK.  It will work for a few seconds and either delete it or ask you if you would like it deleted the next time you start your computer.

You can download it from MajorGeeks here, “rd.dblclx.com/unlocker192.”  Oh, did I mention that it is free?  So it will not delete any money from you.

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August 23, 2016

What’s in Your Backpack?

You may or may not have a backpack. I (like most geeks) do. I have no idea why they became so popular over the years other than the advent of the notebook computer. When I was a kid in middle school I carried one to hold my books and paper notebooks in and could not wait for the day I would be rid of the stupid thing. Now, here I am, quite a few years later and I have one slung over my back most of the time I am out and about.

Targus Port BackpackLike I said before, you may not have one but according to sales figures most people do. In 2014 it was recorded that 58% of the US population owns a backpack. Many of us are not using them for work and school but many are.

Prices of backpacks go form the cheap little kid ones at $10 to hundreds of dollars for the cool people who need leather and/or a big name brand.

A couple of warnings here. There were about 14,000 injuries for kids related to backpacks in 2014. I am sure there are more this year. Mostly strains, pulled muscles and other pains in the back. The suggested weight of your backpack and the kids’ should be no more than 10-15% of your body weight, so be careful out there.

Pentel Classic Deluxe Mechanical PencilNot that you care but here is a list of the contents of my Targus Port Backpack: Android tablet, Windows 10 Notebook with 500 GB drive, a small paper notebook (yes, I still write occasionally), my favorite Pentel Classic Deluxe Mechanical Pencil, (my last one as they no longer make these) a pen, several wall chargers to plug in my multitude of cables, (some of unknown variety) 2-USB memory sticks, (one blank and one with programs to fix computer issues) small high-intensity flashlight, usually a couple of extra batteries, a loaded external hard drive just in case and a cheap set of earbuds to listen to music while writing an article.

And then there is some personal stuff. My darts, a traveling humidor, (yes, for a duo of fresh cigars) an old lighter, my faithful old Leatherman, a couple of candy-type snacks (I have to toss the current ones out, they look really old) and even some medical stuff for a Type-1 diabetic.

Go to DoubleClicks.info or email me and let me know if you carry a backpack and what’s inside. Oh yes, I checked and mine is well below the 10-15% of weight rule. It still weighs in at a hefty 14+ pounds.

There is one final word of warning from the doctors in charge of back pain. Make sure you use both straps, one for each shoulder to keep the injuries down.

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.

February 24, 2015

Google Tricks, Part 2

Last week we looked at several of Google’s "tricks." Harold, from Broadway, VA was the first to ask about more Google tricks from the many emails I received. So today we will look at a few more useful Google features of which you may be aware.

If you are like me you never truly understood how to relate metric measurements with good old USA measurements.  The U.S. customary system was created from English units which were in use in the British Empire before America’s independence. Unfortunately, the British system of measures was refurbished in 1824 which gave us the Imperial system.  In Google, type what you need to convert like this, "14 inches to centimeters" or meters and then vice versa.  You will get accurate info right away.  You can do volume too, like "liters to quarts," etc.

How about finding the definition of a tricky word?  Go to Google and type, "define: jentacular" and do not forget the colon.  Now you know…and now you can go look to see what it is.

Would you like to know where your package is located or when it will arrive?  Try Google by typing the tracking number into the search box.  Google will track Fed-Ex, UPS and USPS to name a few.

Do you have problems with math?  Google again with the formula, even very complicated ones.  Do not forget your parenthesis if needed.

Now here is a neat one I recently discovered.  Try, "set timer to 3:04pm" or "set timer to 6 minutes 32 seconds."  Minimize the window and go about your work, with your volume on.  This works great on your computer, tablet or phone.  You will know when to stop boiling your eggs. 

Want to know when you favorite TV Show is on next, try "NCIS episodes." 

Check NCIS episodes

This one is slick.  Do you have a picture and you want to find a similar photo?  Have the picture on your computer or in the browser.  Go to Google and look up anything and then click the "Images" link.  Then click and drag your photo up to the Google search area and drop it.  I tried a picture of my house and it found similar houses including my actual house from the real estate listing!   

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Here is one with individual parts but you can limit it to just one or two items.  Try this search, "lyrics ‘imagine all the * for today’ " and on this one do not use the starting and ending parenthesis and change the singles to doubles.  First off, "lyrics" will just look for lyrics, obvious.  The quoted, "imaging all the * for today" will find all the lyrics for "Imagine."  The asterisk is a wild card and will find any characters in that section of text which are missing from your search.  So even if you do not know all the words you can still find things.

April 15, 2014

Copy That

Over three years ago I mentioned an excellent product named Dropbox. Dropbox is a “cloud” storage program which allows you to save all sorts of files on a site located on the web. It allows you to “sync” your files without you doing anything to your free 2 GB container of online storage. If you have a file in your local computer’s Dropbox folder and edit it, it is automatically transferred to the online location. Pretty much an auto-backup utility. Dropbox has been and still is an outstanding product.

image However, I have found another that is very similar but it has several distinct advantages. I have been using “Copy” for several months now and cannot find any shortcomings. The site is copy.com. Please go there to visit but if you are interested in signing up use this link, “bit.ly/roncopy” to get extra storage. If you use that link both you and I get an additional 5 GB of storage.

image One large advantage is easy to see from the very beginning. It is that you get 15 GB of free storage. If you use my link above you get an extra 5 GB so you start with 20 GB of free storage.

For those of you who use Dropbox but would like more space please give it a try. I strongly urge all of you to use the training information they suggest once your signup, download and install is complete. It is very helpful and most of it is easy to understand.

Other than the amount of storage you get with Copy they have another neat feature called, “Fair Storage." For instance, my wife and I both have an account. We both have many pictures we want to store at Copy. If I have 6 GB of pictures on Copy and I share that folder with my wife it counts as only 3 GB each; it splits the difference. If you have 20 GB of files and share it with four other people only 4 GB would be counted for each of you. That is slick!

Here is another interesting feature I like. With Dropbox you have to sync the Dropbox folder which means that each folder and file you sync must be in that folder. With Copy you can do the same thing or create a shortcut in the Copy folder on your computer to the original folder/file on your computer. That way you get to leave the original files where you have always had them and sync to Copy.com. This makes it even easier to manage for me.

Many other features are available which you can find out about once you sign up. One final thought… Copy.com is owned by Barracuda Networks which is a well-respected company and has been around for over 10 years. They deliver security, networking and storage products based on network appliances and cloud services mainly for businesses. I have contacted them and they say that Copy.com is very successful and should be around for a long time.

January 21, 2014

Chromecast

This is a very popular way to convert your "almost" smart TV into a fairly intelligent one…at a very low cost.

If you have not heard about it yet the item is called Chromecast which was developed by Google. It is a dongle…STOP!  Some of you may need to know what a dongle is so let me explain.  

A dongle is a relatively small device which plugs into a computer and can take on different jobs depending on what the dongle was created to do.  For instance, it could be used as an adapter to allow a specific device to be used like an external hard drive or a game controller.  A dongle could also be utilized to allow you to plug one sized cable into another size, like converting an USB plug to a micro USB plug. 

The Chromecast is a small device measuring roughly 2.8" x 1.4" x 0.5" and looks a lot like a thumb-drive (another dongle type device).  It is very light weight, too at about 1.2 oz.

Chromecast is a digital media device which you plug into an HDMI port on your computer.  HDMI is the larger USB plug present on many newer digital televisions.  It allows you to transfer uncompressed video data and compressed/uncompressed digital audio data from one device to a compatible computer monitor, digital television, or audio device. In other words, instead of plugging your new Chromecast into your TV you could plug in your notebook computer and do about the same thing.  However, you would be putting wear and tear on your much more expensive computer to watch streaming shows on your TV.

Once plugged in and the easy five minute setup is done, you can stream (watch from the internet using your home’s wi-fi) movies and your favorite TV shows to your large screen television.  This is much better than watching from your small computer monitors like many people do now.  There are many other devices out there which already do this; however, the prices range from $70 to close to $200 and some have a recurring fee.  Chromecast costs only $35 and has no future expense.  It is very inexpensive and Google updates it with new features regularly which allow it to do more.  Now for you Apple folks out there it does not work with Apple TV, sorry.

Once you plug your Chromecast into your TV it has a small port on the other end to plug in the power cable.  Most televisions will have a power port on the back, if not you can plug it directly into a wall socket. 

If you have accounts (some requiring a fee) with Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus and/or Google Play Movies or another you can watch them on your TV now.  If you listen to music on a site like Pandora you can run that through your TV speakers too.  Even better, if you can play something in your Google Chrome browsers on the computer or phone you are broadcasting from, you can watch it on your TV using Chromecast. 

One example of this is what happened with a buddy of mine and his wife who are big "Castle" fans.  They do not have cable TV so every week a few days after the original broadcast of the show they would watch it at ABC.com on their notebook.  Now they start it up on the same computer at the same site and it is then sent to their big screen TV.  This is much more comfortable and easier to see.

Here is the bad (or good) news.  In my opinion you will not have to use Chromecast in the future. It and devices like it will become obsolete.  I believe that in the very near future you will only be able to purchase Smart TVs and they will already have wi-fi capabilities already built into them.  A large number of new sets today are already set up that way.  But until you buy your new TV, $35 is an easy way into the future.

October 8, 2013

Smartphone Info

Since I get many questions about Smartphones here are some interesting statistics which may answer some of your inquiries.

Generic Smartphone imageThe top five smartphone operating systems, according to comscore.com stack up like this. Android is number one with 52.0% of the market followed not very closely by Apple with 39.2%. Next were Blackberry, Microsoft with 5.1% and 3.0% respectively. The final was Symbian with 0.5%. Symbian, as you may well know (not) was the leading operating system for smartphones for many of the phone manufacturers worldwide. That was until around the end of 2010 when Android’s system blew it away. Now it is used on a very few Nokia phones and I imagine it will soon be in the same boat as Windows 3; a great starting system but not as popular as newer shinier systems that perform much better.

Percent signHow about the top five Smartphone applications as scored by percent of total users? The order included a surprise or two for me, how about you? Number one was Facebook (76.1% of the top 15 apps) which was absolutely no surprise to me. One other interesting fact is that research shows that 50 percent of smartphone users check Facebook at the movies. In my opinion movies cost enough that if I go to one, I am giving it my full attention. I see people on it all the time when walking around a restaurant or other gathering place. It is sad to see a family eating out when the husband and wife both either texting or posting/reading Facebook and ignoring the youngster(s). Of course, many of the kids are either on their own phone, playing a portable gaming system or watching a movie. But I digress.

Number two would be YouTube at 53.7%. Next, to my surprise comes Google Play (53.6%). I am not surprised it is a very good app, but I did not realize that many people knew about it. If you are interested check it out at the Play Store or email me and maybe I will do an article about it in the future. Finally, come Google Search with 53.5% and Google Maps at 46.2%.

I thought Google Search would have been at the top of that heap, but the users in the world fooled me again.

Here are another couple of interesting Smartphone stats for you to consider from a recent IDC survey (International Data Corporation). They say that four out of five smartphone users check their phones within the first 15 minutes of waking up. The next group which I unfortunately fall into says that 80% of us report it is the first thing we do in the morning…oops on me.

IDC also found that 79% of smartphone users have their phone on or near them for all but two hours of their waking day with 63% saying their phone is with them for all but one hour. Another embarrassing stat which fits me is that a fourth of all owners could not remember a time during the day when their phone wasn’t in the same room as them. A personal statistic for me; it is usually on me during the day and at night it is on the bedside table charging. Since we do not own a home phone/landline phone smartphones are our total phone systems.

Where do you fall in these stats?

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