Google Now Voice Commands

Jason Cross over at greenbot has written a great list of known Google Now voice commands. The commands I use or intend to use on a regular basis (and think may be most helpful to you) are:

Command Example
Define [word] Define reasonable
What is the weather? What is the weather
What is [quantity] [unit] in [unit]? What is 12 feet in centimers?
What is [mathematical equation]? What is 10 divided by 2?
What is 10 times 2?
What is 10 plus 2?
What is 10 minus 2?
Take a picture Take a picture
Turn [on/off] [Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, Flashlight] Turn on Wi-Fi
Turn off GPS
Turn on Bluetooth
Turn off Flashlight
Set an alarm for [time] Set an alarm for 50 minutes
Create a calendar event: [calendar event] Create a calendar event: Meeting with Widget Co. to discuss new website on Monday at 8 am.
Remind me to [action] Remind me to pick up milk
Make a note: [note] Make a note: Google Now is useful.
Find [name] [info.] Find Dave Mackey’s phone number.
Call [name] Call Dave.
Text [name] [message] Text Dave “What is up?”
Where is the nearest [place]? Where is the nearest McDonalds?
Directions to [address] Directions to New York City

Dear Spotify

I’ve been using Spotify for 2+ years now, it deserves a longevity award. It also deserves some sort of honor for being one of the few subscription services I dole out for on a monthly basis – placing it alongside Netflix – and everybody has Netflix.Spotify Client Apps

In spite of a number of other options, including from mega companies like Google and Amazon, I still prefer Spotify. It is entirely free if you don’t mind the ads and the premium account is $5/mo.

That said, I do have a few things I’d love for Spotify to incorporate:

  1. Tagging – Playlists are cool, they are like categories, but everyone knows that you need categories and tags (ala WordPress). I like creating playlists – but what if I want to listen to a song on a specific subject? Or what if the song is on multiple subjects? Yes, I can create multiple playlists – but this quickly becomes cumbersome.
  2. Listens – It would be great if Spotify displayed how many times one has listened to a song. I am an explorer – always trying out new bands, new albums – and oftentimes forgetting who I’ve listened to previously and which songs. If I could see how many times I’ve listened to the song it would allow me to more efficiently explore.
  3. Searching Artists, Songs, Albums – I’ve listened to a lot of artists and this list of artists (or songs or albums) can become overwhelming. Sometimes I know I want to listen to an artist that begins with some letter or word, but I can’t remember its name in its entirety, it would be great if I could search only what is in “Your Music.”
  4. Language / Topic Filters – I know that Spotify includes “explicit content” warnings on songs, but I’ve listened to far too many songs that had “explicit content” and weren’t marked as such. This becomes important when (a) one is playing the music in the presence of others who might find the content offensive, (b) one finds it offensive, or (c) one is allowing Spotify to post to one’s Facebook timeline and has an audience that includes individuals of young(er) age for whom such content might be inappropriate.
  5. Shazam Functionality – If I am listening to the radio in the car I still have to use Shazam to find out and save what song I’m listening to. Adding this functionality into Spotify’s mobile app would be huge…especially since Shazam now makes me integrate with Rdio.

Which of these features? Or what other features would you like to see in Spotify?

I Want My Music To Follow Me.

Android: WiFi Speaker

When working around the house we oftentimes want to move from room to room cleaning, organizing, resting – but we feel limited because the music is playing off our laptop or stereo system and if we leave the room we won’t be able to hear the song anymore. If it is a laptop it isn’t too much hassle to move it to a new location – but sometimes you need to go back and forth between rooms or floors quickly and it would be silly to carry the laptop dozens of times between these rooms.

The standard answer is, “Go buy a Sonos. Then buy wireless speakers for each room in the house you want the music to play in.” This gets a bit pricey – and Bose and Samsung aren’t offering budget line items either. At least for me, Sonos wasn’t an option.

Screenshot of WiFi Speaker Server running on a Windows 8.1 machine.
Screenshot of WiFi Speaker Server running on a Windows 8.1 machine.

So what else? I’ve tried turning the music up real loud but two problems remain. First, if I enter the room where the speakers are my eardrums scream out in agony and second, at least my sound system can’t overpower the noise of a vacuum cleaner or other electric household tool that insists on making loud noises and which family members always seem to insist on using just as one is sitting down to relax and watch TV or talk on the phone.

For a while I didn’t have a solution…but then my sound system (which I’d picked up at a garage sale for $10) died (due to a mischievous cat loving to eat cables) and I was waiting for my new sound system to arrive (Logitech Surround Sound Speakers Z506)…so I became creative (it isn’t that I actually needed speakers at the moment – but that I don’t like my electronics to be broken…so that when I do need/want to use it, its ready to go) and did some searching around the Google Play App store. I found a nifty little application by William Morrison called “WiFi Speaker.” I installed it on my phone and then another little app onto my laptop. With a few mouse clicks my computer was now sending the audio over WiFi to my smartphone. I turned on Spotify, put in ear buds, grabbed the vacuum, and merrily went about my way.

The application is available in both free and pro versions. The pro version costs $3.99. Yes, I bought it. You can see the official website for the software (and links to download) here. There is also a helpful guide for those who might be struggling getting WiFi Speaker up and running.

A screenshot of WiFi Speaker running on my Samsung Galaxy S3.
A screenshot of WiFi Speaker running on my Samsung Galaxy S3.

I wondered if this could also be used to setup a smartphone (or phones) as speaker(s) for the laptop when watching a video (movie, TV, YouTube). I didn’t make any configuration changes and just started playing a video – but the mouths weren’t in sync with the conversation on the laptop.

I have tried making a few configuration changes since then with bad results. Sometimes the laptop began hissing static at me, other times it gave out little bleeps that I think where supposed to be music, and finally, I couldn’t get it to work at all.

What is the first thing you try when fixing a technology problem? Reboot the device. So I took my own advice and rebooted my Windows box and when everything came up, it worked just fine again.

I suspect that if I had closed out the server application before making these changes on the phone and then opened it again after making the changes, the problem would not have occurred. I’m planning to shoot the developer an email letting him know about the issue and hopefully a patch can be quickly produced.

iPhone: Airfoil for Windows/Mac

I don’t use an iPhone – haven’t for years and I’m not looking back wistfully either. I know many of you still insist on Apple technology (I really don’t have a problem with Apple, I just like to goad my friends and family who are Apple fans) – so here is what I found for you (and not surprising, it is more expensive).

Screenshot of Airfoil on a Mac.
Screenshot of Airfoil on a Mac.

Rogue Amoeba Software has written  “Airfoil for Windows” and “Airfoil for Mac” application which runs on your Windows computer. The application costs $25, you can download a free trial before purchasing. This software is installed on either your Windows or Mac computer. Don’t forget to grab the free app for your iPhone! If you do purchase this software and have the opportunity to utilize it, I’d love to be able to share some firsthand experiences about the iPhone app.

 

The Power of Google Keep

I wrote some time ago (April) about why I don’t use Evernote and how I had moved to Google Keep – though I wasn’t entirely happy with the product.

The logo for Google Keep.
The logo for Google Keep.

I’m still not entirely happy with Google Keep – but I am also still using it all these months later – so that says something.

Google Keep provides an easy way to keep notes. You can take them on the web, via a Chrome App, or on your Android phone using the Keep app. Recently they had the beautiful feature of geolocation reminders – in other words you can tell Keep, “When I am within x of x location, reminder me that I need to do x.” So, I might say, “Remind me next time I am within 500 ft. of the post office that I need to buy some more postage.” It is pretty nifty functionality and I’ve successfully used it to remind myself to do things that usually go undone b/c I continually forget to do them when I’m nearby (e.g. pick up some x from the grocery store).

The killer feature of Keep for me over Evernote is its Google Drive driven versioning which allows one to go back in a documents history as necessary – something which is extremely limited in Evernote (at least last time I used it).

So, what keeps Google Keep from being perfect?

  1. The pace of development has been horrifically slow. Come on guys, if you even devote a few folks to full-time development this application could be amazing.

  2. The clunkiness of the desktop app (actually a Chrome App) is frustrating (you can’t reorder tasks, it doesn’t minimize to the tray).

  3. Google has burnt me and others too many times by shutting down services. While I don’t think Keep will be one of them (it is too much of a data mine for Google to abandon, imho), it still makes me hesitant (though I feel a little more comfortable knowing that my notes are essentially Google Docs, so they’ll still be available even if Keep goes away).

This might be seem strange – but I use this application in tangent with Asana, rather than as a replacement for or alternative to. Asana manages all of my responsibilities, Keep is my “loosey-goosey” form of data collection until it is input into Asana and also a quick reference for tasks I need to do asap.

You can see the web app here. The Android app is available here. The Chrome (desktop) app is here.

FlashControl – A Better Way to Surf the Web.

Adobe Flash has allowed for a lot of innovative and interactive web applications over the years – but it can also be a frustration for the web user.

Some sites (including Yahoo) have full page ads that fly out when you load the page. These are extremely annoying and sometimes are difficult to close.

In general, having a site with Flash enabled components on it means that the site is going to take significantly more memory than a “normal” website. If you open tons of tabs simultaneously (e.g. while reading Feedly), the browser oftentimes becomes slow, unusable, and crashes.

Before FlashControl and after. To enable the Flash component, simply click on it.
Before FlashControl and after. To enable the Flash component, simply click on it.

FlashControl is a small and simple Google Chrome extension I stumbled upon that I love. By default it blocks all Flash components on a website – leaving a gray box instead. If I want to view the Flash component, I just click on it.

There is also an icon in the URL bar at the top of the browser which if I click allows me to exempt this specific page from being filtered for Flash or to whitelist/blacklist the entire site.

This significantly improves my web browsing. 90% of the time, I’m not interested in whatever the site wants to show me in Flash. When I am (e.g. Hulu), I can whitelist the site easily and everything works as normal.

I have run into a few small hiccups. For example, on Hulu the ads sometimes don’t work which causes the video to stop – b/c Hulu refuses to return until the ad has played (understandably). I think this is because the site is pulling the Flash video from another site, which has not been whitelisted. In this case, I temporarily disable the FlashControl extension and then reenable once I’m done on the site.

Google Glass: Everything You Need to Know

Google Glass - Everything You Need to KnowIntroduction

Even as the new tech apparatus trickles into the hands of developers and testers, the future of Google’s Glass remains unclear. Although Glass will not hit store shelves till 2014, analysts have plenty of opinions about how successful it will (or won’t) be and why. Aside from its current projected price of $1,500, Glass has several other hoops it will need to jump through before it becomes a viable product for many consumers.

Vision Prescriptions

Unless Google has an secret ophthalmology department in the works, it is certainly not equipped to supply consumers with prescription lenses. The company many have figured out a way to address this particular issue, according to CNET, by partnering up with eyewear designer Warby Parker.

Neither Parker nor Google would confirm any deal, but teaming with a trendy eyewear producer would make sense for Google. The company may have its hands in many different products, but prescription eyewear is not one of them. It will need assistance to provide a usable Glass product for those with a need for vision correction. The addition of stylish frames and lenses may also help make Glass a bit more fashion friendly.

Looks

CNN recently discussed how Google Glass resembled other unappealing tech gadgets like the Bluetooth headset and the Segway. Both were actually quite useful, but both also looked ridiculous enough that few people adopted them as fervently as designers would have hoped. One could wear a Bluetooth all of the time, but few do, because it looks incredibly pretentious. Segways function just as intended but no one, save the fictional GOB Bluth, really wants to be seen on one.

CNN argues that Glass will not be highly successful because it fails to deal with reality. The product will not be useful enough to make people get over the way they look while wearing it.

TV Options

Sports Perspectives

Not everyone is down on Google Glass, however. Chicago Now discusses how a new perspective provided by Glass could change the way viewers watch hockey games, and maybe do something to increase the popularity of the sport. The NHL has always been low man on the totem pole amongst the top four North American sports, and Chicago Now argues that a large part of that is because it is too hard to follow the puck.

One of Google’s “Explorers” – people trying out Glass before it goes to market – posted a video of him playing hockey while wearing the product. First-person perspective on a sports game, especially hockey, may change the way viewers experience games of all kinds.

Second Screen

Fast Company discusses how Glass could potentially be used as a replacement for the standard remote control in television. Currently Google TV is working on a way for users to have a second screen in their hands to help control and search, because it is easier than using a remote. While Google would not comment on linking Glass and Google TV together, the possibilities are appealing.

New Packages

With ever-increasing levels of video streaming online, cable companies are doing what they can to keep up. Direct tv packages start around $30 a month. Many providers allow users to stream their television to tablets and phones. Widespread Glass use would likely increase the use of streaming services, and increase competition even more.

Current Information

Google has stated that Glass will release for around $1,500 to start. As with all tech gadgets, the price is likely to decrease as demand goes up. As proven by tech reviewers taking pictures of them in the shower, the product is at least durable enough to be water resistant. How long Glass will continue to function as intended, and its basic longevity, is not yet known.

Conclusion – Worth Watching

Whether Google Glass is successful or not, the idea is intriguing. It will change the way people view wearable technology, for good or ill. By that measurement, Glass has already made a huge impact without even hitting store shelves.

Google glass photo from Flickr user loiclemeur / Loic Le Meur.

Tech News Summary – June 21st, 2013.

So, I’ve been writing these news summaries, but I really want to move them off daveenjoys and onto a dedicated site – similar to the one I used to run (Informed Networker). There are several viable software applications available for this task – Hotarucms, Pligg, and Reddit (its underlying source code is open source). There is also the possibility of custom creating an application.

I’d like to make it open to the public by “invitation only” for story submission…This would keep the spammers out and would let the network grow slowly yet efficiently with more and more qualified members.

In the meantime, I’m still posting here, but if others have thoughts on this topic – I’m eager to hear them.

Tech. News Summary, June 7th, 2013.

Tech News Summary for June 5th, 2013.

Tech News Summary, May 25th, 2013.