Google Assistant is now inside our Android phone. She says little but hears all. You’ll get yours soon enough.
Google Assistant will do your bidding when you speak to it, even when the phone is dark and locked. We could be lying on the couch half dead and say, “OK Google, call the Doc.” The next step: it will bill us too.
Most Android phones don’t have the Assistant yet. You can find out when yours will have it by Googling the question. (Yes, Google has become a verb.) Last month, we read that the Assistant would be on both the “Nougat” and the “Marshmallow” operating systems at the end of February. That’s 30 percent of all Android phones. We got it on our Nexus 6p in mid March. That would be the Ides of March. Uh-O.
To test it, we said: “Play music by the Beatles,” and it did. We said “Play music by Ferde Grofe,” and it played a lot of stuff, including Gershwin. When we said “play music,” it played a selection based on our known tastes. It doesn’t work as well as Google Home or the Amazon Echo. Many times, when we said “OK Google, stop,” it didn’t stop and we had to reach over and sock it in its nose button. Similarly, it didn’t resume when we said “resume.” Instead it gave us a link to a resume builder, as if we were applying for a job. This dyslectic reaction does not occur with Google Home or Amazon’s Echo, they start playing again instantly.
Continuing on this ever-shifting path through the woods, Joy said: “OK Google, call Bob.” It asked if she meant Bob Clark, her nephew, or Bob Schwabach. When she clarified the situation, it started dialing. She said: “What fabric stores are nearby?” and it gave her two. She said, “Text Betty,” and the Assistant told her to go ahead with the message, then asked if she wanted to send it or change it. This is good. Because texting is fast and very current; young people don’t call, they text. Remember to say “period” or “exclamation point” or whatever punctuation you want, like sending a telegram (whatever that is).
You can also say: “What’s on my calendar,” “Mute my phone,” or “remind me to do 50 jumping jacks one hour from now.” Use your voice to go to any website, instead of typing it in. We said “Go to Facebook” and it went there. This could be a boon for those with low vision as well as the millions addicted to Facebook. (We’ve noticed most people go on Facebook to brag or complain about something, usually politics. There’s a whole lot of moaning and groaning going on.)
We tried giving the same directions on Windows voice assistant, Cortana, on our Windows 10 computer. But when we said, “Hey Cortana, go to Facebook,” she said “I’m fine, but my connection’s funky. Check back shortly.” We liked the “funky” part.
We also tried giving voice commands to Siri on our iPad and that worked okay. We’ve noticed, by the way, that the people we know with iPhones and iPads don’t use Siri much. We have no explanation for this.
A Smarter Mom
Joy’s been pretending she has a baby, to test the “Project Nursery SmartBand,” one of those fitness trackers that goes on your wrist. This one’s for new mothers and pregnant women. So far, the baby’s doing fine.
The SmartBand looks like any other fitness tracker, but does a lot more. Tap a picture of a baby to log diaper changes, bottle, pump or breast feedings, baby’s weight, etc. The diaper logging is detailed: You can log dumps for number one or number two. Mom’s info can also be logged as well, including her weight, water-drinking habits and medication use. Set an alarm to feel a vibration when you need to wake up. The band also tracks your sleep time.
A Reader With A Long Vista
A reader told us he’s running Windows Vista on an old Dell computer. It works great, and it has 50 years of his wife’s genealogy research on it. But he’s getting dire messages about the end of Microsoft support for Vista. What should he do?
We too get panicky messages from various companies telling us they will no longer support whatever it is they used to support very poorly before. We know there’s always plenty of time to panic, so in this case we advise installing a good anti-virus program like Avast, either the free or paid version, take two aspirins and lie down for a while. The only difference between the free and paid versions is that with the paid version you get some protection before bad things happen; with the free version, it works on problems after they arrive.
We have an old Windows XP computer we bought last year off the web for $70. We use it to run old programs we still like. It works fine, and we feel safe using the free version of Avast. Microsoft stopped offering support for XP three years ago. And since then, we’ve noticed some differences: The old XP runs much faster than our newer computers, and because the old programs have fewer features, they’re easier to use.
Best numbers we could find on the web tell us that about 250 million Windows XP computers are still in use. Among those users are the U.S. Navy, federal government, other armed forces, banks, companies, etc.
By the way, should you be so inclined, you can still get a free upgrade to Windows 10, despite Microsoft’s announcement last summer that you now have to pay $120. Google the term “Windows 10 upgrade for users who use assistive technologies.” Click the “upgrade now” button and a copy of the program is saved to your machine. Click on it when you’re ready to install. The only thing you should check is your computer’s resources; Windows 10 likes and sometimes needs a fast processor and lots of memory. Good luck.