HEY BOO BOO

We’re going to talk some more about the digital assistants put out by Amazon and Google. Those would be the Amazon “Echo” and Google “Home.” They are small, relatively cheap (from $50 to $129), and they answer questions and do requests. This is the future. Essentially what we have are two devices that listen to what you have to say — with sometimes less accuracy than you would expect — and then respond. They can play music, occasionally with nonsensical results, and respond to more direct questions, such as “how many calories are there in an apple?” This is all new stuff, the edge of wedge if you will. It’s potentially an encyclopedia on your end table, along with lectures, […]

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I DREAM OF GENIE IN A HOCKEY PUCK

Topics: The Amazon Echo Dot, Internuts (a crazily lazy brass band, a girl who speaks 20 languages, Roald Dahl quotes), and how to make your web searches private.

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MAKING MUSIC

Topics: Free music app, refurbished computers, geography game, Netflix Releases,security for Android phones, Dropbox tip.

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SKIP THE IPHONE

We tried an experiment. We went out to the drugstore and bought a $40 cell phone. It wasn’t the cheapest one; we could have bought one for $13, but Bob noticed it was a so-called clam-shell or flip phone and you can’t load apps onto those. The impetus for this experiment was our 97 year-old friend Ida. She said she may have to give up driving one day and switch to using one of the ride services, like Uber or Lyft. So then, she would have to get an iPhone so she could call a cab. Uh-uh, we said. You do need a smartphone or a computer to call one of those ride services but you don’t have to spend […]

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WATCHING TV SPORTS ANYWHERE

When our friend from Wisconsin (No, his name is not Yon Yonson) is in our neck-of-the-woods, he wants to watch the Green Bay Packer games on his phone. Can he do it? One way is to use “Watch ESPN,” a free app for Android, iPhone and iPad. We tried out the ESPN app on our phone to watch football in a doctor’s waiting room and it worked fine. But the catch is, you must verify that you have a subscription to cable TV. Our friend Lee does not have a cable TV subscription. Instead, he has a lifetime subscription to the TiVo service. TiVo users can stream programs to their TV at home or to their phone or tablet. But […]

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DROPPING CABLE

We’re going into this again because it seems that all the world wants to get rid of their cable service. Another reader writes to say that he wants to drop Comcast, and short of taking to the streets with flaming torches, he can’t seem to shake them. All he cares about is local channels and HBO.

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HOW’S THAT AGAIN? GETTING A TRANSLATION OFFLINE

  “Google Translate” is a free app for Android and iPhones, that can now translate 52 languages, whether you are online or off. For example: We tapped the microphone icon, then tapped “Spanish,” and said “Where is the bus station?” A voice from the phone then immediately said “Donde esta la estacio del bus?” If the person you directed this to, spoke the answer into the phone’s microphone, the phone would translate their answer into English. Joy tried Indonesian because she’s reading “Tales of a Female Nomad,” and the nomad spent most of her time there. The app solves the worst problem with the old method of using foreign language phrase books: There’s usually little trouble in speaking the phrase […]

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GOOGLE’S FREE MUSIC LAB

Musiclab.chromeexperiments.com is Google’s new music lab. Click on a picture, click again to add stuff to the picture and create your own music. We especially liked the rhythm section where we watched monkeys play kettle drums and triangles according to the rhythms we chose. Color it cute.

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MAKING MUSIC WITH 2000 BALL BEARINGS

The “Wintergatan Marble Machine” is a remarkable music-making machine, reminiscent of the great “Animusic” videos. It was created by Swedish musician Martin Molin and includes a kick drum, bass, vibraphone, guitar and over 2000 falling ball bearings, powered by a hand-crank, an incredibly intricate wooden device.

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THE PIANO JUGGLER

PianoJuggler.com shows a guy who can juggle balls and bounce them off piano keys to play recognizable music, even Bach.

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