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.
Google Maps is adding Uber taxi info to its maps for Android phones. You should be able to see it in the next few weeks. You’ll be able to see how many Uber cabs are nearby and what their fares are. We were hoping that the much vaunted app, “TextBer,” would let you hail an Uber cab with just a text message instead of an app, but it never got off the ground, even after reams of free publicity.
PC Magazine surveyed thousands of readers to find out which phone plan is best. The big winner was Google’s “Project Fi,” which hardly anybody has ever heard of. It combines T-Mobile, Sprint and Wi-Fi into a virtual network. (A virtual network is one that doesn’t really exist but seems to. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to make sense.)
Project Fi gives you unlimited U.S. calls and texts and unlimited international texts for $20 a month; add $10 for each gigabyte of data you use. The nice thing is, you get money back for anything you don’t use. We used only 100 megabytes last month, so we would have gotten $9 back, for a monthly bill of $21. The catch is, there’s no family plan and you must buy either the $199 Google Nexus 5x phone or the $449 Google 6P. But both are great phones, and you can keep your current phone number. You also get the latest version of the Android operating system “Marshmallow,” and a new Android system whenever an upgrade occurs.
Second in the PC Magazine satisfaction survey was Consumer Cellular and third was Republic Wireless. Read more »
Recently we wrote about taking our drone to the park and seeing it waft miles away from us in a few seconds. Afterward, a reader wrote us with his solution. It does not involve hours of practice flying.
He bought a much more expensive drone — the “DJI Phantom 2.” It costs $1500, or $1200 more than the one we flew, but has great features. It’s harder to lose because it locks onto GPS satellite mapping to stabilize flight. “You can take your hands off the controls and the drone will stay in place in the sky even if the wind is blowing,” he says. “It will come back down to the place it took off from if the controller is shut off, or if it flies outside the controller’s range.” This last part is purely theoretical, he admits, because he hasn’t tried it yet. He uses “Trackimo” to keep track of the drone if after all his safeguards, he still loses it.
“Hound” is a free competitor to Apple’s “Siri,” Google’s “Now” and Microsoft’s “Cortana.” The app works with Android and iPhones. It responds to your voice and answers your questions; it will even play games with you. It can estimate Uber fares, do translations, and handle more complex questions, like “Which hotels in Anchorage have swimming pools and are less than $200 a night?” (Well, for a place like Anchorage, that’s pretty easy. Bob has an interesting story about a coffee shop around the corner from the Hilton, but he can’t tell it here.)
We asked Hound to play us something by Cole Porter and it came back with “Anything Goes,” on a Honky-tonk piano no less. (Does anybody know anything anymore? Bob asked a clerk in a music store if he had any Cole Porter albums and the clerk said “Is that a new group?”)
“Postly,” free for Android and iPhone, turns smartphone photos into postcards. Take a picture, click to upload and send it. Each postcard has a special stamp made to look like it came from your location. Worldwide delivery is $2. The only odd thing: The app wouldn’t take either of our credit cards. We had to use PayPal.
–“Roadie,” a free app for Android, iPhone and your computer, is a different way to ship stuff. Describe your gig, as they call it, and Roadies (who are people like you) will tell you how much they’d charge to deliver it. It’s a similar approach to Uber Cab and Lyft. It’s a lot cheaper than UPS, Fed Ex or even the Post Office if the driver happens to be going your way. Get enough drivers doing this and there will always be somebody going your way. (But not Bing Crosby.)
We read about a business owner who sent four chandeliers 300 miles away. They arrived the next day, saving him hundreds of dollars. There are also benefits for the driver. Some restaurants give discounts to “Roadies,” and it can be a way to pick up extra bucks. Local gigs earn the driver between $8 and $20. Long distance gigs can pay up to $200. Works in all 50 states, but not internationally.
— “Moving Van is a $2 for iPhone that lets you assign a number and a description to each item you’re shipping so you will know which box has what.
— “MagicPlan,” free for Android or iPhone helps you virtually place your furniture in your new place using their floor plan software, so you’ll know whether it fits or not. You need a smart phone with a gyroscope, which most phones have these days, even our four-year old Samsung Galaxy S3.
We used Roku, a $40 stick that plugs into an Internet-connected TV. (Almost all TVs made in the past few years can connect to the Internet.) It comes with a lot of channels and you can sign up for more. We got Hercule Poirot through Amazon’s $5-a- month Acorn TV. Instead of the Roku, we could have used Google’s $35 “Chromecast,” the $40 Amazon Firestick, or Apple TV, at $149.
Amazon is one of more than 1700 channels available on the Roku player, and Acorn TV is just one of many choices on the Amazon channel. RokuGuide.com recommends channels by category, beyond what comes with the stick. We added PBS, and bookmarked their “Nova” specials.
The Nova offerings include a short video called “Amazing Calendar Trick.” Joy has been wowing Bob with it and is almost ready to take it on the road. It shows you how to calculate the day of the week for any date you name, in a few seconds. For instance, July 4, 2020 will be a Saturday. Our young relative, born on August 5, 1999, was born on a Thursday. (Google it to check your results.) A method of doing this yourself is in Arthur Benjamin’s book, “The Magic of Math.”
Here’s another Roku tip. Click “Feed” to find out what movies will be added next. Click “follow” to get alerts when they’ll be available. Joy put an alert on the movie “Brooklyn,” which is available for sale but not yet for rent.
All this is going to kill the traditional old-line networks. Just as the rise of email brought huge losses to the Postal Service from which they have never recovered, and the rise of digital photography destroyed Kodak (even thought they invented it), and all these TV channels will destroy the traditional movie business (movies are just too expensive to make). And it may well be that video games will dominate all other forms of entertainment.