TOE TO TOE WITH ALEXA AND GOOGLE

A child asked me which was better: Alexa, the voice inside the Amazon Echo Dot, or Google Assistant, the voice inside the Google Home speaker, renamed “Google Nest.” Until recently, I would have said Google Assistant.

That was before I read CNET’s “9 Things Alexa Can Do that Google Can’t.” Of course, right after that, I read “9 Things Google Can Do that Alexa Can’t.”

Let’s start with some Alexa differences. Alexa can play Apple Music as one of many choices;  Google makes Apple music off limits. Alexa listens for burglars, alerting you if  she hears glass breaking, an alarm going off and other sounds. (But you must turn on “Guard” in “Settings.”) Also, Alexa can hear your whispers and whisper back.  

OK, Google’s turn.  Google answers questions much better, even about Amazon products. I asked it about the new Amazon Halo, a Fitbit-type wearable. It answered perfectly. When I asked Alexa, she miffed it. Another thing I like about Google: It lets you play music, podcasts, audio books, video and other audio on another speaker or on your TV just by asking aloud. 

Now for some similarities: When I tried the free Alexa app on a new phone, it prompted me to set up an emergency contact. It will contact this person next time I say: “Alexa, call for help.” But both Alexa and Google can call friends and family by name, if they’re in your contact list. 

Fun Facebook Features

  • “Favorites” is a new Facebook feature. It puts the people you care about at the top of your newsfeed. To find it on your computer, click the down arrow in the upper right and choose “News Feed Preferences.” Then click “Favorites.”
  • “Watch” shows you videos based on what they think your tastes are. When I clicked it, I saw a guy play a typewriter in an orchestra performing the novelty tune “The Typewriter.” I also saw two guys performing “The Evolution of Piano.” But most of the videos on my list involved animal rescues. Obviously, Facebook has tagged me as a friend of the furry. You can find “Watch” on the left side of the Facebook home page.

What to Do When Your Mac Freezes

The first thing to do when your Mac freezes is to walk away for a minute or two.  It will make you feel better. It may even fix things: The problem could be a single program. By giving the system a rest, it gets a chance to catch up with you.

Another thing you can do is press the “Command,”  “Option,” and “Escape” keys. This brings up an option called “Force Quit,” giving you a chance to shut off any resource hogs. If you’re not sure who the offenders are, check the “Activity Monitor.” You’ll find it under “Applications” and “Utilities.”

HowtoGeek.com has more tips under the headline “What to do if your Mac Freezes.”

For Serious Artists

Created with Corel Painter – Click to see Gallery

If you don’t want to shell out $429 for the basic iPad and an Apple pencil to go with it, consider an $80 Wacom Intuos tablet. It comes with its own pencil.

Using a Wacom tablet plugged into your computer enables you to use a wide range of art and photo programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter or the free “Gimp.” With an iPad, you’re limited to apps.

The effects of digital paint are so realistic now that artists can create masterpieces without the fuss of paint, inserting details they’ve created before. Why reinvent another nose if you’ve already got a great one to slug in? 

During installation, the program asked me whether I would use it for 3D modeling, animation, illustration, comic design, web design or other professional-sounding activities. I chose “creative sketching.” It’s a bit intimidating, but the free “Gimp” program has some great tutorials starting at square one. 

If you prefer drawing on an iPad, see CNET’s article, “The Best Apps for Drawing on an iPad.” They chose “Procreate,’ “Autodesk Sketchbook,” “Art Set 4,” and “Lake.”

Windows Updates

Do you ever install the “Update Preview” in Windows 10? If so, you’re helping Microsoft by being a beta tester.

You can get to the Update Preview if you click “check for updates” in the last half of the month. There’s always a chance it might fix something on your machine, but experts say it’s better to stick with the stable version. Microsoft uses your experience to issue bug reports before the regular update is ready. The update appears on the second Tuesday of the month. 

 Internuts

  • Poets.org: If you like love poems that rhyme, search at Poets.org for those written before the 1920s. Better yet, do a Google search on “Love poems before 1920.” Then look for an address with dot org in it, such as classicalpoets.org.
  • Speedtest.net, as so many readers reminded me, is the place to go to check your internet speed, not Speedtest.com. Thanks guys.

 Making Money on Zoom

  • Luma,” free from the Zoom Marketplace, lets you sell tickets to your Zoom events.
  • OnZoom” also lets you sell tickets and promote your events. If you wish, you can sign up for other people’s upcoming events, such as “Back to Basics Breakfast Classics” and “How to Play the Ukulele.” Most are free. 
  • Whether using OnZoom or Luma, you must have the paid version of Zoom, It’s $149 a year. 

 

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