Thumbs Up or Down for Google Home?

I received a Google Home for Christmas last year. It sits in the living room listening to our every word, watching the TV with us, quietly and patiently waiting for us to ask it a question. Half the time we get the standard, “I don’t know how to answer that,” answer. Then my husband will say snidely that you have to learn to ask it the right way.

For the last five months, we’ve asked Google maybe fifty questions. What year was this movie released? When did so and so die? Is so and so alive? We’ve also used the timer a dozen times and played a few ballet tunes so we could watch our granddaughter dance. I knew that we weren’t getting our money’s worth, so I decided to research and find out what this hot little cone can do.

First stop was the Google Home Help features page.

I looked at all the features to see if anything would make my life simpler, or at least more fun with as little hassle as possible. Listed on the page were about 40 features broken up in various categories. A few sounded fun, searching for a You Tube video and playing it on your TV and controlling your lights and thermostat, but I knew those were way way too involved with what I wanted to do.

You could check flight schedules. Big deal.  I don’t fly. You could check traffic. Big deal. I don’t commute. You could find recipes. No thanks. My husband does the cooking, so none of these features appealed to me.

This little device is capable of incredible things, but the power comes with the add-ons. In order to play the You Tube videos and sync your Netflix with Google Home, you need Chromecast, a streaming device you plug into your TV after purchasing for $35.

Although Chromecast sounded like a fun toy to use by itself, I wasn’t going to purchase it to use with my Google Home. I didn’t need to make my TV work by voice activation. Half the fun of sitting down to watch television is surfing the channels to see what’s on and what you’re missing.

On to another feature. IFTTT, which stands for “If this then that.” There are hundreds listed, but you need to look through them to find the ones that work with Google Assistant.

Google Assistant is the app you’ll need on your phone that syncs with Google Home.

You have to sign up for IFTTT account to get started. Once you’ve signed up, search under Google Assistant so you’ll be looking at applets that you can use with the Google Home. I scrolled through the possibilities and found three that I could see myself using, creating a note in Evernote (include links), texting, and find your phone.

I tried configuring all three apps and had luck with only one, find your phone. This is a handy app when you’re searching for your phone. We’ve all misplaced our phone and how often have we asked someone to call our phone so we can find it. Now you don’t have to rely on another person. Google Home will do it for you. Just ask Google to find your phone. Simple to set up and simple to use. My kind of app.

The texting feature is now available on Google Home but alas doesn’t work for me. All I get is “I can’t text at this time.” Again, the point is to not waste a lot of time trying to get these applets to work. It defeats the purpose of leading the simple life we’re striving for. The other drawback to this applet is that it is person specific because you have to configure the applet to a specific phone number. If you have one person you text a lot and feel that Google Home would come in handy, then by all means play around and see if you can get the applet to work.

Finally, I decided to try the Evernote applet one more time. While searching for answers about why this wouldn’t work, a little window popped up to chat with a Google rep. I had a few minutes, so I decided to ask if the problem was that my Evernote account used a different email.  Being first in the queue it only took a few minutes for the rep to contact me.

Try using the Google chat.

She answered that the email was not the issue and that she would like to help me solve my problem. Ninety minutes later she did it. I was impressed that she stuck it out that long. I was ready to give up, but decided to see it through. At least I would have an answer and more information to report back to you.

Instead of using one of the available applets, she led me through the process of creating my own applet. Once we figured out what we were doing wrong, the process was easy. Maybe there’s a problem with using the available applet. I’m going to try creating my own applet for texting my husband to see if this works. If not, I’m done.

I’m so glad that I spent time with the Google rep because she showed me possibilities. If you find yourself repeating a task that Google Home could do, create your own applet. You are only limited by your imagination. And it’s free.

Smart Apps is another feature used with Google Home. These are what you’ll need to adjust thermostat and lights for example. You’ll also need the lights and thermostat that work with this feature, plus money and more time. This one is not for me.

The music lover should check out Google Play.

If you are a music lover, then I would recommend setting up your music in Google Play and learning how to use it on your Home. Under Google Play you can create music stations and then “cast” whatever station you want to listen to.

Home will not play any music that you transferred from CD to you Google music library. You’ll have to play those on a CD player. You can also ask Home to play the specific music station you created as long as you give it the correct name, or just ask for a specific genre and it will choose for you.

This casting feature will also work with anything you’re listening to on your phone, for example, a podcast. Go to you Google Home app and under settings, select cast. I’m listening to history lectures from a Hillsdale College course and found that I can cast these to my Google Home device.

Now that I know about all these features, I’ll be on the look out for ways that Google Home can make my life simpler. I know that I’ve only expanded my Google Home use a little, but it’s a start. I began with the basics, asking a few questions and setting a timer for my cat to enjoy the winter weather. Now I can listen to my music stations, put a note in Evernote and cast my history lectures.

I’m closer to giving Google Home a thumbs up. Now it’s your turn. Tell me what you use your Google Home for and how it makes your life simpler.

Before You Use the “N” Word, Read This

On May 5th the United States and Great Britain celebrated V-E Day, Victory in Europe Day. On this day in 1945 the Allied forces defeated the Nazis in Western Europe.

Adolph Hitler and his Nazi war machine represented the most heinous type of evil that I can think of. How did this man acquire the power to commit these demonic acts and almost get away with it? If we look at history we see how Hitler manipulated Germany’s predicament after WWI to distribute his propaganda and work his way into the Chancellor position.

In 1919 the German Worker’s Party was founded. Hitler became a member in that year and because of his magnetism and oratory skills rose to lead the party. He soon renamed the party the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi).

The party organized for a number of reasons. They opposed the concessions that Germany made in the Treaty of Versailles after WWI, they called for the expansion of German territory and they established their anti-Semitic rhetoric.

The Treaty forced Germany to pay reparations for the destruction of WWI. This put Germany into a depression, and by 1923 Hitler thought the time was right to stage a coup on the Bavarian state government. The Beer Hall Putsch was unsuccessful and Hitler was sent to prison, but it brought attention to his cause.

When in prison he wrote his famous treatise, Mein Kampf, meaning “My Struggle.” This book became the bible of the Nazi party. Hitler outlined his belief in a superior Aryan race.

Hitler didn’t just target Jews.

Hitler’s primary target in creating a pure German race was to discriminate against the Jews. He blamed the Jews for losing WWI, and he saw them as capitalists controlling the German economy or communists seeking to enslave Germans. His discrimination crossed over to intellectuals, artists, gypsies, mentally and physically handicapped and homosexuals.

After getting out of prison Hitler decided to re-build the party legally by winning elections. By 1929, the party’s membership had grown to 180,000 using gauleiters (“district leaders”) to contest local, state and federal elections.

Hitler’s Nazi Party used the Great Depression to its advantage, exploiting the joblessness of the German people. With increased membership comes increased voting strength. In 1933, Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolph Hitler chancellor.

A dictator was born.

Elections continued to be further “influenced” by Nazi-Party tactics and in March, 1933 the Enabling Act was passed, allowing Hitler to issue decrees independent of the Reichstag and the presidency. A dictator was born, and before long the only party allowed to exist was the Nazis.

In 1935, Hitler enacted the Nuremberg laws, stripping Jews of their citizenship. Germans could no longer work for Jews, Jewish doctors could not treat Germans, and marriage between Germans and Jews was forbidden. “Jews Not Welcome” signs were put up making it difficult for Jews to buy food and medicine.

Once Hitler invaded Poland, his anti-Jewish policies escalated. Troops shot thousands of Polish Jews, confined them to ghettos and forced many into slave labor. Finally, the last phase was to exterminate the Jews by hauling them off to death camps. Over 6 million Jews had died by the time WWII was over.

The characteristics of Fascism.

Today, we hear the term Nazi being thrown around whenever some group doesn’t like what the other group is doing or saying. I hear it from both the Left and Right. I have a problem with this. Nothing that is happening today compares with what happened 70 years ago.

There is a popular grammar website called “Grammar Nazi” that I will not visit because of the name, and they use the swastika. Why would you want to associate your brand with such an evil and heinous time of history?

Before you decide to flippantly use this term, I would caution you to think again.

Remember what the Nazi Party represented and what it accomplished. Is what you’re comparing to the Nazis really that bad? I highly doubt it.

References:

  1. Nazi Party. Encyclopaedia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/topic/Nazi-Party
  2. Nazi Party. History Channel. http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/nazi-party

True Confessions

Hello. My name is Jayne, and I am a gamer.

I started gaming with my first computer back in the early nineties. I had a four-year old and a one year old in 1991. I rationalized that getting a computer would jump-start their education, and having a word processing program would make my life much more productive. Gaming wasn’t a consideration back then, unless it was labeled “educational.”

We would have so much fun going to the electronics department to pick out a new game, I mean educational software. Underwater adventures counting fish, dinosaurs eating up the wrong words, just to get to the fireworks at the end declaring you won your certificate.

This was a wonderful bonding time for my oldest son and me as he sat on my lap watching me add 2+3 and then collect the gold at the bottom of the ocean floor. The bonding time wasn’t that long because playing on his swing set seemed more fun, but I knew we were building lasting memories.

Remember shareware?

As my son grew, we branched out and drifted away from educational games. We found ourselves victims of the shareware craze. It wasn’t long before we found the “Commander Keene” series. Since it was free and G rated, I let my son enjoy the game on occasion. Of course, when he had trouble, I had to be the one to “fix” the problem, meaning, get past the hard part. Pretty soon, I found myself anxious for his bedtime so I could have my gaming time.

Pretty soon, we found the game “Prince of Persia.” This game actually made my palms sweat as I tried to lead the Prince across crumbling floors to avoid spiked bottoms while fighting turban-clad guards with swords. I finally led the Prince to the princess, while my son proudly watched. That was a special moment for the two of us. I don’t think I could have done it without him cheering me on.

As my son got older we started to develop our own individual tastes in video games. I continued to gravitate toward the adventure; he liked the simulation games. Lucasfilms developed a couple Indiana Jones games, that I enjoyed while my son took to the “SimCity” games. This was a defining moment for us. I knew that we were drifting apart. Although he would occasionally play my Indiana Jones games to break up the monotony, I knew his heart wasn’t in it. The generation gap was starting.

On my 42nd birthday, I realized we would probably never share our love of the same computer games. My son gave me a very popular game that I never would have picked for myself. I didn’t like timed games. They made my nervous. I was a sophisticated gamer. I used my mind to solve puzzles, and lead my hero through mazes to reach his goal. I was exercising my mind; computer games were as good as crossword puzzles.

But there it was. The happy looking face of Flo smiling at me, and I don’t mean Progressive Flo. This was Flo from “Diner Dash.” I was supposed to seat, serve, collect and clean up all in record time. Oh, the rush when I got all-stars and the title of “Expert.” I guess you could say that this was the beginning of my time management period.

I dashed through “Dashes” and went looking for others. It was around this time I joined Big Fish Games. The days of waiting for your game to arrive from Amazon were over. You could download the game as soon as you decided what you wanted. This was nirvana. An instant fix. I went through all the “Build-a-Lot” games and a couple of “Ranch Rushes” but knew that I couldn’t continue at that pace. I soon developed MFF (Mouse Finger Fatigue). Was it time to hand up my mouse?

My television time was suffering, after all, and it was a constant battle to get computer time with two teenage boys in the house who needed their fair share of gaming time.

But my son wouldn’t let me disconnect from the gaming life. He continued to suck me back in. On my next birthday, he gave me a game called “Tropico,” introducing me to the strategy-based games. I got to be dictator and build stuff for my loyal comrades. How fun is that. I played through two versions of that game. If I couldn’t get two teenagers to do as I wanted, at least I could control hundreds of citizens on my little island.

Big Fish Games is a great way to enjoy a variety of games.

Big Fish has supplied me with cheap entertainment off and on for almost ten years. Most games are $10, and sometimes you can get them for half price. I fell in love with the “Mystery Case Files” games where you have to solve puzzles and find hidden objects. This was like being a kid again, reading the “Highlights Magazine” in the doctor’s office.

These days the industry offers a new alternative. Give the game away, and if you want something special in the game you can purchase it with game coins. “Farmville” and “Candy Crush”work like this, both of which I’ve played. I’m happy to report that I spent $5 total on the two games. I skipped my McDonald’s lunch for that week.

Although I am an avid gamer, I am happy to report that I have not mortgaged the house to pay for my game coin habit. This is an ingenious idea the gaming industry created. To buy a video game you usually pay between $10 and $50 and the game is yours; there is nothing else to buy.

This new idea of buying coins, diamonds or gold to spend in the game, keeps you buying. I read in a game forum where someone spent $300 on coins. As long as the game company keeps adding new levels, the game can be endless, and so is the revenue.

These days, I spend my free time traveling through the ages, building my city, raising an army and trying not to get plundered by the likes of Balls Chapped, Youbuttplug or Firecrotch90 in “Forge of Empires.” (Yes, those are real players, probably prepubescent boys or middle aged men still living with their parents. I can’t decide.) I am happy to report that I have yet to spend a dime for precious diamonds on this game. I prefer to save my money for the real ones.

 

 

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