MS Paint

Remember Microsoft Paint? Usually it is disparaged by people, especially those who have access to something more powerful like Photoshop.

Microsoft has added some new features to MS Paint that are to be included in the Windows 10 May 2019 update. The most key new feature is that the keyboard will be used as the primary input. This will give users the added ability to draw only with their keyboard.

In keeping with the accessibility features, they have also improved the way Paint interacts with screen readers like Windows Narrator.

See more information along with the keyboard shortcuts illustrated.

Want More Alexa?

If you run Windows 10, you can have her! More powerful than Windows’ Cortana, you can have her run on your PC now. Just say “Alexa” and start speaking.

You will have to give permissions to your microphone. You will also have to sign in with your Amazon account. Alexa will listen in the background and you can access it just like Amazon Echo.

So what happens if you have the Alexa app on a Kindle, an Amazon Echo, and you put this on your PC? Well, we wondered too and found this on Amazon.com Basically it says the closest one will respond. Some content and settings are shared but not all. While it may not work the way you intend or is different than the Echo device, it may be helpful.

Do you want a Narwal?

Not the mammal. The robot mop and vacuum. What sets this apart from other robotic floor cleaners is that it is self cleaning. It has Lidar Navigation Technology to map your floorplan. You can use the app to schedule and customize your cleanings. When it is done cleaning your floor, it will return to its base and clean the mops and dry them.

It has capacity enough to clean a 3200 sq ft floor. Right now it is still in KickStarter – it now has far outreached its goal. You can still sign up for the early bird version.

Update – new video:

Future Microsoft Excel Feature

Ever wish you could more easily put a table in Microsoft Excel instead of typing all those fields or trying to copy and paste? If you have Microsoft 365, you are in luck. Over the next few months, they will be rolling out a new feature that allows you to insert data from a picture.

You will open the Excel app on your phone or tablet, and tap the “Insert data from picture” button to start. Then you would capture the data you want to import within the box borders shown and you can change the size around the image to make sure you get it all. Using its AI engine, Excel will convert it to a table. You can correct the data by tapping on Edit or continue by tapping Ignore if it detects errors. You can then Insert the data. Excel will convert the data to the spread sheet.

Source

Gmail Apps Update

In the past week, the Gmail app has been updating across all platforms. It went to Android users first and just rolled out for iOS users. It will take a little getting used to.

As a heavy Gmail user, I currently have 3 accounts on my device. I used to touch the hamburger menu icon (the three bars) to open up the side panel and see all my labels and switch accounts. Instead, they have added the icon for the account you are currently in at the top with the “Search mail” box above the messages list panel on the left.

The entire app looks more “white” as well. There are three list densities to choose from: Default, Comfortable, and Compact. Default will show who it’s from, a small logo on the left, subject and the first part of the email and show if there are attachments. Comfortable will remove the attachments from the list view. Compact will only show who it’s from and the subject line (no logo, but it will show a checkbox to allow you to move or delete). You may need to play with it to look the way you want.

To compose a new email, you will see a colorful plus sign over the message list. Even though the app had updated, I had to hard close the current app and reopen in order to get the new one.

Gmail Default View
Gmail Default View Settings
Gmail Comfortable View
Gmail Comfortable View Settings
Gmail Compact View
Gmail Compact View Settings

Gmail – some features

There are a few newer features added to Gmail in the past year or so that can be annoying to some, helpful to others.

Gmail NudgesOne newer feature is called Nudges. Do you forget to answer emails? Gmail can nudge you now to answer the email. I had noticed there was an older email (4 days old) that I wanted to wait to answer. All of a sudden the email was at the top again. In the subject line there was orange print that said “Received 4 days ago. Reply?” You can choose to reply or even “snooze” the email. If you snooze it, it will go into a new folder called “Snoozed”. This can be enabled or disabled in Settings.

“Smart Reply” is another newer feature. The first time I saw it, I was a little confused because I hadn’t read anything about it. These are the words that show up at the bottom of an email that allow you to choose a canned response. For instance, based on words in the email (yes that’s creepy), I’m looking an email that ends “How’s that sound?” and the canned response choices are: “Sounds good to me.”, “Sounds like a plan.”, and “Sounds great!” So I could choose any one of these quick replies. I can usually tell when I’ve gotten one of these from somebody. These Smart Replies can be enabled or disabled in Settings. This picture shows the instructions for disabled from your iOS device.

Another newer feature is the “Hover Actions” where you can hover over the email list and delete or label while in the list. This action can be enabled or disabled in Settings.

You can now add a split view to Gmail where you can see the list of mail on the site and a pane with email to the side or top of it (horizontal split or vertical split). If you have a wide screen, it makes it nice to work with.

Gift Idea: Oculus Go

The other day I was in a Best Buy store and came across a salesperson with Oculus Go. I was curious. After talking to salesman about how it works, I had to give my name and email (of course) in order to try it out. So what is it? It’s a standalone VR headset. Standalone in that you don’t need to hook up your phone or a computer to see the content and can take just the headset with you. It fits right over eyeglasses. There are built-in speakers. It has a 2560 x 1400 p screen. It comes in 2 models: 32GB ($199) and 64GB ($249). It only comes in a light gray. The company is owned by Facebook.

So here I am in the middle of the store holding the controller with my arms outstretched playing demo games and watching demo movies. You can see above you, behind you, and all around. I got to see a demo short of Jurassic Park Blue. It was like the dinos were right in front of me. I played a game that was a lot of fun called Fail Factory. I must have been moving around too much because the sales person had to move me back. They do suggest you use this sitting down for that reason. It was a lot of fun and I am contemplating getting one.

Some caveats – rechargeable battery life is only about 2 hours gaming and 2 1/2 hours watching movies so you can’t plan on it for an entire flight if your flight is over that. There is only 3 degrees of freedom rather than 6 in most VR sets. Case is sold separately (unless you find a deal that includes the case). 32GB will hold about 3 HD movies, 10 games, and 20 apps. 64 GB will hold about 7 HD movies, 20 games, and 40 apps.

The Jody Victor Crew

Gift Ideas

With Christmas coming we will try to find some gift ideas for the next few weeks. This would be something we see, but may not necessarily buy for ourselves but know someone who might like it.

First off, lets start with the PowerPic from Twelve South.
This is a picture in a frame with a hidden phone charger. Only works with iPhone 8 and up, Pixel, Galaxy, or any Qi-enabled smartphone. It is a pine frame that you plug in. It has a hidden Qi charger to wirelessly charge your phone. You can choose from black or white frame. It works even with your case on your phone. When you put your phone on the frame, it completes the picture. You can download the frame pictures and phone pictures from their website. This will set you back $79.99.

Wi-Fi 6

We talked about Wi-Fi a couple weeks ago. Let’s expand on that. Now they have given Wi-Fi version numbers for the different protocol types identified by the letter suffix on 802.11. Let’s start with 802.11 and what it is.

The 802.11 protocol is set forth by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.) They are the ones who set the standards of what is under each protocol, specifically the IEEE 802.11™ Wireless Local Area Networks, the working group for WLAN standards. They have regular sessions and presentations about 802.11 protocol. There is one being held right now in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Wi-Fi Alliance® has now assigned version numbers to different Wi-Fi protocols.

  • Wi-Fi 6, which will be available next year will be 802.11ax standard.
  • Wi-Fi 5 is the 802.11ac standard
  • Wi-Fi 4 is the 802.11n standard

Older standards are not being given a version number because they are not widely used anymore.

Wi-Fi Certified WiGig™ will bring bands of 60 GHz with multi-gigabit speeds, suitable for virtual reality and HD streaming. Wi-Fi security WPA3™ will have increased crytographic strengths.

Sources and Further Reading:
http://www.ieee802.org/11/
https://www.wi-fi.org/news-events/newsroom/wi-fi-alliance-introduces-wi-fi-6
https://www.wi-fi.org/discover-wi-fi/wi-fi-6
https://www.wi-fi.org/discover-wi-fi/next-generation-wi-fi

Atlas Robot

Boston Dynamics has a few projects they are working on in robotics. Boston Dynamics was founded in 1992 by MIT. In 2013, they were acquired by Google X which later became Alphabet, Inc. In 2017, Boston Dynamics was sold to SoftBank (remember Pepper?). We have previously discussed Spot also developed by Boston Dynamics.

Atlas is a 6-foot robot that is more humanoid with 2 legs. It was unveiled to the public in 2013. It has slowly been evolving. It now can do parkour (similar to military obstacle course training):

Vertical Videos

In the past, if you uploaded a video to YouTube with a video taken from your phone, you would see the black bars on either side of it with the video in the center, tall and slim. YouTube has conceded that vertical videos are here to stay and have adapted their site to accomodate them.

YouTube makes this move on the heels of Instagram introducing IGTV, a longer form of video you can create through Instagram or with their standalone app, IGTV. Instagram itself limits you to just one minute but IGTV allows you to make a video up to an hour long. Initially that will only be available to popular uploaders but will be rolled out to evveryone eventually.

Sources:
https://www.makeuseof.com
https://productforums.google.com/forum/

Robot Guards

A company based in Singapore, Oneberry Technologies, has developed RoboGuard. If you need surveillance, you can get a robot to do it. You would still have to man the system and watch whatever the robot found but this is an interesting concept in robotics and in surveillance.

Pepper the Robot

Pepper is a humanoid robot. It is able to recognize emotions and interact with you. Pepper can move around, recognize your face, speak to you conversationally. Whether you dance or chat, Pepper is ready for you. Pepper is 1.2 meters tall.

Pepper is capable of performing customer service. He can interact with customers, help with appointments, direct to where they need to go.

Pepper is a product of SoftBank Robotics. He says she was born in Paris. SoftBank Robotics has offices in Paris, Tokyo, San Francisco and Shanghai. They also have previously developed a smaller robot called NAO about 58cm high.

With its open SDK you can enhance him as well.

Here is Tech Insider’s experience with him:

Here is SoftBank’s promo:

Find out more

The New Gmail

Gmail rolled out the new Gmail recently. We thought we’d give it a try. It didn’t really look any different once we set it up. Until we wanted to check in our contacts. We no longer could just click on the name Gmail on the top left to get to our contacts. This meant a Google search to try to find it.

Here is where it is – on the top right is the app grid. Find contacts in there. You may need to move it up to the top so you can access them quickly. If Contacts icon doesn’t show, click More at the bottom of the first page and you should see it on the second. You can simply grab it and move it to the top.

The first image shows the grid without the Contacts app. The second image shows it on the second page under More. The third shows the Contacts app on the top right.

Gmail App Grid Gmail App Grid Gmail App Grid

Another difference we found is that Labs was missing. Labs were experimental addons you could enable to try different things.

Vaunt Smart Glasses

Most of us have heard of Google Glass. There is another type of smart eyeglasses that you can get. They look more like regular eyeglasses. You can use head motions to show or dismiss displays. It uses something called VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser) to shine into your eyes and projects to the back of your retina (retinal projection). It is made by Intel.

You can see the text just below your usual line of site. They are working to perfect them to be able to show you what you want when you want it. Maybe you are near a couple restaurants. It can show you the yelp review. Or you ask Alexa for a recipe – you can see it on your glasses. They look pretty lightweight next to Google Glass. Only you know you are reading them.

Google Chrome and Ads

Starting February 15, 2018, Google Chrome has begun some ad-filtering. They won’t be blocking all ads but the ones that do not pass the standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads. They are targeting the most intrusive ads like the full page ads that block you from seeing the page content and flashing animated ads. In other words, they aren’t out to remove all ads but just the most annoying ones. They are also looking at the number of ads on a page.

You can also install ad blockers in your browser or visit YourAdChoices to optout of ads from the Digital Advertising Alliance.

Shipping with Amazon

If you are a Prime member or already shop with Amazon, you know your packages will come via UPS, FedEx, or even USPS. Amazon is going to launch their own package delivery service called Shipping with Amazon (SWA) as reported Friday. They will roll out in Los Angeles first over the next few weeks then to other cities across the U.S.

They plan to start with third-party Amazon vendors who are already registered. They may also open up to other businesses eventually to directly compete with the other shippers.

To keep your delivery safe from porch pirates, Amazon already has a program called Amazon Key In-Home Delivery. You have to purchase the Amazon Key In-Home Kit, the necessary equipment for $249.99. It includes an indoor security camera and compatible smart lock. They will come and install these for you if you want. When a delivery is made, you will an alert on your smart phone and you can watch the entire delivery.

Difference between Office 365 and Standalone Office Program

You can purchase Office [Year] as a standalone program or purchase a subscription service to Office 365.

Office 2016 (current edition) will run $149.99 and licenses one user on one PC. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Office 365 Home or Personal will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. It also includes 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage space and 60 minutes per month of Skype calls per user. This will run $99.99/year (or $9.99/month) for Home and $69.99/year (or $6.99/month) for Personal. Personal is for 1 user only. Home is for up to 5 users. It also includes apps for devices (including Apple products).

When you have Office 365, you also get the latest Office software. It also has automatic billing so you won’t ever run out. With Office 365, you also get support for any issues.

When Office 2019 is available later this year, it will require you to have Windows 10.

Sources:
Office Support
Microsoft Blog

CES 2018

CES 2018
The Consumer Technology Association has an annual exhibit called CES (Consumer Electronic Show) that is taking place right now. Actually, it started yesterday January 7 and continues to until Friday the 12th. It is taking place in Las Vegas, NV.

There are many conferences that cover gaming, home electronics, robotics, cars, and sports technology to name a few. There are many exhibits from big tech to startups. This week we may be hearing of more and more tech that is either in the works or coming soon.

Over 20,000 new products will be exhibited, over 900 startups, 2.75 net sq. ft. of exhibit space, many big name innovators. They expect over 170,000 attendees over the next few days. They are even live-streaming on their website. They even have an app to assist you in navigating this huge event.

Go to CES.tech for more info.

Encrypted Text Messaging

Recently a family member told me about an encrypted messaging app called Signal. It not only encrypts your text messages but also conversations. There are a few nice things about it: it is free, it is open source, and it works on both iPhone and Android phones. You can also send documents and images.

There is also a desktop app for your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer.

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge has come a long way. The Victor crew tried something out this past week and it works like a charm. You can connect your phone to your PC through Edge. The practical side is if you are looking at something on your phone (small device) and want to view something larger, you can send the page you are viewing on your phone to your PC. And yes, iPhone users, that means you too!

Install Edge on your mobile device (works with iPad as well). Sign in with your Microsoft password.

Scroll to a site and at the bottom you will see some icons.

Browse on Edge Browser

The middle icon (mobile device with arrow) is what you touch to send to your PC.

Next when you see the screen below, you would choose which PC to send it to. I only had one connected PC as shown below (name partially obscured.) Press the PC you want to send the page to.

Send to PC

You are done.

Sent from iPhone to PC

Firefox Quantum

Firefox just got faster. Two times faster. This past week, Firefox updated to Firefox Quantum (Version 57.0.) There are two versions – one for regular browsers and one for developers. It is built on a new engine for better and faster page loading. It also will use less memory than previously, and they say it is 30% lighter than Chrome.

It has built in privacy modes. You can block even hidden trackers by turning on tracking protection. When you block the ads and scripts that are bogging you down, the page loads even faster.

If there’s a page you want to see later, you can save it to Pocket to view later. There is a library where it will place these articles as well as your bookmarks. You can search with other search engines with just a click. You can also customize it with themes or placement of icons for your tools and addons. You can take screenshots without adding an extension – it’s built right in.

A new way to call

Last week, Amazon announced new devices. Among the new devices are the Echo Show, costing $229.99. This is a more triangular device with a screen. It allows you to make video calls as well. They are offering $100 off if you buy 2 devices with code SHOW2PACK. You can actually watch flash news briefings, see lyrics of songs, security cameras, just to name a few.

Other new devices are a shorter new Echo, the Echo Plus and the 4K Fire TV device. Also announced was the Echo Connect, Echo Buttons, and BMW partnership. The Echo Connect is an accessory to link Echo to home phone line. It costs $35 and is coming later in the year.

If you already own an Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show, effective immediately you can make phone calls. It is supposed to work with your land line or your mobile phone.

Echo Show at Amazon.com

iOS 11

The Victor crew just updated their new iPad to iOS 11. Here are some first findings and reactions.

After the initial update, if you had fingerprint access enabled, you will still have to use your signin to get in. You will then need to enter your iCloud password.

You can have the dock hidden but pop it up from the bottom at any time.

You swipe the dock up from the bottom and continue the swipe to show the App Switcher. The App Switcher has a new design as well and shows all open apps in a grid pattern rather than having to scroll through to find open apps. You can still swipe an app in this grid pattern to hard close or reset an app.

The dock has a folder that shows recently opened documents. It also allows you to browse documents. You can add your iCloud, and if you have the apps – Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and any other file managers you may have downloaded within this folder area. Once you enable these drives, you may need to log into them again to access them there. You can also tag files with colors.

The dock has a separator bar. To the right of the bar it shows the recently opened apps and to the left of it, your permanently set apps. If you move an app from the right to the left, it seems to permanently disappear from the home screen.

The App Store has a new design.

Another change is the keyboard. Usually you click on the 123 to access numbers and some symbols. Now you can just pull down on the key that shows the numbers or symbols to access without changing the keyboard.

If you go to settings, you will see you can choose some apps to show up in the control center all the time.