A safety checkup


Sometimes, things just go along swimmingly and it’s possible to let your guard down. We all do it.

Here’s a quick check to see if your protection detector is in gear. Or, you might wish to use this in the classroom to raise the awareness of students.

The resource is call Safe Page from Google.

While this doesn’t cover every trick the bad guys use to try and hijack you into bad places, it does a pretty good job reviewing some of the things that you should be aware of.

The tutorial and facts page are interesting and, yes, there will be a test!

I challenge you! Of course, the tech savvy reader who visits this blog will ace the quiz.

Them’s fighting words


Warning – time sinkhole ahead.  A really fun and challenging one though.

From Google Research comes Semantris.

It’s a pair of word games driven by machine learning.

You have a choice of playing for speed or for accuracy.

I prefer to play for accuracy so head to the Blocks option.

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This is where the machine learning kicks in.

The concept here is to stop the bricks from reaching the top of the screen by trying to describe one of the words in a box.

It’s easy to play and describing how to play is actually pretty easy.  But, it’s not easy to beat and eventually, I lose.  But, in a good way.  Trying to figure out what’s going on is fascinating to me.

The other game is the Arcade and you’re playing for speed there.  It’s fun but I’m drawn back to the Blocks just because I like to feel like I’m watching my computer think.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Need to know more


Right off the bat, I’ll admit that I don’t own a dedicated personal digital assistant. That doesn’t mean that I’m not interested; I just don’t have a need right now. At least, one that I know of. That can always change.

If I’m within listening range, I can say “Hey, Google” and the Assistant comes to life on my phone. I would estimate that I use 1/1,000,000 of the possibilities that it offers. My needs typically are to ask questions. Like last night when Clint Black was on the ACM awards show, my wife wanted to know how old he was.

I could have started typing but it was just so much easier to ask my phone. I turned up the volume so that we could both hear the answer and then move back to watching the show.

The Google Assistant is certainly in a number of places.

But, what else can it do? Curiosity got the best of me so I went looking. A gold mine of ideas can be found here.


Not every option is available on every device, so this is helpful.

There’s lots to poke around with and to learn.

What’s your favourite use of the Google Assistant?

I’d really be interested is ways that people are using the Google Assistant in the classroom.

Use it or lose it


That’s the advice in so many camps.

But what happens when you use it and you end up losing it anyway.  That was the feeling this week around here with the demise of Google Inbox, Google+, and Goo.gl.

We knew it was coming.  Google had been good about giving us lots of notice in advance.  Yet, there still was the hope that a rethink might take place and a reprieve given.  Unfortunately, no.

headstone

Inbox

This was promoted as a new way to think about email and a Google alternative to Gmail.  I tried it and actually didn’t like it right away.  I stuck with it because it was promoted as a better way to do email.  For me, it eventually did.  I have two Google mail accounts and use Gmail for one and Inbox for the other so that I could easily tell one from the other.

Personally, I subscribe to a number of mailing lists, news services, and other mailings.  I really liked how Inbox would bundle them together for me.  The tabs in Gmail serve in a similar way but for some reason, Inbox just seemed more intuitive.

Google+

I remember this as being promoted as the big Facebook killer.  You know, this is what the future of social media should be.  For me, I have (had) accounts on both.  Facebook is more of an informal area and a place to have a little fun.  There is a fun side to things but also a darker side with some of the people that are on there.

Google+ turned out to be more of a professional area for me.  I followed groups that mostly stayed on topic and shared solutions for me.  It was a place to get leads on new software or watch faces or privacy software or …  I really worked at making it do that for me.  Moderators really did moderate.

Now, it’s gone.  I’m hoping to follow those groups to where they go.  Where to?  Probably Facebook.

Goo.gl

There’s a whole culture devoted to shrinking URLs.  Ironically, it’s the great big long URLs that Google generates to get to documents that made it a necessity to have!  By shrinking it to a few characters that were easy to recite and share, life became so much easier.

I didn’t put all my eggs into that basket though.  Typically, I used goo.gl to shorten Google things and Bitly for everything else.  Why?  I started with Bitly first and then Google’s offering came along.  I wanted to keep a foot in both camps so ended up going this way.

Late to the party?

As I type this post, it seems to me that all three of these latest things to be closed by Google came after there was something else in place.  Decisions like these are typically made on business cases so maybe they just didn’t catch up enough to gain the appropriate market share.  Maybe we’ll find out; maybe we won’t.

It just appears now that they’re gone.

For a complete list of Google things that went away, checked out KilledbyGoogle.

My, how you’ve grown


Doesn’t it seem like things have grown in your community over the years?

I know that, around here, there are subdivisions where there were once farmers’ fields or forests.

There’s another way to get a real sense of growth and what we’re doing to our communities and indeed, our planet.

It’s called Google Timelapse.  The landing page is the earth and it zeroes in to Miami, Florida.  Across the bottom, there are a number of interesting places to visit and see the growth over time.  In this case, the time goes from 1984 to 2016.

I wanted to test it with a place that I knew had grown so much and so headed to Toronto.  You can search for the location or move the map, just like you would with so many of Google’s mapping applications.

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A little scrubber bar appears at the bottom and you can move the mapping display according to your wishes.  Or, you’ll notice a play button in the bottom left of the display.

Either way, you’ll be wowed with the visual display.

You know that you want to check out your own community.  If you’re like me, you may want to fixate on one subdivision at a time.  I could see the roads being build, expanded, and then houses appearing.

Applications in the classroom should be immediate.

This post originally appeared on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

If you read it somewhere else, it’s not original.

Where in the world is …


… Carmen Sandiego?

No, this isn’t a post best written for a Sunday morning.  It’s a revival of the fun game from years gone by – now appearing in Google Earth!

The premise is the same – a crime has been committed and you’ve been recruited to see if you can solve it.  You get clues by visiting locations around the world in Google Earth and interviewing people.  Based upon your understanding of the clues, you move to the next location and continue.

What really struck me was the combination of the old and the new.

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Vintage players will recognize the Apple II-ish font from the interaction on the right.

Contemporary computer users will recognize the latest 3D images from Google Earth on the left.  It’s a interesting combination.

It doesn’t take long to play this mini-game and it remains as interesting as it ever was from years ago.

It’s also a reminder of what used to pass as educational software.

You owe it to yourself to play the game; it won’t take that long – it’s kind of a miniature version of the original and there is a promise of more episodes in the future.

The whole game really shows off 3D imagery in Google Earth nicely.  After successfully winning the game, I replayed giving wrong answers to see what else was available for viewing and enjoying.

A better internet?


It was after reading this story this morning

The Man Who Invented the World Wide Web Has Mixed Feelings About What the Internet Has Become

that I got thinking about the “good old days” when we just went online to do research or reading or communicating or whatever.  We actually paid for the service so we had the choice not to pay.  We didn’t worry about who was following us around as we went from web resource to web resource.  We just revelled in the fact that so much was available to us.

Then, of course, things changed.  You can’t read anything about the internet without getting advice about how to be careful and be wise in your use.

Thinking about this brought back a memory of a series of articles from Gizmodo that I enjoyed.  I wonder how they’d affect me.

It was from a series that they called Goodbye Big Five.

I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible

This looks like it’s going to be relatively easy.  I seldom buy anything directly from Amazon.  I do, however, recognize that results from Amazon appear in searches that I make online for products.  I do use Amazon to get a good idea about what a product might be worth but I’m impatient.  I’ll use that pricing as a benchmark to see where I can just go out and get my hands on what I want immediately.  That’s the retail part.

The other area is Amazon Web Services.  I have no doubt that much of what I access online comes from there.

I Cut Facebook Out of My Life. Surprisingly, I Missed It

Facebook is an interesting one.  I never really had the desire to get connected and start to look for friends, old and new.  Facebook became more than that though.  It’s the place where a lot of local businesses have a presence rather than pay for development of a unique web presence.

Then, the connections started making sense.  It’s a hoot to get connected with people from the community where I grew up.  We share stories and pictures and talk about the good old days.

But, the biggest thing is using it to share pictures with family.  We don’t see each other on a daily basis but it is a place to stay in touch or share pictures of the latest adventure.  Plus, I get a hoot of taking one of the kids out for lunch and check into the place only to get the reactions from the others.

I Cut Google Out Of My Life. It Screwed Up Everything

I would feel the same here I think.  I remember the first time I’d heard about Google.  It was an excited CAIT who shared this.  Until this point, our point of reference for search had been Altavista or Dogpile.  Google changed all of that … and more.

For the most part, I use the Google Chrome web browser.  It’s a no-brainer on my Chromebook although I do have Opera and Firefox installed there and on my other computer.  Every now and again, I’ll use a different browser until I run into a service that absolutely demands a “modern” browser and really means Chrome.  Now and again, I’ll play the real rebel and use Linux with Chromium.  It does make me feel good.

The reality is that so much in my life is Google based – Gmail, my Calendar, so many Google Documents with many of the organizations that I interact with, Maps, Earth, Android, and much more.  To replace all these with an alternative would be the ultimate digital makeover.

I Cut Microsoft Out of My Life—or So I Thought

I have an old computer (9 years old) that has Windows 10 on it but, to be honest, spend most of my time on that computer dual booted into Linux.  It’s faster, more reliable, and provides open source alternatives for anything that I might want to use.

I periodically have twinges of guilt and will boot into Windows.  Windows 10 users will know what comes next; series of updates and reboots.  Then, like most Windows machines, it gets slower and slower.  Edge is a nice to use browser but often chokes on websites wanting a “modern browser”.

I do use Outlook for some of the resources that I subscribe to and have an account for the online version of Office.  There are some people that refuse to use Google services so it’s nice to be connected and fluent enough with Microsoft online to compromise.  I do like OneNote but only the web version; keeping local installations up to date can be a challenge.

I Cut Apple Out of My Life. It Was Devastating

I’m writing this using a MacBook Pro so there’s two strike against me there.  Although it’s four year old, it works nicely now that I replaced the install hard drive with an SSD.  I’ve never warmed up to Safari as a browser (because I like my extensions and customizations)  or the Office that comes installed.  Instead, I’ll use LibreOffice or head off to the cloud.

But not Apple’s cloud.  I have an account with Apple but it’s essentially my connection to iTunes to download music.

I do walk with my headphones connected to an old iPod.  Since it’s just digital, playing music is nice and easy.  The buttons don’t work all that well but it can always be recharged if I’m unable to turn it off.  My old iPad has been relegated to a media player connected via Bluetooth to a head set.  It doesn’t do much else anymore.  My old Android phone is my new tablet.

Summary

I could go on and on but the author in these articles did a nice job so I won’t bother.  What was interesting in this whole process was to realize just how reliant and connected to so many different pieces of technology I was.  Given where I stand today, I don’t think it’s possible to escape.  I supposed that the best thing to do is to develop coping strategies to accept this reality and deal with it.

Maybe a better exercise than going through and cut out reliance on technology from these various sources, it would be easier to start from scratch and build a profile that doesn’t include reliance on them.

Where would you fit in this scenario?