Another A-Z

I’ve been a long time fan of the work that Peter Beens (@pbeens on Twitter) has done in keeping tabs of everything Google. It goes way back to a post from 2012.

Google A-Z

Sadly, Peter has had a bit of a challenge from Google itself keeping the document online. But he describes it as a labour of love and, as of the writing of this post, it’s online for all to use here.

I had to smile on behalf of Peter when I read that Google has created its own A-Z list! This list is devoted to Artificial Intelligence.

Like Peter’s list, it’s a great reference to bookmark and stay on top of.

Maybe Peter will even add it to his list of Google resources!

You can check it out at this link.

OK, Google

OK, Google…

  • what’s the temperature outside?
  • what’s next in my calendar?
  • tell me a joke
  • good morning
  • convert $100 Canadian to US dollars?
  • set a timer for 45 minutes?
  • what’s the difference between a Home Mini and a Next Mini?
  • how old is Justin Bieber?

Such are the conversations between my Google assistant and me. To be honest, it’s not a very exciting back and forth. At this point in time, it’s more of an amusement than a real change in the way I do things. It’s fun but I haven’t reached that sense of revolution yet.

There’s always this nagging feeling that I could and should be doing more with it. It’s a lot like me with a television remote control – I don’t just want to know what’s on but what else is on.

Fortunately, rather than trial and error, there’s a wonderful resource site at:

So, as an example, I could be asking better questions like…

Anyone who has used the Assistant know that it be helpful and can comes up with surprises.

My logic is that, as long as I have it, I might as well get the most from it. So, I’m indeed going to be doing some serious exploring.

What’s the most off the wall thing your assistant has done for you?

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.


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

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.



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.


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.

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 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.


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:

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