Happy 202nd Ada!

Happy Birthday to Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron. She’s widely regarded as the first female computer programmer all the way back in the 1840s! She was introduced to Charles Babbage who was working on his Analytical Engine. That machine is considered to be the forerunner to modern computers.

While Babbage is considered the father of computers, Lovelace realised the engine’s ability to create music and manipulate numbers and symbols. Through this, she wrote many codes or programs for him. Thus, she’s ensured her place in computing history!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Lovelace

Ada_Lovelace_portrait

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Amazon Intercom

A new feature for Amazon’s Alexa devices has been enabled in the UK today. You can now use them to call other devices through your contacts. So if friends and family have Alexa devices you can call them, for free. They need to have that feature enabled (and the Alexa app up to date).

If you have more than one device in your home, you can also use them as an intercom system. Simply say ‘Alexa – Drop In Kids Bedroom’ and their device will ring. I’ve tested it and it works pretty well so long as you’ve got your devices with unique names.

It’s a bit of an update on the home intercom systems of the 60s and 70s!

Read more on how to set it up here.

https://www.cnet.com/…/how-to-use-drop-in-with-your-amazon…/

Welcome to the Echo Show

It’s been around barely two years but your current Amazon Echo is being updated.  Welcome the ‘Echo Show’.  The what now?  Yes, Echo now comes with a screen and is being released in the US in June.

New-Echo-Inline It could be argued that this is just a fancy tablet, and that if the Echo is meant to be voice controlled, why would one need a screen?  A screen would simply add more functionality.  Think of all the cat photos you can look at while never having to type a single keystroke! Of course, there are more sensible options, weather, time, videos and the like.

Personally, I like the idea.  I have three Echos in the house already, but one with a screen would be useful, especially in the kitchen which is usually the ‘hub’ of any house.  Yes, I have an iPad that I bring into the kitchen for recipes or watching the news while I cook but I like the idea of a screen on a wall that’s voice activated.

There’s still room for improvement – at the moment, the Echo is still a one user device – it won’t work with multiple calendars for example but the good thing is the Echo has always been open for expansion and improvement.  Skills can be written and added just like your apps on a smart phone or tablet.  I’m looking forward to its release and seeing where Amazon take this device next!  Wired’s article on the Echo Show is worth a read.

Those IT guys always say ‘turn it off and on again’ – why?

If you’ve ever used a computer in an office environment, at some point you will have called IT support. It’s almost certain your IT support staff suggested ‘turning it off and on again’ – otherwise known as rebooting or restarting.

Have you turned it off and on again” was turned into a catchphrase thanks to the “IT Crowd” comedy series.  When  IT staff ask clients to do this, it’s usually met with a roll of the eyes and an exasperated comment such as “you guys always say that”!

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It is true, it’s a common request from IT support, but why is that?

I would often ask my clients how often they restarted their computer during the week.  I’d say about 75% never did.  Some simply logged off, some locked their computer, and others just left their desk and relied on the computer to “lock itself” after a set period of time (that made our IT security people freak out!).  Ideally at the end of the day you should restart your computer so it’s  in a ‘fresh state’ for the next day.

Most computer problems have a known cause and a known solution.  However, it’s when a computer does very unexpected or weird things that, in my experience, a good place to begin troubleshooting is with a restart.

Cranky Computers

A computer that has been “on” for a week is essentially “tired” and getting cranky.

Imagine if you were expected to stay awake for 24 hours, or 48 or 72, or an entire week.  You’d be a total mess and unable to perform even the most basic tasks effectively.  Once you’ve had a good nights sleep, you’ve ‘reset’ your body and you’re good to go again for the day.

A computer is the same – as time goes on, more and more resources are used.  In a perfect computer, all the resources or “memory” used to run a piece of software should be released and available again when it’s closed.  That isn’t the case.  Eventually these ‘leftovers’ start to slow down your computer and eat up memory.  It becomes sluggish, and does odd things.

A full restart (NOT just logging off) will release those resources, reset everything and give it a fresh start, just as if you had a nice long sleep and woke up refreshed.  All those resources are now free to be used again.

It’s a very quick solution to most problems which is why your IT staff often suggest this as a starting point.  If the issue goes away then great. If not, then of course they will investigate further and do their best to fix the problem for you.

Restarting can be used to fix almost any piece of IT or electronic equipment as they all have some sort of operating system running software.  So if you find your smart phone, e-reader, cable box or router acting slow, a restart should be the first thing you try.

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