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…/

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Breaking News Checklist

When big events happen, the early reports are often sketchy and sometimes downright untrue. The flames are fanned by well-meaning people sharing information from any source they can find, despite that source’s credentials. It’s a fake news creator’s dream when these things happen.

Here’s a handy guide called “The Breaking News Consumers Handbook” – some very useful tips and suggestions on finding the truth amongst all the crap. Share it with your friends, especially those who are prolific ‘big news posters’.

HANDBOOK

 

Death of a hoaxer?

Is it actually true or another one of his hoaxes? That’s the trouble with so many fake news and satire sites, it’s hard to believe what is real anymore. Even when a story appears totally legitimate, you question its authenticity.

While I wouldn’t wish the death of anyone, if he was that prolific at spreading hoaxes, maybe the internet will see a noticeable reduction for a while.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41422827

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No such thing as a free RV, flight, holiday…

Big companies such as British Airways, Air Canada, Tesco, Disney etc. do not go around giving free things to every single person to celebrate something. That’s a “too good to be true” thing and should immediately raise concerns.

DO NOT CLICK LIKE. DO NOT CLICK SHARE. DO NOT THINK ‘OH JUST IN CASE IT MIGHT BE TRUE’.

At the very least you will look a bit silly and you might have friends like me who are more than happy to tell you off for doing it. Worst? Facebook could shut down your account for sharing spam posts and the people behind these posts could steal your personal details.

If you see any of your friends doing this, give them a virtual smack around the head and tell them to read this story:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/free-spam-scam-facebook-1.4285985

Bonnie Tyler’s Favourite Day

Did you go out and see the eclipse? Were you in the ‘path of totality’? Even if you were close by, it’s always a memorable experience. It’s a reminder that we are rather small in this giant universe in which we exist.

In case you were not able to see it, or not in an area greatly affected, you can learn more about how they occur and more importantly when the next one will be where you live.

You might have a bit of a wait!  Learn more here.

eclipse_explainer_976

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.

Graphene – it’s rather neat-o…

Graphene: it’s the world’s thinnest material and the most conductive. It’s been studied since the 1940s and over time, a number practical uses and loads of potential ones have been discovered.

Well, now it has another, potentially HUGE use.  The filtering of sea-water to produce drinking water.graphene.png

A mesh of graphene is used to filter out the salt, letting pure water through.  Until recently, the holes in the membrane were not small enough to stop all the salts from getting through.  Now scientists found a way around this.  The potential is huge if they can replicate it on a large-scale outside of the lab.

Many places in the world experience regular drought conditions. In fact, the UN predicts that by 2025, 14% of the world’s population will experience “water scarcity”.   Imagine water scarcity being a thing of the past.

Water desalinization plants already exist around the world (and on cruise ships) but can be resource intensive, though some advances have been made to reduce the energy required to produce potable water.

In a few years, the use of graphene could change all that and bring a regular supply of fresh water to millions who need it with a minimal energy requirement.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Read more here from the BBC’s website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YouTube in Trouble

Google-owned YouTube is in trouble.  A number of high-profile brands pulled their advertising from the site over the last week or so.   There have been complaints that these adverts are being shown alongside extremist content – whether that be terror related, homophobic, anti-semitic or white supremacists.

Brands such as The Guardian, M&S, BBC, AT&T, Verizon, and Johnson & Johnson have all pulled, or temporarily halted their ads for the time being.   Obviously, no brand with any sense wants their image associated with such undesirable content.

The problem is the automatic placing of the adverts – there’s little ‘human’ control over where the adverts get placed. The software that determines the placement of ads isn’t smart enough to realise the type of content.  Understandably, advertisers have had enough.

Google has apologised and promised to give more control to the advertisers allowing them more control where their ads appear.  How soon this happens remains to be seen.

Google and YouTube need big advertisers, as do the many users who create money making content.  They can’t afford to be so complacent in the future.