Phone as a Virtual Assistant

Your Phone as a Virtual Assistant

Phone as a Virtual Assistant

Your phone can be a great VA

The term virtual assistant has taken on a whole new meaning today. It is no longer a person that sits at a desk near you at work or someone you hire for personal needs. Virtual assistants come attached to your mobile device. The most popular example is Siri, which is Apple’s virtual assistant. Using it is easy, and using your phone as a virtual assistant can help you get information and do tasks in a much shorter amount of time.

How you use a virtual assistant depends on your mobile device. If Apple made your device, you’ll have ‘Siri’, for example. Android devices and Amazon devices have their own assistants. To use the assistant is as simple as pushing the home button on the Apple device, for example. Doing this prompts Siri to ask how she can help you. From there you can ask a myriad of things. For other devices you might be able to just say a prompt like, ‘Hey Alexa’, or ‘Ok Google’ to get started. All the virtual assistants allow you to do some of the same amazing things.

What using your phone as a virtual assistant can do for you

You can ask your phone to perform many useful tasks, including:

  • Call a phone number, either by saying the digits, the name of a contact in your phone book, or even by relationship – e.g. ‘call my wife’
  • Send a text message
  • Ask what the weather is in a certain location and get forecasts for pretty much anywhere in the world
  • Launch an application
  • Set up an appointment or reminder in your calendar
  • Search the internet to get an answer to a question
  • Help you find a nearby store, restaurant, gas station, etc.
  • Send a tweet or Facebook post
  • See what movies are playing near you or on a specific location
  • Set an alarm to wake you up
  • Play a track or playlist from your music library
  • Get live sports results
  • You also ask the virtual assistant which tasks it can perform to get a list of them

Virtual assistants do so much to help make our lives easier. From helping you get the score of the game you are missing, to helping you find that place to eat and get there, smartphone virtual assistants are worth getting to know. There are also some phone dictation tips which are worth knowing.

Keyboard Shortcut Tips

Keyboard Shortcut Tips

Keyboard Shortcut Tips

Save time with Keyboard Shortcuts

In life, we are often told there are no shortcuts to success. When it comes to using a computer, that is the furthest thing from the truth. Keyboard shortcuts refer to the practice of pressing a combination of keys to carry out a specific action, this can be much quicker than using your mouse to select an option from a menu or toolbar.

Some keyboard shortcut tips are universal across all programs while some are unique to the program you use. If you wanted to, you could work your way through many tasks on a computer with keyboard shortcuts. You could never touch a mouse. However, that might get frustrating and take too long.

Also, depending on the type of computer you use will depend on what keys do what command. Below is a list of some of the actions you can do with keyboard shortcuts. To find a more in-depth list for your specific computer, do a web search for “keyboard shortcuts for (insert your computer type)”.

Basic Keyboard Shortcut Tips

  • Cut text
  • Copy text
  • Paste text
  • Take a picture of your screen
  • Change applications
  • Print
  • Open applications
  • Minimize applications
  • Make applications larger

Keyboard shortcuts are a great time saver and easy to learn. Even if you pick two or three you use regularly, they will be a great asset. For example, I prefer to use shortcuts to copy and paste the most. On my Mac to copy text, I highlight what I want to copy and press the Command and C keys (Ctrl and C on a PC). To paste, I place the cursor where I want the text and press the Command and P keys (Ctrl and V on a PC. It is like second nature to me at this point, and can be for you with some practice.

Start Menu Windows 10 Fix

Start Menu Windows 10 Fix

Start Menu Windows 10 Fix

Windows 10 Start Menu Fix

Some people who run Windows 10 have recently reported that their start menu has stopped responding both to left clicks and also a single press of the Windows key. However, in nearly all of these cases right clicking or pressing the Windows key and X brings up the usual system functions. If you’re suffering from this problem, then you need a quick start menu Windows 10 fix and the trick below will more than likely solve your problem in a few minutes.

Start Menu Windows 10 Fix

Although there are several other methods which may work to fix your start menu problem, the first one shown here seems the most reliable:

  1. Right click the start menu, select Command Prompt (Admin) and click ‘Yes’ in the User Account Control window
  2. Type Powershell in the command window
  3. Copy and paste the text below into the command prompt window:
    Get-AppXPackage -AllUsers | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register “$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml”}

Don’t worry if you see some slightly alarming-looking red text. After 10 to 20 minutes depending on the speed of your computer, you should be returned to the command prompt, at which point you can type Exit or click the cross in the top right hand corner of the command window to close it.

Your Windows 10 start menu should now be fixed!

In the event that this fix hasn’t worked for you, here are some other things you can try:

Add a new user account

  • Create a new user by right clicking the start menu, selecting Control Panel from the menu, then User Accounts -> Manage another account -> Add a new user in PC settings -> Add someone else to this PC
  • Once you’ve added the new user, be sure to give them Administrator rights
  • Right click the start menu again and sign out of the active account
  • Sign in with the new account you just created and check the start menu works properly. If so, simply copy your files to this new account

Check for corrupted system files

  • Right click the start menu and select Command Prompt (Admin)
  • Type sfc /scannow and wait until the process finishes
  • If corrupted files are found which Windows was unable to fix, type Powershell and paste in the following command:
    dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

Hopefully, your Windows 10 start menu will now be fixed.

Phone Notifications

Phone Notifications

Phone Notifications

Phone Notification Settings

You have probably heard someone at some point utter the phrase, “How did I ever survive before my smartphone.” Those people are probably like me – a little older. Having had the experience of life without a smartphone makes me appreciate phone notifications so much.

Phone notifications push the information you choose directly to your mobile without you having to do anything to instigate the process. These notifications can take the form of a red number on an application badge, a pop up, or in a notification menu you can check without opening the phone. Setting up notifications is generally an easy process and can be done in several ways.

When you initially install an application on your phone or tablet, it will probably ask you if you want to allow notifications. If you say yes, it will automatically send them. There is usually a setting in the system menu on the phone where you can control which apps show phone notifications, how, and for what information. In the application, there might also be a notification option where you can set up what you want to know about and when or how often. For example, sports scores for particular teams are popular notifications for sports apps.

Regardless of how you set them up, and in which applications, they will give you information tailored to you as it occurs. Be careful however, because if you set up too many notifications, you may be overloaded with information you don’t really want. Also, it’s a good idea to choose whether each of your phone notifications is accompanied by an audible warning – too many of these can drive you mad! I personally use notifications for weather, news and fitness apps. For the rest, I go into the app itself to see what I want to find out.

Phone Dictation

Phone Dictation

Phone Dictation

Voice recognition is pretty accurate these days

Voice recognition has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, and used properly phone dictation can now provide very high levels of accuracy. Nowadays, you can dictate what you want to say in an email or document through your mobile device or computer without the need for expensive and complicated software. It not only saves you time, but also it is pretty accurate when used in a quiet environment.

Phone Dictation

On a mobile phone, using dictation is as simple as pressing a button that looks like a microphone in the keyboard. Once you do this, you will usually see a box come up with a line in it that moves up and down as you talk. This is the device recognizing and processing what you are saying. You should keep a few things in mind when using this technology:

  • Speak naturally as that will best capture what you are saying
  • You can add punctuation by saying the punctuation word. For example, you can say the word, “Question Mark” at the end of a sentence, and a question mark will appear. You can do this for periods, commas, and much more
  • No speech recognition software is perfect, so always double check what you dictated and fix any errors before finishing up
  • This tech can be used across many mobile apps such as text messages, emails, and document creation applications

Bottom line: Using text recognition is easier than ever to use, increasingly accurate, and best of all free! It will save you time, and when done properly, can work across multiple applications and platforms.

Phone Texting Options

Phone Texting Options

Phone Texting Options

Texting – many apps are available.

Texting is the new way to communicate in today’s world. According to PEW research, some 83% of American adults own cell phones and three-quarters of them (73%) send and receive text messages. However, once you send the text through mobile smartphones’ standard texting applications, you cannot undo or unsend the message. This implies that an impulsive text at the wrong moment can be disastrous.

Phone Texting Options

Thankfully, there are alternative messaging apps that offer more robust features. A simple search of the Android or Apple app stores will offer you many possibilities. And reading the reviews and features can help you decide which best matches your needs. These messaging applications all have different feature sets, but can offer very useful features, such as:

  • Allowing you to undo sent messages, so they don’t show on the other person’s phone
  • Asking you if you are sure you want to send the message with a popup before you send it – most of us have accidentally hit ‘Send’ at some point, sometimes with disastrous results!
  • Allowing you to schedule messages to be sent at specific times

Most people will have heard of Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and Viber, but there are many other alternatives. For example, take a look at Telegram, ChompSMS, Hoverchat and Go SMS Pro. In short, you do not have to feel pigeonholed by your smartphone’s native texting application. You can find other phone texting options in the appropriate app store which are free or inexpensive and that let you take more control of your text.

Find free blog images

Find Free Blog Images

Find free blog images

Cats on the internet? Whoda thought it…

Finding images on the Internet is simple. In most search engines, when you search for a topic, there is usually a small section in the search results that shows images. Alternatively, there will be an image option at the top of the search screen you can click on to see any images matching your search terms. If you are just searching to view the images onscreen, then the task is easy. However, if you are looking to find free blog images for a website or other purpose, you will want to make sure it is licensed for reuse so you don’t fall foul of copyright laws.

Licensed for reuse is a fancy way of saying that the person or organization who took/owns the image is happy for other people to use it as they see fit.

You can find images like this in two ways:

Search settings to find free blog images

The first is to change your search settings. To do this in Google for example, you should go into the settings menu. You find that menu by clicking on an icon that looks like a gear, here you choose advanced search, then usage rights drop down menu. There you can choose the option safe for reuse. This will ensure any images that are returned by the search enging are licensed for reuse.

The second method is much more straightforward, and it is the one I prefer. There is a website called Creative Commons. You can find it at https://search.creativecommons.org/. Once you are there, you choose the file type you want, and the search method. For example, you may choose Image and Google. Type in what you are looking for and hit search. It will show you all the images Google found that are reusable.

Using images which belong to someone else without their permission is illegal and immoral, so use either of the methods above and you can rest easy you’re not breaking the law or denying someone an income. And if you don’t like what you find, you can consider companies that sell images to reuse, like Getty Images.

Password Keeper

Managing Passwords – Use a Password Keeper

Password Keeper

Increase your password security

With a digital world comes the ability to access secure information using passwords. Because we can do tasks like banking, shopping, and joining clubs online; password protection is essential and one of the best things you can do is use a password keeper.

But there has been no shortage of stories about websites which people have broken into and stolen sensitive information. Even though this is an unfortunate possibility, there are ways to protect against this vulnerability while enjoying other helpful features such as being automatically logged onto a site once you open it.

Using a Password Keeper

Password keeper applications help you create secure passwords and manage them easily. Programs like LastPass and 1Password are excellent examples of these applications and have some great features:

  • They can automatically generate extremely secure passwords
  • They store your passwords in the strongest way possible to avoid them being stolen
  • They can allow a designated person to access your passwords in the program in case of an emergency
  • They have phone applications and websites where you can access your passwords if you forget them
  • You can also organize and manage the sites you have passwords for easily
  • They automatically log you into sites
  • You only ever have to remember your ‘master password’, the application takes care of the rest

Applications like this not only act as a safe method to create and store passwords, they allow you to manage them easily and remove the need to remember every new password you create. We recommend LastPass or 1Password.

Change Router Channel

Change Router Channel

Change Router Channel

Changing your Wifi Channel

There are many factors which can affect the speed and range of your router’s wifi signal. Some, like the thickness and composition of the walls in your home or office, the distance between the router and device you’re using it with, and the quality of the router itself may be problems you can’t overcome without spending some money. But anyone can change the router channel for free and this can have a positive effect on your transfer speeds.

How to Change the Router Channel

Login to your router by typing its address in your browser of choice – generally this will be 192.168.1.1. If that doesn’t work, type cmd into the Windows Run or Search box, and then ipconfig into the command window; look for the Default Gateway – that will be your router’s IP address. After you open the router’s login page, it will probably ask for a username and password (normally admin and admin – if this doesn’t work, check the bottom of the router as it’s probably listed there). Once you have opened your router’s administration page, open the wireless settings area and look for the Channel setting. It’s almost certainly set to Automatic, which will work okay in the majority of situations, but you’ll notice that there are 13 channels available to choose from.

Which Wifi Channel to Choose
Almost always channels 1, 6 or 11 are the best choice, since these are the only three which don’t overlap. To find out which is best, either use trial and error, or better still the free inSSIDer Home utility (available for Windows, Mac and Android). Among other things this will help you find the least wifi channels with the least congestion in your immediate vicinity.

Useful Alt Codes

Useful Alt Codes

Useful Alt Codes

Useful Alt Codes

The chances are that your computer keyboard does not provide you with every character you’re ever going to need. For example, users of US keyboards may not have access to a Euro (€) symbol, and UK keyboards certainly don’t contain the Spanish ‘ñ’ character…indispensable if you ever need to write mañana. While Microsoft Windows includes a utility called CharMap which helps you insert these letters, knowing some shortcuts to characters you use more frequently can be very helpful.

Luckily, these characters and many, many more can be accessed by holding down the ‘Alt’ key to left of the spacebar on your keyboard, typing a numeric code on the numeric keypad (the one on the right of the keyboard) and then letting go of the Alt key. Below are some of the more useful alt codes:

Alt + 156 £ Pound
Alt + 0128 Euro
Alt + 0162 ¢ Cent
Alt + 0165 ¥ Yen
Alt + 0169 © Copyright
Alt + 0174 ® Registered Sign
Alt + 0153 Trade Mark
Alt + 0188 ¼ Fraction: Quarter
Alt + 0189 ½ Fraction: Half
Alt + 0190 ¾ Fraction: Three Quarters
Alt + 0178 ² Superscript Two
Alt + 0179 ³ Superscript Three
Alt + 11 Male Symbol
Alt + 12 Female Symbol
Alt + 0241 ñ Lowercase n with Tilde
Alt + 0209 Ñ Uppercase N with Tilde

You can view a comprehensive reference sheet here:

Useful Alt Codes Reference

Useful Alt Codes Reference