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Articles

Amazon Echo Dot – amazing voice recognition device

Well we have a new gadget / toy / essential piece of equipment (delete as appropriate) at BlueMoon Towers this month. Her name is Alexa and as an experiment in voice controlled, computerised assistant its pretty good, and is about the size of a black or white puck.

Amazon have created a thing called the Echo Dot. It is a small (and cheaper) version of the Echo which is a speaker that sits in your home and connects to your Internet connection and spends its life listening to its activation word. Once it hears this word it will attempt to interperet what you say afterwards and do whatever you instruct it to do.

So, imagine talking to your computer, asking it questions, telling it to play your favorite music or just telling it to remind you at certain times – yep thats what the Echo Dot is all about and its only £50!

Just say “Alexa play Frank Sinatra” – and Frank’s dulset tones start to play, “Alexa play my morning breifing” and she starts to read the news headlines from the BBC. “Alexa set an alarm for 1.30pm today” and she confirms that she will do just that.

The voice recognition really is very good, even understanding different accents easily. If you’d like to learn more about this nifty little device there is a video available at https://youtu.be/24Hz9qjTDfw

The sound from the Echo is ok (not great) but it does have an audio-out port which you can plug into your existing speakers, or you can pair it with any bluetooth speakers that you have to get better quality audio.

At the moment its only available to buy from the UK or the US, so if you wanted one then you would need to get someone to bring it over to Spain. There are a couple of little snags as it’s not designed to work outside the country its sold in, for instance, if you ask her what the weather is like she responds with UK wearther for the address that you register her to, however even this isn’t really a big deal as you can just say “Alexa whats the weather like in Alicante”. Amazon say that they will be expanding the service as time goes on to include more countries and languages.

Google Maps – out of this world!

So, many of you realise that I have a keen interest in things “not of this world”. Here is more computer based astronomy stuff for you.

Most people will be aware that Google have mapped pretty much most of the planet we live on, Google Maps and Google Earth are great applications that can be used for many things from simply looking up places on the planet to using your phone as a satelite navigation tool for getting around.

What many people won’t be aware of is that Google haven’t stopped just mapping our planet, but they have been merrily mapping our satelite (i.e. the Moon) and Mars (the red planet) and the rest of the nights sky. Read this entire article »

Easily update the programs you use regularly…

We all have programs on our computers that we want to keep up to date and either don’t have the time or feel a little nervous about updating them because we are afraid of what might happen. Alternatively, perhaps you have a need to install a bunch of useful programs after you have refreshed your computer? If either of these describe you, then I have the easy and safe answer for you – Ninite!

No, thats not a typing mistake, and I’m not wishing you a great nights sleep – it’s the name of a company that you can use to update or install your critical applications, nice and easily. Read this entire article »

Making Your Wireless Signal Go Further…

Many of us nowadays use our computers, laptops, tablets, phones and even other devices wirelessly. It’s convenient and simple to connect our devices to wireless networks (well it is if our Internet Service Provider give us a nice simple password to use, eh?) and we use them on more and more things in the home; the problem is that the signal strength, when combined with our concrete walls here on the Costa Blanca, sometimes can be an issue – so what can we do about it? Read this entire article »

How to easily share your tablet pictures with your computer…

Nowadays many of us have phones or tablets with cameras in them. We happily snap away taking pictures and probably give no regard to where they are stored and whether they are safe. If you have received a nice new tablet or phone for Christmas and want to make sure you keep hold of your pictures then this month’s article is for you.

Most people, in my experience, have a computer as well as their tablet or phone, one of the ways in which you can ensure that you keep your pictures safe is to regularly copy them over to your computer or laptop and then make sure that they are backed up using whatever normal backup system you use. If you want more information about backups then have a look on our website and do a search for “backup” and you’ll find loads of helpful articles on the subject. Read this entire article »

Windows 10 Wi-Fi “connected but no Internet” Issue…

Problem: Computer is reporting as not connected to the internet, however other devices (tablet, other computers etc.) on the same wireless network connect to the Internet without problem.

Affects: As far as we are aware we have only seen the problem on computers using Windows 10 Read this entire article »

Windows 10 Anniversary Update

This month we look at what is causing some issues for people all over the Costa Blanca who are running Windows 10 but not managing to get up to date with all the Microsoft updates.

We use our computers regularly, and expect things like Antivirus, Malware and Windows updates to simply happen in the background. Our only involvement usually is to get annoyed when we want to close our machines and get the “installing 1 of 10 updates” message, meaning that we can’t be sure that everything will be fine the next time we come to turn on the computer to check our email or get up to date with Facebook. The point is that we rely on the computers to just look after themselves and most of the time this is fine, however back in the summer Microsoft released a large update and its size is causing some people a real problem. This month I show you how you can be sure that you are on the latest update and what to do about it if you’re not. Read this entire article »

Microsoft Office…

Office 365

Many of us are accustomed to using the Microsoft Office package. Whether we took the time and expense to purchase a copy or have a pirate copy installed that “came with the computer”, it’s a great tool and one many of us would find it hard to do without for business purposes. Yes of course there are alternatives in the form of OpenOffice, Corel Office and others which serve the purposes of home users, but when it comes to professional business tools it’s hard to find a decent alternative to Microsoft Office. Read this entire article »

ISS (International Space Station) – wanna see it?

As you probably already know I do like to look up every now and then and recently I saw an article online about the International Space Station that fascinated me. Did you know that it’s the largest artificial body on orbit around our planet and that you can see it without any fancy equipment, all your need is a dark night and your eyes!

The ISS orbits the earth once every 90 minutes, travelling at a velocity of 27,600 km per hour (about 5 minutes a second)! It is permanently inhabited with scientists and zipps round at about 400km above our heads. It’s a common mis-conception that the ISS stays in place because of a lack of gravity, in fact it’s more accurate to think of it as constantly falling over the horizon of earth, it’s essentially in a constant `free fall`around our planet. At 400 tons it’s not a small thing but because of the millions of pieces of space debris also orbiting the earth, the ISS does need to be able to move to avoid the larger pieces – having your tin can punctured by a piece of rubbish moving at over 27,000 kmph would seriously negatively impact your day I would imagine! In order to move the ISS to avoid contact with these objects the crew use a team of people on earth whose job it is to track each of the items that are large enough to cause serious harm (around half a million of them), once an item is identified as being on a collision course (or a possible collision course) then the thrusters and gyroscopes on the ISS come into play to move the ISS out of the way – all of this is controlled from the ground, the guys in the “tin can” don’t have to do anything, although sometimes if a smaller object has hit the solar panels they may be called upon to perform a space walk to investigate and repair things outside. Read this entire article »

Zwift – the future of cycling indoors!

As you probably already know, I have a penchant for cycling and this month I managed to mix one of my favourite sports with my other love – computers!

Zwift is a piece of software that allows you to connect your bike, an indoors trainer and your computer, the most sensors you have, the more the integration works. If you have a smart trainer (one that connects to your computer) then Zwift will change the resistance based on the terrain that you are cycling through!

Ok I hear you ask, you live in Spain, why on earth would you want to cycle indoors? Well that’s a good point and at first I thought the same thing, however there are some days when its either too windy, too rainy (not many haha) or too hot to safely cycle outdoors, so this system gives you an alternative. Its’ quick, easy and really handy if you have room to have it set up perminantly like I do – I can finish work and be on the bike cycling around Watopia (the name of the island that you cycle around in Zwift) in a matter of a few minutes without ever leaving the house. Read this entire article »