Voice-controlled gizmos are quickly taking over our digital lives, but an annoyance is coming with them: Why can’t I personalize their wake words? Who among smart-home fans isn’t tired of saying. “Hey, Google” to Google Home, for example?
There’s a third-party program that aims to solve this problem for Cortana on Windows 10. MyCortana by the Sourceforge users LazyGuyz lets you change the “Hey, Cortana” wake word on your PC to anything you want.
If you’re a Star Trek fan you might prefer a simple command like “computer” or “dammit, Jim.” A political junkie might like a Trumpism such as “hey, failing pile of garbage.” I tested these wake phrases with MyCortana and they all worked exactly as expected—even “cat” worked just fine. That said, I did get a few false positives from time to time, so be aware that words with common sound combinations may confuse the program.
When you need to focus on an important task, sometimes your favorite Spotify playlist just doesn’t help. If music tends to be more of a distraction during the grind, you might find customized background noises more effective at keeping you on task.
That’s where Noisli for Chrome comes in. This extension, which is also available as an app on Android and iOS, offers a variety of generic sounds such as fire, wind, thunder, rolling waves, and so on. It also lets you combine them into your own personalized background noise mashup or use preset combinations.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting ways to spice up the New Tab page in the browser. The standard new-tab pages in Chrome and Firefox are useful enough, but they’re hardly beautiful things to look at.
A great solution for anyone looking to add a little flair—especially if you’re a virtual-reality fan—is a new extension for Chrome called SVRF Tabs. Created by SVRF—a company focused on search and discovery for virtual reality—the extension supplies a 360-degree image when you open a new tab. You can get stunning images of the California coastline, a tropical destination, a Welsh town, and many others.
Using the extension is pretty straightforward. Install it from the Chrome Web Store as usual (link above). Chrome prompts you to allow the extension to change your new-tab page. Once that's done, you’re all set.
You’ve spent a good amount of time getting Alexa to properly activate your wireless speakers, living room lights, and smart cam, but is your new IoT setup secure?
BullGuard has a quick and easy tool that can help you find out if there are any basic problems. It’s called the Internet of Things Scanner. The service checks to see if any of your devices are on Shodan, a search engine that lets anyone find Internet of Things devices like cameras, printers, and thermostats that are publicly accessible on the internet. Anything that’s publicly accessible may also be vulnerable to hackers if there are any security flaws in the software that can be exploited.
One of the more useful online services for getting things done is IFTTT.com, which stands for If This, Then That. For example, if rain is the forecast for tomorrow, then send me an email.
A new program for the Windows called Ellp (currently in beta) is kind of like IFTTT for the desktop. It can’t carry out the wide number of actions that IFTTT can, but Ellp doesn’t have to. This program is more about managing actions on your PC than interacting with online services—though it does have a few features that are straight out of the IFTTT playbook.
At this writing, Ellp has only 11 actions, but over time it will hopefully develop more than that. Some of the more useful actions Ellp currently has include the ability to automatically run disk cleanup once your hard drive gets too full.
In Windows 10, Microsoft added a new feature for fans of digital pens called the Windows Ink Workspace. With this new feature, you get a centralized spot built into Windows 10 for your system’s pen-friendly apps.
Many users will never see the Ink Workspace if they aren’t using a digital pen with their PC. Nevertheless, Microsoft makes it possible for non-pen users to turn on the Ink Workspace in Windows 10 and check it out.
The holidays are over and the new year is upon us. It’s a great time to get your productivity needs in order for the next 12 months. The first thing you’ll need is the right software to get things done. Personally, I’d go with Office 365.
Microsoft’s productivity suite costs $99 per year for up to five users on Office 365 Home, or $70 for one user on Office 365 Personal. It may seem a little strange to pay for the Office suite in this age of Google Drive, free desktop suites like Libre Office, and even Microsoft’s free Office Online.
Nevertheless, there are some good reasons to go with an Office 365 subscription. If you haven’t looked at Office 365 seriously before here’s a reminder of why this offering is worth the price.