Search is a Jack of all trades

GoogleBlog - Fri, 08/26/2016 - 14:27
Today we’re dealing two new hands from the Google Search deck: solitaire and tic-tac-toe. Now you can play two of the oldest and most popular games for all ages, on desktop and in the Google app.

It’s been said solitaire’s roots are in fortune telling. If that’s true, today your fate rests on your quick wit and the luck of the draw. When you search for “solitaire” on Google, the familiar patience game may test yours!
If you’re looking for something a bit simpler, tic-tac-toe is your best bet. In this game of naughts and crosses, you can select your level of difficulty or even go head to head against a friend. Xs and Os to the winner (hugs and kisses, that is!).
For some other fun tips, try asking Google, “what sound does a pig make?” Or if you’re looking to settle a bet and feeling lucky, “flip a coin” may come in handy.

These are just a sample of the delightful surprises that await you on Google. After all, Search is for so much more than research and practical matters -- it’s for fun, too!

Posted by Stephen Cognetta Stephen Cognettan
Categories: Technology

Explore the hidden worlds of the National Parks

GoogleBlog - Fri, 08/26/2016 - 14:18
In the Kenai Fjords, the ice is so dense it forms blues brighter than the clear Alaskan sky above. The molten rock around the (very) active Kīlauea Volcano appears to swirl and move — and sometimes it really does! At Bryce Canyon, one of the darkest places in North America, you can see the massive Milky Way glittering across the night sky.

The U.S. National Parks are full of wonders, but most people don’t get the chance to visit in person. While nothing beats the real thing, for this month’s 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, we wanted to see if we could use Google’s technology to help share the parks with everyone.
Starting today anyone can take a virtual tour of some of our most breathtaking National Parks, no matter where you are, with Google’s The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks.

This Google Arts & Culture exhibit and interactive documentary in honor of this month’s NPS Centennial is available on the web and in the Google Arts & Culture App on iOS/Android. You can immerse yourself in 360-degree video tours through some of the most remote and breathtaking places in five different National Parks. And if you want to learn more about what you’re seeing, you can browse the fascinating archive of artifacts from the National Parks’ many museums.

At each park, a local ranger guides you through places most people never get to go — spelunking through ancient caves at Carlsbad Caverns, flying above active volcanoes in Hawai’i, and swimming through the coral reefs of the Dry Tortugas in Florida.

We’ve also created the Hidden Worlds Expedition for educators to help open up new learning opportunities and share these experiences with even more people. The Expedition can be accessed on the Expeditions App (available on Google Play in the U.S.).

Today's Doodle celebrating U.S. National Parks & monuments. More info at
The National Parks are American treasures, and everyone should see what they have to offer. We hope that by making it easy for people to get a taste of the wilderness, we can encourage a new generation of parks goers to head out and explore in person. Get ready for an adventure!

Posted by Nick Carbonaro, Creative Lead Nick Carbonaron Principal Software Engineer
Categories: Technology

How do I use folders to organize my iPhone apps?

AskDaveTaylor - Fri, 08/26/2016 - 10:02

Having looked at a lot of different Apple iPhone and Apple iPad screens, I have concluded that there are two different strategies in how to organize your iOS apps: either you don’t use folders at all and your apps sprawl across multiple screens, or you use folders so aggressively that each folder ends up being sort of a pop-up screen, jammed to the rafters with apps, games, etc.

I have to admit, I like to see all the app icons on my iPhone and iPad, so I tend not to use folders much at all. Too much of the out of sight, out of mind problem. My children, however, all love their folders and even set up folders on my own devices so they can squirrel away a few games for a rainy day, games that I’m then clueless about because I never open the folder up!

In any case, give it a try, set up a folder or two and see if that helps you organize your apps!

To start, just grab your iPhone (or iPad) and unlock it. You’ll be looking at a screen like this:

Now put your finger on any one of the app icons and hold it there (don’t press hard: on an iPhone 6s it’s pressure sensitive and you’ll pop up an app-specific mini-menu, not what we want to do!). After a few seconds the icons should all start wiggling and an “X” will show up on every non-system app:

At this point you can delete any apps you don’t want by tapping on the “X”, and you can also touch and drag apps around to reorganize things (something I do a lot, actually).

You can also touch and drag an app on top of another app, at which point a folder is automatically created and both apps show up in the folder:

iOS automatically chooses a default name for the new folder based on the kind of apps you’re dropping into it. Here it’s decided that “Entertainment” is a good name. Meh, not so much.

But first, let’s go ahead and drop the Xfinity app icon into the folder by completing the drag into the lighter grey area:

Looks good! Now, let’s fix that name. Easy enough: tap on the “x” adjacent to the folder name and it’ll vanish plus a keyboard will appear, ready for you to tap in a better name:

Enter the new name, tap “Done” and you’re ready to now drag more apps into the folder, ultimately making your iPad or iPhone all neat and pretty:

That’s all there is to it. Want to move apps out of a folder? Tap and hold until they wiggle, then drag them into the “background” area (that is, not the light grey folder zone) and they’ll reappear on the main screen. Notice also that if you put enough apps into a folder, it gains screens of its own (the clue is the two dots on the bottom: that means there are two folder screens worth of apps).

Oh, and the blue dot next to some apps like NBC Sports, Amazon, and Netflix? That means that they’ve been updated since the last time I launched them on this particular device.

Hope that helps get you all neat and organized, and then wow’s your daughter when she sees what you’ve done!

The post How do I use folders to organize my iPhone apps? appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

Quick Ways to Speed up my Windows System?

AskDaveTaylor - Wed, 08/24/2016 - 10:42

There are a lot of reasons that your Microsoft Windows PC computer could be running slowly, but I think there are three common culprits: memory, malware and helper apps. I like to think about computers like a bicycle wheel: add a single playing card to your spokes for sound effects and you don’t even notice it’s there when you’re biking around the neighborhood. Add twenty or thirty, however, and everything becomes a struggle because collectively those playing cards are adding a lot of resistance.

Now I don’t mean to suggest that you have slipped playing cards into the fan on your Windows computer (most people try to get their computer to be more quiet, not more noisy!) but it’s the same basic idea. You have a constrained set of resources and the more demands are made on those resources by programs, utilities, and malware, the slower your computer becomes.

Memory is a big issue for PC performance too, and many computer buyers try to save money when buying new gear by getting the least RAM possible. That’s a mistake and regardless of your storage space, any computer will run faster with more memory, so at least 8GB and ideally even 16GB for better performance in the long run.

But let’s have a look at a typical Windows 10 computer by using Task Manager. Easy to launch, just enter its name on the search/Cortana box:

Once launched, Task Manager often defaults to a very succinct presentation of the non-system apps running. Not very useful, really:

It does correctly recognize that Google Chrome is the only program running other than system tasks, but that’s not helpful! Click on “More details” to expand the view.

And take a deep breath, because you get  a lot more details as you can see:

You can make some pretty good analysis of what’s going on with your computer just from this display. Along the side are the different programs running, in order of how much computer processor time (CPU) they’re using. You can see that “Service Host: Local System” is consuming 71.4%.

Give it a few seconds and let it refresh a few times once you get here, because you want to assess trends and programs that keep creeping to the top, eating resources. Are they necessary? Are they efficient in their use of resources?

The second column shows the memory usage and a quick scan shows that Google Chrome is eating a lot of memory, far more than anything else running at that moment. Still, 68% memory usage is fine, but if you’re seeing 100% or so and you aren’t even running any programs, games or utilities, that’s a good clue that you might need more RAM.

Have a close look along the tabs at the top too: Process, Performance, App history, Startup, Users, Details and Services.

Before we’re done, click on “Startup” to see what programs and utilities are launching every time you boot up:

There are a lot of programs launching every time I start up, no question. Notice the publishers (with a grain of salt as that can be spoofed by malware) but mostly notice the Status, because you can actually disable startup programs and they won’t keep running in background, consuming resources next time you restart. I’ve already disabled iCloud Photo Stream as I don’t have my photos sync’d onto this computer anyway.

Here’s where you need to be a bit careful about what you disable, lest you break a streaming service, cloud backup system, or even antivirus program you’re running to protect your computer! If you aren’t sure, search the Internet for the specific program name and see what others recommend in terms of disabling it or not.

And eagle-eyed readers have already noticed I have something potentially bad on this computer a program just known as “Program” with no publisher ID. A virus or malware? Quite possible. Fortunately, it’s easy to disable it by choosing it then clicking on the “Disable” button on the lower right.

When I’m done chopping things out here’s what my Startup tasks look like:

A restart and my Windows PC is running a bit faster. Now about that RAM limitation…

Tip: Microsoft has a good tutorial article about how to troubleshoot performance issues with Task Manager too.

The post Quick Ways to Speed up my Windows System? appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

Add a Clock Desktop Widget in Windows 10?

AskDaveTaylor - Tue, 08/23/2016 - 10:29

Ah yes, the old Desktop Widgets and side panel from Windows 7 days. It was definitely a really cool concept and there were a number of slick widgets people created, but there was one major issue that caused Microsoft to drop it from Windows 8: security. In fact, it was way back in July of 2010 that Microsoft recommended everyone disable the Win7 Desktop Gadgets!

By Windows 8, the logic was that the start screen would give you everything you wanted, whether it was a weather widget, a clock, a stock ticker or anything else. True, it did, but then Windows 10 came along and we went back to the Desktop with a Start menu. And while those active tiles remain accessible from the Start menu, the widgets never quite made it back when we were all dropped back onto the Desktop upon login.

Still, the official Microsoft answer for Windows 10 would undoubtedly be “use the active tiles on the new start menu”, and that works when the menu’s visible. Otherwise, well…

I looked around and did find someone who had cobbled together a Windows 7 widget utility that brings back the original Win7 desktop widgets, but it’s rather flakey from what I can ascertain. Still, let’s have a look, because if all you want is a clock and the clock on the Taskbar (you know, the lower right edge of your screen) isn’t enough, it is a solution. A solution. Not a great solution.

Start by going to and downloading the program, then double click to begin the install process:

Certainly looks good, doesn’t it? Click Next to continue.

Disclaimer: I scanned the binary when I downloaded and installed this program and it was clean. I can’t guarantee it’ll always be that way, so please use caution when you grab a copy and if your anti-virus program complains, don’t install it!

It installs easily enough and once launched, shows a familiar Window with some very familiar looking widgets and gadgets:

The only gadget I tested thoroughly was the Clock and that’s easy to get going: Just double click on it and an analog clock pops up on the top right of your Desktop, floating above all the other windows:

Hurray! Now, move your cursor over the gadget itself and a little menu pops up adjacent:

The “X” gets rid of the gadget, the wrench icon gets you to settings, and the tiny grid lets you drag and move the gadget around to a different spot on your screen.

Click on the wrench and there are actually eight different clock faces:

I like this modern red face, so that’s what I’ll choose by clicking “OK”.

While I was experimenting, I also launched the weather gadget, but it never could connect to the weather server and display any weather, as you can see:

So not really a huge success, all in all, and the program took a while to launch after a restart, so I might not even keep it around. I’m lukewarm on recommending this to you too, but at least you know that there are some solutions out there. Perhaps there’s a better one: if you have a favorite, recommend it in the comments.

The post Add a Clock Desktop Widget in Windows 10? appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

How do I Clean Up My Twitter Newsfeed?

AskDaveTaylor - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 10:22

You’re not the only person to find Twitter is a bit more “voice of the masses” than you’d like. For some reason (is it the relative anonymity?) the online social media world seems to bring out the worst, the most critical and hostile, in some people. While other online services like Facebook have moved aggressively to try and manage the problem, Twitter’s been slow to react.

But react the company has, and they’ve announced some pretty interesting new features that are rolling out to customers in the next few weeks that are going to significantly improve your Twitter feed and get rid of all those junky / hostile / hate tweets and responses.

It’s not in time for Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones, New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman or Fifth Harmony singer Normani Kordei, all of whom have quit Twitter in the last few months after receiving veritable tidal waves of hate from the public at large. But at least Twitter is starting to really look at the problem and recognize that just trying to keep up and shut down accounts that post these hateful, racist, anti-semetic tweets isn’t enough.

When it is full rolled out, you’ll be able to actually filter out the junk. Let’s have a peek!

If you’re still running the old Twitter app on your smartphone, going to your Notifications tab looks like this:

Pay attention to the very top, because on the new version of Twitter’s interface, presumably rolling out over the next few weeks to all of us, the Notifications screen has a new icon:

Can you see the new icon? Yes, the Twitter app itself will now have a Settings screen and when you tap on it, you’ll get to some pretty interesting settings that are going to really change our Twitter experience:

Yup, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, Twitter is indeed adding a Quality Filter that will use its internal algorithms to filter out the junk, the hate, the crap and the stupid, dramatically improving your Twitter experience if you’re at all controversial.  Easy enough to enable, as you can see, and there’s a second filter system being added that’s interesting too:

Yep, if you’re tired of getting dozens or hundreds of notifications about retweets and likes from random strangers because you have zillions of followers or are in the public eye, you can now limit your notifications to be Only people you follow.

Me? I can’t wait until I can engage the Quality Filter. I’m just afraid I’ll lose a lot of my Twitter friends in the process.

Categories: Technology

Video Review: Samsung Galaxy S7

AskDaveTaylor - Sun, 08/21/2016 - 15:52

If you like the iOS smartphone operating system from Apple, you have just a few choices for what handset to purchase and own, but if you’re an Android fan, well, the world of options can be completely bewildering. Fortunately there’s Samsung, and its latest smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S7, demonstrates why the company is a leader in the space and has one of the most popular Android devices available.

But Samsung experiments with design changes too, so as with just about every Galaxy device, the Galaxy S7 has some features that have been added, some that are restored from previous generations (but were missing from the Galaxy S6), and some that are still missed by loyal customers of the product line. Best upgrade: Support for a MicroSD card that gives you an easy 200GB or more of additional storage space. Worst lack: No user replaceable battery.

There are also the differences, some subtle, some overt, between the Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge. Know what’s different and make an educated decision before you pick one up!

Don’t just read what I write about this beautiful new phone with its sleek lines and quite impressive camera, however, watch my video review and find out why I think it’s one of the very best Android cellphones on the market today:

You can learn more about the Samsung Galaxy S7 by going to or pick one up from your favorite carrier, including AT&T Wireless.

The post Video Review: Samsung Galaxy S7 appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

What’s a .jar email attachment?

AskDaveTaylor - Sat, 08/20/2016 - 11:23

Huge props to you for being skeptical and suspicious of messages in your inbox! Not only do we all get dozens (or hundreds) of emails every day from scammers, spammers and downright malicious folk, but some of it comes from people we know! Often that’s simply because they’ve had their account hacked or computer infected and the first thing the malware does is send itself to that person’s address book.

The end result, however you slice it, is that you really can’t trust any email and if it has attachments, it’s just smart to be be suspicious and refuse to open anything that’s odd or inexplicable. Like an invoice for services from someone you don’t know. Why would someone you don’t know ask for money??

Further, there are a couple of email attachment filetypes that are particularly dangerous because they actually involve the execution of code, whether direction or through a scripting or programming language. You already know to avoid anything with a “.EXE” suffix because it’s a Windows executable, right? But what about “.JS”?

Yup, avoid that one too, it’s a JavaScript program.

And then there’s Java. Originally a programming language intended to let you write programs once and run them on lots of different computers, whether they ran Mac, Windows or even Linux, it’s fallen out of favor with most everyone and is rarely encountered online. One reason is that there are a lot of security problems with Java because a file with a “.JAR” suffix is not just a Java executable, but a package that contains multiple executables that are going to do who knows what to your system!

Not good. At all.

So when you get an email like this:

You know what to do, right? Ignore it.

In fact, if you get a legit invoice from a company that you’re doing work with or have hired to do a job and they send you an attachment with a “.JAR” or “.EXE” suffix, don’t open those either.

And be safe out there!

The post What’s a .jar email attachment? appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

Wed, 12/31/1969 - 19:00

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