Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Smart speaker not useful? Give it more smart things to control!

Your smart speaker can control LOTS of stuff!


This article is meant to help you get the most out of your smart speaker and begin setting up your smart home. It's a deep dive into what I've learned first-hand by setting up and managing our own smart home devices. The main sections include: 
  • Is your smart speaker simply a brain without a body? 
  • Real Life Examples: A Typical Day in Our Smart Home
  • Summary of Our Smart Home Components
  • Getting Started with Your First Smart Room
  • Types of Devices That Seem to Work Well & Some That Don't 
  • The Smart Home Brands We Use and Recommend
  • Conclusion

Is your smart speaker simply a brain without a body? 

Anybody who's seen Star Trek knows that a star ship's crew lives in a kind of sentient cocoon, surrounded by smart devices that are coordinated by a central brain that's always ready to assist. Merely speak the wake word "Computer..." then make a request and that request is fulfilled.

Contrast this with that solitary smart speaker that your Uncle Billy bought, plopped in the corner of his living room and ignores except to ask it for the weather and set timers. He says he's not sure why he bought it and would certainly not waste money on another one. 

Here's the thing. Uncle Billy is simply not thinking big enough! The omnipresent "Computer" on that starship is connected to a navigation system, lighting and heating controls and all manner of devices which can deliver everything from "Tea ... Earl Grey, hot" to a multimedia, multi-sensory experience on the holodeck. Without these linked devices, that computer is just a disembodied voice. It might be an amusing conversation partner, but not truly useful in getting things done in the physical world.

And so it is with that smart home speaker. It needs a family of linked devices to live up to its full potential. And that family of devices can be easily matched to Uncle Billy's unique needs. Smart plugs, smart bulbs, smart cameras and media gear are all out there waiting to be brought home and connected. And they don't cost that much! 

Real Life Examples: A Typical Day in Our Smart Home 

I really like our smart home! It may not be the most sophisticated, but it just works. It consists of Google Home/Nest speakers, a bunch of smart electric plugs that switch ordinary "dumb" devices on/off, some smart light bulbs, a few security cameras and some smart media equipment. 

Note: We own a couple of Amazon Echo devices but have found them to be much less useful and dependable than our Google devices. So the interactions described here all take place within our Google Home/Nest ecosystem. All eight of these are strategically positioned so we can talk to them anywhere we happen to be in our house, garage, patio or back yard.

So what does all this stuff do for us? Here's a typical day in our relatively "smart" home. 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Inside the Black Box: Thoughts on Judgement, Intuition, Synthesis & Artificial Intelligence

Your Inner "Wisdom Filter" & Decision-Making

[Note: This article was inspired by a comment from a Facebook friend, one of the smartest people I know, after I posted a link to a news article about the potential for AI systems to attain singularity with humanity very soon. She said, "... as a writer and artist, I am not convinced that the divine spirit that informs great writers and artists can be replicated by computers." This comment poked at me for days, irritating and causing me to abandon the half-written article I had been working on. There is an old saying that sometimes writers write to figure out what they are actually thinking. Below is my response to my friend's comment, in which I have begun to figure out what I think about AI's place in our world. - MG]

Why You Can "Trust Your Gut" 

A few years back, when I was teaching project management (PM) for new project managers, I encouraged them to overcome their decision-making doubts and "analysis paralysis" by showing them a graphical depiction of why their so-called "gut decisions" or intuitions were actually grounded in their many valuable life experiences. (See diagram above.) I later captured the matching narrative in a podcast then an essay which became the chapter Why You Should Trust Your Judgement (Your "Inner Wisdom" Filter) in my book Worth Sharing: Essays & Tools to Help Project Managers & Their Teams.  

Here's a quick summary: 

"... Your intuitions, “gut feelings,” and hunches are derived from, and ultimately grounded in, your unique life experiences, both good and bad. And because of this, they have behind them the solid proof of your reality. To illustrate how all these experiences come together to generate solid, trustworthy judgments, I present to you the analogy of the common kitchen strainer... Your inner voice (i.e., your judgment) operates pretty much like that kitchen strainer! Let’s say you have to make a difficult decision and don’t have time to think about it. All sorts of possibilities and pertinent facts and constraints and outcomes rattle around in your brain. Your “internal strainer” is activated to deal with this. The wires in your strainer are made up of a vast set of unique experiences that you’ve acquired over your lifetime. Successes, failures, joys, miseries, and all sorts of life events combine to form this internal screening mechanism.... when all the possible solutions and issues related to a problem are dumped into that strainer, the good stuff — a unique and powerful judgment — emerges. It’s a judgment that’s automatically informed by all of your life experiences. And, as such, it’s powerful and trustworthy!" -  from Why You Should Trust Your Judgement (Your "Inner Wisdom" Filter)


Thursday, December 22, 2022

In Case You Missed Them: My Best Articles of 2022

Here are five articles that I spent a lot of time researching and writing in 2022. They are all loaded with links that will take you even deeper into the topics presented. I'm proud of these and I hope you find them informative. Happy New Year! 🎉 🎆 😁


Replacing Google Play Music: How I Store & Stream 22 GB of My Own Music (MP3s) for a One-Time Cost of $7.99

[excerpt] "Here are the key components of my Google Play Music replacement:

Using the components above, I am able to do pretty much everything I was able to do with Google Play Music, including casting music to any cast-enabled device...."


Become an armchair expatriate with these 55 video series that'll take you out of the U.S. & around the world!

[excerpt] "Below is a list of 55 fictional series we have seen and recommend, categorized by the part of the world to which they will take you. The majority of these are from two low-cost sources: Acorn TV ($5.99/month) and PBS Passport ($5/month). A few are from Hulu and Netflix. ..." 


Music to Get Lost In: A Brief Introduction to Jam Bands

[excerpt] "I like all kinds of music: blues, rock, psychedelic, R&B, jazz and occasionally even folk/bluegrass and their offshoots. And I especially like long, well-developed performances that I can get lost in -- the kind of music that musicians love playing as they engage a melody and soar side by side like the Blue Angels in tight formation and then diverge into solo musical loops and barrel rolls, eventually converging back at the melody where they started. This kind of musical aerobatics is the domain of the jam band..."  NOTE: Article includes links to 9 full-length pieces of music from my favorite jam bands. 

[Read the full article here.] 


Secure, Fast & Customizable: Why I Ditched My Windows PC for a Hot Rod Chromebook

[excerpt] "[In this comprehensive article]...you can skim through the stuff in bold to find the big ideas. Or you can just scroll down to one of these main sections:
  • After 30 years, enough with Windows, already!
  • Chromebooks dominate in education because they're powerful & easy to use.
  • Chromebooks are REALLY secure.
  • Chromebooks are fast! (Thanks to the ChromeOS.)
  • Chromebooks are customizable.
  • Buyer beware! It may be cheap, but when does that low-cost Chromebook expire?
  • My Chromebook: Part of a Powerful Ecosystem of Google Tools
  • Final Thoughts: How 40 Years of Personal Computing Has Led Me to a Chromebook
  • Bonus Tip: Don't throw away that old Windows PC or Mac. You might be able to make it a Chromebook!
[FYI: This article contains over 60 links to references for further research. Enjoy!]"

 [Read the full article here.] 


Stuck waiting? Doing mindless chores? Don't be frustrated or bored: Fire up a podcast & learn or just be entertained.

[excerpt] "... Podcasts are the answer to dealing with mental "downtime." They give you your own custom-tailored content stream which you can access at your own pace and on your own schedule. Specifically: 
  • You can pause them when you need to switch your attention to your otherwise boring chore and then pick them up later. 
  • If you miss something because your chore needs you for a few minutes, you can easily "rewind" the podcast and go back and repeat what you missed.
  • You can listen to them at high speed, without chipmunk voices, but with the pauses and spaces squeezed out. (See the settings in your podcast player or this on Google Podcasts' "Podcast Controls" from PC Mag, for details.)
  • You can save them for later and even binge listen to a whole series you may have missed.  
  • With today's smart speakers (Google Home, Amazon Echo, etc.) you can do all of the above completely hands free while you move around your house. 
  • Using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay you can start or continue listening to your Google Podcasts (and most other podcast apps) while you drive. 

How to Get Started 

Are you new to podcasts? Here's an easy way to get started... "

 [Read the full article here.] 


See also: