Tag Archives: google

Not impressed with the Google Assistant

I’ve had the “Google Assistant” on my phone for a few weeks now. Since I don’t use the always-on voice activation, this means it’s pushing extra notifications based on what it thinks I want/can use. Fortunately it doesn’t do audio alerts, so it’s a lot less intrusive than it could be. I figured I’d give it a try and see if it turned out to be useful (or creepy).

The alerts I’ve gotten fall into the following categories:

  • Estimated commute time based on current traffic. This would be more useful if it wasn’t based on the freeway, which I never use to get to or from work because it’s such a pain. Though on a trip to San Francisco, it popped up transit delays, which would have been helpful if I’d actually been going anywhere beyond walking distance that day.
  • Weather changes. This is kind of useful, but I have a widget to show the same info.
  • Hours and offers for stores I have just left. At least three times, I’ve walked around a grocery store or Target for 30-40 minutes, consulting my shopping list on my phone all the way, and it has popped up with info when I load up the car. What’s the point of that?
  • Potentially useful information for someplace nearby, but that I’m not going to. I work near an airport, and it’s repeatedly sent me the terminal layout. (The one time I actually went to the airport, I was already on a shuttle to the remote terminal — which isn’t on that map, incidentally — before it sent me that one. Better than the return trip, though, when it sent me a map after I’d boarded the plane.) Once it tried to help me with a mall restaurant while I was at a different restaurant. Another time it sent me info about a hotel I had driven past.
  • News articles about Trump. As if they’re hard to find. No further info in the notice, just “There is a new article about President Trump.” (Or something along those lines — I don’t recall the exact phrasing.)
  • Premiere dates for two TV shows that I watch. This one impressed me, since it correctly picked out two of three returning shows that I watch, and has not tried to plug anything else. It makes me wonder what it’s mined to figure that out, but I’m impressed it caught the nuance of which two DC/CW shows I watch. (OK, Flash is easy, but it somehow figured out that I was interested in Supergirl but not Arrow or Legends of Tomorrow.)

At this point, I think the experiment has run its course. The only category that’s been consistently useful is the TV premiere schedule… and that only comes up a couple of times a year.

DST Google Photos Fail

Google Photos is overcompensating for the Daylight Saving Time switch on yesterday’s pictures. Photos taken at 6:00pm are labeled as 7:00pm. Everything from this summer/early fall (which might as well have been summer) is off, in the app anyway (the website shows the right time in PDT), which at least makes more sense than if it had only been one day. The weird thing: it’s not even showing the time in today’s timezone by mistake. It’s adjusting it the other way.

My best guess: There used to be a DST bug in Google Photos, but they adjusted for it. Now the bug’s been fixed, but the adjustment is still there.

Obligatory XKCD link:

Rediscover THIS Day, But Maybe Not THAT One!

Google Photos has been sending me its usual “Rediscover this day!” collages from Comic-Con 2013. On Tuesday it sent me a collage built from July 18, and on Thursday it sent me a collage built from July 20, marking Thursday and Saturday of the event.

Wait, what about Friday?

Well, here’s the interesting thing: Friday was the day I spent the afternoon in the emergency room.

I’d like to think someone programmed the algorithm to skip photos tagged for hospitals. Imagine if it was my wife’s photo collection, and I hadn’t made it — “Rediscover this day” would have been rather cruel in that case.

The more likely explanation is that I don’t have very many photos from that day for it to pick from, at least not on the account. On my computer I have 19 photos from my phone, 19 from my camera, and 5 from Katie’s phone. Of those, I picked 21 for my Flickr album. In Google Photos, I only have six from that day, all from my phone — and they don’t include the ER wristband shot.

My best guess is that I cleared most of them from my phone sometime before I started using the cloud backup feature… but I can’t figure out why I would have kept the photos that are there, and not some of the photos that aren’t.

Here are the photos that are on there (though I linked to them on Flickr for convenience):

Game of Thrones Religious Protesters Duplo Enterprise View from the Floor Flash at the Grocery Store

It’s an odd collection, isn’t it? The three individual frames from the GoT protester collage are in there, so maybe the collage app saved extra copies of the sources, and Photos found the folder. I can see deliberately keeping the view of the blimp from the convention floor (literally the floor), but if I’d done that, I don’t know why I wouldn’t have saved the wristband shot as well. And why save the Duplo Enterprise, but not the photos of my son playing at the LEGO booth?

Phone cameras and cloud storage are supposed to augment our memory. But sometimes the context is just missing.

Tablet Tip: Using Bookmarklets with Chrome for Android

Overall I like having Chrome on my Nexus 7, but there are a couple of things about it that bug me.

First: You can’t hide the tabs and search/URL bar. That’s not a problem in portrait mode, but in landscape mode, it takes up way too much screen space. Otherwise the tablet would be perfect for things like reading comics at Thrillbent.

Second: Bookmarklets are tricky. Because on Android Chrome loads your bookmarks in a new tab, not a menu, when you tap on a bookmarklet, it acts on a blank page, not on the page you wanted to use it for. If you have an app that provides a sharing intent, no big deal. You just share the page to that app, and you’re done. But if you want to run something on the page, or share it with a website that has a bookmarklet but not an app (like, say, Pinterest or Timely), it would be nice to be able to run them.

As it turns out, you can use bookmarklets in Chrome through the search bar!

  1. Pick a good name for it that you can get to auto-complete quickly.
  2. Type the name into the search bar when you want to run it.
  3. Tap the bookmarklet when it shows up in the drop-down.

Not quite as easy as tapping a button, but close!

Screenshot: Android Chrome bookmarklet for Delicious called via autocomplete

Recent Tech Links

Some interesting technology articles I’ve found over the last few weeks.