Like a sergeant major or marine drill sergeant?
Icon: what the rest of us will need
If you are fed up with shouting at a so-called smart assistant to make yourself heard, you must be one of the many Google Home customers who have lived with a less-than-stellar digital butler lately. For nearly four months – which is how long ago the first complaint appeared on the Google Home support forum – the search-slash- …
The only thing I ever say after "OK, Google" is "Stream BBC Radio 4". Oh, and "Stop", usually at around 08:10am. If they'd put a button on it I could bind to that task, they could save themselves a fortune on underpaid linguists and AI.
Despite the expenditure, all that AI is either too stupid to work out that it has only one task or constantly indignant that it isn't being challenged. I learned to say "Stream" because "Play" would result in the (admittedly well-simulated) voice telling me "I don't understand how to do that". The other day, I got the same response unless I said "Play". Perhaps it's just programmed to mess with my mind. And the volume is completely haphazard. Some days it's quiet, some days it's loud and when it's loud it's deaf because its own feedback drowns out anything you might be shouting at it - wait for a a pause in the conversation (and that might mean suffering through John Humphrys until Melvyn Bragg loses his thread) and suddenly it gets the message.
WIth the addition of an FM tuner and the removal of the WiFi, it would make a nice piece of kit.
A proper radio tuned to BBC Radio 4 would work a lot better, you never have to yell at it, and you can turn it on and off with a button. Oh, and it will never change functionality behind your back.
But why use something simple when you can go cutting-edge and make your life even madder than it already is ?
I got the Google device, along with an Amazon one, to compare and contrast their utility. The only use I could find for the Google Home was as a radio. I gave the Amazon device away: I gather it spends its life in a cupboard.
I have a lot of radios - the DAB ones are terrible, the FM ones are either small and tinny or space-hungry. The one thing Google (and indeed Amazon) have got roughly right is producing a decent sound from a relatively small device.
Oh, and it will never change functionality behind your back
I got annoyed recently when my Roberts Radio device told me I had to redo all my Internet Radio shortcuts. Since I only have one (MOROW Prog Radio) it wasn't too much of a chore but, since I was in the middle of a raging migraine it strained what few braincells were properly functioning. Especially as it wanted me to power down the radio completely and that invoved getting out of bed.
 Bizarrely, listening to music during a migraine actually helps. Especially fairly complex music - I suspect that it distracts the brain somewhat from the sensation of someone hammering a large tentpeg slowly through the left side of my brain. Even large doses of codeine and asprin don't stop the pain. And sumatriptan makes me really, really sick.
I find music or the radio a godsend during migraines. It hurts like hell to try and look at, let alone focus on, anything - so lying down in a darkened room is lovely. But also boring. Esepecially when your head hurts too much to get off to sleep.
And what else is one supposed to do in a darkened room alone...?
I wondered "did she really ask for more intonation".
Was it here or elsewhere that I recently mentioned a fictional incident in rather-older-than-I-thought sci fi novel and publishing satire "Cyberbooks", where incidentally a voice-activated door lock requires the user to lose his temper and scream at it since that is the voice print that (presumably with some difficulty) he had set to unlock it.
Ditto, and I have a Startpage app on my home screen so I never click on the Google bar. Also since my phone doesn't have the RAM to browse the web and when I do there's the risk of something being invoked and turning the whole device to custard. I had to disable the YouTube app completely because it would invoke on any web page with a video on it and it's a big app with a big RAM footprint.
At startup I go in via the developer settings and disable Motorola Update services since it serves absolutely no function as it is obvious the device has been abandoned.
My mail apps are set not to check for mail, I use them only to check in emergencies while out and about. But they still invoke themselves and steal RAM space. Android is a nonsense.
Decades back Dave Allen presented a sketch in which a home automation enthusiast was showing his neighbour all the wonderful voice controlled gizmos he'd installed. As he got more and more impressed the neighbour flopped into a chair exclaiming "well bu**er me!"
"NO! Cancel! Cancel!"
One wonders why such devices have become an accepted norm.
I blame Hollywood, who has for the past decades made it look easy in every sci-fi flick they have made. From the impossible gestures in Minority Report to the abusively simple way voice commands are given in practically any film that uses them (thinking of the original Blade Runner right now - great scene, but still technically wrong), people have latched on to the idea that not using a keyboard/mouse interface is a good idea.
Well, we'll see how that pans out in the long run, but you'll take my mouse out of my cold, dead hands before I give it up.
"From the impossible gestures in Minority Report "
MegaTraveller had not just Holographic controls in 1987, but also *Dynamic* Holographic controls - using a complex set of holoprojectors built of and powered by Unobtanium and Handwavium you could not just generate whatever control panel configuration you wanted but you could generate it anywhere "within" your workspace.
Oh, how I laughed when I saw that old flat panel tech being marketed as some flashy new toy by Hollywood!
Well clearly on a tech news site, it's an out of step sentiment, but I like my voice controlled speakers. I can change radio channels when they go to vox pop Rees Mogg love-ins " oh he's so down to earth and cuddly' without getting buttery fingers over everything or my blood pressure spiking dangerously. I don't need to scrabble around for a phone/tablet/mouse when I want to stream a song or two, she nicely turns the light on when i want them on, and when I say goodnight she politely turns them off.
Not using a keyboard/mouse interface IS a great idea, for things that don't need a keyboard /mouse interface. But then I'm an anti-luddite who never saw the point of using vi when you could use a GUI text editor, so I guess I'm beyond the pale anyway!
I've always taken the view that I'm spied on anyway. And as I limit my conspiracies to 'if i eat the last strawberry will she yell at me?' Good luck to my personal O'Brien listening to years of 'Alexa, turn on Radio 4' interspersed with 'shut up you vacuous fossil and let the idiot hang himself' to a background of John Humphries' interruptions - and then another 8 hours of silence, although I suppose the hourly 'Hello - this is Microsoft technical support' phone calls before the answering machine kicks in will provide some diversion.
'Hello - this is Microsoft technical support'
This is an example of AI never doing anything useful. A good AI would switch the call through to Lenny or the like and then turn the speaker on for your entertainment. A better AI would handle the call itself, learning from past experience with similar calls.
My Grandad used to turn his hearing aid off (artillery in the war had not been kind to his ears) - and turn Des Lynham or Dickie Davies up on the telly. So when we went to visit you could hear the wrestling/athletics/racing/whatever from when you turned onto his street.
Amazingly though his antennae would always pick up offers of cups of tea, despite not turning his hearing aid on unless forced.
his antennae would always pick up offers of cups of tea
Of course it would - it's built into the firmware of the British. After all, our army is the only one in the world that builds hot water boilers into the AFVs. The troops will put up with all sorts of crap but taking away their ability to have a brew at all times isn't one of them..
Reminds me of the massive flat my parents rented when I was a kid. We had a Kolster Brandes radio in the lounge and a remote speaker in the kitchen. Dad used to ask for the radio to be switched on to listen to the news when we were eating. After a while I was able to switch the radio on and make it back to the kitchen before the sound came on.
This was the model we had:-
I remeber the days when you had to get of your arse, walk over to the TV and press a button on it to change channel.
You probably CAN do that now. Except that the button is the same color as the TV and is indistinguishable from the inactive plastic frame and any adjacent buttons. If it is labeled at all, the label is not in any known human language, but is instead a "icon" resembling a grasshopper splattered on one's windshield and is equally incomprehensible to speakers of all languages everywhere. On the TV in our living room, the button panel is on the BACK of the TV. That same device has a bright red LED that is ON when the TV is OFF and goes out if you can manage to turn the TV ON.
(And in that distant past you didn't push buttons to change channels. You rotated a dial that had channel numbers inscribed. Back then, you could scan quickly through the channels because new signals synched and displayed in a few tens of milliseconds instead of needing a few seconds.)
Ah progress ... But Progress toward where?
Ah yes - rotated a dial until it synched in milliseconds to a slightly paler shade of snow, with a flickering image of a man in a grey suit standing against a grey background. Which you hardly ever had to do because there was only one channel and the programmes were basically rubbish.
The only reason we think that in any way TV was 'better' in the old days is the reason that we think that old houses were solidly built - they weren't, most of them were rubbish, but the rubbish houses fell down and we only have the solid ones left. 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers, that's about 6 hours.....
It is almost 6 months now that this problem occurred. Google does really don't know what the problem is. I have spoken (chat/phone) with many Google employees (see in this post https://support.google.com/googlehome/thread/1485731?hl=en) but none of them seems to know where we are talking about. They are all working with standard scripts when solving problem. What a bad level of training and customer service!!!!!
And today another day SHOUTING to my Google home mini. How many days to follow????
I am now on firmware 156414 and cast firmware 1.40.156414
Chromecast audio: 1.39.154182 and Chromecast V2: 1.39.154182
This is the 6th firmware upgrade since the problem occurred.
Another BUG is that the the media alarm volume is always set to 40% and there is no way to change that. In the morning you scared you to death so loud is the music. NOT TO BELIEVE THAT GOOGLE DOES NOT SOLVE THIS BUGS
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