Cool Stuff that Siri can do for You

June 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm (Apple, How-to, iDevices, iPhone/iPod Touch, Productivity) (, , , , )

You may already be a seasoned professional when it comes to using Siri, but there are always more goodies you can add to your bag of tricks. When Siri first became available on the iPhone, one of the first things I asked was “What can you do for me?” and Siri tossed up a handful of suggestions. Back then, they were fairly simple things like calling people, sending texts, and setting reminders. Siri has evolved in the nearly two years that we have been using her assistance. There are a lot more things you can outsource Siri to do for you now. 

Here are just a few:

Say/Ask This:                                          To Do This:

Call (Mike / my brother)               Call a person (by name or relationship)

Launch ‘Facebook’                        Launch (app of choice)

Tell Malissa I’m on my way           Sends text to (person) with your message

Set up a meeting at 9am              Adds a meeting onto your schedule

Did the Broncos win today?         Checks and reports team scores 

Give me directions to Selmer       Gives directions to any named place

Tweet a message                          Tweets a message to post to Twitte

What movies are playing?            Tells what movies are playing nearby

Play brandi carlile                          Plays (singer) or (playlist) that you request

Remind me to pay bills                 Sets a reminder based on your request

Email Nik about the trip                 Sends email to (person) about (subject)

What’s today’s weather?                Tells you the weather forecast 

What’s apple’s stock price             Tells you company’s stock price

Wake me tomorrow at 9am           Sets an alarm for 9am 

What’s Nancy’s address?               Gets (person’s) address

Note that i need to buy milk          Adds a note to buy milk

Search the web for xxx                  Searches web for (chosen topic)

Define (word)                                  Looks up and gives definition of (word)

Find a good Sushi place                Lists nearby Sushi (or other) restaurants

In addition to the above commands, you can also have Siri help with punctuation and a few emoticons (oh, come on. You knew it was only a matter of time). 😉  Speaking punctuation such as “new paragraph”,  “new line”, “cap”, “period”, “full stop”,  or “(other desired punctuation mark)”,  will get the desired results most of the time.  Some emoticons  work, such as “smiley” or “smiley face”, “frowny” or “frowny face”,  and “wink face”. 

There is occasionally a glitch if Siri doesn’t understand you.  Get some practice by speaking normally, being sure to enunciate your words properly.  The more you use it, the more accurate your results will be.

Most of those listed above are, believe it or not, fairly basic uses of Siri.  She has evolved quite a bit in the past couple of years.  Some of the even more impressive tasks Siri can help you manage now include the following:  search other web browsers (Bing, Yahoo, Wikipedia) for information; update your social network status on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ via SMS (must set up ahead of time);  see and set calendar appointments for a certain day;  tell you what actors were in a particular movie; set or delete alarms; list flight times;  restart springboard/finder;  and more.  Calculations and other “fact-type” questions are searched using Wolfram Alpha. It is also integrated with Remember the Milk and other applications, to make those apps even easier to use. 

Many folks are aware that Siri also has some nifty little Easter Eggs, as well as a rather wicked (programmed) sense of humor.  There are at least a few blogs dedicated to these chuckle-inducing experiences, along with some dedicated to funny “oops” moments when a word is misspelled or misunderstood, yielding some unpredictable and often hilarious results. 

I tried a few questions early on, several of them the same that many others have also tossed at our able silicon-based assistant. Just a few samples:

Siri StarWars 2

Q:  “What can you tell me about ‘Star Wars (1977)’?”  
A:   “It’s about a couple of really nice robots who get mixed up in a silly intergalactic war”.  

Q:  “Define supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”  
A:   “The sound of that is something quite atrocious”.

Q:  “Who is on first?”
A:   “Correct. Who is on first.”  

 Q:  “What is the meaning of life?” 
 A:  “All evidence to date points to chocolate” (“42” is another hilarious answer).

These are just the tip of the iceberg regarding things that Siri can help you do these days.  I suspect that with iOS 7, that list will increase exponentially. I love having Siri help me make quick work of my tasks.  That gives me that much more time to spend on things that are really important.  Those are just a few that I’ve asked, and I’ve heard of or read many dozens more.  I’m glad the programmers made it a bit humorous. It makes me think they thought even more of their end user. 

What are your favorite things about Siri?  Have you had any humorous interactions with her? What would you like to see in iOS 7?  Let me know in the comments.   

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Make Your Own Whizbangs for Geocaching

July 24, 2012 at 12:08 pm (Geocaching, How-to) (, , , )

Making Whizbangs

Making Whizbangs

While we were at GeoWoodstock X for the annual geocaching convention, we saw a lot of really nifty, innovative caches.  One, in particular, is quite easy to make, and costs practically nothing, as it uses your discarded soda pop or sports drink bottles.  I’d seen this type of cache around here before, but always heard it referred to as, “two bottle tops glued together”.  I found out at GeoWoodstock that they actually have a name: whizbangs (sometimes seen as whizzbangs).

After we returned home, I started playing around with making these, and have come up with a pretty decent system. Here’s how to make them:

Start with your drink bottle.  I drink a lot of sports drinks, so there’s no shortage of those bottles. But, they come in various sizes, so whatever you use, just make sure you have two of the same size, because you need two bottles for each whizbang you want to make.  I usually make about a dozen at a time.  It doesn’t take a lot longer to do several than it does to do one.  Start by using a hacksaw or Dremel-type tool to cut the tops off the bottles.  I prefer a Dremel because it’s quicker and easier for me.  Also, I can use a cutting tool to cut the bottle tops, then switch to a sanding disc to tidy the edges a bit.

You need to cut them right below the ‘lip’, where it juts out a bit just below the little plastic ring that remains after you open the top.  You’ll see what I mean in the pictures if it doesn’t make sense.  If the cuts aren’t perfectly straight, don’t worry about it.  You can fix it by using a little sandpaper or your Dremel to sand it later.  Once you have your bottle tops, sand them a bit, if needed, to have the bottoms fairly smooth. It makes it easier to glue them together if they are more smooth. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect, as the glue will take care of a little bit of it.

Now, you’re ready to glue the tops together to form a single piece.  I generally use Gorilla glue for a couple of reasons:  it expands as it sets, which helps to cover any imperfections (like the bottoms not being completely smooth), and it makes it more impervious to the elements, since no one likes opening a cache and pulling out a wet log. Yuk. It also takes paint nicely if you plan to paint them. However, you can use any just about any kind of glue you want.  I’ve experimented a bit, and use different kinds depending on how my pieces ended up.  If I’m gluing together a couple of really smooth pieces, and I’m not going to paint it, then I might use a clear contact cement. It’s totally up to you.  I’ve noticed that some folks will put a couple of drops of glue on one end of their whizbang, on the bottle threads, so it only opens at one end. This is especially helpful if you’re running a small wire thru one end to anchor it to something.  Having it only unscrew on one end makes it easier to keep it all together.  That’s just personal preference as well, so just do what works for you based on where you plan to hide the cache.

Now, you can clamp the two glued caps together to let the glue set.  Depending on what you use, you might not have to clamp it, but I usually do, more out of habit than anything else.  It just seems that they get a better seal they’re clamped, even for a little while. One of the first ones that I didn’t clamp migrated just a little after I glued it and left it, so that when I returned a couple hours later to check it, I was surprised to find a very offset cache.  Now I just clamp them to keep the halves from wandering until the glue sets.

Once the glue is set, you can congratulate yourself on making your very first whizbang.  Now is the time to paint them, if you so desire.  I usually go with shades of brown, green, or black, or even all three for better camouflage. Sometimes I leave them unpainted, but not often. It just looks more finished to me, but again, that’s just my preference.  That’s one of the nice things about making your own…you can do whatever pleases you.

After the paint has dried, just add a log, and find the perfect place to hide it.  Congratulations!

Feel free to tell me about other homemade caches you’ve seen.  I’ll be sharing some others that I’ve been working on soon. There are step by step photo instructions in the snapshot here for those of you (like me) who do better with visual guides. Enjoy, and get caching.

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Try Clarify for quick “how to” instructions

August 22, 2011 at 4:06 pm (Apple, Applications, How-to, Productivity, shareware) (, , , )

There’s a new kid in town to make life easier when you get emails, texts, and phone calls from friends and family asking, “Hey, can you tell me how to do (task of the day) real quick?”.  It’s an application called Clarify from Blue Mango Software. You might be familiar with them for their terrific ScreenSteps application that’s been around for a few years and is invaluable for those who write technical instructions, software manuals, and the like.

Clarify is like a lighter version of ScreenSteps. In fact, the process is very similar, so anyone who has used ScreenSteps will be able to use it right out of the gate, and those who aren’t accustomed to it will be able to use it in mere minutes. It’s that easy and intuitive.

Blue Mango says they streamlined the application to be more of a screen capture tool and is primarily for “reducing round trip emails”. Rather than having to send multiple emails back and forth to re-explain, or clarify, your instructions, you can easily do it in just one email using this software.

I did a quick “How to create a how-to using Clarify” in about 2 minutes.

The following is what the user interface looks like within the software while you’re creating your document.

CreateHowToThis next screenshot is what the finished product looks like on the Clarify-it.com sharing site, where you will send folks to view the how-to information. It looks very nice and polished. It can also be exported as a pdf file.

FinishedProductThere is a free public beta available now so you can try it out. The price will be $29.99 when the application is released. It’s available here: http://www.bluemangolearning.com/clarify/ .  Give it a go then leave a comment and let me know what you think about it.  What other methods do you use for this type of communication? Email? Skitch? Something else? Let’s hear your ideas below.

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