You’ve likely seen Alexa in the news quite a bit lately, with people reporting that Alexa is just plain creeping them out. Amazon’s smart assistant has been laughing at people randomly, which is of course very strange (and has caused some to wonder if Alexa is becoming sentient).
No worries, though―Amazon has a good explanation for Alexa’s random bursts of laughter. And on top of that strange news, Alexa has also been improved recently for other reasons (aside from trying to keep her from terrifying people in their homes). Here’s an update on what you need to know about Alexa this week.
Amazon explains Alexa’s creepy laughter
As you may have already heard, Alexa has been freaking people out by laughing at random. Amazon has now responded and described their fix. The Verge has reported that Amazon is aware of the problem and working on a way to fix it. Amazon plans to change the way that Alexa is commanded to laugh. Alexa will now be asked if she can laugh instead of being told to. The point of this change is to make it less likely for Alexa to accidentally think she’s been told to laugh, which is seemingly what has been causing her odd laughter.
Alexa’s random laughter has been a hot topic for days, with even Jimmy Kimmel getting in on it and poking fun on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Alexa can now understand your music requests better
Alexa will now be able to play your music by responding to more casual and natural prompts. According to The Verge, you’ll now be able to ask Alexa to play music based on things you’ve listened to in the past. For instance, you can ask to hear music you listened to at a certain point in the past, like if you played a certain playlist a month ago. These prompts only work with Amazon Music, not with other services like Spotify or Pandora.
Alexa Skills Kit sound library now available for developers
Skills developers now have an added tool for creating their skills: the Alexa Skills Kit sound library. Amazon announced in a blog post that the sound library was now available. They note that there are hundreds of sounds available to incorporate into a skill. The blog post also describes how to go about adding these sounds from their 14 different categories.
Android’s newest update, Android 8.0 (a.k.a. Oreo), has stopped after unexpected issues occurred with some users.
The highly anticipated update began rolling out to Samsung S8 devices last week, says The Verge, but it’s now been halted. The update was stopped as it was causing some users’ phones to reboot unexpectedly. Specifically, some S8 and S8 Plus owners were reporting that the update caused their phones to reboot at random.
Android 8.0—Oreo—is bringing many new features to Android users. Android’s website details some of the features to expect from the release that has been rolling out. It notes some phones will start two times faster, and they’ll use power better because 8.0 reduces background app usage. It’s also adding an autofill feature, offering picture-in-picture (so you can use more than one app at a time), changing some aspects of how apps work, releasing redesigned emojis (with more than 60 new ones), adding accessibility updates, and more.
Last year, CNET outlined some of the Android Oreo features they were most excited about. This included the new autofill feature and the picture in picture feature. They also pointed out how useful the app changes will be. They mentioned the new notification channels that will be available in apps that update for Oreo, as well as the notification dots that will appear on apps.
The Verge points out that the update wasn’t rolling out worldwide yet, so the sudden halt to Oreo’s release doesn’t impact as many people as it could. However, those who did already get the update before it was stopped are now using an OS that is not as ready for release as Samsung thought. The Verge’s article quotes Samsung as saying they’re working to get the improved version of Oreo out to users “as quickly as possible,” so hopefully users won’t have to wait too long.
If you use Google Home or Chromecast, you may have been experiencing issues with your wi-fi because of it.
People were initially reporting problems several days ago when owners of the Google Home Max and the TP-Link Archer C7 router were dealing with their wi-fi crashing while their Google Home Max was in use. TP-Link fixed the problem, according to Gizmodo, but it quickly became clear that the problem wasn’t just with Google Home Max or the Archer C7 router. People using other devices, like Chromecast, were experiencing the issue as well.
The issue, as Gizmodo explains, is that when these Google devices were woken, they were sending packets of data that sometimes made the routers crash. The amount of data sent at one time grew the longer the Google device was inactive before being turned back on.
Google addressed the issue through a Google Home Help post, explaining what was happening. People using an Android device and a device like Chromecast or Google Home on the same wi-fi network were affected by the wi-fi crash issue. This is because the issue was with the Cast software specifically on Android devices, not with the Google Home Max or TP-Link routers as it previously had seemed.
Google noted they would be releasing a fix for the problem right away. An update was scheduled for Google Play services on the 18th of this month. According to Android Police, a beta update has now started rolling out. At this point, the article mentions, some users are saying the update has fixed the issue, while others are still not seeing any improvement even after updating.
If you want to try the beta update, you can do so by becoming a tester. Or if you’d rather wait for an update to the public version of Google Play services, Google has suggested that anyone having the wi-fi crash issue should restart their Android device and then make sure their router is up to date.
Pay how you want with EIN
Sometimes the best ways are the old ways. Now you can order new High-Speed Internet Service from Easy Internet Now and pay by Check or Money Order! It’s one more part of how we’re working every day to make getting Internet service as easy and convenient as possible. To make a payment by Check or Money Order on a new order just select the option from the list at the bottom of your order:
If you choose to pay by Check or Money Order you will need to mail in your payment before we can schedule your Installation. EIN is a prepaid service provider, and like our other payment methods, we need to have your first payment in place before installing your new High-Speed Internet Service. Shortly after you place your order you will get an email explaining that you need to mail in your payment to our processing center before Installation can proceed.
Easy Internet Now Payment Processing Center
PO Box 1563
West Plains, MO 65775
This makes three easy to use payment methods for getting service with EIN! If you’re planning to use a check we highly suggest using our eCheck system to get your Installation scheduled and in-progress as quickly as possible.
Making Monthly Payments by Check
Not only can you make your initial payment by Check or Money Order, you can also pay your monthly subscription the same way! Just make sure your payment is mailed to our processing center with plenty of time to arrive before your due date. Payments mailed to the processing center may not be applied the day they are received – but they will always be backdated to the date they arrived, so no worries about getting an errant late fee.
If you have any questions about our payment methods, or anything else related to EIN, just give a shout by texting 405.445.3685 or by emailing email@example.com. We’re always glad to hear from you!
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We’ve all been there: you get internet service set up, and the default Wi-Fi name is something generic and forgettable, while the password is the opposite, being so unique that no one could ever remember it. If you don’t want to be known on your block by your Internet Provider or don’t want to type in 10 to 20 random alphanumeric characters every time you sign on a new device, it’s time to learn how to change your user name and password.
Default name and password
This name and password assigned to you when you got your modem or gateway (a modem/router combo) is important, and is almost always somewhere you won’t lose it: printed on the bottom or side of the device. You will need this to connect the first time, and to log onto your online Wi-Fi manager to change your settings. If you have changed the name/password and forgotten what they are, you need to reset the gateway to the factory default settings by pressing the “reset” button on the back for at least 10 seconds.
Find your IP address
Your IP is a string of numbers separated by periods. For all three gateways provided by Easy Internet Now (Pace 5268ac, Motorola NVG589, and Arris BGW210) the IP is:
If you have a different modem or gateway, finding your IP is easy. If it isn’t printed on your device along with your default name and password, or inside the manual that comes with the device, you can find it quickly on your computer.
- Type “Command Prompt” in the search bar of your Start Menu, and then click to open.
- Type “ipconfig” and press Enter.
- Your IP address will be located under “Wireless LAN,” beside “Default Gateway.”
- Go to the Apple menu, and select System Preferences.
- Select Network.
- Select Advanced.
- Select the TCP/IP tab.
- Your IP address will be beside Router.
(Thanks to How-to Geek for the Mac info!)
Some terms to know:
- Your Wi-Fi name will likely be called your “Network ID,” “SSID,” or some combination of the two.
- Your password will probably be called your “Network Key,” “Passkey,” “Security Key,” “WPA-PSK key,” or some combination.
Go to your online Wi-Fi manager:
You need to access your settings online and can do so using your IP address.
- Paste or type your IP address in the search bar of an internet browser and press enter.
- Enter your default user name and password (printed on your modem/gateway) if prompted.
From here, exact instructions will depend upon the modem or gateway you have. However, your security settings must be set to WPA-PSK to change your network name. Security settings are usually located within the same tab or link to change your password and network name.
Pace 5268ac gateway:
Manual (page 17, 18):
- Select the Settings tab.
- Select the LAN tab.
- Select Wireless.
- Enter your new network name in the field titled Network Name (SSID).
- Select Use Custom Wireless Network Key.
- Enter your new password.
- Make setting selections for both your User SSID and your Guest SSID. (The Guest network allows you to provide your guest’s Wi-Fi without having to provide access to your personal connection or password. There are multiple radio bands within each network, and each radio band—2.4 GHz or 5 GHz—should be named the same as the others within that network—User or Guest).
- Select Save.
Manual (page 46-48)
- Your default user name will be “Admin,” and your default password will be a unique phrase or string of letters and numbers printed on the gateway.
- Select Modify your Wireless security or settings from the list of Common Tasks on the right side of the page.
- Enter your new network name in the field titled Network Name (SSID).
- Ensure your Security setting is WPA-PSK in the drop-down box (this should be the default).
- Enter your new password in the field titled Key.
- Select Save.
BGW 210 gateway:
This router doesn’t have a user manual, but the AT&T support page provides information on how to access your settings.
- Enter your IP address in the search bar and press enter.
- Select Home Network.
- Select Wi-Fi.
- Enter your Device Access Code in the Access Code field as it is printed on your device.
- Select Continue.
- Select 2.4 or 5 GHz radio from the Radio Selection box. (Your gateway has multiple radio bands and will choose the one with the best signal on a case-by-case basis. You can assign names to each of them, but for the best functionality, they should have the same name).
- Make setting selections for both your User SSID and your Guest SSID. (The Guest network allows you to provide your guest’s Wi-Fi without having to provide access to your personal connection or password. There are multiple radio bands within each network, and each radio band—2.4 GHz or 5 GHz—should be named the same as the others within that same network—Home or Guest).
- Turn on User SSID Enable.
- Enter your new network name in the Network Name (SSID) box.
- Ensure security is set to WPA-PSK.
- Enter your new password in the Password box.
- Select Save.
Changing your network name and password is pretty easy, once you know where to look for the options. But what should I change it to? I can’t really tell you that. Your password should be easy to remember but hard to guess and contain numbers and special characters. Buzzfeed has some funny, nerdy ideas for names if you don’t want to use your own (like “This one, Nana,” or “Pretty Fly For a WiFi”).
Have a great idea for a funny network name? Tweet at me!
So you heard you need to backup your important files. Everyone should because having one copy of something important is not a good idea. Something about eggs in one basket. You should separate your eggs. Here’s why:
Computers fail. If your hard drive crashes or becomes corrupted, getting your files back usually isn’t an option. Same goes if your house burns down or your stuff gets stolen.
People fail. I can’t tell you how many times I have lost important school assignments (it’s always just before it is due, too) moving files around. Maybe I thought I had multiple copies of the file when I only had one. Maybe I had a rough draft and a final draft, didn’t name them differently enough, and deleted the wrong one (more than once. I even submitted the rough draft once. How embarrassing!)
Security fails. There are precautions you can take to make this unlikely, but it’s never a sure thing, and plenty of people have been left wishing they had a backup from recent ransomware attacks. But it doesn’t even have to be ransomware: simple, everyday viruses can corrupt your irreplaceable files.
Keep 3 separate copies.
This means the original, plus two other copies.
In the IT world, backing up everything, always, is a golden rule. So is 3-2-1:
At least 2 different types of media. A hardware failure could signal certain weakness in that specific hardware type. You lower your risk of failure and your vulnerability to virus and ransomware attack by using multiple kinds of media.
At least 1 in a location separate from the other two. Think: if your house burns down, all your files are gone unless they are somewhere else. If you get hit with ransomware and your external storage is connected to your computer, those files are gone unless they are somewhere else.
What should I use as a back-up?
You have plenty of options, including:
- External hard drives
- SD cards
- Pin drives
- CD disks
- Other computers
- Cloud storage
Cloud storage is awesome. Which one should I use?Cloud storage is a great option, because it fulfills the requirement of being a different type of media, in a different location, with the added perk that it is available from any device with an internet connection, and can be automated to back up everything, always, so you don’t have to remember to do it. And don’t worry; any cloud storage provider worth their salt knows how to keep your data safe.
Visit How-to Geek for advice on the best cloud services, best cloud/external drive back up all-in-one, and a promotional code for two free months with Carbonite!
I like OneDrive because it is convenient and easy to use. It comes with 5 GB storage as part of the Microsoft Office Suite, which means you might already have access to it, especially if you are a student. An additional 50GB is available for $1.99 a month, and a terabyte is $6.99, along with the new versions of Office apps like Word and Excel. If you use a computer running Windows, a Microsoft-based cloud server is going to integrate seamlessly.
Google Drive is also awesome and makes sharing files with co-workers, teachers, and fellow students very easy. It integrates well with most systems, can handle any file type, and is a must if you use the Google Suite. You get 15 GB for free, 100 GB for $1.99 per month, 1 terabyte for $9.99 per month, and 10 terabytes for $99.99 per month.
For larger amounts of data backup, use an unlimited storage system like CrashPlan for about $5 a month.
The truly unique aspect of CrashPlan is that their free service gives you the option to quickly and easily backup your data wirelessly to another computer you have access to—ideally in another location, like a hard-drive at your office, or a friend’s house. Files are encrypted so you don’t have to worry about the privacy of your back-up.
Special thanks to How-To Geek for their tips about backing things up!
Don’t wait till something happens to your stuff to set up a backup system. Keeping all your eggs in one basket is asking to lose them. Baskets are not safe; get those eggs into the cloud!
What is your favorite cloud storage service? Or do you have a favorite external hard drive? Tweet at me!
One of the best ways to keep your information safe online is the use of passwords. We have passwords for everything: email, Amazon accounts, social media, cloud storage, online banking, etc. A password is often the only thing standing between your information or money and people who would take it.
However, for the most part, people are pretty casual with their passwords. I’m not judging; I do it too: using the same password for multiple accounts, writing down passwords, using something that is easy for me to remember because it is the name of a pet or a family member. But with cyber attacks at an all-time high, it’s time to figure out how to make a really strong password, and how to remember it.
1: Use a password manager
It’s a tradeoff we all have to consider: making a truly uncrackable password can backfire if you aren’t able to remember it. And having a different password for every site you have an account with is pretty close to my idea of hell. However, you no longer need to sacrifice security for convenience. Password managers are available as browser add-ons, and they keep track of your passwords for every site, even auto-filling the field for you. You just need to remember a single password for the password manager, and that’s it.
Is it really safe to have all your passwords online?
Like everything, no encryption is infallible, but some are better than others, and some are much, much better than others. The major managers out there have one job—keeping a secret—and they are very, very good at it. “For most users [password managers] offer a much better combination of security and convenience than they have without them. Everyone should be using one,” acknowledges Lujo Bauer, a security researcher at Carnegie Mellon University.
- Last Pass: free, and provides a random password generator
- Dashlane: $40 per month for all devices
- 1Password: 30-day trial, then $2.99 per month.
- KeePass (or KeePassX for Mac users): free, but this one is less user-friendly than the others and may require a little research to get it set up.
Why do you need a password manager? Because you need to…
2: Use different passwords for every account
I know. I hate it when a site imposes some weird rules for password complexity, like “at least 14 characters, with one capital letter, one special character, one number, one hieroglyph, and a partridge and a pear tree.” If someone gets into your Pinterest account, it isn’t the end of the world. But if they know your Pinterest password, and that is the same as every other account you have (including online banking and credit, Amazon, PayPal, FAFSA, etc.) you might have full blown identity theft on your hands. Some of the major data breaches lately have involved the password databases of major companies, leaving millions of people vulnerable. If those people had the same password for several other accounts, the cyber criminals could quickly and easily steal identities without even a “who goes there?”
3: 8 characters is the bare minimum, but 12 and up is better
I know. I know. 8 characters is bad enough, how am I supposed to remember 12? Ideally, you would have something more like 14 to 20. But this is where the password manager comes into play. If you don’t have to remember more than one password, there is nothing stopping you from adopting the longest, most unfathomable string of characters ever seen by human or machine. Which is great, because…
4: You need the most unfathomable string of characters ever seen by human or machine
Passwords shouldn’t be easy to guess. I hope by now you know not to use names, birthdates, or “password.” But password cracking software is becoming more sophisticated, and so passwords need to evolve as well. Attacks often involve software that can quickly try a list of common passwords, phrases, and combinations of words, so the less sense your pass phrase makes, the better. That’s right; pass phrase. 4 to 6 words (in an order that makes no grammatical sense) is better than a sentence or a single word. A string of letters, characters, and numbers is even better than a pass phrase.
Keeping your information safe isn’t hard, but it is definitely something that requires thinking ahead. Do you use a password manager? If not, what tricks do you use to remember your passwords? Tweet at me!
So you Google everything. That’s ok, I do too. Virtually anything you could ever want to know about or learn to do is somewhere on the internet, if you can just find it. That’s the rub, though, because there’s a lot of other stuff out there that isn’t what you’re looking for, and Google doesn’t know the difference. It’s up to you to be as specific as possible with your search terms. And did you know that there are specific shortcuts to help Google understand exactly what you want? Unfortunately, the majority of people don’t know these shortcuts, or even half of what Google can do for them. So either you can Google “How to Google” (maybe that’s how you found this article), or you can sit down and get ready because I’m about to explain the most useful tips for finding exactly what you are looking for with Google.
Basic Google searching
Let’s say you’ve been Googling how to make chocolate pie and the search results go on forever, and contain every recipe for chocolate pie known to woman or man. You have every recipe, ranging from Martha Stewart’s to some one with a blog who made a pie one time. Maybe you want a specific recipe though, like the one on the popular blog Pioneer Woman. What do you do?
- Start by narrowing your search down to the core concept. You need to get rid of the “how to make” part of your search. You’re telling Google what results you need, and most of the results likely don’t have how to in them, or even recipe. All you need are the keywords: chocolate pie
- Surround your search phrase with quotations: “chocolate pie”. The quotations specify that you only want results that have that exact phrase in them; otherwise, you will inevitably see results that have the word chocolate, but no pie, or vice versa.
- To search for results from a specific website, you should include the word site followed by a colon, and then the URL of the site. Make sure only your initial search terms are inside the quotation marks. So: “chocolate pie” site:pioneerwoman.com This method works to efficiently narrow down exactly what you want, and can also be used on sites that don’t have their own search feature.
- Maybe you aren’t able to put your finger on exactly what you want to search, and don’t want to exclude searches for similar items. You can put an ~ in front of the search term to include synonyms and similar terms: ~chocolate pie will also search for French silk, Hershey’s pie, and chocolate cream pie.
- You can also search two terms separately, but at the same time, by putting a capital OR between the terms you want to search for: chocolate OR French silk pie
- Maybe you’re looking for a specific kind of file format, like a pdf you can print out, or an image. To specify the file type, type filetype:(file extension): “chocolate pie” filetype:jpg
- Maybe you want to Google chocolate pie, but you aren’t looking for a recipe. In that case, insert a minus symbol before the term you want to exclude: “chocolate pie” -recipe
- Looking for a definition? Type define:(search term) with no spaces: define:chocolate
- Trying to remember a popular phrase or saying, but don’t quite have all the words? Type as much of the phrase as you can, and insert asterisks for the words you can’t remember. This also works for song lyrics (such as nobody knows the *** or weebles * but they ***).
- Cache let’s you access an older, stored version of a website if it is down for maintenance (it also lets you get around some restrictions set by organizations if the site you are accessing has been blocked, because the information is coming from Google, not that site. But none of you would do that, right? Riiiight?) Just type cache:(website URL): cache:easyinternetnow.com
- Search photos, contacts, and calendar events through Google on your phone (only you will see this personalized results). You can see the pictures you took on a specific date (make sure your date is day/month/year: my photos from 23 June 2017), find a contact stored in your phone or email (what is (name)’s number, what is (name)’s email address, and call (name) will initiate a call), or check your plans for a specific date (what is my plan for (date)). Additionally, set reminder for (event) at (time and date) will add a reminder to your calendar.
A few more uses
There are tools available by typing certain searches:
- Equations: 300/17 or 13*24. Typing calculator will also open a calculator in your browser, and tip for (amount) will open a tip calculator.
- Conversions: 3 kilometers to miles or 12 inches to centimeters
- Weather and time: weather st. louis or time Orlando
- Translations: translate chocolate pie to spanish or translate pomplamoose to English
- Tracking packages: just copy and paste your tracking number into the search box.
- Movies: Type movies (zip code): movies 65775
- Timer or set timer opens a timer in your browser.
Apps and special search engines
Google Goggles is an app that allows you to search by taking a picture. This works well for art, landmarks, bar codes, and products.
Search Google images using an image. It’s sort of like Google Goggles, but not quite; it is called a “reverse image search,” and is useful for finding the source of an image. In Google Images, click the camera icon and then paste the image URL, upload an image from your computer, or just drag and drop and image into the search field. Google will search for that image online, as well as ones like it.
Google Books let’s you search millions of books for the exact information you are looking for, like if you need to find the source of a quote. You can also preview some parts of some books, which is highly useful for writing a research paper if you only need to read a portion of the book, like a chapter or a single page. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that people have been writing books faaaaar longer than the Internet has been around, and some things just can’t be found on a website or blog. Fancy that. (Google Books works best for older works—the older the publication date, the more likely they have it).
And just for fun
And because we’re not all business, all the time, here are a few neat things you can do just for kicks.
Google in 1998 typed into the search bar will show you how Google looked back when they first went online.
Atari breakout in Google image search will open up an arcade game right in your browser.
Take a look at the following info before your installation date to help make your appointment as easy as possible.
- An authorized person at least 18 years of age must be present during the installation.
- Installations take up to four (4) hours to complete.
- Move any furniture or objects blocking access to the phone and computer connections before the technician arrives.
- The technician will connect devices used on your former network to your new home network. Keep in mind that we can’t guarantee the functionality or compatibility of those devices. Technicians are not authorized to troubleshoot third party devices.
- In some cases, a connection or wiring that worked with another network may not work with your new service. Our technician will locate a spot with the strongest signal and suitability for the equipment. If you prefer a different location, or if new jacks or upgraded wiring are required, additional charges may apply.
- If you decide to cancel your installation order, message or email us at least 24 business hours (M-F) in advance and we will immediately refund your total purchase. Orders cancelled the day of installation will not be eligible for a full refund.
- Make sure your equipment and network are working before canceling service with a previous provider.
- Establish a method of payment for your new service, you can save your credit or debit card in your account to automatically pay your EIN charges each month.