Look up the next time you go out and guess where the plane above you is heading. Los Angeles? New York? Paris? Ask Siri this phrase: “Which flights are overhead?” You’ll see the carrier, flight number and altitude in seconds.
I like to share simple digital life tips that make things easier. Bonus: most are good for impressing your family and friends. Here are five more useful tech tips to try.
For you Windows users, try this the next time you have a lot of programs open. Click on the top bar of a window, hold it down and shake your mouse. This shake will instantly minimize all other open windows. Shake it again to restore them. Tap or click to hidden features to try now on your Windows PC or Mac.
On the usefulness scale, your phone’s smart assistant is high – if you know the right commands. Here are five that I use all the time.
1. Turn on the flashlight
When it’s dark and you’re trying to read a menu or navigate a dark hallway, you don’t want to fumble around with your phone to find the flashlight.
Just say, “Turn on the flashlight. It works for both Siri and Google Assistant. Just say the wake-up name first to make sure they’re listening.
Fun Fact: If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you can say “Lumos.” It refers to the spell that Harry and his friends use to light their wands. Say “Nox” to turn off the light.
2. Add to my calendar
It’s easy to make plans on the spur of the moment when you’re talking to someone. Then, when the hour of the appointment rings, you forget it.
Instead of wasting a minute or two manually entering details, tell Siri or Google Assistant what your plan is, along with a date and time. For example, you could say, “Hey Siri, have lunch with Bob tomorrow at 1 p.m.” You can also be more specific, like “Hey Google, add an event called Birthday Dinner on Sunday at 4 p.m.”.
If you have multiple calendars, specify which one or else it will fall into your default calendar.
Siri automatically connects to Apple’s Calendar app. If you use Google Calendar, however, you’ll need to add it to Apple’s default app. Here’s how to make the two apps work well together.
3. Set a timer
You’re about to set a timer for dinner tonight. Then you hear a thud coming from the other room and one of the kids starts screaming for you. With just one sentence to your smart assistant, you can put a pin in your current task before you run out to put out a fire somewhere else.
To set a timer, tell Siri or Google Assistant, “Set a timer for 10 minutes” or however long you need. If you say “Set a timer for 20 minutes called chicken”, it starts a new timer with the label “chicken”.
Amazon Alexa-enabled devices can also help around the house with timers, quick calculations, and other things you typically use your phone for. Tap or click here for Alexa to set reminders, timers, and alarms.
4. Put my phone on silent
Imagine that you are in church. The pastor shares a moving story. It’s so impactful that there’s not a dry eye in the house. Situations like this can be downright humiliating. Turn off your phone before entering a church, starting a meeting, or sitting down for a job interview.
An easy way to do this is with your voice. Say “Siri, turn off my phone” or “Google Assistant, turn off my phone.”
Speaking of distractions, how many buzzes and beeps does your phone make each day? Tap or click here for a quick and easy way to permanently stop phone notifications.
5. It Wasn’t For You
Big Tech companies will tell you that their devices aren’t always listening – they’re just listening for the wake word. I don’t see the difference.
Often you will accidentally trigger your assistant with a word that sounds the same. If you say something that sounds like “Siri” or “Hey Google,” it may pique his metaphorical ears. This can be a problem if your assistant is set to record everything you say to it.
I recently went through my Amazon Alexa recordings. I found a few voice clips that didn’t involve Alexa at all, including private discussions about buying real estate. Tap or click here to find out everything Amazon knows about you.
Fortunately, both Siri and Google Assistant make distinctive noises when activated. If you want to stop the Google Assistant from recording the rest of your conversation, say, “That wasn’t for you.” This also deletes everything he just recorded from your history.
You can also tell Siri, “That wasn’t for you” when it accidentally turns on. However, Apple hasn’t officially stated whether this phrase erases your previous recording from its memory. Tap or click here to stop all your smart devices from listening to you and recording what you say.
Bonus Tip: An incredible story about hackers who attacked a hospital for ransomware
Ransomware hackers recently hit a hospital, and everything from heart machines to IV pumps stopped working. Doctors and nurses had to use pen and paper. There were no electronic patient records. But what happened when the hackers discovered it was a hospital will no doubt surprise you.
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Discover all the latest technologies on The Kim Komando show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For his daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit his website at Komando.com.