Tip: Connecting and Using Apple Music with Alexa

Amazon and Apple have recently delivered Apple Music for owners of Alexa-enabled devices. Amazon has added Apple Music as another option in its list of Music services. Setting it up is as easy as choosing it, enabling it, linking it, and using it. We’ve seen some websites suggest that you have to enable a special Apple skill to get this to work, but that’s not the case. Amazon has done a good job integrating Apple Music into its normal music service line up.

To set it up:

[1] In the Alexa mobile app (not available from the web version of Alexa), go to Settings and then locate Music under Alexa Preferences.

[2] Once in the Music area, choose the option to Link New Service.

[3] Select Apple Music on the Link Service page.

[4] Once you select the Apple Music option, the Alexa app will walk you through connecting and linking your Apple Music account to Alexa.

That’s it!

Now, when you want to listen to music from Apple Music, just end your request with “…on Apple Music

For example:

Alexa, play music by Queen on Apple Music

-or-

Alexa, play Beats 1 radio on Apple Music

Tip: Using PowerShell to Retrieve the Original Windows 10 Product Key

If you need to quickly identify the original Windows 10 product key for a system, use the following command in a PowerShell CMD window:

“(Get-WmiObject -query ‘select * from SoftwareLicensingService’).OA3xOriginalProductKey”

Of course, if you use a centralized management tool like System Center Configuration Manager you can create a query to report on the SoftwareLicensingService WMI Object.

Tip: The Surface Diagnostic Toolkit for Business

Released in November 2018, the Surface Diagnostic Toolkit for Business is a utility that can be deployed to a failing Surface device to gather log files to sift through. With the regularly reported per-device and per-model customer issues, this tool should help pinpoint the cause for continuing problems.

The Microsoft Surface Diagnostic Toolkit for Business (SDT) enables IT administrators to quickly investigate, troubleshoot, and resolve hardware, software, and firmware issues with Surface devices. You can run a range of diagnostic tests and software repairs in addition to obtaining device health insights and guidance for resolving issues.

Link: Surface Diagnostic Toolkit for Business

 

 

Tip: Getting Alexa to Read Your Emails

Alexa now has the ability to read your emails to you. Prior to Amazon adding this capability you’d need to install and use a special skill.

To get it to work, you first have to set it up.

[1] In the Alexa mobile app (this doesn’t work on the Alexa web version of the app yet), go to “Settings.”

[2] Locate “Email & Calendar” and tap the “+” button to add an account. You can choose a Google or Microsoft account.

[3] Log in with your username and password.

At this point, you should also consider setting a special voice pin code for your email or anyone can have access to your emails.

Once you have this setup you can now say…

Alexa, check my email” or “Alexa, read my email

Alexa will start with your unread email messages and relay the send and title of the email. Alexa will then ask if you’d like read the full email, reply to it, archive it or delete it.

One thing to keep in mind is that, by connecting your email account to Alexa, some of your contacts and email messages are stored in the cloud to provide the service. Amazon promises that the data is encrypted and stored security – but we all know the reality of that based on headlines. Amazon says it also won’t read your email  – except in specific cases, which I assume means if law enforcement makes a request.


 

Tip: Previewing Files in ChromeOS

Being able to quickly preview files instead of opening them is a handy tool. For ChromeOS, this works just like it does on a Mac.

To do it…

  1. Tap or click to highlight a file in the file system.
  2. Tap the spacebar.

 

When you do this, the preview of the file will display in an overlay and also show file details.

This will work for any file type that ChromeOS supports.


 

Tip: Best Sketching/Drawing App for ChromeOS

There are a few really nice Chromebooks that have full stylus support. Google’s premium-level Pixelbook is one. The Samsung Chromebook Pro Plus is another.

When using the Google Keep app or Microsoft’s OneNote for notes, having a good stylus comes in handy. However, what if – as an artist or budding artist – you want a great sketching or drawing experience?

There are many Android options in the Google Play store for those that own Chromebooks that have Android support, but clearly the best is a browser-based option, Sketchpad.

Sketchpad: https://sketch.io/sketchpad/en/

Sketchpad can be installed as a PWA, supports layers, a larger number of pencil options, and you can even turn on automatic save to Google Drive.

 

 


 

Tip: Locating the Android Apps Designed to Work Best with ChromeOS

It’s awesome that Google enabled the ability for ChromeOS users to use Android apps on their devices. This opened up ChromeOS users to thousands of apps. However, not all Android apps work great, or display great, on a ChromeOS device. Most were designed to look great on a small, smartphone screen, making them a poor choice for the larger ChromeOS laptops, 2-in-1’s, and tablets.

However, there is a growing number of good Android apps for ChromeOS. Many Android app developers are modifying their offerings to work better across device types, and that list is growing every day. So, then, how do you locate these ChromeOS compatible Android apps?

A new website has been propped-up that attempts to solve the problem of locating ChromeOS compatible Android apps.

Made for ChromeOS: https://madeforchromeos.com/

The Made for ChromeOS website contains a curated list of the proper Android apps that run best on ChromeOS. You can manually peruse the list but also use the search function.

Additionally, at the top right of the website, you can make app suggestions, making this a truly community-led effort.


 

Tip: Hover to Show Windowed Previews of Running Apps on ChromeOS

For those coming from a Windows environment are keen to the small window previews for running apps, ChromeOS has this option, too. It just has to be enabled.

To enable it…

Open up the Chrome browser and type the following into the address bar:

chrome://flags/#shelf-hover-previews

Once enabled, you’ll need to restart the ChromeOS device for it to take full effect. The browser will give you an option to ‘Restart,’ but this doesn’t always work. You’ll want to take the extra effort and restart the ChromeOS device manually.

Now, when you hover over the icon of a running app on the ChomeOS Shelf, it will display the running instance.


 

Tip: Enabling New Bluetooth Drivers for ChromeOS

Some ChromeOS hardware can have issues with the current drivers for Bluetooth connections, which can lead to frustration. It’s not always an issue but really depends on how well the specific manufacturer put the hardware together.

If you are having Bluetooth connection problems, you can enhance it by enabling a new set of Bluetooth drivers that Google is currently testing.

To do this…

Open up the Chrome browser and type the following into the address bar:

chrome://flags/#newblue

This will expose the new – but experimental – Bluetooth driver and allow you to enable it.

Once enabled, you’ll need to restart the ChromeOS device for it to take full effect. The browser will give you an option to ‘Restart,’ but this doesn’t always work. You’ll want to take the extra effort and restart the ChromeOS device manually.

These drivers will be enabled by Default in future builds of ChromeOS.


 

Tip: Run the Google News Website Instead of the Android App on ChromeOS

Google does a pretty great job with its news app. Its available for iOS and Android and is probably one of the better news sources available, providing all sides of a story in unique full coverage panels.

The Android version, of course, runs on ChromeOS. And, while it works, it can sometimes run into problems and like some other Android apps, makes ChromeOS feel like a Frankenstein monster with Google piecing together obtuse support just to serve the masses.

Use the web version of Google News instead!

Logged in with your Google account (just like in the app), you’ll still get your personalized news and

You can even use the Chrome browser feature to “create a shortcut” and set the launch style for the website to open in a window instead of in the browser – making it feel very much like a normal app.

Google’s news site:  https://news.google.com

 


 

Tip: Install ChromeOS on Almost Any PC

The days of Windows on the majority of PCs is almost over. As ChromeOS continues to improve and installation methods become easier, installing ChromeOS can breath new life into an old PC, laptop, or Windows tablet.

So, if you have old PCs sitting around that don’t meet the specs for some of today’s modern operating systems, you can still give it life and make it run like a new computer – sometimes better performing than a new computer – thanks to Chromefy.

Chromefy is a tool that provides the ability to install the full version of ChromeOS on just about any modern PC, laptop, or Windows tablet.

The process is still a bit convoluted and not for the computer newbie.

Steps involved:

  • Install Chromium OS.
  • Resize disk partitions.
  • Download ChromeOS.
  • Install ChromeOS using terminal commands.

 

But, if you have some good computing skills and an old laptop, jumping through the Chromefy hoops can revitalize a computer to make a perfect holiday gift.

Chromefy:  https://github.com/imperador/chromefy