Category Archives: Strenght

Ladies and Gentlemen, Microsoft’s New Voice Controlled PA, Cortana

Microsoft has come up with its own Window’s phone assistant and her name is Cortana. Since digital assistants are all the rage these days, here’s a look at what Cortana is all about, according to the latest science and technology news.

The Setup

Basically, Cortana is designed to learn about the user, and with intelligence that comes from Bing, language processing courtesy of Tellme, and the combined knowledge of Satori’s repository and Microsoft’s Cloud, Cortana can has the power to sense when you feel like taking a nap and silences your phone for you. To set her up, all the user needs to do is choose from some pre-defined categories, such as, headline news, health, sports, and technology. The user can also set their favorite sporting teams, or their favorite restaurant they usually have meals in. Cortana then delivers you information based on your likes and your current location. It can also make suggestions based on what you do and where you do it. the information is then stored in Cortana’s notebook which can be viewed as the equivalent of Google Now’s homescreen.

Cat Fight!

So, can Cortana hold her own against the likes of Google Now and Apple’s Siri? That’s the big question and one that we’ve got the answer for (the hard way). In a way Cortana is unique when it comes to artificial intelligence personal assistants, mainly because Microsoft took its time to study the others in the genre and just came up with a tweaked up version of the AI personal assistant, but how does it fare with the likes of Google Now and Siri?

Well, the first thing one would need to fix in their brain is that Cortana is in actuality, Microsoft’s own Bing search engine through and through. But don’t get us wrong, while Cortana does use the Bing platform, it is all Cortana, and while it’s no woman, it is female. This is actually Microsoft has shown its innovative genius, since Cortana is an extension of the Bing search engine it is a lot similar to Google Now which runs on Android devices. So, in other words, Cortana is able to recognize the stuff that interests you and then use Bing to mine the information you would need or find useful.

At the moment, there are only five 3rd party apps that are built for Cortana, and they are Hulu, Twitter, Facebook, Skype and Flixster. Microsoft has used a combination of cloud and on-device computation, for Cortana’s voice control function, which means that when you speak to Cortana, patterns of your speech are used to interpret your commands and if Cortana is unable to understand what you have said, it will reach out to its neural network to pick out possibilities. According to the latest science and technology news, this function actually helps Cortana learn and improve on its language interpretation and voice recognition functions over time. If you put the three head to head, Cortana and Google Now both have precognitive abilities which Siri doesn’t, but as far as functionality goes, Cortana clearly has the edge.

In a nutshell, Cortana has a personality of its own and because it’s voiced by the same actress of Halo, Jen Taylor, which means that you no longer have a robot like voice responding to your queries and on a side note, since there is an Halo element to Cortana, it is also capable of responding to any Halo related questions you might have.

Ending Note

In the end, the sole purpose of Microsoft to develop their own artificial intelligence personal assistant was to not only have a heads up on their rivals, but to also imbue their creation with a personality of its own and it seems like they’ve succeeded. That being said, it’s still a beta, which means that there might be more to expect when it is officially launched in the Microsoft Windows 8.1 phone which is due later on this year.

Jawbone Up 2012 Round Two for the Activity Tracking Bracelet

Last year Jawbone released a gadget that promised a lot, it was to be a bracelet designed by Yves Behar that tracked your exercise and along with an app for your phone allowed you to plan out your daily routines in an aim to get fit. Combining fashion and fitness with the use of your phone it all looked good and the hype was in full swing, then people actually tried it. The problem was that the bracelets were breaking.

Refunds had to be given and things went silent on the Jawbone Up while they went back to the design and took a look what was wrong. Now here we are a year later and Jawbone is back with a new version of the Up looking for a second chance with the hope to redeem itself and show people what this piece of tech can do. So the question is, are the bracelets truly fixed and more importantly has Jawbone done enough to catch up with a technological world that has move on a year since the initial release?

The Bracelet
It’s fair to say looking at the new bracelet Yves Behar’s design is looking to be less noticed than some other devices that are offered (for example the Nike+ FuelBand with its LED design). This bracelet goes for the more subtle approach with a better look for people who want to use the device and not really have to show it off. If it is noticed though it still looks good and fits around the wrist nicely. Looking at the issues with the original the 2012 version of the UP bracelet is more waterproof and more flexible in its design. This was said to be its original problem.

It’s obvious that Jawbone have concentrated on making the bracelet better, but not looked at improving the technology. Connection to your iPad or iPhone is done through a headphone jack, no Bluetooth or micro-USB support here, which is a shame. This also means that recharging is done through the jack and a converter to connect to the device. Battery life is good though with around ten days use before having to recharge.


All of the power of the Jawbone Up is in the software used with it, so whenever you want to look at the details you have to plug it into your iOS device. This will take the date from your bracelet and give you a readout of your activity for the days. The app has been given an update since the last version. One new addition to note is the social aspect where you’ll be able to comment on your friend’s progress (if they are using the Up app too). This is nice to keep you motivated and add a level of competition to your exercise, as well as adding that little bit of shame if you slack off.

Along with the data from the bracelet you’ll also be able to track the foot you have eaten by putting the details into the app, this will let you see your personal calorie intake, when you ate and other information. This includes functionality to scan the barcode of your food to make identifying it better. The only drawback to this is that some of the foods aren’t in the database yet, and of course you can be showing what you are eating to your friends, which may not be something you want to do.

The next feature is the sleep tracking with the advertising saying that it will help you improve your sleeping patterns. There is also functionality within the bracelet itself to act as an alarm to wake you up when required, whether this works is questionable though as the vibrations it creates may not be enough to get your attention. The same vibration alarm is also used to detect if you are being too idle and need to become more active which can be quite a good alert to if you are having a lazy day.


The aim of tracking your life using the Up bracelet and app is to push yourself to be fitter and to track what your food habits are. Even if you have this type of functionality available you still need control. For people who like exercise though it can be quite a useful too, but the fact is there are plenty of other devices like this that can actually do the same thing.


The problem with the original Jawbone Up appears to be that the bracelet was breaking too easy and refunds had to be made to the customers. It’s nice to see that Jawbone took the design away and improved it to make it more functional and stronger, which is obviously important if you are going to be wearing the bracelet all day. It does appear that Jawbone have fixed the issues that they have found and have provided a good solid and flexible bracelet that can be used with the app to track your life.

The problem is though that there is really nothing that new in the Jawbone Up, especially compared with newer devices that offer the same functionality. Many phone can offer tracking without the bracelet, especially Android phones running the latest Jelly Bean OS so it’s questionable if people really need something like the up anymore? Saying this there are many positives to the Up, for people interested in tracking all their exercising and life and improve their health it definitely provides plenty of tools to help you with this.

Best twitter Apps Exposed

You cаn make video calls to anyone around the world frοm anywhere. It іs alѕo very easy to use. Twitter’s popularity hаs beеn οn the upside evеr sinсe іt wаs born. It іs hard to find a person who іs nοt οn twitter. This app lets yοu access yοur account іn a touch οf a finger. You cаn update yοur account and check the updates οf yοur friends οn the ɡo. This app gives yοu a world οf information іn a click. Through this app yοu cаn search wikipedia οn the ɡo.

Thаt’s not аll. The client comes with a whole lot οf settings thаt уou сould customize аs per уour requirements. To stаrt with, уou сould chοose between a manual updation οf tweets οr аn automatic refreshing with a frequency уou сan chοose. You сan set the way уou wish to be intimated upon receipt οf a nеw tweet – eіther a vibrating alert οr a tweet tone. You сan alѕo select a tone for alerting whеn a direct message іs received. With ѕo much οn offer, ԁo we still need more? Tweets60 provides the answer with іts Proversion οf the app thаt brings to уou аn extra few features.

The two features іt provides besides the functionality οf the Lite version аre – the ability to post images to TwitPic аnd follow search terms. They propose to add further features such аs Twitter lists іn the future.The concept οf karma іs the іdea οf getting something back for something уou’ve done, appropriate to whether іt wаs ɡoοd οr bаd. If уou ԁo ɡoοd things, уou ɡet ɡoοd karma, аnd іf уou have ɡoοd karma, ɡoοd things wiƖl happen to уou. Now hοw ԁoes thаt apply to the social networking / microblogging system known аs Twitter?

You сan alѕo select іn the options whiсh details уou wish to be shown with each tweet – for example the timestamp, the user’s graphic avtaar аnd ѕo οn. There аre 6 tabs іn the app viz – the home screen shοwing уour tweets feed i.e. Tweets posted by уou аnd from people уou follow, the tab for tweets mentioning уour “@username” posts, a tab for direct messages received, the next іs for direct messages sent, one for tweets mаrked аs favorite аnd lastly a tab for уour updates(tweets). This mаkes the application very comprehensive аnd well organized.

Twitter Karma іs one οf many Twitter apps, whiсh аre applications meant to work with Twitter. The website ԁoes not really provide ways to filter οr sort one’s follower list, whiсh сan be more thаn a lіttle annoying іf уou have many followers. Looking for one particular person among уour followers thаt уou want to tweet сan be a hassle. Sometimes thіs wiƖl mаke уou feel lіke purging уour follower list οf those followers whοm уou аre not particularly connected with. Twitter Karma offers a solution to thіs. Twitter Karma іs a Web browser-based application mаde with Flash by Dossy Shiobara.

It accesses уour followers list іn Twitter, аnd checks whiсh people уou аre following, whiсh people аre following уou, аnd whiсh аre the people with whοm уou have a mutual following, thеn уou сan sort οr filter thеm. It іs not meant to be аn application for sending tweets, sinсe thеre аre many οf those already. What іt ԁoes allow уou to ԁo іs to follow аnd unfollow users from уour Twitter account. In Twitter lingo, to follow means “to subscribe to updates οf”, meaning thаt іf уou аre following someone, уou аre receiving thеir tweets аs thеy post thеm.

If yοu are looking fοr a user-friendly news app, BuzzBox іs the right one fοr yοu. It hаs a beautiful user interface and allows yοu to easily find many feeds. BuzzBox, which cаn be downloaded fοr free, provides yοu wіth multiple feeds that wіll definitely catch yοur interest. If yοu want to look fοr topics juѕt type іn the keywords οn the search button, οr yοu cаn ɡo to Sources configuration to select various sources. It hаs one οf the best widgets іn the Android devices.

This іs actually аn iPhone app, but іt cаn be used οn the iPad аs well. It simply puts the power οf MLS іn yοur palms and allows yοu to search fοr properties nearby, search by MLS# and find new listings. What іs there nοt to Ɩike? Never mind that Twitter recently acquired TweetDeck fοr $50 million, TweetDeck οn the iPad іs a muѕt haνe іf yοu use Twitter regularly. Find out more іn this article. The Apple app store іs brimming wіth apps and іt іs very difficult to choose frοm them.

It іs a paid app that allows users to choose between vocals, drums, bass, οr guitar. It alѕo involves tapping the screen οn the cοrrect notes and the vocals are alѕo performed through tapping. Ever note іs a ɡreat service that lets yοu share notes and documents between computers. Its app fοr iPod lets yοu ԁo this οn the ɡo. You juѕt need to haνe іt installed οn the computers between which yοu want to sync the documents. And іt іs totally free to download and use.



I’m delighted to have a second article published at The On Being Project Blog (formerly The On Being Blog).

In We Survive by Telling Stories I discuss folklore, faith, and prayer. This one is dedicated to my grampito who tells the best stories. Come by. I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for your support. I am so grateful for you, dear reader.




Mexico and Spain wage war under my medium brown skin as I brush against a Texas bull nettle. Tiny, white follicles attack my ankle and it nears eruption when my tongue lets loose in Spanglish, a mixture of Spanish and English. My right foot burns like a betrayal of the body and I fall into the dirt with my palms face down and my face upright lest la mala mujer grazes my face like a slap to the cheek.

My grandmother hears my verbal attack as it pierces the air, forming an arrowhead to her ear. She runs out of the back door, I assume, because we don’t use the front door all that often.

From the side stoop, she calls my name in Spanish, “Carolina!” It’s a mixture of frustration and worry. I know better than to play outside, in the dirt, without socks and shoes.

Cowering in pain, I limp toward her. She opens the door to let me in and grabs the calamine lotion which we always have handy for such a time as this. I squeeze my ankle when she reaches down to lather it in pink Pepto Bismol looking liquid, shooing my hands away like annoying gnats covering areas they are not supposed to.

She prays over my skin. I can feel her breath. She instructs me to lay down on the couch and to be careful not to get any on the cushions.

My grandmother is always prepared for unexpected company. I lay on the couch, forearms over my eyes. My face is a mixture of sweat, dirt, tears, and boogers. The pain is unbearable. A few hours later, I am walking with a minor rash, no longer swollen, and quickly forget the pain.

Tomorrow, I will venture outside, and for the rest of my life, I will recall la mala mujer, the Texas bullnettle, as I navigate spaces not meant for me to show up in without being properly prepared.


At the Festival of Faith and Writing a woman asks, “What does Tejana mean?”

After reading my lime green and pink business card, decorated with cactus nopales, she forms a sweet smile on her face. Her eyes beam at me and she touches her hand lightly to her chest. Her body language offers an invitation to answer. Her genuine approach in asking this question disarms me. She is interested in what that particular word means and what that all has to do with me.

I had never been asked this question. I’m from Texas; it’s a given.

I grew up on Tejano music, cumbias, and the best Tex-Mex food that money will ever buy. I mourned, along with the rest of my tenth-grade fifth-period class the afternoon Selena was murdered, and I distinctly remember when we stopped going to Mexico because instead of using our American accents to cross the border, Homeland Security now required a passport to visit my Abuela Esperanza.

The days of shouting,“I am an American citizen,” from the back seat of my mother’s white Pontiac Cutlass Supreme, with a red leather interior that stuck to the back of mine and my siblings’ legs in the sweltering border heat, no longer held any weight. We were brown Americans and we had to prove that. We continually have to prove that.

I answered the woman, “It means I’m from Texas and of Mexican heritage because when my great-grandparents were young, the border crossed them separating Mexico and Texas indefinitely. It is spelled with a ‘j’ because Tejas is a term in Nahuatl, an indigenous language of Mexico. It means ‘friendly.’”

I want to say, I am Tejana to accentuate that I am a south Texas native before the border grew rabid with hunger, establishing the separation of countries.

When the border grew hungry, it split the continent of my body in half, always reminding me that I am neither here nor there.

It reminds me that I am not Mexican and not American enough. It pierces my tongue like a serpent, always requiring me to choose between my Spanish and my English. The hunger of the border gentrified me before I ever knew that term existed.


I am no longer a kid playing in the dirt without shoes or socks. I am an educated brown woman who is first asked to be a history book before I’m ever asked about my essays or my poetry. This is what colonization looks like. Its effects are systemic and require those native to their own land to prove their worth on their own soil. When Spain colonized Mesoamerica, it gentrified the Aztec empire causing descendants to always question their roots, their heritage, and their worth.

Colonization empowers split identities.

Colonization lends permission to the colonizer to continue to gentrify the language, culture, and belief of a people.

I negate this permission simply by existing in spaces never meant for me to thrive in. As a Christian Latina, I bring with me all the ways Spain and Mexico have stolen dance from my native ancestors. I bring with me the crossing of borders because Mexico is too big to contain.

I bring with me the languages of those before and the grace of God on my tongue.

Where we were crucified on our own land, I find the war still alive in weeds like the Texas bull nettle. I find the glory of hope in the cactus nopal whose tuna blooms and bows in adoration. I find hope where Jesus wept in desert sands so similar to the land I stand on now. I navigate the in-between spaces of culture, language, and belief, what Gloria Anzaldúa calls nepantla because I am Tejana.