Friday, July 31, 2015

Cortana, A Space Odyssey or Fear of the Dark Side

Ah, Cortana, I'm not sure you are the best friend for me. Yes, Cortana (Windows 10's interactive personal assistant who can listen, answer, and help with -almost- your every need) is touted to be the best thing since sliced bread. The last time I was so taken by a sales pitch, I was 5 years old and it was Mattel's Betsy Wetsy in the Sears and Roebuck Red Christmas Catalog. But I digress.

"Where is the cheapest place to find a pair of Manolo Blanik shoes?" 

No problem - she can tell you where they are, when is the best time to go, and give you directions to get there. 

Don't have a clue what to have for dinner? No problem, Cortana can give you a suggestion, a menu, the recipes, a list of ingredients, the closest stores that have what you need, the hours they are open, and (once again) directions to get there.

She can answer almost any question, tell you a joke if you are down, give you helpful advice if you have a stain you cannot remove from that favorite sweater, answer that sticky question your manager just asked you that you should know - but don't. What a gal!!!

Microsoft touts her ability to organize one's life. Tell her when you need to be reminded about what and her perky voice will note it and when the appropriate time comes politely remind you that you have dinner with the in-laws this evening, you have a meeting in 15 minutes, or your wedding anniversary is tomorrow. She can make notes, open apps, locate anything on a world atlas or local street. No question from the inane to most complex can stump her. Talk about a girl Friday - she has it all.

So as I was learning how to navigate Windows 10 when came to the Cortana feature I was enthused. Here was a personal assistant I could use to make life simpler, work run smoother, and save time. To experiment I made a few notes, set-up a few reminders. Then I thought - I am always adding things to my calendar. Voila - just tell Cortana what I need added and it will be done without my having to open the app, find the date, create the event, and set-up the details.

I asked her to add a trip to Asheville on August 25th. She confirmed the details and told me it was added  to my calendar. I then noticed that the screen said "Event added to Ann's Outlook Calendar". That was not going to be much help given I do not use an Outlook Calendar, I am wedded to Google. So I tried again. "Cortana, add this event to my google calendar . . ." and gave her the details once again.

No luck, I got the same results. I asked her to open my google calendar and she went to the Bing search engine (which I loathe) and opened a search for "Google calendar". This was not good. I went to Google itself and searched for "How to get Cortana to add event to Google calendar?" and found many folks with my same issue and none with an answer. Naturally the gods at Microsoft would have no reason to want Cortana to comprehend that function (the line from Lost in Space "that does not compute" or the immortal words of Spock, "that is totally illogical"come to mind). Her making an entry on a Google calendar would be akin to going to the dark side.

So Cortana, while others may love you, adore you and swoon at the sound of your voice I fear we will never be best friends. As much promise as you have and with all the good intentions of the Microsoft gods, I don't need assistance unless I can have access to all the applications I use. Otherwise that would be some form of mind manipulation. The next thing we know, we will have computers smarter than we are, aware of our every key stroke, that not only talk to us but tell us what to do . . . 

Perhaps this is just a reincarnation of Hal and by loading Windows 10 I launched the next sequel of A Space Odyssey . Personally I fear it more like an episode of Rod Sterling's Night Gallery. But I am not one to be melodramatic. I'll just close Cortana, hope the flying monkeys go away, and continue with my Windows 10 orientation - which was going very well.


BetteJo said...

Nope, not gonna do it yet. Went to Windows 8 and really haven't been thrilled with it but one thing I learned is how many things are NOT compatible with a new operating system! You're brave!

AC said...

Ten's not so bad - so far. I figured I may as well hold my nose and jump in, since everything is going that way. It did take me a while to change all my defaults to Google apps. Cortena is not my best friend. She "does not compute" my request to open my Gmail.