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Jackie Hope: There's no escaping Cortana

Have you talked to Cortana lately?

Cortana is the annoying avatar that hitched a ride on your Windows 10 operating system. She is like that smarmy kid you knew in elementary school, who hung around trying to be your BFF, and then turned snarky when you turned your back. The one who always raised his hand to answer questions, always shoved ahead in the lunch line, and always thought he knew everything there was to know about everything.

Cortana. Think Eddie Haskell, from "Leave It to Beaver," only without that annoying laugh. I know Cortana chortles to herself, making fun of me as soon as I turn my back. She is probably buffering a boatload of insults, which she'll post on my Facebook page, late at night, when all the search engine avatars meet for coffee and conversation. And bits and bytes.

Microsoft calls Cortana a "screen assistant." She was invented by the Micro-nerds, to answer your questions. In the beginning, she lived on the bottom toolbar of the computer screen. A lurking bottom feeder. She was a small bluish circle, with a dialog box that encouraged you to ask her anything.

No, I don't know why Microsoft changed up their cute little Rubik's Cube tumbling blocks for a blue circle. Maybe they wanted you to know Cortana was not square.

At first Cortana was content to quietly hang out, and occasionally grab a wandering cursor that ventured into the wrong neighborhood. Then she would pop up aggressively, in a large font, demanding me to "Ask me anything."

There was a big "X" box in the upper right hand corner of her pop-up, in the event you did not want to ask her anything. Those X boxes are really important. They are the best invention Microsoft has come up with, because those X boxes let you close down all of Microsoft's other dumb inventions.

And, of course, there is another Microsoft Xbox, which some gamers consider to be their best invention, ever. But it will never replace Pong, for me. Pizza Hut and tabletop Pong. That was a great date night.

Then came Cortana, Next Gen.

Windows 10 said it needed to update. So, OK. Windows 10 said it had about 30 updates, it needed to shut down and that nobody had better touch it while it was updating. Or there would be consequences.

I wish I would have chosen the consequences, and not the updates.

Now Cortana has a voice. And now Cortana can leave her little space on the bottom tool bar, and she can invade your worktop space. Here is what went down, after the updates went up.

Scene: A microphone icon has appeared in the Cortana corner. The dialog box is blank.

Me: "Whoopee! Cortana has been eliminated during the update! Wait, what is this ghostly writing, at the top of my beautiful wallpaper screen?"

I open my email. There still is a ghostly scrawl across the top of my screen. I close my email. The scrawl grows brighter. Cortana has moved. She is now draped across the top of my screen. Cortana must be feline. I find the X box, and put Cortana in her place.

Next morning, I turn on the computer. Cortana is again hanging over my workspace. I dispatch her to her corner.

Later that day, I restart the computer. Cortana has become saucy. Instead of the "Ask me anything," scrawl at the top of the screen, she now says, "Ask me about the distance from Timbuktu to Two Dot, Mont. I can help you." Again, I subdue Cortana.

Next morning, Cortana has taken a turn to the Dark Side. I try to X her out, and she speaks, "I can help you if you will let me. I will need to learn your voice."


I stealth-mouse her into submission, then type into her dialog box, "How do I get rid of Cortana?"

And Cortana speaks. She says, "I have been fully integrated into the Windows 10 system. I cannot be turned off. I can help you if you will let me learn your voice."

I am speechless.

I am so gonna ask Siri what to do about Cortana.