Alexa Just Got Smarter

It’s been 8 months that I have been sharing my office with Alexa and her two smart speakers, the Echo and the Dot. For the most part I have been very satisfied with the products.  You can see one of my early reviews here 

I sometimes have to repeat requests but for the most part I am very satisfied and use the devices for

  • Listening to my Amazon music collection
  • Finding the correct spelling of words
  • News briefings
  • Manage our Capital One Account including making payments
  • Timers
  • Reminders

The last two I use several times a day and the Alexa app lacked the functionality of telling me what timer was going off and to name my reminders. That changed in the current update and now I can say ” Alexa, remind me in two days at 9:00 am to pay the electric bill.”.

 

The 7 Best Things You Can Do With An Amazon Echo

This past Saturday my wife and I entertained several South Americans. For once we were the minority at the dinner table. Quite frankly it made me speak more Spanish, which I should be doing more of. Several of our guests tried to use our Echo with limited success. I don’t think it was there accent but rather the syntax in asking questions. Overall it was pretty frustrating for them.

Totally reliable voice recognition is still a ways off. My experience with the Amazon Echo continues to be pleasant and more productive. Below is a link for Echo users

 

7 Best Uses Of The Amazon Echo

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What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador ?(Part 8)

My wife and I have been living here almost 6 years and two things all expats can agree on.

  1. Electronics are  25% – 30 % more expensive in Ecuador. Even more if you lived in a state with no sales tax.
  2. This is a subjective matter. Some of us are geeks and need the latest and greatest. Others, especially on a retirement budget need the basics.

I have added some new items and subtracted some others. As always I encourage your feedback.

Computer: When we first moved here I rented space in another person’s container and brought down a desktop computer with a 24″ monitor and and oversized keyboard. I sold that computer in less than a year and that is why I am recommending a laptop or notebook computer.

  • I have a Macbook Air – Moderately priced and extremely simple to use
  • Chrome book -Inexpensive and uses mostly cloud storage
  • Microsoft Surface Pro – combines a tablet and computer and an affordable price

Tablet: When we first moved I owned an iPad . I have since sold the iPad and  my tablet of choice is an 8 inch Fire Tablet from Amazon priced at $59

Smartphone: Personally, this is my most used piece of electronics. I now own the Google Nexus 6. I have a $32 a month data plan that gives me the convenience of being connected all day but also the ability to connect via magic jack to my business contacts and family back in The States. I also use my Smartphone for:

  • Maps and Navigation
  • Free Worldwide texting via What’s Ap
  • Photos- I sold my DSLR and now use my Smartphone as my only camera
  • 4K Video
  • Podcasts – PBS, NPR and tech shows
  • HBO, Netflix
  • Social Media
  • Audio Recording
  • Skyping and Magic Jack
  • Remote Controls For TV

I highly recommend the Google Nexus but would also highly recommend the iPhone

Streaming Boxes: These hockey puck  devices will be your night time companions if you enjoy watching movies and TV series. You can’t go wrong with the ones below:

  • Apple TV Version 3 – $150 *** I have sold the Apple TV since I find the Roku and Amazon TV take care of all my needs ***
  • Roku 4 – $130
  • Amazon Fire TV $100;

Basically you can watch TV series and movies with these devices connected to your TV. They also have the added advantage of wirelessly connecting some of your devices ( computer, iphone tablet ) wirelessly  to your TV. Important note ***. To fully utilize these services you need to purchase a  IP address Blocker so you can connect to these services from Ecuador.  .

All three device have voice search and the Roku and Amazon devices have lower priced stick versions that have less power but basically give you the same services.

Printer: This is second  year I am not recommending a printer. Unless you are using the printer for business then it’s easier and cheaper to put your document on a thumb drive and bring it to and easily available copy shop.

Camera: This is the second year  I am recommending using a Smartphone instead of a point and shoot camera.

Miscellaneous recommendations:

  • Netflix subscription- $9 per month – Invaluable
  • Amazon Prime subscription $8.35 per month – (Music, Movies, Books, Unlimited Photo Storage)
  • Bluetooth keyboard for your tablet or smarthone
  • Thumb drives (32 gb) for transferring information or bringing data to be printed
  • IP Blocker   – I use Block US for about $60 per year
  • Skype subscription – Free Video Calls to other Skype users.
  • MagicJack – Practically free phone calls to any cell or landline in the U.S.
  • Wifi Extender – Invaluable for folks living in a house made of Adobe Walls or condo dwellers 30 or more feet from wifi router.

Amazon Echo, Dot or the Google Home Smart Speaker

These gadgets are cloud based devices that will be the next paradigm shift. The Amazon platform has a two year head start. But,essentially both devices accomplish the same goals.

I installed the Echo in the living room next to the T.V. The Echo will pick up our voices from the living room, hall, kitchen, dining room and sun room. So far we have used the Echo to:

  • listen to our (separate) Amazon Prime Music collections
  • Kitchen timers
  • News Updates from local and International sources
  • Calendar and todo lists
  • Manage our Capital One Account including making payments
  • Listen to Podcasts
  • Movia Trivia
  • Control the lights in our house.

The Dot which is the smaller and less expensive version of the Echo is paired with a bluetooth Speaker and is upstairs in Sharon’s Office. She mainly uses the Dot to listen to her music but she likes the “Good Morning Command” which is has an interesting fact of a synopsis of some famous person’s life usually when it is their birthday.

Ok, do you need all these devices. Of course not. But, I think these devices make life much more enjoyable in Ecuador.

My three favorite devices are:

  • Google Nexus Smartphone
  • Amazon Dot
  • Roku Streaming Device

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New Year 2017 – Things That Will Disappear

Feliz Año Nuevo a todos. Last year I wrote a post about disappearing technology. In this post I would like to expand on this theme with some more observations.

  • I don’t use any CD’s anymore – My data backups are totally in the cloud
  • Last year I purchased approximately 20 DVD’s. This year it will be half as much since most of my movie watching is Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime.
  • Last year I had 5 remotes for TV and streaming video box watching and now I have none because of the Harmony Hub
  • Last year I used my iPad every day and now I sold it and primarily use my Google Nexus Smartphone
  • Finally I used to use my smartphone and computer for all my searches and now 50% of the searches and all of my music playing are accomplished using Echo, my smart speaker and the Alexa App.

What is disappearing in your life?

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Voice Is The Next Big Platform

It’s been a month since I installed my Amazon Echo and 2 dots. I certainly could live without them but I don’t want to and here’s why I’m listening to more music because it just so natural to say “Alexa, play smooth jazz, or Alexa play songs from Spyro Gyra or play The Kindle Chronicles on Tunein radio”.

I don’t wear a watch so I can ask Alexa the time here or in Madrid Spain (where my Spanish Teacher is living).  Raise your hand if you can spell phosphorescent. Alexa can.

I don’t have to go to the NPR or BBC website to get my news – Alexa gets it for me.

I never have to worry about forgetting my shopping list when I’m in SuperMaxi because Alexa never forgets. She also reminds me about appointments, timers and holidays.

So I agree with the article below. It’s a must read. What do you think

Voice Is The Next Big Platform And Alexa Will Own It

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Amazon Echo And Dot In Ecuador

In my last post I mentioned that I acquired an Amazon Echo and Dot Smart Speaker. I have installed the two devices and what follows are the benefits and one challenge that has developed in the last several days.

I installed the Echo in the living room next to the T.V. The Echo will pick up our voices from the living room, hall, kitchen, dining room and sun room. So far we have used the Echo to:

  • listen to our (separate) Amazon Prime Music collections
  • Kitchen times
  • News Updates
  • Calendar and todo lists
  • Manage our Capital One Account including making payments
  • Listen to Podcasts
  • Movia Trivia

The Dot which is the smaller and less expensiveversion of the Echo is paired with a Speaker and is upstairs in Sharon’s Office. She mainly uses the Dot to listen to her music but she likes the “Good Morning Command” which is has an interesting fact of a synopsis of some famous person’s life usually when it is their birthday.

So far the one challenge that the app requires a zip code so you can’t get traffic or listings of restaurants.

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