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 World’s Most Innovative Companies (2017)

Pop quiz CTL. How many did you get in the top 10. This is the list that Fast Company announces each year.  Drum Roll please. The Number One company is Amazon. Would you believe 42 million prime users?  A superb article about Amazon and more specifically Jeff Bezos is here

Here were some interesting additions to the list

  • Go Fund Me
  • Casper
  • Mail Chimp
  • Chobani

Which companies did you find interesting?

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One Heck Of A Paradigm Shift – Amazon Go

A paradigm shift is defined as a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions. Standing in line at a supermarket cashier to pay is the way all of us understand and have practiced for years. For me its over 50 years of shopping and standing in line.

My conservative estimate is that I have spent 10 days of my life standing in line to pay. Amazon Go is going to change that paradigm at least for Supermarkets.

What do you think of this new paradigm?

 

Nexus 6 Smartphone 64 gb On Sale

Very limited sale on the Nexus 6 Smartphone 64 gb. It’s selling for $299. I purchased mine on sale 3 months ago for $399 and I thought I got a deal because the original price was $699. Run, don’t walk to Amazon.com

Best smartphone I have owned. The only down side is that it is a phablet. 6 inch phone and on the heavy side. I love the camera and speed.

sm and me

 

Google Photos

Google Photos recently updated its desktop,Android and IOS app.  Google Photos is easier to use, has more capabilities and offers almost unlimited storage via Google Drive. A slight advantage over the IOS(Apple) app where you pay for storage over 5gb on iCloud. By no means is Google Photos a professional editor but for the casual Smartphone user this is a pleasant addition. The desktop version allow you to upload photos from your hard drives and sd cards.

I have two other redundant but very useful backup services. When I take a photo on my smartphone it automatically backs up to Flickr and Amazon Photos. 

Google_Photos_-_All_your_photos_organized_and_easy_to_find

 

What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador ( Part 6 )

It’s now a year since I wrote Part 5 and my wife and I have lived in Ecuador for 3.5 years.  This post is largely subjective based on my usage and mistakes in Cuenca.

This advice is meant for those on a limited budget and not bringing a container to Ecuador. I am going to start with the most important device and work by way down to the small items that you can’t find or that are expensive in Ecuador.

Smartphone: Invest in an unlocked Nexus 6 or iPhone 6+. These are relatively large phones sometimes called Phablets but they will be your best techonology friend in Ecuador. I also suggest you buy a data plan. In Cuneca I pay $32 a month for minutes and data and never run out of either one.  Below are some uses other than voice and texting.

  • Maps and directions
  • Photo and video ( I haven’t used my expensive Canon in 4 months)
  • Easy Taxi – requesting taxis at night and in bad weather
  • Learning Spanish (Translate, SpanishDict, Duolingo)
  • Music listening ( Amazon complete music library)
  • Netflix (watching movies)
  • Playing Bridge

Tablet: I have the iPad Mini w/ retina screen but I can highly recommend the Nexus 7. I recommend the larger tablets ( The iPad Air is an excellent choice) if you are not going to bring your computer.  I’m sticking to my recommendation of not bringing a computer if you don’t need it for business or serious photo/video editing. A large tablet with a bluetooth keyboard will be powerful and very portable.

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
  • Roku 3
  • Amazon Fire TV

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 ) wirellessly to your TV. Important note ***. To fully utilize these services you need to purchase a VPN (virtual private network) Router. I use the Sabai Cisco router because of the excellent technical support. I go to great lengths to describe the challenges of watching TV/Movies in Ecuador. I recommend using the search facility on this blog and typing in “VPN” and you will see several posts with recommendations.

Google just came out with their own streaming box called Nexus Player but I haven’t seen enough reviews to recommend buying that device.

Miscellaneous recommendations:

  • Netflix subscription- $9 per month – Invaluable
  • Amazon Prime subscription $8.25 per month – (Music, Movies, Books, Unlimited Photo Storage(
  • Bluetooth keyboard for your tablet or smarthone
  • Thumb drives (32 gb) for transferring information or bring data to be printed
  • VPN subscription  – I use Strong VPN and it’s about $8 a month
  • Skype subscription – Free Video Calls to other Skype users.
  • MagicJack – Practically free phone calls to any cell or landline in the U.S.

Some of the subscribers of this blog have great success with Ooma. It’s  worth a look for cheap and dependable calls back to the U.S.

Again this are my recommendations based on my experience. I haven’t used my DVD player in 2 months and my camera in 4 months.  Save the room in your suitcases for good sheets and towels  🙂

 

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Unlimited Photo Storage With Amazon Prime

Amazon has added yet another perk for Amazon Prime subscribers. Starting on Tuesday, the company will make Prime Photo available for all Prime Subscribers, which means you can store an unlimited number of photos in Amazon’s cloud without additional charges.

If you have a iPhone or Android phone all your photos can automatically be backed up to the Amazon Cloud. Now that phone cameras have 8 + megapixel cameras it’s great to have a repository for your videos and photos. I just started using the service today. The one weakness I see is that there doesn’t seem to be a search facility. I’ll report back in a week to let you know if Amazon is replacing my Flickr account.

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Need A Tablet?

Now why would the founder of the Cuenca iPad Users Group suggest that you purchase a Amazon Tablet? I have committed this blog to being platform agnostic. Amazon is going through some blips in their stock price. They are one of tech titans but for a limited time they are offering a great price on two of their tablets. Don’t get me wrong I think that any of the iPads are top of the line and you could do no wrong buying any of the iPad models, but the iPads are pricey.

 

Kindle Fire HDX 7″ Tablet is $179

 

Fire HD 6″ Tablet is $99

 

Below are some trusted video reviews. If I was buying another table I would spend the extra $79 ang get the Fire HDX for the Mayday feature. Amazon guarantees 15 second live video help with any problem.

Fire HDX review

Fire  HD 6 review

 

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Watching TV In Cuenca – Revisited

Technology changes every day and TV Watching in Cuenca is no exception. Last year I wrote this post. I have revised and changed some prices and and added a few recommendations. The revisions are in bold and the new products have *** before them.

 

In April of 2012 I wrote a post about our TV services in Cuenca. A lot has changed in 18 months. We no longer have DirecTV and now our TV viewing is based on the following services.

I have installed a VPN Router. For the non geeks in the audience my VPN router came fromSabai Technology

This router basically is configured with VPN software and every time I  turn my computer, iPad, iPhone or Apple TV my Internet presence is in Miami and not in Ecuador. This allows me to watch anything on the web, Netflix, Amazon, Hula etc as if I was living in the U.S.

You also need to subscribe to VPN software. I use Strong VPN as my service. Good customer support and very reliable.

Summary of Costs:

  • One Time Cost: VPN Router $150
  • Yearly VPN subscription $90
  • Monthly Netflix Subscription: $8 – Now $9
  • Yearly Amazon Prime Subscription $70 – Now $99
  • One Time Cost  Apple TV – $99
  • One Time Cost Roku Box – $90

My monthly costs including the amortized hardware is about $25 per month

Pros:

  • No configuration of VPN software
  • All your devices are connected
  • Full Netflix and Amazon Prime Video collection available to you >10K titles
  • Watch any TV website on the Internet

Cons:

  • Initial Expense
  • Yearly recurring fee
  • Slight loss of Internet connection speed

I highly recommend this route. We watch great BBC and American TV series with no limitation.

*** Amazon Prime is now better than ever. They have added all the HBO Season 1 Shows and many more movies.

*** Netflix has added more movies and solid original productions like House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black

*** Amazon has come out with a Streaming Box similar to Roku and Apple TV called Amazon Fire TV. The initial reviews are excellent

 

On a separate note. A quick reminder that I do Skype consulting for those of you that are permanently moving to Ecuador. The charge is $25 and last night a happy future expat said that after the call she saved $150 by planning to bring certain electronics and eliminating others.

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