Ask Alexa Anything

Alexa is Amazon’s answer to Siri the voice command assistant for your digitally connected devices. I have Alexa running on my Nexus Smartphone and recently they added the capability to my Amazon Fire TV. So now I can use my remote or smartphone and say the following to the TV and have the answers, video, music etc. displayed on my big screen HDTV. You can also use Alexa on iPads and iPhones.

  • Play a song in my Amazon Library
  • Launch a movie from Netflix
  • What’s on my calendar or to do list
  • Play a favorite music or news station from any radio station in the world
  • Read the next chapter from my Kindle book
  • What’s my flash briefing from NPR News
  • Re-order physical products you previously purchased on the Amazon website.
  • Ask Alexa to find and read information from Wikipedia
  • Tell me a joke – What do you call a Grizzly with no teeth (Ans. a gummy bear)
  • Alexa Skills -turn on skills that allow your device to tell you about upcoming concerts in your city or play math games with you.

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Hey Siri

Raise your hand if you use Siri on your IOS device (iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple Watch) I see lots of hands raised 🙂 If you have an hour to spare you can watch the very popular and informative “IOS Today” video podcast.  They devote the whole episode to Siri Tips.

A word of caution Leo Laporte the cohost and founder of The Twit Network is quite loquacious. The tips start at 9:00 into the podcast.  Enjoy.

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Siri vs.Ok Google vs.Cortana

Cortana the new voice assistant for Microsoft smartphones is now available on Android phones and will be available for IOS devices later this year. In Feb. of this year I compared Siri with Google Now

Although Cortana gets high marks on Windows phones, the interface is still in Beta on my Nexus and it was slow and not as accurate as Siri or OK Google. Here are my new findings:

  • Different Voices – Siri is the winner
  • Immediate  Voice Activation – OK Google
  • Sense of Humor – Siri for sure –
  • Faster and more accurate findings – Google Now

You can see a good video on he 3 voice assistants here

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Ecuador: Siri vs. Ok Google

For the benefit of the uninitiated Siri is the voice activated search assistant for IOS and “Ok Google” is the counterpart for the Android world. Since I have an iPad and a Nexus 5 I can compare the identical searches.  Below are the searches and results.

  • Who is the Foreign Minister of Ecuador – OK Google gave me the correct audio answer and Siri sent me to Wikipedia
  • What is the temperature in Cuenca, Ecuador – Ok Google gave me the 5 day forecast and Siri gave me the temperature in Quito
  • How many provinces are there in Ecuador – Both assistants sent me to Wikipedia
  • How far is it to Fabiano’s Restaurante. Ok Google gave me the distance from my house and the traveling time and Siri was totally lost even though I have Locations Services activated.
  • What is the best hotel in Cuenca, Ecuador – OK, Google likes Mansion Alcazar and Siri said” I can’t look for hotels in Ecuador”

Ok, I know these were 5 random questions that were skewed towards my experience in Cuenca. I’m sure Siri performs much better when the questions are U.S. centric. However, I think Ok Google because of its’s association with the apps that support Google Now is a much better assistant than Sir. What’s your opinion?

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Do You Have A Personal Assistant?

Today I was walking on Remegio Crespo when a couple asked me if I knew my way around. They asked me where La Fornace Restaurant was located. They were tourists from Idaho and we quickly found a common ground since my wife is from Idaho. I told them that the Restaurant was about 3/4 mile away but that I thought they could get a better meal at Tutto Matto. I didn’t know if the Restaurant was open so I took out my Nexus 5 and said “OK Google” (The Android Personal Assistant). I then asked the personal assistant if the Restaurant was open. It took me to Tutto Matto’s Facebook Page and we all found out that the Restaurant was closed on Monday. “Wow” was the reply of the tourists. Google Now works in Ecuador- unfortunately Siri the personal assistant on the iPhone does not work with the maps section of Ecuador.

Siri does work very well with commands like setting alarms, sending texts, finding songs etc. I find that Google Now works much better with informational items like “What is the name of the Secretary of State Of the U.S.”

Cortana is the name of the Personal Assistant on the Windows Phone but I have  no personal experience against Siri or Google Now.

A lot depends on the noise level of the street when using your Personal Assistant but I find Google Now invaluable in a quiet setting when I need instant information.

You can see a  CNET Video of Sir and Google Now compared here

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Smartphones: What To Do Before, During And After A Possible Theft

2 days ago I had my 1 month old Nexus 5 stolen on the streets of Cuenca. First and foremost it can happen to anyone in any city in the world. Second, I was not hurt and learned some valuable lessons.

Before:

Petty theft and especially smartphone theft is on the rise in Cuenca. Petty theft (under $600 ) is not prosecuted in Ecuador. Here are some thoughts and observances based on my 3+ years in Ecuador.

  • Never, answer your phone on a bus. And carry the phone in your purse or front pocket and switch it to vibrate.
  • Try and have all four direction in view and stand against a wall if possible when using your smartphone
  • Texting in a high traffic area is just asking for someone to snatch your phone
  • Wear a bluetooth headphone to avoid run by snatchings
  • When using a BT headset use “Google Now” on Android and “Siri” on iPhones to make your calls
  • *** Very important*** On iPhones install the “Find My iPhone” App
  • *** Very important*** On Android Phones use the “Android Device Manager”
  • Write down the serial number of your phone in a safe place

During:

Fortunately, I was not hurt during the theft. So here our some simple guidelines.

  • Don’t fight. Give the punk the phone
  • Don’t run after him
  • Look for facial characteristics. There are mug shots available in the police station.

After: (In Cuenca)

  • Have someone call 911 in the area – I was fortunate a family picked me up in their SUV and called the police
  • ***Very important*** Do not cancel your Claro or Movistar plan right away
  • Go home and use one of the tracking device to see where your phone is
  • Lock your phone using the tracking device
  • If uninjured go to the Fiscalia (Police Station) at Paucamaba
  • If injured go to Fiscalia at the Airport – They have mug shots there.
  • Fill out the Denuncia form – Totally in Spanish so have a friend or a facilitator there.
  • Check with Moviestar or Claro in the next couple of weeks to see if the their was stupid enough to register your phone.

Final Thoughts:

Are you at extra risk in Ecuador carrying a smartphone? Absolutely! Life is risk. For me the pleasure and rewards for owning a smarthphone outweigh the risks. Will phone theft happen to me again? Will I run after the Ladron. Nunca!!!

 

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