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The Amazon Echo Show is here

Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Amazon Echo Show, Cool Stuff, Echo Show, Featured, Video | 1 comment

The Amazon Echo Show is here

If you think of cool gadgets that actually make life better, the last decade was dominated by Apple, The iPhone and the iPad. There was actual excitement at the prospect of their new products. People would watch Steve Jobs announce the new products. It feels like we are in a golden age of Amazon. It began with Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot & Amazon Tap and now the Amazon Echo Show is here.

The jury’s out on the Echo Look, but the announcement of the Amazon Echo Show has people genuinely excited about an electronic product. Well, I’m excited, at least…

WHAT IS THE AMAZON ECHO SHOW?

It’s not a program about the Amazon Echo. Nope. The Amazon Echo Show is an Amazon Echo with a screen.

The Amazon Echo Show adds a visual interface and activity to many of the cool things you do with the Amazon Echo.

Create video flash briefings. Interface with your security cameras and the standard shopping and to-do lists.

They’ve finally made a way to connect to others with Amazon Echo devices, so you can make video calls with the Amazon Show or audio calls to anyone with an Echo or Amazon Dot. Make “Echo to Echo” calls. Stupid cool, right?!

The Amazon Echo Show displays lyrics of songs that are playing from Amazon Music.

Our Echo speaker sounds great, but the Amazon Show speaker has speakers with Dolby (Dobly. Any Spinal Tap fans?) processing.

As mentioned, the Amazon Echo Show interfaces with many security cameras, like Ring as well as baby monitors. It’s compatible with home devices – thermostats and lights and more from WeMo, ecobee, Philips Hue, and such and so forth and more…

For the tinfoil hat folks, it has EIGHT count ‘em, EIGHT microphones, something called “beam forming technology” and noise cancellation. The literature from Amazon says “Echo Show hears you from any direction—even while music is playing.” Call Alex Jones and some Black Helicopters and we’ll all have a party in a FEMA camp as the device will learn from you and your habits and continue to add features.

You can still use all the cool and pointless skills and IFTTT features.

AND IT’S GOT A FRICKIN’ SCREEN!!!

Create photo galleries on Amazon Photo and then call up your galleries “Alexa, show my photos.”

NEW FEATURES

A great new feature is to use the Alexa app to send a message or call to your device at home. And… calling and messaging is FREE!

THE FUTURE

Is here. SNEAKY PETE RULES. So does CATASTROPHE.

The Amazon Echo Show is available now for 229.99.

THAT’S 230 BUCKS AMAZON! YOU CAN’T FOOL ME!

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12 Top Rated Amazon Echo Compatible Devices That Don’t Require a Hub

Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Cool Stuff, Guest Post, WeGravy.com | 0 comments

12 Top Rated Amazon Echo Compatible Devices That Don’t Require a Hub

About the author: James Farmer is a contributor at WeGravy, a product curation website that discovers the best products on Amazon.

Note: This list only features the best no hub required smart devices compatible with Amazon Echo / Alexa with at least 4/5 stars and 40+ reviews on Amazon. All featured reviews were written by verified purchasers. Product selections are 100% our own – we do not accept sponsored placements.

If you’re serious about building a fully integrated smart home, at some point you’ll need to invest in a hub so that all of your devices can work in unison. But for the rest of us who just want to make a few things easier around the house, a complicated setup isn’t necessary. These top-rated devices are all compatible with Amazon Echo and Alexa – and since none of them require a hub, all you need to do is install them, connect to your wifi network, and speak your commands.

Lighting

1. iHoan Smart LED Light Bulbs


Average rating:
4.0/5 stars (75+ reviews)
Reviewers say: “Really cool bulbs. When you hold it in your hand you can tell it is well made. Feels very sturdy and has some weight to it. Not just a flimsy bulb. Connection to app is very easy over WIFI. Once connect to WIFI you can connect the bulbs to your Echo. You can turn them on and off as well as change the color/intensity through your Echo. Very easy to set up and use. App is user friendly and easy to navigate. You can have multiple bulbs and control them together or separately by naming them. Can’t wait to buy more for other rooms in my house.”

NOTE: As of this writing, these bulbs aren’t available 🙁

2. Leviton Universal LED Dimmer


Average rating: 4.3/5 stars (45+ reviews)
Reviewers say: “Hooked up easily and worked perfectly upon installation. The app took a bit of coaxing but it is up and running well now. Great Item, works seamlessly with my Alexa! First dimmer Wifi switches I have found. Nice it come with a white and beige switch. I will be purchasing more of these.”

3. Leviton Plug-In Dimmer (no wiring or installation required)

Average rating: 4.3/5 stars (45+ reviews)
Reviewers say: “This took my Alexa to another level. I don’t know anything about electrical wiring so I was really excited to find this plug in. So now my Alexa can control my lights as well. Was very easy to setup, plug in, download the app, add the device…easy. The other awesome thing I didn’t realize when I bought this was it can also be set up on a schedule.”

Outlets

4. TP-Link Smart Plug Mini

Average rating: 4.1/5 stars (6,000+ reviews)
Reviewers say: “I’ve been using this plug for about a month and it has worked perfectly each and every time I’ve used it from its own app (Kasa) and through Alexa. I have turned it on when I have been away from home through Kasa and the light was shining bright when I returned home. The Kasa app is very easy to use; setting up the plug took a couple of minutes. Pairing with Alexa was a breeze. Just follow the simple instructions for both and don’t plow ahead like you already know everything (then complain it’s not intuitive). I plan to buy 3 more. Can’t recommend this plug enough.”
5. WeMo Mini Smart Plug

Average rating: 4.4/5 stars (2,000+ reviews)
Reviewers say: “This smart switch is a neat way to control your electric devices via your phone, tablet, or through voice with Alexa. There is a decorative salt lamp in my living room that has the switch on the cord. Before Wemo Mini I had to get down on my knees and reach under a table to turn it on. Now all I have to do is say “Alexa, Salt Lamp On” and she turns it on for me!”
6. Leviton Smart WiFi Plug-in Outlet


Average rating: 4.3/5 stars (45+ reviews)

Reviewers say: “Set-up was really easy. I plugged in the unit to the outlet, plugged in the lamp cord, downloaded the Leviton App and followed the instructions on the app. The entire process took less that 5 minutes. Once the app/device was set up I went to the Alexa app and linked the plug-in. This too was very easy. Now all i have to do is tell Alexa to turn on/off the lights and voila, it does. I also liked the ability to set up timed events on the Leviton app. Now if have the lights go on/off when I am away so people think there is someone home.”

Temperature Control

7. Nest Learning Thermostat

Average rating: 4.6/5 stars (11,000+ reviews)
Reviewers say: “My simple review follows that of many others, it’s easy to setup, intuitive and looks good. The home and away functions have saved us about half the runtime on our unit. I was worried the Nest would not be as useful as the honeywell or ecobee, however it is just as full featured, in a smoother looking package. Paired with an extremely stable and reliable app, which adds energy tracking by hour and by day, it’s everything I wanted in a new thermostat, without the old boring rectangular thermostat look.”
8. Ecobee Thermostat

Average rating: 4.4/5 stars (3,500+ reviews)
Reviewers say: “I did my research before buying a “smart” thermostat and Ecobee beat out all the others for features and reviews. I have been satisfied ever since. I was able to install it and program it myself and I love the easy access to it through my smartphone. The sensors are small and discrete and can be placed anywhere in a room. They can also be moved to other locations in the same room or other rooms if necessary.”
9. Sensi Smart Thermostat

Average rating: 4.2/5 stars (3,000+ reviews)
Reviewers say: “I wanted an inexpensive wi-fi enabled thermostat for vacation cottages so I could adjust temperature settings from home prior to arrival. I had no need for anything like geo-fencing, room occupancy sensing, complex schedules, etc, etc. This Sensi thermostat has worked perfectly for my needs. Install was quick/easy using the downloaded app instructions and I have had absolutely no problems with wi-fi or server connectivity following two separate installations.”

Other Devices

10. Ooma Telo VoIP Phone System

Average rating: 4.5/5 stars (350+ reviews)
Reviewers say: “My ooma has probably been one of my favorite purchases. I get my “landline” with a 911 address for a mere $5 a month. I haven’t had any problems when changing features on my account, I just call and tell them what I want and it’s taken care of. Out of the box it was pretty much plug and play. The instructions were super easy to understand and it was up and going in about 5 minutes, the longest part of the process was me getting to choose which phone number I wanted! I have recommended ooma to several people who also love it over other voip services.”
11. Haiku Smart Ceiling Fan

Average rating: 4.5/5 stars (110+ reviews)
Reviewers say: “It’s expensive, but is worth the money to me. Looks great, operates flawlessly. No noise, no wobbles, consumes very low power. I can control it via my Amazon echo, which I use all the time. I put this fan above my indoor hot tub, so it’s nice being able to change the fan speed as I’m sitting in the hot tub simply by telling Alexia to adjust the fan speed.”
12. Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller

Average rating: 4.7/5 stars (1,200+ reviews)
Reviewers say: “Installation was a breeze and the app walked me through set up very easy. I also use Alexa and this system integrated easily with Alexa. I love the ability to water a zone from Alexa or from the app. No need to ever get to the actual box. I recommend this product to anyone that is looking to upgrade their system.”

We may receive a commission on sales from links on this page.

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The Amazon Echo Killer is finally here

Posted by on Feb 18, 2017 in Amazon Dot, Amazon Echo, Amazon Tap, Cool Stuff, Cost, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Amazon Echo Killer is finally here

The Amazon Echo Killer is finally here! It’s called… The Amazon Tap!

“The deuce you say, Amazonecho.tech!?! How could Amazon.com possibly kill its own amazing product with another similar product?! You must be joking!”

No, dear reader, I would not joke with you. Well… not about this. Nope.

Here’s the dealio: The Amazon Tap now has a “hands free mode.” What does this mean? It means you can say to your Amazon Tap… the device that costs nearly 50 bucks less than the Amazon Echo “Alexa, ask for a fart!” just like the Amazon Echo or Amazon Dot. It functions basically the same as the Amazon Echo. That’s what this means.

The only difference is that the “wake word” on the Amazon Tap can only be “Alexa.” You can’t use “Computer” or “Echo” only “Alexa.” If you live in a house where someone is named “Alexa” then you might be screwed (or a google home customer). But, that seems like a small price to pay literally $49 for the hands free mode on your Amazon Tap.

The Amazon Tap has a 9 hour battery life. NINE HOURS! Some people have been pairing their device with their smart phone hotspot and taking their Taps along in their cars. Pretty cool, if you ask me. With the battery life of 9 hours, that is definitely do-able. Though, if you order a pizza or something, it will be delivered to your home, not where you are. Amazon isn’t tracking your location. Not yet, at least. Yes, Amazon is competing with Google (and winning, if you ask me) but not in the “scary overlord of doom” category.

To enable hands-free mode on your Amazon Tap, in the Alexa app:

  1. Open the left navigation panel, and then select Settings.
  2. Under Alexa Devices, select your Amazon Tap device.
  3. Select Hands-free Mode to toggle the hands free feature.

You can read about the cool “Computer” wake word here.


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Amazon Echo’s newest wake word

Posted by on Jan 29, 2017 in Amazon Dot, Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo How To, Amazon Tap, Cool Stuff, Fun Stuff, Star Trek, Stupid Alexa Tricks, Stupid Echo Tricks, Wake Word, Weird Stuff | 0 comments

Amazon Echo’s newest wake word

Amazon Echo’s newest wake word on its five year mission to seek out new worlds… oh, wait… Sorry.

Amazon Echo’s newest wake word is “Computer” as in… “Computer, set a course for home…” and we zoom in on Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

This is more silly fun that the geniuses at Amazon have added. Give it a try:
Go to your Alexa App and select “Settings”, then select the device you’re going to edit. (I’ve selected “Mighty Dot”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, scroll down and select “Wake Word.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That will give you the option of the previous two wake words “Alexa” and “Echo” as well as the super cool “Computer.”

The obvious drawback is similar to having an Amazon Echo device if someone in your household is named “Alexa” – Every time you say the word “Computer” your Amazon Echo or Amazon Dot begins waiting for you to issue some command. If you’re in a room where you say “Computer” a lot, be prepared to hear Alexa say “Hmmm… I wasn’t able to understand the question I heard.” or some variation of that.

But, there are already fun Star Trek easter eggs.

Try one of these with your Amazon Echo or Amazon Dot:

“Computer, beam me up.”

“Computer, Tea, Earl Grey, hot.”

“Computer, set phasers to kill!”

It’s your turn. Boldly go and set your Amazon Echo‘s wake word to “Computer” and have a (phaser) blast!


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Amazon Dots are available on Groupon

Posted by on Jan 17, 2017 in Amazon Dot, Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo Wish List, Sold Out | 1 comment

Amazon Dots are available on Groupon

If you’re bummed about having to wait until late January 2017 to pick up an Amazon Echo or Amazon Dot, bum no more as Amazon Dots are available. Check out Groupon for Amazon Dots as well as Amazon Echos. (They should be on the main page. If not, do a search.)

You can also pick up a Certified Refurbished Amazon Echo on Amazon.com.

Speaking of cool stuff… if you have a couple hundred extra bucks to drop, try the Bose Soundlink II Mini bluetooth speaker. From what I’ve read, it is a great fit with the Amazon Dot. Amazon used to bundle the two. I think they don’t now as there are no Amazon Dots available until the end of January. (See workaround above!)

That’s all. This is a quickie.

Rock on!


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Amazon Music Unlimited on the Echo

Posted by on Oct 14, 2016 in Amazon Dot, Amazon Echo, Amazon Tap, Cool Stuff, Fun Stuff, Music, Services | 0 comments

Amazon Music Unlimited on the Echo

Though I’m a Spotify guy, the new service, Amazon Music Unlimited, is whispering sweet nothings to me and my Amazon Echo and Amazon Dot.

If you’d told a teenaged me that there would be a day when I could sit in my living room and say “play Tales from Topographic Oceans” and my living room would immediately be filled with said musical insanity I would say “you, sir or madam, are talking as crazy as Steve Howe and Jon Anderson talked when they ‘composed’ those three sides of prog madness.” But… the time is here. I can say “Alexa, play the album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” and another drug fueled exploration of who knows what will annoy my family and make me feel young again.

The problem with this concept is that there are now at least SEVERAL companies offering this service on the Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot and Amazon Tap.

Most recently, wise Amazon Prime subscribers were notified about Amazon Music Unlimited.

It’s basically Amazon’s version of Spotify. They have millions of songs on tap and when you select Amazon Music Unlimited as your main service, it will play back any song you want. Even prog rock. Marillion anyone?

Here are the details:

Amazon Music Unlimited is only $3.99 on a single device or $7.99 or $79 a year on EVERY device… that includes your smartphone, tablet, smart refrigerator, pacemaker… (okay maybe not the pacemaker… you understand)

If you are not an Amazon Prime subscriber it’s an extra $2 a month.

Amazon is going to roll out the family plan, which will be $14.99 and include all the services for up to SIX family members. That’s pretty cool.

Here’s my complaint: why all the “99s” people? How about just pricing it at Fifteen Bucks, eh? I know that in the marketing world, $14.99 seems like a better deal than $15 to our weird consumer lizard brains, but, really.

The family plan will, like the multi-device plan, have an annual price of $149. Or $150 if they were really cool at Amazon.

Speaking of really cool, there is an EXPANDED VERSION of Tales From Topographic Oceans. Years ago, I spent a month listening to nothing but the Expanded Version of Miles Davis’

Bitches Brew and nearly lost my mind.

Don’t be that guy. Or gal. Or lady.


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Amazon Echo Listening

Posted by on Sep 19, 2016 in Amazon Dot, Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo Skills, Amazon Tap, Innovation, Learning, Paranoia, Push Notifications, Weird Stuff | 0 comments

Amazon Echo Listening

If you are prone to paranoia, the idea of the Amazon Echo listening in so it’s ready to respond at the drop of an “Alexa” or “Echo”, might be disconcerting. Convenience sometimes requires privacy. One must trust that your Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot or Amazon Tap listens for the wake word “Alexa”, “Echo” or “Amazon.” and your home isn’t being monitored by the NSA or some other subterfuge.

According to TechCrunch, your Amazon device may soon be speaking without a prompt. Don’t worry, it won’t say “that dress makes you look chunky, sweetheart” or “your blog about the Amazon Echo is stupid” or other helpful observations. Though, that might be a nice skill, the Amazon Echo device will merely be able to speak and signal push notifications.

For example, if you’ve used your Amazon Dot or Amazon Echo to get an Uber, the device will notify you of the Uber’s position. This could also be used for other deliveries… pizza, groceries, etc.

Sure, your every move is being tracked by your mobile phone, but no one’s listening in.

No… really.

Hmmm…


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Things That Can’t Be Done with an Amazon Echo device

Posted by on Sep 2, 2016 in Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo How To, Amazon Echo Wish List, Cool Stuff, Features, Learning, Stupid Alexa Tricks, Stupid Echo Tricks | 0 comments

Things That Can’t Be Done with an Amazon Echo device

I ordered a buttload of toilet paper this week using my Amazon Echo (there is a special until September 9 – “Alexa, order quilted Northern toilet paper”,) but, and I know this seems crazy: There are things that can’t be done with an Amazon Echo device.

Stop cursing me. Don’t kill the messenger. I’m just telling it like it is, people!

My biggest disappointment is that, since they operate independently from one another, synchronizing music throughout the house with multiple devices doesn’t work. The Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot & Amazon Tap go independently to “the cloud” for their content. So, it’s not like a “dummy” bluetooth speaker with an external controller.

I learned this when I purchased an Amazon Dot and was severely disappointed. Sure, a fine problem to have but COME ON!!!

There are other equally first-world problems that you might encounter with a second Echo device.

If you have a home (or apartment?) with enough space and you have enough money or want to abuse your credit, you can have up to a dozen Echo devices hooked in to your Amazon account. That’s 12.

The first thing I did was to switch the Amazon Dot’s trigger word to Echo instead of Alexa. We don’t have a 12 room mansion, so if I was in the living room and said “Alexa, play King’s X Gretchen Goes To Nebraska” the Amazon Echo in the bedroom would “overhear” and it was MADNESS!!!

Go to your settings for the specific device in your app. You have the option to change the wake word to “Alexa”, “Amazon” or “Echo.”

I tried to get them to trigger each other in an endless loop. “Echo: Simon says ‘Alexa Simon says Echo simon says Alexa simon says'” That would’ve been great. Ah well.

Speaking of settings. When you set up your 2nd device, most of the settings from the 1st device will transfer. Flash briefings, Google calendar, music, skills, profiles, any smart home devices, etc. It’s a nice feature that Amazon has rained down upon their loyal citizens! Your To-Do lists and Shopping lists ARE synchronized, between devices. So a servant in one of your many rooms can get your to-do list and get your chauffeur to take him around to do your bidding.

The great thing about those lists is that they’re also viewable on the web as well.

Timers, however, do NOT work over multiple devices. You need to set those individually. This makes sense. In our imaginary 12 room mansion, we don’t want everyone waking up at 6 am to check their portfolios. Some of us may want to sleep in, right? Right.

Having a bunch of Echo devices, while ultimately unnecessary, is a cool thing and Amazon has made things intuitive and simple.

All we want in this house, however, is to be able to play the same music on multiple devices.

Is that too much to ask? Really?!?


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Amazon Echo is raining cats & dog jokes

Posted by on Jul 25, 2016 in Amazon Dot, Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo Skills, Fun Stuff, Stupid Alexa Tricks, Stupid Echo Tricks | 0 comments

Amazon Echo is raining cats & dog jokes

At least 3 times a day, I’ll think to myself “I want to hear a dog joke!” or “If I were single, I’d have 11 cats and I would want to know cat jokes to tell the postman when he tries to avoid me.” Dog jokes and cat jokes are great and wonderful. Once again, your Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot or Amazon Tap can do something great and wonderful: Tell you cat and dog jokes on demand!

It’s not even a skill you need to install. You just say…

Alexa, tell me a dog joke.

…or…

Alexa, tell me a cat joke.

…and booya – you will be rolling on the floor with laughter and joy. (I exaggerate to clarify.)

Of course, there are more productive things to do with your Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot or Amazon Tap… what they are, I have no idea.

KIDDING – Here is a list from Amazon with all sorts of cool, fun and productive things to try. https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201608460

We’re so happy with our Echo & Dot and we’re not alone: Others are so happy with their Dots, that Amazon has sold out of Dots. Good for them!

The one flaw with the jokes from the Amazon Echo that seems easy to correct would be to allow a little more space between the joke question and the joke answer. Right now, it’s like listening to a riddle from someone who is so bad at telling jokes that they blurt it all out as fast as they can. Alexa sounds like an insecure robot… a paranoid android, anyone?

Radiohead aside, it’s a minor glitch in an otherwise pointless and silly skill from some genius out there in the world.

Q: What do you call a cat that gets anything it wants?
A: Purrr-suasive.

Did you notice that I didn’t use any pun about “going to the dogs?”
Well, I didn’t. So there.

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Big Nerds release videos

Posted by on Jul 9, 2016 in Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo Skills, Cool Stuff, Learning | 0 comments

Big Nerds release videos

Big Nerds live on the smart side of life. If you’re a person who lives on the smart side of life (not me, thank you!), you might very well be interested in learning how to develop Alexa Skills.

Here’s the one I would develop:
“Alexa, without nagging, please get my son to brush his teeth better.”

Here are the first two videos from Big Nerd Ranch showing us how to develop Alexa Skills.

Thanks, Big Nerds!!

Visit Big Nerd Ranch right now!!

Developing Alexa Skills – YouTube Playlist

Until Alexa bio-interfaces with my family, I’ll have to settle for learning how to make it do stuff like find playlists on Spotify and stuff like that. Can it do that? Anyone?


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