Monday, August 19, 2019

Echo Auto – Alexa In My Car – And Our RV!

I finally received my invite to try Amazon’s Echo Auto – and it is very interesting. 

The easy part was connecting the Amazon Auto Echo to the car. Received it on Thursday and by Monday I was ready to teach a Mastery Class. 

Install note’s: 
  • You will need a 12 Volt outlet (formally a cigarette lighter outlet) or a USB power connection in your car. 
  • You must have the Alexa App on your phone for the initial installation of Echo Auto, then close the app. 
    • I made the mistake of having both the Alexa app and my Amazon Music app opened as I ‘assumed’ they had to be – not so. It can cause confusion. 
  • You do have to have your phone connected to the car’s Bluetooth (if you are in a car – more on this later) as this is how Echo Auto connects to the car speaker system
    • You can connect using the Audio cable which comes with the device (3.5mm to 3.5mm). 

Once connected I was on a roll. First it was playing music, “Alexa shuffle ‘Playlist name’ from Amazon Music” and she answers just like she does in the house,
Installed in a 2013 Town & Country
“Playing ‘playlist’ from Walter’s Amazon Music Account”. 


OK got the music down how about reading from my Audible account? No problem here – at least at the beginning. I mentioned the title and she picked up where I last was listening. 

From here I made a phone call, sent a text message, and received a phone call – ALL HANDS FREE. This is the neat part, I did not have to touch any device to have all my requests completed. 

Initially patience is required (should have said this in the install notes). I am not good at dictation, I just talk. Alexa, not being my wife, does not interpret well my intentions (well my wife doesn’t always get this right either 😊). The music was easy, the phone calls and text messages require me to think in advance what I want to ask Alexa to do - and then don’t change my mind in the middle of a sentence, which I tend to do. 

My worse time came with Audible. I was trying to open books and go to a specific place. I get confused and pick the wrong chapter and then must change the chapter and at one point ask to go to the beginning of a chapter. Poor Alexa, she's a trooper. 

All in the learning or in the Alexa training of Me. 

I did ask for directions and Alexa did bring up Google maps on my Android OS phone and away we went. The Voice for directions kicked in but not until after we got started. I could handle that. 

I am really liking the Echo Auto and more because it is totally hand free. 

One note: I have other auto devices and once you start the car moving you cannot make physical changes, "Do Not Touch While Car Is In Motion". If I am the only one in the car this is not really a bad thing, however, my wife is often in the car with me and I still have to stop the car to make the change. With Echo Auto there is a option for “I am the Passenger” and then the other person can make changes while moving. Still, all the changes I had to make revolved around voice, and this is a good thing. 

If something doesn’t work as planned, “Alexa Stop”, wait a bit and try again. Eventually you will get trained. 

My RV Experience. 

One thing that is not talked about by Amazon is the potential for use in other places. Over the weekend I took the device into our RV (a 5th wheel trailer) and, via the phone, connected Echo Auto to the RV and the RV’s Bluetooth system. We have power in the RV so I used the USB connection. We now have great music in the RV as well as everything else that Alexa does at home; weather, radio, music, answer questions, alarms, reminders. Without a hub we cannot connect light bulbs, but I am working on that. 

Only 5 days in and I’m liking this product. Reminds me of an old line I heard somewhere, “Don’t leave home without it”. 

A history note with Alexa. We asked for our first invite to Amazon Echo in later 2014 and we received our first Amazon Echo device in January 2015 and it still is working well in the Kitchen. We are an Amazon Echo household (or Condo-hold). Alexa is in every room (except the bathroom’s) and in some rooms there are multiple devices. We have Show, Spot, and Dots, we have stereo Dots, and Fire Stick (2), as well as a Dash. They are connected to Stereo systems, pole lamps, end table lamps, and at Christmas the decorations and railroad train. In the RV I am using the original Tap as a speaker beyond the built in Bluetooth - for outside parties and such.

Friday, January 18, 2019

One Thought On Shipping Today

Recently I have had to ship some things; first to my son and then secondly to my wife, who was traveling for business. In both cases these were items that were small and the cost of shipping using any of the current services, and particularly Overnight, Next Day - this can be costly.

In the case of our son I was going on about the qualities of a new pen I had purchased (see note at the end of this post) and what I could do with it on my Android Phone. I use a swipe keyboard and I like to sketch a lot. I use Autodesk Sketchbook on my phone and my iPad Mini, this pen is wonderful. I am extolling the virtues of the pen when I realized that the product came with two pens in the box. I said I will ship you one - he does a lot of sketching and this could come in handy. When I went to ship one I discovered two things; 1) it was cheaper to purchase the pens at Amazon (where I had made the original purchase) and have Amazon ship it, and 2) he would get it quicker.

I did this and not only saved my time, and cost, of packaging as well as the cost of USPS (which would have been cheaper than UPS or FedEx, but would have still been costly - and he got two pens as well. Great deal all the way around.

In the second case, my wife forgot to take with her the cable to charge her Motorola phone. Of course it is a USB-A to USB-C, not currently the common cable. I did a little research on Amazon and discovered one for under $7.00 with same day delivery at under $6.00. Same Day delivery, not Overnight or 2 day, Same Day. I can't ship anything Same Day. Overnight, per USPS is $24.70 to start with - don’t even mention UPS or FedEx. I ordered that cable from the Cincinnati Area and it was at the hotel in Denver later the same day. Not only do I not have to package and ship, I did it better, while having my morning coffee, and for less cost.

With today's retail competition online this will be a big hurt on the smaller Mom & Pop stores. Perhaps there needs to be an alliance of these small stores that can work with each other to provide this same kind of service. Perhaps Gift Shops should have an association where they can work with each other, for a fee for a friend of course - perhaps split the markup. It could be that or lost the sale. 

NOTE: The pens I mentioned above were Mixoo 2-in-1 Precision Disc & Fiber Stylus with Replaceable Tips for Capacitive Touch Screen Devices (Black/Blue), really unique and a pleasure to use especially if you sketch on your phone. They are available on Amazon.

They also work as a mouse on my Surface Pro, however, they will not work as the drawing pen that sketches on the computer.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Grocery Shopping Brings Back Reading of "The Long Tail" - Or Why Major Retail Grocery Could Be Having a Problem.


Shopping on Saturday recalled the book by Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail" Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More”. 

We were in Kroger late Saturday morning and there were so many items we could not locate, some of which we would have to shop for somewhere else locally, however, other items we could get online and have by Monday. Some items were only available in Private Branding. 
Check Out
What could we have purchased online

I understand Kroger (and others) are in a battle with online retailers like Amazon, Costco and Walmart, just to name those 3. Lettuce was nowhere in sight at Kroger and we would shop this at some other local retailer, but Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese? It can be purchased easily online, as can coffee, and many other products.

Once you can’t find something that should be in stock on a Saturday you start thinking this trip was not a happy one.

Now we do buy from Amazon and more recently from Costco. We have started to price research and coffee was one example. We have a Keurig and have discovered the San Francisco Bay Coffee Company and their products. We love their French Roast. Our first purchase came from a trip to Costco and when we returned we could not find exactly what we wanted. I tried Amazon Prime (2-day delivery) but their price was not right so I tried Costco online. Price at Costco was right and the delivery charge not bad on one case (if we purchased 3 cases the delivery would have been free), delivery was 2-days, we purchased one case. Second time at Costco we purchased other items , paper towels, toilet paper (things we would have normally purchased locally), got the order up to $75 and FREE shipping – oh and 2-day Delivery.

I mentioned “The Long Tail” because we can find those items online which the local Kroger (or wherever) can’t stock because the volume of sales is not there. Where the trouble starts for Kroger is when you begin to realize that it can be as much fun to shop online and not in those small aisles, where you can’t get through easily. I believe that each Kroger is stocked differently so something you cannot find at this Kroger could be in another Kroger. The computer analysis of shopping, to maximize profit, and the attempt to get consumers to buy what you have as well as your privately branded ‘stuff’.

From "The Long Tail" (I believe this makes for a good online strategy): "In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare." 

Let’s look at this scenario:  First: We, my wife and I, have been married for over 56 years, we are technically literate, and we sit at the table with our laptops, drinking coffee, laughing and talking (perhaps over breakfast), while shopping online. Pat says; “What was the price you found at Amazon? I have this price at Costco.” Then Pat says; “Why not try San Francisco Bay Coffee Company direct and see what they are selling it for?” Walter responds; “Actually the price is $1 greater but their FREE shipping is better because we do not have to buy as much.” And while we are there (online that is) my wife can make reservations for dinner tonight and text the others as to when and where. We get our second cup of coffee and then decide what we are going to do with the time.

Oh yes, we can also look at Facebook, catch up on the news, connect with the family – who live very far away. We are in touch with the world as it is today.

This is not something from a novel in the future – IT IS HAPPENING NOW! Oh, and we are not the only ones doing this, or living this life. 

Actually this was more fun
Once you start buying online, the major things, then you find the little things and 2-day
shipping is generally enough. Milk we can get at a convenience store like the 7-11, or the fuel stops that have now become more of a convenience store like Thornton’s, or Speedway. Granted they do not carry lettuce, but they do have milk and Pop (or soda depending on where you live). Hmmm…..Whole Foods carries lettuce.

Now the BIG question is; 
"Do we really need large grocery stores?
With online shopping would a store, the size of Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Trader Joe's, be all that we need? Back to Mom & Pop grocery stores. My uncle owned one when I was a kid, a long time ago, and it would work today. It was a friendly place and fun to go to.

I love the Wayfair ad where the individual says “Free Shipping, that’s a game changer.” (or something like that).

Have a WONDERFUL WEEK.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Word Press, Hmmm....Had Thoughts About Using Word Press Until This Morning

Over the years of blogging I have thought about using Word Press and the learning curve was not in my sight. Recently I have had reason to look at Word Press again - that was until today.

In the New York Times this morning. An article "Fighting Conspiracies, Sandy Hook Parent Is Thwarted by Online Policies", held, at least for me, an important piece of information.

Apparently Word Press is run by a company called Automatic and a statement from the company, showing in the article said, " Posting conspiracy theories or untrue content is not banned from WordPress.com, and unfortunately this is one of those situations."

Interestingly Google,  Facebook, and Amazon have worked to help this parent by removing false information.

I won't be moving to Word Press or using their software now. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Cutting The Cable and Surviving Very Well - Actually Enjoying!

It has been about a month now and we are having better TV than before. We have actually found local local TV we were not aware of. I have to admit initially we did not completely cut the cost however as we go along it will reduce our monthly output.

First I should say that we have been members of Amazon Prime for many years so we have had access to movies and other shows. I am a BIG documentary fan and I have watched many as a Prime member over the years.

imageAt some point the cable cost was getting out of hand so one of the first things we did was to evaluate what we watched, and it turns out we only watched a few channels that cable actually provided.  We are big fans of Food Network, HGTV, and DIY. Not sure we could live without Chopped, Triple D (Diners Drive Ins and Dives), or Bobby Flay, and then House Hunters,  Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna,  Drew and Scott of The Property Brothers, and on and on. In looking around we found we could get them all through the Sling app on Amazon Prime (for $20/month – not bad). Admittedly we do not do sports channels but they are available via Sling and others (Hulu for one).

One thing that we found was that we could very easily show up late for a show on Sling and watch from the beginning. We can also watch last night's show as well without much pain – not always easy on cable. With this last ability it was easy to give up the DVR.  In some cases we can watch a number of the same shows in a row if we are inclined. Last night it was Holmes and Holmes until we had to go to bed. 
Image result for ANTOP Digital TV Antenna Amplified Omni-directional 360°
As for ABC, NBC, CBS, we purchased an antenna and it works great. I did overspend on the antenna but in the long run that will be worthy. Since all the local TV stations are now transmitting in HD we are having great results. I know you have to be in an area where you can get the signal, and that is important. We live right outside of Cincinnati – and I mean ‘right outside’ – so we have great access via the antenna - up to 50 or 60 miles away (or so it says :) )

Actually it is so good we are now finding stations we did not know about and are able to watch, in some cases, much better TV. We have access to more PBS channels and programming than we could get on cable. 

Just wish we could get the OLD cooking shows rather than the reality shows of today. We learned from Emeril, Ina Garten, and many others. Perhaps there should be an educational cooking channel and bring back all the old episodes of Emeril, Ina Garten, Bobby Flay, and others - even Julia Child's, well, maybe. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Dear ZD-Net and others News sources that use Slideshows to present stories.

I refuse to read, follow, or look at any of your slideshows.

They are nothing but a vehicle for advertising dollars and are a waste of my time. Pages do not load waiting on ad's, material is drawn out to get more pages, and are generally a total waste of time. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A.I. and China Versus the U.S.

In this morning's New York Times, under Technology, there is an article: As China Marches Forward on A.I., the White House Is Silent. I have wondered why there has been nothing from this Whitehouse on A.I., or for that matter, any of our members of congress, on the subject of A.I.

My age old line is: "All of Washington is nothing but artificial intelligence", but that's another issue. I am aware that most in our Government, except the military, are A.I. challenged. It would appear that some in our government think Twitter is the way to go, reminding me of the story that Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

The U.S. is falling behind, as we have in the past, to what is going on in the world in Technology. It took Sputnik in October of 1957 that woke up our Government to what was happening on the Space Front.

This time it could be radically different. China is headed out in front, however, this just might be one race where winner takes all.

But, alas, our people in Washington, it would appear, are more concerned about building a wall than building a future for our country. Hmmm....perhaps we should think about building a dome.



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