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.