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Echo/Alexa OT

Rice Eater

Member
Oct 26, 2017
937
Got a Echo dot and have had a lot of fun using it. I already have a Fire TV and I spent a lot of time just trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. I already have a subscription to Hulu Live so it was fun to change channels with my voice. Being able to switch between different apps is pretty cool. I even really enjoy naming old movies and seeing if it pops up on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon video. I also bought a Smart bulb and have been using that to voice control turning it off and on as well as dimming it.

Overall it's been a pretty cool experience but it has a couple of drawbacks that really bug me. The inability to turn off the TV and to ask for specific videos on YouTube because Amazon and Google aren't cool really sucks. The first part can be fixed eventually I guess, the 2nd part may never happen because I don't see how Google and Amazon make up anytime soon.
 

MrKlaw

Member
Oct 25, 2017
8,670
surprised Fire TV can't turn the TV off. You can get a harmony hub but thats a pricy thing just to turn the TV off
 

Rice Eater

Member
Oct 26, 2017
937
Echo should be able to though. I figure it's just up to Amazon to make that fix.

Quick story, my echo dot was free. My wife won it from a Xmas party last year but we didn't open it till recently. I liked it and decided to spend 50 on a Google Home Mini to compare it to. I love how much more control the Echo Dot gives me over the Fire TV compared to how little the Mini does for me with the Chromecast Ultra. But at least the Mini can turn my TV off and on. With the Echo Dot I can turn on my TV, but I have to open a specific app. And obviously I can't turn off the TV as I stated. So I'm hoping Amazon eventually makes that fix because I don't see why Alexa can't do it but the Google Assistant can.
 

MrKlaw

Member
Oct 25, 2017
8,670
can the fire TV turn the TV off if you use the remote control for it? The Fire TV would need to actually turn the TV off using HDMI-CEC. The echo has no direct control without an app to talk to.

If the Fire TV can turn the TV off, then the echo needs updating to talk to it properly (possibly Fire TV needs an update to listen too). If Fire TV can't turn the TV off, then it'll need updating to add that
 

toythatkills

Member
Oct 26, 2017
694
London, UK
I tried using Alexa with Amazon Music Unlimited, and every time I wanted to listen to IDLES she would play me Billy Idol.

I tried using Alexa with Deezer and for some reason shuffling songs by The Oh Sees (a band with 100+ songs on Deezer) finds precisely one track, plays it, then tells me there are no more tracks. It cannot play playlists. When I try to play IDLES it plays some anime shit, unless I literally spell out "I D L E S" which works 40% of the time or so.

Does Spotify actually work or shall I just quit trying to enjoy music on this thing? I have no idea if Alexa is just shit or if it's a problem with shitty music services.
 

pantsattack

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,647
I tried using Alexa with Amazon Music Unlimited, and every time I wanted to listen to IDLES she would play me Billy Idol.

I tried using Alexa with Deezer and for some reason shuffling songs by The Oh Sees (a band with 100+ songs on Deezer) finds precisely one track, plays it, then tells me there are no more tracks. It cannot play playlists. When I try to play IDLES it plays some anime shit, unless I literally spell out "I D L E S" which works 40% of the time or so.

Does Spotify actually work or shall I just quit trying to enjoy music on this thing? I have no idea if Alexa is just shit or if it's a problem with shitty music services.
Spotify works mostly good. It can play your Discover Weekly Playlist, but it won't pull up your Daily Mix 1 for some reason. Sometimes I have to add "...on Spotify," to some things for them to pull the right request. Just testing it and I had to spell IDLES too, or I'd get Allman Brothers or Wax Idols. FYI. Good luck.
 

toythatkills

Member
Oct 26, 2017
694
London, UK
Thanks, I'll have to give it a go as a literal last resort! I tried to get around the Idles thing by making a playlist with all their songs in it assuming Alexa would understand, but she just can't find playlists at all on Deezer. The one-device Amazon Music Unlimited doesn't even let you create playlists, which is the dumbest restriction ever
 
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Somnid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,696
Alexa App got a big (and needed) redesign: http://www.aftvnews.com/amazon-has-given-the-alexa-app-its-first-major-redesign/. Doesn't seem to be available for Android just yet.

Amazon is doing a beta of new functionality that allows skills to collaborate. The example was buying a concert ticket and then using the data/location info to pass off to a ride sharing skill for booking a ride. Currently it support 3 major types of features:
  • Booking a taxi (preview uses Uber skill)
  • Booking a restaurant (preview uses OpenTable skill)
  • Printing (HP, Epson, Canon)
https://developer.amazon.com/blogs/alexa/post/7b332b32-893e-4cad-be07-a5877efcbbb4/skill-connections-preview-now-skills-can-work-together-to-help-customers-get-more-done
 
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Somnid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,696
If you manually update you can get the new software update for Echo Show that includes Silk, Firefox and updated UI.
 

Darkatomz

Member
Oct 27, 2017
90
CA
^I got one of the original 5k units too. Feature-wise, the Echo Plus has the following advantages, you don't lose anything. I might end up taking advantage of this with some of my OG units.
  • Integrated hub for Smart Home control (like lighting)
  • Ambient temp sensing
  • Better sound
 
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Somnid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,696
I've got an original Echo before they even had retail packaging. Can you tell me what I gain and what I lose by upgrading to a newer version?
Depends. The original Echo has kinda split into different devices.

There's the 2nd gen Echo which is smaller, has slightly better sound, has a fabric body and 3.5mm line out for $100.

And there's the 2nd gen Echo Plus which is shorter and fatter, has much better sound, has a fabric body and 3.5mm line in/out as well as a Zigbee hub built-in and a temperature sensor for $150. Also, the Echo Plus can control smarthome devices even if the internet or Alexa service goes down due to the hub integration and a new feature called "local voice."
 
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Somnid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,696
 

RetroMG

Community Resettler
Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
1,894
I haven't tried this yet, but I'm really excited about it, because a lot of our Echo use is when my daughter is sleeping.
Oh I am gonna jump on this. I've always wanted to try Sirius but haven't wanted to put up the money for it.
 
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Somnid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,696
Amazon has released the Windows 10 app to broad release: https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/8/18075450/amazon-alexa-windows-10-app-download-features. It's pretty basic right now and doesn't support all the things the mobile app does, though Amazon is promising more PC integrations to come next year. If you have a compatible PC you use a wake word (seems like this is just featured Alexa compatible laptops with beamforming mics), otherwise you have to setup a hotkey.

Also, Echo and Alexa have just launched in Mexico with Spanish language: https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2018/11/7/18074158/amazon-alexa-echo-mexico-release-date
 
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Somnid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,696
Skype calling was just enabled: https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/19/18102670/skype-alexa-calling-integration-features-microsoft-amazon

Developers are getting new Wake-on-LAN functionality which should mean more devices will be able to be powered on via Alexa: https://developer.amazon.com/blogs/alexa/post/9640283e-07a8-4fa4-85fe-aaa024da53fe/now-alexa-can-power-on-devices-in-low-power-mode-with-the-wake-on-lan-controller

Alexa's speech synthesis is getting an upgrade to sound a little more natural: https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/20/18104413/amazon-alexa-speaking-style-machine-learning-neural-ntts-newscaster. As part of this they can also do new "speech styles" so Alexa will now read news with the cadence and stress of a newscaster.
 
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Somnid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,696
So, I've had my second gen Echo show for a few weeks now and it's honestly a big upgrade and I definitely recommend. The screen has much nicer colors and contrast and being bigger helps a ton (I think Facebook might be on to something with a 15" screen). These devices definitely need more size variance. The sound is much better, especially at higher volumes. Haven't got to try out the hub but it definitely opens some new options since I didn't have a zigbee hub. Now just waiting for them to turn on local voice so I can still control my lights when the internet goes out.
 

Darkatomz

Member
Oct 27, 2017
90
CA
I unboxed a 2nd gen Show today and agree with the above. Going from 7" (the 1st gen which I owned and the Google one) to 10" is effectively doubling the screen size which makes a big difference. Also, this time it is >720p. Better for watching things and for video calls.

As far as sound goes, this has also been improved (better sound quality, louder max volume, AND much more bass).

Given that the MSRP is the same as last gen with the added bonus of enhanced audio/video and integrated hub, I would definitely consider it if you were on the fence for a Smart Display.
 
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Somnid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,696
Several features added recently:

 

Darknight

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,655
I picked up the Echo Wall Clock and it arrived yesterday. Setup was super simple and it works pretty well. To setup all you do is tell Alexa you want to set it up, which tells you to press the pair button on the back and everything gets set up from there including it automatically setting the time on the clock. The only question I have which nobody seems to know the answer to yet is can you have two clocks paired to the a single Echo device. I would love to get another clock to put in another room that would still show the same timers there.
 

peppermints

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,515
So I bought a Google Home after being an Echo owner for almost two years. I have to say I think Echo's the way to go. Sounds better, conversations seem to flow better. Google Home seems to have way more issues hearing the wake word too. Think I'm going to return the Home.

What are some of the improvements of the newer Echos vs the first gen?
 
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Somnid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,696
Amazon has started to expand Alexa Blueprints (website that let's you make your own skills without code). You can now publish anything you make publicly so anyone can use it by invoking it like any other skill. They've also added new templates so you can make your own flash briefing skill by recording audio directly or connecting an RSS feed. So if you have a podcast or something similar you can easily publish it as a flash briefing skill. Also they created a wordpress plugin that can be used to create a briefing out of your wordpress blog. All and all pretty cool if you wanted to make something for Alexa but don't have technical skills.

https://developer.amazon.com/blogs/alexa/post/9c7792fd-271d-4eac-a850-6257704142e4/now-anyone-can-use-alexa-skill-blueprints-to-create-and-publish-an-alexa-skill-in-minutes-with-no-coding-required-and-new-blueprints-for-content-creators-bloggers-and-organizations
 

Stinkles

343 Industries
Verified
Oct 25, 2017
15,224
Amazon has started to expand Alexa Blueprints (website that let's you make your own skills without code). You can now publish anything you make publicly so anyone can use it by invoking it like any other skill. They've also added new templates so you can make your own flash briefing skill by recording audio directly or connecting an RSS feed. So if you have a podcast or something similar you can easily publish it as a flash briefing skill. Also they created a wordpress plugin that can be used to create a briefing out of your wordpress blog. All and all pretty cool if you wanted to make something for Alexa but don't have technical skills.

https://developer.amazon.com/blogs/alexa/post/9c7792fd-271d-4eac-a850-6257704142e4/now-anyone-can-use-alexa-skill-blueprints-to-create-and-publish-an-alexa-skill-in-minutes-with-no-coding-required-and-new-blueprints-for-content-creators-bloggers-and-organizations

Alexa tell me surreal Limericks about Rygar and Dig Dug.
 
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Somnid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,696

MrKlaw

Member
Oct 25, 2017
8,670
I really want a showerproof echo dot. I have a silly little bluetooth speaker thing that I pair with my phone and mostly only use it for pocketcasts while in the bathroom. Now Alexa has pocketcast integration (and up next syncing) I don't want to use my phone anymore.

I guess the battery impact makes that difficult - any suggestion from Amazon they might make one, or any good third party options to both make the dot portable and showerproof?
 
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Somnid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,696

MrKlaw

Member
Oct 25, 2017
8,670
Does anyone else get streaming radio cutting out after around an hour? We often just listen to BBC radio in the mornings and Alexa makes that really convenient. But it;l start to stutter/cutting out and we have to just ask for the radio station again to get it working properly

Wondering if that might be a bbc stream thing, or a known thing with echo when streaming for a certain amount of time. This is on a regular echo 1st gen.
 

Guppeth

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,546
Sheffield, UK
Does anyone else get streaming radio cutting out after around an hour? We often just listen to BBC radio in the mornings and Alexa makes that really convenient. But it;l start to stutter/cutting out and we have to just ask for the radio station again to get it working properly

Wondering if that might be a bbc stream thing, or a known thing with echo when streaming for a certain amount of time. This is on a regular echo 1st gen.
I listen to BBC 6 and it doesn’t stutter even after several hours. 2nd gen Echo. I use the Radioplayer skill, so maybe try switching to that if you’re not already using it.
 

MrKlaw

Member
Oct 25, 2017
8,670
Is echo reliable enough to use as a daily alarm clock?

I’d like to have separate times for weekdays and weekends and to play a radio station when it goes off

We have a clunky big clock radio with a 30-pin iPhone dock (shows how old it is) and it’d be good to save some space
 

Guppeth

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,546
Sheffield, UK
Is echo reliable enough to use as a daily alarm clock?

I’d like to have separate times for weekdays and weekends and to play a radio station when it goes off

We have a clunky big clock radio with a 30-pin iPhone dock (shows how old it is) and it’d be good to save some space
It failed me once, the first week I had it (about a year ago).

Never trusted it enough to try again.
 

MrKlaw

Member
Oct 25, 2017
8,670
Picked up an echo spot for the bedroom, along with replacing the light with a hue bulb. Really like it. My main worry was how dark it’d be at night with the screen being on all the time - but it’s super dark which is perfect for us. And I like how the next alarm is always shown on the screen so you can see at a glance if it’s set for the next day.

Have separate alarms for weekdays vs weekends, each playing internet radio.

I don’t need the screen for weather or watching silly round video, but as a small convenient bedside radio/alarm it’s great
 
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Somnid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,696

MrKlaw

Member
Oct 25, 2017
8,670
Is there a simple way to replace an echo with a new one and keep all settings? Bought a discounted exho dot 3 and I was thinking to use to to replace the first gen dot I the kitchen for better audio, then out the old dot in the spare room.

Are all skills and rooms etc stored centrally? So if I just swap it out and rename it I should be ok?
 

Guppeth

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,546
Sheffield, UK
Is there a simple way to replace an echo with a new one and keep all settings? Bought a discounted exho dot 3 and I was thinking to use to to replace the first gen dot I the kitchen for better audio, then out the old dot in the spare room.

Are all skills and rooms etc stored centrally? So if I just swap it out and rename it I should be ok?
Yes. I can control my lights etc. from my Fire TV Stick and I never needed to do any setup on it. It took all the settings from my Amazon account when I signed in.
 
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Somnid

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,696
Routines will be getting new options in the next few weeks. You can schedule them with alarms, tie them to sunrise or sunset, movement detection on cameras and they be able to give email inbox reports and trigger a skill as the final step.

https://www.engadget.com/2019/05/06/amazon-alexa-routines-sunrises-email-alarm-smart-cameras/

The Windows 10 Alexa app can now be set to always listening: https://www.engadget.com/2019/05/06/alexa-for-windows-10-hands-free-voice/

Is there a simple way to replace an echo with a new one and keep all settings? Bought a discounted exho dot 3 and I was thinking to use to to replace the first gen dot I the kitchen for better audio, then out the old dot in the spare room.

Are all skills and rooms etc stored centrally? So if I just swap it out and rename it I should be ok?
All the skills you enabled are tied to your Amazon account, nothing is saved on device. In fact, if you let Amazon save your wifi credentials then it'll pretty much set itself up automatically. The only things you really need to do are give it a location and add it to any device groups.