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Alexa Finally Gets a Good Wake On Lan Skill, But with Caveats

In November 2018, Amazon announced Alexa functionality that would allow developers to programmatically give control over network “magic packets.”  It’s taken this long, but now a formidable skill for Alexa brings the Wake On Lan capability to PCs. The skill: Wake on Lan (WoL) There is a potential gotcha with this implementation, though. You need to enter the devices you want to be able to wake into a web site created by the author. It utilizes an Amazon login, which means it can potentially access your Amazon profile. And, then you also need to enter the computer hostname and MAC address – again a couple of pretty defined indicators. You’ll also need to ensure your device is Wake On Lan capable, and need to turn on the ability for the device to receive magic p...

Learn AI from Microsoft for Free

Microsoft today has announced the launch of a new free offering for professionals called the AI Business School. There’s been so much emphasis on Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the last couple years, with more and more companies integrating their own versions of AI, Microsoft feels that it is the company’s responsibility to help train future professionals for strategy, culture, and responsibility of the burgeoning technology. Microsoft explains its path forward with this accomplishment in a recent blog post titled: Microsoft launches business school focused on AI strategy, culture and responsibility In the post, Mitra Azizirad, corporate vice president for AI marketing at Microsoft says… There is a gap between what people want to do and the reality of what is going on ...

Tip: Rename Alexa Smarthome Devices Using Voice

Amazon has now added the ability for Echo device owners to rename their smarthome devices with just their voice.  Prior to this updated capability, Echo device owners needed to use the mobile app to make these adjustments. To perform this function, just say something like: “Alexa, rename the kitchen plug“ Alexa will walk you through the rest of the steps to successfully rename the device.

Amazon Rereleases Echo Wall Clock with a Fix and a Disclaimer

Amazon took its Echo Wall Clock off the market recently due to connectivity problems. And, now that the connectivity capability has been tweaked, the company has resumed selling the gadget. The Echo Wall Clock’s capability is limited, but valuable in its own way. Like any wall clock it provides the time, but in this case, also can be used to show timer countdowns on the outer edge of the clock face. It does this through a required connection to a compatible Alexa device (Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Plus, Echo Spot, or Echo Input). The product page now also supplies the following warning… Echo Wall Clock must be paired to, and within 30 feet of, a compatible Echo device. Echo Wall Clock is compatible with Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus, Echo Show, Echo Spot, and Echo Input. It is...

Tip: Viewing and Customizing the Data Google Assistant Collects

All voice assistants and smart speakers capture user data to ensure that the service is tailored to a more personal experience. But, they all also provide logs and customization settings so you can view what’s been captured and then modify the type and amount of information that’s collected. Google does this with its Google Assistant. And, now that the company has rolled out Google Assistant to all supported Chromebooks, it’s more important than ever to get a handle on the information that’s being collected. See: Tip: Enabling Google Assistant for ChromeOS 72 and Later For ChromeOS/Chromebook users, these links can also be found in the Google Assistant settings, which can be accessed by going to  Search and Assistant area in ChromeOS Settings, and then into the Goog...

Forgo the Amazon Echo Auto Sticky Dashboard Mount for the Official Air Vent Mount

Despite not being widely available yet, Amazon has begun shipping its Echo Auto device to those who pre-ordered the device in 2018. The device is said to have been pre-ordered by over 1 million customers which may help explain why it has taken Amazon so long to begin fulfilling orders. The Echo Auto device comes with a dashboard mount. This mount adheres with a sticky pad. Most car owners try to avoid adhering anything to their car, but Amazon now has a separate add-on that can be used to mount the Echo Auto device in the car’s vent. Available for $15 from Amazon:  Echo Auto Air Vent Mount The Air Vent Mount is actually in stock.  Until Amazon kicks manufacturing into a higher gear, you can display the air vent mount as a token of hope.

Alexa Guard Now Available for Some Echo Customers

Announced in September, Amazon has a neat, new feature for Alexa’s listening capability. Putting Alexa into “Guard” mode when away, the Echo speaker devices can listen for noises that might indicate a security breach or a home warning scenario. For example, Alexa can listen for breaking glass or a smoke detector going off. And, when Alexa detects these occurrences, she can alert you through the Alexa mobile app on your smartphone and also notify your home security provider if you use one. Currently, Alexa supports Ring and ADT. Additionally, when in Guard mode, Alexa can turn lights on and off randomly if they are connected to the Echo smart home hub. The feature is rolling out now, but only certain customers will get it. Amazon seems to have learned from the past when ne...

Atom Adds Amazon Pay to Its Alexa Skill for Movie Ticket Purchasing

Atom Tickets, the social movie ticketing platform, has added Amazon Pay to its Alexa skill. Not only does the Atom Tickets skill make it easy to get showtimes and reserve seating, but customers can now also just use the same information they use for shopping on Amazon to purchase tickets. After saying “Alexa, ask Atom for movie tickets” or “Alexa, ask Atom what’s playing near me,” the skill enables consumers to: Select Movie Format: Select movie tickets for standard or premium formats like 3D, Dolby, or IMAX movies. Reserve Seats: The Atom Tickets skill for Amazon Alexa is the only movie ticket skill that lets you buy tickets at theaters with reserved seating. Use Amazon Pay: Easily check out with your voice using Amazon Pay without reaching for a credit card....

Tip: Connecting and Using Apple Music with Alexa

Amazon and Apple have recently delivered Apple Music for owners of Alexa-enabled devices. Amazon has added Apple Music as another option in its list of Music services. Setting it up is as easy as choosing it, enabling it, linking it, and using it. We’ve seen some websites suggest that you have to enable a special Apple skill to get this to work, but that’s not the case. Amazon has done a good job integrating Apple Music into its normal music service line up. To set it up: [1] In the Alexa mobile app (not available from the web version of Alexa), go to Settings and then locate Music under Alexa Preferences. [2] Once in the Music area, choose the option to Link New Service. [3] Select Apple Music on the Link Service page. [4] Once you select the Apple Music option, the Alexa app ...

UPDATE: Amazon’s Echo Wall Clock Now on Sale, Arrives in Time for Christmas

UPDATE: After we posted about the release of the Echo Wall Clock, the device sold like gangbusters. You can still order it but it will now not arrive until after Christmas. Original article… Announced in September, Amazon’s Echo Wall Clock is now available for purchase. On Amazon.com for $29.99: Echo Wall Clock  The device is not a full-fledged Alexa-enabled device as it needs an Echo device paired to work. The Wall Clock is simply a way to see when timers expire that you create using a compatible Echo device. Compatible Echo devices include Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Plus, Echo Spot, or Echo Input. Additionally, the Wall Clock uses the Echo device pairing to automatically set the time. Pairing is accomplished using Bluetooth Core Specification version 4.2 including Basic ...

Big Sky Adds Premium Weather Service Features to Alexa Skill

At its basic level, the Big Sky Alexa skill is heads-above what Alexa herself can provide for weather services. But, now the Big Sky folks have added a Premium service. BigSky Premium is just 99 cents a month, and only 80 cents a month for Amazon Prime members. If you sign-up for Premium, there’s a one-week free trial. Here’s what it adds beyond the basics: Additional forecast locations and location labels. Set a label like, “Mom’s house” or “the campground” and you can then you can ask Big Sky things like, “What’s the weather at mom’s house?” or, “Will it rain at the campground tomorrow at 5 p.m?” Premium Users can also get the same great Big Sky forecasts for cities and locations around the world. “What&#...

Tip: Getting Alexa to Read Your Emails

Alexa now has the ability to read your emails to you. Prior to Amazon adding this capability you’d need to install and use a special skill. To get it to work, you first have to set it up. [1] In the Alexa mobile app (this doesn’t work on the Alexa web version of the app yet), go to “Settings.” [2] Locate “Email & Calendar” and tap the “+” button to add an account. You can choose a Google or Microsoft account. [3] Log in with your username and password. At this point, you should also consider setting a special voice pin code for your email or anyone can have access to your emails. Once you have this setup you can now say… “Alexa, check my email” or “Alexa, read my email“ Alexa will start with your unread email...