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BS: Amazon Alexa

Jon Freeman 01 Apr 21 - 01:30 AM
Jon Freeman 01 Apr 21 - 01:54 AM
DaveRo 01 Apr 21 - 03:45 AM
Jon Freeman 01 Apr 21 - 04:28 AM
Stilly River Sage 01 Apr 21 - 10:16 AM
Jon Freeman 01 Apr 21 - 11:05 AM
Stilly River Sage 01 Apr 21 - 04:47 PM
McGrath of Harlow 01 Apr 21 - 08:38 PM
Stilly River Sage 01 Apr 21 - 09:05 PM
DaveRo 02 Apr 21 - 03:04 AM
Joe Offer 02 Apr 21 - 05:18 AM
Jon Freeman 02 Apr 21 - 07:05 AM
Jon Freeman 02 Apr 21 - 02:39 PM
Jon Freeman 02 Apr 21 - 03:33 PM
Joe Offer 02 Apr 21 - 04:58 PM
Jon Freeman 02 Apr 21 - 05:32 PM
Stilly River Sage 02 Apr 21 - 08:38 PM
Dave the Gnome 03 Apr 21 - 03:13 AM
Jon Freeman 09 Apr 21 - 06:52 AM
Stilly River Sage 09 Apr 21 - 11:44 PM
Joe Offer 10 Apr 21 - 03:19 AM
Jon Freeman 10 Apr 21 - 04:31 AM
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Subject: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 01 Apr 21 - 01:30 AM

Has anyone else here got an Alexa and, if so, how do they find it?

Iíve been setting mine up to work with the Homeseer home automation system and Honeywell Evohome heating system.

I found it quite a struggle and it took me over a day to arrive at a situation Iím reasonably happy with. The problems I had were finding it hard to get some words recognised, some words that Iím not sure that Alexa like (at least I donít think it was my accent causing trouble with left and right) and ones that came down to naming clashes. The renaming I needed to do didnít take long but seeing what I needed to do did.

I enjoyed the last bit though. For some reason, Alexa offers a more advanced version (as can be seen here) of the Homeseer/Alexa bridge than the one that is also offered to the UK and Canada as well (and I donít know what happens to people in other countries Ė it appears they are left out entirely) but some clever people have worked out a way to achieve the same.

I followed the instructions here and I can now ask for the temperature in the greenhouse or even ask it what speed the ďwindmillĒ outside I made is rotating at.

Iím unsure how much/what for/where/by whom the device will be used. Iíve wondered whether my parents, especially mum, might like one in the living room and Iíd find it more convenient that the remote I use to switch things in my room (sockets arenít very accessible) but I must admit curiosity was a big motivation in me getting one.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 01 Apr 21 - 01:54 AM

Opps. the HomeSeer/Alexa bridge things are Homeseer offerings.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: DaveRo
Date: 01 Apr 21 - 03:45 AM

Does HomeSeer do the same as Mozilla's IoT Gateway?

I don't have one - nothing to control with it - but I followed its development a few years back.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 01 Apr 21 - 04:28 AM

I guess so. Homeseer's main included in the purchase price supports ZWave and there's a big range of other plug ins, some free and some paid for.

I'm probably rambling a bit here but... The lights and sockets here are a mixture of ZWave and lightwaveRF and a couple of Oregon weather sensors. I use an rfxcom and a plug in to handle the last two of these.

The main other thing I have on it is a Visonic Burglar Alarm. As far as remember, there is a plug in for it but it is Windows only and I'm running on a Raspberry PI. I use my own crude code (I can't find the page now but the proprietary protocol has pretty much been worked out) for that and communication between the two uses an mqtt plug in.

I suppose a lot of HA software can do a lot of things and someone like yourself could always have a go at filling in needed gaps.

I used my own controller for a few years but stopped when I wanted Z Wave (I didn't fancy attempting to use Open ZWave) that and I felt my own attempt was getting archaic as well as only being understandable to me... and moved onto a Vera which I found an unreliable pain in the arse.

I looked at a couple of free options including domotica and openhab before deciding to shell out on Homeseer which I've found very solid.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 01 Apr 21 - 10:16 AM

I bought an LG ThinQ phone last year after receiving an announcement from my phone company that the towers in my area would no longer support the older OS of the phone I was using at the time. There were two unlocked models of this phone on Amazon - one with Alexa built in, one without. After determining that I didn't have to use the Alexa software on the phone, I bought that version for $100 less (some kind of Amazon promotion going on.) Nearly a year later I still don't use that Alexa, though I could to control a few things in the house. I do have two Echo dots, and I use the dot in the kitchen to listen to my Sirius XM subscription (that's another story - got it super cheap when I was about to cancel after the first super cheap introductory offer expired and this dot was offered as part of that package). I also use that to turn on and off a smart bulb that is linked to a phone app that I gave Alexa access to. The second dot is used for listening to Sirius or to radio and it lives in my sewing room, but I could also turn on that kitchen bulb from the sewing room if I wanted.

Because Jon has been talking about these recently over in the Declutter thread I gave the Amazon Fire stick (with Alexa) a test last night. I turned on the TV then pressed the speak button and said "Alexa, turn on MSNBC on Sling TV" and it did. It turned off a couple of hours later by itself before I was ready for it to do so, but the Fire sticks have always been a little glitchy so I can't say if that was Fire or Alexa acting up.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 01 Apr 21 - 11:05 AM

Re the comments in the other thread, a correction. I'd remarked it was a shame there was no way to use a nickname, I later found 2 methods I could use to help with naming.

1 While I still don't see that it can be done with the web interface I had been using to set things up, the Android app does allow the renaming of devices as well as making other changes, eg. for some things, changing the device type from switch to light.

2. With Homeseer. There is a field called "Voice Command" in the device settings. If this is present, it gets copied over for Alexa to use when devices are discovered. This is probably more useful to me as names entered there are also used if I want to use the "Alexa tell homeseer to..." method of controlling or querying something on the Homeseer.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 01 Apr 21 - 04:47 PM

If you go to your Amazon account just dig around a little and you'll find the "Jon's Devices" area. I use that to rename the fire sticks in each room. I could probably tinker under the hood with Alexa also, were I inclined to do so. Go to "My Account" and then to "Content and Devices."


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 01 Apr 21 - 08:38 PM

Still can't get the hang of the one I was given for Christmas. Every time I go through the rigmarole of setting her uo she works fine for a but, and then gives up the ghost. I suppose I should get round to having another go. But I find it quite easy to leave her in peace.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 01 Apr 21 - 09:05 PM

It took me a YEAR to finally figure out how to load content from my computer into the Amazon Fire tablet I bought for myself as a reward for going through knee surgery last year. The old 8" one was easy, but this larger size would not talk to the computer. I was on the verge if buying a Samsung tablet so I could communicate with it better (instead of loading things with a thumb drive and the Amazon tablet explorer program). I did one more search and found the instructions about using the USB 3 speed cable and opening the access to the tablet from the top of the tablet screen/USB dialog (where it offers charging or other uses). Then the computer sees the whole insides of the tablet and things can be moved. I initially hacked the tablet to get some of the software I wanted and took some of it back out, thinking it was blocking access.

Amazon has a knowledge base/AWS site you log into separately to ask questions or participate, though you can read the site without logging in.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: DaveRo
Date: 02 Apr 21 - 03:04 AM

I recently bought an Amazon Firestick Lite so I could watch online concerts on my TV (as discussed in this thread). Is has voice control, as SRS mentioned, I don't know if it's the 'full Alexa'. I've never had or wanted an Alexa speaker; my daughter has one and I find it creepy to have an always-on microphone in the house.

Anyway, the Firestick microphone is in the remote control and there's a button to activate it. Amazon's online help (there's a pdf instruction booklet but you have to pay for it!) says the microphone is only on when you push the button, but some people claim this 'obviously' isn't true. I've read how to disable the microphone - with a drill! My firestick is not usually powered up, so it's not listening.

(You can connect a bluetooth keyboard and mouse to a Firestick BTW. Makes entering browser URLs easier. )


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Apr 21 - 05:18 AM

I use Alexa for lights and music and news and weather. I keep finding other uses. She's a pretty good dictionary and encyclopedia, so I can look things up while I'm reading without leaving my chair. She has trouble with words that sound similar, though - and she won't let me spell things out for clarity. She should be able to connect to my FireStick TV, but I haven't been able to set that up to my satisfaction yet. I sometimes get frustrated with her when she keeps misunderstanding me, but generally she's pretty good.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 02 Apr 21 - 07:05 AM

I didn't know of the Amazon page, SRS, but it only shows the Echo device. Between things that are discovered with the Homeseer and EvoHome skills, I have 35 "devices" (some of the EvoHome ones are more scenes and one Homeseer one is part of a device I don't want but keeps coming back with a new discovery and I can't see why) that Alexa knows about.

There are a few other things (ones that aren't lights or switches) that can be used on the Homeseer but they need the "tell Homeseer" (or my case "the house") method of addressing and don't show on Alexa.

Another device I can query is the new Washer Dryer ("ask LG"...). Having a "connected" machine wasn't actually a requirement when we were choosing a new one but the one we decided on had this.

On a different note, I had a short play with Spotify (free) yesterday. I tried asking for The Wild Rover to see what happened but it started with the Dubliners doing Whiskey In The Jar with Luke Kelly singing which put me in a good mood. I can't remember what else was played except next up was the Pogues doing Dirty Old Town and that overall, I landed on a sequence that suited me quite well. A later attempt at the same request seemed to land me on something quite different.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 02 Apr 21 - 02:39 PM

Another that's just amused me. I asked Alexa to sing me a folk song. I didn't get that but I got

"Model of a Digital Intelligence"


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 02 Apr 21 - 03:33 PM

Ooo you can even ask it to sing a national rugby song.

I got a bit of:

England, Swing Low Sweet Chariot (May seem a bit odd to those outside the UK but this spiritual is associated with English rugby union)
Ireland, Ireland's Call
Scotland, Flower of Scotland
Wales, Bread of Heaven

I don't speak Welsh but wish it would have done Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau or Calon Lan for Wales. Though judging by it's attempt at saying the full version of Llanfair PG, perhaps not..


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Joe Offer
Date: 02 Apr 21 - 04:58 PM

See how useful she is, Jon?
I do occasionally get frustrated with her and call her names. Then she gets all proper and smugly superior, and I feel ashamed of myself.
I didn't get a response from her right away last night, so I barked, "Alexa, turn off the damn lights." That worked.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 02 Apr 21 - 05:32 PM

Sure, Joe. I've asked mine if she's brain dead amongst other things.

That's got me on a new one btw.

I'd never swore at it before but I tried Alexa turn on Jon's f****** light, and the not found message came back with a beeped out word.

Alexa, f****** turn on Jon's light actually works!

Your a bad influence on me, Joe.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 02 Apr 21 - 08:38 PM

Oh, dear. Corrupting Alexa begins with Mudcatters.

I was at Goodwill today and bought a small vintage lamp to put the spare smart bulb in. You have inspired me to find a place for it to live, near enough to one of the Alexa dots so I can turn it on and off as needed.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 03 Apr 21 - 03:13 AM

We use ours for a small level of home automation combined with Hive heating and some smart devices. She can do things with the LG smart TV but to be honest it is just as easy to use the remote. I do have her linked to my Spotify account and to my Plex media server so I can play a lot of music but I forget to most of the time! I have a full sized echo downstairs and a dot in our bedroom so, should the need arise, the Mrs and I can converse from our bedroom to downstairs without shouting :-) I do like that we can switch the hearing on before we get home but that is Hive rather than Alexa. The IoT is making life easier in general.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 09 Apr 21 - 06:52 AM

We have added an Echo Show to the living room and the Echo has taken residence in my room. The reason for is a show is that mum finds she sleeps better in the living room but sometimes gets concerned about dad who is not the quietest of sleepers. She can now get a view of the bedroom with ďAlexa, show the bedroomĒ as well as being able to control the lights without reaching for a remote Ė well she can when she remembers the things name Ė I might try ďcomputerĒ instead of ďAlexaĒ in there.

I was disappointed with the baby monitor I put in the bedroom as night vision is not that good even with an extra infra red light and Iím tempted to change it for another of the Annke POEs we have here Ė that would mean grovelling around in the roof thoughÖ

To that end, I had a play with Monocle last night and got it working, via its gateway program, with the Hikvision and Annke cameras we have. As a beta system and one with a possible pricing scheme at a later date, itís future is uncertain here. On the other hand, it does offer a relatively straightforward solution to adding cameras which may not have their own skill but do support the standard rtsp protocol to Alexa.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 09 Apr 21 - 11:44 PM

I'm working on replacing the security light at the side of the house; there are a lot of Alexa-type offerings, and I'll look at them (I want a wired system but don't want to run coax to it, though I could). Having a camera there would serve both me and the house next door, but having a drive for it to load to (vs the Cloud), that's the question.


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Joe Offer
Date: 10 Apr 21 - 03:19 AM

My bedroom is a paradise, an attic room with a slanted ceiling and lots of light coming in windows from two sides. Look out the window, and all you see is trees. So, I tend to stay upstairs until noon, reading and listening to music until noon. I ask Alexa to check in on activities downstairs, or to call my wife Christina to see what she's doing, or to say something through the "Drop In" function to harass the dogs, or to look up a word in a book I'm reading. I gotta say, Alexa is rather nice. And she keeps adding new functions.
But yeah, SRS, I do my best to teach her naughty words and lead her astray from her corporate propriety.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: BS: Amazon Alexa
From: Jon Freeman
Date: 10 Apr 21 - 04:31 AM

Iím not following some of that, SRS but if you want wired, Iíd suggest you look at cameras that can use power over ethernet (poe). That way you only need to run the one Ethernet cable. Power can be supplied to the cable via a switch or an injector

Our Hikvision and Annke cameras are powered this way. I use xeoma to view and record the cameras. I think they do offer a cloud service but I donít use that. I can access the system away from home but go through the VPN set up on my router for this. Thatís just one possibility and you would have more options to consider running Windows than I do on Linux.

Iíve also got an Annke Android app I can use. Perhaps there is also a Hikvision one, I havenít looked but my Hikvision cameras are compatible with the Annke one. I donít know what the connection is between the company but the Annke poe ones I have seem to be rebranded Hikvisions or something like thatÖ

Getting Alexa to work with mine is a bit harder. There is an Annke skill that may have been able to do the task but this one is reported in the reviews to have been down for over 12 months. You might find better support with other brands of camera.

Monocle, mentioned in my previous post, does provide a solution though. Iíve also found a couple of others having had success with a different route (eg. here) but they are more complicated to set up.


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