Amazon Echo Dot Review

I got an Amazon Echo Dot for my birthday. This allows me to command a computer, using voice, to do things. The voice response on the echo is amazing. It does not get much wrong, and you can speak in a fairly normal voice from another room and the mysterious entity that apparently lives inside the Echo (known to me as Alexa) will hear you.

There is an Amazon Echo and the alternative, Echo Dot. The price difference is very large, and the differences are fairly small. The regular Echo is tall and has high quality speakers, the dot is short and has OK speakers. If you have nice speakers that you can plug the Dot into, that’s the way to go. You can get inexpensive Echo’s refurbished)

HAL

The Amazon Echo from the top. Or is it?????

(I should mention that just about now, Amazon is ramping up to Prime Day 2017, which starts on July 10th and runs through July 11th, which is when they produce all sorts of sales (currently you can get $10 by streaming a Prime video for the first time on your TV, and get a substantial discount off of Kindle Unlimited, which I do not use but some people swear by.))

The Echo/Alexa thing can be very handy. I can easily create and update a shopping list that is mirrored on one of two list keeping apps available for the phone, on that is fancy and not free and the other that is less fancy and free. The Echo can generally be set up to interact with the Internet of Things. We are building a very intelligent robot and I assume I’ll be able to use the Echo to command the robot to do whatever the Robot can do. The other day I played a podcast, but I was unable to rewind backwards a few seconds, to hear a part I missed, but I’m sure that can be done somehow.

The Echo can be sufficiently integrated into your Amazon account to use it to order thing and to check the status of orders. I’ve chosen to not do that at this time. I’ll wait until Huxley is away at College.

The other big deal voice actuated device like the Echo is, of course, the Google Home. Since Google interfaces with the Android OS, and Google and Android are in a steel cage death match, Echo does not automatically do a lot of things it should do. For example, it should work flawlessly with a lot of different Android apps, so, for instance, I can send shopping or to-do list items to my Simplenote app, which is what I use for such things. There are indeed ways to make Echo work with other machines, and probably to make Home do the same thing, as there is an API, and neither device is made by Apple (which will take your first born if you try to integrate with any other company’s products). But at the moment it is medium level hacking. I expect that problem to go away in a matter of months, however.

The single best thing about the echo is its excellent mic and whatever software/hardware magic is being employed to pick up voice from far away and understand it clearly. I can’t compare it to Google’s device because I never tried one. I look forward to bending Alexa’s abilities to my will, and eventually taking over my kitchen!

Comments

  1. #1 MikeN
    July 3, 2017

    I don’t trust those robots, and I’m surprised Jeff Bezos is still shipping the product after seeing the problem first hand:

    “Alexa, buy me stuff from Whole Foods.”
    “Buying Whole Foods.”

  2. #2 dean
    July 3, 2017

    “I can’t compare it to Google’s device …”

    I have a Google home (my son got it for me). Reasonable speaker, access to my calendar and other bits of my Google account. Pair it up with the “if then then that” (IFTT) app and it’s quite handy.

    I’m not an Amazon prime customer, don’t use their music or streaming stuff, and only occasionally but stuff from them, so the Echo has never interested me.

  3. #3 Eric Lund
    July 7, 2017

    I have an Echo Dot, which I received as a Christmas gift. I have it hooked up to the AUX port of my old component stereo. Sound quality is acceptable, and it knows a few tricks, such as the time in various cities throughout the world (I have verified this by checking for São Paulo). However, there are definitely some bugs in the system.

    1. It knows of many but not all of my Amazon music purchases. In some cases there may be an issue of rights for replay via this kind of device, as opposed to CDs or MP3s. OTOH, it seems not to know of the purchase I made from Amazon last month.

    2. The following may be a dealbreaker for classical music aficionados: Alexa doesn’t know composers. The iTunes database at least has some information about composers, and the UI lets me organize that music by composer when I deem it appropriate. The Echo Dot doesn’t. This is a problem when I want to hear, say, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, as opposed to somebody else’s Symphony No. 5 recorded by the same orchestra. The Echo Dot would list both as Symphony No. 5 by $CITY Orchestra. Furthermore, I may not know or care what orchestra recorded the piece.

    3. I once asked for the closest Tube stop to the British Museum. This was a test of Alexa’s capabilities, since I already know the answer (Russell Square). But the answer I got involved a river tubing place in New Hampshire. I’ll stipulate that it was probably the closest place to what Alexa thought my address was (see below). BTW, it was January when I asked this question. Unless you are a hardcore sailor, ice fisherman, or rescue squad member, you don’t do anything involving outdoor bodies of water in New Hampshire in January.

    4. It took more than one try for me to get it to recognize my home address correctly. It tends to think that I am at the central station of my ISP, about 60 miles west of my actual location.

  4. #4 Tyvor Winn
    USA
    July 7, 2017

    The positioning of the Amazon Echo Dot Review right after the post titled: “Affluence Without Abundance” got a laugh out of me. Point:Counterpoint.

    I think I’ll wait until mind-activated appliances are availalble.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    July 7, 2017

    Eric, that could explain what Alexa seems to think about where we live as well…. I’ll have to look into that more closely.

  6. #7 OA
    Site error?
    July 15, 2017

    I’m having trouble viewing your site. Apparently Word Fence thinks I’m not human. While others have also suggested this, I can at least assure you that I’m not a bot.

    What I get is:

    Your access to this site has been limited

    Your access to this service has been temporarily limited. Please try again in a few minutes. (HTTP response code 503)

    Reason: Exceeded the maximum global requests per minute for crawlers or humans.

    Important note for site admins: If you are the administrator of this website note that your access has been limited because you broke one of the Wordfence blocking rules. The reason your access was limited is: “Exceeded the maximum global requests per minute for crawlers or humans.”…

    Etc.

    I assume that if I were being intentionally blocked that I’d be getting a different message.

    No need to post this comment.

    Thanks,
    OA

  7. #8 Greg Laden
    July 15, 2017

    There is something broken. It has been reported to the technical people. It seems to me that the site is working OK on a desktop browser and not on mobile devices. Is that your experience?

  8. #9 OA
    July 15, 2017

    Thanks!

    Yes, there was a problem to the extent that I’m on a mobile device. I don’t have access to a desktop platform.

    Things seem to be working now, except that I’m still blocked on the science books article at the top of your site.

    (sorry for the multiple posts)

  9. #10 MikeN
    July 15, 2017

    OA perhaps a side effect of Wow’s constant postings.

  10. #11 MikeN
    July 15, 2017

    Ouch I just got the same effect on a PC.

  11. #12 OA
    July 15, 2017

    £*#%<*¥ Russian hackers!

  12. #13 Wow
    July 15, 2017

    Nope, it might be mike trying to block the system and shut down the reaming dick is suffering from.

  13. #14 dean
    July 16, 2017

    The block message still appears after the site is visible for a few minutes.

  14. #15 Gilbert
    July 16, 2017

    We have since back in December seen some issues on Bluehost because they install something called Endurance cache and some version of this cache is too aggressive and will actually cache the Wordfence blocked page and then serve it to every visitor to the site. This is why it doesn’t change when you deactivate Wordfence. It’s not actually Wordfence that is serving the page, it’s the cache. We believe that it is one of the early versions of Endurance cache that is faulty, but it seems like on many sites it has not been upgraded to newer versions.

    The easiest way to solve this may be to contact Bluehost and ask them to remove the faulting Endurance Cache from your website. If you want to try disabling it yourself you can:

    1. Look in wp-content/mu-plugins and delete the endurance cache plugins from there
    2. Check your .htaccess and manually remove any trace of the Endurance cache…

    “Just ran into this issue with a client using Bluehost and just wanted to add that deleting/renaming the endurance-page-cache folder did nothing for me. It just regenerated. The only way to disable was to go to Plugins > Must Use and disable there.

    https://wordpress.org/support/topic/your-access-to-this-site-has-been-limited-permanently-locked-out/

    Perhaps pass this to an administrator as a possible cause.

  15. #16 Go for baroque
    July 18, 2017

    Who would have suspected George Orwell would get it so wrong. The state isn’t forcing listening devices into our homes, we are willingly buying them from a huge, faceless corporation and installing them ourselves. Poor George. He gave humanity way too much credit.