View Full Version : Smart Home crap, or something. (Was: Echo.)

December 24th, 2014, 03:21 PM
I bought one.


Amazon "invited" me to the $99 presale and I bit, figuring if nothing else it'd probably be a decent bluetooth speaker or I could return it. It (she?) is pretty neat and readily justifies a hundred bucks, but I can really see anyone dropping the $200 MSRP on it. At least not yet - because while it can tell you who the lead singer of Green Day is, it can't tell you who shot Alexander Hamilton and that seems like kind of a travesty. Of course, in time it'll get better and maybe get closer to justifying the MSRP, but right now I couldn't recommend it. Definitely interested to see how it grows, and I'd *love* for the technology to be integrated into a component device that could interface with other gear. Saying, "Alexa, play Green Day" and having that just happen is RAD - but it does suck that the only way sound can come out is via itself... if it could power up the home theater and play Green Day I'd buy two at two hundred bucks each. That would be completely awesome.

December 24th, 2014, 06:17 PM

December 26th, 2014, 09:37 AM
I am increasingly enamored of Alexa. "Alexa play 80s music" while your hands are wet from doing the dishes or "Alexa what's the weather" while tying your shoes and deciding whether or not to get a jacket or "Alexa set an alarm for two hours" while playing video games and setting a time limit is wonderful. I feel a little bad because it is *so* gimmicky but I don't think I actually care. I am increasingly happy with this experiment.

December 26th, 2014, 05:09 PM
so.. its kind of Siri/Google in its own always on package?

December 26th, 2014, 05:54 PM
Mk2 with aux-out and bluetooth out required AMIRITE

December 27th, 2014, 10:43 AM
It has bluetooth now, but aux out is definitely what it needs. They should partner with Logitech and integrate Logitech's smart hub features - being able to tell Alexa to turn on the stereo for output vs. use the internal speaker would be awesome. IIRC Logitech is trying to sell their Harmony unit - Amazon should snatch that up.

December 27th, 2014, 10:46 AM
so.. its kind of Siri/Google in its own always on package?

Yep, like a hybrid of Siri and Kinect.

December 28th, 2014, 04:22 AM
Cool. I envy your ability to buy all this stuff. Now excuse me while I find some gadgets to plug into my 10-port 2.1A USB charger.

December 28th, 2014, 10:46 AM

I got a couple of these things and littered them around the house:


I actually have no idea what electrical receptacles look like in HK, but if they make them I highly recommend them. Of course you still need the cable, but it keeps the actual receptacles free for plugging in non-USB gadgets. ;)

December 28th, 2014, 10:47 AM
Also, zero kids and a low cost of living really frees up a lot of resources for bullshit. :D

December 29th, 2014, 02:26 PM
Sounds about like my experience with the Moto 360 :up:

December 30th, 2014, 05:46 AM
I like the idea... but, wanted to wait to see if they improved it. I wonder how it does in a house with 2 kids, if everyone is yelling at it to do stuff? :lol:

December 30th, 2014, 09:23 AM
It tends to pick up one voice and stick with it, or that's been my experience so far. ;)

March 2nd, 2015, 06:11 AM

Beta devkits to go out for the Echo.

March 2nd, 2015, 08:30 AM
Yeah, pretty stoked about what might emerge from this.

I still like the device - it gets used pretty much every day.

March 3rd, 2015, 08:42 AM
Sony has announced a miniscule competitor.



But it doesn't use Google Now, it's going through Sony's own proprietary Voice Control app (on the phone that the speaker is connected to).

March 3rd, 2015, 09:00 AM
I am initially not impressed, but I'd need to see it before making a real judgment. It appears to be battery operated?

March 3rd, 2015, 09:35 AM
Based on the size, and it's positioning as just a smart Bluetooth speaker, I think that's a safe bet.

March 3rd, 2015, 09:40 AM
I won a Jambox Mini a little while ago - if the Sony thing mimics its sound quality at a similar price, it'll be win. But if it's actually going to complete with Echo at $200 probably not so much. I'm of course concerned that being a Sony product it'll be overpriced or underdesigned. Sony really seems to have lost their way in the last decade or two. Time will tell...

MR2 Fan
March 3rd, 2015, 01:17 PM
I hope Google comes out with something like this.

March 4th, 2015, 06:52 AM
It's just Google Now in a standalone device, it wouldn't be tough, but I think they'd rather just put all the tools out there and let other people figure it out. I'm basically doing the same thing with my 360, but it works wherever I go and with whatever speakers I connect the phone to. My friend and I were driving around Sunday, she would request a song and I would just say "Ok Google, play Locked Out of Heaven" to my watch and it would start playing in the car.

April 8th, 2015, 03:30 PM
Just got an email that Echo now supports control of WeMo and Hue devices. "Alexa turn the lights on" is a reality. I am honestly shocked about how quickly they are developing this product - it's fantastic!

April 18th, 2015, 10:48 PM
Bought some WeMo outlets today. "Alexa, turn the living room lights on" when you walk in the front door is amazeballs. I feel like Capt. Jean-Luc Picard.

August 4th, 2015, 03:54 PM
I continue to love Alexa and last night had a particular experience that I think is indicative of the whole thing...

We were watching "We're the Millers" and commenting that Jennifer Aniston is completely unbelievable as a stripper. That led to a conversation about Friends, and I said, "Alexa, how long was Friends on the air?" She could not answer that question, so I rephrased. "Alexa, how long was the TV show Friends on the air?" No answer for that either. Finally, I said, "Alexa, tell me about the TV show Friends" which she answered with, "Friends was a TV show that aired from 1994 until 2004, blah blah blah." I got my answer, I just needed the right question. Bottom line is that Alexa can read you the Wikipedia article, but cannot scan the Wikipedia article for specific content and provide just that. It's kind of too bad, but doesn't really get in the way of anything.

January 6th, 2016, 02:18 PM
Ford will let you talk to your car through Amazon Echo (http://www.engadget.com/2016/01/05/ford-will-let-you-talk-to-your-car-through-amazon-echo/)

January 6th, 2016, 02:27 PM

January 22nd, 2016, 09:29 AM
BMW autocrossing friend is working for a startup in home automation--their gig is to put together an app that talks to all your various automated things so that you can do fun geo-fencing stuff, or scheduling, or whatever.

They've just integrated with Echo: https://www.stringify.com/product-announcements/announcing-stringify-now-works-with-amazon-alexa/

January 22nd, 2016, 12:34 PM
That's pretty cool - sort of like IFTT, but a little more powerful. I need to check that out in more depth!

January 22nd, 2016, 12:51 PM
That's pretty cool - sort of like IFTT, but a little more powerful. I need to check that out in more depth!

Definitely seems like something you would be into. :)

February 5th, 2016, 09:05 AM
Echo can now summon an Uber, or order a pizza from Dominos.

Effingham amazing.

February 5th, 2016, 09:46 AM
Nice! I like where this is going. Mark Zuckerberg said he wants to building a real-life jarvis-like AI... But, this may be closer to reality.

Tom Servo
June 16th, 2016, 09:20 PM
My wife just got me one of these for my birthday today. It is pretty goddamn awesome, and I totally feel like I'm living in the future.

Sounds like the main thing it needs, which hopefully can be done via software, is push notifications (with appropriate safeguards) and async operations.

Not sure how the Uber thing works without async, as that's a very long-running operation, generally.

June 16th, 2016, 09:44 PM
Push notifications like a 3rd party tells Alexa to tell you something?

Tom Servo
June 17th, 2016, 05:43 PM
The main one was push notifications in relation to async operations. The example that I saw was a way to do Uber/Lyft type things.

You say "Alexa, find me a Lyft". It immediately responds with "Finding you a Lyft." Then starts an async operation. While looking, every couple of minutes it'll let you know "I'm still trying to find you a Lyft." When it finds it, it says "I've found you a Lyft. The driver is 5 minutes away." Then, with a minute left, "Your Lyft is one minute away in a Honda Accord."

Right now, there's no way to get Echo/Alexa to do anything unprompted and all of it is synchronous. Other than timers/alarms, it can't offer up anything without you asking it first.

I also like the idea of teaching it context. Say, "Who plays Westley on the Princess Bride"...it answers, then be able to follow up with "And when was he born?" It loses context.

Tom Servo
June 17th, 2016, 05:51 PM
In other news, I got IFTTT and got it synced to my Harmony remote, so now I can walk into the house and say "Alexa, trigger watch TV" and my TV, HDMI switch, and Tivo all start up and set themselves to the correct inputs.

The future is cool.

Tom Servo
June 17th, 2016, 06:04 PM
And now we just linked it to my wife's premium Spotify account and I love making it do my bidding while asking for vaguely offensive Dead Milkmen songs, though I'm not sure any of them live up to telling it "Alexa, play Chainsaw Gutsfuck"

Tom Servo
June 19th, 2016, 01:46 PM
I've used IFTTT and Todoist to give an easy way to add items to the shopping list, sync them to Todoist, and that gets shared between my wife's phone and mine. However, it doesn't look like I can sync the other way, e.g., if I add/remote an item from Todoist, I can't send that into Alexa's app to remove the item there. That's irritating. I guess we'll have to use it as a one-way sync where Todoist is the source of truth and Alexa is just a triggering mechanism.

June 20th, 2016, 08:48 AM
Right now, there's no way to get Echo/Alexa to do anything unprompted and all of it is synchronous. Other than timers/alarms, it can't offer up anything without you asking it first.

Ah, yes. Understood. I am not sure how valuable that would truly be, as Alexa has no way to know when you're around. If she just started blurting things out, she could tell nobody or the wrong person. I think it's probably better to err on the safe side here and not announce things until there's a way to know who's receiving it.

I also like the idea of teaching it context. Say, "Who plays Westley on the Princess Bride"...it answers, then be able to follow up with "And when was he born?" It loses context.

I think because Alexa doesn't really do any speech analysis but rather just does speech to text and vice versa. If she had real analytical capability and could figure out what the actual subject of a conversation was, then she could infer context, but she can't. She passes along whatever you said to a search engine, then reads the result back to you. She seems really sophisticated, but she's not.

Still love her. So much.

June 20th, 2016, 08:50 AM
And, I'd add, you're doing it exactly right. Integrating Alexa with a little hardware and a little software and she becomes a powerful ally! She isn't radically changing my life, but not having to fumble for light switches or set my beer & burrito down to turn on the TV is what murica is all about. She streamlines my life!

Tom Servo
June 20th, 2016, 11:17 AM
Was handy using her as a kitchen timer while grilling some corn and steaks last night. Turn the corn over, say "Alex, set a timer for four minutes", and then wait for the chimes.

Pretty handy having it wired up to my wife's premium Spotify account now. I'm assuming it's basically an impossibility that we'll get Google Music integrated, and I don't really want to pay to let Amazon host my music for me beyond 250 songs.

June 20th, 2016, 01:22 PM
Between Prime and iHeartRadio we haven't felt the need to get any more music sources. I think we listen to iHeartRadio probably 90% of the time. By the minute, playing music is the vast, vast majority of what Alexa does. As with you, apparently, she's in our kitchen which makes her very handy. Changing music or setting timers without cleaning hands is - for us - worth the price of admission. All the other stuff she does is just a huge bonus!

I really need to make a home automation plan. I'd used X10 since way back in the day, but when they added Wemo support to Alexa, I grabbed a few modules to replace the X10. I hate Wemo, I think it's awful, but she doesn't have a problem with it and now I'm invested. I need two more, and I'm about ready to just buy more Wemo instead of investing in something more powerful. I feel like my choices are either throw $100 on more Wemo stuff I *know* I won't stay with, or chuck out $500 on any grander solution. Hard to justify that $400 spread. :|

Tom Servo
June 20th, 2016, 03:58 PM
Yeah. I have essentially zero home automation stuff and right now am trying to not spend so much money. I figure at some point we'll start moving into the home automation stuff (I'd love to have Echo be able to do things like run the dishwasher in the middle of the night for me), but that's a lot of money to spend for something I most definitely do not need.

June 21st, 2016, 09:55 AM
I'm not too heavy into automation - the whole fascination with "scenes" is a little too much for me to wrap my head around. I'm sure part of it is that I live in an old house. If I had some modern wonder with recessed lighting and LED accents everywhere I'd feel differently, we're pretty old-school with, you know, like a lamp here or there. ;)

I really like having Alexa turn lights on when we get home late, it's especially night when wrestling an exciting dog, etc. I want to add remote (and voice) control to the patio lights, as having Alexa turn them on when going out to the BBQ with a full cutting board would nice. ;) Automating ceiling fans would also be nice - and this time of year when we do make use of a couple portable tower fans a voice-controlled outlet or two would be enjoyed. I think that's about as fancy as I get.

Wemo does all of this, however the Wemo lineup is limited and largely incompatible beyond Alexa. Also, Wemo has some highly annoying design flaws... if the power goes out, there's a good chance you lose your programming. Timers and schedules are only stored on the device that created them, so if you set everything up on your iPhone and then get a new iPhone you have to start over. Serious "how did this get out of testing" design issues.

I want to switch to something more widely supported, namely a Samsung SmartThings hub since it integrates most common protocols (zigbee, zwave, insteon, etc.) and has good platform support. Unfortunately, being an old house, I can't make use of a lot of this stuff easily. Most of the control devices require two wires at the box (because they need constant power) and this old house ain't got that. :( I need a broader plan, so that's why I've been dragging my feet. It's real difficult. ;)

June 22nd, 2016, 12:46 PM
While noodling about automation the other night I realized a thing that would solve a lot of my "problems" is an automation device that could be embedded in a gang or ceiling box, bypassing the light switch and not requiring a formal outlet. In places where I'd like to use a remote-controlled switch but don't have a neutral wire, just embedding the controller in the box and losing a manually operated toggle would be totally acceptable. Quick looking shows there are projects were people gut OTS products to accomplish this, but I'm not sure I am up for that from a safety perspective. Something to look further into that may address old house issues.

Tom Servo
June 22nd, 2016, 04:22 PM
"I can't find 99 red balloons by 7 seconds on Spotify". Both Alexa and Spotify are dead to me.

June 22nd, 2016, 04:35 PM
It's on Prime Music.


Tom Servo
June 22nd, 2016, 04:41 PM
Okay, I'll allow it.

It helps that it just played Minor Threat's discography for me.

August 5th, 2016, 09:51 AM
Last week I took the plunge and ordered an Insteon Connected Kit from Amazon... well, some third party, but fulfilled by Amazon. It was $250, I couldn't resist at that price. Included in the package is:

An insteon hub
An Insteon thermostat
A Foscam wireless SD camera, rebranded as Insteon
A pair of Insteon plug-in dimmer modules
A battery-operated open/close sensor
A battery-operated water leak sensor
A battery-operated motion sensor

My initial plan was to hold out for one of the inevitable sales on a Samsung Smart Things hub, which is Insteon compatible but controls other devices as well, and apparently has better software. I still think that's a good idea, but the hub was included in this kit and the value of the parts made it a no-brainer. I may upgrade later, but I might not. For all the "Insteon hub software sucks" hoopla out there, it wasn't that bad to set up.

That bad... Plugged in the hub, set up account, updated hub, done. Plugged in both dimmer modules, configured them, set schedules done. Crawled onto the roof at 10pm, pulled a "C" (common) wire from the AC unit to the thermostat location, installed thermostat, set schedules, done. This all took about an hour, total. The fucking Camera took TWO HOURS to set up. The initial pass at configuration failed, leaving me with a camera that could not be connected to... the software reported it as "configured with a username and password" but it had not been. I could log directly into the camera with default credentials with no issue, but the Insteon software could not. Their website says to hold the reset button for 10 seconds to restore defaults, but that changed nothing. Digging deeper, Foscam's website says to hold the reset button for 20 seconds to restore defaults, but that changed nothing. I finally held the reset button for 30 seconds and, voila, I could reconfigure it. That was about an hour wasted on trial, error, and research. To be sure it was going to work this time, I configured it as wired - everything was hunky dory. Then I found out once configured as wired, Insteon has no way to reconfigure it as wireless. Dafuq? Spent thirty minutes in disbelief, trying to find some hidden configuration option and found nothing. I reset it again, configured as wireless, all is well. Linked my Alexa account to my Insteon account, now Alexa can control Insteon lights. And my thermostat. WHAT.

This weekend I am going to set up the motion sensor and maybe the open/close sensor. What's neat about these sensors is that they can trigger any Insteon device. The motion sensor can turn on a fan and the open/close sensor can turn on a light. Or send an email. Or make a chime. So cool I have no idea what to do with the water leak sensor now, but if my water heater was still in the bathroom that could have been super helpful... would have been nice to know about that leak before it spilled out onto the bathroom floor! But, now all the plumbing at Chez TSG is new and reliable, so I dunno. I am a little concerned about battery life for these devices, though - especially the motion sensor which uses a 9v. I finally got rid of all the 9v stuff at home when I replaced smoke detectors (10 year coin LiIon packs FTW!)... now I have them again. But, whatever.

TBH, Alexa makes this setup really sweet, but controlling everything I want to control with a smartphone is the best. Someday I might upgrade to a Nest, but I'm not convinced shiny design and "learning" is worthwhile. I am happy to hit a button on my phone to make it cold or hot. I don't need a doodad to guess what I want.

Most importantly, however is I am finally done with Wemo. That was some bullshit. Although after a seriously rocky start, it's been completely reliable all year. Doh!

August 5th, 2016, 10:30 AM
Also, zero kids and a low cost of living really frees up a lot of resources for bullshit. :D

We call this "the Wisconsin plan" in our house.

August 5th, 2016, 11:03 AM
We call it the no plan plan. That's how we do. Kids are yesterday's news. Home automation is the future.

Which is a weird irony, because my dad was way early with home automation, with X10, in the '80s, when I was a kid.

October 28th, 2016, 03:50 PM
YES! Procrastination pays off - Echo now works directly with the Logitech Harmony Hub, no need for IFTTT. Am excite!

November 3rd, 2016, 01:04 PM
My Google Home should be here this weekend. I haven't gotten any other smart home things yet, but I may set up some simple IFTTT functionality for just online services.

November 3rd, 2016, 01:35 PM
I had not heard about Home, but just read the NYT comparison between it and Echo and the takeaway is about what I'd expect. I have found Echo to be not great (but not bad!) at answering questions, which I would imagine is because it had to pose those questions to Bing and then interpret the answer. Home can probably get answers more directly. That hasn't been a roadblock for me because it's pretty rare I have a question that can be answered in one or two sentences anyway. Reading is still fastest for me. Where Echo has made the most impact is for actually executing simple tasks when I am busy or my hands full - turning on lights, ordering more dog food as I use the last of it, putting things on a shopping list while I pass through a room, etc. That's been the benefit for me. We do use the speaker a lot for streaming internet radio, but now that Echo supports Harmony directly I may actually pick up a Dot so that I can play music directly out of the HT speakers.

Point being, search is neat but not the selling point for this type of device for me. Music is kinda meh. Home automation is why I got Alexa, and IMHO Home has a major uphill battle in front of it. The amount of development for Echo is huge today - so much integration and lots and lots of IFTTT recipes that dramatically simplify deployment. Replicating, what, two years of work is a big deal.

I definitely recognize that I may not be the common user, and search/music could very well be the more popular needs for smarttubes.

November 3rd, 2016, 02:08 PM
IFTTT recipes are quite easy to replicate, and many will be premade for people. The direct partnerships, where IFTTT won't be necessary, are crucial, as well as the ability to cue up video. Right now you can tell it to start a YouTube video on your Chromecast, but when you can do the same with Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, etc, I think that will be major. "Ok Google, play the latest episode of Game of Thrones" and it actually works? That will be huge.

November 3rd, 2016, 02:22 PM
You can do that right now with Echo, actually - at least to some degree. I don't use it, but to be honest it crosses the line between convenience and talking to my computer and I don't feel comfortable doing it.

I will say I have been massively enjoying the Harmony integration because I can walk into the room, say "Alexa, turn on xbox" and by the time my bourbon is poured FH3 is ready to go. :up: (Of course, this was possible before using the Harmony app on my phone, but "turn it on" is infinitely more convenient and doesn't require me to have my phone on me in the house. ;) )

November 4th, 2016, 04:20 AM
I wasn't aware Alexa could push content or select specific content on any video services/devices, what does it work with?

November 4th, 2016, 05:58 AM
I'd probably go with Home eventually. I'm really soured at how locked down the Kindle fire is. I wasn't expecting it to force-feed me everything Amazon. While I use them quite a bit for shopping, I don't really want them involved in every aspect of my home, although I'm sure they'd love that.

November 4th, 2016, 08:49 AM
I wasn't aware Alexa could push content or select specific content on any video services/devices, what does it work with?

I think right now it's limited to Amazon services, but they are actively working on expanding that to others - someone I know who works at a specific video streaming service shared with me at Burning Man they're adding it. HEY! I do know trade secrets I can't share with anyone!

November 4th, 2016, 08:53 AM
But you did just share it! BURN HIM! BURN THE WITCH!

November 4th, 2016, 09:08 AM
FML. :(

I hope he doesn't get fired.

November 4th, 2016, 12:49 PM
Looks like the expansion is happening faster than I thought!

With the All-New Fire TV Stick, let Alexa take the work out of channel surfing. Stream Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, HBO NOW, YouTube, and more.

If the functionality is on Fire TV, it'll get to Echo reasonably soon.

November 4th, 2016, 01:01 PM

November 4th, 2016, 01:49 PM

November 4th, 2016, 01:58 PM
Makes me wonder if the fish's mouth is *programmed* to move, or is just audio-sensitive and moves to whatever comes out of the speaker. 50 years ago, the former would surely be the approach, but in 2016 an IC that converts sound to voltage is $0.01 and a hell of a lot easier to implement. If so, all you need to do this is stuff Dot in a fish and connect the speaker in the appropriate place. NICE!

What's really unfortunate, though, is that the low-power DSP that enables wake words isn't more flexible... that's why you can't rename your xbox and you only have two choices for Echo. If *that* could be software driven it'd be great, because "fish" could be the wake word.

November 4th, 2016, 02:37 PM
I was reading this:


And, honestly, it seems like Home is light years behind Echo - even behind what Echo could do at launch. That it understands context and pronouns is really great (inability to pose followup questions is a frustration of mine with Echo), but it seems it's missing a whole mess of other things that, even if not elegant, at least you can do with the app. After reading this article it seems like Google is rushing Home out for Christmas which, you know, is fair, but why beta a product when there is a fully-functioning one already on the market? Lack of Bluetooth, only supporting a single account, lack of support for free streaming music services, supporting only SmartThings but not Zigbee or Zwave directly, no integration with calendars. Those are big things IMHO.

I'd also toss out there that Dots are game-changers (IMHO) and it seems really weird that - if rushing a 2nd wave product to market - you'd at least copy the Latest Idea.

Google is going to have to work *furiously* to compete pound for pound with Echo, and I feel like Amazon is going to have a much easier time copying Google's good ideas than Google will copying Amazon's. Regardless of the long term, it's gonna be a helluva battle!

November 4th, 2016, 03:20 PM
Interesting, most of the reviews I read said the Home was much better than the Echo, despite still being relatively dumb and having its own set of limitations. Perhaps it's the difference between reviewers and users, but a lot of reviewers seem to be Echo owners. Or my pro-Android/Google sources. Either way.

I'm listening to podcasts on mine now, it's on the other side of the room and of a higher quality than my BT speaker, so I'm pleasantly surprised. Can't pause it, though, perhaps since it's Cast'd content vs controlled content. But I already have a group set up with my Chromecast Audio, so I now have whole house audio :up:

November 4th, 2016, 03:42 PM
I think it wins on searches (honestly, it'd be hard not to), but searches are the thing I have little use for. "First search engine result synopsis" is rarely sufficient to answer any questions I have. ;)

November 4th, 2016, 04:37 PM

November 4th, 2016, 05:32 PM
It does work with Google Play Music's podcast library, yay, but that service still kind of sucks anyway.

November 4th, 2016, 07:33 PM
Yes it does.

November 5th, 2016, 05:04 AM
Hmmm, all Harmony remotes 25% off today in store, plus $50 off for trading in my years old model that I can't program anymore anyway? Sounds good to me, Best Buy!

Unless of course you do the normal "can't combine offers" thing.

November 6th, 2016, 03:55 PM
I wasn't able to take full advantage of the deal, but I did get a $150 package for $85 and a decade old Harmony remote.

Pros: I can turn on my whole system and its complex combinations of stuff with just my voice.
Cons: I can only start and end activities, can't even change the channel or adjust the volume

November 6th, 2016, 05:07 PM
I love my Harmony.

November 7th, 2016, 11:28 AM
Me too - I've had one for a long time, but wasn't a fan of the early stuff... it was just a necessary evil. The new stuff - the hub based stuff - is really good and makes a LOT of stuff easier. Huge positive step.

Last night we were watching Suck and I suddenly wondered how this guy Rob got Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, and Henry Rollins to be in his low-budget Canadian movie. I wondered if all those guys were Canadian.

Q: Alexa, where was Iggy Pop born
A: Muskegon, MI

Alright, that's a good answer!

Q: Alexa, where was Alice Cooper born?
A: Allen Park

Okay, good stuff.

Q: Alexa, where was Henry Rollins born?
A: The United States of America

Q: Alexa, what city was Henry Rollins born in?
A: I don't know.

Just shows off how Alexa interprets & relays search engine results. We spent the next 20 minutes trying to think of someone else born in Washington DC to find out if the response was because Rollins wasn't born in a city or a state, or whether she legitimately couldn't find the DC answer. :lol:

November 7th, 2016, 11:29 AM
Also, Echo is on sale for $140, to celebrate two years (and compete with Home :lol:).

November 7th, 2016, 02:59 PM
Also, this:

https://www.amazon.com/Nucleus-Anywhere-Intercom-Amazon-Alexa/dp/B019JSE7PC/ref=sr_1_5?m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1478561279&sr=1-5&keywords=insteon&refinements=p_6%3AATVPDKIKX0DER%2Cp_36%3A125353201 1&th=1

November 7th, 2016, 03:08 PM
Oooh, fancy! It's kind of like having a tablet with an Alexa app, except you can always find it?

November 7th, 2016, 03:19 PM
Haha - that's exactly what I was thinking in my head... It's bolted to the wall so I know where it is! So lame. :lol:

The thing that caught my eye about it is the intercom features. Having a detached garage being able to talk back and forth in the house would be awesome, as would not yelling from the office upstairs to the kitchen downstairs. I wouldn't pony up any money just for an intercom, but if those positions also let me Alexa-on lights and shit they might have a sale - those three places (office, kitchen, garage) are where Alexa functionality would be rad. The bump in my road is: I found this while deeply pondering Dots for these places, as I was thinking about putting Dots downstairs and in the garage as I can Alexa-Harmony on the stereo and use it rather than playing music directly through Echo, then moving Echo upstairs where there is no stereo... I could do that with this Nucleus thing, but the best place for it would be where Alexa is now, which is not by the stereo. FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS!!!

I'm not doing it, but it's intriguing. A 2nd-gen product might earn my business though... if it could do smart home things (eg, be a wall-mounted Harmony remote) I'd probably go for it. Futuristic touch screen wall mount light control intercom security device. Here's to hoping!

Tom Servo
November 7th, 2016, 03:19 PM
I've started running into collisions between triggering phrases. The Harmony skill was telling me I can set up specific channels to turn on, so I set up "Alexa, turn on KTLA". It instead turned on the KTLA simulcast through iHeartRadio. As far as I can tell, there's no way to prioritize one over the other, which is frustrating as I *never* use iHeartRadio but iHeartRadio is built into Alexa and not just a skill that I can uninstall. At any rate, it's not that hard to change it to "Alexa, turn on channel 5", but they still need a way to resolve conflicts between triggers.

Also, for some reason my Harmony Elite gets all flustered when I try to turn on the XBox via the Echo...it says it's starting the activity, but nothing ever happens and the remote essentially gets frozen, saying that it's starting the activity.

November 7th, 2016, 03:22 PM
I ran into that trigger collision as well - iHeartRadio and a Harmony activity. It wasn't hard to change the activity name, but a bit of a pain to forget everything and relearn. Well, I know for next time to pay more attention to the activity keyword selection screen. ;)

I've not experienced that hang - although admittedly I have only used Echo to turn on the xbox maybe three times. I only have the Companion as I'd always intended on using a smart phone or tablet as a remote, if that makes any sort of difference.

Tom Servo
November 7th, 2016, 03:39 PM
I'd assumed that the Echo is only communicating with the hub, and the hub is what's telling the remote the current status. So, it's probably more correct to say the hub is hanging trying to turn on the xbox, and the remote is just reflecting what's going on with the hub.

I wonder if this has anything to do with how I have to put my XBone into "completely turned off" mode rather than sleep?

Though, come to think of it, you'd think that would affect normal operation then and it doesn't. Works just fine if I use the remote or the mobile app to turn on the XBox, it's only over the Echo that I have an issue.

November 7th, 2016, 04:00 PM
Echo definitely talks to the hub, though I am not sure whether it's Echo->Cloud->Hub or Echo->Hub, immaterial I suppose.

My xbox is in full-off mode as well, fwiw.

It sounds like for some reason Alexa is hanging up communications with the hub, and the remote can't do anything while that happens. Maybe try deleting and readding the activity?

November 7th, 2016, 04:05 PM
My XBone goes completely off and wakes up fine. My TV did not, so I put it into light sleep mode, but it never affected the Hub.

November 8th, 2016, 07:08 AM
Also, this:

https://www.amazon.com/Nucleus-Anywhere-Intercom-Amazon-Alexa/dp/B019JSE7PC/ref=sr_1_5?m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1478561279&sr=1-5&keywords=insteon&refinements=p_6%3AATVPDKIKX0DER%2Cp_36%3A125353201 1&th=1

Nice! I'm sick of yelling downstairs to my daughter when she has her door closed. Worth it!

November 8th, 2016, 08:31 AM
Our neighbors are yellers and I hate it - yell from the yard to the house, the garage to the yard, inside the house so loud we can hear it across 200' and double paned windows. So annoying. I am really interested in the Nucleus, but I feel pretty strongly they missed some major bulletpoints and will fix that in a v2.... so I'm gonna wait on that. :) A Dot is only $50, so I'll probably pick one up around Christmas and it'll do for a while.

November 10th, 2016, 05:36 AM

Google Assistant API opening up in December. Let the voice control race BEGIN! Etc.

November 10th, 2016, 01:11 PM
I ordered some Hue bulbs the other day to mess around with. I'm still happy with Insteon, but there are a few places where just a bulb would do, and since Echo glues different automation protocols together, I figured it'd be a good learning experience. Plus, since Hue bulbs are RGB, I can now get really high and make all the bulbs really pretty.

November 13th, 2016, 07:45 PM
I set the Hue bulbs up last night. Hue installs a lot more quickly than Insteon, lemme tell you. Although identifying the bulbs is annoying, it's not difficult. Philips really could have done a better job there. Whatever. Bulbs are individually identified, but can be grouped into "rooms" so you can control multiples at once. I got the RGB bulbs, which is kind of exciting because you can essentially change the color temperature on the fly. That is pretty handy. Scheduling is a little weird - you don't create an on and off time - you create event times called "routines." A routine could be room or bulb on, or a room off, or a single bulb to bright green. Although a shift from the normal way it's done, it's interestingly powerful - I have lights that come on, get dimmer later, and eventually shut themselves off. Like.

Zero issues getting everything to work in a matter of moments, but I had some problems making Echo work. I don't know whether the issue was my naming convention or her understanding me, but while I could get her to turn on and off bulbs, I could not get her to change scenes. What good is it if you can't say "Alexa, set all lights to red alert!" and have the house go red?

The solution came by - I think - making the room names longer. I could not get "Alexa, turn on downstairs reading" to work, but changing the name of "downstairs" to "downstairs light" fixed it. Either she was having trouble understanding me (which would be a first) or she was having trouble discriminating the name from the action. In any case, as with any intersection of Echo and home automotion, choose your device names carefully.

This experience reinforces my love for Alexa, because her ability to glue multiple home automation protocols together makes my life easier. For multi-lamp fixtures Hue is expensive and honestly troublesome, so Insteon is nice in that situation. For the few recessed and fixed lights an old house like this has, Hue is nice... doubly so in areas where sometimes you want warm light and sometimes you want cold light. And sometimes you want cycling RGB light! It'd be annoying to have to remember which app to open to control any given light, and more annoying to want to make big changes quickly. But, having Echo glue Insteon and Hue together and then creating an Echo group so you can "Alexa, turn on all lights" when you get home is great. Like, realty great.

December 14th, 2016, 08:54 AM

"Alexa, marry me and this cocktail waitress"

December 14th, 2016, 09:45 AM
Wow. That is kind of a coup for Amazon - that's a lot of exposure!

Edit: There is a sort of brilliance of adding voice control to a hotel room, though maybe it's not thought through all that well - I can see a lot of problems for people trying to employ the technology if they use words or phrasing Echo doesn't understand or correlate. Still, very interesting play.

Tom Servo
December 14th, 2016, 10:10 AM
Yeah, there's definitely still a learning curve to using an Echo. That said, at least this appears to be sandboxed into their own system rather than Amazon at large, so it's not like you're going to try to turn the lights on and next thing you know a box of 80 light bulbs shows up at your house.

I could see it almost revolutionizing the wake-up call/alarm clock part of the equation though.

December 14th, 2016, 10:27 AM
I have only recently started using Echo's timers and such and once in the habit of turning to her and not the phone or the stove or whatever, it's a super convenience. Hopefully the hotel has a guide as to what does what - with that, I think Echo would be a lot more functional than people figuring out what switches do what, etc.

Freude am Fahren
January 1st, 2017, 02:04 PM
Got an Echo from my dad for Christmas, but decided to return it for the Google Home. Just started playing around with it. It is still a bit limited, but they seem to keep adding features. I'm already much more impressed with it than I was with the Echo my mom had at her house. Much more intuitive to interact with. As with Echo, I wish they would give it a customizable time after it answers to continue listening for another question, so you don't have to get its attention every time.

January 3rd, 2017, 11:13 AM
tsg (and others), Stringify has an Android app in beta now: https://www.stringify.com/2017/01/03/ces2017/

January 3rd, 2017, 11:28 AM
Shit! More to learn! :) :(

January 5th, 2017, 04:57 PM
Bid for Access to Amazon Echo Audio in Murder Case Raises Privacy Concerns (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/28/business/amazon-echo-murder-case-arkansas.html)

January 5th, 2017, 05:02 PM
Many non-Amazon devices announced at CES with Alexa built in, from household items to cars. Google Assistant also is being included in Android TVs and IIRC Hyundais.

January 5th, 2017, 07:33 PM
Bid for Access to Amazon Echo Audio in Murder Case Raises Privacy Concerns (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/28/business/amazon-echo-murder-case-arkansas.html)

it'll be interesting to see how this plays out - at this point, we can't tell whether Amazon is resisting the overbroad order simply on the grounds that it's overbroad, or whether it's resisting because they're keeping things people think they don't. Should be exciting!

Tom Servo
January 5th, 2017, 09:41 PM
It'd be so easy to tell if the Echo was sending data at weird times that I can't imagine that Amazon has it sending anything other than when you expect it to.

January 5th, 2017, 10:22 PM
It'd be so easy to tell if the Echo was sending data at weird times that I can't imagine that Amazon has it sending anything other than when you expect it to.

Really? This is a company whose business model hinges on learning your preferences and suggesting products based on those preferences. I would be shocked if they don't have algorithms trying to learn about you from what the device overhears in your house and sends back to the cloud.

Let's put it this way - if it truly did only store a tiny amount of data in its buffer waiting for you to say "Hey Alexa" or whatever, they'd come right out and say they don't have anything stored and hence can't fulfill the request.

January 6th, 2017, 08:52 AM
Don't forget the "Alexa" thing is an actual IC. Just like the xbox, Echo is in low-power sleep mode most of the time and not processing or forwarding anything. The doodad that processes wake words is the only thing doing anything; that's why the wake word is fixed, because it's processed locally. It's only the stuff you say after you address Echo/Alexa that gets clouded, that's where the data mining comes from. If Echo/Xbox/Siri/Home actually sent every word spoken within 20' of them over the internet for inspection the data would be completely unmanageable.

In theory.

I do buy into the theory. If it was otherwise, it'd take a few minutes with a packet inspector to learn the truth, and nobody has suggested that.

Most likely, unless dude said, "Alexa, I'm being murdered" Amazon probably has nothing and they are [rightfully] objecting to an overbroad request. If the cops wanted 30 seconds or 30 minutes of activity I'd bet Amazon would comply, but turning over everything pertaining to a dead person? Unnecessary and overbroad.

January 6th, 2017, 10:14 AM
Hmm, I kept hearing people say you can change the wake word, but now I see you only have three options: Amazon, Echo, Alexa.


January 9th, 2017, 06:18 AM
I didn't know the Echo defaulted to having voice ordering on. I wonder how much this is happening.


January 9th, 2017, 10:19 AM
It only defaults to on and works if you have 1-click ordering enabled, which IMHO is a mistake in and of itself!

January 9th, 2017, 11:20 AM
That makes more sense. I also don't have 1-click on for similar reasons.

January 9th, 2017, 11:25 AM
I was recently very dismayed when I found out you can only buy music products if you have 1-click enabled. Maybe other stuff, but specifically music. I actually had to turn it on, order what I wanted, turn it off again. That was the most disappointed I have been in Amazon ever. Enough that I will probably not buy music from them again.

January 27th, 2017, 09:57 AM
Turns out there is a way to get Google Home working on a wired network: Chromecast ethernet adaptor.


March 30th, 2017, 06:25 PM
Native Harmony support now in Google Home. Not a ton of additional functionality, especially since I don't use channels, but volume control is good.


April 20th, 2017, 09:23 AM
And now multi-user support in Google Home. Impressive if it really works!


April 20th, 2017, 12:46 PM
That is cool! Not something useful for us, but I can see a lot of situations where it would be.

Actually, another cool trick like this would be an Us and Everyone Else setting... to prevent Everyone Else from using your assistant in ways other than those you've prescribed.

April 20th, 2017, 02:56 PM
There's always a relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/1807/

April 21st, 2017, 08:47 AM

That seems like a great thing to do to pretty much everyone.

May 9th, 2017, 09:43 AM
This thing seems incredibly clumsy looking.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01J24C0TI?ref_=pe_2690840_237360920_ecg_aucc_kt_a nn_dark


Solid idea, but the packaging seems ridiculous to me.

May 9th, 2017, 09:51 AM
Seems simple and unoffensive. Enough to have people randomly place it...wherever you would place such a thing? I don't know. I bet there are a bunch of grandparents that will happily say "Hey Alexa, call the kids" and get a video call that requires nothing else of them.

May 9th, 2017, 10:24 AM
That's the thing - where would you place it? It's 3.5" thick, which makes it clumsy on a wall and it's only a 7" screen which makes it difficult more than a few feet from your face. If it's designed to hang on a wall where you might stand in front of it to read it, it should be picture-thin. If it's designed to go on a coffee table where it's going to be six or eight feet away from your head, it should be a bigger screen. It feels like a beta product, like a proof of concept, not a polished, finished device. I've wanted this type of interface, but not this particular one. I wouldn't know where to put it.

May 9th, 2017, 12:48 PM
Hmm...let's think like grandmothers.

In the kitchen, so it can show them recipes or TV while cooking?

In the sewing room/office/other room used for sitting at a table/desk while doing a hobby?

On the nightstand next to their recliner and/or bed-that-lifts-their-back?

May 9th, 2017, 03:26 PM
I just don't see any of those placements as practical with this form factor. Something that protrudes from the wall 3.5" is going to get knocked into if not knocked off. On "sitting height" desk or table a 7" screen is very small. Hold an iPad Mini or Kindle at arm's length and try to use it. That is the opposite of ergonomically sound for grandma, and unlike a Mini or Kindle it's plugged and several pounds, so you're not going to hold it closer to your face. On a nightstand next to your bed craned around 180 degrees? Seems uncomfortable.

This Show product is just some weird intersection between too small to place, too big to hold, and too thick to hang. People are used to mm thick devices, not multi-inch thick devices. Making it wedge-shaped, suggesting it's a table-top item helps get folks out of that in your hand/by your face mindset, but then a 7" screen? Way below what people are accustomed to for a desktop or tabletop interface. If it's going to be a stationary object, it needs to be sized so that grandma can see it at arm's length. Grandma can't see a 7" screen an arm's length away!

May 17th, 2017, 12:50 PM
Amazon adds the ability to call any other Amazon Echo user, Google responds with the ability to call any phone number: http://www.androidcentral.com/watch-out-alexa-hands-free-calling-coming-google-home

Hmm, it has more added functionality than an article I read earlier mentioned: http://gizmodo.com/all-the-new-stuff-google-home-can-do-1795303924

- "Push" notifications (it could speak up when there's bad traffic on the route to your next appointment, or if your flight is delayed), and maybe reminders finally
- A new Chromecast view mode where it can show visual answers to questions you've asked, like the weather or your calendar
- Bluetooth support: in the devices we already have? They already have Bluetooth in them and it just wasn't turned on? I'm confused.

May 17th, 2017, 02:10 PM
Back in my day, we had devices tethered to a physical location that you used to contact other people when you hoped they were in a specific place.

What's old is new again, but with 24 bit color this time.

Freude am Fahren
May 17th, 2017, 04:26 PM
I think you could always bluetooth out from a google home, no? They're adding the ability to stream bluetooth to the device to used as a bt speaker? Am I wrong?

I would love to be able to walk into my room when I get home, say "Hey google (or preferably, "MUTHUR"*), play music from my phone." And it would just pick up with whatever I was listening to earlier in my car or whatever. I listen to my music collection much more than streaming anyway. Hopefully that will be an option

*still no ability to change the listen to me phrase. :(

May 18th, 2017, 06:26 AM
I think you could always bluetooth out from a google home, no?
Nope, it had no Bluetooth functionality. It either played through its own speaker or to a Chromecast recipient.

One of the things I read was that, if you were using Google Play Music to listen to a podcast, you could tell it to continue playing what was on your phone and it would transfer over. Presumably it will work with your music as well, as long as you're using GPM and you have uploaded/matched your library.

I'm watching the I/O keynote right now, I'll update if it's mentioned.

Freude am Fahren
May 18th, 2017, 07:43 AM
I don't listen to GPM. I listen to mp3's on an SD card. I guess I should get with the times.

May 18th, 2017, 07:51 AM
You'd be better off just doing it through Bluetooth, then, probably.

June 5th, 2017, 11:54 AM
Apple is entering the market with the HomePod.




June 5th, 2017, 01:37 PM
I read the "it's coming" a while back and then tuned out. Honestly, I nearly wrote off Google Home as kinda pointless in its late-to-the-party-ness but gave it a solid pass because the integration with Google search and the all the potential Google integration that could happen. HomePod is just dumb. They are never going to compete with the Googly-ness of Google and they are never going to compete with the 12,000 things Echo already does. I'm sure people will buy the HomePod because it's a Bluetooth speaker that says Apple on it, but as gizmo, meh, too little too late.

June 6th, 2017, 05:31 AM
I'm just hoping that it drives more interest in smart bulbs and the like, since Apple = sheeple buying in and needing to accessorize.

Good to know that it sounds good, though, that should help it: https://www.engadget.com/2017/06/05/surprise-the-homepod-actually-sounds-incredible/

I did eventually hear one next to a Sonos PLAY:3 and an original Amazon Echo. Musically, it blew them both out of the water.
The HomePod however, sounded crisp and bright no matter the musical genre fed through it -- it rendered The Eagles as well it did Kendrick Lamar. As a reminder, there's a huge woofer and seven tweeters inside, all meant to make audio sound as vivid as possible no matter where you are in a room. It works. The PLAY:3 was generally very good, but audio felt remarkably closed off when I wasn't sitting right in front of it. (Note: It's unclear whether the PLAY:3 was tuned using Sonos' Trueplay technology, which can make a big difference in sound quality.)

And the Echo? Well, I'll put it this way: if listening to the HomePod was like listening to a CD, then audio through the Echo sounded like AM radio. In my experience it's excellent for audiobooks, but if given the choice, I'd rather have the HomePod pump out my jams.

June 6th, 2017, 03:57 PM
I have been totally satisfied in the home automation parts available from Insteon and Hue. Between the two, I haven't found anything I'd like to do that I can't, and those only two of the five major ecosystems. Sometimes I look at smarthome.com and think of all the neat things I could do with the stuff they sell, then remember my house isn't big enough for 90% of it. :lol:

That thought makes me giggle though - I am pretty good at technology and have found some of this stuff to be pretty complex to set up right. The idea of a new HomePod user trying to make Insteon work... oh man, what a disaster! They don't even have two years of Echo community forums to fall back on.

June 6th, 2017, 05:38 PM
Oh yeah, I'm not looking for more functionality, just even lower prices.

June 6th, 2017, 06:58 PM
I doubt things will come down much no matter what. Home automation price points have stayed about the same since I set up an X10 system in the '90s. It's really not so bad - hit smarthome.com on holidays when they have 20% off sales and you can do alright. I think I have about $600 in - which is about when I'd previously spent on X10 - and there isn't much more I want to do. Well, I'd like Echo-controlled sprinklers... but the automation isn't the expensive part (it's about $100), it's the actual sprinklers. Which I do not have. :lol:

Tom Servo
June 6th, 2017, 09:01 PM
I had heard that IKEA are coming out with a line of smart light bulbs that will undercut the others by a significant amount, but no idea when/if that will come to fruition.

June 6th, 2017, 10:02 PM

June 6th, 2017, 11:31 PM
Suddenly I'm very interested in this stuff, now that I have the official Party HouseTM among my group of friends. I've had some Philips Hue lights since living in the condo with Maria, but now I'm bothered by the fact that I can't buy a weatherized smart bulb at any price.

Anyway, I love the Hue hub and integration, but I'm very excited for the HomePod because I've felt most BT speakers were lacking, and this one puts a focus on sound quality. That's important to me until I'm ready to do some outside sound work.

June 7th, 2017, 04:43 AM
Starting to think this thread should be retitled to... uh smart home crap or something. :P

I had this discussion with Keith, I like the idea of some smart home stuff, but my current living situation limits me to... being able to control lights on like two out of 6 lighting fixtures.

Tom Servo
June 7th, 2017, 09:00 AM

I may have misspoke. I think the thing that's coming out is Echo/Home/whatever integration so you can use that instead of the specific remote. I think I read September is the expected date.

June 7th, 2017, 03:42 PM
I may have misspoke. I think the thing that's coming out is Echo/Home/whatever integration so you can use that instead of the specific remote. I think I read September is the expected date.


June 7th, 2017, 07:29 PM
:lol: at the title

June 8th, 2017, 07:38 AM
Suddenly I'm very interested in this stuff, now that I have the official Party HouseTM among my group of friends. I've had some Philips Hue lights since living in the condo with Maria, but now I'm bothered by the fact that I can't buy a weatherized smart bulb at any price.

Anyway, I love the Hue hub and integration, but I'm very excited for the HomePod because I've felt most BT speakers were lacking, and this one puts a focus on sound quality. That's important to me until I'm ready to do some outside sound work.

The Philips Hue lights are definitely something I want to play around with once the house is finished. Such a great concept and I just hope the implementation is easy.

June 8th, 2017, 10:54 AM
Hue is definitely one of the easier to set up systems and it works as advertised, but it obviously doesn't have the device array that other ecosystems have. If you all you have are common bulbs (A19, A26, etc.) it'll cover you, but I think most people will necessarily end up with a second system that can control, say, track lighting or fluorescent lighting and maybe sensors like open/close/motion/etc. That's what's nice about Echo etc., is that you don't need to fish around in multiple control apps - Echo bridges the various systems.

I used Hue in the kitchen and den because their light strip solution was the most direct and I wanted color temperatures to match, but the rest of the house is Insteon. I may install some Hue bulbs in the bedroom in the future, as I like their ability to shift between daylight white and warm white.

June 12th, 2017, 09:18 AM
Now that this isn't the Echo thread, I feel compelled to share the new Insteon Motion Sensor II.


I have tried four different motion sensors in my stairwell, and none of them have been satisfactory - poor range, poor response time, even one that was so loud you could hear it click on through the entire house. The previous gen Insteon sensor was gigantic, and honestly didn't work that well. These new sensors are about the size of a squared off golf ball and work *great*. They are powered solely by a little CR123a (IIRC) battery (though there is a harness to plug it into a wall) and I am little concerned about how long that will last... but modern electronics are so good with batteries it just may not be an issue. It works well enough now I probably won't care about having to swap batteries periodically. Although, that does raise the point I need to revise my mounting system so I can change the battery in the future. :lol:

June 13th, 2017, 05:25 PM
Yeah, you need something like Echo or HomeKit to control the devices that cross manufacturers. Right now I barely use the Apple app since everything I have is Hue, but once I add a second ecosystem I'm sure I'll be using the Apple HomeKit or whatever it's called more.

Still... my kingdom for a weatherized full-spectrum smart LED bulb! I have six floodlights outside that desperately need some party bulb action!

June 13th, 2017, 05:43 PM
That sort of exists... not a "smart bulb" per se, but a remote controllable one. I think you could also get there with.... what's that shit called.. DMX?

I used these:


June 14th, 2017, 04:04 AM
Those look great :up:

June 14th, 2017, 10:34 AM
I'm happy with them. I have three floodlights over the back patio and being able to dim the lights or get a less harsh light is nice at night. Not having to go back inside to do it is the best! It would be nice if they integrated with Echo, but for these particular lights it's just not that big of a deal. At full bright they are not as bright as the 100w BR30s I had, but they're fine... I never needed that full brightness in the first place.

Tom Servo
June 14th, 2017, 03:57 PM
I wonder if those would be worth looking into for in our place. I'm super happy overall with our switch to LED lighting in the house (the difference in the electric bill has been impressive, and it also just doesn't get as hot under the lights as it was with incandescents), but they're crazy bright with a weird, ultra white hue to them. I've gotten used to it, but they still just look weird on the dimmer.

June 15th, 2017, 10:33 AM
3rd gen Hue bulbs are nice from that perspective. In addition to RGB LEDs they also have two white LEDs, a warm and a cold white, so by futzing with the balance you can get some really great light. The Hue app comes with some presets for varying color temperatures, and my experience is the 3rd gen bulbs maintain color purity even with dimming. For basic indoor bulb stuff, 3rd gen Hue is the way to go IMHO, unless you need something that Insteon can do... eg, I have a lamp with six bulbs, and I'm sure as shit not buying 6 Hue bulbs to go in there. Six $5 Cree bulbs and one $25 Insteon module has to be the answer. Same with the patio cover light - it's outdoors, so it's regular bulbs with an Insteon module.

I actually just ordered another pair of 3rd gen Hue bulbs for the bedroom - sometimes I like a really high temperature light, but sometimes I don't! I got a Hue switch to go with them so I can still turn on the lamps with a physical thing at the door, but I am looking forward to creating my own literal red light district that I can switch off from bed. Or with the Echo Dot on the dresser. Amazon's gonna be processing a lot of "Turn off bedroom lights uh yeah give it to me" in the near future.

Actually, that's a good point - both Insteon and Hue have physical switches that you can mount with standard Decora-style face plates, so you don't *need* to control things with an app or Echo or whatever. For the bedroom, I am actually going to remove the old switch, jumper the wires together, and then stick the Hue switch in the same spot. Sucks it's a battery I have to maintain, but the two Insteon switches (aka "mini remotes") I have are a year old and still have a full battery, so it's not that much of a hassle anyway. I assume Hue is similar. They also allow you to put a light switch literally anywhere (double sided tape, or even a surface mount shallow box)... My patio cover lights are controlled from the garage, which is dumb... you have to walk across the dark patio to the garage to turn the patio lights on. I just stuck one of the Insteon remotes on the wall by the back door... problem solved!

June 21st, 2017, 09:53 PM
Hue also has an adjustable white LED - so you can vary the color temperature for quite a bit money than the full-boat LED bulbs.

Thanks for the recommendation on the ilumi... I ended up getting two for $49 each which did the trick! The other four floodlights are far enough from where everyone sits on the patio that they're not an issue.

June 21st, 2017, 11:19 PM
Hue also has an adjustable white LED - so you can vary the color temperature for quite a bit money than the full-boat LED bulbs.

Yep, same tech as the RGB+2W except missing the RGB component. I love this, because sometimes you want a daylight light, sometimes you want a nice warm indoor light. IMHO, the price difference between the RGB+2W and the 2W bulbs isn't enough to justify losing the RGB component... I don't use it often, but for $8 (IIRC, $34 vs $26) per bulb, why the hell not have the option?

Glad the Ilumi worked out... it's hard to believe there aren't more options for outdoor bulbs... I guess more hard to believe the big players aren't even looking in that direction!

June 23rd, 2017, 01:57 PM
Last I looked, the RGB ones are almost twice the price - $49 vs $27. If you know where to get the current gen RGB ones for $34, please show me so I can order a crate of them.

June 23rd, 2017, 02:34 PM
They are pretty much always on sale somewhere. Recently (days ago) the 3rd gen starter kit was $100 at Sam's Club, which is 3 bulbs and a hub... you can just chuck the hub, obvs. It's usually $129, FWIW. Amazon's regular price is $42 and they often have the "frustration free" versions for $34. The ones I just bought from Dell were $39 - that's the most I've ever paid for them.

June 30th, 2017, 02:18 PM
Echo "Show" review (https://www.engadget.com/2017/06/26/amazon-echo-show-review/).

June 30th, 2017, 02:31 PM
I still think it's a silly package and would absolutely wait for v2, but if I had kids or a sketchy security situation, this feature:

Another new feature that takes advantage of the screen is integration with smart-home cameras. The Echo Show will work with cameras from Amcrest, Arlo, August, EZViz, IC Realtime, Ring, Nest and Vivint. By saying a phrase like "Alexa, show the front door" you'll be able to pull up the feed from that camera right on your Show. That's another feature I wasn't able to test -- but given that the Echo is quickly becoming an essential hub for smart devices, households already with smart-home cameras might find the Echo Show worth shelling out for.

might be enough to get me to go in for it anyway. Short of that, I'd rather have a Fire TV v2 ("with Alexa").

Tom Servo
August 4th, 2017, 09:44 AM
Turns out when I bought a couple of Pixel XLs to replace our Moto X's, we were within a promotional period and ended up getting two Google Homes as well. So far, all I've been able to figure out is that a) it's really annoying that "OK Google" wakes up the Home and both of our phones, but thankfully the Home also responds to "Hey Google" and b) it's a significantly better alarm clock so far than the Echo, which means one of them is going to be housed in our bedroom to replace the alarm clock that my wife still hasn't figured out how to work. I also wish I could get the Echo and the Home to fight.

It'll be interesting to see which one we end up using more. I really like the Alexa->list->IFTTT->Todoist way of syncing our shopping lists, but it's fragile at the IFTTT point. Sometimes IFTTT just stops working, so I'm hoping I can set up something a little more robust with the Home.

August 4th, 2017, 10:42 AM
Google Home had a meh shopping list solution, and then made it worse :| I haven't looked into any IFTTT related lists, though.

Tom Servo
August 4th, 2017, 04:58 PM
For me, it's just an IFTTT trigger from the Alexa shopping list (which is okay, but it's always like 4-5 clicks deep into anything so not all that handy when you're, ya know, shopping) that says "when an item is added, take that item and add it to Todoist as well". Todoist isn't a shopping list, but makes it really easy to check off items, even within the homescreen widget, and immediately syncs with everyone else using said list. So, the wife and I always have an up to date shopping list, unless that fragile IFTTT part breaks.

Slightly off topic, but that fingerprint reader on the Pixel is a total game changer when using a homescreen widget as a shopping list. Not having to put my pin in over and over every time I want to check off an item and find out what the next one is...holy shit that made life easier.

Tom Servo
August 4th, 2017, 05:04 PM
Digging the Chromecast integration, that worked better than expected.

"Hey google, play MST3K from Youtube on Downstairs Chromecast" and sure as shit, it started up in a couple of seconds. I wonder how well that can integrate with the Logitech Harmony stuff to know the state of the TV/devices and automatically turn them on for me as well? I will become the king of laziness.

August 4th, 2017, 05:16 PM
It will be interesting how integrated that kind of stuff is later, but for right now you have to do all of that stuff one at a time.

And the problem with the YouTube integration is that it doesn't, in my experience, have the capability to launch Watch Later playlists. I've used the exact phrasing that people have said works for them, but it does not work for me. Watch Later is what I use the most to identify what I want to watch, so I end up rarely using the Home to play YouTube. It's great if you know exactly what you want to watch, like if there's a specific show you want to watch (even if it's on Netflix), and the ability to give it specific commands like "go forward 3 minutes" are really convenient, but they need to iron out the other stuff that they've already figured out for the other interfaces.

Tom Servo
August 10th, 2017, 06:25 AM
We set up the second Google Home in our bedroom. Main use case - my wife can just say "Hey google, set an alarm for 6am" rather than try to figure out our alarm clock (which we've had for a couple of years now and she still can't figure out how to set an alarm on it). It's been in our room for four days, and so far it's woken us up twice at 2:30am with the startup chime, like it's just rebooted. It appears to be almost exactly at 2:30am both times. I've seen other complaints about this in relation to power outages, but it seems weird that we'd have a power outage only for it (no other devices appear to have lost power) at the exact same time on two different nights.

Support had me factory reset and see if it happens again. Seems like a fundamental design flaw that it'll just start making noises in the middle of the night.

August 10th, 2017, 07:13 AM
Powerful deja vu reading about your wife's alarm clock again. :lol:

Tom Servo
August 10th, 2017, 10:17 AM
Hah, oops, forgot I already talked about that.

August 10th, 2017, 07:23 PM
No worries, just caused my brain to do a weird skip for a moment.

Tom Servo
August 11th, 2017, 06:50 AM
Well, we may have figured out what the problem is.

The Google Home seems to have a really, really weak WiFi antenna. While it was in the farthest possible location from the WiFi router, we're in a two story townhouse so the actual distance/number of walls isn't all that high. While our other WiFi devices aren't having issues (our phones, Amazon Tap, Chromecast, TiVo), GH can't connect at all to the 5 GHz band and seems to have a dodgy connection on 2.4.

The general consensus seems to be that it was attempting to do a firmware update and failing, then rebooting in response to the failure. That'd explain why it was happening at a specific time. I plugged it in closer to the router and talked to support, it looks like they had me do a reset and push out the latest firmware immediately to it, as now it's on newer firmware than the other GH which always hangs out near the router. It was quiet last night, which was nice.

I'm trying out putting it on the other side of the room which puts it closer to the router. If that doesn't work, I'll have to look into some sort of repeater.

Tom Servo
September 23rd, 2017, 05:31 PM
We picked up a couple of cheap-o wall outlet things that you just plug into an existing outlet and then plug something in to that. Was like $35 for two of 'em. They work pretty flawlessly with our phones, the Echo, and the Google Home. That's convinced me to finally pull the trigger on a Nest thermostat, especially after finding out that you get $75 back from the electric company if you install one. The installation looks pretty easy, so hopefully I don't fuck it up.

Still, it's got that whole new "I'm living in the future!" feeling just being able to ask one of the home automation things to "turn on the christmas lights" that we have around the window.

September 24th, 2017, 04:37 AM
Given how HK apartments have steel beams everywhere, I've just decided to give up and have asked for HKT Premier to give me a quote to sort out our new place. They said it'd probably be Ruckus hardware.

September 24th, 2017, 09:01 AM
I used Ruckus at a very large house a few years ago. It works very well... for the price it should! Today, I'd probably look to Orbi because the price vs. performance is so compelling, but I can certainly understand how a professional installer would stick with Ruckus. Orbi probably works and saves a bundle; Ruckus will work at any cost.

Hopefully. Orbi gets firmware to remove the star topology limitation... then it'd be really competitive.

Availability of this network stuff changes everything for smart home gear!

Tom Servo
September 24th, 2017, 03:37 PM
Sonova...so, we have a compatible system, but apparently ours is unusual in that the wire gauge is slightly bigger than normal, and it doesn't fit in the Nest. It sounds like if we wanted to change that, we'd have to run all new wiring through the entire HVAC system.


Tom Servo
September 24th, 2017, 05:00 PM
Then, surprisingly, the upstairs unit, which should be basically identical in every way, had smaller gauge wiring. Took maybe 10 minutes to install, and about 5 minutes to figure out how to put a space into a wifi password on it. It's up and running now.

And it's a lot of fun to say "Hey Google, set upstairs to 76 degrees."

September 24th, 2017, 05:33 PM
I went with the cheapy Insteon thermostat - we don't use the HVAC much, and there was little point in it learning everything. We pretty much just leave it with a heat to 72 and a cool to 78 and that's that. A few times this year the weather has gotten wacky and it's been superb to a) ask Alexa to turn off the HVAC, or b) do it remotely from a phone. I don't think I'm super nerdy about home automation - I have definitely taken a low-resistance path - but I do love it. It's a very weird, very cool stress & time saver. The thermostat in particular is wonderful. Even though I don't touch it much, the best thing about the smart thermostats is programming. No insane button combinations or 31-step programming sequences. You just enter a number on your phone and it's done. It is *the thing* I waited for my whole life. :)

I did go ahead with Hue RGB lights in the bedroom, and bought a Hue wall switch to go with. The wall switch is neat - it has both on and off as well as dim up and dim down. The on button will cycle through four scenes, and you can set the on to either return to the last scene or a default scene. I have on set to "normal bright" and then go to some dimmer & colored lighting. There is one dim bluish hue I *really* like - it's a perfect bedroom light. I'm surprised at how often we use it. On-on when we go to bed, then "Alexa turn the bedroom lights off" to go to sleep. So. Lazy.

September 24th, 2017, 05:48 PM
I used Ruckus at a very large house a few years ago. It works very well... for the price it should! Today, I'd probably look to Orbi because the price vs. performance is so compelling, but I can certainly understand how a professional installer would stick with Ruckus. Orbi probably works and saves a bundle; Ruckus will work at any cost.

Hopefully. Orbi gets firmware to remove the star topology limitation... then it'd be really competitive.

Availability of this network stuff changes everything for smart home gear!

Good to know. Orbi's star topology is probably not going to work due to the way the particular apartment is laid out, and because of the steel restricting 5Ghz beams.

Tom Servo
September 24th, 2017, 06:26 PM
The thermostat in particular is wonderful. Even though I don't touch it much, the best thing about the smart thermostats is programming. No insane button combinations or 31-step programming sequences. You just enter a number on your phone and it's done. It is *the thing* I waited for my whole life. :)

That's where I just got to. It's like "I want to play with the new toy", but at the same time I realize that half the point is that I probably won't think much about my thermostat again. It knows when we're home and when we're not, what the weather is like, and it'll adjust accordingly. It apparently is learning the normal temperature patterns in our house and will adjust to that as well. It's entire job is to make me not think about HVAC anymore. Feels almost anti-climactic.

September 25th, 2017, 08:34 AM
I haven't looked at the thermostat since I installed it. It's exactly what I wanted. I set it to temperatures I like and it figures out what it has to do to maintain them. It was worth every penny!

My hope is this smart technology will bring more commercial elements into the home - being able to adjust airflow with dampers and doors would be great. More than any home user would historically want to mess with, but if your thermostat and sensors can shut off HVAC to a room or area to improve performance or efficiency in another, that's win. I plan to do a thorough ducting & insulation rework, but I've been dragging my feet to see if this stuff actually appears. Since we don't use about half the house, it would be nice to be able to stop controlling its climate.

September 25th, 2017, 10:39 AM
I'm thinking about an Echo Silver. It looks like just what I need.


Tom Servo
September 27th, 2017, 11:02 AM
Other Nest is installed, so now we're all smart-homed out on the HVAC front. I have no idea how we'll verify if it's actually saving us money, but it's still pretty fun to have.

September 27th, 2017, 11:36 AM
Let us know how it works out. I've been hesitant with it because of reports that they've had units get confused and run away on full heat and stuff.

Tom Servo
September 27th, 2017, 01:14 PM
Our upstairs one did a runaway fan all night the first night. For some reason, it actually had a Fan Schedule set up in the app, from 10PM to 8AM, to run the fan constantly. Took a while and a few google searches to find it. Other than that, so far it's been very good about maintaining temperature, I'd say better than the Honeywell dumb ones we had previously.

September 27th, 2017, 02:42 PM
I just don't want to come home from a long day of work in July and find my dog baked into the couch.

October 2nd, 2017, 03:34 PM
I still am not sold on those. Most people have a set 8-5 work schedule. You know when you will be leaving and coming home most of the time.

How are these better than the week/weekend programmable ones?

October 2nd, 2017, 03:54 PM
An app instead of button presses. But unless the app lets you set the week/weekend schedule automatically, instead of "learning it" after you manually adjust it every day for a while, I'm not interested.

Also, I'm mostly not interested period, because I don't have a problem setting the week/weekend schedule once and then only touching the thing again to switch between heat, cool and off as the seasons transition.

October 2nd, 2017, 03:59 PM
With any reasonably modern thermostat, you don't have to manage heat vs. cool - they are smart enough to just hit a target temp. Ours turns on heat til it's 62, and cool til it's 78, and ignores everything in the middle. Haven't touched it in a year and have no plans to touch it any time soon. :D

Tom Servo
October 2nd, 2017, 05:22 PM
The Nest does do the "learning" thing for the first week, which my wife has been pretty diligently following the same set schedule in an effort to get it to do what she wants. They also have a way to manually set a schedule and tweak the one it generates for you, so you can set it on your own as well.

I was having fun looking at the usage history for the last week. It's interesting how much more the one upstairs has to run than the downstairs. I'm sorta torn on the skylight we have - I really like the fact that it adds a lot of light to the upstairs, but it's clear that it also causes a massive increase in heat.

October 2nd, 2017, 06:19 PM
Have you looked into a coating? It's not 100%, but there are several light in/heat out films these days... seems like someone would make something suitable for a skylight.

Tom Servo
October 2nd, 2017, 07:59 PM
I have not, but now that I know of this I am going to.

October 3rd, 2017, 09:27 AM


There is also this:


and similar.

You could also look into a retractable shade.


We have one particularly dark room in the house and I'd really love to add a skylight... but I don't want the heat in summer. I've been casually looking at a complete approach for like 5 years. :lol:

Tom Servo
October 3rd, 2017, 10:39 AM
That's really helpful, thanks!

I was looking over the history charts for the upstairs Nest and was surprised to see that it didn't kick on all that much during the day. I expected it to still do that, and the ambient temperature in the room its in was still only hovering around 78 by the time I got home. Wife likes having it cool at night though, so it runs for a while just before we go to bed. So cooling off the upstairs by lessening the heat through the skylight may still help so it has to run less in the evenings, but I am pretty surprised nonetheless at how little it runs during the day.

Tom Servo
October 3rd, 2017, 01:12 PM
Rats, the Window Tint LA folks said they can't do the tint on domed skylights.

October 3rd, 2017, 03:05 PM
Oh, it's domed? That's definitely a dealbreaker for film. I would look at the Liquisol. I have never used it, but I've not casually read anything bad about it. It keeps coming up in my research. Motorized blinds are also an option of course. More expensive, but assuming you don't have too much area to cover maybe not a bad approach - being able to essentially "dim" the skylight on demand seems like an attractive feature to me. Certainly a value-add for the house.

Tom Servo
October 3rd, 2017, 07:55 PM
Yeah, it's not a ton of area. Eyeballing I'd say it's four feet by four feet. We're definitely looking at the liquisol too, and another UV filter/diffuser kind deal.

We only know so much about the installation of the skylight as after we bought the place, we found out that the owners basically snuck around the HOA and had it installed, so there's not a lot of documentation lying around.

January 8th, 2018, 07:50 PM


Google has introduced its platform for Echo-Show-style assistant+screen devices, called Google Smart Display. Pictured below are Lenovo's two devices, which have a groundbreaking feature: a mechanical shutter to cover up the camera.


Google isnít talking much about the full technical details of what that screen can do, but itís not just going to be an Android tablet slapped onto a speaker. Instead, itíll be a full voice interface that just happens to also be able to display stuff ó just like the Echo Show. Itís technically running on Android Things, a variant of Android thatís custom-designed for IoT.

You wonít be able to run Android apps on it, itís basically a web-like view that just sits on top of Android Things. It presents its answers in a card-like interface ó though based on what weíve seen so far Google hasnít totally fleshed out how everything will work for every question. It seems close to ready, though. Which probably helps to explain why these speakers are coming later this year, not right away.


November 6th, 2018, 05:52 AM
Speaking of third party Google Assistant devices:

Nice sound, fun lights, splashproof, dustproof, proprietary and USB-C charging. It's nice to be able to take it to parties or seldom used rooms and have music and questions answered.


November 6th, 2018, 07:27 AM
Oh yeah, forgot about this topic...

I now have:
- Lenovo Smart Display (Google Assistant)
- 3 Google Home Minis
- Philips Hue Hub w/ 12 lights
- Nest Thermostat E
- Samsung SmartThings Hub, with smart switch, and door sensors

Everything has been fantastic, and easy other than SmartThings so far. SmartThings requires a bit of "programming" to make it do the things I want to do, so I haven't gotten into it yet and I'm not sure if I ever will. Hue and Nest integrate really well with Home, and now that the Google Home App has home control buttons, I don't really have use for SmartThings (originally got it because I wanted control all in one app, which Google didn't offer up until last month).