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What are you doing with Alexa?

yromj

Well-Known Member
Now that Alexa is being added to more control devices and many controllable devices are compatible directly or through "concentrators" such as Wink or Google Home, how many of you are using this type of stuff?

We still don't have web service (or cable TV) in our new house yet (they're supposed to be here today - long irritating story). So, I can't do anything in this house yet but I have done some things in our LR apartment and the house we leased down here. Some things worked really well while others had bugs.

An example of things that work really well is the "Our Groceries" skill. I love this because I do a lot of our shopping but I don't always know exactly when I'll have time. Jan does most of the cooking and house stuff so she usually builds the lists. Instead of realizing I have time and am near a store but don't have a list, I just open the app and VOILA! there's the list. Adding items is very easy whether it be with Alexa, from an old list, etc. and of course it syncs across multiple devices.

Light control through the Wink hub also works very well. When I was working on my friend's new house project, I got a Wink and a Leviton plug-in dimmer. Setting this up was very easy and worked correctly right off the bat. You name the lights and then control with either the Wink app or Alexa. From there you can build macros, called robots, to either automate things or have them voice controlled.

An example of things that didn't work well was an activity I built that was triggered by returning home after dark which turned the lights on. Simple enough right? Well, it worked every time we came without issue. However, both of our phones (which I verified by removing the app from each phone separately) would oddly "decide" to tell Wink they just arrived home around midnight each night. That would cause the lights, which included the bedroom lights, to come on in the middle of the night. I have a solution to this that I'm anxious to try, though.

Sorry for the long post.

John
 

Huey

Well-Known Member
Famous
We haven't done any integration with household items just yet, although our first probably will be with Dish when we upgrade to new boxes.
The shopping list is the bomb when it comes to having an integrated shopping list that the wife and I both use. So easy just to add something, she can see it on her phone, and then she buys it. Amazon may be able to ship stuff directly to your house, but when the spouse pays for it, even better.

I also find it useful to be able to call one of the other echo's in the house, like my 14 year old daughter, and tell her it's time for dinner, put the dishes away, etc. Although that's only handy if she actually answers it.
 

Flint

Dog Faced Pony Soldier
Superstar
When it comes to IoT stuff, I use Alexa to control my NEST thermostats and controlling my Fire TVs. Other key things I do is listen to local radio, connect to my phone to play music, play Amazon music, check the weather, get news briefings, check local traffic conditions, check allergen levels, and ask general questions.

Something new happened two days ago which makes me think I may lose interest in one key capability - getting or confirming recipes. I was going to make a new batch of simple syrup which I do about three times a year and suddenly had a brain fart and wasn't convinced I knew the ratio of water to white sugar to put into the pan. So, I asked Alexa, "What are the ingredients for simple syrup?" expecting a simple answer confirming or correcting my memory of the ratio. Alexa replied, "I have a skill which may help you with this question, All Recipes. Would you like me to enable it?" To which I said, "No." I then asked, "What is the ratio of sugar to water in simple syrup?" which got the same response. I had made these sort of simple request about recipes hundreds of times and was getting frustrated. I asked again, got the same answer. So I asked, "what does Wikipedia say the recipe for simple syrup is?" which got the same answer. Basically, every single way I asked the question, Alexa would only offer to enable the skill, All Recipes. I finally caved in and said yes to enabling the skill, which really pissed me off. I asked again and Alexa responded with, "There are over 1,000 recipes for simple syrup, this appears to be the most liked one: Simple syrup is a basic ingredient in cocktails and some dishes where adding sweetness is desired. The oldest known reference to is appears in..." I told her to stop and asked, "What are the specific ingredients in simple syrup?" Again she went off on a tangent, this time after a long introduction going into a recipe for a Mojito which requires simple syrup. I was so mad at that point I shouted at her. I then asked Cortana the same question: "Hey, Cortana, what are the ingredients of simple syrup?" She responded the first time with, "Simple syrup contains two ingredients, sugar and water in equal parts. Most recipes call for one cup of white granulated sugar and one cup of water."

Damn, I am going to go ape shit on Alexa if that happens again.

The last time I asked that sort of question was about a month ago when I asked how much water to use to cook Jasmine rice. Alexa quickly said it was 1-3/4 cups of water to 1 cup jasmine rice. No wars, no confusion, nothing complicated or wrong.
 

Dentman

Well-Known Member
I was just turned on to this world on a visit to Flints house last week. I ordered one straight away after some advice from Flint. I'm trying to decide what event was more important in my life, the birth of my daughter or the day I got my Echo....guess it's a toss up.

Anyway I've only had it since yesterday so I'm clueless to all it can do. Yromj, or Huey can you further explain this grocery list thing? I do most of the shopping, this has my interest. Thanks.
 

Flint

Dog Faced Pony Soldier
Superstar
You just tell Alexa to add "cheese" to the grocery list as she does. Then when you go to the store you open the Alexa app on your phone and select lists to find the grocery list and you can check things off as you shop.
 

Towen7

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
Lately, all of my Dots Have been very slow to respond. WiFi speeds are fine. Sometimes, maybe 25% of the time, the light comes on but nothing happens. I’ve rebooted them and my D-Link router.
 

yromj

Well-Known Member
I use the "Our Groceries" skill and app instead of the default. Our Groceries lets you create multiple lists (Publix, Target, Costco, etc.). Then you simply say "Alexa tell Our Groceries to add eggs to Publix." Eggs appears on the Publix list virtually immediately.

John
 

Huey

Well-Known Member
Famous
I was just turned on to this world on a visit to Flints house last week. I ordered one straight away after some advice from Flint. I'm trying to decide what event was more important in my life, the birth of my daughter or the day I got my Echo....guess it's a toss up.

Anyway I've only had it since yesterday so I'm clueless to all it can do. Yromj, or Huey can you further explain this grocery list thing? I do most of the shopping, this has my interest. Thanks.
Both you and your wife will need to load the alexa app on to your phones, and that's pretty much it. Now when you want something, just say "Alexa add dog food to shopping list", and she adds it, and it will show up on both phones. And from the phone, you can cancel things off it as well.

I have three echo's at the house, a dot, standard echo, and an echo show, as well as an echo show at work. IMHO, the echo show is worth the extra money for the screen. You can do so much more with it, from watching youtube videos, amazon prime movies, see and edit your shopping list on the touch screen, etc. The Echo Show was what got me to get off my ass and get a new router, and we definitely use it more now that we have a screen and a reliable wifi connection.
 

PaulyT

Behind the Curtain
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Superstar
I use the "Our Groceries" skill and app instead of the default. Our Groceries lets you create multiple lists (Publix, Target, Costco, etc.). Then you simply say "Alexa tell Our Groceries to add eggs to Publix." Eggs appears on the Publix list virtually immediately.

John
That's very cool, and directly applicable to us (trader joe's vs. costco lists), I may have a dot for our kitchen for this sort of thing... my wife is always irritated by the kids' saying "mom we need this" at random times and when she's doing something else, and then the kids get mad when she forgets.
 

Dentman

Well-Known Member
Thank you all for the replys. I love this damn thing.
Huey, I didn't know they had model called show, I'll check it out before I buy another unit for my Kitchen/family room area.
 

Huey

Well-Known Member
Famous
Thank you all for the replys. I love this damn thing.
Huey, I didn't know they had model called show, I'll check it out before I buy another unit for my Kitchen/family room area.
Having the video screen, it really opens up what you can do with it. I don't know if it's enabled yet, but I would imagine at some point you would be able to remotely view a security camera. I have both a show at work and home, and it's pretty cool to be able to call home and video chat.
 

TKoP

Well-Known Member
I have a Dot in my kitchen/family room area. I use it for the following in order of usage:
  1. Creating (multiple) timers while I'm cooking
  2. Adding items to my shopping list (hadn't known about the multiple list thing)
  3. Listening to music (I have a bluetooth connection to my main rig)
  4. Get a summary of the news (I spend ~10minutes taking care of my dogs in the morning)
  5. Controlling Dish verbally (when I'm cooking and my hands are occupied/dirty I'll pause, rewind, etc)
  6. Getting traffic conditions to my work
  7. Listening to a podcast (I only know how to listen to the most recent one)
  8. Tell me a joke
  9. Recipes for cocktails
  10. Recipes for meals
 

Towen7

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
1) By far the most use is controlling the Lutron Caseta lights and ceiling fans.
2) Its our daily alarm clock
3) Kitchen timers (bummed you can’t set one timer and have it alert at multiple devices)
4) Reminders
5) Checking the time
6) The occasional weather forecast
7) Checking sports scores in the morning
8) Settling arguments by asking trivia questions
9) Verifying if local stores are open
10) Visitors and kids love for Alexa to “tell me a joke”

-I don’t use it for music, at least not until Sonos integration happens.
-My wife does all the grocery shopping and she doesn’t use the list (she’s super unorganized).
-I’d love basic control over the living room TV rig but I don’t want to invest in more hardware.
-Ditto for AC control. If/when there’s a reason to replace the thermostat I’ll explore it.
-I don’t use it for news alerts. I prefer reading on aggregator sites.
 

yromj

Well-Known Member
1) By far the most use is controlling the Lutron Caseta lights and ceiling fans.
...-I’d love basic control over the living room TV rig but I don’t want to invest in more hardware...
Very familiar with the Caseta lights but didn't know about the ceiling fans. I'll dig into this but are the fans branded by Lutron or is there a Lutron controller that handles them? (BTW, IMHO the Pico controllers for the Caseta dimmers are da bomb because you add them anywhere you wish you had a light control.)

For the TV control check out an app called "Any-mote". You can have network based control without additional hardware. Many brands and devices are supported and you can try the app for free or buy it for all of $9. I have used it with some success but they really want to sell their controller because no device has a network "ON" command. However, once things are up and running you can get some basic control fairly easily.

John
 

Towen7

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
Very familiar with the Caseta lights but didn't know about the ceiling fans. I'll dig into this but are the fans branded by Lutron or is there a Lutron controller that handles them? (BTW, IMHO the Pico controllers for the Caseta dimmers are da bomb because you add them anywhere you wish you had a light control.)
BA91DAAC-A1D3-41CE-889B-3D35773F32E3.jpeg

For the fans I just use the Caseta switches instead of dimmers for basic on/off control. I too love the Pico remotes. Christy has one on the visor of her car to turn the driveway and patio lights on. But Alexa has saved me from needing to add more remotes.

The Caseta system’s only real flaws are the artificial limit of 49 devices per hub, and the price. The technology supports more but Lutron doesn’t want to take business away from their installers. I guess I can’t blame them. And I find with home automation stuff you tend to get what you pay for. Caseta has been rock solid, easy to work with and plenty enough flexibility and power for my needs.
 

Huey

Well-Known Member
Famous
Well I used to watch Youtube videos on the Show, but Google and Amazon aren't playing nice, and Google pulled Youtube from the Show yesterday. I didn't use it much, but it did come in handy at times. Hopefully they get things worked out.
 

yromj

Well-Known Member
I don't have a Lutron hub, using the Wink for that part. So for the fan you have basic on/off control through the switch. I thought maybe you had a fan which would allow you to adjust the speed and dim the light. There is one on the Wink site but that's the only one I've seen that natively supports this stuff. This is pretty low on my control list, though. I don't adjust the speed of the fans very often and very rarely use the light on them.

On a side note, I'm FINALLY getting Internet service installed at the house right now. (This has been a long month...) So, now I'm going to be connecting all of my old stuff plus my new stuff (a new Dot and my friend sent me two Wink 2 Hubs). i'm looking forward to playing geek tonight.

John
 

Flint

Dog Faced Pony Soldier
Superstar
I could use a connected outlet switch for my lamps in my bedroom which is controllable by Alexa. Rather than take a few minutes looking for one online, do you guys know of any I should try?

Secondly, I am a little dismayed at the idea of requiring multiple IoT wireless hubs to connect my home. When I was looking into a smart lock I considered an Alexa controlled Z-Wave lock. But when I studied user reviews I discovered the Z-Wave hub had to be no more than about 15 feet from the lock. I don't have any other IoT devices in the area where the front door is, so that would mean, potentially, I would need more hubs when I connect more stuff. So, in my larger two-story 3.600 square foot house, if I wanted to put Z-Wave or ZigBee controlled lights and other devices I would need several hubs, like four to six of them (if I include my garage). Does that makes sense? Or, am I sorely mistaken by my research?
 

Towen7

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
I could use a connected outlet switch for my lamps in my bedroom which is controllable by Alexa. Rather than take a few minutes looking for one online, do you guys know of any I should try?
I'd recommend Belkin's


Secondly, I am a little dismayed at the idea of requiring multiple IoT wireless hubs to connect my home. When I was looking into a smart lock I considered an Alexa controlled Z-Wave lock. But when I studied user reviews I discovered the Z-Wave hub had to be no more than about 15 feet from the lock. I don't have any other IoT devices in the area where the front door is, so that would mean, potentially, I would need more hubs when I connect more stuff. So, in my larger two-story 3.600 square foot house, if I wanted to put Z-Wave or ZigBee controlled lights and other devices I would need several hubs, like four to six of them (if I include my garage). Does that makes sense? Or, am I sorely mistaken by my research?
15' is a ridiculously short range. As of now the only hub I have is the Lutron one. It's in the middle of my second floor. It works at well over 60' in my home.
 
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