Saturday, July 30, 2016

How I'd change @amazonecho

I received an Amazon Echo for Father's Day because I had it on my Wishlist. Possibly because my wife received a Kindle Fire for Mother's Day? Hopefully Amazon appreciates us! :)

It is a fun toy, but I was surprised it doesn't do more. (I also keep forgetting it's called "Echo" because we just call her "Alexa.") Disclaimer: the link over there is tagged with this website's code. If you buy one, Amazon gives me a few pennies and when I have enough pennies I go to Starbucks.

So, a few things I wish it did.

The app as a two-way extension
The app is great for aiding in slightly more complex tasks (like changing Pandora stations). However, the app ought to also be able to serve as an extension. For instance, having timers or alarms also optionally alert on app.
"Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes"
"Ok, timer set for 10 minutes"
"Alexa, alert my app when the timer goes off."

Voice Recognition
She does recognize what we say, but it would be cool if it recognized who we were. I spend a lot of time at work, so others in the house use it. It would be cool if you could have it recognize who you were and respond accordingly. Then you could say stuff like "Alexa, alert my app when the timer goes off."

Right now, Alexa is the start of things. Play a song. Tell a joke. Set the thermostat to 72. It would also be nice if Alexa could be the output of things. For instance, it has IF-THIS-THEN-THAT integration, but it's all THIS. If you ask Alexa for THIS, then THAT happens. It would be nice if worked the other way as well. If THIS, then Alexa should do THAT. There are several possibilities - she could announce, play a tone, or simple blink the light ring ala blink(1) (another toy I like playing with).

I would be nice to be able to set up triggers so that it would alert if stock prices fell/rose to certain levels, if news stories about certain terms occurred, whatever.

Multiple Amazon Accounts?
The Echo is connected to my account because it's my toy. But most of the shopping is done from my wife's account (she's the Primary Prime account). I think we can connect the Echo to multiple accounts, but never figured out how.

This is a huge one. Again, would need to be able to recognize *WHO* was saying "Send an email" as well as "Alexa, do I have any new email?" Or "Alexa, alert me if I receive an email from in the next 30 minutes."

Send to My Phone
Can I send driving directions to my phone?

Control my Computer
I would love to have a Chrome App or Windows App installed and connected so that we can issue voice commands to the laptop that sits right next to the Echo. "Alexa, skip video" - "Alexa, next tab" - "Alexa, open Gmail and compose a message" - "Alexa, go back 30 seconds" - "Alexa, mute tab" - "Alexa, close tab" - "Alexa, lock computer in 30 minutes" - "Alexa, navigate to"

More Official Skills
Like Tile and Roku for sure.

Skills Directory
This is only semi-related, but there should be a directory of all available skills on the web, not just within the app. If that exists, it's not easy to find on

Spam Watch

Every time we register with a website, we use an email address unique to that website.  That allows us to see how our email address is shared (or stolen).

We are receiving spam as a result of registering with these sites.  Not a comprehensive list, but these sites have (or have previously had) inadequate security measures, or have shared our email address with someone who did.

If you're getting spam, it might be because you've registered with one of these sites. If you're thinking of registering with one of these sites, you might be wary of sharing your email address with them, in case they haven't improved their practices.

* Accuweather
* Adobe
* CouponMom (at least twice!)
* Disney (Photo Pass)
* Dropbox
* eHeat
* Entertainment Book
* Google (Feedburner)
* Klout
* Larson Nissan (at least twice!)
* Lifehacker
* Lower My Bills
* MyGroceryDeals
* MySpace
* Paypal
* TD Ameritrade (at least twice!)
* Tumblr

Breaking up is hard to do

I cannot remember past moves being this challenging.  But this time our move has been really complex when it comes to the address.  Now, sure, we tried to maintain addresses in two states for a few months which was our own fault, but even now, getting everything untangled has been challenging and it feels like technology has worked against us.  Warning: this is a cautionary tale, but also a rant.

Google - there's disagreement amongst the various Google properties (most notably Google Maps vs Waze) about what our address actually is - whether there's an "N" (north) on the street name or not. This extends to the real estate sites as well. I find myself being inconsistent when giving our address, but the mail still gets here.

Amazon - your address will exist in multiple places in their database and updating in one place won't update it in others.  We had a large Subscribe & Save order take a tour of the country, and someone sent someone a gift off Rachel's wish list, only to have it returned after delivery was refused at our old address.  We still don't know who tried to send Rachel a gift.

UPS - the only reason we even knew about the attempted gift to Rachel was that it took UPS nearly two weeks to stop sending us updates for packages to our old address, even though we had updated our address.  Yes, we got emails for all the deliveries the new owners of our house got.

USPS - same deal - we got package tracking notifications for purchases by the new owners for over a week after changing the address.

Plus, we had a number of people change their records to our new address in California and continue to mail us, including local politicians wanting us to vote in Washington state and realtors wanting to help us sell our Washington home.  This isn't forwarded mail, this is mail printed with our new address.  The real kicker is the one from Washington State Department of Social Services.

But speaking of forwarded mail, we did receive ballots for the mid-July whatever from the King County Elections office (seriously - you get like 14-16 ballots a year in Washington state - there's "voice of the people" and then there's "shouldn't the representatives handle some of this stuff?").

AT&T - I've never seen this company as disjointed and disorganized as my current dealings with them.  They cover our wireless phones and internet, but they're so siloed it actually works against them to all share the same name.  They really need to get their act together or stop trying to pretend they're all one company.  So much trouble trying to get all the billing set up and going to the same place.  Every time I call them, I end up being told that whoever I'm talking to can't help me because they can't access whatever area of the business I'm trying to deal with and having to transfer me.

Comcast - until we moved, this was the best experience I'd ever had with the company.  We only had internet through them, but every step along the way - signing up, installation, extra installation after determining the old line had been destroyed by me with a shovel, customer service, pricing, speed and the complete lack of outages made my experience with Comcast great.  Until I was ready to end service because we were moving.  In the end, I probably had nine interactions (phone, chat, Twitter) and had to request cancelation three times because each previous request never got recorded anywhere in their system.  During that time, I got emails confirming the services the new owner had requested and continued billing, an absolute mess.

Washington State DOL (aka DMV) - they have a way to indicate that a vehicle has been moved out of state, but not a person.  No way to truly cancel services or indicate that that you won't need to renew stuff in future years, which means they'll waste money trying to get us to pay for renewals we don't need.

Of course, then there's all the flyers we get down here from realtors who want to help us sell this house.  We just bought it!  That's just lazy marketing or inefficient selection criteria when determining who to distribute the flyers to.  Especially from the realtor who just sold this house to us.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Email from the @FBI

So just got this email from the FBI.  Take that, Nigerian scammer spammers!

Federal Bureau Of Investigation Fraud Division
200 Mccarty Avenue Albany, NY 12209 New York
Anti-Terrorist and Fraud Crimes Division
FBI Delegated to Visit Nigeria for Investigation

Our Ref: FGB /0N8/AGENCY NO.856.

Dear Beneficiary:

The UNITED NATIONS have instructed us to visit Nigeria as FBI/UNITED NATIONS delegates to investigate fraudsters who are in the business of swindling Foreigners from various countries. Please be informed that during our investigation, we found out that there is a total amount sum of US$20million that has been duly assigned in your name as the beneficiary in the bank but these fraudsters were busy swindling you without any hope of receiving your fund.

These are the works of the fraudsters who needed to extort hard earned money from you in the name of transaction, Be informed that we have arrested some bank officials in respect of this delayed Overdue fund. Therefore, we sincerely implore you to forward all claim detailed information if possible support with documents you may have received in the prior of transaction for verification/evaluation. Upon the fulfilling of this obligations/requirement as stipulated in the deed of assignment with the payment authority to expedite action in carrying out the release of your funds.

We have a very limited time to stay in Nigeria, Your response is needed urgently as soon as you receive this message to expedite the completion of your transaction. The remaining criminals will be caught unaware and we don't want them to know this new development to avoid jeopardizing our investigation, All you need is to conceal anything that has to do with this exercise and cease from any illegal transaction to enable us get all the necessary information required.

I anticipate your swift response with the required information below.

(1) Your full names;
(2) Phone, fax and mobile #;
(3) Home address/ Country
(4) Profession, Age and Marital status.
(5) Identity card/passport

Await your swift response as soon as you receive this email to ensure you receive your fund that has been delayed by the fraudsters.

Best Regard,

Mr. James Brooks