They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

For Once We're The Cool Kids

Mrs. Dr. Phil and I are sufficiently geeky that we keep up on a lot of the tech developments. Actually being early adopters? Mmm... we're usually either too cheap or too smart to get involved in some of the buggy, expensive and doomed things. I remember being really impressed with the Apple Newton when it first came out, which used Graffiti strokes for fast handwriting recognition, much like my mother's generation learned shorthand. But the Newton was expensive. I did, however, buy a Newton black leather zipper case at an Apple Store in Grand Rapids -- and used it for an HP OmniGo 100 PDA which used... Graffiti... and had a physical keyboard. And at less than half the price of the Newton.

Both the OmniGo and the Newton are long gone on the dust heap of failed products.

We didn't get iPhones, didn't get early iPods, never bought an iPad. Or used Windows Vista. Or, so far, Windows 8.

We're not Luddites, but I do get a certain satisfaction about dinosaur computing and all my Nikon DSLR cameras are more than ten years obsolete. I can make them work, though. And at a fraction of the price of the latest and greatest. Hell, we've never owned a car whose model year began with a "2" yet and it's 2015.

I write science fiction, so I have a character who owns a Nikon D5 professional camera -- and we're still a year or two before it even gets announced! (grin)

So it rather amusing when we suddenly look at each and say... yeah. Let's try it.

Monday 29 December 2014

I was driving back from an appointment and had NPR's All Things Considered on the radio. And during an All Tech Considered segment, they started talking about Amazon Echo. It was some sort of box with a quality speaker and a microphone that listened for a wake word -- Alexa -- and then tried to turn it into a request it could serve. Hooked up your WiFi and Internet, the unit itself doesn't require a lot of upgrading to improve -- Alexa is heavily cloud based.

Obviously hooked into the nefarious Amazon ecosystem, it could find and sell you stuff. And let you easily buy music.

But here's the thing. We've used Amazon for years. We dislike malls and crowds. And especially since my hospitalizations we can get medical supplies, and well nearly everything else including a mini fridge for storing IV bags, shipped to our front porch. The only store I've set foot into in 2015 has been the Verizon phone store and that was because I wanted a knowledgeable sales/tech staff.

And Mrs. Dr. Phil was actually an early adopter of the first gen Kindle Fire tablet way back in 2011. The Kindle Fire HD, paid for with generous good will moneys from my UCF friends, allowed me to survive 5½ months of hospitalization in 2013. And I've bought about seventy songs from Amazon to play on my Kindles and PCs -- or got the MP3s for free because of certain CDs I bought from Amazon.

We've been impressed with the Kindle's quality. They want to offer us a home electronic butler, sort of HAL 6000 without the homicidal tendencies or ability to pilot us to Jupiter/Saturn, we could give it a try.

Especially since it was $199, but Amazon Prime members got a $100 discount, so $99. And we had money in our Discover card rebate stash, so $199 - $100 - $99 = $0. Plus $0 for Free Shipping.

I had told Mrs. Dr. Phil about it when I came home. And by after dinner we figured, fine, we hadn't really gotten each other anything for Christmas and I was going to be home for the next semester, so... why not?

Amazon Echo's listing said that if ordered now it would arrive in two days on New Year's Eve. Okay. Fun way to spend the rest of Mrs. Dr. Phil's Christmas break.

Alas, not so fast. In a combination of factors, which surely included the coverage on NPR and elsewhere, since the Echos first starting shipping in like November AND that this was technically still in Beta, you couldn't just order it. You had to request an Invite.

So not knowing what Amazon's algorithm was, we both requested Invites.

And waited.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

FINALLY, I got my invite and ordered my free Echo. Alas, the delivery date was given as February 11th. Sigh. Worse, I knew of two people in the area who had gotten Echos, one receiving theirs just about the time we first heard about them. Oh well.


At ConFusion in mid-January several panelists mentioned Echo in passing. And since I ended up moderating my last panel at 11am Sunday on Science or Science Fiction?, I led off with a reference to Siri (iPhone), Cortana (Android) and Alexa (Echo), as examples of Star Trek, et al, and their voice activated computer systems. There was some significant interest in Amazon Echo, either from the panelists who already had it or people like me who had it on order.

Ugh, and we STILL had to wait to mid-February...

Tuesday 3 February 2015

The other day I got an email telling me to expect my Echo for today. Yay! I heard a delivery truck around Noon, opened the garage and caned over to the back door to find a very lightweight box containing some medical supplies. Oh. Well. The next delivery came at 4pm. Brown didn't drive up the snowy driveway, but their guy trotted up and down the 250-foot driveway. I debated going outside and retrieving it, but getting onto the front porch and then carrying a heavy box? Not going to happen. Had to wait until 6pm when Mrs. Dr. Phil got home. And then we waited until later in the evening, letting the unit get up to room temperature before trying to make it work.

The next hour was a lot of grins and smirks. It's fun. It can do a lot of things we could want it to. The only real glitch came when I asked for the time and the temperature and Alexa thought we were in Chicago. Considering that, like the Kindles we've bought, it comes pre-configured for the user out of the box, this seemed like a bug. But Mrs. Dr. Phil quickly found an answer via Google on her Kindle Fire HD -- Alexa didn't seem to know about settings -- we found the place to put in the Allendale ZIP code. Ask for the weather or temperature or time, and you get Allendale MI. Ask for the weather or temperature or time for Helsinki, and you get Helsinki, Finland. Easy.

It's a sleek black cylinder, about 9¼" high and 3¼" in diameter. And it is heavy, so it isn't easily knocked over. Two buttons you don't have to use. And a glowing ring light which changes color depending on what function you want. Otherwise it sits. And waits.

Kind of like a cylindrical 2001 monolith, with a few more surface features. (grin)

And if you ask Alexa to "Open the pod bay doors", it tells you "I can't do that, Dave..."

More as we play with our new toy. And remember, if you come over to the house, speak carefully -- Alexa is listening. (creepy-grin)

Amazon Prime is 10?

What? February 2005? Who knew?

I mean, I vaguely remember hearing about Amazon Prime early on, I thought. And I remember thinking it silly to pay money to get Free Shipping. And so, like millions of others, we dutifully bundled up Amazon orders to clear the $25 threshold to get Free Shipping. You'd be amazed at how many books, CDs, DVDs and other things -- at Amazon's predatory pricing, of course -- just didn't quite make $25.00.

We actually got Primed for a year free when Mrs. Dr. Phil bought her first Kindle Fire. Prime has a few more benefits than just Free Shipping -- and it's not like we don't buy stuff from Amazon. So...

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
Tags: amazon, echo, kindle, technology

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