Monthly Archives: January 2017

First reflections on the Echo Dot

My last visit to see Jason, Jenny and Sierra was more expensive than usual. We came back and bought a yogurt maker and an Echo Dot after seeing both in service there. Well, they are both pretty cool and cheap, really 😉
I want to talk about the Echo Dot here; we’ll do a review of the Dash yogurt maker later, after we eat the first batch of yogurt. We’ve had the Dot for about 36 hours, so we’ve not done extensive integration yet, and I don’t have a lot of smart devices to control. However, I can say that I’m pretty impressed with the Alexa service and the Dot hardware.

The Echo Dot is a tiny device with few external controls. Setup was very easy through the iOS app. Just, plug it in, connect to the Dot’s ad hoc network, set up the Wifi credentials, log in to Amazon, and that’s pretty much it. Alexa recognized both my voice commands and Jan’s out of the box, with no training. Hooked up Pandora, connected to a Bluetooth speaker, tried TuneIn Radio, weather reports (had to set zip code as by IP address it thinks we are in Winston-Salem), sports, alarm, kitchen timer, etc. The Echo Dot works well from across the room when addressed in a natural voice. Kitchen commands will be very handy when you need some information and your hands are greasy. 

Alexa doesn’t have the sense of humor that Siri has, tho! 

Tonight I set up the “Todoist” app, which manages todo’s, shopping lists, etc. I think this will be very useful. Todoist syncs very quickly, with a shopping list item or a todo appearing on the app on my iPhone or Jan’s iPhone within seconds of the voice command to Alexa. I have enabled a purchase PIN so we don’t accidentally buy anything from Amazon 😉

We’ll take it to the beach next weekend and try integration with the Nest thermostats there. 

For $49.99 this is really cool, and I can see why Ford is putting Alexa in cars in 2017/18. I’m getting used to saying “Alexa, play smooth jazz on Pandora, please” and “Alexa, stop” when ready to turn it off. This is the best “tech toy” I’ve seen in a long time!

Macroeconomics 101

Disclaimer: I am not an economist. But I did take a few Econ courses as an undergraduate and I’ve read Keynes’ General Theory 😉 The opinions herein are mine…

The scenario: We, the consumers, like cheap stuff.

Take cars, for example. We want more goodies on our cars, and they are getting expensive. Car manufacturers say, hmmm. If I put a plant in a country where there’s less expensive labor, I can hold down costs. Plant moves, some jobs lost, but there is more spending since cars are now less expensive, and other jobs created.

Fast forward: For whatever reason, we want to impose 20% import tariff. Now cars cost more, because we, the consumer pay this tax. Spending drops on other goods and services, jobs are lost.

But wait, car manufacturers could bring jobs back. Yes, but higher wages mean a more expensive car. Spending still drops on other goods and services, jobs are lost.

Car manufacturers say hmmm, with tax break on investments, I can build new plant with robots replacing even more jobs, and cars will cost somewhat less, but likely more than before. Especially with that big tariff removed, a 10% increase looks good. But, now, we still don’t have jobs, the car manufacturers have bigger profits, paid to shareholders who buy luxury imported goods…