Tiny Deathstars of Foulness

The Amazon Echo can’t control a FireTV. I guess they’re different groups at Amazon. And not all the music you want is available on Amazon Prime. Royalties, contracts, etc being what they are, sometimes Amazon can’t find something you want. But, even if an artist or song isn’t available, you can often hook into a channel that fills the void on iHeartRadio. So, let’s connect the two.

To get started, you’ll want to log into Then, click on Music & Books and then scroll down to the listing for iHeartRadio and click on the logo. If you haven’t linked an account, you’ll only have the option to “Link your account now” so click there.

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When prompted either enter your username and password, or, if you initially setup your account with Facebook or Goolge, click on those.

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No matter which account you select, you’ll be prompted to give access to Alexa for your account. Click Okay, or OK, according to the system.

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If using Google or Facebook, you’ll also be asked if you want iHeartRadio to be able to post on your behalf.

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Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, tell Alexa to play some Paula Abdul. That’s not available in Prime Music, so you’ll default over to an iHeartRadio station. Enjoy!



June 5th, 2016

Posted In: Alexa, Home Automation

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Domino’s is arguably not the best pizza in the world. But it’s pizza. And, if you have an Amazon Echo, you can order it without opening an app, touching a keyboard, or making a phone call. This makes for a great look at using one of the skills options in Alexa to extend the usefulness of an Echo.

To do so, you’ll first setup a Domino’s account (aka Pizza Profile). Do that at (avoiding any conflicts with the Noid along the way).

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Also setup an Easy Order, which is the kind of pizza that Alexa will order each time you tell her to do so. Once done, you’ll need to enable the Domino’s skill. To enable the Domino’s skill. A skill is an extension of an Echo. Think of it like an App Store on an iPhone. In this example, I’ll use my desktop to enable the skill, but the process is the same when run using the Alexa app. First, open the web interface at Then, click on Skills in the sidebar along the left side of the screen and click on Enable.

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You’ll then be prompted to provide a username and password for your Domino’s profile. Enter that and then click on Link My Pizza Profile.

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After a brief moment, Alexa will tell you that the skill was successfully linked. Close this window.

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Now, you’ll see that the skill has been enabled and can easily be disabled if you decide that there’s better pizza to be had by clicking on the Disable button.

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Now, just say “Alexa, open Domino’s and place my Easy Order” and then as your tummy grumbles, simply say “Alexa, ask Domino’s to track my order” to check the status.

June 4th, 2016

Posted In: Alexa, Home Automation

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IFTTT makes the possibilities practically endless for what you can do with an Amazon Echo running Alexa. IFTTT provides workflows that connect Alexa to many of the most popular cloud services on the Internet. For example, Alexa can make a spreadsheet of all the songs you listen to using your Prime account, Email you a shopping list, sync To-Dos to Evernote, find your phone, set reminders on your phone, extend Alexa to manage your TV using Harmony, run Wink shortcuts, print files, manage a Wemo bulb (Belkin), control otherwise unsupported thermostats, control items within apps (e.g. make all your Hue lights a given color), time things (e.g. turn on the air conditioning for an hour), lock a door using an otherwise unsupported lock (e.g. with a Smarthings), do random things (e.g. assign a random color to a Hue light), interface with Google Calendar, and so much more.

Basically, if a service can interact with IFTTT using an API, then your Alexa can be made to talk to it. But first, let’s connect your Amazon Echo to IFTTT. To get started, first go to the Alexa channel on IFTTT at Amazon Alexa Channel on IFTTT.

When the page loads, click Connect.

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You’ll then be prompted to sign into IFTTT using your Amazon account. Enter your username and password and then click “Sign in using our secure server”.

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You’ll then be prompted to trust IFTTT from Amazon. Click Okay.

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Then you’ll be able to setup recipes. Let’s say you’d like to put your shopping list on a Slack channel so you can be judged even more harshly than you already are…

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May 30th, 2016

Posted In: Alexa, Home Automation

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One of those fun things that Alexa can do is set alarms for you. I usually sleep around 4 or 5 hours a night, so no amount of alarms is enough to roust me out of bed. Therefore, adding Alexa on my Amazon Echo to the extensive list of alarms I have around my house is welcome. Let’s look at some things you can tell Alexa to do for ya’, when it comes to alarms. First, let’s set an alarm for noon:

“Alexa, set an alarm for noon tomorrow.”

Alexa will then repeat back the alarm she just configured. Now, let’s setup a repeating alarm for every Tuesday morning at 6am:

“Alexa, set an alarm for every Tuesday at 6am.”

Now, let’s check a list of all the alarms running on your Amazon Echo account:

“Alexa, list my alarms.”

If an alarm for tomorrow is at 11am, we can then delete it using:

“Alexa, delete the 11am alarm for tomorrow”

To snooze an alarm, just say:


You can also ask about what alarms you have for a given day. So that alarm we set for Tuesday…

“What alarms do I have for Tuesday?”

Or to ask about which ones that repeat:

“What repeating alarms do I have?”

Alexa then lists your repeating alarms.

To delete an alarm, change the sound, or set the volume, use either the Alexa app or use and click on Timers & Alarms. Then click on “Manage alarm volume and default sound”.

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Let’s say we wanted to explore alarms. click on Alarm and then (as seen) click on the alarm you’d like to hear a sample.

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You can also configure timers. So if you’re cooking some salmon, you might say:

“Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes”

You can also use the web interface or app to pause, cancel, or stop timers.


May 29th, 2016

Posted In: Alexa, Home Automation

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The Amazon Echo is a great device for accessing content using a Prime membership. But the Echo is also useful for media that isn’t sourced from Prime. One of these is Audible, which makes sense, given that Audible is owned by Amazon. I found that my Audible account was around before it was linked to an Amazon account with Prime. In order to link the account, I needed to open the Alexa website and link my Audible account. To do so, open Then click on Music & Books in the sidebar.

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Then click on Audible and either you will see your Audible books, or you will be able to provide an Audible username and password. Once authenticated, you’ll see a list of books from your Audible account.

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Now, it’s as easy as telling Alexa to start playing the book. In this example, e’ll say “Alexa, play Startup CEO from Audible.” Viola, the book begins. Enjoy.

May 28th, 2016

Posted In: Alexa, Home Automation

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Last night, I went to setup a new Nest Protect in my home, and while I was futzing with the app (yes, futzing is the technical term) I missed the question that was asked on the device about what language to use while waiting at this screen.


And so my Nest Protect was speaking Spanish. Which is fine with me; but notsofine for my daughter. So, I needed to change the language. And after hunting for the setting for awhile, I thought: self, you should document this.

So to change the language on a Nest protect, open the Nest app and then tap on the icon for Protect (which will appear once you’ve associated the first Nest Protect to your account. Then tap on the Settings gear icon in the upper right corner of the screen, which allows you to configure all your Nest Protects at once. Then tap on the Protect you want to change the language on and there’s a magical setting for Spoken Language there. Tap that and select the language you wish to use. Out of the box, the device only supports English and Spanish. But once setup, you can change the language to French or Dutch. So this is also the method to unlock French and Dutch language support on the device.

Once changed, you can replicate the change to other devices by cycling through them. I also noticed the setting didn’t appear on my iPhone. I had to use an Android device to access my Protect and make the change. The setting doesn’t seem to be a part of the iOS code. But YMMV.

March 29th, 2016

Posted In: Apps, Home Automation

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I recently purchased a new TV (actually won, but that’s aside from the point). I put the DirecTV receiver on there and it worked like a charm. Then I put the Apple TV on and it appeared to work like a charm. But when the screensaver kicked in, the colors inverted. Sometimes I’d see lines across the screen and other times the Apple TV would get weird and just be blurry. I knew immediately that I was sending it too much. Turns out the new TV couldn’t do less than 1080p and the old Apple TV couldn’t do anything higher than 720p. To confirm, I looked up the serial number. All Apple TVs have Wi-Fi (up to 802.11n), 10/100 Ethernet, optical audio and an Infrared receiver for the remote control. So, here’s some information on model-specific connectivity to your other equipment:


  • Early 2012 Model: Model A1427 or A1469, with HDMI that supports 720p or 1080p
  • Late 2010 Model: Model A1378, with HDMI supporting 720P
  • Early 2007 Mode (Silver): Model A1218, with HDMI supporting 480p and 720p as well as RCA and a built-in 40 or 160GB hard drive


April 27th, 2014

Posted In: Home Automation, iPhone, Mac OS X

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My daughter is always finding features I’d never heard of. I’m sitting there, watching the Katy Perry movie with her. She hits some random buttons on the Apple TV remote and a screen comes up and then disappears as quickly as it appeared. A screen I’ve never noticed…

Flash forward to later in the day and suddenly the subtitles for Lillyhammer are in Spanish. Now, my Spanish just isn’t as good as it used to be. So here I’m wanting to switch it to English. But, where’s the setting? I finally found it by browsing to Settings, then Audio & Video. Then browse to Closed Captioning and switch it to English, or just Off if you’re only looking to see captions when something is in another language.
This caused me to start trying every possible key combination (with only 6 keys it didn’t really take that long) until I held down the Play button for a few seconds while inside Netflix and streaming a movie to my Apple TV. This brought up a menu allowing me to select the Closed Captioning language.

Fun stuff. Good luck!

January 26th, 2014

Posted In: Home Automation

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Part II. In Part I we setup those little WeMo units you just got. Now, we’re gonna’  connect our WeMo devices to IFTTT. Short for If This Then That, IFTTT allows you to connect lots of different services to other services so that you can trigger events between services. For example, you can connect WeMo to Facebook so when you come home from work the motion sensor posts to Facebook. I don’t recommend that, but it’s an example. A better example is to trigger a change in the weather from your thermostat. Wait, I mean, change the thermostat based on the weather… Anyway, the more things you connect to IFTTT the more ideas you’ll get of cool things that can save you a little time here and there. In this case, we’re just going to connect WeMo devices to IFTTT. To get started, open the WeMo app and tap on the More button along the bottom of the screen. At the bottom, there’s a button for Connect to IFTTT. Tap it.


At the next screen, you’ll be provided with a Temporary WeMo PIN.


Log into your IFTTT account and then click on Channels. At the Channels interface, click on the WeMo Insight Switch icon.

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At the WeMo Motion Channel screen, click on Activate.

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At the Activate WeMo Switch screen, provide the PIN provided earlier and then click on the Activate button.

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If you ever change your mind, just use the Deactivate button to turn off your WeMo channel.

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Once done, you can configure a Recipe linking your WeMo Switch to trigger other events. To do so, click on Recipes in the top nav bar and then at the Recipes screen, click on Create a Recipe. In this example, the Recipe uses a Tweet that contains a hashtag of #off to

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Once done, trigger the event and see if it does what you’re after. If so, you’re all done!

December 9th, 2013

Posted In: Home Automation

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