Chuck Joiner was kind enough to have me on MacVoices again, this time an episode focused on Holiday Gift Guides. I’d tried to stay sub-$50 but then Chuck totally stole some of my selections. We laughed. We cried. Hope you enjoy!
I don’t like hunting through multiple apps to turn off a light in my house. Therefore, I’ve been trying to get everything centralized in the Wink app. When it comes to managing Philips Hue lights, the Wink can turn them on and off, as well as change the percentage that a bulb is lit, acting as a dimmer.
Philips Hue lights run through a bridge, known as the Hue Bridge. This device bridges the Wi-fi network and allows the Philips Hue app to control your lights. Once your Hue lights are configured, open the Wink app and tap on Add a Product.
At the Add a Product screen, tap on Lights.
At the Lights screen, tap on Hue Lights.
At the Philips Lights screen, tap on Next.
At the next screen, tap on Sign In.
At the Link Account screen, enter the email address and password and then tap on Log in.
At the Welcome screen, tap on Yes.
At the next screen, tap on Connect Now
Tap on the only button on the Hue Bridge.
Once the Wink app can communicate with the Hue bridge, tap on the Done button.
The lights that are running through your Hue Bridge will then be displayed in the Lights screen.
You can organize your lights into Groups. For example, if you have multiple bulbs in a single room, you might choose to group them together. To do so, tap on New Group.
Provide a name for your new group and check the box for each light to add to the group.
The app has then been setup and you can control your lights.
One of my favorite options in the latest round of home automationry is the ability to voice control all the things. The Wink has a pretty substantial list of supported home automation devices. The Alexa can control the Wink. Therefore, the Alexa can do all the things, even though integrations with Alexa were not built for most of those devices by Amazon.
The beauty here lies in the ubiquity of APIs these days. Alexa has a recipe-style option called a Skill (further humanizing her). Basically, you add the Wink skill, then scan for devices that are connected through the Wink, then viola, tell Alexa to do something to them. To get started, open the Alexa app and tap on Skills. Search for Wink and then tap on Enable.
At the Wink screen, enter the username and password for your Wink account and then tap on Sign In.
Provided all goes well, you’ll then be told that Alexa linked with Wink (there’s a joke there… anyone?).
Alexa doesn’t know about your devices that are connected through Wink yet. So now tap on Discover Devices.
The app then shows all the devices connected. Mine will have about 20, but I’ve only got two setup for now.
From the Wink app, let’s add another device.
Then let’s tap Discover Devices again from the Alexa app.
Any new devices are then displayed.
Different devices have different voice commands. For example, a thermostat can change the temperature whereas a light switch can turn on and off, a dimmer can be set to a certain percentage of power, or a garage door opener can open a garage door. Now, if I can only find the dip-switch controlled coffee pot and hook it up to an automated receptacle so Alexa can make me a cup of coffee…
The Ring is a great little device. I love it when I see an alert on my Apple Watch, tap a button on my phone, and then see the UPS deliverer walking away from my front door. When you’re home though, it’s nice to have a door chime. The first thing you do when you’re setting up one of these is to join a wireless network called Chime-****something****. This is pretty common in the home automation world. Devices ship running as a WAP so you can wirelessly control and set them up.
Once the device joins the wireless network, open the Ring app and then verify that you’re joined to the right wireless network. If you need to leave the app and join the right network, do so.
Provided that you’re joined to the Chime network, the Chime will then scan for Wi-Fi networks.
Once the networks have been listed, choose the one yours will live on (or use the Add Hidden Network option if you have a suppressed SSID).
When prompted, provide a password for the network.
The chime then completes setup and should be audible when the button on the Ring is pressed.
The practical uses of Wearables and Home Automation never cease to amaze me. I recently added a Kinsa thermometer to my collection of useful toys. This little device uses the 1/8th inch jack like the original Jawbone did. It works like a regular thermometer, but displays temperature on an app that runs on the iPhone. It’s simple to setup and once setup, works the same as any other thermometer.
Due to the power of the Internets, you can then select symptoms and check for common ailments that match.
You can also look at your history, tracking the rise and fall of your temperature.
Overall, a cool little device and a cool little app.
There are two main garage door openers in the home automation space. The first is the Chamberlain MyQ and the second is the GoControl. The hardest part about setting up the MyQ was that I had to hit a funny orange button on my existing non-automated Chamberlain opener and then hit the button on the opener in my car to sync ’em up. It took about 10 tries, but eventually it worked.
Once configured, I didn’t love the loud noise the device made to open the garage door (guessing that because it’s compared with a strobe that this is a safety measure). Once the Chamberlain is configured, open the Wink app. Then tap Add A Product and then tap on Garage Doors.
At the Garage Doors screen, tap MyQ Garage Door.
At the Chamberlain Garage screen, tap on Next to verify that you want to add a MyQ to the Wink.
At the Get MyQ App screen, tap on I Have An Account (unless you don’t have an account yet, then tap on Get MyQ App and download the app, setup the garage door, and create an account).
At the Connect Account screen, tap on the Connect Now button.
At the MyQ overlay of the Link Account screen, enter your credentials and then tap on Authenticate.
Provided the authentication worked, tap on Done. Tap Name Garage Door and provide a name for the door (useful if you have two doors).
Next, use the Wink app to test the opener.
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 http://alexa.amazon.com. 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.
When prompted either enter your username and password, or, if you initially setup your account with Facebook or Goolge, click on those.
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.
If using Google or Facebook, you’ll also be asked if you want iHeartRadio to be able to post on your behalf.
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!
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 Dominos.com (avoiding any conflicts with the Noid along the way).
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 http://alexa.amazon.com. Then, click on Skills in the sidebar along the left side of the screen and click on Enable.
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.
After a brief moment, Alexa will tell you that the skill was successfully linked. Close this window.
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.
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.
Do you have a Premium Spotify account? Before you start this, please note that only Premium Spotify accounts can be linked to Amazon Echo.
To link your Spotify account to an Amazon Echo, first open http://alexa.amazon.com and then click on Music & Books. Then, click on Spotify under the Music section.
When prompted, click on “Link your account”
Click Log In To Spotify (unless you don’t have an account, then click “Sign up for Spotify” to setup an account)
I use my Facebook account for Spotify, so I’ll click “Log in with Facebook”
Then, grant access when prompted.
Now, you can say “Alexa, play Halloween mix on Spotify” and you’ll hear this (or I will):
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.
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”.
You’ll then be prompted to trust IFTTT from Amazon. Click Okay.
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…