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! The
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… Enjoy.
For those that have not yet used it, the App Store has a little application called Keynote Remote, which can be used to control a slide deck that you’re going through. Once you’ve installed the application on your iPhone simply open it and click on the New Keynote Link… dialog (also in the Settings pane of the app on the iPhone). You’ll see a Passcode. Open Keynote, from the Keynote menu, click Properties, then click on the Remote icon in the Keynote Preferences toolbar. Then click on the check box to Enable iPhone and iPod touch Remotes, click on the remote you will be pairing to your Keynote installation and then click on the Link button. Once the link is successful open up a slideshow on your computer and then click on Control Slideshow on the iPhone. You’ll then be able to swipe the slides to the left in order to page forward through your slide deck. Overall, this reduces the number of devices that we travel with by one for those of us who present and typically travel with remotes just for the purpose of freeing up our hands to wildly gesticulate while speaking (often knocking microphones and Dr. Peppers across the room onto poor unsuspecting and sleeping parties).
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a team of Microsoft employees. They operated in a black box, a silo of noncommunication. In order to learn what was in the new products they were developing you had to wait until they were released. There were no seeds, the prerelease software distributed to partners was codenamed with words like longhorn and the developers, if they spoke out of turn were publicly flogged with cat-o-nine-tails made of rusty old x86 hardware, known as flogware. But then something happened. Microsoft, to whatever degree, embraced a world of openness. The developers for various teams were suddenly encouraged to blog, speak publicly and even microblog. The flogware was set aside and the Hyrulians rejoiced as it seemed Link had saved them from Ganon. Today, you can keep track of development efforts and the general direction of Windows, Exchange, Storage Server, SQL, SCCM and VMM. You can download betas of Windows 7 (or could) even though it has yet to be released without being a partner. Anyone can access the support pages. Microsoft even shows up to places like BlackHat and DefCon begging people to break things because they want to make sure it’s as stable and secure a product as possible before it hits the market. Overall, Microsoft, while not open sourcing their code, are to some degree becoming a more open and honest company. And the result is that many in the IT industry have stopped looking at Microsoft as a monolithic, evil empire. We are starting to see the various units and those who work in the various units and know them, to some degree, as people. The softer side of Microsoft is more innovative than during the tumultuous time when Ganondorf was new. Sure the rubber band may snap back and Vaati may break his seal to terrorize the good employees once again (all it takes is for one person to make a terrible blunder online methinks for a kneejerk reaction to undo all the great faith they’ve been building). But for now, Microsoft is able to improve software more than ever, stand out as more gentle leader in the IT space and let the people who use their products know that they’re working hard to improve those products every day. I wish more IT vendors were as open in their processes as Microsoft has proven to be these days.