Home Alone with Google Assistant

21 December 2018

25 Million Views on YouTube/First-World Problems

19 December 2018

Again, it’s a slow day in the indie publishing/dead-tree publishing world, so PG is commenting on a technology solution to another First-World Problem.

The following video had over 25 million views on YouTube when PG made this post.



Technology Solving First-World Problems

19 December 2018

As PG mentioned earlier, we have entered the time of year when much of the traditional publishing world winds down (will the day come when it never winds up again?) and indie authors are mostly checking their sales dashboards to see if they’re getting a holiday bump.

In response to this once a year situation, PG broadens the topic horizons of TPV a bit:


Amazon’s three-pronged plan for taking over your home

19 December 2018

From Fast Company:

There are two ways to view Amazon’s lead in the smart home wars.

One involves looking strictly at the numbers. Amazon tells Fast Company that Alexa is now compatible with more than 28,000 devices across 4,500 brands, up from 20,000 devices across 3,500 brands in September. Google Assistant, by comparison, worked with 10,000 devices across 1,000 brands as of October. While there’s some evidence that Google Home is gaining ground in terms of speaker sales share, Amazon is still widening the gap in device support.

The bigger story, though, is how Amazon is accruing all that support in the first place. While Amazon and Google are generally pursuing the same strategy—lure customers in with affordable hardware, then convince other companies to join the ecosystem—Amazon has always been a step ahead in the tools it offers to device makers. This year, Amazon says it’s released more than 20 updates to its developer tools, including some major changes to how device makers make their products work with Alexa.

“By any measure, selection’s gone up dramatically,” says Daniel Rausch, Amazon’s vice president in charge of smart homes. “And that’s really driven by a lot of the innovation we’ve released for developers, and also how much simpler smart home [technology] has become to adopt for customers.”

. . . .

This month, Amazon released a new set of APIs that focus on “building block” concepts such as range controllers, mode controllers, and toggles, rather than specific types of third-party products. This allows Moen, for instance, to add better voice control to its smart showers, and Kenmore to add voice control for more wash cycle presets.

“Basically, if a device gets on the internet, Alexa can now control it,” Rausch says.

Meanwhile, Amazon wants to help companies build those devices in the first place with the Alexa Connect Kit. Instead of having to write device firmware from scratch and develop their own control software, device makers can use one of Amazon’s modules, which automatically connect to a suite of Amazon services and includes sample code for integrating with Alexa. (Amazon’s Alexa-enabled microwave, which uses the Connect Kit, is as much a reference design for this concept as it is an actual product.)

. . . .

“You can set up a ZigBee light bulb with Echo Plus in a single step. You screw it in, you say, ‘Discover my devices,’ and that is all it takes,” Rausch says.

. . . .

Amazon recently started rolling out a feature called Alexa Guard, which can listen for broken glass or alarms from a smoke or carbon monoxide detectors through an Amazon Echo, then send a notification to the user’s phone. Alexa Guard even ties into security systems from Ring (now part of Amazon) and ADT, which can in turn notify emergency services. Rausch says Amazon is “just starting to scratch the surface” on this kind of intelligent monitoring.

Rausch also points to Alexa’s recently launched “Hunches” feature, which can recognize users’ patterns over time and offer to take action when something’s amiss. Alexa might offer to lock the door at the end of the day, for instance, if that’s what a user typically does. Rausch says Alexa will learn new kinds of hunches over time.

“You can imagine all kinds of things it would be great to have a reminder about,” he says. “If an artificial intelligence could tell you when things aren’t just the way you would like them, that would be handy across many domains.”

As is the author of the OP, PG is of two minds about “If an artificial intelligence could tell you when things aren’t just the way you would like them”.

On the one hand, he can see benefits in “It’s time to change the furnace filters” or “Open the garage door when the lawn guy arrives”.

On the other hand, there’s a creepy line somewhere in the automation of “things aren’t just the way you would like them” activities.

Back to the OP:

Privacy remains a concern. The more you use Alexa, the more data Amazon gets to collect, both from raw voice recordings and from behavioral things like music preferences and purchasing habits. You can tell Amazon not to use your voice recordings for product development, and you can delete recordings manually, but there’s no way to have Amazon automatically delete or anonymize old data. For most people, Amazon will retain every voice command they’ve ever given.

Rausch seemed surprised at the suggestion that Amazon might avoid retaining such extensive records.

“That’s interesting, in terms of a discussion point,” he says. “We do retain data to make the service better, and we take that very seriously, but I’ll take that feedback to the team. It’s an interesting question.”

Link to the rest at Fast Company

“That’s interesting in terms of a discussion point,” reminded PG of something.



Someone has already analyzed this potential Alexa problem even more thoroughly than PG has.

The German Ward

11 November 2018

Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen

10 November 2018

Life in a Trench

9 November 2018
Comments Off on Life in a Trench

The Great War Begins

7 November 2018

For those not familiar with it, The Khan Academy is a free online educational institution that provides courses on a wide range of subjects for students of all ages. It’s a great place to learn how to code in various computer languages.

However, it also includes a variety of history courses. Below is a screenshot from a six-minute tutorial/introduction to one of their history courses discussing the beginning of World War I.

Here is a link to the tutorial.



« Previous PageNext Page »