Amazon’s Alexa coming to Android Devices

Starting this week Amazon will be rolling out Alexa to Android users who have the Amazon Shopping App installed. It has been available on Apple devices for sometime (apparently). I have been waiting for this, but I thought Google maybe be digging in its heels and would never allow it.

While I’m happy this sort of automation control is coming, I’m equally somewhat disappointed. I was hoping Alexa would come to Amazon Music. Instead it seems its a limited version of the Echo’s Alexa, you can get sports results, weather, ask questions about people and places, get information about your flash briefing and appointments etc.

It would also appear you can install “Amazon Skills” which extend functionality, which means your mobile phone or android device will become a sort of “Echo Phone”. A few places have suggested you will gain some degree of control over your IoT/Smart Home devices so you can use your phone to turn off Echo compatible devices.

Music and Video Control

I haven’t found any mention of Amazon Music or Prime Video controls which would be excellent. I primarily listen to music and watch prime video whilst I’m in the gym. The ability simply say “Alexa, Play my Lifting Heavy playlist” or “Alexa, Play my CardiNO playlist” or skip that slow track when you’re half way through a sprint or run would be amazing. 

Equally being able control volume, and change tracks without having to physically touch your phone means you won’t miss a beat while working out. The implications for personal trainers who use bluetooth speakers are huge, they could tell Alexa to load the certain Circuits or change to a faster track, to start and stop timers an more. 

Even though I can’t find evidence of music and video control, that doesn’t mean its not there, and if it isn’t I’ll be the first to rave at Amazon to get it sorted, fitness is a huge market and an excellent penetration point. If they haven’t gone there, then frankly heads needs to roll. 

Its one of the major functions I miss of having a Samsung, the Air Gestures, so you can wave your hand left and right to change music track and up and down to alter the volume. Given the number of phones which have Proximity Sensors it amazing how few companies actually use them. Alexa could be a massive overhaul and improvement to this, lets hope its coming.

I also anticipate that Amazon may produce their own version of an Android Laucher, like N Launcher or Nova Launcher so they can convert nearly any phone into an Echo Compatible device, that seems to be where I think they are going. 

Given that Alexa can work out which speaker you are nearest too and deliver information to that speaker, its aware of where you are, moving this feature into your phone could be interesting. My friend regularly uses an Echo Dot at house parties and tells me he uses the Alexa Remote to control the device since it often can’t detect his voice over the noise, so having your phone able to fill this role would be cool. 

GoDaddy Consolidation of Domain Monster into 123-Reg

It would seem since GoDaddy acquired Host Europe for £1,500,000,000 (1.8 BILLION dollars) they are consolidating their brands, starting with DomainMonster. The list of companies under HEG (Host Europe Group) is considerable, it includes Webfusion, Domain Monster, Domain Box, 123-Reg, Heart Internet, Domain Factory and recently the Paragon Internet Group which includes hosting companies such as TSO Host, VidaHost and HostRoute, and a few more brands too. 

DomainMonster Consolidation

DomainMonster Consolidation

I received an email from DomainMonster aka Host Europe aka GoDaddy which says:

“We wanted to give you an update on the plans for DomainMonster since our last notification in April.”, it continues “As a customer of Domain Monster, you still retain your domains, products and services through Domain Monster, as well the login to your control panel and the ability to purchase additional domains.”.

“We are, however, no longer accepting new customers to join Domain Monster. We are working on plans to migrate your products and services through to 123-reg, and will update you with further information as work moves forward.”.

There is one line which really made me giggle, it almost clearly says you should expect the same crap services that the other customers of 123-Reg must endure.

It continues “Until that time, you are still a DomainMonster customer, with the same systems and teams in place, providing the products and services you use.”.  If ever there were a time to jump ship as a domain monster customer, NOW is that time. 

123-Reg Suck

I have very strong views about 123-Reg, where I am happy to call them dishonest and inept, the long story cut short. I paid to register a considerable number of domains via 123-reg before I got my own Nominet tag. I paid my money, the domains was in my 123-reg control panel. I carried on registering dozens of names over a month or so. One day I found a buyer for one of my domains (A girls first name), I went to check the name and found despite it being in my control panel on 123-reg, it was registered to a different 123-reg customer a few days after I registered it.

I checked my invoices, I had paid for it, and it had been added to my control, but 1 or 2 days later someone else had registered the same domain with 123-reg. 123-Reg tried to blame is on me, saying my address details were incorrect, but I pointed out I had 100+ domains using the same details and they were ok. They tried to blame Nominet who refuted it and said my details were acceptable, so they basically just lied repeatedly to cover up the fact they screwed up. At the time there were loads of people talking about delays in registration and names not being registered at all with 123-reg but they never acknowledged it. 

I went through my domains, and found roughly 5-10% of those I had paid for and registered were either unregistered or had been registered to someone else at a later date and 123-reg never fully refunded me. 

Stand and Deliver, Your Domain or Your Life!

This is certainly a first and maybe a sign of the times when the world of olde meets the modern world. A man armed with a gun, forced himself into some ones home who owned a particularly valuable domain name. The raider held the domainer at gun point, forced him to log in to his registrars control panel before attempting to make him transfer the domain name to a unknown third party. 

"Gunpoint

Long ago, Stand and Deliver, Your Money or Your Life was a staple of notorious highwayman Dick Turpin. I guess in modern times money could be gold, flashy car, mobile phones and these days recent additions include BitCoins and crypto-currency. Now it it seems common criminals have recognise the growing value in premium domain names.

Sherman Hopkins, 43 broke in to a house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in the USA armed with a Gun. Instead of stealing Jewellery, Flat screen TV or a car. Instead Hopkins held 26 year old, ex-godaddy employee Ethan Deyo at gunpoint and attempted to steal an as yet not revealed by the police domain. 

A report in TheRegister says a reverse domain search revealed no valuable domains but did uncover the potential for domains to be protected by privacy which means someone, some how knew they owned a valuable domain protected by a privacy service. My guess is, this unknown third party is the someone who some how knew, it will be interesting to see what this domain is when its finally released. I mean this a domain that someone valued high enough to break and enter, hold at gun point and kidnap a man to obtain. 

Sherman Hopkins will be spending a long time in prison, for First Degree Robbery, First Degree Burglary and First Degree Kidnapping and won’t be a pretty prison either given the rap sheet. 

Average Speed Cameras on Busy Roads

I was reading an article about those crazy Dutch people, on the one hand very liberal with the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, Techno, but when it comes to driving they are very much the opposite. The latest idea is to use Average Speed Cameras or SPECS (for us) the type we often see around road works on the motorway with a 50mph limit but on provincial roads. This appears to include UK Equivalent of A-Roads.

SPECS Average Speed Camera

SPECS AVG Speed Camera

I did a little research and it seems the Dutch have a kind of similar system to us, only they have a version of the Autobahn called the Expressway for faster vehicles, along with Highway (Motorway) and Trunk Roads these are supplemented by the Provincial Roads, which which are a mixture of Major A-Roads (2+ Lanes) and Dual Carriageways. We in the UK are already taking this step with the Major A Roads such as the A14 and A40, but there are calls to introduce these on less major A-Roads, such as the A6. There are a few stretches between Manchester and Stockport, and Stockport and Hazel Grove which are of concern. One of them once had 3 speed cameras within 1 mile, which had an interest legal case where someone got hit by all 3 but argued it was a single speeding offence caught 3 times. 

The research has always shown that when people see a speed camera they often dangerously brake increasing the risk of causing a collision. This is part of the reason they are painted yellow, locations are listed, and in general police don’t hide when using speed guns. On a side note its worth noting the police mobile cameras get you up to 1 mile away, and only need an area the size of a door mirror to get you, so by the time you see them, they already have you. It has also been shown that many persistent and deliberate speedsters, will simply slow down for a camera and then leadfoot it right after. 

SPECS Cameras

A new type of camera were created called SPECS which are Network Cameras, oddly SPECS isn’t an acronym or anything and has no meaning, but its a SVDD (Speed Violation Detection and Deterrent) System which uses long range ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) tracking over the network of connected cameras. Specs on the A40 for example the cameras are between 950 meters and 5,198 meters (approx 1km and 5km) apart, so they aren’t always the same distance.

Inner Ring Road Manchester

Inner Ring Road Manchester

Its also been suggested that consecutive cameras are not always linked, and they can be randomly linked or clustered into groups. I’ve created a fake average speed zone on the Inner Ring Road in Manchester City Centre. If you imagine Red, Blue and Black are only connected to each other 24/7, and randomly Black Connects to Blue, and sometimes Black to Red and so on. This method is called Alternating Groups in a Many-to-Many Formation. This system I would say is to make it impossible to game the system, but also means its potentially possible you could get away with speeding if a situation like 6-7-8 existed, where 3 consecutive cameras are in  groups so aren’t connected.

There have been people who have used techniques convoys blocking blocking each others number plates at alternate cameras, so the systems evolved and the many-to-many connections makes this impossible. It won’t stop people trying their luck. A freedom of information act request has revealed that around 30% of all traffic cameras are not functional, due to damage or simply being switched off. The actual cameras which are off, are not published for safety reasons. 

This in theory means that on a major A-Road say the A6, if you were travelling from Manchester to Derby, which is about 60 miles with the vast majority being 30mph roads. You could pass 50 SPECS cameras, each one would calculate your speed over the last 1 to 60 miles depending on connections. If you passed Camera 1 in Manchester at 13:01:23 and suddenly you pass camera 2 in Adwick at 13:02:53, the system determins you drove at an average speed of 40mph between Checkpoint 1 and Checkpoint 2.

It also means you could pass camera 1 in Manchester at 12:00, then camera 27, nearly 30 miles away, at 12:50 and the system would know you had speeded. Should this happen, one would hope camera 27 would check your data points between 1-27 since you may have taken a different road which a greater speed limit. However the potential for this sort of system does exist, and the Dutch maybe about to implement it. 

 

SPECS Camera image by DeFacto, Map by Google Image, modified by Steven.

Reuse Amazon Prime Day 2017 Boxes

I don’t know about every one else but I had a heap of boxes from Amazon, including a somewhat surreal incident where Amazon delivered a Russian Doll inspired series of boxes. I always reused the Amazon Packing Paper, often as note paper, or lining paper for paining / spraying and sometimes even as packing paper again, I just roll it up, rubber band it and its there when I need it. I also reuse the boxes but can’t reuse the packets sadly.  

Amazon Prime Day Packing Paper Rolls

Amazon Prime Day Packing Paper Rolls

This prime day Amazon gave me a Russian Doll Box. The largest Box had 2 x 6ft SyncWire MicroUSB, 100ft / 30m Expanding Hose Pipe, 2 hair conditioner products and 1 slightly smaller box. Inside the slightly smaller box was 1 case of Reflex Nutrition Protein Coffee, Perspi-Guard 50ml, Beard Oil, and other toiletries. Inside the larger of the 2 smaller boxes was 2 more cases of Reflex Nutrition Protein Coffee, in the smallest box was an Amazon Echo Dot, Amazon Fire Stick and a few small items. I kind of wish I had taken photo’s of it as it were truly surreal. The Amazon Echo was in separate box on top of the other boxes. 

Amazon Packing Paper

I reuse this stuff for all sorts. Mostly I use it for notes and masking paper. If I’m drawing, painting, spraying or anything like that, I use this to mask off areas. Like I’m going to do some swirl marks on he car, so I purchased some Hycote Clear Lacquer also from Amazon Prime Day. I’ll use the packing paper with low-tac tape to protect area’s around where I’m working.

I also use it when doing messy tasks or when my sisters kids are over being messy. It can just go directly into the Burnable Skip at the Recycling Facility or if not too messy into the Local Authority Paper Recycling bin. 

I have also used it as wrapping paper for posting packages, and reused as packing paper for padding too, going full cycle. 

Amazon Boxes

Amazon Prime Day Packing

Amazon Prime Day Packing

I reuse the smaller A4 Paper size boxes for home storage. The biggest boxes I use for Charity Donations, whenever Amazon send me the large boxes (Approx 20″ x 30″), I have a sort out and fill it with Charity Shop items. 

My purchase of an Amazon Echo means my old small bluetooth speakers are no longer required and only worth £10 on ebay, but I can Gift Aid them to the local Animal Rescue Charity. The FireStick means I can donate my old NowTV box which I paid £20 for with 6 month entertainment pass, but is now only used for BBC iPlayer and 4-On-Demand, that can go to the Charity Shop too. 

Its well worth donating your old items which are often replaced by Amazon orders to Charity, use the Amazon Boxes as the Impetus to have a sort out. Everyone has a cupboard or drawer or something which needs sorting out, the Amazon Box is your proverbial kick in the ass to get around to it. 

Failing that, the Amazon Boxes work well for packing and storing your goods, or shipping gifts to friends and family or back to the seller from other places (as if you shop anywhere else). 

Charity Shop Bound

I am visiting the Charity Shop on Monday with a Pressure Cooker, Now TV box, Bluetooth Speakers, while I was sorting the Pressure Cooker out, I decided to get shut of a load of plates which were bought for a family event but not used in years. This lead to more kitchen sorting out and now I have filled the medium and large Amazon boxes.

After the Charity Shop, its on to the recycling facility to get rid of 3 bags of rubbish, then I have to get to cleaning and touching paint up which all this sorting revealed.  

Now its your turn to make use of those boxes rather than just flatten them and recycle them. 

Who Let The Dogs Out, Who?

There is talk of a law coming in UK Wide, which is already (I believe) in force in Wales, where dogs must be properly secured within the motor vehicle. This law will not only apply to dogs but to any and all animals, which must be safely secured for every journey. Obviously there will be some leeway for emergencies, and mistakes but I wouldn’t expect too much leeway. 

Rules 57 of the Official Highway Code states: “When in a vehicle, make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving, or injure you, or themselves if you stop suddenly (aka Crash)”. Having unrestrained pets in a vehicle is putting drivers at risk of being distracted. There is no official penalty (at this point) for this offence within the Highway Code or Law of the Land, should you be pulled up (currently) or cause an accident you would be charged with “Driving without due care and attention”.

Dire Consequences

This comes with Nine (9) Penalty Points and up to £2,500 Fine, and should it be an extreme or serious breach, you could be forced into a compulsory ban, and forced to get an extended re-test of both theory and practical test no matter how long you’ve been driving. If you haven’t already been subject to the New Drivers Act (2 year probation period) you would then become subject to that for a further 2 years.

This would put you a new driver with 9 points on your provisional, once you pass, it would only take 3 points to put you up to 12 points and another ban for 3-6 months. You would then need to do another re-rest. It would be a horrible situation to be in.

Even if you wasn’t banned, 9 points would put you 1 offence away form a ban, or if you already had a speeding/red light/mobile phone offence it would result in a ban too.

This isn’t even the worst of it, if you cause an accident or are in an accident which is caused by an unrestrained or unsecured animal / pet, the odds are very high your insurance could refuse to pay out. 

Basic Guidelines

There are some basic guide lines for when travelling with pets or animals within a vehicle.

1, Don’t allow your pet to ride with its head hanging out the window, its potentially dangerous and cause injury.

2, Ideally keep your pet in the rear of the vehicle with a barrier net

3, Always carry a large bottle of water (5 litres, £1 from most supermarkets) in case your pet overheats and needs to be rapidly cooled down in an emergency.

4, Keep a water bowl and water available for your pet.

5, Use Sun Shades on the windows when its warm/hot, and the sun is bright.

6, Never leave a pet in a hot car.

7, Don’t feed your pet within a few hours of travelling to avoid car sickness.

8, Pack your pets favourite toys, or blankets to give your pet a sense of familiarity.  

9, Consider carrying a pet first aid kit for emergencies. 

10, Never drive with the Pet on your knee or the drivers side of the vehicle. 

Dog out of Car Window image by freestocks.org.

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