How I Use Alexa

I get this question a lot, so here’s a post about how I use Alexa devices. You might be surprised to learn I keep it pretty basic and practical.

 

 

My Alexa Devices
Here’s a breakdown of my collection of Alexa-enabled devices and related smart home devices, where they’re located in my home (if applicable) and who generally uses them. Note that many of the most popular devices sold out during the holiday shopping season but are still available on backorder.

Echo (Amazon UK customers click here): In the living room, shared by the whole family. Since it’s most often used by my son to listen to his music, I’ve set up an Amazon Household with him so we can easily switch between my profile/music library and his.

Second Echo: In my bedroom, used exclusively by me.

2nd Generation Echo Dot (Amazon UK customers click here): In my 15yo daughter’s room, used exclusively by her. She listens to music on it almost daily but doesn’t have it connected to an external speaker; she’s satisfied with the Dot’s sound as-is.

Amazon Tap (not available in UK): In my 20yo son’s room, used exclusively by him. He will sometimes carry it from his room to the kitchen to keep listening to his music, but never takes it out of the house.

LIFX Multicolor Smart Bulbs (Amazon UK customers click here): One in the living room, one in my daughter’s room, one in my bedroom.

TP-Link Smart Plug (Amazon UK customers click here): One in the kitchen, used with my “dumb” Black & Decker 5-Cup Coffeemaker (Amazon UK customers click here for a 10-cup switch coffee maker that will work with a TP-Link plug the same way I’m using mine).

2nd Gen Fire TV Stick (not Alexa-enabled in the UK): In my bedroom, used by me and sometimes my daughter, though I don’t actually use the Alexa features on it because I have an Echo in the same room.

2015 Fire Tablet (not Alexa-enabled in the UK): Used exclusively by me.

 

Alexa Greets the Day With Me

The day begins when Alexa sounds the alarm I set the night before. I ask her to turn it off.

Still in bed, I ask, “Alexa, what’s up?” to get the day’s weather report, a trending headline and the current time (just in case something went wrong and the alarm was late—which has never happened, but I like to be sure).

Still in bed, I say, “Alexa, turn on the Control Room lights.” I named the LIFX bulb group in my bedroom “Control Room” because it amuses me—never a bad thing to start the day with a chuckle and a smile—and it’s a name that’s unique. Choosing unique names for smart device groups and items is important because it makes it less likely your chosen names will be added to the smart device maker’s reserved keywords in a future software change.

 

 

Getting out of bed I say, “Alexa, Flash Briefing,” to get my customized news update while I get started on my morning routine. First on the agenda: plugging in my Fire tablet so it’ll have a full charge by the time I’m ready to leave.

As I start getting dressed I say, “Alexa, turn on Jet Fuel,” to start my coffee. I named the TP-Link smart plug in the kitchen “Jet Fuel”, and pre-loaded the coffee maker that’s plugged into it the night before. The coffee maker has a toggle switch I leave in the “on” position at all times, and I use the smart plug to turn it off or on.

Going through my morning bedroom and bath routine, I ask Alexa to play whatever song, artist, genre or playlist I feel like hearing right that second. This is one of my favorite and most-used Alexa features. An old favorite from high school or college days pops into my head, and I’m listening to it a second later by asking, “Alexa, play [song title] by [artist name]”! Alternatively, I’ll ask, “Alexa, play Stand Up Comedy station on Prime,” to start the day with some laughs from my favorite Prime Music station (warning: adult content, Prime Station content is subject to change at any time, and Prime Music is available to Prime members only).

Dressed, hair brushed and makeup on, I unplug the Fire tablet and put it in my bag. As I exit the room I say, “Alexa, turn off the Control Room lights,” and, “Alexa, turn on the Hangout lights,” to turn the LIFX bulb in my bedroom off and turn on the one in the living room (that LIFX group is called “Hangout”).

In the kitchen, I pour the freshly-brewed coffee out into my thermos and say, “Alexa, turn off Jet Fuel,” to turn off the coffee maker.

As I head out to drive my daughter to school, I say, “Alexa, turn off the Hangout lights.”

In the car, I plug my Fire tablet into the AUX port of the car stereo to listen to an audiobook.

 

 

Later, when I’m home for the day:

Coming in the front door I say, “Alexa, turn on the Hangout lights.” I carry my bag, with the Fire tablet in it, to my room and say, “Alexa, turn on the Control Room lights.”

In the afternoon my daughter’s using her Dot to listen to music and ask factual and math questions while doing her homework. If my son’s home, he’ll be listening to music on the Tap in his room or the Echo in the living room.

If I want to watch a movie, I’ll say, “Alexa, ask Life-Ex to change the Control Room lights to blue,” so I can still see the remote but won’t have distracting light reflecting off the TV screen. Note that the LIFX skill must be enabled to use the bulbs’ color changing capabilities, which is why the command includes a reference to the skill.

 

 

If I want to continue my audiobook while folding laundry, knitting, or doing anything else that doesn’t demand close attention, I’ll say, “Alexa, read my book,” to pick up where I left off in the car. I don’t ask for this immediately when I enter the room, because I need to give the Fire tablet time to connect to my home network and update Amazon’s servers with my current location in the audiobook.

Before going to bed, I go to the kitchen and get the coffee maker ready to brew in the morning. As I head back down the hall to my room, I say, “Alexa, turn off the Hangout lights,” to turn off the living room LIFX bulb.

Once I’m in bed I say, “Alexa, set an alarm for 5:45am.” I could just set it as a recurring alarm in the Alexa app, but since I’d be checking it every night with a voice command anyway (“Alexa, check alarm”), I figure it doesn’t really save me time to set it as a recurring alarm. This way I know for certain it’s being set every night, and I have the flexibility of changing the wake up time for days when my daughter doesn’t have school.

Ready for sleep, I say, “Alexa, turn off Control Room lights,” to darken the room.

 
Alexa has spoiled me for convenience, but she truly does save me time as well.
 

FTC disclosure for personally recommended products: I will get a small commission from Amazon if site visitors click through on the links in this post to purchase the featured items. However, the price to the buyer is exactly the same as if they’d gone directly to the Amazon site, Amazon covers the cost of the commissions. Also, I’d be recommending these products whether I received a commission or not.

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