Welcome to LME’s 2/24/17 Alexa Fast Tips Friday. I can’t guarantee every tip in this weekly tips and tricks column will be new to every reader, but I hope it will regularly teach Alexa device owners something new and helpful about their devices.
1. This tip comes from LME reader Glen Harrell, and it’s GENIUS! Use a smart plug with your kitchen garbage disposal so you can turn the disposal on and off with voice commands when you’re wrist-deep in murky dishwater. Glen uses the TP-Link smart plug (UK visitors click here) for this.
2. One of Alexa’s most useful, yet least talked about features is her ability to serve as a voice-activated calculator. I use this feature almost daily. If you need to do things like splitting a pizza delivery order, estimating an upcoming grocery trip or trying to get a rough idea of what your upcoming monthly bills will total up to, it’s very handy. Just be sure to use the word “point” to indicate decimal points (e.g., $46.12 would be spoken as “forty-six point twelve”).
3. Local weather is just the start. You can ask Alexa for the current weather, weather forecast, and sunrise and sunset for any city in the world. Most people think of this as a useful feature for travelers, but it’s a great way to feel a little closer to loved ones from across the miles too, especially when you want to keep tabs on potentially dangerous weather conditions in their area. It’s also fun for kids to quiz Alexa about conditions in far-flung locations like Beijing, China and Wellington, New Zealand, especially if the city is in the Southern Hemisphere, where seasons are the opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere. Try queries like, “What’s the current weather in [city], [country / province / state]?”, “When is sunrise in [city], [country / province / state]?” and “What’s the current temperature in [city], [country / province / state]?”
4. Microsoft Outlook calendar integration: it’s a thing now! If the account address for your web calendar ends with @outlook.com, @hotmail.com, or @live.com, go to Settings > [Accounts Section, scroll down the Settings page to find it] Calendar in the Alexa App to link your calendar to Alexa.
5. In case you haven’t heard yet, a recent software update has given the Amazon Tap an always-on, voice-activated option that essentially turns it into a smaller, portable, rechargeable Echo. If you have a Tap and want to change it from pushbutton-activated to voice-activated, go to the Settings tab in the Alexa app and select your Tap from the device list. On your Tap’s settings page, toggle the Hands Free option from Off to On. Now your Tap will be always-on, always-listening for the wake word, just like an Echo. But note: this change will use up your battery charge faster than the pushbutton option, so be sure to stay on top of your Tap’s charge level after making the switch.
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You can try out this week’s voice-controlled garbage disposal tip with the TP-Link Smart Plug, No Hub Required, Wi-Fi, Control your Devices from Anywhere, Works with Amazon Alexa (UK visitors click here), you can control virtually any “dumb” electric device with Alexa commands. Just set the plug up with a unique name in the Alexa app, then when you want to power whatever’s plugged into it, ask Alexa to turn it on! Currently (as of 2/23/17) rated 4/5 stars and priced at $29.95.
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