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Smart applications for your Amazon Echo – and security steps you can not skip


7;s Echo line is the reigning champ in the smart speaker world. Compared to virtual assistants like Google and Siri, Alexa works with far more gadgets and responds to significantly more commands than the competition.

Plus, Echo devices are pretty cheap and start at around $ 25 for Flex and $ 30 for Dot when you catch it for sale.

I bought six of these Echo Shows for Christmas gifts. They have a nice screen so all the kids and grandkids can come in and say hello to my mom whenever they want. She will love it.

Maybe you’re new to Alexa and all she can do, or you need some new ideas to bring new life to your smart speaker. Here are 20 ways she can make your life easier – or just make you and your family laugh.

Let’s talk safety first

Never store a smart device that hears what you are saying in private places like your bedroom or bathroom. If you work from home, you should also keep it away from your office – or turn off the speaker during working hours. You do not want to risk anyone or anything that hears confidential information.

You also need to adjust a few privacy settings. With a few taps, you can ask Alexa to delete your records and disable voice purchases automatically. Click or click here for all steps.

Now on to the fun stuff!

1. “Alexa, call (contact)” or “Alexa, call (number).”

Alexa recognizes names and spoken numbers and can call you. To make this work, you must first register your contacts in the Alexa app. Open the app on your smartphone and follow these steps:

  • Press Communicate.
  • Press the contacts icon.
  • choose menu icon, also Add contact.
  • Enter a name and phone number, then select Saving.

Once your contacts are registered, ask Alexa to make the call for you.

Note: There are some numbers that Alexa cannot call, including 911, toll free numbers, or international numbers outside the United States, Mexico, or Canada.

2. “Alexa, move my meeting at 8 a.m. today to 1 p.m.” or “Alexa, cancel my call at 10 a.m.”

Alexa can act as your personal assistant if you sync your calendar. She can remind you of your upcoming meetings or even move, cancel or schedule one for you.

To sync calendars from iCloud, Outlook, Google and other services:

  • Open the Alexa app and go to the settings menu.
  • Select Settings.
  • Select Calendar and Email.
  • Select your account provider and select Create account.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to sync your calendar. Repeat these steps for each calendar you want to add.

3. “Alexa, access all devices.”

Do you remember the clumsy old intercom systems in large homes? Alexa is the modern equivalent.

To use it, just say “Alexa, drop in on all devices” to reach all Alexa enabled speakers or “Alexa, drop in on (device name)” to target only one. So just wait for the confirmation tone before you speak.

You can call the whole family for dinner without ever leaving the kitchen. Practical!

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4. “Alexa, remember …”

Alexa can remember specific dates and events for you. Say “Alexa, remember …” followed by what you want her to track.

For example, “Alexa, remember, I have a dental appointment at 1pm on Tuesday” or “Alexa, remember I kept the key in the kitchen cupboard.”

5. “Alexa, set the volume to (number between 1 and 10)”

Echo speakers have volume buttons at the top to adjust volume levels, but you do not have to get up and go over to your speaker to change it. Just tell Alexa what volume level you want.

Try experimenting around with different levels to see which one you like best. You can also ask Alexa to “set the volume to 11”, which maximizes the volume. It’s a sneaky reference to a classic movie.

6. “Alexa, what’s the extended forecast?”

This command shows you the extended forecast for the next seven days. I bet you use this all the time.

7. “Alexa, tell me about the movie (title).”

Alexa is an excellent resource for trivia and pop culture. Asking her about specific movies gives you a brief overview of the film’s director, stars and plot. She will even tell you the IMDb rating.

8. “Alexa, who plays (character) in (movie or show)?”

You can also ask Alexa to identify an actor in a movie you are watching. This could possibly end some heated debates. Be sure to say the character’s name and the title of the show or movie.

9. “Alexa, who’s singing this song?” or “When did this song come out?”

This command allows you to ask Alexa to identify a song that is currently playing through the speaker.

To enable this feature, say “Turn on song ID.” You can also ask her to disable the feature if you no longer want to use it by saying “Turn off song ID.”

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10. “Alexa, convert (measurement)” or “Alexa, calculate (mathematical problem)”

Alexa is an excellent kitchen resource. She can convert measurements with a simple voice command. But beyond the culinary world, Alexa can solve complex math problems in seconds.

11. “Alexa, which wine goes well with (food)?”

When you have finished preparing the dinner, it is time to find the perfect wine to pair with it. Alexa can help. Just activate this Wine Mating Skill from the Alexa Skill Store and you’re well on your way to a delicious dinner at home.

12. “Alexa, games (radio station).”

Alexa can also play your favorite radio stations via voice command. It is convenient when many of us do not take our daily commute. Just make sure you know the name of the station you are requesting.

While you’re at it, tune in to my national radio show! It’s full of technical news, tips, interviews and insider secrets. Tap or click here to find your local station.

13. “Alexa, Wikipedia (subject).”

If you’re the type who likes to settle arguments right on the spot, this command is for you. Just ask Alexa to “Wikipedia” a topic you want to discuss and she reads an example of the full article aloud.

Do you want more privacy? Tap or click here to see how you can ask Alexa to delete what you say.

14. “Alexa, spell (word).” or “Alexa, define (word).”

If you are a sticker for spelling and grammar, this command is another excellent tool for solving arguments. Alexa retrieves all this information from Webster’s dictionary, so you do not have to.

15. “Alexa, tell me a joke.”

This is an oldie, but a goodie. Alexa is not only helpful – she is also funny. Most of her soundbites are puns and jokes, but there are a few that are really funny. Try these:

  • “Alexa, how much do you weigh?”
  • “Alexa, find Chuck Norris.”
  • “Alexa, do you know the muffin man?”

16. “Alexa, give me quotes from (movies).”

If you’re curious about how Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator sounds in Alexa’s voice, you can ask her to give you an offer from “Terminator 2” – or any other movie for that matter. It never gets old to hear her say “Hasta la vista, baby.”

Are you looking for some new skills? Tap or click here to download 9 Alexa skills you will love.

17. “Alexa, how many days until (date or holiday)?”

This is similar to Alexa’s computing power, but with a more practical everyday use. When your children now ask how far away Christmas is, you can give them the right answer. Better yet, they can ask Alexa and let you out of it.

18. “Alexa, drop a shot.”

And for the aspiring rappers out there, Alexa can generate a synthesized tune. Beats are surprisingly catchy.

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19. “Alexa, what’s the value of Pi?”

It’s one of the nerdiest things you can ask Alexa, but she’s more than up to the task. Alexa will read you the value of Pi up to 100 digits, which is surprising and a little scary to hear.

20. “Alexa, what do you think of Siri?”

A little friendly rivalry never hurt anyone, right? Ask Alexa what she thinks of Siri and you will get a recurring answer that you might not expect.

Need expert technical help you can trust? Submit your technical questions and get solid answers from me and other technical professionals. Try it now.

What questions about digital lifestyle do you have? Call Kim’s national radio program and press or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, TV or computer. Or click or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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Learn more about all the latest technology in The Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and advises on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

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