Monthly Archives: January 2017

How using the Amazon Dot 1st generation needs a little help when plugged into external speakers

Posted January 31, 2017

Like many when the Amazon Echo came out in 2014 I thought it was unnecessary at best and silly at worst. I already had Siri and it was always with me, the Echo   was also physically large and cost $179. Time passed and when a hack surfaced last April where you could buy an Amazon Dot though still expensive i felt $90 was way more acceptable than twice the price and it was nice and small, and you could plug in external speakers if you really wanted better sound.

I so far haven’t ever used the Dot for playing music or sports or audio books, I know many do i just haven’t done that yet; I really prefer wearing headphones for any serious audio. I still thought, however, that a better sounding external speaker was a good idea. The problem was if I plugged the Dot into the 3 external speakers I tried, the speaker also got a lot of annoying noise. Not exactly a 60 HZ hum almost like an alternator interference from a car. I was about to give up when Patrick Perdue told me on twitter that a ground loop isolator might solve the problem. Two days later after plugging one in between the Dot and any of those 3 speakers, the noise was gone and Alexa sounded great.

Then I thought it would be cool if I could pair the Dot to a Bluetooth speaker with a built in microphone and make the Dot portable at least around the home, not so lucky there. The Dot paired to the Bluetooth speaker just fine but only for audio out. I tried with both the Anker Soundcore XL and the Cambridge Soundworks angle. Oh well, can’t win them all, Alexa still sounds a lot better than before.

My thoughts on how both technology and new workflows improved my life in 2016

People can look around and see new things they bought over the last year, but if they think a little deeper they might realize how some of their workflows also changed. Yes I bought a few new gadgets in 2016, but some of that was to support changes in my thinking and planning for better workflows in the near future.

I’ve had 2 talking medical thermometers in the past, the second of them quietly dying in 2015, I’m not sick often but decided having a way to take my temperature was a good idea, but instead of finding another blind-centric device I bought the Pyle in ear thermometer. It has bluetooth, pairs with an accessible iOS app and will even save temperatures along with date and time to my calendar; a workflow I hope to not need for some time yet. Oh, and it takes body temperature in about 2 seconds instead of 3 minutes like old traditional thermometers, that is game changingly awesome.

I replaced my corded hand vac with a cordless dry-wet vac, already finding no cord a nice convenience which might actually mean I use it more.

In the kitchen I now have the Instant Pot 7 in 1 programable pressure cooker, with bluetooth, really the only way to go for a blind person. Today I ordered the Waring PVS 1000 vacuum sealer, (refurbished because the price of unboxed models jumped $75 when I wasn’t looking) which among things may allow me to try some sous-vide cooking; along with preserving fresh food longer. I also got the Drop digital kitchen scale to measure food by weight instead of volume, I can also now answer the question of “What do you know” with a penny weighs 2 grams.

Since iBooks came out in iOS 4 back in 2010 I’ve been reading almost daily on my iPhones , but when the cool automatic scrolling-reading option in voiceover broke in the first iOS 10 beta last June, I started using the voice dream reader app; which I knew was awesome and had bought 3 years earlier, just hadn’t used it much. The voiceover bug was fixed in beta 3 but I still read now almost all long text with that app. I wish the voice dream reader had an Apple watch app, then I’d have the smallest ebook reader ever; and since I’m blind and not screen dependent, it would be awesome.

Already this year my 2009 MacBook pro died, and thanks to one of my cool friends, I now have a maxed out 2013 11 inch air on loan. Another workflow change is I installed Homebrew¬†instead of Macports this time around. The newer air also means VoiceOver thus far is busy much less of the time, so I can finally play more with Xcode; and I’ll have a working battery when I speak at Cocoaconf Chicago in late April.

What kinds of changes in your workflows did you see last year, how might new workflows in the new year help you in the future. Rather than just coasting through life, it’s way better to “live on purpose”.