Why does Alexa speak to me in German?


Screenshot which says "1 new notification from Amazon shopping: ‘Ein Autor, dem Sie auf Amazon folgen, Mary Robinette Kowal, hat ein neues Buch mit dem Namen Die Berechnung der Sterne: Roman veröffentlicht.’"

I speak English. My Amazon account is set to English. My Alexa listens to my English commands and replies in English. Except for new book notifications. I saw a pulsing yellow light on the dot. I've memorised all of the various signs and portents the accurs'd device can summon up, so I asked it (in…

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Use Python to get alerted when an Amazon wishlist item drops in price


Logo of the Python programming language.

Scratching my own itch. I want an alert when there's been a price drop on an item on my Amazon wishlist. I couldn't find an easy way to get an email directly from Amazon (customer-focused my shiny metal arse) so I knocked something up in Python. This is heavily inspired by Leigh Dodds' Wishlist Monitor.…

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Alexa leaks your private wishlists


People who access your list will see your recipient name. If you have an Alexa-enabled device, Alexa may alert you when there is a deal for items in your list. Notification Preferences.

This morning, my wife noticed that Alexa was insistently flashing its little blue lights. "Alexa... Notifications?" "You have one notification. An item on your wishlist has dropped in price. The … is now only £…" And that's how my wife found out what I planned to get her for her birthday! What happened to cause…

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Synthetic Poetry


A robot taxi driver.

I've been experimenting with Amazon's Polly service. It's their fancy text-to-sort-of-human-style-speech system. Think "Alexa" but with a variety of voices, genders, and accents. Here's "Brian" - their English, male, received pronunciation voice - reading John Betjeman's poem "Slough": The pronunciation of all the words is incredibly lifelike. If you heard it on the radio, it…

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Bug report: 4K iPlayer on the Amazon Fire Stick


BBC video with debug information on it.

Technology never works right. And video technology never works right even harder. The Amazon 4K Fire Stick is a pretty cool bit of kit. It's an Android device which can push 4K HDR video with surround sound to your TV. But, like any technology, it's buggy. Here's the bug report I've tried to send to…

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Amazon Prime Video's weird Unicode problems


Description with an error in it.

It's 2019 and high-tech devices are still plagued by text encoding bugs. I recently bought the new 4K Amazon Fire Stick. It's a little Android dongle which plays videos. It's neat - but quite often displays weird text errors. Take the kids' TV show House of Anubis, the Fire displays the description like this: Looking…

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Solar Battery and Alexa - in 30 lines of code


A list of phrases used to activate the device

Amazon Alexa is a fun little bit of kit. But it can be tricky getting it to work with all your smart devices. Not every company has an Alexa skill - just like not every company has an app. Using Flask-Ask it is possible to bring Alexa smarts to a range of previously mute devices.…

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Alexa - what bin day is it?


A row of recycling bins.

Bin day is the most magical time of the week! Children of all ages cry "Which bins is it?! Oh! Which bins?" Is today recycling day? Or green waste day? Or humble landfill day? Should my food caddy go out? Gosh! Who can keep track? I mean, obviously I could look at my calendar. Or…

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UK Flood Forecast on Amazon Alexa


You can now get the UK's flood forecast as part of your Flash Briefing on Amazon's Alexa. I've tried previously to create an interactive Alexa skill - it did not go well. This time, I thought I'd create an easier skill - a Flash Briefing. You ask Alexa for your daily news report and it…

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Amazon Alexa and Solar Panels


I can now query my solar panels via my Alexa Amazon Dot Echo thingie (why so many names?). I flatter myself as a reasonably competent techie and programmer, but fuck me AWS Lambdas and Alexa skills are a right pile of shite! Sorry if that sounds a bit harsh, but they're a pain in the…

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