Round up #283: discount on covers, Echo plays Simon Says

Round up #283: discount on covers, Echo plays Simon Says

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

New features for Echo, Fire Phone

I’m one of the few people who bought an

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

when it first came out for $199.

People treat it like it is Amazon’s Edsel (a famous flop from Ford), and yes, Amazon blamed it for a big loss in the financial report before yesterday’s.


It’s still being updated, and Amazon said they are “working through” the inventory.

I don’t think they are done with the Fire Phone.

Sure, they’ve given us new lockscreens…and those are cool things that use their “dynamic perspective” (which I like to call “dy-per”) 😉 to look 3D. As you move your head, you can see different things. I have to say, it’s quite hard to get people to hold the phone still and move their heads to experience it…that’s not natural for people. Some of those are even little movies…as short as Vines, perhaps, but cool. That’s not really a new feature, though.

The voice assistant giving you directions?

Yes, that’s new. We didn’t have it when the phone came out, but it was recently added.

I tested it today, and said, “Directions home”…worked just fine.

That’s something else I want to mention: dictation on the phone, and, I think, on my

Kindle Fire HDX 7 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

has gotten a lot better lately. It’s always been pretty good, but the voice recognition has improved, I believe. I’ve even noticed it capitalizing things.

I suspect that may be a benefit from the

Amazon Echo

Part of the big feature of the Amazon Echo (Amazon’s yet-t0-be-generally-released ambient computing device) is it’s ability to carry on a conversation with you.

The voice recognition utilizes a hive mind (individuals contributing to and  benefiting  from a central source)…and so does voice recognition on the Fire Phone.

If you aren’t connected to wireless, voice recognition isn’t the same…I’m not even sure it works.

Now, it’s possible the voice recognition on the Fire Phone is actually powered by Google (the Fire Operating System is a “forked” version of Android), but I suspect it may not be. After all, Amazon bought Ivona (a text-to-speech and voice recognition company) about two years ago.

Nice to see my Fire Phone getting updates…and I think there is more to come.

The Echo has not even been released generally yet, so updates and new features make perfect sense. You can only buy one at this point if you ask for an invitation and get one…and my delivery date is estimated between May 27th and July 2nd!

One of my readers was nice enough to share an Amazon e-mail with me in a private e-mail (if you’d to be credited by name, just let me know).

Amazon announced to new features for this reader’s Echo. You can now control iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify by voice. You start it playing on a paired phone or tablet, then you can say, “Alexa, play” or pause, stop, next, or previous.

While that may not seem at first like that big of an addition, it’s important to note that this is more functionality with non-Amazon apps…showing that they aren’t trying to make this a “walled garden” as people like to say.

Second, and more interesting to me, is a “Simon Says” feature. You can say, “Alexa, Simon it’s time to go to bed,” and Alexa says, “It’s time to go to bed.”

Maybe that just sounds like a novelty, but I can see how it could be really useful.

You can use the remote to do it from another room…and I’m guessing you might be able to use the companion app (available for iOS and Android) to do it from elsewhere.

Of course, you could use it for playing tricks on your family members (Amazon even hints at that).

When I taught Advanced Excel class many years ago, I would set up a prank for the instructors to use on April Fool’s Day.

When you clicked in a particular spot, a message box would appear that would say,

“System crash imminent”

Click on that OK button, and it would say

“Radiation hazard”

Click again and get

“Your car has been towed”

One last click and get, “April Fools!”

People are going to tend to believe Alexa, so if she said it was time to go to bed, I think young kids would be more likely to do it than if a legal guardian said it.

At this point, it’s a one way communication…you talk through Alexa, but you can’t hear back anything that is being said.

You can see how it could have a practical application. You use the app (again, I’m not sure if that’s possible…I’d appreciate it if someone with an Echo could check) to say, “Honey, it’s me…I’m running late.” That’s easier for the person to get in a text…depending on how you have things set up and how often they check texts. 😉

They are making more improvements. I suspect eventually you’ll be able to have it remember a phrase you say to use for an alarm, and there is a lot more coming from the Echo, I believe.

Oh, and in another improvement from Amazon, reader Tania Marshall pointed out to me that the Washington Post app now does text-to-speech! That had been one of my comments about it when it was first released…but I’m glad it’s there now.

10% discount for ILMK readers at Queen Of Cases

which makes really interesting hard cases for tablets and other devices is offering a discount code for readers of this blog.

Use the promo code


to get 10% of your order. They make cases for the Kindle Fire tablets, the Kindle Keyboard (AKA Kindle 3), the Kindle Touch, and the Kindle 4th generation.

Please be prepared to be specific as to which Kindle you have…if you need help figuring that out, let me know. 🙂

You may find this page of mine helpful:

Which Kindle do you have?

Enjoy the discount! I think these could make really nice gifts. They can do a custom case from any picture. They also have a sixty day return policy!

Let me clear, I haven’t tried one of these myself, but I appreciate them reaching out to me for your benefit…and they did it very nicely, I might add. 🙂 Nothing pushy…

“When Authors Reboot a Series”

Jessica Pryde has an interesting

BOOKRIOT article

talking about authors “rebooting” a series…returning it to after a gap.

We’re not just talking a year…it can be a decade or even more.

Certainly, there are series where I wanted more…but thinking about being able to get back into the same “head space” after all that time…

Most likely, the author changed in a decade…won’t that affect the book?

Sure…and why not?

Characters in series do tend to evolve over time…and not just when they are aging like the Harry Potter protagonists. 😉

I actually think it can be more likely that another author picking up on a series can more closely replicate the feel of the original than the original author!

What do you think? Have you ever picked up a reboot and thought it was a considerable improvement over the previous books? Have you ever kinda sorta wished they had left it alone? Which series continued by other authors have been just as good or better (I might go with Ruth Plumly Thompson following on L. Frank Baum with the Oz series for one)? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


11 Responses to “Round up #283: discount on covers, Echo plays Simon Says”

  1. Zebras Says:


    As far as I can see there isn’t a place in the Echo app to activate the Simon Says feature.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      Do you have an Echo? I guess I could have checked the app…didn’t think of that. 🙂

    • Tom Semple Says:

      The companion app won’t do Simon Says. The remote will. In fact, when using the remote you can omit the ‘alexa’ wake word.

  2. Zebras Says:

    Yes. Love it. It has really become a useful tool around the house. Also great fun.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      As you know, my Echo is perhaps months away, so I’m curious: what in particular has been useful?

  3. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Thanks for describing some usages for “Simon Says” — it wasn’t clear to me.

    In my second private email on this to you, I mentioned a couple of improvements I’d like to see added to Echo. I repeat them here along with some others (which seem even more important to me). To share with everyone.

    I do wish that there were more “personal assistant” type features, and linkages to 3rd party apps providing things like calendaring, making travel arrangements, saving things to a reading list, etc. This first update is mildly encouraging.

    I’d like to see Alexa be competitive with Cortana and Siri. I’d like Echo to be able to send requests to Cortana or Siri — they have access to native Apple/Microsoft apps that Echo just won’t have. This would allow Apple-centric, and Windows-centric users to use Echo in a more useful/seamless fashion.

    I’d like to be able to say something like: “Alexa, buy “Two Hearts” by Phil Collins, or have Alexa perform Amazon product searches/purchases under voice control for me.

    Make Alexa have more back and forth interactivity — as you might have with a real live personal assistant. This could build on Simon says, and help in ensuring that Alexa “understands” what you are asking her to do.

    In situations where there are multiple Echos in a household, have the Echos able to intercommunicate. I have my Echo microphone in the magnetic holder on my fridge. I’d like to be able to use it to tell one or more Echos in the house to play music — the same on all Echos, or one kind of music for the office; something else for the living room, etc.

    I’d also like to be able to create custom activation names — so I could have a “harem” of different echos in different rooms 😀 .

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I think that eventually, multi-Echo homes will be a part of it…but at this point, that’s vanishingly unlikely. You would need two Prime accounts in the same household and have had both of them get invitations…and both of them having gotten the devices.

      Similar to some home automation systems, one Echo might serve as a relay station for other Echos and for other devices. In other words, you could address the Echo in your family room using the garage’s name (with, as you suggest, unique names), and the garage one would carry out the request.

      We are just getting started…

  4. Zebras Says:

    The shopping list. Having a hands free timer for cooking and other things. Getting useful info in the middle of Jeopardy. Weather reports which include storm warnings up front. Easy way for my tecnology challenged husband to play his favorite music and radio stations. Flash news briefing in the morning without having to turn the TV on. I’m not a morning person, so allI do is get ready for work, and this takes no time to add to morning routine. I’m sure there are more, but I can’t think of any more. I think by the time you get yours, it will have even more functions. Oh I forgot about the lame jokes that are fun to groan at.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      Good! My Significant Other is unconvinced and even wary about the Echo, although knowing that we will get one. I may have to turn off the microphone when my SO is at home, at least at first. It’s good to have some practical uses. 🙂 My SO had an interesting question: could you start it reading a recipe, for example, then pause that and have it do something else, then resume the recipe where you were? I’m assuming not, at this point…

  5. Zebras Says:

    No recipe reading function at this time at all, will use it if it ever does, though. Not sure it has multiple resume capabilities. Haven’t tested for example, having it read the flash briefing, pause, play a playlist, pause then go back to where it left off on the flash briefing, if I remember to try it tonight, I’ll keep you posted.

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