Twenty-first Century Boy

It must have been six months ago when I first got my voice-controlled tech. I blogged about it here. It all started when Google offered their home hub at half price – £25. I guess that’s around $25 or €25, give or take. I’d seen them advertised, so I thought I wonder what it can do?

Actually, on its own, not much. It connected to the web, told me the time, the news and the weather, and within a day I was bored. The device came into its own when I started looking at add-ons. It took a few days research, but I identified a light bulb. Hey, Google, light on. Bear in mind that I tend to crash into things when it’s dark – the stroke affected my balance and although it also affected my eyes, I crash about less in light than in dark. The bulb was just off eBay. Spurred on, the obvious next question was what else can it do? I found a smart switch, again on eBay, which allows me to boil the kettle first-thing. Okay, the switch was more out of decadence than a great practical use, but that too was cheap. I still need to go into the kitchen to feed two hungry cats, but at least I can wait until the kettle is almost boiled before I leave the comfort of my duvet.

My wife – my wife is able-bodied so she doesn’t need any of these gadgets – my wife was impressed by the light especially. We had Black Friday last week, and she picked up an Alexa device, plus bulb, at a third off. Amazon also had a deal on their Prime membership, three months free. At the weekend she finally devoted some time to setting it all up. So, we now have two totally independent circuits in the house, each doing these gadgety things.

One of the things I thought about, then dismissed, was paying for a music streaming service. The main reason is that I already own most of the music I’ll listen to (apart, of course, from SLS!) so it felt like I was paying twice.

However, with my wife’s trial Amazon Prime subscription came also a trial of their music service. And I must admit that I liked the idea, yesterday, of saying Alexa, play Graceland by Paul Simon, then having a leisurely soak in the bath. So, a bit more open-minded, I had a another look.

Google support several providers. They don’t explicitly say they support Amazon, for the two are direct competitors in this market, but they do say that they support any service. But no matter, I won’t buy from Amazon, deal or no. Of the several services they specifically mention, I had a look at them over the weekend.

There is Google Play and YouTube Music – I couldn’t tell the difference, they are the same company after all, and offered the same deals. Deezer is French in origin, so possibly not so many tracks than American services? And not one of them had any sniff of a Black Friday deal, although they did all offer a free trial upon signup. So, in the end, I went with Spotify. Again, no promotion, but three months free, so I have until March to cancel.

I have friends who have, for years, used Spotify happily, although I suspect that, at the time, there was less choice. The price of £10/month was universal – the word cartel springs to mind. But, three months was the longest trial. And Spotify had a student plan, which recognises people on a low income and charges them less. No disabled plan, unfortunately, but at least they have taken a small step in the right direction.

So, I decided overnight, and set everything up this morning. On laptop, tablet and phone, plus of course this Home Hub – it is nice just to lie on the bed and say what I want to listen to. (You can have is on as many devices as you like, but only listen to one at a time). I’m listening to something now. So those lists I made for my Tick-Tock posts might have yet another use, after all.

Author: Stroke Survivor UK

Formerly, designed and developed IT systems for banks, but had a stroke in 2016, aged pre-50! I have returned to developing from home, but some of my time is also spent volunteering with the UK charities Age UK (www.ageuk.org.uk) and the [UK] Stroke Association (www.stroke.org.uk).

7 thoughts on “Twenty-first Century Boy”

  1. I don’t think I would feel comfortable talking to Alexa. As I spend a lot of alone-time and being an only child, I am used to talk to myself. Other people look very weird at me when they see/hear me do that 🙂 So I think Alexa wouldn’t make up her mind with me!
    I do like the smart switch, what a luxury! I think it’s truly wonderful to have the coffeemaker active before you’re active.
    I used to have another tool for that but I don’t know the name nor could I find a picture of it. It was an switch you plugged into the regular switch. It had 2 wheels (1 for the hour and 1 for the minutes) on it with very small ‘teeth’ as so to say. Then you needed to push all the small plastic things and it would ‘count back’ and when all the ‘teeth’ were up, the coffeemachine would work. Ultimately I got frustrated with all the preparing and the counting of the hours and minutes until I wanted coffee, that I decided to make coffee when I get up. I’m curious if you know of which ‘smart’ thing I’m talking about 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had to do some research on my voice stuff so I knew what would work and what was needed. As part of that research, some guy told me that I was an idiot (as this was social media, in no uncertain terms – we are more polite here), just for having one of these things in the house. Privacy. There is a switch which appears to turn the mic off and make the device unresponsive, although the user just sees a switch. So that was one aspect I considered beforehand. I figure that if somebody really is listening, then humans are very bad at separating the wheat from the chaff, so the more data I give ’em, the better!

      The switch is good – I have had it for six months and it has not connected only about five times, and I use it every morning. The cat spends the night with me, though (it is *his* bed really!) and, as soon as he hears the kettle starting to boil, he associates that with human activity, so leaps off the bed and sprints to the kitchen. So, I feel pressure to get up and feed him anyhow 😄. He is, after all, in charge, as I am sure your doggy will confirm!

      Sorry, essay. Like school again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aha! You think humans are listening? Maybe …. but maybe not! What if it is AI? I don’t think Alexa will pose a problem as I don’t have to fill in extra information on my taxes, they know everything what is of importance to them already.
        I laughed so hard at the cat waking up and sprinting of the bed 🙂 and indeed, the human has to follow that is how it really works. No switches nor Alexas will change that!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, that was what I thought. When I used to travel to my parents’ house (300km) after they died, my very last task before coming home was to use such switches with some lights, just to try and make the place look occupied. They are mostly digital now but the mechanical ones like these are the cheapest.

          Liked by 1 person

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