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Cleverly use your Amazon Echo – and security steps you can’t miss


7;s Echo line is the ruling world champion of smart speakers. Compared to virtual assistants like Google and Siri, Alexa works with many more gadgets and responds to significantly more commands than the competition.

Plus, Echo devices are pretty cheap, starting at around $ 25 for the Flex and $ 30 for the Dot when you get it on sale.

I bought six of these Echo Shows for Christmas presents. They have a nice screen so all the children and grandchildren can come in and greet my mother whenever they want. She will like it.

Maybe you’re new to Alexa and everything it 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.

First, let’s talk about security

Never keep a smart device that hears what you say in private places like your bedroom or bathroom. If you work from home, keep it outside your office – or turn off the speaker during business hours. You do not want to risk anyone or any eavesdropping on confidential information.

You also need to set up several privacy settings. With a few taps, you can instruct Alexa to delete your recordings and deactivate voice purchases automatically. Tap 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 for you. To do this first, register your contacts in the Alexa app. On your smartphone, open the app and follow these steps:

  • Tap Communicate.
  • Tap contact icon.
  • Choose menu icon, and then Add a contact.
  • Enter a name and phone number, then select Save.

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

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

2. “Alexa, move my appointment from 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. It can remind you of your upcoming appointments or even move, cancel or plan one for you.

Here’s how 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 Connect account.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to sync your calendar. Repeat these steps for each calendar you want to add.

3. “Alexa, run on all devices.”

Remember those awkward old intercom systems in the big homes? Alexa is the modern equivalent.

To use it, just say “Alexa, sign in to all devices” to reach each speaker with Alexa enabled, or “Alexa, sign in (device name)” to point to just one. Then just wait for the confirmation tone before you speak.

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

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4. “Alexa, remember …”

Alexa can remember specific dates and events for you. Say “Alexa, remember …” followed by whatever you want him to follow.

For example, “Alexa, remember I have an appointment with the dentist at 1pm on Tuesday” or “Alexa, remember I hid 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 the volume levels, but you don’t have to get up and walk to your speaker to change it. Just tell Alexa what volume you want.

Try experimenting with different levels to see what you like best. You can also ask Alexa to “set the volume to 11”, which increases the volume. This is a sneaky reference to a classic movie.

6. “Alexa, what is the extended forecast?”

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

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

Alexa is an excellent resource for interesting facts and pop culture. If you ask her about specific films, you will get a brief description of the director, the stars and the plot of the film. It will even tell you the IMDb rating.

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

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

9. “Alexa, who sings this song?” Or “When did this song come out?”

With this command, you can ask Alexa to identify a song that is currently playing through the speaker.

To enable this feature, say “Include 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, conversion (measurement)” or “Alexa, calculation (mathematical problem)”

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

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

Once you’re done preparing dinner, it’s time to find the perfect wine to pair with it. Alexa can help. Just activate this wine pairing skill from the Alexa Skills Store and you’ll be on your way to a fine dinner at home.

12. “Alexa, play (radio station).”

Alexa can also play your favorite radio stations via a voice command. This is convenient when many of us do not make our daily commute to work. Just make sure you know the name of the station you want.

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13. “Alexa, Wikipedia (topic).”

If you are the type who likes to settle disputes on the spot, this command is for you. Just ask Alexa to “Wikipedia” a topic you want to discuss and she will read aloud a preview of the entire article.

Want more privacy? Tap or click here to see how you can tell Alexa to delete what you say.

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

If you love spelling and grammar, this command is another great tool for settling arguments. Alexa takes all this information out of Webster’s dictionary, so it won’t be necessary.

15. “Alexa, tell me a joke.”

It’s an old but good taste. Alexa is not only useful – she is also fun. Most of her soundbytes are puns and daddy’s jokes, but there are a few that are really hilarious. Try these:

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

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

If you’re curious to hear how Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator sounds in Alexa’s voice, you can ask her to give you a quote from “Terminator 2” – or any other movie on the subject. He never grows old to hear her say, “Hasta la vista, darling.”

Are you looking for 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 ability to calculate, but with more practical everyday use. Now, when your children ask how far Christmas is, you can give them the right answer. Better yet, they can ask Alexa and put you aside.

18. “Alexa, let go of the rhythm.”

And for the ambitious rappers out there, Alexa can generate a synthesized tune. The beats are surprisingly playful.

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19. “Alexa, what’s the value of Pi?”

This is one of the strangest things you can ask Alexa, but she is more than that 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 hurts anyone, right? Ask Alexa what she thinks of Siri and you’ll get a backhand answer you might not expect.

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

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

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Learn about all the latest technology at The Kim Komando Show, the largest weekend radio talk show in the country. Kim takes calls and spreads tips 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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