August 16, 2019

Amazon Echo Input

If you have a stereo system or even just an external speaker that you want to communicate with via Amazon Alexa, then the Amazon Echo Input may be the device for you. The simplest way to describe it is to say that it is just like an Amazon Echo, but without the speaker -- which leaves you with a flat disk.



It sets up just like an Amazon Echo via the Alexa app. The major difference is that you need to connect it to a speaker in order to be able to use it.

If you have an external speaker, plug it in. If you are connecting it to the receiver on a stereo system, you will need to connect it to the left and right line out ports (e.g., AUX or some other available lines out of the audio receiver) with the included cable or a separately purchased one if it is not long enough.

For connections to a receiver or to a speaker that has it's own volume control, make sure you set the volume on the Echo Input to 10 (e.g., "Alexa, set volume to 10"). Then control the volume from the volume control of your receiver or speaker. Otherwise, if connecting to a speaker that does not have it's own volume control, you would control the volume from the Echo Input.


Of course, whatever you connect it to needs to be turned on. If connecting to a receiver, not only does it need to be turned on, you also need to remember to select the associated output (e.g., AUX) that you connected to the Echo Input.


The Echo Input also connects to Bluetooth speakers by using the "pairing" option in the Alexa app. I did not test that feature, but here is a link to compatible speakers: https://www.amazon.com/b?node=18007819011.

Once you are set up, just use the device like any other Amazon Echo device. You can ask it for the time or the weather, for example, but the point for such a connection is to enjoy music through better speakers/sound systems, and if you've connected to stereo speakers, then of course you will hear stereo - not something you can do with a standard Echo device. 


The Amazon Echo Input can typically be found on sale for less than an Amazon Echo Dot. For example, during Amazon Prime days, it was on sale for $15.00.

Enjoy.


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In the event you missed previous articles about Google and Amazon devices, you can find them here:

https://www.thekuperreport.com/2018/11/review-google-home-mini-vs-amazon-echo.html

https://www.thekuperreport.com/2018/12/part-2-review-google-home-mini-vs.html

https://www.thekuperreport.com/2019/01/google-home-adds-feels-like-temperature.html


https://www.thekuperreport.com/2019/04/alexa-why-arent-you-doing-what-i-ask.html

https://www.thekuperreport.com/2019/07/real-youtube-app-added-to-amazon-fire-tv.html



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Richard L. Kuper

The Kuper Report

July 13, 2019

Real YouTube App Added To Amazon Fire TV

It seems that Amazon and Google may be being more cooperative with each other. Previously there was a YouTube app that was not terribly useful and did not respond well to audio commands from the remote for the Amazon Fire TV stick.

If you have the old app, delete it and install the new official YouTube app. Then you can use the remote to play whatever it is you want on your TV from YouTube -- just like you could have been doing all this time if you had a Chromecast and a Google Home device.

(Choose this link to read my previous review on the Google Chromecast.)

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Richard L. Kuper
The Kuper Report


June 10, 2019

Commentary: "Data Security" is Still an Oxymoron and An Ongoing Threat

Back in May of 2006 I gave a presentation on Data Security titled: "Data Security: An Oxymoron." I then followed up with an article in The Kuper Report and wrote more articles over several years regarding data security, including about security problems with voting machines. I've included links to some of those articles at the end of this commentary.

Fast forward to today. We are still experiencing many of the very same data security issues, such as credit card numbers and tax IDs and other personal information being hacked/stolen. There are also still many vulnerable voting machines around the country that are being (and have been) hacked, resulting in fraudulent elections. (Here is a link to a current article in TechCrunch about one voting machine vendor finally offering to create machines with paper backups after refusing to do so despite it being demonstrated by the white hat hacking community that their machines could easily be hacked to change votes. Note that nowhere in the article does it say they will fix the existing machines currently being used.)

The failures by companies to acknowledge all these data security issues and truly fix them these many years later is both mind-boggling and an ongoing serious threat. The failure of Congress and the other branches of the government of the United States to take action on these issues of individual privacy and security and the integrity of our elections continues to cause serious damage to our safety, security, and indeed, our democracy.

It is way past time that these issues were addressed and resolved. 

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Links to articles written between 2006 and 2008 regarding data privacy and security. As you read them you will come to realize that most of the problems are still with us.

May 2006: Data Security: An Oxymoron

August 2006: Data Security: An Oxymoron - continued

January 2007: So how secure is your PC?

March 2007: Privacy and Security Watch: Stolen Data from TJX (T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods stores) since 2003 Used in $8M Scheme Before Breach Discovery

April 2007: Privacy and Security Watch: More Security/Identity Breaches and Issues 

May 2007: Privacy and Security Watch: University of Missouri Hacked For Second Time This Year

May 2007: Privacy and Security Watch: IBM loses tapes with personal information on current and former employees

September 2007: Privacy and Security Watch: Are you giving away your personal or corporate data to thieves?

May 2008: Updated: Privacy & Security Watch: Beware of fake emails appearing to be from the IRS

June  2008: Privacy & Security Watch: TJX Fires Employee for Disclosing Security Problems

June 2008: Privacy & Security Watch: Diebold Summer Sale Offers Used Voting Machines

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Richard L. Kuper
The Kuper Report






May 03, 2019

Casting using Google Chromecast

Let’s start with a couple of basic questions to see if this is something you might be interested in:

Do you have a TV with an HDMI port?

Would you like to be able to cast what is on your phone or computer to that TV?

If you said “yes” to both questions, you might be interested in getting a Chromecast.



But wait: If you also have a Google Home speaker device of some kind (for example, a Google Mini or other model), there’s even more you can do.



If you are still reading, let’s begin.

The basics:

Getting a Chromecast is pretty simple. It’s sold by Google and almost anywhere technology is sold – even at Amazon. It lists for only $35, but it goes on sale for less from time to time.

Installing it is pretty simple too. Plug it into an available HDMI port on the TV. Connect the other (USB) end to the provided cord, and plug that cord into a power outlet. Turn on the TV and change the “Source” to the HDMI port the Chromecast is plugged into. Then, if you don’t already have the Google Home app loaded on your phone, you will need to download it to complete the setup. I won’t go through the steps here, but it’s pretty straightforward. 


If you need help, see this Google page: https://www.google.com/chromecast/setup/
 

If you already have the Google Home app with other devices set up, like a Google speaker device, then just add this new device and make sure you set it up in the same WiFi network as your Google Home speaker device.

One other note: You might want to give the device a simple name – for example, “Living Room TV”. This will make it easy to choose the right one in the event you end up getting more than one Chromecast.

Now that it’s set up, how can you use it? 


One way is from the Chrome browser, so you will want to have it on your computer and phone. You can also use it with apps that work with Chromecast, such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc. Note that if you have Amazon Video, you can still cast, but it would be from a tab inside the Chrome browser.

Using An App On Your Phone:
Select an app on your phone (say, the YouTube app), choose a video, and select the Cast   button to cast it to your TV. If a list is presented, choose the Chromecast device to cast to. If your TV isn’t already turned on and the appropriate HDMI port selected, you may need to do that. Some TVs will turn on automatically and switch to the proper HDMI port when something is cast.

Using Google Chrome:

Open the Google browser. Go to, say, YouTube.com and find something you want to watch. Once you have selected the video, choose the 3 dots ( ) in the upper right corner of the browser, and then choose “Cast”. (If you see the Cast icon, you can choose that.) If a list is presented, choose the Chromecast device to cast to. If your TV isn’t already turned on and the appropriate HDMI port selected, you may need to do that. Some TVs will turn on automatically and switch to the proper HDMI port when something is cast.

You can cast just about anything you can display on your phone or computer, including videos, images/pictures, and files.

Using A Google Home Speaker:

What if you also have a Google Home speaker device? Well, that just adds more fun. As long as they are both in the same WiFi network, you can say something like: “Hey Google. Play Queen on YouTube on Living Room TV”, and magically you will have Queen playing on your Living Room TV (with the same caveats as described above about possibly having to manually turn on your TV and switch to the correct HDMI). You can also say: “Hey Google, skip” if you want it to go on to whatever surprise video might be next. You can also say: “Hey Google, stop” when you don’t want to watch anymore.

You can also stream Google Play Music, a radio station from iHeartRadio, a podcast you subscribe to, and lots of other stuff.


Final Caveat



For all of the above, there is another caveat: When you are done watching and you want to switch back to regular TV or your cable box or whatever, you will need to do that using your TV remote, just like you would if you have any other external sources (such as a DVD player) plugged in to a port on your TV.



Enjoy!


All in all, the Google Chromecast is a lot of fun – and it costs only $35 or less.
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In the event you missed previous articles about Google and Amazon devices, you can find them here:

https://www.thekuperreport.com/2018/11/review-google-home-mini-vs-amazon-echo.html

https://www.thekuperreport.com/2018/12/part-2-review-google-home-mini-vs.html

https://www.thekuperreport.com/2019/01/google-home-adds-feels-like-temperature.html



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Richard L. Kuper

The Kuper Report

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