How to disable Alexa calling and messaging

This past week, there was an alarming incident reported where a family from Portland’s private conversation was sent to a contact through Alexa. Amazon acknowledged the gaffe and claimed that it was due to an unusual sequence of events where Alexa thought it was summoned to send a recorded message to a contact stored within the family’s Alexa account.

Amazon provided this statement:

“Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like “Alexa.” Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a “send message” request. At which point, Alexa said out loud “To whom?” At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, “[contact name], right?” Alexa then interpreted background conversation as “right”. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”

I am not surprised this happened. In my family, we have had numerous incidents where our Echo or Echo Dot was awakened by something we said even though we don’t recall saying the wake up word.

As an avid Alexa user, I’ve signed up for Alexa Calling & Messaging and only tried it out a few times. It was not a very useful feature as I had mistakenly called a known and even unknown person! My kids tried to reach me by calling, “daddy” through our Echo but it called my friend Debbie. Another time I tried to reach “home” by calling through my Alexa app hoping to reach my kids on my Echo but it called someone random. Till this day, I don’t know who that person was as I don’t have anyone in my contacts list with just “home” on it.

I then searched all over my Alexa app to see how I could disable Alexa Calling & Messaging. I looked through settings, I could only find drop in settings which I already had disabled. Then I realized that I couldn’t completely disable this feature nor could I remove contacts already uploaded to the Amazon server!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When searching Amazon help, this is what they offer:

Add and Edit Your Contacts to the Alexa App

Sync your contacts to the Alexa app to communicate with friends and family using Alexa Calling and Messaging.

To add or edit contacts for Alexa Calling and Messaging, update your phone’s local   address book and then open the Alexa app. Contacts from your address book who also use Alexa Calling and Messaging automatically appear in your “Contacts” list in the Alexa app, with the same names from your address book.

If you have multiple members within your household, your Alexa contacts are shared across all devices registered to that account. However, in the Alexa app you can only start conversations with your Alexa contacts.

That’s not good enough.

If you want to completely remove yourself from this service and have contacts removed, follow these instructions:

  1. Contact Amazon Help

 

 

 

You will be asked to sign into your Amazon account.

After signing in, navigate to

-> Devices

-> My device or app is not shown

-> Select your issue as ‘Echo & Alexa’

-> Select, ‘Account & Settings’

 

 

 

 

Note: If you access the contact us page via your computer, you will only have access to chat or receive a call. If you access the contact us page via your phone or tablet, you will have the option to email customer support.

In your message or chat, state the following:

“I want to delete my contacts from my Alexa account and disable Alexa Calling & Messaging feature.”

It should take them a day to respond to your email or immediately if you are using the chat / phone support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the confirmation, log onto your Alexa app and it will prompt you to re-register for Alexa Calling & Messaging service which confirms the service is no longer on your account.

History and How to get a discount for Amazon Prime

Amazon recently announced and increase for Amazon Prime membership from $99 to $119. Amazon Prime was first introduced in 2005 to offer free two day shipping within continental United States on all eligible products for a flat rate of $79. This was eventually raised to $99 in 2017. During Amazon’s April 26, 2018 earnings call, they announced that starting May 11, 2018, new Prime customers in the United States will pay $119 per year for their Prime membership. Throughout the years, Amazon has launched several perks as part of Prime membership. Below is the history and timeline of when those services were launched:

Sept 2006 – Amazon Video
Nov 2011 – Kindle Owners’s Lending Library
March 2014 – Amazon Music
April 2014 – Prime Pantry
Nov 2014 – Amazon Photos
Dec 2014 – Prime Now
Oct 2016 – Prime Reading
Others –
Amazon First Reads
Audible Channels
Amazon Lightning Deals
Ad Free Twitch Streaming
Amazon Freetime (kids)
Prime Early Access
Prime Lightening Deals

Still doesn’t justify the price increase? There are ways to pay less for Amazon Prime which isn’t widely known.

Household / Family Sharing
Amazon allows each paying Prime member to share their account with 2 adults, 4 teens and 4 child profiles in a household. These benefits will be shared – Free Prime Delivery, Streaming Access to Prime Video, Prime photos and video sharing, Free books through Amazon, Unlimited listening on Audible, early access to Amazon Lightning Deals. This can potential equate to 15% discount! Sign up people in your household here.

Students
If you are a college student, you pay only $59 annually for Amazon Prime.

EBT or Medicaid
Amazon have a monthly Prime Membership for anyone on EBT or Medicaid. If you are on EBT or Medicaid, Amazon Prime will be $5.99/month which comes out to $71.88. You do need to submit proof through the following page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ending Membership
If you feel that the $50 price increase from the original cost of Prime isn’t worth it, you can unsubscribe and get a refund here.

Lastly, if you have any questions about Amazon Prime, reach directly to a Prime representative through calling +1-888-509-7040.

How to watch Super Bowl on my Fire TV

Super Bowl weekend is here and the talk of town is where you will watch the game. Super Bowl will be broadcast by Fox channel. You can check our your local Fox affiliate through this chart from Wikipedia. This is for over the air channels you get from your antenna. If you use premium TV service such as cable or satellite, you should check your digital TV guide or your provider’s website. There may be more than one channel for Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD). Some may even have a different channel for Ultra High Definition (UHK or 4K).

If you don’t have access to Fox through antenna or don’t have premium TV service, then you can stream via the Internet with your Fire TV. First, you download the Fox Sports Go app from the Amazon App store. You can also do this via your computer and have it auto install to your Fire TV.

 

Local Channels on Fire TV

basic tv networksCan you get local channels such as CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, CW (CBS+Warner Bros.), or Telemundo? These are channels that are widely available by using an over the air antenna for free. In some areas, these channels are not available unless you have a high power over the air antenna. This poses a problem for say people who live in apartments where installing a high power antenna on the roof is not possible. The only means to get access to these channels are through paid subscription services such as cable, fiber, or satellite TV. Cable cutters would love to swap out these paid services and stream.

I tried installing a few apps from the Amazon App store from Fire TV. It was a mixed bag of what is available vs what isn’t available. One thing that was consistent was that no apps provided live content for free. If the app from a major TV network offered live content on Fire TV, it was for people with paid subscription. As for what is available, you have a mixed bag. For example, the NBC app offered dateline episodes for free but America Ninja Warrior and America’s Got Talent required a sign in from a paid subscription.

A possible alternative would be to pay for Sling TV. With Sling TV, you get a handful of popular TV networks for $20/month.

Looks like it is not possible to truly cut the cord if your residence is outside the TV signal area.

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Turn your TV into a Digital Sign – App

I will explain how you can turn your TV into a digital sign using just an app and Fire TV stick. This is great when you want to turn your TV into a sign for a restaurant menu signage, instruction or floor plan, directory of an office building, daily schedule of the day at a hotel banquet all, funeral home, pictures at a dental office and more. Here is what you need.

The app is free for the first 30 days. After, you can sign up for an annual unlimited subscription of SignageCreator. With this subscription, there are over 1000+ templates which you can use to create your sign. Signagecreator have two pricing plans. Standard license is for $100/template for just one use. Unlimited usage is for $30/month.

If you want to make it vertical, you can change the setting on the TV and use the app and set it up the way you want.

digital sign app

Trigger Alexa with Fire TV remote

fire tv remote alexaIn May, Amazon enable Alexa on its Fire TV remote. This allowed Fire TV owners to use Alexa as you had an Amazon Echo. If you already have an Echo, then this would not be foreign to you.

Movies / TV
With Alexa, you can trigger it to control a movie. You can ask Alexa to play a movie, TV show. It will also search from your active add-on subscriptions as well as third party apps. You can also use it to trigger a certain app.

Examples:
Play the movie [title]
Start playing the TV show [title]
Launch the app [title]
Open the [title] app

Music
You can also trigger music you have on your Prime Music library to simply listen to one of the Prime stations. You can rate a song by saying you like it or do not like the song. This will help Alexa rate the type of song it chooses for you. You can completely skip songs or rewind but cannot fast forward or rewind or change volume. Bummer. This is possible with Echo.

Audible and eBooks
Through Alexa, you can use your Fire TV to read eligible Kindle books in your library. You can even see the title and book cover on your TV. Neat!

News Flash Briefing
One great feature I love with Alexa is that you can ask her to read you the news flash. Go into the Alexa app and select your news source. You can select national, international, local news, sports, and weather source / location. All you say is “Alexa, What’s my news flash?” or “Alexa, Whats my flash briefing?” and it will read a 5-10 min briefing of the latest news from what you selected. I use it when I sit down and enjoy my breakfast. You can also set up your commute location and it’ll give you the congestion condition!

Shopping
No surprise to anyone, you can use Alexa to buy things on Amazon. It is a bit clumsy as you need to know the exact item you are interested in buying in order to buy through Alexa. If you ask Alexa to buy something, it will select the top result for that category and display the item. It is a bit easier to re-order something if it is something you have purchased in the past such as detergent, razor blades, diapers for example.

Weather / Traffic
Asking Alexa for the weather is also another one of my favorites. My kids use this almost every day to determine if they can wear shorts for the day! I don’t use the traffic much as I don’t commute to an office 🙂

Q&A / Jokes
This is kind of an easter egg hunt. You can ask “Alexa, how are you doing today?” or “Alexa, good morning” and she will read back a quote or a comment.

Wikipedia
Alexa also has access to a database of facts. You can ask how far you are to say New York city, ask for conversion such as cooking, time zone, and more. You can ask celebrities or athlete’s age!

Lists (To do / Shopping)
Alexa can aggregate shopping list and to do list. You can use it as a personal assistant to remind you to do something and check it on your Fire TV or on your app later. You can also have Alexa read out your shopping or to do list using your remote.

There are much much more features which you can do with sports scores, movie info, local search, and some features which are voice only where nothing will display on your Fire TV. For all features, check out:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201859020

 

Erosnow available on Fire TV

erosnowErosnow, the Bollywood movie entertainment production group has signed a deal to offer its on demand service to Fire TV. Eros International is a publicly traded company on the NYSE and has been a big player in distribution and licensing of the latest Hindi, Tamil, and other Indian language movies and TV shows across Fire TV users. The huge library of films will be accessible to users across US, UK, and Western Europe.

To access the movies, navigate to the Amazon App store and install the ErosNow app. From there, you will be able to search and watch movies similar to Netflix.
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I browsed a bit and you can watch popular movies such as Bajirao Masani, Piku, Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon, Calendar Girls, Kuch Kuch Locha Hai. You can see the rest of the most popular Hindi movies here.

Amazon Fire Stick User Guide Manual

If you have been searching online for Amazon’s own user guide manual for the Fire TV Stick, you came to the right place. The overwhelming trend for most electronic manufacturers are shipping their products without a manual. Instead, they include a quick setup guide on how to connect your device to get started then provide a link to the full instruction manual which will be available online. Amazon has their Fire TV stick user guide online which you may download or view online anytime.

Amazon Fire Stick User Guide

It is a pdf file so you will need an app / software that allows you to view Adobe Acrobat files. It has the following table of contents.

Fire TV Stick Basics

•Fire TV Stick Hardware Basics on page 5
•Navigate Your Amazon Fire TV Device on page 6
•Main Menu Basics on page 8
•Settings Basics on page 10
•Register or Deregister Your Amazon Fire TV Device on page 12
•Access & Remove Content on page 13
•Set Up Parental Controls on page 15
•Use Your Voice to Search Amazon Fire TV Devices on page 16
•Differences between Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick on page 17

Remote & Game Controller Basics

•Remote Basics on page 20
•Compatible Remotes for Amazon Fire TV Devices on page 26
•Game Controller Basics on page 27
•Pair a Remote or Game Controller on page 29

Fire TV Remote App Basics

•Fire TV Remote App Basics on page 31
•Download & Pair the Fire TV Remote App on page 33

Quick Fixes

•Can’t Connect to Wi-Fi on page 35
•Can’t Pair a Remote or Game Controller on page 36
•Video Issues on Your Amazon Fire TV Device on page 37
•Basic Troubleshooting for Amazon Fire TV Devices on page 38
•Can’t Pair the Fire TV Remote App on page 40

Set Up Fire TV Stick

•Get Started with Fire TV Stick on page 42
•Set Up Fire TV Stick Hardware on page 44
•Set Up a Wireless or Wired Connection on page 45
•Connect Your Amazon Fire TV Device to a Public Wi-Fi Network on page 46

Watch Movies & TV Shows

•Buy or Rent Movies & TV Shows on page 48
•Watch Movies & TV Shows on page 49
•Use an Amazon Fire TV Device as a Display Mirroring Destination on page 50
•Use an Amazon Fire TV Device with a Second Screen Device on page 51

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How to watch Amazon Prime videos offline

Amazon announced a series of new products but hidden among the new products is a new feature that will really get a lot of people onboard to not only Fire TV but for Amazon Prime. The new feature? Offline viewing of Amazon Prime videos. Previously, the only way to watch Amazon Prime videos was to stream them. To watch any Amazon Prime or any videos through offline you had to buy or rent it. Only then will you be able to download the video and watch without an Internet connection. After this announcement, you will now be able to download Amazon Prime videos for offline viewing. (edit) This feature was previously only available to Amazon Fire devices. Now, this has been enabled for Android and iOS devices. Note that not all Prime videos are available offline. Amazon is working closely with content owners to obtain rights so that you can view these offline.

Before you can download the video you want to watch offline, you need to download the Amazon Video app. If you have a Kindle Fire, you can download this app through the Amazon App store. This app is not found on the Google Play or Apple App store.

Follow the below instructions for Android / iOS Apple iPad or iPhone devices:

Install Amazon Video App for Offline Video Viewing:

for Android

If you do not have the Amazon App store, you will first need to install it. First, navigate to this website:

www.amazon.com/gp/video/splash/sd/t/appstore

Next, follow the instructions and download the Amazon Appstore.

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Open the file that downloaded called ‘AmazonApps.apk’. It is an executable file to install an app. You will get the below screen asking you to install the app. If you have problems clicking the install button, you will need to disable any screen filter apps such as a blue light filter in order for it to work.

If you still get an error, go to phone settings -> security -> enable ‘unknown sources’ which will allow you to install apps from unknown sources.

 

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After a bit, you will get to the below screen asking you to sign into your Amazon account. If you already have an Amazon account from Amazon Shopping, the same login will be used. Click the ‘sigh out and use a different account’ link if you want to use another account.

 

 

 

 

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Once inside the Amazon Appstore, search for the Amazon Video app. It is a free app with the below icon.

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Click install and go through the same process as above when you installed the Amazon App.

 

 

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Once installed, open the Amazon Video App. From here, you can navigate through Prime videos. If you see a download icon next to the video, it means you can download it for offline viewing.

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Make sure you are on WiFi connection when you download it. I did a test by downloading the Pilot for an Amazon Prime exclusive series, “Transparent”. After I downloaded the Pilot, I turned on Airplane mode and the play icon was displayed.

 

 

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I hit play and I get a pop up saying that I have a 76 day offline viewing period. Seems overly generous unless you are going off on a long boat ride across the Pacific!

Once you are done, you can simply delete the video from your account.

How to watch Prime videos offline through iOS devices (iPad and iPhone)

To watch Amazon Prime videos offline, you simply install the Amazon Video app from the Apple App store. Once you install it, you can follow the same instructions as we have for Android.

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Amazon Fire TV Stick and Samsung TV Compatibility Issues

samsung_firetvIf you have been having issues with getting your Samsung TV to detect recognize your Amazon Fire TV Stick, you are not alone. Many users are reporting that they are having compatibility issues with their Samsung TV and Fire TV Stick. The issues stem from not being able to connect the Fire TV stick into a HDMI port to the TV not recognizing the device. Several people have called both Amazon and Samsung who seems to acknowledge the issue but stop short of admitting fault.

If you are one of the unlucky ones who are having issues, try the below tips.

1) Upgrade the firmware to both FireTV stick and your Samsung TV.

For most users, your Fire TV Stick should have the most current firmware. The only exception is if you have opted not to upgrade when it prompts you to do so. For Samsung TV’s, updating the firmware is not so simple. First, you navigate to Samsung’s firmware page. Next, select your TV. If you do not know your TV model or do not remember, sneak to the side of the TV and you will find it. It is usually in the format xx##x#### where x is an alphabet and # is a number. The first set of # is the size of your TV. Find the latest firmware and download it to a USB thumb drive. Remember the filename. Take your USB thumbdrive then plug it to your TV. From the TV’s menu, go to settings and look for an option to upgrade firmware. Follow the instructions. It should ask you to select the firmware file. After a few min. the firmware to your TV will be upgraded. Now, try to plug your Fire TV and see if it will be detected.

2) Toggle Anynet / Anynet+

Most of you may already know or been using this but Samsung has a proprietary program built into all of its TV’s called Anynet+. What it does is it allows you to use a remote control and control various devices through its connected network. There is some suspiscion that it is actually Anynet or Anynet+ which is preventing the Fire TV Stick to be detected. A user on Amazon forums stated that they got it to work by following these steps:

-Plug the Fire TV stick in an HDMI port powered by USB port
-Hid the refresh button (red button)
-A message should pop up with the message, “anynet device”. Click yes or ok
-Your Fire TV Stick should now be visible.
-If not, go through your input and try to locate the Fire TV through different HDMI connections

Still have issues? Leave a comment.