Tag Archives: privacy

My review of the Amazon Echo (Second Generation)

This review is of the Amazon Echo (Second Generation), which retails in the UK for £89.99 (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amazon-Echo-2nd-Generation-Heather-Grey-Fabric/dp/B0749YXKYZ).

I first used the Echo in late September while visiting family in Liverpool. I was so impressed with the technology that on my return to London I purchased my own Echo.

As a registered blind person I was drawn to the Echo as one can control the device by voice. I have, thus far had the Echo read titles from my Kindle library, search for (and play) samples from audible.co.uk, find and play music and carry out searches in response to questions posed by me.

In order to gain access to the widest range of music, I signed up for Amazon Music at a cost of £3.99 a month (the first 30 days being free with the ability to cancel, without charge within that time-frame). I’ve found the selection of music extremely varied and the fact that one can simply say “play “No Angel” by Dido) and the Echo does so is wonderful.

The sound quality in terms of music, Kindle and audio books is good, however for those who wish to further enhance their experience there is (I understand) a means of attaching an additional speaker.

The Echo’s ability to respond to questions is reasonable but, on balance I think that this is one of its weaker points. For example (as someone who is interested in politics) I asked it “what was the British Union of Fascists?” and Alexa read out a relevant snipet from the web. However on asking “what is the Socialist Worker’s Party?” Alexa provided information on the US-based far-left party (with no mention of the UK-based organisation). So anyone wishing to find out about the (UK-based) SWP would be better served by trusting to Google or another search engine.

Notwithstanding the above, asking questions such as “what is the weather in central London” will render an accurate result, as will questions such as “what is the capital of Germany?”

The Echo can control smart devices. However I have no such devices in my home, therefore I was unable to put the device through it’s paces here.

When purchasing an Echo, the user should be aware that all information is being sent through to Amazon’s servers. I looked back at my interactions with Alexa on the Amazon site and saw a record of all the questions I had posed to the device (although not the answers provided). One can delete this record. However there is a risk (as with any web based activity) of one’s interactions being intercepted (although this is no greater than the danger of one’s computer being hacked when using Google or another search engine).

I was able to sign up to Amazon Music by voice (without the need to enter my Amazon password as the device is already logged into my account). On the one hand this is extremely convenient as there is no need to log on to one’s computer etc. However anyone with children should, in my view seriously consider disabling this feature (there are many stories in the media of teenagers running up bills on smart devices due to their parents not having disabled or password protected the ability to make purchases without first having to enter security credentials).

All in all I highly recommend the Echo.


Repair Man

My grandfather used to do this self-same job. Who would have thought that the occupation would still be going strong after all these years. He would be amazed to see how the job has changed. I’m sure he wouldn’t believe what we repairers do these days and, if he did then chances are he wouldn’t like it.

Progress is a funny thing. You can’t stand in the way of progress. I mean society’s so much more stable now, crimes practically vanished. I’m proud that in a small way I’m contributing to a safe society one in which my girlfriend can walk the streets free from the fear of molestation and where our kids can play out without my partner and I constantly worrying about them.

The technology has improved so much. When I was a boy you had big bulky box-like objects standing on legs or in cabinets in the corner. There are still a few of the old tellies around. I wish I haden’t given grandfather’s away. You see the old sets from the 70’s and 80’s going for mega bucks on the web. Those from the 50’s and 60’s go for even more. Of course the old sets don’t work with digital, people just like to have something retro in the corner to look at. It’s a talking point when visitors come around.

The new sets break down fairly regularly. It’s a scandal that they need fixing as often as they do, especially as they cost so much to produce. But then you can’t put a price on security can you?

It tends to be the older generation who are resistant to new technology. Some of them have even been known to obstruct the television or even break them. Why break a perfectly good TV? It beats me.

Of course its not compulsory to have a TV but you get looked at askance if you don’t have one. Anyway there are so many incentives to have a TV that practically no one is without one. Because of advertising most of the channels are free and you get a reduction in your taxes if you have a set. It isn’t a big tax cut but it’s worth having. The girlfriend and I used the money we saved following the installation of our all singing, all dancing set to take the kids abroad.

It was strange being in that foreign hotel room. We had a telly, I can’t imagine being without one but it was odd. I mean it was just a set for watching programmes. Sure you could go online with it (all modern sets have that capability) but it didn’t do the thing everyone (well the majority of people) are used to and accept in my country.

“You know Rob its kind of nice to be alone. Just you, me and the kids” Jenny said.

“Those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear”, I said.

Who needs privacy. We’ve got a good standard of living. Society is stable and secure now. I’m proud that in a very small way, as the installer of sets which both receive and transmit I’m contributing to the happiness and prosperity of my fellow citizens.