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REVIEW - Amazon Echo Dot / Alexa

Discussion in 'Geeks and Gadgets' started by wmrcomputers, Jul 9, 2017.

  1. wmrcomputers

    wmrcomputers Stafford PC & laptop repair specialist

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    I can't disagree more about their server speeds. I've never had any lag or disconnection issues with any of my Sonoff switches. I do agree that they could do with an Earth passthrough though and aren't suitable for the average user - but having said that, most people geeky enough to be into setting up smart home devices would also be geek enough to wire one into a flex.
     
  2. tek-monkey

    tek-monkey wanna see my snake?

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  3. Cue

    Cue Well-Known Forumite

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    I think it may specifically be the Alexa skill, which is weird given they both use AWS.

    But at this point, I would not say that smart home stuff is just for those who would be happy inlining a switch into a power cable. It’s pretty easy now.
     
  4. hardwood

    hardwood Well-Known Forumite

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    Bought a sonoff switch to control some external fairy lights. I wired one end to a standard plug and the output side to a moulded plug socket, so the assembly is now general purpose and reusable.

    The sonoff does the job but the app strikes me as very primitive.
    From what I can see the rules are simply on / off and lack smarter settings such as knowning about the time of sunrise / sunset.

    As a result of this I had to create 4 rules
    - morning switch on
    - morning switch off
    - evening switch on
    - evening switch off

    So basically this is no different to a standard old fashioned mechanical plug in timer, but with the following advantages.
    - time kept in sync by a remote server so no need to pull out furniture to reset the clock in the event of a power cut
    - echo integration

    Can the sonoff switch use IFTTT ? It would be good if they could be integrated with say a contact / read switch on a door so that when you open the front door in the evening a light is turned on in the porch and hallway. I have a light on a sideboard which has 3 bulbs, Phillips Hue bulbs and their ilk are all very modern looking, I prefer old fashioned looking bulbs.
    The light is like the one below, but is on the top of a sideboard. What would your recommend to control this based on motion and/or door opening.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Cue

    Cue Well-Known Forumite

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    Sonoff switches are made by ITEAD, which is a Chinese company. You won't get anywhere with integrations with IFTTT, a nicer app, etc. Most stuff I've gotten from China has had pretty poor software along with it - the Chinese are great at hardware but their software development is abysmal. UIs are poor, apps are buggy, could really do with a native English speaker doing a translation, etc. Generally it's only the larger companies that do it right - TPLink for example, and Xiaomi.

    Honestly, I'm surprised there's Echo integration, but I guess Amazon are just about big enough for it.

    The only way to improve the Sonoff support is to flash it (thankfully, can now be done without needing to open it up) with a third party firmware that enables MQTT support. Then you can use it with other systems that support MQTT - I use Home Assistant personally, but if this is your only automation that may be overkill.

    As for the front-door thing, you'll need something like Home Assistant or a hub to bridge technologies. You're getting into the world of DIYing it now as the DIY home automation systems are the ones that generally can handle a wider variety. There's some work being done to get Sonoffs working with SmartThings mind you.

    Personally, I have a Tado so I'd use the location service from Tado on Home Assistant and have it turn the light on when I'm in the vicinity of my home. You can also do this using a multitude of location services.

    Pre-warning: this is techy territory now, HASS at least requires knowing how to edit YAML files, use Linux, etc. If that's not your cup of tea you'll need to find a home automation hub like SmartThings that'll fit all your needs. Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
  6. hardwood

    hardwood Well-Known Forumite

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    Think I follow the KISS principle and use a reed switch, relay and timer.
     
  7. Cue

    Cue Well-Known Forumite

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    I’m a software engineer, over engineering solutions is basically my DNA
     
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  8. Rikki

    Rikki Well-Known Forumite

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    I've just seen the energenie mi home light switches. They don't need a neutral so seem like a much better option than individual bulbs.
     
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  9. Cue

    Cue Well-Known Forumite

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    Be warned that they do still need some pretty large back boxes. If the hole in your wall isn't terribly big they won't fair too well.
     
  10. Gramaisc

    Gramaisc Forum O. G.

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    It's a very 'unofficial' solution, but I have, on the odd occasion, cut the front 10mm off of a surface box and used that as a 'plinth' to stand off a switch/socket that was too big for the existing back box.
     
  11. tek-monkey

    tek-monkey wanna see my snake?

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  12. Cue

    Cue Well-Known Forumite

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    Personally I wouldn’t buy 10,000mAh of battery from someone selling via Vipon. Vipon was Amazon Review Trader and the majority of the products are cheap shite resold from AliExpress/Alibaba. Would never trust an off-brand battery not to blow up on me.
     
  13. tek-monkey

    tek-monkey wanna see my snake?

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    99.5% of what you buy on amazon is chinese crap, some just market it better than others. They all contain 18650 cells, none are actually manufactured by the 'manufacturers' hence seeing 50 different items that are identical apart from the name on them. I have battery packs from the big boys like Xiaomi and Anker but also many from much cheaper 'brands', I'd say I've had at least 20 battery packs in the last 4 years and am yet to have a fault. Anything that touches the mains I am a little more sceptical of, I've seen high failure rates in cheap QC2 chargers for example, but as far as battery packs go the only issues I've had are false reporting of available power.
     
  14. wmrcomputers

    wmrcomputers Stafford PC & laptop repair specialist

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    This always rings true when I hear people say things such as "I'd only ever have a HP computer"
    I've tried to explain so many times that a HP computer is full of Chinese electronics and that the brand name on the outside only tells you who finally assembles a product.... and I have to agree with @tek-monkey when it comes to batteries.

    I've seen a BRAND NEW genuine laptop battery swell to the point where it jammed itself in the laptop and the customer was so in fear of it exploding that they called me out at 1am. I of course laughed, got in my car and popped around only discover it really had swollen... to like 150% of it's original thickness! I panicked and rushed outside with it and managed to lever it free of the laptop using a knife (while facing away the best I could as I instantly convinced myself she was gonna blow!). We replaced that genuine battery with an £8.99 chinese one off eBay. This was a couple of years ago now and I know it's still performing as well as can be expected when I last saw him a few months ago.
     
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  15. Cue

    Cue Well-Known Forumite

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    It’s very hit and miss is the main issue. Yes they’re all Chinese, but here’s how it works:

    Factory A will sell to Company B and C.

    B is a premium brand, they pay more and get the high quality batches.

    C is a cheapo brand, perhaps not even a UK based company and just some brand the factory made up (very common). C gets the rest of it, the stuff that isn’t up to scratch to try and sell off.

    This is why off-brand chargers can burn your house down, why I had to be careful when buying a 3D printer because a few brands have a reputation for catching fire due to not having a certain protection built in, etc.

    Company A might get crappier stuff once in a while that falls through the net, but for the most part they’ll get the better batches of products.

    I tend to stick to stuff like Anker for batteries to avoid this sort of thing. There are all sorts of nasty tricks at play to cut corners, it’s not just an urban legend. Even resellers in the UK that don’t keep an eye on things will slowly get worse batches over time as the factories they buy from will save the good batches for the first few batches to new customers - then they’ll start cutting corners on those customers eventually too.

    If you want to never want to buy off-brand stuff again, try the YouTube channel BigCliveDotCom. The wonders of 240V going through the USB port of a mains rechargeable lantern and shower heads that will actually kill you are never ending.
     
  16. wmrcomputers

    wmrcomputers Stafford PC & laptop repair specialist

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    I'm not disagreeing with you, @Cue and what you say is no doubt very true. However, I can only base my attitude on my own personal experiences. I've only ever seen that one dangerous battery event in my entire time of repairing computers, and it was a very well established laptop brand and the battery which was supplied with their brand new laptop. I've bought more cheap Chinese batteries for laptops that I care to count since 2010 and have never seen 1 issue. Therefore, whilst there is truth in what you say the fact still stands that there is still a failure rate in ALL brands. For the difference between a £10 battery and a £60 genuine one it would take an offer of free home insurance to convince me that it was extra money well spent.

    Could a cheapo laptop charger burn your house down? Yes. However, I've bought many and besides the odd one packing in after a year or so I've had no issues.
    Can you guarantee a branded charger could NEVER burn your house down? No. It's all about a very very small percentage fail rate.
    I think it's better to use electricals / electronics responsibly than it is to worry about trusting in brands. I never leave something charging unattended, and never use anything known to be iffy. The amount of laptops I've had dropped off with chargers showing bare wire is unreal, and people just don't seem to give a damn!

    Each to their own of course, but you'd never convince me that a brand name on an item makes it worth the premium. If we were talking the difference between a £10 and £15 battery then I might join you - but the differences can be as much as a 500% increase in price. That is just big brands abusing their customers trust and ripping them off. Yes, they may be manufactured better or be less likely to fail, but to the tune of a such an increase in price??
     
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  17. tek-monkey

    tek-monkey wanna see my snake?

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    As said by WMR, it's about price vs reliability. I got those battery packs for £8, the nearest I can find is £30 and I can't find a 'known brand' one at all. To me the price vs likelihood of failure is acceptable. I tend to only buy no-brand stuff off amazon so I know I have a warranty, chinese sites are a bit dodgy with returns in general, but I've had very few returns over the years despite many, many devices.

    I grabbed another 2 anyway, as starting to like the echo dots.
     
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  18. Cue

    Cue Well-Known Forumite

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    Echos are great, we have an original in the lounge and a dot upstairs. Since then my parents and grandparents have both gotten them too.

    Of course, they’re great till they randomly start playing Cliff Richard in the middle of a conversation.
     
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  19. tek-monkey

    tek-monkey wanna see my snake?

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    In a noisy room it can get confused, we had 10 people over for a poker night last night and it would randomly start listening as if it'd heard the key word. Maybe changing it to 'computer' wasn't so wise after all!
     
  20. Cue

    Cue Well-Known Forumite

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    Alexa is the preferred word because it’s fairly unique so doesn’t fire nearly as much
     
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