My Echo

I’m having a blast telling Alexa what to play from Spotify.

I said I was never going to buy a computer until you could talk to one.

That was thirty years ago.

I fell into the computer revolution and haven’t exited since, I love the stimulation at my fingertips, but I still don’t use Siri, I don’t have time for that many corrections.

But Alexa gets it right.

I never would have purchased this product if Gary Dell’Abate hadn’t raved about it. That’s right, Gadget Gary, the producer of the Howard Stern show. I saw him at Musicares and he couldn’t stop raving, said I had to get one.


But then the buzz started to spread. Felice ordered one for my birthday.

But it took weeks to arrive.

That’s right, despite living in an on demand economy, that which is desirable is unattainable, whether it be concert tickets or the latest technology.

But I could wait.

I’ve still been waiting. Dealing with my shoulder trauma I didn’t want to delve into Echoland. Because you know how it is with new equipment, setup is never seamless, you’ve got to dedicate hours, and oftentimes you’re in the middle of it after midnight, knowing you should go to bed but unable to until you solve this problem.

My Echo wouldn’t work.

It comes with a short cord. I don’t know if they’re saving money or if there’s an issue of signal loss or… But all I know is I couldn’t put the Echo just anywhere. And after setting it up…nothing. You’re supposed to get colors atop the cylinder. I felt like calling Amazon, I never call for tech help, it’s a waste of time, you can find out the answer easier and quicker online. And the last time I called Applecare… The person had an accent and she couldn’t solve my problem and despite taking my phone number we got disconnected and she didn’t call back. My problem is still unsolved… It’s about synching the keychain over multiple devices, so your passwords will appear on your iPhone and vice versa. And yes, I called Applecare last, after troubleshooting myself, but on the forums everybody was tearing their hair out, everybody was having the same problem, like I said, I still am.

But Amazon is the new Apple.

How do I know?

The Echo came with almost no instructions. Simple packaging. Not a work of art, like Jobs’s creations, but far from the old Microsoft where there’s so much info you’re inundated.

Turned out the Echo wasn’t plugged in. I know, I know, TECH 101! But it’s not that I hadn’t plugged it in, but the plug had slipped out. I thought of this before I called, I’m not a complete nitwit. And then the lights started to swirl and I hooked it up to the wifi and Alexa was alive.

But she wasn’t loud enough.

A little research told me to twist her dial. Maybe that’s what the remote is for, the one that no longer is included because most people don’t use it.

And after asking Alexa a few questions, I hooked up my Spotify account.

Credit the Swedish streaming company. They’re horrible marketers, but great technologists. They’re on the Alexa bandwagon early, Apple Music can’t even get out of its own way. You’re following the buzz, right? That despite the number of subscribers analysts are pooh-poohing them, saying with this number of Apple accounts, with this number of credit card numbers, the adoption rate should be higher. But if you can use Apple Music you’re not using much of it. The interface is counterintuitive, a mess. And there’s no free tier.

You can’t use Spotify with Echo unless you have premium, that is you pay…

But it didn’t work anyway.


Back to Safari for research.

Needless to say, I was not the only one with this problem. And after reading arcane solutions the one that made sense was to wait, that Alexa needed to download a firmware update, and within an hour Spotify would work.

It did.

And I’ve been having fun ever since.

You see Alexa cuts out a step. Before the Echo, you had to think of a track and then find it, click it and play it. Dealing with Spotify’s inefficient search field along the way, that’s somewhere where Apple is better.

But now… You just say the name of the track and act, tell Alexa you want to hear it via Spotify, and she cues it right up.


What do I want to hear?

I pulled up the Beatles, Andrew Bird, Blondie Chaplin, Simon & Garfunkel. Even Billy Joe Royal’s “Down In The Boondocks.” My mood would change, my synapses would fire, I’d think of a song and there it was.


And she rarely got it wrong.

Now it’s not only Gary Dell’Abate. I follow Katie Boehret, the tech reporter, and on Friday she tweeted:

“We parked our car tonight and my 2 1/2-y-o son said, ‘Alexa, turn off!'”

Hysterical, I know.

But the truth is the younger generation never knows what it missed, it’s not locked into the past. Boomers think music is made on guitars, millennials think it’s made on laptops.

Voice activation is finally here. There are still a few things to figure out. But never underestimate the power of convenience.

You’re gonna own an Echo, you just don’t know it yet.


Reader comments after the jump 


Thanks so much for the shout out.

More importantly….glad you like it.

Now start asking her questions. There’s a lot she doesn’t know but she’s getting more info every day.

Ask her how far it is to drive from LA to San Diego or who was the 11th president of the US. was

Even ask her why she is such a bitch? She has answers for all!

Jason in my office uses it to turn lights off and on in his house and the shopping list is amazing.

They add new stuff every day. Unsure how Apple missed this one.

Gary Dell’Abate


You can also tell echo “Alexa Softer” or “Louder” and it will adjust the volume. It’s also an alarm clock “wake me up at 7:30 AM” and so much more. I use it to control my lights and alarm system. Also, for $79 you can buy the Dot (you can only order it by saying “Alexa Buy the Echo Dot” (you can’t buy it o and you can use it with any speakers, including wireless Bluetooth or wired via its headphone jack. I own 3 Echos and have written and broadcast about them several times. My favorite tech gadget.

Larry Magid


Great article!

PS: as for the volume you can say “Alexa volume 7” (out of 1 to 10) and she will adjust accordingly.

Tom Burg

(I tried this, it works perfectly.)


Have 1 since Christmas. It blows me away every day. Alexa, play Coltrane ” my favorite things”

Play Oscar Peterson, play………

Every time I get a song in my head I never have to look for it.

Reminds me of Jean Luc Picard

Walking in to his room and saying

“Computer, lights on, no dimmer”

Neil Lasher


Love my Echo. And Amazon customer service is top notch. Last week my father lost an old Kindle that I gave him that was linked to my account. Two web clicks and a brief text explanation of my problem and Amazon called ME within 60 seconds and disabled the Kindle so that no one could use it. At the end of the call the rep asked if there was anything else that I needed and I said “I guess I need to get my dad a new Kindle” so she gave me a 10% off discount code to use.

Tod Elmore


Wow I love my Echo. I work in tech, not one of your music readers.

Behind the scenes the trick of Echo is artificial intelligence. Specifically a branch called Deep Learning. Look it up, you’ll enjoy learning.

Alexa is learning every time you talk to her. She’s the future. Helpful AI, not the Terminator.

My company, NVIDIA, has (literally) a billion dollars of R&D behind the GPUs and deep learning software going into Alexa and Microsoft Cortana and all the AI you will see in self-driving cars. It’s already in Twitter, Facebook, Google and almost every app on your phone. Going to change computing in a way that only happens once a generation. Watch for it.

Greg Estes



MUST Echo coexist with streaming ONLY or will it work with your iTunes playlists/library ?

Al Kooper

(You can upload your music to Amazon, 250 songs for free or 250,000 for $24.99 a year: Or, you can stream songs from your Bluetooth-paired device:


Sir, does Echo “talk” to your Sonos?

steve aliment


Subject: with the Echo Dot (son of the Echo) you can connect an Echo to your Sonos speakers

In my four-story townhouse, that meant I could set up the hockey-puck sized Dot in the fourth-floor bedroom, right next to my Sonos Play 5 speaker. The Play 5 accepts an auxiliary cable input. Voila! Instant voice control for Sonos as Dot streamed my Amazon Prime Music library into the Sonos and throughout my home over Sonos’ wireless network.



Karen gave me an Echo for Christmas. Best present ever! First thing I did was upload 25,000 songs to My Amazon Music library. Fantastic!

Bob Davis


PS order the Echo dot if you can, it does everything you love about the echo, but it plugs into your pre existing speaker system.

Darwyn Metzger


apple care is so spotty anymore it pays to just hang up and call back if you get a moron. they fell off a cliff when yosemite csme out and there was a surge i. demand and either they dont train people as well or they arent screening well. i used to be 100 pct satisfied with it. now maybe 55 pct. wrong vector, Tim

did you think about trying their “dot?”. it seems to me that the real value of voice activstion is universal coversge in your bubble, not a single room



Last week I got my three year coin at AA for being three years clean and sober. Bit since a couple of months I have a serious Bob Lefsetz addiction. Guess I’m gonna switch AA meetings for LA meetings. LA is not short for the city of Angels, but for Lefsetz Anonymous.

There is one thing I have to tell you about Echo. I understand why you’re raving about it, but that’s because you’re American. For us, Dutchman (and all the other non English talking countries) Echo is a waste of money, because Alexa is a one language pony.

In this case Apple is doing a much better better job with Siri…

Kindest regards,

Mick Boskamp


I ordered an Echo for my wife, and saw it would take about a month to arrive. On a whim, I opened the Amazon Prime Now app (it’s their same day delivery service in a bunch of cities). There was the Echo. I ordered it at 9am this morning (in NYC), and it just arrived, 3 1/2 hours later.

So that! Your readers may want to know.

Kevin Kiernan, NYC


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