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Don't Buy Anyone an Echo (gizmodo.com)
164 points by rbanffy 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 186 comments



> You don’t need an artificially intelligent robot to tell you about the weather every day. Just look outside or watch the local news or even look at your phone.

I stopped reading here. This is FUD, or scaremongering, or something.

The truth is the reason the Echo family (and others) have seen such success is because they approach the virtual assistant problem from, in my opinion a novel and underutilized, place: the home appliance.

Sure I can pull out my phone (or is it charging on the nightstand?) to check the weather, but I can ask my Echo while I'm tying my shoes and by the time I'm done grab a jacket if necessary. It's so natural.

I have bought Echo dots as gifts for family and friends -- there seems to be a 50/50 split between the primary use being for music or home automation. It's far less kludgier than using a phone to turn your lights on and off. What if you have guests?

Lastly, when I travel I find myself missing the utility of being able to simply ask a question in the middle of another task, hands free. I've heard that some hotels are installing Echos, I think that's great.

Overall I think they're a great value add to my life -- I could buy a new phone for almost a thousand bucks and I barely get any noticeable improvement (and the improvements are usually along the lines of things actually working the way they are supposed to).

For $30, an Echo is a steal.


> It's far less kludgier than using a phone to turn your lights on and off.

Why can't you just stand up and, you know, flick the light switch? This kind of nonsense puts me in mind of "Wall-E". Fat, inert humans being hauled around on hovercrafts, their every need tended to by a watchful panoply of machines. If someone in my family gives me an Echo/Alexa/whatever, it's going in the trash.


> Why can't you just stand up and, you know, flick the light switch

I can, but I don't want to. Is that unreasonable?

I've quite enjoyed adding automation to my home. My outdoor lights slowly brighten as it gets dark outside - not by a timer, but by checking the actual times of sunrise / sunset as well as how cloudy it is, which might make it darker sooner. I can check my phone to ensure my doors are locked and my garage door is closed and my yard lights are off. I get a notification when the washer / dryer are finished. When I'm done working, I say a simple command and my office lights fade as my desktop locks.

I can set timers and check my laundry and then wait the extra 5 minutes it adjusted to finish. I can log out and hit the switch on the way out. I can get up every evening and turn on the outside lights and then turn them off in the morning. I can adjust my thermostat once I get up instead of 15 minutes before. But I don't really want to.

As a programmer, having an API for my home has been tons of fun. Controlling some of that API with my voice has been as well.

That said, I've made sure everything still works when my pi is down, because sometimes a light switch is, you know, simpler.


> My outdoor lights slowly brighten as it gets dark outside - not by a timer, but by checking the actual times of sunrise / sunset as well as how cloudy it is, which might make it darker sooner.

Sounds like a task best handled locally with a light sensor. Why mess with indirect inputs such as sunrise/sunset times and weather reports, which incidentally imply connectivity (and therefore more potential points of failure and vulnerabilities) when a simple, standalone solution exists?


I may use a light sensor as a backup or even the primary driver for how bright the lights are. I just haven't gotten there yet.

You're spot on about connectivity, although I could potentially keep a table of sunrise / sunset times to reference while offline.

These outside lights were my very first foray into home automation after I'd moved into our new house. It's been working so well, that I just kept going with other things. Until this thread, I'd practically forgotten about the automation.


Now you have to figure out where to put your light sensor so that it's not affected by the outdoor lights. And then get power / connectivity to it, keep it clean etc etc.


Sounds like a task that had better have a good software-only fallback, because not many people are going to have a light sensor. And if the software-only implementation works well enough, why would they buy one?


>I can, but I don't want to. Is that unreasonable?

Yes. Consider the amount of movement/exercise the average western person gets, it might even be life threatening.

It's based on the inability to distinguish between useful and marginal technology (especially when the latter also has tons of adverse side effects, such as security and privacy issues).

>As a programmer, having an API for my home has been tons of fun. Controlling some of that API with my voice has been as well.

As part of a hobby it can be OK (hobbies don't have to have utility, and we can even spend resources to have fun doing them). As it's sold (and bought for) to and by the masses, it's beyond useless.


>Yes. Consider the amount of movement/exercise the average western person gets, it might even be life threatening.

That seems like a massive stereotype there. I just don't see how changing the lighting in your house from a switch to audio could be "life threatening". You have zero idea what physical fitness the individual above does. I also don't understand how asking, "What is the weather like outside?" while tying your shoes is an issue. I don't think this is Asimov level of automation. It's just a mild convenience.


>That seems like a massive stereotype there. I just don't see how changing the lighting in your house from a switch to audio could be "life threatening". You have zero idea what physical fitness the individual above does.

Obviously it's the mindset that's killing us, so that's a moot point. Besides, the statistics support the "massive stereotype" very well.


I'm sorry, I don't see the connection between my health and whether or not I use light switches. That seems incredibly hyperbolic. I definitely don't exercise enough. Turning off my home automation is not a gym membership and a force of will.

I agree that Security and Privacy issues are always important to consider, and ideally we in the tech industry will find better ways to educate the masses about the issues at hand.


>I'm sorry, I don't see the connection between my health and whether or not I use light switches.

That's because this is only considering the direct first order effects, and at isolation on this or that particular person, and not second order effects and general consequences of such an attitude. My argument was more about the latter.

Having a particular (European) kind of mindset, I don't argue about what some unique snowflake might or might not do, not care about people's "personal responsibility" to balance things properly themselves. Instead I care about general trends and societal effects stemming from such an attitude. A person could have automated his lights and toiler flushing and whatever, and also be a multi-marathon runner. Perfectly possible, but obviously not statistically significant enough to base any argument upon.


> Yes. Consider the amount of movement/exercise the average western person gets, it might even be life threatening.

You need to remember that an individual is not the average person. Yes, maybe it's damaging for the "average" person (though who really _knows_). But you can't say it's unreasonable for this poster specifically, unless you know their life.


>You need to remember that an individual is not the average person.

Thanks, that's my point exactly, which I tried to explain in my response comments. I never talk about the individual in a general discussion -- and don't even care what one might or might not do.


> Why can't you just stand up and, you know, flick the light switch?

Why do you need a television remote? Why can't you just stand up and, you know, change the channel on your TV?

You're just drawing some arbitrary line in the sand and passing moral judgement on everyone on the other side. My guess is that in 30 years, having every light in your house controlled by a physical switch will be as quaint as TVs with rotary channel dials.


> My guess is that in 30 years, having every light in your house controlled by a physical switch will be as quaint as TVs with rotary channel dials.

Maybe, but it certainly won't be echo/home that results in that. Voice control for lights is fantastic in certain situations, like when you're in bed and want to turn the lights off. Or on the couch about to start a movie.

But it absolutely sucks to say "alexa, turn on the lights" when you walk in the room. It's slower and it's more frustrating than just flipping the switch right next to you (and the connectivity delay is readily apparent) Maybe motion detectors or some other form of tracking people in the house will augment this to relegate switches to the dustbin of history, but it's definitely not voice assistants and crappy phone controls that are going to do it.


OTOH - It's pretty damn cool to say "Alexa, turn on the room lights" _before_ you get to the room or "Alexa, turn off the room lights" _after_ you've walked upstairs and realized you're not going back to that room.


Not to mention that if you're like me, you'll always flip two other wrong switches on the same panel before finding the one you wanted.


Yeah but you can say that about any modern convenience. Why don't you just.. you know wash your clothes by hand? Or are you fat and inert too?


there is zero privacy concern regarding the average washing machine, not to mention the fact that a washing machine is actually saving you hours of time per week, whereas if you add up every single convenience offered by a home assistant compared to, say, the same exact thing you have on your phone, you're saving seconds in exchange for the normalization of always-listening microphones in your home.


>Yeah but you can say that about any modern convenience.

If only we've had enough intelligence discover sensible limits to things, instead of doing everything just because we can.


The idea that the limit would happen to be just beyond where it was earlier in our lives reminds me of a Douglas Adams quote:

"I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

"1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

"2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

"3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things."


>The idea that the limit would happen to be just beyond where it was earlier in our lives reminds me of a Douglas Adams quote:

If it's a technological limit, it will always be "just beyond where it was earlier in our lives", so that's a tautology.

One discovers such limits as you get to them -- you only get to be able to say "too much" after the ability you think is too-much has been invented. Heck, perhaps dead guys from centuries ago would have thought of it too much if we've described it to them, we just can't now.

For other limits, that don't arise as some technology just becomes available, what's too much is not necessarily "just beyond where it was earlier in our lives".

E.g. it took us 60+ years of merrily driving away before the LA smog became intolerable back in the 70s/80s. Pollution of the 50s levels was already beginning to be "too much" but we didn't know it yet. But even someone in the 80s would have easily agreed to that -- that a previous era had the optimum, and not just what they were used to.


Why aren't you just using torches or candles? Isn't that what tools are for?

My bedroom has a light switch by the door that turns on the fan light. I have canned lights as well but the switch is on the other side of the room in the bathroom (why God why?!). I have two lamps on their respective night stands plugged into always on outlets.

If I leave the room then chances are I'll first have to walk across the room to shut off one of the 3 lights not controlled by the switch at the door.

Instead I have two smart plugs on the lamps. I can operate simply by saying "Alexa turn on the lights".

If I enter the room with a load of laundry in my arms, I don't have to fiddle with a switch.

If I am leaving the room, I don't have to run around turning off lights.

If I wake up in the middle of the night I don't have to grope around the back of my night stand for the switch on my lamp cord.

I can also set a schedule when I am away to make it appear that I am home.

It's useful.


>Why can't you just stand up and, you know, flick the light switch?

Because it is more efficient to yell at Alexa "Turn off the bathroom lights" than stand up, walk to the bathroom and turn them off.

Or better yet, having all your lights and things turning on as you walk in the door. Or having Alexa wake you up by turning on your lights slowly.

Or baking something and telling Alexa to set a timer. No more having to type into Google "20 minute timer" then remembering to keep that tab open and your sound on.


+1

Bunch of we-don't-like-options luddites in here. I'm surprised people aren't modding their cars with a hand crank b/c

> why can't you just get the crank, walk up front, and start it manually, instead of turning a key like a princess.

Yelling at my home is on my top 10 favorite things about this century so far. I tried for decades to utilize the force to get the lights on/off or grab the tv remote. Burst a blood vessel in my eye trying one night. Never worked.


No more having to glance at the clock on the wall (or the stove, or the microwave, or whatever) and mentally noting "in 20 minutes, it will be half-past".


And then forgetting because that tricky synchronisatiin problem from work pops into your head and you wander off...


Maybe you should have just turned off the light on your way out of the bathroom.


Gee, thanks captain hindsight!


> than stand up, walk to the bathroom and turn them off.

> No more having to type into Google "20 minute timer" then remembering to keep that tab open and your sound on.

The horror


If you're baking or cooking, your hands are often covered with things you don't want to smear all over your phone, and saying "Alexa, how many tablespoons are in a quarter of a cup?" starts to seem pretty practical.


Erm... I have a cooking timer. It's spring-operated, you turn it left to the max and then turn right to set the time. I specifically bought it so I don't need a battery in the kitchen, because I have a battery timer, too (I still use it sometimes, because of how loud it is).

You don't really need a whole unwieldy computer to just call you after 20 minutes.


No one is saying that you need an amazon echo to do anything - obviously you could just use a physical timer, or pull out a calculator or a book to do conversions. The point is the echo makes it more convenient.


I have my hue lights synced so when my echo timer goes off, my living room lights flash. No more missing a timer because I was distracted in another room and didn't hear it.


How well does that work when you're working on three different things in the kitchen, and they each need timing?

Yes, a mechanical egg timer is still a timer, and still functional. But so were sand timers. A mechanical clock still works, but many people still use digital clocks now a days.

I like the hands-free nature of the Echo timers, so I can set a timer while I still have dough or raw meat on my hands. And like I said, I can have an oven timer going while I have a timer for my pasta on the stove, and any variety of things I care to time (my kid's 5 minute timeout for fighting with his brother, for example).


Still requires physical contact and cleaning if your hands are dirty from cooking.


Yep. I have a friend whose house is almost exclusively using Hue bulbs and Google Home for voice control of them, and it's the worst experience I could ever imagine having in my house. Instead of a quick switch flick you have to say the command and pray that the device understood you correctly. It's borderline idiotic - we walked into a room and he had to repeat himself THREE times before google home understood and turned on the lights. He laughed about it and said "usually it works better". I don't give a damn. A switch has the exact same utility and works 100% of the time, always.


Sounds like he was just trying to show off his new gadgets? I've got Hue bulbs in every room, but if it's easier to flip a switch, I'll flip a switch (Hue bulbs still turn off/on with the regular wall switch...). What I think is useful is saying "turn off all the lights" when I'm about to go to bed, or if I'm out and about and want to make sure my lights are off.

The main reason I bought them was the ability to display multiple colors - I absolutely wear that out. I love having a red-colored room when I'm playing video games. Dimmed 'sunset' colors when watching a movie. Party colors when friends are over.

I think they're really fun, sometimes useful.


Whenever someone says voice control I think of the two Scots in an elevator skit from "Burnistoun" S1E1. It's a BBC Scotland show, but may be available through your favorite streaming services.

When I want to remotely control a light switch with my voice, I tell a kid to get up and flip it. It doesn't always work, but I at least know that they understand what I want. And it means that sometimes you have to be the one to flip the switch for someone else.


It is funny, but does a disservice to the major improvements in voice recognition. The one thing that most people don't complain about is the voice recognition of Alexa, Ok Google, Siri or Cortana.


Parent anecdote:

We have fireTV which offers push button voice commands, my 2yo -- who is a little retarded in his speech -- launched Plex the other day (I said "launch" he said "Plex"). I was, inter alia, impressed it managed to decipher his speech, albeit a single word.


Very interesting, makes me wonder how young the voices included in the test sets were. Clearly it's not quite perfect yet though [0] :)

[0]: http://www.craveonline.com/design/1189025-amazon-alexa-doesn...


Time lost to light switches in a year is measured in, what, 10s of minutes and maybe $20 in wasted electricity and bulb-life a year? If you have a pretty big house and are kinda bad at turning off the lights when you should?

Even a perfect solution that never screwed up and wasted my time would have to also be very cheap ($100-200 for whole house—yeah, right) and take no time to install/maintain for that to be worth it to me.


To be fair to the Hue bulbs, we've got a bunch of them in the office since we have stand-up lamps. There's a physical switch controlling the Hue bulbs on the wall next to the door and it's way easier to get all the lights switched off if you're the last one leaving for the night with that one switch. But then, we've just embraced the common switch rather than replacing them all with voice commands.


Agreed, but mostly imo because the light switch works fine as it is. I believe smart lights solve a problem that doesn't really exist. Of course this stuff could be really helpful for people with disabilities, however.


Home automation is a life changer for the disabled, frail, and the chronically ill. For that reason alone they are worthy of development. If lazy people are the driver and primary market for these technologies, so be it, as far as I am concerned.


This. I'm quadriplegic and the Amazon Echo has revolutionised my life for the better, I made a big full comment on the other thread on this topic on the front page right now so I won't repeat myself. But I'm a pretty good reason for these devices to exist.

Obviously they need more privacy controls, but so far they have been a unalloyed good for me.


> Why can't you just stand up and, you know, flick the light switch?

Fine if you have a standard home with one switch and one light on the ceiling.

I live in a loft style appartment and have about six lamps in the main area. I would much rather tell an app "set dining table light to dim" than walk around the room across the two floors to turn lamps on and off.

Much better, you can tell the app "set a sexy mood" and have all half my lamps turn off, dim some of them and put the few color hue bulbs to pink. All of this with one word.

Right now, I do all of that with my phone. Problem is that when I am at home my phone is often on the kitchen table or charging next to the bed. I have to go and pick it up to interact with my smart(ish) home.

Investing in a vocal interface such as the Echo or Google thingy sounds very interesting to me. If buying all those smart lights didn't kill my budget, I would have one already.


> Much better, you can tell the app "set a sexy mood" and have all half my lamps turn off

Then you wonder why Barry White recommendations start appearing in Amazon


People leveled the exact same complaint against the TV remote. And yet, here we are.


In an epidemic of obesity


Ah that damned remote


post hoc ergo propter hoc


Telling a machine to turn off the downstairs lights is easier than walking downstairs, turning off everything manually, walking back upstairs.


It's a good exercise, your body will thank you.


Some of us already get at least an hour daily exercise and it's debatable whether you need more when combined with a healthy diet. Modern conveniences and automation are not about being lazy but efficient and productive. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised so many here seem against these things as I often see people here spend a vast amount of time over-engineering and over-thinking automation and productivity tools/solutions/hacks otherwise, even celebrating such.

Is it solely privacy concerns that make you pull the health card? I'm pretty sure the overall positive effect on your health from getting up to manually switch lights and change the channel on the TV would be negligible; there are far better ways to get your daily exercise.


That's a bad excuse.


Walking across a cramped room in the pitch dark can be dangerous, particularly if you're living in a dinky apartment and have osteoporosis. Consider also that a lot of people use wheelchairs to get around.

Long story short, there are many lives very different from yours. There are ways beyond Wall-E (that are also far more useful and connected with reality) to broaden one's horizons.


The Clapper was a big hit for a reason.


And the Echo is a big hit for a reason


That's what I do, even though I have remote control switches. The nice thing for me is when you're leaving the house and you can just turn off all the lights. Or you're laying down in bed and you can shutdown the whole house (turn off lights, lock doors, etc).


What's ridiculous about the home automation part is how users automate their homes by buying these absurdly expensive light bulbs, wifi enabled smart home bulbs $30-$100+, just to turn on an individual light. Not to mention, the more wifi devices you have in your house, the worse the coverage gets. Also, people don't seem to care about their privacy, all of these devices are always recording, in some cases even when muted.


You're letting your biases show a bit harshly here.

You know what one of my primary use cases is? Changing the song that's playing while working out without going and finding my phone. I can control my house from my stationary bike.

Ultimately, devices like these allow me to be a more active contributor to my household by freeing up my hands of the endless trivial tasks that would otherwise occupy me. My productivity in the kitchen alone has doubled since introducing a Google Home to my counter.


I live in a studio with 8 lights, 2 over my desk, 4 over my living room, 2 over my bed (how I setup the place). The two light switches are wired to 4 and 4. Alexa + light control lets me group them into desk, living room, common area (desk + living room), bedroom, all lights. It's more convenient than light switches which give me absolutes of all on or too many on depending on what I'm doing. The alternative is to rewire the place, which I do not own.


If you're using smart color-changing schedule-keeping lights then your light switch Must Never Be Turned Off. It's kind of a pain in the ass, really.

Personally I just have like three tablets of various vintages floating around the apartment, all with the light control app on them.


Just to do a thought experiment and ignoring your existing biases, imagine if you had two options always in every room in your house -- one is to ask Alexa and the other is to flick the switch, over time what do you think you will gravitate towards?


Some of my lights aren't controlled by a switch on the wall but on the neck of the lamp or a cable behind a table. So I have the option of opening an app. using a wireless remote. or simply uttering a sentence...or breaking my back to switch them all on. Including being able to easily control the overall lighting scheme of my living room.


Do you ever use a tv remote?


There's a quote from Douglas Adams - "Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things"; in the decade and a half or so since he wrote that, things seem to have moved even faster, and now I would possibly restate that to twenty-five.

Recently I've been reconsidering my outlook on new things, and though I dismissed Alexa as a fad, I now own two Dots, a couple of Hue bulbs, and some smart outlets. They solved some basic issues really well:

- No ceiling light in the living room, which is my apartment's entry, "Alexa, turn on floor lamp", beats walking across the room in the dark to find the foot switch

- My bedroom lights didn't have a dimmer, being able to say "Alexa, set bedroom to 35%"

- I have Sonos in most rooms, so I like to leave music for the dogs when I leave the house, "Alexa, play jazz music in living room", beats using the app on my phone

- "Alexa, what's the news?" to get five minutes of news from NPR in the morning is more enjoyable than looking at my phone

Anyway, my point is that a small investment resulted in me having some tech that, though minor, does improve my life. And this re-evaluating new things idea makes me feel less like an old curmudgeon (of thirty-eight).


I'd like to add that I'm over 40 years old and I just purchased a bunch of these devices for my home. I'll have an Echo in at least 4 rooms. It will be connected to my garage doors, some of my lights, my thermostat and we'll use them to play music.

I don't think they are "against the natural order of things". They have some privacy problems but they also have the potential to change our lives in small ways that are valuable.


Weather... I live in the midwest. Looking out the window tlls me absolutely nothing. There could be a line of storm coming towards me with potential cells of tornados. But that's maybe 30 to 50 miles away while it's sunny and nice outside.

Most of the Echo use among my family is music. They just want something they can stream and listen as background noise. Sometimes they use it as a radio station. Nothing more beyond that.


> For $30, an Echo is a steal.

For an extra $5 they'll throw in a smart plug https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KWEAH1K


Got this deal a week and some change back, along with a separate two-pack to dip my toes into home automation.

The TP-Link smart plugs will work in full concert only about 75% of the time; it's Home => Kasa, then an Alexa => Kasa integration.

"Ok Alexa, turn off/on the Living Room" gives me hilarious permutations of which of the three light up, are delayed, need to be asked again, etc. I've done enough wireless network testing locally to know it isn't network strength getting in the way.

It was a nice toe-dip and I'll probably keep messing with the idea of home automation...but I am really not impressed with the lack of responsiveness and consistency. Probably going to shift gears more to localized automation next without involving the cloud.


Ugh, these things still aren't stateful enough to hit eventual consistency? Thats not much different than the X10 stuff I was playing with more than a decade ago. I had a few outdoor lights that controlled from a computer and serial adapter and just had to blast whatever command I wanted several times and hoped it worked.


My wife nearly jettisoned the smart plugs after 5x attempting to get them all to turn on at once. Worse, sometimes a command will hang, leaving two lights on and the other one just randomly lights up a few minutes later.

The eTekcity 1Tx/5Rx remote outlets running on (I'm pretty certain) 433.92Mhz that these TP-Link smart plugs replaced work every single time. (Going back to those is sounding better, now that I think about it.)


Yep, I don't have time to look at my phone, go to a website etc. always, or want to. I spend enough time looking at screens all day and night. It is nice to be doing something else and ask Alexa with my voice, which is doing nothing at the moment, what the weather is, the price of bitcoin is, to play Mozart, etc.


Yup! This is exactly what I've been thinking.

Are we really going to fearmonger about HomePods, Echos, and Google Homes when we have a microphone on our laptops/cellphones?


What about the larger cost to the environment?

Is it worth having rare earth minerals mined by literal slaves in Africa and China?

Is it worth the energy associated with transporting the resources, processing them, assembling the device and delivering it to you?

All for the convenience of not pulling out your phone while you are tying your shoes?

I do not understand this uncritical consumption. $30 may be 'a steal', but think about whom you are stealing from.


That seems like something of a defeatist argument, considering everything from the phone the person would be pulling out of their pocket to the pants the pocket is in to the shoes that are being tied to the door they're getting ready to walk out of was probably, in some form, produced by an unfair labor market or a company who has a less-than-stellar environmental record.

Removing a single consumer electronic device from your life isn't going to impact those global markets - they're problems best tackled at a different scale.


'Removing a single consumer electronic device from your life isn't going to impact those global markets' <- Indeed it will not. Only if society begins viewing owning and using resources differently (which will happen eventually once certain resources get scarce), change will happen.

This is why I am so pessimistic about humanity. It's an outrageous opinion to sacrifice even a bit of convenience for not using resources.

I see the angry downvotes pouring in on my previous post because (unsurprisingly) people get angry at having their consumerist lifestyle criticised.


For the record, I downvoted you and am not angry at all about your posts.


And how is this contributing to the debate?


they're problems best tackled at a different scale.

I'm curious. Which way?


I'm not sethhochberg, but if I had to guess: Government regulations.


If you were to cite verifiable sources I would say this is a fair point.


https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Amazon+Echo+Teardown/33953

Hardware teardown of an early generation echo. Worst, all of this is electronic waste in a few years.

We all do this and just by design, smartphones and laptops are not made to last. We accumulate such a staggering about of waste considering the energy/resources used to produce this.

The larger problem is that technology enables us to consume more, so I don't see how technology can ever solve the problem unless a serious shift in perception happens.


I'd guess Teichopsia was more interested in sources about slave labor, energy costs, and environmental impact.

E.g. [https://www.thedailybeast.com/this-is-what-we-die-for-child-... | This Is What We Die For: Child Slaves Made Your Phone Battery]


Great article a few years ago from the BBC: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150402-the-worst-place-on-...


Yes, yes it is.


As a counterpoint, it seems like everyone under 30 years old does not know how to drive anywhere without navigation assistance. People aren't learning how to read a map. Whenever I am in the car with someone else I have to direct them where to go. If you use devices or software to do everything for you, you do not develop any intuition for how things work or where things are.


> People aren't learning how to read a map.

So what? If relying on GPS navigation erodes ability to read a map, doesn't relying on a map also erode ability to navigate by intuition or ability to follow verbal navigation instructions?

I actually agree with the claim the heavy use of GPS navigation erodes ability to navigate successfully without it, though I have only anecdotal evidence of this. My own ability to navigate definitely seems to have declined when I started relying on GPS nav frequently, first Garmin/TomTom and now Google maps. But so what? Overall I'm significantly more efficient at navigating now overall.

Net net it's a gain, which is the very promise of technology. (Almost) No one laments the decline in ability to type on a manual typewriter that has come from the rise of general purpose computing or the decline in ability to use an abacus or sliderule that has come from the creation of calculators. The loss of these skills is far outweighed by the benefits.


>doesn't relying on a map also erode ability to navigate by intuition //

It doesn't, you still use your situational awareness, the same observations (to locate where you are on your map), the same site of direct observations.

For me it's like the difference between waking around a building blindfolded following a voice instruction and following a floor plan. In the former case (as for satnav) I'm lost without the aid; in the latter case I can not only navigate the same route but also find places I didn't visit before because I noticed then in passing in order to orient myself.

FWIW I use satnav and don't consider it a great wrong, but if I want to know a route or learn about an area then map following is much better.


Not to take the bait & segue too much, but maps have been a core part of navigation for centuries upon centuries, and they generally teach & augment your own ability to navigate rather than navigate for you.

No one misses the technical skill to use a sextant, typewriter, or sliderule. Those things are in a sense just drudgery. But if you lose the ability to navigate, compose, or do math in the process, that's a different story.


Horses have been a core part of warfare for centuries upon centuries.

There's probably plenty of useful skills being a mounted soldier taught you that driving a tank doesn't. Those skills, if they're still useful today, are learned another way.


If horses taught you high level (not horse-specific) military strategy that tanks didn't, then yes there might be an issue at hand.


Those would be very exceptional horses. And very powerful maps.


There's a difference between being able to read a map and having memorized a map. I read maps all the time, be it google maps or even the maps in video games. But I rely entirely on navigation to get places because memorizing a map is not something I find value in.

I don't think that's a bad thing, either. This is how thousands of years of social progress happened. We stopped learning how to use sun dials. We stopped learning how to use a sextant. These were replaced by superior implementations and the world moved on to bigger & better things.


I fought against having a GPS in the car for years. It was the biggest single source of arguments with my partner yet still I didn't want to dumb myself with tech.

It's most definitely the most helpful device I've ever bought, second to a mobile phone. Switching to a smartphone from my old Nokia didn't improve my life, adding a TomTom in my car did.


Bullshit. People can still read maps.


You'd be surprised. Road maps maybe, given we all still drive and Google Maps is full of them. But topographical maps, for example, are alien to a huge portion of the population.

Source: I help teach adults to read topo maps every year


Outside of a narrow range of people (and jobs), how often is a topographical map even relevant to daily life?

I can think of two, maybe three times in my entire life I've even had a reason to look at one.

It's like saying you need to know how to read aeronautical maps. While a pilot might need to, and maybe those doing balloon based projects or drones might as well, the average person couldn't possibly care less.


This quote about half way down largely unravels this article's central point:

> microphones only send recordings to the servers when you use the wake word.

This is a fact we can verify with tools like Wireshark. Their other point about "open microphones" largely ignores smartphones which all have open microphones and a baseband operating system which can activate the microphone to spy (which the NSA did[0]).

Their point about existing hacks targeting the Echo is also largely unraveled by a quote further down:

> This particular exploit only worked on devices made before 2017 and required the hacker to have physical access to the Echo.

Essentially if you disassemble an Echo and reprogram it, it will do something else. Compelling stuff...

[0] https://www.wired.com/2014/06/nsa-bug-iphone/


Perhaps only tangentially related, but your comment reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Charles Babbage, regarding his analytical engine:

> On two occasions I have been asked, — "Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" In one case a member of the Upper, and in the other a member of the Lower, House put this question. I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Charles_Babbage


Note that Babbage has the wrong end of this.

Part of Google's success is realising that yes, your goal needs to be that the right answer comes out when asked the wrong question. If you type "Rebecca Editor of Star Newspaper" it doesn't matter that's not how she spells her name, or that she was never editor of the Daily Star, nor that she's not now editor of anything at all, having been effectively promoted, Google correctly determines that you probably want results about a famous British woman named Rebekah Brooks.

There's an SF story, I thought it was a Multivac story but a list of those doesn't find it for me, where the world computer has been making "mistakes" and the technicians trying to diagnose it eventually realise its "mistakes" are actually causing humans who've disobeyed its instructions to fail. The computer has been tasked with improving efficiency, and disobedience results in inefficiency, so it has arranged for those who are disobedient to be unsuccessful. It isn't murdering anybody, but maybe they'll go bankrupt or miss out on a promotion and so the overall inefficiency is reduced.


Can you explain what this means? I don't understand what the person you're quoting is saying.


Charles Babbage is referring to two separate occasions upon which he was asked if his "analytical engine" (what some might consider the first computer) would still produce the right answer to a problem even if the wrong input was supplied. The answer is so painfully obvious -- of course it won't! -- that Babbage remarks that he can't even understand how confused the person must be in order to ask such a question.


In addition to Wireshark, we have pretty strong legal evidence. When Amazon was made to provide whatever recordings they had from the Echo in that homocide case, they said they only record the commands given and don't have an always-on microphone. If that was not the case, Amazon would be committing a major crime to cover up such a feature.

Disclaimer: work for AWS, not affiliated with Alexa or Echo.


> This is a fact we can verify with tools like Wireshark.

Is it really? I don't think you'd be able to detect steganographic communication or targeted attacks like this.


It could detect an open microphone, which is the topic.

The microphone's input would either need to be transmitted continuously (which is detectable with Wiresharp or other traffic monitoring tools), or stored which neither the Echo or Echo Dot have large enough capacity to do for any significant length of time.


You can get really great quality voice audio taking as little as 2KB/s(I work with VOIP solutions so I have some idea). At that rate, that's 168MB/24 hours. But then if you consider that you only need to record when someone is actually talking(don't record below certain threshold) you probably only need to store 5-10MB of data a day. You can just write that much to ram, I'm sure Echo has enough to do that. Then upload data periodically when someone sends an actual command to the server.


Presumably there is enough silicon onboard to keep a tally of interesting keywords, compute a very rough terrorism score and upload that once a month. Three letter agencies could follow-up with additional measures for those that pass a threshold.


Wireshark could see the packets moving across the network, but you might have issues seeing the payload. More so if the echo does certificate pinning.


Also, there's no reason that such packets would have to be sent immediately. It's totally possible that, during times when a wake-word is not utilized, they could still record, compress, and delay transmission of recordings until a less conspicuous time (middle of the night, weekend, following a reboot, or in tandem with the next 'expected' transmission).


I'm not choosing a side here, but saying "we have Wireshark" doesn't mean as much as you think it does. If packets are encrypted and sent at arbitrary times, we really have no idea what is being communicated. Surely we could see large amount of data if they were transferring entire audio sessions, but I feel like they are far more likely to send transcripts or key word mentions. Given the size of keyword mention, it would be very hard to distinguish this from a normal query to Google.


The problem with that is processing power. If the Echo could do speech to text without the cloud (such as generating that transcript you mention), then it wouldn't need the cloud in the first place.

I'll give you that it could be possible to slip in other "trigger words" that could be tallied, then statistics sent off, but really, is that a problem? So what if your Echo counts how many times you say a specific keyword? Would that affect your life in any way?


Can't one just profile "Ok Google what is the temperature" versus the television being on? Or Music being played in the background?

it seems like it wouldn't be that hard to get some datapoints about what google might be sending based upon when transmissions were sent and what was being sent to the microphone.

Or just find someone smart enough to reverse engineer the device.


can Wireshark detect when hostile agencies distribute steganographic information over other https packages?

Your “phones can already do this” argument still holds


what is the name for arguments of the kind “Russia can already nuke us, so let's allow Iran and Kim bombs too”?


So an Echo is as dangerous as an iPad. Sure, but enough with the FUD.


It's on the cusp of Sunk Cost, Fallacy of Inertia, and Fallacy of Relative Privation.

The last one is probably closest but it doesn't matter because there are starving children to feed and you're here worrying about names of fallacies, you animal. /s


Maybe survivorship bias


I thought it was amusing that a mere two weeks ago, this exact same author wrote a review of an Echo-enabled speaker entitled The Best Bluetooth Speaker Now Works With Alexa and It's Amazing.

https://gizmodo.com/the-best-bluetooth-speaker-now-works-wit...


From "If you can afford it, and you like your friend a ton, the Blast is a great addition to anyone’s life." to "Think long and hard about buying an Amazon Echo or a Google Home for your friends and family. They might not like it. In my opinion, they shouldn’t."

Ugh. This story really was just written to be controversial clickbait. Utter lack of journalistic integrity.


Do journalists only get to represent a viewpoint they honestly hold? Surely part of the role is to cast arguments/positions that they don't hold themselves.

You can write a promo putting yourself in the position of your standard demographics, you can write an opinion piece, the chances they'll coincide aren't that high.

Online sometimes I push a viewpoint to be more extreme, or take a contrary position in order to shed light on, and develop, my own belief/position. [I'm doing it now!]


> Do journalists only get to represent a viewpoint they honestly hold? Surely part of the role is to cast arguments/positions that they don't hold themselves.

Typically a journalist's job is to report without bias (to the extent possible). They might present others' viewpoints as well as factual information, but they shouldn't be presenting their own viewpoint in the guise of objective information. At least this is what I think.

For op-eds, obviously the expectations are different. But I think it's pretty shady that we have an op-ed here presenting the Echo as a terrible idea when two weeks ago the author was touting the same thing as amazing in a review. Best case it means that the author is intentionally being provocative and presenting an opinion he doesn't hold simply because it'll get views. Sensationalism is not a hallmark of quality journalism. Worst case I'm left to believe the positive review was purchased, which is even worse.


> report without bias

That isn't possible. Everything contains bias. The simple choice to report a particular story instead is a bias against the other stories left unreported. The duty of a journalist is to disclose their bias when it might affect the story, so people can interpret their report with the proper context.

Reporters are not mere stenographers that repeat official statements and press releases. They choose what they feel is important enough to report on and give their interpretation of the facts as well as their opinion about the facts (which should be properly labeled as op-ed).

> presenting the Echo as a terrible idea when two weeks ago the author was touting the same thing as amazing in a review.

People can change their mind about a product. Maybe the author learned about the risks from comments made on the review.

> Best case it means that the author is intentionally being provocative

You're seeing what you want to see, not the best case which is simply that the author learned more and change their recommendation. (however, it would be good to clearly state that this change in the beginning on the article)


Just another fine example of why gizmodo is an awful news outlet.


The french privacy council just issued an official warning regarding cloud-based voice assistant. They recommend switching them off when not using them, and telling your friends you have one when the come over!

Not sure they will be GDPR compliant if it continues like that..

https://www.cnil.fr/fr/enceintes-intelligentes-des-assistant...


> We do know that Amazon will hand over your Echo data if the gadget becomes involved in a homicide investigation. That very thing happened earlier this year, and while Amazon had previously refused to hand over customer data, the company didn’t argue with a subpoena in a murder case.

Bullshit. Amazon fought the subpoena up until the defendent essentially said "whatever, give them the whatever recordings you have". The linked article even says this.

This whole thing is luddite fear mongering. There are legitimate reasons to worry about IoT devices, but mostly not for the reasons outlined here.


> I am here to say that smart speakers like the Echo do contain microphones that are always on, and every time you say something to the speaker, it sends data back to the server farm.

Yeah, you're here to tell lies then, unless you have some sort of evidence that this happens that we don't know about. Unless someone says "Hey Google" or "Alexa," ain't nothing happening. When Google found out a small number of Home Minis might accidentally do this because of a hardware bug, they responded by immediately crippling the physical button on every device.

Amazon and Google do plenty of terrifying stuff with privacy; there's no need to make up new stuff in order to write a fluff piece.


> The newfound privacy conundrum presented by installing a device that can literally listen to everything you’re saying represents a chilling new development in the age of internet-connected things.

I say this every time these home assistants are discussed: this is not new. There are no new privacy implications whatsoever, unless you're one of those very few people who doesn't have a cell phone. The vast majority of us have had devices that can literally listen to everything we're saying for years now, many of us for decades. And to make it worse, we take them with us outside, they're not just in the home.

Why do home assistants awake this privacy fear, but nobody cares about cell phones listening in on you? I seriously do not get it.


I’ve turned off “hey Siri” on all of my devices. Primarily for battery life. You can’t say everyone’s for their phones listening to them.


And you know that this actually stops it from listening to you how, exactly?


I'd assume because they don't want the liability. Believe it or not most companies take this sort of thing very seriously and don't want to open themselves up to lawsuits.


Why doesn't that logic also apply to Amazon promising not to transmit anything unless it hears the trigger word?


For one, my battery life improves with it turned off.


Measured, or merely observed? I wouldn't trust casual observation for something like this.

In any case, there are other explanations for this than the feature doing what it says. Recording takes less power than constantly running a neural net over the audio to see if you said the trigger phrase. If you really don't trust the manufacturer, they could even artificially use excess power when the feature is enabled, just to make it look like it's doing something extra. Or they might not be listening to you 24/7, but only at selected times.

There really is no way to verify that your phone isn't listening to you when it's not supposed to be.


On every model of Android I've seen you can disable the voice activation feature so that they aren't constantly listening. Some models come with it off by default. I assume the something similar is available on iOS.


You still don't know whether or not the phone is actually listening. This is even worse on cell phones because you can't easily insert something like WireShark between your cell phone and the data network.

Untrusted microphones connected to networks are untrusted microphones connected to networks. The only thing distinguishing an Echo from any smart phone is that you can monitor the Echo's network traffic.


From the article:

> (By the way: If you enabled an always-listening assistant on your smartphone, now’s a good time to consider the implications.)


Which is horribly naive, because there's nothing that prevented your RAZR from listening to you, other than the good intentions of Motorola.

First, you need to answer this question: can you trust the device maker?

If the answer is "yes," then both types of devices are fine. If your phone says it doesn't listen to you when it's not supposed to, it doesn't. If your home assistant says it doesn't listen to you except some dumb routine to check for the wake word, it doesn't.

If the answer is "no," then both types of devices are bad. If you can't trust a home assistant not to spy on you contrary to what the manufacturer says, then you can't trust a phone either.

It's possible to trust one and not the other if you distrust a particular manufacturer. But I haven't seen anyone saying "I don't trust Amazon specifically, but I'd be fine with a home assistant if it was made by Company X." It's always a blanket "why does anyone ever allow anything like this into their homes?"

To be clear, it's the "newfound" I object to. There's definitely a privacy conundrum here, but it's an old one, and 99% of people have already decided they do not care.


My cell phone displays a clear indicator when any app is accessing the microphone (and I know I can trust it because I can access the source code).

I have no way to verify what any of the currently available home devices do with their microphone.


Do you have the source code for your phone's baseband? How confident are you that the code you have is actually what's running on the device?


Isn't this the problem with everything connected to the internet now? Facebook is recording your ex-stalking, your phone is recording every place you're traveling, email servers have your private messages, Google now has your photos, and your ISP knows what porn and political sites the people in your home are viewing.

Yes, the echo and other voice-recognition devices have certainly upped the surveillance ante, but this is not a new problem unique to this technology. We have no privacy whatsoever online in any way, shape, or form. Everyone laughed at all the poor suckers who got caught using Ashley Madison, but imagine the blackmail material these companies we have trusted since the dawn of the WWW could have on their users.


The important part that everyone seems to be ignoring is Kyllo v United States[1]. When new technology is involved, the 4th Amendment's protections against searches is present if and only if the technology "is not in general public use"[2]. If a technology becomes common and familiar to the public, a warrant is no longer needed to use it to see "details of a private home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion"[3]

The details of how your internet microphone works doesn't matter, because it's not thoe microphone that you should be worrying about. If these devices are in "general public use", you no longer have an expectation of privacy from the technology itself (not any particular product). The police in Kyllo v United States brought their own infrared camera.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyllo_v._United_States

[2] http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/533/27.html

[3] Ibid.


I use mine almost exclusively for playing music. I just bought a second one and found they can sync play (which makes for a nice whole house audio solution for cheap). They also function as in house intercom.

I have no concerns over privacy. My web browsing habits and phone leak far more personal data to google.


> I have no concerns over privacy.

And that is your right. Where I have problems with this attitude is the question wether all those around you, family or guests you might have over, feel the same way. They're also impacted by this decision, yet they get no say in it.


I'm more concerned about people I know taking pictures of me and posting it all over Facebook and the rest of the internet. That is far more invasive than this Amazon device. I have no say in that.

As with most privacy things, there is particular privacy and general privacy. In particular, I don't think amazon or google have any intention of examining me. It is all just computer AI doing its thing. One in a sea of millions.


Spot on. You might choose to live without a smartphone and other devices but your peers are putting you under corporate surveillance without asking your permissions.


Almost everyone I know willingly puts themselves under corporate surveillance (credit card?, cell phone?, license plates on car?, web browser?, cable tv?, netflix?, shopper rewards and discounts?).

If you were in my house Amazon wouldn't even know it was you talking.


Almost everyone I know willingly puts themselves under corporate surveillance (credit card?, cell phone?, license plates on car?, web browser?, cable tv?, netflix?, shopper rewards and discounts?).

Still, everyone should be able to decide which corporate 'masters' they trust. For instance, Netflix may be surveying my watching habits, but I trust them more than Google and Amazon. They can only collect a small subset of data (viewing habits) and it least they get the majority of their income out of subscriptions. Over time, I have started making more principled choices of who I want to give my data and who not.

I don't think it is fair to ask that because I share data with Netflix, I should also be willing to share data with Google or Amazon when I visit you.

Unfortunately, this is only going to get worse. For example, there are a lot of cloud connected cameras with exploitable vulnerabilities. My parents had such a camera and I asked them to cover or disconnect it when I visit them.


The fact that we justify a privacy breach by comparing to even greater breaches makes me so uncomfortable.


There's a line between genuine useful products and extras. Smartphones for all of their addictive games and chat bots are still very useful.

A smart speaker isn't so useful that the tradeoff in privacy is worth it.

I think a lot of people are starting to have a tech hangover. We're not turning into luddites and embracing FUD, we're just tired of the major tech co's telling us that every new gadget is life changing when they aren't.


I dunno about the utility of these, but before you assume they send every single bit of data back to the mothership...

Remember that we've seen them fail horrifically just because a few too many were activated at once due to commercials.


I think the author is right, for the simple reason that it's irresponsible of us as technologists to support a product like this. We're training an entire generation that it's a good idea to pay companies money so that those companies can wiretap your most intimate moments. I just have a huge problem with that.


Personally, I'm considering getting an Echo or Google device simply to help contribute to turning "voice as the user interface" into a solved problem.

We've thought we were close for 50 years. Siri was cool for a couple years but I want to move beyond the 5 year old.

For those who truly hate these solutions, Mozilla is crowd sourcing a solution. Perhaps it will help to get us there.

https://voice.mozilla.org

Once the problem is solved, we can move it completely offline. For now, I'm excited that Google and Amazon have turned this into a race.


I tried the Mozilla voice recognition through the Firefox addon. It was unusable, the recognition of words was very poor.

I really want an open source version, but there's not much point if it is not usable.


As a partially disabled veteran, screw that. Getting up to turn off the lights can be challenging. Also, being able to turn off the TV, AppleTV, speakers, SteamLink, and other appliances for the entertainment center with a phrase saves not only electricity, but is really convenient when the kids are being little shits. With home assistant running on a pi locally, I can automate the ever loving shit out of my house. All those dangerous hue lights turn off slowly late at night and on around sundown. The cool porch lights for the holidays are turned off through zwave, probably a disastrous protocol that should be avoided because it can be controlled by hackers through SDR and Pringle cantennas /s. I get that there are security implications, but the ability to have things be automated has saved me the painful experience of moving to turn off a light when we wanted to watch a movie. Someday I’ll own my own home, then even the wall switches will be zwave!! 🧐🧐


I personally think any battle to prevent widespread adoption or use of always-on listening devices is fruitless. The only option is to provide safer alternatives with the same functionality.

My opinion is that the proper way to deal with the privacy implications of this are to come up with better alternatives - open-source voice assistants and entire ecosystems that do everything locally and that are easy to setup by Joe Shmoe. More in-depth auditing by security experts to see exactly what data is being sent from these devices back to their servers. Privacy laws that will take a company down and send people to jail when violated. Encryption on everything that can feasibly be encrypted.

The truth is that I have succumbed to the utility of my Google Home (and the enormous amount of fun I get from having it interface with Home Assistant), but I'd like to be a part of whatever the front line is in making sure these are as privacy-conscious as possible.


Opinion aside, you're dumb to buy an Echo or similar device now. Why? Because people who really really don't want one will be receiving them as gifts in about 3 weeks. Those are going to end up on eBay for nearly nothing. If you actually want one, wait a month.


I feel these type of commentary often times achieving exactly the opposite of what it advocates, if it ever achieves anything. Maybe because the TL;DR is buried midway through the post, or because the actual reasons to dissuade buying an Echo is nothing new (Privacy and Security? and to be fair, there indeed is something new in the post that I didn't know about, regarding Echo data being used in a homicide investigation). At the end of the day, the impression left in an average reader's mind might be: nothing to see here, but maybe buying an Echo as a gift is a neat idea...


Better get rid of all cell phones for the exact same reasoning, except it’s a listening device that follows you around.


If someone else is running code you can't read on your device where you don't have root, it is someone else's device.

Failing this, we rely on the hope that companies can make more money off protecting our privacy than they can from exploiting our data. It remains to be seen which will win in the marketplace.


How are articles of this quality still shared and passed around? I honestly couldn't tell you if this was written by a 25 year old or a 14 year old. The hyperbole, reciting already known security concerns/risks and the teen-like language used throughout... There's nothing of value here.


I like the Echo and I'll admit that there are privacy concerns. What do you think are ways to mitigate those (besides hitting the mute button)?

I was thinking about monitoring the outbound data (to detect voice streaming). What tools would you use for that?


Wait... does hitting the mute button solve this invasion of privacy?


So all you need is another robot that can hit the mute button for you when you give it a less sophisticated audible command?


The future of these devices will be such that the speech recognition can be placed in local only mode, and queries will be erased immediately after.


Everyone already owns smartphones, which are at least as bad as home assistants in term of privacy, so what’s the point of this paper ?


> You don’t need an artificially intelligent robot to tell you about the weather every day. Just look outside or watch the local news or even look at your phone.

This sounds like someone who's never actually lived with an Echo (which, being gizmodo, wouldnm't be surprising).

Being able to think of a song I remember from my childhood, say it, and have it play while I cook dinner is magical.


Watch the documentary "nothing to hide"


The only thing that I've seen a smart speaker do that seems remotely useful is finding a phone. For everything else, I can just ask my phone.


My Echo is near my kitchen, and I mostly use it when I am doing stuff there. So I can tell it to play my news briefing and get the weather while I make my coffee in the morning. I can listen to music, set timers, and convert units when I am cooking and may have touched raw meat. The speaker is also much better than my phones, so its nice to be able to tell it to play specific songs, playlists, artists, or stations when I want to listen to music.


I do literally none of those things. I prefer TV to radio, have measuring instruments in the right units, and my oven has an easy to use timer that will even shut the oven off — no smart plugs required.


> my oven has an easy to use timer that will even shut the oven off

Mine too. I literally never use it because turning off the oven is not the timer's job. An external timer is much more friendly, because often the thing I'm cooking still needs 5 more minutes, or needs to be basted again in 20 minutes, etc.


When that happens, I easily add another 5 minutes to the timer.


No. If your timer turns off the oven, you turn the oven on and then set a timer. Much more annoying than just setting the timer.


The controls are right next to each other, unlike with a separate timer and oven. You're trading one annoying thing for an even more annoying thing. With voice-only control, you add the annoyance of dealing with voice confirmations on top of that and have no way to glance at a timer and see how much time is left.


> The controls are right next to each other, unlike with a separate timer and oven. You're trading one annoying thing for an even more annoying thing.

I fail to see how it's more annoying to not have the timer incorrectly shut off the oven. Coupling oven functionality to the timer just makes the timer less convenient. Using it to time basting etc is far more annoying and you essentially just can't use it for, say, timing something on the stove.

> With voice-only control, you add the annoyance of dealing with voice confirmations on top of that and have no way to glance at a timer and see how much time is left.

"Alexa, how much time is left on the timer?"

You lose the ability to look directly at the timer, but you gain the ability to check the timer when you're in the pantry, or across the room with guests or playing with your kids.


My oven timer has an option not to turn off the oven in the rare cases when I don't want to turn off the oven, but I can see this is going nowhere. You use timers differently. You apparently want to know the time left in another room more often than you want to know the time left in the same room, like I do. Maybe you have measuring instruments in the wrong units, too. To each their own.


> Maybe you have measuring instruments in the wrong units, too.

Maybe this makes you feel superior but it also makes you look like a prick. This is completely unrelated to the topic.


Maybe calling somebody a prick makes you look like a prick. Now I'm in the same boat as you, so you don't have to feel so bad about yourself.

I was referring to the first comment I responded to, where neaden said they use their Echo for unit conversion.


That article read like a Linkedin post.


No worries, mate. I won't.


[flagged]


Please stop spamming this everywhere...




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