Alexa Blog Posts

January 19, 2020

Alexa Advertising Test

Is Alexa, Google Home or Apple Siri listening to your conversations? Some people are fearful of having a smart device with fears that "big brother" is listening.

Some people believe that internet Ads are showing up based on everyday conversations.

Alexa Listening

So we are going to try something. This week we are going to try an experiment to see if Alexa is listening.

We are going to pick a word/phrase and say it frequently. We'll use something that has nothing to do with regular conversations. We'll see if that influences Internet ads that we see.

We'll put the word on a Post-it Note near the Alexa as a reminder. This experiment should last for at least one day. We'll use the word in a sentence - just to make sure that Alexa knows it's something that we use frequently.

As a changeup, we'll use a different word in the car just to see if there's something unique with Amazon Alexa Echo Auto.

Sample Word Ideas

Some words to that we may consider - the actual phrase isn't listed so it doesn't impact our experient.

  • Spiderman Pin
  • Pencil Sharpener
  • Dog Food - useful if you don’t have a dog.
  • NFL Hall of Fame Museum
  • Winning at Blackjack
  • USB cables
  • Tap Shoes
  • Motorcycle Rain Cover

Next Week Status Update

I'll report next week on the status of our experiment. We go in this test with no expectations.

What do you think? Are you paranoid about using a smart device at home?

June 2, 2019

Echo Show Wallpaper

Did you know that you can put a custom wallpaper on the Echo Show 2? You can use any background image as long as it's at least 1024 wide and 600 high. (An image aspect ratio of 128 : 75)

Instructions on Changing the Display Wallpaper

In the Alexa app, to upload a photo from your mobile device:

  • From the Menu, select Settings.
  • Select the device settings.
  • In the Home Screen Background section, select Choose a photo and follow the instructions.

Sample Backgrounds

Here are three sample backgrounds to use:

On your mobile devices, simply save the image to your photo library and follow the instructions above.

Echo Boston

Echo Cherry Festival

Echo White House Night

January 28, 2019 blog

Are you a regular visitor to this blog? Now you can check out the current blog post right from Alexa. It's an easy way to discover what's new on this site.

Simply enable the blog skill.

Alexa Cryan Blog
Enable the Alexa Skill

Enable the Skill

  • Alexa, whats new from cryan blog
  • Alexa, get current blog category from cryan blog
  • Alexa, get the next blog from cryan blog

New Alexa Skills Coming Soon

This concludes the December/January Alexa series posting. There will be some additional Alexa skills created in 2019 and promoted here.

Thanks for all the feedback and bugs!

January 21, 2019

Champion Fortune

Late last year I migrated some of my fortune cookies DB to a a new Alexa Skill called Champion Fortune.

This isn't a typical Fortune Cookie Alexa Skill. The random fortune that Alexa will read is from an actual fortune cookie that I got.

Since 2004, I have collected fortune cookies from various Chinese restaurants. I only saved the best of the best and featured these on my website for many years. Now you can get a quick fortune cookie inspiration on Alexa!

Champion Fortune

Activating the Alexa Skill

  1. Alexa, open champion fortune
  2. Alexa, start champion fortune

Sample Champion Fortune Cookie

Here are some sample fortune cookies that you may here:

  • You have a keen sense of humor and love a good time.
  • Chances are present to make huge personal gains.
  • Diligence is the mother of good fortune.
  • Forget all that wishful thinking and be practical.
  • It doesn't matter. Who is without flaw?
  • You are given the chance to take part in an exciting adventure.
  • Wish you a good journey.
January 14, 2019

Framingham MBTA Alexa Skill

One of the most popular Commuter Rail stations is the Framingham MBTA station. Every day hundreds of commuters start their commute from this station.

I created an Alexa Skill to find out when the next train leaves to Boston - based on the current schedule.

This can be useful if you need to take the train at off times - such as on weekends or in the afternoons.

Framingham M B T A

Sample ways to enable the Skill

  • Alexa, open framingham MBTA
  • Alexa, ask framingham MBTA when is the next train
  • Alexa, ask framingham MBTA a train tip

Bonus Tip

For each train, I added a bonus tip. It's a little something interesting about that particular train.

Getting the Skill

Simply search for Framingham MBTA in the Alexa app. If this becomes very popular, I'll add other locations and tips

January 7, 2019

Alexa: Happy Inspirational Quotes

Over the past few years, my quotes page has gotten a fair amount of traffic. I decided to put some of the quotes in a new Alexa Skill.

Enjoy a nice bit of business inspiration whenever you need it.

Alexa Inspirational Quote

Getting the Skill

Simply ask Alexa to Install the Happy Inspirational Quotes, or search for the skill in the Alexa app.

Enable the Skill

There are three ways to run this skill:

  • Alexa, launch happy inspirational quotes
  • Alexa, ask happy inspirational quotes for a quote
  • Alexa, ask happy inspirational quotes to tell me a quote

Check out the online collection - started collecting off/on since 2000. Basically, I look for some quotes that seem unique and worthy of putting on the page.

December 24, 2018

Alexa: Real Audio Sounds

My Real Audio Sounds page has been online since 1997 - when this website launched. It was created as a test to see the streaming capabilities of Real Audio Software. Streaming media online was still new, as much of the home internet usage was still dial-up.

The page has about 155 short audio clips from various commercials to music clips that I had put together over the years. The page hasn't gotten much traffic as Real Audio is a bit of an old technology now. You still need to download Real Audio Codex to play the clip through Quicktime.

Alexa Real Audio Sounds

Now Alexa Enabled

Amazon Alexa seems to be the next hot streaming media technology, so I decided to port over the top twenty popular short clips to be played on Alexa.

Enable 'Real Audio Sounds' and check out some of the classic clips.

Sample ways to run the skill.

  • Alexa, Tell Real Audio Sounds for a Sample Clip.
  • Alexa, Tell Real Audio Sounds for Cape Cod Sound.
  • Alexa, Ask Real Audio Sounds for Help.

If the skill becomes popular, I'll port over more audio clips to the collection.

Try it out, and enjoy!

December 17, 2018

Jingle the Dog Alexa Skill

My daughter likes this time of year, because it's when she takes out Jingle the Dog for some fun story reading. As you read the story, Jingle the Dog will react to some of the words in the story.

A few years ago I put a blog of all the words that Jingle the Dog reacts to. A few people have commented on additionally hidden phrases that they have accidentally found.

New Alexa Skill

Last month I put together an Alexa Skill where you can have Jingle the Dog respond to random phrases. Simply put Jingle next to Alexa, and say the following commands:

  • Alexa, say something to jingle from jingle the dog
  • Alexa, make jingle bark from jingle the dog
  • Alexa, talk to jingle from jingle the dog

Jingle The Dog Alexa

Try it Out!

If you have Jingle the Dog and Amazon Alexa, why not try out the 'Jingle the Dog' skill. If you know other phrases that Jingle add a comment to this post or to the original post and I'll be sure to add it to the Alexa Skill so everyone can enjoy!

December 3, 2018

Random Poll

Recently I created several Alexa Skills that integrates with this website. Over the next few Mondays, I’ll be officially announcing them.

It doesn’t get any more original content than this!

Random Poll Generator Skill

This week skill is based on a classic that I created back in 1996 - Bogus President Poll. My original version contained ...

Check out the old version!

Updated for Alexa

When you run this skill, instead of a long story, you hear a brief sentence of a random presidential poll headline.

Random President Poll

Since the 2020 election is still a long way out, I’ll be updating the candidate names that are likely to run.

Check out the official Alexa page for more details and enable this skill.

June 28, 2017

Evernote Helper

Have you ever worked on a document and then an idea came up for something completely unrelated to what your working on?

Ya, it happens to everyone.

The problem is if you completely stop what you're doing - you'll loose focus on the task at hand.

EverNote Helper (Menu Item) can be a real life saver. When you encounter a distraction thought, such as "I should really check out that Tom Cruise - Tom Gun Music Video" you can just make a quick note without closing the program you're in. This is possible because EverNote Helper is a Macintosh/Windows system-wide utility.

Evernote Helper Graphic

I have found that EverNote helper is good way to remember things when you don't want to interupt your current task.

Screen Capture

As an added bonus, you can take a quick screenshot with your quick note. You don't need to take a full-screen shot - you can just take a picture of a selected area of the screen or any window.

Audio Recordings

Macintosh users can add a voice recording but I don't see any use for that. At my office it's pretty quiet - I don't think I would ever use this.

Some real world examples

Don't think it's something you need to use? Check out some real world tasks that have happen to me:

  • Thought of a cool gift idea while browsing Amazon? Take a screen shot and make a note.
  • See a cool graphic design on social media that you would like to duplicate? Take a screenshot of it and comment on why you like it.
  • Need to bring some supplies to work tomorrow? Take a note.
  • Found a bug but don't have time to file a report? Take a screenshot and jot down some notes.
  • Wouldn't it be great if.. Take a quick note.
  • On a call, need to jot a phone number or address?
  • Discovered a cool Alexa saying? Take a note.

At first I thought having another menu item didn't make any sense. However, I discovered that it makes perfect sense for just a quick note.

Once you remember the keyboard commands you'll be using this feature all the time.

Evernote Menu Help
Quick Cheat Sheet Guide.

One last Thought

Think about it - when was the last time your desktop sticky note had a screenshot?

June 7, 2017

Emoji in Evernote

EverNote is a great tool to organize everyday notes. You can put notes in Notebooks and tag them so you can easily find them later.

Did you know that EverNote Supports Emoji icons? It's a cool way to highlight notes or notebooks. Check out this example of the Done and Food Notebooks.

Notebook Emoji

As you can see it's pretty easy to identify the use of those particular notebooks.

What are Emoji icons?

Emoji are a small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc., in electronic communication.

Emoji in Evernote

You can use emoji within your documents. But did you know that you can use them in headers and in Notebook names?

This can make it easier for certain notes or notebooks to stand out. As in the above example, my 'Done' notebook is where I store completed Blog notes.

All Emoji are Not the Same

Androd Emoji and Apple Emoji are different, this is important to know if your using EverNote on different devices types.


Also keep in mind that Apple and Android don't have the same Emoji library. When Android encounter an Emoji that is not in their library, you'll get a box to indicate an incomplete emoji, If you keep a single OS platform, then this isn't a problem.

Emoji Technique

Using Emoji is a good way to make ordinary notes stand out. This is a great idea for those reference notes that you may need to use all the time.

Just remember to not throw an Emoji on synced Notebooks. (i.e. Notebooks that are being used by IFTTT, such as Twitter and IOS Photos.) If you add an Emoji, you're essentially changing the name and that may cause the sync to fail.

February 26, 2016

How to Scan to Evernote on a Mac

If you do a search around the internet for instructions on scanning documents directly to Evernote on a Macintosh, you'll find that many are out of date. You may think it's no longer possible. Well it still is...and it's very easy to set up.

Evernote Scan

Here's my simple instructions on how to capture scan images and put them directly into Evernote using Image Capture version 6.7 (OS X El Capitan)

  • Open Image Capture
  • Click on the "Show Details" button on the bottom right window
  • On the pull down menu next to the "Scan To: text, Select "Other..."
  • Select the 'Applications' Folder and then find 'Evernote'
  • Click 'Open'
  • You'll see the EverNote now appears in the pull down menu

Scan file items will appear as individual notes in Evernote. Immediately after the scan, you will have an opportunity to make some notes. This is a good time to comment on why you scan the item.

Evernote recommends to use Color as the "Kind:" and to scan at 72 dpi resolution. (See the example screenshot)

If you have Evernote Premium, the text in the scan items will be searchable. This includes photos. This means if you have a photo with an inspirational quote, you can search for it.

Note: This is backward compatible, which means that if you upgrade to Premium today, anything that you already have in Evernote account will be searchable. Make sure to give Evernote some time to scan and index all your document and photos after you upgrade.

January 8, 2016

Skitch and Evernote

If your looking for a productive Macintosh screen capture tool, I highly recommend checking at Skitch by Evernote. This is a free tool that works very well with your existing Evernote account. You don't need Evernote to use Skitch, but they work so well together, why wouldn't you?

About Skitch

Use an existing image or capture a new one, then add shapes, write on it, draw on it, annotate it any way you like, and save it to your Evernote account so that it is available everywhere Evernote is.

About Evernote

Evernote is a notes application designed to help you stay organized that goes far beyond what you'd typically think of as a notebook. You can add text, images, audio, scanned documents, files, and more to your notebook, synchronize everything across all of your devices in Evernote's beautiful, free apps, and then quickly find anything with powerful search that can even recognize text inside your files and images.

Your Screen Capture on Steroids

The key thing to remember is you can "quickly find anything with powerful search." This means that when you use Skitch and save the screenshot in your Evernote account, you can search for text that is in your screen shot.

That's the power of Evernote and Skitch.

Skitch has all the image annotation that you come to expect from a screen capture tool. You can add arrows, Text, Shapes, Highlights, predefine stamps, Pixelate, and crop images. You can easily export the image out of Skitch so that you can add it to a Jira issue.

Click on image for a larger version.

The good thing about Skitch is that it will create a notebook to store all the images, so the screenshots won't clutter up your default Evernote notebook. In addition, you can manage the notebook how you want, so if you don't want the files, simply delete them. You can tag the notes so that you can find them even easier.

I have plenty of space in my Upload Allowance.

Feature Requests

I would like to have the ability to record video as I can do with other applications, such as MonoSnap and Snap Z Pro X. Sometimes it's a lot easier to describe a bug when you see it in action.

Image/Shape Library - This would be a personal library of shapes and images that users could add to the screenshot. Knowing the image was issue happen in Firefox or Chrome could add a lot of value to the screen shot.