Amazon Echo Dot on the Go

Amazon Echo Drawing .37 amps

Amazon Echo Drawing .37 amps

Echo Dot Power Draw

You can do some interesting things with the Amazon Echo. The first thing to do is determine how much power it draws. My measurements showed a pretty steady 0.37 amps, peaking at .50 to .60 amps on start up. Upon learning that the power draw was much less than I suspected, I started to get some ideas what I could do with the device.

What also makes the following experiments possible are two features of the Amazon Echo Dot. First, the audio quality is surprisingly good for such a small speaker. It would not be good for music, but for speech it is fine. Second, the audio can be delivered to a bluetooth sound system or speaker.

Amazon Echo Running from USB Power Bank

Amazon Echo Running from USB Power Bank

Echo Dot Running on Power Bank

Running the Amazon Echo from a USB power bank works surprisingly well! With the set up shown in this picture I finally unplugged it after letting it run about 19 hours. I had the volume low — but easily understandable in a quiet room — while streaming Seattle’s KIRO FM radio station through TuneIn. The power bank capacity is 16.750 amp hours. Rounding the Dot’s power draw to .40 amps, the Amazon Echo Dot could, theoretically, run for about 41 hours. Of course, the louder the volume the less run time off the power bank.

Adding velcro to the bottom of the Echo Dot and to the top of the power bank insures the two stay together, making it easy to move. This is great when you want to listen to news or an educational podcast.

The USB cable is a 6-inch cable. A short cable does two things: 1) reduces resistance in delivering power to the Dot, thereby extending run time and 2) reduces the possibility the cord will get snagged on something.

Amazon Echo Dot in the Car

Amazon Echo Dot in the Car

Echo Dot Running in the Car

With a different Echo Dot, I plugged it into power from the car, started up my portable hotspot and connected the echo Dot to the hotspot. I deliberately set the hotspot to work on 3g speed only to test out the lower bandwidth and for better coverage. Then I connected the Echo Dot to the car’s sound system via bluetooth.

My friend and I took a cruise up Interstate 5 north of Seattle and listened to Radio France International via TuneIn. We also streamed music from my Amazon music library. Both worked just fine. Of course, if the cell signal drops out, the Echo Dot will not work.

Better WiFi Manager for Windows 10

End Windows WiFi Frustration

The brilliant boys across the lake from me at Microsoft thought it would be smart to reduce the ability to manage WiFi connections in Windows 10. On my computers with Windows 10 the refresh option has disappeared.

Removal of that option increased further my dislike for the Windows WiFi manager that was already deficient in useful information such as the channel number.

Recently I found a nifty, free Windows program to replace the Microsoft WiFi manager.

The program is NetSetMan (Network Settings Manager — I think).

Within NetSetMan is NSM WiFi Management.

What a blessing this free program is. Check it out.

Turn Youtube Video into Audio Podcast

Youtube as Resource

Youtube is a great resource for all kinds of information. Frequently, the important part of a Youtube video is not the video, but the audio. I like to listen to conference panels and other discussions while driving or doing housework or taking a walk.

Even though streaming video might be possible while on the move, streaming video eats up data limits on mobile devices. Downloading the video can be a pain, and frankly, playing back video from the mobile device drains the battery.

Convert Youtube to Audio Podcast

What I do now is extract the audio from the Youtube videos where I don’t need to watch the video.

I generally use this website:

Listen to Youtube

Here’s another option:

Sometimes 3g is better than LTE

I’ve been traveling lately. Recently to the ocean. See below.

On the Pacific beach with power and Internet.

On the Pacific beach with power and Internet.

And then to Lincoln, Nebraska.

As I move around I take with me a couple portable internet devices. One is a Sprint Gateway (by Netgear) with ethernet ports on the back. This is in the picture above in the green circle. The other is a hotspot — about the size of a bar of soap.

Even though both are capable of LTE connections, I often find that forcing the devices into 3g modes is the better option. For example, in Lincoln, I found that the LTE speed was actually slower than the 3g speed in some locations. This was due, I’m sure, from a weak LTE signal the cell site.

In other situations, there is no LTE signal. This is why I paid the extra money for devices that have both capabilities — 3g and LTE. This was a good decision. I’m able to use the devices in many more places and therefore get more value for the money.

Sure, 3g is slower than LTE, but 3g is better than no connection at all. And sometimes the 3g speed is sufficient to stream video.

When choosing a hotspot, keep in mind that 4g and LTE are not everywhere. If you want maximum coverage, get a device that will include 3g.




Reducing Cell Phone Costs

Only a few people I know do not have a smart phone. That is one way to reduce cell phone cost.

For myself, I have two smart phones. One has an area code in my home town for relatives, who are not terribly tech savvy and are still using copper line phones. Yep, these folks still exist. In fact, many of my own Seattle-area customers have area codes on their cell phones from their home town. About 60% I’d say.

I like having two phones, because I get backup (on different carriers) and it is handy to punch in a number on one phone while getting a number on the the other phone.

The cost for two, however, can be more than I might want to support. So, lately I’ve been experimenting to reduce costs.

I got a Google Fi Nexus 5x phone for $250. If you have good credit, you can pay for it over 24 months, no interest. The plan itself is $20 for the base cellular fee (unlimited talk and texts) and then $10 per month per gig of data. If you don’t use all the data, a credit is put back on your account which reduces the next month’s bill. Use 1/2 gig and I get $5 credit on the next bill for the unused 1/2 gig.

My friend Karen got a Google Fi phone and because she is connected to WiFi at work and at home, she rarely turns on the cellular data. (The phone has an option to turn off cellular data.) Her phone bill has been running about $26 per month.

With Google Fi, you actually have some control over how much you will spend. If you don’t need to use a lot of cellular data, then don’t and get credit for the unused portion. If only cable TV providers would give me credit for the 80% of the channels I don’t watch.

In my situation, I’ve implemented Karen’s method with another phone. Before I got the Google Fi phone, I had a smart phone on Straighttalk using the AT&T network. That was about $52 per month that included 5 gigs of data. I was not using 5 gigs of data. It was nice having it available, but I was paying for the unused data allocation.

I wanted to remain on the AT&T network so I went to a Cricket store. I ported my number from Straighttalk to Cricket. This allowed me to purchase a ZTE Android phone for $29. The monthly fee will be $35 (including tax) for unlimited talk and text and 2.5 gigs of 4g or LTE data speed. After that 2.5 gigs, the speed drops to 3g or 2g.

So, the plan now is to keep the Google Fi cell data turned off (unless I really need it) and use the data I’m paying for on Cricket. Aside from phone costs, I now have two smart phones for a tad more than just one on Straighttalk.

If you are like Karen and only need one phone, the Google Fi service is a good option for reducing costs if you are in the T-Mobile or Sprint service area. (The phone does work only on WiFi — have tested it out and it does work.)