ALEXA THE SNOOP

Some people have told us they’d never buy a smart speaker with Alexa, because they don’t want to be spied on. If you already have one, and are a bit worried that all your questions to the device have been recorded, here’s how to erase them forever.

In the Alexa app, go to “Settings” and then “History.” You can delete the recordings one by one. Or if you want to delete them all in one fell swoop, open a web browser, such as Chrome or Firefox, and search on the phrase “Amazon manage my content and devices.” Then click on “Devices” and on the three dots to the left of your Echo or Echo Dot. Click “Delete Voice Recordings.” However, these recordings are used to improve voice recognition, so we opted to leave them alone.

Later this year, “Alexa Guard” is coming to all Echo Devices. It will listen for any problems in your home, such as a smoke detector, a siren, or a clumsy burglar dropping something. After recording the noise, it will send you an audio clip so you can hear for yourself and decide whether or not there’s still time to panic.

A Vanity Press For Movies?

Getting your script turned into a movie looks impossible. We recently got a pitch from TaleFlick, an outfit that selects the best scripts using an algorithm.

The catch? It’s not free. It costs $88 to submit your manuscript. After the algorithm sorts through everything, people at TaleFlick go over what remains and choose a few to submit to producers.

So far, every optioned book was turned into a movie by TaleFlick itself. This immediately made us think of vanity presses, which will publish your book if you pay for it.

One of their movies is “Marjorie Prime,” starring Geena Davis and Tim Robbins, about a forgetful woman with a new companion who looks just like her dead husband. We saw it at Amazon but the trailer was too creepy for our tastes.

Downloading Amazon Videos

A reader needed help downloading an Amazon video to his phone. We suggested contacting Amazon tech support, but it’s not easy to find the link. Here’s how.

First go to Amazon.com on your computer. Scroll to the bottom right of the page, and click “help” in tiny print. Scroll to the bottom again and click “Contact Us” under “Need More Help?” Click on the tab that describes what you need help with, whether it’s an order, a device or digital content. Once you choose the description that fits your problem, you’ll have an option to phone or chat on the screen through text messaging. We like the text option because it gives Amazon information to start with and because Joy is a fast typist. It’s also nice to get a transcript of the conversation.

In a chat, Amazon tech support told our reader that to download a movie, rather than just stream it, he needed the free “Amazon App Store” app from Amazon.com/getappstore, which is only available on phones and tablets, not computers. Once he had the App Store installed, he had to download the “Amazon Prime Video app” and choose a movie. It costs $99 a year to become a Prime member. There are a number of benefits, including free shipping and movies to download or stream. There are lots of free movies. Our reader wondered if you needed to be a Prime member to use the Prime app. You don’t. He paid $2 an episode to download the show “Flipping Ships,a kind of fixer-upper show for boat fans.

Internuts

  • Geek.com has a list of “the most bizarre items forgotten by Uber riders.” They include a baby Chihuahua, a tuxedo for a small dog, a full-set of 18 karat gold teeth and a photo of a New Year’s kiss, among others.
  • GoodcarBadcar.net gives you trends in car buying. The top used car for 2018 was the Toyota Camry, followed closely by the Honda Civic. Minivan sales are in a slump, though the Kia Sedona is up over nine percent this year.
  • Goalloutdoors.com has an article titled “How to Camp with Your Dog.” One tip: Bring a long leash and a stake. You won’t want to hold your dog’s leash the entire time. Another tip: Get a medical check-up first, to be sure Fido is fit.

App Happy

“Space: Break Cell Phone Addiction, Stay Focused” is a free app to help you get off the phone. It sends an alert when you’ve overdone it. Your screen dims. If you want to be able to call and text as much as you want without bumping up against your limit, you can tell the app not to count calls and texts in the total.

And then, of course, there’s the free Hoopla app, which we’ve mentioned before. It lets you stream videos, books and audio books for free. Naturally, it’s popular and libraries sometimes have a limit. We notice the limit resets at midnight. Night owls rejoice.

Tech Books

An Italian friend of ours has several patents on automating chicken coops. (Somebody has to do it.) His interest began as a teenager when he played around with circuits back in Parma. Here are the kind of books that would help a tinkerer today, young or old.

  • “A Beginner’s Guide to Circuits,” by Øyvind Dahl, $18 from nostarch.com guides you in several projects such as: a touch-enabled light switch, a digital piano, an alarm that buzzes when it detects light, a night-light that turns on automatically when it gets dark, and five others.
  • Learn Robotics with Raspberry Pi,” by 18 year-old author Matt Timmons-Brown, creator of the popular Raspberry Pi YouTube channel. The book shows readers how to program their own robot from scratch using a $35 Raspberry Pi microcomputer and Python coding.

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