Alexa is on the move

The new Echo Show in my office has now usurped the old Echo Dot that lived there. Oh, what to do with it, rather than add it to my box of unused kit?

So I took the Echo Dot, a very old phone (running Android KitKat), a SIM from GiffGaff that I ordered Thursday and which arrived yesterday, plus various cables and adapters, and went outside in the sunshine to play with my car.

Within a very short time I had a working mobile Alexa in my car. I had to play around with where to install it in the car. I wanted it not to be in the way, and yet be able to hear me clearly. I also wanted it out of my line of sight, to avoid distractions. Having tried a couple of solutions for mounting it, I found a really simple place to position it – just behind the car’s centre console, in an unused cup holder. Despite being just behind my left hip, it’s been picking up up my every word. It’s also tucked between the two front seats, so it’s not obviously in view from the outside.

The Dot gets its network connectivity via the phone operating as a hotspot (which is a perfect use for an old phone). Audio is currently connected by wires to my radio’s AUX socket in the glove compartment. But this may be replaced by putting a Bluetooth adapter in the glove compartment, thus tidying the wires. I have a couple of cheap BT adapters, but I also have one really nice one that is battery backed and very reliable; so I will need to have a dig around for that. (Altogether now: “It’s in a box, somewhere!”)

I then went for a drive, thinking “surely something so simple can’t work?”, but it does. I was driving around for about an hour (a quick trip to the garden centre, then to Bourne for some shopping), and it was blasting music without a stutter. I also found that it did not only stream from Amazon, but I could actually get it to play music from my Plex Server, which is hosted on a NAS at home. Music quality seemed fine to me, and the device had plenty of power.

GiffGaff is a flexible provider – you are only tied into them for 30 days at a time, and can change plans every month. This makes it perfect for something like this, as I can experiment to my heart’s delight with no permanent commitment. For this first month, I spent £10, which gets me 3Gb of bandwidth. By my initial calculations, that is more than double what I need for my normal use, so I may be able to get the monthly cost down. Even so, £10 is affordable enough for me.

As for the why? It just makes it easier to have music – music I like – in the car, without having to dig out CDs or save them to my phone ahead of time. So many times I have started on a long trip, only to realise that I’d played the current CDs in my car until I was sick of them. Today, I played David Bowie, Robert Palmer, Kate Rusby, Jon Boden and Frank Sinatra! Anything I asked for was just there to listen to.

My next job is to work out where to permanently plug in the Dot, the phone and my GPS, and get the cables hidden away. But I am leaving that for a few days, in case I change my mind over where the Dot is going to live. Nevertheless, today’s experiment seems to have been a resounding success, so I think this is really going to be a viable solution.

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