How to set up Amazon Echo in the Philippines

I first met Alexa in Singapore, at my sister-in-law’s house during my Christmas vacation. Well , Alexa is the command to activate the Amazon Echo, a cylindrical speaker device that not only plays music but allows you to speak to it like a virtual assistant with enabled skills. Once connected to the wifi,  all you have to do is holler “Alexa” out loud to wake up the Echo then ask it to execute the commands.  My husband wanted to own one so I promised him I will give it as an anniversary gift.  My sister arrived yesterday bringing the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot which I ordered a month ago. I gave the bigger Echo to my husband.

amazon echo philippines

What I didn’t know right after I ordered the Echo is that the Alexa app is not being supported in the Philippines. You can’t download it at Google Store or at  the Apple store.  I found a site that gives tips on How to Set Up and Use Amazon Echo Outside US  . There was a workaround on How to Install Georestricted Apps on iPhone  . I did the “change store” and tried to create my own Apple ID but it refused to accept my credit card information because it was not a US address. Hmm , maybe my sister will allow me to use her Apple ID. It worked! I was able to download the Alexa app.

amazon echo

If you are using an Android device, the process is much simpler, and there is a workaround on installing geo-restricted apps on an Android device, or just install the APK file. I tried this too but when I opened the app yesterday, it took forever to load. Maybe I needed to update my APK file.  I was happy that my Alexa app worked in my iphone so I will just do this another day.

I had my Alexa app ready by the time my sister arrived in the Philippines with my order. When I turned on my Alexa app, I noticed the Echo was already listed.

amazon echo

There was no problem connecting the  Echo to the internet and configuring the rest of the settings .  I could easily ask “Alexa, what’s the news” or “Alexa, play audible” or “Alexa,  ask Fitbit how I’m doing today” . What I couldn’t figure out is why I could not link my Spotify as a default music library. Since I don’t have a US issued credit card, I am unable to subscribe to the Amazon music.

image via https://community.spotify.com/t5/Other-Partners-Windows-Phone-etc/link-error-with-Amazon-Echo/td-p/1456990

I found the solution in this thread. Most of those experiencing this error lived outside the UK. I figured that I might need to change my  shipping address to the US. I enabled the shipping address of my sister. Voila, that worked.

There are still limitations. The Echo is officially only supported in the US so the timezones and locations are basically US.  I can use the Echo without changing the timezone but it will tell incorrect time, and alarms and reminders will not work because of the timezones . It gives me the Seattle time.

There is a workaround by fiddling with the API requests  but I don’t know if I want to risk it. In the meantime, I can just ask “Alex, what is the time in Manila?” or “Alexa, what is the weather in Manila?”.

So what’s the point of having an Echo if one cannot fully use the features? Well, I am not an audiophile but the speakers are pretty decent and I love the sound quality. It allows me to listen to my audible books, news, spotify or simply having fun with Alexa’s enabled skills. Till then, let me talk to Alexa about making my home smarter.

School-in-a-Bag project brings digital learning to remote communities

It’s too bad I missed the launch of Smart’s School-in-a-Bag project . I had an equally important talk with Polytechnic University of the Philippines students.

Nelson Mandela says “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Education is one of the most important tools a person can have in life.  Let me share this meaningful advocacy that benefits school children.

school in a bag

There are a lot of students that walk or swim just to go to school. Katrina Apelada is a grade two student at the Rawang Elementary School in Tanay, Rizal. Every day, Apelada and her classmates walk through hills and forests just to go to school. Their community is so remote that it has no electricity. Like most of her schoolmates, she has not seen, much more used a television, computer, or tablet.

Last July, Apelada and her classmates had their first encounter with technology. Smart Communications went to their school and donated a learning tool package called School-in-a-Bag. This contains a solar panel for electricity, a laptop, a tablet, a mobile phone, a pocket WiFi with starter load, LED TV, and learning modules.

“For so long, the Philippines has been divided by geography. This makes access to information extremely hard. Smart wants to unite the islands through internet connectivity. We go to schools in mountains, on isolated islands, places where there is no electricity, to bring School-in-a-Bag,” said Darwin Flores, Smart vice-president for community partnerships.

Rawang Elemetary School is just one of 10 schools in remote areas in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao that will receive School-in-a-Bag units from Smart this year.

Technology for learning

 

SCHOOL IN A BAG 07

Maria Asuncion Tongohan, a kinder and grade one teacher, said the kids were wide-eyed and somewhat shocked when they first saw the digital tools. She herself was very excited when the School-in-a-Bag arrived. “We really don’t have electricity here so when we saw the solar panel, we realized we could use technology in teaching.”

Teachers can now connect to the internet and download educational videos using the Smart Pocket WiFi included in the package.

Classes can also use the Batibot mobile application pre-installed in the tablet. Developed by Smart in partnership with the Community of Learners Foundation and OrangeFix, this is the first learning app in Filipino that is aligned with the national kindergarten curriculum of the Department of Education. The Batibot app features fun games that help children in kindergarten up to Grade 3 learn basic concepts like matching, sorting, and grouping. Through the app, they are shown how to identify shapes, colors, numbers, the alphabet, and letter sounds. The children can also practice tracing letters with the proper strokes.

“I am very happy because now I can answer my teacher’s questions after using the Batibot app,” Apelada said.

“In our kinder class a while ago, I did not give my usually long lecture because we watched a Batibot video about triangles, which happened to be our lesson. Just by watching videos and interacting with the tablet, the kids can learn and understand easily,” Tongohan said.

Happy teachers, happy parents

As a teaching tool, the School-in-a-Bag also contributes to the wellness of teachers. “Teachers used to lecture from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. At the end of the day, they are exhausted, their voices hoarse,” Arlene S. Catampatan, the school’s head teacher, said. “The School-in-a-Bag is their new partner in teaching. It’s not only beneficial to students but also to teachers.”

Tongohan observed that the School-in-a-Bag gave students a deeper understanding of the lessons. “We can discuss the subjects more thoroughly with them because there’s a visual component in the lecture. Instead of us just talking or drawing on the blackboard, the videos make it more interesting for them— especially for the little kids who want to see colorful visuals.”

Catampatan added, “Our students are not just interested in learning, they are also more behaved because they are attentive when they see these new gadgets.”

She also saw how appreciative the parents were when their children started learning more things in school. “The parents are very happy that there are kind-hearted people like those from Smart who donate digital learning tools to less-fortunate schools. When the kids come home they tell their moms the lessons they learned in the videos. They even sing nursery rhymes they learned for the day which, unfortunately, their moms have never heard of.”

Bringing technology to more schools

“This is part of our digital inclusion efforts. We want to enable children in the most remote areas to participate in the global knowledge economy. There’s so much to learn out there, and these technology and communication tools will help them gain access to this wealth of information,” Flores said.

Attendance at Rawang Elementary School has also improved because of School-in-a-Bag. Catampatan said, “The kids have something to look forward to every day. They are excited on what they will watch today and the following day. School-in-a-Bag is really a blessing to our community.”

Individuals and organizations can also bring the gift of digital learning to more schools in the country by sponsoring a School-in-a-Bag. Each package costs P100,000. For more information on how to donate, interested parties may send an email to [email protected]

Playing with the Sphero BB-8 , an app-enabled droid

Have you watched the trailer on Star Wars: The Force Awakens ? You must have seen the BB-8. A wiki site describes the BB-8 as

BB-8 was an astromech droid who operated approximately thirty years after the Battle of Endor. The droid was at one point operating in the desert of the planet Jakku. It had a domed head, similar to that of R2 series astromech droids, with the bulk of its body made up of a ball that the droid rolled on. BB-8 was mostly white, with some silver and orange on its body, as well as a black eye-piece. The droid belonged to Resistance pilot Poe Dameron, and thus was able to fit into a T-70 X-wing fighter’s droid socket.

Now, there is a tiny working version of the movie’s BB-8 droid that can roll and balance all by itself.

BB8 droid on star wars

I’ve seen this cool toy at a Globe galactic celebration over a month ago. I thought it is just too pricey at 12,000 pesos (it costs $150) probably because of taxes. The good news is I won this BB-8 during the Thanksgiving party given by Globe to bloggers. It’s my lucky night. I deserve it. After all, I belong to the first generation Star Wars fans when Episode IV (I didn’t know it then) came out in 1977. If only there was an R2D2 that time, I would have bought one.

I won a bb8

Meet BB-8, the Awesome New Star Wars: The Force Awakens Droid by watching this video.

Now with my very own BB-8 rolling along my home, I ‘m sure my cats will enjoy it. I immediately unboxed the BB-8 , the moment I arrived home. The packaging looks really sturdy and expensive-looking. It took some time before I could unbox it.

star wars BB8 drioid

It looks exactly like the replica on the trailer. The box came with a guide for a quick set up. In the box, there was dock, USB cord , the BB-8 head and the ball.

Sphero BB8 droid

Oops,  but when my cat saw BB-8’s head moving on the dock, Billy patted it as if to say “stay put”. It is quite disconcerting to see the head move while it is charging. After three hours of charging , it gave me an hour of of playtime.

charging the star wars bb8

The BB-8 is paired with an app running on your smartphone or tablet. There are three different modes of play: Patrol, Drive, or Message. Yes, BB-8 can patrol your home independently; perform a series of pre-programmed movements like YES, No, do a square dance or a number 8. It can  even respond to voice commands like “Come In, BB-8”; “Look Around.” “Go Explore.” “Go to Sleep.” “Wake Up.” “Watch Out!” “It’s a Trap!” “Run Away! .

On “Drive” function, there  are a  set of on-screen controls that will send BB-8 rolling and exploring wherever you want.  Finally there is the Holographic Communication in order to record and view virtual holographic videos with BB-8 like what I did below:

hologram messaging BB8

Sphero says that BB-8 has a unique attitude and actions evolve as you interact. It’s only been two days so I have not seen this attitude yet. But oh boy, look at the cats. They are curious and a bit jumpy when BB-8’s movements get too jerky.

BB8 droid and cats

Watch this video I took of the cats and BB-8 in partol mode:

It’s really a novelty toy. I don’t know how long the novelty will last but for now, I am enjoying my latest toy. No one is ever too old to play with toys.

Nyne audio: bluetooth speakers for the active lifestyle

nyne lifestyle inspired audio
Don’t you love how there is a speaker to suit your lifestyle? Whether it is for recreation, exercise, poolside fun, exploring the great outdoors and even at work, there is a speaker to suit your lifestyle. Nyne presented its bluetooth speakers with the different types of speakers spread strategically around the garden area: Nyne Bass, Nyne TT, Nyne Cruiser, Nyne Mini and the Nyne Aqua. Here is a video I took of the Nyne bluetooth speakers at the garden of the Greenhills Clubhouse:

Let’s take a look at each Nyne lifestyle inspired audio:

Nyne Aqua

The Nyne Aqua is my favorite bluetooth speaker. It’s the favorite companion to an afternoon swim. The Nyne Aqua takes a new spin to the concept of taking your music anywhere, whether it be at the beach, shower, the pool or the bath.

nyne aqua

With its IPX-7 waterproof rating and silicone carrying band, the Aqua can hang with you anywhere. The Aqua features up to 10 hours of rechargeable battery power, on board controls, and four equalizer settings. You can even make a handsfree SOS call via Aqua’s built-in speakerphone.

nyne aqua audio

It is completely floatable, making it the perfect audio gadget at the poolside.

nyne aqua 1

The SRP of the Nyne Aqua  is 9,500 pesos.

Nyne Bass

My next favorite speaker is the Nyne Bass which is perfect for outdoors. With 20 watts of output power and a hidden carrying handle, it is the perfect speaker for campers, gamers, beach goers and outdoor parties.

nyne bass outdoors

The Nyne Bass is powered by a rechargeable 4400 mAH Lithium battery With a tough rubberized  20 booming watts of power, integrated power bank and hands-free microphone for hands free calling, the NYNE bass will raise any outdoor gathering to a whole new level of entertainment.

nyne bass

The Nyne Bass has 10 hours of playtime, NFC for simplified pairing  and a bluetooth 4.0 with 33 feet range. The SRP of the Nyne Bass is 10,500 pesos.

Nyne Cruiser

The Nyne Cruiser is a rugged  portable wireless bluetooth speaker for those on the move. If you are a bike enthusiast, there are adjustable handlebar mounting clips .  Use the carabineer to clip the Cruiser onto  your backpack and take a hike.

nyne cruiser

The versatile Nyne Cruiser features a 10 hour rechargeable battery, state-of-the art NFC technology and a built-in noise-cancelling microphone for hands-free calling.  It features 10 hours of playback time on a single charge, a built-in microphone for speakerphone functionality and bluetooth connectivity up to 33 feet.  The USB port allows you to charge phones off the speaker’s battery. and has a universal handlebar mounts for attaching the speakers to the front of your bicycle.  Bluetooth 4.0 means strong signal even up to 33 feet away and NFC supports simple pairing for your NFC-enabled device.

nyne cruiser1

The SRP of the Nyne Cruiser is 6,550 pesos.

Nyne TT

Remember the boom box of the Eighties? I wonder if this speaker will be useful in this time and age. People do not like to be disturbed with someone’s music.  I would get annoyed if a person travelling with me turns their speaker on?  This modern version Bluetooth speaker comes in a trendy, unobtrusive black shoulder bag for transporting the Nyne TT with you at the park, golf course, poolside or a party with friends. Designed for use outdoors, the speakers are pretty loud for their small size.


nyne TT

The unit contains a pair of great-sounding 7-watt speaker drivers that delivers lots of low-end bass. It does not sound tinny unlike a large number of other mini-sized bluetooth speakers .  The Nyne TT has a rubberized body for repelling accidental water splashes.  The speaker set comes in urban black with matching shoulder bag.

nyne tt 1

The SRP of the Nyne TT is 9,500 pesos.

Nyne Mini

The Nyne Mini is the most affordable bluetooth speaker. It is the model of choice for those who want to keep it simple and handy. Teens and tweens will surely love the Nyne Mini.

Nyne Mini

It comes with a rechargeable battery, a rubberized cover and a carabineer for sturdy attachment to a backpack.  Like the other speakers, it has 10 hours playtime; built-in microphone for hands-free calling. It has 5 watts of power.

nyne mini 1

The SRP of the Nyne Mini is 3,850 pesos only.

What is your favorite speaker?

Nyne audio are available in select Apple resellers, music stores, premium gadget shops, outdoor lifestyle shops, urban lifestyle shops, appliance centers, and premium department stores. You can also find them on facebook.com/NyneAudio.ph and on instagram (@nyeneaudioph)

EZY launches latest Neon Speaker

One thing I like about attending tech events is being exposed to the latest gadgets. I was excited to experience the colors and  experience the sounds with EZY Asia Pacific’s latest addition to its roster of high-quality electronics, the Neon Speaker.

EZY neon speakers1

The Neon Speaker is a total  experience. Turned off, it looks like your ordinary Bluetooth speaker. But turned on, it takes the listener to new level of multi-sensory experience. EZY’s new Neon Speaker are equipped with 7Watts audio output which produces clear and crisp sound in every second.

EZY neon speakers

Aside from the powerful sound quality it produces, it’s multi-functional features plus the physical attributes of the speaker will surely delight everyone . The Neon speaker is the newest and one of the most powerful EZY products at par with other branded bluetooth speakers, for a fraction of the cost.

EZYNeonspeakers

The Neon Speaker has Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities plus bluetooth connection, both wireless capabilities to adjust and enhance your music-listening experience with a press of a button. Priced at Php 4,500.00, it’s already equipped with 5 multi-LED strobe light show made straight from Japan. You can even recreate a neon rave party in your own home ‘til the wee hours with its rechargable 4,000 mAh lithium-ion polymer battery.

EZYNeon1

EZY also offers audio-video products such as LED TV and smart internet TVs which range from 32”-58” starting at Php 11,000.00 only. Apart from this, they also offer personal refrigerator for as low as Php 8,000.00, with dimensions that ranges from 3.2 and 3.4 cubic feet.

alodia gosiangfiao
It was great to see Alodia Gosiengfiao , EZY’s host for the night. Apart from being a world-renowned cosplayer, artist, and model, she is also an avid tech geek who loves stylish and powerful gadgetry to improve her lifestyle.

“There is nothing that I don’t love about EZY’s Neon Speaker,” raved Alodia Gosiengfiao. “Not only are the speakers very stylish, it works well with interior decor of my room. It’s also portable and sleek, I can carry it whenever I have to travel abroad for work––easy!”

angelwing speakers from EZY

Photo via Mariglor Arraiza
I plan to buy the Neon speaker soon. I got a preview of the quality of EZY speakers. I was lucky to win their contest and got their an Angel Wing speaker system which can be used for the TV or an external audio device and even as a bluetooth speaker. Even at 30 watts power, the sound experience is just awesome.

EZY Asia Pacific Inc. home appliances and gadget speakers are sold through various appliance stores such as SM Appliance Center, Ansons, Metro Gaisano and other leading appliance and gadget stores.