Alexa finally listens for Fire TV. It was worth the wait - CNET


Amazon added Alexa to its popular TV-connected streaming devices, the Fire TV box and Fire TV stick, way back in 2015, but it wasn't the Alexa most people know and love. 

Instead of being able to say, "Alexa, what's the weather?" into thin air, you had to speak into the remote while holding a button, walkie-talkie style. It worked, but felt far less futuristic than "real" Alexa on an Echo speaker.

Now, nearly two years later, Fire TV owners can finally command their devices with a simple "Alexa..." command, without having to use any remote. To do so, you have to own an Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show speaker. So how does it work?

In short: very well.

I commanded the various currently compatible Fire TV devices -- a $40 Fire TV stick, a $90 Fire TV box and an Element Fire TV edition television (starting at $450) -- with just my voice, hands-free, and came away impressed. I found that like many Alexa skills I had to get the commands right (namely, remember to say "Alexa" a lot and "Fire TV" occasionally) but once I got the hang of that, it worked great. Just don't throw away the remote just yet.

The Amazon Echo and Echo Dot (round thingys) can now control Fire TV (square and rectangle thingys) without a remote. Sarah Tew/CNET Setup was a cinch, mostly Screenshot by David Katzmaier/CNET As detailed on Amazon's Use your Alexa device to control your Fire TV support page, my first step was to link my test Alexa device, an Echo Dot in this case, to my Fire TV device. If you only have one Fire TV device, Amazon says Alexa can link them automatically using a voice command, but since I wanted to test multiple Fire TV devices, I had to link them using the Alexa app.Linked devices have to be registered to the same Amazon account, and each Alexa device can only control a single Fire TV on the same Wi-Fi network. The reasoning, I'm guessing, is so you can just say, "Fire TV," instead of a unique name such as "living room Fire TV" or whatever.The Fire TV box and television I tested linked fine, but I did encounter one issue with both of the Fire TV Sticks. Despite appearing to be linked, and having the latest software according to the menus, both failed to work with Alexa. Instead my Dot issued responses such as, "I had trouble communicating with your device. Check its network connection and power supply," or, "Sorry, I couldn't launch Home." I asked Amazon's rep for help and they were able to fix the problem. Their explanation: "Occasionally, it takes devices that aren't used on a regular basis a day or two to receive new software updates. That seems to have been the case with your Fire TV sticks. Customers who are running into this problem, can either contact Amazon customer support or check for updates from Settings and then leave the device idle for a few hours to allow the update to be installed."Here's what I asked Alexa and how the Fire TV responded. In most cases, happily, I just had to say "Alexa, ___" not "Alexa, ___ on Fire TV." Sarah Tew/CNET What worked"Home" or "Go home" returned to Fire TV home page."Launch Netflix" and "Launch Hulu" launched those apps."Play 'Transparent'" and "Play 'Manchester by the Sea'" immediately started playing the most recent episode of the Amazon original show and the movie."Find Tom Hanks" and "Find Maggie Gyllenhaal" pulled up search results lists of the actors' names."Movies about dogs" and "Shows about hackers" led to relevant search results appearing."Hackers" -- the movie from 1995 appeared."Pause," "Stop," "Play," "Rewind" and "Fast-forward" all worked fine."Skip forward/back X seconds/minutes," where X is a number, but it worked best on Amazon's videos. In Netflix, it wouldn't skip minutes, only seconds."Next episode" skipped to the next episode on "Transparent."What kinda worked"Watch 'Stranger Things'" launched a show page reading "Watch on Netflix." To start it watching I had to say, "Alexa, play.""Watch 'Handmaid's Tale'" showed search results with the Hulu show and the movie, and I had to use the remote to select one."Watch season 1, episode 1 of 'Transparent'" played the Amazon original, but not the episode I asked for."Launch Plex" -- instead of launching the app on Fire TV, she guided me to the Plex Alexa skill. To launch the app itself I had to say "Launch Plex on Fire TV," which worked fine.What didn't work"Watch Fire TV" is supposed to turn on the TV and switch to the right input using HDMI CEC, a command protocol, but it didn't work on the CEC-enabled TVs I tried."Next episode" when watching "Handmaid's Tale" on Hulu or "Stranger Things" on Netflix, nothing happened.I also tried a bunch of stuff that's not officially supported, like navigations command such as "Right," "Left," "Back," "Select" "Menu," and so on, but they didn't work. I had to resort to the remote. I also wasn't surprised when stuff like "Turn off Fire TV," "Volume Up," and "Mute," didn't work. Until I tried them on an actual Fire TV, that is.What worked on an Element Fire TV Edition televisionAll of the commands above were tested with a Fire TV Stick and Fire TV box, but Amazon's new Fire TV Edition televisions allow even more Alexa voice control. Here's what worked on the one I tested: "Turn on Fire TV" and "Turn off Fire TV.""Volume up on Fire TV" and "Volume down on Fire TV" which increased and decreased in increments of 5 percent."Mute Fire TV." "Switch to PlayStation" and "Switch to HDMI 1.""Watch NBC on Fire TV" tuned to the antenna channel."Open TV Guide" called up the program guide for antenna channels."Pause," "Stop," "Play," "Rewind" and "Fast-forward" worked on the antenna input to control live TV.It might have been too long in coming, but now that it's here, voice control of Fire TV without having to use the remote is pretty great. You'll probably still need to keep the clicker around for some tasks, but for many others the system finally fulfills the promise of TV control via voice in a satisfying way: getting what you want by speaking into thin air.  Original link
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A judge said Uber can't present a key argument in the Alphabet lawsuit to a jury - Recode

A judge has ruled that Uber can’t present a key argument in its defense against an Alphabet lawsuit.

It’s a potential blow to the ride-hail company’s defense. Alphabet’s suit claims former Uber executive Anthony Levandowski downloaded 14,000 files from Alphabet’s autonomous vehicle division in order to give them to Uber. But the ride-hailing giant planned to present a different theory: Levandowski took the files in order to secure his bonus payment from Alphabet.

In other words, his intention was to hold the files as a way to ensure his bonus, which ascribes a different motivation. That theory would also conceivably help Uber’s defense that it never used any of the material Levandowski had allegedly taken.

The judge ruled Uber can’t present the theory since Levandowski revealed his intention to former CEO Travis Kalanick in a conversation with the company’s assistant general counsel Angela Padilla, meaning the conversation was privileged.

“We still believe that the jury and the public should hear the reasons Levandowski gave for his downloading files which had nothing to do with Uber,” an Uber spokesperson said. “The fact remains, and will be demonstrated at trial, that none of those files came to Uber.”

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Xbox One X leak suggests limited 'Project Scorpio Edition' - The Verge

Information about where and when you’ll be able to preorder Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One X console is expected to arrive this weekend at Gamescom, but it seems that some details are leaking out early in the form of listings for a surprise version of the console: the Xbox One X Project Scorpio Edition. The listings — which were live on the sites of at least two German retailers, one of which has since been removed — were first spotted by

While we’ll have to wait for Microsoft to officially announce the special edition, it seems that the Project Scorpio-branded version will pay homage to the Xbox One X’s original code name by branding the Scorpio logo on the front of the controller and console. The hardware in the Project Scorpio Edition also seems to be getting a custom paint job: the controller with a bombed-out, all-black color scheme, and the console with a subtle stippled texture that the standard version seems to lack.

While I unfortunately don’t speak German, the sales page at MediaMarkt seems to describe the Project Scorpio Edition as a limited time offering “for the biggest fans.” If correct, it would seem to echo the original Xbox One launch, which offered a similarly limited “Day One” edition of the console that also featured a unique controller.

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Monster Hunter: World trailers show off a gorgeous environment and new creatures - PC Gamer

Everything we've seen about Monster Hunter: World looks very promising, and the new videos Capcom released today are no exception. The first is a trailer showcasing the new Wildspire Waste, a desert environment that echoes Sandy Plains from Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. This is the second area revealed (the first being the Ancient Forest). Wildspire Waste isn't just a one-note location, but features swamps, caves, and sandy dunes. It looks cool, but of much greater interest is the monsters that inhabit it.

The trailer reveals some faces both new and old. For starters, longtime fans will be excited to see Diabolos and Barroth making an appearance. Introduced back in Monster Hunter Tri, Barroth gets the most screen time in this trailer. He's is a giant lizard with a mighty chin that he can use to turn you into paste. He enjoys mud baths and not being skinned by hunters.

But the new faces are the real treat here. We don't yet have the names for any of these creatures, but I personally love the raptor-like bird that likes to carry around boulders and use them as a shield. There's also a new Piscine Wyvern that swims around in the muddy waters and a generous peek at what I'm guessing is one of the massive Elder Dragons.

The second video walks us through the process of hunting. For any Monster Hunter veteran, this is all basic stuff but it's comforting to see how little Monster Hunter: World deviates from the core formula (something that a lot of people were worried about when it was first announced). For newcomers, the video walks through the basics. You'll take a quest, embark on your hunt, kill the beast, carve it up for precious crafting materials, return back to base and turn those materials into equipment, and set out to tackle tougher monsters. But the best new feature revealed in this video is a much more intuitive crafting interface.

In previous Monster Hunter games, most players had to rely on guides to understand the complicated branching upgrade tree for weapons. The new crafting interface seems to lay that all out in detail in-game, which is awesome.

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New Android malware can secretly steal your credit card data, calls and texts - BGR

At this point, we assume that most savvy Android users know to be on the lookout for suspicious apps and download prompts, but even as smartphone users become more aware of the risks of downloading apps, the creators of the most vicious malware have adapted by releasing increasingly subtle Trojans that can do a great deal of damage behind the scenes without alerting the user.

This week, security firm Kaspersky detailed a relatively new Android malware called Faketoken in a blog post on Thursday morning. Faketoken has actually been around for at least a year, but it has evolved into something especially sinister. Once it infects an Android device, Faketoken is capable of recording phone calls, intercepting text messages and stealing data from various apps, including banking apps.

Worst of all, you’ll probably never know that the malware is active on your device. Kaspersky says that once the Trojan initiates, “it hides its shortcut icon and starts to monitor all of the calls and whichever apps the user launches.” The Trojan contains an overlay mechanism that can lift data from over 2,000 apps, including Android Pay, the Google Play Store, apps to book flights, taxis and hotel rooms and even apps used to pay traffic tickets. As soon as you open one of those apps, Faketoken replaces the user interface with a fake one asking users to input their financial information.

But what if a bank asks the user to input a code sent by SMS message in order to access the account? Faketoken’s creators have an answer for that too. The malware can steal any incoming SMS messages and send them to command-and-control servers, where hackers can use them to gain access.

According to Kaspersky, the evidence suggests that Faketoken is being targeted at Russian users for now, but this serves as a valuable reminder that you shouldn’t ever download anything from a source you don’t trust or recognize. Otherwise, you might end up suffering the consequences.

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