Announcing version 2.2.3 of Ask Alexa
I am pleased to announce the 2.2.3 version of Ask Alexa. In this version I continue (along with help from the community) to evolve the application to allow more conversational syntax, along with adding more functionality for existing and new devices. This version is simply a code update (to the IDE), so those with GitHub integration can easily update. However, as always it is good practice to update your developer slots…I did make some changes to this area so I am interested to see if I missed something.
The next update will probably be a couple weeks (or more) away as I work with a few other developers and begin the next ‘big thing’ with Ask Alexa. However, I will push bug fixes out if you report them to me! And I will always be on the forum to harass
PLEASE NOTE: Now that this app is rather stable (It is now 1 year + old!) now I will be updating it less frequently except for bugs and new features. I am waiting for Amazon to release their ‘push’ notifications where some amazing stuff will happen with this app. Until then, if you do have a great feature idea for this app, just let me know.
Other additions to this new version include:
Code Optimization - Always finding better ways to do things in a shorter about of code. Also updated the interface (in the Settings area specifically) with icons for a more consistent experience.
Virtual Presence Sensors A great suggestion from @femwitjava and already implemented in other apps. The idea is that those without presence sensors may still have automations tied to their presence. Using a virtual presence sensor, you can accomplish this easily. You don’t even need a custom DTH! Simple go into your IDE and create a new device using the built in “Simulated Presence Sensor” (instructions can be found here: http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Virtual_Presence_Sensor). Command structure is “Alexa, tell SmartThings to set Michael to Present” or other commands like “arrive”, “home”, “check in”, etc. Same for departing…This only operates on a per-device basis currently. If anyone needs a control macro to control these, just let me know…this is on the long-term road map but it can be moved up.
Message Queue Expansion - Because of the importance of the Message Queue in the future for not only Ask Alexa, but for the messaging from other SmartApps, the message queue is now enabled by default and not longer has an option to turn it off. This is non-intrusive and you still have various options for alerting, including the ability to append all of your interface queries with a note stating there are messages awaiting you; and of course, you have the option of hearing the messages as they arrive (in real time) from connected speakers like Sonos or synth devices. Please note that the references to the message queue are now referred to as “Primary Message Queue”. You can kind of guess where this is leading
GUI Primary Message Queue Delete-If you choose to show the primary message queue messages in your main menu you now have the ability to delete them from there as well. No need to be near the Alexa Device to delete messages any longer.
Improved Cheat Sheet - Made significant improvement to the cheat sheet that is produced.
Updated Security Parameters - This will be useful for those that want to use the word ‘security’ as a device instead of referencing the SHM in SmartThings. Basically if you don’t choose to use SHM, then the ‘reserve’ status of that word is released and it can be used as a device (or virtual device name). Good suggestion by @kinserc
Flash Briefing-Message Queue - For those of you that use the Flash Briefing with Ask Alexa (http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Ask_Alexa#Flash_Briefing), you now have the option to play the contents of the primary message queue via the flash briefing. As the message queue structure becomes a major part of the Ask Alexa experience (with the partnerships with other developers), this will allow an even EASIER way to get to your messages. Simply choose “Play Primary Message Queue Contents” as part of the pull down when selecting the type of output you want for the Flash Briefing in the Settings meny. Then, the voice command is simple “Alexa, flash briefing”. Notice there is no skill required…In addition, the Flash Briefing allows for news, weather, blogs or other content to be played in conjunction with the output of the Ask Alexa app…just configure this via the Alexa mobile app (not the SmartThings app). Instructions for setting up Flash Briefing with Ask Alexa is here: http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Ask_Alexa#Flash_Briefing
More apps work with Ask Alexa! Continuing my collaboration with other developers and allowing your Ask Alexa to be the hub of your home automation and communication, I announced earlier in the week that the great app GCal (author @infofiend) is now supporting Ask Alexa’s message queue. With this implementation you can now get REAL TIME notifications of your upcoming calendar events. Please see the GCAL thread for more information: [UPDATED 3/27/17] GCal Search In addition, I am also announcing with Eric Luttmann (@ejluttmann) that his sports notification app is also compatible with Ask Alexa’s message queue. This app is great and is really up and coming in popularity on the community forums, so I welcome his app to the Ask Alexa family. See this link for more information (Sport Notifications SmatApp [BETA]) Again, apps like these already have their own notification system; however, when Amazon announces their push notification system all of these apps will be “Alexa enabled” using Ask Alexa!
For those with IDE integration with GitHub, simply update the repository and you will have the latest code for the SmartApp itself. However, for ALL aspects of the application follow the original instructions for installation to ensure you get everything updated properly:
The wiki for this app is here: http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=Ask_Alexa
All of you have been great in asking very relevant questions and making suggestions that I end up using. Here are some helpful tips on usage and support:
- Sometimes it works best if I can work real time with you. To facilitate this, I have created a Slack channel: https://askalexa.slack.com. Using this tool is easy and will allow for real-time collaboration to solve the problems faster. To use this feature, I must invite you to the Slack channel. This will not be for normal questions; please use this forum for that function.
- The Echo, as it is designed currently, cannot react to switches opening or other actions within SmartThings. She will do things for you, but only at your direction and at the time of the request. The delay timer mentioned in the control macro happens at the SmartThings hub, not within the Amazon Alexa control. See the new Message Queue functions for similar functionality with Big Talker!
- When evaluating new features I will typically ask for a valid use case. If it can be used by others to bring them value I will put it on my list of future revisions. Not all suggestions will be used and many times I add aspects of the request.
- There are no dumb questions, but many of the questions you may have were probably answered in the year since the initial release. Please take some time to go through the forum and the wiki if you have issues. And don’t be offended if I give you the specific area of the manual that answers your question. I have spent almost as much time on the documentation as I have on the app. Finally, there are some big fans of Ask Alexa that know almost as much as I do. They can also help.
- Feel free to send me forks of utterances or even code revisions. As mentioned above, if it adds value to the overall program I will try to include it. This also goes for the wiki documentation…while I have spent over a year creating this document, I am open to it being improved; I know there are probably still grammatical errors or syntax issues…If you find them, fix them…I will include your name (if I can) in any fixes submitted.
- If you find a bug or a consistent crash please help me track it down by giving me repeatable steps to reproduce it. A non-reproducible bug, many times, indicates other areas that may be at fault besides the app. If you watch the live logging and see a red error with a line number, that is very helpful to me! However, I will need a full screenshot and not a copy/paste of the text. But be careful about revealing your OAuth and AppToken in your public posts. People can control you house with that information. You may want to blur that out.
As mentioned above, revisions will be less and less now. And with the code base now unified, I expect less and less additions…especially as I partner with other application developers to ensure their strengths can be brought into the notification model of Ask Alexa . Any and all suggestions are still on the table for addition.
As always, I appreciate any public accolades or even donations to my PayPal account: https://www.paypal.me/mstruck . And, if you are so inclined, I also will accept bitcoins (or fractions thereof) if you have any laying around. My wallet ID is: 1CMgaiKgBfojTBCLpHLfa9KvcrW3cNxVpm