Announcing version 2.2.7 of Ask Alexa
While I didn’t think I would be releasing anything for a few weeks, I am pleased to announce the 2.2.7 version of Ask Alexa! While not a lot of big items in this one, it is more of a FUN upgrade with some cool little items. You WILL need to upgrade your Lambda (be sure to copy your Application ID and Token!).
PLEASE NOTE: Now that this app is rather stable (It is now almost 1 ½ years 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:
- Bug Fixes - The normal things…silly misspellings, logic errors, bug reports. Thanks to @yvesracine and @sblock23 for pointing out an issue with Ecobee reports.
- Code Optimization - Always finding better ways to do things in a shorter about of code.
- Whisper Mode - Here is an interesting use case…you set your mode to ‘asleep’ and you forget to check the lock on the front door. You can either get up and check it (this is 2017…you shouldn’t have to do this ), or you can query Alexa. However, the volume of her normal voice is quite loud and you don’t want to wake the person beside you (again, it is 2017…technology should complement your life…not complicate it!). Well, with the implementation of ‘whisper mode’ the overall output structure has been changed to allow for even more options for output, including ‘whispering’ the output (which can be turned on/off or based on mode or time). Warning: some folks feel this output is quite ‘creepy’ in a dark room…use with caution!
- Speed and Pitch - Like above, we can now tweak the voice to suit your needs. Also in the personalization area, you can change the pitch and speed of the output voice globally. Please note that if you change the pitch to anything but default, the whisper mode will be disabled. This is by design. However, you can whisper slowly or fast.
- Age variable -From the last Schedules update, you can now add %age% to any text field within the Schedules extension and have the numeric age spoke via the speakers or out of the Message queue. For example, if you have a birthday that you set up starting in 1968, the output could be “Today, John is %age% year’s old”. And it would replace %age% with 49. While it is called ‘age’ you can use this to output to any schedule that starts in the past (i.e. Anniversaries).
- WebCoRE compatibility @ady624 released his spec for interfacing external apps to WebCoRE, and Ask Alexa accepted the challenge! I DID deprecated basic CoRE functionality in lieu of this update. I really recommend you update to WebCoRE instead of staying with the older version of Ask Alexa and CoRE. WebCoRE is stable and has greater functionality than plain old CoRE. As before, you can run WebCoRE pistons using your voice, or you can trigger WebCoRE pistons when certain things occur in Ask Alexa. Thanks to Adrian for being such a great developer!
- Additional Ask Alexa Tones for Message Queue - Additional tones have been added that you can prepend or use to alert when messages come into your queue. As I understand it, push is only a few days away…I will probably release a new version when that happens, but until then the message queue with external speakers works well.
- Deprecation of items - While it is always great to add new things, it means an app can get bloated. In the case of Ask Alexa, with the mature functionality of the apps, some older items can now safely be removed. CoRe compatibility (as mentioned above) is one example. In addition, all macros, weather reports, and voice reports have had the “Send To Notification Feed” disabled. This can be done with Message Queues. Finally, I have removed the TTS output from the Control macros, along with SMS/Push output. Again, these are now redundant with the addition of Message Queues.
If you previously used these functions, let me know and I can work with you to get the same functionality using Message Queues. Also, to prevent me from being short sighted, I disabled these…I did not remove them quite yet….But speak up if you want to keep them…I am always open to listening to other points of view. However, no comments will mean these will be permanently deprecated in the next few weeks.
In addition to the changes above, I will also reserve space in future updates to announce new partner integration with Ask Alexa. I am so pleased other developers have discovered the power of using the Message Queue in Ask Alexa to get their date ‘heard’!
This newest member of the Ask Alexa family is RemindR. Although the Ask Alexa Schedules extension gives you built-in compatibility with Ask Alexa and its other functions, it does NOT include certain functionality that I felt was outside of the scope of the app (for example, schedules based on actions). While other partner apps can alert on these events (i.e. Big Talker), RemindR allows you to do even more, including ‘retriggering’ of event based alerts and notification delays (see: [RELEASE] RemindR ~ don’t miss an important event!). Great work to Bobby (@SBDOBRESCU) for his app and his integration with Ask Alexa. Welcome to the family!
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.
To prep for the next version, be sure to take some good notes about any weather voice reports you have set up…I will be moving the weather piece to it own extension app. However, it will still be able to work in any voice report you have set up. Then, the fun begins with addition another extension after the next one!
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