Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"Christmas Jukebox": a new Alexa skill

I've created another Alexa skill: "Christmas Jukebox". This free skill plays some Christmas songs.

You can try it out using an Alexa device (such as a phone using the Amazon Shopping app for Android or iOS, or using a dedicated Echo device [Echo, Echo Dot, etc.]), say something like "Alexa, open Christmas Jukebox". Unfortunately, I don't think the simulator website (https://echosim.io/) supports this skill.

If you want to hear another song, you can say "Alexa, play Next" to go to the next song (it seems to work best when issuing the "play next" command before the current song has completely ended).

I have about seven songs in the skill now. I hope to add more in the coming weeks.

If you like the Christmas Jukebox, please share it with your friends and rate the skill in the store. Please let me know if you have any comments or questions (you can comment below). I'd be happy to consider song requests, but due to copyright concerns (I don't know what it'd take to get permission to use copyrighted song), I'll only be adding songs which are in the public domain (such as songs published before 1923).


See also a related post about my last Alexa skill: https://olioengr.blogspot.com/2017/10/how-to-try-bible-people-in-6-easy-steps.html

Thursday, October 19, 2017

How to Try Bible People in 6 Easy Steps

There are only a few days left for my skill to reach the goal of 100 unique users. (A developer perk is at stake here!)

According to the metrics page that I have access to as the developer, it looks like over 70 people have tried out the skill since it was certified by Amazon twenty-something days ago. I'm encouraged that so many people have tried the skill already! I'd like to thank everyone that has already tried out the skill! (Amazon counts users, but I don't know who they are.) 

Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or (hopefully constructive) criticism. In addition to improving my existing skills, I also plan to create new skills in the future.

If you haven't tried the Bible People skill yet, you can read my last blog post or follow these instructions that I made:

Friday, October 13, 2017

Have you tried the "Bible People" Alexa skill yet?

I recently created an Alexa skill called "Bible People". Thank you if you've already tried it out!

I'm planning on putting more names into the skill to add more variety to the quizzes and allow more people to be looked-up (the skill has a quiz mode and a look-up mode). The sky's the limit! You can give me suggestions by commenting on this post or contacting me via social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn).

If you haven't tried using the skill yet, it's definitely not too late. Here are some tips:

  • You'll need to have an Amazon account to use Alexa. Amazon doesn't charge you to set up an Amazon account. (Amazon only charges you if you start buying stuff from them.)
  • If you have a smartphone or a tablet that uses either a flavor of Android or Apple software (such as an iPhone or iPad), you might be able to install the "Amazon Shopping" app (which is free). Once you get the app installed, you just click on the microphone icon (you'll need to give permission to the app to use your phone's microphone) and say "open Bible People".
  • If you're more traditional (like me) and you have a laptop or desktop computer, you can use the simulator website (you would need a microphone hooked up to the computer).
  • The easiest way to use Alexa is to use a dedicated Alexa-enabled device. (But those cost money and it might not be practical to get a dedicated device in your house just to try out my skill.)
  • If you want to try to use the skill, but you're running into issues using on of these avenues, just let me know because I'd like to provide assistance.

Amazon's Alexa developer promotion from last month included a challenge to reach 100 unique users. How close is my "Bible People" skill to reaching the 100 unique user goal for its first month? Amazon gave me a "metrics" page to see how many people have been using the skill. It's hard for me to tell for sure. I might be halfway there. Or maybe I'm getting close to halfway there. (I've definitely been making progress, though I'm not sure what aggregation I'm supposed to use for their 100-unique user goal.) So feel free to tell a friend today if you like the skill or think they might be interested.

Amazon has another Alexa developer promotion for October, so I'm thinking about creating a new skill this month. I'm accepting suggestions if you have an idea for my next skill!


Saturday, September 23, 2017

"Bible People": a new Alexa skill

I recently published an Alexa skill called "Bible People". This skill lets you take a quiz about people in the Bible or ask for information about a particular person. I'm a big fan of the Bible, and my hope is that this skill would promote Bible knowledge.

I had fun developing the skill, and I'm curious what other people think about it. You can comment on this blog post or post a review in the Alexa skill store. If you'd like to suggest that you friends and family try the skill, I'd appreciate the endorsement.

Alexa is Amazon's digital assistant technology (similar to how Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana, etc.). You might already have an Alexa-enabled device (or you might have a device that could access Alexa with a little effort):
  • Alexa can be used from a dedicated device (such as an "Echo" or "Echo Dot" device from Amazon).
  • You can also use Alexa from an Android or iPhone device by installing the "Amazon Shopping" app (Google Play storeiTunes store). Once you install the app, you can click on the microphone button at the top to talk to Alexa (such as, "tell me a joke" or "launch Bible People" if it's enabled).
  • On a desktop (or laptop), you can use the Echosim.io website. Similar to the phone app, you'll need to click on the microphone button.

If you have an Alexa-enabled device, you'd need to enable the skill first. You can enable my skill by visiting the Alexa website (or if you have the Alexa app on your phone, you can search for "Bible People" by OlioEngr Development). To use the app, you would tell the device "Alexa, launch Bible People."

Besides "Bible People", I've released three other Alexa skills:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Truth Project

I recently had the opportunity to present the The Truth Project videos on Sunday mornings at my church, Boulevard Christian Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma. We covered the last episode of the series a week ago today. I bought this set of DVDs several years ago after I got to viewed several of them as part of a men's Bible study group at a previous church. Since it had been several years since I had viewed any of these videos, I enjoyed watching these lessons in a small group setting again.

The focus of the series, which were produced by Focus of the Family, was understanding and developing a Bible-based Christian worldview. Along the way, we discussed the Bible's truth claims, ethics (and morality), society's view of man, the evidence that human beings have a supernatural Creator, historical revisionism, the role of Christianity in the founding of the United States, and several other issues.

These were the 12 episode topics:

  1. Veritology: What is Truth?
  2. Philosophy & Ethics: Says Who?
  3. Anthropology: Who is Man?
  4. Theology: Who is God?
  5. Science: What is True? (2 parts)
  6. History: Whose Story
  7. Sociology: The Divine Imprint
  8. Unio Mystica: Am I Alone?
  9. The State: Whose Law?
  10. The American Experiment: Stepping Stones
  11. Labor: Created to Create
  12. Community & Involvement: God Cares, Do I?
With the exception of lesson 5, which was divided into two one-hour videos, each video lesson was about an hour long. After we viewed each episode, we had time for discussion and prayer.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Star Trek: The Official Guide to Our Universe

A few days ago, I checked out a book called Star Trek: The Official Guide to Our Universe from my local library. It's a new book (copyright 2016) that I just happened to stumble upon in one of my favorite parts of the non-fiction section of the library (its Dewey Decimal number is 523). The author, Andrew Fazekas, has a website called thenightskyguy.com. It's not a particularly long book (only a few hundred pages), but it's filled with cool astronomy photos and images from Star Trek movies and shows.

The content of the chapters alternate between describing Star Trek universe appearances/references to real-life astronomical objects and a discussion of the contemporary understanding of science in that particular area. The end result is neither the The Star Trek Encyclopedia nor an astronomy textbook, but the pages are pleasantly designed with large full-color photographs.

The book includes some interesting "Are we there yet?" sidebars that discuss Star Trek technology that we might not quite have yet (but perhaps we're closer than I realized). Each sidebar includes a graph that charts our progress towards that technology as something like "Light-Years Away", "Getting There", or "Mission Accomplished". (Unless the author has a functional crystal ball, I don't understand how we can confident we can be of our progress toward the goals.) It does sound like we're closer to have tractor beams than I expected (page 54), and I learned on page 38 that we already have a medical tricorder (someone engineered a device called a "Scanadu Scout"). That's news to me!

Even though I've been a fan of Star Trek shows, movies, and books for many years, as I've been flipping through the pages, I feel like I've been learning more about the Star Trek universe than the actual Universe. While I've watched all of the Star Trek movies except for the latest one (it's on my to-do list, so please no spoilers) and I've seen most of the episodes of the various Star Trek TV shows ever made, I haven't been immersed in the Treker culture as much these last few years compared to when I was a teenager. (I think there was a summer that I watched several dozen episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.) Also, I've been reading more non-fiction science books and articles than science fiction the last few years.

Reading this book reminds me that God created a large Universe filled with a variety of planets revolving around various stars clumped into various galaxies, clustered into various groups, clusters, and superclusters (and probably even organized beyond what humans have already discovered). The size and complexity of the Universe boggles my mind!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Oklahoma State Questions on the November 2016 Ballot

Today, Governor Mary Fallin's office released a list of state questions (SQs) that will be on Oklahoma's ballot for the November 8, 2016 general election (SQ 776 and SQ 777 had been previously announced):

  • SQ 776 would declare that the death penalty is not cruel or unusual punishment and would allow the Legislature to designate any method of execution if a current method is declared unconstitutional.
  • SQ 777 would prevent lawmakers from passing legislation to regulate agriculture unless there is a compelling state interest.
  • SQ 779 would increase the state sales tax by 1 percent to fund teacher pay raises and other education causes.
  • SQ 780 would reclassify some criminal offenses, such as drug possession and property crimes, as misdemeanors instead of felonies.
  • SQ 781 would take money saved from implementing SQ 780 and allow counties to fund community rehabilitation programs.
  • SQ 790 would remove a section of the Oklahoma Constitution prohibiting use of state resources for religious purposes.
  • SQ 792 would allow wine and full-strength beer to be sold in grocery stores and convenience stores.
More information about SQ 776 and SQ 777 is available on this page. (I expect that page will be updated with details about the new SQs in the future.)