My new Amazon Echo Dot 2

A few days ago bought an Echo Dot 2 on taobao.com for 400rmb (about $70). Plugged it in, and took most of the day to get it working. The problem is that I am in China and it is not set up for China. Tried to run alexa.amazon.com on the PC and it would just stall before even getting to the login screen. Got to the login once and then it failed when setting up the Dot. So, needed to get the software on my Huawei 5 phone but cannot load google.play on my phone. Finally downloaded Google Chrome on phone, downloaded alexa app and got it loaded. But when trying to hook up the Dot, it would still stall on the installation screen. Finally after many tries and a few resets of the Dot, got it loaded.

Disappointed. I would invoke the Dot with “Alexa, what time is it?”. It would listen then start to say something and quit. And that was it. Tried to get music going. It would say “Shuffling your…” and then nothing.

So then I went through marathon session of playing with my router. Moved it, changed parameters, and finally Dot would work, at 4:00 in the morning.

The short of it is I found that the Dot’s poor response was due to low internet bandwidth in my location. I am in a University apartment, throttled no doubt by a university server and during the day when students are playing games bandwidth can drop to below 1 mbps and this is when the Dot balks.

So came up with the following checks for successfully using Dot in my location:

  1. Bandwidth must be above 2mbps or it just won’t work reliably. Mine works great as long as I have some bandwidth.
  2. Load http://speedtest.xfinity.com/  to do speed tests and check effect of router parameter changes.
  3. Played with router channel (decided on 13 because of small overlap and no other users, and mode (finally just let router decide for me although n mode worked good).
  4. Set router antenna within sight of Dot because these massive brick walls kill the signal.
  5. Download and use Wifi Analyzer software to check signal.
  6. Check voltage – the voltage is not consistent in my apartment outlets.
  7. Joined http://www.echotalk.org for more info about how it works, problems, etc.
  8. Selected Asia as the location so that it gives local time even though address had to remain in USA.
  9. Use Big Sky skill to get local weather by inputting china zip code. Works great
  10. Love that I can play free radio stations and my music on Amazon, and the weather, and even just getting the time and getting the definition of a word or wikipedia or using the Bible skill.

Some folks are worried about the fact that Alexa is always listening. It does but I monitored the packet traffic through my router and noticed that it does not send anything out until you wake it up with the wake up word – so no, it is not always listening in reality. Does it have the potential to do that, absolutely. Amazon could send out a command to send back everything it hears and we wouldn’t know about it except by monitoring packets.

Unfortunately cannot do much about bandwidth and cannot seem to make my phone a wifi hotspot so will have to just enjoy Dot in early morning hours. But, not sorry I bought it and I look forward to how it will become more useful in the future. Learned a lot about router configurations.

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About jimd

Christian, ESL teacher, retired computer programmer, former US Army soldier, former Peace Corps Volunteer. Like to paint, build and fly rc airplanes, play guitar, ride unicycle, juggle, and hang out with my university students. Am currently residing in a foreign country but I do love America.
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