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PSA: Alexa is down nationwide

Discussion in 'BYTE ME: Technology discussion' started by Omar's Wacky Neighbor, Mar 2, 2018.

  1. Omar's Wacky Neighbor

    Omar's Wacky Neighbor Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    6,394
    1:40pm ET: Alexa is back up.
     
    #1 Omar's Wacky Neighbor, Mar 2, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
  2. johnmd20

    johnmd20 voice of soccer Lifetime Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    32,256
    NYC here. Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu are all down. I also tried HBO Go and Showtime Anytime and they are also down. Does Amazon Web Services run all of those apps? Youtube is working.
     
  3. Dan Murfman

    Dan Murfman Member SoSH Member

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    I’ve been watching HBO Go all day
     
  4. johnmd20

    johnmd20 voice of soccer Lifetime Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    Where?

    edit - and on what?
     
  5. Dan Murfman

    Dan Murfman Member SoSH Member

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    3,294
    In Providence on my iPad
     
  6. johnmd20

    johnmd20 voice of soccer Lifetime Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    It might be Time Warner. I have no idea. My internet is working fine, but sites like SoSH are REALLY slow, but my mobile office (usually kind of slow) is humming faster than ever.

    And I can't stream any video on Amazon or Netflix in my browser, either. But youtube is completely fine. So I don't understand how that would be Time Warner.
     
  7. johnmd20

    johnmd20 voice of soccer Lifetime Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    32,256
    Ok, my Mobile Office started getting slow again so I checked my Fire TV and streaming is all back. That's crazy how I could tell just by my Mobile Office.

    ALIVE!
     
  8. Omar's Wacky Neighbor

    Omar's Wacky Neighbor Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Verizon was down on various platforms (that's not even the right word) earlier today, but it appeared that no one area had more than one issue: some areas had problems with cell service, the northeast corridor had problems with email, other areas had problems with internet in general.

    I'm in northeast NJ, and my email was messed up for hours, yet my cell service and home internet were up and running fine.
     
  9. Omar's Wacky Neighbor

    Omar's Wacky Neighbor Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    6,394
  10. NortheasternPJ

    NortheasternPJ Member SoSH Member

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    Yet another reason not to have the Amazon spy machine in my house.
     
  11. jercra

    jercra Member SoSH Member

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    I hear this from a lot of people and it makes no damn sense at all. Do you carry a smart phone? If so, do you realize it has a microphone, speaker, camera and multiple tracking devices in it? Do you take it with you everywhere, including in your house? If you're "off the grid" (and somehow still on SoSH all the time), then good for you for your bold stance. If you're not, then how is it you've avoided having a spy machine in your house?
     
  12. Seven Costanza

    Seven Costanza Fred Astaire of SoSH SoSH Member

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    At least with iOS, I can turn off access to my iPhone/iPad's camera and microphone on an app by app basis. If an app requires these things to function, I can uninstall that app if I like.

    I'm fully aware that someone or something can most likely bypass all that and listen to me anyway. At least I have the illusion of controlling that with iOS devices. An Echo/Google Home/HomePod has to always be listening in order to be a functional product.
     
  13. Blacken

    Blacken Robespierre in a Cape SoSH Member

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    Yes and no. Yes, in that there is an active microphone. No, in that that data is not (and we can verify it's not) going anywhere. The reason that Echo users have to pick between four wake words is because the necessary stuff to recognize the word is in hardware on the device. Only after it triggers the wake word is anything sent to Lex (the AWS tooling that powers it).

    I have no problem with these devices, and I am a professional paranoid in a lot of ways.
     
  14. NortheasternPJ

    NortheasternPJ Member SoSH Member

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    My comment was tongue and cheek. The real reason I don't have one is because I really don't want one.

    I really don't have a ton of trust in a lot of these companies either, but I don't believe that Siri or Alexa are spying on my family. As we've seen today, they are prone to error though.

    In terms of your smartphone, I'd go back and review what you allow access to your microphone, pictures and camera. They don't just use those to allow you to upload your photos to Facebook.
     
  15. Blacken

    Blacken Robespierre in a Cape SoSH Member

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    11,983
    Also, everything the Echo hears is saved to your Amazon account. You can review what it's heard (and delete it) at your leisure.

    My girlfriend likes going through mine and hearing how annoyed I get when it misunderstands me.
     
  16. Oil Can Dan

    Oil Can Dan Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Wait, does it only ‘hear’ after a trigger word is said? I have a work colleague that just can’t understand the concept of a trigger word. So she’ll have Alexa play music, and two minutes later she’ll say “skip”. “Skip”. “Fucking skip!!1!” I would love to see this transcribed.
     
  17. Papelbon's Poutine

    Papelbon's Poutine Homeland Security SoSH Member

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    Yes, the trigger word is required for it to ‘hear’. Otherwise it’s basically in a constant state of scanning to hear the trigger word. Then it kicks on.

    We got an Alexa and a dot last year on whatever Amazon’s version of Black Friday is to play around with them and eventually added a hub and smart bulbs. It’s great and if I weren’t renting, I’d replace every light in the house, the thermostat, the door lock and garage door opener. Frankly anything I could.

    Funny story, when I put the bulbs in, I happened to be at work that night and was explaining the concept to one of my older, less tech inclined regulars. I pulled up the app and showed him ‘see I can even turn the lights up and down from my phone’. By some stroke of god’s blessing, my fiancée happened to be sitting in the couch, reading and reached for something on the side table, passing her arm by it just as I turned the lights off. She was a bit confused and reached over again to check it, just as I turned it back on. This happened another 3 times as she became convinced they were motion activated. Then I stopped showing my friend the app and she sat there waiting her arm at it to turn the lights back on before giving up. We had a good laugh at that later.
     
  18. InsideTheParker

    InsideTheParker Member SoSH Member

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    Today I used Shazam for the first time, and it was so good it took me aback and made me wonder about how to turn off the microphone on my G5 Plus. Checked settings to no avail, tried Googling. Does anyone know how to do that? (I can find out how to turn it off on various apps. Does that mean that unless those apps are being used, the microphone is off? ---i.e., Google isn't listening unless I say OK Google, and Shazam isn't listening unless I tap and ask it to?) I really have no big secrets, but I grew up in an age in which you kept your conversations private, and I'd like to continue to do that.
    P.S. My husband was just reading about an app called Mute Mic, but it's no longer available. Google Play has others, but I never know whether it's a good idea to add all these unknowns to one's phone.
     
  19. jercra

    jercra Member SoSH Member

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    It's addressed a bit above by @Blacken but Google is always "listening" but never sending anything anywhere until the wake words "Ok, Google" or "Hey, Google" are heard. Furthermore, if you train it, Google will only respond to your voice. All other apps require permissions to use the microphone but if you're like everyone else you just accept whatever permissions the apps ask for without paying much attention. Apps are able to listen for keywords and then react so it's entirely possible for you to install an app that does this without you knowing about it if you just zip past the permissions screens. You can very easily go into your app permissions and see what apps have "Microphone" permissions if you're really worried about it.

    Going beyond the worry that people are listening to it, you're mistaking what Shazam is doing. It's basically just a DB of known song and movie audio fingerprints (which sounds complicated but is actually pretty easy). It then uses some rudimentary machine learning algorithms (probably just k-means if I had to guess) to get a ranked list of matches based on the audio fingerprint coming from your phone. Unless you're REALLY worried about the world knowing what songs you're listening to, Shazam isn't much of a risk.
     
  20. InsideTheParker

    InsideTheParker Member SoSH Member

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    Thanks for the reply. I am not really alarmed by Shazam, but its sophistication (it very quickly identified a fairly obscure piece by Shubert) set me to thinking about the issue of the phone's abilities to "listen."
    So I guess from what you are saying that one handles this app by app rather than being able to mute the phone. But it would be useful to be able to mute briefly while talking on the phone to consult with your significant other.
     
  21. jercra

    jercra Member SoSH Member

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    I presume that you know that your phone app has a mute button so are you asking about something else?

    Again though, with Shazam, it really only feels like sophistication. Alexa knowing what you asked is only slightly more sophisticated. Google creating "portrait mode" using onboard AI is WAY more sophisticated. It's a bit difficult to explain simply, but the things Shazam does aren't much more complicated than comparing baseball players and coming up with comps. It's just statistical modeling of a known dataset. Computers are good at math.
     
  22. cgori

    cgori Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    2,102
    I'm not sure I would even categorize it as ML - here's the original paper. I would say it's just signal processing, they aren't even suggesting something as complex as a k-mean (I guess their hash generation process is sort of similar to a k-mean). For fast searching, they seem to indicate that they are exploiting some inherent properties in the dataset being music, by pairing frequency hashes with delta-t in the sample fragments they get nice precision.

    Shazam has been around a long time (~2002), I had forgotten that the original implementation was something you actually called, it listened to 30 seconds and then it texted the song info back to you. That meant their fingerprinting had to work thru a very narrow-bandwidth channel (about 3kHz for GSM calls). It might use higher bandwidth now that it's running as an app with full-bandwidth access to the handset microphone but the original one certainly didn't.
     
  23. jercra

    jercra Member SoSH Member

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    1,653
    I wonder if it actually just uses local compute now to generate the signatures locally and just do the inference remotely? Lots of ways to skin that cat I presume.
     

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