Why, yes you can! But before we get to that, last week I promised to list some of my favorite streaming radio stations. They are listed below with a link to the feed for each. As usual, I’ll include their URLs in my blog post at https://go.ttot.link/TGColumns+Links.
KOZT — my favorite and the one I listen to pretty much all day, every day. They play a lot of the music I used to listen to on WEBN (Spooky Tooth, Moby Grape, Paul Butterfield Blues Band) and some I had never heard as well as some good contemporary artists. I try to keep a list of songs they’ve played at https://go.ttot.link/KOZTPlayed). Their feed is https://go.ttot.link/KOZT.
The Album Station – I think they are an internet only station. Their website is musicheads.us https://go.ttot.link/TheAlbumStation.
KVHS – The Voice of the Valley in Concord, CA – A high school radio station playing music from the 60s-80s at https://go.ttot.link/KVHS.
KRSH — Napa, Calif. More contemporary rock, adult album oriented, at https://go.ttot.link/KRSH.
WKZE—in Red Hook, New York. Quite eclectic local radio at https://go.ttot.link/WKZE.
How do you stream music/video without phone/tablet/computer? With a “smart speaker!” There’s plenty to choose from, but the two main providers of “smarts” (the programming that makes speakers “smart”) are Amazon (they make Echo devices) and Google (they make Nest devices). (OK, there’s a third – Apple with Siri but I have no experience with that.)
You don’t have to buy Amazon or Google branded devices to get their “smartness”. Many companies make compatible devices (Lenovo, Bose, Sonos, to name a few); some even have screens so you can listen to music and watch videos; some are soundbars that attach to your TV. I have several Google devices and several Amazon devices. I prefer those from Google but it’s really a matter of personal preference. You can view Amazon’s Echo devices at https://go.ttot.link/Echo. Google only sells two speakers, the Nest Mini and Nest Audio (https://go.ttot.link/GoogleSpeakers) and two displays, the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max (https://go.ttot. link/GoogleDisplays). But there are many available from other manufacturers (see https://go.ttot.link/BestGoogleSpeakers for a list with the strengths and weaknesses of each). Both companies and their resellers regularly slash prices, so keep an eye out for your favorite electronics store for a sale.
OK, so you’ve chosen your first smart speaker. How to achieve this magic? Once it’s installed, all you have to do is talk to it. You say “OK Google, play KOZT the Coast” and it should start playing the KOZT radio stream. If you have a device with a screen and want to watch your favorite Netflix show, just say “[device] to play [show] from Netflix. You can pause them, stop them, fast forward (not the radio streams, though, as you get the live stream, unlike Netflix).
It used to be that some houses had whole house intercoms and some had radios that you could listen to on all the intercom speakers. You can do the same with smart speakers. If you have multiple speakers in your home, you can put them into named groups and broadcast your selections throughout the group. I have quite a few smart speakers and have put a lot of them in several groups. For example, I have two speakers in my office in a group called “Office Group”. I have another group of speakers that are in rooms I frequent and I have them in a group called “My usual group”. Office group speakers are part of my usual group, so if I play something on my usual group, it also plays on my office group. And when you don’t want to listen anymore, you can simply tell your speaker to stop. Of course there are apps – Amazon has an Alexa app and Google has a Home app. You use the app to initially set up the speaker, set speaker groups, control volume (which you can also do by voice), and more. But, for the most part, once you’ve set up your speaker/display, you can forget about the app.
And that’s not all these speakers can do – they are “smart” after all. With your voice, you can set alarms, add items to a shopping list, have it remember things for you, set reminders, and even turn some TVs on and off. The list is quite long and differs a bit between the Echo and Google. The companies both say the controls are intuitive, but I often confuse the speakers with my requests, so I find it helpful to have a reference or cheat sheet. Here is a list of Echo commands — https://go.ttot.link/AlexaCommands; and here is the same for Google — https://go.ttot.link/GoogleCommands. While we’re at it, you should know that you can install Amazon’s Alexa app and use many of these commands on your phone/tablet. If you have an Android device, Google Assistant is already installed and you can do similar things with it.
Are you worried about your speakers listening to you? Of course, many people are concerned about their privacy in these situations. Well, first I would ask if you have a cell phone because if you do, chances are it’s listening to you a lot more than your smart speakers. But that’s not about privacy. Both Amazon and Google intended for you to delete their records. I’ll let you do your own research for this and if you’re having trouble figuring out how, write to me and I’ll try to help. And I will try to address privacy in a future column.
What’s planned next week? I’m going to discuss various music services – sites where you can buy and own music (physical media like vinyl and digital downloads), streaming services (free and paid subscriptions), and the different levels of quality. that they offer. Spotify, Amazon Music, Jango, Pandora, Tidal, Qobuz for streaming; ProStudioMasters, HDtracks to buy to name a few. And I can’t forget music identification services like Shazam.
It’s all for this week. Note that my intention with these columns is to spark your curiosity, give you enough information to get started, and arm you with the necessary keywords so that you understand the basics and are equipped to search for more detailed information.
Email me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests for future columns, whatever at [email protected] and remember that I maintain links to the original columns with live, clickable links to all references at https://go.ttot.link/TGColumns+Links or https://go.ttot. link/TGC+L .
Tony Sumrall, a Hillsboro native whose parents ran the old Highland Lanes bowling alley, is a creator with both leadership skills and technical skills. He has worked in the IT field since graduating from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s degree in systems analysis, working for and with companies ranging in size from five to hundreds of thousands of employees. . He holds five patents and lives and thrives in Silicon Valley, which fuels his love for all things tech.
Tony Sumrall Contributing Columnist