WHAT? I can stream WITHOUT my phone/tablet/computer?!?!?

June 9, 2022

Why yes you can! But before I get to that, last week I promised to list some of my favorite streamable radio stations. They’re listed below along with a link to each one’s stream. As usual, I will include their URLs in my blog post over at https://go.ttot.link/TGColumns+Links

KOZT – my favorite and one that I listen to pretty much all day, every day. They play a lot of the music I listened to on WEBN (Spooky Tooth, Moby Grape, Paul Butterfield Blues Band) and some I’d never heard as well as good contemporary artists. I try to keep a listing of the songs they’ve played at https://go.ttot.link/KOZTPlayed). Their stream is https://go.ttot.link/KOZT

The Album Station – I think they’re 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 that plays 60s-80s music https://go.ttot.link/KVHS

KRSH – Napa, CA. More contemporary, adult album oriented rock https://go.ttot.link/KRSH

WKZE – in Red Hook, NY. Pretty eclectic, local radio https://go.ttot.link/WKZE

How do you stream music/videos WITHOUT a phone/tablet/computer? With a “smart speaker”! There are lots to choose from but the two main suppliers of the “smarts” (the programming that makes the 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 so you’re on your own there.)

You don’t have to buy Amazon branded or Google branded devices to get their “smarts” – there are many companies that make compatible devices (Lenovo, Bose, Sonos, to name a few); some even have displays so you can play music AND watch videos; some are soundbars that hook to your TV. I have several Google devices and several Amazon devices. I prefer the Google ones but it’s really a matter of personal preference. You can see Amazon’s Echo devices at https://go.ttot.link/Echo – there are a lot! Google only sells 2 speakers, the Nest Mini and the Nest Audio (https://go.ttot.link/GoogleSpeakers) and 2 displays, the Nest Hub and the 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 strengths and weaknesses of each). Both companies and their resellers regularly cut prices so keep an eye on your favorite electronics store for a sale.

OK, so you’ve picked up your first smart speaker. How do you make this magic happen? Once it’s installed you just talk to it! You say “OK Google, play KOZT the Coast” and it should start playing KOZT’s radio stream (if you’re an Amazon person, say “Alexa” instead of “OK, Google”). If you have a device with a display and want to watch your favorite Netflix show, just say “[device] play [show] from Netflix”. You can pause them, stop them, fast forward (not radio streams, though, cuz you’re getting the live stream, unlike Netflix).

In older times, some homes had whole house intercoms and some had radios that you could play through all the intercom speakers. You can do similar with smart speakers! If you have multiple speakers throughout your house you can put them into named groups and play your selections through the whole group. I have quite a few smart speakers and have put many of them into several groups. For instance, I have 2 speakers in my office in a group called “Office group” (creative, eh?). I have another group of speakers that are in rooms I frequent and I have them in a group called “My Usual Group”. The 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. Quite a flexible setup! And when you no longer want to listen, you can just tell your speaker to stop. Sure, there are apps – Amazon has an Alexa app and Google has a Home app. You use the app to set up the speaker initially, define speaker groups, control volume (which you can also do by voice), and a whole host of other things. But, largely, once you have your speaker(s)/display(s) set up, you can forget about the app.

And that’s not all these speakers can do – they’re “smart” after all! With your voice you can set alarms, add items to a shopping list, have it remember things for you (“Hey Google, remember that I put those receipts in the desk in the front hall” then, later “Hey, Google, where are the receipts?”), set reminders (“Hey, Google, remind me that our anniversary is on May 15th”), turn on and off smart lights/outlets (if you have them), and even turn on and off certain TVs – the list is quite long and differs a bit between the Echo (aka Alexa) and Google. The companies both say the commands are intuitive but I often confound the speakers with my requests so I find it helpful to have a reference or cheat sheet. Here’s a list of Echo commands – https://go.ttot.link/AlexaCommands – and here’s 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 those 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? Sure, many people are concerned about their privacy in these situations. Well, first I’d ask if you have a cell phone cuz if you do, chances are it’s listening to you a LOT more than your smart speakers. But that doesn’t address privacy. Both Amazon and Google have provisions for you to delete their recordings. I’ll let you do your own search for that and if you have trouble finding how, write to me and I’ll try to help. And I’ll try to take up personal privacy in a future column.

What’s on tap for next week? I’ll discuss various music services – sites where you can buy and own music (physical media like vinyl and digital downloads), streaming services (both free and paid subscriptions), as well as the various levels of quality they provide. Spotify, Amazon Music, Jango, Pandora, Tidal, Qobuz for streaming; ProStudioMasters, HDtracks for purchase to name just a few. And I can’t forget music identification services like Shazam!

That’s it for this week. Note that my intent with these columns is to spark your curiosity, give you enough information to get started, and arm you with the necessary keywords (or buzzwords) so you’ll understand the basics and are equipped to search for more detailed information.

Email me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests for future columns, whatever at tony@TonysTakeOnTech.com and don’t forget that I maintain links to the original columns with live, clickable links to all the references at https://go.ttot.link/TGColumns+Links or https://go.ttot.link/TGC+L – it should be updated shortly after this column appears online.