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16 technical Alexa skills IT pros should know

Alexa offers an array of functions to serve as a helpful technical guide. The skills in this list can help you with things like network diagnostics, IP address lookups, and programming questions.

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I wrote recently about 10 ways Alexa can help you get your work done, which focused on a broad set of business-related objectives the Amazon Echo (aka Alexa) can perform for you via voice commands. Alexa utilizes various features known as skills to conduct these operations, and you can work with these skills via the Alexa app or web interface.

During the course of my research I found and tested a plethora of technical-related skills for Alexa which are worth checking out, whether you work in IT or are merely a hobbyist. I've arranged them by respective categories.

Networking

1. MyNetLyzer

The MyNetLyzer skill can help you diagnose issues with your home network such as poor performance and determining what is connected to the network. You can say "Ask myNetLyzer what is my network performance," "Ask myNetLyzer what are my connected devices," or "Ask myNetlyzer what is my performance report for a week." It does require you to link your Amazon account and register your devices with MyNetLyzer via their portal page, which can also provide insights into how your network is operating.

2. Port Numbers

Alexa can match port numbers with services using the Port Numbers skill. She responds to the commands "Alexa, ask port numbers which port runs (service name)," or "Alexa, ask port numbers which service runs on port (port number)," to provide the requested details. She was able to provide information about SSH and HTTP, two commonly used services,

3. Subnet Calculator

For those of us who dabble in subnet calculations, Alexa can also be a wizard in handling this task for you via the Subnet Calculator skill. You can ask questions such as "Alexa, ask Subnet Calculator what is the subnet mask for a slash 27?" and she will read off the mask. According to the skill's developers, future updates will provide network and broadcast address for a given host address, as well as other subnet calculations.

SEE: Internet of Things policy (Tech Pro Research)

Obtaining public IP address/domain information

4. IP Lookup

Alexa can determine IP address/domain information and location using the IP Lookup skill. Say: "Alexa, ask IP lookup where is 8.8.8.8," for instance, and she will identify the domain as owned by Google and where they are located.

5. Domain Name Info

The Domain Name Info skill can obtain DNS information related to requested domains. Just say, "Alexa, launch Domain Name Info." She will then inquire what domain you want to research, and can provide the A Record (IPv4 address), AAAA Record (IPv6 address) MX Record (Mail Exchange) or TXT Record (Text).

6. Server Status

Having trouble getting to a specific site? The Server Status skill can tell you if various public websites are online or offline. Use the phrase, "Alexa, ask Server Status if (domain) is online." You can also inquire if a domain is offline.

7. DNS Tools

The DNS Tools skill performs a similar yet simpler function and can obtain forward and reverse DNS lookups. You could use the command "Alexa, ask DNS Tools to get the IP address for techrepublic.com" to get the IP address of 64.30.228.108. You could also say: "Alexa, ask DNS Tools to get the domain for 64.30.228.108."

Security advice

8. Security Flashcards

The Security flashcards skill can help you learn more about security terms and prepare for exams. Say: "Alexa, open Security flashcards," and she can define various terms. I asked about phishing, for example, and she provided information on the concept.

9. Hack Me

The Hack Me skill can tell you if your Amazon-linked email address has been involved in a security breach, and if so when and which organization was involved. Sadly, I found my email address had been associated with three breaches, but I changed my password in the aftermath. Alexa provides some security recommendations if it turns out you are vulnerable.

SEE: Special report: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Development and Programming

10. Programming Concepts

The Programming Concepts skill offers an array of programming-based details and definitions to broaden your knowledge base.

11. Java Programming Language Facts

Similarly, the Java programming language facts skill can provide random Java-related facts via the command "Alexa, open Java Geek."

12. Build a Website Tips

The Build a Website Tips skill works the same way and can provide various website building tips using the "Alexa open website tips" command.

13. Coding Questions

To up the ante, the Coding Questions skill can quiz you on programming challenges to help sharpen your abilities.

General utilities

14. Rudimentary password generator

If you're terrible at thinking up unique passwords, try the Rudimentary password generator skill. Just say "Alexa, open scrambled keys," and follow her instructions to generate passwords of a specific or random length.

15. ASCII Converter

The ASCII Converter skill can convert alphanumeric characters to ASCII or vice versa.

16. Number Converter

Use the Number Converter skill to convert binary numbers to hexadecimal or vice versa, or work with other various base conversations.

Also see

Image: Tyler Lizenby/CNET
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