Archive for September, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (30 September) to…

September 30, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (30 September) to…


 

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

To support this or other organizations, begin your Amazon shopping from a link on their sites: Amazon.com (Smile.Amazon.com)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

Amazon Announcement Day 2019: maybe the best ever (Part 1: the wearables)

September 29, 2019

Amazon Announcement Day 2019: maybe the best ever (Part 1: the wearables)

I’m not saying that the products and features announced Wednesday were necessarily the best ever (it’s hard to overstate the importance of Apple’s iPhone introduction), but in terms of entertainment value, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a event like this that could beat it.

Part of that was just the sheer range: from “Say what now?” experiments (what Amazon calls “Day 1”) to a new price low on an iconic product line.

The first thing I’ll say is that this seems to be being well-received amongst tech writers and mainstream coverage. No one is doubting that there is that rare combination of wisdom and bravery here. Brave because it’s breaking new ground. Wise because they are addressing customer (and potential customer) concerns, and making it all seem genuinely obtainable for many consumers.

In terms of general themes, the main one was our Alexapresent future. I just coined that term, wanting to play on Alexa (Amazon’s digital assistant) being omnipresent (available everywhere). We are truly reaching what has been called “ambient computing”: computing available just as part of the background of your life. It means that, eventually, you don’t even think of it as accessing a computer…you just ask what the weather is, or for navigation somewhere, and it happens. If we go back to perhaps the biggest society changing technology to date, the written word, we have that. We read almost constantly: street signs, the time on a digital clock, the words at the bottom of a TV screen, product labels, and so on. We don’t think about doing it most of the time. It’s actually a very complex process: watch someone, child or adult, when they are first learning to read. It takes immense concentration and effort. Reading is ambient: computing is moving towards that state.

Another theme was consumer control. We hear a lot about people having privacy concerns…I’ve seen the term “spy” used more than once. However, it’s not spying if you know about it, and if you can end it whenever you want. There were significant control elements introduced, both in when Alexa collects information, and how you can get rid of what it has collected. I wonder if some consumers won’t even look at some of these products because of privacy concerns which may have already been addressed. That parallels something that happened years ago, where Amazon removed infringing copies of 1984 from customers’ Kindles without asking them. That has been clearly addressed, even stated publicly that they wouldn’t do that in that way again. Still, there are probably people who still worry about that happening, about Amazon removing books which have already been downloaded, today.

In the past, I’ve felt that Amazon as an organization didn’t always have a great empathetic ability to tell how people were going to react to things that it did. I do believe that is changing, that they are getting better at how typical, non-techie customers will respond to things they do.

Let’s get to what they announced!

I’ve decided to make this post just about the three wearables Amazon introduced. There may be a series of posts, just because of the cornucopia of items.

Echo Buds (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

What are they?

Wireless in-ear devices with speakers and a microphone (actually, 3 microphones per ear), which makes Alexa available anywhere.

When will they be available?

They can be pre-ordered in the USA now with an October 30th release date.

What do they cost?

$129.99

That’s the overview…here are some more details.

  • Bose Active Noise Reduction Technology: can be used to block out sounds
    • Importantly, they also have “passthrough” so you can hear sounds around you
  • You can access Alexa just be speaking
    • Hear an audiobook (as an introductory offer, you get 3 months of Audible free (not available to current members)
    • Play music
    • Make phone calls
    • Get directions
    • You can do all the other usual Alexa functions…for me, I would use text-to-speech, control our SmartHome, check the weather, maybe listen to TuneIn…they use the regular Alexa skills (apps), so that gives you lots of options
  • You can also access other Smart Assistants on your phone…Siri on iPhones, Google Assistant on Android phones: they don’t just respond to your voice, the way that Alexa does…you hold in a button to invoke them, then you can speak to them
  • It can play music for five hours on a charge, and you can get a two hour charge in about fifteen minutes. There’s a charging case that gives you 20 hours of playback
  • They give you 3 sizes of ear tips, which should help give you a comfortable fit and a good seal (the latter important to keep outside noise out)
  • It’s water-resistant: should be fine when you sweat, and in rain
  • Amazon is doing a lot to improve your privacy. You can turn off the mics, for example, although you use the phone and the Alexa app to do that

Is there competition? Yes, and some can do Alexa, but honestly, pricewise and featurewise, these do very well.

My assessment? I think these could be a popular holiday item (and would sell before that, of course). Since they can be used with Apple and Android phones, they’d be a pretty safe bet. They should have that cool factor.

Echo Frames (at AmazonSmile*)

What are they?

Eyeglass frames (you can have prescription lenses or use them with ‘hipster’ clear lenses) which have Alexa built into them.

When will they be available?

They are currently only available by invitation…you can ask to be put on the list, but that doesn’t mean you will get them.

What do they cost?

$179.99 currently, $249.99 after the “introductory period”.

  • They come in one size, Medium/Large. There is a sizing guide on the product page
  • All the Alexa functions are available: make phone calls, etc.
  • Their weight is comparable to regular frames
  • You can filter what notifications you get
  • You should be able to hear easily, but other people around you should not be able to hear what is being said. This is all without having to stick something in your ear. Note that that means people will generally be unaware that you have Alexa frames
    • However, it’s worth noting that there is no camera and no display, making it considerably different from Google Glass, which may have sunk under privacy concerns. At this point, I don’t think there will be much possibility for them to invade other people’s privacy…I doubt it will pick up a voice two arms lengths away, although I don’t know that for sure
  • It can connect to Google Assistant
    • Note: currently it does not connect to iPhones
  • One change to people’s routines would be plugging in your glasses to charge at night. I don’t see that as a major hurdle: people are used to plugging things in to charge. If you have strong glasses, it does mean that if you wake up and need your glasses, you might fumble a bit to unplug them, but again, I don’t think that’s going to stop very many people
    • Charges in about 75 minutes
    • One charge seems to handle a typical day pretty well, the way they describe it…they give you an example on the product page

My assessment? At this point, this is pretty niche. If you already wear glasses and use Alexa, this make sense. They’re more expensive than the Echo Buds, but some people won’t want to have things in their ears all day long. Oh, I saw a stat that frames are usually in this price range, which helps.

Echo Loop (at AmazonSmile)

What is it?

A ring with a microphone and speaker built into it so you can use Alexa

When will they be available?

They are currently only available by invitation…you can ask to be put on the list, but that doesn’t mean you will get them.

What do they cost?

$129.99 currently: after the “introductory period”, they’ll be $179.99.

  • It’s not always listening: you tap it to access Alexa
  • When you make a call, you’ll be switching from holding it in front of your mouth to speak, then holding it to your ear to listen
  • You can get haptic feedback: you’ll feel it when something comes in for you
  • You can put one contact on “speed dial”, to call them easily…everybody else you’ll speak
  • Charges in 90 minutes, should last all day

My assessment? This is definitely a gadget, I don’t see it as being very practical. I would think most people would go for the earbuds instead. I think it will be pretty obvious when people are using them: it will look like Dick Tracy in the old comic strips, raising his wrist to use his wrist telephone.

One thing: I’m pretty sure I suggest an Amazon ring at some point, but haven’t found it. At that time, I was thinking of wearables for text-to-speech, but now it makes sense that it’s Alexa….which does include text-to-speech.

Well, that’s the first three items! A lot more to come…not sure when I’ll get to them. If you have questions or thoughts about these items, let me know by commenting on this post.

Special announcement: while I’m not seeing something specific from Amazon, this post

Michael Kozlowski’s excellent Good E Reader blog article

alerted me to the need to update older Kindles before October 2nd to continue to work smoothly. They can be updated after that, apparently, but this has happened before. See the article for more details.

I’m going to connect my older Kindles to Whispernet…I have at least one I very rarely connect.

Thanks, Good E Reader!

Here’s the update page:

Kindle Software Updates Page (at AmazonSmile*)


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

 

Happy bookish birthdays (September 29) to…

September 29, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (September 29) to…


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

Happy bookish birthdays (September 28) to…

September 28, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (September 28) to…


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

Happy bookish birthdays (27 September) to…

September 27, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (27 September) to…

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Happy bookish birthdays (26 September) to…

September 26, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (26 September) to…


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

#WDYTWed: today’s Amazon announcements

September 25, 2019

#WDYTWed: today’s Amazon announcements

In the more than ten years that I’ve been writing this blog (the first post was August 28, 2009), one of my favorite things has been interacting with the readers.

That used to happen a lot more. When I started out, I averaged 1,000 new words a day, but in more recent times, I just haven’t been able to do that. I’ve been trying to write more narratives again, but without that, the blog doesn’t tend to provoke many comments…and I miss that. I think my long time readers do, too.

One of those long time readers and amongst my most frequent commenters is Lady Galaxy, who suggested that I write something once a week with the intent of increasing interaction.

It’s a good idea. 🙂

I think the best way to do that is to do one or more polls (which I’ve done throughout the past decade).

I’ve decided to name this series #WDYTWed. WDYT is an internet abbreviation for “What Do You Think?”, and I’m going to do them on Wednesdays. Hopefully, just about every Wednesday…

Amazon is making major announcements today, 25 September. This will be a bit challenging, but I think I’ll wait until those are over (which will probably put me into the afternoon Pacific time) and add a poll during my lunch break.

The Verge coverage of the announcement


Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get.

:)

Shop ’til you help!

:)

 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Happy bookish birthdays (25 September) to…

September 25, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (25 September) to…

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Round up #191: Public library petition, Amazon hardware announcement…

September 24, 2019

Round up #191: Public library petition, Amazon hardware announcement…

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Amazon’s hardware announcement tomorrow (Wednesday 25 September)

I’ll probably write about what happens tomorrow, but I thought I’d share rumors/speculation.

The buzzy thing will probably be in-ear Alexa. These would hypothetically be wireless earbuds. I have a thing about objects touching my ears (although I can wear reading glasses just fine). However, that’s the outer ear…ear canal would be different.

What would these do?

  • You could call up Alexa (it would be connected to your phone wirelessly)
    • That would include playing music, having questions answered, possibly SmartHome control, although that seem less certain to me, maybe phone calls processed by the phone)
  • Rumor has it that it could have fitness tracking capabilities. Certainly, I would think heartbeat could be measured in the ear. Steps? Maybe, but probably not necessary, since they will already be connected to a phone which almost certainly does that

For me to love these personally, they’d have to have pass-through sound (I’d want to be able to hear what was around me, at least to some extent…maybe to the extent it was legal to wear them driving, but Alexa Auto takes care of that). If they did, I could see wearing them quite often. Nice to control the TV that way, for one thing.

Speaking of Alexa Auto, they could certainly make that available for general purchase (currently, it’s by invitation only…we have one, have requested another, and it’s great!).

Kindle/Fire tablet announcements may come later.

More SmartHome control and devices, more Fire TV…an update to Echo, I should think.

Also, based on last year, something odd…like the microwave they introduced. We have one of those…it was a bit disappointing. The plastic on the buttons really peeled quickly…that seems to always be a problem with inexpensive microwaves. We’ve also just stopped using the voice commands…the buttons are easier. A washing machine? Instant pot? Toothbrush…nah, maybe not. 😉

That Alexa robot story is also still viable…

Librarians versus Macmillan (and others) on e-books

I definitely want to write more on this!

I wrote in July about new e-book policies:

American Library Association expresses concerns about new Big 5 tradpub policies

ALA launches national campaign against e-book embargo
The librarians have been escalating this…here’s some recent articles:

If you want to take action, you can sign an online petition here:

Tell Macmillan Publishers that you demand #eBooksForAll

There are over 35,000 signatures at time of writing.

Banking on…er, with, Amazon 😉

There are some stories out there about Amazon having a full-fledged bank within 5 years. Would I use it? I’d consider it, but leaving a bank is hard…just sort of complicated. I suspect it would be most successful first outside the USA, and then with people getting either an “extra” account or their first accounts (although I’m not sure that younger people who might tend to do that trust Amazon all that much).

What do you think? What do you think Amazon will introduce? An Amazon bicycle? Ooh, an Amazon exercise bike! That could really work, with Prime Video, music, and so on…sorry, I was asking you! 😉 How do you feel about the e-book policies and the libraries? Would you bank with Amazon? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amaz on site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

Happy bookish birthdays (24 September) to…

September 24, 2019

Happy bookish birthdays (24 September) to…

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amaz on site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

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