Archive for the ‘Round-ups’ Category

Round up #186: make your own Flash Briefing, Middle-Earth map

February 17, 2019

Round up #186: make your own Flash Briefing, Middle-Earth map

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

Escape (?) from New York

Do we have to start calling Jeff Bezos “Snake”? 😉 **

While there were apparently a lot of people looking forward to Amazon opening a new HQ in New York, there was also a lot of opposition to it. That split has politically been interesting, in terms of who supported, who opposed, and how close they were to the proposed site.

Amazon has now decided not to proceed with the project.

Does that mean another city for “HQ2”? Not necessarily…they already have a Virginia site as part of the HQ2 plan.

They are also doing work other places (Boston, for one) even though those aren’t HQs.

One interesting speculation I heard: Jeff Bezos’ (Amazon’s Chief Executive Officer) living and property situation may be changing due to a major life event, and perhaps that made New York not as attractive as it would have been before. I don’t buy that one (Amazon corporate decisions are not capriciously made to suit Jeff Bezos’ whims…at least, I find that very unlikely).

There has been a lot of writing on this…while we knew that Amazon was increasingly a part of our lives, I didn’t expect them to be driving the political debate to this extent (and this isn’t the only issue where that’s the case).

Google news search for “Amazon New York”

Update on Amazon Giveaways

Close to two years ago, I was doing quite a few Amazon Giveaways:

Amazon Giveaways: so fun I’m running four (update: 5!) right now 🙂

With a change in my life situation, I wasn’t doing as many…but I did recently do one for my birthday.

As may not be a surprise, it’s changed quite a bit since then.

One of the first things that stood out to me was there were a lot fewer options that you could set as a requirement to participation.

This could be affected by the type of thing for which you are doing the giveaway, but it’s worth noting that this was a giveaway of a physical item:

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

I had the following options:

  • No requirement
  • Follow an author on Amazon
  • Watch a YouTube video
  • Watch an Amazon video

They removed an option to have them take a poll, and two that had to do with Twitter (follow someone on Twitter and tweet something specific).

I also didn’t have as many options for how the item was given away. I could pick a number for a participant, and the lowest was 600. Interestingly, I got to 600 pretty quickly…within hours. Again, that number may be different for different items.

Definitely worth doing giveaways…just not as much flexibility as there used to be.

If you want to start a giveaway, you’ll find a link on many Amazon product pages.

If you want to try to win a giveaway, you can start here:

Amazon Giveaways (at AmazonSmile*)

You can publish Alexa skills…Flash Briefings, anyone?

Poof! You’re a news network! 😉

Amazon recently opened up publishing skills in the Alexa store to everybody who meets the simple requirements.

This is so big and so new that Amazon hasn’t been able to answer a question about it for me yet.

As this is a round-up, let’s just really focus on one skill type which I think could apply to the largest number of my readers.

You start here:

https://blueprints.amazon.com/

You do need to set up a free developer’s account.

I’ve created skills before…in particular, I created a quiz skill for my day job which worked very well. Once we knew what the content was going to be, it only took a few minutes.

One of the blueprints they’ve added is for a Flash Briefing.

Yep…you can create something to which people can listen on their compatible Alexa device every day (or once a week), You can publish it generally, or just for your followers.

You can add text (which Alexa will read) or audio (a recording) content.

I just created one (which I haven’t released) to test it, and found a big limitation for the Flash Briefing: 400 characters…a bit less than a tweet and a half. Hm…it’s possible if I picked a different category it would be longer, but I don’t know yet.

It became available to me right away…certainly under two minutes.

The text took some massaging…no special characters, and one of the things that meant for me was dropping parentheses. I’m testing it with On This Date in Geeky History, but I could also test Bookish Birthdays (although that would probably run longer than 400 characters quite often, since I include a title/series per author).

UPDATE: Adding a comma between the celebrity and the credit made a big difference! So, it looks like this (without the quotation marks): “Andre Norton, Witch World, J.T. Edson, Bunduki,”. That’s pretty easy to update for me…just replacing all “(” and “)” with commas. I may try publishing the Bookish Birthdays….I probably should test it for a few days first to see how much time it takes to do.

Once you’ve created it, you can either make it available to specific people or publish it generally in the Alexa Skills store (or keep it private to just you). Please don’t share this, but here’s the link so you can hear mine if you want:

http://a.co/dFDSeol

I’m not ready to commit to making it generally available, although I think I can adapt my posts on it (which I do anyway) in about five minutes. I’d also like to find more of a separation between the celebrity’s name and a work for which they are known. The parentheses do that visually, but they aren’t an option. I want to experiment with it: see if it will take a period, for example. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take a colon.

There’s another skill that reads blog posts…those could presumably be longer. However, it needs a WordPress plug-in which I think requires a business account…and that costs $25 a month. I’ve used the free version of WordPress for close to a decade, which has worked well….changing to the paid plan is not something I want to do at this point.

I suspect many of you can find a use for this…I’d appreciate knowing your use cases.

Baby Skill Activity API

Speaking of skills, Amazon has just announced a new Baby Skills API (Application Programming Interface) for Alexa. Basically, parents/guardians will be able to track things like feedings and sleep by talking to their devices. It’s an interesting move, and it will help integrate Alexa even more into people’s lives.

PSFK article by Rachel Gonzales

Prime Video’s Lord of the Rings TV series releases a map

Amazon is working on a TV new series based on

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (at AmazonSmile*)

They are being pretty secretive (hey, it’s Amazon) about what it’s going to cover…but they have released a (vague…no place names) interactive map:

https://www.amazon.com/adlp/lotronprime”>https://www.amazon.com/adlp/lotronprime

Well, I could keep going, but that’s enough for today! Oh, wait! I will link to today’s

Kindle Daily Deal (at AmazonSmile*)

which has 53 titles, including ones by bestselling authors Melinda Leigh and Robert Dugoni.

Enjoy!

Do you have any opinions or questions on any of these stories? 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!

* 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! :) 

** In John Carpenter’s movie, Escape from New York, the main character (played by Kurt Russell) growls out “Call me Snake”

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

 

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Round-up #184: new Paperwhite under $100, legal news

February 8, 2019

Round-up #184: new Paperwhite under $100, legal news

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

Woody Allen sues Amazon for $68m

“…80 percent of life is showing up”.
–Woody Allen

What happens, though, if there’s no place for you to go?

Woody Allen is suing Amazon for not releasing the filmmaker’s most recent movie, according to this

Variety article by Gene Maddaus

and other sources.

This is a bit of a tricky one…it looks like Amazon didn’t release it because of allegations against Allen…but this would be a case, to quote the cartoon Super Chicken, where “You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.” 😉

In other words, the allegation was undoubtedly known to Amazon when they entered into the agreement…although one could argue that the climate has changed.

In other legal news…

Okay, I didn’t want to lead with this, and I’m carefully trying to not be political with it.

The lead story in the news tonight has to do with Amazon CEO (Chief Executive Officer) Jeff Bezos who wrote this

post on Medium

Okay, let’s see…basically, it has to do with a publisher threatening to release embarrassing information (including intimate pictures) of Bezos if the Bezos-owned newspaper doesn’t stop investigating the other publication.

If everything is as alleged, it sounds like blackmail.

This is a very important story, and I could write thousands of words about the politics of it, but this isn’t the place.

The key thing is that, if a new crime has been committed, it could invalidate previously established cooperation deals…which could really up-end what’s happening. Ask your friends who are into politics and/or the law.

On the Amazon side…Bezos going public with this is, perhaps, a surprise, since it could compromise the image of the CEO and hypothetically, the company.

I think many people will see the article as a positive and a smart way to go in this situation.

You can comment on this story, but I’m unlikely to reply on anything political.

Amazon financials were great, so the stock…

dropped. 🙂 I kind of get it this time, though. Amazon didn’t make a profit for years…they were investing in the future, basically. Then they started making a profit, which the investors liked. Now, they are suggesting that in the next quarter, they are going to invest a lot, which could affect the profit.

This feels like….being in a relationship with someone with a gambling problem, who manages to give it up, and then says they are just going to get involved in a friendly game again.

The investors may be afraid that they are going to go down that no-profit path again.

Here’s where you can see the specifics:

https://ir.aboutamazon.com/quarterly-results

Here’s a search for news stories on it:

Google news search

New, water-resistant Paperwhite is $30 off for Valentine’s Day

The

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

is my all-time favorite Kindle model so far, and is on sale for under $100 right now ($30 off).

Definitely a good deal!

My recovery

Just a quick note on my recovery from hip replacement surgery. Surprisingly, I’m having to spend more time on it now than I did before. That has to do with wound care (for the incision). I don’t have any pain, and I’m more mobile currently than I was before the surgery. Now it makes sense that I’m out of work for about another month. I couldn’t effectively be at work with this routine.

Do you have thoughts/questions on any of these stories? 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!

* 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 #183: Alexa Guard, saving small businesses

January 22, 2019

Round up #183: Alexa Guard, saving small businesses

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

My recovery

To get this out of the way (don’t worry, I’ll do some newsier stuff after this story):

Walker with I'M BUFO license plate

I had hip replacement surgery on January 17th, and that’s why you’ve been seeing “reprints” (re-posts, actually). This is the first fresh thing I’ve written for the blog since, although I’ve been tweaking the Bookish Birthdays.

Knock virtual wood, it’s been going remarkably well! I don’t feel pain much; that’s nothing of which to be particularly proud, it’s just a thing…like being tall. Since the surgery, I took half a Norco and a Celebrex (I took the latter because I thought it was more for swelling). This is all with consultation with my surgeon, and those are all the pain meds I’ve taken.

I am taking aspirin (81 mg twice a day), but that’s to lessen the chance of blood clots…so I take it for six weeks.

I’m up and around with the walker…that “license plate” was a gift from our adult kid for my wheelchair. I used to have a personalized one like that on a car I owned, so I thought that was very thoughtful!

I’m actually sitting at the kitchen table right now writing. The first day or two, I didn’t get out with the dogs, which was very hard for all of us. Now, I can be out here, but I have to be constantly aware. That’s the weird part, and where my lack of feeling pain is a disadvantage: it is quite possible to dislocate the replacement at this point. There is bone growing, which will take a long time…my leave is set for seven weeks.

I read a lot and watched a lot of videos, so I have a good idea what not to do. It’s some weird things; if you turn 90 degrees, most people leave one foot still pointing forward, so it ends up perpendicular…and then, pop! So, I have to take little steps, like an eighth of a circle at a time. I was referring to that as my “Arte Johnson Shuffle”, for the old man character (Tyrone) Arte played on Laugh-In who took very short strides.

So, a moment’s inattention could put me back in the Operating Room.

Fortunately, I have very good kinesthesia and self-awareness: many years ago, the most money I ever made in the theatre was being a stunt coordinator (often for children’s shows). I also used to go barefoot whenever it was legal…and you have to be aware of your feet in that case. I always remember I was walking barefoot in the rain through San Francisco’s Japantown. As I passed, one older person leaned to the other and said quietly, “Samurai”. 😉

I probably won’t need to wear shoes for some time. I also keep my hair professional for my day job, and I’m letting that grow out…hey, I’ve got to have some fun with this, right? 😉

Amazon has definitely been a big part of my recovery! I already pre-wrote

As a writer who is also on social media, this gadget is my best new tool in years!

about the

iClever folding keyboard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which has been simply amazing! Even though my Significant Other (ironically) doesn’t like tech much at all, we got a second one…my SO doesn’t thumb-type well (neither do I), and although it won’t be used much, it will make a difference. The thing that convinced me? Adding items to the Alexa shopping list. Yes, it could be spoken, but my SO also doesn’t like to talk to tech all that much (but will set timers and play music with Alexa).

Another gadget we bought, which has been really worth it, is this:

Asgens Power Strip,6 Way Outlets With 4 USB Port Charger 110-250V Charging Station Smart Power 2 Layers Socket Tower With 9.8 ft Extendable Cord (at AmazonSmile*)

That seems like a little thing, but my SO doesn’t like cords showing. This thing is vertical: sort of looking like a Coleman Lantern. You can wind up the main cord inside it. You can also turn outlets off on and with a button. Each outlet is plenty large to handle the biggest wall adapter I have, and it has USB ports. When I’m not using it, it sits very nicely on a window sill.

Alexa is helpful; setting timers for my walking laps around the bed (per Physical Therapy, and with the walker), for example. Amusingly, I also “dropped in” on my SO once…from the bedroom to the family room. 🙂 I tried texting, and that didn’t work, so I used the video call from my Alexa app on my phone to our

Echo Show (at AmazonSmile*)

That link is to the 2nd gen, although ours is a first gen. The 1st gen is no longer offered new from Amazon, but you can get used ones for under $100. I also put our

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

in the bedroom, but it was just easier to use the phone (the Spot is on the headboard).

By the way, I’m not saying that our dogs are spoiled, but for the beginning of my recovery, I was confined to a bedroom, and they had the run of the house. 😉

As for entertainment, device-wise, it’s all Amazon. We have a

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile*)

and a

Fire TV Cube (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

in the family room.

Would it have been easier for me if it was the other way around.

Yes.

However, I didn’t want to change the arrangement. That would be harder on my SO, and I didn’t mind having the motivation to get back in the family room. The cube controls our TV; in the bedroom, I have a remote.

We watch Amazon Prime/Hulu/Netflix, and then as an indulgence, I got the

DC Universe app (at AmazonSmile*)

Okay, with the free trial and $7.99 a month (+tax), it’s not much of an indulgence. 😉 They have quite a few older series, which is what I wanted to watch more than the new shows (I like non-dark DC better). I may write a whole review in the The Measured Circle, but I will say that the interface is a bit clunky. It doesn’t always start (meaning I need to force stop it in the Applications part of the Settings on the Fire TV), and it often doesn’t realize I’ve already seen an episode, but the content is worth it to me.

Oh, and of course, I’m reading! I do it on a Paperwhite & a discontinued Kindle Fire HD tablet. I got a few books at the holidays, and I’m enjoying that, plus magazines. I may do something different on that, but this is long enough for now!

Thanks for all the well wishes!

Now, on to other things!

Alexa Guard mode

While this is something which may be wonderful, and we may literally get anecdotes about it saving lives, Amazon has to be very careful with something that you can request now (although that doesn’t mean you automatically get it).

According to this September 20th, 2018

press release

it will do a number of things, including switching lights on and off when you are away so it appears you are home.

I think the standout feature (at least right off) will be its ability to alert you when it hears troubling sounds…breaking glass, smoke alarms, that kind of thing.

While that’s undeniably a good thing (assuming there aren’t too many false positives), it does change a fundamental thing about your Echo device that Amazon has said many times.

It will now be responding to something other than the wake word…and presumably, recording audio.

I don’t know that, but I assume it will record some audio when it hears something “suspicious”, than play it for you remotely. That way, you can assess the actual danger. I can think of many false triggers…you could be watching a show which has breaking glass, and that’s part of some ceremonies which have been in the movies/TV.

I’ve already requested it myself. If you want to do that, go to the settings in your Alexa app. If you are eligible to request it (I think that depends on the kind of hardware you have), you’ll see a listing for “Guard” most of the way down.

Once you’ve done that, you are on the list, and they’ll let you know.

I don’t want to write about someone’s relationship

Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos have been getting a lot of coverage recently in somewhat unusual places, due to their announced change in relationship status.

All I want to address (briefly) is how this might affect Amazon and us as customers.

There seems little doubt that Mackenzie will get credit for her participation in the foundation and at least the early years of Amazon. It is certainly possible that Jeff will lose some power with the company (and Mackenzie could gain it…getting stock, perhaps), but I think that will be handled in a way that doesn’t hurt the company. One choice might be a buy out: cash value instead of the stock. Another might be some sort of non-voting stock. The key thing in terms of continuity is that Jeff’s position as a stockholder is essentially unchanged. That may not be what happens, though.

Here is one article about it:

Yahoo Finance post by P.H. Madore

Who’s going to save small and medium businesses from Amazon? How about Amazon?

Third-party sales growth at Amazon is higher than Amazon’s own sales growth, according to this

press release

There is a lot of data in the press release, all indicating how powerful Amazon has been for small and medium businesses lately. One interesting thing: they said that they thought small and medium businesses selling through Amazon created 900,000 jobs worldwide.

You may have noticed

Amazon Storefronts (at AmazonSmile*)

The feel of the promotion to me is somewhat like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. If they pick your needle out of their haystack, you can really soar. They have curated collections, which are basically departments, but they also let you focus on things like “Artisans” or “Family-focused businesses.”

I’ve talked about Amazon wanting to be the “infrastructure of the internet”, and these are sales made through the internet (even though Amazon pointedly refers to “stores” rather than “sites” throughout the press release), but of physical objects.

This month’s First Reads

Prime members can get two of the following books as Kindle books, prior to their February 1st publication to keep for free:

  • The Killer Collective by Barry Eisler (thriller)
  • The Forgotten Hours by Katrin Schumann (family drama)
  • The Snow Gypsy by Lindsay Jayne Ashford (historical fiction)
  • Blood for Blood by Victoria Selman (mystery)
  • Smoke & Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg (fantasy)
  • Rock Needs River by Vanessa McGrady (memoir)

In the past, people have sometimes wanted to know what I’ve chosen. I’m going with bestseller Barry Eisler (not the only bestseller on this list) and Charlie N. Holmberg (author of The Paper Magician). While Blood for Blood says it’s a mystery, it sounds pretty violent, which isn’t always something we like Sure, Eisler is probably violent, too, but that goes better with “thriller” than with “mystery” for me.

Writers need empathy, but not necessarily sympathy

This came up for me on Twitter recently (I’ve been a lot more active there of late), and I thought I’d share my thoughts on it here.

Someone was asking how they could write about flirting when they never flirt.

My response:

“The same way a pacifist can write a murder scene. 😉 Writers should have a highly developed, generalized sense of empathy, which lets you imagine motivations for different scenarios. ‘Why’ shouldn’t be an issue, but ‘how’ may require research…movies, TV, & books can help here”

What did I mean by that?

My definition of “empathy” is being able to tell how people feel (or how they will feel in a given circumstance). I considered it an essential quality when I was hiring trainers. A successful trainer has a lot of empathy…even just preparing material, they can tell what is going to be difficult for someone to understand. They can figure out for which things they will need to use more real world analogies, for example.

When doing the training, they need to be able to have a sense of the room…are they going too quickly? Are they going to slowly?

Sympathy, on the other hand, is related to feeling the same way as someone else…nowadays, that usually means feeling their pain or suffering by realizing how something is going to affect them.

Those two are very different.

It would be possible for someone with clinically no sympathy to be a successful trainer. They would need to see the value in getting people to understand, but they wouldn’t have to feel bad for someone who wasn’t. On the other hand, someone with no empathy would likely be a terrible trainer…they couldn’t adjust as needed based on the emotional state of the students.

It’s similar for writers.

They need to be able to imagine how someone would feel. Let’s say someone is writing a very violent character when they themselves are non-violent (the “pacifist” in my tweet above). They don’t have to align their feelings with the character…they don’t have feel what they feel. They just have to imagine how that person would feel.

That might be by equating the joy of the violence with, say, the joy the author felt in winning a tennis game…but there need not be a personal analog at all.

I should emphasize: that’s just how I feel about it, the way I use the words. Empathy is intellectual, sympathy is emotional. Here’s what Dictionary.com says:

Empathy vs. Sympathy: Which Word To Use And When

What do you think? Would you use Alexa Guard? What would you want it to do if it hears a sound…remember that it has directional hearing? Maybe it could just take a picture of that area (if pointed that way)…maybe it could lock the doors, turn on your Ring camera to record anybody near the front of the house, or yell, “Intruder alert!” What’s your scenario for Amazon’s first big bad PR out if it? Do you have any concerns about Mackenzie and Jeff’s change? Do writers need to feel sympathy, or just empathy…and is that how you use the terms? Is it possible to have one without the other? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think 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!

* 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 #182: Digital Day, Alexa reads your e-mail (to you)

December 25, 2018

Round up #182: Digital Day, Alexa reads your e-mail (to you)

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

Alexa reads your e-mail (to you)

…and it’s a good thing. 😉 People obviously have privacy concerns about smart devices, and that’s reasonable. After all, there was a widely-reported case recently (in Germany) where Amazon (not Alexa) sent a link to a customer which allowed that person to download over 1,500 recordings…made of another customer.

Washington Post story via Chicago Tribune by Hamza Shaban

While someone sent that to me as a sort of “Ah, ha, told you so!” story, I actually found it quite reassuring. I suspect we hear about major breaches, and this one appears to have been human error…which Amazon has said it has taken steps to limit in the future. I suppose it’s reasonable to be concerned that Amazon had over 1,500 recordings, but Alexa didn’t send it to someone else…a person did. If there was a systemic problem, I think we’d know.

You can also delete your recordings if you want: one way to do that is by going to Settings – Alexa Account – Alexa Privacy in your Alexa app.

I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t be surprised if Alexa was clandestinely reading your e-mail (Google reads your Gmail, but tells you it does…Dragon Naturally Speaking asked me if it could, to be better informed on things like quirky names), but that’s not at all what this new feature does.

You connect your e-mail to Alexa through that Alexa app: Settings-Email & Calendar. It gives you a choice of Google and/or Microsoft (you can have multiple accounts) for e-mail (you can also have Apple or Microsoft for calendars). I’m using it with my Outlook from work.

It will read you your unread e-mail which you have received in the past 24 hours. You can then: read; reply; delete; archive; or next. I’ve used it, and it works really well! At this point, you can’t initiate an e-mail (only respond), but I find it quite useful…and cool. 😉

Echo and Alexa devices (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) (might not work on all devices)

Kindle Unlimited: up to 40% off (including existing members)

I always keep an eye open for a sale on

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

We’ve been happy members since it started…it’s well worth the usual price of about $10 a month (when you buy a two-year membership), what with over a million e-book titles, plus magazines and audiobooks, but at 40% off? That’s about $6 a month! You can buy it as a gift, or extend your own membership…and the latter isn’t always available.

The offers are here:

Kindle Unlimited offers (at AmazonSmile*)

This deal is good through January 1st, 2019 (have you started practicing typing “2019” yet?). 😉 Hm…I also just saw the date of January 11th, but through January 1st for sure.

Your pictures as the screensaver on Fire TVs

Amazon has also added a nice, easy-to-use new feature for the

Fire TV family (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Your device will ask you, but you can set to use your own pictures as your “screensaver”. They made this simple: your Prime Photos app has a Groups choice at the bottom. Each of your Fire TVs that you authorize gets its own group. You just add photos into that, and that’s it. There’s a plus in your bottom right when you are in the group, or in when you are in “Yours”, you can choose Select from your top right corner, tap on the ones you want, then go back to your top right to “Add to Group”. You can add to more than one group at the same time (we use two Fire TVs).

Friday is “Digital Day”

This Friday, December 28 2018, is Amazon’s

Digital Day (at AmazonSmile*)

The sales will start on the 26th, but this

press release

says the biggest deals are on the 28th. These are deals on digital content: e-books, e-magazines, apps, utility software, and so on.

In years past, some of the deals haven’t interested me much, but there have been some good things as well…and you might have gotten Amazon gift cards to spend. 🙂

Comments or questions? 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!

* 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 #181: Amazon “Wish Book”, Echo’s evidence

November 12, 2018

Round up #181: Amazon “Wish Book”, Echo’s evidence

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

“YOU get free shipping…and you get free shipping…and YOU get free shipping…everybody gets free shipping!”

Yep…Amazon’s making like Oprah with the cars, and giving everyone, not just

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

members, free shipping through the holiday season (well, at least as late as you can have holiday gifts shipped for December 25th).

press release

This is on literally hundreds of millions of items.

Don’t worry, Prime members: you’ll get free 1-day shipping on something like three million items.

Is this strictly a competitive move? Well, it is that…it will get some people to buy online who usually buy in brick-and-mortars.

It may also get some people used to the convenience, and then they may decide to become Prime members.

Before we became Prime members, I went through and calculated how much we had spent on Amazon shipping in the previous year. That wasn’t a good indicator of our future satisfaction, though. It turned out that we bought different things when there was free two-day shipping. With two days, we suddenly tended to buy more things from Amazon which we otherwise were buying in brick-and-mortar stores.

There are also all those other Prime benefits, from video to music to photo storage to access to books and more.

Amazon’s “The Best Books of 2018”

I find this interesting every year!

Amazon sent me a press release (not something they do often, I’m afraid) to announce their

The Best Books of 2018 (at AmazonSmile*)

They break it down:

Featured in Best Books of 2018

Best of the Year by Category

By the way, this was amusing: “1-16 of 182 results for Top 100 on Kindle”…that’s like when people say they are committed to something “110%”. 😉 It actually turned out that there were only about 100 results (99, to be exact). 

One interesting thing for me: looking through the top 100 Kindle books, I’ve read…zero of them. A change in lifestyle has meant being more careful with money, so I’ve been reading more older books and books covered by our

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

membership.

I usually do get e-books at gifts, and I did last year…but although I haven’t analyzed it, I’m guessing that the books on the list usually aren’t released in the beginning of the year.

Their number one book?

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

I do want to commend them on their selections! I looked through the science fiction section (it was only logical to do, after all), and it really wasn’t the “usual suspects”. I think the editors make a real effort to create opportunities for discovery…they’ve succeeded. 🙂

Amazon’s 3rd Quarter financials

We were back to what seems like normal to me…Amazon announces absolutely amazing growth for a company this age and this size, and the investors feel disappointed and the stock goes down. 🙂

Operating cash flow was up 57%. Net sales were up 29%. Net income per diluted share was more than ten times what it had been in the same quarter in 2017.

What more do you want, right? 😉

Finance.Yahoo.com chart

It hasn’t recovered yet…but I’m confident it will before the end of January.

Browse the listings of accomplishments in the press release, and I think most people wouldn’t have been surprised 25 years ago if that represented ten companies!

Amazon HQ2 announcement seems close

There are lots of rumors swirling about Amazon’s second headquarters selection…including that they may split it between two cities. It wouldn’t surprise me if we got the announcement this week. People are analyzing everything, including where Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos eats. My intuition is the Northeast, but it will be interesting to get the official word.

Remember the Sears Wish Book?

I remember it being a big deal when we got the Sears Wish Book (basically, a holiday toy catalog). We would go through it, folding pages down, and putting our initials next to things we wanted. That didn’t mean we would get any of them…it was fun, like a game!

This year, Amazon is sending out a physical catalog (in addition to a gazillion TV commercials).

If you don’t want to wait for it (and I doubt everyone will get one), you can get it for free for your Kindle:

A Holiday of Play

A Jury of Your Gadgets?

There were a lot of ways to go with that headline, for sure! 12 Angry Echoes? Alexa for the Defence? Even “I, Echo”?

A judge in Vermont has ordered Amazon to turn over possible Echo recordings from a home involved in a double homicide, according to this

ABC News story by Mark Osborne

and many other sources.

It’s interesting…for one thing, they don’t even know that there are relevant recordings. There shouldn’t be recordings until the wake word is heard, but I suppose that could happen. The article also mentions phone pairing data…that could be helpful in establishing who was there, but it doesn’t just happen if you are passing through. If the perpetrators were known to the people in the home, maybe even if the event happened after a social gathering which involved them, then there could be interesting information.

Have any thoughts on these stories? 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!

* 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 #180: Alexa’s birthday sale, local B&N change

November 4, 2018

Round up #180: Alexa’s birthday sale, local B&N change

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

A Barnes & Noble near us is going to…

open!

Weren’t expecting that, were you? 😉

I first heard about this on

Nextdoor.com

which we find to be a very mixed bag for us. Sometimes, it seems essential: I think it’s particularly effective for lost pets. It’s a localized social network, where you are hypothetically only speaking to your neighbors (which can be pretty broadly defined). Someone may post that they’ve seen (or found…or lost) a dog or cat, and it seems like the situation is often resolved in mere minutes.

On the other hand, we sometimes see things there which…don’t reflect our concerns. That might be something seen as suspicious activity which we don’t view as that. Local police departments may also post on Nextdoor (around the country), and that can be helpful.

Anyway, someone posted a story about Barnes & Noble opening a new store in our area, and there were positive reactions to it.

It’s going into a fairly new, destination shopping center, The Veranda:

Barnes & Noble at The Veranda

As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager (and I did other retail), I get the positioning of this center. It’s intended to feel upscale, to be a somewhat luxury experience. You have to do something to compete with the convenience and often better prices shopping online. I have said before in this blog that you need people to be willing to spend more money at your store because they want to help you.

Some people also want to spend more money so they can show that they can do it, of course. 😉

This shopping center has a fancy movie theatre: it has a full bar and food service to your theatre seat.

My Significant Other and I (we like to go to the movies) went there once; we aren’t likely to go again.

First, those two advantage don’t help us much: we are teetotaling healthy-eating vegetarians. However, that wasn’t the issue. You can book your seats ahead of time, but when we got there, I couldn’t really use that seat due to a disability. That can happen…it could have been marked more clearly online, but I anticipated that the theatre would have ramps rather than stairs, which many places I visit do.

It was that they didn’t seem to be concerned about it, particularly…they weren’t dismissive, it was more like they didn’t know what they were supposed to do. It was an easy problem to fix (there were lots of empty seats), but they seemed confused by anything out of the ordinary.

For the Barnes & Noble to succeed, they are going to need to focus on customer experience. People will need to want to go there, be willing to spend more money than they would online (and less conveniently), and be satisfied when they leave.

That could happen, and I certainly wish them luck…

Happy birthday, Alexa! 

Amazon’s talktec Alexa recently turned four (!) years old, and they are celebrating with a sale.

I didn’t exclamation point that sale, because we are heading into a season with a lot of sales, and I wouldn’t say this one is really standing out to me. It’s always nice to save money, of course, but I suspect there may the same and bigger opportunities now that we are into Black Friday month.

Here’s the

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

You can buy the 2nd gen

Echo Dot (at AmazonSmile*)

for $10 off ($29.99). A better deal? You can get four of them for $99.96…making the only about $25 apiece. Do you need four of them? Well, don’t forget…these can make good gifts. 🙂

Some other discounts:

  • Fire TV Stick 4K & Echo Dot for $79.98
  • 2 Fire TV Stick 4Ks for $10 off with code TWOPACK
  • 2nd gen Echo for $79.99 ($20 off)
  • Echo Spot (my favorite) for $99.99 ($30 off)
  • Fire HD 8 and Show Mode Charging Dock $109.98 ($20 off)

These prices reportedly go through November 6th.

Alexa Election Skills

There are several skills in the Alexa store that tie into the election. Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk politics! I do vote in every election, and talk politics thoroughly with very view people. However, publicly, I make a real effort not to bring it into it…I think that would interfere with some people enjoyment of this blog and the information they get out of it.

Alexa, though, is becoming more and more part of our lives and society. I tried a skill suggested to me (LiveBallot): it wanted to know for which candidates I was going to vote! I had activated that one, but I won’t use it. I appreciated that it had recorded statements from some candidates, but what I really want is results…and not just from candidates, but on propositions.

Here’s a search for

Election skills in the USA Alexa Appstore (at AmazonSmile*)

Hopefully, you’ll find something that helps you there, whatever you decide to do (or not to do).

Amazon Black Friday deals per ZDNet

Thanks to a reader who alerted me to this

ZDNet article by Elyse Betters-Picaro

which purports to be based on information given to them by Amazon about the latter’s Black Friday deals.

Intuitively, this feels pretty solid, but Amazon hasn’t announced them.

While they list sales before Thursday, November 22nd, the ones they list that day certainly are attractive!

I don’t want to take too much away from their scoop…I’ll point out the new Paperwhite for $40 off ($79.99) and the Echo Spot for $89.99 (also $40 off). Oh, and when you buy an Echo device, they say you can get an Amazon Smart Plug for $5.

I’ll be keeping my eye on prices as they get officially announced!

Thanks, reader!

Any thoughts on any of these stories? Would you feel okay telling Alexa for whom you were voting? Do you ever not tell Alexa things you think are too private? Will a new Barnes & Noble be able to make it in today’s environment? Are you planning to give Alexa devices for the holidays? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think 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!

* 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 #179: the uncanny Alexa, Todd Bol

October 22, 2018

Round up #179: the uncanny Alexa, Todd Bol

Todd H. Bol, founder of Little Free Library, has reportedly died

I wrote about the Little Free Library program close to five years ago:

Round up #235: Little Free Library, “Buy It Now” public library button

I lauded it then, and still think it’s a great thing. We have one in our neighborhood. They are small glass (?) fronted bookshelves…sort of looking like a large dollhouse. People leave paperbooks (p-books) in there, and can also borrow them (well, I suppose many don’t bring them back)…no charge. It’s just a way to share the love of literature.

Little Free Library

The site reported the October 18th death of the founder, Todd H. Boll, in this

blog post

To me, Boll made a really significant difference in the world…there are reportedly more than 75,000 LFLs out there now around the world. They have a number of ways to share your support.

Thank you, Todd Boll.

Alexa’s new Whisper Mode is a weirdly realistic voice

I do love Alexa’s new Whisper Mode!

Tell Alexa to enable Whisper Mode. The first time you whisper to it after that, it will confirm that you’ve whispered and let you know (in full voice) that it will whisper back in the future.

That’s great, and something I had suggested.

I often interact with our

Fire TV Cube (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and

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

while my Significant Other is asleep…having the former control the TV, having the latter tell me the weather and such (the first one’s wake word is “Alexa”, the Show’s is “Echo”). Whisper Mode is perfect for that.

However…

One thing that surprised me is that Alexa sounds much more realistic to me when whispering. So realistic, in fact, that it creeps me out a bit…my Significant Other had the same reaction.

It’s because of something called “the Uncanny Valley”.

I just recently made that the question for my

#1TweetExpert

series…I answered it, and so did one of my author siblings. 🙂 You are, of course, welcome to answer them as well…sometimes, other people do.

Here’s the basic idea:

When something appears fully human, we are comfortable with it. When something appears to wholly non-human (like a cartoon character), we are also comfortable.

When something is close to human, but isn’t (such as an android which never blinks), it bothers us. The Uncanny Valley isn’t a place…it’s a dip in a comfort horizontal line graph. It’s closer to the fully human side than the wholly non-human side.

That may be, unfortunately, an evolutionary thing. Some people have a visceral reaction when they see someone who has a physical (or even behavioral) difference which could be perceived as a future challenge for the species if it was inherited. I think most people don’t at least consciously have that feeling any more.

It used to happen with our dogs…we had three dogs, and one of them would sometimes have seizures from a pancreas condition. The dogs normally got along fine, but during a seizure, the other two dogs would go for the throat. It certainly created a problem.

Well, we don’t have any reaction like that to Alexa whispering! It’s more a “hair on the back of the neck” thing.

Why is it more realistic?

I’m not quite sure…I think there may be fewer variations in whispering. The “uncanny” part may be just because it is coming from a box, rather than a human.

It’s an ongoing issue with artificial intelligence, and especially with XR (augmented/virtual reality).

The alternative Nobel Prize in literature

Who was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature this year?

No one.

The Nobel was in disarray when the Significant Other of one of the Academy members was sentenced for sexual assault, so they decided not to award one (although it’s possible they’ll award one next year which at least includes titles from this year).

In its stead, a “New Academy” (formed earlier this year) awarded a prize…it went to

Maryse Condé (Segu) (at AmazonSmile*)

Congratulations to Maryse Condé!

Speaking of prizes, Anna Burns won the prestigious Man Booker award for fiction for

Milkman (at AmazonSmile*)

Congratulations to Anna Burns!

Do you want to pass along your congratulations? Have you ever seen a Little Free Library? Have you use one? If you are using Alexa Whisper Mode, does it fall into that uncanny valley for you? 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!

* 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.

Round up #178: pre-mortem book thinning, minimum wage

October 3, 2018

Round up #178: pre-mortem book thinning, minimum wage

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

Amazon raises the minimum wage for all U.S. employees to $15 an hour

I do get challenged by some intelligent, caring people about Amazon’s treatment of their employees. I’ve watched hours of video on the issue.

I was very pleased to see yesterday that Amazon is raising its minimum wage for all employees (including part-time, seasonal, and temporary) employees to $15 an hour.

press release

It’s a remarkable move…of course, met by quite a bit of “yeah, but” on the internet. 🙂 I’m a trainer by profession (well, I do performance improvement, too), and I can tell you…yeahbutting people is not a great way to encourage replication of effort. 😉

This may certainly have been prompted by the actions of a Senator (including introducing Stop BEZOS legislation) who did positively reinforce the move. I’m not naming the Senator, because I do try to avoid politics here. I flip articles into the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard which identify that person…and as I flip articles on new books, there are definitely ones which take particular political views (and it seems to me like the coverage of the books recently has been more of a piece than might have been the case three years ago). I will mention legislation and regulation here if it directly affects topics of interest to the readers of this blog (copyright, for example).

I congratulate Amazon on this move, done in time to give something like 250,000 people a raise before the holidays (and will affect another 100,000 seasonal employees).

By the way, UK Amazon workers are also getting a new minimum of £9.50:

The Guardian article by Richard Partington

Amazon is also asking for the Federal government to consider raising the minimum wage…which would lessen the relative cost for them, but would also reduce the competitive advantage for them.

I no longer have something like 10,000 paperbooks in my home

I’m preparing to die in January.

To be clear, I’m not expecting to die…I am having major surgery, but the fatality rate is under 1% (still, likely more than half a percent). I’m probably in relatively good condition for it, reducing my risk.

However, I am using this as a specific impetus to get things in order (something I should have done years ago). I’m checking my will and beneficiaries, that sort of thing.

I’m also considering what our now adult kid would deal with it if my Significant Other and I both passed on. One challenge would undoubtedly be the paperbooks. While our kid prefers p-books to e-books (but reads both), inheriting thousands of p-books would be a burden.

So, I’m getting rid of a lot of them…acting as if I have died, in some ways.

Again, I don’t have any anxiety about the surgery, and I’m looking forward to it! I’m hoping it improves a chronic condition I have considerably. I work in the medical industry: it’s always a bit odd when it feels like I know someone who treats me personally…I’ve trained my surgeon.

I have to be realistic, though: I don’t read my p-books almost ever. I’ve been collecting and saving things sometimes for the benefit of society. I always pictured most of my books being donated to non-profits after I died, so I’m doing that now.

I’m going to send lots of books (and magazines) to the

International Cryptozoology Museum

That’s run by Loren Coleman (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*).

We’ve had some correspondence over the years, and finally met in person not too long ago.

I trust Loren: this is a person who has seems nice, intelligent, and genuinely caring about what many people consider ephemera.

That’s not a tough decision.

Much harder for me has been getting rid of my “stripped” books…in most cases, by recycling them (meaning they are being destroyed).

I’ve tried to give them away, even advertising that I had them. I can’t sell them, or donate them to a non-profit…that was a condition of my getting them when I worked in a bookstore.

Many of you know, but I should explain. When a bookstore gets books from a publisher to sell, they generally are guaranteed that they will sell them. If they don’t, they can return them for credit for future purchases.

It would cost too much money to mail back mass market paperbacks (especially back then, when they might have a list price under a dollar). So, stores were allowed to rip the covers off to show they didn’t sell them, and mail those back. My manager (I later became a manager), let us take them home…with that understanding, that they wouldn’t be sold or donated to a non-profit. If there was a non-profit that you wanted to get books, you could contact the publisher…and they would get the write-off.

Most stores did destroy the books at the time.

I couldn’t even rip the covers off…but I think I’ve evolved in realizing that the book is not the container. E-books have likely had something to do with that. I’m not destroying what the author wrote, just the container.

I did give away some of the strips…it felt great to make some recommendations to someone who asked me.

The one negative in donating the non-stripped books all this year is that it doesn’t spread the write-off over years, but it’s worth it.

I should also be clear: I’m not getting rid of all my p-books! I’m thinking I’ll still have something under 500, including my hardback Oz books. If our kid wants to sell those, it will be easy, and they’ll have some real value. I may keep my Doc Savage paperbacks (again, easy to sell and with value), and maybe some other ones with sentimental value.

How will this blog (and my other writing) be affected? There will be some significant recovery time from the surgery (it’s a hip replacement), but I’m hoping to be able to write pretty quickly…I’ll write ahead some as well. In fact, I’m picturing being able to write more, since I won’t be able to return to work right away. If I did die, our kid will have access, but I don’t know that the blog would continue in any form. Would I write a post to be published post-mortem? I’m thinking about it…

Jeff Bezos Day One Fund

Speaking of donations, Jeff Bezos (not Amazon) recently announced a $2 billion fund that will focus on “…funding existing non-profits that help homeless families, and creating a network of new, non-profit, tier-one preschools in low-income communities.”

Business Insider article by Zoë Bernard

Again, there was a lot of yeahbutting, but my hats off to Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos…oh, wait, I’m looking to donate some of my hats, too. 😉

Some quick notes

  • While I’ve read it before, I’m going back through Dracula…and I’m really impressed! There is so much to it, so many perspectives, several “acts” in different settings…not all classic books hold up like this
  • I’ve gotten to be a lot more active on Twitter, and there is a really robust writer community there! Not everything resonates with me, but some people can write both novels and tweets 😉
  • Amazon just announced a 4K Fire TV Stick with an Alexa remote (at AmazonSmile*). It’s $49.99, preorderable for October 31st, and can voice control compatible equipment, similar to the Fire TV Cube. Interesting development…and you can buy the remote separately
  • The Amazon owned Audible has introduced significant original content…I may check that out
  • Amazon opened a “4-Star” brick-and-mortar…items are rated 4 stars are above (5 is the highest) on the site. It sounds funky and fun…Leticia Mirand’s Buzzfeed field report

Probably enough for now! If you have thoughts and/or questions, 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!

* 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

Round up #177: Project Vesta, Amazon financials

July 29, 2018

Round up #177: Project Vesta, Amazon financials

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

Amazon Financials for Q2 2018: more sales, more efficiently

This time, the investors liked the financials…understandably.

Net sales increased 39% (as I’ve pointed out before, that’s what you might see in a startup, not a mature company).

Net income? $2.5 billion in 2018 versus $197m in Q2 2017…yow!

That’s a lot better efficiency.

AWS did well, but sales also did well, and advertising is a big part of what’s happening now.

The Q&A is often the most interesting part of the call…you can read it here:

Seeking Alpha call transcript

In the Q&A, the transcriptions show “Alexa” showing up 17 times…and “Kindle” once, and the latterhat =was for

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

🙂

It’s a different story in the

Amazon’s press release

  • Alexa: 31 count
  • Kindle: 4 count
  • Fire TV: 5 count

I can (finally) watch Prime Video in VR

I know this probably doesn’t affect a lot of you, but it’s been frustrating for me!

Typically, at lunch at work, I do “floor work”…exercises on a yoga mat. I have a chronic condition, and that helps it. While I do it, I watch video…reading would be an option, but I can’t hold an e-book reader during most of the exercises (I do sometimes do it during part of it). Typically, I watch Netflix or Hulu: they both VR apps.

I would have been watching Amazon Prime Video…but no app and no way to watch. I watch it at home some; I’ve been rewatching the 1970s series, Kung Fu (which holds up surprisingly well). There was an interesting case of synchronicity recently: I was watching an episode where Caine is trapped with others underground. Caine gets them to basically meditate to reduce their use of oxygen, while a desperate rescue effort is happening. That is similar to what happened with the soccer team in Thailand…and I was watching the episode (I watch them in order) on the same day! But I digress… 😉

There still isn’t a Prime Video VR experience…but the Oculus browser was upgraded enough that it worked! That, by the way, gives me a “hit” on my predictions for the year. I said:

“I just can’t believe that there won’t be a way to watch Prime Video in VAM space before the end of 2018! That’s the prediction.It might be through an experience (which is what apps for VAM are called), or it might be through some sort of VAM browser system that lets us watch it like we would on a computer.
The Year Ahead 2018 (underling added for emphasis)

It’s not as good an experience as Hulu/Netflix which have custom designed experiences optimized for VR. The Prime Video experience…is more like watching on a TV versus watching in a movie theatre. Bottom line…it works. 🙂

“99 F-words appear in the book, 99 F-words appear!”

So, I read the sequel to

The Naturalist (Theo Cray #1) by Andrew Mayne (at AmazonSmile*)

It’s

Looking Glass by Andrew Mayne (at AmazonSmile*)

I enjoyed it…not as much as the first one, but I did enjoy it.

The number of times that the “F-word” appeared in the book stood out to me…I don’t mind that. I don’t use profanity in my personal life: I can quote it, but I don’t use is spontaneously.

In this case, it’s not used unreasonably…events in the first book changed the main character somewhat, which makes sense. I was curious as to how many there were, so I ran a search (not something you can do in a paperbook…and I don’t think they’d put it in most indexes).

It showed that there were 99 results…my guess is that’s as high as the counter would go, and it’s actually off the scale. 😉

It’s not bothering other readers, apparently: it has an average of 4.7 stars out of 5 with 497 reviews.

It was worth a borrow from

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

certainly.

Amazon’s next big thing…

What’s going to be Amazon’s biggest headline generator later this year?

I’d say the strongest rumor is a home robot…I find a lot of references to “Project Vesta”. Here’s a summary:

Bloomberg article by Mark Gurman and Brad Stone

My guess is that this “big thing” will be pretty small. 🙂 I would speculate that it won’t be like Rosie on The Jetsons: human-sized, and able to push a vacuum. I’m thinking they aren’t going to be able to grab something and manipulate much. I picture it more as a little Echo on wheels, which can follow you from room to room. It will talk to you using Alexa, and control home devices. It could have a little screen…that’s a great way for it so have a face with expressions, and to be able to show you useful information.

I would expect some spatial awareness…perhaps even being able to point to a lamp and say, “That one?”

I’m going to intuit a cost of at least $500…$1500 wouldn’t surprise me.

Timeline? I think we hear about it this year, maybe it will be in employees’ homes and some beta testers, but not released to the public until 2019.

Quick Notes

  • Rumor has it that Amazon is working on “shared gift lists”, where more than one person can put items on and off the list. That could be really useful: for someone’s birthday, for example, if you bought a gift, you could remove it from the list so other people didn’t also want to buy it…like a wedding registry
  • Alexa is getting equalizer controls, so you can change the sound profile (you can be “all about that bass, no treble” to quote Meghan Trainor). That can make a difference: I find that in some older recordings, you have to up the treble to be able to understand them properly
  • Alexa Cast lets you continue doing something you were doing in Music Unlimited (such as listening to a playlist) on an Echo. It’s pretty limited right now, but it’s a start
  • We still have a lot of problems with our Echoes not knowing which one we want to do something…and since they do different things, that matters. For example, in our family room, we have an Echo Show and a Fire TV Cube near each other. The Fire TV Cube (which we like) controls things on the TV that the Echo Show can’t. Quite often, the Echo Show tries to do something it can’t do, when we are speaking to the Fire TV Cube. Amazon supposedly is making this “Echo Spatial Perception” (ESP) better by moving it to the cloud…we’ll see 🙂
  • I sometimes chat with Alexa (“Alexa, let’s chat”) which is how you can test out chatbots which are in a competition to improve Alexa’s conversational skills. For the first time recently, I had one which actually offended me. It made an ethnic joke, for one thing…I let them know in the feedback
  • In case you were wondering, there are just over 300 posts in my Birthdays category…I’ll be quite happy when I’ve done the Bookish Birthdays for every day of the year! That doesn’t mean no more work on it, since new authors become famous enough to include, but it will mean a lot less work
  • I’m getting a lot more interaction on Twitter lately! Quite a few authors are following me, for one thing. For another, I’m having fun doing something I created: #1TweetExpert. I give a term (it’s been one a day), and ask if you could educate people on it in one tweet. They can cover all sorts of things, which includes books. Some of them feel random even to me, but I may also want to provide context for term I’m hearing used, perhaps on the news. If you’d like to answer one or more, I’d love that! If you want to suggest a term for me to do, feel free. Here’s a Twitter search for it: https://twitter.com/search?q=%231tweetexpert&src=typd
  • I was surprised in Amazon’s financials press release to see this: “… the ability for developers to turn text into lifelike speech using Amazon Polly, for free”
  • Another one of the named Amazon services (how many are there now?): “…Amazon Sumerian, a new managed service that allows developers to create and publish augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and 3D applications quickly and easily without requiring any specialized programming or 3D graphics expertise”

That’s a lot of topics! If you have questions or comments, 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!

* 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

 

Round up #176: buy a delivery business from Amazon, Prime Day 2018

July 4, 2018

Round up #176: buy a delivery business from Amazon, Prime Day 2018

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

Hold on to your money: Prime Day starts July 16

Amazon has made the official announcement that this year’s
Prime Day (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

will start at noon Pacific Time (3:00 PM Eastern) on July 16th and run through midnight Pacific July 17th…36 hours. That’s why they keep saying it is “Prime Day (and a half)”. 36 hours is 1.5 days.

However, as pointed out in this

press release

sales have actually started today!

For example, the

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

is $100 off (making it $129.99 instead of $229.99) through Prime Day…with an important caveat.

You need to be an

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

member (but you can get a free trial membership).

We’ve gotten great deals in the past (especially on Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)), but this year does really look it will be significantly bigger and better. A few highlights:

  • This year’s sweepstakes (at AmazonSmile*) (which started July 3rd) is amazing, with prizes including $50,000, an Alexa-equipped Lexus, and a SmartHome makeover. There are lots of ways to enter, detailed here (at AmazonSmile*). One way is to visit the Prime Day page when logged into your account and stay there for a minute…I’m not sure how many people realize that they are timing you like that…
  • Giant (really giant) Smile boxes are visiting a few cities, and you can watch online (at AmazonSmile*). My guess? At least one of these will open up to reveal a concert by a top music act which is featured on Prime Music.
  • Free PC games from Twitch…every day through Prime Day
  • Try Kindle Unlimited for three months for $0.99
  • Buy your first Kindle book (there are people who haven’t bought Kindle books? 😉 ) and get a $10 credit for e-books, p-books (paperbooks) and Audible audiobooks on Prime Day

I have an Amazon gift card to spend…but I’m going to wait until Prime Day. 🙂

Did a judge just really expand Fair Use?

I’m not an intellectual property lawyer, but I do follow copyright pretty closely. My natural tendency is to reserve rights for the creator, rather than giving the work to society.

About eight years ago, I explored the idea of making copyright permanent in exchange for much broader Fair Use rights:

Should copyright be permanent?

However, I’m cautious about expanding Fair Use without something in exchange.

Judge Claude Hilton of the Eastern District of Virginia in a recent

ruling

decided that a site which used part of a photograph that it had found on the internet did not infringe upon the photographer’s rights.

Fair Use has a number of factors which makes a ruling a bit complicated in terms of setting precedent, but this one does concern me. I need to look at it more closely…

Wanna buy a business?

There are a lot of ways to make money with Amazon…you can get royalties as an author, you can be a third party seller, you do tasks through Amazon Mechanical Turk, you can be an Amazon Flex driver…and now, if you invest $10,000, Amazon will help set you up with a delivery business!

Amazon says you could make up to $300,000…but of course, you could also lose money.

Even with help, running a business isn’t easy. The old saying goes that when you own a business, the business owns you. Even just as a manager (not owner) of a bookstore, I worked…a lot.

I absolutely think this is a good opportunity for the right people! However, unless Amazon does screen very carefully (and they certainly might), a much bigger number of people will fail than succeed…just like in most businesses.

Little House in the Phantom Zone

There have been a lot of stories and opinions published

news search

about the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), which is part of the American Library Association, renaming the Laura Ingall Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.

They explain the decision in this

statement

For me, the key statement is this:


“Wilder’s books are a product of her life experiences and perspective as a settler in America’s 1800s. Her works reflect dated cultural attitudes toward Indigenous people and people of color that contradict modern acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities.”


This ties directly into an issue I examined in another article from 2010:

The Chronological Cultural Context Conundrum

I think they probably are doing a safe thing, renaming the award so that it doesn’t tie into a specific person. I would challenge you to name any fiction author who was widely popular at least fifty years ago who didn’t write anything that could be seen as offensive today…

Some Fire Tablets can work like Echo Show devices

The

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

is one of my favorite non-reading Amazon devices…it’s an Echo, but with a screen. Yes, it can show me some commercial videos (movie trailers and such), but I really like how it shows information…and how I can make “videocalls”.

I also like the Echo Spot: I keep one at work.

My Echo Spot is here: it’s cute!

Now, some of the newer Fire Tablets are going to have “Show Mode”, which lets them work like an Echo Show. That includes the videocalls.

Those functions certainly would drain the battery, so Amazon has also introduced the

Show Mode Charging Dock (at AmazonSmile*)

You don’t need that, but it’s going to make things better.

A few really short notes:

I’ve had the Fire TV Cube for about a week:

Fire TV Cube: 1st impressions and menu map

I really like it! It’s not perfect, but it is a whole new class of device. You might think you have enough Echo/Alexa devices, but you might consider swapping out one of your old devices for this one. Look for a bargain (although it may be a bundle) on Prime Day.

My Significant Other and I have both really liked

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni (at AmazonSmile*)

It’s not common that we both like the same book this much.

I’d say the last time that happened was with

Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim (at AmazonSmile*)

Both books are available through Kindle Unlimited…

Not lost in translation…

I haven’t always been pleased with the translations from Amazon’s AmazonCrossing imprint. They’ve often seemed…stilted.

That’s not the case with

A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa, translated by Risa Koboyashi and Martin Brown (at AmazonSmile*)

I have read many translated books in my time, and assuming that this accurately reflects what the author intended (and my intuition is that it does), it reads as very natural English. Not just in the words, but in the use of idiom…”as the crow flies”, for example. I doubt that the Japanese equivalent term has anything to do with crows. 😉

That one is also available through Kindle Unlimited at time of writing.

Have an opinion on any of these stories? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post. My “day job” activities have started to slow down a bit after being super busy…that will help my responsiveness. Oh, and some of you know about our dogs: Elf got bitten by another dog at the dog park recently. Elf will be okay, but it may be a couple of weeks of recovery (and it’s a difficult time for us…by the way, Elf was literally just sitting there and it was unprovoked). That means no trips to the dog park…which gives me back literally a few hours on both Saturday and Sunday. Definitely not worth it, but it is a reality…


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!

* 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.


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