Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

Fire TV Cube: 1st impressions and menu map

June 25, 2018

Fire TV Cube: 1st impressions and menu map

I’ve been using the

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

for about a day now.

It’s Amazon’s new streaming device/home assistant…for most people, the shorthand is that it combines an Echo and a Fire TV.

However, I have multiple Echo devices and two Fire TVs in this room (I was only currently using one), and it does things that none of them do (but also doesn’t do some things that the Echo does do).

Let’s hit the high level first.

It is a quantum leap forward in TV control. It doesn’t completely eliminate our remotes (we have a fancy Logitech Harmony Home Control – 8 Devices (White) (at AmazonSmile*)), for one thing), but for most simple operations, it is a new, simpler way to do things.

However, it’s certainly imperfect, and I expect to see big improvements in the future. Nowadays, that doesn’t necessarily mean waiting for a second generation of hardware…a lot of it could be done with software updates.

If you get one, you are an early adopter…but it’s a more mature technology than, say, the first Kindle.

My first actual impression on opening the box was that it was a lot smaller than I expected. Maybe the size of two Echo Dots stacked on top of each other, or your two fists side-by-side.

Second, set up was easy. One of the biggest things it does is use infrared to control your devices, and your remote probably does. I didn’t have to tell it what brand and model my TV was (as I do with my Harmony)…it just detected it. I did need to know my wi-fi password, but even though it’s long and random, I have that memorized (I’m cool like that). 😉

You plug it into the HDMI port on your TV, plug it into power, and then just run through the prompts.

Oh, that brings up the biggest headscratcher!

They give you two cables you may not need: one for a cabled connection (as opposed to wi-fi) to the internet, and one to improve the infrared connection if you keep a device inside a cabinet. That’s nice of them, although I didn’t need either.

Weirdly, though, they didn’t include a cable you absolutely need: an HDMI cable to connect it to your TV. I used the one from the Fire TV it is replacing, but I can see a lot of people making the plunge into streaming/SmartHome with this, especially as a gift, and not having one.

Amazon sells their own branded, six-foot cable for $6.99: even if they ended up charging a few dollars more for the device, it seems like it only makes sense to have it usable out of the box for just about everyone. I would guess there are people who would return it when they realized that wasn’t included, again receiving it as a gift. Here’s that Amazon cable, but there are a lot of options: AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable, 6 Feet, 1-Pack | 4.6 stars out of 5 | 15,490 customer reviews at time of writing.

One interesting thing: during the guided set-up, it did suggest Hulu for my homescreen…but not Netflix (we use both, in addition to Prime video and Tubi). You could still download Netflix, it just wasn’t one of the first options.

It appeared that apps that were compatible with our 2nd gen Fire TV were compatible with this, so I just had to download them again…and sign into them, in some cases.

The one big issue we’ve had with apps is that Hulu has failed to launch…repeatedly. It eventually does, but that’s not a problem we had before. I’m guessing an update will come that will resolve that.

As to the voice control: I was generally impressed! When I asked to watch a program, it took me to where I was watching it before…and started with the right episode. We have more than one Netflix profile, as one example, and it appeared to know to go to the one where we had last watched that show (rather than picking a different profile and starting at the first episode).

One thing I thought it was going to do was turn on the TV if needed to watch something…it hasn’t been doing that, so I do ask it to both turn on the TV and then to find the show.

The search is a bit…kludgy. Not bad, but for example, when I asked for “science fiction movies”, it showed me a lot of science fiction TV shows, too. Minor thing, but it should know the difference.

I do end up using the remote some (and I set up the Harmony to work with it…it’s important for my Significant Other that the option be there for everything to work just the way it did before. I’m eager to learn new ways with tech, and my SO is less so). The remote that came with it, the Harmony, and voice control are all working with the new device, and I don’t have to tell it which one to use each time. Also worth noting: my Bluetooth headset (I use a currently unavailable inexpensive SoundBot pair) also paired with no problem. That means that I can do all the Alexa stuff it does hearing it in the headset. Since you can whisper to an Alexa, that means I can keep things pretty quiet if I’m awake and my SO isn’t.

Similar to our Echo Show, it will display some things on the TV screen, which is really nice! When I use the Jeopardy skill, I like to be able to read the questions, not just hear them…and they looked great on our TV! Similarly, asking for the weather gave us some visual information in addition to an audio response.

I would really love for it to be able to do videocalls on our TV, but it doesn’t do calling at all (and doesn’t have a camera…that might be solved by having it link to another camera. That’s a big limitation compared to other Echo devices…it can do home automation, the weather, Prime music (sounds good on our TV), and so on.

Important to note: it actually sounds pretty good when you aren’t using the TV. Much better than an Echo Dot.

It hears pretty well, but I think I’ll follow their recommendation and move it further away from the TV. It’s about a foot from it now, and sometimes we have to call its name twice for it to hear us. It may learn our voices better later and get better at discriminating them from the TV…

Let’s do a quick menu map (just looking at the Settings):

  • Notifications (these are notifications from Amazon…you may have nothing there, but it told us that a package was coming that day…not when it actually arrived)
  • Network: that’s how you join a wi-fi network…you do have options for WPS PIN or Button
  • Display & Sounds
    • Screensaver (you have it show your photos)
    • Display
    • Audio (in addition to sound style, you can turn off the navigation sounds here, which I always do)
    • Second Screen Notifications
    • HDMI CEC Device Control
  • Applications
    • Collect App Usage DAta
    • Appstore
      • Automatic Updates
      • External Market Links (since you can use browsers now)
      • In-App Purchases (important as a form of “parental controls”)
      • Manage My Subscriptions (for now, this suggests you go to Amazon)
      • Notifications
      • Hide Cloud Apps
    • Prime Photos
      • Allow Guest Connections (hm…this says guests can connect to your TV to cast photos and videos to your screen.  I have to learn more about this! Is this the return of mirroring, or something more limited?)
      • Access Prime Photos (on or off)
    • GameCircle
    • Manage Installed Applications (very useful…I sometimes end up force-stopping an app if it’s “misbehaving”)
  • Equipment Control (this is a new menu compared to the old Fire TV)
    • Equipment Control
    • Manage Equipment
      • Add Equipment
      • TV
        • Volume Increments (we definitely wanted to change this one! By default, it jumped up 5 when we said we wanted it louder, which was too loud. We changed the increments to 1)
        • Infrared Options
        • Power Controls
        • Change TV
        • Restore TV Defaults (after I’d changed the increments)
      • Fire TV Cube
      • Advanced Settings
        • Power Timing
    • Set Up Equipment Again (I may do this at some point…I don’t have it controlling our cable box…which we almost never use. It wanted me to use the remote at one point, and it didn’t seem to recognize our Harmony for this…I don’t know where the original remote is right now)
  • Controllers and Bluetooth Devices
    • Amazon Fire TV Remotes (a voice remote comes with it…the hardest thing in the whole set up is getting the battery case open) 😉
    • Game Controllers
    • Other Bluetooth Devices (this was for both the headset and the Harmony…when I set up my Harmony, by the way, it didn’t recognize “Fire TV Cube”, but it worked with “Fire TV”)
  • Alexa
    • Alexa App (yes, you’ll want to have that…I think you can do what you need to do on a computer, if you don’t have a SmartPhone)
    • Things to Try
    • Favor This Device (that seems new…and it was defaulted to On. I noticed that our Echo Show did light up when the TV talked about Alexa during the demo videos…but did not execute the commands)
  • Preferences
    • Parental Controls
    • Data Monitoring (turning it on gives you the below choices)
      • Set Video Quality (who would guess that was here?)
      • Set Data Alert
      • Monthly Top Data Usage
    • Notification Settings
    • Featured Content (this has a marvelous setting that lets you turn off Video/Audio Autoplay when you are searching! I’ve recently been having a discussion at AT&T because the DirecTV Now app now plays something in the background all the time, which means there could be spoilers if they happen to be at a crucial part of the “live” video. I’ve told them I basically can’t use the service unless that changes)
    • Location (you can enter your ZIP code for weather here)
    • Time Zone
    • Metric Units (Yay! That’s what I use, but I’ll leave it on English for my SO)
    • Advertising ID
  • Device
    • About
    • Developer options
      • ABD debugging
      • Apps from Unknown Sources
    • Legal & Compliance
    • Sleep (I thought this would let me choose screensaver timing, but it just put the Cube to sleep
    • Restart
    • Reset to Factory Defaults
  • Accessiblity
    • Closed Caption
    • VoiceView
    • Screen Magnifier (I have used this…it lets you use button combinations on your remote to magnify part of the screen)
    • High Contrast Text (Experimental)
  • Help
    • Help Videos
    • Quick Tips
    • Contact Us
    • Feedback
  • My Account
    • Amazon Account (to deregister and reregister)
    • Sync Amazon Content

Overall? I already walked into another room and wanted to use it on a TV there. 🙂 I have a lot more to learn and to try, and it’s going to improve, but it was already worth it. There’s been a leaked Prime Day of July 16th for this year…I don’t know that they’ll just flat put this on sale, but they might bundle it. We Prime members already got a discount in the beginning…I think they could repeat that discount.

It is the voice control we wanted for the Fire TV from the beginning. It can replace a typical Echo for the most part, but not quite. It can replace your remote for the most part, but sometimes it is going to be easier to use.

One last thing: a few recommendations for free apps (you can get them through your computer and download them from your Fire TV, or get them directly from your Fire TV)

  • Firefox Browser for Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*) (you can also get Amazon’s Silk browser…this multiplies your device’s capabilities. For example, there is a show we want to watch, and we can see full recent episodes at the website. It’s also a way to watch YouTube through your Fire TV)
  • Bookmarker 1 (at AmazonSmile*) (love this one! If you are using the browser, you can use this to launch a saved URL, so you don’t have to go through the awkward “typing” ((using the remote)) every time. This one only saves  one ((and you can specify browser)), but you can also get Bookmarker 2, Bookmarker 3, and so on)
  • Tubi TV (at AmazonSmile*) (this is not the equivalent of Prime/Hulu/Netflix, but we do use it. It’s ad-supported…TV with commercials, whodathunk? 😉 They do have great selections, and they seem to respect them with the way they are cut…the original British Avengers, Fireball XL5, also non-geeky options, including at time of writing Mississippi Burning and A Most Wanted Man. It also remembers where we are nicely from device to device)

If you do want geeky video on a schedule (not on demand), you can go to

Comet TV

in your browser app, and then use a Bookmarker. They have great content for free! It isn’t obvious, but the watch live link is in your top left…and note that the sound may be muted by default. You can then say, “Alexa, launch Bookmarker 1,” or whatever number it is.

Whew! That’s a lot of information for a “first impression”! If you have more questions or opinions, 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.

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“Buy Kindle Books for Others”

June 17, 2018

“Buy Kindle Books for Others”

I remember back in 2010 (November 19th, to be specific) when Amazon enabled the giving of Kindle books as gifts. It’s something people had wanted from the beginning.

However, it’s never been easy to give Kindle books to a group of people, or to strangers.

That’s because you either e-mailed them one at a time (so you needed an e-mail address), or you sent them to yourself and printed them out. Even if you did the latter, where you didn’t need an e-mail address, you still had to buy them one at a time.

You might think that not that many people want to give books to strangers/groups, but there are many times that might happen.

I’ve been the recipient of books like that. Recently, at work for example, my manager got us all the same book:

Disney U by Doug Lipp (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I read it, and thought it was quite good. It has to do with training employees, but also with how to deliver a great “customer” experience. There were several things that exactly lined up with things I’ve said…even some similar terminology. That’s not what made it good, though. 😉

My manager bought us all hardbacks.

Honestly, I just don’t read hardbacks any more, especially when I want to read something quickly. I use text-to-speech a lot in the car, and that was definitely how I wanted to read this book…so I bought my own Kindle copy.

As a side note, that’s one of my (few) major frustrations with Amazon right now. I’ll get a book (I think just through Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*), but I’d have to look), and even though text-to-speech has not been blocked by the publisher, it only wants me to listen to it with an audiobook (synced in the Kindle book). I know I’m unusual in this, but I really prefer text-to-speech to an audiobook, unless I’ve already read the book (in which case, it’s like watching a movie for me…a new adaptation). I don’t like the actor or even the author interpreting the characters for me: TTS much more emulates the experience of sight-reading a book for me. I’ve talked to them about this before and may try again in case something has changed. I’ve tried deleting the audiobook, deleting the e-book, redownloading it, restarting the device…oh, well.

That’s been particularly difficult because I’m reading a book I am enjoying:

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

I would have been finished with it long ago, but since I’m only sight-reading it, it’s going to take some time. Sight-reading competes with things where I can’t use TTS, such as magazines.

I did borrow that one from KU…it has 4.8 stars out of 5 with 540 customer reviews, and that’s quite high.

Anyway, it would have been a lot easier if my manager could have just given us e-books…and that would have been easier without having to know the e-mail addresses associated with our Amazon accounts.

The same would be true for a teacher with a classroom full of students, especially perhaps on the first day of class.

Another example, which may especially affect some readers of this blog, is the case of authors at events. The common thing now is to show up with a stack of books…yes, that’s partially so you can sign them, or sell them, but in some cases it’s giving them away.

I sometimes want to give a copy of one of my books to someone at work (usually, The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*))…there hasn’t been a good way to do that.

Now, there is!

You can now buy multiple copies of a Kindle book at the same time. You get an e-mail with a link to your redemption links…those are URLs, so they are a bit lengthy if someone was hand-typing them from a printed card, but it could be done. It would have been better if they’d given us QR codes (those “squiggly boxes” that your camera can use to launch a website) as an option. There are websites which will convert a URL into a QR code, but I don’t know enough about them to recommend a specific one. I assume there are apps that can read the URL and launch it as well.

I’ve tested it out; it was all pretty simple.

All you have to do is go to the book’s Amazon product page, and choose to “Buy for others”. Note that you have to choose a quantity higher for one for this to kick in.

You get that e-mail with the link to the links…and that’s pretty much it. You can copy and paste the e-mail link, or you can print them out. They’ll also give you instructions you can share. Here’s the help page:

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

Similar to giving an individual gift, it may not be able to be redeemed outside your country, and if your recipient already has it, they can exchange it for an Amazon gift card.

I think this is a really nice option! I can see a lot of uses…goody bags at a kids’ birthday party, even for Halloween trick-or-treaters, book clubs… I can also see situations where you might not be happy with it…people giving you literature at the airport or during a political campaign. I’d much rather get the code than a hardback in that situation. I suppose they could put a limit on how long you had to redeem it (authors could do that, too), and reissue the same code. You can tell at the Amazon site if it has been redeemed or not.

I did see an author…commenting on how you don’t get a discount, but you do get your royalty, of course. Could authors use this to manipulate a book up the bestseller list temporarily? I’m not sure if the sale is counted when the book is purchased or when it is redeemed. If it’s the former, than yes…someone could buy a 100 copies and in many cases, shoot the book temporarily to the top of the list (in some categories) so they could claim that. If it’s the latter, it would depend on when they were redeemed…and I’m pretty sure that those 100 books would have to be redeemed on 100 accounts.

Those seem like quibbles when this opens up so many possibilities!

Thanks, Amazon!

What do you think? Does this sound like something you would use? How would you feel about getting a redemption URL instead of a hardback? Any suggestions to make it better? 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. 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.

 

How to surprise someone on your account with a Kindle book

December 10, 2017

How to surprise someone on your account with a Kindle book

I love to get books as gifts…and I love to give books as gifts!

Back in the pre-digital days 😉 , I used to always buy used copies of the first Doc Savage book, The Man of Bronze, so I could gift them to people (and not worry about getting back my copy). I usually had a few of them around…they were popular in the 1960s, so there were often copies available for under $1.

When we first got the Kindle, more than ten years ago, one of the biggest complaints was that you couldn’t gift Kindle books.

We’ve been able to do that for a long time, since November 19 of 2010, and I’ve done it many times.

My family members do gift lists: several do Amazon ones, others do more of a narrative…but I think they all address books, and we do give them…a lot.

However, there is a challenge if you want to give a Kindle book as a gift to someone who is on your same account (such as me gifting a book to my Significant Other).

When you buy a Kindle store book, it shows up on your device…whether you sent it to that device or not. That’s particularly true on a (Kindle) Fire tablet, where it appears on the “Carousel”. If it hasn’t been sent to that device, when you tap it, it will want to download.

So, if I buy a book for my SO, the way we usually do, my SO would see it before the gift-giving occasion.

I could just wait until that time, of course, but book prices vary wildly. Take a look at today’s

Kindle Daily Deal (at AmazonSmile…benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

for example. Those “page turning reads” are up to 80% off…today.

Also, today’s

12 Days of Deals (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which is the 8th day, focuses on music lovers, avid readers, and film buffs (and there are particular e-book deals).

The trick is to buy the book as a gift…but have the gift e-mailed to you, rather than e-mailed to the other person.

That’s a specific choice: you don’t just put your e-mail into the top slot as the giftee.

Then, you get an e-mail, which you can print to give. In that situation, while today’s price is preserved, it does not show up in your account (and on your devices) until you enter a code in the e-mail into an Amazon account.

There you go! You can take advantage of sales, and still surprise people on your account!

Happy giving!


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


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.

Groups, Scenes, and Routines now available in Alexa

October 29, 2017

Groups, Scenes, and Routines now available in Alexa

I love that Amazon keeps giving us new features for free…but I still think they could explain them better. It may be that they are going to do a video for this one (they’ve been doing videos a lot lately), and that I’m just ahead of the curve on exploring it (a reader sent me a private e-mail alerting me to their arrival).

When I typed “Routines” into Amazon Help, it took me to the right place, the Alexa page…but then there was nothing there about it. 🙂

I’ve been playing with it for an hour or so, and I do really like what I’ve gotten it to do…I can turn on lights in a given room just by saying, “Alexa, lights on”, and it only affects that room. I don’t have to remember the names of the lights.

Let’s take a look at it:

First, I was doing this in the Alexa app on my phone (a Galaxy S7 Edge, but that shouldn’t really matter with the Alexa app).

There are two places in the menu (accessible from the Home screen, probably in your top left…three horizontal lines, what some people call a “hamburger”) involved with this. One says “Routines” and the other one says “Smart Home”. Even though Routines comes first in the menu, I’m going to Smart Home first, which I think makes the most sense. That might be different if you already have things set up in another Smart Hub.

There are three sections in Smart Home: Devices, Groups, and Scenes.

Devices

I should mention first that we currently control lights in our home with a Wink hub and we have a Harmony hub and remote (but that’s for the TV and those devices). One of the main reasons I use Alexa devices is to control those Smart Devices. I also have a Samsung Smart Hub, but I’ve never configured it.

My Smart Lights did show up on the Devices tab, and there was an option to add a device. There is a Help button (a question mark in a circle) in my top right corner, which is contextual. It gives me help for the tab I’m on now.

Tapping that, it let me connect Smart Home device via skills (I’m already using the Wink skill). You could also connect those devices (at least, Zigbee compatible ones) directly to an

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

I have one on pre-order…estimated to arrive November 3rd to November 7th. Interestingly, sending it to an Amazon Locker seemed to mean it might be later than if I had sent it to our home (which isn’t safe to do). On the other hand, I just needed to order a cable, and it will arrive at the locker faster since it will be delivered on a Sunday.

I’m looking forward to testing out the Echo Plus in the next week or ten days.

Since Alexa already knows all of our Smart Devices, let’s look at

Groups

Here’s the idea of a group: you take one or more devices (usually more than one) and create one name which refers to all of them…sort of like a distribution list for e-mail. If you have five lights in the Family Room, you can create a Family Room group, and then assign those five lights to it.

You then associate one of your Alexa devices with that group. For example, our

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

is in the family room, so I associated the Family Room group with that it.

Note: you can’t have a single device and a Group with the exact same name…I had a light named Family Room, so I couldn’t use the same name for both.

I should also mention that I had previously created groups in the older version of the Alexa app, and those appeared here.

If you tap “Add Group”, you’ll get a choice between “Smart Home Group” and “Amazon Multi-Room Music Group”. The latter is so that you could have the same music (or podcast, or…) playing on several Alexa devices at the same time.

When you tap the “Smart Home Group”, you are given the choice of creating a custom name, or picking some “Common Names” (Backyard, Basement, Bathroom, Den, Dining Room, Downstairs, Hallway, Kitchen, Lounge, Office, or Upstairs). I wonder if the Common Names are actually common, being drawn (perhaps dynamically) from choices Amazon users are entering in Custom Name.

Once you do that, you are then asked to select an Alexa device to associate with that group. Note that you can only associate an Alexa device with a single Group.

Next, you can choose devices to put into that Group and Scenes…I think my Scenes came from my Harmony, but there were some that definitely didn’t (like “IAmBack”).

Once you’ve done that, you save.

Now you can just say, “Alexa, lights on”, and that device will only turn the lights on in its group.

Note that you don’t need to set up an Alexa Device to control the lights (or other devices) physically closest to it.

I do see this as a big improvement. While I like remembering lots of names, my Significant Other doesn’t. It’s easier to just be able to say, “Alexa, lights off”, than “Alexa, turn off the Family Room”.

The Scenes are less clear to me, but in speaking with a relative who uses them in other contexts, the key difference seems to be that a scene can have diverse states: with a Group, you can only turn all of the lights on or off. With a Scene, you could have it turn two lights on and two lights off. I can see the value of that. I haven’t tested it yet, though.

What about Routines (remember, that’s a separate Menu entry)?

This adds a couple of dimensions. One is that you can have it happen either on command or at a certain time.

The other is that it can do some Alexa actions.

The first option shown is

“When this happens”

That is commonly called a “trigger”…it’s what makes an action happen. You can either give it a custom statement you say verbally, or you can pick a time and a recurrence pattern (when it repeats). Your recurrence pattern defaults to Every Day, but you can change it to “Weekdays”, “Weekends”, or select a single specific day.

You could use this for an alarm for work. “At 6:00 AM, turn on my bedroom and family room lights, start the coffee, and give me my Flash Briefing”. You would set that as happening on weekdays (if you work Monday-Friday).

When you choose “Add Action”, your choices are:

  • News (your Flash Briefing)
  • Smart Home (either “Control device or “Turn on scene”)
  • Traffic (Alexa will give you the traffic report)
  • Weather (Alexa will report the weather)

Once you’ve added one, you can tap “Add Action” again to add another.

I can really see the value to this one, too…as one example, we could set the lights and such to come on at a certain time every day when we were on vacation…and set another Routine to turn them off. That would make it seem like we were home.

I will say, I think this is a lot of work for the average person. A hobbyist would do it, but it seems like a lot of steps.

Here are my suggestions for two other ways they could do this which would be easier:

“Match Now”: you would set up your devices the way you want (lights on or off, etc.) then tell Alexa to remember that as a scene.

“Copy Me”: Alexa starts a recorder, then you do actions which it subsequently remembers…like a macro recorder.

All in all, this is a great improvement…but I think most people won’t use it because it will be too hard without them seeing the potential advantages. Amazon should set up some more scenarios, maybe through video.

A few more thoughts:

  • having durations would be a nice improvement for the future…not just turning a light on at 6:00 AM, but turning it on at 6:00 AM for one hour
  • Alexa could suggest saving patterns it detects. If you normally turn on the bedroom light at 6:00 AM, and then turn on the Family Room TV and the Family Room Light twenty minutes later for an hour, and then turn everything off and lock the door, Alexa could suggest saving that as a Routine after you’ve done it a few times in a row
  • The Echo Show (and Echo Spot) could do this gesturally…you flip your index finger up and it turns the light on in that room. That could be great fun, especially if you could use custom gestures! Yeah, yeah, I know…not that finger. 😉 I’m thinking more like “magic hand waves” to do things in your house

Hope that helps! I’ll be interested in hearing what you think! Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


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.

 

 

Google’s new move: good for readers, bad for Amazon?

October 18, 2017

Google’s new move: good for readers, bad for Amazon?

Amazon and Google don’t exactly walk through the consumer wonderland hand-in-hand. 😉

While Amazon has never been the walled garden some suggest (for example, the e-tailer had the Netflix app in the Appstore and available on their tablets from the beginning, when it directly competes with Prime Video), there’s been a clear division for people who use both companies (as I do).

Amazon tablets can’t use Google Play directly. That’s a real limitation, and my sense is that it is Google’s decision, not Amazon’s.

They compete in music, appstores…and books.

On the latter, I don’t think Google has hurt Amazon much…the percentage of e-books that people own which they purchased from Google (not just found free public domain books) has to be tiny compared with Amazon.

However…

Google has a new search result tool which could make some difference.

I (and apparently others) had missed, or missed the significance of, an announcement from Google about a month ago. I’m grateful to this

Lifehacker article by Nick Douglas

for the heads up.

When you search for a book title on Google, it now tells you which public libraries have the book available near you…and you can borrow it right there (if you have a “library card”). On a mobile device, you tap, “Get book” (then “Borrow ebook”, but you might be able to see the latter without tapping), on a laptop/desktop, you should see the options, probably on your right.

I’ve been testing it out, and it’s clearly inconsistent at this point. It doesn’t happen for lots of books, but that may just be because they’d rather not show negative findings. Still, it apparently only searches Overdrive, which is the predominant e-book server for individuals using public libraries for e-books, but it isn’t the only one.

For the sake of argument, let’s just say postulate that when people search for a book title with Google, they’ll be able to borrow the book from the public library if it’s available.

What would that mean?

Before I speculate, here’s a link you can try:

search for “It Stephen King”

 

First, this does have the potential to hurt sales at Amazon…but only for a particular segment of customers/readers. Traditional publishers (at least some of them) were pretty reluctant to have e-books in public libraries, initially…part of the argument was that the e-books didn’t wear out like p-books (paperbooks) do, so libraries wouldn’t have to replace them as often. There were some strong restrictions, if the books were available at all. This would seem to play into those fears.

That said, my guess would be that most people who are using Google to search for a book are looking for a free one. Not all of them are particular about the books being legal, either. It’s not difficult to scan a p-book and make a PDF out of it, then put it up online. There are a lot of reasons people do that…they aren’t all trying to make money, although some do by having advertising on the site hosting the downloads.

If someone wants to buy an e-book, my bet would be that the vast majority of them go to Amazon (or Barnes & Noble, if they have a Nook), or perhaps iTunes.

It is possible that people search for an e-book and don’t find a free copy, then they push further.

I would think this would affect bestsellers, more than smaller market or older titles. Google searching for a book feels to me (and I freely admit, much of this post is speculation) like it is more likely to be used by a “casual reader” than by a “serious reader” (I define the latter as reading fifty books or more a year).

I think the impact will be small.

Second, Amazon could lose all income from selling e-books…and it wouldn’t make much difference to their bottom line. It’s no longer a big part of t

Right now, the Google search includes buying the book…but not at Amazon. 🙂 Barnes & Noble, Google Books, and Kobo all showed for me on the search for “It”. I doubt that pulls that much from Amazon’s sales.

I think it hurts Amazon a small amount, and considerably helps some readers. I usually don’t borrow e-books from the public library. I can afford books to read, including being a happy member of

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

and there is “scarcity” for public library e-books, although a lot of people find that counter-intuitive. A library can’t just copy the file for everybody who wants it; there are legal licensing issues.

That may change for me: I’ve mentioned that we have a life change coming up, and now we have more of a timeline for it. My Significant Other is voluntarily leaving a job, and we aren’t quite sure what will happen after that (we’ve done the math…we’ll be okay). If money got a lot tighter, and there was a book I really wanted to read and the public library was the only way to get it, I don’t have any hesitation or see a negative to it. It’s just not my habit now.

Now, some of you may wonder about how this is different from this

Chrome extension tells you if that Kindle book is in your public library

that I wrote about previously.

When I go to a book’s Amazon product page in Chrome, I automatically see if it’s available at the public library…and yes, that’s similar.

It’s also different, though, because people who are at Amazon are already likely to get books from Amazon. It’s convenient to keep it altogether: if I could have every single payment I ever make for anything go through Amazon, I would. To use the extension, people have to also first install the extension…a much smaller slice than the people who just search with Google.

One more group I want to mention: does this help or hurt authors? Many of my readers are authors, so that’s obviously a concern.

Authors may not get as much for each library borrow as they get for a book sold, but that’s going to depend on contract.

The reason why this helps is that it may replace, to some extent, people getting pirated copies (for which authors get nothing).

I believe that the vast majority of people would rather do something that is legal, and something that would benefit the author, than something that wouldn’t.

If somebody searched for It, and could borrow it easily from the public library or get a PDF from an iffy source, I think they’d go with the library…even though they don’t end up owning the book. Ownership is arguably less important to people than it used to be.

Well, those are my thoughts on this, and there is a lot of speculation and presumption in this piece. What do you think? When would you search for a book with Google as opposed to just going to Amazon? Would you rather own a PDF of uncertain provenance, or borrow an e-book from a library for a couple of weeks? Will this make any real difference to Amazon? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


My current Amazon giveaway:

Beyond Curie: Four women in physics and their remarkable discoveries 1903 to 1963 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Giveaway:

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/b139e577ee333624

  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
    Requirements for participation:
  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Scott Calvin on Amazon

Start:Sep 25, 2017 5:46 AM PDT

End:Oct 25, 2017 11:59 PM PDT


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.

Managing your applications

August 16, 2017

Managing your applications

There’s an old joke about Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Lee Iacocca (Chrysler) sitting next to each other at a charity event.

Gates: “You know, if the car industry was like the computer industry, cars would cost $1000 and get 100 miles to the gallon.”

Iacocca: “Yeah, but who wants a car that crashes three times a day?” ;

Well, our hardware has gotten a lot more reliable…I haven’t seen the infamous BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) in some time, and most of our devices work pretty reliably. I’d say one exception is our Wink hub, which needs to be unplugged maybe once a week so it can reset, and our

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

which resets itself multiple times a week (interestingly, our Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote (at AmazonSmile*) almost never does that).

However, I take action on our applications quite often: I would guess every day.

I recently got a question from a reader about Amazon’s native web browser on Fire tablets, Silk. This person never used Silk, but it was spontaneously showing undesired content. I explained a way to do something which was likely to help, and it looks like it did.

That got me thinking that a post like this probably made sense.

While this definitely applies to my readers who use Fire tablets and Fire TVs, it also applies to people who use the Kindle reading app on other devices.

Exactly how you get into the settings to do this varies a bit by device, but you typically get to your settings (it may be a Settings Gear, which some people think looks like a sun) and then go to Applications.

There are basically four things you can do:

  • Force stop (or more colloquially, “kill” the app)
  • Clear the cache
  • Clear the data
  • Uninstall

Force stop (no, it has nothing to do with Star Wars 😉 ) means to turn it off. This can be effective. When my CNNGO app gets stuck, force stopping it will fix it. It’s like restarting your hardware, or flipping a light switch off and then back on (the latter when you re-open the application).

The risk is quite low on this one. Conceivably, you could be in the middle of something and lose that progress, but that’s about it. On an iPhone, when it is unlocked, double push (push-push) your home button. You’ll see all of your open apps. Find the Kindle app, for example, and swipe it up towards the top of the screen.

Clear the cache means to remove what is being stored in temporary memory. Think of your app as your kitchen table: the cache is what you put on the table…food, or in our case, usually mail and packages. 🙂 This can be an issue for you. If you were halfway through a video on YouTube and clear the cache, it won’t remember you were watching it. Video apps, like Hulu and Netflix, store how far you were into a video in the cloud, so it will usually still remember. However, everything will need to reload, so it may take longer to start watching a show.

Clearing the data is a strong action, and you should use it with caution. If you have set up your account in an app, and you clear the data, you’ll have to set up that account again. The data are the kitchen table itself: clear the data, and you’ll need the build the kitchen table again. My reader didn’t use the Silk app, so clearing the data was fine. For someone who used daily, clearing the data can mean a lot of work. If you clear the data, think of it as if you just downloaded the app for the first time.

Uninstalling the app removes the app from the device. For apps you got from the Amazon Appstore, they will still be in the cloud where you can download them again. It may also say that you are going to remove it from the device. If you don’t want to own it at all any more, you would do that in your cloud typically, not on your device.

That’s about it. 🙂 I have to force stop more than one app a day, I’d say.

Update: I meant to mention that if you have “active content” on a Kindle EBR (E-Book Reader…not a tablet), you don’t have the same kind of controls. You can remove them from the device, which can help, but you don’t have the force stop, clear cache, clear data options. Also, with some things, like browsers, you may have additional granularity: removing “form data” (which autofills things like your address), cookies (little programs installed on your device to let the internet identify you…it’s why sites like Amazon can know who you are without you logging into the site each time), history (a listing of where you’ve been…the cache stores the actual data temporarily, the history just says where the data was found)…those will all be wiped out if you clear the data.

Hope that helps…

Bonus story: Amazon Instant Pickup means you can get your order…in two minutes! In this

press release

Amazon explains the new program, which you can see here:

Amazon Instant Pickup (at AmazonSmile*)

In five cities now (“… fully staffed pickup locations in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Berkeley, Calif., Columbus, Ohio, and College Park, Md.”) with more to come, people can order drinks, snacks, and electronics, including especially some Amazon devices in the Amazon shopping app and pick up the item(s).

You also have to be an

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

member…and especially Prime for students, which is really where the marketing focus is on this.

Barnes & Noble’s college stores may take a further hit from this…

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!

*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 you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help! 🙂 

The land of the free (and the no additional cost): 20 things to read/watch/hear

July 4, 2017

The land of the free (and the no additional cost): 20 things to read/watch/hear

Today (July 4th) is the 241st “birthday” of the United States of America.

I wanted to do something to observe that, but also tie it into something that would be fun and helpful for my readers. To celebrate the “Land of the Free”, I thought I’d list 20 things that are available through Amazon that are free or no additional cost.

By “no additional cost”, I mean that you may already be paying something for a subscription (I’ll explain that below), but reading/watching/hearing these will not cost you anything over that amount.

Some things are simply free to anybody who has an Amazon account…I’ll designate those as “free to all”.

I would guess that the majority of my readers have

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

You may have gotten it mainly for the free shipping, in which case the ability to borrow these items really will seem free. However, it’s possible that the Prime Video, or Prime Music, or

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

has influenced your decision to get or keep Prime.

I’ll mark that as AP for “Amazon Prime”.

People typically pay $99 a year for Prime.

While there are other possibilities (including the KOLL: Kindle Owners’ Lending Library), I’m only going to use one more designation in this listing: KU, for

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

The typical price for KU (Amazon’s book “subser”…subscription service) is $9.99 a month (although it is on sale right now for “Prime Day”).

Anything in Prime Reading is, I believe, also in KU.

Please note that these are free or no additional cost at the time of writing (and I’m starting writing this on July 3rd Pacific Time), and that may have changed by the time you see it. Please check the price before you click, tap, or eye gaze (the last in Virtual/Augmented Reality) that Buy button.

Finally, what are the criteria for conclusion? Just stuff that catches my eye. 🙂 I’m often surprised at what is available this way. I’ve thought about it: could someone be culturally literate in the USA only through Amazon FONAC (Free Or No Additional Cost)? Well, until they have the 1977 Star Wars, the answer is no. 😉 However, there are some classics here that everybody knows.

I’ll make a comment about each one…even though some of them probably don’t need anything. I’ve either already read/seen/heard them, or there’s some reason to suggest them:

Here we go:

  1. Movie (AP): Star Trek Beyond (the latest movie in the Star Trek series, it was the 16th highest grossing movie in the USA in 2016. We have Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu, and it feels to me like video streaming is becoming the paperback of the movies…popular releases come out a year later in a smaller, cheaper format) | without Prime (buying not borrowing): $9.99
  2. Book (AP): Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (I know, I know…I mention this probably every time I talk about Prime Reading/KU, but it’s amazing! The book just celebrated twenty years since the original publication of the British edition ((with a slightly different title, and some changes to language)), and I believe this series will be read 100 years from now, as The Wizard of Oz series is still read today) | without Prime: $8.99 (the other original books are also available FONAC)
  3. Book (AP): She Can Run (She Can Series, Book 1) by Melinda Leigh (ranked 152 paid in the Kindle store at time of writing, with 4.3 stars out of 5 and 1,470 reviews…this is the first book of six by a bestselling romance author) | $4.99 to buy
  4. Book (free to all): Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle (simply brilliant, and Holmes is a very contemporary character, even today. I wrote my own Holmes parody in this blog…A Kindle Abandoned)…I also publish these one short story or chapter a day in 221B Blog Street, but this way, you could binge it 😉
  5. Movie (AP): The Wizard of Oz (1939) (Yes, this is the Judy Garland version…”Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more…”) | $9.99 to buy in SD
  6. Magazine (AP): Entertainment Weekly (June 16, 2017 issue) (the Mary Poppins remake is the cover story) | $4.99 for the current issue (not this one)…and they have an incredible deal of $10 for a one-year subscription right now!
  7. Album (AP): Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) | (hottest ticket in town!)
  8. Album (AP): Rumors (Fleetwood Mack): (released in 1977, it’s one of the best selling albums of all time, and includes “Don’t Stop” and “Go Your Own Way”)
  9. TV Series/Movies (AP) : Star Trek: The Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, the original crew/Next Gen movies, the Animated Series, Enterprise…it might not quite be a five year mission to watch all of these, but it would take a long time!
  10. Book (free to all): The Complete Works of Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility…)
  11. Album (AP): Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (and Abbey Road and the White Album and…)
  12. Book (AP): Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman (New York Times bestselling non-fiction)
  13. TV series (AP): Orphan Black (intense fandom is around this series, and remarkable acting performances. Note that the first episode…um, includes a Not Safe For Work scene that might otherwise surprise viewers)
  14. Movies (AP): 2016’s Best Picture Oscar nominees (Moonlight which won, Manchester by the Sea)
  15. Magazine (AP): National Geographic (June 1 issue)
  16. Most read books per Amazon Charts (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) (AP): The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan, Beach Lawyer by Avery Duff, Dead Certain by Adam Mitzner (note that this is not in order, but they are all in the top 20 right now…Harry Potter books are also in that group)
  17. Nostalgic “kids” TV/movie shorts (AP) (Cartoon Classics, The Best of the Three Stooges in Color…I’m not a fan of “colorizing” black and white movies but this is a good set of five including Disorder in the Court…note also that there may be things in the cartoons and the Stooges which are not considered politically correct today)
  18. Movies (AP): recent smaller highly-rated movies (Mr. Holmes, What We Do in the Shadows, Captain Fantastic)
  19. Music playlist (AP): Echo Favorites (this is sort of like the Most Read Chart for Echo listeners…it’s overwhelmingly contemporary, but not necessarily this week…and outside of that, somewhat eclectic, which I like: Girl Crush, Fight Song, All About That Bass, Ask Me How I Know, Chandelier…interesting what people ask to hear, and I wonder how much of it is sort of a personal soundtrack, asking for a particular song to fit a particular moment)
  20. Kindle Singles (AP) (when I think about summer reading, one of the things I consider is reading short pieces, like magazine articles…there are 101 Kindle Singles listed right now in Prime Reading)

Well, that’s twenty! I actually considered doing 241 when I started this, and while that would have been easy, it would have taken a long time to do and a long time for you to read! I feel like I’m leaving out so many things! Feel free to make more suggestions to me and my readers by commenting on this post. I notice I didn’t do any that were KU and not Prime Reading…maybe next year. 🙂 Here are some links to help you with more discovery:

Enjoy your Fourth!

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! :) 

Amazon redoes Kindle notes

June 12, 2017

Amazon redoes Kindle notes

“I’ll make a note of it.”
–Jerome “Curly Howard” Horwitz

We are coming up on the ten year anniversary of the release of the Kindle.

You might think they had it all figured out by now…nope. 🙂

One of the areas that has seemed clunky has been dealing with the notes and highlights you can make in Kindle books.

Now, I need to say first that I love data (both entry and retrieval). 🙂 I go back to Personal Pearl, Foxpro, and beyond. I always remember teaching a database class to a group, and I was explaining how fields and records work, and I said something like, “Remember when you used to play with those little plastic boxes that you put 3 x 5 cards into when you were a kid? You know, with the alphabet cards that stuck up…and no?” That was true, though…I really did play with those. I think they were supposed to be for recipes and such, but I would write down animal species and sort them, that sort of thing.

I still do quite a bit with data…for example, my timelines at the History Project are really about data entry and retrieval.

So, would I care about good data retrieval with quotes from books? Absolutely! After all, I actually wrote a book of quotations:

The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which, when it was released was (very briefly) the #1 book of quotations in any format at Amazon.

I also know most people haven’t loved it, but I loved doing it. It actually primarily came out of one of those plastic boxes with 3×5 cards…typed mostly on a typewriter.

You can imagine that I was excited that I could just highlight a quotation in a book and have it easily retrievable!

Well, that didn’t really turn out to be the case.

For years, we’ve been going to

https://kindle.amazon.com/

I wrote about some changes they made back in 2010:

Changes at Kindle.Amazon.com

Still, I haven’t been able to just go in and pull out a bunch of quotations and have them sourced with the book, the author, preferably the character…and do it with a simple export.

It’s always been copy and paste, one quotation at a time (to have any chance to use them).

They are making a change.

Supposedly, customers got e-mails about this…but I don’t seem to have one. 🙂

This is the new site:

https://read.amazon.com/kp/notebook

The old site is accessible until July 3rd.

I do think the new one looks better, and it supposedly looks a lot better on mobile.

However, it seems like a lot of features may be disappearing. Maybe they are going somewhere else, but all I am seeing on the new one is the notes, with no improved way to export them.

That would mean that following people (and being followed) was going away.

My best guess? They think all those features are served by Goodreads, which Amazon owns.

I suppose that’s not too bad. They probably should just integrate your notes into Goodreads, too. 🙂

I do want to say that it’s nice to see Amazon still paying attention to the Kindle experience, and working to improve it.

What do you think? When was the last time you went to that kindle.amazon.com site…if ever? Did you get an e-mail about the change? Do you have a system you like to use for book quotations? Feel free to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post.


My current Amazon Giveaway

LAST HOURS TO ENTER! 339 people have entered at time of writing.

Amazon Giveaway for And Then There Were None!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/3e6a60b4814649a3

Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winner.
Requirements for participation:
Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
18+ years of age (or legal age)

Start:May 12, 2017 6:24 PM PDT
End:Jun 11, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

===

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! :) 

Amazon Shopping comes to Fire TV…but you can’t buy Kindle books

June 7, 2017

Amazon Shopping comes to Fire TV…but you can’t buy Kindle books

This was both a very big positive and a disappointment…although that disappointment does bring up what has seemed to me for years to be a simple change Amazon could make.

While they (somewhat surprisingly) didn’t make a big deal about it, the product page for

Amazon Shopping for Fire TV devices (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

says it was released May 24th. I find that a bit unlikely, since there are only 27 customer reviews at the time of writing (with a 4.3 out of 5 stars average).

This is an app tailored for the Fire TV family:

So, what happens is that you can shop at Amazon…on your TV.

To me, this is actually a big deal.

There are times when my Significant Other and I are sitting on the couch, both looking for basically the same thing at Amazon (we recently had to buy a new vacuum cleaner, for example…the old one broke). I might be on my laptop with it on the arm of the couch, and my SO is on a Kindle Fire.

When one of us finds something, we show our device to the other person…that can be awkward.

If we had the Amazon shopping app up on the Fire, we could easily both look.

It also happens that I see something on a TV show, maybe on the news, but maybe in a documentary or a fiction program, and want to buy it. I might hear about a book, or see some cool toy being demonstrated. 🙂

The book thing brings up my disappointment: I checked several Kindle editions, and it would say, “This item is not available on Fire TV.” I get that you can’t read the book on Fire TV (although that might be nice with a coffee table type book or a kids’ book), but I should be able to buy it that way. I can buy the physical book, just not the e-book.

After all, we can specify a default download device by going to

http://www.amazon.com/myk (at AmazonSmile*)

going to Your Devices, finding the device we want, clicking or tapping the Actions ellipsis (…) and setting it as the default.

A book I bought on Fire TV could simply be delivered there.

However, I have always wanted to option to just books I buy put initially into the Amazon Cloud, without specifying a device.

One argument against that might be that they don’t know if you have a compatible device then (although they do know…they would have to look differently)…but why can’t I buy something for which I don’t have a device now, but might have one later?

It might have something to do with the licensing with the publishers, I suppose.

Outside of the Kindle book thing, I think they’ve done a nice job with the implementation.

The first thing you see (the first time you go in, at any rate…it seems to remember where you were) is a number of panels for special features. I saw (in this order…but you might not):

  • Our Guide to Spring Dresses
  • echo dot (capitalized that way)
  • Outdoor Living (looked like it would include what we call “garden dwellers”…and we do buy those)
  • top 100 TOYS
  • It’s Play Time (dog toys…another thing we buy)
  • New Ideas for the Style Star
  • See life from a new perspective (photography drones)
  • Go Explore (gear up)
  • Smart and Secure (Smart Home Devices)
  • Outdoor Entertaining
  • Discover Peg and Awl
  • Treat your pet
  • TECH toys
  • Yard Prep & Gardening (we recently bought a pole saw)
  • 10 Key Men’s Pieces for Spring (Amazon Fashion)
  • Star Wars Vehicles
  • The Everyday Men’s Suit
  • Snap, Print, Share
  • Capture different (GoPros)
  • PAMPER YOUR SKIN
  • Fill your home with music (wireless and Bluetooth speakers)
  • Music the way it was meant to sound (Bluetooth headphones…I’ve bought a couple of cheap pairs)
  • Pools & Leisure
  • Amazon’s Choice (musical instruments)
  • 1970’s INSPIRED BEAUTY
  • Desktops for all your needs
  • Laptops for all your needs
  • LIQUID EYELINER
  • LUXURY MEN’S GROOMING

This certainly seems to me like it is based on our previous purchases (and browsing), but it might be a massive coincidence…if somebody gets a chance to check to see if they see the same panels, I’d appreciate you letting me know.

Beyond those featured sales, there are two more discovery options.

One is Search. It’s a “click a letter”style, oddly: this seems like a great place for speech recognition. However, if they do port this over to Virtual Reality, it would work well for that (clicking by “eye gazing”, perhaps).

The other one, and this very useful and the work around for the Kindle books, is our Amazon “wish lists”…although, only the ones we’ve made public (but public by invitation). I also get that…they say it is for privacy, and that makes sense, since otherwise, anybody with access to the TV could see it. You might have a wish list for the gifts you’ve already bought for the season, for one thing.

There was also a Settings choice in the top navigation…you couldn’t really set anything there, but it did have the legal terms. The version number of the app is 1.0.0.0, and they gave a feedback e-mail address: feedback-tv@amazon.com. That’s an interesting choice…not “Fire TV”, but just “tv”.

It said, “Hello, Bufo” in my top right corner, and I thought I could perhaps select that to sign in as someone else, but that didn’t appear to be the case. The Fire TV is already signed into an account, and I assume it uses that.

I’m pretty impressed with this, outside of the Kindle book purchase limitation!

Bonus story:

I started writing this one this morning, and then I saw this news. I flipped it into the I Love My Kindle Flipboard magazine, and then not too long afterwards, a reader alerted me via private e-mail (thanks, reader!).

CNN Money story by Julia Horowitz: “Amazon Prime debuts discount for people on government benefits”

Here’s the key point:

“To receive the discounted Amazon Prime membership [$5.99 a month instead of $10.99], buyers will need to have an Electronic Benefits Transfer card. They’ll have to re-register every 12 months, and can do so a total of four times.”

Now, $5.99 still seems like it might be a challenge, but for people at a certain disposable income level, this could be really significant. I didn’t see that you could gift it at that discount, but you could, I suppose, give someone who qualified the money separately.

This is one of those things that Amazon doesn’t have to do. They do get Public Relations benefits out of it, and perhaps, someone who used while receiving benefits might eventually become a full price Prime member (and regardless, might buy things they need at Amazon instead of a brick-and-mortar), but I do think it is nice.

This blog isn’t just about what I think, though. 🙂 I’m curious about what you think: will you shop on your TV? Why does Amazon want us to only buy Kindle books from a device which can read them? What do you think of the discounted Prime for people on benefits? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.


My current Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway for And Then There Were None!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/3e6a60b4814649a3

Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winner.
Requirements for participation:
Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
18+ years of age (or legal age)

Start:May 12, 2017 6:24 PM PDT
End:Jun 11, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

===

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! :) 

Now you can read your Kindle books in Virtual Reality

May 24, 2017

Now you can read your Kindle books in Virtual Reality

Woo hoo!

Although, I’m sure some of you are saying, “Hoo boy…who cares?” 😉

Absolutely, the number of people who want to read books in virtual reality at this point is probably vanishingly small…even smaller than the e-book market was before the Kindle was released in 2007.

There still aren’t that many people in what I call VAM space (Virtual/Augmented/Mixed&Merged Reality). There will be a lot more before the end of the year (Google’s just announced a very interesting, stand-alone device…no phone, no computer required, but we don’t know the price yet), and within about three years, some people will be in VAM space quite often, I think. In five years, many people will be in it for special uses…I want to credit Robert Scoble and Seth Israel’s book

The Fourth Transformation (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

for suggesting this timeline (and they’ve been quite accurate in the past).

Next, they need to also want to read e-books. The number of people who read books at all regularly is quite a minority in itself, so we definitely are talking about an unusual population.

I’ve been wanting to read my Kindle books in VAM space, and I hadn’t found a way. I did find a way to read some other books, but not my purchases from the Kindle store.

Why do I want to do that?

When I’m wearing my

Samsung Gear VR headset (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

at work (at lunch, or on a break), it is uniquely isolating. It gives me a real sense of being somewhere else, which, while I love my job, can be a good mental reset.

Right now, I may watch Netflix or Hulu, and I do play some games (but gaming is not the majority of my time in VAM space, contrary to what I commonly hear people assume). However, I want to read. 🙂 If I play a game for a bit of a reset, then I may want to spend some time exercising and reading.

I do want to be clear: we aren’t where I want to be yet. I need some way to hands-free change “pages”, so I can read while doing floor work, like crunches. I can watch video that way, but with the current implementation, I tap the side of my head (really my headset) to change a page. That’s not convenient…I still expect Amazon to make a big move into VAM space before the end of the year, and while that’s most likely to be Prime Video at a minimum, a book reading “experience” is also a possibility. Audiobooks/text-to-speech would be another way to go, but in this post, I’m talking about sight reading.

Here’s how it works:

I’m using Samsung Internet on my Gear (my phone, which powers it, is a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge…one generation back, now).

I go to the Kindle Cloud Reader:

https://read.amazon.com/

This next step is what I believe is new, and is what made it work.

I select the menu in my top right corner of the main screen, then select, “Request Computer Version” (you can see the little selector circle…in this app, I tap the side of the headset to choose it…in some apps, I “eye gaze”).

Then, I was able to log into the site…and I could use it like I could on my laptop!

Well, it’s a little clunkier…I can’t go back as easily, but I can still read.

Here’s a shot of my library…I don’t usually show you the book covers, but I feel like these are small enough and the purpose is right for it to fall under Fair Use.

This is a shot of what it looks like reading a book (the public domain title The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs…I watched the Doug McClure movie recently as part of the revived Mystery Science Theater 3000. I’d already seen the movie, which I want so MST3K doesn’t spoil it for me…but I must say, I really like the revival! They are doing a lot more, I think, with the production numbers, which I enjoy):

Now, this is a 360 degree environment…I can look around, even look behind me, but the book is in front of me…like it was on a movie screen, but I find it a comfortable size to read. In fact, I’d love to get more words on the page, so I didn’t have to tap so much. 🙂 Hmm…I may be able to change that, I’ll look. I’m sure Amazon could do something that would advance through the book on its own.

I can change the size of the image…that’s part of Samsung Internet, although it doesn’t change dramatically.

One nice thing is that I can change the “background” (but is it really a background when it surround me?). That could even be a 360 degree picture of my own…maybe Len Edgerly of

The Kindle Chronicles

will do that. 🙂 We did an interview about VAM space, with an emphasis on Amazon and books…and I know Len makes 360 videos, so probably has images to use.

Again, this is in no way everything I want. When I’m on a plane later this year, I’m assuming I’ll be able to use my headset (I’m traveling domestically…and the headset isn’t powered, but who knows?). I’d plan on reading on my Kindle Fire, too, but I can see switching between games, videos, and books without taking off the headset (I would need to download some books before I go, unless I can connect to wi-fi…that’s what I’ve been doing so far to read, streaming it).

We are on the bottom rungs of the ladder which is the future!

Bonus deal:

I know this is likely to be too late for some of you, but I couldn’t get to this until tonight. Today’s

Kindle Daily Deal (at AmazonSmile…benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

is “Up to 80% off top book club picks by Goodreads on Kindle”. Check them out…there are some good deals!


My current Amazon Giveaways

One Murder More (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

the award-winning, highly-rated mystery by my sibling, Kris Calvin!

Giveaway: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/398897583537603c

  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Kris Calvin on Amazon (to my knowledge, all that you’ll get is a notification when Kris publishes a new book in the Kindle store, although I don’t know that for sure…that’s all I’ve ever seen for authors I follow, I think. Kris is working on the second book in the Maren Kane mystery series.
Start:May 20, 2017 5:20 AM PDT
End:May 27, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

Thanks to the hundreds of people who have entered my previous giveaways for a chance to win Kris’ book! I don’t benefit directly from Kris’ book, although we have had a lot of conversations about it. 🙂

Amazon Giveaway for And Then There Were None!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/3e6a60b4814649a3

Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winner.
Requirements for participation:
Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
18+ years of age (or legal age)

Start:May 12, 2017 6:24 PM PDT
End:Jun 11, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

===

Star Wars Day through 40 years of Star Wars!
Giveaway by Bufo Calvin
  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
    • Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)

Giveaway:
https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/0ce7b24b32a4a670

Start:May 4, 2017 6:32 AM PDT
End:Jun 3, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

It’s going on that long in part so that it covers the actual 40th anniversary of Star Wars (of the release in the USA) on May 25th 2017. Also, this book, which has good reviews and is new, is $14.99 in the Kindle edition…which is a lot for me for a giveaway. 🙂

Good luck, and may the Force be with you!

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

All aboard our new 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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