Saturday, August 29, 2015

Amazon Underground: A new feature that offers normally Paid-Android apps that are "Actually Free" - no tiered-level costs added - for both Android tablets and Kindle HD-HDX tablets. UPDATE-1 (how developers get paid + more info)


AMAZON UNDERGROUND: $10,000 worth of "Actually Free" apps and games replace Free Amazon App of the Day

Huge change to Amazon's former "Free Android App of the Day" feature.  It's gone.  In its place is Amazon Underground app.

  The first stories I read left me unclear on what this actually means for customers and how this will work.

Amazon, though, has a suitably underground-looking graphic on its Amazon Underground page.  While you can read it easily on a desktop or larger tablet, it's harder to see on a phone or smaller tablet.   I found a text copy of it and am including it here for much easier reading and I've highlighted the more important aspects of the new feature.

  I was glad to see that the apps that are designated 'Actually Free' -- despite these apps normally having paid tiers -- will be automatically available on the Kindle Fire HD and HDX tablets as well as on any Android tablet.

' Dear Customers,

Amazon Underground is a new app for your Android phone. It has all of the functionality of our regular Amazon mobile shopping app... plus an exciting addition: over ten thousand dollars in apps, games and in-app items that are actually free.

Many apps and games that are marked as "free" turn out not to be completely free. They use in-app payments to charge you for special items or to unlock features or levels. In Underground, you will find 100% free versions of popular premium titles like OfficeSuite Professional 8, Goat Simulator, and PhotoSuite 4 and popular titles with in-app purchases like Frozen Free Fall, Star Wars Rebels: Recon Missions, Angry Birds Slingshot Stella, Looney Tunes Dash! and many more.

We’ve made this possible by working out a new business model with app and game developers: we’re paying them a certain amount on a per-minute played basis in exchange for them waiving their normal in-app fees. To be clear, we’re the ones picking up those per minute charges -- so for you it’s simply free. Just look for apps and games marked with an "Actually Free" banner.

Normally you’d go to Google Play to download an Android app onto your phone. But Google’s rules don’t allow an app that offers apps or games to be included in Google Play.  So, you need to download the Underground app directly from Amazon.com.

  (Underground apps and games are automatically available on Fire HD and Fire HDX tablets.)

One last point on this. The Amazon Underground app is a long-term program rather than a one-off promotion. Over time, we’ll continue to invent and add more benefits to Underground. For now, enjoy some actually free apps and games!'

This is quite a challenge to Google Play!

Amazon adds, on their Amazon Underground webpage that there are two ways to Get the Amazon Underground App.

  Visit amazon.com/underground from your Android Phone
  Enter your email or mobile number to receive a link to download


NOTE: After posting this so you can see this sooner, I'll add any interesting aspects I become aware of that are not covered here, so bookmark this blog entry for more information as it goes.

UPDATE-1
Mainstream tech sites are still exploring what this actually means for customers and for developers both and Amazon is being more open on how they've been able to offer this and what the details are that encouraged developers to allow offering the apps for free and what those incentives are.  One factor is that developers found that customers are not eager to pay at each new level reached.
Wired.Com writes:
  ' More recently, and far more dramatically [than with Apple's recent Pay Once and Play], Amazon introduced Underground, an Android app that contains a huge number of traditionally paid or freemium apps that will cost its users absolutely nothing to use ...

  ' "For many customers we were hearing that sometimes it’s frustrating when you’re involved in a game and have to stop and make a transaction,” says Amazon Appstore director Aaaron Rubenson. “What we realized is that a model like the one we rolled out in Underground, where customers can simply download and use all of the features of a given app, or explore a game without having to worry about transactions in the middle… would be wonderful for customers.”
  ...
  ' “In general, the industry has to think about how to innovate on the business model.”

' Which brings us back to Amazon Underground, the most aggressive innovation of that sort you’re likely to see.
  ...
' ... It’s also why, while Amazon footing the bill for both its customers and developers is a genuine win-win, it’s not no-brainer.  It’s also not a model you’re likely to see anyone else replicate any time soon. '

That Wired article is a long, analytical look at this. Read the rest here.

AndroidPolice has detail on how developers will be paid by Amazon.
' ... the gist of it is that developers will be paid 1 penny for every 5 minutes an Underground customer is using their app.
...
'For some, this could work out really well on the development side of things.  It's not out of the question for certain types of games to have individual users reach 100 hours of gameplay, which would make you $12 on one person. Amazon's example is getting users for 4 hours per month, netting a developer roughly $0.50 per user each month until they quit using the app. There will probably be some big winners here since they won't ever stop making money from the people using their app.

'Still, users who play a freemium game that much are also those most likely to splurge on big IAPs [In-App Purchases]. The question some developers have to answer is whether Underground will attract the huge spenders that their app may depend on, cutting off major sources of income, or if it will instead only bring on users who would never pay '

That article cites Ars Technica's report that, for Amazon's part (how do they not lose money on this?), the Underground apps are heavily ad-supported.  If an app proves more popular than before, might Amazon offer a No-Ads version? That latter would be beneficial to developers who see smaller profits from the new opt-in system.

  Another article by AndroidPolice reported a confirmation by Amazon (though I thought the announcement was clear) that apps marked "Actually Free" will have zero in-app purchases involved.
' In the game that I tested, Jetpack Joyride, the IAP items I was used to seeing had all their prices marked as zero, and processing them through Amazon resulted in a "$0.00" charge to my account. Neat.'


I'll keep watching the user response to this and the program in general and will update here if I see anything of special interest.  It's a very creative move by Amazon.


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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Further Amazon e-Ink Kindle eReader new software-feature updates, v5.6.5, with Kindle models further identified. Tuesday's Free Android App of the day: PianoMaster, normally $2.99.


Free App of the Day - Piano Master


Free for one day (Tues.), the Full version, normally $2.99

Further Updates on E-Ink Kindles Last week
This software update, v5.6.5 was released the day after I wrote about other software updates and it's being slowly being received over the air, receivable when you're connected to WiFi.

TIP for anyone not seeing enhancements in enabled Kindle books
The new features are available on books prepared to use the enhancements.  A couple of people have experienced no changes seen in enabled Kindle books but found that if they deleted the Kindle book from their Kindle devices and re-downloaded it from the 'Cloud' then the enhancements were shown.

  The new Bookerly font is very readable, as I've written in a past blog article on the Paperwhite 2 update that got this font earlier.  In my case, I still use the Helvetica font because it has the most contrast.  The Paperwhite 2 did not receive the new layout features at the time, however, and they're available to the mentioned models now.

 This blog article quotes the Amazon announcement made at their forums and highlights a few items in bold face, with added information in brackets to further identify the models affected.
'Software Update for Kindle Voyage, Kindle Paperwhite, and Kindle

We have a free software update available for Kindle Voyage, Kindle Paperwhite (7th Generation) Paperwhite 3 ], the previous generation Kindle Paperwhite Paperwhite 2  ], and Kindle (7th Generation) current Kindle basic model with Touch screen ].

In addition to performance improvements for your Kindle, new features include:
Smart Cards
A redesigned Smart Lookup makes it easier to get to the actions you want to take while reading - highlight, create a note, share a quote, and more, while keeping your favorite Smart Lookup features like Dictionary, Wikipedia, and X-Ray easily accessible.  Just tap and hold on a word, phrase, or sentence to bring up Smart Lookup and swipe right to see the next card.
Reading Improvements
   These reading improvements are:
~Bookerly, a new font specifically designed for digital screens and tailored for Kindle books, is now available on Kindle Voyage, the previous generation Kindle Paperwhite [Paperwhite 2 ], and Kindle (7th Generation) current basic Kindle model ], in addition to Kindle Paperwhite (7th Generation) current Paperwhite model ].  It introduces a lighter, more graceful look that's akin to the best traditional fonts found in print books.

~Improved word spacing, which results in faster, easier reading across all fonts. When words are unevenly spaced on a line of text, or the spacing between words varies from line to line, it's harder for the eye to scan a passage of text while reading. So Amazon's new technology uses advanced rules for breaking words across lines with hyphenation while adjusting the space between words, to create paragraphs that are more even and consistent line to line.

~Improved character placement, which increases word-recognition speed. Digital fonts in browsers lack the subtle variable adjustments between characters that make high-quality print materials look great. Amazon's reading technology now applies kerning, which looks at neighboring pairs of letters in context and adjusts the character spacing to suit the word.

~Large font optimizations, which reduce visual distractions when customers choose larger font. The text is automatically left aligned to reduce gaps, and margins, indents, nested lists, borders and drop caps all get special treatment to keep the page easy to read with less effort.

~Enhanced page layout with typographically correct drop caps, and images and graphics that fit the page as the author meant them to be displayed, scaling correctly to reflect the page size and the customer's preferred font size.

~Footnotes, endnotes and chapter notes are displayed in a pop up panel, either at the bottom of the page when the note will fit in the bottom-third of the page, or full screen if the note will not fit in the bottom-third of the page.

Personalized Recommendations on Goodreads on Kindle
Now you can access book recommendations personalized just for you inside the Goodreads app on your Kindle. The Goodreads algorithms analyze more than 20 billion data points and deliver surprising suggestions-all to help you find the book you'll want to read next. If you haven't used recommendations on Goodreads before, simply tell us your favorite genres and rate some books, and we'll provide you with personalized recommendations.
  To learn more about a recommended title, just tap on the book cover to see more details. The more books you rate, the better your recommendations will be.


These features will be delivered automatically as part of a free, over-the-air software update in the coming weeks, or you can visit Amazon's software update pages for the U.S. and for the UK to download the software update. '



  For daily free ebooks, check the following links:
Temporarily-free books - Non-classics
USA: by:
   Publication Date  
   Bestselling   High-ratings

UK: PubDate   Popular
The Kindle Daily Deal
What is 3G? and "WiFi"?       Battery Care
Highly-rated under $1,  Newest: $1-$2, $2-$3
Most Popular Free K-Books
U.S. & Int'l (NOT UK):
   Top 100 free
UK-Only:
   Top 100 free
USEFUL for your Kindle Keyboard(U.S. only, currently):
  99c Notepad 1.1,   99c Calculator,
  99c Calendar,   99c Converter


  *Click* to Return to the HOME PAGE.  Or click on the web browser's BACK button



Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
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Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!

Monday, August 10, 2015

A special Kindle eReader limited time sale. Amazon Software Updates - some alerts and workarounds - tablets and eReaders. Amazon is working on resolving video display problems on some tablet updates. Updated free Kindle book search-links for August.


AMAZON Software Updates

_______________
First -- CURRENT, Limited Time Sale - $20 off the recent-discounted prices on Kindle eReaders

"Limited-Time Offers: $20 off Kindle $79 $59 and Kindle for Kids Bundle $99 $79"
On the basic Kindle eReader (7th Generation), Amazon has been discounting the price from $99 to $79.  There's an additional $20 off, for a limited time, bringing the temporary price down to $59.  This basic eReader is not front-lighted the way the Paperwhite and Voyage models are, and the special features are fewer, but it's for those who just want an inexpensive, simple eReader.

The "Kindle for Kids Bundle" offers the same basic Kindle model but with "2-Year Accident Protection, Blue Kid-Friendly Cover" added, for the temporary price of $79.  The features, bought separately would normally cost $139 or so.

_______________
There have been a number of silent software updates recently, automated and over the air, although the update-files are available for manual installs if they're wanted earlier.  However, in the case of the update for Kindle Fire and Fire tablets, OS software version 4.5.5, there have been reports of problems with videos not displaying in Youtube and other websites after the update.

Note that these are considered updates made available for "general improvements and performance enhancements" but they include no new features.

  Mine came over the air on August 6, and I haven't experienced the problems with videos that others have, and it could be because I added a Flash file that's used by the alternate Dolphin browser but which may be helping even when using Amazon's default 'Silk' web browser.   I also made sure my video settings at Amazon are are for 'flash' (for my tablets) rather than "Silverlight."  All this is explained in the blog article on how to get video working on webpages that are, for some reason, balking at delivering video content to the tablet.

  Customers at the Kindle Forums have been discussing notes sent to and received from Kindle device support staff. While some have luck with the appropriate software update files, others began experiencing video problems after theirs was installed over the air by Amazon.  BUT, Amazon will sometimes place a newer update file on their update pages without changing the update version number.  The one I received on my Year-2013 8.9" Kindle Fire HDX at first hesitated to show videos but resolved itself within a few minutes.  The "Settings / Device / System updates" area on the tablet shows no newer update since August 6.

  The software update files, while helping some with the video-play problem (on webpages and youtube) did not help others, and some even found that after their tablets had gone into sleep mode, something changed, and videos were working again after waking up the tablet  So, I'd wait before doing anything.
  Amazon support reps tell customers requestiong help that it'll take only a couple of days to fix the problems.

  Another tip given by "angry old man" at the forum advised:
  "Amazon told me to clear the Appstore data.  I did it and my device will stream now.
   Just go to the settings at the top of the screen, hit "more" [or "Settings" if a later model] subject "Applications," "installed applications" [or "Appstore" directly if a later model], select Appstore, and hit Clear Data."

[On my somewhat later Yr 2013 HDX model, there is no appstore data to clear, but I do choose the setting of "Off" for "Collect App Usage Data" and maybe that was why I didn't experience the video problems associated with app data that has required 'clearing' in some cases.  Amazon would prefer to have the setting enabled to collect data on how apps are used, but I prefer to keep my use simple.]

UPSHOT - I recommend NOT doing anything about the update file(s) until Amazon resolves this, as they are well aware of the problems.  It could be that older Kindle Fire models are more affected by it.


Kindle eReader software updates
Softpedia.com reports that there are also updates for


Amazon Kindle 5th Generation -- Firmware 4.1.3
and

the older Amazon Kindle Touch (released after Kindle Keyboard 3) -- Firmware 5.3.7.3

It's difficult to identify the Kindles affected, considering Amazon's odd device-name decisions, and I'm showing the models affected using the software-updates page, but AGAIN, I would do nothing and let Amazon install these automatically, since these are just for general improvements and performance enhancements and I don't think they're worth installing manually.  I've not seen forum messages about any problems with these.

 You can check your model's device software version against these version numbers.  Remember that you can always call Kindle Support at 1-866-321-8851 when you need help on your devices.


ECHO Updates and PRIME household sharing changes (the latter misunderstood by some mainstream tech columnists).
I'm doing separate blog entries for these.


REMINDER
August's free Kindle books (contemporary or non-classics)
    July 2015  August 2015.
    Also, all currently free non-classics sorted by:
    Publication Date   Bestselling    High ratings




  For daily free ebooks, check the following links:
Temporarily-free books - Non-classics
USA: by:
   Publication Date  
   Bestselling   High-ratings

UK: PubDate   Popular
The Kindle Daily Deal
What is 3G? and "WiFi"?       Battery Care
Highly-rated under $1,  Newest: $1-$2, $2-$3
Most Popular Free K-Books
U.S. & Int'l (NOT UK):
   Top 100 free
UK-Only:
   Top 100 free
USEFUL for your Kindle Keyboard(U.S. only, currently):
  99c Notepad 1.1,   99c Calculator,
  99c Calendar,   99c Converter


  *Click* to Return to the HOME PAGE.  Or click on the web browser's BACK button


Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

Send to Kindle


(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
If interested, you can also follow my add'l blog-related news at Facebook and Twitter
Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Amazon replaces Walmart as world's biggest retailer ... HBO Now available on some Amazon tablets ... Fire TV and Stick updated to access hotel WiFi with log-in screens, a how-to guide ... Other new features installed in Fire TV and TVFire Stick ... HBO Collections in Amazon Prime ... Unusual discounted Kindle books alert for 7/23-24 ... amusing, less-known facts about Amazon's history


Amazon and Kindle news updates
The photo at the left -- or in the center for Kindle Blog Edition subscribers who get the most-recent 20~ blog posts in each Kindle version (14-day free trial) -- is from a wonderful look by bt.com at the original Amazon page 20 years ago when Amazon made its first appearance.

The story includes 14 other things most of us did not know about ye olde Amazon, including why it was named 'Amazon' in the first place (the original name chosen is hilarious and I think the company probably wouldn't have been quite as successful with it) and what that underlying arrow in the logo means.

The article mentions Amazon's oft stated 4 principles:
"• Customer obsession rather than competitor focus
 • passion for invention
 • commitment to operational excellence and
 • long-term thinking."

It's somewhat fitting then that on its 20th birthday Amazon has suddenly become (last night) the world's largest retailer by market value, replacing Walmart as #1 after Amazon stock surged almost 17% when their latest quarterly report exceeded expectations, even including a profit for once.  Amazon has preferred to invest money back into expanded operations and new services of every conceivable type.  Its market cap is now approximately $264 billion to Walmart's $235 billion.

 The BT article on Amazon's history includes a picture of the company's first office building after the business graduated from Jeff Bezos' garage.  It's always amazing to me what one person with a vision and laser-focused energy can accomplish in this world

A little break here for a more mundane note, a small tip on the Kindle Daily Deal today (for those not watching daily)
  For fans of NY Times bestseller Michael Koryta
  Three of Koryta's thrillers are available at $1.99 each today only.

  And, probably even better, some unusual SHORT-term Kindle book discount alerts for the last two days
  NOTE: These last usually 1-3 days, but too often just one day.

N E W:
HBO Now (ad-free) is now available for Android devices and Amazon's Fire tablets. The PR release mentions "latest" Fire tablets, 6", 7", and HDX but does not mention the older tablets and I asked for clarification.  Found, at the app page that my Yr 2013 HDX 8.9" is eligible, And Amazon responded with this list of eligible Kindle Fire and Fire tablet devices.
 •       Kindle Fire HD 7
 •       Kindle Fire HDX 7 WiFi
 •       Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 WiFi
 •       Fire HD 6
 •       Fire HD 7
 •       Fire HDX 8.9 WiFi

  HBO Now will also be available in a few weeks for FireTV and Fire Stick - for those hoping to free themselves from Cable.  This will be at $15/mo. but if that can get some viewers off Cable TV's ever escalating monthly fees, it may be worth it for HBO watchers.
   I subscribe to Hulu (formerly known as Hulu Plus), and Showtime is going to be there with no need for a cable TV subscription, for $9/mo.

  This differs from the HBO Collection of older series already available on Amazon Prime.

How to attach Fire TV to a public WiFi network (hotel etc)
Amazon announced the software update that enables using Fire TV and FireTV Stick with hotel networks requiring a login screen.
   Mainstream tech sites had reported it was coming, although slowly over several weeks and 'over the air' to Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.
  That was back in late March:

  Now it should be generally installed, so here are the Instructions for or guide to doing this.

  As Verge explained from the Amazon press release:
' Amazon says both devices are the first media streamers to support the "captive portal," or Wi-Fi networks that require web-based authentication. You'd typically find these at hotels, where it's often hard or impossible to connect your own Apple TV or Chromecast to the Wi-Fi network. But now Fire TV owners can replace the hotel's own lacking entertainment options with the content they'd normally watch at home. '
  [and]
'the OTA release will add a few significant new features, led by support for expandable USB storage for the set-top box. You'll be able to plug in an external USB drive to boost the amount of space for your Fire TV apps and games — if you've somehow already managed to exceed the built-in storage, that is.'
  [Note that the support for an external USB drive isn't of course available for the little FireTV Stick though.]

'Curated playlists from Prime Music, hidden PIN entry (to keep the kids from seeing your code), and quicker shortcuts for putting the Fire TV to sleep or activating screen mirroring round out the latest update.'
More tidbits from that BT article on Amazon
Also from that BT article on things we didn't know about Amazon, there were some interesting actual numbers on some items sold on the infamous PrimeDay.  I had seen that, early that day, they'd sold 4,000 Echo's in 15 minutes, at $50 off, but here are some other items noted:
' To celebrate its 20th birthday, Amazon launched Prime Day with exclusive discounts for Prime members. 56,000 Lord of the Rings trilogy box sets, 47,000 televisions and 14,000 iRobot Roomba 595 Pet Vacuum Cleaning Robots were sold; in the case of the latter, this compared to just one the previous Wednesday. '
Intrigued by what the iRobot Roomba was like that involved 14,000 buys that day vs one purchase the week before, I went to see the product listing and saw that it's $380 now and wondered what the discount was when it sold so many.  I've always been curious about it but not at that current listed price.

There is more news to catch up on, but I've been able to drop one larger project that was keeping me away from this blog and will be able to be here more often again, so will report the rest in a couple of days.


Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
If interested, you can also follow my add'l blog-related news at Facebook and Twitter
Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Amazon's rather huge PrimeDay sales and contests reminder - one day only. Update for TV sales schedule. Update2 with specific link to Primeday-Electronics

Is there anyone left in this world that doesn't know it's Amazon's Prime Day?

Touted as bigger than Black Friday.  For those of you who haven't read your emails and Amazon's screens this week, below is the preview they posted last night of the sales that are available today, prefaced by updates to this blog entry.

This started at midnight last night. No surprise that the page is slow-loading.
  New sales occur every 10 minutes, and there are time limits on purchasing them, which has been frustrating for some, who missed out before hearing the notification alarms.

A press release headline yesterday stated
"Amazing deals include 32-inch TV for $75 and 40-inch TV for $115"

UPDATE to add a schedule for sales of TVs today, per Rachel
at the Kindle Forums
Home Entertainment
*Samsung UN50HU8550 50" 4K 3D 120Hz LED Smart HDTV Starts 7:20am
*LG 55UB8200 55" 4K LED Smart HDTV Starts 10:50ambel
*LG 49UB8200 49" 4K LED Smart HDTV Starts 2:50pm
*LG 32LF595B 32" 720p LED Smart HDTV Starts 9:10am
*Vizio M49-C1 49" 4K 120Hz LED Smart HDTV Starts 8:50am
*Vizio 38" Soundbar w/ Sub + Rear Speakers (Refurb) Starts 12:50pm
*Vizio S2121w-D0 2.1 Sound Stand w/ Built-In Sub Starts 9:50am
*Optoma HD37 Full 3D 1080p DLP Projector Starts 12:50pm
*LG PV150G LED Minibeam Projector Starts 6:50am
Per Amazon, "Thousands of exclusive lightning deals with new deals added as often as every ten minutes throughout the day. With more deals than Black Friday, members will enjoy thousands of deals from sought-after devices and tools to popular toys and pet supplies."  Anyone can start a free 30-day trial and participate in Prime Day, by visiting Amazon's PRIMEDAY page

Update2 - I'm adding a link to Primeday's Electronics page, because most of those asking questions in the forums have been interested in the various gadgets on discount.  These include the special prices on Kindle devices and the Fire TV Stick. Amazon's PRIMEDAY-Electronics page.

Deals Preview: The following are examples of some of the deals that will be available at various times throughout Prime Day.
  • Fire TV Stick, fastest selling Amazon device of all time, $15 off
  • Kindle, $30 off
  • Fire HD 7, $60 off
  • Fire HD 7 Kids Edition, $60 off
  • 32-inch LED TV, $75
  • 40-inch 1080p LED TV, $115
  • Brand-name 32-inch Smart HDTV, under $200
  • 50-inch 4K TV bundle, under $1000
  • Bose headphones at the lowest price ever on Amazon
  • Chromebook laptop, only $199
  • Over 50% off two Nikon COOLPIX cameras
  • Highly rated binoculars, under $120
  • Two security camera-kits, $279.99
  • K'NEX 2-in-1 Ferris Wheel Building Set (Amazon Exclusive), $35.99
  • K'NEX Crossfire Chaos Roller Coaster Building Set (Amazon Exclusive), $23.99
  • Playskool Heroes Transformers Rescue Bots Optimus Prime Figure (AmazonExclusive), $9.99
  • iRobot Roomba Pet Vacuum Cleaning Robot, under $300
  • Husqvarna mower, under $300
  • 40 lightning deals on DVDs up to 75% off
  • Up to 50% off any of the Harry Potter books
  • Save more than 70% on the Divergent Series Complete Box Set of books
  • Save up to 70% on select kitchen products from top brands like Cuisinart, KitchenAid, Foodsaver and Thermos
  • Save up to 50% on select tools for the DIY auto enthusiast
  • Connected Car and Scan Tool products starting at 60% off
  • Road-trip-ready automotive products starting at 50% off
  • Save more than 50% on Drinkwell Platinum Pet Fountain
  • 30% off select clothing, shoes, jewelry, watches & more
  • 60% off Amazon Elements Baby Wipes with code ELEMENTS60
  • Free luxury beauty sample box with $50 purchase of luxury beauty products, with promo code LUXSAMPLES
  • Buy an Amazon.com Gift Card multipack, get $10 in Amazon.com promotional credit
  • Get 25% bonus Amazon Coins when you buy 5,000 or 10,000 Amazon Coins
  • Prime Now will also offer deals in the six cities where the service is offered
That list plus all the special contests they've put together for very large gift card rewards will keep the page slow to load, so stay on the page once you're there.

Here are the special contests, as seen in Amazon's general Press Release
  I added some emphases beyond Amazon's titles to highlight benefits:
  • Transparent Red Carpet Experience: Amazon customers in the US, UK andGermany will have a chance to win a trip to the Transparent Season 2 premiere this fall. One winner and a guest from each country will receive round-trip airfare, hotel stay and transportation as well as a chance to meet the cast and creators from the Golden Globe-winning Amazon Original Series. For a chance to win in the US visit:Amazon's RedCarpet page.

  • Listen to Win: Prime members in the US who listen to any song on Prime Music will automatically be entered to win up-to $25,000 in Amazon Gift Cards. Prime members can stream a song, an album or listen to any Prime Station or Playlist for a chance to win Amazon.com Gift Card prizes, ranging from $1,000 to the Grand Prize of $25,000 in Amazon.com Gift Cards. For a chance to win visit: Amazon's listentowin-rules page.

A couple of more listed in the press release:

#PrimeLiving Photo Contest: Through July 15 (today), members are invited to snap a photo of #PrimeLiving moments and upload them at Amazon's Primeliving photo page for the chance to win$10,000 in Amazon Gift Cards. To learn more about the #PrimeLiving photo contest and get inspiration from artists around the world, watch here.
Prime Personalities: Amazon invites customers to take a quiz to discover what kind of Prime member they are, and enter for the chance to win a $2,000 Amazon.com Gift Card. No purchase necessary. See contest rules at amzn.to/QUIZ.

That's the meat from the press release.  Of course any of this can be done, they add, from a smartphone or tablet,

 Those not already Prime members but interested and eligible can participate in Amazon's PRIMEDAY festivities by signing up for a 30-day free trial of Prime at Amazon's PrimeDay page.

So, for those who had not received word on this (too busy, etc), I'll get this additional reminder off.

Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Comparison of Kindle Paperwhite 3 display (2015) with my older Paperwhite 1 (2012) -- Is the increased resolution (doubled) noticeable?

fmi

The thumbnail photos above are clickable to the larger versions, of course.  These were taken after about 8:30pm at night in low light without flash, with the light just coming from the two Kindles on the table -- the older Paperwhite 1 on the left and the new Paperwhite 3 on the right.

Here's one larger example so that you can have some idea of the difference I saw without needing to click to the larger photos if you're in a hurry.

These photos were taken on the night I received the Paperwhite 3, with very little sunlight left.  Both Kindles were placed on a table top, and I tried to take photos from the middle area between them so as not to favor one over the other.

I'll repeat here what I explain on the photos page at PBase where the full set is shown in larger sizes for 'closer' examination.

These are for a comparison of my new Yr 2015 Paperwhite-3 screen display (resolution differences and display contrast) with my Yr 2012 Paperwhite-1.

Is the higher resolution (double the old model's) worth the $119 to get the newer one?

  That'll depend on the individual.  IF perceived contrast of text against background is more important than sharper text for some Kindle users, it could be better for those owners to keep using the older ones that may be less sharp but which have a dark fuzz around the font making it seem bolder, and there's less light coming from the older Paperwhite.  I've eyes that are somewhat oversensitive to light.

The Paperwhite-2 (2014) (which I didn't upgrade to) received a faster processor, but the Paperwhite-1 which I kept using is noticeably slower than the new Paperwhite 3, so I'm happy to have the higher resolution and faster speed.

  Paperwhite 2 owners are already seeing a speed improvement over Paperwhite 1.  So if you have a Paperwhite 2, the difference will be mainly in the resolution of the text, which is more noticeable if you enlarge the font or try to read a page in smaller fonts.  People reported that the Paperwhite 2 screen released last year was made brighter than the Paperwhite 1.

I do tend to increase the font size these days to '4' or '5' or even '6' when my eyes are tired -- and the new resolution with the Paperwhite-3 (UK model here) makes this even more readable than before and it's also better with smaller text because of less relative blur (not noticeable usually) in the basic font size.

  I used the Helvetica font because it is the boldest one, as I prefer more contrast.

  In the photos, you can see that the built-in light (again, both were set at Level '14' out of a possible '24') is brighter on the new Paperwhite than it is on my Paperwhite 1 (which has always had some minor blotching besides on the display when in lower light (as you'll see in the close-ups) -- and text against the brightness of the newer model can SOMEtimes appear LESS contrasty than on the older model.  The older model is on the left, the newer on the right.

  In my case, the new display is definitely easier on my own eyes.  And it more resembles the white page of a physical book than my old Paperwhite did, as you can see.  Actually, it's quite beautiful.

  I chose a low level of illumination because that's more comfortable for my eyes, but I've seen that others like the built-in light set all the way up to '24' -- however, this way, people won't be disappointed when they see the screen is brighter than shown here, which wasn't true of older models vs the ads.

Which to choose -- the Paperwhite 3 or the more expensive Kindle Voyage?
I covered that in detail in the previous blog article, "How does the new Paperwhite differ from the Voyage model?" -- and Amazon's press release, included in that article, listed everyday Kindle features that many Kindle owners aren't aware of.  Give it a look if you haven't already.




  For daily free ebooks, check the following links:
Temporarily-free books - Non-classics
USA: by:
   Publication Date  
   Bestselling   High-ratings

UK: PubDate   Popular
The Kindle Daily Deal
What is 3G? and "WiFi"?       Battery Care
Highly-rated under $1,  Newest: $1-$2, $2-$3
Most Popular Free K-Books
U.S. & Int'l (NOT UK):
   Top 100 free
UK-Only:
   Top 100 free
USEFUL for your Kindle Keyboard(U.S. only, currently):
  99c Notepad 1.1,   99c Calculator,
  99c Calendar,   99c Converter


  *Click* to Return to the HOME PAGE.  Or click on the web browser's BACK button


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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kindle Tips: Software Update v5.6.1.1 for original Paperwhite 1 (US, UK) ... Info and tips on how to use the features



Amazon has announced software update version 5.6.1.1 for the original Paperwhite-1

The announcement, posted in the Kindle Forums, was for a "free software update available for the original Kindle Paperwhite.  This update adds features including Word Wise and Family Library that were previously only available on newer generation Kindle e-readers."

The software update includes "general improvements and the following feature enhancements"

Added text in brackets and emphases in boldface or italics are mine:

~Word Wise -For readers learning English and kids learning to read, Word Wise, available on many English language titles, makes it easier to enjoy and quickly understand more challenging books.  Short and simple definitions automatically appear above difficult words, so you can keep reading with fewer interruptions.
[Tip: Here's a page on HOW to use Wordwise, including how to turn it off or on.  The page explains that not all books are wordwise-enabled.  Here's a link to Amazon's listing of currently Wordwise-enabled books.]
  To learn more or to see the various meanings the same word can have in different contexts, just tap on the word to bring up a simple card with definitions, synonyms, and more.
  You can adjust the number of hints you see with a simple slider, dialing them up or down as you learn and grow.  See a screenshot.

~Family Library- With Kindle and Kindle reading apps, you can access not only your own books, but also books from the Amazon account of a spouse or partner.  See a screenshot
[Tip: Prime members that use a business name can share free 2-day Prime-shipping among 4 employees sharing the space.]
~Kindle FreeTime Unlimited - An all-in-one subscription for kids that offers unlimited, ad-free access to more than 5,000 age-appropriate books, videos, educational apps and games, for as little as $2.99 per month.
  [Tip: Freetime Info Links for specific Kindle devices:
  Paperwhite 1; later Kindle eReaders; and Fire tablets
]
~Expanded X-Ray for Books - X-Ray now makes it easier to explore as you read-quickly flip through all the images in a book, and use the new timeline view to easily browse the most notable passages.  See a screenshot.

~Deeper Goodreads Integration - Goodreads on Kindle makes it quicker to access and update your reading status and adds the ability to preview and purchase books without leaving Goodreads.  See a screenshot.

~Enhanced Search - Makes it even easier to find what you're looking for by combining and previewing results from your Library, Goodreads and the Kindle Store on the same page.  See a screenshot

~About This Book- See information about the book as you start to read, including its place in a series and author information, plus mark it as "Currently Reading" on Goodreads.  See a screenshot

These features will be delivered automatically as part of a free, over-the-air software update in the coming weeks, or you can visit [the Paperwhite1 software page] to download the software update [U.S.]...'  [the UK Paperwhite 1 owners page here]

I corrected some links in the original announcement on the forums.

It's good to see Amazon continuing to support the original Kindle Paperwhite (2012).




Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

  *Click* to Return to the HOME PAGE.  Or click on the web browser's BACK button


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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New Kindle Paperwhite announced today. New Features. How does it differ from the Voyage model? ... Update 1: a reminder that 3G e-Ink Kindles get 24/7 free-3G access to Wikipedia


Well, I'll be!

Quiet Amazon just released a new Kindle Paperwhite model, at the same price as the 2nd Paperwhite.

I'll be referring to this as the Paperwhite 3 or Paperwhite 2015. (UK Paperwhite 3 is here.)

Things that stand out from the press release:

300 Pixels per Inch for Laser-Quality Text
This one has double the pixels of the Paperwhite 2, matching the premium (higher cost) Voyage model at 300 pixels per inch now.

This should make reading of the smaller fonts much more doable.
Those who reviewed the Yoyage, with the same resolution, tended to write that it is more like looking at a physical book page and that the words just pop off the screen as a result.  With smaller fonts that are very readable, you can view more text on a page.

  The ability to read smaller fonts much more easily also means you can fit more words on each page. 

New Bookerly Font and Typography Features
Amazon explains that they created "an exclusive font designed from the ground up for reading on digital screens ... [and] is hand-crafted for great readability at any size.  It introduces a lighter, more graceful look and outperforms other digital reading fonts to help customers read faster with less eyestrain."
  See examples and more information + new typesetting and layout features here.

  There's also a subpage that shows the Bookerly font compared with Palatino and Caecilia fonts, and it details what the details or improvements are.
  Even with these two popular fonts, Bookerly looks less like a typewriter than the others do.

Release date is June 30.  Preorders are being taken, of course.
Those wanting to receive it ON that day can just "Select "FREE Two-Day Shipping" at checkout."

The $119 price for this upgraded Paperwhite means that I'll finally upgrade from my Paperwhite 1, which was good enough for me, relative to the Paperwhite 2.

  Note that you can get this with 3G cell phone network capability added to the usual WiFi, for $189, which is still $10 less than for the basic Voyage ($199) without 3G.

  The Voyage with 3G is $269 currently.  (The prices quoted are with the Special Offers default for the lock screen image.  If you prefer not to see Special Offers. you can always opt later for No Special Offers, for $20 additional, in the eReader setup options.)

Update 1 - Many are not aware that with the e-Ink 3G e-Ink Kindles, you have 24/7 free 3G access to Wikipedia wherever there is a cellular network tower.  That's a big plus for people who like to look things up but either don't have a smartphone or tablet or prefer to not spend data charges on that -- and this way they don't have to rely on finding a WiFi hotspot or password to a friend's network.  [End of Update 1]


How is it different from the Voyage?

  The Voyage is thinner and it has the PagePress feature which uses sensors on the bezel area so that you can apply a bit more pressure (in the right spot) to turn the page without having to lift a finger to do this on the text display. That is probably most appreciated by those standing on commute trains or buses. The Voyage also has a built-in adaptive light to change brightness automatically to what it calculates is ideal. This works well for some and not for others.  I turn auto-brightness off on my phone and tablets but don't know how well the Voyage would adjust for my taste.



I'm including in this blog article most of the press release, directly below, so that you can see the full particulars as presented by Amazon today.  Also, those new to the Kindle can see a list of regular features that are less known.

_______ From Amazon's Press Release _______
Amazon Introduces New Kindle Paperwhite: The Most Popular Kindle, Now Even BetterStill Only $119

New 300 ppi display—unsurpassed resolution with twice the pixels for laser-quality text and images

All-new typography and layout features help you read faster with less eyestrain—new Bookerly font is crafted from the ground up for digital reading

SEATTLE—June 17, 2015—(NASDAQ: AMZN)—Amazon today introduced the all-new Kindle Paperwhite, updating its most popular and best-selling Kindle with the highest resolution Paperwhite display, the exclusive Kindle font Bookerly, and a new typesetting engine for more beautiful pages. Meet the new Kindle Paperwhite at www.amazon.com/paperwhite.  [ UK Paperwhite 3 here.]

“We love inventing for readers,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO. “The new Kindle Paperwhite obsesses over the details that matter most to readers—we’ve added our highest-resolution display so the words are crisp and clear on the page, a new font that is crafted exclusively for reading Kindle books, and a new typesetting engine that makes pages beautiful. Together, these details help you read faster and with less eyestrain, so you can lose yourself in the author’s world.”

New, Highest Resolution Paperwhite Display—300 Pixels per Inch for Laser-Quality Text
The new Kindle Paperwhite adds our highest resolution Paperwhite display, delivering the same 300 pixels per inch that readers love about the top-of-the-line Kindle Voyage. With unsurpassed resolution and 2x the pixels as the previous generation Kindle Paperwhite, the display delivers laser-quality text, making it easy to read comfortably at any font size, including at smaller fonts so you can fit more words on each page. Even with the new higher resolution display, Kindle Paperwhite delivers battery life that is measured in weeks rather than hours.

New Bookerly Font and Typography Features—Read Faster With Less Eyestrain
Kindle Paperwhite now offers Bookerly, an exclusive font designed from the ground up for reading on digital screens. Warm and contemporary, Bookerly is inspired by the artistry of the best fonts in modern print books, but is hand-crafted for great readability at any size. It introduces a lighter, more graceful look and outperforms other digital reading fonts to help customers read faster with less eyestrain. See Bookerly:www.amazon.com/bookerly.

The new Kindle Paperwhite also offers an all-new typesetting engine that lays out words just as the author intended:

-          Hyphenation and improved spacing—Kindle Paperwhite adds hyphenation to break words at the right place, creates paragraphs with consistent lines, and adjusts the space between words. This results in more natural word spacing and more words on each page, which allows for faster reading with less eyestrain. See an example: www.amazon.com/hyphenation
-          Improved character placement—New kerning and ligatures automatically adjust character spacing to make it easier and faster to recognize words at any font size. Similar to a typesetter formatting a print book, Kindle Paperwhite will look at neighboring pairs of letters in context and adjust the character spacing to suit the word, removing distracting whitespace between letters and making the shape of the word more beautiful to help with word recognition speed. For example, in the word “quietly”, the tail of the “y” loops under the “l” to make the letters of the word fit better together. In the word “first”, the “f” and “i” are drawn together to make a ligature. See an example:www.amazon.com/characterspacing.
-          Beautiful page layout—Print books often use drop caps to add emphasis and beauty to the first page of a chapter. In eBooks, this is challenging to replicate given the ability to adjust font size and line spacing. The new typesetting engine presents drop caps, text, and images on Kindle just as the author intended, and dynamically adjusts the layout as the reader changes the text size. See an example:www.amazon.com/dropcaps.
-          Large fonts, without compromises—One of the benefits of reading on Kindle is that you can customize the font size based on personal preference—over half of Kindle customers take advantage of this feature and use a font size larger than the default. As you increase the size of a font, fewer words appear on each page, often creating distractions like large white space or broken sentences. Now, Kindle Paperwhite automatically adapts when a reader chooses the largest font sizes, customizing the margins, columns, indents, nested lists, borders, and drop caps to keep the page easy to read. See an example:www.amazon.com/largefonts.

The new typography and layout improvements are available on over half a million books, including many best sellers, with thousands more being added every week. The features will be delivered as part of a free, over-the-air software update in the coming weeks.

Lose Yourself in a Book
Unlike tablets and phones, dedicated e-readers don’t distract you with social media, emails, and text messages. They don’t beep at you or tire your eyes when you read for hours at a time. By design, e-readers are purpose-built for reading and create a sanctuary so you can lose yourself in a book.

All the Features Readers Love about Kindle
The new Kindle Paperwhite includes all of the features that have made the Kindle family the best-selling e-readers in the world for seven years running:
-          Weeks of battery life—Battery life is measured in weeks, not hours.
-          No set up required—Kindle arrives pre-registered so you can start reading immediately.
-          Whispersync—Saves and synchronizes your last page read, bookmarks, and annotations across all of your devices and Kindle apps, so you can always pick up where you left off.
-          Worry-free archive—Automatically backs up your Kindle books in the cloud, so you never need to worry about losing your books—re-download your books wirelessly anytime for free.
-          Goodreads—Kindle is integrated with the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations, with over 40 million members, 1.1 billion books added, and 43 million book reviews.
-          X-Ray—Explore the “Bones of the Book”—see all of the passages across a book that mention relevant ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, places or topics of interest.
-          Word Wise—Available on many popular English language titles, Word Wise makes it easier to enjoy and quickly understand more challenging books. Short and simple definitions automatically appear above difficult words, so you can keep reading with fewer interruptions.
-          Family Library—With Kindle and Kindle reading apps, you can access not only your own books, but also books from the Amazon account of a spouse or partner.
-          Kindle FreeTime—Gives parents a simple, engaging way to encourage kids to spend more time reading. Hand-select books for your kids to read, and achievement badges are earned when they hit reading milestones.
-          Time to Read—Tells you how much time it will take to finish a chapter or a book based on your personalized reading speed.
-          Kindle Page Flip—Skim page-by-page, scan by chapter, or jump to anywhere in your book, all without losing your place.
-          Vocabulary Builder—Compiles words you look up in the dictionary into an easy-to-access list. Use these lists to quiz yourself with flashcards and instantly see words in context.
-          Share your favorite passages—Share book recommendations, highlighted sections, and meaningful quotes with friends via Facebook and Twitter
-          Smart Lookup—Integrates a full dictionary definition with other reference information via X-Ray and Wikipedia.

World’s Best eBook Store
Kindle e-readers come with instant access to the Kindle Store, which includes:
-          Massive selection—Millions of books, newspapers and magazines, including the latest best sellers, Kindle Singles, and more.
-          Kindle exclusives—Over 800,000 books are exclusive to the Kindle Store.
-          Lowest book prices—Over a million titles are $2.99 or less, over 2 million are $9.99 or less.
-          Kindle Unlimited—Enjoy unlimited reading of over 800,000 books and unlimited listening to a selection of thousands of audiobooks for just $9.99 a month.
-          Kindle First—Access new Kindle books a month in advance of their official release date. Customers can choose one of the featured books each month for $1.99, and Prime members can make their selection for free—yet another benefit of Prime membership.

The new Kindle Paperwhite is $119. It is available for pre-order around the world and will start shipping June 30. Order now at www.amazon.com/paperwhite   [UK Paperwhite 3 here.]  

[ End of Amazon Press Release attachment ]



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Monday, June 8, 2015

Amazon Echo now reads your Audible books on command ... Other capabilities recently added involve accessing services outside Amazon's walls ... Getting traffic info - sports scores ... Controlling lights in the home.



Amazon updates their Echo voice assistant and speaker to add direct read of Audible books

This has been a big request.  Earlier, people had to pair phones or tablets with bluetooth to have their Audible books read through the convenient and very clear Echo speaker system.

Amazon's wording:
' Listening to audiobooks from your Audible library is easy. Here's how:

- Start any book you own with "Alexa, read [Audible book title]"
- Resume the current book you're reading by saying "Alexa, read my book."
- Control playback with "Alexa, go back/forward."
[You can, of course, also pause it as needed.]
Echo also supports Whispersync for Voice, which allows you to seamlessly switch between reading and listening with your eligible Kindle books.  You can read on your Kindle, tablet, or smartphone and then continue listening on your Echo, right where you left off. '

While Amazon is offering "complimentary extended samples from popular titles and a free trial," there are ongoing monthly Kindle Book specials that feature inexpensive Audible narrations paired with some of the Kindle books featured at larger discounts for the month.  The product page for that month will sayk, "Add narration for a reduced price of ____ when you buy the Kindle book."

  For June's specially discounted Kindle books ($1.99 to $3.99), you can find the listing of 104 Kindle books that are paired, for June, with reduced-cost Whispersync for Voice here.  (In March there were only 53, so they seem to be expanding these.)

And for those who want to try a free Audible example with a free Kindle book to see how Whispersync works, here's the only one available currently.

Here's the help page for using Whispersync with more information.


Amazon's latest Echo features that allow you to escape its semi-walled garden
The Verge's Josh Lowensohn reported, in early May, on the Echo's new ability to work with Twitter, Gmail, and Evernote, "...plus a few others, thanks to the If This Then That" ("ITTT)" feature.  I'm repeating this section for those who had no interest in the Echo at the time but may be interested in some of the newer features.

  Lowensohn mentioned the recent updates already reported here, "things like Pandora, traffic reports, sports scores, and support for Belkin's WeMo and Phillips's Hue products" and describes the new features' capabilities:
' ... the IFTTT 'recipes' for Alexa let you send your shopping and to-do lists out to third-party services like Google Drive, Evernote, and Todoist

... There are 54 combinations in total.  Enabling them requires signing up for IFTTT, then linking it up with your Amazon account.  You also need to go through the motions of activating the various third-party app channels, and approving your accounts there so IFTTT can link everything up behind the scenes. Some of the really good examples so far are:

. Adding your Echo shopping list items to Evernote
. Sending someone a short email with your voice
. Sending someone an SMS with your voice
. Adding Echo shopping list items to the iOS Reminders app
. Adding Alexa to-dos to Microsoft's OneNote '

See the Verge's full article for illustrations and more details on what's involved in using the feature.

Amazon Echo was recently updated to control Wemo switches and Philips Hue smart bulbs in the home, to turn lights on or off in named rooms or to dim or brighten them.

Pandora was added, in May (in addition to iHeartRadio and TuneIn radio features).

The updates are coming quickly lately with more meat to them, and Amazon's obviously serious about making it a key device, as Boston Business Journal's David Harris pointed to Amazon's dedicating an entire floor of its Cambridge, Mass. Kendall Square office "to working on the Echo" and is still recruiting more staff for it, with "a hiring event on May 14, 2015 for roles that run the “gamut of distributed systems, speech/voice recognition, and big data.”


My own use of the Echo
I'm music and info-oriented, so while the device is not super knowledgeable about the universe, I tell 'Alexa' to "Wiki [subject]" which has it go to Wikipedia to read me the first couple of paragraphs, and then it sends the rest of the article to my tablet (or phone). This is helpful when I'm not near my computer and think of something.  It's also good for adding to my Echo Todo and/or Shopping lists when I think of things in the kitchen, and I can just say "Alexa, add [whatever] to my todo list" [or to my shopping list].

  For music, I ask it to "play playlist [name]" and I get about an hour of my favorite music, depending on the genre I feel like listening to.  If interested in an artist, I ask it to play [artist] from Prime (which is free Amazon music for Prime members) or I ask it just to "play [artist] and it asks if I want to listen to the musician on iHeart Radio or Prime, sometimes it chooses TuneIn.  I signed up for Pandora but haven't used it with Echo yet.  The local classical music station sounds surprisingly good on it, though this isn't true of some other stations.

The speaker is very clear, is loud enough that I can't use it at max for most material, has more bass than I thought it would for its size, but it's best with really well-recorded tracks. If the treble range is edgy, it's very edgy on the Echo.  I'd like loudness compensation added in the next version for late night listening at lower volume.

 It's great for my kitchen where I have no speakers and no computer. They've added news-sources for flash news but I'm waiting for them to allow direct-access to specific sources instead of my having to say "Next" a few times when not interested in the current source.

I really like that I can control the volume by just saying "alexa, louder" or "alexa, not so loud" when I'm working in the kitchen. Or asking it, "what's playing?" or "who's singing?" and it tells me the artist and album. If you like a track, you can of course buy it (but you need a confirmation code to do it), and I've added a lot of good, free Prime tracks to my library while listening, by just saying "add this to my library."

  Others are interested in being able to get current sports scores or scores for ealier games, and in getting traffic reports, when we give it starting and ending addresses.  (I haven't used it, as I have lifetime traffic status and recommended alternate routes on my Garmin Nuvi, which is a bargain for what it does, well.)

A post on the Kindle Forums mentioned that TuneIn offers a lot of nearby scanner stations if you use the Echo app to enter, in the Search field at the top,
  'fire and police' -- but it doesn't work well by voice.  Just a curiosity.  TuneIn offers local, national, and int'l radio stations (music, talk) with clear, easy access.

  What's struck me most about the Alexa voice is that its answers are often lightning fast, which I wouldn't expect when it needs to go to the servers, access whatever, and then get back to me with an answer, and even then the speech is so natural, I have found myself saying, 'Thank you.'

  I also found that I sort of enjoy ordering something around :-) ... "Do this, do that, get me this, or that. What, you don't know? Take a class, get trained!"

I do shut off its hearing often, by pressing the microphone icon down, because I don't want it to waste electricity waiting for the word-string 'alexa' to fly by so it can say "Your command is my wish."

  I often just use the remote and press the mic and talk without needing to say her name.  She tries to obey, does what she can, and then stops listening for anything unless I press the remote button.  When will Amazon give us a male voice that takes orders from us?


Echo now does Google Calendar
This is one I waited for, except that i started to use a small printed calendar lately.  Why? I don't know, but it's sort of convenient :-)

  I had a bit of difficulty finding out how to do the linking, but finally found this help page on how to link your Google calendar to Echo, and its instructions are very clear.

  Richi Gupta, with octafinance.com has good details on what you can and can't do with Google calendar, from Echo.


Some Echo tips from the Kindle forums
' Beauty Fool says:
Wow... I just discovered you can get the latest episodes of various NPR, APM, etc shows by simply asking for them.
Case-in-point: "Alexa, play Splendid Table."
Reply: "Getting the latest episode of The Splendid Table from Tune-In."

+++
romper says:
If you ask, "what's the weather or forecast" she will give you only today's weather.  Ask "what's the extended forecast" she will give you the next 7 days...

+++
Cheryl Jones says:
as for the weather you can ask her for 10 days. so you can ask for the weather next sat or the weather for may 30 etc. or you can ask if it will rain next sat.... '

Recent mainstream reviews from mainstream tech writers who use it quite a bit
• "Five months in, it's the most used gadget in my home" - James Kendrick, ZDNet, May 15, 2015
• "It sucks.  It's awesome.  It sucks.  We want two more" - David Gewirtz for DIY-IT - May 21, 2015
• "Amazon Echo review" - Margaret Dornbusch - Gadgeteer, May 31, 2015
• "Amazon Echo talks to Google Calendar (and you)" - (more tips) David Gewirtz for DIY-IT, June 1




Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

  *Click* to Return to the HOME PAGE.  Or click on the web browser's BACK button


Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

Send to Kindle


(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
If interested, you can also follow my add'l blog-related news at Facebook and Twitter
Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!

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