A new way to call

Last week, Amazon announced new devices. Among the new devices are the Echo Show, costing $229.99. This is a more triangular device with a screen. It allows you to make video calls as well. They are offering $100 off if you buy 2 devices with code SHOW2PACK. You can actually watch flash news briefings, see lyrics of songs, security cameras, just to name a few.

Other new devices are a shorter new Echo, the Echo Plus and the 4K Fire TV device. Also announced was the Echo Connect, Echo Buttons, and BMW partnership. The Echo Connect is an accessory to link Echo to home phone line. It costs $35 and is coming later in the year.

If you already own an Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show, effective immediately you can make phone calls. It is supposed to work with your land line or your mobile phone.

Echo Show at Amazon.com

“Farm Fresh” Amazon

The Amazon and Whole Foods deal going through today is leaving its mark in a lot of different ways. Whole Foods prices are going down on a lot of items in an effort to allow more people to enjoy the benefits of organic foods. You may start seeing some Amazon devices on Whole Food shelves and Whole Food items on Amazon’s website.

Prices have been slashed on many items already. For example in New York it was reported that organic fuji apples went from $3.49/lb to $1.99/lb, avocados dropped $0.80 per lb, organic rotisserie chicken dropped $4.00/lb, and organic bananas went from $0.99 to $0.69 per lb.

The Amazon devices like Echo and Echo dot found in the Whole Foods stores are the same discounted prices found on their website right now.

The Victor crew plans to shop at one later this week and will report back any other findings.

Bloomberg
TechCrunch

How do you listen to your tunes?

There are a lot of ways these days to listen to music these days. There are many streaming services these days. Most people stream or use their mp3 players. There are also home devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, or coming soon, the Apple HomePod.

The Victor crew even knows someone who still orders CDs to play in their car? But what will happen when he buys a newer car? Many newer cars are starting to abandon them. It has been predicted that up to 46% of new cars will not have CD players by 2021.

You can use a lot of data if you stream from your car (if you don’t have a Wi-Fi service) so you’ll have to rely on your mp3 player, satellite radio, or built-in radio. If you insist on a CD player, you can purchase a portable one that could plug in with your auxilliary cable. Perhaps you can purchase a new car kit with a CD player.

We sure have come a long way from just AM radio. Next came FM. Remember the 8-track players of the 70s? Then they went away to make way for the cassette. Then the piles of cassettes were replaced by piles of plastic discs. Life is getting simpler where you don’t have to store all the discs, cassettes, or 8-tracks anymore.

Geeky April Fools Day

This past Saturday was April Fools Day. The Internet wasn’t short of pranks. The Victor crew enjoyed putting together this list of some of them.

Stack Overflow had fun making this video of their Dance Dance Authentication protocol:

In case you don’t know, Stack Overflow is a site that is used by developers as a forum.

Google had fun with Google Gnome, something to make your backyard smart:

T-Mobile Onesie:

Amazon brought us Petlexa

Honda has Horn Emojis

Server is down

Last week, there was a major outage of Amazon’s cloud servers on the east coast in VA. It lasted a few hours and caused havoc with many websites. It’s not often that this happens, but when it does, it causes problems in many places.

If you use any of their services, you can check the status of their servers here. Even if you don’t keep your website on their servers, you can find some of your apps having problems. Think Alexa, Nest, etc. Some major websites depend on these services as well and you may find them down as well.

If you are having trouble reaching a site, you can go to isitdownrightnow.com. The home page of this site has a list of major services listed with (hopefully) a green box to let you know it is running. It includes sites such as Netflix, Facebook, Youtube, Google, Yahoo, and the like. There is also a list on the right site of sites last checked and some sites that are currently down.

Oh, and human error was blamed for the massive Amazon server outage.

The Victor Crew

Ever think about cutting the cord?

Cord-cutting refers to abandoning cable TV for streaming services. There are so many different avenues to go with this, the Victor crew thought we’d do some exploring into what was available.

One thing you can get is a Roku that you can stream many different channels from. It handles Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus for example. Netflix and Amazon have some crossovers, but Hulu Plus will bring you many current TV shows. Another streaming channel to consider is Sling TV for television shows. You might consider Apple TV instead of Roku. Another streaming device is Amazon Fire TV. There’s also Google’s Chromecast. You may want to find reviews on these devices and make your decision.

Another thing to consider is your Internet connection. How strong is it during peak hours? You can test it at speedtest.net or testmy.net. Do several throughout the day and evening to see how much you can handle. You may need to get an HD antenna to get the major networks in full HD.

You can find more information here.

Do you own a Kindle? Here’s an alert!

If you do own a Kindle from Amazon, the Victor crew has some news for you. You will need to make sure you update it by tomorrow, March 22, 2016. What happens if you don’t? You will have to do it manually after that in order to access the Kindle Store or sync with the cloud. You won’t be able to download your books.

This is the warning you will receive from Amazon:

Your Kindle is unable to connect at this time. Please make sure you are within wireless range and try again. If the problem persists, please restart your Kindle from the Menu in Settings and try again. If you see this message on your device on or after March 22, you will need to manually install the latest software update for your device. Go to Fire & Kindle Software Updates for more details.

Here is the page you can find all the details: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-6?ie=UTF8&nodeId=201994710&qid=1458317761&sr=1-6

Shop from Twitter?

Amazon has made shopping even easier. Suppose a friend or acquaintance mentions an product on Twitter. If it’s an Amazon product, and you want to buy it, instead of clicking on it and then adding to your cart, you can hit reply and add #AmazonCart and it will automatically add it to your cart. It will not automatically purchase it so you don’t have to worry about impulse purchases. You need to connect your Amazon account to your Twitter account in Social settings in Twitter.

You can see the video here.

Jody Victor

Amazon made easier

Looking for a specific item? Now you can go to the Search function within the Amazon shopping app and see not only Scan It but Flow. If you click Flow, it will open the camera so you can take a picture of the item you would like to buy and it will search for that or similar items and put them in a list for you. Flow seems to recognize a product without even showing a bar code. Simply hold the item in front of the camera on your phone and you will little dots working to identify the item. If it recognizes it, it will add it to your history and show a green check mark. If it doesn’t have the item it will tell you that you cannot purchase it from Amazon. Scan It works by scanning the barcode only.

~ Jody Victor

Drone on…

Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos recently revealed in a 60 minutes interview, it’s plan to try to deliver packages to those who live near fulfillment centers with drones. He called them “Octocopters” because of their having 8 legs. As of now, it still needs to pass FAA approvals. Amazon is calling this service “Prime Air” and hopes to have it available in 4-5 years.

Groupon has a tongue-in-cheek answer to the Amazon drone.

~ Jody Victor

Some tech ideas for Christmas 2013

I thought you might like to consider some of these tablets for Christmas this year:

From Amazon: The Kindle Fire HDX 7″
This is the 3rd generation Kindle Fire. This is the one you see on the TV commercial where the guy pushes the Mayday button and a customer service rep pops up in the corner. The rep can walk you through problems or even take over your tablet. You can download the Amazon Kindle Freetime app that allows parents to control the time limits and apps if you let your children use it. The drawbacks are, you don’t get full access to the Google Play store, you have to download apps from Amazon’s appstore. You won’t find some of the popular apps like Gmail, Google Maps, Google Drive. There is only a front-facing camera. $230.

From Google: Google Nexus 7
This runs the newest version of Android, 4.4 Kit Kat. It has a rear and front camera and is preloaded with standard Google apps. $229.

From Samsung: Galaxy Tab 3 7″ Kids
This tablet was designed specifically for kids. It comes in fun colors with a rubber case to protect it. I thas big buttons, limited access to settings, and kid-type apps preloaded. It has front and back cameras. $190.

From Apple: iPad Air
This is the latest iPad (5th generation). It is thinner and lighter, faster with better video. There are a few versions – based on size (16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB) and connectivity (Wi-fi or Wi-fi and LTE). Prices start at $499.

From Apple: iPad Mini with Retina Display
Very similar to the iPad Air in a smaller package. Starts at $399.

~ Jody Victor