Friday, January 22, 2016

Jeff Bezos brings Jason Rezaian back to the U.S.


Where ISN'T Jeff Bezos these days and what isn't he doing?

Michael Calderone tweeted this photo (credit: @jehld) of Jeff Bezos and Jason Rezaian before JB brought them home to the U.S. on a private plane -- story at CNN.

Headline: "Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, quietly traveled to Germany this week to personally escort Post reporter Jason Rezaian home to the United States" on a private plane from Germany after Rezaian's release from an Iranian prison where he was held for a year and a half, very shortly after being interviewed in Iran by Anthony Bourdain for his CNN travel foodamentary for the3 "Parts Unknown" series.

It was disconcerting to see Rezaian extolling the beauty of Iran over dinner, with his wife beside him and realizing it was probably dangerous and then find out he was arrested not long after that.  He has dual citizenship, and he was fairly quickly thrown into jail for 'spying' activities which is almost surely bunk.  His release was as as part of the recent prisoner swap.  Rezaian's wife, released months earlier from jail, was scheduled to have her own trial there in a few months, but she (no surprise!) came back to the U.S. with him, though some monitors tried to stop her from joining him.

I think he was mainly the Iranian government's ace in the hole - a big bargaining chip for them.

Glad he got back, and I hope he doesn't go back soon. What a nightmare.
.
So, we've seen JB go from the guy who sells books in his garage to the guy who now owns The Washington Post and gets involved in international politics when not involved with rockets or drones.


(Additional info for blog entry: Jason Rezian's statement Jan 20 after he arrived in Germany, freed finally from the unexpected ordeal in Iran.)



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Just an alert for newsfeed readers re an updated blog article on borrowing Kindle books and "KOLL"

This is just an alert to those who use newsfeeds like Feedly and Newsblur that I updated a blog article on the various programs for borrowing Kindle books and how to find the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. (It varies.)

Older articles are not put on the top of current newsfeeds, so the alert will be here for just awhile for those who use them to read the blog articles.

The updated blog article starts:

Finding the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL)

  - May 2015 but Updated Jan 22, 2016,
While looking up info for Prime Music to use with the new Amazon Echo that I finally received, and to answer questions for friends who have received one as well, I found that the older methods for finding KOLL had changed for the later Kindle Fire tablets.


and can be read here.



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How to find and use the Kindle Owners' Lending Library on latest Kindle Fire tablets as well as e-Ink Kindle eReaders. Basics on Kindle Unlimited and Kindle First. UPDATED January 22, 2016



Finding the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL)

  - May 2015 but Updated Jan 22, 2016,
While looking up info for Prime Music to use with the new Amazon Echo that I finally received, and to answer questions for friends who have received one as well, I found that the older methods for finding KOLL had changed for the later Kindle Fire tablets.


Also, the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL) is no longer highlighted in the top banners when you go to the book store, and the link to it, on Kindle Fire tablets, is in the unseen menu that you need to swipe to the right, from the left edge, to see -- or you can click on the TINY menu icon at the top left to get the options, but I usually have better luck with the swiping method.

So, this is a refresher for those who've not used it for awhile (like me) and may be completely new info for recent Kindle owners because Amazon features, more visibly, (1) Kindle Unlimited, a ($10/month subscription that allows anyone to borrow up to 10 books at a given time instead of only Kindle device owners being able to borrow one-only per calendar month for free), as well as (2) the Kindle First program and other currently highlighted features.

For details on how the Kindle Owners' Lending Library wime-orks, see the scrolling page of Kindleworld blog articles on this feature.

  The details found on that scrolling page will answer a lot of common questions about the program.

The Kindle Owners' Lending library started with only 5,000+ books and is currently at over 1,160,000 Kindle books, according to my Paperwhite 2's all-categories display for the lending library.

And here, seen in a web browser, is a straight listing of over 1,188,000 Prime-Eligible Kindle books, the default listing being those that Amazon is currently featuring -- and if you change the Sorting (at top right) from "Featured" to "Avg Customer Review," you'll see which ones have a lot of 5-star ratings for whatever reasons.

  The Kindle Unlimited program includes books that are not Prime-Eligible.  Harry Potter books are a part of the Kindle Unlimited subscription feature, but it seems that most Potter books are not designated "Prime"-eligible currently (Publisher did not agree to do it), so Prime members who are Kindle owners cannot borrow those to read via KOLL/Prime program, but KOLL subscribers can of course borrow them plus nine other books to read at any given time, for their $10/month.

  The lending library (KOLL) started with only 5,000+ books and the number of Prime-Eligible books for borrowing for reading on Kindle devices is currently at over 1,188,000+ Kindle books.

  The more-often featured Kindle Unlimited program gets Amazon $10/mo from each member for the flexibility allowing almost unlimited borrowing from that set of over a million Kindle books, available to users of ANY reading device (not just Kindle Owners).

  On both, you can browse by categories or, when using a Kindle e-Ink eReader or a Kindle Fire tablet, you can search the lending library. The Kindle Fire tablets use up more room with their large color book cover graphics, and the Search feature is very important when you're looking for a specific book or topic.

  Prime shipping members (UK here) who own Kindle devices can use KOLL, but it's not available on Kindle apps for other devices.

  You can borrow one Kindle book per calendar month, from a choice of over 1,188,000 now, without dealing with waiting times or due-dates.  The Big6 publishers don't tend to place their books in this library though.

  I borrowed a book the other day (after returning one I had held onto for a long time), so I won't be able to borrow another one until the next calendar month, June, after I return the current loan.


  Prime
's Lending Library:
     Rules for borrowing
        Note:  When you borrow a Prime library book,
              you do this from your Kindle, at the Kindle's Kindle Store

                and not from the Amazon web pages.
        The BIG RED $0.00 you see on the product page for "Prime" cost
        means it's $0.00 to Borrow it, from the Kindle,


How to borrow from the KOLL on your Kindle
Amazon changes the navigation process somewhat as the years and models roll by. The Help page they have is not quite up to date because the navigation steps tend to differ a bit between the devices.

The first images below are from Amazon, showing generally (vaguely) what the process looks like on e-Ink eReaders,
and those images are followed by some screenshots of the process on my Year 2013 Kindle Fire HDX tablet.

Getting to the Lending Library -- On the Kindle e-Ink eReaders, Amazon seems to have changed the method a bit very recently, on the varying devices (maybe they're programmed by different Kindle teams).

On my Paperwhite 2, Year 2014~, there are two ways:
  1. I can tap the top-right Menu and Select "Shop Kindle Store"
That brings up the store menu, and then I need to tap the top-right store-menu, which offers the "Kindle Owners' Lending Library' option near the bottom.
  2. I can also tqp the CART icon at the top, which also takes me to the store, where a tap on the store menu at top-right will offer me the KOLL option near the bottom.

The resulting KOLL page for e-Ink readers DEFAULTS now to just show all categories (pure text) without requiring us to choose All Categories as some older models do  It's well organized.

  Older Kindle e-Ink readers will differ somewhat in several ways, as mentioned (I no longer have one to use for tests).  The Amazon help page does still mention choosing "All Categories" or maybe "See all categories" before seeing the Lending Library option, but that doesn't apply to my Paperwhite2 eReader.


Here's Amazon's VIDEO-tutorial (this video doesn't run on e-Ink Kindle Blog Edition subscriptions), which uses a recent Kindle eReader model   Although the steps shown in the video don't match precisely steps needed for various eReaders, their current help page indicates that the KOLL benefits are available on any Kindle eReader. Continue to let us know if you have problems finding KOLL on an old Kindle e-Ink Reader.  I'll look into it more.

 VIDEO: (Kindle Blog Edition subscribers shouldn't try to run this.  Use a computer, tablet, or smartphone instead)

That comes from the Kindle borrowing-help page -- the text steps on that page are not entirely clear, but it's helpful to read it.  It has links to areas that explain other aspects of the borrowing programs.

On a Kindle Fire tablet, you'd click on 'Books' in the top menu.
Then, at your library listing, click on the "Store" icon at top-right corner.


At the Bookstore, swipe right, from left edge, to get the options
and choose "Kindle Owners' Lending Library," near the bottom of the page.
(These are all Prime-eligible books and show as $0.00 for Kindle Unlimited users as well.)


When you get the KOLL screen to browse,
you can also search for a book or author at the top.
I typed 'Amy Tan' into the search field.


I didn't find anything by Tan in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library
and chose from results showing books with similar content.
When deciding on one, you'll see "Borrow for Free" under the orange "Buy for ___".


When I did this, Amazon reminded me that I still had a book out from this library
and I needed to return it first, as we get only one book per calendar month.

That's it!


The Kindle First program
The Kindle First program, introduced by Amazon in the U.S., is also available in the UK.

  For those who haven't tried it yet, in either country, Amazon offers, each month, 4 of the next month's new releases early and from these you can select one.  They're Editors' Picks, and anyone can buy one of the featured book for $.99 (or UK £0.99).  HOWEVER if you are a Prime (UK prime page here) program member, you get that selection for FREE (capitalization courtesy of Amazon).




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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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Catching up on some Amazon changes during late 2015: OS v5.1.1 update for current Amazon tablets ... an alternate blue-shade-type app for earlier tablets ... ShowTime & Starz subscription availability for Prime members, with Amazon X-ray and voice-search features ... Unlimited Photos storage for Prime members now shareable with another adult household member... The Beatles, on Amazon Prime Music now ... Find the tune you heard in a movie or tv show. Updated 12/27 to add some details.



A few changes in Amazon features over the last few months, not often mentioned.


(The photo at left of what looks like snow in winter is actually of the marble mountains of Carrara, Italy.  The 'snow' is marble; this is where Michelangelo chose his marble for his sculptures, living there for a few months at a time -- there is marble dust in the air of course.  I took this photo in 2006, and it's from a photo set at PBase.).

Amazon has emailed everyone almost daily about their favorite products being on sale, so there was no need for this blog to call attention to those each day.  But I'll list today some of the minor changes that have been occurring, for any who might be interested in those.

Amazon's slowed down on hardware news, and their many books specials are sent to all regular customers directly on a daily basis.  If there is anything you'd like to see covered here, let me know at andrys [at] panix dot com.

General Tips - for Kindle tablet owners who are distracted by all that's available in movies and TV shows and, of course, many of us use Amazon Prime Music quite a bit ... When I see items that I haven't known about and think they'd interest others, I'll start including more generalized tips.
  Today's: I came across a "What tune was that?" website for finding music used in movies and TV, which currently includes 581 TV shows.  I saw this in a discussion of an episode of the totally amoral "How to Get Away with Murder," and -- as an example -- for Season 1 there are 15 episodes, with a total of 46 songs, and for Season 2, 9 episodes with 30 songs.

Amazon's "Blue Shade" feature was added to Yr 2015 Fire tablets in an update (v5.1.1)
Amazon has been slowly distributing, "over the air," software update v5.1.1 to its Fire OS 5 ("Bellini") operating system used on the current Year 2015 tablets.

The "Blue Shade" mode added is an option for those who like to read at night before sleeping, because studies have indicated that the blue light from current tablets and smartphones can affect melatonin production and therefore the quality of sleep. Amazon's e-Ink eReaders, back-lit, don't emit blue light.  For the most recent Fire tablets using OS 5, the new mode uses filters (adjustable in Settings) to limit the amount of emitted blue light from the screen, which some feel makes these devices more comfortable to read at night.

  The settings that control the color warmth and brightness level of the resulting light is fully adjustable by the user, and they've included an “ultra low” brightness level (which would also help any partners nearby trying to sleep).

  In connection with this, Amazon has featured the Fire HD 8 Reader's Edition, normally priced at $149.99, but bundled with one year of the $119.80 Kindle Unlimited subscription and with their $79.99 "rustic leather case" ($349.86 total if purchased separately) for $249.99.

  Other features in the recent "OS 5.1.1 update to the Yr 2015 Fire tablets are described by Androidheadlines:
' There is a new browser designed for children that users could activate on the FreeTime section, parents can choose a list of websites that would be appropriate for their children. Amazon and Common Sense Media chose over 40,000 YouTube videos dedicated for children, which they can view on the FreeTime browser. There’s also a new Activity Center for parents outside of FreeTime, which allows them to know how their kids are using the tablet and how much time have they spent on specific apps or games as well as seeing their browser history and everything they have accessed. The update should be now available now for the Fire HD 8, Fire HD 10 and other Fire tablets, although the process might take up to two weeks to complete. '

  A fix noted in update v5.1.1
Reader Irv Fullerton had reported to Amazon some problems in the original OS 5 functioning.  He followed up today with the following:
' Amazon fixed the error within the WPS office software - which now allows a user to actually access the icons at the top of each page of an open document.  For me - this was a huge fix as it now allowed me to work with spreadsheets I have saved within the Amazon Cloud...'

  What about older tablets? Some had thought that earlier Kindle Fire tablets would get the Blue Shade feature and other OS 5 additions via an update later on.  Pocket-link had stated, "The Amazon Fire OS 5 Bellini will come with the latest tablets from Amazon and will be available for older tablets via an over the air update in the coming months" -- but the development community hasn't reported seeing an indication of that yet.

  The "Twilight App" (Android) offers a similar blue-light-filter feature, and earlier-Kindle Fire owners can download this app by using the normal android-device app-install setting that allows using apps from "unknown sources" and getting apps from places like 1mobile and slideme.

  This alternate-apps-source method is called "side loading" (getting apps from a secondary apps store) and it involves no changes to the operating system, is NOT a 'rooting' method nor a 'hack' but a mere enabling of a setting to allow an alternate source for android apps while being careful to use only appstores that Amazon's Kindle Community forum members have tried and recommend.
  See this blog's guide for sideloading non-Amazon store and non-GooglePlay store apps.

  I've tried that 'Twilight app' on my Yr 2013 Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" tablet, and while it's very flexible and works well, I prefer to use the basic old, built-in "Aa" option setting of "Sepia" or 'White' with the brightness turned down, probably because I have no trouble sleeping well after using it this way.  As most will have noticed, there's also an option to read white text against black, on all the Amazon tablets, which bed parters trying to sleep during your late-hour reading sessions will appreciate.

Amazon Prime members can now subscribe to ShowTime, Starz, and more
Sacred Heart Spectrum alerts us to new offerings for Prime members looking to cut cable tv costs or to view series they've missed. (In fact their HBO Prime INstant videos allow people to catch up on earlier or initial episodes of very popular series, without needing the usual cable TV add-on subscriptions.
 For those of us cutting our cable TV use because it's so expensive, companies like Hulu have added separate subscriptions (not needing a cable TV subscription) for premium offerings like Showtime, for ~$9.  I cut my cable TV/Internet/Phone bill by $70/mo. by taking only the basic+extended cable (which includes the nation-wide news like CNN + and "edutainment" stations like Discovery Channel, etc.), and I cut any premium features, but I then subscribed to Showtime on Hulu for $9/mo.

  Now I'll probably change over to Amazon for the Showtime because, via Amazon, that'll include my favorite video feature, X-Ray for movies and for TV shows, which gives you added info, OnDemand, from Amazon's IMDB subsdiary, such as: What actors are in the current scene? (if you pause it).  The links are to fuller descriptions of what this version of X-Ray does for each.

  Amazon calls their new offering the "Streaming Partners Program," which includes 30 or more different streaming services which are 'paid' features on cable TV and would be available for Amazon Prime members for whatever extra monthly fee.  Showtime is $8.99/mo.

  The Streaming Partner subscriptions will also include a "unified voice search" when you watch it on Fire Tv (SO much better than pressing alpha-characters on those alphabetically-sorted keyboard forms).  Also, the Sacred Heart article reports that Amazon will be "making partners' newest episodes simultaneous with the broadcast."

  They add that 'Showtime produces such acclaimed programming as "Homeland" and "The Affair" while Starz is the home of shows like "Outlander" and "Flesh and Bone."  Viewers can watch them through Internet-enabled TVs and Blu-ray players, streaming media players, gaming consoles and mobile devices.  Amazon Prime keeps it all on the web and on any device with the Amazon Video app.'

  SIDENOTE: One advantage of the Amazon Fire TV is that you can mirror your tablet (though not the new $50 tablet) or smartphone display to the Fire TV to share the content with others more easily.  Most Android tablets and the Amazon-specific tablets, as well as recent Windows laptops come with 'Miracast' or "mirroring" capability.  I Was able to mirror my Windows laptop to it, along with my Windows phone (Nokia 1020) attached to the laptop -- this allowed me to view all my phone contents mirror'd on the Fire TV, even though the phone, itself, has no mirroring capability, since the laptop did.

Amazon's Unlimited Photo Storage Now Shareable by Prime Subscribers
PetaPixel reports that in addition to Prime members getting unlimited photo storage (including RAW files), this feature is now shareable with one other adult in the household.

  NON-Prime members can get this subscription feature for $11.99/year, with a 3-month free trial.
  There is NO limitation on the size or resolution of a photo file (as there are with other free-photo-storage sites) and Amazon promises not to change the file in anyway.

Amazon's Unlimited Everything Cloud-storage/backup plan
  That's for ALL files you want to have saved in the Cloud as backup - not just photos.  This includes videos, which are usually the most space-grabbing files. Normally $59.99/year (essentially $5/month), with a 3-month free trial.

  During Black Friday week, this was offered that weekfor $5/year.  Paul Thurrott explains why he found that special a no-brainer.  Even for the normal $60/year, "Unlimited" file backup is still considered good for people who need or would feel more comfortable with knowing their files are accessible in case of hard drive (or worse) catastrophes.  I haven't heard how fast or easy recovery of a file or file-set would be when needed, with Amazon's plan. But you can try that yourself with the that 3-month Free trial.

  Some sites say that if an Android tablet owner downloads the Amazon Underground app (free paid-apps) currently, s/he will receive an offer for a free-year of Unlimited Everything, within a day.  Unfortunately, Kindle Fire and Fire tablets have Underground built in .

  I do know that a friend received the following special offer yesterday based on a purchase within the last year:
  "Your purchase in the past 12 months of the "Canon PowerShot SX60 HS Digital Camera - Wi-Fi Enabled..." comes with a 1 FREE year of Unlimited Everything cloud storage from Amazon Cloud Drive (a $59.99 value)."

  She was not sure how she'd use it or if she would need such a thing, but it's a safety measure in case your hard drive dies, and most of us know this normally happens within 5 years.  I use another online backup service and it is really comforting to know everything I need is up there and I can recover any file (or version of a file) at any time.  While their pricing is similar, I'm limited to 1 Terabyte on the Non-Amazon cloud-backup I use.  Updated backups for the folders we choose are usually done automatically either daily or at any intervals you choose by any of these online backup sites.

AndroidHeadlines website announces "Best Android App 2015" and names three
#1 - the increasingly popular "Periscope" app (the broadcasting app that requires Compatibility "with Android SDK level 19),"
#2 - the Amazon Underground app
      (built into the Amazon Kindle Fire and Fire tablets
#3 - the new Google Photos app

The Beatles on Amazon Prime Music
You've probably read about The Beatles (complete music) being available online and featured on Spotify (and IheartRadio) for free, the last couple of days.  Today Amazon announced that the full Beatles catalog is also available for free on Amazon's Prime Music feature -- free streaming for Amazon Prime members.


That should do for now, as we go about celebrating, holidaying, or having some good quiet time while remembering those for whom it may not be an easy time of year for all the reasons we know.



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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Updated blog articles on installing non-Amazon apps and making Flash work on Year 2012-2015 Amazon tablets



Just an alert to newsfeed and Kindle Blog Edition readers

While working on a blog article on recent minor Amazon feature changes and additions toward the end of the year, I updated two blog articles to make them usable for Year 2015 Fire Tablet users who find they need to use an app that's not in the Amazon app store and want a guide to how that is done as well as those who might need to use non-working Flash on some sites.


  As a result I updated the following two articles, but blog newsfeeds (such as Feedly or NewsBlur) are not updated to show these articles as recent if they were first put online some time ago, even if they are updated from time to time after new lines of devices are released.


1. How to install Google play apps (non-Amazon apps) on a Kindle Fire HD / HDX. The reviewer Myth that the Kindle Fire tablets use only Amazon apps. UPDATED May 11, 2014, Jan 3, 2015, Dec 22, 2015

2. How to Install Flash on Kindle Fire HDX/HD, Yr 2013-2014 models and Yr2015 Fire tablets. Step-by-Step guide on How to Play Flash video on Flash-intensive websites. Several tips on streaming video. Large update 1/9/15, smaller update 12/22/15.



Amazon's last-minute deals
Last Minute Deals - US     Last Minute Deals - Canada     Christmas Deals - UK



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How to install Google play apps (non-Amazon apps) on a Kindle Fire HD / HDX. The reviewer Myth that the Kindle Fire tablets use only Amazon apps. UPDATED May 11, 2014, Jan 3, 2015, Dec 22, 2015


How to Install Google Play apps (Non-Amazon Apps) on Kindle Fire HD and HDX tablets Updated
The stubborn MYTH that Kindle Fire HD tablets can use only Amazon Store apps
Here are screenshots from Google Maps and Street View apps on my older Kindle Fire HD 7"

Google Map of San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco & Marin County areas

Via Street View app, here's the Presidio area.

A quick look at Yosemite Valley

(Click on an image to see the larger version.)

Most large tech site reviewers don't know that Amazon allows installation of apps from non-Amazon sources, though Amazon advises caution.
  (Originally posted Nov. 23, 2012 - rev'd 3/8/13, 1/3/15, and 12/22/15)
More tech-site reviewers have been discovering that Kindle Fire HD tablets (when chosen with enough storage space) are IN NO WAY limited to running only Amazon store apps.  Many will feel more comfortable staying with just the Amazon appstore, nevertheless.

  Amazon Kindle Forum regulars often discuss how easy it is get the normal Google Play market apps at other appstores when those apps are not available at Amazon and they also exchange experiences on some other app-stores

  I always recommend, though, that people wait to get these from any sites (true for even Google Play market users as well) until they've been up a few days and no one is having problems with malware or just new-update-instability.  Google vets their apps now but can take less time than Amazon to do that -- they have a lot more apps to deal with.

  Kindle Fire HD comparison reviewers almost automatically say that the Amazon tablets can use only Amazon apps and therefore should not be considered except by Amazon customers -- but this kind of statement can come only from NOT taking the time to check the normal Android settings.

(Updated 5/11/14 to show one different settings-location for older and newer Kindle Fires.)
(Updated 12/22/15 to show the new settings-location for Yr 2015 Fire tablets.)

  One click on one settings box is all it takes.
  It's much easier than most would guess.  At the Top Row Toolbar of the Kindle Fire:

  [For EARLIER, Yr 2012 Kindle Fires (Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, 1st Generation)]
    Swipe down to get Settings / More / Device / and then merely CHECK the box that says:
  Allow Installation of Applications from unknown sources

  [For LATER Yr 2013-14 Kindle Fires (Kindle Fire HD, 2nd Generation+, and HDX line)]
    Swipe down to get Settings / More / Applications / and then merely CHECK the box that says:
  Allow Installation of Applications from unknown sources
    (The wording for Yr 2014 MAY Be Allow Installation of applications not from Appstore.)

  [Updated December 22, 2015 after solution found for the Comment section in October 2015]
  [For LATEST Yr 2015 Fire tablets line) ]
    Swipe down to get Settings / Security / and then merely CHECK the box that says:
  Allow Installation of applications not from Appstore.
    although the wording might be somewhat different.
    I didn't order a Year 2015 device and can't check the exact wording.


    That's it! Then you can go to other app stores that are recommended for apps that Amazon does not have, such as 1mobile.com (now with 1.2 million Android apps), slideme.org, handango.com, m.getjar.com, and others, to find and download the app.

  To install a downloaded app, use either ES File Explorer or Easy Installer from Amazon's Android App store (or, if you're not in the U.S. and aren't allowed to use Amazon's appstore, then from a place like the 1Mobile.com site, using their store app on your Kindle -- it's downloadable at the right side of most 1mobile pages).  Above is a list of other app sites as well when any app is not available using the Amazon app store.

 Easy Installer's only job is to hunt down your downloaded app-install files (*.apk), so it's very useful if you can't find, on your device, an app that you know you downloaded.
  Be sure to access Settings the first time you use it, to check the 'Scan Hidden Directories' box so that it can find apk files no matter where they were put.

Important UPDATE - See later version of the instructions for Google Earth + an alert to NOT get the Google Earth update that came out mid-December and a link to get the much faster version just before that update.  (I've not tried later versions to see if Google solved that loading problem but they likely did.)

Amazon's appstore should be supported though
  Of course, if Amazon carries the app, it's best to get it from Amazon because they do a strong vetting of the apps they offer and because it's the way they make revenue from tablets sold at cost.  I think it's important to support the Amazon Android app store, but I also think it's important that Amazon make more good apps available to us at a faster pace, and maybe they should have a suggestion box for the more popular requests.

An example of another app that regulars at the Amazon Kindle Forums have been getting and encouraging others to use as an alternative (sometimes with the recommendation of "Forum Pros" there)...

  How to Install a Flash Player on the Yr 2012 (and 2013-15) Kindle Fire tablets:
  On Oct. 22, 2012, I first gave some installation steps that included the need to to tick a checkbox to enable apps from other sources (as mentioned above) and listed step-by-step instructions for the Earlier Yr2012 tablets on installing the Flash player function.  This was in connection with an alternative browser (Dolphin) along with the one Adobe Flash Player file that has been sure to work with Android 4.x (before v4.4) mobile systems that Adobe no longer supports for the later mobile devices -- the Kindle Fire HDs and the Google Nexus -- or is that Nexi?)  :-)

  There is now a LATER article with step-by-step instructions for the Yr 2013-2015 tablets.
  It's been working reliably for me.

  Most won't need this alternate browser (unless wanting to run flash routines for photography and music on some multimedia websites or watch network TV shows that are made available for those who missed a recent showing on TV) as I often do or who find some of the TV apps unreliable.

 UNLIKE Youtube, which supplies HTML5 coding for videos if you don't have a working Flash player, TV networks still tend to use Flash-only for their larger videos.  They'll slowly change over, but until then, this is a good workaround, although some of their own TV-app updates have been unreliable, causing crashes -- and they have too many ads during shows.  The "live' features are good.

  The TV-app versions require, though, that your cable or other hosting company is a participant for the app.  The tendency today is to force viewers into mobile-app viewing where the bandwidth needed for display size can be smaller and where they can keep stats on the many ads and the effectiveness of them.  They're probably starting to use them in some reporting of audience-share too.  They turn away "Android" browsers from the website versions and require the TV apps more and more.

  NOTE:  With Amazon's Kindle Fire Silk web browser (no Flash player support on that), you can still reliably view the Youtube videos if you have your "Silk" web browser menu settings for Requested website view set to "Automatic" rather than to "Desktop," although it takes you to the Mobile layout as a result, but youtube has enhanced that area.   (The Silk web browser Menu looks like the usual tablet menu rectangle with 3 horizontal lines, resembling an old washboard or an air conditioner.)

Amazon is due some high marks for the "other-sources" apps-decision (not walled as is said).
Amazon made this decision starting with the original Kindle Fire.  Use Amazon's app store when they have the app - it's in the Cloud and gets vetting for the Kindle Fire tablet.


[Note re other alternatives which I can write about later if there's interest]
[1.] I've used the long-time APK-downloader by evozi group in Canada, when one is able to do that due to quotas they are under for bandwidth.

  It's not as direct a download method as is using a store like 1mobile, and the site is filled with ads that promote ad-focused software that can be annoying and it's best to avoid clicking on those.

  When the evozi site, which downloads from googleplay on behalf of the user, cannot fulfill requests due to quotas, they recommend the Chrome extension version.  That one requires your google password be passed through to them, and they promise that this is not stored and is only passed through.  They're a company in Canada, but that is a step of trust most may not be comfortable with.  If I feel like using them, I instead use their website version that requires having two windows open (for double-checking you're getting what you want) and doing copy and pasting.  I prefer direct downloads better and have had 2 years of good luck with 1mobile's store, with its 1.2 million apps that you can just download the way you do from Amazon's store.

[2.] Some Google-play apps now require Google-play Services be present.
As an experiment, I tried steps from an article that tells us how to install Google Play Services on a Kindle WITHOUT "Rooting" or any Kindle software modifications.  Four files need to be added and installed in just the proper order and reboots done after each step, but enough people manage to ignore some steps and wind up with non-working google files and unable to easily get rid of Google error messages with their leftover Google files.
  So I don't recommend this for 98% of other customers.  Their Comments area shows too many people who didn't get good results, although there are a few others, like me, for whom this works.  I'm not keen to contribute to that, as the apps that require Google-play services are few.

  However, it works well on my Yr 2013 8.9" HDX and I updated the Play Services file with the most recent one and also used a higher-DPI version than the author did.  (This is NOT a Store app -- the Google-Play store cannot be placed on a Kindle without rooting it, which I won't do since I bought the Kindle Fire for the great Amazon features).  The only downside for me is that when you load a Google app that needs those special Google support services or when you land on one of the app's main pages, you'll get a dialog message saying that some apps require Google Play Services which "your device does not support."
  Then it goes ahead to run the app just fine because the support files are actually present as add-ons.

  I can write more on this if a few people are interested but I don't recommend it for most Kindle owners, whose attraction to the Amazon tablets are their many unique and unususal features along with ease of use.

  While there is NO rooting and there are NO Kindle software modifications involved, I did see how many people missed steps from the article and wound up with Google Play Services error messages they can't disable once they just gave up and removed what they could.
  Amazon would not want to support customers placing themselves in that predicament.  Most Kindle owners wanting this kind of thing should get a cheap pure-Android tablet to supplement the Fire tablets that have so many other useful features.  

I'm mentioning this on the non-Amazon apps page only so that interested readers have an idea what -is- possible without rooting but which can still be problematical for people not used to working with files and installs that have to be done in the right order.




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How to Install Flash on Kindle Fire HDX/HD, Yr 2013-2014 models and Yr2015 Fire tablets. Step-by-Step guide on How to Play Flash video on Flash-intensive websites. Several tips on streaming video. Large update 1/9/15, smaller update 12/22/15


How to install flash to play flash videos on Kindle Fire HDX/HD and Fire tablets (released 2013-2015) for websites using Flash video but not offering the alternative HTML5 method after Adobe stopped active support of Flash on mobile devices

  As of January 2015, we had a quite reliable workaround now for the Year 2013-2014 Kindle Fire HDX and HD tablets and also for later pure Android devices.  This should also work with the Year 2015 Fire tablets.  I spent quite a bit of time testing various browser versions with various Flash player files recommended and settled on one combination that worked on all the websites I'd found challenging to most in the past.

    * (See EARLIER guide for Year 2012 Kindle Fire tablets.) *

WORKAROUND and Step-by-Step GUIDE to play Flash video on Year 2013-2014 Kindle Fire tablets and Year 2015 Fire tablets for sites that need the Flash-player workaround to function as expected (show videos, do customized Flash routines).
  Originally posted Dec 29, 2014 - revised Jan. 9, 2015 for clarity and Dec. 22, 2015 to add a changed setting.

  The following files have been tested with a Yr2013 Kindle Fire HDX and are for devices that use forms of Android versions 4.x and later.
  Yr2011 Kindle Fire had Adobe Flash support built in, before Adobe dropped Flash support on mobile devices.)

  These are methods of access for those who are bent on watching Flash Video or fancy Flash routines on photography and music-playing sites, etc., which make movement-oriented viewing difficult to do with today's tablets (ever since Adobe stopped support of Flash on mobile devices 2-3 years ago).

Amazon's Instant Video streaming library
  Note that Amazon Instant Video streaming works just fine with the Kindle Fire Silk web browser of course, and this feature offers a lot of video-viewing (40,000+ videos viewable at no added cost for Prime Shipping program members), and Amazon now has, increasingly, "exclusives" on popular video content and has worked on video-viewing compatibility with the larger popular websites.  I use the default Silk web browser most of the time, as a result, and use the Flash combo recommended here for video that Amazon's browser can't display yet.

For the later tablets released Fall 2013-2015
  Three files are needed and linked below, but FIRST do the following:
This combo of files works on the Yr 2013 devices and after, starting with Kindle Fire HD 7 (2nd Gen), Kindle Fire HDX (1st Gen) tablets, and they should work with the Yr 2014-2015 Fire tablets (see Current models listing.)  I'd love to get feedback on how it goes with the tablet model you're using for this.

STEPS:
  • Go to the 'Home' screen.
  • Swipe down (lightly pressing and pulling down) from the top of the screen.
  • That gets you the top row of moreo popular options to set.
  • Tap on "More" or "Settings" wheel (depending on the model) at the top right.
  • Go down the Settings list to "Applications" and tap on that.
      For Year 2015 tablets, Select "Security" rather than "Applications."
  • "Apps from Unknown Sources" is the first option.
          Turn ON "Allow Installation of applications not from Appstore."

Installation files have names that end in ".apk" ...

Then download and tap to install, to your Yr 2013 or later tablet, the files at the following links
  (the first one is a popular Android tablet file manager, if you don't already have it):
  1. the free file manager app, ES File Explorer

      [An EASIER alternative file-manager app for just installing app files (*.apk files) is Easy Installer, which does a search for install-files on your tablet and then shows them to you so that you can just choose which one to install without searching in file folders.

      The first time you use Easy Installer -- be sure to tap its top-right Menu: (3 vertically-aligned squares)
      Tap on 'Setting' and check the 'Scan Hidden Directories' box so that it can find hidden apk files.

    For an easier experience when just installing new apps downloaded from non-Amazon stores, use THIS file manager instead of ES Explorer where that is mentioned here.]


    Most recommend ES Explorer, which drops files into the usual "Download" folder, because you can control a lot more in connection with your files if you use it regularly, but it can be more than some care to see for just an app-install job. I use the Easy Installer for app-installs and ES Explorer for other file management functions.

  2. Dolphin's own http://dolphin.com/lab/en page has the specific Adobe Flash file offered by them.  This Adobe Flash player file was put together by surviveland (to work with later Android-based tablets) at XDA forums and it's explained there (in a long, complex thread most will not want to read).

      You should install this Flash file before running the Dolphin browser file that comes next.

      The file is named "install_flash_player_ics.apk"

      And:
  3. Here's a link to the file for Dolphin browser version 11.3.4 for those who can't access Google play directly.  The file is at 1mobile (most who read this blog will already have the 1mobile appstore app, which you use in the same way you use the Amazon appstore), and you can go there ON the Kindle Fire tablet app, Search for "dolphin browser" and direct download it, and it'll be installed for you.  This is easier than doing it at other sites which require a manual install.  This is the same file that is at GooglePlay today, with Jetpack (which helps with Flash) built in.

      (But, for others, here's an ALTERNATE link for those who'd rather download the file from Dolphin's own site, offering Dolphin for Android in an earlier version than the one at GooglePlay.  If the Dolphin site downloads a version that does not have "Jetpack" built in, then you would need to also download Jetpack, which is also on that page, separately, and install both files.  Dolphin also offers a beta version there.)   but 1mobile's file above is MUCH easier to get and autoinstall, and Jetpack is built into it.

      Google play says that the Dolphin version number varies with the device. v11.3.4 works on my Yr2013 Kindle Fire HDX tablet and should work on the Yr2013-2014 HD ones also.

      (For Nexus N9 users, Dolphin told a user Dec. 23, 2014
      "Dolphin does not support Flash in Nexus 9 for now.  Nexus 9 is with the 64-bit processor. We are working on this issue.?"

  When you receive notification that the Adobe Flash Player is downloaded, run either the ES File Explorer (files will be in the "Download" folder usually) OR the Easy Installer app to find and install it.
  Tap the filename to install the file (in both cases).






Dolphin HD Browser settings IMPORTANT
When you've launched the Dolphin browser, this 11.3.4 version's menu is the Dolphin image at top right (rather than the usual washboard rectangle).  Tap it to bring up several options.
  1. Tap on "Settings" at the bottom left of the opened menu).
  2. Near the top of the list is "Dolphin Jetpack - it helps with Flash and is now built-in and you should be sure to turn it ON, with a checkmark at the left against a green background.
  3. Go down to "Web Content" and tap that.
  4. Then tap "Flash Player" -- the choices are:
    • Always on  (Videos will auto-run - easiest but it'll slow down some page loads and sometimes Flash routines will cause crashes, one reason Steve Jobs hated it).  I use this one so I don't have to turn it on when needed.
    • On Demand  That means you'd need to do an extra tap to start it when something isn't running because you didn't want it to always run.
    • Off  (I see no reason to use this option.)
  5. Other settings - ones I use, in case you wonder what might work:
      . Auto-fit Pages: ON
      . Default Zoom: 200% (Close up)
      . Open Pages in Overview: ON
  6. ALSO, make sure Javascript setting, just below Flash, is On or Enabled.
Important additional Dolphin setting: (that you can change back and forth)
On the main settings page, Customization subsetting has, in FIRST spot, "User Agent."   I tend to use "Desktop" there because I dislike oversimplified mobile-device optimized pages, which are built for small smartphones. AND some TV broadcast sites as well as medici.tv (live and archived classical concerts) will run ONLY if they think you are on a desktop.  If they see you're an Android device :-), they will insist you get a mobile app that is difficult for Kindle tablet users to get from Google play.
  Youtube may run a bit smoother if you choose 'Android' setting instead, but I don't see much of a difference. Right now I can use 'Desktop' setting and see the normal youtube instead of being sent to the mobile version of youtube.

  Again, SOME TV video pages will actually not allow videos to run on Android devices but will allow them to run for "Desktop" devices or on iPads.  This is where you can camouflage your device as a a 'Desktop' or iPad  :-)  
  Remember to change it back when needing to use the Android setting though.

Then, after installing the app files and making sure that the Flash setting is set to run Flash either Always or On Demand, you'll be able to switch to the Dolphin HD browser app (if using Amazon's Silk browser by default) when needing to see a video requiring Flash.

The usual DISCLAIMER for adding files for added functionality
  As with the steps for the past two years, these are files that are for requested workarounds based on various findings by Android experts at XDA Developers Community Forums and would be considered when really wanting to view Flash video that is not working for you on some favorite sites with Amazon's built-in "Silk" web browser (which is ultra capable these days).
  Also, guides to add install files to get a missing function -- in this case, to allow the playing of Flash almost anywhere -- should be used mainly by those familiar with basic File Manager utilities (this applies to normal Windows, Macs, and Android file-manager utilities).

  There are NO software modifications and NO risky "Rooting" involved.  However, no guarantee is made, of course, that they'll function ideally on your specific device on all flash-video sites, although this type of workaround for the older models has been used successfully for over two years now (see comments) and this file combo is working really well for me on the HDX on almost all Flash-video pages.
 The degree of success of this workaround on your specific device may depend on sufficient storage space remaining, memory (do this from a fresh power-up), and healthy hardware.


Troubleshooting.   Using Restarts - I had an HD Youtube video close on me one night in October 2012 after a few seconds.  Twice, after I'd been running the browser with many tabs open.   When quite a bit has been run on a tablet, sometimes memory gets fragmented and there's not enough to hold what's needed in 'contiguous' mode and then an app will close.

 In case that might be the reason, I just powered off the device from the Home page, which will clean up the memory the same way our computers do upon power-off or restart.  After doing that, I had no problems with that same 9-minute Youtube High Definition video and played it full-screen a few times, using the Dolphin browser and the Adobe Flash Player file.


Other app stores that are recommended when Amazon does not have a particular app   Besides 1mobile.com, popular ones are androiddrawer.com, m.getjar.com, slideme.org, handango.com, and others.  As with any appstore, you can search for an app and download it to the tablet.   This is because Amazon has always allowed the option of installing appication files "from unknown sources" despite what you'll read on large tech sites (for reasons I don't understand, since they will spend a lot of space talking about 'rooting' the tablets or doing 'modifications' on them and these workarounds require none of that.  Just a checkmark on a box.

I always recommend though that people wait a few days before getting apps from any other sites, to see if anyone is having problems with malware (even at Google Play market, when Google allows access, but Google doesn't acknowledge Kindle Fire devices).  Google doesn't take as much time to vet apps as Amazon does, to test for both malware or incompatability.

  Amazon's appstore has finally been growing fast the last year.   Of course, if Amazon carries the app, it's definitely best to get it from Amazon because Amazon does a strong vetting of the apps they offer and because it's the way they make revenue from (now the highest-quality hardware) tablets sold at closer to cost.
  They also keep for you a copy of each Amazon appstore app you download, in your Amazon Cloud area, which is useful when you are getting another Kindle tablet or if you just need to re-install the file.  I think it's important to support the Amazon Android appstore, but I also think it's important that Amazon make more good and updated apps available to us at a faster pace, and maybe they should have a suggestion box for the more popular requests


Amazon Prime Instant Video setting needing a change for tablet-viewing
NOTE - The April 26 2014 blog update added info on a setting for those viewing Amazon Prime Instant Video on tablets or phones and who, for some reason, don't see a Flash option on their tablet screens.

  The Amazon Instant Video setting for Web Player Preferences if viewing on mobile devices should be set to "Adobe Flash" rather than "Silverlight,: which is for desktop computers.
  I imagine that Kindle Fire tablets are optimized for Amazon's own Instant Video feature or vice versa.


Another browser, "Puffin" can run flash video on websites - far less smooth and doesn't play Flash during evening hours
Puffin Free Browser.  However, again, Puffin's intro cautions that it's limited to daytime use.
  "Puffin Free is the free version of Puffin family, and supports Adobe Flash during the daytime everyday (It usually starts from 8 am to 4 pm, but the duration is subject to change without prior notice)." Have left in this info because some recommend Puffin for simplicity and because it does work with Flash when the sun is shining -- and because I think this daytime allowance of Flash for the free version is so odd.  So, I've included it for the record, although its display tends to be lower-resolution than with the other browsers.  I haven't run across the paid-app version yet.

Flashfox promises Flash support but crashes on some sites;


Large popular video sites on which Amazon's Silk web browser does work currently
  Youtube
Amazon's own default Silk browser currently handles Youtube well by taking you to the mobile version of that site, showing you a small version of the video selected from a search and, when you click on one, shows you a full screen version of it in decent quality w/o your needing to change (via a long-press) the Youtube video gear-wheel setting at the right-bottom of a video, to change the video quality.  Its Silk tablet browser can no longer view NBC's full episodes on the tablets though.

  Youtube's mobile area was completely rewritten by Youtube to use HTML5 rather than Flash and in the recent past sometimes had a somewhat smaller selection of videos, but they're about the same now.  Amazon works with the HTML5 via their new experimental Flash-replacement streamer, described further below.

  Acorn.tv
Silk CAN handle Acorn.TV (British TV shows) well in 'Automatic' reading-view setting.
With the Flash file recommended here, it is more reliable.  but that file is not necessary for the 'mobile' reading-view setting, though the 'automatic' setting is recommended.

  The current Chrome Beta browser at 1mobile appstore also runs acorn.tv with the current recommended Flash file, as long as you don't click the Chrone browser menu setting for "Request desktop site.  Oddly, the Dolphin combo recommended here does not run acorn.tv videos.


  NOTE: The general quality of streaming will be affected by the speed of your Internet connection.
  Providers of DSL home Internet access usually use a default, first-tier lower speed that's often about 1/6th the speed of cablemodem speeds, so if you love to watch Internet streamed material via WiFi network connections in your home, I do recommend cablemodem access like Comcast's.


  Video or TV broadcast Apps already carried at Amazon's appstore:
  WatchABC, which includes viewing of LIVE ABC programs rather than just after the fact, is often a boon but is now much less stable than earlier this year. Too many ads too.  CBS app is now available at Amazon but I think full episodes require a 5-day delay before they can be shown.  Let me know if that's changed. (No time to test that as I want to get this update up.)

  NBC's full episodes are available only on laptops or desktops currently, BUT Dolphin CAN show these on your Kindle File tablet when (as explained above) you set the "User Agent" to Desktop.  I tend to leave it at that setting, and I just used Dolphin to semi-watch a Dateline hour on NBC.

  Amazon's appstore also carries PBS, Smithsonian TV apps, and other TV apps.  If you Search the Amazon store for "TV" you'll also see apps for Discovery; History; WatchESPN; RAI; and several others. PBS's app is fantastic.  So is Smithsonian but there are fewer full hour shows on it.

  And then there's always Amazon Instant Video viewing, which includes downloadable files for watching offline, and Amazon keeps adding exclusive material on that feature while providing optional X-Ray background info on actors in the scene you're watching.

  Remember to be sure to use (or change) the Amazon Instant Video setting for Web Player Preferences because when viewing on tablets, this should be set to "Adobe Flash" rather than "Silverlight, which is for desktop computers.

NOTE: - Amazon's HDX tablets provide what has been described by major tech-site reviewers as among the fastest and smoothest experience on tablets today.  If multmedia files are your focus and you want them accessible on your device to play offline, get a device with more storage than 16 GB.

  I didn't want to pay a few hundred dollars for a multimedia tablet (also, magazines are huge) and wind up feeling constrained, since I also have a lot of photos on mine, so I got the 64GB one and love the freedom from worrying about space, Cloud or no Cloud.
  I think of it as a built-in SD card space.  Still, a 32GB tablet will be enough for many users.

When shopping different makers and models and analyzing costs, note that a certain key competing tablet will cost an additional $100 to get to each higher level of storage space - to 32 and to 64GB - and that tablet series does not support Flash.

  Many of us are able to view, using Amazon's own default Silk web browser, some of the main Flash-playing sites, even for network TV full episodes now, as mentioned, as Kindle Team has been working on Amazon's Experimental Streaming Viewer which works with a limited number of sites, but they are large, popular ones, and Amazon is expanding the number of websites that will be able to work with it.

  Here's my earlier introduction to the Experimental Streaming Viewer, with some initial tips that will help, though there may be some added web-browser setting changes needed via the browser menu for some.
  A KEY step is to enable "Accelerate page loading" setting in the Silk web browser menu (it's now the default setting on the HDX tablets), which automatically turns 'ON' the Advenced Setting of "Prompt for experimental streaming viewer."

Back to the Google-owned Youtube:
  A brief history of THAT dilemma brought on by Adobe's dropping of Flash support and explanation for the workaround has been moved to its own page to shorten this blog entry.

  Amazon has been able to improve Experimental Streaming Viewer so that Youtube videos and many other websites using Flash can be viewed on the Silk web browser without any special work on the part of the use.  As mentioned earlier, Amazon uses the mobile version of youtube..

  When using Silk browser rather than Dolphin, look at Silk browser's web menu Settings options and check the box to use the experimental feature if you want the browser to try to to view Flash video on a website.

***The actual ADOBE statement on Flash Player support (or not)
  for types of tablets and the Android versions involved
  is now part of the Adobe Flash Player History page.



RELATED, earlier posts on Kindle Fire tablet capabilities
   (Descriptions of Kindle 7" features will apply to the 8.9" models also.)
    . Getting non-Amazon apps on Kindle Fire devices
      (The basic models of each Kindle Fire tablet line
        have smaller storage space, limiting apps that can be run.)
    . Google Maps, Street View and other apps on my Kindle Fire,
        via enabling one device setting
    . How to play Flash on Year 2012 Kindle Fire tablets
    . Downloading and playing YouTube videos on Kindle Fire HD.
      Also, TubeMate app for Youtube will download videos to play on your Kindle Fire,
      and BSPlayer app will play almost ANY video format.
    . Using the camera and Video, Panorama mode, Time Lapses on earliest Kindle Fire
    . Add Wi-Drive pocketable disk/stream'g for Kindle models
        and for other tablet or phone devices,
        or, Portable wireless 320G Patriot Gauntlet drive/stream'g for 7" & 8.9" devices.
    . App for WiFi file transfers w/o cable.


For reference, here is the Current Global Listing of available Kindle devices.



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Monday, November 30, 2015

Voice Dictation and Speech-to-Text on Kindle Fire HDX's and current HD tablets (built in and useful for email, notes, and forum comments) -- How it works. Also, an excellent voice-recording app (free, only at Amazon) that's good for making sound-files for keeping recorded notes or for sharing. UPDATED Nov 29-30 with tips on trying voice-dictation-to-text offline and for an Extra 30% Off Print books thru' Nov. 30.


This is an example of using voice-dictation on a Facebook post:

Click on the first screenshot to see where the microphone icon is.  The second one shows the screen during dictation, and the 3rd one shows the completed comment to Facebook.


Kindle Fire's Built-in Voice Dictation for tablets with Fire OS v3.1 (See Updated entry at bottom.)
This capability is available, per Amazon's Language and Keyboard Display help page on the following Amazon tablets:
  "For Kindle Fire HDX (3rd Generation), Fire HD (4th Generation), or Fire HDX 8.9 (4th Generation) devices, tap the microphone icon on your keyboard to use your voice to dictate text instead of typing."

  The Fire HD 4th generation would be the ones released in Year 2014 (HD 6" and HD 7" that year, still current in Year 2015).
  For example, the lowest-cost Fire HD model has it, as does the Year 2014 HD 7 tablet you might have, though that one doesn't show in current tablet offerings.

The thumbnail photos above lead to larger photos for more readability.  These screenshots are from a session using the built-in voice-dictation (or speech-to-text] feature to reply on Facebook to a post.  (I'm using a post from Wildtiger Org's Jack Kinross in connection with their Remote Area Aid for disaster relief in Nepal.  This is a photo he took of a woman carrying wood from recently cut-down trees to her home because of the now two-month-long Nepal Fuel Blockade, which prevents receipt of fuel (for cooking and transportation) and medical supplies as well as health workers for areas of Nepal that need it).  The full photo by Jack Kinross can be viewed here.
  Today, a report by Unicef that a Shortage of essential supplies threatens millions of children this winter in Nepal goes ignored while the mainstream news outlets ignore that story.  ("200,000 families affected by the tremors are still living in temporary shelters, at an altitude above 1,500 metres") facing winter without fuel for food and transport and no medical supplies due to the mentioned blockade there.)

  The first screenshot shows the voice-dictation microphone at bottom left of the keyboard; the second one shows the screen interface during the actual voice dictation with a dotted circle around the microphone and "Done" to be tapped once you've finished your dictated comment.  The third one shows the comment as it appears before you press the Enter key on the keyboard to submit the comment.

According to an Amazon press release, this "Voice dictation converts your speech to text—available in all languages when online; offline support available in US English.."

  (I haven't confirmed that we can use the feature offline when using US English, since my WiFi is always on when I'm working with it.  Let us know what your experience is with that.)

Here's a list of some frequently used voice commands
  and some numerical items the dictation-feature understands:

  (SOME of the may not work in the UK-English version.)
• “Period” – [ . ]
• “Comma” – [ , ]
• “Exclamation mark” – [ ! ]
• "Exclamation point" - [ ! ]
• "New line"
• "New paragraph"
• “Open bracket(s)” – [ [ ]
• "Closed bracket(s)" - [ ] ]
• "Open parentheses" - [ ( ]
• "Closed parentheses" - [ ) ]
• "dash" - [--] {"The weather -- quite cold -- requires a coat."}
• “Nine Euros fifty” – [ 9.50 EUR ]
• “Half past nine” – [ 9:30 ]
• "Eight fifty nine AM" - [ 8:59 AM ]
• “Thirteen forty five” – [13:45]
• “Twelve hyphen 3" - [12-3] {"The Giants won 12-3."}

If the voice-dictation IS based on Nuance's "Dragon" capabilities, some have said that an "utterance" is limited to 30 seconds, but I've been able to talk on and on for well over a minute without a break and it continues and is very accurate.  When I stopped, it waited for me for a short while to press the "Done" icon, having apparently 'learned' that I can be long-winded.  So, this is quite good for a built-in undocumented voice-dictation feature.

  Tips on getting voice commands and punctuation to work as expected
  Before asking for 'new line' or 'new paragraph' it works better if a period prefaces it (though it's not usually necessary).

  Also, it's best to pause slightly after saying 'period' when wanting a new line or new paragraph.

  ON the other hand, don't wait too long to say 'period' to end a sentence, as it will add a space before it if you pause for more than a millisecond.


If you have used the voice-dictation feature (available since November 2013 on the mentioned Kindle Fire tablets) and you find new capabilities while trying it out, let us know in the Comments area.


NOTES on a really good audio-recording app that I tried this weekend
(This one is NOT for speech to text but to get dictated material in audio-file format to send to others or for record-keeping.)
  UPDATE2: AFTER I made the demo recordings for 'medium' and "high" quality versions of the original free Easy Voice Recorder app, I found out tonight that the once $4 Easy Voice Recorder PRO is now "Actually Free" under the new Amazon Underground feature, which allows us to use, for free, apps that are normally paid apps at other major app stores.

  Amazon offers these for free when the app developer is paid based on usage (which means that how often you use the app IS tracked for the developer's revenue), and apparently this developer has confidence in the app's usefulness.  I can see why.

The *now FREE* Easy Voice Recorder Pro  (EVR Pro)
.
  For the Easy Voice Recorder Pro app, I added two sound files in WAV format from the original free non-Pro app.  The first audio file is an EVR Medium Quality WAV sample.

  The second audio file uses the "high" quality setting and is my EVR High Quality WAV sample.

  The third file is an EVR Medium quality M4A sample.  The second audio file uses the "high" quality setting and is my EVR High Quality M4A sample.

  Since I recorded these two audio files before finding that the "PRO" version is now free and offers stereo recording, my wording in these files should be ignored.

  While these older free-version samples are in mono, they still give an idea of the clarity you'll hear in the Pro app files (newer version that's free only at Amazon).
   Since Easy Voice Recorder Pro records and STORES, on the tablet, the considerably larger WAV format file, to keep highest quality available (while also offering compressed versions in M4A format when sending the file to others), I've linked the medium and high quality WAV as well as the two compressed M4A files for anyone curious about the differences.

  These should give you an idea of which might work better for you if you're interested in a voice-recorder with sound-file output for sending or sharing.  I noticed that several customer reviews mention that these apps work pretty well for singing as well :-)

  Apologies for sounding so sleepy in them, but that's because I was!

  BONUS feature.  I saw that Easy Voice Recorder Pro allows you to Play a recording WHILE Recording on top of that, which means you are "layering" tracks and can do a duet with the output from the first file to make the 2nd file.  Unfortunately, it is picking up the speaker output of the first file, so the quality of the first sound-file's audio is not good.  But if you're recording music, it's a good way to practice with another part.


  An alternate fully-featured voice-recorder app, with a great interface:
Another very flexible voice recorder app: Hi-Q Audio Recorder also allows you to pause a recording, has several additional, interesting features, and makes files in M4A, WAV, OGG or Flac. ($4~) (m4a sample).  This app doesn't offer an mp3 output file because Hi-Q also offers a very very good, free mp3-recorder app, Hi-Q MP3 Recorder, but this free one does not have a Pause option, which is an important lack (mp3 sample).  The sample from from the $4~ "audio" app is better for sibilants while the sample from the free "mp3" app has better presence. The Hi-Q apps, like the Easy Voice apps, do allow you to Play one recording WHILE recording on top of that.


TIP on making recorded notes when away from WiFi or 3G and then later converting these sound files into text
  I was asked about how to save notes, when using Voice-Dictation (to text) during times that we don't have a WiFi or 3G connection for sending a note or email somewhere.

  The first thing I found was that the voice-dictation-to-text offline is, for all expected purposes, useless.  Apparently the data set that is on the tablet system has to be very pared-down and therefore the app can understand VERY LITTLE of what I say when offline and not connected to the Net's large data servers with the full data sets.  What it typed for me, then, was not understandable by me.  This was not unlike some human-to-human conversations.

  So, don't bother with trying to use Voice to Text when WiFi or 3G are not available.  The Voice Dictation feature is very accurate and capable when you have a fast WiFi connection.  I have Comcast Cable and am unable to test how it would be under slower DSL connections.

BUT, what you can do when in a space without WiFi or 3G is to use a simple voice-recorder app like Easy Voice Recorder or Hi-Q's two apps described above, which all save automqtically to sound files on your device.

  When you're back on WiFi, you can send the sound files you want, to your computer (via EMail, WiFi transfer, or USB) and then play the audio on the computer while using the tablet's built-in Voice Dictation-to-text to convert it to text for emails or text notes.  The conversion-to-text won't be quite as accurate as when you're actually talking to the microphone, but it's workable with more post-editing required.  Using speakers with good treble output to project sibilants will improve the accuracy of the voice-dictation conversion to text.


Reminder for Nov 30: Amazon has extended the "extra 30% off" for PRINT books deal through the end of Nov 30 (11:59 PST) -- you can get any PRINT book at Amazon for an extra 30% off -- just enter "HOLIDAY30" at Checkout time in the promo code field.  HOWEVER, it's restricted to a maximum $10 off.  This was extended to 11:59pm PST Monday, Nov. 30.  See Amazon's "terms and conditions" here.

  Also, Amazon's aggressive-pricing continues during its CyberMonday Week that started today.


(This blog article was first posted Nov 28 and has been revised Nov 29-30.


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Friday, November 27, 2015

Special Black Friday special on Kindles, Fire TV devices and Amazon Echo. Additional 30% off any PRINT book. Note on Voice-dictation (speech-to-text) for HDX models for later blog article today. UPDATE 2


Amazon Kindle and Fire Devices on special sale, Black Friday (See Update 2: 30% off PRINT book.

  The special pricing on the Black Friday Amazon Devices page tends to be available until Nov 28, said to be 11:59 pm that day, tho' some have later ending dates.   Some will become available again only during lightning deals for the following "CyberMonday week" and for as long as the items are in stock).

  Clicking on the small-version images of Amazon's special sales page for its devices today will get you to the larger, much more readable page at Amazon.

The special device deals today include e-Readers, tablets, as well as Fire TV box and Fire Stick.

  Highlights

  Fire TV devices
Fire TV Stick, normally $39.99, is nearly 40% off at $24.99.

Fire TV Box (more fully-featured), normally $99.99 is 25% off at $75.99 and that's a rare price for this.

  Here's Amazon's Yr 2015 FireTV-comparison table


  Kindle e-Readers and tablets
The basic Kindle e-Ink e-Reader is almost 40% off at $49.99.

You can save $15 on the new Fire tablet, which has been, Amazon says, "the #1 best-selling product" on Amazon.com since launch.  Normally, $50, it's $34.99 today.

  Once more: the sometimes confusing lineup of Kindles and how to decide
  which ones would work best for you

  Here's a set of links that should help clarify the differences between models and allow easier comparison of features and prices:

  • Amazon's Tablet Comparison table
  • Amazon's Comparison table for the e-Ink Kindle eReaders
  • Paperwhite 3 vs Paperwhite 1: photos
  * Yr 2015 lineup: Details
        plus a quick-text listing or table of the various models:
  • Which Kindles Where? (Models available)


The previous blog article was on how the 8 days of Black Friday would work and the coming CyberMonday Week starting Nov. 30 will see similar multiple sales events.

GENERAL Black Friday pages for the US, UK, and Canada


UPDATE 2: Additional 30% off ANY Print Book 11/26-11/29 (thru' Sunday)
I got word of this and forgot, and it's not easily findable on the Amazon pages:
' Shopping Alert: Amazon Books announced it's offering shoppers an extra 30% discount on any print title beginning on Thanksgiving Day.  Shoppers must enter "HOLIDAY30" at checkout between Thursday (11/26) and Sunday (11/29) to receive the discount. '

[Amazon adds that the Amazon Book editors recently announced their Best Books of 2015 and that if any of you are looking for gifting options to use this 30% off on, take a look at the Editors’ Holiday Gift Picks.]

I'll end this here, since Thanksgiving and other events kept me from getting this out last night.

  I'm also working today on another blog article, to be completed this weekend, on how to dictate emails (voice dictation) and notes to Evernote and other apps on the Kindle HDX models.

  I've tested what works and doesn't in the way of punctuation and certain formats it understands (currency and time). This works very well for me on the 8.9" HDX that I have and for a friend's 7" HDX.

UPDATED, after initial posting:
EDITED: According to Amazon help pages on Language and Keyboard options:
  "For Kindle Fire HDX (3rd Generation), Fire HD (4th Generation), or Fire HDX 8.9 (4th Generation) devices, tap the microphone icon on your keyboard to use your voice to dictate text instead of typing."

  This means that the current HD6 and HD7 "Fire" tablets do have the Voice-dictation-to-text feature.

One more thing
  I'll also include, in that later blog article today, an example from a very effective voice-recorder app (NOT voice-to-text but an audio file) that I bought ($3), which is clearer than others I'd tried earlier, and is even said by commenters to be very good for recording singing.

  This is of course for Kindle tablets that use a microphone, although I saw that someone who bought earbuds with a mic attached was able to do the simple recording of voice to an audio file, which they can save and send or keep in a library.



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Thursday, November 19, 2015

How the 8 days of Black Friday sales will work ... Long listing of examples of top deals ... Paperwhite 3 vs Paperwhite 1 photos ... New Handmade store ... Martha Stewart American Made store ...Isis: Inside the Army of Terror + an online article in 3 parts, based on an interview with an ISIS spy. Updated 11/20.


WHY?
While watching the news this week, I heard CNN Contributor Michael Weiss on a panel discussing ISIS and the Paris attacks and found his flow of details about the middle east situation more informative than the usual and looked him up to find he co-authored the New York Times bestseller "Isis: Inside the Army of Terror," which gets good reviews.  The one complaint I saw was that there are a lot of acronyms involved and they're hard to remember when explained only once.

  I thought that was true also of his 3-part series online, "Confessions of an Isis Spy," based on days of interviews with a "man claiming to be a member of the so-called Islamic State’s security services" who provided details on the inner workings of the group.

  The Kindle book has the "X-Ray" feature enabled, which means that if you see an acronym on a page and want to remember what it represents, you can tap on 'X-Ray' (menu option), then tap on "Terms," to get a definition plus links to each time the word or acronym is mentioned, along with applicable text on those pages.  This is probably my favorite Kindle book feature when reading non-fiction.

  It's a terrible subject, but I want to try to understand it where that's possible, and I thought others might too.

Yes, it's that time of the year again...
8 Days of ~Black Friday~ begin Friday Jan. 20 (tomorrow)
Here are the Black Friday links again that were given earlier for the "Countdown" period:

  Black Friday pages for the US, UK, and Canada

  The sometimes confusing lineup of Kindles and how to decide
  which ones would work best for you

  Since some will be interested in the sales on Kindle e-Ink eReaders or Amazon's Fire tablets, here's a set of links that should help clarify the differences between models and allow easier comparison of features and prices:

  • Amazon's Tablet Comparison table
  • Amazon's Comparison table for the e-Ink Kindle eReaders
  • Paperwhite 3 vs Paperwhite 1: photos
  • Yr 2015 lineup: Details
  • Which Kindles Where? (Models available)

  IN THE MEANTIME, today (Nov 19), the Fire Tablet 10 (10.1" HD display, 16GB) is on sale "for a limited time" for $199.99 (normally $229.99).

I'll include, at the bottom of this blog article, Amazon's very long list of examples of specific products that will be on sale.

  SIDE NOTE: In addition, Amazon has launched its new HANDMADE products store.
  • Handmade at Amazon
  • Martha Stewart American Made

  That's right. Martha Stewart left EBay for Amazon, and her new store opens today.  Amazon's announcement explains that the new Handmade store
"spotlights local artisans that are personally selected by Martha Stewart and the editors of Martha Stewart Living.  On Handmade at Amazon, artisans selling in the Martha Stewart American Made store will be identified in their artisan profile page with the official Martha Stewart American Made badge.  To start, hundreds of unique handcrafted items are offered from artisans that have earned the Martha Stewart American Made distinction."


From Amazon's Black Friday week announcement:
'...new deals [will be] added as often as every five minutes for eight straight days" at the Black Friday page.
 " Customers will have access to 10 coveted Deals of the Day starting at midnight on Thanksgiving, and up to 10 more on Black Friday. Customers can also shop limited-time Lightning Deals on thousands of sought-after products per day throughout the eight days of deals.

Plus, Prime members will get 30-minutes early access to the majority of these Lightning Deals.
[This means some of the best deals could be gone before the non-Prime members get a look at them.

HOWEVER, Amazon will recognize 30 day Free Trials of Prime (UK prime here) during the 8 days of Black Friday, and there is the option to cancel the free trial after that.]
This year, Amazon will introduce more than 150 hand-picked Lightning Deals on everything from electronics to kitchen gadgets only through the Amazon Mobile Shopping App available on Android, iOS, and Fire OS.

  These deals can be found on the “App Only Deals” tab and will be released daily from 3 pm PT to 11 pm PT starting Thanksgiving through Wednesday, December 9. In addition, Prime members in 20 metro areas can use the dedicated Prime Now mobile app to enjoy free two-hour delivery on select Deals of the Day throughout the holiday season.

 . . . This year, [Amazon adds the feature]  “Watch A Deal” which allows holiday shoppers to pick the deals they’re most excited about and receive a notification to their mobile device when the deal is live. With this new feature, Amazon customers can effortlessly take advantage of deals throughout the day and while on-the-go.

Steve Shure, Vice President, Amazon Consumer Marketing [added]: “...with App Only Deals, customers will have plenty of options when it comes to scoring great deals from Amazon.”

Following are examples of some of the top deals that will be available at various times between November 20 and Black Friday at [Amazon's Black Friday page, U.S.].

Electronics:
Kindle Paperwhite, $99.99
$30 off Kindle and Kindle for Kids Bundle
Fire, $34.99
Fire Kids Edition, $84.99
$25 off Amazon Fire TV
$15 off Amazon Fire TV Stick and Amazon Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote
Up to 45% off select Samsung and LG TVs, including Samsung 32” 1080p LED TV for $177.99, LG 49” 1080p LED TV for less than $370, and Samsung 75” 1080p Smart LED TV for less than $2,000
Top-selling 60” 4K LED TV, $799.99
TCL 55” Roku Smart LED TV, $348
Hisense 55” 4K Smart LED TV, $448 (App Only Deal)
50” 1080p LED TV, $149.99 (App Only Deal)
40” 1080p LED TV, $145
TCL 32” Roku Smart LED TV, $125
32” LED TV, $75
Acer Home Theater Projector, $299.99
VIZIO 38” 2.1 Home Theater Sound Bar, $79.99
$49 off SONOS 2-Room Streaming Music Starter Set
Save 40% on Polk Audio Omni S2 Wireless Speaker
Up to 25% off Denon HEOS 1 Wireless Speakers
50% off Sony Extra Bass Bluetooth Headphones
Save more than 50% on Sennheiser HD 598 Special Edition Over-Ear Headphones in Black (Amazon Exclusive)
More than 50% off top-selling point-and-shoot camera
Jawbone UP3, $99
Save $100 on an Intel-Powered Dell 2-in-1 Laptop
ASUS 15” laptop, $129
Up to 40% off select Acer desktops, monitors, chromebooks, and tablets
Save more than 20% on select Samsung Galaxy Tablets
Save up to 70% on select SanDisk memory cards and USB flash drives
Top-selling mobile printer for less than $100&

Baby, Toys & Pets:
Save 30% or more on select Graco Car Seats and Strollers
Up to 60% off select Disney apparel, toys, and more
Save 50% on select best-selling wooden preschool toys
40% off select Fisher-Price Musical Instruments
Up to 50% off select toys from favorite brands like Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, and more
Save 50% on select construction toys from K’NEX, Lincoln Logs, and Tinkertoys
Up to 50% off select Lionel Train Sets, including Polar Express
50% off select wearable technology products and robotic toys for kids
45% off UDI R/C Falcon Drone with HD Camera
LEGO Star Wars Stormtrooper Figurine Alarm Clock, $15.99
Up to 60% off select Nylabone dog treats and chew toys
Save more than 50% on select Outward Hound dog toys
Up to 50% off select PetSafe pet products 

Home & Kitchen:
Save $50 on Samsung SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit
Save up to $200 on select Dyson vacuums
Save 40% on Silhouette Cameo Starter Bundle
$25 off with select DEWALT purchases of $100 or more
$20 off select orders of $100 or more in Porter-Cable tools
DEWALT 18-Volt Compact Drill/Driver Kit with Two Batteries, $89
More than 45% off Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Ultra LED Indoor Garden with Gourmet Herb Seed Kit
Up to 60% off select products from FoodSaver, Oster, Krups, Nespresso, T-fal, Wilton, and more
More than 55% off select Imprint Cumulus Comfort Mats
More than 50% off select Instant Pot Programmable Pressure Cookers
Save up to 40% on select cookware from Circulon and Rachael Ray
More than 40% off Rabbit 6-Piece Wine Tool Kit
Save 20% on Soma Sustainable Carafe and Plant-Based Water Filter, available through the new Amazon Launchpad program for startups 
Sports & Travel:
34% off Skywalker 15-Feet Jump N’ Dunk Trampolines
Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress with Never Flat Pump - Queen, $87.99
BARSKA Starwatcher 400x70mm Refractor Telescope, $49.50
30% off Reebok Professional Deck Workout Bench
25% off Nautilus T614 Treadmill
STIGA Triumph Table Tennis Table, $299.99
25% off select Timbuk2 Command Messenger Bags
25% off select Under Armour fleece
adidas Originals Men’s Sport Essentials Tee, $19.99
Save up to 50% on select adidas footwear for men, women, and kids
Save 70% or more on Samsonite Two-Piece Spinner Sets
Up to 45% off RV and camping supplies, including select products from Camco and Valterra
Up to 55% off select Automotive D-I-Y items
Fashion & Beauty:
Up to 70% off select clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, and watches for men, women, and kids
30% off select clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, and watches with promotional code 30BLACKFRI
Up to 70% off select diamond jewelry gifts
Up to 50% off select luxury watches for women
Select Levi’s Jeans for men, $39.99 or less
45% off select New Balance shoes for men, women, and kids
50% off select Steve Madden shoes for men
50% off select Steve Madden and Madden Girl shoes for women and kids
50% off select Stride Rite shoes and more for kids
Select baby and kids’ coats, fleece, hats, and more, $14.99 or less
Save up to $30 on Oral Care, including Oral-B electric toothbrushes
Up to 25% off select skin care products, including Dove, Olay, and more

Books, Music & Video Games:
80% off Transformers: The Covenant of Primus
Save more than 50% on Deathstroke Volume 1 Book and Mask Set
Save on more than 10 autographed CDs, including Kenny Rogers, Megadeth, and more (Amazon Exclusive)
Save 15% or more on select vinyl records
Save $20 on Need for Speed
Save $30 on Rock Band 4 Wireless Guitar Bundle
$50 off Xbox One Consoles
$50 off PlayStation 4 Uncharted Bundle
$25 off Metal Gear Solid V
Hundreds of PC download deals up to 70% off

All prices available at select times and while supplies last.

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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