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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