As an over-the-road truck driver, I’ve been playing around with GPS various devices and mapping software for several years. Maps and GPS’s have radically improved over the years. Does the perfect GPS exist? Not yet. So what is the solution? The solution I’m currently using is multiple GPS’s running at once. “Isn’t that a bit extreme?” you ask. Not really. Let me explain my current setup. I have a special Garmin GPS that is aimed at commercial truck drivers as well as those driving around in large motorhomes and other recreational vehicles. It differs from a standard Garmin or other stand-alone GPS unit in at least a couple of important ways. First, the user inputs the overall dimensions of his or her vehicle. The Garmin attempts to calculate routes based on known truck routes. It attempts to calculate routes based on keeping to known truck routes, and avoiding roads and routes that trucks and large vehicles are prohibited from. Secondly the Garmin has a database of truck stops, truck washes, scales, rest areas, etc. These two elements are theoretically updated with each new periodic map update. The Garmin does a decent job, but it has its quirks. I also have a Google Nexus 7 which has the excellent built-in Google Maps and Google Navigation, which are actually two separate apps that are tied closely together. I have found the Google satellite view and Google Street View to be invaluable aids on a daily basis as I am constantly having to find and go to places such as warehouses I’ve never been before. I can usually get a great idea of the size of the place, how it is laid out, if there is truck parking either on the property or nearby, etc. I also have the TomTom for Android GPS app along with a subscription to TomTom’s excellent HD Traffic service. Since I have a full-time data connection via a WiFi hotspot, I often run the TomTom software in parallel with the Garmin since TomTom’s HD Traffic service is generally pretty accurate when it comes to major traffic tie-ups and slow-downs. But wait, there’s more. Let’s say I’ve got the same destination programmed in to both the Garmin and the TomTom software, but I want to know how far it is to a particular point of interest along the route, for example a particular truck stop. The TomTom software continues to run in the background as I go to the Nexus 7′s menu and start Google Maps and/or Google Navigation. Yes, it is easily possible to have TWO completely separate navigation programs running on the Nexus 7 at the same time, even in the background. Of course if one runs any GPS program it’s a good idea to have the Nexus 7 plugged in since it will drain the battery in just a few hours’ time especially if one keeps the screen turned on. Also, with both the TomTom app as well as the included Google Navigation app running simultaneously in the background, it is still possible to open the regular Google Maps app and search and browse the satellite views as normal. As an extra aside, I frequently also have an app such as Audible or DoubleTwist running in the background attached via Bluetooth to a Bluetooth stereo speaker setup. The Nexus 7 is easily able to handle all of these tasks in stride with no slowdowns or stutters. So I find that having multiple GPS apps available in front of me (stuck to my windshield on the Nexus 7 via an inexpensive windshield mount I found on Amazon) to be an invaluable extra navigational aid. I personally believe one of the Nexus 7′s biggest strengths to be the built-in GPS chip, a feature that the Amazon Kindle HD’s lack, as well as all iPads that lack a built-in data connection. A built-in GPS chip really adds tremendous amount of value to any tablet, regardless of what the intended use might be.
Two major tech blogs seem to be warring today over Amazon rumors — to save problems I will not even bother naming or linking to either because it is honestly not even important to the whole story here. The subject in question is if Amazon has a $99 Kindle Fire HD in the works or not.
While there are sources claiming this product is in the pipeline, an Amazon spokesman claimed it “does not exist”. Honestly, while its hard to believe “unnamed” sources, it is also hard to believe Amazon would tip its hand on something like this, so we really are left to guess for ourselves and go with instinct.
Regardless of who is right and wrong in this little internet spat, there is one thing that I feel I can be certain of — Amazon can afford to do exactly this. The company has no need to profit from the hardware — it displays ads on the device, sells apps and sells music, movies and TV shows. The profit comes on the backend.
Honestly I have expected such a move for sometime, though I assumed it would come as a Kindle Fire discount offered to Amazon Prime customers. Prime already offers tremendous value to its users, and it does so because of the aforementioned backend.
So what does Amazon really have in store? Will there be a $99 Kindle Fire HD? It certainly would jump over the competition and could actually serve as a “game over” move against tablet rivals, including the Nexus 7. And it would do so all while using Google’s own mobile operating system as a weapon against them. Check mate.
While it has not been largely publicized, Amazon has a deal going on right now for Android customers and music lovers. The online retail giant is offering a trade-off — buy an app and get a free song.
The deal is not exactly temporary either. It began back on February 13, 2013 and will run through December 31, 2013. Customers need not do anything to qualify — simply purchase an app from the Amazon Appstore for Android and then, shortly after making the purchase, you will receive an email from the company that includes a code for $1 credit to Amazon MP3. The code is good until 11:59 PM PST on January 31, 2014, so you have plenty of time to decide on your song.
As many of you likely know, Amazon offers a paid app every single day as its “Free app of the Day”. As it turns out, these also count, meaning you need not even spend anything to land your MP3 credit.
Amazon has introduced a brand new service called AutoRip. This is a very different way of looking at music storage. In short, it takes the CD that you purchased from Amazon and puts it into your Amazon Cloud Player. It also will make that album available on your PC or Mac, Kindle Fire, Android phone, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Right now, this service is only available to customers in the United States.
This is a rather unexpected move in a time when record companies are screaming about pirating and copyright. Perhaps they aren’t complaining about AutoRip because it only allows users to put CDs that they really have purchased into the Amazon Cloud Player? I’m not sure.
It is clear that gifts of CDs that your friends or family purchased for you from Amazon are not eligible for AutoRip. There is also this interesting piece of “fine print”:
Some record companies require us (Amazon) to insert identifiers in the metadata that accompanies music when you download it from the Amazon MP3 Store or Cloud Player. This includes the music you have purchased from Amazon.com and matched music imported to Cloud Player from your device.
These identifies may include a random number Amazon assigns to your order or copy, purchase date and time, an indicator that the music was downloaded from Amazon, codes that identify the album or song (the UPC and ISRC), Amazon’s digital signature, an identifier that can be used to determine whether the audio has been modified, and an indicator whether the music was purchased from the MP3 store or imported to the Cloud Player.
Look for the AutoRip icon in search results and CD detail pages to find out if it is one you can use with this new service. The MP3 versions of your past AutoRip eligible CD purchases are already available in the Cloud Player, where they are being stored for free. CDs that you purchased through Amazon, from as far back as 1998, are eligible for AutoRip.
Amazon today announced a new partnership to bring even more content to its Prime video service. Prime is, of course, more than just video — it is also free second-day shipping on all orders (which often arrive next day) and a lending library for Kindle customers, allowing for one free book per month.
Now, in the face of growing competition from rivals, the retail giant has snagged a deal with TV network A&E, which will bring “popular series from A&E, bio, HISTORY and Lifetime to the Prime Instant Video service.”
Amazon announces these deals fairly regularly, but there are a couple of reasons why this particular one is a bit more important. First of all, it is a slap in the face of rival Netflix, who previously had, and lost, this deal. Second, there is a looming problem on the horizon and it is, potentially, a big one.
Redbox, the company who brought us those irresistible kiosks, has teamed with Verizon and plans to launch a competitor in early 2013. I have been among the early beta testers for the service and, I must admit, it is compelling.
So, is this enough to keep Amazon ahead of the market? Certainly Netflix still seems to be the dominant player, but Amazon is moving steadily up and now Redbox is coming. Competition, of course, is good for all of us.
Over the Christmas holiday my nephew showed up at my house with an Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7” Inch tablet. My Mom, who just turned 88, ended up playing with it and decided she wanted one. So, we stopped by Best Buy and picked one up.
I spent some time adding free apps from the Amazon Android Market that I knew my parents would like, such as Accuweather, News Hog, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox News Channel, recipe apps, etc.
What followed over the next few days was surprising. Of course my Mom started using it right away, but what surprised me was that my 79-year-old Dad started using the Kindle as much as my Mom uses it. Mom has used a computer for a number of years. Dad has played around with computers but never did much with them. Dad made the observation that the Kindle was a lot easier to use than a regular computer.
I have had an iPad for a long while now and my parents have been around it, but they’ve never used it much. The Kindle is a different story. Perhaps they felt more at ease since they own the Kindle, but I think there’s more to it than that. I believe the Amazon Kindle Fire HD has a better, friendlier user interface than the iPad has. The Kindle Fire HD presents app icons in a very large format on a revolving carousel that the user simply swipes through. It didn’t take long at all for them to begin to remember which of these large icons start which apps.
Another advantage the Kindle Fire HD has over the iPad is better, much louder sound. My parents are a bit hard of hearing, yet the Kindle Fire HD is able to get plenty loud enough for them to be able to easily hear, even in a noisy environment. The iPad isn’t capable of getting nearly as loud.
The $199 Kindle Fire HD 16 gigabyte (as well as the larger 8.9” inch version) comes bundled with a free month of Amazon Prime, which includes Amazon Prime streaming videos. Mom ended up easily figuring out how to stream videos and liked it so well she went ahead and subscribed.
The 7” inch widescreen seems to be just the right size for them. It is easy for them to handle, yet large enough for them to be able to see and manipulate the multi-touch screen.
The Kindle Fire HD has a dual core processor and gives great battery life. The apps are very responsive and there is never any lag.
If I were going to buy a tablet today, I would give strong consideration to a Kindle Fire HD. For $199 for the 7” inch and $299 for the 8.9” inch, Amazon is giving a tremendous amount of value and performance for the money.
The only downside that I can see is that the Kindle Fire HD doesn’t have a built-in GPS chip, nor any native mapping apps, so mapping on it is currently limited. However, for $199, it’s easy to overlook the lack of GPS. The WiFi-only versions of the iPad don’t have built-in GPS either.
The Kindle Fire HD has a forward facing camera for use with apps such as Skype, but no rear-facing camera. That’s not much of an issue for me since I rarely use the rear-facing camera in my iPad, but it might be for other people.
Now, if I can just get my parents to give up their flip-phone for a smartphone…
…or “Why DRM is killing ebook sales outside of Amazon or Barnes & Noble”.
Being a international superstar and global jetsetter*, I had the pleasure of passing through Dublin’s Connolly railway station today. In the atrium there was a billboard display of book covers complete with QR codes.
“Totally cool,” I thought. Scan the QR code, buy the ebook, download to my tablet and start reading. The bookstore, Eason, had helpfully included free wifi in the area to get on-line. (For those not familiar with Ireland, Eason would be the leading newsagent, stationers and bookstore, comparable to WHSmith in GB). I scanned this book:
The QR code took me to this page. Strangely, the book offered was a paperback and not an ebook. Huh?
Then I looked at the original poster, “1. Choose your book 2. Scan your QR code 3. Make your purchase 4. Wait for the post 5. Enjoy your book!”
Seriously…”Wait for the post”. Have these guys actually heard of ebooks or did the Kindle completely pass them by? Sure enough, Eason does have a section for ebooks on their website. It says, “Eason eBooks are compatible with Sony, Iriver and Elonex eReaders, as well as all devices that support Adobe EPUB DRM eBooks. Our eBooks are not currently compatible with Apple iOS, Google Android or Amazon devices - this includes iPads, iPhones, iPods, Android phones and tablets, and Kindles.”
So let me get this straight….Eason is appealing to a travelling customer, offering the QR codes to smartphones that will typically be iPhones or Android devices, but ebooks can’t be offered on these because of Adobe’s ePub DRM? Fail, fail, fail.
It’s both totally unbelievable yet completely expected. It’s no wonder Amazon and the Kindle are dominating the market because everyone else is fighting with one hand tied behind their back with DRM. Eason, I had a two hour train journey ahead of me and you had a 100% chance of an ebook sale but you blew it. I’ll turn on my tablet, fire up my Kindle or Nook app and buy directly from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
* This is completely untrue.
Those of you who have a Kindle might have a refund coming your way, eventually. This is a result of a recent antitrust lawsuit settlement between Amazon and the ebook publishers that were named in the lawsuit: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster, and their many subsidiaries.
Amazon.com has started sending email to some of their customers to tell them that they may be eligible for a credit This specifically relates to ebooks that were purchased between April of 2010 and May of 2012 by the above mentioned publishers. Consumers might receive anywhere between $0.30 and $1.32 for each ebook they purchased during that time frame.
How much you get depends on a few things. First, you have to have purchased an ebook from Amazon during that time frame. The amount of refund you get depends upon if the book was on the New York Times Bestseller list when it was purchased. If so, you could be getting a $1.32 refund for that book. If not, you may be getting less, (as low as $0.30) as a refund for that particular book. If you bought a bunch of ebooks during the time frame the settlement specifies, you could be in for quite a refund.
Before you get too excited, realize that the refunds will not be made until after the courts approve of the settlements. That hearing is scheduled for February of 2013. In addition to Amazon.com, Apple and Barnes & Noble will also be issuing refunds (but the amount hasn’t been released as of yet). The refunds will come in the form of an account credit. It may also be possible for you to request your refund in the form of a check, instead.
It seems to me that most of the time, when lawsuits like these happen, consumers don’t end up receiving anything at all. It is interesting that this time, at least some people will be getting a credit.
Image: Stock Photo Young Woman Reading On eBook by BigStock
People who love to read will take the opportunity to squeeze in another chapter, or a few more pages, any chance they get. Today, many people are reading books on their Kindle, (or other tablet device). Or, they are listening to the audio version of a book that they got from Audible.com. Whispersync for Voice is something new that connects these two options in a unique and time-saving way.
In order to use Whispersync for Voice, you will need a Kindle. You also will need to get the free Audible app for the iPhone, iPod touch, or Android. As the name implies, Whispersync for Voice will sync up your audio book with your ebook. You can put one device down, pick up the other one, and the book will continue exactly where you left off. No more wasting time trying to figure out where one version left off when you switch to the other one.
Start by purchasing an ebook for your Kindle. There will be a button that allows you to “Add Narration” for a few dollars more. Making that purchase is what enables your Kindle and Audible app to sync up with each other. There are about 15,000 books at Audible.com that work with Whispersync for Voice right now.
The latest generation of Kindle Fire, and the Kindle Fire HD 7” and the Kindle Fire HD 8.9” will let you do something called Immersion Reading. It will let you add the professional narration to your Kindle so you can read the book and listen to it at the same time.
There has been lot of controversy the past couple of days surrounding the line of Kindle Fire tablets that Amazon announced on Thursday. If you haven’t heard, the talk has been around the ads that Amazon will be displaying on the lock screen. It was widely believed that there would be no way to prevent these ads from showing up, regardless of how intrusive some users seemed to think they would be.
Now, multiple sources, including very reliable ones like Ars Technica and Engadget, are reporting that Amazon has contacted them and explained that users would, in fact, be able to opt out of these ads. The option isn’t free, however. Users will be able to turn off the ads for a small one-time fee of $15. In a message sent to Ars Technica, Amazon stated that “With Kindle Fire HD there will be a special offers opt-out option for $15. We know from our Kindle reader line that customers love our special offers and very few people choose to opt out. We’re happy to offer customers the choice.”
Will many users take advantage of this opt-out? My guess would be no. After all, we all shop on Amazon and having the chance to get a deal is a pretty good trade-off for having to see an ad.