The Plex Skill for Alexa has been updated to improve the way you listen to your music library by including support for Artist, Time Travel, and Library radio stations, recently introduced in Plexamp.
You can now make your very own radio stations out of your own music collection. Library radio plays popular songs from artists throughout your entire music library. Time Travel radio starts with the earliest released music and works forward. And the all-new Artist radio plays tracks inspired by your favorite artists.
It should be noted that Plex is offering free radio stations for a limited time. Radio stations will become a Plex Pass only feature at a later time.
Plex on Alexa has been available in the U.S. and U.K. It is now available for people who live in Canada, Australia, and India. With Plex on Alexa, explore all of these cool new features, totally hands-free, and fall in love with your music all over again!
The Plex website has more details about supported Alexa devices, voice commands you can give Alexa, officially supported Plex apps, and details about getting Plex for free.
Amazon announced that it has raised the price of its monthly memberships. This change went into affect on January 19, 2018, for those who create an Amazon Prime membership after that date. For current Amazon Prime members, the monthly price will increase when your membership period ends.
The monthly membership fees for Amazon Prime and Prime Student changed on January 19, 2018. The new price change depends on the type of monthly membership. The Prime membership for new members has increased from $10.99 to $12.99. The Prime membership for the discounted Prime Student monthly plan for new sign-ups increased from $5.49 to $6.49.
If you already have a Prime account, or a Prime Student account, and want to continue making monthly payments, your membership price will change. The new price will take effect either at the end of your free trial, or at the end of your chosen membership period. At that time, your card will automatically be charged for the next membership period.
Prime Video membership is staying at $8.99 a month.
Amazon points out that if you don’t happen to like the new change to price of the monthly plan, you could choose to be charged on an annual basis instead. Annual memberships for Prime are $99. Annual Memberships for Prime Student are $49. I figure that people who wanted an annual payment would have picked that option instead of the monthly one.
Amazon has a special Prime membership for people who are eligible for government assistance programs. The price of this type of Amazon membership is $5.99 a month. Amazon is not raising that price.
My CIO at RawVoice / Blubrry ordered via our business account at Amazon a MSI MSI GS63 STEALTH-060 15.6 computer. When it arrived the packaging all appeared brand new with all stickers and shipping making it appear that this was a brand new computer But upon boot up, we could immediately tell this was a pre-owned machine. It booted straight to a login!
I am sure the company that owned it before us a professional photographers company in Florida called Codis will be happy to know this. I have reached out to them for comment and hope to update this article soon. Meanwhile, calls to MSI customer support were met with, “we will help you get the machines back to factory default”. Not an offer to replace the machine with a new machine. We purchased a brand new machine, not a factory refurbished unit. While I am sure the machine is nearly new, this raises real questions and while I will give them the benefit of the doubt but this is a pretty big deal! Someone really screwed up here and allowed this computer to get out the door as new instead of being marked as refurbished. How many computers is MSI selling that they are stating are new but actually refurbished machines.
Update: The Previous owner of the Laptop returned it for a defective trackpad in that it was loose around Thanksgiving making the turn around by MSI less than a month. They are a bit freaked out at the moment. Make sure you restore factory default before shipping.
We would have been none the wiser had they computer been factory reset. But this does raise a serious integrity issue with the folks at Amazon and MSI on the computers they are selling.
If you have not used an Amazon Echo, better known by the moniker of Alexa, then you’re missing out on countless cool things. Listen to music, find out when your favorite sports team plays next, check the weather, satisfy your curiosity by asking a trivia questions, you name it and Alexa can probably do it.
But, the Amazon line isn’t available everywhere, it has some geographical restrictions. One more place in this great big world has now made the list for availability of both the Alexa app and its associated devices.
That newest location takes the setup on a trip to the far east as the whole product line is debuting in Japan.
“Tens of millions of customers already love Alexa and we’re thrilled to introduce her to our customers in Japan today, with an all-new experience designed from the ground up for Japanese customers, including a new Japanese voice, local knowledge, and over 250 skills from Japanese developers”, says Tom Taylor, Senior Vice President, Amazon Alexa. “We’re also excited to expand the Alexa Skills Kit and the Alexa Voice Service, so developers and hardware makers around the world can create Alexa experiences for our Japanese customers”.
The Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Plus are all available now just waiting for your voice to bring them to life.
Amazon is offering Prime at a reduced cost for people who are receiving government assistance and who use an EBT card. Customers who qualify can get Prime benefits for $5.99 per month. Amazon is doing this to make Prime more accessible.
Customers who have an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card can qualify for the discounted membership. Membership includes Prime Video, Prime Music, Prime Reading, Prime Photos and unlimited fast, free shipping for $5.99 per month for one year, with the ability to cancel anytime.
Vice President of Amazon Prime, Greg Greeley, said “We designed this membership option for customers receiving government assistance to make our everyday selection and savings more accessible, including the many conveniences and entertainment benefits of Prime.”
At launch, customers will need to qualify with a valid EBT card. An EBT card is commonly used to disperse funds for several government assistance programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program (WIC). EBT cannot be used to pay for membership.
Customers can qualify every 12 months up to 4 times. Amazon will add other ways to qualify in the future for customers participating in government assistance programs that do not utilize EBT. There is no annual commitment and members can cancel at any time.
Offering Prime for a discounted cost to people who use EBT is going to be very helpful for many reasons. Free shipping can help people who are elderly or disabled, and who have difficulty going to a store to shop for groceries and household items.
The free shipping can also help low-income people who live in rural areas and who do not have a grocery store nearby. Sometimes, the cost of the gas they burned to get to a grocery store overwhelms the discounts they would have gotten from coupons. Prime offers 20% off diaper subscriptions. This, combined with the free shipping, can help moms who are on WIC to afford to purchase a healthy amount of diapers for their babies.
If there’s one trend that’s become a focal point in the age of digital video streaming it’s exclusivity. This has become very apparent in the way established services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video have treated their original shows. Want to watch a show like Orange Is The New Black or The Man In The High Castle? You’ll have to pay for individual accounts on the services responsible for producing those shows. Otherwise, you’re going to miss something.
HBO was hardly on the cutting edge of video streaming when it launched its HBO Now service that allows users to watch HBO shows without a cable subscription. In fact, HBO is as close to a legacy provider as premium paid video gets, with its roots going all the way back to the earliest days of widespread cable television distribution. It was only a matter of time after launching HBO Now that the company would begin to circle the wagons around its own product. And with a recent announcement that HBO will be removing its shows from Amazon Prime Video, the company is doing just that.
If you’re currently getting your Game of Thrones or Sopranos fixes thru Amazon, don’t fret. The move won’t be made right away. HBO shows should still be available on Amazon’s platform until the middle of 2018. But once the change takes hold, the only places HBO shows will still be available will either be on paid satellite TV services or HBO’s official apps.
Amazon announced that they are going to discontinue the Underground Actually Free program, which began in August of 2015. Amazon didn’t really provide a specific reason why they are ending it.
Amazon will no longer accept new app and game submissions for the Underground Actually Free program as of May 31, 2017.
In the announcement, Amazon states that existing Amazon Underground developers can continue to get paid for every minute that customers spend in their Amazon Underground apps, as provided by their developer agreement. Amazon Underground developers can also continue to submit and publish updates to their existing apps until 2019.
Access to the Underground Actually Free store through Amazon’s Appstore for Android devices will end in the summer of 2017. All support for the program will end in 2019.
Until then, current Fire tablet customers can continue to enjoy previously installed Underground apps and access the Underground Actually Free store. There is a limitation, however. Fire tablet access to the Underground store will not extend beyond currently supported devices. Amazon customers will continue to have access to the Amazon Underground app to shop for physical goods and access Prime Video content, and can enjoy previously installed Underground Actually Free apps.
I never thought I would see the day I’d find myself excited by lightbulbs. The LED lighting revolution has come of age.
After recently replacing every remaining incandescent bulb in my house with LED bulbs that perfectly mimic their respective incandescent counterparts, I decided it was time to get rid of a potentially dangerous halogen-powered torchiere floor lamp, and replace it with an LED-capable version of the up-firing ceiling bounce light of the same floor lamp style. After looking at torchiere style lamps for sale in local stores and not being happy with how top-heavy they were, I ended up ordering a Brightech – SKY LED Torchiere Floor Lamp from Amazon.
The lamp is extremely easy to assemble by simply screwing the parts together and plugging a couple of wires together. The heaviest part of the lamp assembly is the base that sits on the floor, which does a great job of stabilizing the lamp even on thick carpeting. The LED light array on the up-firing top disc produces a claimed 3,000 lumens on the brightest setting, one of four light levels. The light is controlled by tapping a touch surface about two-thirds the way up from the floor in about the same place that the old rotary on/off switch was on the old halogen floor lamp it replaced.
The lamp sells on Amazon for $89.50. I don’t know why local stores don’t have lamps like these. I do think they would sell them if they bothered to have them in stock. I wish that brick and mortar stores could somehow grasp that there are some really excellent, innovative products that people want. Unfortunately for the brick and mortars these products seem to be available online only. I don’t expect local stores to stock everything, but it seems to me they could become a bit more savvy about stocking products that forces shoppers to go online.
The touch surface is properly positioned and performs well when repeatedly touched, cycling through the various brightness levels as well as off. The transformer that plugs into the wall outlet gets slightly warm to the touch, coming in at 83 degrees Fahrenheit with an infrared thermometer in a 72 degree room. The top of the lamp generates a bit more heat, coming in at 96 degrees Fahrenheit.
Todoist has announced that is is now integrated with Alexa. The new integration will enable Alexa to help you add and remember your Todoist tasks from any room in your house without you having to reach for your phone.
Alexa, as you may know, is the smart voice service that powers Amazon’s hands-free voice-controlled Echo and Echo Dot devices. It does not appear that Todoist has any plans to integrate with Siri or Cortana. There is potential that this could change in the future.
It is now possible to tell Alexia to add tasks to your to-do list. Todoist gives an example. Say something like “Alexa, add pick up the kids to my to-do list”. That task will be automatically added to your Todoist inbox with today’s due date. You can also have Alexa add reoccurring tasks to your to-do list. Those tasks will automatically appear on your to-do list each month.
You can tell Alexa what items to add to your shopping list, and those items will automatically appear on a shopping list in Todoist. Another thing you can do is say: “Alexa, what’s on my to-do list?” Alexa will respond by telling you what tasks are on your to-do list.
Todoist says that the first thing you need to do is to enable Todoist in the Alexa app available on iOS, Android, and Fire tablets. Next, link your Todoist account. Your Alexa To-do and Shopping lists will be automatically synced with your Todoist.
All the Todoist tasks you have due today will be added to your Alexa To-do list each morning.
All the tasks on your Alexa To-do list will be added to your Todoist inbox with today’s due date.
All the tasks in your Todoist “Alexa Shopping List” project will automatically be added to your Alexa Shopping list, and vice versa.
Any tasks you edit, complete, or delete in Todoist will be automatically updated on your Alexa To-do list, and vice versa.
Right now, Todoist is doing a giveaway of one Amazon Echo and two Amazon Echo Dots. For full details, check out the Todoist announcement.
When it comes to media streaming via hardware, it’s a four way fight for your eyeballs between Roku, Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV and Google’s Chromecast. The most recent entrant, Amazon and the Fire TV, came to the UK in October 2014 and I reviewed one of the boxes back in January 2015. Over eighteen months later, Amazon’s Instant Video and Fire TV are more well known, with a large element of this courtesy of Jeremy Clarkson and the ex-Top Gear crew. To see what’s changed since then, Amazon kindly sent me a the updated Amazon Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote. Let’s take a look.
The Fire TV stick comes in the usual flip open box used by Amazon for its electronics. Inside the box, there’s the Fire TV stick itself, the Voice Remote with batteries, USB power supply with cable, an HDMI gender changer and some slim instructions. As it’s generally expected that the Fire TV will connect straight into an HDMI socket, there’s no HDMI cable. There’s an unboxing video below if you’re interested.
Before getting started, my tip of the day would be to plug the microUSB end of the power cable into the Fire TV stick BEFORE you push the Fire TV into a spare HDMI socket. This saves too much faffing around the back (or side) of the TV and alerts you early to a potential problem. As the power connector is on the side of the stick and the cable comes out at right angles, it’s possible that this will foul against an adjacent HDMI connector. On my TV it was apparent that the Fire TV was always going to sit in the topmost socket. Alternatively, I could have used an HDMI cable along with the gender changer to locate the stick away from the sockets and avoid interference. YMMV, as they say.
The other end of the USB cable goes into the power supply and once all connected and powered up, it’s simply a case of switching to the right HDMI input and following the prompts. The setup begins with pairing the remote to the stick and then connecting to wifi. As with all devices bought from Amazon, it comes pre-configured with your account details.
To make life even easier, there’s a set of cartoons to take you through some of the features of the Fire TV stick.
With that all done, you’re dropped into Amazon’s Fire interface. It’s largely unchanged since I first reviewed the Fire TV but that’s not a bad thing given that it’s big, bright and intuitive. Click up and down with the remote to move between the media areas….TV shows, Movies, Games, Apps, Music and so on. Click right and left to scroll through the chosen area. The Home area summarises recent activity so it’s easy to get back to something that you recently viewed. The interface is generally responsive but there can be a little lag when going into a new area, such as Photos, where it’s checking to see if there are any new media. I assume that the lag will be inversely proportional to your network connection speed.
There’s no doubt that the Fire TV is best used with Amazon Prime and other Amazon services – much of the promoted material is for Prime shows – but other media services like Netflix and Spotify are present via apps, and there’s a full range of catch-up services for UK’s terrestrial services (BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5). When I first reviewed the Fire TV a few of these were missing from the lineup so it’s good to see the extras. In addition to film and TV, the interface presents music purchased through Amazon as CDs and Amazon Music. If you use Amazon’s storage for photos, they’ll appear in a section too.
Video playback on the Fire TV can’t be faulted. I watched a number of shows through a variety of services, including Netflix, and the picture quality was unfailingly good. Programmes started quickly and got into HD picture quality within a few seconds. No problems here.
The Fire TV Stick supports apps as well, and these mostly offer other media services, such as YouTube, or games, such as…..well, loads including Crossy Road! It’s actually good fun playing mobile games on the big screen, though some require the Fire Game Controller (GB£44.99) rather than just the remote. Some games are tricky enough with just the remote, so if you are gamer, expect to stump up for the game controller. There’s something for everyone, as they say, and I played a fair bit of Lego Star Wars – The Yoda Chronicles. Overall, I felt there was a much greater range of games than last time and more of the headline titles were available.
While having loads of media is a good thing, it’s even better when there’s a search function to quickly find what you want to see. This is the Voice Remote version of the TV Stick and as such, the remote has a button at the top with a microphone symbol. When pressed and held, you can simply say what TV or film you are interested in, and the Stick will work it out and show you the options. Owners without the Voice Remote will have to laboriously type in the name of the programme. The voice recognition is accurate and the subsequent search recommendations are valid. Press the mic button, say “The Fall”, and the first programme it offers is the BBC drama (the one I wanted) followed by other films or TV programmes with the word “fall” in their title, such as “Downfall”.
Sadly, it doesn’t look like search has moved on too much. It is good at finding stuff but it still seems to only reference Amazon-hosted material. Take the above mentioned “The Fall”, which is currently showing the third series on BBC and aired episodes can be viewed for free on iPlayer. However, search on the Fire TV Stick would have you pay £2.49 for the HD version of episode 1 without mentioning the freebie option at all. More on this in a moment….
Back in January 2015, I said, “Overall the Amazon Fire TV compares well with the competition and if you are into Amazon’s ecosystem, then the Fire TV is a no-brainer buy at the current price of £64 giving easy access to familiar photos, music, movies and games. Even if you aren’t a fully paid-up member of the Amazon fan club, there’s still plenty to recommend with the current selection of apps and games which will undoubtedly grow over time as more broadcasters and app developers get on-board.” Here in October 2016, there’s not much to add except that it’s even better now than it was then; there are more broadcasters on-board, there are more games and the Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote is cheaper at £44.99. It drops to only £34.99 with the standard remote.
But….since starting the review of this Fire TV stick, a new version has been announced, at least in the US, which addresses some of the remaining deficiencies, namely cross-media search. Obviously it’s not clear right now when that will arrive in the UK or which apps will be searched in addition to Amazon media. Interestingly, the new Fire TV Stick comes with Alexa so the voice interaction won’t be limited to only search but other queries too. I’m looking forward to it already.