Amazon

Kindle Fire HD 10 – A nice widescreen tablet for the Amazon ecosystem

As an upgrade to my original Kindle Fire of 2011, I pick up the Kindle Fire HD 10. It’s a pretty nice  $150 tablet that thrives in the Amazon ecosystem. While not a laptop replacement, the Fire 10 is a large tablet in a widescreen format that works well for reading and watching movies.

To start, I watched an episode of the Thunderbirds and the quality and sound was quite good. Music playback can sound a little thin, but I thought it was pretty respectable out of the side speakers.

If you don’t already have an Alexa device, you do now, as it’s built into the Fire, so you can ask questions, get information, find out the weather and set timers. You can also pause movies, increase the volume and switch over to music. Alexa works the same as the self-contained devices, but includes more visual feedback. For example, if you ask about the weather, you see the weekly forecast. When playing a song, the display shows the album and song title, along with start and pause buttons.

The viewing area is many times larger than the original Kindle Fire with an improved “Carousel” feature, far more storage (32GB vs 8GB), a camera, and fingerprint resistant glass. The advancements have been quite extensive.

A lot has been made about the “ad supported” lock screen, but to be honest, it’s a trivial matter. The “ad” is a featured Amazon item such as upcoming series, a new book or album, or a digital item at deep discount. It’s not showing ads for pizza or oil changes. It’s by no means an inconvenience and isn’t worth $15 to turn it off.

Apps selection is slightly more limited as they need to come from the Amazon store. However, there are still plenty of titles to choose from.

Set up is a two step process – Connect to WiFi, log into Amazon. From there, you are able to speak with Alexa, read books, stream music and watch movies. Audible is also available for playback of audiobooks.

While hardcore users may find fault with the quality of the camera, or the ability to use the Fire to calculate spreadsheets, or perhaps that you are limited to the Amazon apps store, but when used with media, it’s hard to find any issue with a device that switches between books, games, movies and music on a 10 inch screen for $150.

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More Dots! More Echo Dots!

So, I now have two more Echo Dots to add to my collection. This means I have an Echo in all the major rooms, which is pretty awesome. Those rascals are great for weather, setting timers, bits of trivia and of course the ever decisive coin toss.

I like the little Dots, they are very handy. And to be honest, $50 for all that technology is a damn good deal. I know Apple has Siri in their Apple TV, but it really seems like they should have been first to market with a standalone Siri box. But oh well, Alexa won this round.

I will say, having an Echo Dot in the kitchen is extremely handy. Not only is it good for music, but you can always double check on something without having to stop and wash your hands.

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Amazon Echo, Tap and Dot

So there is a new offering for the Amazon Echo Dot, and a nice price tag to go with it. It’s the new 2.0 version, although I’m not sure what they’ve done under the plastic to warrant a 2.0 revision. The original Echo has been software updated multiple times I’m sure and doesn’t bear a 2.0 moniker.

Nevertheless, a new model is out, this time in white and at a price of $49.99, which is significantly lower than the introductory price. I got my first Echo Dot at the higher offering. However, I did jump on board and ordered another. I decided to get the white one and it will go in the living room.

So why exactly get an Echo Dot? What is it good for? Well, it makes a perfect alarm clock that’s for sure. The original is in my bedroom and is set every night. The alarm is far more pleasant that the horrific buzzing of a regular clock or the static filled music of the radio.

It’s also great for setting a timer and playing a playlist before bed. The speaker is nothing to write home about, but it sounds fine for lite listening.

I also bought the Tap when it was introduced. That went in the kitchen and works great for playing music while cooking and cleaning. Additionally, you can pick it up and wander around the house. It’s been quite nice to take it outside on the deck without having to worry about cords and resetting the network connection.

I’ve seen a lot of people ask, what is the difference between the three? The original Echo, is the best and largest of the lot. It has the better speaker for improved sound. Next, is the Tap, which has a decent speaker and is cordless so you can move it around with ease. As long as there is a network connection it will keep playing. Third, is the Dot. It’s great for asking questions, getting information, checking the time, setting timers and adding items to a list. The speaker is miniature to say the least, but you can hook it to a bigger set.

From a functionality standpoint, they all work the same. They have the same voice, hook into the same system and have the same level of accuracy in voice recognition, which for me, is pretty damn high. It rarely gets something wrong.

Are they worth it? Absolutely. I love these little rascals. I think the Echo is a fantastic piece of technology that has evolved from a glorified speaker to an impressive piece of hardware. Once you get used to it, you’ll be asking Echo or "Alexa" as I know her, all sorts of questions such as when is the next full moon, when is daylight savings, when is Autumn, flip a coin, roll a 20 sided die, and set a timer for 30 minutes so this chicken doesn’t burn.

I don’t know anything about the Smarthome technology such as adjusting thermostats and turning off lights, but I can only imagine it works as flawlessly as the rest. Ironically, it seems like Apple should have been the one to build Echo, not Amazon. Having Siri in a stand alone device, other than a phone, would have been something Apple was keen to make. I guess that wasn’t on their radar. Or maybe they got beat to market. Or maybe Siri is trapped in the Apple TV.

But the Echo is a very useful device. And since we are coming up on the holidays and the price has dropped a few times, it makes a great gift for yourself or someone else. They really are very useful and entertaining.

And just so you know, Alexa does seem to know how much wood a woodchuck can chuck – if the wind is at his back.

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Amazon unveils the Echo Tap and Echo Dot

Amazon has just sent out email about two new devices in the Echo line, the Amazon Tap and the Amazon Dot. Both are variations on the original Echo design, but offer some nice variety.

The Echo Tap is roughly the original Echo, but cordless and portable. You can take it from room to room or if you have a WiFi hotspot, even further. The Tap isn’t always on and listening for the “Alexa” keyword, so you have to push a button for it to respond. That doesn’t seem a problem and was done to save battery life.

The other is the Echo Dot which looks like a little hockey puck. It’s the brains of Alexa without the big speaker. It can still play music, but it’s meant more for answering questions and looking up information that streaming music. It can make up for this with its Audio Out so you can hook up external speakers.

I’ve already ordered the Tap, which will be great during the summer to move music from room to room and out onto the deck. It also means the Tap isn’t in a fixed position like the original Echo.

I’m tempted to buy the Dot as well. The Dot would replace the Echo as an alarm clock and weather gadget. The Echo could then relocate to the office and the Tap would roam around the house bringing joy and happiness wherever it landed.

About the only thing I’m not excited about is the initial price. It’s a good price, but unlike when the Echo first came out, there isn’t a discount for early adopters. The Echo was unproven technology back and had a limited feature set. This new generation is all grown up.

A minor grievance. The funny thing is, you can only order the Dot using the Echo. That will give me some time to decide if I should get one. I already know the answer is I will, but it makes me feel like I’m really struggling with the idea.

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Power Strip Adapters so I can finally plug all my external hard drives into one power strip

I’m not the only one with this problem. You buy multiple drives but because they all these massive power supplies and wall warts the damn things won’t all fit into the same UPS device. No matter how you twist or arrange them, it just doesn’t work. I have a 12 outlet device that can only hold a couple drives because the stupid plus are so big.

But I just found a solution to the problem. I don’t know why I didn’t find it sooner. While checking on Amazon I found a set of 10 little extension chords. They are a mere 12 inches long and don’t look that exciting at all, but they are exactly what I need! They are 3 prong, UL listed cables that give you just enough length to plug in the drive and let it drape down the side of the UPS. I’ve been looking at all sorts of different UPS designs because I didn’t know these rascals existed.

I literally ordered them last night and they showed up this morning. I was a tiny bit skeptical because 10 of these was $18, which is less than $2 per chord. But, they are fine quality and well molded. They don’t need to be insanely high gauge wire since this is for a hard drive.

They work perfectly and I quickly plugged in half a dozen drives and got rid of the mess of power strips and all sorts of spaghetti wiring. In fact, I just ordered another set so I have them for later.

These are not to be used to hook up a computer or some other high draw device. They are made for low consumption devices so don’t get all crazy and overload the damn things. Like I said, they are perfect for my hard drives. Yeah, the picture is a little dorky, but cables work great and the price is great.

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Power Strip Adapters (Set of 10)

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