Throwback Thursday: Nokia “Candybar” Phone Box

I have a tendency to save the boxes for the electronics that I buy, at least until the item is out of warranty. It can be useful for warranty service and can add to the resale value of an item. Sometimes, however, things get lost in the shuffle and the boxes never get disposed of. I am in the midst of cleaning out my basement and found this:

It is the box to a Nokia 3585i “candybar” style phone from 2002. This is a CDMA phone for the US Cellular network. Note the literature that explains regional calling plans! Times sure have changed!

As for the actual phone itself, it may or may not be somewhere here in the basement…. 🙂

#throwbackthursday

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Amazon announces new Echo devices (and they are pretty neat!)

When Amazon recently started dropping prices on their line of Echo devices, rumors started to fly that new devices were in the works. The speculation ended today when Amazon held a surprise hardware event and announced a number of new devices in the Echo and Alexa families, as well as a new Fire TV and some interesting Alexa integrations and enhancements.

All-new Echo

All-new Echo (2nd Generation) – $99.99

The new device is smaller than the original Echo (almost half the size). It features an improved sound system with a 2.5” downward-firing woofer and 0.6” tweeter powered by Dolby. The second generation far-field recognition also improves upon the microphones.

The new Echos offer more decorating options and will now come in 6 color and finish choices: A Silver finish, three fabric finishes (Charcoal, Heather Gray and Sandstone) and two wood finishes (Oak and Walnut).

Amazon is also featuring a limited time offer to save $50 on a three-pack of the All-new Echo. You can three devices for $250 (details are here).

You can pre-order an All-new Echo (2nd Generation) here. This item will be released on October 31, 2017.

Echo Plus 

Echo Plus –  $149.99

The Echo Plus is the size of the original Echo and has enhanced capabilities for smart-home integration and the ability to act as a smart home hub. For a limited time, you can get a Philips Hue Bulb included with the purchase of an Echo Plus..

The Echo Plus also has the same new sound enhancements as the All-New Echo. The device is available in 3 colors: black, silver and white.

You can pre-order an Echo Plus here. This item will be released on October 31, 2017.

Echo Spot

Echo Spot – $129.99

The Echo Spot is like a cute baby version of the Echo Show. Its size makes it ideal for an alarm clock and you can personalize it by choosing from a collection of available clock faces. Like the Echo Dot, the Spot has built-in speakers, but also can connect to an external speaker via bluetooth or a 3.5mm audio cable.

You can pre-order an Echo Spot here. This item will be released on December 19, 2017.

Echo Connect  

Echo Connect – (requires Echo device) – $34.99

This is the device that I am probably the most excited about. It offers the ability to make your landline phone hands-free for making and receiving calls, including 911 and international calls. An Echo device is required for the Connect to work.

You can pre-order an Echo Connect here. This item will be released on December 13, 2017.

All-New Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD and Alexa Voice Remote | Streaming Media Player

All-New Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD and Alexa Voice Remote | Streaming Media Player – ($69.99)

The All-New Fire TV offers 4K Ultra HD streaming at up to 60 fps, HDR, and Dolby Atmos audio. Unlike the still available Fire TV stick, this new 4K device is a Chromecast-style dongle.

You can pre-order the All-new Fire TV here. The Fire TV also comes in two bundles, the Fire TV with Echo Dot ($79.99) and the Fire TV and HD Antenna ($74.99). These items will be released on October 25, 2017.

Echo Buttons

Echo Buttons – (No release date set). Echo Buttons are new items in a series called Alexa Gadgets. Echo Buttons are a new way for customers to play games with friends and family using Alexa-enabled devices. These will come in a two-pack and are expected to arrive in time for the holidays. There is no firm release date for these yet, but you can sign up to be notified about them here.

Other Alexa news:

Alexa integration with BMW

Okay, hold on! Alexa is going to be integrated into select models of BMW and Minis over the next year. This is not just an app, but actual integration of the Alexa AI into the cars.You’ll be able to listen to music, news and utilize third-party apps to do things like order Starbucks. 🙂 More details in the press release here.

Alexa Routines

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say one command and have Alexa do a series of things?  Well, starting next month, that’s exactly what she will be able to do.

According to Amazon’s press release,

Routines allow you to automate a series of customizable actions using a single voice command of your choice. For example, say, “Alexa, good night,” and Alexa will turn off the lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV. You can also create Routines based on the time of day – for example, you can create a Routine that has Alexa turn on the kitchen lights, start the coffee maker, and read the weather forecast at 6 a.m. every weekday and at 9 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

Routines are compatible with popular Works with Amazon Alexa lights, plugs, switches, and door locks from leading brands like TP Link, Philips Hue, Wemo, and August, and will be available for all Alexa devices including the all-new Echo, the previous generation Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Echo Plus starting next month.

Alexa Billy Bass

Remember that story from last year where somebody hacked a Billy Bass talking fish and put Alexa into it? Well, either Amazon liked the idea or somebody over there has a good sense of humor because, sure enough, there is going to be an official Amazon version of Billy Bass. Rumor has it that it will be available for the holiday season gift giving. Hey, it’s better than a lump of coal, right?

What do you think of the new devices?

Throwback Thursday: Computer repair kit

In the late 1990s, I took a college class in computer hardware repair. It was one of the useful classes I’ve ever taken. Because of that class, for years, I’ve been able to work on my own computers. I have saved money adding my own hard drives and upgrading memory rather than hiring someone else to do it.

I took this picture today of the computer repair kit that I bought at RadioShack (remember them?) around the time I took the course. I’ve been using the same tools for 20 years now.

Here is what the case looks like zipped:

Here is what the contents of the case look like – notice that you can still see the instruction sheet in the kit. The object in the right-hand corner is a fold up magnifying glass.

Lots of fun memories here.

#throwbackthursday

All new Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet announced

Amazon has announced an all-new Fire HD 10 Tablet. The 10.1″ tablet comes with Alexa Hands-Free and features a 1080p full HD Display (224 ppi). At only $149.99, Amazon has shaved over $80 to $100 off the price of the old Fire 10.

This tablet is a huge improvement over the old one:

  • The previous generation only had a 1280 x 800 display (149 ppi). The new tablet is 1920 x 1200 (224 ppi).
  • The old Fire had 1.5 GHz processor, the new one is a faster 1.8 GHZ.
  • Old tablet cost $229.99 to $259.99, this one is $149.99.
  • The previous generation required you to push the home button for Alexa, the new tablet will be voice-activated and hands free (after an update).
  • The new Fire weighs 2 ounces less and is marginally thinner than the first version.
  • It also promises better battery life.

In order to bring this tablet in cheaper than the previous version, Amazon did seriously downgrade the cameras in this device. The new version has VGA Front-facing camera and a 2 MP rear-facing camera with a 720p HD video recording. The previous Fire had a 720p HD Front-facing camera + 5 MP rear-facing camera with full 1080p HD video recording. Since most people do not buy these tablets for the cameras anyway, this will probably not be a deal-breaker.

(You can find the specs for the previous generation here if you want to compare.)

I passed on the previous tablet model because at only 149ppi, it didn’t offer a good enough resolution for reading and watching video for my tastes. This one may be a different story. There are no third-party cases and covers for the new tablet available yet, but given past experience, new one should be popping up soon.

The new Fire 10 HD will be released on October 11, 2017. Amazon is offering the tablet on a payment plan of 5 monthly payments of $30.00.  You can pre-order the tablet here.

What do you think of the new tablet?

Daily Deals: New Amazon Tap and Echo and Dot refurbs

Today, Amazon is offering the Amazon Tap Alexa-enabled portable bluetooth speaker for only $80. (The device normally retails for $130 and the refurbished models generally sell for this price.) This was the first Echo device that I bought for myself and it’s still my favorite. I like to use it out on the deck and it is my favorite speaker to pair with my phone for listening to audiobooks and music around the house.

Originally, the Tap was not voice activated. You had to “tap” on the device to give it a command. A later firmware update added the voice-activated hands-free option for the Tap. This feature can be turned on and off on the device or through the Alexa app.

The tap is a good choice if you need an Alexa device in a portable Bluetooth speaker. Certain features like multi-room music sync and device calling that are available in the Echo and the Dot are NOT included in the Tap. If those features are important to you, the Tap is not the right device for you.

There are also some other deals on refurbished products in the Echo line. The Amazon Echo is currently out of stock, but you can get a certified refurbished Echo for $80. There is also a refurbished Echo Dot for just $38. Amazon Certified Refurbished devices come with a one year warranty.

Kobo begins monthly audiobook subscription program

Kobo is launching their own monthly audiobook subscription service. The service is $9.99 per month in the US and the monthly cost varies by country.

Key elements of the program are:

The program offers a 30 day free trial. Your first audiobook is free.and yours to keep, even if you cancel.

Each month you get a credit for $9.99 monthly credit. One credit equals one audiobook. Credits are added to your account once a month on your recurring billing date.

For Super Points rewards program members, you can earn Kobo Super Points with each purchase.

Books can be listened to on or off line. There are, however, a couple of limitations. You can listen to audiobooks on the Android app (system 4.4 and above) and the iOS app (9.0 or higher). You cannot listen on the following devices:

  • on kobo.com
  • in Kobo Desktop
  • in the Kobo App for Windows or BlackBerry
  • on Kobo eReaders
  • on Kobo Arc 7, 7HD or 10HD tablets

If you use the Kobo app for iOS, there is an additional complication: You can’t purchase anything through the Kobo app for IOS; you can only play items you have purchased. According to the FAQ:

Due to an agreement between Kobo and Apple, the Kobo App for iOS doesn’t include our store. If you use an iOS smartphone or tablet, you’ll need to purchase (or exchange a credit for) your audiobook on kobo.com. Once your transaction is complete, your audiobook will then appear in your Kobo App for iOS.

Once purchased, the books are yours to keep, even if you cancel your subscription. Audiobook credits are non-refundable and a credit card is required for signup.

Kobo is starting its program with only one subscription plan, one credit for $9.99. According to the company, future plans include plans with two credits a month, and annual subscriptions with 12 or 24 instant credits all at once.

The service will be available to Kobo customers living in Canada ($12.99 CA), the United States ($9.99 USD), the United Kingdom (ÂŁ6.99), Australia ($13.99 AU), and New Zealand ($13.99 NZD).

Kobo is obviously trying to compete with Audible. Audible charges $14.95 per month, plus 30% off additional purchases.

The service will be live on September 12, 2017. Make sure you have updated to the latest version of the Kobo app for your device.

Are you trying the service? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

Nook closes support forum

As of September 7, the official NOOK forum at Barnes and Noble is shutting down. From the posts on the site, it seemed that posting activity had dwindled to a small number of posts. Users of the forum received an email on the closure.

While the forum may be closing, assistance is still available from Barnes and Noble. According to the post,

Though the forums will no longer be around, we’ll still be here to answer all your support questions at https://help.barnesandnoble.com/ and on social media at the following links:

• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/barnesandnoble/
• Twitter: https://twitter.com/BN_care
• Instagram: https://Instagram.com/barnesandnoble

If you are looking for another forum, there is still an active community of Nook users at NOOKBoards.

You can also find discussions for Nook users at the NOOK forum on mobileread.com.