On this mini-episode of The Geek In Review, Greg talks about three eerie/interesting/scary instances where the technology seems to be ahead of us humans. Can Amazon be tracking us in a craft store? Are automated computer game players AI? Should guidance apps like WAZE, create a dangerous situation? Well, all three happened. Is it purely happenstance, or is it the technology going beyond our understanding. Probably happenstance… but still eerie.

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Marlene explored a number of unique holiday drinks, music, and customs. So, if you’re still in the holiday mood… check out ¿Donde Esta Santa Claus? by the Gusters, Bloodshot Records 13 Days of XMas, particularly, The Pagans Had it Right, by Devil in a Woodpile, and How to Make Gravy by All Our Exes Live in Texas. If you need a drink, try the Puerto Rican holiday drink of Coquito. Continue Reading Episode 23: The Technology Twilight Zone

Well, I had a fun shopping experience that I thought I would share–Amazon’s Treasure Truck. It is kind of internet-y and social media-y thing I can chat about.

It is yet another POS that Amazon is owning.

Basically, you sign up for text messages through Amazon to be notified when their treasure truck is in your area with a hot sale item. You then reserve the item, select pre-set pick up location, then pick it up at the appointed time. The oddest thing: no money changes hands.

Amazon Treasure Truck: yet another POS that turns shopping into a scavenger hunt

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

Continue Reading Amazon Treasure Truck: yet another POS that turns shopping into a scavenger hunt

A look at Amazon’s voice-activated reporting capabilities by @Lihsa

Today I listened to a webex on how to set up Amazon’s Alexa with key analytics applications to deliver voice-activated reporting.

Alexa, can you hear me now? Invoking Amazon's Alexa Skill Interface for custom reports by Lihsa

Now it was super nerdy and I don’t even pretend to understand all of the programming involved that will let you ask Alexa, “How many Huey, Dewey and Louie Law Firm budgets were created today?” Or “Alexa, how many people are looking at my Huey, Dewey and Louie Law Firm  web site right now?”

It is something to do with designing a custom Alexa Skill Interface with custom “wake words”, “invocation words” and “intent processing.” Way over my head. But I like the idea of an invocation word—sounds magical doesn’t it?

[Side bar: one thing to know about invocation words as that they should be your brand’s name. So think about that: law firm names are notoriously long. Can you imagine saying over and over again, “How many Hewey, Dewy and Louie Law Firm blah, blah, blah … ?”]

All of this sounds great. But then envision yourself, a la Philip Seymour Hoffman in Mission Impossible III, being held at gunpoint, and told to read a nonsensical paragraph so that your doppelganger can replicate your vocal chords.

That is the flaw with voice-activated reporting (much like the flaws with iPhone’s facial recognition technology). Yes, I present an extreme hypothetical. Really, who wants to see a law firm’s web site analytics. Major snooze fest.

But it does raise a serious security consideration when contemplating this nascent technology.  What’s to stop someone from walking into anyone’s voice-activated office and asking, “Alexa, what is my colleague’s salary? Alexa, please send me the highly confidential, private report on Client X. Alexa, will I get a Christmas bonus this year?”

These are the things that inquiring minds want to know. And should Alexa be all that ready to be that helpful?

Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of acting like a smooth talker (even though I’m frequently at a loss for words) and Alexa giving me instant answers. But I think we are too far from the necessary security to see this technology actively used in the legal workspace. Yet.

A snappy review of Amazon’s Fire 7 by @Lihsa

Come on baby, light my Fire: reading, listening and playing on my Amazon tablet
Amazon Fire 7 screenshot
of the cozy mystery,
The Case of the Fallen Hero

Admittedly, I am late to the game on buying an Amazon Fire. I’ve been cheating, downloading the free Kindle app onto all of my devices, even reading on my browser rather than buying yet another device. I couldn’t justify owning a laptop, a phone, a tablet and a reading device.

Amazon Prime Day

But then Amazon had its eponymous 2017 Prime Day last July (oddly, it fell on an even day).

For, not only am I a film buff, I am also an avid reader—you kind of have to be if you are going to play on social media because, well, that’s all it is: reading. Plus, I have to read a book once a day because it is the only way I can fall asleep.

Which leads me to why I ended up buying a Fire on Amazon Prime Day for the very low price of $30. My tablet was too big and my phone was too small for reading in bed. In true Goldilocks form, the Kindle Fire was just right.

Amazon Fire apps and features

And I’ve been super-happy with it. It fits easily into my hand. I like to give one final peek at my email and social media accounts, play one (yes, only one!) word game, then lull myself to sleep by reading some horrible cozy mystery—the book can’t be too good or it will keep me up at night. Thank goodness for free @BookBub downloads or I would be robbing the proverbial Peter to pay Jeff Bezos.

Fire and Alexa

The Fire also syncs up with Amazon’s Alexa and I love talking to her in the morning, telling her “good morning” to await her always chipper response. But I really love the news app, Alexa Flash Briefing. I’ve customized it to listen to apps and/or podcasts. My line-up is The Skimm, the Houston Chronicle—both the general and local sections,  Jimmy Kimmel Live Monologue, KPRC-2 Houston News, NPR, a Bible verse and the best part: The Daily from the New York Times.

The Daily from New York Times runs for 15 minutes, five days a week. Hosted by Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb), he interviews reporters and often reveals the back story on the biggest story of the day. Giving an insightful analysis of the top story du jour, you are treated to reporter insights you might not get from TV, the paper or radio.

Fire and light

So all of this sounds fantastic. But my library friend, Saskia (@sioslo), and I were discussing the pros and cons of using Fire as a Kindle reader and she had one final question: how easy is it to read outside? Does the glare get in the way?

So I ran a very scientific test to determine the Kindle’s legibility in daylight. I stood next to my office window and looked at my Fire. It was an easy read, both in the white background and the black background (the black background is my preferred mode since I read mostly at night). There is a glare but then I recommend wearing a big floppy hat to shade it, which you should be wearing anyways to protect yourself from UV rays.

So there you have it. My review and usage report on my Amazon Fire.

Some of the products you can order through Amazon’s Dash Button

Okay… I’m not sure if I’m amazed or a bit petrified of two of the new services that Amazon just launched this week. Probably a bit of both.

First up, Amazon’s Dash Button (only by invitation at this time.) Running low on household items like detergent, toilet paper, beauty supplies, soda, or pantry items?? No problem. Press a button, and your order is placed through Amazon. You get a verification on your phone, just in case your teenager put in an order for 12 cases of Mac and Cheese.

Here’s Amazon’s explanation of how it works:

Dash Button is simple to set up. Use the Amazon app on your smartphone to easily connect to your home Wi-Fi network and select the product you want to reorder with Dash Button. Once connected, a single press automatically places your order. Amazon sends an order alert to your phone, so it’s easy to cancel if you change your mind. Unless you elect otherwise, Dash Button responds only to your first press until your order is delivered.

Sounds really easy.

Next up, Amazon’s Home Services. An “Angie’s List” type of reviewed services like plumbing, landscaping, yoga lessons, computer repair, etc., with the twist of being able to call in an expert right from Amazon. You can even get “Goat Grazing” in some areas. My twisted mind immediately went to the thought of how soon Amazon will put “Legal Services” on this list. Need a will? Click the button on your phone and a lawyer will call you. Actually, that sounds really easy.

Here’s Amazon’s explanation of its Home Services:

Shop for services
It’s as easy as 1-2-3:
 Add the service to your cart.
 Tell us when works for you.
 Only pay when the job is complete.

Coming Soon… a Lawyer is delivered to your door via an Amazon Drone?

Here I am, sitting in my office, planning out my budget for the next year when along comes this announcement from Amazon: “Introducing the Kindle Matchbook.”  It seems that Amazon will provide you with an ebook copy of a book that was purchased from them in print for a nominal ranging from a Free (yes, I said free) to a high of $2.99.  And they’re willing to count purchases made all the way back to 1995.  There is one limit:  this is only available for titles that the publishers have opted in on.  I think this is pretty darn exciting but what will really be interesting is how widely the publishers support this program.

As a Law Librarian (or Research Services Specialist if you prefer), I’m thrilled to see a purveyor of the printed word that acknowledges that it is cheaper to publish books electronically and gives you a benefit for purchasing the print edition.  In the Legal Publishing world, Firms are expected to pay the same price for an ebook as they do for a the printed edition (and yes, you do save on the Shipping & Handling charges) and you need to spend several thousand dollars annually on software to manage the confounded things.  Perhaps this move by Amazon will shake this model up.  You can find more information about this Amazon program here.

First Thought: Honestly – who would actually read a book on such a tiny screen?

Reality: Chapter 23 and counting …

As soon as they announced the Kindle for Blackberry (BB) was available (for free for all you Greg wannabes) I promptly went to download it. Once I figured out I needed to use the Blackberry Browser, the download went smooth and quick.

Next I signed up for an Amazon account. I wish that had gone as smoothly. I had to do that on the laptop instead of the BB and it took a few frustrating tries to get it done.

Moving right along, I was able to easily surf and search the book list on my BB and found a freebie book to try it out. The pages obviously are short on the BB screen, however it’s easy to adjust the font size to meet your eyesight needs.

I started out quite skeptical about the value of this, but had some time to kill on a flight to Ohio. When the plane landed I was on Chapter 9. It was such a good experience – that evening I picked it up again and continued reading. Now it’s my current ‘night stand’ book.

Judgment: Kindle for Blackberry works much better than expected (even off-network) and doesn’t burn a lot of battery. Feel free to share any Kindle book recommendations, as I plan to keep using this.

Just found out that Amazon granted my wishes of pushing the beta version of the Kindle application to the PC Desktop!! This, my friends, is a total game changer in a number of ways. I’m about 5 minutes into testing out the new application, but I’m already finding some good, and some bad things.

  • Big Screen!
  • Color!
  • Syncs with Kindle
  • No note taking ability in PC mode
  • No highlighting ability in PC mode
  • No searching ability in PC mode
  • No voice option in PC mode
Let’s all hope that Amazon updates the PC version to match all the features you can get on the Kindle. But, regardless of the shortcomings of the Beta version of the Kindle for PC, this is a great step forward for electronic book publishing! Now, for all of those legal publishers out there… get busy making your books available on the Kindle!!

Well, look what Apple and Amazon dreamed up!
A Kindle app on the iPhone. Geez louise, I thought it would take ’em 5 years to figure this out. Looks like I’m gonna have to put my money where my mouth is . . .
I wonder how the Kindle app works with the other iPhone features. Can you copy/import text? Can you cite sources in other apps?
Its funny, I was just talking to my cousin–who, ironically, works for Microsoft as an engineer–and he was showing off his friend’s iPhone and explaining all the apps to me.
In the course of our conversation, I was oohing and aahing, but, in the end, I told him, “this really doesn’t work for me. I don’t like the keyboard.”
He said, “yeah, you are a writer. Most people are just readers. But you develop content so this doesn’t really meet your needs.”
So my next caveat would be an iPhone with a Kindle app and a better, more tactile keyboard for us writers.
This time, I will give Apple less lead time. How about a year, guys?