I’m sorry I can’t play that music….

I have been messing about with a few voice assistant hub including the Amazon Echo.

One feature of these devices is the ability to ask them to play music, either an individual track, an album, an artist, a playlist or even just a genre or decade.

If I ask Alexa to play a particular song, she delves not just into my personal music collection on the Amazon Music app but also what is available through my Prime subscription. If the song isn’t available I could either subscribe to Amazon Music streaming service, or purchase the song. The Alexa ecosystem is built around my Amazon account and the services available to me as a Prime subscriber.

What Alexa doesn’t know that I have quite a large music collection on iTunes. She can’t see it, access it or play it.

With Google Home I have connected a free Spotify account to it. This is one of the key features of these devices that you can connect services you already subscribe to, so you can control them via voice. Of course the reason I have a free Spotify account is that Google Home would much prefer I was connected to Google Music, and it certainly won’t let me connect to either my home iTunes library (where virtually all my music is) nor to Amazon Music. So when I ask Google Home to play a particular music track, she gets annoyed and says that she can’t as that is only available on Spotify Premium. Now Amazon Echo can play from Spotify, so some overlap there.

This is one of the challenges of these devices that they are quite reliant on subscriptions to other services. Apple’s HomePod only really works if you have an Apple Music subscription. You can stream Spotify to the Homepod using AirPlay, but you couldn’t use voice control to say “Hey Siri, play my favourite Spotify playlist”. That wouldn’t work.

So at the moment my main focus is on the Amazon Echo and linking it into Amazon Music through my Prime subscription.

I like the concept of voice control and for many features these devices work well, but they do tie you into their ecosystems.

An Open Letter

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes [Blu-ray + UV Copy]

Dear 20th Century Fox, Amazon and LG

I am writing an open letter to all three companies as I have no real idea who is responsible or who is to blame and I am unsure of how this can be resolved.

For Christmas I received The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes on Blu-Ray, this had been purchased from Amazon.

I unwrapped the Blu-Ray and put it into my LG BD360-P Blu-Ray player. However it did not play, I got an error message saying “Check Disk”. I did check the disk, and there did not appear to be a physical issue with the disk.

I checked the firmware on my LG Blu-Ray player and it was up to date. I also turned everything off and back on. Still no joy, I was still getting the “Check Disk” error.

I did a Google search and it was apparent that I wasn’t alone, other people were having the same issue with the same Blu-Ray disk and the same LG Blu-Ray player. According the online information the problem is with the encryption used by 20th Century Fox on The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Blu-Ray disk, this means that my Blu-Ray player can’t read the disk.

As a result I am now unsure and confused about what I can do as a consumer.

As far as Amazon are concerned there is no fault with the disk and probably wouldn’t accept a return this long after purchase and the wrapping has been removed.

20th Century Fox won’t replace the disk with one that works, as far as they concerned the disk isn’t faulty and they would only replace it with the same disk with the same encryption issues. They will probably blame the Blu-Ray player manufacturer.

As for LG, they are no longer updating the firmware for what is now quite an old Blu-Ray player and would probably point me back to the company that released the disk.

So the end result is I have no idea where to go and I have a Blu-Ray of a film I am unable to watch.

Kind Regards

James Clay

So do you have any idea? Maybe I should have bought it on iTunes.

Kindle Fire for just £99

Though to be honest I have no idea what Black Friday is all about, Amazon have a great deal today on the Kindle Fire.

Kindle Fire for just £99

This 8GB tablet with a 7’ colour screen is just £99. If you don’t have a tablet and are interested in having a device to read books, surf the web, do e-mail and watch video then this device is a bit of a no brainer!

I do have the Google Nexus Seven which in many ways is a much better tablet, but it is nearly twice the price at £159. If I didn’t have that and wanted a 7” tablet then I would be getting the Kindle Fire.

Find out more on Amazon.

Amazon Basics Black Stylus

Amazon Basics Black Stylus

I’ve wanted to get a stylus for my iPad for a while now, but never really got round to buying one. I was recently buying some consumables for my printer at Amazon so doing a quick search, found this Amazon Basics Black Stylus for just £7.49 and thought, hmmm, okay, let’s add that to the basket.

I was really pleased with it and it works really well. It’s great for doing brushwork on an application like Brushes and also allows you to interact with the screen as though you were using your finger. Obviously if you rely and use multi-touch gestures then you’re not going to be able to do those with this.

One advantage of using a stylus is from an accessibility perspective, I can see this making it much easier for visually impaired people to use VoiceOver for example.

It also works really well if you have really dry hands or eczema. The capacitive screens you find on the iPad (or the Nexus 7) often don’t work well. The stylus helps with that problem.

Personally I think it might be really useful when it’s cold and I am wearing gloves! Should also work with the iPhone too.

Get the Amazon Basics Black Stylus at Amazon.

Buffalo Nfiniti Wireless-N Dual Band Ethernet Converter, Done!

Well that was simple.

I ordered the Buffalo Nfiniti Wireless-N Dual Band Ethernet Converter from Amazon on the 1st January. I used the Super Saver Delivery option, I was in no hurry and why pay extra for postage (especially over New Year). Really surprised to see the parcel arrive this morning! Excellent service Amazon, well impressed.

It’s smaller than the picture makes it look.

Very easy to configure, I plugged it into the power then plugged the supplied ethernet cable into my iMac, reconfigured the ethernet settings in System Preferences, turned off the Airport on the iMac. Then went to a browser, typed in the 1.1.1.1 address, entered the username and password. Added my Airport network details. Very pleased to see that my 802.11n 5GHz network was recognised, remembered to use WPA2-AES (as that is what the Airport Extreme uses). Click configure,update. Job done!

The reason the Buffalo device appeals, is that it comes with four ethernet ports, which means I can connect four devices to the network.

Now to test it out under the TV!

TomTom Car Kit for the iPhone

Oh I don’t know sometimes you wonder if companies realise that you might actually want to buy something… you know pay out money for goods!

Having got an iPhone 3GS and purchased the TomTom Application from the iTunes Store I was looking at ways in which I could mount the iPhone in the car.

The obvious choice appeared to be the TomTom Car Kit for the iPhone.

tomtomcarkit

The TomTom app on your iPhone 3GS or iPhone 3G puts award-winning technology at your fingertips, like IQ Routes which gives you the smartest, most efficient route any time of day. That’s just the beginning. Combine it with the TomTom Car Kit to experience enhanced GPS performance for the ultimate in-car navigation.

  • TomTom Car Kit features
  • Secure docking
  • Enhanced GPS performance
  • Clear voice instructions
  • Easy charging
  • Hands-free calling
  • Your music on the move

Now I know that I could buy a £15 generic phone holder from Tesco, however the extra features did seem to make the £99 seem like quite good value for money. Enhanced GPS performance is always welcome, I remember having lots of problems with GPS reception with an Acer PDA running Co-Pilot. Hands-free calling would be useful and the FM transmitter was something I had been considering buying for sometime. As it says

The Car Kit dock is compatible with all iPhone models…

This meant that I could use my main iPod in the car when I wasn’t using the iPhone, and listen to podcasts and music through the radio.

Seemed like a good idea, so where could I buy it from.

I initially checked the Apple Store and was disappointed to see that though it was going to be released on the 5th November, it was going to take 4-6 weeks for shipping, which in Apple speak means seven or eight weeks! So I checked Amazon and was pleased to see that they could ship within 24 hours of release.

Yay!

I placed my order on the 26th October

I waited.

Amazon sent me an e-mail on the 6th November, which said that they now couldn’t deliver on time and also couldn’t give me a revised shipping date.

On the 9th November I got another e-mail from Amazon, cancelling my order…

Hmmm.

Well that didn’t work out did it.

So with a little reluctance I went back to the Apple Store and though it was still saying 4-6 weeks shipping, I placed my order with them on the 13th November. The confirmation e-mail gave me a delivery date of the 28th December! Just over six weeks.

You can imagine my surprise (and a little delight) when on the 20th November, just one week later, I got an e-mail from Apple saying that my order had shipped.

So not 4-6 weeks, under two!

Once I have it, I will let you know how I get on.

New Kindle

Amazon have released a new Kindle.

It has many new features and is smaller and thinner.

Slim: Just over 1/3 of an inch, as thin as most magazines

Lightweight: At 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback

Wireless: 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle, anytime, anywhere; no monthly fees, service plans, or hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots

Books in Under 60 Seconds: Get books delivered in less than 60 seconds; no PC required

Improved Display: Reads like real paper; now boasts 16 shades of gray for clear text and even crisper images

Longer Battery Life: 25% longer battery life; read for days without recharging

More Storage: Take your library with you; holds over 1,500 books

Faster Page Turns: 20% faster page turns

Read-to-Me: With the new Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read every book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud to you

Large Selection: Over 230,000 books plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and blogs available

Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise

One day we might get one in the UK, one day….

Free MP3s from Amazon.co.uk

Seems iTunes is not the only place giving away free stuff over the festive period.

We’ve got an extra gift for you this Yuletide: £3 to spend on anything in our MP3 store on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Visit us on December 25 or 26, then just add your chosen MP3s to your Shopping Basket (you need to use the Shopping Basket rather than 1-Click) and enter code FREEMP3S at the checkout–£3 will be deducted from the total.

Get your free MP3s.

Remember this offer runs out on the 26th December 2008.