Amazon Updates Fire TV Stick With Alexa Voice Control

Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2016 - 04:09 PM |
Tagged: media streaming, fire tv, amazon

Later this month Amazon will be releasing a new Fire TV Stick with upgraded internals and Alexa Voice controls. The refreshed media streamer features a 1.3 GHz MediaTek MT8127 SoC with four ARM Cortex A7 cores and a Mali 450 GPU, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage (for apps mainly, and not expandable), and support for newer 802.11ac (dual band, dual antenna) Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.1 wireless technologies.

While that particular SoC is ancient by smartphone standards, it is a decent step up from its predecessor's dual 1GHz ARM A9 cores and VideoCore 4 GPU. It supports h.265 and HEVC decode along with 1080p60 output. The inclusion of 802.11ac WiFi should help the streaming device do its job effectively even in areas littered with WiFi networks (like apartment buildings or townhomes).

Amazon Fire TV Stick.jpg

The big change from the old Fire TV Stick is the integration of Alexa Voice control and a new remote control with microphone input. Using voice input, users can control media playback, open apps, search for content, and even order pizza. There is no 4K support or expandable storage here (for that you would have to move to the $99 Fire TV) but it is less than half the price.

The refreshed Fire TV Stick will be available on Amazon for $39.99 on October 20th. Pricing along with the additional voice input makes it a competitive option versus Roku's streaming stick and Google's Chromecast.


Source: Amazon

Ya, so our IoT enabled toasters need patching ... oh, only around 5 million, why is that a problem?

Subject: General Tech | July 20, 2016 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: iot, security, amazon, Intel

The Register brings up the issue of IoT security once again today, this time looking at the logistics of patching and updating a fleet of IoT devices.  Amazon is focusing on dumb devices with a smart core, the physical device having the sensors required and a connection to the net to send all data to be processed in large database which would be much easier to maintain but does offer other security issues.  Intel on the other hand unsurprisingly prefers end devices with some smarts, such as their Curie and Edison modules, with a smarter gateway device sitting between those end devices and the same sort of large server based computing as Amazon. 

Intel's implementation may be more effective in certain enviroments than Amazons, El Reg uses the example of an oil rig, but would be more expensive to purchase and maintain.  Take a look at the article for a deeper look, or just imagine the horrors of pushing out a critical patch to 1000's of devices in an unknown state when you go live.


"Internet of Things (IoT) hype focuses on the riches that will rain from the sky once humanity connects the planet, but mostly ignores what it will take to build and operate fleets of things.

And the operational side of things could be hell."

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Source: The Register

You can now source USB Type C cables safely, at least from Amazon

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2016 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: USB 3 Type-C, amazon

Yes, after much destruction of expensive hardware including the Pixel 2 belonging to Google researcher Benson Leung, you can now source the new USB cables much more safely.  Benson has been testing these cables for quite a while and has been trying to convince major suppliers such as Amazon to vet the cables they are selling, and to refuse to sell ones which are not up to spec.  According to what The Inquirer has heard this quest has finally been completed and Amazon will no longer sell 'any USB-C (or USB Type-C) cable or adapter product that is not compliant with standard specifications issued by USB Implementers Forum Inc'.  That would include cables that were being sold by the smartphone company OnePlus, whose cables would work only with their phones.

***OnePlus contacted us to clarify that as of January they've restocked their products with Type-C cables and adapters with 56kΩ resistors, which are fully compliant with the standard.***

It has taken far too long to do this and the killer cables are still out there at retail outlets and other online marketplaces, so exercise caution but Type-C is finally safe enough to think of using for charging and the other new capabilities it posesses.


"Amazon has now stepped in to put a stop to the free-for-all on crappy cables. The retailer's list of prohibited electronics items now includes 'any USB-C (or USB Type-C) cable or adapter product that is not compliant with standard specifications issued by USB Implementers Forum Inc'."

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Source: The Inquirer

Amazon Lumberyard Game Engine (Beta) Announced

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2016 - 05:11 PM |
Tagged: amazon, AWS, game engine

Another video game engine has entered the world, this time from Amazon. It is basically a fork of CryEngine that they purchased the rights to sub-license. Amazon states that their engine will diverge over time, as they modify it in-house for licensees and their internal game studio, Amazon Game Studios. It is licensed for free, with full source access, but it has a few restrictions.


The market is currently dominated with a variety of offerings with different business models. Unreal Engine 4 is free to use, but takes a portion of revenue after some grace amount. CryEngine is available on a relatively cheap subscription, but has no royalty requirements. Unigine offers a few lump-sum options, starting at almost a grand-and-a-half. Unity has a few options, from a cut down free version, to a relatively expensive subscription, to lump-sum payments. Finally, at least for this list, Source 2 is completely free, with the only requirement that published games must be available on Steam at launch.

That last one, Source 2, is basically the business model that Amazon chose with their new Lumberyard engine. The difference is that, instead of requiring games to be published at a certain retailer, they require that games use Amazon Web Services for online interactions, like multiplayer and cloud, unless the developer maintains their own servers. I'm not exactly sure what that distinction ("If you own and operate your own private servers") allows, but I'd assume that Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are big no-nos. On the other hand, single-player experiences and games with local multiplayer, assuming neither has “cloud” features, are completely free to make.

While it would be nice to have a purely open source offering that can compete with these proprietary engines, developers should be able to find a suitable option. Each seems to ask for something slightly different, and they are very permissive otherwise.

Source: Amazon

Remember when competition wasn't a bad word?

Subject: Editorial | October 2, 2015 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: google, chromecast, AT&T, apple tv, amd, amazon

There is more discouraging news out of AMD as another 5% of their workforce, around 10,000 employees, will be let go by the end of 2016.  That move will hurt their bottom line before the end of this year, $42 million in severance, benefit payouts and other costs associated with restructuring but should save around $60-70 million in costs by the end of next year.  This is on top of the 8% cut to their workforce which occurred earlier this year and shows just how deep AMD needs to cut to stay alive, unfortunately reducing costs is not as effective as raising revenue.  Before you laugh, point fingers or otherwise disparage AMD; consider for a moment a world in which Intel has absolutely no competition selling high powered desktop and laptop parts.  Do you really think the already slow product refreshes will speed up or prices remain the same?

Consider the case of AT&T, who have claimed numerous times that they provide the best broadband service to their customers that they are capable of and at the lowest price they can sustain.  It seems that if you live in a city which has been blessed with Google Fibre somehow AT&T is able to afford to charge $40/month less than in a city which only has the supposed competition of Comcast or Time Warner Cable.  Interesting how the presence of Google in a market has an effect that the other two supposed competitors do not.

There is of course another way to deal with the competition and both Amazon and Apple have that one down pat.  Apple removed the iFixit app that showed you the insides of your phone and had the temerity to actually show you possible ways to fix hardware issues.  Today Amazon have started to kick both Apple TV and Chromecast devices off of their online store.  As of today no new items can be added to the virtual inventory and as of the 29th of this month anything not sold will disappear.  Apparently not enough people are choosing Amazon's Prime Video streaming and so instead of making the service compatible with Apple or Google's products, Amazon has opted to attempt to prevent, or at least hinder, the sale of those products.

The topics of competition, liquidity and other market forces are far too complex to be dealt with in a short post such as this but it is worth asking yourself; do you as a customer feel like competition is still working in your favour?

The Hand

The Hand

"AMD has unveiled a belt-tightening plan that the struggling chipmaker hopes will get its finances back on track to profitability."

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Source: The Register

Why you couldn't swipe right while watching a movie in someone else's appartment

Subject: General Tech | September 24, 2015 - 12:57 PM |
Tagged: amazon, AWS, dynamoDB

It has not been a good week for internet users, with Skype suffering major outages and AWS based services such as Tinder and Netflix going down Sunday and experiencing issues again today.  The Register takes you through what caused the outage in this quick article about Amazon Web Services and DynamoDB. 

As with other Cloud providers, the database is spread out over the globe, with DynamoDB tables split into partitions which are not necessarily close geographically.  The location of tables to which the partitions are members of are stored in metadata servers which can connect the scattered tables into seamless interface for the end user ... when all is well.  In this case the metadata servers were responding to slowly for the tables to function which resulted in those tables querying updated memberships on the metadata servers which caused enough traffic to bring down AWS.  


"Picture a steakhouse in which the cooks are taking so long to prepare the food, the side dishes have gone cold by the time the waiters and waitresses take the plates from the chef to the hungry diners. The orders have to be started again from scratch, the whole operation is overwhelmed, the chef walks out, and ultimately customers aren't getting fed."

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Source: The Register

Checking out the new Kindle Paperwhite

Subject: Mobile | July 2, 2015 - 04:54 PM |
Tagged: amazon, kindle paperwhite

The insides of the third generation Kindle Paperwhite match the Voyage, a Freescale i.MX6 SoloLite 1GHz chip, as do the outsides with a new 300ppi screen.  Connectivity has been expanded to Wi-Fi as well as an available 3G model and there is also a brand new font called Bookerly.  If you are in need of an eReader and are not in Canada so that you can get the Tegra 4 powered Kobo Arc 7, you should head over to Techgage and see if the new improve Paperwhite is the solution you should chose.


"Amazon has just revealed its third-gen Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, and while it doesn’t offer a substantial upgrade over the previous model, it does iterate on what was already a fantastic device. With a 300 ppi screen and brand-new Bookerly font at-the-ready, there’s not much to dislike with this e-reader."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:


Source: Techgage

Oops! Incorrect AMD CPUs Allegedly Sold on Amazon

Subject: General Tech, Processors | February 11, 2015 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: amd, amazon

So allegedly Amazon UK sold some AMD A8-7600 APUs, but they actually shipped Athlon 64 X2 5200+ CPUs. Despite what you would think, it was actually “dispatched and sold” by Amazon UK itself, rather than a dishonest seller who has some explaining to do. For those affected, Amazon is apparently handling customer service well, as expected, and promptly replacing the parts. It does not seem to affect other regions, and the problem started just a short time ago.


Unless you're Sebastian, these processors will not even fit in the motherboard socket. PC World has an interesting side-by-side comparison of the two pin configurations. They do not look alike at all. You should not have a hard time identifying the problem if you are careful enough to look before you insert, which is obviously something that you shouldn't have to do. Also, AMD refers customers to their authenticity support page for a few extra ways to be sure that the box that you got came from AMD.

What would be the most interesting part of this story is finding out what happened. Unfortunately, we probably will never know, unless it turns into a famous legal battle of some sort.

Source: Tech Report

Video Perspective: Amazon Echo Overview

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 06:05 PM |
Tagged: video, echo, amazon

Late last year Amazon announced the pending release of the Echo, a standalone device that would sit in your home or office and listen to voice commands and respond in a Siri-like or Google Now-like fashion. The first Amazon Echo units have shipped and I received one of them, opening it up and putting it to use for a few days this week.

At its core, the Echo is a collection of microphones and speakers, connected to the internet through Wi-Fi. Using the keyword of “Alexa” (or you can change it to “Amazon”) you stir Echo from its slumber to respond to requests for information, streaming­ music and lists or timers. Voice recognition is fantastic and the speed at which Echo responds to voice commands is impressive, moving along at a quicker pace than either Google’s or Apple’s options.

Users that have uploaded their music collection to Amazon’s cloud library will be able to access that music through the 2.5-in subwoofer and 2.0-in tweeter, both of which add up to surprisingly good audio performance for such a small device. Amazon Prime users will have access to the company’s collection of including streaming music as well, though that collection is notably smaller than something like Spotify. Music from Amazon’s digital music store is the one item you can purchase solely through voice commands.

Adding things to a shopping list, asking for fact-based information and telling lame jokes all happen efficiently. But the drawback to the Echo is its lack of knowledge about the rest of my life. The device has no ability to know about my next calendar appointment, my incoming emails, my estimated drive time to the work. Google does though, and I can’t help but think that a Google iteration of this exact item would be a better solution.

Check out the video below to see Amazon Echo in action and determine if this device deserves a spot in your home.

PCPer 10 Days of Christmas: Day 7 - Amazon Kindle

Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2014 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: kindle, holiday, amazon, 10 days of christmas

Are you still hunting for that perfect gift for the hardware and technology fan in your life? Or maybe you are looking for recommendations to give to your friends and family about what to buy for YOU? Or maybe you just want something new and cool to play with over the break? Welcome to PC Perspective's 10 Days of Christmas where we will suggest a new item each day for you to consider. Enjoy!

Since the original introduction of the Kindle e-reader years ago, the Amazon-built device has been considered the best digital reading appliance on the market. That continues to this day, even with the release of the iPad, the widespread sale of Android tablets and even Amazon's own color screen devices like the Kindle Fire. The eye comfort, extended battery life and low cost continue to drive the Kindle's dominance in this market.


Newly revised with a touch screen e-ink display, the lowest cost Kindle device can now be picked up for under $60 if you are cool with some ads showing up on the screen while the device is locked, or $80 if you aren't. E-ink technology provides the key benefits that Kindle has over standard tablets for reading: no backlight is required and thus your eyes have much less strain to focus on the words and the ability to maintain an image on the screen without constant power allows Kindle to last "for weeks" without a recharge.


If you or anyone you love is a reader, then you owe it to them to buy a Kindle.

If you are having trouble picking out a gift for a loved one, consider buying an gift card! Amazon has basically every product on the planet for your gift recipient to order and purchasing gift cards through these links directly sponsors and supports PC Perspective! And hey, if you were to buy gift cards for yourself to do your own Amazon-based Christmas shopping...that wouldn't exactly be a bad thing for us either! ;)

Did you miss any of our other PCPer 10 Days of Christmas posts?