Amazon Blocking Non-Prime Members From Buying Certain Games

Amazon Prime started off as giving you quick one-day delivery options, expanding into the market for Video and music streaming, and with its latest offer of a monthly subscription system, its popularity keeps growing. That may change if you are a fan of big time games, with the latest news revealing that certain games may be locked behind the “prime wall”.

If you go on the Amazon site now and check out games like Grand Theft Auto 5 or Fallout 4, you may find yourself welcomed by a small blue button on the right-hand side. Replacing the welcoming yellow button that said buy now, the blue button instead asks you “join Prime”. Above the buttons it states that the games are “Exclusively for Prime Members”, giving you no option but to either seek them on different sites or use Amazon Prime to order your games from Amazon.

While you will still be able to buy the games through other sellers on Amazon, if you want to buy it directly from Amazon you will need Prime membership. With a yearly membership getting you 20% off pre-orders and new releases, if you like buying big releases when they come out it may be worth checking out the deals they offer.

For gamers and non-gamers alike, do you think its fair to have your ability to buy what you enjoy locked to an exclusive membership group or does the one-day delivery (or even one-hour delivery) tempt you to grab those new games that little bit sooner?

It should be noted that while the block originally seemed to affect both Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com sales, some of the listings on Amazon.co.uk are now unrestricted, suggesting that the initial backlash may already have been enough to sway Amazons opinion on the “prime wall”. Currently, you can see the option featured on Amazon.com’s Grand Theft Auto 5 page.

Image courtesy of Engadget.

Amazon Prime Opts For Monthly Subs to Compete With Netflix

When it comes to video streaming service, there is currently a debate over which is best for you, Netflix or Amazon prime. With Netflix recently raising its prices, Amazon Prime looks to be a large contender thanks to some of the original content it now produces, but many are put off by the large upfront cost for the service. This could change as US users of the service could switch to a monthly service.

Previously Prime users had to pay a yearly subscription of $99, offering access to not only their fast delivery options but also Prime Video and Prime Music, the media providing aspects of the Prime service. The monthly subscription costs $10.99 a month if you wanted to keep all the benefits while if you only wanted Prime Video you could opt in for the $8.99 subscription.

With the yearly total costing you $131.88, a 25% increase overly the annual membership, users may want to take the monthly bundle around times like Christmas or large concentrations of birthdays, rather than using it as a go to package over the yearly service. It should also be noted that if you were to select the monthly subscription you won’t get the 25% prepayment discount that annual members of prime benefit from.

Amazon Recommends Users Change Their Passwords

Who doesn’t have an Amazon account? If you do it may be worth changing your password as Amazon recommends users take the precaution after it discovered that some of their Amazon accounts could be found online.

Amazon discovered the leaked passwords were contained within a password list online, and while not exclusive to Amazon services, it has recommended that users change their passwords, even more, so if they use the same password on several sites. If your accounts email address was found to be on any of the lists then Amazon has taken the precaution to force a password reset on your account.

While many recommend against it, it’s common practice for people to use the same password and email combinations on several sites, thus increasing the chance that if one account is hacked, others will be compromised alongside.

While it’s recommended by some that we get rid of passwords altogether, alternative methods like biometric scanners for your fingerprints have been seen as easily bypassed and companies are even looking at using videos or selfies to access your accounts, a technique that has been met with mixed views. Would you prefer to access your account with a selfie or video of yourself or do you believe that the password still has a while to go if used correctly?

UPDATE: We were asked to remove the image, so one of our own, Robert Ainsworth, provided us with a copy of the email he received.

Amazon Payments Global Partner Program to Take on Paypal

Amazon is a popular platform for many things, with their websites offering everything from the kindle to mass ordering your pets favourite type of food. With recent steps in the video game market, courtesy of Lumberyard and even sharing educational materials for schools, the company look like it will stop anytime soon with the revelation of the new Payments Global Partner Program.

If this sounds familiar it’s because you probably already use PayPal or something similar, but Amazon’s Payments Global Partner Program looks to go head to head by offering you the same security you get with your amazon account when paying for products on hundreds of other sites.

Amazon states that all the merchants using the new system will be using the same fraud detection technology that Amazon already uses, meaning if you trusted Amazon you can trust them. If this wasn’t enough the temptation, companies are helped by its quick integration and inline basket, meaning no more tedious programming or changing sites to add in your bank details.

It should be noted though that sites using the new system will have access to customers “name and email addresses so you can personalise their on-site experience”, while not a huge issue some people would want reassurances that an easy to opt-in program had some security regarding their details.

New Self-Driving Car Mapping Unit Backed by Amazon and Microsoft

 

Amazon and Microsoft are two major companies that are yet to enter the arena of autonomous car development yet, but this could be set to change soon. Reuters have reported that according to sources, Here, a mapping company owned by a number of German automobile makers could soon be provided with cloud computing capabilities by the two IT giants. The companies that currently own Here, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes’ parent company Daimler all have their own self-driving developments in the works.

Amazon are also reported to be interested in becoming a major shareholder in Here, which would position them to be the prime provider of cloud computing solutions to them. When you consider that Here collects a huge amount of data via sensors mounted atop thousands of self-driving cars belonging to the company’s owner firms, this would be a great boon for making the most of it.

Here was previously owned by Nokia, but was acquired by the German firms in December last year for €2.8 billion. Since this acquisition, Here have continued to state that “have stressed since the acquisition in early December that they are open to additional investors from all industries.” As a result, a number of companies aside from Amazon and Microsoft want to be involved with Here, including Renault and Continental, which both have a stake in the automotive industry. Continental in particular told the wire service that a decision as to whether they would purchase a stake in Here would come imminently.

With high-resolution mapping being so crucial to proper operation of autonomous vehicles, it is no wonder that so many companies are clamouring for a part in one so open to partnerships. As Amazon and Microsoft show, it’s not just those developing the cars that want to be a part of this sector either, with the IT and data requirements to run such cars meaning that even other service providers have a role to play in this developing technology.

Clean Energy Rules Backed by Leading Tech Companies

People like the idea of clean energy, the ability for us to generate more energy than we use all from renewable sources that don’t damage the environment. France requires that new buildings have solar panels or grass on the roofs, and an Indian airport has decided that solar power is the way they want to go. In a move to help further our advances towards clean energy governments are making more and more pushes, this time, it would seem that the clean power plan in America is getting some backing from rather large companies in the technology industry.The Clean Power Plan is designed to cut carbon pollution 32 percent below 2005’s levels, all by the time we reach 2030. With more and more pressure on reducing our CO2 output, coal-fired plants are under increased pressure to become more efficient (same energy, less CO2,

The Clean Power Plan is designed to cut carbon pollution 32 percent below 2005’s levels, all by the time we reach 2030. With more and more pressure on reducing our CO2 output, coal-fired plants are under increased pressure to become more efficient (same energy, less CO2) while also groups and companies are under more pressure to promote and use renewable energy sources like solar or wind farms.

Considering themselves “major purchasers of electricity”, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have come together and formally backed the Clean Power Plan in the United States Court of Appeals where the act is currently on hold.

With both large tech companies and the Obama administration pushing for this act to go through, it is hard to see how anything supporting renewable energy could be seen as negative but some claim the rules are onerous and overreach the abilities of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Amazon’s Lumberyard Engine Receives a Tech Demo

Amazon has unveiled its own AAA gaming engine dubbed Lumberyard during the GDC 2016 event, and the product was definitely received with open arms by developers. Based on Crytek’s CryEngine, Lumberyard has recently received its first tech demo that shows off exactly what developers will be able to achieve with it. The tech demo’s main character is named Rin, and she is placed in a lush wooded environment. Since Amazon’s engine is based on CryEngine, the demo is definitely pleasing to the eye, but we’ll just have to wait and see how popular it will become. Amazon’s  Lumberyard is a free, cross-platform, 3D game engine that allows developers to link their products to AWS Cloud and Twitch.

This means that games developed using Lumberyard can potentially reach more than 1.7 million monthly broadcasters and over 100 million monthly viewers using Twitch. Other highlights of Amazon’s Lumberyard apart from its visuals include native code performance and a fully featured editor, but developers will just have to take a closer look at this engine in order to discover all of its features. Even though it’s definitely not as powerful as CryEngine V or Frostbite 3, Lumberyard could still come in handy for devs who are looking to create lighter, less demanding games. You can have a look at the tech demo below.

Amazon Bans Bad USB Type-C Cables

Everyone knows about USB cables. Used for everything from transferring important information from one device to another to charging your devices, they are seen everywhere and the USB Type-C Cables are no exception. Some people were put off when a google engineer fried his Chromebook using a bad cable from Amazon, a move which has now made Amazon ban bad USB Type-C Cables from its site.

USB Type-C (also known as USB-C) is loved for many reasons, from their lack of orientation, no more finding if you’ve put the cable in the wrong way round on the third or fourth time, to the fact that both ends are identical, meaning that there is no right and wrong end, there is only the right ends!

USB-C are also twice as fast as USB 3.0, a standard that barely took off before people noticed USB-C’s popularity. With speeds of up to 10Gbps and the ability to output up to 20V(100W), the USB-C is quickly gaining favor to replace the variety of USB connections that came before it. Sadly with the recent interest in the connector, some people have taken to selling some not so great copies. Listed under their prohibited electronic listings, Amazon now ban any USB-C cable that can be described as:

Any USB-C (or USB Type-C) cable or adapter product that is not compliant with standard specifications issued by “USB Implementers Forum Inc.”

With the ability to report and have bad cables removed from the site, hopefully, fewer people will have to lose their precious devices to cut price and bad quality products.

Google Could Be Working on a Rival for the Amazon Echo

Amazon’s Echo is certainly a useful little gadget, as it is capable of voice interaction and is able to create to-do lists, playback your favorite music and provide useful information regarding traffic and weather. However, rumours indicate that Google might actually be working on its own version of this popular wireless speaker, a version that could potentially provide even more useful features at a similar price. Even though Google has not replied to inquiries about an Echo rival at the time of writing, it would certainly make sense for the company to produce such a device, particularly since it already owns all of the necessary tools to do so. Experts seem to agree as well, as a Moor Insights & Strategy analyst named Patrick Moorhead has stated the following:

“Google has all the capabilities that Amazon Echo has. However, Google’s been focused on smartphones and tablets right now. “I believe Google will build a plugged-in device that does what Echo can do — and more.”

Moreover, another analyst named Ezra Gottheil has brought up an interesting topic: if people are already used to controlling their mobile devices using voice commands, it probably makes sense for them to do the same with other gadgets.

“Why not be able to do that when your hands are full of food or baby or puppy? Whatever Google builds will have to be better than Echo, but I don’t think that will be hard. Google’s current voice-based product, Google Voice Search, is available in a bunch of languages, while Echo is English-only. Echo does interface with Gmail but I would be surprised if Google can’t come up with deeper integration.”

Obviously, creating a rival for the Echo and selling it successfully will give Google an even better opportunity to learn more about its users, especially since the device would operate out of its owners’ homes at all times. Would you buy a smart wireless speaker developed by Google?

Amazon Reveals How to Build an Echo Speaker With Raspberry Pi

Amazon wants to push its Alexa voice assistant as far and wide as possible, so much so that one of the company’s employees has released a step-by-step guide to building an Alexa-powered speaker yourself with a Raspberry Pi.

The DIY echo can be made using a cheap USB microphone, speaker and several other easy to obtain parts. The code is shared on the Github platform and was posted by Amit Jotwani, Amazon’s senior evangelist for Alexa. It’s his job to help developers and tinkerers. This in turn generates interest from a technical perspective and all of a sudden – millions of people are tweaking code, modding parts and making some really nice inventions with the Pi and Amazon’s software.

It would take some basic technical knowledge to assemble and make the echo work via the Raspberry Pi. However the guides are very good and it should be fairly easy for the average joe to make. The Echo is now on sale for $180 – it hasn’t been released in the UK as of yet.  There is one downside to running it off the Rasberry Pi, though, you can’t wake it up by saying “Alexa” and to run a voice command you have to press a button.

Amazon Customer Banned for Returning Faulty Goods

A self-confessed Amazon addict has had his account banned and gift card balance seized after returning a number of items which he insists were faulty. Greg Nelson, a computer programmer from the UK, bought 343 items from the online retailer over two years, returning 37 of them on the grounds that they were faulty, damaged, or not as described. The frequent returns have resulted in him being blocked from any future purchases from Amazon, losing his gift card balance in the process, despite what Nelson claims to be fair grounds for sending the offending items back.

“As a previously fervently loyal fan of Amazon who has been a customer since 2002, I understand that it is trying to protect its business – however I find its actions in this situation totally egregious,” Nelson told The Guardian. “I could understand if there were evidence that I had somehow tried to abuse the system, but I haven’t. Of course, Amazon can refuse to serve whom it likes, but surely it cannot legally keep gift card balances and other purchased goods which have already been paid for by the customer – despite what any potentially unfair small print might say?”

Nelson has tried repeatedly to contact Amazon about the matter, but the company’s customer service department has only responded with a default response, refusing to re-open his account.

Amazon refused to discuss Nelson’s case specifically, but confirmed that Nelson’s account will remain closed.

“Our goal is to deliver the best experience for the millions of customers who shop with us,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “In a tiny fraction of cases we are forced to close accounts where we identify extreme account abuse. This decision is only taken after we have reviewed the account carefully and tried to work with the customer over an extended time period to resolve any issues.”

 

Kindle Users Must Update To Keep Using Online Services

When people think of e-books most will associate the word with the Kindle, Amazons e-reader. The reason being is that the kindle has become the symbol of e-readers, with the electronic ink making the original device easier to read than a traditional screen and the latest version including everything from Netflix to Angry birds. If you own a kindle though you may want to update otherwise you won’t be able to use their online services.

Revealed by Amazon, anyone using an outdated version of kindles software will need to update by March 22nd, 2016 or they will lose the ability to download books from the cloud, access the kindle store or even use other services provided by the device.

Failure to install the update by this date will provide users with the following message:

Your Kindle is unable to connect at this time. Please make sure you are within wireless range and try again. If the problem persists, please restart your Kindle from the Menu in Settings and try again

If you find this message on your kindle after March 22nd you will have to do a manual update to regain access to kindles services. Below you have a list of the version that each type of kindle will need to be at in order to keep using the services.

Kindle 1st Generation (2007) 1.2.1 Use Wireless
Kindle 2nd Generation (2009) * 2.5.8 Use Wireless
Kindle DX 2nd Generation (2009) * 2.5.8 Use Wireless
Kindle Keyboard 3rd Generation (2010) ** 3.4.2 or higher Use Wi-Fi
Kindle 4th Generation (2011) 4.1.3 or higher Use Wi-Fi
Kindle 5th Generation (2012) 4.1.3 or higher Use Wi-Fi
Kindle Touch 4th Generation (2011) ** 5.3.7.3 or higher Use Wi-Fi
Kindle Paperwhite 5th Generation (2012) ** 5.6.1.1 or higher Use Wi-Fi
Kindle Paperwhite 6th Generation (2013) No Update Needed No Update Needed
Kindle 7th Generation (2014) No Update Needed No Update Needed
Kindle Voyage 7th Generation (2014) No Update Needed No Update Needed
Kindle Paperwhite 7th Generation (2015) No Update Needed No Update Needed

For more information regarding how to update or how to find out your software’s current version, please check out Amazon’s post here.

PlayStation VR Already Sold Out on European Amazon Stores

Pre-orders of the PlayStation VR, Sony’s PlayStation 4-compatible virtual reality headset, were made available this morning, and within minutes Amazon stores in the UK, France, and Germany had sold out.

Following its “out of stock” notice, Amazon UK made a second batch available a few hours later, but limited to one per address. A note on the sales page read (courtesy of DualShockers):

“Due to limited stock we are only able to offer one unit per customer per address. We do not currently have a release date for this product. Based on our initial allocation we cannot guarantee release day delivery if you ordered after 11:45 GMT, Wednesday 16 March, 2016. You will be notified via email of the expected delivery date closer to the time. This product comes with a UK plug and therefore may not be suitable for use outside of the UK.”

The sales page has since changed in the intervening hours. While Amazon is still taking pre-orders, it does so with the following disclaimer, which is a revision of the above note (at time of writing):

“Due to limited stock we are only able to offer one unit per customer per address. We do not currently have a release date for this product. Based on our initial allocation we cannot guarantee release day delivery. You will be notified via email of the expected delivery date closer to the time. We will be fulfilling customer orders in the order in which they were placed. This product comes with a UK plug and therefore may not be suitable for use outside of the UK.”

GAME in the UK is still offering pre-orders, but only in-store and with a £100 deposit:

Amazon Patents Selfie-Pose Authentication Technology

Amazon is known for their increased use of technology. Keen to use drones in their delivery process and even leasing out a new set of jets in order to speed up their delivery processes, the company seems to be stopping at nothing to control the delivery market. The next step may be something a little closer to home though with the pay-by-selfie technique to introduce selfie-pose authentication.

The new patent filed by the company reveals a process in which shoppers would be able to forgo the use of their password to instead have them take a photo or video of themselves. The technology would use a similar system to the MasterCard selfie system which means that you would be prompted to perform an action, such as blink or pose in order to confirm that it isn’t just a photo being held up by someone else.

Can you see yourself buying a product and then paying by blinking at the camera on your phone? While it stops you from having to remember your password or getting your phone and laptop from saving them, am I the only one who suddenly see people in public winking at their phone every five minutes in order to purchase that new DVD you’ve wanted to see for so long?

Amazon is Creating a Platform to Share Educational Materials

When you are a teacher, or anyone involved in training, you often spend more time creating resources and finding ways to reinforce a message rather than just hammering it home time and time again. In order to help with this Amazon are looking at creating a new site designed around being able to share educational materials around the world.

Amazon Education is still in its early stages but you can now sign up as part of their waitlist for the scheme here. The page states that the “future of education is open”, and with all signs pointing to the scheme working similar to Amazon’s retail site, users will be quickly and comfortably able to share resources around the world.

In recent years companies have made a big push on technologies and Amazon are one of the companies that have pushed the most in this regard. With the Kindle being accepted as a standard for eBooks, being able to share classroom text through kindle’s would save schools hundreds on replacing books and with systems like Whispersync already in place to share materials, Amazon seems keen on getting into the business of educational resource sharing.

Do you think that being able to download and access your textbooks, homework and research topics through a popular platform like Amazon would help schools or would it make them reliant on a technology they have no control over?

Amazon is Now Leasing Airplanes to Help With Deliveries

When it comes to ordering things online, Amazon is one of the places people first look. With distribution all over the world, the company is currently at the forefront of technology to help deliver their products, including being the leader in the “drones for deliveries” concept. In the companies latest move, Amazon is now leasing airplanes.

A step up from your garden delivery drone, Amazon has signed a lease on not one but 20 Boeing 767 freighter planes. With the ability to control and help organise international deliveries, could this be the first step in a truly global delivery system?

In an email to ArsTechnica, Dave Clark (Amazon SVP of Customer Service) provided the following:

We offer Earth’s largest selection, great prices, and ultra-fast delivery promises to a growing group of Prime members and we’re excited to supplement our existing delivery network with a great new provider, ATSG, by adding 20 planes to ensure air cargo capacity to support one and two-day delivery for customers.

From this statement, it would seem to be the case that the new planes will be there to help support and expand on Amazon’s Prime delivery scheme, something which offers quick delivery of their products.

Am I the only one who’s expecting Amazon to create a drone carrying aircraft to help deliver their products?

Amazon.JP Delivering Japanese Video Games Worldwide!

We all like that new game smell. Opening up the post to find that new game, the case screaming for you to open it up and slide in the disk. Sometimes the game you want to play isn’t available in your country, a case that is most common with Japanese releases. Don’t worry, as Amazon.JP has started delivering Japanese video games worldwide.

With select games and even consoles now available for international shipping, you can enjoy some of those releases that you’ve missed out over the years. Currently, the offer only applies to items sold directly by Amazon.jp with international shipping.

In order to do this, you may want to view Amazon.jp in English, an option that you can find on the right-hand side of a product page (shown below).

With fair prices for games like Dark Souls 3 costing just ¥ 6,473 (around £41 without shipping), you could soon find yourself building up an international collection of games. Some consoles these days don’t care about the region of the game, for example, the PS4 and Xbox One while others you may have to reorder to enjoy the Japanese releases (the Wii U and 3DS among them).

Are you looking forward to ordering your first game from Japan? What games are you going to pick up? Tell us your experience in international games and delivery services in the comments below.

Amazon to Restore FireOS Encryption in Spring

Just one day after it was discovered that Amazon had stripped the option to use encryption on devices powered by their FireOS 5 operating system, Amazon has announced that the feature will be returning in a software update “coming this spring.” Originally Amazon had reported that they had removed the feature due to lack of usage, however, the issue became big news with the current debates raging on over the subject.

Fire OS 5 has lacked encryption since its release in the autumn of 2015, however due to how quietly it was removed, the change was only noticed when the rollout of the OS to older devices took place. This removed the option of encryption even on devices that had originally shipped with the feature from an older version of Fire OS. As expected, this news did not go down well with many consumers, especially the most security conscious users, many seeing it as them giving up the fight for encryption and privacy before it had even begun for them.

Amazon re-adding encryption to Fire OS 5 is hardly surprising. The backlash against disabling the feature on any device using the OS could cost them both in reputation and profits. Also, as the feature was removed before the FBI/Apple encryption battle began, there was far less attention to its presence, which has now become an issue considered in the tech community worldwide.

For many, the lack of encryption would have been a deal-breaker in the purchase of their products. Are you glad to see Amazon reversing their course on the topic, or would you have bought an Amazon tablet regardless?

Amazon Removes Encryption in FireOS 5

As the battle with the US Government over encryption heats up, more and more focus is turning towards security and privacy of mobile devices. While Apple and Google are enforcing encryption and strengthening with each passing iteration, others are moving the opposite way. In an unexpected move, Amazon is stripping encryption as a feature and option in their latest Android OS, FireOS 5, for both past and future devices.

According to Amazon, few users were opting to use the encryption option and Amazon considers encryption an enterprise feature. Due to the lack of use, Amazon simply decided to strip it out, removing it from the OS starting with FireOS 5. Interestingly the encryption option really doesn’t require any work from Amazon to implement as it already built into AOSP which FireOS is a fork from.

Even with few users opting to use the feature, stripping it out entirely doesn’t really send a good message. After all, Apple and Google are already trying their best to make encryption the default. One possible reason is that since Amazon’s Fire devices are generally on the lower end of the spectrum, enabling encryption would hurt performance too much anyways to be useful. It’s still a shame though that Amazon is limiting their customers options.

Amazon Recalls Fire 7 Inch UK Power Adapters

When purchasing any electronic device, it’s imperative to use official AC adapters which meet the necessary safety standards and ensures your device is protected against surges. It can be really tempting to acquire a third-party charger from eBay due to the enticing price, and you can convince yourself that they are of a similar quality. However, in many circumstances, these chargers do not meet safety standards and have fake markings. As a result, they can be dangerous to both the end-user and the device in question. Usually, the quality of construction is abysmal, and known to become a fire hazard. To be clear, this isn’t every third-party charger from eBay I’ve tested, but it’s accurate for the overwhelming majority.

Every so often, even official chargers can experience problems due to an error in the production line. It’s incredible difficult to keep a close eye on the supply line, and one mistake can lead to catastrophic consequences. Today, Amazon sent an email to customers informing them of a product recall on the official charger for the Fire 7″ tablet, and Fire Kids Edition 7″ model. Here is the e-mail in full courtesy of HotUKDeals:

Thankfully, Amazon has adopted a transparent approach and taken the correct steps to put customer safety first. This is a fairly worrying development, but it’s important to remember that the cases will be rare. Despite this, if you have one of these chargers, please go through Amazon’s procedure to acquire a replacement.  This is happening more frequently and there’s been quite a lot of product recalls in the past 12 months. This ranges from food to consumer electronics. Perhaps, there’s a few teething issues in the production line which explains why some chargers could create an electrical shock! I applaud Amazon for sorting this out quickly and giving two options in case their official charger goes out of stock.

If Elected President Donald Trump Vows to Cause Amazon Problems

Donald Trump seems to thrive on controversy and has rapidly become the favourite candidate for the Republican nomination. Initially, political commentators dismissed Trump and believed it was only a matter of time before he exited the presidential race. However, whenever Trump makes shocking remarks no other politician would dream of, his popularity skyrockets. Please note as a technology website, we endeavour to leave any political inklings aside and report in a fair manner. During a recent speech, Trump discussed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his acquisition of The Washington Post.

Trump proclaimed:

“I have respect for Jeff Bezos, but he bought The Washington Post to have political influence, and I gotta tell you, we have a different country than we used to have,”

“He owns Amazon. He wants political influence so that Amazon will benefit from it. That’s not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”

This is a fairly worrying statement and suggests Trump wants to impose penalties on Amazon for his bitter dispute with founder Jeff Bezos. Perhaps this is just posturing and Trump’s attempt to publicly embarrass Jeff Bezos. Some of you might remember, Jeff Bezos posted a tweet offering Trump a reserved seat on the Blue Origin rocket. This is quite a rare occurrence and Bezos only has 15 total tweets to his account. Clearly, Trump believes Jeff Bezos purchased The Washington Post sorely for political gain to enhance Amazon’s influential position as a retail giant. Of course, this will only matter if Trump wins the Republican nomination and then ends up victorious during the presidential campaign. It’s not beyond the realms of fantasy though and Trump has already made warnings against Apple’s use of non-American workers.

Amazon isn’t the most reputable of companies because of tax avoidance behaviour and evidence of poor working conditions. Employees work under extreme stress and every packaged item is monitored. This can be devastating for morale, and applies so much pressure. It’s even been argued that Amazon’s working conditions can exacerbate underlying mental health problems.

Image courtesy of Forbes.

Samsung Printer Orders Itself More Ink When It Starts To Run Low

Amazon is a company known for being at the forefront of technology. With everything from their online streaming service to their hopes for drone deliveries. One of Amazon’s key selling points is their “Prime” service, offering you access to their online video collection and free one-day delivery. One of the lesser known features is the ability to re-order something when you get low, something that can now be built into technology.

Amazon announced its “dash” feature some time ago now, with the press of a button re-ordering your much needed supplies. Covering everything from your washing up and laundry supplies to your office needs, it would now seem that Samsung has caught on and built the function into some of their new printers.

While most printers monitoring ink levels, Samsung’s latest will go that step further and re-order more ink when you start to run low. With the orders at which you re-order cartridges adjustable it won’t be a case of one size fits all, even for your printing habits with hand ins and report deadlines destroying the ink that you thought you had in the printer.

With more and more devices offering the “dash” feature, all you have to remember is to pay and put the replacement where it’s needed. The service means that users don’t have to remember to re-order items, with everything from shaving foam and kitchen roll to Gatorade and nappies being supplied at the press of a button and soon, just by you finishing that last pack you had put away in the cupboard.

Swivl – The Robot That Follows You as You Make Video Calls

The Swivl Robotic Platform for Video seems very basic at first glance, looking like a typical stand or dock for phones, tablets or other devices. It is far more than that as it includes a sensor on the front of the base and the ability to swivel and angle the docked device as you move around.

This may seem very simple, but as shown in the promotional video, very effectual. Whether you’re making a video call on Skype or Google Hangouts or recording yourself, the Swivl lets you move around freely, as well as direct attention to props nearby. Functioning based the sensor built into the base and a hand-held marker device, the Swivl can even work for groups, with the marker being passed from person-to-person or being held between two people to allow both of them to be in-shot. It even includes a wireless microphone so that audio won’t be lost due to being at a distance from the device. There is also the option to use the Swivl with the Swivl Cloud video hosting service.

Definitely a cool device, the Swivl does seem somewhat niche, branding itself as a tool for teachers and student, although I can see the appeal of using it to watch a video when you’re busy. It isn’t cheap at $395.00 on Amazon and for your money, you’ll get the base device, marker, charger, mounts for mobile devices and a lanyard.

Oculus Confirms Rift Compatible PC Bundles

 

The range of potential possibilities concerning the forthcoming Oculus Rift headset promises to be both exciting and also worth the wait, in theory, the problem lies with headset compatibility for the extensive array of PCs that are currently on the market. It seems Oculus have already thought of this and have recently released details of specially crafted PC bundles that have been tested to ensure the headset will work with the machine.

Oculus have announced the first set of machines from well-known computer manufacturers ASUS, Alienware and Dell; these PCs have been tested and also certified by Oculus. The headset manufacturer has also confirmed that the first bundles will be available to pre-order for consumers starting from the 16th February 2016 at 8 am pacific time.

Other confirmed details include the stockists that will be able to accept pre-orders for the bundle, these are, Best Buy, Amazon and the Microsoft Store. There is no word as yet if the UK will receive these bundles as the company has stated that it will “ship in limited quantities to select countries and regions”  One would have thought these bundles would eventually be available within the UK when you consider the size and also profitability of the market.

Below is a selection of Oculus-ready’ PCs that the company has announced, it has also been stated that consumers who were excited enough to purchase an Oculus Rift without yet owning a compatible PC, the company said pre-order customers will be able to purchase a discounted PC at a later date.

 

The price of these bundles will start at $1,499, for that you will receive an “Oculus-certified PC and everything that comes with Rift – the headset, sensor, remote, an Xbox One controller, EVE: Valkyrie Founder’s Pack, and Lucky’s Tale”.

 

Amazon Japan Offers Free Wine Advice with Sommelier

Amazon sells all manner of products, from books to furniture and even food and alcohol can be delivered directly to your door. When you don’t know what to choose, many online stores offer staff on-hand to chat with and determine the best products for your needs and prices. Now Amazon Japan is taking this on board for those who don’t know their whites from their rose with its new Sommelier service.

The service is available between 12 and 5 pm local time, users can supply their phone number and will be called up by one of the professional wine advisors who are on-hand. They can let you know anything from the tastes and quality of wines to more wine-amateur requests such as suggestions for what to serve with particular meals within your budget or what would make a good gift for an occasion. The sommelier offers wines from around the world too, such as a Japanese Continental Koshu Heart or KWV Classic Collection Pinotage to be served with yakitori.

For those who can’t remember the vast array of foreign names often thrown around when discussing wine, Sommelier even provides users with emailed summaries of their discussions to ensure they can remember the advice when they may come to order.

Whether the service will ever move beyond Japan is questionable, with no mention from Amazon. Japan is a good proving ground for it, though, having one of the largest wine catalogues out of all the international Amazon sites. I think many of us would welcome the help when it comes to trying to buy a wine for an occasion and avoid the shame of a bad pick.

Amazon to Remove Lumberyard Restrictions in Event of a Zombie Outbreak

Amazon recently announced their powerful Lumberyard game engine yesterday. Packing a number of powerful features building on the CryEngine, it is also completely free for developers to use, with the only costs occurring should the developer wish to make use of any cloud services provided by Amazon. Of course, such a tool wouldn’t be released without any controls on its use, whether to protect Amazon’s interests or otherwise.

Checking the small print reveals that Amazon has placed restrictions on the acceptable use of the Lumberyard game engine. Contained in clause 57.10 of the AWS Service terms, it is stated that “The Lumberyard Materials are not intended for use with life-critical or safety-critical systems, such as use in operation of medical equipment, automated transportation systems, autonomous vehicles, aircraft or air traffic control, nuclear facilities, manned spacecraft, or military use in connection with live combat.”

Seems pretty sensible, after all using a game engine for many of those purposes would be foolhardy and potentially dangerous. However, should humanity be at risk of a zombie invasion with naught but a game engine to save themselves, Amazon have us covered in the second half of the clause.

“this restriction will not apply in the event of the occurrence (certified by the United States Centers for Disease Control or successor body) of a widespread viral infection transmitted via bites or contact with bodily fluids that causes human corpses to reanimate and seek to consume living human flesh, blood, brain or nerve tissue and is likely to result in the fall of organized civilization.”

Very niche case for allowing deviation from the terms and conditions, but it’s nice to see Amazon have both humanity’s best interests (and humour) in mind when providing their service. Makes you wonder what other hidden gems are contained within the countless T&C documents that exist for services both online and in reality.

Amazon Releases AAA Game Engine For Free

Game developers can choose from a huge array of tools including Unity, Unreal Engine 4, Game Maker Studio and more! The latest addition comes from Amazon and allows for complex visuals to create absolutely breathtaking AAA releases. The Lumberyard engine adopts an open source philosophy meaning it’s free to download, and features a comprehensive editor. Furthermore, the source code is deeply integrated with AWS and Twitch to provide unlimited possibilities. It’s important to note that the source code is fully customizable, and there’s no seat fees, subscription fees or requirements to share revenue. The only payment comes from the AWS services you choose to use.

In regards to Twitch functionality, Amazon claim the engine:

“…is integrated with Twitch so that you can build games that engage with the more than 1.7 million monthly broadcasters, and more than 100 million monthly viewers on Twitch. With Amazon Lumberyard’s Twitch ChatPlay, you can use a drag-and-drop visual scripting interface to create gameplay features in as little as minutes that let Twitch viewers use chat to directly impact the game they are watching in real-time. And, the Twitch JoinIn feature within Amazon Lumberyard helps you build games that let Twitch broadcasters to instantly invite their live audiences to join them side-by-side in the game, with a single click, while others continue to watch.”

The source code is native C++ used on over 90% of PC and console development projects. This should make the engine extremely easy to use to those with industry experience. On another note, Amazon’s Lumberyard includes an exclusive free version of Audiokinect’s advanced sound engine and authoring tool for PC games. This means you can create rich and professional soundscapes for a wide range of titles. Overall, this is a wonderful set of tools, and it’s great to see this being provided at zero cost. If you’re a professional developer, or wanting to hone your skills, it’s certainly worth a look!