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New Feature: Movie Monday!

Posted January 15, 2017 By Mom

Since Music Monday has been getting pretty repetitive, with lots of Classical music and not much else, I’ve decided to introduce a new feature: Movie Monday. On Movie Monday I’ll help you tackle movie night with brief reviews of movies, TV shows and other digital videos you may have missed that are worth the rental or purchase.

 

Theater Robbery

 

This week, it’s all about the action movies.

 

Escape Plan (R)
One of the world’s foremost authorities on structural security agrees to take on one last job: breaking out of an ultra-secret, high-tech facility called “The Tomb.”

Sylvester Stallone stars as Ray Breslin, the world’s top expert in structural security. When he’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit, his skills are put to the ultimate test in an attempt to break out of one of his own prisons. Co-stars some pretty big names: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio and 50 Cent.

The acting is strong across the board and the script is very good. If you enjoy the types of movies where the hero must solve puzzles or come up with a daring plan, like Ocean’s 11 or Aeon Flux, you’ll probably like this one a lot. Plus, it’s a pleasure to see these two top action stars playing against one another at last.

 

The Adjustment Bureau (PG-13)
An action thriller about a man (Matt Damon) who decides to fight the powerful Adjustment Bureau, risking his political future to be with the only woman he’s ever loved (Emily Blunt).

This one is kind of like Dark City meets The Island. A shadowy, secret cabal exerts absolute control over major world events to ensure their own, profitable ends. They have the power to change not only people’s lives, but their memories as well, to more easily bend everyone and everything to their own will without anyone even knowing it’s happening.

When Senate hopeful David Norris (Damon) accidentally gets a glimpse behind the curtain of The Adjustment Bureau’s existence, activities and plans for him, he fights to regain control over his own destiny and desire to be with a ballet dancer (Blunt) he’s begun to fall for.

Interesting, twisty script and an intriguing premise, with two top-notch actors in the lead roles.

 

Source Code (PG-13)
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the mind-bending action thriller about an experimental government program used to try and stop a deadly terrorist attack in downtown Chicago.

Speaking of twisty…this one’s got a humdinger of a twist ending, and I won’t spoil it for you.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens, a soldier who wakes to find himself in unfamiliar surroundings, guided only by remote voices and video images. He’s told he’s part of an experimental government project to stop terrorist attacks through virtual reality, and that he’ll be sent into a virtual reality scenario in which he must find a bomb that’s been planted on a commuter train and discover who planted it before it explodes. He can make multiple attempts but time is limited, and with each foray into the scenario he becomes more attached to a woman he meets on the train.

He begins to suspect the scenario isn’t virtual at all, that the woman and everyone else on the train are real people, and that his remote contacts aren’t telling him everything.

Co-stars the excellent Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright.

 

Free App Friday!
Don’t let the negative implications of Friday the 13th get you down: mellow out with these stress-relief puzzle apps.

Remember that free apps may include in-app purchase (IAP) options or be ad-supported, but given that these apps have been given very high ratings by MANY consumers, where IAP links or ads are present they must be pretty unobtrusive. Descriptions below are from the apps’ product pages.

 

 

FlipPix Art – Zoo – Use logic to determine which tiles should be filled to reveal a hidden picture.

HexLogic: Zoo – Players will enjoy using their deduction and reasoning skills to paint tiles and reveal a hidden picture.

Doodle Numbers – addictive puzzle game – Improves your math skills by asking you to solve series of simple and fun pattern-matching puzzles.

Mahjong Venice Mystery Puzzle – Pair up and match colorful tiles to clear over 400 Mahjong levels and solve an ancient mystery.

 

 

Swipe The Words – You need to find a word and swipe it to beat the puzzle. After you find and swipe a word, the grid is reorganized to form a new one. With all the letters on board crushed, the puzzle is solved.

Unblock Me FREE – Slide blocks to free the trapped piece.

Flow Free – Connect matching colors with pipe to create a Flow®. Pair all colors, and cover the entire board to solve each puzzle.

 

 

Blendoku – Blendoku is a puzzle game that will challenge your ability to distinguish and arrange colors.

Two Dots – CONNECT one dot to another, connect four dots to make a square, sink anchors, make a line, create bombs, fight fire, break ice, and much more in this fun free puzzle game

Definitionado – Use your sharp intellect and knowledge of word meanings, idioms, riddles, and trivia to solve these fun puzzles!

 

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The ARMOR MiNE Waterproof Bluetooth Wireless Speaker currently (as of 1/13/17) has an average review rating of 4.5/5 stars across over 1,100 reviews and is currently priced at $29.95, making it a great pick for portable audio that won’t break the bank.

 

Advertisements make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content for free, so thanks for your support.

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1/13/16 Freebie Friday: Audible Sessions

Posted January 12, 2017 By Mom

Audible Sessions exclusive interviews feature many bestselling authors, like Archer, McDermid, Connolly and Hill to name just a few, plus a sprinkling of celebrity memoirists. There are more than 300 interviews to choose from, and they’re all FREE!

 

 

Here are just a few of the many noteworthy Audible Sessions interviews, which generally run between 15 minutes to a half hour.

 

Bryan Cranston: Audible Sessions (Amazon UK customers click here) – Bryan Cranston joins Robin Morgan in the Audible Studios for an exclusive interview on the release of his autobiography, A Life in Parts (Amazon UK customers click here). Bryan discusses the writing process, the experience of recording the audiobook, and of course his role as Walter White in Breaking Bad. 17 minutes.

 

Audible Sessions with Johnny Marr (Amazon UK customers click here) – Legendary musician Johnny Marr, co-founder of The Smiths, joins David Darlington in the Audible Studios to discuss his autobiography, Set the Boy Free (Amazon UK customers click here). 24 minutes.

 

Miriam Margolyes: Audible Sessions (Amazon UK customers click here) – The legendary Miriam Margolyes joins Robin Morgan in the Audible Studios to discuss her career, Maggie Smith, and her involvement in a new audiobook project with a series of letters unearthed by the National Archives. 28 minutes.

 

Amazon US customers, click here to browse the full catalog of Audible Sessions exclusive interviews.

(Amazon UK customers click here).

 

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The Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation, Works with Alexa (UK visitors click here) is currently (as of 1/12/16) rated 4.5/5 stars across over 9,000 reviews and priced at $247. Climate control with your voice: if you’ve got an Alexa-enabled device, it’s a thing!

Advertisements make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content for free, so thanks for your support.

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My Amazon Video Disappeared!

Posted January 10, 2017 By Mom

Yup, it finally happened. One of my purchased Amazon Videos disappeared from my Amazon Video Library without any advance warning. Here’s what happened, and why I’m still going to keep buying Amazon Videos.

 

Lets Get Digital

 

I own a LOT of Amazon Videos because I’ve been in the process of converting to an all-digital household for years. I haven’t bought anything new on disc since early 2012. I prefer the convenience (no discs to store or move around) and mobile accessibility of digital video, and have no regrets about making the transition.

Even so, today I’m here to tell you three things. First, there’s a glitch that can prevent Amazon Videos you own from showing up in video search results on Fire TV and the Amazon site. Second, for the very first time since I started buying Amazon Videos, one of them actually did disappear from my Amazon Video Library last month. Third, Amazon resolved the problem to my satisfaction and I’m not going to stop buying Amazon Videos.

 

 

You Know The Video’s In Your Library, But It’s Not Showing Up In Search
A few months back I discovered this glitch: I knew the Amazon Video I wanted to watch was definitely in my library, but the Fire stick couldn’t find it via search: I had to scroll through all my video library manually to find it and play it. This happened because the video was not available for rental or purchase on the Amazon site at the time—which shouldn’t affect access for people who already own the video, but like I said, it’s a glitch. The same problem sometimes happens on the Amazon site.

Any given TV show or movie can become unavailable for rental or purchase in Amazon Video format due to an expired or revised contract with the studios. This is usually a temporary situation, and I wrote about it previously here. Apparently there’s a bug in the Amazon Video search function where if a given video is not available to rent or buy currently, that title will not show up in search results. Even if you already own the video. I’ve reported it to Amazon tech support every time it’s happened to me; I think it’s been three times so far.

So if Search on your Fire TV or the Amazon site doesn’t find a video you’re sure you own, try scrolling through your video library manually. The bigger your library the longer it’ll take, but the video should still be there. And don’t forget to report the bug to Amazon because the more people complain about it, the sooner they’ll fix it.

 

Hilarious

 

What If The Video Really IS Gone?
This happened to me last month, and it was the first time any of my purchased Amazon Videos have ever become unavailable to me at the time they became unavailable for rent or purchase on the Amazon site. My copy of Louis CK’s stand up comedy show Hilarious didn’t show up in search and I couldn’t find it by scrolling through my library either.

I searched my past orders to confirm I’d purchased it and then called Amazon customer support. Amazon confirmed the video had been pulled from their catalog entirely and immediately offered to refund my purchase price. They also said this was exceedingly rare, and given that it’s the first time it’s happened to me in five years and after purchasing over 600 Amazon Videos, I know it’s true. A few days later the video came up for sale on Louis CK’s personal site, so I suspect there was some kind of rights issue, like that time some years back when a pirated version of George Orwell’s 1984 was removed from all the Kindles and Kindle book libraries.

 

Why I’m Still Buying Amazon Videos
You might think the incident above would’ve soured me to Amazon Videos, but it hasn’t.

First, there’s many a DVD in my old, physical movie collection that will no longer play, or no longer play smoothly (e.g., without skips or any pixelated scenes, without audio drop-outs, etc.), so it’s not like buying a physical copy guarantees you will always be able to watch that video. But I can’t get a refund for any of my old DVDs that are no longer watchable, so Amazon Video still has them beat.

Second, this has only happened once across over 600 Amazon Video purchases; that’s a failure rate of less than one in six hundred. The rate of failure for my videos on disc is more like one in ten.

 

Amazon Video isn’t perfect, but for me, the pros still outweigh the cons of buying movies on disc.

 

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I normally share dirt-cheap and free digital music here on Mondays, but since there seems to be a great deal of confusion around Amazon Music lately I’ve decided to dedicate today’s post to that topic. Amazon actually has five different types or levels of digital music services.

Note that details reported here are accurate as of this writing, on 1/8/17, but are subject to change at any time at Amazon’s discretion.

 

Taste In Music

 

1. What is Amazon Music?
Amazon Music is the Amazon Digital Music department on the Amazon site. It includes Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, and all the other digital music that isn’t part of either of those programs. When you go to Amazon > Digital Music through the department menu or select Digital Music when using the main Amazon site search bar, you’re accessing Amazon Music.

 

2. What is Amazon Music Library?
Amazon Music Library is the online space where Amazon stores its customers’ digital music. Every Amazon customer gets their own Amazon Music Library for free, and can add music to it through Amazon Music purchases, adding Prime or Amazon Unlimited music, or uploading their own, previously-owned digital audio tracks. All Amazon customers are allowed to upload up to 250 tracks at no charge, and additions that come from Amazon sources are free to add as well. Users can play and organize their music, create custom playlists, edit the details for tracks and artists, and purchase or download music from within Amazon Music Library: it works much the same as iTunes.

You can access your Amazon Music Library via the free Amazon Music mobile app (also available in the iTunes store for Apple devices), the free Amazon Music desktop app, the Web Player on the Amazon site itself (Amazon > Account & Lists > Your Music Library), or any of the Amazon devices that can play music (Fire tablets, Kindle readers, Fire TV, Fire Phone, Alexa-enabled devices). This broad accessibility makes Amazon Music Library a very attractive option for maintaining a single, centralized digital music library.

If you already have a large library of digital music you didn’t get from Amazon sources, and need to upload more than the 250 audio tracks you can add for free, then you need Amazon Music Storage (previously known as Amazon Music Library Premium)—see list item #5 below.

 

Unorthodox Jukebox

 

3. What is Amazon Prime Music?
Amazon Prime Music is a rotating selection, or sub-set, of the albums and tracks from Amazon Music that Amazon Prime members can access at no additional charge. Prime Music albums and tracks are designated with the Prime logo on their Amazon product pages, as shown on the Bruno Mars album above.

Prime members can stream Prime Music tracks and albums while browsing the Amazon site by clicking the Listen Now button on product pages, or they can add Prime Music to their Amazon Music Library to make it available for streaming through the Amazon Music App. Once Prime Music has been added to your Amazon Music Library, you can include those albums, tracks and artists in your custom playlists.

IMPORTANT CAVEAT: Remember that I opened by saying Prime Music is a rotating selection of music. Just as with any music streaming service, its content is subject to change at any time. Amazon has contracts with music providers and those contracts dictate which music is included in Prime Music and for how long. If you want to be sure a favorite album or song won’t become inaccessible because it’s dropped out of Prime Music, it’s safer to buy the music.

 

4. What is Amazon Music Unlimited?
Amazon Music Unlimited (AMU) is a relatively new offering Amazon launched as a competitor to popular streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. Like those services, AMU offers music streaming on demand by artist, album name or genre, plus a large selection of pre-curated playlists organized by artist, occasion, mood and more.

Full disclosure: I am not an AMU subscriber so the information I’m providing here comes from Amazon’s own help topics, product pages and customer discussion threads.

AMU’s music library is rotating, like Prime Music, but the available catalog is much larger than what you get with Prime music. We’re talking tens of millions of tracks under AMU versus just over 2 million tracks under Prime Music. There’s some overlap though, meaning that some Prime Music tracks and albums are also included in AMU. In general, AMU will tend to have more of the newest music and artists than Prime Music does. For example, Bruno Mars’ newest album is included in AMU, but not Prime Music.

As of this writing AMU starts with a 30-day free trial, and after that it costs $9.99 per month for non-Prime members, $7.99/mo or $79/year for Prime members. The lower price for Prime members is probably in recognition that Prime membership already costs them $99/year (as of this writing) and includes access to Prime Music.

There’s one more option, for owners of an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or Amazon Tap device: $3.99/mo to provide AMU to one of those devices (as of this writing). That italicized detail is important: when you sign up for this option you must specify ONE of your Alexa devices and the AMU subscription is only accessible through that ONE device.

 

amazonmusicsettings

 

5. What is Amazon Music Storage?
Amazon Music Storage (AMS) is a sort of Amazon Music Library upgrade that allows you to upload and store up to 250,000 audio tracks in your Library in addition to the 250 tracks’ worth of storage you get for free as an Amazon customer. Once those tracks are in your Library, they’re accessible and can be used in all the same ways as any other tracks in your Library.

Since I came to Amazon Music Library with over 5,000 tracks, AMS was a necessity for me. The convenience is great, but yet another reason I’m happy to pay that $25/year (as of this writing) is that AMS provides a reliable offsite backup of my entire music library. I used to have to spend hours at a time regularly backing up my music, and I had to buy the storage media. No more!

AMS isn’t just for music, either. I’ve got podcasts and audiobooks stored in my Library too. You can access the screen shown above to sign up for AMS by clicking on the image, or by navigating to Amazon > Account & Lists > Your Music Subscriptions.

 

6. Prime Music vs. AMU: Which Should You Get?
The answer to this depends on your specific needs and preferences.

Most of my listening is limited to the tracks I uploaded when I first started using Amazon Music Library, plus audio I’ve purchased or gotten free from Amazon since then. I’m a Prime member but not a heavy user of Prime Music. I’ll often listen to Prime Music stand up comedy albums, but once they drop from rotation I’ll buy the ones I like best. For someone like me, AMU doesn’t have much to offer.

If I weren’t already a Prime member and didn’t have a huge amount of music in my Amazon Music Library already, AMU would be much more attractive because I do love music and listen to it often. It would also be worth considering if I were the type who likes to stay up to date on the latest musical artists and trends and doesn’t mind a rotating selection. To me, a paid music streaming service is sort of like the modern, digital version of music on the radio—only without the ads. You can “tune” to the “channels” you like, but with the added benefits of being able to skip tracks you’re not enjoying and select artists, albums and tracks on demand (assuming the artists, albums and tracks you want are currently included in the AMU catalog).

 

7. What If You Have More Questions About Amazon Music Services, Plans and Options?
Click here for Amazon’s help pages about Amazon Music. There are topics specific to Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited, Amazon Music apps, and pretty much everything else to do with Amazon Music services, plans and options.

 

FTC disclosure for personally recommended products and services: I will get a small commission from Amazon if site visitors click through on the links in this post to purchase the featured items. However, the price to the buyer is exactly the same as if they’d gone directly to the Amazon site, Amazon covers the cost of the commissions. Also, I’d be recommending these products whether I received a commission or not.