Free App Friday for 8/22/14

Posted August 22, 2014 By Mom
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Today’s post is brought to you by Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon, an official Marvel app based on the hit movie and bestselling comic book series. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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Free App Friday!

Here are the top ten most downloaded AND highest-rated apps (4/5 stars or better) from Amazon’s Android App Store as of this writing. Note that where a given app has already been included in a Free App Friday post, a different one (still with a minimum 4/5 star rating) will be subbed in. 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.

Home Run Battle 3D – Are you prepared to go head-to-head with more than ten million big sluggers in Homerun Battle 3D?

Mahjong Solitaire Epic – This new and improved sequel brings the game to all new heights!

Pho.to Lab – Enhance your photos with over 520 beautiful frames, effects, filters or montages!

Fun Ways to Think Riddle Quiz Game – Get ready to have your mind-blown and answer some of the most amazing picture riddles ever.

Slots Romance – Romance themed slots.

Battle Run – Pick up a mystery weapon to shoot down whoever trying to run past you. Summon your trusty ride to get ahead in the thrilling race.

Ninja Fishing – The #1 HIT fishing game on the iPhone is now available for Amazon! Join over 9 MILLION Ninja Fishing players & see why this is the most addicting fishing game ever!

Monster Warlord – Catch rare and mysterious monsters by questing and battling! Discover all 6 types – Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, Darkness and Holy! Each monster has its own special attributes and abilities- so the more the merrier!

Snow Landscape Jigsaw Puzzles – 4 puzzle types: real jigsaw, switch jigsaw, shuffle jigsaw, rotate jigsaw.

Polyvore – Polyvore makes it fun and easy to discover and shop for the things that you love in fashion, beauty and home decor on-the-go!

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

If you loved Guardians of the Galaxy, give Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon (4/5 stars, rated mature, currently priced at $2.99) a try. From Amazon:

NO IN-APP PURCHASES AND NO INTERNET CONNECTION REQUIRED TO PLAY. Join Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, Gamora and Drax in an all-new adventure – Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon! Jump into battle to help the Guardians recover the five pieces of The Universal Weapon before it falls into the hands of the villainous Ronan the Accuser! Meet the legendary outlaw Star-Lord and his rag-tag crew: Rocket, a gun-toting alien with a quick draw and an even quicker temper; Groot, the tree-like being who packs a punch; Gamora the deadly and enigmatic assassin; and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. Command the Guardians and their allies in gesture-based real-time battles; recruit and upgrade additional heroes, and then unlock and unleash devastating special attacks!

This app trailer demonstrates gameplay:

 

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5 Ways To Make Amazon Prime Pay For Itself

Posted August 21, 2014 By Mom
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Today’s post is brought to you by (what else?) Amazon Prime (One Year Membership). Read on to discover why it’s TOTALLY worth the money, and can easily save you more money than the asking price. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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I’ve been an Amazon Prime member going all the way back to 2011, and even after the price went up from $79 per year to $99, I didn’t hesitate to renew because I know my Amazon Prime membership saves me money! Here are five ways to make Prime not only worth the asking price, but easier to afford as well.

 

1. Share Your Prime Shipping Benefits With Up To Four Household Members or Co-Workers

One of the major draws of Amazon Prime is the fantastic FREE, two-day shipping for any item you order that’s “fulfilled by Amazon”. Did you know you can extend this benefit to up to FOUR members of your household / co-workers at no cost? From an email I received from Amazon customer service:

As a member of Amazon Prime, you can share your shipping benefits with up to four additional people. They can be family members living in the same household or co-workers if the membership was purchased for a small business. Household members can include spouses, children, extended family members or housemates living at the same address. You’ll only need to share your e-mail address and birth date with those you invite to use your membership benefits. They won’t be able to see any other information from your account. This program is not available for customers who purchase products for the purpose of re-sale.

A phone call to Amazon confirmed all “household” members must have the same shipping address listed to take advantage of this offer, but that’s not necessarily any obstacle. For example, four roommates can split the cost of Prime in order to share the free shipping benefit at a cost of just $24.75 each. And assuming they’ve got a web-enabled TV or a streaming box like a Roku or Fire TV in their shared home, all of the housemates can enjoy watching free Prime Instant Videos, too!

Note that one household member must actually sign up for, and pay for, the Prime membership first, then add the other household members (and collect their share(s) of the Prime fee).

This is also a great benefit for folks who have ‘boomerang’ adult children or older relatives living with them: people who have their own separate Amazon accounts but currently share a mailing address.

To add household members to your Prime account, login to Amazon, mouse over the “Manage Your Prime” link at the upper right (next to the “Your Account” link), then click on the Manage Prime Membership link at the bottom of the pop-up menu box (click or tap on image to view an enlarged version in a new tab or window):

 

 

Scroll to the bottom of the Manage Your Prime Membership page and click on the Invite A Household Member link. Easy peasy!

 

2. Cancel Premium Streaming Services Like Netflix and Hulu+, Start Watching Prime Videos Instead

The first year that I had Amazon Prime, I paid for it by cancelling my Netflix subscription. At that time I was paying $8.95/mo for Netflix, which came out to $107.40 per year. By switching to Prime (then at a cost of $79/year), I was immediately saving over $28 per year. It seemed like time and again I’d be disappointed when looking for specific films to watch on Netflix, so I was very happy to try something different.

The Prime Instant Video catalog is HUGE and getting bigger every day. Since it includes HBO, Starz!, Discovery Channel, Comedy Central, BBC and Nickelodeon content on top of thousands of movies, the kids and I are never at a loss to find something great to watch.

What About Netflix-Exclusive TV Series?

Good question! If you’re paying for Netflix just to get access to Orange Is The New Black, House of Cards or The Killing, you’re not getting your money’s worth. You could BUY the entire season of THREE series for $25 – $30 each and still have money left over at the end of the year versus continuing to pay your $8/month ($96/yr) to Netflix.

 

 

House of Cards is already available in the Instant Video catalog, and The Killing is even part of the Prime catalog! Orange is the New Black isn’t on Amazon yet, but you can bet it’ll get there once Netflix has decided they’ve leveraged it as much as possible to lure new subscribers.

If you’re thinking, “Yeah, but I want to see it NOW, while my friends are all talking about it,” then you just have to ask yourself: is it worth $96/yr to see it now instead of later, especially when for just $3 more, you could get a Prime membership that includes not only Prime Instant Videos but free 2-day shipping and other Prime benefits as well?

 

3. Start Buying Certain Household And Grocery Items From Amazon Instead Of The Grocery Store

Buying grocery and household items from Amazon isn’t very convenient or economical if you have to pay for the shipping, or order at least $25 worth of eligible items to get free 5-10 day shipping and then wait up to ten business days to get your stuff. But as a Prime member, it’s a whole different story. Now, I routinely check Amazon first for grocery and household items I used to buy in stores, and very often I find that not only are they eligible for Prime shipping, but they cost less than I’m used to paying in stores, too!

 

 

For example, I haven’t paid $13 for a box of 12-16 coffee k-cups for my Keurig coffee maker for years. Now I get a bulk pack, like the Brooklyn Beans 40-count Variety Pack, from Amazon. I’m saving anywhere from 30-60 cents per k-cup, getting access to a much wider variety of k-cups, and having them conveniently delivered right to my door at no extra cost!

Similarly, buying a 12-pack of Lime-A-Way toilet bowl cleaner for about $30 saved me nearly 50% per bottle compared to what I usually pay in stores (as of this writing the 3-pack is priced at $14.51 at my local Target), and I didn’t have to lug a heavy bulk pack to my car or into my home as I’d have to do if I’d bought the product from a warehouse store.

Not every grocery/household product will be priced lower on Amazon—some food items are priced considerably higher, actually—, and not every product will be eligible for Prime shipping. But it’s definitely worth checking when you’re a Prime member;  just be sure to tick off that “Prime eligible” box in the left-hand sidebar when searching so your results will be limited to products that are eligible for free Prime shipping.

 

4. Get The Free, Monthly Kindle First Book

A recently-added Prime benefit is Kindle First. At the start of each month Amazon selects four new release Kindle books from the Kindle First catalog (books that are only available in Kindle format for a period of weeks or months before hard-copy release) and offer Prime members their choice of one of those books to download and keep at no cost.

 

 

One of the books I got this way is the Historical Fiction novel Inamorata, which went on to become a Historical Fiction bestseller and earn an average review rating of 4/5 stars. The book is currently priced at $5 in Kindle format, which might make you think it’s not really such a valuable benefit after all. But look at it this way: even if every single Kindle First book you get through Prime ends up being priced at $5 you’ve still saved $60 at the end of the year versus buying them all, and each one you end up enjoying is adding to the value of your Prime membership.

 

5. Cancel Premium Music Subscriptions and Take Advantage Of The New Prime Music Feature

Most premium streaming music subscriptions cost $10/mo, or $120 a year. That’s $20 more than Prime, and it doesn’t get you free shipping, streaming Instant Videos or Kindle First books.

 

 

Take the money you’re currently investing in a Spotify or any other premium streaming music subscription, get Prime instead, and enjoy all the same music benefits (ad-free listening, huge music catalog, pre-curated playlists or create your own, download for offline listening, more) PLUS all the other great Prime benefits.

It’s a no-brainer.

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

By now it should be readily apparent why an Amazon Prime (One Year Membership) is not only worth the cost, but can actually save you money in the long run.

 

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600 Free Ebooks – Online and Totally Legal!

Posted August 20, 2014 By Mom
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Today’s post is brought to you by the The Big Deal: Over 400 Kindle Books At Up To 85% Off, which expires on 8/24/14 at 11:59pm PST. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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A New Addition to the DMM Bargains & Freebies Page!

Starting today, you’ll find something new on my D-Media Bargains & Freebies page:

Open Culture’s 600 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices,   now including all 51 volumes of The Harvard Classics Library!

On the Open Culture page (the line above that begins with “Open Culture’s” is a link) you’ll find links to a mixture of fiction, nonfiction and reference, including public-domain classics and more recent works that authors and publishers have agreed to contribute. There’s no registration required, this is simply a public resource! For the most part the newer stuff is only available for online reading, but older texts are made available for download in multiple formats. There are even handy links to save downloads direct to your Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive account. This screenshot demonstrates how eclectic the listings are (tap or click on image to view a larger version in a new tab or window):

OpenCultureListings

No online drive? No problem! Just click the link for the format you want in order to open the download dialog, then save a copy to your device or your computer hard drive.

 

Tips For Kindle Fire Users

1. Download direct to your Fire.

I went to the Open Culture’s 600 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices page on my Kindle Fire HDX and was able to download the Kindle-formatted file direct to my Fire. A pop-up told me I could find the file in “downloads”, but the Fire will save it on the Docs tab. Note that the filename may not match the book title exactly.

2. Download to a computer, then email the ebook to your Kindle, Paperwhite or Fire.

See this DMM post for more information about emailing files to yourself on your Kindle/Fire device: Kindle Email – Did You Know Your Kindle Has Its Own Email Address?

 

As always, you’re welcome!

 

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

The the The Big Deal: Over 400 Kindle Books At Up To 85% Off. Be sure to browse the listings soon, because this deal expires at 11:59pm PST on 8/24/14. Here are just a few examples of the bargains:

On sale for $1.99:

On sale for $1.94:

Just $1.99 for this box set trilogy:

Click here to browse the full Big Deal listings.

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How To Tell If A News Story Is Credible

Posted August 19, 2014 By Mom
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Today’s post is brought to you by the EcoSphere Closed Aquatic Ecosystem Small Pod, a small, totally sealed saltwater aquarium containing shrimp, algae and beneficial bacteria, which requires no feeding and no electricity: it’s designed (based on NASA research) to remain in perfect balance for years, so long as the owner keeps it in the correct lighting and temperature conditions. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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Now that virtually ALL major news outlets are owned by giant conglomerates with major conflicts of interest and their own financial agendas to push, “infotainment” often takes the place of real journalism, clickbait and hype have become standard operating procedure online and plagiarism in the media is commonplace, it’s become increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction and objectivity from “spin” when reading any current news story. Here are some easy ways to spot a less-than-trustworthy story.

 

 

1. An online news story quotes from a source, but fails to provide a link back to the source being quoted.

For example, I was recently directed to a Yahoo! Finance news story claiming that a Bookstats report shows “slowing ebook sales” and that ebook sales have “stalled” at a market segment of 21% of overall commercial publishing. All of which would definitely lead readers to think maybe this ebook thing really IS just a fad, and will never overtake print. The person who directed me to the story was using it as evidence in support of her claims along those lines. The only problem is, nothing could be further from the truth.

The story fails to provide any link to the quoted source. I found the source myself, and could immediately see the news story was completely false and misleading, and in all likelihood just another among many Amazon hatchet-jobs. What the report actually says is that while revenue from ebooks was flat in 2013, unit sales of ebooks skyrocketed to a record level. You have to dig a little deeper to learn that the reason why revenue is flat while unit sales are dramatically rising is that many ebooks are being offered for free or at prices less than $3 to help authors and smaller publishers build readership. But there is no doubt whatsoever that in terms of units sold, ebook sales are rising sharply year over year (see the Trends in Trade Formats section on the second page of the report summary, here).

 

 

Unless you bothered to do the legwork and read the report for yourself, you’d have no idea how misleading the Yahoo! Finance story is, and the story’s failure to provide the necessary source links makes it all but certain the reader will simply accept the story’s claims as facts.

 

2. A news story quotes from “unnamed sources”, “sources close to the investigation”, etc., but doesn’t provide any full names or separately verifiable facts.

I once worked for a veterinarian who had many celebrity clients: Gilda Radner, Hugh Hefner, Neil Diamond and Demi Moore among them. I could’ve abused my position to feed gossipy tidbits to the tabloids, and if I had, I would’ve been identified in stories as an “unnamed source” with some description that seemed to imply I was in a position close to the subject of the article. I could’ve made any claim I wanted, and there would be no way for the reader to verify it. Tabloids are more interested in making money than journalistic integrity, so these types of “a source close to the actress” stories are their bread and butter.

In crime or government investigation stories, you should be no less suspicious of “unnamed source” reports. While it’s true that sometimes a journalist must keep a source’s identity secret to protect the source’s safety, the days of Woodward and Bernstein are sadly far behind us. Nowadays, if a public figure refuses to go “on the record” about something, it’s usually because that public figure isn’t willing to stand behind their remarks. And if the source isn’t comfortable asserting something as a fact, then you shouldn’t be comfortable accepting it as one.

 

 

3. The story is actually a thinly-veiled “advertorial”.

It used to be that advertisements had to be very clearly, boldly labeled as such. Nowadays, in the U.S. at least, all that’s required is that some verbiage to indicate a given piece of content is advertising, “sponsored content”, or a testimonial is included—and that verbiage can be printed in the tiniest font size available, and it can be cleverly hidden along the top or bottom margin of the “story”.

These “advertorials” have gotten so clever, they even mimic the formatting, layout, fonts and editorial style of the magazine, newspaper or website where they appear, making it that much harder for the reader to distinguish them from actual news, articles and content.

 

4. Watch out for “loaded” language, and opinion masquerading as fact.

“Loaded” language is the use of exaggeration, accusatory or inflammatory rhetoric to convince the reader of your position. In an editorial, it’s to be expected that the author is voicing a strongly-held opinion and will make his or her case as strongly as possible. But in the world of journalism, where it’s supposed to be “just the facts”, the use of loaded language is—or used to be—a cardinal sin. A reporter isn’t supposed to reveal his or her personal feelings about the events being reported, the job is to provide the public with all the facts it needs so individual readers or listeners can form their own, informed opinions.

 

 

Similarly, people who hold the public’s trust on account of their position in public office, the military, or any government field, are supposed to be extra-careful to avoid using loaded language because the public will assume the stated opinions of the individual are actually facts being disclosed by the agency or government arm that person represents. Sadly, many in positions of public trust don’t respect this guideline and will gladly go to the media to state that so-and-so is incompetent, so-and-so is dishonest, so-and-so is abusing the power of the office, and so on.

Unless the speaker is providing concrete evidence to back his or her claims, and (remember #1?) is also providing sources for that evidence that the reader or listener can verify separately, assume that what’s being said is merely opinion that’s been beefed up with some loaded language to try and trick, anger or frighten you into believing it.

This is also the tactic being employed by the investigator who asks the suspect, “Were you drunk when you beat your wife?” instead of asking, “Had you been drinking?” and then, “Was there a physical altercation with your wife?”

 

 

5. Keep an eye out for qualifiers.

Words intended to back off from a claim of absolute fact or a specific measurement/quantity are “qualifiers”. These words are purposely nonspecific, or even downright vague. This is how a news story can claim that “many mothers are outraged by the school’s position” based on a meeting of three mothers with the school’s principal.

 

6. Bait and switch / clickbait.

The bait and switch has become maddeningly common nowadays.

You click on a headline reading, “You’ll be SHOCKED by what this mother did to her crying toddler!” and the story turns out to be about a mother who chose to let her toddler have a public tantrum rather than give in to his demands that she buy him a toy.

A magazine cover headline can claim “Water Pollution Levels Reach Record High” and be published next to a photo of a drinking glass filled with disgustingly dirty water, when the story inside goes on to explain that while the pollution levels observed in recent tests do reflect a new record, they are still well below guideline limits for public safety.

An online news story headline can blare, “Governor Spends 3x As Much As Predecessor On Office Furniture” when the truth of the matter is that the governor’s office hasn’t been refurnished since 1975, and the current governor’s new furniture, while 3x as costly as the old furniture was when it was purchased, is still pretty modestly priced by today’s standards.

Don’t just run with the story from the headline, or even the sub-head summary that often appears below the headline. Until you’ve read the full story, you don’t have the full story.

 

Very often you’ll find the full story is just an advertorial, filled with loaded language and qualifiers, from sources close to the person or thing, that provides no verifiable facts.

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

The EcoSphere Closed Aquatic Ecosystem Small Pod is obviously NOT a digital media product, but it’s one I personally own and can personally recommend. Whether for kids interested in learning more about how ecosystems work and remain in balance, adults who want a living, almost maintenance-free desk accessory, or anyone who simply enjoys observing the antics of the tiny, foraging shrimp inside, this thing is beyond cool! The Ecosphere is completely sealed, and the only maintenance is occasionally scraping excess algae growth using the included pair of magnets (one comes sealed inside the pod, the other comes with the shipping materials—full instructions included).

I have owned two of these in the past (and paid the full $108 for them, which included a mandatory $28 FedEx shipping charge since the shrimp are alive), so imagine my amazement at finding this one listed on Amazon at just $53.98, with free shipping included! That’s HALF what I’ve paid in the past, and this is definitely the genuine article, shipped via FedEx from the Eco-Sphere company in Arizona. I felt the last two I bought were well worth the full asking price, so for my money this is an absolute bargain.

Just set it in a stable, room-temperature spot where it will get 6-8 hours of indirect light each day (even flourescent light, like in an office, is fine!) and the system will stay in balance for as long as 7-10 years! While I’ve read online reviews from people who say theirs are still going strong 5 years and beyond, the longest I’ve managed to keep one going is just over three years. Though in fairness, each time my Ecospheres “died”, it was following a move so I’d probably de-stabilized the system.

Note that while some reviewers cite animal cruelty concerns with this product, fearing that the shrimp are simply doomed to live out their days in an increasingly poisonous environment that ultimately kills them, remember that the whole point of this thing is to maintain a closed ecosystem in perfect balance: the algae and bacteria provide food for the shrimp, the shrimps’ waste provides ‘food’ for the algae and bacteria, and so the cycle goes.

While some byproducts will accumulate in the water, these specific shrimp are used specifically on account of their hardiness and insensitivity to the buildup of those specific byproducts. I am an animal lover, even a lover of insects and crustaceans, so I would not keep any creature in unkind conditions and have done considerable research to satisfy myself that the Ecosphere is a humane environment. I have thoroughly enjoyed each Ecosphere I’ve owned, but don’t take my word for it: even Carl Sagan himself provided a testimonial for this product on the Eco-Sphere website!

 

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Free Music Monday for 8/18/14

Posted August 18, 2014 By Mom
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Today’s post is brought to you by this month’s list of $5 MP3 albums on Amazon. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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Welcome To Free Music Monday!

Here’s this week’s list of 10 noteworthy tracks, provided in MP3 format with NO DRM, all for FREE!

Note that the tracks listed below are free as of this writing and prices are subject to change on Amazon at any time, so grab ‘em quick!

 

This Week’s List: Alternative Rock / Pop

Fans of acts like Blink-182, Evanescence, Pink, Coldplay and Daft Punk will find some new favorites on this week’s list! Click through to listen to the samples.

1. Nylons in a Rip – Nikka Costa

2. God and Girl – Red Goodbye

3. So Calm – Cave Painting

4. Oceans – Hawthorne Heights

5. Black Stone – Ume

6. Oh How I Need Changing – Clarensau

7. Sheep In Wolves Clothes – little hurricane

8. Far Way Off – Jamar Rogers

9. Middle Sea – Yuck

10. Holding On – Classix

 

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

This month’s list of $5 MP3 albums on Amazon includes a terrific variety of must-have greatest hits albums, such as:

The Police – Every Breath You Take: The Classics

Aerosmith – Big Ones

Born in the USA – Bruce Springsteen

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