IT News, Solutions and Support by Proactive Computing

Proactive Computing | Optimizing IT for usability, performance and reliability since 1997

Category: Amazon (page 1 of 2)

You Can Now Set a Delay in Alexa Routines

Alexa Routines are a great way to automate all sorts of actions around the house at once, but thanks to a heavily-requested new feature, you can now add a delay to certain actions in those Routines.

RELATED: How to Set Up Alexa Routines to Control Multiple Smarthome Devices at Once

The new feature is called Wait, and it lets you add a timed delay to either an entire Alexa Routine or just a certain action within an Alexa Routine.

As an example, I could tell Alexa “Good morning” after I wake up, which could then turn on the space heater in my home office. However, since I’ll use the restroom and grab some coffee first, I can add a delay so that the space heater doesn’t turn on until after a few minutes have passed.

To make it happen, open up the Alexa app and either create a new routine or edit an existing one. When you go to add an action, you can select “Wait” from the options. From there, choose a length of time (minimum is one minute).

After that, arrange the Wait action in the order you want it in. So if you want the entire Alexa Routine to be delayed, add it as the first action in the list, but if you want it the routine to perform was instant actions first and then delay other actions, place it in the middle of those.

Read the remaining 3 paragraphs

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Craig Lloyd

The Google Home Hub Isn’t A True Smarthome Hub (But These Products Are)

While the Google Home Hub is a fantastic device that let’s you control all of your smarthome devices from one convenient place, it’s not actually a true smarthome hub, despite what the “hub” in the name might suggest.

Before we dig in, let’s be clear on something: we’re not disparaging the Home Hub in any way by saying it’s not a “real” hub. The Home Hub has shaped up to be one of our favorite smarthome products of the year and it’s great at what it does. The name, however, is a wee bit confusing. Let’s look at why it’s confusing and some additional products that actually are hubs.

What’s the Google Home Hub?

The Google Home Hub is really nothing more than a smart display, similar to the Echo Show, only the Home Hub uses Google Assistant instead of Alexa. Just think of it as a regular Google Home smart speaker, but with a screen tacked on.

It’s a “hub” in the sense that it can serve as a central place to do a whole bunch of different stuff, like look at upcoming calendar events, set reminders, set timers, and of course control all of your smarthome devices using your voice or the screen. But it’s a hub in that sense in the casual way, similar to how someone might say “the kitchen is the hub of our house”.

Google Home Hub vs. Smarthome Hubs

While it’s not a problem, per se, that the Home Hub isn’t a true hub I’ve seen many people assume (or at least wonder) that the Home Hub is an actual smarthome hub that you can directly connect various devices and sensors to, but this isn’t the case.

The Home Hub merely just lets you link devices to it so that you can control said device with the Home Hub. So for example, if you have some Philips Hue bulbs that you want to use, you can’t simply connect them to the Home Hub directly—you still need the Hue Bridge hub. From there, you can link the Hue Bridge to the Home Hub.

Furthermore, if you want to take advantage of some Z-Wave motion sensors, you’ll need to connect them to a smarthome hub that supports Z-Wave devices. The Home Hub does not support Z-Wave or ZigBee.

Some Actual Smarthome Hubs You Should Buy

The Home Hub is still a fantastic device to own, even if it can’t act as an actual smarthome hub, but if you’re still in the market for a smarthome hub, you might want to keep these models in mind:

  • Echo Plus: While I wouldn’t recommend it as a top-of-the-line serious smarthome hub, the Echo Plus ($149) does come with a ZigBee smarthome hub built in that’s easy to use, so you can connect Hue bulbs directly to it if you want.
  • Wink Hub 2: If you’re looking for an actual smarthome hub that does (mostly) everything, the Wink Hub 2 ($99) is a great option. It supports both Z-Wave and ZigBee, as well as Clear Connect products. Plus, the app interface is really easy to use, and it works with Alexa and Google Assistant.
  • SmartThings: While not quite as good as the Wink Hub 2 (at least in our opinion), Samsung’s SmartThings hub ($69) and platform offers many of the same features. And if you prefer the stability that large, trusted companies offer, then SmartThings can be a good way to go. Plus, they have their own line of devices and sensors you can buy, so you’ll know immediately that it will work with the hub.

However you outfit your home with a hub, the Google Home Hub will help you keep an eye on things, issue commands, and serve as a welcome point of interactio and integration with your smarthome system.

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Craig Lloyd

Amazon tests checkout-free shopping for larger stores

dims?crop=5183%2C3334%2C0%2C0&quality=85Amazon’s checkout-free Go stores might hint at the future of retail, but they’re small locations that aren’t much good if you need more than lunch or a bag of chips. You might see more soon, though. Wall Street Journal sources say Amazon is testing…

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By:

Amazon’s New Part Finder Tool Helps You Upgrade Your PC

Upgrading your desktop PC isn’t nearly as hard as you might think, but one of the harder parts is choosing the right…well, parts. Compatibility conflicts can be intimidating for a $1000 machine. Amazon wants to help with its latest feature.

The new “Part Finder” is broadly similar to third-party tools like PCPartPicker, with the advantage of being integrated directly with Amazon’s nigh-limitless product listings. But unlike those more comprehensive tools, Amazon’s only supporting upgrades at the moment, not complete system builds. You’ll need to click “Make sure this fits” in the item description, then enter the model or serial number of an existing laptop or desktop to check and see if the part is compatible. Once you’ve chosen the brand and model, a bar above the listing will show you the results.

That’s the theory, anyway. At the moment the system isn’t displaying on all PC hardware components, and it’s somewhat iffy even on parts from major brands. For example, after entering my ThinkPad T450s on the Part Finder for a Samsung 850 SSD, the tool says “We’re not sure this item fits your computer.” Which is odd, because that’s a pretty standard 2.5-inch form factor going into a full-sized laptop…and I’ve made and documented that exact upgrade here on How-To Geek.

To be fair to Amazon, this is a brand new feature, and there are bound to be some teething troubles. To be less fair, car enthusiasts have noted similar problems with Amazon’s car parts tool, which works along the same general lines. For the moment you should probably double-check with more extensive online tools to make sure your new parts will work, especially if you’re building your computer from the ground up.

Via PCGamer

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Michael Crider

AWS wants to rule the world

AWS, once a nice little side hustle for Amazon’s eCommerce business, has grown over the years into a behemoth that’s on a $27 billion run rate, one that’s still growing at around 45 percent a year. That’s a highly successful business by any measure, but as I listened to AWS executives last week at their AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, I didn’t hear a group that was content to sit still and let the growth speak for itself. Instead, I heard one that wants to dominate every area of enterprise computing.

Whether it was hardware like the new Inferentia chip and Outposts, the new on-prem servers or blockchain and a base station service for satellites, if AWS saw an opportunity they were not ceding an inch to anyone.

Last year, AWS announced an astonishing1400 new features, and word was that they are on pace to exceed that this year. They get a lot of credit for not resting on their laurels and continuing to innovate like a much smaller company, even as they own gobs of marketshare.

The feature inflation probably can’t go on forever, but for now at least they show no signs of slowing down, as the announcements came at a furious pace once again. While they will tell you that every decision they make is about meeting customer needs, it’s clear that some of these announcements were also about answering competitive pressure.

Going after competitors harder

In the past, AWS kept criticism of competitors to a minimum maybe giving a little jab to Oracle, but this year they seemed to ratchet it up. In their keynotes, AWS CEO Andy Jassy and Amazon CTO Werner Vogels continually flogged Oracle, a competitor in the database market, but hardly a major threat as a cloud company right now.

They went right for Oracle’s market though with a new on prem system called Outposts, which allows AWS customers to operate on prem and in the cloud using a single AWS control panel or one from VMware if customers prefer. That is the kind of cloud vision that Larry Ellison might have put forth, but Jassy didn’t necessarily see it as going after Oracle or anyone else. “I don’t see Outposts as a shot across the bow of anyone. If you look at what we are doing, it’s very much informed by customers,” he told reporters at a press conference last week.

AWS CEO Andy Jassy at a press conference at AWS Re:Invent last week.

Yet AWS didn’t reserve its criticism just for Oracle. It also took aim at Microsoft, taking jabs at Microsoft SQL Server, and also announcing Amazon FSx for Windows File Server, a tool specifically designed to move Microsoft files to the AWS cloud.

Google wasn’t spared either when launching Inferentia and Elastic Inference, which put Google on notice that AWS wasn’t going to yield the AI market to Google’s TPU infrastructure. All of these tools and much more were about more than answering customer demand, they were about putting the competition on notice in every aspect of enterprise computing.

Upward growth trajectory

The cloud market is continuing to grow at a dramatic pace, and as market leader, AWS has been able to take advantage of its market dominance to this point. Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy says that AWS has been using its market position to keep expanding into different areas.

“AWS has the scale right now to do many things others cannot, particularly lesser players like Google Cloud Platform and Oracle Cloud. They are trying to make a point with the thousands of new products and features they bring out. This serves as a disincentive longer-term for other players, and I believe will result in a shakeout,” he told TechCrunch.

As for the frenetic pace of innovation, Moorhead believes it can’t go on forever. “To me, the question is, when do we reach a point where 95% of the needs are met, and the innovation rate isn’t required. Every market, literally every market, reaches a point where this happens, so it’s not a matter of if but when,” he said.

Certainly areas like the AWS Ground Station announcement, showed that AWS was willing to expand beyond the conventional confines of enterprise computing and into outer space to help companies process satellite data. This ability to think beyond traditional uses of cloud computing resources shows a level of creativity that suggests there could be other untapped markets for AWS that we haven’t yet imagined.

As AWS moves into more areas of the enterprise computing stack, whether on premises or in the cloud, they are showing their desire to dominate every aspect of the enterprise computing world, and last week they demonstrated that there is no area that they are willing to surrender to anyone.

more AWS re:Invent 2018 coverage

Techcrunch?d=2mJPEYqXBVI Techcrunch?d=7Q72WNTAKBA Techcrunch?d=yIl2AUoC8zA Techcrunch?i=RXsS9C_om3U:pCma_365NCM:-BT Techcrunch?i=RXsS9C_om3U:pCma_365NCM:D7D Techcrunch?d=qj6IDK7rITs

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Ron Miller

Amazon says Cyber Monday was its biggest shopping day ever

dims?crop=4545%2C3030%2C0%2C0&quality=85Amazon claims Cyber Monday was its biggest shopping day ever — it previously said Prime Day in July this year was its largest shopping event. Over the five days from Thanksgiving to Monday, Amazon customers bought more than 180 million items from it…

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By:

Which Is the Best Voice Assistant? Here’s What We Found

ai-assistants-features.pngIt’s still far too early to declare a winner in the ever-evolving AI assistant market, but we can at least take a look at the top contenders. Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa are currently dominating the market, but Microsoft’s Cortana and Samsung’s Bixby are making progress, as is Baidu’s Duer in China. Their ability to recognize and respond to queries is improving steadily, and while most of the assistants are fairly limited in both what they can do and where they can live, it’s likely that future Internet of Things devices will emphasize voice controls and greatly expand the currently-limited palette of actions. What Makes… Read more

MakeTechEasier?i=15MJtCCHrjU:j5XvbDlpDX0 MakeTechEasier?i=15MJtCCHrjU:j5XvbDlpDX0 MakeTechEasier?i=15MJtCCHrjU:j5XvbDlpDX0 MakeTechEasier?d=qj6IDK7rITs MakeTechEasier?i=15MJtCCHrjU:j5XvbDlpDX0 MakeTechEasier?i=15MJtCCHrjU:j5XvbDlpDX0

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Andrew Braun

Amazon warehouse workers in Europe stage ‘we are not robots’ protests


Amazon warehouse workers in several countries in Europe are protesting over what they claim are inhuman working conditions which treat people like robots. It’s the latest in a series of worker actions this year.

They’ve timed the latest protest for Black Friday, one of the busiest annual shopping days online as retailers slash prices and heavily promote deals to try to spark a seasonal buying rush.

In the UK, the GMB Union says it’s expecting “hundreds” to attend protests timed for early morning and afternoon at Amazon warehouses in Rugeley, Milton Keynes, Warrington, Peterborough and Swansea.

At the time of writing the union had not provided details of turnout so far. 

Protests are also reported to be taking place in Spain, France and Italy today. Although, when asked about strikes at its facilities in these countries, Amazon claimed: “Our European Fulfilment Network is fully operational and we continue to focus on delivering for our customers. Any reports to the contrary are simply wrong.”

The demonstrations look intended to not only apply pressure on Amazon to accept collective bargaining but encourage users of its website to think about the wider costs involved in packing and despatching the discounted products they’re trying to grab.

Spanish newspaper El Diaro reports that today’s protests by workers at Amazon’s largest logistics center in the country, in San Fernando, Madrid, mark the fourth round of strikes over working conditions in Spain.

Protestors in Madrid this morning reportedly chanted: “We will not accept discounts to our rights.”

A report by AP quotes the spokesman of the protest group in Spain, Douglas Harper, claiming that around 90 percent of workers at a logistics depot in near Madrid joined the walkout — leaving just two people at the loading bay. Though Amazon reportedly diverted cargo deliveries to its other 22 depots in the country.

Update: Amazon disputes the 90% figure. A spokesman told us: “The numbers released by the unions are categorically wrong. Today, the majority of our associates at Amazon’s Fulfillment Center in San Fernando de Henares (Madrid) are working and processing our customers’ orders, as they do every day.”

French press also reports warehouse workers striking locally, and a union representing Amazon logistics workers calling for a national strike.

In the UK the GMB Union is calling on Amazon to recognize its representation of workers, and has attacked the company for what it dubs “Victorian working practices”. 

This summer an investigation by the Union revealed ambulances had been called to Amazon’s UK warehouses 600 times during the past three financial years.

Earlier this month the Union also revealed a total of 602 reports have been made from Amazon warehouses to the Health and Safety Executive since 2015/16 — with workers reported to have suffered fractures, head injuries, contusions and collisions with heavy equipment.

It added that one report detailed a forklift truck crash caused by a ‘lapse of concentration possibly due to long working hours’.

In a statement on Wednesday announcing the Black Friday protest, Tim Roache, the GMB’s general secretary, said: “The conditions our members at Amazon are working under are frankly inhuman. They are breaking bones, being knocked unconscious and being taken away in ambulances. We’re standing up and saying enough is enough, these are people making Amazon its money. People with kids, homes, bills to pay — they’re not robots.”

“Jeff Bezos is the richest bloke on the planet; he can afford to sort this out,” he added. “You’d think making the workplace safer so people aren’t carted out of the warehouse in an ambulance is in everyone’s interest, but Amazon seemingly have no will to get round the table with us as the union representing hundreds of their staff. Working people and the communities Amazon operates in deserve better than this. That’s what we’re campaigning for.”

In a further update today the GMB Union said Amazon has not replied to a joint plea, backed by a shadow minister, for a health and safety review to reduce the hundreds of ambulance call outs to its warehouses.

Two UK MPs wrote to Amazon’s director of public policy for UK and Ireland last week to suggest a joint audit with the union and also a meeting hosted by them in parliament — to discuss the issues. But the union said Amazon has so far failed to respond.

Responding to today’s protest action, a spokesman for Amazon UK provided us with the following statement:

Amazon has created in the UK more than 25,000 good jobs with a minimum of £9.50/hour and in the London area, £10.50/hour on top of industry-leading benefits and skills training opportunities.

All of our sites are safe places to work and reports to the contrary are simply wrong. According to the UK Government’s Health and Safety Executive, Amazon has over 40% fewer injuries on average than other transportation and warehousing companies in the UK. We encourage everyone to compare our pay, benefits, and working conditions to others and come see for yourself on one of the public tours we offer every day at our centers across the UK

The spokesman declined to respond to additional questions.

In October, facing rising political pressure on its home turf after senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation targeting low rates of pay at the coal face of Amazon’s business, the ecommerce giant said it would raise the minimum wage of its US workers to $15 per hour. That change went into effect at the start of this month.

In another change to its business announced yesterday, also just before the Black Friday spending binge kicked off, Amazon reversed a decision that had been triggered by a change in Australian tax law earlier this year, when it had shuttered its US store to shoppers in the country to avoid paying a 10% levy — deciding to suck up the charge to lift a geoblock that had proved unpopular with customers.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Natasha Lomas

Amazon blames technical error for exposing customer information

dims?resize=2000%2C2000%2Cshrink___PURIMAmazon informed some of its users this morning that the company’s website may have exposed their names and email address in a way that made the information publicly accessible. Amazon chalked the issue up to a technical error and said the problem has…

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By:

Amazon’s Blowing Out Unlocked iPhone X Refurbs, Today Only


The new iPhone XS is nice, sure, but is it ~$300 nicer than last year’s iPhone X? I don’t think so. Today only on Amazon, you can get a refurbished iPhone X unlocked for $725 (64GB) or $829 (256GB), in the color of your choice. That’s roughly what you would pay for this year’s XR, and while you won’t have the latest…

Read more…

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Shep McAllister on Kinja Deals, shared by Elizabeth Zimmerman to Gizmodo

Older posts