Several readers followed up on our review of the Amazon Fire tablet. Their comments led us to discover some features we didn't know about.
One reader was confused when he first tapped the "Books" tab on the home screen of his Fire. It looked like he had to join Kindle Unlimited to get books. But you don't.
It's free for 30 days, then it's $10 a month.
Kindle Unlimited gives you a rotating library of 10 books, audio books, magazines or some combination of all three. We noticed they have The Economist magazine, which is normally $189 a year. If we let our subscription drop, we could get it for $120 a year plus nine other magazines or books.You can keep each item as long as you want, but if you go over 10 of them, you have to return one.
One reader described the Kindle Unlimited book offerings as "a hodgepodge." He's right. The majority are self-published books. Publishing on Amazon is free and open to anyone, though they take 30% of the sale price on most books, and more for large ones. However, Kindle Unlimited does include some best-sellers, such as the Harry Potter series. Search on "top-rated Kindle Unlimited books" to find more.
Here's another tip we just discovered: If you buy an electronic book you don't like, you have one week to return it. Go to Amazon.com, click on "Returns and Orders" and find the return link.
The Fire tablet ranges from $50 for a 7-inch version to $150; the cheapest iPad is $329. One reader agreed with us that reviewers who downplay the Fire tablet are "computer snobs," looking at specs the average person couldn't care less about.
A FULL VIEW
Matterport Capture from Matterport.com is a free iPhone/iPad app for interior decorators, contractors, real estate agents, or anyone who wants to show off a home. As you stand in the center of a room and turn with your iPhone or iPad, the program will make a 3-D panorama of your surroundings.
Chief Executive Officer R.J. Pittman gave us a demonstration online, showing how he created an escape room for his son to play with. The app lets you create tags all around the room, which in this case were clues on how to escape. It can also provide a "dollhouse view" that lets you see a room from above.
If you go to Matterport.com, you can see digital twins of sites all over the world, like the inside of the Rosa Parks bus, a historic Ford plant in Detroit, and Taliesin West, the retreat of Frank Lloyd Wright, among others.
What if you caught a big fish and wanted a caption on your photo of it? A reader asked us how to do it on the iPhone, then figured it out himself.
He thought it would be great to have his wife's emergency information on his fish photo, then save it to his phone's lock screen. That way, if he were in an accident, a responder could look at his phone and call his wife, without having to unlock it. His wife followed suit, adding his information on hers. Here's what they did:
Tap the icon for the Photos app and choose a photo. In the upper right corner, tap "Edit." Then tap the three small dots. Select "markup." Tap the plus sign. Tap "text." Type in your information. Tap "done." Then tap the "share" icon, which looks like a piece of paper with an up arrow. Scroll up and tap "wallpaper" to save it on your home screen or make it your lock screen. For more detailed instructions, search on "How to add text to a photo in photos app iOS13 iPhone."
On an Android phone, tap the Photos app, choose a photo, tap the icon at the bottom with three barbed lines. Tap the squiggly icon and then the capital T for text. Type in your text. Tap "done" and "save a copy." To save it as a lockscreen, tap "Gallery" and choose your photo. Tap the three vertical dots or three lines and choose "use as" and then tap "Gallery Go" and/or "set as lock screen and wallpaper."
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Facebook announced that it's getting close to being able to translate one computer language to another. This is a biggie.
It cost a bank in Australia $750 million to translate its COBOL code to Java, and it took five years, according to ZMEScience.com. It was important because there is a diminishing number of programmers who know COBOL, which was developed more than 50 years ago. Over 95% of automatic teller machines run on COBOL, as well as 80% of in-person transactions.
Facebook's artificially intelligent program, a kind of robot, learned how to translate one language into another through trial and error, starting with 2.8 million open-source projects. Its best results came from translating from Java to C++ with about 92% accuracy. It translated from C++ to Python with about 67% accuracy and from C++ to Java with about 75% accuracy. It hasn't tackled COBOL yet, but it's getting there.
Researchers in Australia were able to download 1,000 high definition movies in one second, according to a report by the BBC.
A "micro-comb" replaces about 80 lasers in modern fiber-optic equipment to reach speeds of 44.2 terabits per second, according to open access scientific journal Nature Communications. In other words, equipment we already have in the ground can be augmented to provide the systems of the future. Researchers see applications in self-driving cars, finance, education and medicine. We would guess you can add military applications to that.
Bob and Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.