Unlimited ebook subscription now at Amazon
Although it leaked a few days ahead of the official announcement, Amazon today unveiled “Kindle Unlimited.” It’s an ebook subscription service that will cost only $9.99 a month. Subscribers will gain access to more than 600,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks. You can try it for free for 30 days just like they do with Prime, but they’re also including a three month subscription to Audible and 2,000 audiobooks on its Whispersync. Not all publishing houses are represented, but evidently there is some good stuff such as Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Lord of the Rings.
And speaking of ebooks…
Raspberry Pi launches new, updated model
The new Pi is called Model B+ (not to be confused with the previous model, Model B). The new release has two more USB 2.0 ports, microSD card reader, and 14 more GPIO pins (and you know WAY more about computers than I do if you know what the pin stuff means). Apparently the composite video and audio ports have also been combined into one and, according to reports, should result in better audio. The price will stay the same at $35.
Terrifying jogging robot gets a trial run
(Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun). The scary (and not super quiet) running robot made by Boston Dynamics is now a Marine. The robot, called Big Dog, was deployed in Hawaii to be a part of RIMPAC 2014—the world’s largest international maritime war exercise. While it looks like they used it like a hauler, I don’t know about you, but if I came over a hill and was faced with an army of those things, I’d sure run for my life! Here’s a video that will haunt your nightmares:
I myself prefer this spoof which I find rather hilarious even though—and perhaps because—it’s totally stupid.
Blackest black ever sets new world record
This new black, called Vantablack, absorbs pretty much all light (minus 0.035 percent that manages to escape). It’s made from carbon nanotubes and it’s so black, if it’s covering something with lumps and bumps you won’t even see them—all you see is an apparent hole. In addition to making goths super happy, the new blackest black does have many scientific applications such as enabling astronomical cameras, telescopes and infrared scanning equipment to function better (in addition to military applications the company is staying mum on). Could it be used in clothing? Well, if you had a little black dress made from Vantablack it would cost a fortune and you’d run the risk of looking like a head, arms and legs sticking out of, well, nothing!
Apple will pay $450M in ebook price-fixing case
They’ll pay $450M with about $400M will go to consumers, according to reports of a settlement agreement on Apple’s alleged ebook price-fixing scheme. The payout will resolve the U.S. state and consumer case…but only if they lose their appeal. Apple contested the original judgment against them and that case is still pending with the Department of Justice. There’s no word on when that appeal will be decided, so we’ll have to see what happens.
Head to Home Depot for a MakerBot 3D printer
It’s only a pilot program for now, but you can get a Replicatation, Replicator Mini and MakerBot’s Digitizer 3D scanner at 12 different Home Depots across the country. And it’s not just that the printers will be there—they will be demonstrated by trained associates who will apparently give away printed items to show off what the machines can do. It’s an interesting approach to reach new customers and, as TechCrunch points out, it could be the wave of the future for getting people unusual parts…just tell them to print one!
goTenna will let you text even if you’re off the grid
I didn’t spot an interesting Kickstarter in the news this week, but did see a few stories on goTenna. goTenna is a small wireless antenna that connects to your phone via Bluetooth-LE and uses low-frequency radio waves to transmit messages between goTenna users. Their website says you can go up to 50 miles apart and still get a connection in ideal conditions (possibly farther, if you’re high up). Since they’re just bringing the product to market, they’re cutting deals for pre-orders (in their words, “early supporters”)—$150 for a pair of them, vs. the retail price of $300. This seems pretty handy if you like being off the beaten path hiking, biking or whatever.
Star Wars remade…in Minecraft
No really. A fan is recreating the original 1977 version using the block-based video game. Paradise Decay’s inspiration for making the movie is his daughter, Sarah. Sarah has a rare brain tumor, and has since she was 3 years old. She loves Minecraft and he is a huge Star Wars fan. He combined their interests and created the project as a fun distraction for both of them. The film will be free to view, but for sound you’ll need to own the movie and play it while you watch his version. His dedication—some sets took months to build in Minecraft—and creativity are to be commended, in my opinion. One hour and 10 minutes of the film are complete, so the final product should be coming soon. Here’s the trailer:
Microsoft cutting 15% of its workforce
The company announced on Thursday it plans to cut 18,000 jobs this year. It’ll be the most cuts Microsoft has ever made, but part of CEO Satya Nadella’s efforts to set the company up for the future (and reflects its absorption of Nokia). Nadella said in a staff memo, “The first step to building the right organization for our ambitions is to realign our workforce.” Other news pouring out of Microsoft this week:
• “Select Nokia X” phones into Windows-based phones, but that’s about all the product detail in there. Re/code has the full memo.
• Xbox Entertainment Studios is going to be closed. It is/was Microsoft’s original video programming effort. Two hundred employees will be out of a job and the studio closed.
• Trimming $100 off the price of the Xbox was a good move. Sales have “more than doubled” since the cut went into effect.
Become a Chromecast Master
Gizmodo has 10 tricks for becoming a Chromecast Master if you’ve got one of the inexpensive dongles.