Fully Automated Small Screen Luxury Communism: Amazon is making a TV show out of Iain Banks's Culture novels

The late, lamented Scottish writer Iain Banks (previously) was several kinds of writer, but one of his main claims to fame is his role in developing the idea of fully automated luxury communism, in his beloved Culture novels, a series of wildly original space operas about a post-singularity, post-scarcity cooperative galactic civilization devoted to games, leisure, and artistic pursuits, populated by AIs, city-sized space cruisers, spy networks, and weird bureaucracies. Read the rest

I would replace my Kindle Voyage with a Kindle Voyage

I mistakenly left my e-reader, a Kindle Voyage behind, in a hotel room last weekend. Faced with with the fear of having lost my most favored device, I pondered its replacement. Read the rest

Fedex bought a company that stored 119,000 pieces of scanned customer IDs in a public Amazon cloud server, shut the company down, left the scans online for anyone to download

Fedex acquired a company called Bongo International in 2014; Bongo specialized in helping North American companies sell overseas and after the acquisition, Fedex renamed the company FedEx Cross-Border International. Read the rest

Amazon patent could lead to downturn in workplace masturbation

A recent patent awarded to pudding home delivery juggernaut Amazon, reveals that the company is investigating the possibility of equipping their warehouse staff with hardware capable of tracking their hand movements.

According to the patent filing, first reported on by Geekwire, the tech would come in the form of bracelets that can track users movements as they go about their work. The bracelet could use the location of an employee inside of a given area, and the orientation of the worker's hands, to assist them in locating items on warehouse shelves. To do this, the bracelet would vibrate to indicate where to move their hands in order to find the item that they're looking for. All of this is in the name of speedier order fulfillment for Amazon's gazillions of customers, being forced to don a wearable like this while you're at work presents some potential privacy and health concerns.

Amazon's already got a reputation for pushing their workers to their limits when it comes to order fulfillment. As part of their report on this story, The Guardian points out that back in 2016, a BBC investigation uncovered the fact that the Amazon's employees are pushed to their emotional and physical limits in an effort to meet the company's efficiency standards. Being forced to wear a device that tracks your every move for efficiency like this bracelet's technology could, would likely add to the feels of anxiety that many of Amazon's employees likely experience on a daily basis. As for privacy, you've got to wonder if a wearable like this could track your movements in the washroom. Read the rest

Amazon's useless "transparency reports" won't disclose whether they're handing data from always-on Alexa mics to governments

Amazon was the last major tech company to issue a "transparency report" detailing what kinds of law-enforcement requests they'd serviced, and where; when they finally did start issuing them, they buried them on obscure webpages deep in their corporate info site and released them late on Friday afternoons. Read the rest

Camperforce: Laura Poitras documentary on the elderly precariat nomads who keep Amazon's warehouses working

Last September, I wrote about Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, Jessica Bruder's important, fascinating book-length investigation into the Americans who live on the road out of economic necessity, including the Camperforce, a precariat army of retirees who saved carefully all their working lives, only to be bankrupted in the 2008 financial crisis who travel from Amazon warehouse to Amazon warehouse, filling in as seasonal and temp workers on gruelling, 12-hour shifts that leave them in pain and with just enough money to make it to the next stop. Read the rest

Guy shipped gifts to homeless people

Viral marketing agency head Rob Bliss used Amazon's same-day delivery service to sent gifts of shoes, long johns, and other much-needed items to some people living on the cold streets of New York City.

He writes: "I'm sure this technique could be used with Postmates or whoever else too. I simply wanted to demonstrate how easy and convenient it can be to bring a person in need, what they need, and to encourage that behavior." Read the rest

Prismatic Lazy Glasses actually work, pretty much

I can't remember quite how I came to be in possession of a pair of these Prismatic Lazy Glasses (Amazon), but the most shocking thing about them is they actually work. You put them on, lie down completely prone, and can see at a 90° angle: perfect for watching TV (or reading) in bed without sitting up or craning one's neck.

The effect is not perfect. They create tunnel vision, and the imperfect build quality of the glasses and presumably the mirrors results in more eye strain that you'd normally experience. (Though certainly less than I experience with VR)

Whether eye strain wipes out the advantage of bodily relaxation is for you to decide; my only problem is falling asleep during practically everything.

Note that the link here is to a well-reviewed model from Amazon I assume is identical to the pair I have. I can't imagine there are vast quality differences between different brands of $10 lazy specs, but you never know. Read the rest

Watch this interview with Amazon's Jeff Bezos from 1999

In 1999, 60 Minutes "wangled an invitation" to visit Jeff Bezos at his humble Seattle office. Amazon was just five years old at the time but already had a stock market value of $30B. They sent correspondent Bob Simon to Amazon's headquarters which was located near a pawn shop and a "porno parlor." Simon likened the space to a "college dorm" and gave billionaire Bezos a hard time about his desk (a door with 4x4 legs) and his car (a modest Honda sedan).

Is it me or does Simon seem to be mocking Bezos?

(reddit) Read the rest

Chicago offers to give Amazon the taxes that Amazon's workers pay

In hopes of inducing Amazon to build its proposed second headquarters in Chicago, the city has offered to pay it the taxes paid by Amazon's own employees. In effect, Amazon's workers would be paying taxes to their own bosses.

Chicago and the state authorities of Illinois have jointly offered to hand Amazon more than $2bn in tax breaks, including $1.32bn of its workers’ income taxes. The scheme, known as a personal income-tax diversion, would mean Amazon workers pay full income taxes, but instead of the state getting the money to use for schools, roads and other public services, Amazon would keep it.

New Jersey's offer is less morally obscene, but even more desperate: they'll pay Amazon $10,000 for every job it creates in the state. Meanwhile, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is now apparently the world's richest person, with a fortune surpassing $100bn. Read the rest

Boing Boing Gift Guide 2017

Here's this year's complete Boing Boing Gift Guide: dozens of great ideas for stocking stuffers, brain-hammers, mind-expanders, terrible toys, badass books and more. Where available, we use Amazon Affiliate links to help keep the world's greatest neurozine online.

Review: 8bitdo's Zero, a tiny wireless game controller

8bitdo's Zero is a wee, well-made and thoroughly wonderful bluetooth game controller. I bought it by accident, thinking I'd found a surprisingly cheap wireless pad, only to learn (to my shrieking amusement) that its low price is caused by its low volume.

It really is tiny, at about 2.75" long and 1.5" high. It comes with a keychain ring and is by no means unreasonably large for this purpose:

There's a D-pad, four buttons under the right thumb, two trigger buttons and, in the middle, a start and select button. A short USB cable is provided for recharging, but it doesn't function as a USB controller. Just wireless.

It comes in white with a blue or red back; the red one has a vaguely Nintendo-esque stripe across the front, too.

That is not only works but is well-made and durable makes it an absolutely fabulous stocking stuffer for people who play games -- especially given that it's compatible with virtually everything that hosts bluetooth, including Android, iOS, Windows and MacOS, and Linux/RetroPi. There's even a remote shutter mode for cameras, though I didn't test it.

It's not plain sailing all the way, though. Pairing it with my MacBook was easy, but it took a couple of attempts on my Windows 10 Zotac ZBox. Moreover, it lost its connection twice in a month, requiring unpairing and re-pairing to get working again.

Part of the problem is the inadequate instructions for shifting it between compatibility modes that apply to each system. Read the rest

Hackers can freeze the camera that lets you know whether your "Amazon Key" equipped door is locked and who is using it

Security researchers from Rhino Security Labs have shown that it is trivial to disable the Amazon Cloud Cam that is a crucial component of the Amazon Key product -- a connected home door-lock that allows delivery personnel to open your locked front door and leave your purchases inside -- and have demonstrated attacks that would allow thieves to exploit this weakness to rob your home. Read the rest

Makers of bizarrely long-legged teddy bear respond

The Joyfay Giant Teddy ($109, Amazon) is described as "6½feet" and appears in pictures as an adorably chubby furry friend for young and old alike: "offers more huggability than your average bear!" declares the product description.

But upon receipt, buyers report, the toy is not quite what they expected. It is, as promised, "6½ feet". As spotted by Twitter user cooltonedcutie, it's mostly limbs.

"I was expecting a the bear to be huge because it's 6.5 ft right?" writes "Amazon Customer". "No, all of its height is from its legs and the legs are longer than its upper body."

But others say the freakish furry is just adorable — a position its creators at Joyfay are quick to concur with.

"We first began selling giant teddy bears because we noticed a large spike in demand around Valentine’s Day for these items on Google Trends," writes Nikola Matic, who cofounded the company while completing a PhD program at Case Western Reserve University. "At this time, this was a present almost exclusively given to girlfriends and wives. It was often given from boyfriends or husbands that traveled frequently or were deployed overseas as a sort of surrogate boyfriend. As such, the proportions of the teddy bear were closer to an adult humans than to tiny teddy bears."

Adds Matic:

In the years since, a demand has grown for these giant teddy bears as a gift for children, for birthdays, and even at Christmas. With that change in demand, there was a desire for the bears to have the proportions of a smaller teddy bear.

Read the rest

Amazon Alexa turned me into a prepper

My home is lightly blanketed with Amazon Echo Dot listening stations. I tried to use Alexa, the digital assistant to re-order my favorite black tea. Now I am ready for the zombie apocalypse. Read the rest

Amazon Key: new service bathes your home in evil red glow as strangers enter it

Let the right one in. The Verge: "Amazon Key is a new service that lets couriers unlock your front door."

The service is called Amazon Key, and it relies on a Amazon’s new Cloud Cam and compatible smart lock. The camera is the hub, connected to the internet via your home Wi-Fi. The camera talks to the lock over Zigbee, a wireless protocol utilized by many smart home devices.

When a courier arrives with a package for in-home delivery, they scan the barcode, sending a request to Amazon’s cloud. If everything checks out, the cloud grants permission by sending a message back to the camera, which starts recording. The courier then gets a prompt on their app, swipes the screen, and voilà, your door unlocks.

Read the rest

Amazon customers surprised to receive delivery of 65 pounds of marijuana

A couple in Orlando, Florida ordered plastic storage bins on Amazon. When they received the bins, they were surprised to find 65 pounds of marijuana inside. Now THAT'S Amazon Prime! Police are investigating. From WFTV:

The couple said that after going back and forth with Amazon mostly by email for more than a month, they never spoke to a supervisor....

They eventually received an email giving them a $150 gift card with the message, "I am unable to do anything else at this time..."

Amazon sent a statement saying its customer service team worked directly with the customer to address concerns and will work with law enforcement to investigate the case.

(via Dave Pell's NextDraft) Read the rest

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