This week, lots of news from Amazon about new products and new jobs in Canada, the gentle curve of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live, Cory Doctorow’s virtual book tour, and the video game Wasteland 3.
Amazon announces eight new devices, plans to hire 3,500 in Canada
Yesterday, Seattle-based Amazon announced that it expects to hire 3,000 people in Vancouver and 500 in Toronto, which will be added to the 21,000 people currently employed in Canada.
The Vancouver staff will ultimately be working out of a new downtown facility that is being developed at the site of the former Canada Post centre. In Toronto, the company is expanding to a new office tower on York Street.
This news came the weekend after Amazon rolled out eight new tech products, including new Echo speakers, Fire TV Sticks, and Eero mesh WiFi systems.
The new Echoes are spherical, and include a new Echo ($130), a new Echo Dot ($70), and an Echo Dot with a clock ($80). The Echo and Echo Dot will be released on October 22, while the Echo Dot with the clock comes out on November 5.
Coming later is a new Echo Show. The third-generation device, which has a 10.1-inch high-definition display, will be priced at $330, and can be used for teleconferencing as well as watching videos from Amazon Prime and Netflix.
There are two new Fire TV Sticks, both of which are Alexa-enabled. The Fire TV Stick ($60) with a remote you can use to control your TV and the Fire TV Stick Lite ($50) which leaves out the TV control. The new Fire TV Sticks are available now.
Amazon also created chatter last week with two other announcements:
Among the new Ring devices is the Ring Always Home, which has a small camera drone that can fly around your home, but there’s no release date and we don’t know if the device will be available in Canada.
The second announcement was about Luna, Amazon’s new game streaming service that will compete with Stadia and Xbox Game Pass, but it’s not available in Canada at this point.
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live curve right into your ear
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live earbuds when listening to podcasts and taking calls, and I think they are dandy.
The earbuds are equipped with active noise cancellation (ANC), which you can turn on and off with a long touch on the earbud. You can also easily answer calls and pause and start playback with a tap.
The sound quality is great, delivering rich music and also clear calls. And in the calls I made to others, everyone heard me just fine.
The $250 earbuds work with Samsung’s devices, with computers, and also with iPhones, and what distinguishes them from other true wireless wearables is their bean shape, which happens to curve nicely into most ears.
I say most ears, because as with all earbuds, the Galaxy Buds Live work as well as they fit. And that depends on the actual shape of your actual ears. They fit okay in my ears, but tended to shift out of place if I moved around too much or was talking a lot and moving my jaw.
I know I’ve got shallow ears, so this was not a surprise to me, and it will not be an issue for most people.
What’s different about Cory Doctorow’s virtual book tour
Cory Doctorow has a new book coming out. The Canadian author, intellectual and consumer rights advocate – he’s a key staffer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation – and all around smart guy has come up with his own unique way of doing things that everyone else is also doing, so his virtual book tour looks different than others.
Attack Surface is being published in Canada and the U.S. by Tor Books, and like all books Doctorow has written, the electronic version is being released without any digital rights management (DRM) attached.
For the audio versions of his books, he insists on keeping the digital locks off, which is why none of them are available on Audible (which requires DRM) and which, according to Doctorow, controls 90% of the audiobook market.
So he produced it himself, and to help fund it he’s running his first ever Kickstarter.
Back to the book tour. It’s virtual, of course.
“Nobody knows what a book tour is supposed to be during a plague and in the midst of the end of the world,” Doctorow said in an update video posted to Kickstarter.
What he is doing differently is staging a lecture series, of sorts, hosted and sponsored by key independent bookstores.
There are 8 events in the series and at each event Doctorow will be joined by two notable guests.
Because these events are in support of independent bookstores, each event requires the purchase of a copy of Attack Surface. Because most people don’t need more than one copy, and because many of us want to see all of these events, Doctorow – in line with his philosophy of doing the right thing – plans on posting all of the events for us to watch.
Note that for Canadians, the stores hosting the events won’t ship books north of the 49th, so we’ll just have to purchase our copies from Doctorow’s Kickstarter (so you can also get the audiobook!) or your favourite, neighbourhood indie bookstore.
It ain’t easy surviving the apocalypse in Wasteland 3
When it comes to tactical role-playing games, the Wasteland series leans to the hard core, and Wasteland 3 is no exception.
Developed by InXile Entertainment for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One, this game is long – the developers say 100 hours is not inconceivable – and involved. If going deep into skill trees and carefully managing loadouts for a team of characters is your thing, then Wasteland 3 is definitely your thing.
The setup of all the Wasteland games is similar. More than a hundred years have passed since Earth was destroyed by a nuclear apocalypse, and a group of lawful types called the Desert Rangers try to keep order in the wilds of Arizona and California.
In this game, a group of the Rangers travel to Colorado at the request of the “Patriarch”, whose children have risen against him. You’re being asked to quell the rebellion and get those kids in line.
It’s all presented in a third-person, top-down perspective to allow for the underlying grid to be clear, as all combat relies on it. When you’re engaged with an enemy, action is turn-based by team, so rather than act as individual characters, you choose the movements and actions of your entire team.
This is a post-apocalyptic world, so you need to be careful with resources like ammunition and medical supplies, and you’ll have to create and activate characters on your team so they complement each other.
Be warned that you should carefully consider your decisions, because what you decide, and what your characters are and aren’t able to do, fundamentally shape the game you play. There are characters you can convince to join you as companions that will change the outcome, and entire areas that you might not be able to use depending on what you do.
Wasteland 3 is not the easiest game to play, and it requires a player who is willing to devote time and attention to its systems. The faint of heart need not apply.