Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Amazon is Heavily Discounting Kindle e-readers


Amazon will be announcing a number of new e-readers in the next few months and are heavily discounting a number of units in order to clear inventory. The Seattle company is now offering the Kindle Paperwhite 3 for $119.00 and the Kindle Basic Touch for $64.00. If you have your eyes on the Kindle Voyage, Amazon is selling the 3G/WIFI refurbished for $219.00, which is quite the savings since it normally costs $269.00

Final Fantasy 7 Launches on iOS


Final Fantasy 7 is very beloved and when word come out that the game was getting a remake, millions of people turned into little kids again. If you have an iPhone or iPad, the PC version of Final Fantasy 7 has just launched today.

One of the interesting things about this title is that it has been optimized for touchscreen displays and has the ability to disable the random battle system. There are built in cheat codes that can automatically level your party up, which might appeal to people who have played the game in the past and simply want to take a walk down memory lane.

Right now this game is only available in New Zealand, which is often a launching pad for Square iOS titles. It should debut in North America sometime in the next few weeks.

Amazon Announces Closure of Trade-In Program


Amazon has announced the closure of their popular Trade-in service in the United Kingdom. Currently, books, video games and other items can be traded in on Amazon's website in return for Amazon gift cards.

Starting August 31st 2015 the Amazon Trade-in program will be suspended. The company has acknowledged that all trade-in orders submitted online before 31 August 2015 will be processed as normal if dispatched them within 7 days after submission.

Amazon is now encouraging people to sell their used content directly through them, instead of offering gift cards.  If you employ the Sell on Amazon feature, you can sell in over 30 product categories across 5 European Marketplaces.  If this is something you are interested in, you can find out more here.

550,000 People Attended Comiket 88 in Tokyo


Comic book conventions in North America the last few years are less about comics and more about Hollywood hyping television and movies. Comic-Con is a fine example of this, all of the major news agencies talked about Disney, Star Wars and the Avengers. Meanwhile, in Japan things are quite different, the 88th annual Comiket just wrapped up and over 550,000 people attended the three day event.

Comiket has been running since 1975 and occurs twice a year, once in the summer and again in the winter. The emphasis is on comics, novels, and game software. All of the big manga houses are in attendance, but normally day 3 is the largest due to the self-publishers.

Over 210,000 people attended the event on the last day to check out fan-zines, fan-fiction and parodies of famous manga – starring popular characters. Around 11,500 doujin circles (groups of self-published artists) participated in the event on Sunday.

What I find interesting is how truly enamored people are with self-publishers in Japan. Comiket 88 attracted 180,000 attendees on its first day on Friday and 160,000 on its second day on Saturday and then 210,000 people on Sunday. It really shows that way more people prefer indie titles than stuff produced by the big publishing houses. Its almost the opposite here in North America where indie authors hardly ever have a presence at Comic-Con or even trade events like Book Expo America.

Twitter for dogs

Henry Conklin’s dog, Oliver, is one of those very vocal dogs who likes to try to let you know what he’s thinking. By barking. A lot. Henry says:

I decided that his thoughts and comments needed to be shared with the world. Thus the @OliverBarkBark project was born. By connecting a Rasberry Pi, a wifi dongle, and a microphone, I was able to make a system that automatically detected, filtered, and published each and every one of Oliver's deafening vocalizations.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 12.58.14

Henry has built a system around a Raspberry Pi that listens out for sounds over a certain volume, and triggers a recording when that constraint is met.


But there are things in Oliver the dog’s vicinity which are also pretty noisy, so a second, filtering step is needed. Henry says:

Oliver barking is by far the loudest thing within several miles, so the volume threshold should be sufficient. However, the recordings are still triggered occasionally by unwanted junk. To guard against this, I needed to perform a second step to filter the barks from the junk.

I took a machine learning approach to filter out the barks. I built a model using the pyAudioAnalysis library and around a day's worth of barks (about 20). I then set up a bash script to run every ten minutes, classify each recorded sound, and forward the barks on to the next step.

The output is forwarded to the Twitter API, where they’re published by an account called @OliverBarkBark. Right now, a random string of barks, woofs, howls, and ruffs are published, but Henry is looking at adding some more sophistication by designing a dog-to-text translator which will say “bark” when Oliver barks, “ruff” when Oliver ruffs, and “woof”…you get the idea.


All the code you’ll need to replicate the scheme in your own house (you’ll need a dog first) is available on Henry’s GitHub at Thanks Henry, and please give Oliver a biscuit for us.

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