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A Couple of Store-ees.
Over at Amazon’s Alexa Skill Store, things just got a whole lot easier for anyone who wants to distribute their content, game, or other functionality via an Echo device. Amazon has released easy tools that let “content creators, bloggers, and organizations” — in their words, “anyone” — to publish an Alexa skill in minutes. This will make customizing your Flash Briefing more fun, on the one hand, and more time-consuming, on the other, as there soon will be a LOT more options. As The Verge’s Tom Warren observes, “It will now be interesting to see exactly how Amazon controls what is and isn’t allowed in its Alexa skill store.”
Meanwhile, Apple’s new service pitch goes something like, “It’s like Spotify, but for news and magazines.” First, Amazon has been there, done that. Second, Apple wants to charge customers $10/month, but only split 1/2 of that with publishers, who aren’t happy. Apple bought Texture in a bid to take on Amazon’s Newsstand feature, and now, instead of including its news and magazine program with other Apple services or hardware users are already paying for (their phones/iPads/computers? Apple Music?), Apple wants to charge customers a separate fee, AND stick it pretty hard to the included publishers. I’m betting on the Amazon ecosystem here, which doesn’t seem to be ruffling the feathers of either its customers r the included publishers.
Open Source, Except Extreme. Open source code and licensing has been around for a really long time, but this is what it looks like when you open source really, really hard:
Facebook at 15: Watching CNN’s documentary “Facebook at 15: It’s Complicated” is a little like having a few too many during Valentine’s week and wallowing in all the ways your ex-love — who said all the right things and seemed maybe like “the one” — raked you over the coals time and again until finally you said “Enough!” and moved on. Facebook gave you Beacon and called it a bouquet, but the stems were rotten; Facebook sold you out to all those shady types, just to make a buck; Facebook groomed you to buy into opt-out, when deep down you’ve always known opt-in is the way to go; and lately, Facebook’s fallen in with a really terrible crowd. You’re more world-weary but wiser now; don’t look back.
Boosted AI: President Trump signed an executive order this week called the American AI Initiative, designed to encourage and fuel AI projects. “The administration strategy also acknowledges that artificial intelligence may cause unwelcome effects:”
“White House staff will work with regulators like the Department of Transportation and the Food and Drug Administration to consider how AI technologies such as driverless cars and software that diagnoses disease may require new or revised regulations.
Researchers, civil liberties groups, and some companies have called for new ethical norms and regulation on AI. Microsoft and Amazon have asked for new federal rules on uses of facial recognition. Google released a wide-ranging policy paper on AI in January that asks for government input on safety standards for AI-powered products and services.”
Let’s hope those American AI Initiative discussions don’t neglect children’s toys (Woobo? hoo, boy), because Chucky is about to be artificially (as opposed to merely preternaturally) intelligent.
Spotify and Starbucks have partnered to offer a 60-day trial of Spotify Premium (if you don’t want Premium for more than 60 days, don’t forget to cancel! they want you to forget to cancel!).
Do you know Peter Biddle (who co-drafted a different CSS’s license and testified as an expert in the RealNetworks case, among other things)? In addition to his illustrious background in software tools, Peter also crafts real world tools for things like rock climbing, and, perhaps, zombie hunting. This axe, for example, is also cleverly designed to open bottles and help change tires. For more such artisanal adventure gear, head over to TradLabs.
You might just need an axe for this: While the rest of the country is buried in snow, and things in general are a polar-vortexy mess, in much of California we’re either sliding or floating away. This is good for drought avoidance, but bad for the public and private property owners who can’t figure out why there’s all this water standing around that won’t drain off. Most of the time we Californians have roots in our drainage pipes and don’t know, don’t care. This winter, it matters. Learn more about rooty pipes, what you can do about them, and why climate change may be making them worse, here and here.
(Want to see all the Inbox 5K Gear recommendations? Here you go.)
Support: The Blue Marine Foundation creates marine reserves, establishes sustainable models of fishing, and restores native oysters. Why oysters? Because oysters play a huge role in keeping the oceans clean — but we're killing up to 90% of them in some areas. Donate here.
(Want to see all the Inbox 5K “Support” recommendations? Here you go.)
Sustain: Ski Sustainable slopes.
It’s an otherworldly year for snow. Below are the Utah snow pack numbers as of earlier this month, for example, with most of the state well about the normal percentage.
RootsRated offers this report card of 10 Eco-Friendly Ski Resorts That are Leading the Way for Sustainability in the U.S. While it’s awful that skiing is becoming less and less economically accessible as a sport, if you do empty your bank accounts to hit the slopes this winter, frequenting these resorts will help you feel good about some of that money being spent in worthwhile ways, rather than on mustard-magnet sheepskin chair throws in the lodge (PCMR, I’m looking at you; you didn’t make RootsRated’s list, but at least our butts will be cozy).
(Want to see all the Inbox 5K “Sustain” recommendations? Here you go.)
Imbibe/Ingest: If/when you’re not hitting the slopes this winter, the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area of Southern California is where to find sun, thrifted clothing and furniture, and one of the most delicious and quirkiest places I’ve ever had the pleasure of slurping down cevapcici. I’m talking about Alps Village, and you must go. The food is consistently, unbelievably good, with a melange of cuisines that reflects the owners’ — friends of mine — cultural heritage and background. They’re Montenegrin, and, judging by the Alps Village menu, Montenegro is a magical land replete with hofbrauhauses AND woodfired pizzarias AND goulash, paprikash, and kebabs. Alps Village has it all, and serves it up in spot that evokes John Wayne riding up to a beer garden, hitching his horse, and overseeing safe delivery of a fresh load of wagon wheels and whiskey barrels. Seeing and tasting is believing. The bar is well stocked with German beers and Montenegrin and Croatian wines, which you should sample. Grandma Milka makes heavenly bread, white cream cake, canoli, and other pastries daily — Yeehah and Va Bene, Frau Milka! More, plus photos: Palm Desert restaurant serves up a taste of the Alps. Bonus: Alps Village is right next to an Angel View resale shop.
(Want to see all the Inbox 5K Imbibe/Ingest recommendations? Here you go.)
Inbox 5K Note: endorsements, suggestions, and recommendations in Inbox 5K are unpaid unless indicated otherwise. I highlight and recommend things I like or find useful, in hope you might feel the same. Sometimes I’ll mention a company, product or service offered by a friend, acquaintance, or family; rest assured they’re not paying me or haven’t asked for placement here unless I tell you that’s the case.
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Denise M. Howell, Esq., 1048 Irvine Ave., #141, Newport Beach, CA 92663, USA