NSW Rural Fire Service takes out ad in New York’s Times Square to thank Australia’s firefighters- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service has taken over New York City’s Times Square to thank firefighters for fighting the bushfires back home through a donated billboard.
The bushfires started in June 2019 and have already burned more than 10.7 million hectares (26m acres), killed almost a billion animals, destroyed over 5,900 homes and buildings, and claimed 29 lives.
The billboard, created by Wunderman Thompson and donated by Silvercast, the 77-foot ‘Godzilla’ billboard is intended to send a message of thanks to all the firefighters and those who support them around the world.
The 15-second installation transforms Times Square’s usual bright lights into a to-scale fire front.
Engulfing in flames, the 20 metre-high digital billboard reveals the words: “Imagine fighting a bush fire higher than this billboard. Thank you to the brave Australian and US firefighters defending Australia. And to the world for all your support.”
“We’ve seen incredible support from all areas – from individuals, big corporations, our overseas firefighting partners and the community, so when we were offered this free ad space we thought it was a chance to return the favour and say ‘thanks’,” said Anthony Clark, the director of corporate communications at NSW Rural Fire Service.
“The support has been amazing – it’s a small sign of gratitude on a big scale.”

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Domino’s UK seeks CMO to fire up growth as Emily Somers exits- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Domino’s Pizza UK is on the hunt for a brand boss following on from the departure of its first chief marketing officer Emily Somers after just seven months in the job.
Whoever takes the hotseat will be faced with reviving the company’s sales in an extremely crowded takeaway market and nurturing the brand against a backdrop of ongoing operational issues.
Somers, who headed up marketing for McDonald’s in the UK before joining Domino’s, was hired by the company in August to oversee sales, brand marketing, product development and innovation, reporting into now-departed chief executive David Wild.
Tempemail understands Domino’s is set to directly fill the top marketing vacancy following her resignation. A spokesperson said: “Emily has decided to leave Domino’s and we wish her the very best of luck for the future. We’ll announce her successor in due course.”
Somers declined to comment.
It’s believed the marketer had already kicked off a brand strategy review, designed to make the business less reliant on deals in its marketing and play up to its unique strengths – including its shareability and ownership of the customer experience via tools like its ‘Pizza Delivery Tracker’.
Whoever steps into her shoes will likely take ownership of this fresh blueprint, but they will also have to navigate the myriad of challenges the business is facing from the boardroom down.
Operational woes
The pizza purveyor has close to 1,200 sites across the UK and Ireland which deliver a combined 100 million pizzas each year, the equivalent to more than six every second. However, the UK-listed arm of the global business is currently undergoing a period of flux.
Its chief marketer position now joins chief executive, chairman and chief financial officer on the brand’s open vacancies list and its “complex” long-running battle with franchisees (who want a bigger slice of its profits to offset their rising costs) remains ongoing in the UK.
Elsewhere, overambitious expansion into international markets including Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Iceland have incurred losses, forcing the business to withdraw and focus on its core market.
Earlier this month, Domino’s like-for-like sales growth slowed to 3.9% from 4.5% on-year for the quarter in the UK. ROI fell 1%, compared with a rise of 7.5% on-year. The FTSE 250-listed firm made a pre-tax profit of £30.5m for the first six months of the 2019 compared with £41.7m in the year-earlier period. On an underlying basis, pre-tax profit fell 7.4% to £42.3m, hit by challenges in the group’s international operations.
Standing out in a crowded market
Analysts suggest that despite growing competition from aggregators like Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat – all of which offer a wide variety of cuisine for delivery and takeaway – Domino’s operational issues have come at a cost to not only its business but its brand and customer experience.
Last year, the brand unveiled a new proposition from VCCP, which won its £10m UK ad account from Iris in 2017.
Its most recent marketing campaign has sought to position the chain as the official sponsor of nights in, subverting the fear of missing out (AKA fomo) with a new sensation it calls ‘Jomo’, or the joy of missing out. Under a new brand lead, and strategy, it’s very likely this proposition will be rejigged to better reflect Domino’s position in a space crowded by choice.
In 2010, Domino’s offset a sales droop by improving its online ordering tech, investing money into its in-house team to become a “technology-enabled, nimble, category-disrupting machine”. With competitors like Pizza Hut set on toppling its crown consumers could see improvements made to its app and website to stave off another slump.
Still, Domino’s has maintained its monopoly on the UK pizza delivery market and with a 57% positivity rating in the UK and an engaged millennial consumer base there is still an opportunity for it to grow its share and boost sales in the meantime.

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Google’s holiday rental service under fire as 40 rivals urge EU antitrust action – Benchmarking Change- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Alphabet unit Google faces the risk of more EU antitrust problems after 40 rivals on both sides of the Atlantic accused it of favouring its own vacation rental service on its search engine and urged European Union enforcers to take action.
The 40 companies and trade bodies in nine EU countries, Switzerland and the United States, which include eDreams Odigeo, Expedia and Tripadvisor, laid out the case against Google in a letter to EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager seen by Reuters.
“We see strong indications of a competitive strategy for Google to reduce us and our industry to mere content providers for the ‘one-stop-shop’ of Google’s new product,” the letter said.
In focus is Google’s prominent display of its product at the top of its general search results pages, jazzed up with pictures, a map review, ratings and prices.
“Such favourable ranking and display secures Google’s service more user attention and clicks than any competing service may acquire, even if these are more relevant for the user’s search query,” the letter said.
One of the signatories, who declined to be named, has taken the further step of filing a complaint with Vestager.
The letter came as Google gears up for a legal battle on Wednesday against the first of three antitrust fines levied by Vestager for using its dominance to promote its price comparison shopping service, squeezing out smaller rivals.
The Commission said it had received the letter, but declined comment on receipt of the complaint.
Google said its search results aim to provide users with the most relevant information.
“We’re currently testing a new format for specialist searches in Europe, including jobs, local and travel, where people might see a carousel of links to direct sites across the top of the search results,” a spokeswoman said.
“This is designed to demonstrate the range of results available.”
The company started including vacation rentals in hotel search results in 2018. The Financial Times was the first to report the letter.

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FIFA is under fire again for loot box gambling with two lawsuits filed in France – Blog – 10 minute

In context: Despite their controversial nature, loot boxes in video games continue to be a thing. Companies make millions from transactions that do not guarantee anything of real value. Likewise, governments and individuals continue to fight game makers over the stained mechanic.
The battle over the ethics of using loot boxes in video games continues as two new lawsuits have been filed in France against EA. The separate cases both target the publisher’s FIFA franchise alleging that the microtransactional system in its Ultimate Team mode (FUT) is a form of unregulated gambling.
The suits claim that to have any chance of winning in FUT, users must purchase player bundles that are randomly generated. Furthermore, one of the lawyers contends that the system is rigged in such a way that it encourages players to spend more money to up their chances of getting a star player.
“The developers of this game mode have created an illusionary and particularly addictive system,” attorney Victor Zagury told French sports-news outlet L’Équipe. “The more you pay, the more you have the possibility of getting big players.”

Zagury claims his client spent over 600 euros in five months without receiving a “big player.” He adds, “We believe that a gambling game has been integrated into this video game because buying packs is nothing more than a bet. Today, an 11 or 12-year-old teenager can, without any restriction, play FUT, and commit money because there is no parental control system in this mode.”
Zagury’s client says that the best player his €600 investment got him was some unheard of nobody. He admits that he is addicted to loot box gambling. He also claims that he knows people who have spent thousands of euros on FIFA Ultimate Team player packs, which is not unheard of in the game.
Loot boxes in video games have always been a hot button issue with gamers and governments alike. Several countries have deemed the controversial mechanic a form of illegal gambling. Yet companies such as EA consider it both legal and “ethical.” The ESRB has also sided with developers saying that it cannot consider loot boxes gambling as players do receive something of value for their money even if they “don’t want” it.
It would seem that the only way that game makers would abandon the system is if players collectively quit buying loot boxes, but that is not likely to happen.

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Intel’s blockbuster results lift shares to dotcom peak, fire up sector – Finance – Cloud – Hardware- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Intel Corp’s shares hit their highest in nearly two decades on Friday after cloud computing demand fired up the chipmaker’s data center business and allayed concerns of market share loss to rival AMD, lifting stocks across the sector.
At least 15 brokerages raised their price targets on Intel’s stock, with J.P.Morgan making the most aggressive move by boosting its target by US12 to US80, well above the median price target of US65.
Revenue at Intel’s data center business jumped 19 percent and sales to cloud computing providers surged 48 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter.
“We think Intel is benefiting from an improving macro economic climate versus company specific improvements at this time,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Mitch Steves said, adding that he expects strong results from data center rivals AMD and Nvidia.
Shares of AMD, which will report earnings next week, rose 1 percent to a record high. Nvidia shares were also up 1 percent. European chipmakers ASML Holding NV and STMicroelectricals NV rose almost 2 percent.
Intel’s stock was up 8.6 percent at US68.75, a level it has not seen since the peak of the dotcom boom in 2000, propelling the broader Nasdaq and the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor Index to record highs.
Other major chipmakers such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) and Texas Instruments have also given upbeat forecasts this month, cementing hopes of a rebound in the market that fell nearly 12 percent in 2019, according to research firm Gartner.
However, Intel has struggled with delays in its 10nm chip technology, losing its lead to rival TSMC in the race to supply to the “new data economy”, which includes 5G, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence.
AMD has partnered with TSMC to launch several new products based on the smaller 7nm design. Intel said on Thursday it would release nine 10nm products this year and launch its lead 7nm product next year.
“We continue to expect competitive headwinds to impact Intel’s server and PC CPU strongholds over the next few quarters, as AMD continues its onslaught on Intel’s hegemony,” Morningstar analysts said.
Intel has also been facing a shortage of PC chips, and the company said it would boost its capacity to make such chips, in a sign that the manufacturing woes that plagued chipmakers over the past year were starting to ease.

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Journalism under fire – Reuters Institute Digital News Report – Blog – 10 minute

The Committee to Protect Journalists and other press freedom activists hold a candlelight vigil in front of the Saudi Embassy to mark the anniversary of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Wednesday evening in Washington, U.S., October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger.

This forward looking essay by Meera Selva supplements the Journalism, Media and Technology Trends and Predictions 2020 report. See menu for other such essays.

Politicians’ Attacks on Journalism
Journalists in 2020 will have to talk direct to their audience, to convince their viewers and readers that they are impartial, trustworthy, and deserving of support when politicians attack. The majority of the digital leaders surveyed say that news media should do more to call out misleading statements and half-truths by politicians. But to be able to do so effectively, they have to protect their independence and their connection with the public.
Governments, either tetchy or empowered, feel entitled to attack journalists as never before. Taking their cue from the President of the United States, political leaders are lashing out at journalists, with the assumption that they have the support of the public in doing so.
Journalists find themselves being trolled by activists from all sides of the political spectrum, subject to online attacks and accusations of bias and partisanship. Journalists, particularly women, must routinely cope with being abused and having their work distorted online.
And these attacks will go mainstream as more and more leaders, emboldened by Donald Trump, but also by Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Narendra Modi in India, and several governments in the European Union and across the world, normalise a culture of criticising and undermining journalists on social media. In Europe journalists warn of particularly virulent levels of trolling from far-right groups, who combine attacks on journalism with concerted misinformation campaigns.
Covering Protests and Polarised Politics
The role of journalists covering large-scale protests and demonstrations will also grow more complicated, as they become seen not as neutral observers but either participants and activists themselves, or somehow allied to the authorities the protestors are demonstrating against.
Journalists have been pepper-sprayed, teargassed, and detained by police in Hong Kong and are likely to continue to come under assault there as protests continue into 2020. The protestors, while largely supportive, are also suspicious that journalists are trying to reveal their identities to the authorities. In Bolivia they are under attack from the public and from police: a trend that will be seen more countries.
Even in long-standing liberal democracies, journalists are under attack from all sides of the political spectrum, with politicians and activists questioning the impartiality even of broadly trusted news media like public service broadcasters such as the BBC and Japan’s NHK, and populists of different persuasions painting ‘the media’ as part of an out-of-touch elite establishment.
Authorities Limiting Freedom of Expression
A raft of legislation ostensibly aimed at curbing misinformation and hate speech is likely to add an extra burden on journalists already battling vexatious defamation and libel suits. In the last year Russia and Singapore have both passed laws, ostensibly aimed at curbing misinformation, that put pressure on platform companies to monitor posts, and several other countries including Nigeria are likely to follow suit with similar laws this year.
There will also be a battle for access to public information and data. Journalists are braced for a slow erosion of Freedom of Information laws, undermining their access to information that should be widely available. This is likely to be accompanied by a tightening up of national security legislation, making it easier for governments to deem materials too sensitive to be released into the public domain.
But the biggest threat of all is silence. Governments around the world have begun hitting the mute button when the noise gets too loud, shutting off the internet when protests get too loud.
India dominates internet shutdowns. Kashmir will have been without the internet for 150 days as 2020 begins, and the government has shown it is willing to shut off the internet even in the capital city of Delhi amid protests against the new Citizenship Amendment Act and a proposed Tempemail Register of Citizens.
Meanwhile journalists in several sub-Saharan African countries are finding that new regimes can be as willing as the old to try to silence the national conversation. In Sudan, president Omar al Bashir stepped down after wide-scale protests over the price of bread and fuel, but the military regime that replaced him shut the internet down to curtail the pro-democracy protests that continued even after the regime change, and may do again. Zimbabwe’s new president Emmerson Mnangagwa shut down the internet after protests and has signalled he is as willing to use this particular form of cyber censorship as his predecessor Robert Mugabe.
Even in a long-standing liberal democracy like the UK, police have shut down wi-fi access in parts of the London Underground in an attempt to disrupt action by climate change protestors, marking a significant shift in thinking.
These internet shutdowns silence the social media platforms many people use to organise and receive news and which are also vital tools for journalists themselves to collect and disseminate information.
Journalists’ Response
Journalists are responding to these threats with debates and soul-searching on how to report on populist movements, when to give the leaders a platform to speak, and when they should be ignored. They believe the key to survival is to build trust with audiences and to explain to the public how journalism works.
Newsrooms will have to learn how to better support their reporters, who routinely face harassment and threats online and in real life, accepting the toll their work takes on journalists’ mental health and personal lives.
Media organisations must find a way to defend themselves, their principles, and their distribution channels, whether that be social media platforms, airways, or news sellers. It is no longer enough to say that the reporting will speak for itself. Journalism must be protected, defended, and strengthened in 2020 at every level if it is to continue to hold power to account. Journalists must build, maintain, and strengthen their connection with the public to be able to do their job.

Meera Selva is Director of the Journalism Fellowship Programme at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and an accomplished senior journalist with experience in Europe, Asia, and Africa. She joined the Reuters Institute from Handelsblatt Global. Her previous experience includes several years at the Associated Press and three years as Africa correspondent for the Independent, along with stints in business journalism at a range of publications, including the Daily Telegraph.

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Amazon Fire TV Cube review: great smart TV box, irritating smart speaker | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

The Fire TV Cube is Amazon’s attempt to combine a smart TV streaming box with an Alexa-powered smart speaker, producing a small black box that doubles as an Echo device.
The Cube doesn’t look like anything else. The combination of shiny and matt black plastic makes it stand out at first, but the 86mm-wide and 77mm-tall cube is small enough not to be distracting sitting next to your TV.
It’s essentially a voice-controlled Echo Dot mated with a Fire TV smart television box. The top resembles an Echo Dot with the same four-way configuration of buttons for volume, muting the microphones and an action button, plus a series of holes for the eight beam-forming mics.
A light strip at the top front edge shows what Alexa is doing, lighting up blue when listening, or orange with alerts. Ports are in the back for power, HDMI for your TV (cable sold separately), an optional infrared blaster and a microUSB socket, into which you can plug the included ethernet adapter if you don’t want to use wifi to connect to the internet.
While the Cube looks neat, the tangle of cables coming out the back doesn’t, which is a shame as it has to sit out in the open to work properly as a smart speaker and to control your other devices.
Also included in the box is Amazon’s latest Alexa voice remote that ships with most Fire TV products, including the £50 Fire TV Stick 4K. It’s a simple, easy to use remote, which includes a much-welcome dedicated power button, a microphone button for talking straight into it for Alexa, plus dedicated play and volume buttons.
Very smart TV

The Fire TV interface is fairly straightforward with most options up front and voice-search across multiple services with Alexa making it easy to find what you want. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
The Cube excels as a smart TV box. The interface is fast and responsive. The home screen is fairly simple, with much of the recommended content from the likes of Prime Video, Netflix and others accessible straight from carousels in the main interface.
Dedicated media apps take care of the rest with most mainstream services in the UK supported, including All4, Apple TV (iTunes etc), BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport, ITV Hub, My5, Netflix and YouTube, through which you can also access Google Play Movies. The only notable exception is BT Sport, which may be a deal-breaker for some.
The Cube supports high-end video and audio formats that are becoming increasingly popular as part of streaming services too. On the video front you have up to 4K at 60Hz, HDR10 and HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision, meaning that essentially every mainstream HDR format is covered. On the audio side you have your standard stereo, 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound, but you also have Dolby’s Atmos format, again covering practically every base. Both Dolby Vision and Atmos are supported by Apple TV, Netflix and Prime Video.
Of course your equipment also has to support these standards to use them, but attached to an LG OLED and Denon receiver, Jack Ryan in Dolby Vision and Atmos on Prime Video looked and sounded fantastic.
What was that, Alexa?

Mute the mics and the Cube can be used just like any other Fire TV, with the button lit red to show you Alexa isn’t listening – unless you speak to it through the remote. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
As a smart speaker the Cube can’t quite match up to Amazon’s cheapest Echo devices. While it can hear you just fine, Alexa’s speech is output from the box with annoying variations in volume. It starts very quiet before returning to normal volume each time Alexa starts to speak, so you often miss what is being said. It is seriously irritating.
You can control basic things such as playback, volume and navigation in most apps. But Netflix, Prime Video and YouTube support deeper voice control, including the ability to simply request a show or movie.
Alexa can also turn things on and off, such as your TV. The Cube uses both the HDMI control and IR blasters to remote control your various entertainment devices, alongside Alexa’s smart home integration for lights and other bits.
Setting it all up was a little long-winded but fairly straightforward. Getting the TV and a Denon receiver to switch on for the Cube was easy. Adding the Sky Q and Virgin V6 boxes was a bit more laborious, requiring the additional IR blaster and pressing buttons when Alexa says so.
Once working you can changing the channel up and down, control the volume and even “tune to BBC One”. Beyond that things get a bit hit and miss. Ask it to pause or play and Alexa says “your provider couldn’t do that”, but it can fast forward and rewind. It also failed to turn off the satellite box when turning everything else off, and routinely failed to turn on the TV or the Sky Q box when commanded.
The novelty of voice control quickly turned to annoyance. I switched back to reaching for the remote for reliable control. In its current state I don’t think it’s worth persevering with.
Some of these issues will be due to the manufacturer of the box you’re trying to control, but given Logitech’s long-standing Harmony smart remote can reliably replicate practically every function of common devices, Amazon should be able to do better.
All of these playback controls and Alexa functions can be done through the voice remote too. Hold the button, talk to Alexa and it will either answer through the Cube’s speakers or your TV if on – no Alexa wake word required.

The Cube’s remote reliably controlled the volume on other devices, but most functions required reaching for the original remote as Alexa struggled. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
Observations

The blue LED strip pulses from side to side when Alexa is turning things on or off

Volume control via Alexa caused wild jumps until I manually adjusted the IR controls through the settings on the Cube

Alexa mutes your TV when it hears its wake word

“Alexa, go home” takes you back to the Fire TV interface even if you were watching Sky or Virgin

You can turn off the mics on the Cube and still use the button on the remote to talk to Alexa

Price
The Amazon Fire TV Cube costs £109.99.
For comparison, the Fire TV stick costs £39.99, the Fire TV stick 4K costs £49.99, the Nvidia Shield costs £149.99 and the Apple TV 4K costs £179.
Verdict
The Amazon Fire TV Cube is an excellent smart TV box, supporting a wide selection of apps and services, video and audio standards and with snappy, lag-free performance. It is arguably one of the best smart TV boxes available.
But it is not a good smart speaker. Irritating volume fluctuations and a decidedly average speaker make it worse than a separate Echo Dot. The home entertainment equipment control is likewise poor. It works fine enough for turning on your TV for the Fire TV interface, but is inconsistent for other devices and can’t replicate enough functionality via voice that you don’t need to routinely reach for the original remote. It’s irritating more than it is useful once the novelty has worn off.
That’s not to say Alexa doesn’t work very well at controlling the Fire TV interface, playback of shows by name and quickly jumping to a particular point in a movie. But you can do that just fine using the mic button on the remote – the same remote and capability you get with the Fire TV Stick 4K which costs less than half the price.
The Fire TV Cube is still significantly cheaper than most of the competition, but if you want the combo of an Amazon smart TV box and an Alexa smart speaker, buy the Fire TV Stick 4K with an Echo Dot and save £10 or more.

Pros: fast, comprehensive audio and video support, most streaming services including YouTube and Apple TV, Alexa remote, voice control of Fire TV interface
Cons: no BT Sport, variable volume output bad as a smart speaker, device control more trouble than it’s worth, more than twice the price of Fire TV Stick 4K

The back of the Cube has a microUSB socket takes the optional, but included in the box, ethernet adapter if your wifi isn’t up to scratch. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
Other reviews
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Young ad execs launch Smoggys to raise money for the Rural Fire Service in Australia- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Young ad execs from Wavemaker and Ogilvy in Australia have launched a P2 air pollution mask brand to raise money for the Rural Fire Service in Australia as bushfires continue to devastate the country.
A month ago, as the bushfires caused dangerous levels of air pollution in the country, the four ad execs created masks with a “distinctly Australian feel” via a Go Fund Me page, which hit its target last week.
The masks have designs of typically Australian objects, such as Koalas and Lamingtons.
The Smoggys brand is now launched and will aim to raise money for the fire service by donating all profits to the organisation.
Marco Del Castillo, a Smoggys Founder, said: “It is down to the support of our nation, that Smoggys has come to life as an operating business, set to make a real difference. With the fires continuing to rage, the smoke blanketing our skies and our volunteers out there giving it their all, the launch of Smoggys couldn’t have come any sooner.
“Smoggys’ aim is to protect our nation from the smoke and act as a public symbol that Aussies have come together to help and support our firies.”
The four Smoggys co-founders are Bec Drummond, Marco Del Castillo, Jack Burton and Lucas Fowler.
Australia is about to hit peak-Summer, which means that the fires are likely to continue for months and the public services and charities will need support over the long-term.
Many brands and agencies have come forward in support of charities and public services as the crisis continues. Last month DDB Australia, with the support of partners Volkswagen Group Australia, Westpac and McDonald’s, raised support for the Red Cross in Australia with a burnt Christmas Tree installation.

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Amazon is pushing Fire TV Edition to soundbars, set-top boxes, and cars this year – Blog – 10 minute

In brief: Amazon wants to integrate its Fire TV Edition experience into more devices like soundbars and car infotainment systems, as part of its plan to be at the center of your entertainment setup. The company will show off some of these devices at CES 2020, with soundbars from TCL and cars from Chrysler and BMW.
As we inch closer to CES 2020, Amazon is spilling the beans on one of its next big ambitions. By now it’s no secret the company wants to be in every modern home to govern the smart things in our lives, but it also wants inside as many cars as possible.
The idea of baking a smart TV OS into a soundbar took off with the Anker Nebula in September 2019. The $230 device is capable of 4K streaming with Dolby Vision without the need for a set-top box and comes with an Alexa-enabled remote.

Amazon has been working with TV manufacturers to get Fire TV Edition on them, but now it’s more interested in showing off new soundbars from TCL — the Alto 8+ and TS8011 — that are powered by the same software. The first is available in Canada and the US, and the other will be coming soon to most countries in Western Europe.
The company is also planning to enhance Fire TV with support for Dolby Atmos, HDMI switching, remote device control similar to Fire TV Cube, and far-field microphones for Alexa interactions.

Users will soon be able to use a soundbar to do the switching between your gaming console, Blu-Ray player, and every other device that you might want to plug into your smart TV. Amazon is essentially fighting to be the central hub for your home entertainment system through Fire TV.
Amazon says it will also push Fire TV Edition into car infotainment systems, starting with vehicles from Fiat, Chrysler, and BMW. Later this year, you’ll also be able to do things like ask Alexa to pay for gas at 11,500 Exxon and Mobil stations in the US using Amazon Pay.

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Amazon unveils a new Fire TV Cube, soundbar, and over a dozen Fire TV Edition products – gpgmail


At the big European tech trade show, IFA 2019, Amazon today announced over 20 new Fire TV-branded devices, including a next-generation Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Edition soundbar from Anker — its first foray into Fire TV Edition audio products — and 15 new Fire TV Edition products, including the first OLED Fire TV Edition smart TVs.

The announcement represents a significant expansion of Amazon’s Fire TV hardware line and integrations at a time when Roku has gained a lead over Amazon in the U.S., in terms of connected-TV market share, while Fire TV has been claiming the top spot in some European markets and an international lead over Roku.

The company today said its Fire TV devices now have over 37 million monthly active users globally, which is ahead of the 30.5 million Roku reported in Q2. Both companies offer products that may be used by more than one person in a household, of course, but each household only gets counted as one user (or account) as long as they’ve streamed through the platform in the past month. It’s a relatively fair comparison, in other words.

Of the new devices, the new Fire TV Cube is one of the more interesting additions to the lineup as it represents the second generation, and a big upgrade, over the existing product. The device offers a hands-free Fire TV experience, and has become the testing ground for many Fire TV software enhancements before they roll out to the wider product lineup.

The updated Fire TV Cube now includes a faster, “hexa-core” processor that’s twice as powerful as the one that shipped in the first generation device. It provides “instant access” to Dolby Vision and 4K Ultra HD content, Amazon claims, at up to 60 frames per second. The new Cube also includes on-device processing with Local Voice Control, which lets you more quickly execute some of your common voice commands like “Alexa, go home,” or “Alexa, scroll right,” for example. These commands will now execute up to 4 times faster, says Amazon.

The Fire TV Cube will also ship with far-field voice recognition capabilities with 8 microphones and technology that helps to suppress noise, reverberation, content currently playing, and even competing speech so Alexa better hears your voice commands even when the TV is on in a room full of people.

Customers will be able to control their compatible TV, soundbar, A/V receiver, cable or satellite box, as well as other smart home devices by way of the device’s support of multi-directional infrared technology, cloud-based protocols, and HDMI CEC, combined with Alexa. 

“Fire TV Cube was the first hands-free streaming media player powered by Alexa, and since launching last year we have gathered a wealth of feedback from customers about how they use voice in the living room,” said Marc Whitten, Vice President of Amazon Fire TV, in a statement. “Over the past year, we have continued to expand and advance the Fire TV Cube experience based on this feedback with dozens of new features including Multi-Room Music, Follow-Up Mode, and Alexa Communications. These key learnings carried over and guided the development of the second-generation Fire TV Cube, and we are excited to introduce this new-and-improved experience to customers around the world,” he said.

The new Fire TV Cube is available for pre-order in the U.S. for $119.99, in Canada for $149.99, the United Kingdom for £109.99, Germany for €119.99, and Japan for ¥14980.  It ships on Oct. 10 in all markets except Japan, where it ships on Nov. 5, instead. And it will be sold in a package with Ring Video Doorbell 2 for $249.99 (or $69 off).

Fire TV Cube Couch

Amazon’s Fire TV Edition lineup is expanding, too. This is the licensed version of the Fire TV OS available to other manufacturers for use in their own products.

The company announced more than 15 new products from brands including Skyworth, Arcelik, TPV, Compal, and others.

In partnership with Dixons Carphone, Amazon is teaming up to launch JVC – Fire TV Edition Smart 4K Ultra HD HDR LED TVs, which are the first Fire TV Edition products in the U.K. They’ll be sold by Currys PC World and online at Amazon.co.uk and are priced at £349 and up.

With IMTRON, a company of MediaMarktSaturn Retail Group, Amazon is launching a lineup of Fire TV Edition smart TVs under the private label ok. These will be available in Germany and Austria, as will the 11 Fire TV Edition smart TVs from Grundig including the first OLED Fire TV Edition television ( available in 55” and 65” models, starting at €1,299.99 for hands-free; or starting at €1,199.99 if not; pictured below). 

Grundig OLED Fire TV Edition display

Other more affordable Grundig Fire TV Edition products will be sold on Amazon.de in 32″, 40″, 43″, 49″, 55″, and 65″ variations, starting at €239.99. They’ll also come to retailers including MediaMarkt, Saturn, Euronics, Expert, EP:, Medimax, and others.

In the U.S., Amazon and Best Buy announced the first 65-inch Toshiba – Fire TV Edition smart TV with Dolby Vision, which will be available for customers in the United States next month for $599.

Finally, following Roku’s lead into home audio, Amazon also announced the first expansion of Fire TV Edition beyond the TV itself with the launch of the Nebula Soundbar from Anker. (Roku also today launched its own wireless soundbar).

The new device supports 4K Ultra HD, a unified smart TV user interface, near-field Alexa voice control, Dolby Vision pass-through, and more. It can also be added to a multi-room speaker group through the Alexa app, and comes with a 90-day trial to Amazon Music Unlimited. 

Nebula Soundbar – Fire TV Edition 4

It’s available for pre-order today for $229.99 in the United States, $269.99 in Canada, £179.99 in the United Kingdom, and €209.99 in Germany. It will begin shipping on November 21.

The expansion of Fire TV Edition-branded products is also meant to challenge Roku on the success of its Roku TV-branded television sets, which are similarly manufactured by partners but run the Roku OS.

In the U.S., Roku OS is the No. 1 licensed TV OS in the U.S. and now powers more than 1 in 3 smart TVs. Amazon is today is clearly answering that challenge by focusing on the international markets with a suite of new partners for Fire TV Edition.

 


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