Category Archives: AFTVNews

Post your Questions & Topics for tomorrow’s AFTVnewscast 51

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aftvnewscast-questions-topics
I’ll be live streaming this week’s episode of the AFTVnewscast, at this link here, tomorrow at 1:30pm PT, as I do every Friday. Post your questions or topics in the comments below for me to answer and discuss during the episode. Anything goes for questions, whether it’s about the Fire TV, AFTVnews, or tech in general. Let’s hear them! Even if you can’t watch live, ask your question now and catch the episode on YouTube later.

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Fire TV parental controls can now prompt you for a PIN before launching restricted apps

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fire-tv-pin-protect-apps-parental-control
Amazon Fire TV devices have always had the option to block apps under their parental control settings. The problem was, there was no easy way for an adult to bypass the restriction without disabling parental controls entirely. The new 5.2.1.1 software update addresses this annoyance by giving users the option to simply be prompted for their PIN when trying to launch an app that is being blocked. This allows adults to easily access Fire TV apps while restricting access to children, or any user that doesn’t have the parental control PIN code.

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Under the Fire TV’s parental control settings, there is a new option called “PIN Protect App Launches.” With this option enabled, trying to launch any app will prompt the user for the parental control PIN in order to open the app. This setting affects all apps, including sideloaded apps. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to select specific apps to block.

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The option to block apps and games under the “Block Content Types” menu remains. The new option to PIN protect apps and the old option to block apps by content type are a bit redundant. The difference between the two is if the new PIN option is enabled, the Fire TV will prompt for a PIN when trying to launch an app, and if the app content type block is enabled, the Fire TV will display a message informing the user they need to adjust parental controls when trying to launch apps. Unless you never want to use apps, the new option is definitely the better of the two.

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You can now opt-out of Ad Tracking on the Amazon Fire TV

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advertiser-id-options-fire-tv

The 5.2.1.1 software update for Fire TV devices introduces a new option that allows users to opt-out of ad tracking within apps. The option can be found in a new Advertising ID menu under the System area of the Fire TV’s settings section. A setting called “Interest-based Ads” is turned on by default. If left on, Fire OS will provide an advertiser ID value, which is unique to each device, to any app that requests it. This allows advertising networks, which display ads within apps, to track a single device/user across multiple apps. There is also an option to reset your device’s unique advertising ID number.

advertiser-id-menu

Back in the early days of Android, advertisers quickly realized that each Android device had a unique Android ID number. If apps read the Android ID number and passed it along to advertisers, the advertisers could track a single device across multiple apps. This allowed advertisers to create a profile for each device based on the apps that were being used.

The main issue with this was that there was no way for users to reset or hide their Android ID, so there was no way to opt-out of this type of tracking. It was essentially a permanent tracking beacon that could not be adjusted by the device owner. To address this concern, Google added an Advertising ID option into Android. Instead of allowing apps to read the device’s Android ID, which never changes, apps could now only read the device’s Advertising ID. By allowing users the option to reset their Advertising ID number, or disable it entirely, it gave users a way to opt-out of ad tracking within apps.

advertiser-id-option

The new Fire OS option being added to Fire TV devices allows Fire TV owners the same kind of control over ad tracking within apps. This likely will not affect ads you see within the Fire TV interface, since presumably those ads are using your Amazon account as a tracking identifier, but it will affect ads within third-party apps.

advertiser-id-reset

If you don’t like the idea of one app affecting the ads you see within another app, then you can turn the new “Interest-based Ads” option off. It may seem like a no brainer to turn this feature off, but understand that the people negatively affected the most by turning off ad tracking are likely the developers of the apps that you use. Turning off ad tracking results in less interesting and less relevant ads. This reduces the ad revenue going to developers of the apps you use. I personally keep options like this turned on because it gives developers a little bit more revenue, and I’m all for helping developers of apps I use. Besides, if I have to see ads, I rather they be somewhat interesting to me personally, instead of just random noise.

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Yesterday’s Amazon device sale was not a “Fire Sale”

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not-fire-sale

Several third-party retailers, like Best Buy, B&H, Toys R Us, Sears, and others, put a large number of Amazon’s devices on sale yesterday, including the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. This caused many of you to ask if it was a “Fire Sale” meant to clear out existing stock in preparation for the release of next generation devices. While we are expecting a new Fire TV and/or Fire TV Stick to be released soon, and yesterday’s sale certainly helped clear out existing stock, I don’t believe that was its primary purpose.

I believe yesterday’s wide spread sale, which only lasted one day, was an artifact of Prime Day and Amazon’s retail sales agreements. Hardware manufacturers, like Amazon, often have some control over a third-party retailer’s sale price. This is why we often see synchronized sales where competing retailers will discount the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick for the exact same amount and for the exact same time period. These arrangements usually benefit both parties, meaning third-party retailers have some kind of assurance that the manufacturer won’t undercut the retailer’s prices. Otherwise, there’s no point for a third-party retailer to waist their shelf space if consumers can buy a product for less directly from the manufacturer.

Yesterday’s Amazon device sale at third-party retailers allowed retailers to even the playing field with Prime Day’s sale. That’s why prices were exactly the same as they were on Prime Day, down to the cent. Even odd prices, like Prime Day’s $33.33 for the Fire 7″ tablet, were available yesterday. If it were a true Fire Sale, it would have probably lasted until devices sold out. It also wouldn’t have included newer hardware, like the new Kindle that was just released a couple months ago, which was also on sale yesterday.

Last year, a couple weeks after the first Prime Day, there was a similar sale where several retailers discounted the Fire TV Stick for the same $24.99 price that it was available during Prime Day 2015. That sale also lasted for only one day, and, as you can see from the comments of that sale announcement, people speculated it to be a sale to clear stock for a Fire TV Stick 2, which never came. Note that the Fire TV didn’t go on sale that day at third-party retailers, even though we did see the Fire TV 2 revealed a month later. That was because it was not on sale during Prime Day that year.

It’s probably safe to assume we’ll see a Prime Day-equivalent sale at third-party retailers every year around this time.

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Fire TV Software update 5.2.1.1 (551203220) begins rolling out

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software-update-5211-551203220

A new Amazon Fire TV software update, carrying version number 5.2.1.1 (551203220), has just started rolling out to devices. Currently, I only have confirmation that the Fire TV 1 is receiving this update. Amazon has updated their source code notice page to include this new software version. It is listed under both the Fire TV 1 and Fire TV 2 sections, so it appears the Fire TV 2 will also be receiving this update. The Fire TV Stick section of the page has not been updated, which is a bit odd since the last 3 software updates have arrived on all devices simultaneously, so the Stick might be excluded from this update.

I have received the update on a Fire TV 1 and will begin digging through to see what changes, if any, this update brings. Judging by the small size of the update, and the small number increase from 5.2.1.0 to 5.2.1.1, I would guess this is a bug fix update that doesn’t bring any new features.

Software update 5.2.1.1 on the Fire TV 1 still has the QuadRooter vulnerability. I have run the scanning utility and all 4 vulnerabilities remain present with this new software version.

Remember, Fire TV software updates roll out slowly and it usually takes up to 2 weeks for all devices to receive a new software update, so don’t be alarmed if your device has not received this update yet. You can go into your Settings > System > About menu to force an update check, but if it’s not your device’s turn to update, there is no way to force the update or manually install it. Be sure to comment below when you receive this update and on which device. Also, please let me know if you notice any changes, new features, or bug fixes.

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Dozens of local news apps have just arrived on the Amazon Fire TV

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dozens-local-news-fire-tv-apps

Hearst Television, Inc. has just released 26 local news apps for the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. Most, if not all, of the apps offer live streams of local news broadcasts, as well as on-demand videos. They also include local weather forecasts and the latest broadcast from local meteorologists. The apps provide video snippets of news videos organized in the usual categories like local news, world news, politics, and sports. You can also search for clips and save videos for later viewing. If you don’t see your local channel on the list, it may arrive in the future if it’s one of the Hearst channels without an app yet.

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Fire TV 1 running latest 5.2.1.0 software version is vulnerable to QuadRooter exploit

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quadrooter-fire-tv-1-results

QuadRooter is a set of four new Android vulnerabilities that affect devices with a Qualcomm chipset. The first generation Fire TV running the latest software version, 5.2.1.0 (Build 550145120), is vulnerable. Running the QuadRooter Scanner app on the Fire TV 1 reveals all four vulnerabilities are present, as shown in the screenshot above. The Fire TV 2 and Fire TV Stick do not have Qualcomm chips, so they are not vulnerable to this new exploit.

QuadRooter is a privilege escalation vulnerability, which means it can be used to gain root access to a device. The Fire TV 1 running software version 5.0.5.1 and 5.2.1.0 is not currently rootable. Those of you with an unrootable Fire TV 1, who want to root your device, may want to block software updates to see if a new rooting method, that takes advantage of these new vulnerabilities, is developed in the next few weeks.

Qualcomm and Google have known about the QuadRooter vulnerabilities for several months, but their presence has only been made public a couple days ago. Google has already patched 3 of the 4 vulnerabilities in their August security update, with the fourth patch scheduled to arrive in September. Amazon incorporates Google’s patches into Fire OS, so this means it’s very likely the next Fire TV 1 software update will patch the QuadRooter vulnerabilities, closing any possible rooting methods that may come from them in the process.

Those of you who don’t care about rooting and just want to keep your Fire TV 1 safe and secure don’t need to worry too much. You have to manually sideload an infected app to be affected, so if you’re not sideloading any apps onto your device and only installing apps from the official Fire TV appstore, you should be safe because, presumably, Amazon is vetting official apps. Your device is only at risk if you’re sideloading apps from untrusted sources. If you sideload apps onto your Fire TV, you should always download APKs directly from the app developer’s original location, and not from some random source you find online.

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NFL Sunday Ticket app possibly coming to the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick

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nfl-sunday-ticket-app-leak-fire-tv

A big sore spot for Fire TV owners who are football fans is the lack of a NFL Sunday Ticket app on their devices. It looks like that may change soon because DIRECTV’s help page now lists the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick as one of the “connected devices” which are “certified for the NFL Sunday Ticket app.” It could just be a mistake, but with the 2016 NFL season just a month away, now would be the perfect time to expand the app to new devices. Amazon and the NFL just teamed up to release All or Nothing, the documentary-series that follows an NFL team through a full season, so hopefully it means the two companies are getting friendly and have plans to bring live NFL games to Fire TV devices. There’s already an NFL Sunday Ticket app available for Amazon’s Fire tablets, so it wouldn’t take much to port that app over to the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. Thanks Ozzie F. for letting me know about the help page!

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Amazon announces fall premiere dates for their original shows

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amazon-studios-movie

Amazon had a busy day yesterday at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills where stars, producers, directors, and executives spent the day talking to press about Amazon’s upcoming original shows. In addition to confirming the title of Woody Allen’s highly-anticipated first TV show to be Crisis in Six Scenes, they revealed their full fall lineup of original shows, along with their premiere dates. September is looking to be a month of comedies for Amazon, with One Mississippi, Fleabag, and the third season of Transparent all premiering in September. October will premiere shows with a more serious tone, like Goliath and Good Girls Revolt, with the second season of The Man In the High Castle premiering near the end of the year on December 12, where Amazon says the mysterious figure known only as “the man in the high castle” will be revealed. Read on for the full list of upcoming shows and premiere dates, as well as new trailers and sneak peak videos that have just been released.

September 9, 2016: One Mississippi

September 16, 2016: Fleabag

September 23, 2016: Transparent (Season 3)

September 30, 2016: Crisis in Six Scenes

October 14, 2016: Goliath

October 28, 2016: Good Girls Revolt

November 11, 2016: Red Oaks (Season 2)

December 9, 2016: Mozart in the Jungle (Season 3)

December 16, 2016: The Man in the High Castle (Season 2)

SourceDEADLINE

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Amazon Fire TV Stick on sale for $24.99 and Voice Remote Bundle for $34.99 at Best Buy

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fire-tv-stick-sale

Best Buy currently has the Amazon Fire TV Stick on sale for $24.99 and the Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote for $34.99. Both of those prices match the recent Prime Day price that sold out and is the lowest the Fire TV Stick has ever been. If you use Visa Checkout to pay, you’ll receive an additional $10 off, making this a ridiculously good sale.

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