Reviews

Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee

May 24, 2011

There is something magical about getting to preview a work before it is published. You are getting to see something before (most of) the rest of the world and that makes you feel special, maybe even “better” than the rest of the plebeians who must wait for the release date. Back in April, I received a sample for Susan Ee’s new book, Angelfall. The sample contained the first 5 chapters of the book, and an invite offering to allow me to read the entirety of the novel. Being sufficiently intrigued by the first few chapters, I responded to the invite and requested a MOBI version to read on my Kindle. The kindle is such a wonderful reading tool. In addition to providing an easy reading experience, it allows for markups. So when I noticed something that seemed slightly off (or that I wanted to ask the author about), I was able to flag it to come back to later. On to the book! Let’s start with the author’s description: It’s been six weeks since the Angels of the Apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her 17 year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back. Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel. Raffe (Editor’s note: pronounced Raw-fee) is a warrior angel who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenaged girl. Traveling through a devastated California with only each other to rely on for survival, an unwanted and forbidden romance begins to bloom. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies in the hope of becoming whole again.

Review: Kindle Lighted Leather Cover

September 1, 2010

<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Lighted-Leather-Burgundy-Display-Generation/dp/B003DZ166Q/?void=fidelis” title=”[amazon] Kindle Lighted Leather Cover, Burgundy Red (Fits 6” Display, 3rd Generation Kindle)“>The <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Wireless-Reading-Display-Graphite-Globally/dp/B002FQJT3Q/?void=fidelis” title=”[amazon] Kindle 3G Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6” Display, Graphite, 3G Works Globally - Latest Generation">Kindle 3 makes for the 5th Kindle I’ve bought (previously 2 Kindle 1‘s, a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0015T963C/?void=fidelis” title=”[amazon] Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G, 6” Display, White - 2nd Generation">Kindle 2, and <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Wireless-Reading-Device-Display/dp/B0015TCML0/ref=sr_1_3?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1283354343&sr=1-3&void=fidelis” title=”[amazon] Kindle DX Wireless Reading Device (9.7” Display, U.S. Wireless)“>Kindle DX Gen 1), it also marks the first Kindle I’ve actually <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Lighted-Leather-Burgundy-Display-Generation/dp/B003DZ166Q/?void=fidelis” title=”[amazon] Kindle Lighted Leather Cover, Burgundy Red (Fits 6” Display, 3rd Generation Kindle)“>bought a case for. The Kindle 1 came with a case, albeit not a great one. For most of the life of the Kindle 2, I didn’t have one, but fairly recently I was given a beat up spare to use. I stick the Kindle in my fatigue pockets all the time, and the case makes it so I don’t have to worry about breaking another screen (did that with a K1). Since I’ve had the case on the K2, I’ve grown somewhat attached to having it. I figured it would be nice to have another… and let’s be realistic… this new case has a freaking light built in! How cool is that?!

The Kindle 3 Has Arrived!

August 27, 2010

Yesterday, much to my glee, the new <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Wireless-Reading-Display-Graphite-Globally/dp/B002FQJT3Q/?void=fidelis” title=”[amazon] Kindle 3G Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6” Display, Graphite, 3G Works Globally - Latest Generation">Kindle 3 arrived. With the Kindle 3, comes the new option of getting the <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Wireless-Reader-Wifi-Graphite/dp/B002Y27P3M/?void=fidelis” title=”[amazon] Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Wi-Fi, 6” Display, Graphite - Latest Generation">Wifi only version or a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Wireless-Reading-Display-Graphite-Globally/dp/B002FQJT3Q/?void=fidelis” title=”[amazon] Kindle 3G Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6” Display, Graphite, 3G Works Globally - Latest Generation">Wifi+3G version. As I do love my ability to buy books ANYWHERE (like when you are standing in line to board a plane), I bought the Wifi+3G version (in Graphite). In case it wasn’t already abundantly obvious, I’m very excited about this unit. I’ll admit, I’m a Kindle fanboy. After receiving and playing with it, I’m even more impressed. Unlike the <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Wireless-Reading-Graphite-Globally-Generation/dp/B002GYWHSQ/?void=fidelis” title=”[amazon] Kindle DX Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G, 9.7” Display, Graphite, 3G Works Globally – Latest Generation">Kindle DX, I know this one won’t be returned to Amazon. I’ve had more than enough time to get a good idea of how the Kindle 3 works, and how it compares to the Kindle 2, so I thought it was time to share.

Review: Flashforward (book)

January 4, 2010

This fall the new series “FlashForward” premiered on ABC. I’d seen the previews of it and thought it was an interesting concept. It didn’t catch my attention as a good concept for a TV show, but more from a “What if this were real?” scenario. What would you do if you saw the the future? How would it effect you? If it was something bad, would you try to change the outcome? If it was something good, would you try to hasten it? Is our destiny predetermined? All of these questions sprung to mind, which made me curious and interested to see how the the TV show would handle all this (and more). So far, it isn’t great, but it isn’t bad. I know the review’s aren’t terribly positive, but I’m sticking with the “wait and see”. During that “waiting” period (re-enforced by yet another mid-season break), I found out that there was a book by the same name (not that this should surprise me). Over the holidays I had time so <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Flashforward-Robert-J-Sawyer/dp/076532413X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261954787&sr=8-1&void=fidelis” title=”[amazon] Flashforward (paperback)>I bought and read it on my kindle. Overall, I’m not terribly enthusiastic about the book. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. Now, the TV show is based on the book, but there are some major differences. First off, in the book the FlashFoward is 21 years, not 6 months. The second major change is that in the book the FBI isn’t involved at all, the protagonists are Lloyd Simcoe and Theo Procpides, who work at CERN (just like the TV show). The third and final major difference is that there is no major conspiracy (as there is in the TV show). (No major plot spoilers)

Dinah's Garden Hotel: Stay Somewhere Else

September 18, 2009

Recently stayed at Dinah’s Garden Hotel in Palo Alto, CA. I chose to stay there because it was rather close to the wedding I was attending, a fellow wedding guest and friend was staying there, and because the prices were comparable to a nearby Westin hotel (a group of hotels that I also dislike, but that is a tale for another day). If you poke around their website you might notice that it does indeed appear to be pretty fancy. I ended up choosing the King Executive Lanai Suite, the confirmation email contained the description: Are located on the lagoon with view of tropical gardens or in our all suites building with view our gardens. These premium suites include either fireplaces, a Jacuzzi Tub or Steam-Shower, exercise bike, at your finger tip light controls, unique interior designs, designer furniture, Dinah’s Robes & Slippers, in addition to the other amenities we have mentioned. Additionally, I noted that I would be attending a wedding the day I was checking in and would prefer an early check in along with a Jacuzzi Tub. I booked this about 2 weeks in advance and had hoped to hear back from them regarding my requests. Didn’t happen. Not shocking or anything, but annoying nonetheless. I was only staying there for one night, however my friend and fellow wedding guest was there all week. When I saw him I asked about the accommodations, he hesitated and then said it was “okay” and that it was annoying that you had to pay for internet and that the accommodations were somewhat lacking compared to what he was expecting. This slightly worried me.

Buying Glasses Online – Part 1

August 21, 2009

Glasses are expensive. Even with insurance, glasses are expensive; thankfully, the internet is home to a host of other options that your local optometrist might not have at his or her disposal. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with buying from your local optometrist, far from it (got my moto glasses and SCUBA mask from a local optometrist), just that you may want to look into alternate vendors if you need to save some cash. First up: Zenni Optical I found this place in February 2007 and bought a couple of prescription sunglasses from them (Total: $50.65 = $12.95×2 Frame + $4.95×2 Anti-Reflective Coating + $4.95×2 Tinting + $4.95 S&H), again when my expensive glasses broke around the hinge (Total: $21.85 = $8 Frame + $4.95 Anti-Reflective Coating + $3.95 Clip-on Sunshade + $4.95 S&H), and most recently this week after getting my yearly eye exam (Total: $67.60 = $19 Frame + $12.95 Frame + $15.95 Frame + $4.95×3 Anti-Reflective Coating + $4.95 S&H). Pros: $4.95 Flat Rate Shipping Plenty of options: Photochromic lenses for $39 Anti-reflective Coating (basically required for anyone who works with computers) for $4.95 Tinting (at 10, 50, or 80%) available in Gray, Green, Amber, Blue, Purple, Pink, or Yellow for $4.95 Clip-on Sunshade for $3.95 Offering Bifocals for $17 more and Progressive lenses for $29 more Cons: The site has no option to remember your prescription, so you have to reenter it on each page. No option for Prisms (which Jon’s vision requires) Can’t send them your frames to have them put in new lenses Before we get to the other sites, I must point out another blog, Glassy Eyes, which alerted me to these other sites. Additionally, for those of you confused about your prescription, 39DollarGlasses has the nicest article on reading your prescription (though it doesn’t cover Prisms); it even has pretty pictures for you.

Benchmarking: Ubuntu 9.04 i386 vs LPIA on Eee PC 1000

May 6, 2009

==Background== The other week Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty was officially released, to my great enjoyment! Of course, I’d already been running it for a while on my ASUS Eee PC 1000. The one issue I had with it was that the Ubuntu Netbook Remix Alpha that I downloaded was for i386, and the Eee runs an Intel Atom processor (it was compatible, but not the same). I had assumed that once 9.04 was officially released, they’d put out a LPIA (Low Power Intel Atom) optimized version of the aforementioned remix. I downloaded the Netbook Remix on release day, but didn’t notice until a few days later that the download was for i386. The image file name was “ubuntu-9.04-netbook-remix-i386.img”. I thought this was extremely odd since the UNR download page says ‘What do I need to install Ubuntu Netbook Remix?’ and then ‘An Intel Atom processor’. Very strange indeed. So I went and asked about it on the Ubuntu Forums. As it turns out I was not the only one that noticed this little “issue”. Later I also found a bug report for this problem and the reply from one of the mucky mucks of Ubuntu stated: i386 was a safer bet for the first release of UNR, also having an i386 and a lpia version double the QA time; however we will consider this idea for 9.10, there are some issues with lpia still. So…. No LPIA version for the first official release of UNR. Granted there was a UNR for 8.10, but it was sort of hacked together after the fact. I can accept that. After all Ubuntu doesn’t release for a ton of platforms like Debian does. But the question came up in the forum thread, is LPIA optimized code really necessary? Some claimed that LPIA gave them an hour more of battery time, other claimed it was crap. This, of course, hearkens back to the early days of x86 versus x64 operating systems. In fact I found an article about 32bit versus 64bit on 9.04 which I ended up using as a base for my own series of tests. ==The Tests== I installed Ubuntu 9.04 Alternate i386 and Ubuntu 9.04 Alternate LPIA on my Eee PC 1000, both with the most minimal installs. I then proceeded to run the following tests: Convert an Album of MP3’s into Ogg Vorbis Bunzip2 the Linux 2.6.29.2 kernel tarball Untar the kernel Compile the Kernel Bzip2 a 400+mb ISO of Wikipeida ==Results== ===i386=== uname -a : Linux happyfeet 2.6.28-11-generic #42-Ubuntu SMP Fri Apr 17 01:57:59 UTC 2009 i686 GNU/Linux dir2ogg : 9mn 45s bunzip2 : 0mn 54s tar -xf : 1mn 51s make : 196m 18s bzip2 : 7m 6s ===LPIA=== uname -a : Linux happyfeet 2.6.28-11-lpia #42-Ubuntu SMP Fri Apr 17 01:56:10 UTC 2009 i686 GNU/Linux dir2ogg : 9mn 58s bunzip2 : 1mn 1s tar -xf : 1mn 28s make : 163mn 12s bzip2 : 7mn 16s ===Differences=== dir2ogg: LPIA was 3% Slower bunzip2: LPIA was 12% Slower tar -xf: LPIA was 21% Faster make: LPIA was 17% Faster bzip2: LPIA was 3% Slower ==Summary== The test was fairly inconclusive. With the exception of compiling the kernel (which took 30minutes less on LPIA), the difference in times between i386 and LPIA were statistically insignificant (for dir2ogg and bzip2). Frankly the tar -xf and bunzip2 tests took so little time that any minor flux on the machine (say a cron job) could easily skew the test in either direction. The kernel compile was, in my book, significantly faster. I think LPIA is worthy of a trial run on my Eee. Of course I noticed, as the bug stated, that there are a few issues. For example the wireless did not work out of the box like it did with the i386 Alpha I previously installed. This may be a quick & easy fix, but so far I haven’t had the time nor energy to actually fiddle with the machine. For those that are interested, after the jump I’ve got more details on exactly what commands I executed for the tests

Kindle 2 Review after a few days of use

February 27, 2009

The Kindle 2 As just about everyone knows, the latest generation of Kindle was released this week. All hail our new robotic voiced overlord, the Kindle 2 (K2). Of course, I bought one. It is shiny, new, and I had to have one. Plus my mother really wanted a Kindle after I loaned her my Kindle 1 (K1), so now she’s gotten it. I’ve taken a few days to actually use the device, and I thought I’d share my impressions. Hardware Back of the K2 The first impressions you get from the K2 are from the redesigned hardware. It most definitely has an “iPod-esque” feel to it, the corners are rounded, the back is now some sort of brushed steel look. They also flattened the thing, which is a godsend. One of the strangest parts of the K1 was the angled back and the odd slight angle changes. The screen, outwardly, looks mostly the same as it did before (it now features slightly rounded edges). The keyboard has been redone into small circular buttons, and much to my glee, is no longer curved. While I understood the ergonomics of the K1’s keyboard, it was just silly looking and frankly the keyboard wasn’t that useful. One of the largest complaints of the K1 was the fact that the “Next Page” buttons were so damnably easy to hit. Once I got used to the device, it wasn’t a problem, but there was not a single person I handed it to that didn’t immediately accidentally hit one of the page buttons. The new buttons are smaller, possibly a little too small (as they don’t go low enough for my hands), and much more difficult to push. Specifically, they changed it so the outside of the buttons is anchored and the inside “clicks”. This is going to take a little getting used to for me, since I was a fan of hitting just the edge of the button on the K1. The Kindle 1 (left) and Kindle 2 (Right) I will address the couple complaints I have heard: Removal of SD card slot & the no longer removable battery. In the K2, they bumped the usable internal memory up to about 1500 MB, which works out to about 1,500 books. Really, no one needs removable storage at that point. You can look at it this way: Say you were going to be traveling for 4 years straight, you load the K2 up with 1,500 books before you left and read 1 full book every day (which means you aren’t doing ANYTHING else with your life) for those 4 years… You would still have books left over on the Kindle. If you are out of the country, where the wireless downloads don’t work, you can use USB to transfer new books on to it, just like every other ebook reader (so no, you don’t need Wifi you whiny bastards). You have to have the USB cable anyways — as it is the charging port as well. As to the removable battery, yes, I agree that is sort of annoying. Though, most of the batteries these days are designed to go hundreds of charge/discharge cycles before they significantly lose juice. Say the K2 battery was only good for 200 charges before it lost a good amount of juice, if you were recharging it every week (because you read a book every day), you’d still have about 4 years. At that point, the K2 is still going to work, just for less page turns at a time, and there will be a K3 or K4 out by then.

ASUS Eee PC 1000, Ubuntu Jaunty and You!

February 25, 2009

If you follow my twitter feed, then you know over this past weekend I got an ASUS Eee PC 1000. In fact, I spend a good deal of time tweeting about it on Monday when it arrived. I thought I’d spend a little time sharing my impressions of the device and some of the tinkering that I’ve done with it over the last few days (it lasted about an hour before it got reformatted). Please note: Most of this post is in the extended body, so to read it all you need to click the more button. In the past I haven’t used this feature much, but this post is really long. First the system specifications: • 10.2” LCD @ 1024×600 • 1.6 Ghz Intel Atom • 1 GB RAM • 40 GB SSD (More correctly: 1x 8 GB and 1x 32 GB) • Comes pre-installed with Xandros Linux (of the Debian family) • 1.3 Megapixel Webcam • Stereo Microphones (shows as 1 device, used for noise canceling) • ~5 Hour battery • SD Card reader • 802.11b/g/n Wireless • 10/100/1000 Ethernet • Bluetooth • Multitouch trackpad • Ports: 3 USB, 1 VGA, 1 power, 1 microphone, 1 headphone, Network Hardware Review My first impressions is that this is a nice little package. My unit came in black and I think it looks good; granted it is a glossy surface so it picks up fingerprints. The accent pieces, like the buttons above the keyboard and the mouse buttons, have a brushed steel look (though they are probably plastic), which I think looks really classy. The screen is nice and bright at its brightest setting, though it doesn’t get that dark. The buttons on the mice are a little tough for my preference, but it isn’t really a deal breaker, especially since you can just tap the pad instead (which I have the tendency to tap really hard). Additionally, the important thing is, it is LIGHT, 3 pounds and change with the standard battery. They keyboard is advertised as 92% full size which I think is a fair description, though some compromises have been made in the name of fitting into the form factor. My only real problem with the keyboard is that directly below the Enter key is the Up arrow — right where I expect the Shift key to be. The Shift key has been moved to the right of the aforementioned Up arrow. Since I have a preference to use that right shift almost exclusively, I hit that Up arrow by mistake A LOT when I first started on the device. But like any keyboard that is slightly different, it takes a little getting use to, then it is all good. In fact, I am typing this entry up on the Eee PC itself and I’m not hitting the Up arrow by mistake nearly as often (and I find myself using the left shift some, which is actually a good thing for me to do). Overall, I’m pleased with how it is designed. Semi-update: I got to take a look at Brion’s Dell Mini 9, the shift key/arrow key setup is the same on his machine as it is on my Eee PC. So I’m under the impression that this is actually a fairly common design for netbooks. It makes sense, since most “regular” keyboards have the arrow keys off on their own little island and that wouldn’t fit in such a small form factor.

To Vista, Or not to Vista?

December 1, 2006

No, this is not an “internal” debate being externalized just so I can post. I install Vista, weeks ago. In fact I installed it Nov 17th, the day it was released to MSDN (Along with Office 2007 which I installed). This is a quick “review” for those debating on installing. Short Review: DON’T DO IT. Long Version: At this point in time, if you are a casual user, Vista is fine. The User Access Control system is a pain and will quickly teach you to click “Yes” to everything (Which is bad). There aren’t many drivers out (read: near none), but if your not playing any games or have any fancy hardware, you’ll be ok. The graphics are nice, with the transparency and all (if your computer can support them, and you buy the “right” version of Vista with Areo) but they are just eye candy and really aren’t that handy. Now… If you are a power user. For the love of god, save yourself the trouble and don’t install Vista. I waited very very patiently for Vista to be released to MSDN when I heard it hit RTM (read: I was bitching and moaning about MS not releasing it sooner), but now I realize thats a mistake. As I said previously, there are next to no drivers out. I managed to get new graphics drivers installed on my Dell Latitude D620 (with a Quadro NVS 110M) thanks to a hacked nVidia driver from LaptopVideo2Go. It shows up as a 7300, but it works fine, enough. I didn’t really need to install drivers for anything else, which is good because nothing is out. Some of you that switched early from Win 2000 to XP may remember that you could use just about every 2K driver on XP, well thats definitely not the case for Vista. Any driver you install that wasn’t re-worked for Vista will either be blocked from install, muck up your machine, or plain not work. Also, any software thats reasonably advanced, is hardware related, or makes a decent amount of changed to your system probably won’t work. Again, this is a problem for Power Users such as myself. Now I’m not saying never run vista (though the login & shutdown times are KILLER for me), I’m just suggesting you wait… a few months. Probably at least 6 months after the public release. Now, After the break (yes, I’m actually writing into the “extended body”) I’ll run down software I installed and how well it worked (and if I used the emulation).