So its been a while, quite a while actually since I last posted anything. So I figured I should get back to it and I thought I would start with something of a controversial topic.
I’m a smoker of cigarettes and have been for many years now, I’m not saying its a good thing I am just stating a fact. I am fully aware of the potential health risks, my grandfather, also a smoker, died a few years ago of throat cancer and my father, also a smoker, has battled cancer for the past five years or so, my ex mother in law, yep, you guessed it, also a smoker, died from complicates caused by emphysema so all said I think I know how bad it is. Honestly I do want to quit and am currently working on strategies for that, but the argument of smoking vs not smoking is not what brings me to the keyboard today.
I very recently applied for a job and was not even considered for the position because I am a tobacco user, this is what I have a problem with, I understand that a company may want to be smoke free and there for have a smoke free campus, this I don’t have a problem with, they are after all a private entity and can say if they want to allow smoking on the premises. I don’t believe that they should be able to not hire you though based on something you do in your own time that is perfectly legal, as far as I am concerned this would be exactly the same as not hiring people who drink alcohol or coffee or eat red meat or not hiring people because they are vegetarians or lets take this to an ever more uncomfortable place, not hiring someone because they are a different color, or religion. At the end of the day it is discrimination how ever way you spin it.
I am not even sure what the rationalization behind this is, I thought maybe its because of the health risks but if that is the case then we should look at other groups of people also, if you tell your employer your hobbies include mountain biking or rock climbing, then they should not consider you either because you are at a higher risk of an injury and therefore time off work. What about young recently married women, maybe we shouldn’t hire them because they at a high risk or becoming pregnant and needed maternity leave. I personally would not mind if there were other ‘punishments’ for tobacco use like a higher health insurance premium or deductible and maybe even companies recommending a smoking cessation course but to simply not even consider you for employment is just wrong.
In case you are wondering this is not just my opinion, over half the states in this country (twenty nine in total) have some kind of protection in place to stop employers discriminating against tobacco users, unfortunately I live in Texas where there is no protection and I personally believe that this needs to change, this really boils down to one question, should employers have a right to interfere with your personal life or dictate what perfectly legal activities you engage in in your free time? As you may have guessed, my answer is a resounding no but please feel free to share your opinions.
I love reading, and I love books, the feel of them, looking at the shelves full of them, going to used book stores and finding that one you have been looking searching for. That being said things move on and like it or not I think EBooks are here to stay, with that in mind and my uncontrollable lust for all things new and techie I view the whole situation with a mixed bag of feelings. On one hand I am deeply saddened that we may be loosing books in the physical sense, ages old paper and leather being replaced, like so many other things, with insurmountable lines of zeros and ones. On the other hand a whole new niche market is rapidly emerging, aiding and abetting the tablet revolution, the thought of being able to carry my whole library of books with me where ever I go is without doubt an exciting prospect. I don’t really want to get into the ethical debate on EBooks right now but rather I wanted to share my own experiences with them and the many devices used for EBooking.
I have been trying to use EBooks more and more for about two years now with limited success, until recently. My fist experience was with an E Paper reader, it wasn’t a Kindle or a Nook or any of the big names but a cheaper one bought on a whim at a discount store. I have since used E Paper devices from both Amazon and Barns and Noble. I found them all just ok, and the newer ones work very well, not as sluggish and faster page turns. I also tried using my beloved Ipad as an E Reader, it works fine, I don’t have a problem with bright screen, I turn the brightness all the way down when I am reading and set the page to be black but I find it a little large and heavy for prolonged use. I tried my phone but found it way to small for anything more than a few casual pages. Finally I settled on a low end Android tablet as my main reader, I found the screen size at seven inches to be about perfect, the weight was fine and for under one hundred dollars it wasn’t going to break the bank if I dropped it or lost it.
Even though I use the Android tablet as my main reader there are times when I forget to take it with me, or the battery runs out, or for what ever reason I just want to read on something else, I find that this happens quite a lot (normally because I forget to grab it as I am leaving). The problem with this is having to keep all my devices up to date with what I am reading or may want to read, this turned out to be more trouble than its worth, some of the big apps, like Kindle will do this for you to some degree but they are far from perfect, mainly because you are locked into only using the books you have bought through them. A lot of the books I have are DRM free EBooks from various places and while you can side load into most of the programs and devices they don’t keep the book updated across all platforms. I felt there was something lacking in this whole experience, in this cloud based age why isn’t there a way to read the same book across what ever device you have to hand and be able to keep track of what page you are on. I didn’t seam that much to ask for, I tried all kinds of convoluted way to do this using Drop Box and other cloud services but nothing worked, that is until I stumbled upon a fairly new project called Booki.sh. The service is basically an online EReader that you can upload your own DRM free EBooks too or you can purchase books through there own store. The service works on pretty much any modern browser (check the compatibility list) and provides a very nice reading experience. I wont go into all the ins and outs, please check there website for all that good stuff, but i will touch on a few key features. The big thing for me is that you can read your books on more or less any device and as long as you have an internet connection you will be taken to the last page you read. Additionally it has a cleaver little feature that will download or cache the book on any device you have opened it on, this allows you to read offline also, and I have to admit I am very impressed with how well this works. Reading on a computer is very much what you would expect but Booki.sh really comes into its own on tablets and phones. On Android devices you read within the browser window but on iOS devices (after you add the page to your home screen) you get a full screen app like experience that looks as good as if not better in some ways than other EBook reader apps. On both Android and iOS you can swipe left and right to turn pages and if you tap the middle of the screen you get a nice menu allowing you to change the font, font size, justification and switch between night and day mode (personally I use night mode all the time), you can also jump to chapters and search through the book in this menu.
In a nutshell Booki.sh is a very nice solution for anyone who uses EBooks, but really comes into its own if you use multiple devices. With a clean, easy to use interface and a concise set of useful features this software, in my humble opinion, is how EBooks should be.
After what seamed like weeks, no months, it finally came. The eagerly awaited CloudBook arrived by way of FedEx Monday afternoon. Christmas had come early. After tearing open the box my initial reaction I have to admit was one of shock. Its tiny, maybe a little smaller than I was expecting but that’s ok, small is good, at least where technology is concerned. In the box was everything one would expect to be in the box, computer, battery and power supply, you know the usual, and then right at the bottom of the box was a little zip bag, upon closer inspection the bag contained a cable, a small cable, a really small cable. I am not sure what exactly this cable is for, it is obviously meant to go inside the laptop, where I don’t know, I find it rather odd that that they would ship this mystery cable knowing full well that opening the case voids the warranty, on the other hand maybe that’s the plan they know full well we cant resist looking to see where this spurious extra cable belongs, anyway I figure I will find out when I upgrade the memory. I slid the battery into the laptop, pressed the power button and held my breath, I don’t know why but I am always amazed when something new actually works right out of the box. It did work it booted up and guided me through a few setup screens before we actually got to gOS. I have to admit I have played around a little with gOS before so I kina knew what to expect, and its ok I like the idea of it I just don’t think the industry is quite ready for it yet but that’s another story all together. gOS on the CloudBook though is not so great, I am not going to go on and on about it but I will say that everything everyone else has said about this version is right. Like I said in my previous post I never intended running gOS on this device anyway so I hooked up an external USB CD drive and installed Windows XP Pro, this went surprisingly well, and so did the driver install (all the XP drivers are available on Everex’s website). Now I guess we are getting to the point, there are plenty of good reviews of this product and I don’t want this to be another but I did want to comment on the major points that most reviews seam to slam this laptop on.
First and probably the biggest is the speed, this computer, as I expected, is not a speed demon, with XP on it, it kind of trundles along at its own pace, but its certainly not unusable. The display is great, it is super bright, and very readable at 800×480, if you need more screen real estate there is a 1000×600 setting which isn’t that bad albeit a little small for me. The sound, well what can I say about the sound? It makes noise I don’t think I would really want to listen to through the built in speakers but like I said before this is not a walkman, headphones sound pretty good though. I guess the last point I would like to touch on is the heat, it dose get hot but its no where near as bad as I was expecting from the reviews I had read. I had the unit running all day today, installing software and doing windows updates and at the end of the day it was hot but not as hot as some other laptops that were in the store today, I guess what I am trying to say is all laptops get hot and this one is no different, I am not sure why people expect otherwise just because its little.
So to sum up, after one full day of use I am actually quite impressed, it isn’t perfect, there are a few kinks I am still trying to work out, like the webcam doesn’t work in yahoo messenger, but all in all its not a bad gizmo. The speed really isn’t that bad and should only get better with a little more memory but I think the hard drive is what is really holding it back. In my humble opinion, if you have an extra XP license, this laptop is well worth $299.
I can’t wait for the extra memory to arrive, there are lots of mods that I am already planning, I will try and find time tomorrow to post a list of the mods I want to do.
All that said I don’t have the little bugger yet so I could be wrong about everything, stay tuned to find out, the good folks at Wal-Mart say I should have it early next week.
Yes I did it, I couldn’t resist the temptation any longer, I broke down and got myself an Iphone. I really don’t want this to be a long in-depth review about this cool looking gizmo, there are plenty of those out there and I am sure there will be lots more to with the release of the 3G version. I do however (as usual) want to through my two cents in.
Visually, I think the world is in agreement, the device is beautiful, it’s sleek, shiny black and silver exterior screams “touch me” and you simply cannot resist. But looks are not everything they can indeed be deceiving. On a whole the Iphone is wonderful it’s probably the first gadget that I have picked up that actually does everything it says it does. Let’s start with the phone part, well it’s a phone it makes calls and surprisingly enough it receives call also, call quality if perfectly fine and if you find you have to dial a number that’s not in your contact list the onscreen keypad is very useable. The contact list I have to say is not great, it works and it’s useable but it’s not great even with the new search feature that the 2.0 firmware added I still prefer the contact list on my windows mobile phone. The web browsing is awesome it works better than any mobile device I have used so far even without Java and Flash (I am sure it’s just a matter of time before we get both on the Iphone). I do really like the instant message style text messaging (This has been added to Windows Mobile 6.1) and the email functions work just fine also. Oh and I almost forgot it’s an iPod too, that’s right it plays music and video, is it better at it than my Windows Mobile device? Well to be honest I have to say no. All in all it’s a cool gadget but I do think there is a lot of room for improvement. I have to admit that the only reason I am continuing to use the Iphone is because of the web browser, and yes it looks cool. If my HTC S620 surfed as well as the Iphone I have to say I would go back to it (I have Windows Mobile 6.1 running on the S620).
I want to briefly talk about some of the problems I have with the Iphone (maybe apple will read this) first of ITunes, I know this is a personal gripe I have but a gripe it is, I hate ITunes, it monkeys with my music, my album art doesn’t work and it feels rather cumbersome. Second is the lack of productivity software no word processor no spreadsheet program this also leads nicely into the lack of a spell checker (I had planned on writing this whole blog entry on the Iphone but it was just too frustrating). Third is the lack of support for media formats, NO DIVX, you have to let ITunes monkey with your files again before you can watch them (Divx is available for windows mobile devices) Last (this could be the most important though) is the lack of software, there are thousands if not millions of developers out there itching to write software for this device and you can’t use any of it (unless you jailbreak your phone) come on Apple this device is a remarkable piece of engineering and I don’t think we have scratched the surface of what it is capable off yet but let people help.
Is the Iphone the gadget of all gadgets? I think not, I think it’s a nice insight of things to come and I think its pointed the industry in the right direction but unless Apple become a little more open minded about third party software Microsoft will end up winning this battle. The future is definitely in mobile devices but they have to be more than a novelty or a fashion accessory, the Iphone is almost there but not quite unfortunately I feel it’s just paved the way for a better device. (maybe one that I can actually type a letter on)
In this modern world that we live in technology can seem a little overwhelming, let’s face it, it’s everywhere, in our pockets, on our wrist, stuck behind our ear and soon no doubt implanted in our head. Sometimes it’s good to have little walk down memory lane and remember how things used to be. Take a look at this old school word processor I found at BigHugeLabs.com http://writer.bighugelabs.com/. Not only is it cool it’s so very functional. Applications are getting way to complicated and full of themselves, even the new trend of online applications are somewhat complex, requiring you to have an account with them and one thing and another. Writer by BigHugeLabs.com is the complete opposite, open up the website and start typing whilst basking in the glow of a good old green screen. Writer is defiantly bare bones computing but it is also not without features, when you are done typing you and print the document, save as a PDF file or send it to you email or a variety of online places i.e. blogger (I wrote this entire entry on Writer) the only thing that is missing in my opinion is a spell checker.
Defiantly cool, check it out http://writer.bighugelabs.com/
What follows is a true story about one man’s fight against the oppressive heat of summer and the generously proportioned, money grabbing and all together not very nice industry that is Heating and Air Conditioning Repair. Please be aware that the names in the story have been changed to protect the innocent as one of the biggest secrets in the A/C industry is about to be released. Any information you procure from reading this is yours do with as you please but don’t go blaming anyone if you decide to try this and blowup yourself, your house, or anything else for that matter.
Summer is here at last. Picnics, walks in the park, fishing and sailing, just a few of the common summer activities that I for one don’t partake in. Why? I here you ask, well to be perfectly honest I live in South Texas and it’s just too damn hot for any of those summer shenanigans, especially considering the first 20 years of my life was spent in Manchester England where it gets bloody cold. So I retreat, hide you might say shielding myself from whatever ridicules temperature it happens to be outside. My favorite retreat of course is my house. My house, a place of solitude, a place to unwind and let the stresses of the day wash away in the calming glow of the cathode ray, a safe place, a cool place. This leads me nicely into my story. My name is Smith I live an average life in an average house in an average neighborhood with my beautiful wife Mrs. Smith, our son Smith Jr and another on the way who for now is affectionately named JB (Just Baby). Our lives are what you might call normal, average and for the most part very happy until one day the unimaginable happened, our house was invaded, the safe place violated, solitude desecrated, HEAT it was everywhere the air conditioner had decided to go on strike. This was almost too much to bare it was six o’clock at night, nowhere is open, what to do. Frantically I ran down my mental list of ‘what to do in an emergency’ I called 911 but they lady who answered the telephone said that this didn’t constitute as an emergency, I asked if she wouldn’t mind telling that to Mrs. Smith who is six months pregnant and suddenly we were disconnected, a glitch in their phone system I am sure. So I moved on, hospital yes that’s it, number two on the emergency list, take the sick to the hospital, I sprang into action, ran outside, where to my surprise it was considerably cooler than it was inside, pulled the car around next to the A/C unit and tried loading it up. To my astonishment it was bolted down! Well that’s it out of options well almost there was one left. Looking back though I can see how you may think me foolish but I was desperate. I sat down next to the unit and tried to reason with it, I explained to the unit why it would be better If it worked, how I don’t like the heat, I promised we wouldn’t just ignore it and take it for granted anymore, I begged, I pleaded I cried but alas my words fell upon deaf ears. So I did what any man pushed to the edge of reason would do, yes I started cursing and kicking it, finally after hearing my profanities increasing in volume Mrs. Smith dragged me back into the oven that was previously our house.
I was done, thrown in the towel, defeated by an immovable force. We sat uncomfortably staring at the television, the room was silent except for the mindless rambling emanating from the moving picture box. Time was dragging, minutes seemed like hours as if the heat had formed some kind of time vortex within the house. Then out of the blue Mrs. Smith spoke her words graced my ears as if sung by angels ‘I am going to bed, could you please call the repair people in the morning’ Could it be that simple? Maybe it could, I went to bed and dreamed about cold places eagerly awaiting the morning.
Morning came and the temperature was bearable, everybody went about their morning routine, even the time vortex seemed to have gone. The whole morning was awash with normality, one could almost have forgotten about the events of the previous night. We all piled in the car, dropped Smith Jr of at his grandmothers (its summer, school is out) and Mrs. Smith dropped me of at my office. As I was getting out of the car the angels sang again, ‘don’t forget to all the AC people, love you’. Suddenly like a bad dream the whole night came flooding back, the begging, the pleading, the crying and yes the kicking, realizing now why my foot was in so much pain I shook of the nightmare and opened the office.
To be continued…………………
Ok folks, here we go my fist movie review, I beg of thee please be kind. Being true to what seems to be an interesting schizophrenic character trait of mine, you may find this review to be a little hypocritical after my last post condemning big budget Sci-Fi movies but I simply could not resist the draw of this one. All it took was one sneak peek trailer and I was hooked, consumed in a whirlwind of red and gold enthusiasm. I have to say for the record that I have been building myself up for this movie for some time now, almost to the point of not wanting to see it, I was scared, scared that Hollywood in its infinite cinematic wisdom would let me down as it has done so many times in the past. (can we say the 2003 rendition of Hulk, hell we can kill two birds with one stone here, two reviews in one it was awful, Ang Lee, the director of this comic book abomination together with the rest of the players should be loaded into a space ship, sent to the planet of ass kicking robots to have their asses perpetually kicked until the end of time.) Anyways back to Iron Man, so I here you ask was I disappointed? Well read on my friend.
The movie opens with our reluctant hero Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) giving a demonstration of his companies’ latest and greatest instrument of death, the Jericho. Stark is kidnapped post demonstration by a militia group hell bent on Stark recreating the Jericho for their own mischievous uses. Stark defiantly ignores his captor’s threats and constructs himself a suite of iron in an elaborate escape attempt. Upon returning to the so called civilized world Stark, rebels against his own company, secludes himself from society and improves upon his iron suite.
The movies ends (nobody get mad, I don’t consider this a spoiler because we all know how it’s going to end) with an all out battle involving Stark and his nemesis. Iron Man (Stark in his now fancy red and gold suite) is out gunned but still manages to come up trumps and save the day.
Well that’s the movie in a nut shell, so what did I think? The truth is its awesome, brilliant, stunning, standing on your seat shouting for more good. As I may have subtlety touched on earlier I was unsure of Hollywood’s ability to tell this tail well, well my fears were unfounded. This movie has everything I normally don’t like so much in Sci-Fi movies, big budget and an all star cast (Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow to name but a few) and yet they pulled it off in a stunning feat of visual entertainment. Robert Downey Jr. was perfect for the role, full of alcohol fueled cynicism and witty one liners. His supporting cast was equally as good, very well cast and very well acted. Unfortunately my favorite characters don’t get a mention in the credits, they are a couple of comical robots that assist Stark in his own private laboratory, as far as robots go they are not the smartest artificial intelligent machines in science fiction, in fact I think they share the same robotic gene pool as Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot from Mystery Science Theater 3000 but thankfully they inherited all the same endearing qualities as their afore mentioned mechanical compadres. As far as the story goes its exactly what you would expect, it’s not going to win any best script awards but come on people it’s a comic book movie, the age old battle of good versus evil, we know the story, we have seen it a thousand times with a thousand super heroes in a thousand cheesy super hero costumes but it doesn’t matter, it’s a good story damn it. Visually the movie is great, good CGI, believable (well almost believable) technology and some nice cars thrown in the mix all go a long way in making this one of the best comic book to big screen transitions I have seen. Bottom line is this is a good movie it gets my vote.
For all of you that skip straight to the bottom of a review to cut out all the waffle all the get the author’s yay or nay here you go. If you have not seen this movie yet stop reading about it, turn of your computer, put some clothes on, run as if you life depended on it to the nearest movie house, pay whatever extraordinary amount of money they ask for and sit on the edge of you seat for the next 126 minutes basking in the glory of this wonderful movie adaptation of a timeless comic book classic.
Check out Iron Man on IMDB
I am going to try and start reviewing some of the movies I watch, please be nice as I have never written a movie review before. I will be the first to admit that I am a Sci-Fi fan as you could have probably guessed by reading any of my other posts (I guess I am saying that it is probably pretty obvious that I am a geek or a nerd or whatever you want to call me, not that I am saying that all nerds like nothing but Sci-Fi movies, well actually I am, come on admit it, yes you, you would much prefer to kick back, remote in one hand, a back issue of 2600 clutched tightly in the other, whilst watching a scantily clad female robot kick a little ass on a alien world not too far away from our very own sector). I am not ashamed of liking Sci-Fi movies and to be honest I prefer the low budget, straight to video kind. Why I hear you scream, well to be honest I am not sure but I think it’s because most of the big budget Sci-Fi movies tend to be a little full of themselves, lost in big name celebs and fancy CGI. I am by no means saying that the blockbuster Sci-Fi movies suck some of them are very good, I am just saying that I like a good, middle of the night airing, of some good old b movie Sci-Fi, after all the whole Sci-Fi genre was started with b movies (ever seen Plan 9 From Outer Space?). Sorry I digress, back to reviewing movies, I know there are many people reviewing movies out here in the vastness that is the metaverse but quite frankly I don’t really like most of them, they tend to be stuck up pompous pricks that miss the point of a good Sci-Fi flick. I will try and keep it a little more down to earth so to speak. I am not sure what movie will first fall victim to my delusions of grandeur as a want to be movie critic but I can assure you it will probably never will have known the glory of an opening night, nor heard the screams from the hordes of avid fans camped out for days outside the movie theater, but good or bad that poor little unknown 90 minutes of cinematic failure deserves a review from someone. I will probably throw in a few blockbusters too, just to keep everything nice and fair, we wouldn’t want them to feel left out now would we. So now I am off to free the clicker from the evil clutches of the sofa and pursue my first victim.