Friday, May 31, 2013

Books I've Read This Week

The Demon by Jack Kirby collects the entire 16 issue run of the series. Kirby's art is brilliant and his story telling is frantic. This book defies convention as it isn't a pure super hero story but it isn't a pure horror story either. You can see how these stories went on to inspire so many other authors in their use of the Demon and maybe even Mike Mignola and his Hellboy character.
Inferno by Dan Brown. Yeah, I wasn't going to read it but the book is available so cheaply and it such a quick read. Plus, I already reviewed it before it even came out so I figured I should read it to see how right or wrong I was.

Whelp, I was way off base in plotting as Brown uses flashbacks to re-jigger his timeline. However on character's I was spot on and you can check them off one by one as they appear in the story. There is supposed to be a huge swerve in the book but it is utterly predictable when you realize that two of Brown's usual character archetypes are combined into one person.

If you usually like the Robert Langdon series you'll probably like this one as well. It's like comfort food at this point as you know what to expect.  

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Books I've Read This Week

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe. Ug, sometimes it's not a good idea to learn how the sausage is made. As a long time comic book fan and a lover of Marvel comics for untold years I though it would be interesting to learn the story behind how some of my favourite comic books were produced. That was kinda a bad idea that left me feeling depressed. These weren't super happy people bouncing around the bullpen fronted by the always jovial Stan Lee, these were real people with real problems. After reading this book I wonder how the entire comics industry didn't implode, multiple times. Anyway, it was a good read but one I'm wishing I didn't read regardless.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Review of Dan Brown's Inferno Before I've Even Read It

Oh my god! I just heard that Dan Brown is releasing a new book today starring Robert Langdon called Inferno. If you are not a Dan Brown fan you might not know that this is the 4th book with Robert Langdon as the main character with Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code and The Lost Symbol being the prequels. I have read all the previous novels and even reviewed The Lost Symbol so you wouldn't have to read it yourself.

This time around I figured I'd review the novel before I even have read the book. Please note I haven't read the book and I don't have an advanced copy of the book. Instead I'm basing my review completely on what I've read in the previous books. I figure I can get about 85% correct so if this spoils the novel for you then I'm sorry.

The book opens in Florence Italy where an old man is being chased. He's able to avoid his pursuers long enough to hide some crucial piece of information that will become important later even though it seems silly now. The old man is now murdered and we immediately cut to...
Robert Langdon being awoken. The author is just trying to show how clever he is as he understands time zones. Langdon soon learns that an important figure in the symbolism sect has been killed and only Robert Langdon can help solve the problem. He then gets off to Florence Italy. 
Where he's taken to the crime scene where he meets the Misguided Policeman who immediately starts off on a bunch of exposition to catch up all us readers on why this person is important. Then the love interested walks in and we soon discover that she is the daughter/grand-daughter/adopted daughter of the dead man. The Misguided Policeman gets a phone call/interrupted by underling and leaves the two alone to talk where Langdon realizes that this is all a big puzzle related to Dante's Inferno. 
At that point Misguided Policeman realizes that Langdon must be in on it somehow even though he was an ocean away when the murder was committed. The chase is on!  Langdon uses his knowledge of medieval Florence to give the police a slip. Not realizing that they are being chased by a crazed assassin who has a some sort of glaring physical trait like a unicorn horn that should make him easily spottable from space. 
Langdon and love interest run around Florence solving clues only to get to a point where they need help. Langdon now realizes he knows someone near Florence that can help so they go to them for help. Super Spoiler Alert! This person they go to for help is the villain who is pulling all the strings from behind the scenes. 
Now the three of them are running around Florence solving clues and heading towards a final conflict where Langdon realizes that the help is the villain and tricks him into thinking that he can't solve the final puzzle. The Misguided Policeman finally realizes who the true villain is and arrests the help and guns down the crazed assassin. 
Langdon and the love interest go off and solve the final puzzle and for some reason even though beautiful women keep throwing themselves at him Langdon once again fails to seal the deal.
The End

Well that's my best guess. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know how right or wrong I am.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Ottawa City Councillor PhoneGap app

So a couple of friends of mine wanted to learn more about programming mobile applications so we decided to get together and create an application for the Apps4Ottawa competition.

We settled on creating an application that would enable folks from Ottawa to learn more about and connect with their city councillors. Sadly, I didn't even know who my city councillor was until I started working on this app.

It uses the open data Ottawa to get the city councillor information and it the Open North API to do reverse geocoding to turn your GPS co-ordinates into the correct ward.

Currently the app is available on the Google Play store and we are going through the process of getting approval for the app on the Apple store.

PhoneGap was definitely the way to go with this project. We developed pretty much in Android then when we were ready to release a version of the app we just compiled it in Xcode and it just worked. The only thing we changed were the break points for the CSS media queries to deal with the different iPhone screen sizes. Support for Windows 8 and BlackBerry 10 are also coming as we have time.

I'm going to write up a post later in the week to talk about some of the micro libraries we used in order to accelerate development.

Please give the app a try and let me know what you think of it and what can be done better. If you are so inclined we wouldn't mind a vote or two in the app in the Apps4Ottawa competition.

Friday, May 10, 2013

PhoneGap AdobeMax Sessions

Were you at AdobeMax this week? No, neither was I. Disappointed? Yeah, me too. Luckily Adobe is posting their talks on line for everyone to be able to watch. Not everything is up yet so I will update this  post as they become available. Right now I recommend checking out:

Top 10 Performance Techniques for PhoneGap Applications by Christophe Coenraets

Architecting PhoneGap Applications by Christophe Coenraets

Advanced PhoneGap Build by Raymond Camden

Designing and Developing PhoneGap Applications from the Ground-Up by Sandy Fleischer

Expanding PhoneGap with Plug-ins by Fil Maj

Optimizing PhoneGap Applications by Steve Gill

PhoneGap and Untappd: The Perfect Pint by Greg Avola and Tim Mather

Tips for Creating Real PhoneGap Apps That Look As Good As They Perform by Mike Wolf

Building Mobile Apps with Web Standards by Michael Brooks

Book's I've Re-read this Week

This week has be a re-read week as the Heinlein book is this month's pick for the Ottawa Sci-fi and Fantasy Readers.

The The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. This is the second time around that I've read this book. I believe that I liked it better the first time around. The story is one of revolution on the moon. The "Loonies" are tired of being treated like second class citizens as the colony on the moon was initially a penal colony. Generations later they decided to revolt for their own freedom. Basically you have a pretty thought provoking libertarian novel set in space.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Now this is a novel I've read twice, saw the BBC TV show and now listened to the BBC radio production with an all star voice cast. I continue to love this book.

Poor Richard Mayhew decides to help a young woman, Door, on his way to supper one night. For his small act of kindness he's pulled into London Below an alternate version of London in which the fantastical is all to real. Will Richard and Door be able to solve the mystery of who murdered her parents, avoid the incredibly creepy Croup and Vandemar, while figuring out a way to return Richard to London Above.

If you know of the name of the literary trope that describes Croup and Vandemar please let me know. The same archetype has shown up in so many books including:

  • Finch and Mullet in Tad Williams Otherworld series
  • Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip in Terry Prachett's The Truth
  • Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd in Ian Flemmings Diamond's Are Forever
  • Goss and Subby in China Mieville Kraken
Plus enumerable other examples in TV's and movies.