Friday, April 26, 2013

Books I've Read This Week

The Temporal Void by Peter F Hamilton is the second novel of the Void Trilogy. As such it continues on the plot threads from the first novel. We follow Inigo, the first dreamer, and Araminta, the second dreamer outside the void while being treated to Inigo's dreams of what happens inside the Void where we get more of Edeard's back story. I really love reading more about Edeard. Also we are treated to a better explanation of what the void is which I will not spoil for you.
The Stuff of Legend: Omnibus One story by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith. The illustrator is Charles Paul Wilson III. Here is the elevator pitch, the Bogeyman steals a young child from his bedroom and his beloved toys need to venture out into the Dark to rescue him. Yes, I know it probably reminds you of Toy Story but there is definitely a heightened sense of danger in this book. One of the interesting things about this book is that it takes place during World War II so the art style is very reminiscent of the time period with it's sepia colouring.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Books I've Read This Week

Red Planet Blues by is the latest novel by Canadian sci-fi author Robert J Sawyer. The elevator pitch for this book is simply "noir on Mars". It follows the typical tropes of a noir detective story with the additional twist that it takes place on Mars. We follow our hard luck hero Alex Lomax as he attempts to solve a case that involves the legendary mother lode of Martian fossils. You see in the future where nanotechnology makes it possible to manufacture anything like gold or diamonds the only thing that is of any value are things that are truly unique. In this case the fossils of the previous life forms of Mars.

Sawyer was through Ottawa last week and gave a reading at the Clock Tower Brew Pub in Westborough. The place was just jammed packed with fans of the author and he gave a talk and a brief reading from the book. Hearing Sawyer read from one of his own books is always entertaining. I did get a chance to ask him why he doesn't narrate his own books. To wit his answer was it would take way too much time which is understandable. 
I still remember when George Papandreou put Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson in my hands. I absolutely devoured this book and it became one of my favourites and Stephenson one of my favourite authors.

In this book our main character, Hiro Protagonist (best name ever), is one of the 10 best swords men in the world and a top notch computer programer who delivers pizza for a living. In it Hiro discovers a new computer virus called Snow Crash that can not only take down your computer but also the brain of the person who views it.

Stephenson has always been a big idea writer and I just love the idea of a computer virus that is tied into the Sumerian myth and the Tower of Babel. You see before the Tower of Babel fell we all spoke the same language and the Snow Crash virus takes advantage of this by dropping down to the level of our brain stem that still can recognize sumerian and uses it to over write our behaviours. Analogies are drawn to the brain stem and the BIOS in your computer.

Anyway, great book. Lots of amazing ideas. He talks about burbclaves (gated communities), the Metaverse (Second Life) and the corportization of America long before these ideas floated to the top of our collective understanding.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My Home Screen

Kind of a departure from my regular posts but here is what my is currently on the home screen of my Nexus 4. Look it over and share with me what apps must be on your home screen.

Twitter - pretty obvious what this is used for. Today, hockey trade updates. Great new holo themed update released.

CIBC - my bank

theScore - out of all the mobile apps for quickly checking hockey scores (anyone see a pattern?) this one is my favourite. Apps like TSN and NHL GameCenter take too much time to load.

Untappd - one of my favourite apps built on top of the PhoneGap framework. It is a social beer check in app. Great to see what your friends are drinking and helps find new beers.

Gmail - All. The. Emails.

feedly - with the upcoming demise of Google Reader I've completely switched over to feedly for my RSS reading. It's a great app that syncs with Google Reader and has a great UI experience.

Google+ - I'm not completely sold on this app yet. I know Google wants it to be a Twitter/Facebook killer but until more of my friends start using it and the network effect takes over it won't be used as much as they'd hope.

Pocket Casts - after trying out a bunch of different podcast listening apps I've settled on Pocket Casts. It has a great UI and most importantly has variable rate playback which is a must for me. If I can't listen to podcasts at 2.0x speed I go crazy listening to the um's and ah's.

IMDB - I don't even think I can watch TV or Movies without this app. I'm constantly using it to look up what other shows/movies that actor was in.

TWN - The Weather Network, pretty useful app but it may be supplanted by the weather card in Google Now.

Starbucks - I'm a coffee addict. I use the Starbucks app to pay for my coffee fix whenever I can. Plus, it's one less card I have to carry around in my Costanza sized wallet.

OPL - Ottawa Public Library, I'm an avid reader who is constantly churning through books. Luckily Ottawa has a great public library system that feeds my addiction. Again, one less card is needed in my wallet.

Google Folder - this is my shortcut to all the other Google apps I use frequently but not enough to make the home screen like Play Music, YouTube, Calendar and People.

Instagram - currently testing out this photo service to see if it is a suitable replacement for the stock camera.

Instapaper - absolutely fantastic app for saving articles and reading them later, even when you are off line.

Play Store - with the new phone I find myself constantly installing new apps so the store has made it's way to the home screen.

So that's it. What are some of your favourite apps that I'm missing?