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Reviews

The Gunslinger

The Dark Tower I: The GunslingerI just finished listening to The Gunslinger, the first book in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. This series made it onto my potential reading list because of the suggestion of Scott Johnson, a web cartoonist who also has several podcasts which I enjoy (The Instance, Film Sack!) I am currently training for a marathon, so my weekend runs are fairly long (in the multiple hour range) and I decided it would be a good opportunity to listen to some audiobooks. I just picked The Gunslinger from my list because I had the audiobook and it seemed like a good place to start.

So how did I like it? It was really good. You can look it up and read all about it, so I won’t rehash the details of the novel and what it is about. The thing I liked was that it mixed so many different genres. It is a cowboy western with some sorcery/magic mixed in. There is also a “knights of the round table” feel and some modern day sci fi. Throw in some religion (a somewhat blasphemous take on Christianity no less – not my favorite part) and multiple/parallel universe thinking and you have yourself a mixed up jumble of interesting reading (or listening in my case).

Geek Gift Ideas – November 30

xkcd_book_300Some people have said that, “laughter is the best medicine.” Well, today’s geek gift idea is the gift of laughter; the kind that appeals to geeks in particular. xkcd is described as a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language. This book, xkcd: volume 0, is the first book that combines selections of the first 600 comics, including various author and fan favorites.

The cost is US $18.00 and is printed by BreadPig. Another thing that makes this a really neat gift idea is that BreadPig’s portion of the profits will go to build a school in Laos through the charity Room to Read.

Geek Gift Ideas – November 27

cbfb_2010_custom_despair_calendar

Why not start off the Geek Gift Ideas 2009 edition with a Despair, Inc. 2010 Custom Calendar. Every geek loves geek humor and Despair Inc. has been dishing out the sarcasm for years now. Not only does this calendar provide a hilarious demotivator for each month, but it also contains important dates in geek history. For example:

  • January 9, 2007: Apple CEO Steve Jobs announces the iPhone. Motorola cringes.
  • February 26, 1955: George Smith makes aviation history by becoming the first man to bail out of a jet at supersonic speeds
  • March 18, 1947: Patent #2417786 was issued to Hurley Smith for the “Pocket Shield Or Protector”. The nerd is born.
  • April 28, 1997: Duke Nukem Forever’ announced. 12 years later, it remains unreleased.

The calendar costs US $15.99 and will earn you 225 geek points.

Any Lucky Moshi Alarm Clock

moshi3Any Lucky Day is a website that constantly holds giveaways. It’s a great way for companies to get some advertising for their products, I’m sure the giveaway website gets a nice kickback from the traffic that it sends to the product sites and most importantly of all… YOU can win some really cool stuff! All that is generally required is to leave a comment in the comments section for the post that you would like to win (as long as it is still active/open). Well, this finally paid off for me and I won a Moshi Voice Control Travel Alarm Clock.

The package arrived this weekend though I haven’t had a chance to crack it open until today. My first impression is that it is a lot smaller than I though it would be. I suppose this makes sense as it is a “travel alarm clock” and you wouldn’t want to carry around a large bulky alarm clock on the road. The packaging is very nice and sleek, somewhat Apple-ish. Inside there is basically the clock and an instruction manual. I peeled the clear cover off the faceplate and flipped the unit over to reveal the battery compartment. It was easy to open and I put in the 3 required AAA batteries.

Taking It For A Spin

I pushed the IVR button. The alarm clock prompted me for a command to which I responded, “set time.” The clock then asked for the current time. I replied and then the clock confirmed that it had set the time for the exact time I had requested. SWEET! This is really cool. I then asked for the time again to which it replied. I tried asking for the temperature and it responded perfectly. Whenever the clock is activated the backlit display turns on a very bright blue making it eas to read. Plus for such a small clock the numbers for the time are surprisingly large, which should make it easier for those of us who wear glasses to read the thing in the middle of the night.

Conclusion

I would very much recommend this product if you are a traveler. It doesn’t have a radio, but I’m sure most techies out there have a dedicated MP3 player of some flavor. It would be nice to wake up to tunes as I am accustomed to, but the IVR voice recognition technology is really cool. Not only that but Moshi has a larger, at-home version that looks very nice. They don’t have any version which allow you to listen to music yet (i.e. music files, player dock or radio), but they do say they are working on one. I can’t wait!

Aion Fantasy MMORPG in Open Beta

AionOpenBeta

Aion is a new MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) by NCSOFT that is now available for open beta, but it’s for this weekend only (September 6 – September 13). Head on over there to grab your Open Beta key and download the client. If you do want to play though you should start the download process immediately as it’s a 9.1 Gb file download.

RoboForm Update – Online Passwords!

RoboForm: Learn more...I just noticed this really cool feature so I thought I’d throw a shout-out to my favorite password manager. I’ve been using AI RoboForm for many a year now and have actually reviewed it on this site before. I really love this program. Basically it’s a program that sits in your task tray and includes a browser plugin (Firefox and IE) which can fill out passwords and forms for you… automagically! It includes one-click logon which will take you to the desired site and log you in. There are a ton more features which I don’t even utilize but the skinny of it is… I’d be lost without this program. Seriously.

That said, I just noticed a new online synchronization feature that they have included in the latest version. Basically you create an online login on their site, which you then sync up with your desktop version. Now that I’ve set this up I can have access to my logins and passwords even when I forget my thumb drive! (Oh yeah, they have a portable app version that runs off of a thumb drive)

Get Cash Back @ Bing

how3icon2I wrote a short post a while back about the new search engine… or excuse me, “personal decision engine” (yeah, whatever)… from Microsoft called Bing. I just ran across this today and though it was interesting. Something more to try and entice users away from the Google behemoth is a Cash Back Program. So apparently you sign up for an account and shop around the internets using Bing. Then on qualified purchases they give you a small percentage back into your account. Then after 60 days and having accumulated at least $5 you may request your cash. Pretty interesting. We’ll see if it’s enough to changes users habits with respect to searching for products on the internet.

Bing.com – Microsoft’s New Search Engine

Have you “binged” anything lately? If not, then don’t sweat it. Microsoft just release a new search engine called Bing, which you may or may not have heard about yet. Really? Another search engine? I thought Live.com was their SE of choice. Well, if you go to live.com now it actually points to bing.com.

bing

So how does the new search engine stack up? From my short review of it, it behaves surprisingly similar to Google, the de-facto standard in search engines and close to being a common household term. Once you search you have links at the top to view images and videos of the same search terms and various other options including shopping, news and maps. The interface looks very nice. It looks like they borrowed the home page from ask.com in that there is a boxed image around the search input. The difference is the bing image changes every day, plus you can scroll back through past images.

One nice feature that I like is the video search. It lists an image preview for the results and lists below the preview where the video is hosted (YouTube, MySpace, MetaCafe). Then when you click on the preview it plays the video right in the search results in a video player at the top. Very sleek.

So will this be the final, once and for all Google killer? Yeah… I seriously doubt it. It does basically the same thing with maybe a little more pizaz. However it is nice to have company’s out there innovating to push the envelope and make the internet a nicer and more usable place to be.

Link Bundle – May 13

chain_linkCommon Web Design Mistakes
Mark Smith with MDS Solutions presents a list of stuff you should NOT do when designing your website.

Ext JS 3.0 RC1.1 brings a host of new features to the table
Weblenium gives a quick overview of the new features found in Ext JS 3.0 RC1.1.

Mozilla Brings Webapps to the Desktop, Challenges AIR, Silverlight
Scott Gilbertson covering the release of a new FireFox Add-On called Prism, which looks like it is contending with the likes of AIR and Silverlight.

20 More Excellent AJAX Effects You Should Know
Glen Stansberry giving a great list of excellent AJAX effects.

Field: Experimental Programming IDE
So what will programming look like in the future? Those crazy guys at M.I.T. are taking a stab. See what they are coming up with.

Link Bundle – March 17

chain_linkThe Tweet to Beat: Paying $3 Per Twitter Follower
Want to win a round trip airline ticket to anywhere in the world!? How about a brand-spankin new MacBook Pro? Well Tim Ferris is running a fund raiser / giveaway in which you can win one of these prizes. Head on over to check it out!

Dangerous designs
Vijay Mathew makes some strong arguments against the unnecessary complexity of many modern programming languages and provides examples of some simple and “elegant” alternatives.

5 Tips to Make Your 404 Page More Usable
Matthew Kammerer gives us some tips on creating useful 404 error pages.

10 Linux and open source developer tools you should not overlook
Jack Wallen brings you 10 Linux and Open Source developers tools that… well… you can read the title for yourself.

40 Beautiful Examples of Vintage and Retro in Web Design
And a little something for the web designers out there. Matt Cronin provides quite an extensive list of sites using some cool, retro designs.

EDIT: Oops! I left off the HREF for that last one. Just added it.