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I’m On Goodreads

Yes, like many “bloggers” I can get pretty loose with the actual blogging part. It’s not unusual to go weeks, months – even years – without a post. It’s not really procrastination, lack of motivation, laziness, or disinterest. It’s just firing up the web browser and typing something, without getting distracted. Let’s chalk it down to that modern malady of the internet age… pretty poor attention spans.

But I still love to read, and lately I’ve been keeping track of the books I’ve read with Goodreads , a social reading group of sorts, not that I actually use the social part much, but feel free to add me!. I’ve been rating the books I’ve enjoyed and entering some quick reviews if I remember to. I’ve also been adding in those books I can remember reading from the past, i.e. pre-goodreads.

This is actually pretty helpful. You can keep track of your reads, sure, but you can also notice other users who like the books you did. You can follow these reviewers or befriend them. You can also become a fan of your favorite authors. There’s lots of lists there too to help you see what’s popular, as well as quizzes and other frivolous stuff, but the best part is all those ratings you diligently enter will help the Goodreads recommendation engine find you something cool to read next.

Of course recommendation engines aren’t perfect, but this one is pretty darned good. With the lists and other reviewers you’ll never waste time on a useless book or miss an excellent one again. Your mileage may vary.

Anyway. There’s a few techniques I use to find new stuff to read, from award winners (e.g. Hugo and Nebula for scifi), recommendations from blogs, bestsellers, newsworthy titles, even that tried and tested Cool Cover coin toss, but Goodreads makes it all nice and simple. You may even find that holy grail, a new author you love with a long and interesting series of books you’ve yet to sample… No more waiting for the next title, yay!

Goodreads is part of the Amazon empire these days (a controversial step for some) and there’s also a good app for Android / Apple which is doubly good if you read on a tablet.

Here’s a widget from Goodreads and I’ve also put a button on the sidebar. See you there ūüėČ

Stuart’s bookshelf: read

5 of 5 stars
This is one of the classics of cyberpunk literature along with William Gibson’s "Sprawl" trilogy that started with Neuromancer. It’s also one of the books I put off reading for whatever reason, but I’m so glad I did get around to it now….
tagged:
sci-fi

5 of 5 stars
Ok. I’m guessing this "review" will be pretty similar to others here. Basically, if you meet the target demographic, you’ll love this.

That is, if you’re a geeky 80’s kid and love technology, gaming, classic arcade machines, eighties mu…

tagged:
sci-fi

5 of 5 stars
Avery Cates is a Gunner, a hitman for hire in a grimy slum that was once New York City. Post Unification, the world is policed by the System Cops ("Pigs") who answer to no-one except their head of internal affairs, Richard Marin – the re…
tagged:
sci-fi

5 of 5 stars
Set in a post apocalypse London (Metrozone) Samuel Petrovitch keeps his past a secret as he carves out a career as a brilliant physicist.

Since the civilized world has been devastated by a series of bomb attacks by Armageddonists much …

tagged:
sci-fi

5 of 5 stars
In my eyes this is the best of the Dagmar Shaw series (so far?) even though here we really follow Sean Makin in first person and Dagmar is relegated to a bit player, albeit an important one.

Sean is a washed up ex-child star, appearing …

tagged:
sci-fi and crime

3 of 5 stars
If you liked "This Is Not A Game" then you’ll *maybe* like this. Most of the characters from the first book return, but this time Dagmar is head of Great Big Idea and she’s running an ARG in Turkey – first to promote the new James Bond m…
tagged:
crime and sci-fi

4 of 5 stars
Very interesting, and although I came to this from the Dread Empires Fall series by Walter Jon Williams I wasn’t disappointed in the least that it’s a totally different beast!

Dagmar Shaw runs ARGs – Actual Reality Games – but after bei…

tagged:
sci-fi and crime




goodreads.com

Still Here…

Oh, how easy it is to let a site go, yet continue with all intentions of starting back up, paying hosting keeping the URL, etc…

And there’s loads I’d like to discuss, movies, books, some excellent new TV series such as Fringe, Eureka, Warehouse 13 etc.

Not to mention the odd game, a ton of interesting sites and services… but the fact is I’ve just been too lazy. That stands for here, plus my Internet Marketing sites that once made money – yet I still let them stall.

Anyway — I mention websites, which brings me to Google and it’s new Google+ Social Network. It’s been both praised and dismissed as a replacement for the ill-fated Wave, or an attempt to take on Facebook. It is of course neither. It’s simply it’s own thing, a very interesting service meant to bring like minded people together, as well as “+1” (vote for) pages, have discussions, share photos, whatever you like. You have complete control over WHAT you share, and WHO you share it with through a very simple concept, yet powerful, “circle” method. It’s easier to see than it is to explain.

So, before I get back into these blogs and sites of mine gathering dust, it’s worth noting my Google+ Profile where’ll you find my posts on that particular service.

I also started a Google Fansite! Well… I figured Google doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. You probably use it every day, like me. May use an Android Smartphone, like me, or Tablet, yep – me again. Google Mail is probably the best in the business, not to mention Google Maps and Streetview, and Google Earth, and even it’s¬†acquisitions¬†like YouTube or Blogger.

Yet it doesn’t really get “fans” as such. Facebook does, as does Linux, even Microsoft, an often demonised corporation. Linux, well, they’re true believers, not fans, and Apple – they’re fanatics ūüôā The point is once in Google’s sphere of influence, you’re likely to stay there. Use it’s start page, it’s e-mail, it’s Calender, perhaps it’s browser Chrome which has morphed into an OS of sorts itself. Throw in Android, which through sheer number of devices is taking over the mobile market fast, and Google can be felt everywhere.

It means people might not like it being that big and powerful. In exchange for these services, which are all free, you are essentially giving them your data. It’s a fair exchange – the data is anonymous, used for advertising (Google’s main revenue) so for Google it’s sole aim is to get as many web users in as many services as it can. But it doesn’t cut corners, or plaster the services with ads – and they’re not really “tracking” you as such though you get the odd creepy moment where you were just shopping for something and it starts popping up in ads… You don’t even have to share this data in the first place, Google is pretty open, and if you took the time, you’d find out how top opt out of, say, search history, or certain cookies often used, even benign ones used by Google¬†Analytics (a free service for webmasters) which are simply used to tell the site owner what kind of visitors they get.

This kind of discussion, as well as product-specific discussions, tips,  advice, and much more can be used on my Google+ Fan Page

 

You’ll also find the link to my personal profile there, since Google+ interestingly treats each page, or person, as it’s own entity. Give it a go – and take a second to think of how much Google has helped you, your life, your internet usage over the years versus any media-overblown negatives. See you there!

See this site via “Geocities Emulator”!

Long time net users will remember Geocities. What started out as a way for the masses to create their own free websites soon descended into an anarchic mismatch of garish colors, midi music, animated gifs and worse.

It may be unfair to look on Geocities so badly. After all, pre-facebook and social networks in general this was one of the only ways to easily make a website, or even to show your photographs to the world. Geocities along with many others of its ilk soon fell into disuse as “proper” hosting became available, but it is still fun to look back on the wild earlier days of the web.

See this site as it would look on Geocities ūüôā

Yes, I did have a Geocities site at one point. And I did go through the entire roster of hand-coded HTML 1.0 and free advertising-supported hosting.

To see any other site in Comic Sans with dancing babies, simply append any web address to the end of the URL when you click that link above.

Note: There is a Geocities archive , lovingly saved by crawling the entire Geocities site as it was closed down. You might find more at Archive.org and the Wayback machine.

The Wand Remote

The best remote control ever… I just spotted this on the Firebox site!

The Wand

The Wand

Basically this remote allows you to control almost anything, with nifty Harry Potter style wand waving!

Left and Right to select tracks, for example, and circular swishing movements to adjust volume. It can learn up to 13 infra red commands. It even comes in a nifty magical presentation box.

If you want to control your MP3s from your iPod Dock or your TV channels or your Sky + there’s no better way than this!

See the video and get it from Firebox.Com (The example video shows you how it can even learn to control your Macbook) .

Gadgets don’t get better than this! Is it the ultimate geeky Christmas present?

Watch Online Streaming TV In The UK

Here in the UK there are a few good sources of online TV, mainly the BBC iPlayer (excellent), Channel 4 On Demand (4OD, works well), and now the ITV Player. All give you a selection of catch-up TV (usually a week or 30 days depending on the program) as well as older, archived programs and series (more so with 4OD).

iPlayer : No Ads. Streaming and Expiring Downloads supported. Resume feature let’s you continue a program from where you left off. New Higher Quality setting if you have the bandwidth. Great selection of the weeks programs from across the BBC TV and Radio network.

4OD : Sometimes, a small ad break but nothing to worry about. Supports Streaming and Downloads (which expire). Excellent selection of the weeks programs and a massive archive of such classics as Shameless, Skins, Derren Brown, Documentaries, Peep Show, Black Books, etc. It also uses a propriatry interface, not a web page. 4OD also sells movies and certain programs, and you can pre-book downloads in advance.

ITV Online : This is the new baby on the block, seems rather more limited that the other two since it is Streaming only, and plenty of ad breaks. These ads will also show if you try to jump through a program, making it harder to continue where you left off. It also has some great archive content, such as Ruth Rendell mysteries, Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Cracker etc.

Demand 5 : This is Channel 5’s online offering. Here you can watch C5 programs, on demand, but Streaming only.¬† You can also buy or rent programs for download, which requires special software to be installed. This means there’s only usually a weeks worth of telly to watch for free. Don’t forget, Five is home to some great US imports such as CSI, NCIS and Numb3rs.

There’s also a Sky Player but unless you’re already a Sky TV subscriber you won’t get in without paying a ¬£15 a month subscription!

You also have the choice of watching some TV from around the world, using Joost and Miro . Joost is full of everything from TV series, to Shorts, to Music Videos. It’s now web based, though I liked the original flash download version better. It’s full of channels you can watch and fully supports favourites, voting, queues and much more. Miro is more patchy, less premium content and more in the way of obscure niche programs but it is open source and continuously updated.

But, the granddaddy of all online TV sites is Hulu . You get to watch the latest Simpsons, Battlestar Galactica, etc at that site as well as full movies and entire series of some US gems. Unfortunately, Hulu is locked to the USA and won’t display content to anyone outside there.

In fact, a lot of US TV stations have their own online TV sections, allowing you to watch everything from Lost to Prison Break and beyond. Stations such as Fox (24, American Idol, Prison Break), ABC (Lost, Greys Anatomy), CBS (CSI) and many more, including some familiar to UK Cable and Sattelite users such as SciFi Channel , Discovery, History Channel, etc.

The only way these sites now that you are not from the USA is because of your IP Address. So if you can mask, or hide, your IP address you are good to go.

There are many solutions to this. One way is to use a proxy based in the US and altering your browser manually, though it can be slow and hard to find these proxies. Luckily there is an easy way…

Download and install Hotspot Shield . This is a security application designed to hide your IP by connecting your PC via a Virtual Private Network to the Hotspot network. You will see a speed hit, but it depends on your broadband connection whether or not it will affect you too much. And you do see ads on top of webpages (or should, they just seem to leave a blank space on mine!) but they can be closed.

But the best thing about Hotspot Shield is it’s easy to activate and deactivate whenever you wish, and if you want to browse all the great US TV content – you can! Simple ūüôā

Google 10 Year Anniversary

Google is 10!

Google, a project first started in 1995, was incorporated on Sep 7th 1998. The company is a success story par excellence, generating massive profits and making it’s founders billionaires. Not bad for a company that has ridden the internet boom with aplomb. After all, “all” it does is provide a directory to the web and act as an advertising agency.

Google is the currently the #1 choice for searching the web. In fact, Google itself is anow a very: you don’t just search the web anymore, you “google” it!

Here’s some interesting links about Google and it’s history:

BBC News Videos and Report

Guardian Google Timeline

Google Facts

Official Google Blog

Google Youtube Channel

Google Explains Chrome

Google is launching it’s own browser – called Chrome (beta is now available), and they’ve also created a web comic to explain the thinking behind it. My first thoughts are at the end of this post, but here’s what Google itself says are the ideas behind the project:

Chrome Web Comic

It makes sense for Google to make it’s own browser, they are after all primarily a web company, and even though they’ve stated the Firefox partnership will continue there will obviously be a clash somewhere down the line. Unless, of course, both projects somehow merge. After all – both are open source.

With Firefox at around 20% market share, and Explorer anywhere from 75%-80% there’s a lot of work for Chrome to catch up.

But… and it’s a big but… Google does happen to own some of the worlds most popular websites and the web’s biggest advertising channel!

What to expect in Chrome? We’ll see later. So far it seems they aim to reduce memory wastage, introduce multi-threading (so the browser won’t hang if one element stalls), and overall make the browser stronger, faster, and more secure.

This is also ¬†designed ¬†with the web’s more modern features in mind and perhaps see a realisation of the web-as-application-platform or even the web-as-desktop. Google’s own Maps, YouTube, Apps and Mail are obvious candidates for integration. In fact, web applications can be dragged to the desktop and run from there!

Google’s Chrome Page (and download)

BBC News Report on Chrome (includes vid)

Wired Magazine on Chrome vs Microsoft IE

PC World: 7 Reasons For and 7 Against Chrome 

First Thoughts

Ok, I’m now using Chrome.¬†In fact, I’m editing this post from within it.¬†

It’s certainly seems fast. And the interface is very clean. Helpfuly, everything was imported from Firefox on installation so all bookmarks etc are there, and even usernames/passwords are imported. Shortcuts remain similar, so Ctrl+T opens a new tab, etc. In short, you can feel right at home.

The address bar doubles as a search bar, with suggestions as you type. But it also does much more, including showing sites you’ve visited before, and even generating special searches on the fly. For example, you visit IMDB and search for something. Now, whenever you want to run an IMDB search, just type IMDB in the address bar and press tab. You can enter a new search term for that particular site. Because of the autocomplete entries showing other sites you’ve used you can even do away with bookmarking temporary pages. Just re-search for it and your previous sites show up.

A new empty tab defaults to showing screenshots of your most-visited pages and recent bookmarks, and those tabs themselves can be dragged to make new windows. You can even create a desktop application from a web application, so for example go to Google Mail and select “Create Application Shortcut” from the page menu.

Downloads appear in a footer bar, with a simple progress bar and can be launched from there. You don’t need complicated download managers to handle them.

There are many more neat features, to see some  please click here (includes videos).

I haven’t checked for compatibility but on this cursory examination it seems at least up there with Firefox. I’ve tried Gmail and Youtube, and Microsoft Live. They seem fine. I even tried NewGrounds, a flash portal, and that seems to run everything well so even Flash is included by default.

Now – if I could only get all those Firefox Plugins I love. That will come with time, but for now I’m impressed.

And did I say it’s fast?

Rating: 8.5/10 (only because of the plugins, but this is a beta. Still faster and cleaner than most.)

Verdict: Google is on to another winner and continues it’s takeover of the Web. But do you really want everything handled by one company? Do we need another Microsoft?