Book Review of “Born of War”

516yEKkT89L._AA160_“Born of War” was published in 2015 (March) and was written by Anderson Harp (http://www.andersonharp.net). This is Mr. Harp’s third novel and the third of his “Will Parker” series.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this novel as ‘R’ as there are instances of Violence. This Thriller Military novel is set in the contemporary US and Africa. The primary characters are Colonel William Parker, retired, Omar, and Dr. Karen Stewart, though there are several other characters that are followed.

Omar is just 25 and was born and raised in the US, but has become a muslim radical. He recruits a few other Muslim brothers and convinces them that they need to martyr themselves for the good of the muslim cause. After he activates one of the terrorist cells he developed and a school is bombed, Omar flees the US and finds his way to Mogadishu, then on to join the armed muslims fighting the Kenyans and Ethiopian army.

Dr. Stewart goes to Africa as part of a Doctors Without Borders relief group. They come across a severe strain of menengitis. When she and another doctor leave their camp to visit a near by village they suspect has been infected, they are captured by armed muslims.

Colonel Parker has a history of special ops training. Now retired, he lives well off the grid in a remote farmhouse. Dr. Stewart’s father knows Parker from a previous encounter and asks him to help find, and bring back his daughter.

Omar has become a most wanted by the FBI as he activates other cells and makes videos for his cause. Young muslims from around the world start to answer his call, and funds pour in to aid the terrorists.

There is action as Parker tries to find and rescue Dr. Stewart. Disease, wilderness and terrorists all stand in his way. I enjoyed the 8.5 hours I spent with the novel, but it did not have me on the edge of my seat. The pacing and layout of the story reminded me of a W.E.B. Griffin novel. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

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App Review – MathStudio

MathStudio is an App that is available for both the Mac and iOS devices from Pomegranate Apps. The new MathStudio 6 is available from the Mac App store for $49.99, and $19.99 for the iOS version. However the older version 5 of both are currently available for free. For now my needs are satisfied with the free version.

What does MathStudio do? Here are some of the features of MathStudio from their web site:

  • CALCULATOR – From basic calculations to college calculus, MathStudio is a full featured scientific calculator with hundreds of different functions.
  • ALGEBRA & CALCULUS – MathStudio is powered by a lightning fast computer algebra system that beautifully typesets your answers. Solve limits, derivates, integrals and more!
  • GRAPHING – Plot 2D and 3D graphs of all types effortlessly! Combine the power of MathStudio’s computer algebra system to create plots never thought possible.
  • SCRIPTING – Create scripts in MathStudio’s powerful scripting language that features expressive and powerful syntax to do amazing things with just a few lines of code.
  • REGRESSION ANALYSIS – Plot lists of data with built-in regression analysis!
  • UNITS – From unit conversions to compound unit arithmetic, MathStudio 6 introduces complete support for units with intuitive syntax.

App Review - MathStudio2 App Review - MathStudio App Review - MathStudio1

This would have been a great App to have had back in the long ago days that I was studying Electrical Engineering. Not only can you solve problems, but you can visualize the answers. MathStudio is not as powerful as Mathematica or Maple, but it is considerable power to have available on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. If you do not have your iOS device of Mac close at hand, you can also use MathStudio on-line. MathStudio is also available for Android devices.

To glimpse the power of MathStudio go to the web site and view the video. This is a powerful App, but not one that the casual user will be able to quickly take advantage of. The App does have a few included tutorials, but time will be needed to master what the App can do for you.

Pros

  • Powerful equation solving
  • Great tool for students

Cons

  • Free version is not the latest version of the product
  • Not for the novice, this is no simple calculator

See my other iOS articles


Book Review of “The Thirteenth Tower”

917gyaH1ulL._SL1500_“The Thirteenth Tower” was published in 2014 and was written by Sara C. Snider (http://saracsnider.com). Ms. Snider has published two novels this being there first of her “Tree and Tower” series.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this novel as ‘PG’ as there are some instances of Violence. This Young Adult Fantasy novel is set in another world where magic exists. The primary character is 17 year old Emelyn.

Evelyn is an orphan who was left at the door of a well to do home. She was raised by the housekeeper and given a basic education, but little affection. Emelyn saw herself as never being more than the house maid that she was.

A strange event happens in her town, and she escapes with two Magisters who say they know of her parents. She goes with the Magisters hoping to find out about her parents, but little information is forthcoming. She also learns that they believe that she has ability with “the Art” and try to teach her. She struggles with their lessons, but is able, when stressed, to somehow use magic to save herself.

Emelyn has more than one magical experience along their journey and she begins to wonder why the magisters have brought her along. As she meets others skilled in magic, her doubts about the magister grows.

This is s story of struggle and growth for the young Emelyn. I spent 6 hours with the novel and found it interesting, but not overly engaging. I felt that this was more about the struggle Evelyn had within herself than about the fantasy land she was in. I felt that this was just the prelude to the real story of the series. I give this novel a 3 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

Another Apple TV Update

Apple followed up the on their Tuesday Apple TV announcement with another yesterday. As of Wednesday March 25 the CNN Go channel is available on all Apple TVs. It is always good to have more channels, but in this case you must still have a cable or satellite TV subscription.

I checked my Apple TV this morning and the CNN Go channel had been added to the lineup. I am glad to see Apple is adding channels, but there are many others I would rather see.

See Apple TV for getting started and links to other Apple TV related articles

OS X App Review – Folder Designer

OS X App Review - Folder Designer

I came across Folder Designer (from FIPLAB Ltd.) this morning and as it is currently being offered as a free download from the Mac App Store, I decided to give it a try.

So what does this App provide? Per the App Store writeup: “Folder Designer is the coolest and easiest way to customize Folders on your Mac. ” What that means is that the App lets you apply custom icons or patterns to your folders.

OS X App Review - Folder Designer1

I was easily able to choose a icon from those included with the App and apply it to a folder. I was also able to choose the ‘Pattern’ option, click on the blank pattern field, then pick an image to use. I could then apply that image onto a folder. The image could be JPG, GIF or PNG, and the resultant folder would display the image in color.OS X App Review - Folder Designer2

Pros

  • Free for the time being
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to add custom patterns from your JPG, PNG or GIF files

Cons

  • Only just over 100 simple icons and no patterns included

If you want to customize the look of your folders, then I would download this App now while it is free. I am likely not to use the included icons much, but I can see using images I have to create custom patterns to make folders visually identifiable.


See my other OS X articles


Book Review of “The Great Zoo of China”

greatzoo_112-112x172“The Great Zoo of China” was published in 2015 and was written by Matthew Reilly (http://www.matthewreilly.com). Mr. Reilly has published 18 novels.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this novel as ‘R’ as there are instances of Violence and Mature Language. This Thriller novel is set in contemporary China. The primary character is Dr. Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameran.

Dr. Cameran is 36 and has spent her professional life working with and investigating salt water crocodiles. After an accident that nearly killed her, she left the swamps of Florida to take a position in the San Francisco Zoo as a veterinarian. She is contacted by a friend and asked to take an all expenses paid trip to China to write an article for National Geographic.

Once there, she discovers that the Chinese have found living dragons, and have built a huge ‘zoo’ for them to live in. She, and a couple of other American journalists, are there to get an exclusive look at the zoo and write articles about it before it is announced to the world. The zoo looks new and incredible, but before long the dragons turn on their captors and Dr. Cameran, and the others, finds herself struggling to stay alive.

I liked this novel. It reminds me a lot of Jurassic Park. The finding of real dragons was an interesting plot twist, and Dr. Cameran is a very strong female character, much like Lara Croft. Some of the actions seemed a little far fetched to me, but then that is not unusual for Thrillers. I spent a little less than 7 hours with the novel and found it enjoyable. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com).

USA, Arizona, Phoenix – Lo Lo’s Chicken & Waffles

USA, Arizona, Phoenix - Lo Lo’s Chicken

In late January of 2015 we were in Phoenix, Arizona with the Girls 12+ year old Flag Football team we work with where they were competing in the national tournament, held there in conjunction with the NFL Superbowl. I have to add as an aside that our girls won the tournament!

After our first practice, we went to Lo Lo’s Chicken & Waffles for dinner. It looks like any other fried chicken place from the outside, but it has accumulated some culinary awards. As I was writing this article I checked on Urbanspoon and it shows a 90% rating for Lo Lo’s with nearly 550 votes. Likewise Tripadviser shows a very positive rating from the 120+ reviews, as does Foursquare with 93% positive from more than 300 votes.

Even though we were there in the late afternoon, there was a line to be seated, and that line was still there when we left a couple of hours later. Not only that, but the small parking lot was valet parking only, and by the time we were leaving at the height of the crowd, they had police officers in the parking lot to help control the traffic!

IMG_0204

The restaurant specializes in fried chicken (or course), waffles and other soul food favorites. I had the Betty’s Boob DD, that is two fried chicken breasts with a waffle. I, and the rest of the 25 or so in our party found the food to be very good. Had I past this restaurant, I would never have thought to stop,  but now that I know about it I will be sure to visit if I am ever in Phoenix again.


See my other Food articles


CLI – sudo

The sudo command (substitute user do) allows a user to execute a command with the privileges and identity of another user. Many Linux systems and OS X come with sudo pre-configured allowing any user designated to be an administrative user to use the sudo command to execute commands with root authority.

The flat file /etc/sudoers is used to configure which users are allowed to execute which commands on the system.

While there are other options to the sudo command, most users will be using it to run a command with root authority, such as

sudo chgrp wheel Users

The user will be prompted for their user password before being allowed to run the command

See Apple’s Mac OS X Manual Pages for further command details.


See my other CLI articles


The OS X Terminal

A key tool to the System Administrator or the more advanced user of any Unix/Linux/OS X system is the Command Line Interface (CLI) and that is accessed on OS X systems through the Terminal App. Apple includes the Terminal App with the Utilities. To open the Terminal App got to Finder >> Go >> Utilities >> Terminal.The OS X Terminal

When the Terminal opens by default it will be at the Home directory for the user. Now the user can enter any commands into the terminal for execution.

If you want to adjust the font size used, you can do so by using the Command+Plus (+) key combination to increase the font size, or Command+Minus (-) to decrease the font size. Using Command-Zero (0) will return the font size to the default.The OS X Terminal2

Through the Terminal Preferences you can also adjust the colors being used to find a background/foreground color combination to your liking. The example above is with the ‘Basic’ profile while the one below is using the ‘Homebrew’ profile.The OS X Terminal3

I find that the ‘Homebrew’ profile provied more contrast and makes the Terminal content easier to read.

A simple ‘Terminal Cheatsheet for Mac‘ gives an over view of keyboard shortcuts for the Terminal App., as well as the most common CLI commands you might use.


See my other SysAdmin articles


Apple TV – New Updates

This morning Apple added three new channels to the Apple TV – TED Talks, Young Hollywood, and Tastemade. I just finished checking my Apple TV and all three new channels were present. Of the three, I think that I will find the TED Talks channel will be the most useful to me. I looked over some of the recent presentations and see several I want to view. In summary the new channels provide:

  • TED Talks – presentations on a variety of topics
  • Young Hollywood – celebrity-focused programs
  • Tastemade – food adventure, cooking programs and a few city guides

This seems another step in preparation for the rumored launch of a video streaming service and likely a newer model of Apple TV sometime this summer. On March 16 the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple would announce a TV subscription service with at least 25 channels and with competitive pricing. Of course, at this point all is just speculation.

See Apple TV for getting started and other Apple TV related posts