OS X App Backup Pro Available Free TODAY ONLY

I came across this offer a short time ago to get the Mac OS X App Backup Pro for free today. This is normally a $19.95 App that can be used to backup your system or make a clone of the boot drive.

We should all be making regular backups of our systems, but as we near upgrading to OS X El Capitan a backup is more important than ever.

I will post a more detailed review of the App in the future.

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Review of “The Returned Part 3”

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“The Returned Part 3” eBook was published in 2015 (September) and was written by Peter David (http://www.peterdavid.net). Mr. David has written over 50 novels and many short stories. This novel is the 21st in his ‘Star Trek: New Frontier’ 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, Mature Language and Mature Situations. This Science Fiction novel is set in the future of the Star Trek universe.

This book takes up immediately at the conclusion of “The Returned Part 2”. The primary character is Captain Mackenzie Calhoun who is Captain of the USS Excalibur. Calhoun and the crew of the Excalibur are in the pocket universe of the D’myurj. The new race, the Dayan, are now their enemy. The D’myuri are extremely powerful and want to wipe the all life in the universe from existence. Calhoun and the crew of the Excalibur play a cat-and-mouse game with the D’myuri, trying to escape and leave them in the pocket universe. Meanwhile, Mark McHenry, Robin Lefler and her son are dealing with Q on the Thallonian home world.

The story fell into the model of most Star Trek yarns. I enjoyed the 3 hours I spent with the story (making it more of a novella) and I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “Zero World”

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“Zero World” eBook was published in 2015 and was written by Jason M. Hough (http://www.jasonhough.com). Mr. Hough has published five books and novellas, with this being the latest.

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 Science Fiction Thriller novel is set in a far future. The primary characters are Peter Caswell, an assassin, and Melni Tavan, a spy.

Caswell is an unusual assassin. He is extraordinarily good at his job, but because of an implant in his neck, the memory of his actions are always wiped away. He is sent though a worm hole from Earth space to another place where there is a world almost like Earth. He is to find and kill a woman who has fled there with a mountain of technical information.

As he is about to complete his mission Caswell meets Tavan. This world is divided into North and South governments that are on the verge of a shooting war with one another. Tavan has infiltrated the North to discover the source of the North’s amazing new technology.

Tavan and Caswell are forced to team up. They flee from forces of the North. But once they are in the South, they find that their situation is not much improved. They escape again and seek to find out the truth. They discover far more than they expect. Now with both the forces of the North and the South in pursuit, they find that the fate of both Tavan’s home world and Earth are in the balance.

I thoroughly enjoyed the nearly 9 hours I spent with this novel. The device implanted in Caswell causes many unanticipated twists and turns to the plot. I am also hopeful that the way the story ended will bring back Tavan and Caswell back in a sequel. This eBook also included Hough’s novella “The Dire Earth” which I have reviewed separately. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “The Dire Earth”

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“The Dire Earth” novella was published in 2014 and was written by Jason M. Hough (http://www.jasonhough.com). Mr. Hough has published five books and novellas.

I obtained a galley of this novella for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this novella as ‘PG’ as there are instances of Violence. This Science Fiction Thriller novel is set in a near future. An alien ship has arrived and there is now a space elevator from Darwin, Australia to a space station near the alien artifact.

The world suddenly is turned upside down. A disease of some kind sweeps the globe. Those who have caught it just die, or worse, they turn into near animals with the only drive to kill those not yet infected. The story follows a handful of people who find that they are immune. They all make their way to Darwin and take up with the few human survivors living there. For some reason, the space elevator is holding back the strange plague.

This was only a 3 hour read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a prequel to another of Hough’s novels, “The Darwin Elevator”. Reading the novella encourages me to follow up with that novel as the story line was very interesting. This novella was included with the eBook “Zero World” that I have reviewed separately. I give this novella a 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Alternative Propulsion System Could Fuel Trip To and From Mars

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Patrick “Paddy” Neumann, a Phd student at the University of Sydney, has developed an ion engine that could enable space craft to travel to Mars and back on a single tank of fuel. Mr. Neumann was awarded the Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Award in 2012 out of over 1000 competitors in his division. His invention is at least 30% more efficient than prior drives.

NASA’s HiPEP (High Power Electric Propulsion) drive can achieve about 9,600 seconds of specific impulse. Specific impulse is a measure of how much thrust a kilogram of consumed fuel can produce. The Neumann drive has achieved up to about 14,600 seconds of specific impulse. By comparison a standard chemical rocket can produce 300-400 seconds of specific impulse according to NASA. The Neumann drive achieves this by applying electric arcs to a fuel source such as magnesium which produces an ion stream to propel the space craft.

While the Neumann drive does not produce enough thrust to launch a space craft into orbit, it would provide plenty of thrust over long distances to travel between Earth and Mars. In this application a low thrust could be applied over a long period of time to achieve relatively high speeds for a very low cost.

Read more . . .

iPhone Tip – Show Signal Strength

We all have the “dots” on our iPhone to show the signal strength, but is that enough? I would prefer something a little more granular than that on my iPhone. Fortunately there is an easy way of altering the signal strength display to do just that, You don’t have to jailbreak your iPhone and the change is reversible.

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To do this you need to access the hidden “Field Test Mode” on your iPhone. That can be done by entering *3001#12345#* on the iPhone keypad, then tapping the Call button. This will replace the display of the signal strength at the top left of the iPhone screen using the standard “dots” (left figure below) and with a numerical signal strength readout (right figure below). The value will be in decibels (dBm) ranging from -40 to -130, with -40 being the strongest possible signal and -130 being no signal at all.

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This number represents the Received Signal Strength Indication (RSSI) – a measure of the power present in the received radio signal. Interpreting the RSSI value:

  • -40 dBm to -60 dBm – very strong signal
  • -61 dBm to -95 dBm – strong signal
  • -96 dBm to -110 dBm – satisfactory signal
  • -111 dBm or less – poor signal

Hitting the Home button will exit Field Test Mode and return your iPhone to the normal signal strength display.

Now the process discussed thus far only displays the signal strength while Field Test Mode is invoked. I prefer to have the signal strength displayed all the time in decibels (dBm). To accomplish this dial *3001#12345#* on the iPhone keypad again. Instead of leaving Field Test Mode using the Home button, hold down the power/sleep button until is shows the “Slide to power off” message, then hold down the iPhone Home button. This will “force quit” the Field Test App. Now the signal strength is left displaying in decibels. If you tap on the displayed value, it will toggle between displaying the signal strength in dBm and the original “dots”.

To return the phone to the original signal strength display, repeat the process. This will work with an iPhone running iOS 4.1 or later.

I modified my iPhone 5 several months ago and prefer this more granular report on the signal strength. I should note too that the change persists across updates. I recently updated to iOS 9 and the change is still in place.


See my other iOS articles


 

Product Review – August Smart Lock

We purchased an August Smart Lock earlier this year from the Apple Store in the Domain in Austin, Texas. I presented a brief review of this product earlier this month at the CapMac meeting in Austin.

The Smart Lock is a lock that can be added to an existing door which works with your Android or iOS phone to unlock the deadbolt on your door. It is very easy to install if you already have a deadbolt on your door, though it is not compatible with all deadbolts. All that is needed is a screwdriver to remove the inside cover for the deadbolt and install the needed hardware.

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The lock itself looks like a thick, silver hockey puck. It clips onto the door using the hardware you have installed. Once the lock is assembled the lock is operated manually by rotating the silver cylinder. Turn it clockwise to lock and counter-clockwise to unlock. The exterior of your door remains unchanged after installation of the lock. You can still use your regular key to both lock and unlock the door from outside.

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With the lock installed you just download the August iPhone App to your phone, then pair it with the lock. With that configured, you can tell the state of the lock and actuate it from your iPhone. The App will support multiple Smart Locks. In my case both my wife and I have iPhones and can then manage our lock from either of them. Touching the red circle in the App will unlock the Smart Lock and will turn the circle green. Touching the green circle will cause the Smart Lock to lock. You can share access to others if they have the August App installed on their phone, either on a permanent basis or temporarily.

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The August App also installs onto an Apple Watch allowing you to lock and unlock the door from it as well, providing your iPhone is within range. The Auto Lock feature can be enabled through the App Settings to automatically lock the door after a set amount of time. The Auto Unlock feature will sense you nearing the door and will automatically unlock it. This is a “Beta” feature and while it works most of the time, we have experienced some problems. My wife’s iPhone 6 seems more reliable than my iPhone for some reason when it comes to the Auto Unlock feature.

On the whole we are pleased with the August Smart Lock, though we hope that future device firmware and App updates will improve the Auto Unlock feature.

Features

  • Lock can be operated by iPhone or Apple Watch
  • Option to enable Auto Lock
  • Option to enable Auto Unlock


Pros

  • Easy to install
  • iPhone and Apple Watch Apps work well
  • It is also supposed to work with Android phones
  • Works well from multiple iPhones
  • Auto Lock works reliably
  • Existing keys still lock/unlock the door


Cons

  • $250 at Apple, $229 at Amazon
  • “Beta” Auto Unlock works intermittently
  • Lock takes at least 30 seconds to sense the iPhone presence
    once you pull up in the driveway

See my other iOS articles


Review of “INCI”

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“INCI” eBook was published in 2015 and was written by Mike Resnick (http://mikeresnick.com) and Tina Gower (http://www.tinagower.com). Mr. Resnick is an experienced author with over 70 publications, while Ms. Gower is just beginning with just three.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this novel as ‘PG’ as there are instances of Mature Language. This Science Fiction novel (really a collection of three novellas) is set in a far future where Earth is colonizing other worlds.

In the first novella by Gower, the Reverend Barker is sent along with scientists to the distant world of Kaus to bring Christianity to the local primitive inhabitants. He stumbles upon what he sees as a very distinct parallel to the story of Jesus being crucified in the native’s history and, as on Earth, it spawns a following.

Fast forward about 500 or so years to the second novella, also by Gower. A film editor, Thomas Inkle, and his sick and dying wife, Anita Inkle, stumble upon mention of the Barker Testament. They investigate further and discover that the Testament tells of a story similar to that of Jesus on Earth. Soon their world turns upside down as electronic systems at their home fail and data mysteriously disappears.

In the third novella by Resnick, Tom Inkle takes what he and Anita have learned to a noted investigative journalist, Gar Mathews. Mathews digs into the story, traveling to Kaus and other worlds following a trail of crucifixion stories. Whys has the Barker Testament been suppressed?

The three novella concept worked well with this story arc. This is a book coming out of the Stellar Guild (http://www.stellarguild.com) that teams up established authors with a protege. I am not a fan of short stories, but this combination turned out well. While I think that Resnick’s piece was the best, the three worked well together and I enjoyed the 3.5 hours I spent with the book. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “Sherlock Holmes and the Copycat Murders”

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“Sherlock Holmes and the Copycat Murders” eBook was published in 2015 and was written by Barry Day. This is Mr. Day’s seventh Sherlock Holmes novel.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this novel as ‘PG’ as there are minor instances of Violence. This Mystery novel is set in 1900 England. The primary characters are Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John Watson and Mycroft Holmes.

As series of murders that each bear resemblance to cases Sherlock Holmes has solved stir the detective’s interest. Evidence, including witnesses claiming that Sherlock Holmes was a recent visitor to each victim makes a case for Sherlock Holmes being responsible.

Neither Watson or Mycroft Holmes can conceive of Sherlock having turned to crime and set out to discover what is going on and to prove Sherlock’s innocence. Mixed in with this is a growing German presence in England and the British development of new advanced submarine.

This reads like a Sherlock Holmes story from Doyle. I enjoyed the slightly more than 4 hours I spent with then novel. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “The Hidden Masters of Marauder”

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”Hidden Masters of Marandur” eBook was published in 2015 and was written by Jack Campbelll (http://www.jack-campbell.com). Mr. Campbell has written nearly 20 Science Fiction novels. This is the second of his “Pillars of Reality” series.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this novel as ‘G’. This Young Adult Fantasy/Steampunk novel is set in another world. The two main characters are 18 year old Mage Alain and 18 year old Master Mechanic Mari.

A short time has passed since the events described in the first novel of this series “The Dragons of Dorcastle”. Both Alain and Mari find themselves put into dangerous positions by their guilds and wonder if their guilds are trying to get them killed.

They reunite and, with both guilds after them, seek more information as to why they are being targeted. They are in constant danger as they seek out old friends. Narrowly escaping, they find that both guilds are committed to keeping anything from changing. Meanwwhile society is slowly disintegrating and the little technology the Mechanics know is fading away.

I have liked Jack Campbell for some time, having read most of his “Lost Fleet” series. I found this second novel in this series every bit as good and engaging as the first. While I had thought of this series as Fantasy when I first started reading it, I know am feeling that it has a Science Fiction angle as well. I liked both of the characters that he created and am looking forward to the next novel in the series. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).