Review of “The Fires of Babylon”

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“The Fires of Babylon” eBook was published in 2015 and was written by Mike Guardia. Mr. Guardia has written eight non-fiction novels about the military.

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 Non-Fiction novel tells the story of Eagle Troop of the US Army’s 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment. The primary period of time covered is from the late 1980’s through the cease fire called for Desert Storm.

The book gives a snapshot of the primary leaders of Eagle Troop, A little history of the unit as it fulfilled its mission in Germany during the cold war of guarding the border between West Germany and the Soviet Block is presented. Just as the cold war was ending, things were heating up in the Middle East. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the unit was quickly dispatched to Saudi Arabia. When the time finally came for coalition forces to strike against Iraq, Eagle Troop led the way.

Eagle Troop, and the American VII Corp, launched against the Iraqis. Eagle Troop spear pointed the advance with 12 M1A1 Abrahams tanks and an assortment of other vehicles including a few M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. US forces faced the Iraqi army as well as the elite Republican Guard. Both were equipped with Soviet T-72 and T-55 tanks, as well as the Soviet BMP, their mechanized infantry fighting vehicle.

The US was facing the Iraqi military which was much larger in sheer number and which had combat experience from the recent war with Iran. The untried US armored units were anticipating heavy casualties. On February 26, 1991, Eagle Troop encountered the Tawakalna Brigade of the Republican Guard. In the 23 minutes of combat, Eagle Troop destroyed more than 50 Iraqi tanks and other vehicles without loosing a single vehicle of their own.

I enjoyed this non-fiction novel of the US Army. 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).

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Mac OS X App – Commander One

OS X App - Commander One

Commander One, Eltima Software‘s dual-pane file manager for the Mac, has just been upgraded to version 1.2. Commander One proves to be a viable alternative to the native Finder we are all used to under OS X. This new version brings a few enhancements for El Capitan compatibility and improved stability. Improvements include:

  • Queuing file operations
  • Performing operations in the background
  • Displaying hidden files translucent to identify them easier
  • Displaying time remaining for modal operations

The dual pane interface offers three different view modes and unlimited tab browsing. A user can use one Commander One dual pane window to do what he would have needed two Finder windows to complete, such as copying a file between folders or drives.
OS X App - Commander One2

Commander One comes in two versions – Free and PRO ($29.95). Among the PRO features are the ability to access and manage data stored on Amazon S3, Google Drive and Dropbox. It also includes a FTP client.

Pro

  • Free version
  • Assigning hotkeys to various actions
  • Accessing and managing local and network drives
  • Advanced search with the help of regular expressions, Spotlight search support
  • Support for various archive formats (ZIP, RAR, TarGz, 7zip) – compressing, extracting and accessing archived files
  • Detecting computers that use NetBIOS protocol, displaying them as network computers
  • Previewing various files, a large number of formats is supported, including binary and hex
  • Mounting iOS and MTP devices for easier data access
  • Mounting Dropbox account as an additional drive on Mac
  • Choosing a program to be used to open files
  • FTP, SFTP and FTPS Client that allows changing file permissions
  • Sharing Dropbox Links
  • Themes to change the looks

Con

  • Access to S3, Google Drive and Dropbox require paid version

See my other Mac OS X Articles


Review of “The Stone Builders”

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“The Stone Builders” eBook was published in 2015 and written by John Lars Shoberg.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I would categorize this novel as ‘G’. This Science Fiction novel is set in a far future where Humans and Wassarans (a humanoid race) have jointly colonized the planet Rankin. Things are going pretty well when the remains of an earlier civilization is found.

That seems to precipitate efforts by both humans and wassarans who each want the planet purged of the other race and the planet “purely” developed for their own species. The human terrorist kidnap children to force the spread of their views over the planetoid video distribution system.

Wassaran clergy call in like minded military to take over the planet and drive out the lowly humans. While all of this is going on, new information is being discovered about the earlier inhabitants. Evidence is also being uncovered that there is a malevolent plant they they will have to deal with.

I enjoyed the 5 hours I spent with this novel. There was a lot of action, so it was a faced pace book. It wasn’t the best SciFi novel, but it was enjoyable. I give this novel a 3.8 (rounded up to a 4) out of 5.

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

Listen to “The Message” a Science Fiction Podcast

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I came across “The Message” this past week. What is “The Message”? It is a new podcast being produced by Panoply and GE Podcast Theater. This is a short series with only 8 episodes planned. At 10-15 minutes per episode, that will give you about a 2 hour listening experience.

The concept is that a podcaster, Nicky Tomalin, approaches a cryptography company, the Cypher Group, to work as an intern. As she begins, the company is engaged by the US government to try and decipher a message that was received and recorded nearly 70 years ago.  Most startling is that the message is thought to be of extraterrestrial origin. Since the government wants the information regarding the message to go public, Tomlin is encouraged to document the proceedings and publish what she finds on her weekly podcast.

Each episode of the podcast is presented as if Tomlin is interviewing others at Cypher Group, or narrating what she has learned in the previous week. These episodes are really a radio play presented serially in eight parts. The podcasts are available directly from the iTunes store for free. There are no advertisements in the production, and it is made without any reference to GE Podcast  Theater or Panoply. I hope that GE deems this endeavor a success and will follow with more serial stories.

I have listened to the first seven episodes and I am looking forward to the conclusion that should be published later today.

Review of “The Windchime Legacy”

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“The Windchime Legacy” eBook was published in 2015 and was written by A. W. Mykel. Mr. Mykel has published 4 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 Situations. This Thriller novel is set during the height of the cold war with Russia. It was originally published in 1980.

The primary character is Justin Chaple, an agent for a very secret US intelligence organization. He, and his colleagues, are involved in one thrilling, deadly encounter after another.

He is sent on a mission to bring a defecting Russian KGB officer safely to the US. He is also involved in finding a Dr. Edward Bridges who has been involved in the development of a secret supercomputer in the US. Bridges had grown unhappy with his position and has decided to defect, selling the key information to the highest bidder. The computer Bridges has worked with is at the heart of the agency that Chaple works for. However, Chaple begins to question some of the things he has seen and been told.

There is plenty of intrigue, suspense and twists in the plot of this spy novel. The fact that is was written over 30 years ago does not diminish the reading pleasure. The author, A. W. Mykel, is also something of a mystery. Some of the gadgets in the novel have the feel of contemporary technology, and the underlying plot fits in well with today’s world. In many respects it reminds me of the “James Bond” thrillers of the same era that I read a a teenager.

I enjoyed the 11+ hours I spent reading this 540 page novel. I give this novel a 4.5 (rounded up to a 5) out of 5.

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

OS X – Free Christmas Fonts 3.0

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128bit Technologies has updated it’s Free Christmas Fonts package to 3.0, adding 10 new fonts to the package. I wrote briefly of Free Christmas Fonts 2.0 last year, but wanted to mention it again since new fonts have been added.

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The package now contains 50 OpenType fonts designed for use in Holiday designs. All of these fonts are royalty free. The 2.9 MB App through which you can install the fonts is available through the Mac App Store. Using the App, you can select which fonts you want to install.


See my other Mac OS X articles


Review of “The Prophecy Con”

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“The Prophecy Con” eBook was published in 2014 and was written by Patrick Weekes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Weekes). Mr. Weekes has published four novels and this is the second of his “Rogues of the Republic” 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 mild Violence and Mature Situations. This Fantasy novel is set in a fictional world where magic is part of every day life.

The primary character is Isafesira de Lochenville, but is known as simply “Loch”. She comes from a good family and should be a Baroness, but she gave that all up and joined the military. She was a Captain in the Scouts, but was trapped behind enemy lines. When she finally made her way back to the Republic, she had been branded a deserter and traitor. She took to a life of crime.

In the first volume of the series, she saved the Republic and had her crimes forgiven. She has even been named a Justicar. Her team has dispersed somewhat. She recruits a few of them in an effort to steal a book that may help stop the pending war with the Empire. That leads her full team, including now Justicar Pyvic, in an adventure to obtain the book.

Overall I enjoyed the 10+ hours I spent with this novel. While this could be read standalone, I would recommend reading volume one first if possible. I liked this volume of the series better than the first, but I still feel that the dialog is a little odd at times. There is also still the constant sarcastic interaction between the characters, which I do not like. That said, I give this novel a 4.2 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.

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

Review of “Finches of Mars”

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“Finches of Mars” eBook was published in 2015 and was written by Brian W. Aldiss (http://brianaldiss.co.uk). Mr. Aldiss has published more than 40 novels and novellas.

I obtained a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. This Science Fiction novel is set in a near future. Earth is stretched to near capacity and a Mars colony has been started. Mars is still very dependent on Earth, but Earth is loosing interest in the colony. Further complicating things is the unfortunate fact that no children born on Mars survive.

I had hopes for this novel, but ultimately I had to call a “Rule of Fifty”. I spent an hour with the story and read 24% of it, but it was never able to grab my interest. It seemed to ramble along without any clear objective. I give this novel a 2 out of 5.

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

OS X Tip – Safari Muting

I really haven’t found many outstanding enhancements with the new features in OS X 10.11 El Capitan. One of the features that I do use regularely is “Tap to Mute” in Safari.

I subscribe to nearly 100 RSS feeds using the FOSS program Vienna to keep abreast of what the latest news is on a number of topics. I quickly scan through the titles of the 500 or so articles I get each day, double clicking on those that I want to see more of. That opens the respective article in Safari. I can then delete all of the articles and close Vienna. Then I start going through all of the tabs in Safari I have opened. This sounds a little overwhelming, but it usually takes less than an hour for me to complete my review.

One of the things I have found very irritating until El Capitan is the auto-play videos that some sites have. As I am skimming quickly though the article titles in Vienna, opening those that I want to read, I can easily have a few dozen tabs open in Safari (Thanks to the memory upgrade I made earlier in the year, this no longer bogs down my system). Suddenly my concentration would be lost when the audio from some video would start to play. Until El Capitan, there was no indication as to where the video was playing. I would have to open each of the recently opened tabs and try to find if a video was playing somewhere on the page.

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Fortunately, with El Capitan, that is simplified. Any Safari tab that is producing audio output is identified with a little speaker icon on the right side of the tab. Without opening the tab, finding the running video, and then pausing it, the annoying sound can be muted by simply clicking on the speaker icon in the tab (changing it to a muted speaker icon). If you want to hear the sound from that tab at a later time, clicking on the speaker icon again will toggle mute to off.

 


See my other Mac OS X articles


Review of “The Palace Job”

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“The Palace Job” eBook was published in 2013 and was written by Patrick Weekes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Weekes). Mr. Weekes has published four novels and this is the first of his “Rogues of the Republic” 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 mild Violence. This Fantasy novel is set in a fictional world where magic is part of every day life.

The primary character is Isafesira de Lochenville, but is known as simply “Loch”. She comes from a good family and should be a Baroness, but she gave that all up and joined the military. She was a Captain in the Scouts, but was trapped behind enemy lines. When she finally made her way back to the Republic, she had been branded a deserter and traitor. She took to a life of crime.

In this first story she gathers a band of shady characters – some human and some magical. Her goal is to break into the home of Archvoyant Silvestin and steal back an object that had once been in her family. Silvestin had been the one to send her behind enemy lines, then trap her there. She also believes he is behind the death of her parents. Having taken Loch’s sister as his ward, he has used the wealth of Loch’s family to fund his rise as an Archvoyant.

Loch and her followers encounter one nasty situation after another. They use their magic, burglar skills and sheer muscles to survive and continue on their mission. Along the way Loch finds an romantic interest with Justicar Pyvic who had been tasked with her capture.

Overall I enjoyed the 8+ hours I spent with this novel. I did have a bit of a hard time at the beginning following the many characters and new languages. I also felt that the dialog was odd at times, being more like what you would hear amongst young people today rather than on this medieval, magical world. I also disliked the constant sarcastic interaction between the characters. That said, I give this novel a 3.8 (rounded up to a 4) out of 5.

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