Review of “Starfire: Shadow Sun Seven”

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Book Reviews – “Starfire: Shadow Sun Seven” eBook was published in 2017 and was written by Spencer Ellsworth (http://spencerellsworth.com). Mr. Ellsworth has published seven novels. This is the second book in his “Starfire Trilogy”.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Situations. The story is set in the far future.

Genetic half-breeds between Humans and Jorians have been created, and now they have risen up as rebels. Their forces have just won their revolution. The primary character of this story is Jaqi, a navigator who is trying to just stay off everyone’s radar and survive. Araskar is a soldier who was with the Rebels, but is now with Jaqi. Both are half-breeds.

Jaqi, Araskar and a small group are on the run from everyone. They hear about a secret being held in the Shadow Sun Seven penal colony and concoct a wild plan to breach the colony, find the secret and spirit it away. Araaskar died during the story told in the prior book, but Jaqi was apparently able to revive him. Now there are several who consider her a savior foretold of in the bible.

The plan is good and holds together for a while, then everything falls apart. Jaqi and those that followed her to Shadow Sun Seven must fight for their lives.

I enjoyed the 6.5 hours I spent reading this 336 page science fiction tale. This sort of reads OK as a standalone book, but it was a big help that I had read the first volume of the trilogy Starfire: A Red Peace. The action with the various characters gets a little chaotic, though overall I like the characters and the plot. I like the cover art. 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).

World Backup Day 2018

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I can’t really say much more than I did last year, so I am reposting the article I wrote for Backup Day 2017.

If you have an electronic device (computer, phone, tablet), chances are that it can be backed up. Today, World Backup Day, serves as a reminder that you should be backing up those devices on a routine basis.

Backing up your data means making a second (and a third copy is recommended) of all of the data on your device. The 3-2-1 strategy is best – always three copies of your data, data stored on two different media, and one copy off-site.

You should backup because losing data is not as uncommon as you might think. Devices can be lost or stolen. Or they may simply suffer a hardware failure. Increasingly too there is the threat of the data on your device being held for ransom.

Start a habit today of making routine backups. You can even go to the World Backup Day website and take the pledge to back up your data.

One new thing I would like to add is this quick video by Bob “Dr. Mac” Levitus:

macOS New App Release – MacX Video Converter Pro V6.3.0

Product Announcements – MacXDVD Software of Chengdu, China has recently added Intel Quick Sync Video, NVIDIA and AMD to MacX Video Converter Pro V6.3.0. The groundbreaking use of these hardware acceleration systems leads to the most powerful processing solution for large videos from 4K 60fps to 6K 100fps and beyond, yielding the fastest possible render speed; a whopping 5x speed increase over other applications with super-quality results.

The popularity of 4K UHD, 3D, and virtual reality videos can tax CPU, RAM, and storage requirements. If the processing power can’t keep up, the video workflow will immediately turn into frustrating experience, from holding the huge raw UHD/HD video content in a device, to 4K editing, compressing, cutting, adjusting, enhancing, to codec decoding and encoding. Choppy and stuttering output is the most common case, let alone hardware issues like 90%- 99% CPU usage, stuck computer, overheating and fast battery drain.

“To let people dive into 4K world easily, MacXDVD Software sought to provide the most efficient UHD video processing solution as quickly as possible.” explains Jack Han, CEO of MacXDVD Software, “MacX Video Converter Pro V6.3.0 marks a significant milestone in processing ultra HD videos. By pioneering the support for the major hardware accelerations, the program offers a faster-than-ever speed and engaging level of quality, unobtainable elsewhere.”

Leveraging the superior processing power of the Intel QSV, NVIDIA and AMD architecture, MacXDVD radically speeds the video transcoding tasks at a lower total energy cost than programs based on CPU only. Specifically, the resource-intensive 4K workflows are carried out in specialized hardware components like GPU, solving the CPU performance bottleneck in a power-efficient manner. By harnessing the power of dedicated graphics processing hardware, MacXDVD beats others by a long shot with 500% speedups & far less sacrificed image quality.

While a traditional CPU-only solution takes an hour to process a 4K ultra HD video in MKV, MacX Video Converter Pro slashes that time by up to 70%-80% with an average speed of 250-320fps. When both recent Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs are installed on a computer, such as Intel Core i7 processor and GeForce GTX 680, it promises an even faster performance. Not only that, more CPU is freed up for online browsing, video playback, gaming, and any other workloads.

Other enhancements in MacX Video Converter Pro V6.3.0:

  • Added support for H.264 encoding in Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-7500
  • Added support for frame filtering using AMD Radeon when available
  • Added support for burned-in SUP/PGS subtitles
  • Added Apple Pixlet decoder

MacX Video Converter Pro is normally priced at $59.95 (USD) for a single license. But now, everyone can take the fastest 4K UHD video processing program home before April 10, simply by guessing the time it needs to process a 2.5G MKV video. Learn more details at MacX Video Converter Pro Acceleration Giveaway.

Review of “Warning Light”

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Book Reviews – “Warning Light” eBook was published in 2018 and was written by David Ricciardi (https://www.facebook.com/RicciardiBooks/). This is Mr. Ricciardi’s first publication.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story takes place in Iran and the surrounding area of the Middle East. The primary character is CIA analyst Zac Miller.

Miller has done nothing but ride a desk since joining the CIA. When an earthquake opens up a chance to take a look at a super secret Iranian facility that is thought to have nuclear weapons, Miller talks his way into the mission.

Miller rides a British Airways passenger jet that declares an emergency and lands in Iran. From there the mission goes downhill. Miller is arrested and tortured. The Iranians plant evidence that he has murdered women. Knowing that the CIA does not even know where he is, Miller plans a desperate escape. He must make his way all alone without any assistance or preplanning back to England. Making this all the more difficult is that he has had virtually no training in the field and knows nothing of the local languages.

I really enjoyed the 6.5 hours I spent reading this 336 page thriller. I liked that this story was really more about survival than just another spy novel. I don’t think much of the cover art. 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).

macOS New app Release – KeyCue 8.7

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Product AnnouncementsErgonis Software of Perg, Austria has released KeyCue 8.7, a new version of the company’s highly acclaimed keyboard shortcut learning tool. KeyCue 8.7 is scheduled to be the last maintenance release for KeyCue 8, while Ergonis is already preparing to release the major version KeyCue 9 later this year.

KeyCue 8.7 can now display macro shortcuts of yKey (former “iKey”). It offers faster animation of the menu scanning process and additional information during the installation process. Besides that, the new version fixes a cosmetic issue on High Sierra and contains compatibility improvements with PhotoLab and Photos. Visit Ergonis Software’s website to learn more about the changes in this release and to download and try the new version.

Moreover, Ergonis Software is already preparing for the next major version, KeyCue 9, which is scheduled for release later this year. It will come with great new features that open the door to more efficient usage, more power and more fun. But there’s no reason to wait for KeyCue 9. All KeyCue purchases (new and upgrades alike) made now already include the major upgrade to KeyCue 9.0 and all subsequent 9.x upgrades.

The productivity paradox of keyboard shortcuts is that shortcuts were designed to increase productivity. However, productivity actually decreases when applications provide large numbers of shortcuts, in particular when the shortcuts are defined inconsistently across applications. KeyCue’s elegantly simple solution is to display an instant overview of currently available keyboard shortcuts, application-specific menu shortcuts as well as system-wide hotkeys, and user-defined shortcut descriptions. Over time, KeyCue users will automatically remember frequently used shortcuts and start working more efficiently.

KeyCue has already received many awards, including a 4.5-Mice award from MacWorld magazine.

System Requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.6 or newer
  • Compatible with macOS High Sierra (10.13)

The upgrade to KeyCue 8.7 is free for anyone who owns a license for KeyCue 8 or purchased a license for KeyCue 7 on or after March 1st 2015. Upgrade paths are available for owners of older licenses. All KeyCue purchases (new and upgrades alike) made now already include the major upgrade to KeyCue 9.0 and all subsequent 9.x upgrades. For information about purchases, including enterprise licenses, volume discounts, and upgrade pricing offers, see the company’s website.

Review of “The Continuum”

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Book Reviews – “The Continuum” eBook was published in 2018 and was written by Wendy Nikel (https://wendynikel.com). Ms. Nikel has published two novels in her “Places in Time” series.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘G’. In the future, time travel has been perfected, but it is being held as a closely guarded proprietary technology. The primary use has been for expensive, exclusive vacations in time. The primary character of this story is Elise Morley. This young woman is a history expert who is sent back in time to retrieve travelers who have gone astray.

She is kidnapped by a clandestine organization and forced by them to take a mission into the future. Here she is out of her element but must see the dangerous mission through. Can she succeed without altering the future?

I thought that this was an interesting 3 hour read of 207 pages. This was an enjoyable science fiction story. It read so quickly that it felt more like a novella than a full novel. I think that the cover art was a good choice. 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).

macOS New App Release – XEffects Smooth Glass Slideshow

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Product AnnouncementsFxFactory of Boston, Massachusetts has released a new Final Cut Pro X set of plugins called XEffects Smooth Glass Slideshow. Developed by partner Idustrial Revolution, the plugins are a pack of effects, transitions and titles that build beautiful glossy slideshows for images or video. The set of plugins can be used in a wide variety of projects, from broadcast show openers, corporate and social media projects, all the way to wedding and home video edits. The plugins are very easy to use, editors can stack as many traveling glossy bars as they wish on the timeline to produce eye-catching results.

Features:

  • Build slideshow directly on the Final Cut Pro X timeline
  • Grow, shrink and constant thickness strips
  • Layer as many strips as you wish, including overlaps
  • Constant or acceleration strip moves left or right
  • Adjust strip blur, tint and brightness
  • Adjust strip edge width, colour and opacity
  • Image and text moves match
  • OSC for text placement anywhere on frame
  • Built-in text colour palettes or use your own
  • Layer as many text elements as you wish
  • 4K Ready

Idustrial Revolution’s designers and editors have been at the forefront of using Apple technology and software in creating content for broadcasters, corporate users and videographers. They have been successfully producing products for Final Cut Pro for over 10 years.

“The most searched for item on our website is a slideshow,” said Peter Wiggins, plugin developer at Idustrial Revolution, “So it made sense to add to our growing collection of FCPX templates with a great looking slideshow that can be easily built directly on the timeline. We published the world’s first ever commercial product for Apple’s Motion back in 2004. It was a template with a single glass bar that travelled over the frame, I think it is fair to say we have come a long way since then!”

XEffects Smooth Glass Slideshow is distributed on the FxFactory App Store. It is being launched at a discounted price of $39 (USD) until the 6th April 2018. Normal price $49.

Review of “The Compass Island Incident”

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Book Reviews – “The Compass Island Incident” ebook was published in 2017 and was written by Wade Fowler. Mr. Fowler has published four novels.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Language. The story spans the years from the 1950’s to today.

A shipyard worker goes missing in 1953. In the 60’s a young girl begins having dreams where she is a man. Also in 1963, President John Kennedy visits the USS Compass Island, ostensibly to witness a missile test, but in reality to push the button on an attempt on Castro’s life. Mobsters are scheming to get rid of JFK, then he is assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald.

How are all of these facts tied together? Can decades-old murders be solved? After John Franklin Kincaid who was aboard the Compass Island the day of JFK’s visit is murdered, his son begins looking into his father’s death. It is not long before Kincaid finds himself in someone’s sites.

I thought that this was an interesting 7-hour read for this 317 page mystery. There is a lot going on in this novel: A true mystery; Reliving events from earlier lives; Mob conspiracy; and A CIA hit man. Almost too much for one novel. With all of these threads, the plot seems to wander all over the place. I also have to say that the plot was a little on the slow side. The selected cover art is OK. I give this novel a 3.4 (rounded down to a 3) out of 5.

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

Trailer for “Impulse”

Trailers – This is the trailer for the 10 episode series “Impulse” that will premier on Youtube Red this summer. The synopsis per IMDB:

A young woman discovers she has the extraordinary power of teleportation.

This series is a spin-off of the movie Jumper. It looks like it might be a good series. It is a little dark and is obviously aimed at the teen market.

macOS New App Release – Swim Out

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Product Announcements – Lozange Lab of Metz, France has released Swim Out on the Mac App Store. The game has been featured by Apple, and was finalist for Ping and Tiga Awards. Check out the trailer on YouTube.

About the game:

Dive into the relaxing and refreshing atmosphere of Swim Out, a strategic, turn-based puzzle game, that will transport you into a sunny day by the swimming pool, the river or the sea. Plan each of your strokes wisely and be sure to never cross any other swimmer’s path if you want to peacefully enjoy the sea view on a cosy chaise-longue.

What the press already said:

“I am delighted by how unfamiliar a swimming experience this is to me” – Rock, Paper, Shotgun
“There are precious few things I appreciate more than a straightforward puzzle game with a strong commitment to its aesthetic, and Swim Out is exactly that” – Waypoint

“Swim Out is a perfect summertime game.” – Mac Stories

“If you’re a fan of puzzle games Swim Out is very likely for you. It’s attractive, intuitive, and fun.” – Touch Arcade

“Swim Out looks like the perfect tactical escape into a lush digital paradise” – Touch Arcade

Features:

  • Over 100 levels nestled in carefully crafted landscapes, soothed by the sound of seagulls, frogs or water splashes.
  • 7 chapters combining: 12 different types of swimmers : each with their own way of moving around, ranging from the simple breaststroke swimmers to the more complex divers or cheeky water-bombing kids. 12 different objects to interact with : buoys, fins, water guns, you can even ride a kayak! 6 disruptive environmental elements like waves, crabs or jellyfish that will give your brain a work out until you swim out!

System Requirements:

  • macOS High Sierra Compatible
  • 62.4 MB

Swim Out is just $4.99 USD (or an equivalent amount in other currencies) and is available worldwide exclusively through the Mac App Store in the Games category.