All posts by John Purvis

Book Review: “Singularity”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – “Singularity” eBook was published in 2019 and was written by Rick Lakin (http://www.ricklakin.com). Mr. Lakin has published two novels. This is the second of his “StarCruiser Brilliant” 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’. The story is set in the not too distant future on Earth. The primary character is Jennifer Gallagher, actress, tech entrepreneur, and Brilliant crew member.

Gallagher is incredibly successful at everything she tries and is only 17. The Brilliant’s crew meets with the Blue Angels and does some incredible flying with them. They also debut some of the capabilities of Brilliant before the public. They must contend with a presidential candidate that is campaigning against robots. They must also go on a deep space mission to confront a bioterrorism attack.

I thought that the 7.5+ hours I spent reading this 386-page science fiction novel were interesting. This is a Young Adult novel and one that seems to be targeted at the very young end of that category. While second in the series, this novel reads pretty well on its own. I felt that the plot seemed to be targeted more at the grade school age reader. For me, the plot was far too simple. The chosen cover art is OK. I give this novel a 3.3 (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).

Wednesday SciFi Flix: “KORTEX”

(See my other Science Fiction and Short Films posts) – I came across the short (16:03) movie “KORTEX” a while back. This is a science fiction film set in a post-apocalyptic world. The synopsis per IMDB:

In a post-Apocalyptic world, a man finds a robot.

While this isn’t the best short film, it is pretty good. It received a rating of 5.7/10 on IMDB.

macOS New App Release – EarthDesk 7

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Product Announcements Xeric Design of Incline Village, Nevada has launched a beautiful new cloud image service for EarthDesk Data subscribers. The cloud image is now precisely geo-located and parallax-corrected, contains data from up to 23 satellites, and includes polar coverage. We have worked with the Space Science and Engineering Center’s RealEarth project at the University of Wisconsin, Madison to bring this high-quality data feed to EarthDesk. Previously, only six satellites were used and the data did not extend to the poles.

EarthDesk replaces your static desktop with an image of the Earth showing current sun, moon and city illumination, as well as near real-time cloud coverage. The software allows users to purchase an optional data subscription that offers the new precision clouds with 16 times more detail than the standard cloud layer. In addition, this service displays real-time data including worldwide earthquakes, named storms (typhoons, hurricanes, etc.) and the position of the International Space Station.

The software operates silently in the background, keeping your desktop updated while you work. Unlike a screen saver, which only appears when your system is idle, EarthDesk’s dynamic desktop is continuously displayed as your desktop background (and optionally as a screen saver on the Mac version).

System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.10 or later.

Pricing and Availability:
Single user copies may be purchased for $24.99 (USD). Upgrades are available for $12.99 for licensed users of versions 5 and 6. A data subscription adds precision clouds, earthquakes, named storms and tracking of the International Space Station starting at $11.99 per year. Bundles that include EarthDesk and a discounted data subscription are available. For more details, please refer to our website.

Instrumental Music on YouTube: “Light of the Seven”

(See my other Music & Game of Thrones posts) – I came across this 10:36 video a short time ago and thought that it would be good to post this week, the second week of the Game of Thrones final season. This video of a performance of the “Light of Seven” was uploaded to YouTube in February 2017 by Silva Screen Records. It is very easy listening. The performance is by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

macOS New App Release – GraphicConverter 10.7

Product Announcements – Independent developer, Lemke Software GmbH of Peine, Germany has released GraphicConverter 10.7, an important update to their popular image editing utility for macOS. The utility has become known as the “Swiss Army Knife” of image editing applications and allows users to convert any of over 200 graphic file formats into any of almost 80 other graphics formats.

GraphicConverter’s 1.5 million users around the globe will appreciate the new features version 10.7 brings to the app. New features include a dehaze batch action, a new service to convert JPEG files to 75 or 85 percent, the ability to import exported LR keywords into the keyword palette, and much, much more.

“GraphicConverter has long been one of the most popular image editing utilities available for the Mac,” says Thorsten Lemke, founder of Lemke Software GmbH. “This new version builds on GraphicConverter’s already great feature set, providing both new and improved features for our users.”

New Features Include:

  • Browser context menu: append path to iptc caption
  • Offset GPS date/time stamp command
  • Dehaze batch action
  • Clear of keyword palette
  • Import of exported LR keywords into keyword palette
  • Sort by rating & aspect ratio and resolution & pixel size added
  • Sort folders separate
  • A new service: convert to JPEG at 75 or 85 percent
  • Sliders in dialogs moveable by scrollwheel
  • Image context menu entry for animation: save frames as separate GIFs/PNGs
  • Browser context menu: copy exif date to other metadata dates

GraphicConverter has long been one of the most respected image utility tools available for the Mac. Apple was even impressed enough to have included GraphicConverter as a default app on many of their Mac models.

While Lemke Software added several great new features to version 10.7, the improvements didn’t stop there, as the new version also offers considerable improvements to the app’s previous features.

Feature Improvements Include:

  • Display of autofocus point of some FUJI cameras
  • Open with application will be called with all selected files at once (macOS 10.10 or later)
  • Option to disable slideshow effects on 10.13.x or earlier
  • Option to disable display of zoom during slideshow zoom
  • Find duplicate resolves aliases and symlinks
  • Improved ratio display in browser
  • Localizations

As always, GraphicConverter 10.7 is the best way available on the Mac to capture, import, convert, and export images. The app also offers power image editing and slideshow capabilities and provides color management profiles, 3D image support and much more.

Feature Include:

  • Ability to open files in 200 graphics formats
  • Ability to export to almost 80 different formats
  • Import directly from camera (also RAW)
  • Catalog generation (web, print, picture)
  • TWAIN and image capture interface for scanners
  • Direct support of the photo services Flickr and locr
  • Graphical file and picture browser
  • Slide show functions
  • Powerful batch processor feature
  • Support for Applescript
  • Express picture enhancement function
  • Powerful functions for editing pictures
  • Advanced effects and filters
  • Plug-in architecture
  • Color management with ColorSync and ICC profiles
  • 3D image support
  • Supports the latest technologies of the different Mac OS versions
  • Multilingual (12 available languages)
  • Image verifier
  • Ability to browse local copies on cloud services like Dropbox, SkyDrive, Amazon Cloud, and Google Drive

“We’ve made GraphicConverter 10.7 easier to use than ever, thanks to the informative tutorial videos we’ve posted on out YouTube page,” continues Thorsten. “Users who would like to try GraphicConverter to make sure it fits their needs can download a trial version and follow along with the video tutorials. Plus, version 10.7 is a totally free update to any version 10.x customers.

GraphicConverter 10.7 provides the best way to capture, import, convert, and export images on the Mac. The utility’s graphic conversion features alone are worth the price of the app. Users are encouraged to try GraphicConverter today.

System Requirements:

  • Requires OS X 10.9 or higher
  • 64-bit processor
  • 145 MB

Pricing/Availability:
GraphicConverter 10.7 is only $39.95 USD (or an equivalent amount in other currencies) and is available worldwide through the Mac App Store in the Photography category. It can also be directly purchased online from the Lemkesoft website. GraphicConverter 10.7 is a free update for all customers of version 10.x. Upgrades from older versions of GraphicConverter are available for $25.95 USD.

Book Reviews: “A Dangerous Collaboration”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – “A Dangerous Collaboration” eBook was published in 2019 and was written by Deanna Raybourn (https://www.deannaraybourn.com). Ms. Raybourn has published 20 books. This is the fourth novel in her “Veronica Speedwell Mystery” 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 ‘PG’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Situations. The story is set in 1888, mostly on a Cornish island off the coast of Wales. The primary character is Veronica Speedwell.

Speedwell is invited by Lord Templeton-Vane, the brother of her colleague Stoker Templeton-Vane, to visit the island owned by the Lord’s oldest friend, Malcolm Romilly. Ostensibly Speedwell has been invited to obtain samples of a butterfly she is wanting to add to her lepidopterarium. Not wanting Speedwell to be alone with his brother, Stoker invites himself on the trip.

When they arrive Speedwell finds that there have been ulterior motives by both their host for the invitation and Lord Templeton-Vane for his asking her along. Romilly’s wife had disappeared three years earlier on their wedding day. Now he has all of those he considers the prime suspects in her disappearance on his island. Romilly is determined to find out what happened to his bride.

Speedwell and both brothers find themselves involved in far more than they had anticipated. Events play out indicating that the person behind the disappearance is indeed with them on the island. They are determined to solve the mystery but are faced with lethal opposition to their involvement. The romance between Speedwell and Stoker continues to simmer with neither making a move.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 7.5+ hours I spent reading this 333-page period mystery. I have also read the first book in this series, “A Curious Beginning“, and I have enjoyed them both. I liked the characters of Speedwell and Stoker, as well as the time period of the story. I like the cover art chosen for this 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).

Friday WWII Flix: “Beachhead”

 

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(See my other WWII posts) – I had come across the 1954 movie “Beachhead” recently and chose to watch it last night. The synopsis per IMDB:

In 1943, in the wake of the Allied amphibious landing on the Japanese held Bougainville Island, four Marines are sent to scout the location of Japanese minefields.

The four Marines are sent to find a French plantation owner who had sent a message to the Allies about Japanese minefields. Their trip is not without danger, but they do find the Frenchman. Then they must get the confirmed information on the minefield back to Allied command. They must avoid Japanese patrols, avoid Japanese who have been trailing them, and deal with complications from having the Frenchman’s young daughter with them.

This was not a bad film for the most part. There were some bad special effects towards the end of the movie involving a Japanese gunboat and a water born fire, but otherwise not too bad. The movie did earn a 5.9/10 on IMDB.

At the time I write this the movie can still be found on YouTube.


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these two pages of mine of interest. 

The  World War II Sources” page is a collection of more than 240 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.

The “World War II Timeline” page shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.

macOS Accessory – Wirelessly Share iPhone or iPad display with Mirror for Mac

Product Announcements – AirBeamTV of Naarden, Netherlands has released “Mirror for Mac or Windows PC“. With this app every iPhone or iPad owner can mirror the display of their phone or tablet on a Mac or PC.

Wireless phone screen sharing:
The idea for the app arose from the demand of app developers and other professionals who could not find an easy wireless alternative for presenting the content of their phone. “Nowadays it is common practice to connect your computer with a cable to a projector or large TV screen during presentations or demonstrations. Our new app makes it possible to share your phone screen with the same setup without the need of an AppleTV or additional cables,” says Jan van Ottele, CEO of AirBeamTV.

Ideal classroom solution:
In addition, according to Van Ottele, the app is excellent to use in a classroom or training environment. “Especially when teaching at external locations, it is usually not practically organized in terms of technology and you are dependent on the computer systems present. However, with our app you can always share videos, photos and apps from your own phone, as long as the computer or screen you are viewing them is connected to the internet and has the free Chrome browser.”

Device Requirements:

  • iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch
  • Requires iOS 12.0 or later
  • 124 MB

Pricing and Availability:
Mirror for Mac or Windows PC 3.3.1 is free to download in the App Store. Users can test the app free before upgrading to the paid version ($4.99 in the US App Store). The premium version has no time limits for mirroring and supports lifetime updates. For both the free and the paid version, everyone can count on fast and free customer service.

Book Review: “The Anahita Chronicles Book I: Mercury”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – “The Anahita Chronicles Book I: Mercury” eBook was published in 2017 and was written by Samuel Blondahl (https://www.blondahl.ca). Mr. Blondahl has published three novels with this being the first of this “Anahita Chronicles” 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 ‘PG’ because it contains a few scenes of Violence. The story is set in the not too distant future.

A new engine that will enable humans to travel great distances in space is about to be tested. The test is sabotaged, and instead of going to Mars, the spacecraft Mercury ends up near a habitable planet deep in space. They struggle to repair their ship enough to make it back to Earth. Due to the damage suffered from the earlier sabotage and unexpected events, the crew finds themselves stranded on the planet’s surface.

They have been able to send the unmanned Mercury hurtling back towards Earth and asking for help. Now they must find a way to survive. Not only do they find that the planet is hospitable to humans, but they soon discover that they are not the only intelligent lifeforms on the planet.

I enjoyed the 8.5 hours I spent reading this 409-page science fiction novel. I liked this novel. There are several plot threads going on: survival on an alien planet, a conspiracy back on Earth, and first contact with an alien species. While the story in this novel does reach a conclusion, there are threads of the plot left to be explored and resolved in future books in the series. I give this novel a 4.3 (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).

New Robots on Way to the ISS

(See my other posts on Robots) – Today’s Cygnus cargo flight with 7,600 pounds of science, supplies & cargo for the ISS includes a pair of new robots. These will replace the current SPHERES robots on the International Space Station (ISS). The Astrobee robots have been developed by the Intelligent Robotics Group at the NASA Ames Research Center.

The new Astrobee robots are autonomous cubes designed to be flown around the ISS. The first pair of Astrobee robots are named Honey and Bumble. A third named Queen is scheduled to fly to the ISS later this year. These are very modular robots with hardware and software designed for a wide range of tasks and experiments. 

The robots are intended to fly around the ISS autonomously, perform experiments, and take video. While they will generally be operated by humans from the ground, they will occasionally operate without any supervision.

Each Astrobee robot is about 12 inches (30 cm) square.  They will use pressurized air from 12 different nozzles to propel themselves around the ISS. They can rotate in any direction and have no need to refuel as air is compressed and used from the ISS atmosphere.

The Astrobees are based on ROS and are equipped with six cameras, sensors, and enough computing power to allow them to operate autonomously. They can be fitted with modular payloads in their three different payload bays for a variety of experiments. Later this year a small arm will become available for manipulating objects and grabbing hold for maintaining their position. The robots will be able to undock, redock and perch within the ISS independently of the crew.

The robots should complete their checkout before the end of April. After that, they will map and be calibrated for the ISS modules. Final commissioning of the entire Astrobee system should be complete before the end of the year.