All posts by John Purvis

Book Review: “The Cruel Stars”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – “The Cruel Stars” eBook was published in 2019 and was written by John Birmingham. Mr. Birmingham has published more than 30 books.

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 is set in the far future. The Sturm of the “Human Republic” see any humans who have genetic or cybernetic enhancements as traitors to the species and deserving extermination. They have risen up once killing billions before they were driven into Dark Space.

Now, centuries later without warning, they are back. Their sneak attack has rendered almost all of the defenses of humanity useless. If they are not stopped the Sturm will kill billions more.

The primary character is Commander Lucinda Hardy who has been left in command of one of the few Royal Armadalen Navy warships left. She, along with her crew and four other survivors, are the only hope for humankind. The five struggle independently against overwhelming odds, but finally, join her.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 11 hours I spent reading this 416-page Science fiction thriller. I think the author has assembled an interesting mix of reluctant heroes for this saga. I like the plot as it is a little different from the common large scope space war novels. I look forward to more novels in this universe. The cover art is interesting but does not relate specifically to the story. 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).

USA, Colorado, Ouray – Million Dollar Highway and Ouray

On our 2019 Road Trip, we drove from Durango up to Ouray, Colorado. Part of that journey was on the ‘Million Dollar Highway’.

The Million Dollar Highway is the stretch of US 550 that runs the 25 miles between Silverton, CO to Ouray, CO. The 12 miles of the highway just outside of Ouray is where than moniker for the road comes from. Exactly why it is so named is in dispute. The most popular explanations are:

  1. The view is worth a million dollars
  2. It cost a million dollars to build in the 1920s
  3. The filler for the road contains a million dollars in gold particles

The road goes through three mountain passes between 10,600 and 11,020 feet in height. The road is somewhat of a hazardous drive with narrow lanes, few guard rails, hairpin turns, and steep cliffs.

The road does offer some incredible views, though the driver has to be more focused on the road. There are a few places to pull over and enjoy the scenery. While the drive was not too bad, I would not recommend it for nervous drivers.

Ouray, Colorado as a town came about from the silver and gold prospectors who flooded the area in the late 19th century. It was officially incorporated in 1884. It is a relatively small town still with only a population of 1000 as of the 2010 census. It has several rich mines during its heyday. Now it is mostly a tourism destination. It is located at an altitude of 7,792 feet.

We were only there for a short time, but it is a place we would like to come back to. It felt like a good place to relax and do day trips for hiking or biking. There also seemed to be many interesting places to eat.


See my other Food & Location posts


 

Book Review: “Timepiece: A Steampunk Time-travel Adventure”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – “Timepiece: A Steampunk Time-travel Adventure ” eBook was published in 2017 and was written by Heather Albano (http://www.heatheralbano.com/). This is Ms. Albano’s first publication and the first in her “Keeping 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 ‘PG’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set in a variety of times and places in Europe. It begins in 1815 with the primary character 17-year-old Elizabeth Barton receiving a very special pocket watch.

In this alternate reality, the monsters of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are real. The British have created an enslaved army of them to counter Napolean. After that victory, they are employed as forced labor in mines, but soon they rebel. England is desperate to control them. A brilliant inventor steps in with mechanical men, not quite robots as they are controlled by a human crew.

That allows the monsters to be brought under control, but the mechanicals are then used by the government to control the populace. As more and more work is done by the mechanicals and other automation the displaced are kept in check by the mechanicals.

Into this steps Barton and her new acquaintance, 21-year-old Willaim Carrington. Carrington had been a soldier but a wound to his arm caused him to be discharged. The unlikely pair soon discover that the watch has the astounding ability to travel through time.

They discover the plight of future inhabitants of England and try to change history to prevent the mechanical men. They also attempt to stop the use or even the creation of the monsters used to beat Napolean. Their travels are not without risk but they do find allies in other timelines. They also discover that theirs is not the only special pocket watch.

I enjoyed the 8 hours I spent reading this 264-page steampunk fantasy. While this has a touch of Romance and appeals to the Young Adult, it was an enjoyable story. I liked this slightly new take on time travel with the travelers starting off in the past. I like the chosen 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).

USA, Colorado, Durango – Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum

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While on our 2019 Road Trip we stopped in Durango to visit the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. Many ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, but it was an all-day commitment and we didn’t have the time on this trip.

The Museum is free and is open 10-4 Mon-Sat during the winter season and 7-7 daily during peak season (Check the website before you visit). The Museum is located at 479 Main Avenue, Durango, CO 81301.

The 12,000 square foot museum was created in 1998 in what was once the roundhouse. It includes railway memorabilia, such as the two locomotives above. As they say on their website:

The Durango & Silverton Railroad is proud to share the fascinated history of railroading, transportation, and mining with people from around the world.

The Museum contains a large and detailed working model train display.

The Museum also has many other items on display. They claim to be frequently updating the exhibits.

Outside there is some rolling stock that the Museum maintains. These are in addition to those used in the train that travels between Durango and Silverson.

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There is also an enclosed shop for restoration and maintenance.

We enjoyed the time we spent at the Museum and will probably visit it again the next time we are in Durango. If you have an interest in trains, particularly of the steam variety, then you will enjoy a stop at the Museum.


See my other Food & Location posts


 

Book Review: “VanOps: The Lost Power”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – “VanOps: The Lost Power” eBook was published in 2019 (November) and was written by Avanti Centrae (https://www.avanticentrae.com). This is Ms. Centrae’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 begins in contemporary Napa Valley, CA. The primary character is App designer and aikido instructor Maddy Marshall.

Marshall is with her twin brother, Will, at their father’s vineyard. All the children have gathered at the request of their father. They hear a shot and rush in to find the dead and the dying.

They “accidentally” run into a long-time friend and secret VanOps agent after the police have left. With him in tow, the three begin the quest for an ancient weapon. If they don’t find it first they fear that the Russians will use it to bypass US defenses and make a devastating first strike. Will the three survive and will they be able to find the weapon first?

I spent 8+ hours reading this interesting 341-page thriller. I like the characters, but they could have been more robust. While the cover art is eye-catching, it does not relate to the story. 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).

Is Your Mac Ready for macOS Catalina?

go64-mac-icon-100801664-large(See my other Tech Tips posts) – Every time a new version of macOS is released we have to consider “Is my Mac ready for the update?”.

Before you begin your upgrade make sure you have a full backup. Run Timemachine to capture any recent changes in your system. If you have the extra disk (and you really should do this), make a clone of your boot drive with an App like Carbon Copy Cloner. These steps will make it far easier to revert back to your current version of macOS if you run into problems after upgrading to Catalina.

This would also be a good time to ‘Tune-Up‘ up your Mac before you perform the upgrade. In particular, remove unneeded Apps and files.

This year there are two factors to consider. The first is whether or not your Mac hardware is capable of running Catalina. Generally speaking the 2012 or newer Macs are compatible. To find out for sure if your Mac can be upgraded refer to “macOS Catalina is compatible with these computers” from Apple.

The second thing to check is if all of your Apps are 64-bit. With Catalina the older 32-bit Apps will no longer run.

You can check your Apps two ways.

  1. The first way is to check in About My Mac. I wrote about how to do this in April of 2018 in “ARE YOUR MAC APPS ALL 64-BIT?“. I will let you check out that article for the details, but the essence is to go to “Overview:System Report:Software: Applications”. A column there indicates whether each App is or is not 64-bit compatible.
  2. A somewhat easier way to check your system is by using the Go64 App. This App is free (though donations are accepted) and can be downloaded from the vendor’s website. This App is recommended by:
    1. Macworld
    2. MacSparky (David Sparks of Mac Power Users podcast
    3. The Mac Observer
    4. Christian Boyce (Christian will be the featured speaker at the October 8th CapMac meeting in Austin)

Screen Shot 2019-10-05 at 3.28.35 PM.pngIf you download the App, then run it. You will get a report (see example above) of all Apps you currently have installed that are not 64-bit. Clicking on those software packages will provide further information. Links are also supplied for the vendors to facilitate getting the latest version of the software. As you can see I still have several 32-bit Apps on my Mac.

Once you have a list of your non-64-bit Apps you have a few choices:

  1. upgrade all the Apps you regularly use to a 64-bit version
  2. find 64-bit Apps that will replace your current 32-bit Apps
  3. delay migrating to Catalina until you do 1 or 2 above

See my other Mac posts


 

Automation Forecast to Impact Jobs

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(See my other posts on Robots & Automation ) – In the “Morning Brew” economic newsletter this morning was the following:

The Economist this week laid out just how quickly automation is taking over finance. Funds run by computers that follow human-set rules account for…

  • 35% of the U.S. stock market
  • 60% of institutional equity assets
  • 60% of trading activity

Last month, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds automatically tracking stock and bond indices hit $4.3 trillion invested in American equities, surpassing the sum run by humans for the first time.

Technological efficiencies” will lead to about 200,000 job cuts in the U.S. banking industry over the next decade, Wells Fargo said this week. And PwC found last year that about 30% of finance and insurance jobs in developed economies will be at risk of automation by 2029.

Too often we think of automation just affecting manufacturing jobs. It will affect many other sectors. This trend is inevitable in a worldwide economy. Industries have to stay economically competitive and automation will be essential to compete. Those who want to succeed in the workforce will need the right skills.

What skills are needed for the years ahead? (also from the “Morning Brew”)

  • artificial intelligence
  • machine learning
  • data science

 

 

Revised FREE iOS Software List for 09/2019

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I have been publishing a list of free software for iOS, tvOS and OS X each month for some time. 

macOS software is now being compiled in a large, cumulative table. Many titles were appearing every month and I think this directory will both take less time for me and provide users with a better way to lookup Mac software. The macOS Software directory can be found here.

Please give me feedback if this expanded list is valuable to you.

This is NOT a curated list. All I know about these titles is what you see below. None have been tried or tested by me.

September 2019

  1. Game – Teeterbird, an indie game startup, has recently released a unique mobile game which combines spelling with RPG elements that will appeal to users of all age groups. Founded by Dan Wahl, a professional software engineer with over 10 years of game development experience, the game integrates a highly engaging interface with interesting RPG elements, ensuring a fun experience for plyers. Spell Caster 1.0.4 is available for free for Android and iOS users with [in-app purchases under the Games category.] Download from the App store
  2. Productivity – Wildwood Resources is proud to announce the release of CREATEit, and CREATEit Pro 3.0, an important update to their presentation creation app for the iPad. CREATEit provides everything you need to distribute instructional material that your audience can absorb at their own pace. CREATEit Pro 3.0 is Free and available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Productivity category.  Download CREATEit from the App Store
  3. Finance – Tekton Technologies, today is proud to announce the release and immediate availability of Swift Miles 1.4.7, an important update to their popular mileage tracker app for business users. Swift Miles automatically detects and tracks every mile a user drives. The app allows business users to review those miles using accurate routes of their trips and categorize them as Business, Charity, Medical and Personal. Users can further sub-classify them based on names, so its easier to search on classification to maintain accurate records. Swift Miles also features single tap PDF report generation that can be sent via email to accountants for tax calculations.  Swift Miles – Mileage Tracker 1.4.7 is free and is available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Finance category. Convenient in-app purchases are available to enable unlimited automatic mileage tracking, $39.99 per year for annual subscriptions or $4.99 per month for monthly subscriptions. Download from the App Store
  4. Travel – Independent developer, Michael Hitzker today is thrilled to announce the release of spotfindr 6.0.0 (Ferdinand), an important update to his popular local drone spot and event finder for iOS and Android devices. With spotfindr, drone pilots can share their favorite spots to fly at and help other pilots discover their next favorite spot. Moreover, users can create an own profile where their submissions are visible. Another crucial factor in favor of spotfindr is the ability to add information about flight restrictions near that spot. The modern and clean User interface already drew dozens of pilots towards the app who now prefer to use spotfindr over any other spot finding app. spotfindr 6.0.0 is Free, ad supported (users can also donate directly to the creator). and available in Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and some other countries through the App Store in the Travel category.  Download from the App Store
  5. Game – Spiel Studios Pvt. Ltd. is pleased to announce the release of Man Vs. Missiles: Combat, their latest addictive and challenging game for iOS and Android devices. In this casual, fun, simple yet challenging game, players will test their piloting skills by flying their plane for as long as they can, while avoiding and destroying incoming enemy jets which are continuously trying to bring them down. Man Vs. Missiles: Combat v1.0 is Free (With In-App Purchases) and available worldwide through the App Store in the Games category.  Download from the App Store
  6. Music – Indie developer, Tomoyoshi Natsui today is proud to announce the release of Everlisten, a music listening app developed for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. Are you making the best of your music files? Using Everlisten, you can listen to the main portion of a song track, one after another. Everlisten is free and is available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Music category. Convenient in-app purchases are available. Download from App Store
  7. Game – Hristo Zhelev announces the release of a new game called, Ballz Maze 3D. It’s fun, addicting hyper-casual puzzle game. The game is based on current trends on the App Store: like Balls Rotate, Split Balls 3D, and other top Maze Games out there.. This is our own twist. We made it look/feel like those top games, but we also merged different gameplay styles, so basically there’s no other game like this on the App Store. We created something that people will love, something unique.  Ballz Maze 3D 1.0.1 is free and is available worldwide through the App Store in the Games category. Ballz Maze 3D 1.0.1
  8. Education – Renowned social language learning mobile app developer, HelloTalk, Inc., announced its iOS and Android language learning app, HelloTalk, has surpassed 15 million registered global users. The HelloTalk app is like no other language learning solution currently available; HelloTalk provides a natural, intuitive experience where users teach each other their respective native languages across their iOS or Android devices. Moreover, HelloTalk provides a unique environment where users engage in real-time language practice with native speakers of that language. It’s a teaching system that has proven extremely easy for language learners, providing a much more natural learning experience than other language learning solutions. HelloTalk 3.5.1 is Free USD (With In-App Purchases) and available worldwide through the App Store in the Education category.  Download from the App Store
  9. Health & fitness – Independent app developer Johannes Erschbamer is proud to announce Thirstic, the first smart water drink reminder that automatically adapts to the users’s activity and the weather conditions. Human water needs depend heavily on the daily activity and the environment conditions. Therefore, Thirstic adapts the user’s water intake goal to the current conditions and helps staying hydrated, even on very active or hot days. Thirstic is exclusively available on the App Store as a free download. All basic features can be used without any fees. More advanced features (like access to weather data) require an in-app subscription or an one-time purchase with no expiry. Thirstic is not a medical app. It is intended for informational and reminder purposes only and cannot be used for medical or nutrition advice. Download from the App Store
  10. Game – Independent developer, CDO Apps is today proud to announce the release and immediate availability of Silly Memory 2.3, an important update to their entertaining “match pair” memory game for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android devices. The game puts a new spin on the familiar “match pair” memory games enjoyed by players of all ages. Silly Memory 2.3 is free and is available worldwide through the App Store in the Games category. Convenient in-app purchases unlock game upgrades. Silly Memory on the App Store
  11. Games – Biosoftworld Game Studios is proud to announce the release of Time Squad: Alpha Strike! 1.0.1, the company’s new space shooting game developed exclusively for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Offering unique gameplay, players must fight aliens in the solar system, the earth’s orbit and even on theground. They will have to save occupied Earth and defeat alien ground forces. Time Squad: Alpha Strike! 1.0.1 is Free (With In-App Purchases) and available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Games category.  Download from the App Store
  12. Lifestyle – LittleQuest LLC announces Fairytrail – Adventure Dates 2.1.1 for iOS and Android devices. Heralded as a “revolutionary dating app” by its users, Fairytrail is a dating app for remote workers, digital nomads, and people passionate about travel. With 8 levels of safety, it provides a dating platform for single people to match with one another, then match on recommended tours. It allows people to date while on the road using video chat and provides a bridge to safely meeting in person. Fairytrail – Adventure Dates 2.1.1 is free and is available worldwide through the App Store in the Lifestyle category.  Download from App Store
  13. Photography – touchbyte today is proud to announce the release of PhotoSync 4.0 for iOS, a major upgrade to the most versatile and powerful app to transfer, backup and share photos & videos to computer, NAS and cloud. PhotoSync 4.0 for iOS is a free download available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Photo & Video category.  Download from the App Store
  14. Games – Newly formed EdTech start-up KalamTech has just announced the launch of its latest title Human Heroes Einstein’s Clock for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. Fresh off his first outing in Human Heroes Einstein on Time (endorsed by Stephen Fry himself!) the creator of relativity Albert Einstein is back on the stage” only this time he’s equipped with a ton of different clocks to help young children learn how to tell the time. Human Heroes Einstein’s Clock is free and available worldwide through the App Store in the Games category. Download From App Store
  15. Reference – Inverse Metric LLC software company has announced the release of a new app for instant translation in Augmented Reality mode. AR Translator uses a proprietary technology of optical character recognition (OCR) based on AI algorithms, and therefore can recognize text without any connection to external servers. The app supports over 100 languages. AR Translator requires iOS 11.3 or later. The free version offers limited functionality with a fixed number of instant translations, text recognition is unlimited. During the 7-day trial period the user is granted free access to all paid functions. Upon expiration of the trial period the subscription fee is $6.99/month. AR Translator: Scan+ Translate 1.10
  16. Sports – 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan will begin September 20th and freelance iOS developer Antoine Barrault is glad to introduce Rugby world 2019 in Japan 1.11 for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices. It is a free iOS 13 compatible app with dark mode support for following the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Rugby world 2019 in Japan 1.11 is free and available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Sports category. Download from App Store
  17. Lifestyle – Heralded as a “revolutionary dating app” by its users, Fairytrail is a dating app for remote workers, digital nomads, and people passionate about travel. With 8 levels of safety, it provides a dating platform for single people to match with one another, then match on recommended tours. It allows people to date while on the road using video chat and provides a bridge to safely meeting in person. Fairytrail – Adventure Dates 2.1.1 is free and is available worldwide through the App Store in the Lifestyle category.  Download from App Store
  18. Reference – Jordan Hipwell today released UniChar 7, a major update to the powerful Unicode app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices. The update introduces several new capabilities only available in iOS 13. UniChar 7 is available to download for free from the App Store in the Reference category. A $4.99 in-app purchase is available to unlock all categories of symbols. Download From App Store
  19. Utility – MeisterApps just launched their first app ‘ControlMeister for Samsung Smart TV’ on the iTunes App Store. The app is available for both iPhone and iPad. Compared with the factory remote control, this new app takes watching your Samsung TV to a whole new level. ControlMeister Remote Control for Samsung TV is a free app which can be downloaded on the iTunes App Store. The free app supports lifetime updates and full functionality without third party ads. ControlMeister is a MeisterApps BV brand. Download from the App Store
  20. Utility – Independent development team, Swamp Dog, LLC is proud to announce the release and immediate availability of WhoDo iPad 1.0, their new app for Apple’s iPad. WhoDo iPad automatically creates new contract records directly from raw text. There are no forms to fill out or text fields to map, users can generate the source text by entering it from the iPad keyboard, clipboard, or the device’s microphone. WhoDo iPad 1.0 is free and is available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Utility category. Convenient in-app purchases are available to enable licenses for each repository or all repositories, either as a one time purchase, or as a 3-month subscription, as described above. Download From the App Store

For macOS Apps, check out my macOS Software Directory. It has been expanded and now contains 65 titles. 

USA, Colorado, Durango – Lone Spur Cafe

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(See my other Food related posts) – When my wife and I were on our recent road trip we stopped at the Lone Spur Cafe for a late breakfast when visiting Durango. The Lone Spur we visited is located at 619 Main Avenue, Durango, CO 81301. There are two other locations in Flagstaff and Prescott Arizona.

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Keeping with the western theme, the restaurant has a very rustic appearance, the service though was very good.

As I said, we both ordered breakfast and we were very pleased with our meals. Even though it was late in the morning the restaurant was crowded, This confirmed for me that many found the food there good. Looking at TripAdvisor this opinion for the Lone Spur is supported by a 4.5/5 rating. Likewise, it has a 4.5/5 rating on  Yelp.

The Lone Spur is open seven days a week 6:30AM to 2:30 PM, and from 5:00PM until 9:00PM on Fridays and Saturdays. They offer an extensive breakfast menu and a selection of soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and specialty items for lunch.

If we are in Durango again, we will definitely be revisiting the Lone Spur Cafe. It is a location I would recommend if you are visiting Durango.


See my other Food & Location posts


 

Book Review: “Merlin’s Shakespeare”

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(See all of my Book Reviews) – “Merlin’s Shakespeare” eBook was published in 2018 and was written by Carol Anne Douglas (https://www.carolannedouglas.com/). This is Ms. Douglas’ fifth publication and the first in her ‘Merlin’s Shakespeare’ 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 both contemporary times and in Shakespeare’s England. The primary character is 15-year-old Beth Owens.

Owens is a theater student, particularly interested in the works of Shakespeare. Merlin appears to her and sends her back in time to Shakespeare’s England. She meets various characters from Shakespeare’s plays some of whom she likes and others which frighten her. Merlin has sent her back to search for a missing Shakespeare play about King Arthur. Along her way she begins to find that she has some magical powers of her own.

I thought that the 8.25 hours I spent reading this 358-page young adult fantasy were interesting. The plot is pretty simple and the characters are not the deepest, but it seems targeted at the very young adult sector. I like the chosen cover art. I give this novel a 3.6 (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).