Review of “Outcasts of Order”

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Book Reviews – “Outcasts of Order” eBook was published in 2018 (June) and was written by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (http://www.lemodesittjr.com). Mr. Modesitt has published nearly 80 novels. This is the twentieth novel in his “Saga of Recluse” 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 a little Mature Language. The story is set in a world where magic is possible. This novel continues to follow the young Mage Beltur introduced in “The Mongrel Mage“.

Beltur, though raised by his uncle and trained as a While Mage, has found he is a powerful Black Mage. He used his skill to help defend Elparta from invasion. Now that the threat is over, he finds himself under new threats.

For some in Elparta he is too strong in magic and they see him as a threat to their power. His romantic interest in a young healer, Jessyla, is seen as a threat by a Black Mage that desires her. His ability to aid the coppersmith Jorhan to cast rare and beautiful cupridium pieces is seen as a threat to the traders.

He finds that he must flee Elparta in fear of his life. Jessyla insists on coming with him and becoming his consort (wife). They must face the dangers of traveling to Axalt. Not only must they travel through winter storms, but brigands threaten travelers along the road.

Once they arrive in Axalt, things are better, or at least seem so on the surface. Both Jessyla and Beltur are able to further their skills as Healers. Baltur is able to produce more cupridium pieces with Jorhan. He is an outsider though and different. Even though they have distanced themselves from Elparta, the Council there tries to make trouble for him as his friends.

Beltur must protect himself and his friends from attack from one direction after another. It becomes a question of how far will he have to go. What will he have to do to survive? Will he ever find a place that he and Jessyla can have a home and a family?

I thoroughly enjoyed the 19+ hours I spent reading this 656 page fantasy. I have enjoyed reading the last two novels in the “Saga of Recluce”, and they make me want to go back and start the series from the beginning. This novel reads pretty well on its own, but certainly reading “The Mongrel Mage” first helps. I do like the characters that have been created. Beltur, while a very strong Mage, is still finding his own strengths and abilities. This novel was a little slower than the previous one, though I did still find myself drawn to reading it. This novel is more about his growth as a Mage and a Healer. I like the cover art chosen for this 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).

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macOS New App Release – DriveDx 1.8.0

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Product AnnouncementBinaryFruit of San Francisco, California has released DriveDx 1.8.0, its latest solution for SSD and HDD health diagnostics and monitoring. As macOS does not have a comprehensive drive health indicator, DriveDx fills a critical role in measuring the overall health of both SSD and HDD drives. Because DriveDx tracks more indicators of impending failure than any other product on the market, users will get an advanced warning before their drives fail. This will allow them to take action to avert the failure and save themselves from resulting data loss and downtime.

Unlike many other drive health diagnostics utilities that simply check built-in S.M.A.R.T. status, DriveDx performs overall drive health diagnostics using drive health indicators (like SSD wear out / endurance, reallocated bad sectors, offline bad sectors, pending sectors, I/O errors, and more) that most closely correlate with drive failures according to the statistics reported in the latest researches focused on identifying drive failure trends. This gives a user a comprehensive picture of a current drive health status and enables foreseeing potential problems with drive failure and loss of sensitive data. Moreover, DriveDx shows this information on a user-friendly Mac-style interface in an easy-to-understand format.

“Here’s a DriveDx triumph. DriveDx showed my just out of AppleCare iMac with two pre-fail conditions for the hard drive. Made appointment and took it to Genius Bar yesterday. Tech looked at DriveDx and was very impressed. Even though out of warranty – they replaced the drive without question,” said Michael Sidoric, CapMac User Group Treasurer, ex-Vice President of CapMac.org. “God knows how many dollars and troubles DriveDx saved me since I had several vital FinalCut projects on it.”

DriveDx is a combined drive health analysis and forecasting tool. It monitors and analyzes changes to S.M.A.R.T. attributes in order to continuously evaluate drive health status and predict drive failures. In addition to “Failed” and “OK” drive statutes DriveDx supports “Warning” and “Failing” statuses indicating that a drive is in a pre-failure status and backup of sensitive data is highly recommended.

DriveDx performs both SSD and HDD health diagnostics. Moreover, it uses a separate set of indicators for SSD and HDD to monitor drive health status. This is particularly important as SSD works different from HDD, and requires a different algorithm to check its health status. Also, SSDs typically are more dependent on firmware than HDDs, and DriveDx has been programmed to support many versions of firmware (please see our website for a complete list of supported firmware).

DriveDx allows configuring the delivery of customized drive status and free space reports by e-mail and therefore does not require user presence to inform about drive status changes. In addition, DriveDx can launch built-in drive diagnostics self-tests. Drive self-tests will help to quickly identify if the drive is faulty.

DriveDx is the first utility of its kind to have a real user-friendly Mac-style interface. It is organized in a way that allows a user to view and understand drive status and its performance at a glance. User can switch between different view modes to drill up or down data related to drive health, including S.M.A.R.T. indicators and attributes, drive statistics and errors.

What’s New in DriveDx 1.8.0:

  • Added support of 110 new SSD models (from Apple, Samsung, Crucial/Micron, Toshiba, SanDisk, Intel, WD, SK Hynix, Plextor, Corsair, OCZ, Transcend, Kingston, ADATA, etc)
  • Improved SSD and HDD health diagnostic algorithms and heuristics
  • Improved drive temperature monitoring
  • Improved SSD and HDD health indicator descriptions
  • Improved support of Apple SSDs
  • Improved support of Seagate HDDs
  • Improved support of OWC SSDs,
  • Many stability improvements
  • Many cosmetics tweaks and fixes

DriveDx feature highlights:

  • Support of modern SSDs and HDDs
  • SSD lifetime left indicator
  • Different routines for SSD and HDD health evaluation and diagnostics
  • Real-time SSD & HDD health status monitoring
  • User-friendly and intuitive UI
  • Multi-tier warning system that will inform the user about deviations from the normal state of drive attributes
  • Diagnostic Knowledge Base online auto-updating
  • Drive overall health rating
  • Drive overall performance rating (if drive supports this subset of indicators)
  • Device statistics
  • I/O errors monitoring
  • Drive free space monitoring
  • Support of drive short and full (extended) self-tests
  • Sending a warning whenever a problem with a drive firmware exists
  • Saving detailed drive status reports to a file
  • Warning a user with pop-up notifications about errors and failures
  • Displaying drive status on a macOS status bar
  • Runs natively on macOS

System Requirements: macOS 10.6.8 or newer

Pricing and Availability – DriveDx 1.8.0 has 4 types of licenses that are currently being offered on promotion:

  • Personal License – $19.99 (USD)
  • Family License – $39.99
  • Business License – starting from $99.99
  • IT-Consultant License – starting from $99.99

DriveDx can be purchased from the BinaryFruit website. A fully functional 15-day trial version is available for download at our website.

macOS New app Release – WidsMob Panorama

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Product AnnouncementWidsMob Technology Ltd. (WidsMob) of Hongkong, China has released an updated WidsMob Panorama for macOS. Make panoramic photographs with different stitching modes with advanced technology. In the update, WidsMob Panorama adds 15 language versions, including French, German, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Arabic, Danish, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Swedish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and more.

In order to make panoramic photographs with ease, whether taken with smartphone or camcorder, WidsMob Panorama can auto stitch photos in one click. It aligns images without manually messing around moving photos, automatic exposure leveling and lens shading correction. What is more, the program automatic crops the extras to present the best panorama photography.

Stitch images into panoramas with vertical, horizontal, tile and 360 degree 4 different modes. Simply choose the same series of photos for a panorama, WidsMob Panorama is able to auto stitch and make panoramic photographs automatically without any technology background for both JPEG and RAW files.

Adjust the Align Points to correct the stitching angles of different images. It also composites images in tile, adjust the align points to make a perfect panorama, or even remove the ghost parts by adjusting the blend to make a panoramic photography. Further edit the panoramas with different parameters, such as Saturation, Contrast, Brightness, Temperature, Tint and more. It should the simplest and most powerful panorama creator to stitching photos in excellent result within few clicks.

Highlight features in the latest update:

  • Auto stitch photos into a panorama for both JPEG and RAW photos.
  • Different photo stitching modes to make stunning panoramic photographs.

Supported file formats:  .jpg, .erf, .cr2, .nef, .raf, .dcs, .orf, .arw and other 50 RAW formats.

WidsMob Panorama is $19.99 USD (or an equivalent amount in other currencies) and is available at the WidsMob website.

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts – Screen Capture

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Tech Tip – Capturing part of my Mac screen is not something I do every day, but it is something I do every week. Apple has made this easy with three different keyboard shortcuts to capture the screen, a window or a region.

Your entire screen – To capture the screen, hit the SFT + CMD + 3. This will capture your entire desktop (even if you have multiple monitors) and save it as a .png file on your desktop.

A region of your screen – To capture a region of the screen, hit the SFT + CMD + 4. That changes the mouse pointer a cross hair. Move that crosshair to the start point, then hold the mouse button down to drag the crosshair to select the area of the screen you want to capture. When you release the mouse button the designated area will be captured to a .png file that is saved to your desktop.

A Window –  To capture an entire window, hit the SFT + CMD + 4 like you were going to capture an area. Before doing anything tap the space bar. The icon will change from a crosshair to a camera. Use that to click on any window to select it. Then click the mouse button to capture a .png file of it to your desktop.

Reference:

  1. How to take a screenshot on your Mac

See my other Mac and Keyboard Shortcut articles


 

macOS New App Release – Precise Screenshot 2.0

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Product AnnouncementTension Software of Milano, Italy has released Precise Screenshot 2.0 for macOS, their new generation tool to take screenshots from the screen now at release 2 with more features and more tools for a precise job.

Precise Screenshot can select a resizable portion of the screen with the usual drag method or it can use pre-fixed size area from a customizable popup menu (also with pre-saved sizes the user needs often) or also use the full screen area.

It allows working in:

  • ‘Desk Frame’ mode, selecting any portion of the work area
  • Include Menu’ mode, magnetically attached to the menu and always including the above portion of the menu bar area on your screen
  • ‘Full Screen’ mode, taking the full screen

It allows to have a screenshot frame capturer optionally always floating or not and have it with pass through click or not (letting you click and interact directly with other applications under the capture area)

Precise screenshot offers a series of commands to make tedious tasks easy to do. Specify a new specific screen size to take screenshot with high precision is just a matter of selecting it from the custom popup (or resizing and dragging it in the traditional way) The screenshot frame area shows it’s size and position in the upper side border. The screenshot can be moved and resized with precision 1 pixel by 1 pixel.

Precise Screenshot can take shot immediately or using a timer selectable from 0 to 10 seconds (showing a count down) It can works even when in background using a status menu on the right part of the menu bar to take screenshot when other apps are in foreground and in active status.

It offers also a useful tool palette with all the setting controls.

More Features:

  • Save to the clipboard (with the picture immediately available for use) or to disk in selectable custom places.
  • Save to disk in JPG, PNG, TIFF format.
  • Save with/without alpha channel (for transparency)
  • Can force any size ratio for the capture area and resize it in accordance.
  • Optionally alway float all over the other applications with the Shot Selection area.
  • Provides a contextual menu for 1-click commands over the Shot Selection area
  • Provides visual and sound feedback of screenshot with selection of sound to play.
  • Can use a custom file name using meta-tags, with serial number (automatically increased) and or using date elements (Year, Month, Day, Hour, Minute, Second)
  • Custom color for the capture frame

The user can modify any setting at any time, also in the middle of the work as required by different situations. Precise Screenshot offers also a preview of the latest screenshot in a floating palette.

Optimized for macOS 10.13 (High Sierra), it is fully sandboxed offering the maximum protection level combined with the maximum flexibility. It’s small, fast and full featured, it has all you need for a precise and perfect work Embedded PDF User Guide included accessible via the Help menu.

System Requirements:

  • macOS Version 10.10 (Yosemite) or higher
  • Optimized for macOS 10.13 (High Sierra)
  • 14.4 MB

Precise Screenshot 2.0 is $5.99 USD (or an equivalent amount in other currencies) and is available worldwide exclusively through the Mac App Store in the Productivity category.

macOS New App Release – WidsMob Viewer

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Product AnnouncementWidsMob Technology Ltd. (WidsMob) of Hongkong, China has released WidsMob Viewer with 5X photo viewing speed. Just add one picture of a folder; Mac users are able to view all photos within the folder. In the update, WidsMob Viewer adds 15 language versions, including French, German, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Arabic, Danish, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Swedish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and more.

When there are hundreds of photos on Mac, the default photo viewer for Mac only opens one photo each time. Just add one photo of the folder to WidsMob Viewer, it enables Mac Users to view all photos with excellent browsing experience. Besides the View mode, Mac users can get the photos in different folders in Library mode, check pictures in full size in Slideshow mode and find out the parameters for RAW images.

Not only for browsing photos in different modes, but also editing photos using an easy process. Batch convert photos to the desired format, change photo size or rename photos. Besides, the “Favorite” function helps Mac users to organize photos from different folders, pick up the desired photo, delete or change files. In order to make the whole process easy, Mac users only need to drag and drop the files from the program to another folder within one second.

WidsMob Viewer handles the RAW formats of most camcorders as well as PhotoShop format. What is more, it provides “Adjust” and “Effect” to apply effects and filters for photos if minor adjustment is required for the photos. After all the process, Mac users are able to share the photos on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and more other social media websites within the program.

Highlight features in the latest update:

  • Retina Display support, embracing vibrant and sharp details.
  • Click one photo in Finder to display all photos in the same folder.

Supported file format encryption: WidsMob Viewer supports .jpg, .jpeg, .png, .tiff, .png, .cr2, .nef, .bmp, .raw and other 50 RAW formats.

WidsMob Viewer is available through the WidsMob website as a free trial download. It is available for purchase for $9.99 USD (or an equivalent amount in other currencies).

Review of “Blood’s a Rover”

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Book Reviews – “Blood’s a Rover” eBook was published in 2018 and was written by Harlan Ellison (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlan_Ellison). Mr. Ellison has published only nine novels or novellas but has published over 1,700 short stories since 1958. He has received numerous awards for his writing over the years.

I received an ARC of this novella 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, Mature Language, and Mature Situations. The story is set in a post-apocalypse world. The primary characters are the young man Vic and his enhanced dog Blood.

Vic and Blood struggle to survive in the desolate wasteland of the future. Blood, his dog, has been enhanced allowing them to communicate telepathically, and Blood is clearly the more strategic thinker of the two.

After being separated, they find themselves together again. Soon, Vic is confronted with adding a third member to their team, Spike. Spike is a survivor like Vic. Reluctantly Vic lets the young woman join them and the duo becomes a trio.

I thought the 2.5 hours spent reading this 232 page novella was interesting. I had not read any of the prior works in the series, but this novella read pretty well on its own. That is not too unexpected since the last work in the series was published in 1980. I think the cover art is good as it both depicts the flavor of the story as well as having a vintage look. It is adapted from a screenplay, so the format is a little hard to read. 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).

 

macOS New App Release – Pixelmator Pro 1.1

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Product Announcements – The Pixelmator Team from Vilnius, Lithuania has released Pixelmator Pro 1.1 Monsoon, a massive update to the world’s most innovative image editing app for Mac. The update adds a modern way to easily prepare images for the web, brings machine learning-powered Auto Color Adjustments, support for the MacBook Pro Touch Bar, a new Slice tool, SVG support, a new Tutorials page to help with learning Pixelmator Pro, and much more.

“Pixelmator Pro 1.1 Monsoon is an absolutely massive update with tons of great new features,” said Saulius Dailide, one of the founders of the Pixelmator Team. “With the innovative new Export for Web features, it’s now easier than ever to prepare and optimize images for the web. And Pixelmator Pro continues to push the boundaries of image editing with the new Auto Color Adjustments, which take advantage of the latest advances in machine learning and computer vision to automatically improve photos.”

Pixelmator Pro now gives you everything you need to prepare and optimize your images for the web. You can use advanced compression techniques to compress images to the smallest size possible without losing quality. Export presets let you quickly optimize images with your favorite settings. As you adjust any export settings, Pixelmator Pro displays a live preview of the optimized image right in the Pixelmator Pro window. Quick Export lets you instantly export a web-friendly image optimized with your most-used settings at any time. And the new Slice tool makes it much easier to prepare web designs by letting you divide entire designs into smaller images, optimizing each one separately.

With the new machine learning-powered Auto White Balance, Auto Lightness, and Auto Hue & Saturation adjustments, you can automatically perfect the colors of a photo with just a click. The machine learning algorithm was trained on millions of images to identify the contents of a photo, finding the best colors, lighting, and contrast to make every image stand out. Integrated via Core ML and powered by Metal, the Auto Color Adjustments deliver lightning fast performance and stunning quality.

Full support for the MacBook Pro Touch Bar gives you quick access to all your favorite tools and all kinds of useful options. You can apply color adjustment or effect presets, select colors for your brushes, and even share your image, all right from the Touch Bar. And whenever you switch tools, the Touch Bar automatically changes to put the most useful options at your fingertips, which makes using Pixelmator Pro simpler and easier than ever.

Pixelmator Pro 1.1 Monsoon includes many more incredible new features, including support for opening and exporting vector images in the SVG format, live previews when formatting text and adjusting layer blending options, a Select Color Range tool that lets you make selections of similarly colored areas in an image, support for exporting HEIF images, a new Tutorials page to help with learning Pixelmator Pro, and much more.

System Requirements:

  • macOS 10.13 or later
  • 64-bit processor
  • 150.4 MB

Pixelmator Pro 1.1 Monsoon is $59.99 USD (or equivalent amount in other currencies) and available worldwide exclusively through the Mac App Store in the Graphics & Design category. Promo codes are available for members of the press.

macOS & iOS App Sale – Xwavesoft Summer Sale

Product AnnouncementXwavesoft of Odessa, Ukraine follows the established Summer Sale tradition and offers a 60% discount on its well known and highly rated products, such as Be Focused, Cloud Outliner, Focus Matrix, Daily Habits. From Tuesday, June 12 through Friday, June 15, all Xwavesoft’s productivity applications will be offered at 60% discount on both iOS and Mac App Stores.

Since everyone has a tight schedule and always pressed for time, Xwavesoft team are delighted to introduce applications where the latest productivity principles and techniques are incorporated to keep people more efficient. These apps increase personal productivity and help to focus on things that really matter naturally organizing plans, projects, and ideas in a clear way for faster goal achievement and better results.

Pricing and Availability:

  • Be Focused Pro (iOS) – $1.99 (USD) – now $0.99 (USD)
  • Be Focused Pro (Mac) – $4.99 (USD) – now $1.99 (USD)
  • Cloud Outliner (iOS) – $2.99(USD) – now $0.99 (USD)
  • Cloud Outliner (Mac) – $9.99 (USD) – now $3.99 (USD)
  • Focus Matrix (iOS) – $2.99 (USD) – now $0.99 (USD)
  • Focus Matrix (Mac) – $4.99 (USD) – now $1.99(USD)
  • Daily Habits (iOS) – $2.99 (USD) – now $0.99(USD)
  • Chrono Plus (iOS) – $1.99 (USD) – now $0.99 (USD)
  • Chrono Plus (Mac) – $4.99 (USD) – now $1.99 (USD)
  • Guest List Organizer (iOS) – $2.99 (USD) – now $0.99 (USD)
  • Guest List Organizer (Mac) – $9.99 (USD) – now $3.99 (USD)
  • eXtra Voice Recorder (iOS) – $1.99 (USD) – now $0.99 (USD)
  • eXtra Voice Recorder (Mac) – $4.99 (USD) – now $1.99 (USD)
  • Magic Cutter (Mac) – $9.99 (USD) – now $3.99 (USD)

The discount in the Mac App Store and iOS App Store is valid from Tuesday, June 12 through Friday, June 15.

MacBook Accessory – The mBar Stands

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Product Announcement – With 15 years of experience in creating innovative Apple accessories, Rain Design of Berkeley, California has launched a new assortment of laptop stands – the mBar, mBar pro, and mBar pro+ . mBar is a lightweight, minimalist aluminum stand for elevating laptops. mBar pro and mBar pro+ have the added feature of foldability and thus portability, with different elevation heights of 3 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively.

mBar: See better. Touch better. mBar raises and tilts your Macbook, makes viewing, typing and swiping on the Touch Bar easier. mBar’s minimal design with clean lines and subtle curves complements your Macbook and enhances your workspace.

Features:

  • Elevates laptop by 3 inches
  • Lightweight: 0.22 pound
  • Macbook matching anodized aluminum
  • Increases airflow around laptop for better cooling
  • Fits most laptops

mBar pro: Take it easy. Designed to let you work comfortably, on the go. mBar pro raises and tilts your Macbook, makes viewing, typing and swiping on the Touch Bar easier. mBar pro’s minimal design complements your Macbook. It’s so portable, lightweight and easy to use that you will be happy to bring it with you anywhere.

Features:

  • Portable folding stand
  • Lightweight and slim: 0.3 pound and 0.5 inch when folded
  • Precision aluminum unibody, anodized to match Macbooks
  • Elevates laptop by 3 inches
  • Includes svelte carrying sleeve
  • Increases airflow around laptop for better cooling
  • Fits most laptops

mBar pro+: Take it easy. Designed to let you work comfortably, on the go. mBar pro+ raises and tilts your Macbook, makes viewing, typing and swiping on the Touch Bar easier. mBar pro+’s minimal design complements your Macbook. It’s so portable, lightweight and easy to use that you will be happy to bring it with you anywhere.

Features

  • Portable folding stand
  • Lightweight and slim: 0.45 pound and 0.5 inch when folded
  • Precision aluminum unibody, anodized to match Macbooks
  • Elevates laptop by 5.5 inches
  • Includes svelte carrying sleeve
  • Increases airflow around laptop for better cooling
  • Fits most laptops

The mBar series are available in both silver and space gray. Shipping now and can be ordered from the website (mBar and MBar Pro)

Observations on SciFi, Books, Space Exploration, Robotics, and Productivity