28 December 2013

Our future with computers by Arthur C. Clarke (1974)

Not only was Arthur C. Clarke an amazing author, he was a real visionary as well. Check out the following video where he predicts in 1974 what our future with computers will be like with incredible accuracy.

BOOK REVIEW: First Contact (Moon Wreck, #1) by Raymond L. Weil

First Contact (Moon Wreck, #1)First Contact by Raymond L. Weil
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disaster has struck the first moon landing to be attempted in years. Commander Jason Strong and his fellow lunar explorer Greg Johnson have become stranded with no way home. In desperation, they set off in their lunar rover to check out an anomaly they discovered on their descent. What they find will shake their beliefs and what they know of human history. 

This is a short story of 13,000 words.

I've had this story waiting on my Kindle for some time and I recently got around to reading it. This is another example of the self-publishing that the ebook revolution has spawned, of which I am a huge supporter of. It's the first of a group of short novels that introduce a trilogy called 'The Slaver Wars'.
The story is okay, with a fair bit of intrigue. It's rather reminiscent of the first Perry Rhodan book 'Enterprise Stardust' where a moon landing is affected by mysterious forces and a journey across the Lunar surface reveals a startling discovery. I don't know if the author is familiar with the classic German 'pulp' sci-fi tales, but this had a very similar feel. (Click HERE for Perry Rhodan ebooks.)
The story feels like it's written more for a teenage/young adult audience, which is okay, but felt a little 'juvenile' for my liking. I would have absolutely loved this as a 14-15 year old.
On a more negative note, there were more spelling mistakes than I'm comfortable with. I seldom read a book without picking up at least a few typographical erors (joke) but this one was a bit on the high side. Typical of the smaller amount of editing that a self-published story would get, so I guess that's quite forgivable.
Overall this story was alright. I'm not sure if it was enough to get me to go and get the following stories, but it may very well draw in other readers.
There are some positive reviews around and I wish this author well. It looks like he's putting in the effort.

View all my reviews

26 December 2013



It is because of all of you that “A Dramatic Tour Of Events” was such a success. We enjoyed playing to you all each and every night on the road!

As a special “Thank You” we are releasing a compilation of live tracks that were not included on “Live At Luna Park.” With these now being available, you have a complete documentation of all the songs that were played during the tour (with the exception of cover songs.)

Happy Holidays, and we look forward to having you “Along For The Ride” in 2014.

~Dream Theater

01 Under A Glass Moon (Phoenix, AZ 12/4/11)
02 Forsaken (London, UK 7/24/11)
03 Peruvian Skies (London, UK 7/24/11)
04 Endless Sacrifice (Austin, TX 10/26/11)
05 Drum Solo (Austin, TX 10/26/11)
06 YtseJam (Austin, TX 10/26/11)
07 The Great Debate (London, UK 7/24/11)

08 Another Day (Austin, TX 7/7/12)
09 Through My Words/Fatal Tragedy (Montreal, QB 10/7/11)
10 To Live Forever (Huntington, NY 7/19/12)
11 Learning To Live (Tel Aviv, Israel 7/19/11)
12 The Count of Tuscany (London, UK 7/24/11)
13 As I Am (Shibuya, Japan 4/24/12)

Concept : Rai “Weymolith” Beardsley
Produced By : John Petrucci
Archive Management & Selection : James LaBrie & John Petrucci
Keeper of the Archives : Maddi Shieferstein
Live Sound Engineer : Nigel Paul (Tracks 1-3, 7, 11-13)
Mixing & Mastering : Richard Chycki
Artwork : Hugh Syme

This material included in this special Holiday 2013 release has been copied and communicated to you by or on behalf of Dream Theater/Ytse Jams Inc. and is copyrighted.

All music and lyrics by Dream Theater and published by Ytse Jams (ASCAP).

Distribution of this electronic file set is allowed as long as this information file is included and remains unaltered.


Download the torrent here : 

Unfamilar with BitTorrent : http://www.utorrent.com/

Information and software for decoding FLAC files : https://xiph.org/flac/

BOOK REVIEW: My Carrier War: The Life and Times of a Naval Aviator in WWII by Norman E. Berg

My Carrier War: The Life and Times of a Naval Aviator in WWII (Hellgate Memories Series)My Carrier War: The Life and Times of a Naval Aviator in WWII by Norman E. Berg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From his days as a Naval aviation cadet learning his trade aboard the "Yellow Peril" biplane trainers in 1942, to his first bombing runs on Guadalcanal, to life aboard an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific, Norman Berg offers a fast-paced narrative filled with humor and meticulous attention to detail. Much more than a simple WWII memoir, this story goes beyond the action of battle to explore one young, wartime couple's struggle to balance love, duty, and their commitment to each other.

This book is an honest account of Berg's journey to become a US Navy carrier-based attack pilot during WWII. We follow him right from school through training and eventual deployment aboard Navy aircraft carriers operating in the Pacific theater against the Japanese. Throughout all of this, he has a young wife at home and a baby on the way, so this adds an additional stress to his tour.
Berg's first tour of duty involves operations around the Solomon Island chain (Guadalcanal, etc.) where he gets his baptism of fire and first real experiences of the unique challenges and horrors of war. After a stint back in the USA, he is redeployed on another carrier and this time is involved in action along the Marianas Islands, including the famous "Marianas Turkey Shoot". After this the push continues on to the Philippines where Berg leads raids right into Manilla Harbour.
The book is fairly well written and it doesn't appear to have had any serious editorial input which I really liked as the story remains more 'real' to me. Written in a style that is quite conservative and with well-chosen words, unlike the Vietnam War era Chickenhawk (the best war memoir I've read) which is a bit more gritty but I still found it to be a compelling read which many times had me feeling like I was there with him in his Avenger bomber at 200 feet racing toward a Japanese ship under heavy anti-aircraft fire. One aspect of the text that I liked a lot was the regular insertion of what appear to be snippets from his wartime diary that gave further insight into his thoughts and moods.
Overall a very good book that I would recommend to anyone, whether they be interested in war stories or not. A great story of fear, doubt, courage, tribulation, triumph and love. Well worth the purchase. Top stuff.

View all my reviews

25 December 2013

Iron Maiden Tracks Down Pirates…. And Gives Them Concerts

Iron Maiden - embracing piracy

The following is a great example of a band (Iron Maiden - one of the best rock bands to ever play a note) embracing the file-sharing culture and reaching out to their fans. A pretty damn admirable attitude on the part of Iron Maiden and their management. It's about time that a lot more folks saw 'illegal' file-sharing for what it really is - their art and products being exposed to a massively wider audience than it would normally be. And the smart business people will find a way to use this to their advantage. Nice work Iron Maiden!

Anyway, here's the article courtesy of TorrentFreak...

For more than a decade piracy has been a hot topic in the music industry. While some of the major labels have tried to eliminate the problem by taking pirates to court, English heavy metal band Iron Maiden has taken a more positive approach to the phenomenon. Instead of hunting down pirates for lawsuits, the band is using file-sharing data to plan their tour locations, and not without success.
Over the past several years numerous studies have shown that on average file-sharers spend more money on legal purchases, including concert tickets and merchandise.
The most logical explanation for this finding is that “pirates” are more engaged than those who don’t share, and that they complement their legal purchases with unauthorized downloads.
This means that unauthorized file-sharers are in fact the music industry’s best customers. So, instead of hunting down these pirates for lawsuits, it may be more rewarding to play for them.
The English heavy metal band Iron Maiden is doing just that. The veteran musicians use the services of music analytics company Musicmetric which allows them to see where their albums are most pirated.
“If you know what drives engagement you can maximize the value of your fan base. Artists could say ‘we’re getting pirated here, let’s do something about it’, or ‘we’re popular here, let’s play a show’,” Gregory Mead, CEO and co-founder of Musicmetric told Cite.
Instead of suing these unauthorized file-sharers, the band used the information as input for its tours, and not without success.
The overview below, for example, shows that Iron Maiden is most popular among Brazilian pirates with 463,467 downloads in recent years. The band is also relatively popular in Chile with 1,300 downloads per 100,000 Internet users, which totals 70,932 downloads.
In part based on this file-sharing data, Iron Maiden’s recent tour had a heavy focus on South America, where the band has a lot of Twitter followers and unauthorized downloads. The band played in Paraguay for the first time, for example, and concerts were sold out throughout the region.
According to Musicmetric the file-sharing data helped Iron Maiden turn these pirates into paying customers, simply by heading over there and playing for them. It’s impossible to download the true experience of a live concert, so the chances are high that several pirates will turn up.
“If you engage with fans, there is a chance to turn a percentage into paying customers. You can see that through various bands using the BitTorrent network in a legal way to share content,” Mead says.
It’s refreshing to see that instead of hunting down pirates for lawsuits, file-sharing data is being used by artists to plan their gigs. After all, it is much more rewarding to play for your fans than to try to bankrupt them in court.

There's a great discussion by readers following the original article HERE that really highlights the varying attitudes toward pirate music and the music industry. It appears that Iron Maiden might be on to something here, if their sold-out concerts are anything to go by. I say cut a lot of the fat cats (middle-men) out of the equation, and spend your money on merchandise and concerts where the artists get a better cut.

19 December 2013

AWESOME! A Commando comic treasure trove!

The file links on this page are dead and I'm unaware of any other hosting sites where Commando is currently being shared. I'll update the blog if and when when I do come across any live links. In the meantime, check out the comments section below for some torrent links.

I recently stumbled upon this online archive of Commando comics that has a good range of comics from early issues to recent ones. They're all in either CBZ or CBR format that will work with any comic reading app or software on your devices (I use Sumatra on my PC and Comicat on my Android tablet).
NOTE: The Mega page that lists the comic files doesn't appear to load when using a mobile browser (it suggests that you install an app), so you need to view the desktop site in your mobile browser or use a computer. Otherwise all works fine.
I loved these comics as a lad and still love them now, a few years on. In fact, I've bought a few compilation editions in recent years and have really enjoyed a stroll along memory lane with good yarns about courage and valor in the line of duty. We can be with a Hurricane pilot during the Battle Of Britain, Royal Marine commandos sneaking into a Norwegian fjord to sabotage a battleship or with a long-range desert patrol in North Africa causing havoc for the Nazis.

In the early years, all of Commando stories were devoted to the Second World War but in more recent decades, the comic has extended its range to a variety of conflicts including the First World War, the Cold War, Spanish Civil War, the Falklands, Korea, Vietnam and some Ancient & Medieval conflicts. There was even a science fiction themed Issue 2774 - Space Watch. I'm really keen to read that one!

Read below for a further description (from Wikipedia) of this excellent comic series:
Commando For Action and Adventure, formerly known as Commando War Stories in Pictures, and colloquially known as Commando Comics, are a series of British comic books that primarily draw their themes and backdrops from the various incidents of the World Wars I and II. The comic, still in print today, is noted for its distinctive 7 × 5½ inch, 68 page format that became a standard for these kinds of stories. It has remained more popular than many other British war comics, and some would say British comics in general, despite its simplistic stories and simply sketched black and white artwork, with only the covers in colour.
The stories contain certain characteristic motifs; to mention a few - courage, cowardice, patriotism, dying for the sake of one's country, noble actions, and making a cup of refreshing tea while in the face of danger, enmity turning into friendship when the going gets tough, and so on. Apart from portraying these universal qualities, Commando Comics also show soldiers in national stereotypes, glorifying Allied soldiers, but showing soldiers as a mixture of good and evil. There was usually no continuity between books; each book was a complete story with start and finish, though recently series (2 or 3 stories) of books following the same character have been published.

16 December 2013

More On Sharing Knowledge And Culture

Our Free Society Stands Or Falls With Our Defense Of Sharing Knowledge And Culture
by Rick Falkvinge @ TorrentFreak

Yet once more, The Pirate Bay has switched domain names, this time to Peru. In its promise to make DNS restrictions obsolete, The Pirate Bay creates a greater promise against all censorship.

The Pirate Bay has been no stranger to jumping domain names to evade feeble censorship.

Starting out at thepiratebay.org in 2003, it switches addresses nowadays as soon as one is threatened. However, the fact that Internet addresses can be censored like this is a large problem.

The copyright industry has been pushing relentlessly for the ability to censor sites they don’t like. Unfortunately, through a mix of digitally illiterate politicians who don’t understand that they’re creating censorship, and digitally literate bureaucrats who want to create this kind of censorship if they can get away with it, several legislatures and administrations have agreed to the insane demands of the copyright industry.

It’s not just bad because it blocks access to The Pirate Bay – because it doesn’t. It’s bad because it creates a precedent of how administrations and legislatures can, and should, deal with publishers they don’t like for whatever reason.

For once the censorship regime is in place, you won’t think for a second that it will stop at culture-sharing sites, would you? Once such a tool is available in the bureaucrat toolbox, it will be applied to anything and everything considered insubordinate or troublesome.

There is a reason the copyright industry loves child pornography so much – the reason that industry lobbied hard to create censorship of child abuse sites, actively hiding the problem and preventing assistance. They knew politicians wouldn’t dare disagree on such a toxic subject, and once the box was open, “other illegal sites” – those that circumvent the harmful copyright monopoly – were next in line. In reality, the culture-sharing hubs had been the target all along, and mentioning “child pornography” had merely been a battering ram to get the censorship started – notwithstanding that the censorship actually creates more child abuse and protects predators, something the copyright industry doesn’t care about at all.

Governments would not hesitate to build further on such a censorship regime. In Finland, meta-discussions about the child pornography censorship were themselves placed under censorship – effectively censoring political discussion that was embarrassing to the administration. In the UK, censorship that started as “violent pornography” has crept to “all pornography”, already censoring a lot of political opinion under that definition, and crept further into “extremist views” and other clearly political material.

It doesn’t take rocket science to see where this is going. And the copyright regime is pushing for an actively-censored society to protect their monopolistic and parasitic business interests. It is therefore, exactly therefore, that the free society stands or falls with our defense of sharing knowledge and culture, and activists like the operators of The Pirate Bay.

In their wannabe censorship regime, the copyright industry has attacked the DNS infrastructure, one of few systems on the Internet that is relatively centralized. Wisely, activists with The Pirate Bay have therefore announced a browser package that makes DNS censorship utterly ineffective.

Now, one could argue that this is a technically advanced solution that would challenge ordinary people’s uptake. While such an observation would be correct, it doesn’t really matter: 250 million Europeans and 150 million Americans have learned to use BitTorrent, which is far from a walk in the park. The demand for sharing is so great that entire generations gladly climb the learning curve without blinking. Any new censorship attempt has always resulted in more traffic to the culture-sharing hubs. It would be a safe prediction to say that a permanent anti-censorship device would be quickly taken up.

Therefore, the copyright industry’s screams for censorship are actively driving the defense of a free society. While I have absolutely nothing positive to say about the copyright industry, it’s heartwarming to see the battle for a free society take place in a location where people actually mount a defense, and make sure that censorship can always be circumvented.

For if such censorship can be circumvented for culture-sharing sites – and it can, and it will – then we still have some hope of communicating insubordinate political opinions in the future, too.

About The Author
Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.

15 December 2013

Stopping piracy on the internet? Good luck.

The reasons why people share and download copied/pirated things like movies, music, books & magazines, etc. is hugely varied. The fact is, they do download and I, for one, seriously doubt that it will ever be able to be stopped. Part of me doesn't really care, either. Besides, what's the difference between sharing a music album or an ebook online to lending a CD or paperback to your friends? I say there is no moral difference - only an imagined difference, a guilt-trip created by the fat cat money-makers in the media and entertainment industries.

Okay, yes there are duplicates being produced for no gain to the original publishers, but were those downloaders/borrowers ever going to purchase the item anyway? I say probably not, so therefore "piracy" could be a good thing - seeing music and books and movies get into the hands of a wider audience who might someday decide to actually purchase something. Also, it's a fairly undisputed fact that there are untold millions of folk out there who can't afford the often overpriced items in question and the chance to grab them for free does massive things for the spread of culture and knowledge across the globe. The fine people at TUEBL are a great example of this ideal - bringing ebooks to the masses.

Taking the "anti-piracy" agenda to the next level would have to be the banning of all kinds of lending libraries, because even though the official ones pay royalty fees, there's no effective controls over who gets hold of the media and what happens to it whilst in their possession. Case in point: the literary world, for one, hasn't collapsed and book libraries have been around for a long time. Go figure. It's total bollocks, the whole thing. A few missed bucks (in the grand scheme of things) for an already fat industry? Cry me a river.

Anyway, the following is an excerpt from an interesting report from the New Zealand Herald about the ongoing Pirate Bay domain seizures that suggest some reasons why people might decide to download something "illegally".

This begs the question to be asked - if regulators cannot hope to stop piracy, why adopt such a blunt approach in what is a seemingly unwinnable battle? Wouldn't it make more sense to fix the larger issues that are driving people to piracy?
Excluding greed and an urge for freebies, fixing piracy isn't an impossible task. Adopting some simple measures such as reducing the crazy timing gap between cinema and Blu-Ray releases, decreasing some of the frankly absurd pricing on CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray titles and most importantly of all, not treating paying customers as criminals via bizarre and restrictive DRM/zoning measures, will go a long way to reducing demand for pirate services.

The complete article can be found HERE.

14 December 2013

Should we just rename Uranus already?

It's not very often I can see Uranus
Two-hundred-and-thirty-two years ago a mistake was made. The question is, do we have to keep living with it forever, or is it finally time to rename Uranus?

A profound question indeed.

Click HERE to join the discussion over at io9.com.

13 December 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Wager with the Wind: The Don Sheldon Story by James Greiner

Wager with the Wind: The Don Sheldon StoryWager with the Wind: The Don Sheldon Story by James Greiner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Don Sheldon has been called 'Alaska's bush pilot among bush pilots', but he was also just one man in a fragile airplane who, in the end, was solely responsible for each mission he flew, be it a high-risk landing to the rescue of others from certain death in the mountains of Alaska or the routine delivery of supplies to a lonely homesteader. Read James Greiner's Wager with the Wind to learn how a hero was born, and also how he made his courageous journey to the unknown skies of dealing with cancer.

After seeing footage of some amazing bush flying where highly skilled flyers land and take off from some pretty gnarly places, I had a scout around to see if there were any books about this sort of thing. I was compelled to purchase this book as it came highly recommended. I can say that the book is well written and about a pretty incredible bloke who I reckon I would have liked if I'd have known him. However, the author spends the majority of the pages on describing the mountaineering expeditions that Don Sheldon flew support for. Interwoven through this are some really good flying tales and stories about incredible high-altitude mountain rescues, stormy lake landings (and crashes), soaring mountain thermals and the various trials and tribulations of this hugely hazardous flying, but I learned more about the mountain climbing than I did the flying. This really disappointed me, as I thought I was going to read about lots and lots of bush flying. The flying yarns are good, but these seem to take second place to the stories of the people that Sheldon flew around Alaska on various adventures. All that said, I still got a sense of the man and his trade, but not enough. Overall an okay read, but would be at least four stars if the flying stories took centre stage instead of the climbers. Don Sheldon was clearly an amazing man and a massively skilled pilot, but I'm not sure this book does him justice. Sorry Mr Griener, because you do write very well.

View all my reviews

02 December 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Weird Space: Satan's Reach by Eric Brown

Weird Space: Satan's ReachWeird Space: Satan's Reach by Eric Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Satan's Reach is the second volume in the Weird Space series, a thrilling Space Opera series created by master SF author Eric Brown.

Telepath Den Harper did the dirty work for the authoritarian Expansion, reading the minds of criminals, spies and undesirables. Unable to take the strain, he stole a starship and headed into the unknown, a sector of lawless space known as Satan's Reach. For five years he worked as a trader among the stars; then discovered that the Expansion had set a bounty hunter on his trail. But what does the Expansion want with a lowly telepath like Harper? Is there validity in the rumours that human space is being invaded by aliens from another realm? Harper finds out the answer to both these questions when he rescues an orphan girl from certain death; and comes face to face with the dreaded aliens known as the Weird. Satan's Reach is the second volume in the Weird Space series, a fast-paced action-adventure that pits humanity against the unimaginable Terror from Beyond.

Carrying on from events a little while after those of The Devil's Nebula, this book rips into another action-packed adventure. This time, we follow Den, a runaway telepath, who is on the run from a double set of enemies. The flight takes us across a huge swath of space known as Satan's Reach and we drop in on some wonderful locations and planets along the way. By now, the Vetch and humans have formed and uneasy alliance to deal with the threat of The Weird, of whom we learn a bit more and their desire to occupy known space from their place in another dimension. At the end of the book we again meet some characters from the first book, and the story hints at another installment, which I hope gets written, although I've not heard anything yet. All in all, Eric Brown fails to disappoint me again.

View all my reviews

01 December 2013

FREE EBOOK: The Last Legends of Earth by A. A. Attanasio

The Phoenix Pick free ebook for December is A. A. Attanasio’s The Last Legends of Earth. The book is one of the few rated a full 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon and it was critically acclaimed by nearly every critic who reviewed it.

Seven billion years from now, long after the Sun has died and human life itself has become extinct, alien beings reincarnate humanity from our fossilized DNA drifting as debris in the void of deep space. We are reborn to serve as bait in a battle to the death between the Rimstalker, humankind’s reanimator, and the zotl, horrific creatures who feed vampire-like on the suffering of intelligent lifeforms.The reborn children of Earth are told: “You owe no debt to the being that roused you to this second life. Neither must you expect it to guide you or benefit you in any way.” Yet humans choose sides, as humans will, participating in the titanic struggle between Rimstalker and zotl in ways strange and momentous.

The coupon code for December is 9991563 and will be good through to the end of December.

As usual, please to to www.PPickings.com to access the book.