A Lament for the Living

Lament for the Living

Well, look what stumbled into my house the other day. No, not a zombie. It was the postman, he almost tripped on the sticky-up-bit of the door before handing me a box from Amazon. Inside was a signed copy of David Nicol’s latest book, Lament for the Living. I gave the postman a quick look to confirm that he wasn’t bitten or moaning and sent him on his way. He looked a bit frightened.

The book is a great read. If you like zombie books you’ll love this one. One scene in particular had me laughing out loud as I imagined it in my head. Unfortunately it turned really grim shortly after so I was, “Errm, oops. Yikes! That turned nasty quickly!”

I liked how the story progressed, even if revelations later in the book were quite disturbing. Nicol twists the story around making me identify first with one lot, then another, then I find they’re .. well, you’ll have to read the book now, won’t you?

Get it on Amazon (US), Amazon (UK) or even itunes. The official page for the book also lists a few more local Amazon sites and other sites where the book can be bought. Amazon let’s you have a sneak peak of the start of the book if you want it.

Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy by the author and I’m friends with him. The links above are not affiliate links. Whether that clouds your judgement of my post or not is up to you. I enjoyed the book.

The Venus Transit: history and stories

Mark Anderson, author of the book The Day The World Discovered the Sun on the Science Talk podcast last week talked about the transit of Venus that’s happening today. Also make sure you listen to part 2 of the podcast!

It’s an amazing story about the efforts in 1760 to measure the distance to Venus. They had to travel far north and also south to the tropics to measure the angle of view from two known locations. Astonishing that they did this so long ago, even using the moon as a GPS, a technique that had only just been figured out.

The global positioning satellite in this case was the moon. In the 1760s science was for the first time able to predict with uncanny accuracy the moon’s exact motion in the sky years ahead of time. So some of these Venus transit pioneers, especially England’s Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne, had mastered a method by which a ship’s navigator anywhere on the Earth could observe the moon with a £8 sextant and a reference manual (costing a few shillings) — and in short order discover their exact location on the planet. The long-sought solution to the longitude problem was now easy, inexpensive and at hand. (source)

Edit: Some amazing photos of the Venus transit, as taken from the Nasa website: 1, 2, 3

My Favourite Android Apps

I’ve used a Samsung Galaxy S since August last year and in that time I’ve downloaded and played with lots of apps and games. Here are a few of my favourites.

  1. Tweetdeck
  2. Dolphin Browser HD
  3. Kindle and FBReader
  4. Amazon Appstore and Android Market
  5. Reddit is Fun
  6. GO Contacts/Dialer/Launcher EX/SMS Pro
  7. CardioTrainer
  8. WordPress
  9. aCar
  10. Juice Defender
And some games
  1. Galaxy Domination (not on the market any more, now here!)
  2. Cut the Rope
  3. Guns ‘n’ Glory

Besides those, there are so many apps on my phone now that it’s ridiculous. I recently started using the Google+ app, and the Amazon Appstore gives away a free paid app every day so that’s my first port of call shortly after 8am every morning. There’s also getjar.com who have a free ad-supported version of Cut the Rope, as well as many other apps and games.

I used to play a lot more games, I’d dive into Galaxy Domination any chance I’d get but now I’d rather read a book in the Kindle app or FBReader, or check out the latest Reddit posts on “Reddit is Fun”.

If you have a phone with a fairly big screen (the Galaxy S has a 4 inch screen) then reading on them is a rare pleasure. No more fiddling with bookmarks or holding the spine of a thick volume open. Go on, head over to Amazon now and pick up a cheap ebook. You might just like it!

You might wonder how much has this all cost me? I’ve bought quite a few books on the Kindle store (I still think it’s wonderful that I can visit Amazon from my phone and buy a book), but I’ve only bought 2 apps. Those would be aCar (purchased through the author’s website) and just last night I bought Juice Defender Plus. As I mentioned in a previous post on battery saving tips that app shuts off the various radios in your phone when not in use, switching them on momentarily for syncing on a regular basis. The free version turns off the 3G connection when the screen is locked, but not wifi. The paid for version  does that and it’s well worth it. Battery life sky rockets after using this app!

Amazon Appstore opens in North America

The Amazon Appstore for Android opened today and apparently Apple are already suing them for confusing consumers with a name similar to their App Store.

I wouldn’t really know because after downloading the Appstore app (beautifully simple procedure: click a link in an email/text to a .apk file) and logging into Amazon it refused to let me download the exclusive Angry Birds Rio game.

The Amazon Appstore for Android is not yet available in your region

Good thing I’m sick of Angry Birds, but it’d be nice if it worked over here too!

I'm an ebook convert now

Matt has made it well known that he loves his Kindle and for a while I thought about buying one too. Unfortunately I’ll have to order it from Amazon.com in the US because I live in Ireland. Attempts to buy it from Amazon.co.uk result in an error and asks me to go visit the US site. When you add shipping costs and import fees it drives the price on Amazon.com up to $193.58!

So, if not the Kindle, how do I read ebooks? On my phone of course! I downloaded the Android Kindle app for my Samsung Galaxy S. The 4 inch screen of this phone is plenty big enough for reading, though you won’t be doing it at arm’s length. It’s also backlit so there’s no need for a light to shine on the device to read it. That suits me as the majority of my reading is done when I’m in bed at night. I don’t think I’ll ever read a magazine on the phone as the screen is too small. I tried reading bits and pieces of a Retro Gamer pdf on it but it was a horrible experience. I presume Kindle formatted magazines are better suited to the small screen?

I tried reading books on previous phones but each time it was one of the free “out of copyright” books I picked up rather than a book I had to spend money on. Last September at Seaside all that changed when I bought the Kindle version of Terry Pratchett’s “Unseen Academicals” and put the paperback version of that book back into my bag. It was wonderful!

I don’t think I’ve bought a paperback since. I wandered into Waterstones once (killing time, I didn’t even head over to the sci-fi section), and any time I pop into Eason’s it’s to buy a magazine. I’ve since made several purchases on amazon.com including a few books by authors unknown to me. Check out Containment and Brainbox by Christian Cantrell for example.

I’m not happy about everything Kindle however. Even though Ireland is in the European Union along with the UK, Amazon customers here cannot buy the Kindle or ebooks through amazon.co.uk. Instead we have to use amazon.com. Thankfully there’s no VAT on books so the US price is the price Irish customers pay. Good thing the Euro is stronger than the US Dollar. It does however mean that we have to buy books with American English spelling and that won’t improve the humour of those people who will criticise the service.

Also, some books cannot be bought because I’m not in the United States or United Kingdom. Ender’s Game is one such novel. If I search Amazon.com for that title I won’t be shown the Kindle version at all but I found it by using Google. I can’t even look for it on amazon.co.uk because I’m in Ireland, not the UK. I understand this is probably because publishers have regional contracts but this is digital data and Amazon has a worldwide audience.

I’d still like to try out a Kindle as a reading device as I’ve heard so many good things about it, but the important part of the Kindle are the books, and I can read them just fine on my phone.

Besides the Kindle app there are many other Android ebook readers. I particularly like FBReader myself but check the market for others.

For historical purposes for those reading this in 10 years time when it will probably be hard to buy paperback books, Amazon sold more ebooks during the last 3 months of 2010 than paperbacks.

Amazon has revealed that it has sold more Kindle ebooks than paperbacks in the US during the final three months of 2010.

A similar pattern has continued during January 2011 with 115 ebooks being sold for every 100 paperbacks.

Reconsidering my Medal of Honor pre-order

I pre-ordered Medal of Honor (for PS3) a few days ago from Amazon. I selected their free delivery method so it’ll be almost a week after release before I get the game, but I can wait. Really. Maybe.

Anyway, a few videos from the PC beta showed up on Youtube this morning that made me rethink the wisdom of pre-ordering the game.

In Jay’s video he must have been fuming at the lack of progress and deaths he suffered at the hands of unseen enemies. I certainly would have been (quietly) cursing my enemy.

Seems there are already aimbots in the PC beta. Look at how fast that guy flicks from left to right shooting at distant enemies.

But finally, d0n7bl1nk posted a video where he did rather well and he was upbeat about the game. Even at 360p the scenery looks stunning to me, and at least there won’t be any crate bashing in the objective type games.

One final video from Mileycyrusthevirus. He’s undecided about the game too but the gameplay video is great.

Have any of you, my dear readers played the PC beta? Do you like it? The console beta months ago was a pile of pooh but DICE have had plenty of time to work their magic and make it better.

PS. Good to see David’s still posting videos!

The Complete Nemesis The Warlock

Hands up if you were a fan of 2000AD back in the day? It’s still going, maybe not so strong, these days. I picked up a copy a while back and it’s reduced to a what seems like a few pages of stories with adverts thrown in here and there. It reminded me why I rarely bought comics. I was too impatient to “wait until next week to find out the stunning conclusion to this week’s story!” Thankfully friends did buy it and I had more than a few copies of the comic myself when curiosity got the better of me.

As you may know I have an Amazon wishlist which is occasionally frequented by users of my plugins who very very occasionally will buy me something from it (and each and every gift is much appreciated!)
Anyway, I read with sadness that one of the artists behind the very successful Nemesis The Warlock series in 2000AD, John Hicklenton died a few weeks ago. I went searching and found The Complete Nemesis the Warlock: Bk. 1 and The Complete Nemesis the Warlock: Bk. 2 and promptly added both to the list in the hope that someone might buy it.

I was lucky! A few short weeks later the postman delivers Book 2 into my grubby hands and I have Daniel Jacobs to thank for it. Memories come flooding back as I soak in the art work. That story was just the craziest and grittiest thing I ever read. Only thing is now, I’ll have to find a copy of Book 1 somewhere or order it from Amazon myself!

In all seriousness, this post is in part made because of the death of a neighbour I’ve known all my life. I hadn’t spoken to him in a long time and it was a shock when I heard the news. He was a quiet man but always had a ready smile and had a great collection of capacitors, resistors and other electronics.
After his removal from the funeral home last week I spoke to a woman who was standing near my car. She asked who had died and I told her, to which she replied, “He worked for Dunlops didn’t he?”
Small world, but nice to be remembered.

Watch out for Amazon reseller shipping charges

When you see a nice cheap product on Amazon or any other online retailer beware of the shipping and handling charges. This HDMI to DVI-D converter goes for a paltry £2.59 but then attracts a hefty £11.08 from the reseller. I can’t pretend that I didn’t notice it on the order page but at the time I wanted to get the order done and dusted so I didn’t quibble. The box it comes in better be lined with velvet and the address better be hand written and signed with the artist’s name…

I had enough trouble with console AV cables and certain retailers in the last few weeks I wanted the whole sorry episode over and done with.

How to avoid Amazon Wishlist headaches

If, like me you have an Amazon wishlist you may be missing out on wishes if you’re not careful selecting them.

The wishlist is a great idea. Browse around Amazon picking items you like and add them to a public list that your friends and family can use to buy you gifts. The only problem is that Amazon won’t always deliver the goods, but you won’t know until someone tries to buy something for you.

The first I knew about this problem was when someone sent me a tweet saying they got an error buying a game on my wishlist. Alarmed, I tried to purchase the same item.

amazon-gift-registery-problem

amazon-gift-registery-problem2

The first time I saw the message “We’re sorry. This item can’t be delivered to a Wish List or gift registry address” I hadn’t noticed the previous “Marketplace items cannot be sent to Gift Registry addresses”. At the time I was a newbie to all this and didn’t realise the difference between the Marketplace and Amazon itself. Searching for the error message took me to blog and forum posts discussing the problem. None were on the Amazon website. Surely it wouldn’t take that much effort to hide the “Add to wishlist” button on Marketplace product pages?
I eventually found time to correct things, and replaced as many items as I could with those available from Amazon itself, and not a 3rd part reseller.

Does this apply only to Irish addresses on the UK Amazon website or is it a general problem?

Oh, and here’s another quick Amazon tip. Buy gift cards on the Amazon site local to the receiver. My wife bought a voucher for her sister in New Zealand, but we used the UK Amazon website. When the voucher was delivered and used, it didn’t work. That’s a waste of money and embarrassing too. I should have cancelled the payment through my credit card but never thought to do so at the time.

Important Message
There’s something wrong with the gift certificate claim code you entered. Please check for transposed digits, omitted digits, and similar errors.

You’d think they’d have these basic problems sorted out wouldn’t you?