Tuesday, November 29, 2011

iDevice RC: Supersize Me!


According to this ZDNet article, Dexim sells a nifty little truck called the AppSpeed that, with a little help from the included RF transmitter, can be remotely controlled by your iDevice.



Two words: Way cool!

The first thing I thought of when I read this was that it would be incredibly awesome to have a life-size version of the AppSpeed truck that you could drive just by gliding your hand across the screen.

Wait a minute...James Bond "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997), anybody?

 

I love it when life imitates art, especially when it's remote controlled. Pity, though, that the AppSpeed doesn't come with rockets and that handy cable cutter thing.


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Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain


The Art of Racing in the Rain
"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx

The first few pages of  Garth Stein's "The Art of Racing in the Rain" didn't really grab me. This is a book about a family told through the eyes of a dog. The dog's philosophizing was a bit too much, although Stein eases up on the "meaning of life" speech and gets stuck into the guts of the story within a few pages.

The bulk of the story, and Enzo the dog's take on things, was well written, occasionally funny, and quite engaging. The reader really gets to know the characters and empathize with them. I particularly enjoyed the car-racing analogies, which were welcome interludes, but not overdone. Despite it's beginning, the author did a good job of balancing Enzo's philosophical thoughts on life with events and action, resulting in a story that moves along and doesn't get bogged down.

Here's a video trailer of the "The Art of Racing in the Rain":


Spoiler Alert!
I felt that the story's conclusion was somewhat predictable. It tries to leave the reader with a warm and fuzzy feeling, which is disappointing because it let down a very intelligent plot. I think that mature readers could deal with a less fairy-tale ending.
End Spoiler Alert!

Cleverly, Garth Stein produced a version of the book called "Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog", the same story, but adapted for younger readers. Scenes in the regular version of the book can be a bit adult at times (though not explicit), but the basic story-line would appeal to teens as well. I could see the youth version of this book being used as a reading text for high-school English classes. Although not a work of literary genius, there is a lot in it to analyze.

In summary, "The Art of Racing in the Rain" is certainly a book worthy of your time.

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Slow Release


Some have criticized HP and Blackberry for dragging their feet on updates to the Touchpad and Playbook, respectively. Although frustrating sluggish in their release schedules, they are not the slowest to issue the latest version of their product.

For all of you who thought that chess was an anti-social game (although not as anti-social as solitaire), it's time for you to rethink your stereotypes because after about 800 years, chess version 2.0 has been released.

This report on Slashgear showcases a three-person, circular chess game.










 Chess clubs of the world, rejoice!


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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Am So 1995

The digital world has switched to the cloud, yet I still have my feet firmly on the ground.

At home, I use a local email client on a big black desktop computer. I use software that was installed from a CD. I have a puny mobile data plan on my Symbian-based work-phone, and I haven't used a touch screen since I ran over my Palm PDA with my great big silver station-wagon sometime in 2002.

My friends all have G-mail accounts, and I'm still mulling whether or not to use DropBox.

There was a time when I wanted to ditch local computing and entrench myself in the Google-sphere: G-mail, Chrome, Android, Google+. The theory behind Chromebook, despite it's very shaky and unpopular start, sounds brilliant: Doesn't matter if you drop your Chromebook in the loo, simply log in from any Chromebook machine and all your settings and preferences instantly appear before you. (I would have used the word "magically", but I think it is trademarked by Apple...)

But I resisted all that for one reason: control. Living in the cloud seems to push users one step away from controlling their data. Google isn't going to disappear so fast, but what happens if they decide to change the conditions of use and suddenly you are left without an email address? Or what happens if they suddenly decide to drop storage limits to an unworkable number? What if Google decides that they will stop providing Google Docs, upon which you and your family now rely? After all, they blocked Google Video to new uploads shortly after they bought YouTube.

I own my data. My email is mine, my photos are mine, the software is mine. I have two internal hard-drives (one partitioned for the OS and data, the other is a backup drive) and I have an external hard drive that I keep off-site and bring home periodially to backup my data). I might still have a 1995 attitude about data storage, but it's mine, all mine .

Amazon is the latest one calling me to the cloud. The Kindle Fire is a rediculouly priced $199 7" tablet, unabashedly designed to suck users in to the Amazon.com ecosystem by offering 20GB of free cloud storage and limited-time Prime membership on-the-house - as enticing an offer as you are going to get.

I can barely shake the urge to throw myself at Jeff Bezos' mercy. But I will evade the temptation of the fiery Amazonian cloud, just like I continue to resist the beckoning calls emanating from the hallowed Googleplex. For there is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you are in complete control of your data...until the disk drives crash and your precious family photos go up in an plume of digital smoke.

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