Monthly Archives: September 2012

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Folks,

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The release date for Windows 8 is lest than a month away and a lot of the brouhaha seems to have settled down since there is nothing to do now but wait. Reports from those privileged enough to have seen the version that was released to manufacturing indicate that things are pretty much as they were in the consumer preview released earlier this year. If those reports are indeed correct, it means that Microsoft failed to come to its senses and did not include the option for a Start Menu to be used by those of us who have PC’s or Laptops.

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This is a new feature of The Parsons Rant. Quite often, there are news items in the computing press where the article is short, everything that you need to know is contained within the article itself and there’s not much that Dr. Data can add in the way of commentary. So, rather than having 3 very short posts, Dr. Data will combine these small bits into one big byte. These digests won’t be a daily or even weekly occurrence but they will appear as situations warrant.

Now that that’s settled, let’s get on with today’s bits and bobs.

Google’s Sub-Aquatic Street View

A good many of us know and love Google Maps and find it extremely helpful to see a street view of the address. Google has unveiled a new feature that will allow you to see a “street” view” of what’s under the water starting with the Great Barrier Reef. There is no word at this time if places of interest will be marked such as Neptune’s Palace, sunken treasure or mermaid hang-outs. Apple’s maps currently place Neptune’s palace in the vicinity of [ANYTHING-POPUP:3].

See the full article.

Siri Still Causing Problems

Not all of the problems with Siri have been resolved in the release of  iOS 6. Reports are coming in that something must be askew in how Siri processes location information as it is delivering inaccurate weather forecasts. Ask it for the weather in NYC and you just might get the current conditions in Boomer, NC.

See the full article.

Has Apple Lost Touch?

As long as we’re taking potshots at Apple, one blogger is beginning to think that Apple is dropping the ball more and more since Steve Jobs’ departure.

See the full article.

 New Beta Version of START 8 Released

Stardock Corporation has released a new beta version of its START 8 menu feature for Windows 8. Dr. Data will be going into the labs at Parsonage Data Services later today to take at look for himself.

Learn more at Stardock.com.

 

This is an announcement that has Dr. Data fairly excited. At least two guest bloggers will be joining me here on The Parsons’ Rant. Both of them are authors of Young Adult Fiction and they both have an upcoming release of a 2nd or 3rd book in their current series.

One of them is Brenda Pandos, author of both the Talisman and the Mer Tales series. The other is Adrianna Stepiano, author of the Memoir of a Mermaid series. There are one or two authors that I would like feature here on the rant but I will not release their names until I am sure that they are indeed willing to pay a visit.

The dates of their visits are yet to be determined but I hope to time them so they will coincide with the pre-release buzz for their books. Right now, I expect that they will be playing Twenty Questions with Dr. Data.

I’ll let you know more as the date draws near.

The faithful have dutifully lined up outside their favourite smart phone store and have laid down there hard-earned cash for the latest iteration known as the iPhone 5. Sales have been somewhat less than expected but that may have been due to the fact that the available number of units available was somewhat less the amount necessary for another record-setting opening day. In conjunction with the launch of the iPhone 5, Apple has released the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 6. Those seeking to upgrade their older iPhones to this new release have experienced a less than stellar upgrade experience with download progress being best described as “glacial”.

Whether is’s a new iPhone 5 or an upgrade of an older 4 or 4S, there has been one common complaint: Maps. If you tuned in late, Apple in its wisdom decided that Google Maps weren’t good enough for iOS 6 ad decided to create their own mapping system. Whether this was an attempt to add one more proprietary feature to its ecosystem or simply because Google has now become a competitor in the tablet market with its Nexus 7, Apple’s maps are henceforth the native cartography application for iOS 6.

Even if one does not subscribe to the idea that Google Maps are the sine qua non of mapping applications, you will have to admit that they are pretty handy and pretty darn good. Given the Apple mystique that everything emanating from Cupertino is so darn good, one would expect that Apple’s maps would be  perfect – or nearly so – straight out of the box. According to users, that is definitely not the case. In the short time since Apple’s maps have burst on to the scene, there has been a steady litany of complaints that the maps are less than accurate with misplaced landmarks, wrong or missing addresses and bizarre image renderings. Apple has been compelled to defend its nascent mapping system by saying it’s a work in progress and will get better the more you use it. That is cold comfort if you’re looking for an address in Fort Lee. New Jersey and wind up in Wall Twp.

We have, of course, seen this before. When the Apple 4S came out, there were plenty of adverts touting Siri and implying that it was an electronic Jeeves with the wit of Stephen Fry. As it turned out, Siri was . . . well . .  challenged. A new and improved Siri was supposed to be part of iOS 6 though reports are few and far between at this point. Apple really didn’t talk much about Maps in the run-up to the iPhone 5 and it appears that relative silence was with good reason.

All this makes me less than enthusiastic about upgrading my iPhone 4 to the latest and greatest edition of iOS. For more on this story, see PC Magazine’s take on the issue.

by Ciye Cho
Florence is invisible . . . or nearly so, at least. Her full name is Florence Waverly and she lives with her mother’s property manager on Australia’s Hamilton Island. She is one of those people in high school who is barely noticed . . . by anyone . . . and when she is, Florence is marked down as an oddity, a “new girl” and then quickly forgotten. On this day of days, Florence sits alone at the back of a school bus, on a biology field trip to a smaller island – named Mermaid’s Reach – that, like Florence, is invisible most of the time because of the tides. The roll was never called at start of the trip and if something should happen to her, the disappearance would go unnoticed . . . which is exactly what takes place.

While snorkeling in the shallows, Florence is kidnapped by a merman and taken far below the surface to a kingdom named Niemela, not for her plain beauty but rather, to serve as an exotic pet at the upcoming coronation of Prince Kiren. There, she learns from Prince Kiren’s brother, Rolan, that her abductor has far exceeded his remit to find an exotic animal and there is now some question as what to do with her. King Iriego is disposed towards tossing Florence in the Nemilian prison as a permanent resident but Prince Kiren’s younger sister, Yolee, begs permission to keep her out of the way as a sort of  guest under house arrest.

Florence begins to learn about her new environment and discovers that she serves no purpose in Nemilia and therefore does not fit in. At first, she simply wants to quit Nemilia and return to the surface but over the following 6 days, her feelings about leaving become ambivalent. Florence does not really fit in to the world on land either and there is not as much to go home to as she thought. As for remaining in Nemilia, there is her friendship with Yolee to begin with and Prince Kiren does seem to have his eye on her. Prince Rolan, however, is another matter.

Ciye Cho has created a wonderful undersea world of both beauty and danger in this charming fantasy. As the story progresses, Florence seems to fit in a bit more than she did at first and comes to play a crucial role in the future of Nemilia. Things aren’t always what they seem and enemies may just turn out to be friends in this charming story for young adults. Although Florence has two princes who are interested in her – for very different reasons – it is Florence’s friendship with Princess Yolee that really steals the show. Indeed, if there is anything at all that could be construed as a disappointment in this novel, it would be that Yolee’s character fades out in the latter part of the story.

Mr. Cho’s novel is an extremely clean read which gives this reviewer hope that proof reading is not the lost art that he has come to believe it is. This fantasy is very YA friendly with enough danger and horror to give the story some action but certainly not enough to cause nightmares. This reviewer, however, is now looking at lampreys in a whole new light. Florence is a very hard book to put down and this reviewer read it almost non-stop until he was at the final scene.  The reader could almost say that it was addicting in its own way. Cho’s novel is more than suitable for younger YA’s, older ones who want a fantasy interlude and adults who simply need an escape.

Although Florence appears to be a one-off because of its story arc, Ciye Cho may wish to seriously consider writing a sequel. There is enough beauty, mystery  and adventure in the world he has created to warrant at least one more novel. This reviewer suggests Florence of  Nemilia as a title and, if nothing else, we would get to see more of Princess Yolee’s character.

This reviewer is always on the look-out for teachable moments in Young Adult Fiction and Florence certainly has a number of them. However, rather than pontificate on what these moments are and the lesson to be learned or reinforced, he strongly suggests that you read Florence and find & enjoy them for yourself. Florence will not disappoint you.

My Rating:

Ciye Cho’s website is at http://www.florence-books.com/. The website for Florence is at http://www.florence-books.com/

 

by Emm Cole

This reviewer has read quite a bit of  “Mer-fiction” as research for his own novel and has noticed that a lot of the stories fall into a somewhat predictable pattern such as human girl/boy meets a mer- man/maid who is/may be a prince/princess. While there is nothing particularly wrong with that sort of scenario – and a good number of this reviewer’s favourite stories do fit this mould – he is nonetheless always on the look-out for something different and Emm Cole’s Merminia certainly fits the bill. Indeed, it is different – very different – from the usual fare.

The scene is set when the two sons of a deceased king go to war against each other over how their father’s kingdom was divided between them. It is a bloody and terrible conflict that envelops not only the opposing armies but the land and sea as well. The daughter of one of the combatants creates a ring from gifts given to her by her father and uncle in order to create a magic spell. She sacrifices the ring – and herself – to the sea so that the fates may step in and halt this bloody conflict.

For once, the fates keep their side of the bargain by enveloping her father and his subjects in the sea and rendering them as mer-folk. Her uncle’s subjects are confined to the land and cursed with shorter lives and illnesses. Alessia’s father finds her ring but never recovers his daughter. While his restraint in not using the ring is rewarded by the fates, his people squabbled over whether his inaction was good or bad. After his death, the people separate themselves into different clans based on the differing gifts bestowed upon the mermaids and history repeats itself as these clans engage in internecine warfare. It is here that the main story begins.

Selinne is the daughter of the hereditary chief of the Merminians and is not your typical mermaid. Indisposed to gossiping and adorning herself, she swims to a different drum and often finds herself in situations requiring rescue by her adoring adopted brother. The leader of the Litiant clan has been conducting a ruthless search for Adessa’s ring unaware of the fact that one of his sons had found and hidden the ring when he was as child. Ms Cole’s spellbinding story revolves around the conflict between the rival clans and one chief’s thirst for ultimate power.

The reader should not think for one moment that this is simply a sub-aquatic version of Lord of The Rings. While there are sea-dragons and other fearsome beasts, there are no mer-hobbits. Merminia is a story of conflict, capture, brutality, horror, betrayal and love with an ending that is not necessarily a happy one for the main characters.

Emm Cole’s Merminia  is a compelling story that should keep most readers entranced. The book itself is a very clean read with few – if any – typos, grammatical errors or misused words. That in and of itself garners high marks from this reviewer. While it is not a “happily ever after” kind of story, the reader will want to reach the end so that they can put all of the pieces together and ponder the unanswered questions. The story itself is a dark one but leaves this reviewer with a sense of hope for Selinne and her clan.

Overall, this is a very YA-friendly novel though, because of the darker elements of the plot, this reviewer would recommend it for older young adults. The story does not scream “Young Adult Fiction” and not-so-young adults will enjoy it as well. Merminia’s story arc lends itself more to a stand-alone novel rather than the first of a series. While trilogies seem to be the thing in Young Adult Fiction nowadays, the fact that this appears to be a one-off helps to make it more engaging and unique. While this novel is Ms Cole’s first venture into the underwater realm of mer-fiction, this reviewer earnestly hopes that it will not be her last and that adults – both young and otherwise – will have another opportunity to enjoy Emm Cole’s considerable story-telling skills and prowess as a writer.

Emm Cole’s website is at http://emmcole.com/     Read our interview with Emm Cole

My Rating:

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Paperback Kindle

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Read a sample of Merminia[embed_kindle asin=”B008VJ938C”]

Microsoft has an uphill battle on its hands. Apple’s iPad owns 80% of the market. The other 20 % belongs to Samsung’s Galaxy offerings, Google’s Nexus 7, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, etc. and etc.  The market floor is littered with also-rans and products that got off the launch-pad – like HP’s TouchPad – but were aborted in mid-flight.

With the advent of the touch-centric Windows 8 operating system and the Surface tablet range, Microsoft is going to have to come out swinging if they want to have a decent chance of making a significant dent in the market, let alone Apple’s iPad behemoth. Of course, there are Microsoft loyalists who face Redmond twice a day in prayer just as there are Apple Loyalists who face Cupertino and threaten jihad against anyone who suggests that even a few i-Products may be behind the technological curve. To be sure, those hard-core loyalists will help to boost sale of the Surface tables when the first one makes its debut a month from now but what about the long-term? Geek.com suggests that one of Microsoft’s secret weapons could be the ubiquitous MS Office.

Redmond has already announced that they will release a version of Office 13 that will run on the Surface RT which is based on the ARM processor platform. This is a good thing because at the moment, RT-compatible apps are few and far between. The RT version of Office 13 will be a tablet-optomised version of the Home & Student edition that contains Word, Excel, Power Point and OneNote, the greatest little application that you’ve probably never even heard of.  To the continuing chagrin of all who purchase Home & Student, this version does not include the indispensable Outlook application and that tradition will continue with Office RT. Whether there will be a RT compatible version of Outlook available as a separate purchase remains to be seen.

Office RT will come bundled with the Surface RT tablet and will not be available as a stand-alone product. As to whether or not this is a good thing, only time will tell. However, a tablet that already comes with most of the features from the world’s most popular office suite could well give Microsoft a competitive edge amongst new tablet purchasers as well as those who have been sitting on the fence waiting for a truly viable iPad alternative to come along. We’ll see in a little over a month.

Suggested Reading:

The article from Geek.com about the RT-Office combination

Microsoft’s Office blog which talks about Office-RT

Microsoft has confirmed that it will hold the official launch for Windows 8 on October 25th in New York City. Readers should be advised that this is not the same as the date that Windows 8 will be available commercially. Launch dates are usually big, splashy parties for the media so a company can announce that its long-awaited product is finally here.

Sometimes, launch/announcement events can backfire as happened with Apple very recently. The boys from Cupertino made the formal announcement that the iPhone Five is here – and there was much rejoicing – and then subsequently announced that the delivery date was being pushed back. Of course, this came as a major disappointment to the legions of Apple fanatics who had planned to stand on line – for days if necessary – outside the nearest Apple store so that they could be among the first to have one. (Apple is missing a golden opportunity by not selling tents, sleeping bags and umbrellas stamped with the corporate logo.)

Windows 8 will be commercially available – which means that ordinary folks like you and I can buy it – the following day on Oct. 26th. Those of you who have downloaded the customer preview of Windows 8 should be advised that the demo OS will cease to work on that day. (There is no such thing as a free lunch.) Microsoft will also make the RT version of its Surface tablet commercially available on that date, just in time for the holidays. It should be an interesting Autumn.

I have been a subscriber to Anu Garg’s A-Word-A-Day for well over a decade. Five times a week, I get an e-mail with the word of the day, its origins, its definitions and an example of useage. In recent years, this e-mail has grown to include a thought for the day.

Here is the one for Sept. 19, 2012:

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:

To blame the poor for subsisting on welfare has no justice unless we are also willing to judge every rich member of society by how productive he or she is. Taken individual by individual, it is likely that there’s more idleness and abuse of government favors among the economically privileged than among the ranks of the disadvantaged. – Norman Mailer, author (1923-2007)

 

You can, among other things, sign up for A-Word-A-Day at http://wordsmith.org/.

This Month’s Rants

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