Monthly Archives: October 2012

by Paige Bleu

Over the past 18 months, it has been my pleasure and privilege to read a number of extraordinary Young Adult novels; so many that I’ve run short on superlative adjectives and am now forced to recycle a few. Needless to say, there are quite a few gifted authors out there and this reader believes that he’s just found another one.

Finding Summerland tells the story of Wesley Rochester – Wes to his friends – who lives in the Texas oil country. Though his family is quite well off, money has brought him little happiness. Wes suffers from being a middle child, sandwiched between his younger sister who is all into beauty pageants and competitions – spurred on by an indulgent mother – and his older brother, Channing, who was a star athlete, Mr. Popularity and an all around heart-throb. Wes has lived in Channing’s shadow all his life and now that shadow has deepened; Channing disappeared on a post-graduation trip to Mexico less than a year before the story opens. While Wes never really wanted to compete against his older brother, that is thoroughly impossible now. How can you compete with someone who is no longer there? Wes is not Channing.

Instead, Wes is a loner, a misfit. He would love nothing more than to be alone in his room with his guitar and away from the goldfish bowl that’s high school. Wes has been diagnosed with learning disorders, ADD and has been marked with this ever since he was little. Is Wes really a victim of the disorder or is he a victim of something else; Not fitting in this world or this life? What Wes can say is that something odd is going on and has been for quite some time.

Wes has dreams. Inexplicable dreams. He does inexplicable things like drawing in his sleep and then waking up to find that he had not done just one sketch but many. One of those drawings seems to be both original and meaningful so he has it tattooed on his back. Wes is haunted. One of his dreams features a pair of beautiful girl’s eyes are looking at him. Just what is going on here?

Wes has a best friend, Wyatt, whom he has known since kindergarten. Highly intelligent, Wyatt has stood by Wes and stayed with him even when Wyatt’s intellect could earn him a chance to take honours courses. Wyatt is the reason Wes is where he is in school with the finish line a few months away. Without him, Wes would have faced the prospect of being left back, multiple times.

Concerned about Wes, Wyatt has finally coaxed him out of his shell somewhat and somehow induced him to come along on a Spring Break expedition to Corpus Christi. Wes admits to himself that it just might do him good to break away from the confines of high school life and go back to his parents’ beach house, the scene of his happiest memories. It is this decision that will change his entire life.

The second night of his stay, Wes takes his beloved guitar and slips out to the beach in order to get away from a raucous party going on in the beach house. Finding his favourite spot on the sand – a log, actually – he sits, plays and works on lyrics to some of his tunes. That is, until he feels himself being watched. In a Madison-esque moment, Wes discovers that it’s a girl who has been watching him. A girl named Olivia. Things will never be the same for Wes.

Finding Summerland is told from a 1st person viewpoint by Wesley Rochester. This is news in and of itself as the vast majority of YA Mer-fiction is told in 1st person by the heroine. While this reviewer enjoys a tale that’s told in a feminine voice, it’s always good to hear from the guys; they make up 50% of the population after all. While the feminine viewpoint can give YA males an insight into a YA girl’s thoughts, feelings and aspirations, the road goes both ways and YA girls have an opportunity to learn that guys have feelings, are sensitive and are not quite the dumb beasts that many paint them to be.

When this seemingly rare event occurs in YA Mer-fiction, this reviewer is usually amazed at how well women authors – and there is definitely a preponderance of them in YA Mer-fiction – get it right. Ms Bleu is decidedly one of those writers and Wes Rochester is indeed portrayed with a healthy dose of reality. While Wes may come from a privileged background, he is not the arrogant, unfeeling jerk that is all too often a stereotypical figure in novels. Paige Bleu has created a character with warmth and feelings. Wes is a real guy.

In stories narrated in the first person, the other central characters seem two-dimensional more often than not. In the case of Finding Summerland’s girl of mystery, Olivia, the character is quite palpable. Of course, we don’t know everything there is to know about Olivia – it wouldn’t be much of a novel if we did – but the reader does sense that she is just as real and multi-dimensional as Wes.

If readers are expecting tails, scales and a mystical, magical mermaid-land, they are in for disappointment as none of this appears in this first book of The Amryn Chronicles. It becomes obvious that Olivia “isn’t from around here” and both the facts that there is a hidden land and that Olivia doesn’t always walk upon terra firma are spoken of but never seen in this installment. The story builds slowly but deliberately. With four more books to come (!!!) Ms Blue can afford this luxury. What Paige Blue does do is weave a spell-binding tale that is both compelling and haunting. She seems to have an extraordinary gift for story-telling; one that caused this reviewer to peruse this book in almost record time – stopping only to catch his breath – in order to unravel the mystery that is Olivia and learn what happens next. To praise Paige Bleu’s obvious talent any further would only be gilding the lily. If you are a fan of Mer-fiction, paranormal romance and mystery, by all means read this book.

Paige Bleu’s novel seems to have it all: loss, grief, anger, discovery, joy and – ultimately – heartbreak, all set in the milieu of a Texas high school as students teeter on the brink of departure and escape. There are many more questions than there are answers in Finding Summerland. In a planned 5-book series, there is plenty of time for answers and this reviewer suspects that they will not come as fast – or as easily – as readers would like. Ms. Bleu should not worry too much about the next installment of  The Ameryn Chronicles being a success. If the subsequent novels are as engaging and well-written as Finding Summerland, Paige Bleu will have readers queuing up – both virtually and physically – to learn what comes next. This reviewer can hardly wait.

My Rating:

Paige Bleu’s website is at paigebleu.blogspot.com

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Paperback Kindle

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Read a sample of Finding Summerland

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The last week of October was supposed to be a pleasant time of the year. Mild days and nights, autumnal glory amongst the trees and Halloween to close out the month. The perfect opportunity for Microsoft to launch not only a new Operating System, but a completely new product – the Surface RT – as well. All this just in time for the holiday shopping season. Then Apple had to get in on the act by announcing – supposedly – the iPad mini and heaven knows what else today, October 23rd. If that wasn’t  bad enough, Google is rumoured to be stealing the spotlight from Microsoft on October 29th.

TheNextWeb.com claims that Google will announce a 10″ Nexus tablet – among other things – on Monday. Google is supposedly working with Samsung to create this addition to the Nexus family. The Nexus 7 was/is manufactured by Asus so Dr. Data is a little unsure as to why Google would switch suppliers. The Nexus 10 is supposed to have a 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution which means that it may very well have a higher pixels per inch density than iPad’s Retina display.

The Nexus 10 is not the only thing that Google is supposed to announce next Monday. A 32 GB version of the Nexus 7 is in the offing as well as a second 32 GB model that will offer High Speed Packet Access and 3G connectivity. The Nexus 7 is suddenly becoming very mobile.

Since Microsoft’s Surface tablets will only come in a 10″ model and will only accommodate Wi-Fi connectivity, Microsoft is looking to be an also-ran before the first tablet is delivered to the customer. If Microsoft is indeed serious about joining the fray that is the tablet market today, the boys from Redmond will need to have additional entries waiting in the wings.

To get more on this story, see:

Fasten your seat belts, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy week.

As part of the countdown for Windows 8 and the Surface RT tablet, here are some more articles courtesy of ZDNet submitted for your consideration:

  • Five Baffling Things About The Surface RT – Target market, licensing and  pricing are among the things that David Gewirtz finds quite puzzling about the Surface RT. Is he right? Read the full article on ZDNet.
  • Is Windows 8 the new XT? – Ed Bott seems to think so. The howls of righteous indignation over the new user interface have all been heard before . . . about the venerable Windows XT’s interface. To prove his point, Ed takes us down memory lane to the way we were a decade ago. If you substitute Windows 8 for Windows XT, then it’s deja vu all over again. Read the full story on ZDNet.
  • An OS For All Devices – Ken Hess believes that Oct. 26th will be a milestone in the history of computing. Microsoft is releasing an OS that will run on Desktops, Laptops, Netbooks, Tablets and other mobile devices. This is one trick that Apple doesn’t know. Read all about it on ZDNet.
  • Windows 8 vs Windows RT –  Mary Branscome opines that consumers are still uncertain of the differences between Windows 8 & Windows RT. Which OS will do what and where? Read what she has to say on ZDNet.

That’s it for this morning. Have a good one!

Good Monday all! Here are a few items that may be of interest to you as you start your week:

  • The Microsoft Surface RT goes on sale in just four days. The Windows Club has a Q & A session with the team that developed the Surface RT.  Très Interesting!
  • Dan Costa – writing for PC Magazine – thinks that the Surface RT will put a crimp in other manufacturers (OEMs) tablet efforts. The teams who have developed Windows 8 and the Surface RT are from the same company and have been working so that Windows 8 and the Surface RT and closely integrated; Not unlike Apple. This should mean a better overall experience when one purchases an RT. Read the full story at PC Magazine.
  • On the other hand, David Kingsly-Hughes from ZDNet believes that Microsoft’s less than aggressive pricing of the Surface tablet will not do the product any favours. He cites analyst Shaw Wu who claims that the $499 starting price is too high and that Microsoft is a Johnnie-come-lately to the fiercely competitive tablet market. If Microsoft would set the price of the low-end model at $299 – including the keyboard/cover, then the Surface RT just might have a fighting chance. The upside of this pricing decision is that other tablet OEMs have a golden opportunity to compete with the surface based on a more aggressive pricing structure. Read the full story on ZDNet.
  • Meanwhile, David Cole from CNN-Money opines that sales of Windows 8 will be slow, especially in the business sector. He believes that the radical change in the look and feel of Windows 8 will turn off buyers. It has become common for businesses to skip a release of Windows and because of XP’s longevity, they moved to Windows 7 only quite recently. IT departments will not be in the mood to immediately upgrade to Windows 8 and most – especially those who have no need or equipment for “Touch” – will probably stick with 7 until Windows 9 comes out. Read the full story at CNN-Money.

How About Some More Pi?

Back in April, I wrote a post entitled “How Small The Computer?” The focus of this article was that you can get full-fledged PC’s and servers for between $25 & $100. One of the featured items was the advent of the Raspberry Pi; a real PC running Linux that is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. An article in TechRepublic states that the Model B is now available and selling for $35.00. The Pi – B now sports 512 MB of RAM so there is even more room on board to have fun with.

The Raspberry PI is being used to pilot Drones and as a lighting and heating controller for homes. One experimenter is using the PI as the basis for a tablet PC. Another Tech Republic article includes a slide-show which explains some of the many uses that the Pi has been put to already.

Admittedly, the Raspberry Pi is still in the realm of hobbyists and experimental applications. Nonetheless, if you like to fiddle with new technology, you can’t go wrong for $35.00. To learn more about the Raspberry Pi, see:

The first computer that Dr. Data ever encountered was a SAGE – Semi Automatic Ground Environment – installation in a huge block-house at Fort Lee, VA. These machines were physically the largest computers ever built and used 55,000 vacuum tubes; each tube was individually air-conditioned. You did not just walk through the computer room – you walked through the computer.

Since that time in the early 60’s, Dr. Data has seen a lot of hardware come and go. His favourites were the NCR Century Series  and the NCR Criterion which followed. Ask him about those machines and he will get a far-away look in his eye and ramble on and on about the joys of programming for those machines using NCR’s NEAT/3 language.

All this brings him to the main point of today’s post. Tech Republic has an article and slide show about computers that defined the information age being restored to more or less working condition. If you have even the slightest interest in computing history, the article is definitely worth a look.

Dr. Data hopes that he’ll one day see an article about an NCR Century machine – the 101 or 151 will do nicely – being brought back to life.

Say “Hello” to Quantal Quetzal!

It’s the semi-annual high holy days for Ubuntu Geeks as version 12.10 is released. Ubuntu is the third most popular distribution of Linux according to Distro Watch. Number 2 is Mageia and number 1 is Mint Linux; both have gained increased popularity since Ubuntu implemented its Unity desktop shell. As far as Dr. Data is concerned, Ubuntu does what he wants it to do: Work. The interface is not that critical to him. Just about every Operating System or Interface has two groups of followers:

  • The Cheerleaders – These are the folks who equate their interface/OS with the second coming. Those who feel otherwise are Infidels.
  • The Jeerleaders –  These are the haters; the Apostates. No cute uniforms or bouncing up and down on the sidelines for them; they are more like the hordes of angry peasants with torches and pitchforks.

When these two groups interact, the result is quite similar to a holy war. But, I digress.

ZDNet has a number of articles about Ubuntu 12.10.:

Holy wars aside, one of the great things about Linux is that – except for commercial/enterprise distributions – it’s FREE. If a distribution doesn’t work as well as expected or if you just don’t like one or more things about it, you can easily switch to one that suits you. Try doing that with Windows! Since in most cases, the software applications are FREE as well, you have a minimal investment in Linux.

So, before you send that older, unused desktop/laptop PC off to Goodwill, give Linux in general and Ubuntu in particular a try. If you’re dissuaded by the idea of interface holy wars, just keep in mind the fact that the very same thing is going on right now with Windows 8. To get your very own copy of  Ubuntu- for FREE – go to Ubuntu.com.

Redmond has announced pricing for Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet. The most basic version includes 32 GB of storage and will sell for $499. By contrast, the low-end iPad 3 starts at $499 as well but only carries 16 GB of memory. Moving up the ladder, the 32 and 64 GB versions of the Surface RT tablet will sell for $599 and $699 respectively; the same as the iPad. The real difference is when 3G connectivity is factored in. The Surface RT has Wi-Fi only while the iPad 3 has cellular capability starting at$629 for the 16 GB model and ending at $829 for the 64 GB model.

One question that comes to mind is whether 3G connectivity is really necessary for a 10-inch tablet PC. That size is somewhat awkward to carry and is probably better suited for a stationary environment – like the home or the office – where Wi-Fi is or should be available. The 7-inch tablet market is heating up with Google’s NEXUS 7 and the forthcoming iPad mini. This size is more portable and will easily fit into a coat pocket, a woman’s purse or a man’s shoulder bag. This form-factor is not only less expensive – something the average consumer has been looking for – but is a  more suitable candidates for 3G wireless. In that department, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and – presumably – the iPad mini offer both Wi-Fi and wireless connectivity.

The forthcoming iPad mini is going to put Microsoft’s Surface RT at something of a disadvantage as Redmond has yet to drop any significant hint that there will be a 7-inch RT tablet PC. Since Microsoft is late to the table with a tablet offering, they will have to seriously consider a 7-inch form-factor in order not to be left behind.

Microsoft’s tablet offerings will expand when the Surface Pro is released in early 2013 and though there is no pricing information available, the Pro is expected to come in between $799 and $899. The Surface Pro is going to be more like a PC and its main target market is the business sector while the RT is more consumer oriented. In the final analysis, just who adopts what will depend upon the apps written for each device. Given the right applications, the Surface RT could be adopted by businesses as well as consumers.

If you want to get in line for an RT, Microsoft is now accepting pre-orders. The RT will be available – along with Windows 8 – on October 26th; just three days after Apple announces what is presumably the iPad mini.

Read the complete story on RT pricing and availability at PC Magazine.

It’s Official. Apple will host a press event on October 23rd in San Jose, California.

After multiple sessions of rumour roulette, Apple e-mailed invitations on Tues, Oct. 16th asking if the press knew the way to San Jose. Will it be the debut of the worst kept technology secret in many a moon or will it be some new add-on for iPhones? Most everyone is betting on the former. Read the full story on CNN.com.

Keeping in mind the fact that Microsoft’s Surface tablet debuts on Oct. 25, it is the conventional wisdom that the success and acceptance of both new tablet offering will depend on pricing. Read about their race to find the sweet-spot on TechRepublic.

Dr. Data is an interested bystander in all of this but he does not plan to buy one or the other anytime soon. Dr. Data has no money. That can, of course, be remedied by one of the folks who keep browsing his resume actually making him an offer.

Have You Received Your Invitation to The Launch Yet?

The time has long passed for the invitations to the launch of the vapourware iPad mini and there has been nary a peep from Cupertino or the industry press or anyone else for that matter. On the other hand, no one has said “Sorry boys; false alarm” either. The latest date from those supposedly in the know is now supposed to be Oct. 23.

Since Microsoft is launching Windows 8  AND  its new line of Surface tablets on October 25  – both of which will go on sale the following day – the revised date for the iPad mini – from those supposedly in the know – is now October 23. From a strategic standpoint, this date – indeed, if there is any date at all – makes a certain amount of sense. By announcing the iPad mini a couple of days before Redmond hosts its big to-do, Apple would steal a considerable amount of Microsoft’s thunder. one-upmanship between the two giants is, after all, nothing new.

Dr. Data became suspicious that something was wrong when a report in the industry press stated that the iPad mini was already being manufactured in Brazil and two days later read a report that the devices were being produced in Asia. There may really be an iPad mini or this may just be a case of a company starting or promoting rumours just to see how high the industry press – and the public – will jump. Of course, word of the October 10th mail-out was reported by Fortune Magazine – which subsequently issued a retraction – but who fed them the information in the first place? Only time will tell.

Read the full story in PC Magazine.

This Month’s Rants

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Pipe Count

Dr. Data's Pipe Count

480 (+/-)

Dr. Data has PAD - Pipe Acquisition Disorder

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