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Much Fall of Blood (Heirs of Alexandria, #3)

Review:

I had read the first cou­ple of Heirs of Alexan­dria books years ago, and saw this one for free at Baen.S­ince I had rather fond mem­o­ries of those first, I gave this one a chance.

The sto­ry is in­ter­est­ing enough, but ... the di­a­log. The di­a­log is try­ing so hard. Just so hard. It tries to be smart, fun­ny and clev­er, but it all comes out as weird, self­-­con­scious, and stilt­ed.

It's like read­ing the in­ner voice of a shy teenage boy who deep in­side knows he's bet­ter and smarter and more hon­or­able than the rest, be­cause oth­er­wise why would he be so lone­ly and sad?

I hat­ed the di­a­log.

Al­so, the way ev­ery "good" char­ac­ter is bet­ter in ev­ery pos­si­ble way than ev­ery "bad" char­ac­ter is grat­ing.

I am now re­con­sid­er­ing if the fond mem­o­ries of the ear­li­er books are just se­lec­tive mem­o­ry, or the des­per­ate grat­i­tude of a fan­ta­sy read­er in Ar­genti­na, where there just was­n't all that much to read at the time.

How You Could Not Replace Cable, If Only This Were Legal

Sup­pose you want­ed to have free TV. Sup­pose by that you mean se­ries, not movies or news (both of which you can get in oth­er ways).

Al­so, sup­pose you want to have it on your ac­tu­al TV. Al­so, that you don't mind break­ing IP laws. Well, this is how I would do it, if that was the case.

First: get hard­ware.

You need a gen­er­al com­pu­ta­tion­al de­vice with TV con­nec­tors and lots of stor­age. Like, say, a Mele A1000 or A2000 run­ning an­droid, and a SA­TA disk. This will cost you around $150 or so.

The Mele has HD­MI, VGA and com­pos­ite, so it can con­nect to pret­ty much any­thing that can dis­play im­ages. You could even use a 64GB SD card in­stead of a SA­TA drive if you want to go cheap­er.

Sec­ond: choose some se­ries.

You could go to ShowRSS cre­ate an ac­count and just choose se­ries you like. ShowRSS would then pro­vide you with a nice RSS feed up­dat­ed as your shows are up­load­ed.

You could even choose be­tween SD and HD ver­sion­s.

Third: get the episodes.

You would need a Bit­Tor­rent client that sup­ports this:

  1. An­­droid.

  2. Choos­ing the des­ti­­na­­tion fold­er (u­­Tor­rent for an­­droid does­n't)

  3. RSS Feeds with autodown­load

For ex­am­ple: aD­own­load­er

If you are us­ing the Mele and the SA­TA drive, there is a bug in aD­own­load­er where it can't write to the SA­TA disk. You can fix it if you have root and some pa­tience.

Fourth: get a good video play­er.

You want one that:

  1. Has HW de­­cod­ing

  2. Has SW au­­dio de­­cod­ing (a mele-spe­­cif­ic is­­sue)

  3. Sup­­ports many video for­­mats

  4. Sup­­ports sub­­ti­tles, if you need them

For ex­am­ple: MX Play­er

Fifth: get sub­ti­tles.

If you ev­er watch some­thing that is not in your na­tive lan­guage, you al­so want some­thing that au­to­mat­i­cal­ly gets sub­ti­tles for your videos. For ex­am­ple Subload­er

How well would this work? Well, it would take rough­ly 5 min­utes to down­load a show in SD or 15 min­utes to down­load it in HD on a 10Mbps in­ter­net link.

It would let you play them in your own time.

It would let you see shows be­fore they air in your coun­try, and even if they will nev­er air there.

It is al­so il­le­gal as all hel­l, so don't do it.

The Mongoliad: Book Two (Foreworld, #2)

Review:

Con­tin­ues the sto­ries of the first vol­ume, of course.

Even if the books are com­ing out at a rather brisk pace, the sheer amount of sto­ry­lines and char­ac­ters made this a bit hard to fol­low, but a fun read any­way.

I pe­cial­ly loved read­ing it on Kin­dle and hav­ing Wikipedia right there for terms, so 'o­h, right, this is in Turk­menistan' and 'so there were on­ly eleven car­di­nal­s, won­der how that works out­...'.

Look­ing for­ward to the 3rd vol­ume.

100 Days With the Mele A1000

I have been us­ing the Mele A1000 for a few months now. I think I have set­tled in­to a us­age pat­tern, so let's do a quick roundup of what it's good for and what it's not very good at.

First a quick re­minder of what it is:

  • Small com­put­er run­n­ing An­­droid (4.0.4 right now)

  • HD­MI/V­­GA/­­Com­­pos­ite video out­­put, ide­al for us­ing with a TV

  • SA­­TA con­nec­­tor, full size SD card, 3 USB port­s: ba­si­­cal­­ly un­lim­it­ed stor­age ca­­pac­i­­ty.

  • Re­­mote con­trol that works with most apps

  • Wifi and Eth­er­net

  • It will cost you ~ $90 to get one.

  • No noise, low pow­er us­age.

I have it in my bed­room, next to my old CRT TV. I could put it in the liv­ing room with the new­er LED one, but I have a Mac Mi­ni I got for work there any­way.

Hav­ing it plugged to an old TV means the video qual­i­ty suck­s. How­ev­er, it works great for watch­ing videos, and when con­nect­ed to a mod­ern dis­play it works per­fect­ly.

So, what do I do with it?

I watch movies and se­ries on Net­flix.

Ver­sion 1.8.1 of the Net­flix app works fine (later ver­sions do not!) and lets you see movies and se­ries legal­ly for a flat low month­ly cost. The re­mote pro­vid­ed does­n't re­al­ly work all that well, be­cause you can't do "drags" and there­fore can't scroll the movie lists left and right. So, to take full ad­van­tage of this you need to get a key­board­/­mouse set. I use this one.

How­ev­er, if you know what you want to see, it's just a mat­ter of search­ing for it.

I watch videos in gen­er­al.

MX Play­er works very well, and gives smooth, well synced video. The Hard­ware video de­coder works just fine, but you have to switch to soft­ware au­dio de­cod­ing.

Hav­ing a plug­gable SA­TA drive is very use­ful here. Just get any 2.5" SA­TA drive, plug it in, and start us­ing it.

File Serv­er

I used Sam­ba File­shar­ing and it "just work­s". You set it up, con­fig­ure us­er and pass­word, and your drives are now shared lo­cal­ly and ac­ces­si­ble to all your oth­er de­vices.

I am us­ing it to store back­ups from my "re­al" com­put­er­s, cre­at­ed us­ing rdif­f-back­up but any back­up tool that can store in a re­mote fold­er should work.

Ra­dio & Mu­sic Play­er

There are plen­ty of an­droid ap­pli­ca­tions that han­dle mu­sic stream­ing and play­ing your lo­cal mu­sic col­lec­tion. Just use the one you like.

Weath­er Gad­get

I like my TV telling me the weath­er. Us­es a ran­dom wid­get from the play store.

VNC Serv­er

In or­der to use it more com­fort­ably, or be able to do stuff in it when I am on the note­book, I am us­ing Droid VNC Serv­er and that even means I can use my own phone as a "re­mote" us­ing the Jump VNC client

Yes, that means I am in my bed us­ing my an­droid phone as a re­mote to my an­droid TV's screen. If the per­for­mance were bet­ter, it would be as cool as it sound­s.

I am us­ing Jump be­cause it's the on­ly An­droid VNC client I found that sup­ports drag­ging things (and it's not per­fect by a long shot).

Pos­si­ble fu­ture us­es

  • Skype box (need to hook a we­b­­cam. Mi­cro­­phone?)

  • Game con­­sole?

    I have Need For Speed: Shift and I would love to play it on a large screen, but how would I con­trol it? I need to in­­ves­ti­­gate con­troller­s, maybe joy­­sticks or gamepad­s.

I bought this with the idea of us­ing Ubun­tu on it, but the lack of ac­cel­er­at­ed driv­ers and Net­flix sup­port has made that a non-s­tarter. So, I am do­ing lots of things where An­droid re­al­ly has low­er qual­i­ty soft­ware than Ubun­tu, but those are forc­ing me to stay there.

I am quite hap­py with it, and as a "dum­b-tv-s­marten­er" it's quite awe­some for its price.


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