Category: Reviews

Track books you read at Good Reads

Every now and then I stumble upon a pretty cool website.  This one will make  it very easy for you to keep track of the books you read.

Almost everyone I have ever worked with in my computer consulting endeavors loves to read.

Some people I’ve worked with are busy making a catalog of places they’ve went of vacation or live theater performances.

So I thought what about reading ?

GoodReads.com is the website you are looking for.   It’s free to use and you can even rate the books you’ve read (5 star), and comment on them.   You can even share your reading list with others, but are not required to.

You are allowed to mark books — want to read, reading, or completed.  I believe they have iPhone / iPad and Android apps, but don’t quote me on that.

I’ve been enjoying http://GoodReads.com for a few months now,  hope it jumps off the page for you too.

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MacBook Air 2011 – 13 inch

I had the privilege of setting up a new MacBook Air, 13 inch for a client this week.

It was impressive.   There may be some misconceptions about the MacBook Air and I would like to clear those up.

When the MacBook Air was first released a few years ago, it was designed to fulfill the niche ultra-portable, ultra light laptop market.   However, netbooks came along and then came the iPad which has sales of well over 20 million since April 2010.  Priced above $1500, the MacBook Air was honestly a poor value.

The product line changed a year ago, with modern styling, a performance boost, and prices starting at $999.  The product line was further updated in July of this year.  MacBook Airs got the latest Intel processors, a backlit keyboard, and Apple’s latest operating system among other features.  Pricing remained at $999 and above.  Since October 2010, the MacBook Air has been available with an 11.6 inch or 13.3 inch screen.

However, the big news of the summer was that the MacBook Air got a promotion in Apple’s product lineup.  The MacBook Air is Apple’s new consumer level laptop.  The white MacBook laptops are no longer sold to the general public.  FYI, the MacBook Pro models are still Apple’s line of professional level laptops or for any of you who want a laptop with a big 15 or 17 inch screen.

The MacBook Airs are priced as follows:  11-inch, base model $999, 11-inch better model $1199.  13-inch, $1299.  13-inch PREMIUM model $1599.  Unless you are a gadget person, I really think the more expensive 13-inch model is an overkill.

My client opted for the $1299 13-inch model as a replacement for a late-2006 MacBook.   We were stunned at first by its thinness and lightness.   Its fast boot up and shut down times were a welcome surprise.  The Air’s backlit keyboard offered the potential of typing accurately in low light environments.  However, the speed of the machine is its biggest selling point.  We had ZERO problems keeping 3 or even 4 programs open at once.

Be warned, the MacBook Air does not come with a CD/DVD drive.   However, 95% of the software you buy these days can be downloaded.  Perhaps, it’s more like 99%.   One could always buy an external disc drive from Apple for about $79 (or another vendor).  However, if you regularly need to burn discs when you are away from the desk you may want to consider the 13-inch MacBook Pro which is still sold  $1199 or $1499.

Ultimately, if performance plus portability is what you are after and you don’t care about not having a built in CD/DVD drive — this MacBook Air would look great on your desk and you will be very productive with it.  With this or any laptop, an ergonomic stand to keep it at eye level is advisable.

Acronym Update 07-11-08

Apple iPhone 3G Fast Facts

Here is all you need to know about the new iPhone being released tomorrow:

– This iPhone will be known as the iPhone 3G.  It is actually the 2nd generation iPhone, so you may be wondering…. why the 3G designation? In the past notations such as 2G have used in context of the iPod Nano — to mean 2nd generation.    However, in the context of the iPhone 3G refers to AT&T’s data network.

– The first iPhone, released on 06/29/07, was widely criticized for not being 3G data capable.   iPhone users had to use AT&T’s slower EDGE network — which was only slightly faster than dial-up Internet.

– Effective tomorrow, it’s a whole new playing field.  iPhone owners will be able to surf at an average of 400 to 800 kb per second on their favorite gadget and possibly — new best friend.   As a point of reference, dial up Internet operates at 56 kbps or less if your phone lines have been damaged by lightning / thunderstorms.

-The iPhone 3G promises to have an even more user-friendly on screen keyboard and sports a standard headphone jack so that you can use whatever brand you prefer.

-Lower initial cost.   The iPhone 3G will only set you back $199 for the 8 gigabyte model and $299 for the 16 gigabyte version.   This represents 1/2 the cost of the last EDGE based iPhones and less than half of the original price points set at $499 and $599 last June.

-Higher monthly cost.  You can still purchase an iPhone with a minimum individual plan of $39.99 (or higher) or a family plan, but the data plans will cost you at least $10 to $15 more.  A data plan is REQUIRED with the iPhone 3G, as it was with the first generation.   Last year, I really thought the iPhone data plans were quite innovative.   The cost was $20 for unlimited Internet and e-mail use.  They included 200 text/SMS messages for free.    This time around, be prepared to dig deeper into your wallet.   You will be required to take a $30 3G data plan with your new toy and text messages are extra.   If you are into the whole text message scene, you’ll want to get the $5 – 200 message plan at a bare minimum.

-Some sad realities carrry over.   Just like the original iPhone,  the iPhone 3G does not have a removable battery.  If you are the type who takes your phone everywhere, buy a car charger and buy a second plug in charger for the office.   Apple says the iPhone is good for about 5 hours of 3G talk time or Internet use.  Furthermore, the iPhone is still not capable of instant messaging or multimedia text messaging (MMS) or video recording.

-Good news for corporate warriors.  If you are used having a BlackBerry or Windows Mobile based PDA attached to your hip — the iPhone can also connect to your workplace Exchange server to sync email, calendars and contacts.   Check with your I.T. Department for specific instructions.   Enterprise data plans cost $15 more setting you back $45 per 28 to 31 day period.

-Final comments.  The iPhone 3G is ONLY available in the USA with AT&T cell phone service.   The $199 / $299 pricing will only be availble to new customers, previous iPhone owners, or existing AT&T customers due for an upgrade.    $18 upgrade fee applies.  This means…. you may be paying $200 more if you are not one of those 3 groups.

FYI,  I will not be one of those freaks camping out at the local mall tonight.  I am under contract with Verizon Wireless and quite happy with their service.  I have been a customer of theirs for 7 out of the past 9 years, and see no reason to change.   I haven’t written about it yet, but I actually demoed AT&T service for about 10 days in early May.  I had a chance to test it out extensively on a trip to NYC.  I was not impressed.  In my opinion, Verizon offers much better call quality in New England and Metro NYC than all other carriers.    There may be exceptions in certain areas and around the country……but I haven’t noticed these trouble spots personally.

I’ll be writing about golf next week.

Until then….

Acronym Update 07/05/08

Dear Readers,

Happy 4th of July to all on U.S. soil and those celebrating abroad!

I want to share a book review with you.

The Mysterious Montague by Leigh Montville

The former Sports Illustrated writer, Montville, wrote a thrilling tale of 1930’s celebrity golfer John Montague.   He put the story together from previously written accounts of The Sphinx of the Links (Montague), studying the famous 1937 armed robbery trial in Elizabethtown, NY, and by interviewing living relatives of the man who once beat Bing Crosby on a one hole bet using a rake, shovel and a baseball bat.

Of course, Montville’s highly regarded literary talents surely contributed to this fine work of sports and Hollywood non-fiction.    If you think you would enjoy a twisted tale that only Tinseltown could create — one that involves the likes of Crosby, Oliver Hardy, Richard Arlen, Tarzan himself, and a post-baseball Babe Ruth ….  The Mysterious Montague should be the next book you buy.  It was 300 pages long, but it never made me tired and I just couldn’t stop turning from page to page.

I’ll leave you with this tempting morsel….The superstar sportswriter of that era, Grantland Rice, called Montague the best golfer in America and at that point he had never played in any professional tournaments.    I won’t give away the juicy details…. a good review never does, right?

If you have a local / independent bookstore that you shop at, ask them to order The Mysterious Montague for you.  As a 2nd choice, Amazon has plenty of copies in stock.    http://www.amazon.com/Mysterious-Montague-Hollywood-Armed-Robbery/dp/0385520336/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1215231531&sr=8-1

Stay tuned for an Acronym Update next week, previewing the release of the iPhone 2.0 — set to hit Apple and AT&T Stores on July 11th.

Check out http://www.theacronym.com for this post and The Acronym archives.

Always willing to meet your technology needs.

Acronym Update 02-15-08

Dear Readers,

Today’s Topic: Blu-Ray DVD Players

So you have the big screen TV, HD programming to match and your cozy recliner cranked back…….what’s missing? Your next generation DVD player.

It appears that Sony’s Blu-Ray technology is going to win the format war over HD-DVD. If you love the world of film and want to have the best home-theater experience, check out this review from CNET.com…

5 Blu-ray players for less than $500

Also, please note that copies of the February 2008, print edition of The Acronym were mailed yesterday. Those who get theirs by e-mail will be receiving them shortly as well.

Have a great weekend,

Kevin

Acronym Update 01-16-08

Dear Readers,

Topic: Movie Reviews

Here are my reviews of 3 films that we picked from the Netflix catalog last week.  Thank you so much for your feedback on the movie reviews.  I am eager to do more for you in the future.

Norbit (2007)

I did not see this movie when it was out on the big screens, but do recall seeing commercials for it. My initial impression from those trailers was that is was simply a dumb comedy, starring Eddie Murphy as the stereotypical “self-righteous, bossy, obese African American woman.” I had known that Mr. Murphy had enjoyed dressing in drag and dating the occasional cross dresser (or is “transvestite” the politically correct term?) for years — though many didn’t know this about the former Saturday Night Live star because it wasn’t widely reported by the mainstream media.

I had very low expectations for “Norbit” and unfortunately, I have to admit that this movie exceeded them. Norbit (played by Murphy) is a very sensitive, skinny black man who grows up in an orphanage. After his first boyhood love, Kate, is adopted by a caring family — he is intimidated into a relationship, then marriage by the larger than life Rasputia Latimore (also Murphy). “Norbit” contains a fairly sophisticated, though silly plot – centered on Rasputia’s abusive and repulsive personality and the corrupt dealings of her three brothers who own a local construction company. The ending is quite unrealistic, but will satisfy those who can cry easily….. ok, tears of laughter…. maybe!

Really Honest Review Score: A very creative script, written by Eddie Murphy. Obnoxious but funny. The B – word was way overused. Even men were repeatedly called this word for female dog. I thought this really took away from what was otherwise a decent film. I haven’t heard that word used so much since I watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last year. (Ha, Ha!) The trailers are a bit misleading by making it seem family friendly, so this film definitely warrants the PG-13 rating. **7 out of 10 stars**

The Queen (2006)

I loved this film!!!  It had such specific focus:  the week after Princess Diana died during the summer of 1997.  Helen Mirren brought her “A-game” to this production, starring as Elizabeth II — the longtime British monarch.   Mirren’s portrayal of The Queen showcased all of the pompousness and formality that you’d expect from the head of the world’s most recognized empire.   However, after being convinced that her initial response to the tragedy was insufficient and underwhelming by newly elected P.M. Tony Blair — The Queen finally finds it within herself to give her “subjects” what they really need.   Really Honest Review Score:  Helen Mirren received the 2007 Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in this film, so nothing I say will do her performance justice. I truly appreciate how actual TV news footage was intertwined with the storyline.  It brought back some memories.  I was starting 11th grade at that time.  Until the very end I held out a glimmer of hope that actual footage of Elton John’s “Goodbye England’s Rose” performed at the public memorial would be replayed and I was disappointed.  Oh well,  James Cromwell’s sinister portrayal of Prince Philip surely made up for the song.   **10 out of 10 stars**  I would it have given +1 for a bonus but an F-bomb dropped by Blair’s wife Cherie at the beginning seemed really out of place for this classy film.

The Heartbreak Kid (2007)

A remake of the 1972 film starring Ben Stiller and his real life father, Jerry Stiller.   It has a cute storyline:  a middle aged man working as a sports equipment executive loses the woman he is enamored with and unexpectedly finds his way into another relationship, the one he thinks is true love.    The amount of raunchy language, especially from the elder Mr. Stiller, really ruined the film for me.   The “dirty old man” Doc character (Jerry Stiller) kept using a certain word over and over again to refer to a party of the female anatomy.  He spouted innuendo after innuendo that I had never heard before and I thought I had been “privileged” enough to have heard them all.   It seemed like he was auditioning for they yet to be made “Grumpy Old Men III:  Perverts on the Prowl.   Desperate Housewives fans will be pleased to know that Eva Longoria makes a cameo appearance at the end of the film.    Really Honest Review Score:  A rather pathetic romantic comedy.  R-Rated is right on the money.   The tale of the “Heartbreak Kid” is spoiled by all of the locker room humor.   I’m very eager to see the 1972 version starring Charles Grodin and Cybill Shepherd, rated PG.  **3 out of 10 stars.**

Take Care,

Kevin